February 24, 2017

Seven(ish) Quick Takes

From Word Among Us:

A rich repast from Ross Douthat here on Catholicism. Makes sense to me.


The toxicology report came out about that girl from my alma mater who drank herself to death. Traces of marijuana and a whopping .347 blood alcohol level. It looks like asphyxiation - she had her head face down on the pillow. My sister surprised me by last month saying that she always tells her kids that if they drink to excess to not sleep so that they could drown in their own vomit, because when the body is that intoxicated sometimes it doesn't turn over or do the normal things to breathe or project vomit. I never would've thought about that, and she said that before the position of the victim was known. It goes to show, I thought, of how important our collective wisdom is, how this little thing like positioning a drunk could be life or death.

It seems she had a similar incident in November, with the police filing a report on her given a .3+ blood alcohol level and obvious intoxication.  It was as if that was an opportunity for her, as if she were given another chance to choose "life or death" as Moses put it. So sad.

Read wide-eye opening opinion piece by Robert Samuelson of the WaPo, hardly a shrinking righty, on the media's obsession with Trump:
"But beyond this lies a silent goal [of the press]: the search for some impeachable offense. If found, this would clearly justify the media’s obsessive attention to the president’s every move and policy. But if not found, the press risks losing more of its credibility by conducting a political witch-hunt."
Good to hear from a centrist like Samuelson of the media's true goal, that of impeachment. A press scorned is not a pretty sight. Wise commentary from him all the way around. I guess it takes an economist, a numbers guy, to have the detachment necessary to be wise since anger, like euphoria, makes one stupid. Witness the reliably idiotic Mark Shea.

From a Catholic site:
Of course, the Catholic faith is about divine mysteries, not human rituals, however treasured...This distinction is what gave the fathers of the Second Vatican Council the boldness to tamper with the most ancient rites of the Church. Yet Aquinas saw something that too many in that time did not: ritual cannot be dispensed with and should not be disparaged. We need solemn ceremonial forms not because they are essential but because humans have always tended to comprehend the profound through the trivial.
We need fixed and tangible ways of perceiving divine mysteries. This is why Aquinas defends not only the importance of ritual but also the use of images in Church. He offers three arguments. First, images are necessary for the instruction of simple people. Second, they aid the memory by daily presenting the example of the saints. Third, they help to excite devotion.
Really, though, Aquinas’s three reasons are one. Though he first defends images as useful for the instruction of simple people, he then goes on to explain why they are useful to us all. For learned and unlettered alike, memory is imprinted and emotion aroused “more effectively by things seen than by things heard”. Aquinas was sophisticated enough to realise that all men are simple. If the poor need art and ritual, so does everyone.

Crank Up Some Village People

Young man, there's no need to feel bound.
I said, young man, pick that book off the ground.
I said, young man, to you all will rebound
There's no need to be unhappy.

Young man, there's a place you can go.
I said, young man, when you're fighting the foe,
You can go there, and I'm sure you will find
A smart way to have a fine time.

It's fun to go to the library
It's fun to go to the library.
You can read something wise, and avoid all the lies
Pick up a Bible guys.

Young man, are you listening to me?
I said, young man, read some Socrates,
I said, young man, you can grow in your dreams.
But you got to know this one thing!

It's fun to go to the library
It's fun to go to the library.
You can read something wise, and avoid all the lies
Pick up a Bible guys.


From a book called Shakespeare and Sex and Love:
Shakespeare's writings are full of a sense of the tension between the spiritual and the earthly, and awareness of the difficulty of understanding when and how the sexual faculty, which may be terribly abused in the search for sensual gratification... Shakespeare often seems to be asking when desire stops being lustful and starts being love? What is the relationship between lust and love? He explores the theme repeatedly in both plays and poems, and it will recur in later pages of this book. (It is akin to the question of where, in the visual arts, artistic portrayal of nakedness or of sexual behaviour shades into pornography.)


I got sidetracked last night by "fake news", specifically an utterly incompetent family tree version on ancestry, presumably a third cousin or more distant. It's an embarrassment to the Conn- name. At first I was thrilled since it had so many breakthrough "facts", names and dates that I wasn't able to uncover in my research. But as I painstakingly went through her sources, I found it Trumplivious to truth. So that was a time suck with no payoff.


One of the things that strike me as qualitatively different between the Latin mass and the New Mass is the seriousness of the former. The stakes feel higher, like salvation is at stake. It's sort of like the difference between an average May MLB baseball game and a World Series game.

Obviously we don't know in terms of numbers how many go to Heaven and how many to Hell, but we do know that demons exist and their existence alone ups the ante. It's hard to imagine an exorcism at the New Mass - in between the syrupy hymns and Father's announcements - but at a Latin Mass you can well imagine it.

It feels like weighty matters are involved - the fate of souls - and so the priest faces the altar because that's where the action is, that's where the answer (God) is.

I'm not sure one needs that seriousness weekly or even monthly, but it does seem like an indispensable reminder that God is much bigger and more mysterious and awesome than we think.

The Eastern church maintains that focus in their liturgy. With infant Baptisms, for example, it's not all cute and bubbly, but serious: there's an actual exorcism performed just in case...!


Ross Douthat on Pope Francis/Donald Trump parallel:
...the drama in the church is a kind of photonegative of the drama in Washington, D.C. In both contexts, a provisional center has cracked up, and a form of steamrolling populism has taken power. In both contexts, ideas from the fringes — far right and far left, radical and traditional — suddenly have unexpected resonance.

The difference is that in Rome the populist isn’t a right-wing president. He’s a radical pope.

...In the context of the papacy, in his style as a ruler of the church, Francis is flagrantly Trumpian: a shatterer of norms, a disregarder of traditions, an insult-heavy rhetorician, a pontiff impatient with the strictures of church law and inclined to govern by decree when existing rules and structures resist his will.

His admirers believe that all these aggressive moves, from his high-stakes push to change church discipline on remarriage and divorce to his recent annexation of the Knights of Malta, are justified by the ossification of the church and the need for rapid change. Which is to say, they regard the unhappiness of Vatican bureaucrats, the doubts of theologians, the confusion of bishops and the despair of canon lawyers the way Trump supporters regard the anxiety of D.C. insiders and policy experts and journalists — as a sign that their hero’s moves are working, that he’s finally draining the Roman swamp.

Meanwhile the church’s institutionalists are divided along roughly the same lines as mainstream politicians in the face of Trump’s ascent.

...The ranks of papal skeptics are filled with Africans and Latin Americans as well as North Americans and Europeans, with prelates and theologians and laypeople of diverse economic and political perspectives. Most are not traditionalists like Burke; they are simply conservatives, comfortable with the Pope John Paul II model of Catholicism, with its fusion of the traditional and modern, its attempt to maintain doctrinal conservatism while embracing the Second Vatican Council’s reforms.

But because this larger group is cautious, its members have been overshadowed by the more forthright, combative and, yes, reactionary Cardinal Burke, whose interventions might as well come with the hashtag #TheResistance.
Which places him in the same position, relative to Francis, that a Bernie Sanders occupies relative to Trump — or that Jeremy Corbyn occupies relative to Brexit. He’s a figure from the fringe whose ideas gain influence because the other fringe is suddenly in power; a reactionary critic of a radical pope just as Sanders or Corbyn are radical critics of a suddenly empowered spirit of reaction.

So the story of Catholicism right now has less to do with reaction alone and more to do with what happens generally when an institution’s center doesn’t hold.

In his own way, no less than neoliberals in Western politics, John Paul II tried to forge a stable post-Second Vatican Council center for Catholicism; now, much like the neoliberal order in Western politics, his project seems to be collapsing. The church under Francis has moved left as Western politics has moved right, but the reality in both cases is one of polarization, of a right that wants to be more reactionary and a left that wants to be more radical, and an establishment uncertain how and where to move.

But just as the Trump era may turn liberals into radicals, the Francis bulldozer is making a traditionalist critique of the entire post-Vatican II church resonate on the younger Catholic right — which is already more skeptical of modernity than the John Paul II generation. And with a traditionalist turn in theology could come the return of an illiberal or post-liberal Catholic politics — one already visible here and there online, in the zeal of certain Catholic trads for Trumpism and far-right politics in general.

Just as Trumpism is forging tomorrow’s political left, in other words, Francis is forging tomorrow’s Catholic right — theologically and perhaps politically as well.

February 20, 2017

We Can't Handle the Truth?

The first time I thought Trump had a chance to win when was Donny Deutsch on Morning Joe said this election was like TV series and in November the voters would decide whose storyline they wanted to see continue - Trump's or Hillary's? The answer was and is self-evident.

Yesterday Jonah Goldberg wrote something that sort of cemented it, and gave me fresh appreciation as to why the Bible, with its stories, is far more popular than catechisms:
While working on my book, I’ve come to believe more than ever that man is a story-telling animal and that stories are what give us meaning, direction, and passion. Hume’s point about reason being a slave to passion should be more properly understood as “reason is a slave to narrative.” ...It is entirely true that the press served as an eager participant in the story of Obama. It is also entirely true that much of the mainstream media is playing the reverse role in the story of Trump’s presidency.
"Truth’s a dog that must to kennel. He must be whipped out, when Lady Brach may stand by th' fire and stink." - Shakespeare's King Lear

Heard WSJ columnist talk about Trump's trouble with the truth. He said implicit in Trump's assertion that "a lot of people say that" is to conflate popular opinion with the truth. To actually defend an untruth by the fact that many hold it is reminded the columnist of a serious philosophical argument that Plato had concerning whether injustice was better than justice.

No wonder someone tweeted during the campaign that Trump was the natural result of a society of relativism. In some ways it's liberals who have created fertile ground for Trump by insisting that the truth doesn't matter in matters like when life begins or which religion is true.

(It reminds me of how years ago I wondered if the illusion of truth is just as good as truth, specifically with the infancy narratives in the gospels. Would it matter if one of the accounts wasn't factually accurate since both teach deep and powerful messages about the coming of the Messiah?)

The way I've been looking at Trump post-election is that he's entitled, so to speak, to be fallible. That I have to put up with him as president just as my wife has to put up with me. Not to overlook flaws certainly but at least to understand he has them and thus write them off to some extent. "He's just being Trump," I think.

But the danger was posed by columnist that truth is "whatever you can get away with" is dangerous because it can spread. More people will imbibe his philosophy - he'll get converts. I'm not sure this is true - it seems like in most cases the president acts as an allergen that inoculates. Which is why we get opposite presidents each time (plainspoken Bush was the opposite of fork-tongued Clinton, aloof Obama the opposite of Bush, and Trump the opposite of everybody).

It's probably not a coincidence that the rise of the new atheism came during the presidency of the most evangelical Christian president we'd had in some time (Bush II). Similarly, I think the worst thing for Mormon recruitment would've been had Romney won in '12.

But tactics may be different than personalities and philosophies, and Trump's tactics work to some extent so there's the rub.

February 16, 2017

The Trumpenstein

I generally assiduously ignore Trump, preferring to savor his actions rther than his words, but today couldn't help but want to watch his train wreck of a "presser" as they now apparently call press conferences (I must've missed the memo).

Trump is a figure of interest partially because there's still the rolling shock that he's President of the United States. Maybe this is what liberals thought about Reagan in '80, a minor league actor.  Trump is also of interest simply because he's so resolutely coarse and vulgar while, at the same time, on the side of the angels on policy (mostly; I dislike his trade views).  Lastly he's of interest simply because he's so damn comfortable in his own skin.  By media standards he's about as unhip as you get: old white guy with odd hair.  And yet he's overcome the disabilities of presentation.  The confidence he exudes, I imagine, confers confidence to all the old white guys who voted for him.  Trump's the new black.

His performance at the press conference was the stuff of wonder if only because he's taken authenticity and casualness to a new level.  Casualness with the truth, for sure, but also casualness as far as just being himself, not putting on airs, just acting like he wasn't at a press conference but at his backyard barbecue.  Only he was frying reporters, not burgers.  It's no small thing to be the first casual president.  No wonder his big Inauguration song was "My Way".

February 13, 2017

Let's Play...Why's My Bookbag (or e-read equiv) So D*mn Heavy?

Saturday I fell headlong heedlessly into a print ocean. I was determined to go for quantity if not quality.

First up was the new Evelyn Waugh biography. I asked myself why, given he was an uncharitable, sex-addicted prose-master (is that uncharitable?) and I guess I had my answer right there. Why not read the Ian Ker biography of St. Gilbert of Chesterton? Or the bio of Russell Kirk, imbiber of ancient wisdom? Really, what can Waugh teach given that his talent for writing is nontransferable?

Then I lapped up some William Least Heat Moon and some lively dialogue that reads like fiction. Here he has a repairman come over and talk about his son while doing a job:
A couple of months before setting out to travel the Ouachita Valley, I had an electrician rewire a storage space I was converting into a small exercise room. I explained to the man, only a few years younger than I, old folks don’t need storage —they need muscle. The remark found resonance in him and considerably slowed the job, since he apparently wasn’t able to talk while simultaneously holding a tool or length of conduit. He put down his screwdriver to exposit more clearly his means of teaching his grandson rudiments of basketball to help the boy make his school team.

“I never played down to him. He had to match me, but it didn’t take long before he could outrun me, outjump me. That young body! Hell, he could get it to piss over the hood of a pickup.” He stopped. “Excuse my phraseology, but you know what I’m saying.”

He took a length of conduit, measured it, and put it down once more. “Oh, man! To be seventeen again!” (Conduit up, conduit down.) “He could outdo me in every way but one, and I had that advantage only because he couldn’t see it, no matter how I tried to explain it.” (Screw-driver in hand, screwdriver back into tool belt.) “Time!” he said, referring to what he was using too much of for my project. “The boy doesn’t know what to do with time except to burn it. That’s my one advantage. If he isn’t fiddling with an electronic game, he spends his time dreaming impossible things —climbing Mount Everest or dating some starlet of the hour.”

Having forgotten the conduit measurement, he remeasured. “I tell him, ‘Okay, you can outrun me, but what good is it if you’re not running to some productive place?’” (Here, a piece of conduit actually got attached to the wall.) “I tell him he’s like a trash collector, except he goes around just collecting days so he can haul them off to dump them.” (Junction box screwed to the wall.) “Time’s his enemy because he’s got too much of it, and it’s my enemy because I’m running out of it.” I could see why. (Next length of conduit measured and set down.) “Old Mother Nature’s a smart-ass, you know. When you finally learn how to use time, you can’t even piss over a hubcap.” (Conduit remeasured.) “Excuse my phraseology, but you know what I’m saying.”
Then wasted time reading New Yorker Jeffery Tubin's old slanted book on the Supreme Court. Just can't resist those gossipy, what-are-they-really-like scenes. It's almost humorous how Tubin's love and affection for the liberal justices comes out spontaneously.

Read some of High Dive novel. Mentions that the problem with having a fall-back plan is you're likely to fall back on it. Commitment uber alles. Also liked this line, about a girl who was cool because she didn't care if she looked cool: "Lack of self-awareness has its own perfect appeal."

Riveting Heather King quote from a book she's reading:
“Maslow ...said transcenders, on the other hand, “had illuminations or insights” that motivated them to transform their lives and the lives of others. They felt a sense of destiny, sought truth, did not judge, and viewed pain, even in their love lives, as an opportunity to grow. Maslow considered peak experiences, mystical visions, and self-creation as natural parts of our higher circuitry.". --Brenda Schaeffer, Is It Love Or Is It Addiction?
Which is interesting in that that "desire to transform the lives of others" is what evangelism would seem to imply. St. Paul, the master evangelist, was certainly highly motivated to transform the lives of others, and well he did.

Anyway I love that sentiment that "mysticism is natural", that it's accessible to us all. (Although Maslow's not exactly Scripture though.)


I find it a humorous juxtaposition but an appropriate one, that Song of Songs follows Ecclesiastes in the Bible. It's surely no accident - the one answers the other. The first says "all is meaningless" and the second says "except for love". The first represents our time on earth, the second our time in Heaven.

Found this from a Patheos blogger:
"I count [these two books] among my most cherished members of the canon.
Without them I don’t think there is enough space for God to roam around. Although these books are certainly unique in their presentation of God, they are unique in a good way that opens our imaginations to new ways to encounter the divine. They open up mystical playgrounds, and theological escape hatches. I love it.
I need to be able to love God deeply, madly, passionately, and with abandon; like in the Song of Songs. Our culture is awash in cheap sex. I need a place where it is rich. Song of Songs can provide that place.
I also need to be reminded of a God that can meet me in the midst of my duty. Sometimes the feeling of passion for God are gone. My fear of the LORD is tainted with doubt and God does not seem personal at all. The world can seem empty at times, and even the good things I have can appear fleeting, evanescent, and absurd. Ecclesiastes gives me a sacred space in those times. It helps lead me into the desert where God can work something new in me. Ecclesiastes guides me to under the wings of the monastic traditions of my faith and through the dark night of the soul. It demonstrates that even in austerity there is richness in God."

I read where the gospel of Matthew was given pride of place as the first because it was the historically seen as the most important and favored. I can't pick one of the gospels as a favorite, mostly because each have things I like and things I'm less fond of. Different strengths. For example, I always feel guilty with Luke like I'm not too favored given my (relative) wealth but I love his emphasis on prayer and Mary.  With Mark, it seems like Jesus is always tirelessly performing miracles.

Here's my rough could-be-wrong one sentence impressions of the gospels:

Matthew: the authoritative Christ
Mark: the approachable Christ
Luke: the contemplative Christ
John: the consoling Christ

Another view: Matthew for conservatives, Luke for liberals, Mark for non-ideologues, and John for everybody since he transcends labels.


Good homily at Mass the other day - I appreciated how this young Dominican isn't shy around deep questions. He's refreshingly ambitious in how much he's willing to take in a mere 5-minute homily.

Specifically he talked about the origin of Original Sin. How our first parents were without disordered desires. They could eat the precisely correct amount - no more, no less, than what was perfectly desirable. They could not lust. They could be lazy. In other words, they had no trouble with the passions. In a sense, they were like the angels in the lack of temptation around bodily sin. However, like the angel Lucifer, they were susceptible to spiritual sin, namely of wanting to be God. The devil famously would prefer to be master of Hell than a servant in Heaven - in other words, to deny he too is a creaturely beings designed for service.

The priest said that of course it's objectively better to be master rather than servant. Who wouldn't prefer that? To have complete control over our circumstances? But the Tree Adam and Eve grasped at (to become gods) was the Tree that Jesus became and freely offered, such that we can become like God after all by virtue of his divine gift.

And what a revelatory NABRE footnote concerning today's reading from Genesis:
"The Lord God planted a paradise [= pleasure park] in Eden.” It should be noted, however, that the garden was not intended as a paradise for the human race, but as a pleasure park for God; the man tended it for God. The story is not about “paradise lost.”

Interesting to read Deut 28 given it mentions "blessed be the fruit of your womb", obviously later echoed in the NT as applying to Mary. I read the whole passage and considered it as foreshadowing of Mary:
If you will only obey the Lord your God, by diligently observing all his commandments...Blessed shall be the fruit of your womb...The Lord will cause your enemies who rise against you to be defeated before you; they shall come out against you one way, and flee before you seven ways...The Lord will open for you his rich storehouse, the heavens, to give the rain of your land in its season and to bless all your undertakings. You will lend to many nations, but you will not borrow. The Lord will make you the head, and not the tail; you shall be only at the top, and not at the bottom—if you obey the commandments of the Lord your God.
That last part reminds me of Mary as Queen of Heaven, Queen of even the angels! The part about the Lord opening his rich storehouse reminds me of her storehouse of grace and how she would "lend to many nations, but will not borrow", which is certain on the grace front; she lends to us and need not borrow being preserved from Original Sin. And the part about enemies fleeing reminds me of the demons being cowed and of the prophesy in Genesis "I will put enmity between the woman and the serpent."

In the "paradise lost" notion I've always subscribed to, I pictured that it's as if we were gods before the Fall when in fact we were still creatures subject to the test. We may've been immortal but we still had to humbly submit to a greater power than ourselves. We still had to work even - to cultivate the garden as it says in Genesis.

The sobering thing is that even without our passions we are still quite capable of sin, witness the angels who fell as well as Adam and Eve. One hundred percent of prelapsarian humans fell and perhaps a third of the angels as well. No wonder pride is the ultimate enemy.

There's a kind of odd consolation in reading about the Fall since it helps explain the why of it all - the why of demonic possession ("he will bruise their heel" - a literal bruising in the case of St. Padre Pio) and of course the necessity of death, to fulfill the truth of the word of God as far as the consequence of partaking of the forbidden fruit.

The Fall's effects applied even to two people for whom it didn't happen: Jesus and Mary. Both were conceived without sin like Adam and Eve. And yet both took on the consequences of Original Sin: difficulty in labor for Mary if not literally than symbolically given how a sword pierced her heart, and death for both, although we're not sure about Mary on that aspect.

At Byzantine service heard the Prodigal Son gospel; one thing that occurred to me for the first time ever was how even in exile the prodigal was in at least one way morally impressive: he would not steal despite his great hunger: "He would gladly have filled himself with the pods that the pigs were eating, and no one gave him anything."

I also thought during the First Reading about the connection between the Eucharist and sex: how in both cases we join ourselves physically to another, and how in both cases we see how seriously God takes material things: in the first case, how seriously he takes what we do with our bodies, and in the second, how seriously he treats union with us such that he's willing to risk ridicule by changing bread and wine into Himself. "He who eats and drinks my Body and Blood gains eternal life", he says, and he who commits adultery with someone not his wife risks eternal hellfire.

Thirsting for culture in a dry land, I took 7-yr old Sammy to the Art Museum where a piano soloist was offering a concert. I thought it was free - it seemed the last art museum concert was - but this one was $30 for me and $10 for Sammy. I said "no thanks" but the kind lady at the ticket counter said, "Oh go on ahead anyway." And then to Sam she said, "you'll be inspired!" (Of course Sam had no openness to being inspired except by the kids movie he was watching on my iphone - that was obviously the only way I was going to get him to go with me!) He'd actually been there before, on a class field trip! A pretty young woman reported to me that she loved my sweatshirt, which says "Eat. Breathe. Sleep. Books."

I gave the ticket lady the $15 I had on me, though now I wished I'd just accepted the largess and be $15 better off. But good to support the arts, I should say. We left after an hour, at intermission, to prevent Sam from getting too restive. Plus I was having a helluva time trying to suppress my cough. The more I thought: "don't cough! People are trying to listen to this great music!" the more I had to cough. My eyes watered and I involuntarily near-coughed. Grateful between pieces when I could cough while applauding.

I dropped $20 at gift shop which was an unforced error. Never let Sam go shopping with you else he'll beg and wheedle you like a master playa.


Michelangelo's poetry:

Swift through the eyes unto the heart within
All lovely forms that thrall our spirit stray;
So smooth and broad and open is the way
That thousands and not hundreds enter in.
Burdened with scruples and weighed down with sin,
These mortal beauties fill me with dismay;
Nor find I one that doth not strive to stay
My soul on transient joy, or lets me win
The heaven I yearn for. Lo, when erring love —
Who fills the world, howe’er his power we shun,
Else were the world a grave and we undone —
Assails the soul, if grace refuse to fan
Our purged desires and make them soar above,
What grief it were to have been born a man!

February 11, 2017

Francis v Burke

It seems hard to dispute that Pope Francis has treated conservative cardinals harder than Popes John Paul II and Benedict treated liberal cardinals. Why?  (Assuming the premise is true; perhaps John Paul was harder on liberals like Cardinal Mahony than I imagine.)

It could be that conservatives generally have less taste for risk, and there's a risk in offending large portions of Catholicism by showing disdain for a representative churchman of that faction.  You don't want to fray Peter's net too much; you want to *conserve* it.

With Catholic liberals, maybe there's more faith in faith as opposed to reason, and that necessarily means taking greater chances. If you want change, after all, you have to break a few eggs (or egos).

It could be my bias but it always seems like liberal officeholders treat conservative officeholders worse than vice-versa --Trump being the exception (although Lord knows what he is politically). I think Trump's success is partially a reaction of frustration by the GOP base inasmuch as McCain and Romney were perceived as playing too much by "gentlemen rules".   Trump, like Francis, plays for broke.

February 10, 2017

Jonah Goldberg on the Idiotic 9th Circuit

"Whatever you think of Trump’s original call for a Muslim ban (I think it was ludicrous) the whole point is that Trump did the right thing. He talked to his advisors and they said, “You can’t do that.” So he said, “Okay, what can we do?” And they came up with this executive order. It was shoddily done and on the merits isn’t nearly as vital to American national security as he claims. But that’s my point. He did something vastly less ambitious because the demands of governing required it. The judges responded, in effect, “We don’t care. We’re still going to punish you for it.”
David French is exactly right when he says this ruling is a Pandora’s Box. Where does this retromingent line of legal reasoning end? Barack Obama insisted he would fundamentally transform America and suggested he’d make the oceans recede. Could some judge reviewing an EPA regulation have said, “But the president said . . . ” about that? This is taking the rigorous rules of Twitter logic and putting them into law.
The Ninth Circuit loves to preen under normal circumstances. The judges took a sloppily rolled out — but ultimately legal — executive order and used it to set potential precedents that, if left standing, will have calamitous repercussions.
If one thinks of the courts as a political institution with collective interests, the smartest thing the Ninth Circuit could have done is say something along the lines of “this is stupid but constitutional.” If they really think Trump is the monster the “resistance” Left thinks he is, they’ll need more, not less, credibility in the days to come. But, much like the mainstream media, they’ve decided that crying wolf from Day One is the preferable way to go."

February 01, 2017


Shell decor

Manatee mail box. 

Toad not, lest ye be towed. 

Jesuslawncare.com - taking care of all your lawn and soul needs. 

January 19, 2017

A Field Guide to POTUSes

My latest theory on politics is that the least patrician and intellectual  person wins every presidential race in the modern era.

Reagan v Carter
The California cowboy had the reputation as a non-intellectual, an actor no less, and it played him in good stead against Carter's comparative intellectual mien and effete-ism.  

Reagan v Mondale
Mondale, with his soft patrician sweaters and "low energy" vibe, couldn't appeal to Joe Lunchbox, nor sometimes even to the faculty lounge lizard.  

Bush v Dukakis
True, George HW Bush was the ultimate patrician white male, but he came off as more corny than intellectual in his speech ("Not gonna do it!", "Read my lips!") and he was facing an opponent who looked the part of a patrician and whose picture is under the dictionary captioned: "Pointy-headed Massachusetts intellectual." 

Clinton v Bush
Clinton masked his policy wonk streak with an Arkansas background, down home speech, and the reddest of redneck families.  The ultimate non-patrician white male.  

Clinton v Dole
The bland Midwestern politician Dole looked like a Founding Father, and was, in fact, a contemporary of the Founding Fathers.  Way too much of the Senate parliamentarian/patrician. 

W. Bush v Gore
W. Bush was the anti-intellectual cowboy riding in to save the day from Gore, who was even whiter than Bush and heavily into non-blue collar fetishes like climate change and paying advisers on how to become more of an "alpha" male. That doesn't play in Ohio biker bars. 

W. Bush v Kerry
It's a little known fact that John Kerry played a philatelist in the film "How I Married Into Money".  He also got an honorable mention under the dictionary definition of "Pointy-headed Massachusetts intellectual". 

Obama v McCain
Obama, although a cerebral type, betrays none of that in his speeches, which tend to be "folksy" and littered with brainless slogans like "Hope and Change!" and "Yes We Can!".  McCain, while no intellectual, has enough of a patrician about him given his white hair, good manners, and family background.  

Obama v Romney
Romney is so stiff and W.A.S.P.-ish that the state of Massachusetts filed a formal complaint against his campaign, saying that Democrats have the patent on these guys (see Dukakis and Kerry). 

Trump v Clinton
Trump is the iconic nouveau riche guy whose idea of noblesse oblige is the obligation to hit back harder than he got hit.  He's also the least intellectual person you'd care to know.  Hillary combined nerdy-ness and lying, a particularly poor combo. 

January 13, 2017

More Innocent Days

Attached is something our company provided before 2011 – it was the source of endless mirth back in the day (much less funny now given the new reality of terrorism).

It’s hard to know where to begin, but I guess under the "can't hurt to ask!" category we have: “why did you place the bomb?” followed by “what is your name and address?”.

Also liked the thoroughness of potential background noises such that “crockery” was included.

If someone got a bomb threat, I'm not sure they'd have the presence of mind to say, "Please wait on the line sir while I find my bomb threat checklist."

January 12, 2017

U.S. Health Data Maps

Neat map tool here that shows the change between 1980 and 2014 in mortality rates due to various causes.

Some results:

--Cardiovascular disease worsened significantly for men/improved for women.

--Cirrhosis of liver increased bigly for women.

--Mental and substance abuse disorders better for women, worse for men, especially in KY-PA-OH axis,

--Change in self-harm and interpersonal violence markedly higher for women compared to men.

--Interesting how crossing a border seems to change mortality - Texas is doing so much better across the board than Oklahoma.  Perhaps due to better economy?

--In terms of overall life expectancy at birth, men pretty much show poorer change numbers, women better.  And California, go figure.  The politically dysfunctional state seems healthy in terms of life expectancy rate change. 


So in summary and to oversimplify:  Women are drinking more but in general not abusing substances resulting in death (KY/WV big exceptions).  Women are doing better mentally, men are doing worse, except with respect to deaths due to self-harm and interpersonal violence  

Women are becoming more like men with respect to drinking and violence, but less like men when it comes to general overall health and susceptibility to disease.  I wonder how much of it can be tied simply to men dropping out of the workforce.  Work seems to keep people healthier. 

January 09, 2017

Jeremiahs and Pariahs

Thanks very little, Meryl Streep, for picking on the potus-elect's disabilities (sensitivity to slights and easily distracted nature).  It doesn't help to pile negativity on our president elect in advance. By crying wolf, Streep only waters down when (not if) Trump oversteps.


Trying to ponder mysteries without any clue, like how Trump won. Or how it is that Appalachian folks on the dole and Native Americans on the dole both have sky high suicide rates / drug dependency and general misery. It certainly calls into question my lifelong conviction that work is the curse of the workin' class. My dream was to retire at 30 but surely to my detriment.

Less of a mystery is why Applachians stay in a community with so little opportunity: it comes down to sentiment, and that some things are more important than money:
But why did he stay? "I know there is very little opportunity here," Reed says. "But I wanted to come back because I need someone to remind me of what life is about. I know these people, prayed with them. They carried me when no else would. We value people, memories, and experiences."...I'm not entirely unsympathetic to the sentimental case for staying. At night, in my inn, I could hear the trains huffing... It was an oddly comforting sound.
So many mysteries, so little time. Today has been replete with them.

I also got briefly obsessed with the unsolved July murder of DNC staffer Seth Rich, which Julian Assange has implied was a whistleblower. Similarly the disappearance of Eric Braverman, who was hired by Cheslea to clean up the Clinton Foundation and since Oct-Nov has not shown himself in public. I looked at the FB accounts of his mother and father, stepmother and stepfather.

In an Internet age, when answers to everything are at your fingertips, it's feels almost foreign that so many things are still unknowable.


I read a lot of Jeremiah last night for contrarian purposes. I'm perversely interested in some of the most unpopular books in the Bible like Jeremiah. No one quotes him approvingly except for the 2.5 passages in which he's happy and upbeat. It's like how I'm drawn to extremes such as the presidency of James Buchanan, arguably the worst president in US history (at least according to biography of Buchanan I'm reading titled "Worst President Ever").

At the very least I want to understand how it is the ancient Jews so favored these "doom and gloom" prophets such that they included them in their sacred scripture.

Still want to find the right book on Jeremiah. It's not enough to read the actual Scripture, I hunger for opinions on how it fits into the whole scheme of history and theology. I got a lot of wants. I want to sit down with the reliable, great biblical scholars and pepper them with questions. I think I want to see the "worst" the Bible has to offer, in terms of woe and doom. God is unchangeable, therefore I can't simply write off Jeremiah as being part of that benighted old testament. It's surely part of my project of reconciling judgement and mercy which is likely a hopeless cause. But there's a measure of facing your fear in this. For similar reasons I think D. Keith Mano faced the sexual lust dragon by writing novels involving lust. Whether his project was successful I don't know, but Mano seemed bent on destroying lust by visiting the "scene of the crime".  I think if I can learn to stop worrying and love the Jeremiah then I'll be a more holistic Christian. 

From Peter Kreeft:
Jeremiah himself was just the opposite of our stereotype of the doomsayer: someone stern, severe, and sour, tight of jaw, bitter of bile, and hard of heart. Jeremiah was a sensitive, gentle, kindhearted man; but God called him to deliver a harsh, hard message. God often calls us to necessities that we think our natural personalities are not fit for...
No Old Testament poetry is more heartfelt and feeling-full than Jeremiah’s, except some of the Psalms. A few of his expressions have become famous, such as, “Is there no balm in Gilead?” (8:22) and his personification of death as a grim reaper (9:21–22).
If God allowed reincarnation, I think Jeremiah would be the prophet he would bring back today. For the besetting sin of our society too is not so much any one particular sin—lust and greed and sloth and luxuriousness are hardly our invention—but the loss of the consciousness of sin. Our ancestors may have been more cruel than we, but at least they repented.
Yet even the coming exile is mercy, for it (and it alone) would turn Judah’s heart to seek God again, to listen and repent. There is always hope because His love and mercy are as unchangeable as His justice and truth.
Scott Hahn:
The Chosen People had forsaken their covenant with God, throwing off the yoke of the Lord in moral obduracy (Jer 2:20), and so earned the more severe Babylonian yoke. Jeremiah repeatedly preached the direct link between moral decline and political degeneration with the aim of sparking a real moral reformation.
The thing about Jeremiah, like Jesus, he did not withhold themselves from judgment. Just as Jesus suffered for our sins and for our sake, so too did Jeremiah, who suffered much mental pain and anguish, was rejected and hated, and loathing doing what he was called to do:
In a Christlike manner, Jeremiah made his life a Messianic prophecy, enduring for his people the very sufferings that were predicted and proclaimed... Jeremiah saw himself as “a gentle lamb led to the slaughter” (Jer 11:19). Like Christ, he wept for his people and called upon them to turn aside at the last hour, only to receive from his people rejection and anger.
I pondered on John the Baptist wondered at the absurdity of his baptizing Jesus and how we can perhaps think of the absurdity of our bringing others to Jesus. But our God has this thing for using humans. As I read in Saving the Bible from Ourselves:
I will read straight through Esther and then consider how it is that God simply will not act alone in this drama. He is uncompromising in his determination that humans act like humans and play their parts.