January 25, 2016

A Colleague's Memorable Job

A co-worker of mine was interviewed on our company website and I found this inspiring:
What was your most memorable high school/college job and why?
Building custom-fit shipping containers in a factory. I loved working with my hands to build something, seeing that the machine being shipped fit perfectly in the container, and knowing that my work was essential to getting the machine to its destination. Also, there was something very philosophical about putting your best craftsmanship to work on something - that container was me personally delivering that product - while knowing that ultimately your work would be ripped apart and discarded. It was about "doing it right" even if the result of your work was short-lived.

January 22, 2016

Tell Me What I Want to Hear

I was talking to a Trump supporter who summed it up this way: "he's saying exactly what I want to hear."  

I think that's telling.  It's not: "he's telling the truth" or "he's got an excellent strategy to improve America".  And utterly not: "he will inspire us to a higher standard".  

And the message is "winning" to borrow from Charlie Sheen. It could be simply due to how we now choose media outlets - MSNBC, Fox - that say exactly what we want to hear and rarely challenge us.  

As a consequence we demand our leaders follow us instead of lead us. We don't elect someone wise and measured, we elect the immature and callow, like a Barack Obama in '08 or a Bill Clinton in '92 or a George Bush in '00. 

All the really popular candidates --  Cruz, Sanders and Trump -- have in common the pattern of saying exactly and precisely what conservatives, liberals and "Reagan Democrats" respectively want to hear - not what they need to hear.  Not to explain what is possible to accomplish.  Authenticity seems less measured by truth-telling as by how intensely you feel something to be true or wish it to be. To pick long-shot fights and then blame other Republicans when you're unsuccessful is one example.

And maybe telling voters what they want to hear is the way politics has always been but it seems more pronounced than ever.  At the very least leaders used to have to pretend not to be ambitious; Ronald Reagan used his acting prowess to pretend he was drafted to run in 1980, the homage vice pays to virtue sort of thing.  But now you have Donald Trump and Ted Cruz, who, to borrow from Shelby Foote's characterization of Jefferson Davis, seem "ambitious as Satan".  You could say they are authentic in their ambitiousness, I guess. 

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Addendum:

Holy cow that Mark Helprin can write:

"A diet, caffeine-free Marxist (really, the only thing wrong with being a Marxist is being a Marxist); a driven, leftist crook; and an explosive, know-nothing demagogue — all are competing to see who can be even more like Mussolini than is Obama. But in the caudillo department, surpassing even our own Evita, the Donald wins."

"And forget trying to determine whether Trump's a conservative. Given that, at the suggestion of Bill Clinton, he has like a tapeworm invaded the schismatically weakened body of the Republican party, it’s a pointless question, because, like Allah in Islamic theology, he is whatever he pleases to be at the moment, the only principle being the triumph of his will."

January 20, 2016

Politics, Schmolitics

As cynical as Donald Trump is in his shameless position changes (and stabbing other candidates while humorously feigning concern for them), Jeb Bush might rival him simply because of Bush's complete disregard for anything but money.

Jeb couldn't even be bothered to prepare what he'd say when the Inevitable Question came up: that of  the Iraq War his brother engaged in.  His fumbling, defense of the war before his non-defense was, in its way, as telling a moment as way back when Ted Kennedy was running for president and stumbled over the simple question of "why are you running?"

That's pretty insulting to voters, not to take the run seriously enough to have more than a half-baked thought on the Iraq war.

Jeb was focused on money not message while Trump was focused on message, not money.  Of course that's easier to when you're a billionaire but certainly the optics of it was: Jeb is courting big money donors while Trump is courting Joe Six-pack.

What's truly brilliant about the Trump campaign is how we all thought he was winging it as he went along but apparently it was planned.  Who knew he had that sort of discipline? He is treating the campaign for president like a long TV series, presenting a hot, new plot twist each week.

Someone should've predicted this awhile back since the line between entertainment and politics (or pretty much everything) has shrunk to the vanishing point.  So Trump is ideally situated.

Isn't it hard to believe there's no one in a Republican party, no conservative think tank, not National Review or the Weekly Standard, smart enough to come up with a 21st century political strategy like Trump's?  And wasn't it Barack Obama and the 'Crats who pioneered the use of big data analytics?  Do you ever get the feeling that the Republican party is the ultimate amateur, junior-high school production? (Disclaimer: sorry to 7th graders everywhere for comparing them to the Republican party.)

On the other hand, maybe it's that the party wants to try to firewall the partition between politics and entertainment even at the risk of not winning the presidency ever again.  Nah, I don't think so.

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Interesting take in National Review:
As [Sowell's] Wealth, Poverty and Politics comes to a close, the author focuses his attention on controversies closer to home. He has much to say about the persistence of black poverty in the United States, and the role that the welfare state has played in perpetuating it. African Americans are, according to Sowell, a lagging group that has been ill served by its leadership, not entirely unlike the Malays in Malaysia. I can’t say I agree with every aspect of Sowell’s take on the contemporary American scene. For Sowell, the chief obstacles facing poor native-born blacks looking to better their lot are ghetto culture and a welfare-state ideology that rewards idleness. My own view is that many of the pathologies Sowell identifies can be explained at least in part by the failure of governments to protect African Americans from violence. For much of U.S. history, officialdom turned a blind eye to “black-on-black” violence, which in effect meant that predators routinely got away with murder and innocent victims knew they could not trust the state to protect them. People who live in fear are often less productive than those who live in peace. Nevertheless, Sowell has done us a great service by placing our current controversies in international context. We may be thankful that the U.S. is not yet a society in which productive minorities are despised. One wonders whether this will still be the case a generation or two hence, when there is a very good chance that racial disparities in wealth and income will have grown even more pronounced than they are today.

 Read more at: https://www.nationalreview.com/nrd/articles/429377/causes-wealth
Elsewhere in National Review:
Among all the other candidates, only Ted Cruz — who has gone out of his way to avoid alienating Trump’s supporters, while declining to embrace Trump’s toxic rhetoric — seems to understand this. (It is no coincidence that Cruz has by far the best data operation of any candidate in the race.)  Meanwhile, many a Republican Candidate Ahab seems to be haplessly chasing the great Hispanic whale, which, even if miraculously caught, wouldn’t do much to improve the party’s 2016 electoral prospects.
Strong establishments take insurgencies’ best issues and co-opt them. Weak and stupid establishments don’t. Right now, the GOP establishment is weak and stupid. Rather than attempting to present a forward-looking agenda that would appeal to a large number of Trump supporters and draw them into the Republican coalition, the establishment is seemingly working overtime to alienate them. Rather than pursuing an immigration policy that would protect vulnerable American workers and bring in skilled immigrants while disavowing Trump’s divisive tone and his impractical and overbroad prescriptions, it is promoting a quasi-open-borders policy that will perhaps keep maid service cheap for GOP donors — while electing a generation of Obamas. Rather than thinking through what a strong 21st-century Reaganite American patriotism would look like, too many candidates have embraced a hyper-militaristic nation-building strategy of which GOP voters have wearied, and that a national electorate decisively rejected in 2008 and 2012."
  – Mr. Carl is a research fellow at the Hoover Institution, Stanford University.

January 19, 2016

Following Jesus with Jugs of Water


One of Russell Kirk's favorites, the Roman emperor Marcus Aurelius, took pains to educate his son Commodus in the Stoicism and virtue and asceticism, which completely and utterly failed to take. Edward Gibbon writes:
Nothing, however, was neglected by the anxious father, and by the men of virtue and learning whom he summoned to his assistance, to expand the narrow mind of young Commodus, to correct his growing vices, and to render him worthy of the throne for which he was designed. But the power of instruction is seldom of much efficacy, except in those happy dispositions where it is almost superfluous.
Gibbons's pessimistic line about the efficacy of instruction feels sort of truthy but I'm not sure how a Christian can subscribe to that given the pains Christ took to instruct us. I suppose it's a “both/and” - we need human and divine instruction but also Grace.

I found out who the priest is at our local St. Patrick's is, the one with the wonderfully and preternaturally calm voice and manner: Father Cassian Derbes. Turns out he was interviewed on National Review Online for the 800th anniversary of the Dominican founding. Makes me want to support NR more!

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On my way to UPS Store Saturday I listened to Catholic radio personality Jennifer Fulwiler on the radio talk about how when she was an atheist she found the argument against having children (i.e. that they're a lot of work, they annoy you, etc..) persuasive, but now she sees the meaning of life being to live with those who annoy you. That the only way to have a long-lasting, meaningful relationships is to be at peace with your plans being disrupted and being annoyed. Makes sense. The meaning of life is relationship since that's what God is (Father, Son and Spirit) and obviously humans have differing wills, priorities, personalities, peccadilloes.

Luke's gospel makes it sound so easy:  “Fear not, little flock; for it is your Father's good pleasure to give you the kingdom. Sell that ye have, and give alms; provide yourselves bags which wax not old, a treasure in the heavens that faileth not, where no thief approacheth.”

I love the nonchalance of the statement that it's God's pleasure to give us the kingdom, i.e. everything.

I like the archaic language in this version. “Sell what ye have” - and what do we have of value besides Christ? Thus the imperative to evangelize and “advertise” Jesus.

Luke 12:32 is a pretty awesome verse and it could stand up well as being anyone's fav in my opinion. Matthew chapter 7 has a verse that a confessor once told me to memorize, and rightly so: "Is there anyone among you who, if your child asks for bread, will give a stone? Or if the child asks for a fish, will give a snake? If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good things…."

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I read In Cold Blood in high school. Does that even count? Does any classic I read then count given how completely different I am now after two trillion words read and innumerable experiences behind me? Was I so much in my own dream world then that Capote didn't really reach me, just as Moby Dick was a “non-experience experience”?

They say youth is wasted on the young but the classics were mostly wasted on me. I had not reached the depths of despair that I would on college - in high school I was still an innocent little burgher. The dark notes of classic books either played tunes too low to hear (like how humans can't hear dog whistles). To quote from Capote's classic, “Drama, in the shape of exceptional happenings, had never stopped there.”

The only thing I read then that resonated at all was Great Expectations. Would I be immune to its charms now? I think so, given I picked it up recently and wondered why it so captivated. I guess to every time there is a season, or a book. Great Expectations for the young, Bleak House for the middle-aged perhaps.

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Fun adventure Sunday - took the grandkids to a kids symphony concert. We got there around 2:30 for about 20 minutes of pre-concert goings-ons, specifically a temporary tattoo table. Tried out a violin as well.

Then we went into the concert and heard a good variety of great music and story-telling. “Pop Goes the Weasel” was a highlight, but by 3:20 the bloom was off the rose for the boys. Heck by 3:05pm Will was asking for my iphone, which I gave to him with the sound turned way down. So he got nothing out of it at all, other than a temp tattoo. Sam was initially enthused but soured and tired and by 3:35pm we were outta there. I think it was scheduled till 4 or 4:30.

The highlight for the boys was likely the escalators, which they enjoyed mastering. It was like a ride at King's Island.

All told a bit of a fail as far as introducing the boys to the joys of classical music. It was intended for ages 3-10, but kids of any age are pretty hard to entertain consistently, it seems to me.

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From a WaPo article:  "Voters 'do not want the truth,' Shenkman writes. 'We want hope. If the truth robs us of hope, we don’t want to hear it.'  With Christianity, truth and hope are conjoined.

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Ben Franklin: “The only thing that hurts about a rebuke is the truth.”

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Sighted on FB:
"I have no problem believing the Miracle at Cana. What's implausible is how there weren't people following Jesus with jugs of water for the rest of John's Gospel."
"Until about 200 years ago - and really until about only 85 years ago, most people were mostly drunk most of the time, for most of their lives.” [I was obviously born in the wrong age.]
“Christ turned water into wine, not wine into water. Too bad for Southern Baptist teetotalers.”
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Someone thought I'd be outraged by what Peggy Noonan wrote about Cardinal Law and the bishops who allowed abusers to continue their crimes in her collection of WSJ columns.  I don't get it because I don't see my job as cheerleading the hierarchy.  A misconception about the Church, I think, is that the misbehavior of its members somehow undercuts either her authority or her truth.

It's not “pro-Catholic” to defend Cardinal Law's inexcusable behavior around the sex abuse crisis. It's not “anti-Catholic” to excoriate him. Jesus was not being anti-Jewish when he excoriated the Pharisees in his own church – and he said they lost not one iota of their authority (“You must be careful to do everything they tell you to do,” he says in Matthew 23:3).

We live in a hyper-politicized culture, so it's natural to think of the church as just another political organization but: “If I see the Church only under the aspect of power, then it follows that everyone who doesn't hold an office is oppressed… If belonging to the Church has any meaning at all, then the meaning can only be that it gives us eternal life. We are not in the Church in order to exercise power as if in some kind of association,” as Cardinal Ratzinger wrote.

I have no problem with seeing the Catholic hierarchy in great need of change. But what I don't understand is seeing the Catholic Church as equivalent to the hierarchy. That would be like seeing America as simply the president and Congress and Supreme Court. If faith means anything, it means the Holy Spirit can act through flawed instruments. If America is much more than just Barack Obama, how much more is the Catholic Church, with Christ at the head using flawed instruments, than a mere earthly nation?

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From Scott Hahn's Catholic Bible Dictionary on sacrifice:
Sacrificial themes are not confined to the actions of Christ in the NT but are likewise applied to Christians. In one sense, this is implicit in the teaching of Jesus, who summons his followers to “take up the cross” in imitation of him (Matt 10:38; Mark 8:34; Luke 14:27). Once he describes his own crucifixion in cultic and sacrificial terms, it follows that the life of Christian discipleship would have this character as well.
This theme is developed mainly in the epistles of Paul, who uses sacrificial images and ideas to describe an array of Christian activities. For instance, he urges believers to present their “bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God” (Rom 12:1). This is an appeal for such things as chastity, temperance, mortification, and other actions of gospel morality and spirituality that surrender the body and its cravings to the will of the Lord. Other forms of sacrifice include monetary giving, such as the gift that Paul received from the church of Philippi, which he calls “a fragrant offering, a sacrifice acceptable and pleasing to God” (Phil 4:18).
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After reading the recent liturgical readings about Saul, I wondered why David was forgiven a much worse sin than Saul? St. Augustine said God isn't showing favoritism, but their results differed because their hearts differed, and we can't see their hearts, only God can. Not overly comforting, given my fickle heart.  Thank God for 1 John 3:20.

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I don't quite understand why Pope Francis is so polarizing in the Catholic community. I don't understand why some are giddy over him (if he was performing miracles of healing or drawing huge numbers of new people to Mass I might understand it better), nor why others think he's the anti-Christ or a heretic. He's human. (Update: I was reminded by someone that "Joy is contagious" concerning the giddiness. Yes.)

January 18, 2016

Goldberg Quotes

Jonah Goldberg:
"....All of the talk about how our political system has been bought by the “billionaire class” is simplistic nonsense. If “big money” rules, why is Jeb Bush at 6 percent in the polls? Why is Bernie Sanders poised to beat Hillary in New Hampshire and maybe Iowa?

I definitely think the system is designed in a way that benefits rich people (that’s a significant theme of the book I’m working on), but that has not much to do with the preferred policies of a bunch of  mustache-twirling fat cats. Indeed, the whole notion that rich people are ideologically homogenous is little more than the grimy, greasy, stain left behind from Marxism’s departure down the toilet bowl of history. There are rich people -- and some big corporations -- that are for limited government and there are rich people -- and far too many big corporations -- that want to expand the role of government.

My very short, partial, explanation for why the system seems rigged for the benefit of rich people has to do with the fact that complexity is a subsidy. The more rules and regulations the government creates, the more it creates a society where people with resources -- good educations, good lawyers, good lobbyists, and good connections -- can rise while those without such resources are left to climb hurdles on their own. On this basic point, Donald Trump is indisputably right. Bribing politicians to come to your wedding may seem insecure and weird, but there’s no doubt the ability to do so comes with payoffs. Big government by its very nature helps people who know how to game the system."

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Also from Goldberg, on the strangeness that the Left sees a boogeyman in the Koch brothers despite the Kochs being friendly to their values:
Concern Trolling Liberal: I just wish Republicans would get rid of the religious crazies and become socially liberal, fiscally conservative.
You: Oh, like Charles and David Koch?
CTL: No! Not those right-wing whackos. I mean Republicans should be pro-choice . . .
You: Like the Kochs?
          CTL: . . . and pro-gay rights! . . .
You: Kochs, Kochs, Kochs.
          CTL:  . . . And pro-immigration . . .
You: The Kochs are way to the left of Bernie Sanders on immigration.
CTL: . . . and they should oppose all of these foreign wars and being the world’s policeman.
You: Kochs again.
CTL: But they’re racists! They support the drug war and locking up young black men!
You: Actually, they oppose the drug war and . . .
CTL: But, but, but…
[ End scene.]

January 14, 2016

Seven Quick Takes


Read interesting Time magazine piece on the Trump phenomenon. The gist is that Trump is simply ahead of the curve as far as “cutting out the middleman”, a term they call disintermediation. People don't want the media - or even political experience - in between themselves and their choice of candidate, and Trump does that via his rallies, Twitter, free media in which he speaks directly to the American people. They say Reagan did the same thing, which he had to since the media hated him.

The digital revolution is dismantling gatekeepers left and right: record companies (slain by music streaming), big book chains like Barnes & Noble (slain by Amazon and e-books), Blockbuster video (slain by Netflix), newspapers (killed by Craigslist advertising).  That which happened to the Catholic Church during the Reformation when the Bible came out in the vernacular and people decided to become their own priests, has come out now in politics. It's interesting to see the powerful liberal media humbled as decisively as the Church was in the 16th and 17th centuries.  Maybe they'll have a bit more respect for the idea of our dependency on intermediaries.

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One of the interesting aspects of this election season is how the conservative “gatekeepers” in charge of policy purity, people like Ann Coulter, Limbaugh, and Laura Ingraham, have seemed so pro-Trump despite the fact that he appears to have no core convictions beyond a will to power. He makes Mitt Romney look like a “severe conservative”. And yet the gatekeepers of purity have mostly been coy.

Coulter is an interesting example. Her last book, on illegal immigration, has either made her a single issue supporter on building a wall, or maybe she wants immigration in the forefront for book sales (or both of course). Perhaps illegal immigration has been her pet issue for some time which might explain her utter disdain for John McCain.

And now we learn that she is insisting Ted Cruz (Ted Cruz! the tea party poster child) is not a natural-born US citizen and cannot be president despite saying the opposite in 2013. Her response? She changed her mind.  Does she have a touch of Trump fever?

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The phrase "the inhumanity of man" is paradoxical.  It's like saying, "the non-wetness of water".  But, on the other hand, it's a tacit recognition of the inherent dignity of man such that he should not be capable of inhumane acts.

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Wow, Herman Melville was startingly pessimistic. He says the man who sees truly is the pessimist, the sorrowful, the serious, the grim:
…The sun hides not Virginia’s Dismal Swamp, nor Rome’s accursed Campagna, nor wide Sahara, nor all the millions of miles of deserts and of griefs beneath the moon. The sun hides not the ocean, which is the dark side of this earth, and which is two thirds of this earth.
So, therefore, that mortal man who hath more of joy than sorrow in him, that mortal man cannot be true—not true, or undeveloped.

With books the same. The truest of all men was the Man of Sorrows, and the truest of all books is Solomon’s, and Ecclesiastes is the fine hammered steel of woe. “All is vanity.” All.
This wilful world hath not got hold of unchristian Solomon’s wisdom yet. But he who dodges hospitals and jails, and walks fast crossing grave-yards, and would rather talk of operas than hell; calls Cowper, Young, Pascal, Rousseau, poor devils all of sick men; and throughout a care-free lifetime swears by Rabelais as passing wise, and therefore jolly;—not that man is fitted to sit down on tomb-stones, and break the green damp mould with unfathomably wondrous Solomon. But even Solomon, he says, “the man that wandereth out of the way of understanding shall remain” (i.e. even while living) “in the congregation of the dead.” Give not thyself up, then, to fire, lest it invert thee, deaden thee; as for the time it did me. There is a wisdom that is woe; but there is a woe that is madness.
He could flat out write though.

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Zoo trip last weekend. We wandered pleasantly through the North American part, past chickens, sheep and deep-grunting goats,  pigs, miniature cows and caribou and then off to the lions. A sun bear was later sighted as well. A moose, sheep, and gorgeously-coated wolves. Side trip with the grandkids to an old plane where you could sit at the ancient controls, a bush plane from the 1940s, a Beech-18 prop via Middletown, Ohio.

Then at 11 it was time for the tour with an enthusiastic lady for a “behind the scenes” to tour the vet hospital, but no animals being worked on, just a bunch of empty rooms. I'm sure part of the appeal was simply that you coudn't normally go back there since it was employees only.  I guess it's for animal lovers what it's like a Catholic getting a tour of the papal apartments in the Vatican.

Sam was at his cutest, questions frothing from him like water from a fountain.

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Am reading some of Susan Cheever's engaging history of drinking in America, which suitably whetted my whistle.  I'm always cheered by reading of those with drinking habits exceeding my own, as the 17th century Americans did. They drank morning, noon and night. Don't try that at home!

Cheever's book was borrowed from the library and I found myself loving the physicality of the book, which reminded me I read too much on Kindle and should occasionally pony up for the increased expense of buying print versions. I do miss, lately more than ever, the joys of reading a physical book with its wide margins and sturdy, tactile presence. There's a certain glamour to a well-produced hardback that the Kindle version can't match. And for the cover photo and design there's no substitute since the Kindle covers are tiny and in black and white. It's like the way old album art was big and beautiful in the '70s before tiny CDs and now online, streaming music took over.

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Watched Meet the Press and have begun making my peace with the likelihood that Trump will be Republican nominee.

Patiently we'd put up two seemingly acceptable candidates: John McCain, war patriot and maverick who got along with many Democrat senators, and Mitt Romney, a blue state governor. And the thanks we got? Two whippings by a lightweight/no weight senator from Illinois named Barack Obama.

So there's understandably some feeling of simply taking our marbles and going home, of nominating whoever the hell we want, despite the recklessness.

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Watched NY Times columnist Ross Douthat video on the web - he gave a lecture on the angst of conservative Catholics in the Pope Francis era. Fascinating. Then I found a rebuttal on the liberal National Catholic Reporter magazine. A reasonably effective one, making the  point that conservative Catholics have a blind spot in not seeing the link between materialism/capitalism and the sexual lack of restraint (porn, sex outside of marriage, divorce, etc..). Reminded me instantly of this remark in the Russell Kirk bio: "…the West had created a dreadful world, 'a world of frenzied producers' and a 'world of frenzied consumers.'… Rather than giving them control over the self, their education had only created insatiable longing."  Also reminded me of the Malcolm Muggeridge line about how “sex is the mysticism of materialism and the only possible religion in a materialistic society.”  I'd not really put together lust of the flesh being a cousin to lust for worldly goods.

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Fareed Zacharia in the Washington Post asks why middle America is so self-destructive (obesity, alcoholism, drug abuse, all leading to high death rate spike in middle-aged whites only):
"The answer might lie in expectations. Princeton anthropologist Carolyn Rouse suggested, in an email exchange, that other groups might not expect that their income, standard of living and social status are destined to steadily improve. They don’t have the same confidence that if they work hard, they will surely get ahead. In fact, Rouse said that after hundreds of years of slavery, segregation and racism, blacks have developed ways to cope with disappointment and the unfairness of life: through family, art, protest speech and, above all, religion."
That neatly parallels a Flannery O'Connor quote I saw recently: "To expect too much is to have a sentimental view of life and this is a softness that ends in bitterness.”

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I'm sorely tempted to get Jimmy Akin's commentary on the book of Mark after reading Jeff Miller's excellent review.  But I have so many other resources on Logos that I'm not sure it makes sense. An interesting dynamic is how I can't rule out grudge-holding on my part after Akin blocked me on Twitter. I should get a badge for this blog: "Banned by Akin!" As Trump as taught us, there's no such thing as bad publicity.

January 12, 2016

Trump fever

One of the interesting aspects of this election season is how the conservative “gatekeepers” in charge of policy purity, people like Coulter, Limbaugh, and Laura Ingraham, have seemed so pro-Trump despite the fact that he appears to have no core convictions beyond a will to power. He makes Mitt Romney look like a “severe conservative”. And yet the gatekeepers of purity have mostly been coy.

Coulter is an interesting example. Her last book on immigration has either made her a single issue voter or maybe she wants immigration in the forefront for book sales (or both). Perhaps illegal immigration has been her pet issue for some time, which might explain her utter disdain for John McCain.

And now we learn that she is insisting Ted Cruz (Ted Cruz! the tea party poster child) is not a natural-born US citizen and cannot be president despite her saying the opposite in 2013. Her response? She changed her mind.  Does she have a touch of Trump fever?  The kind that makes you take leave of rational thought?

January 06, 2016

A Fresh Look at Myrrh

Odilon Redon;  Dante et BĂ©atrice (1914)
Myrrh can be a bit of a downer, seemingly implicitly attested to by Isaiah in the upbeat first reading on the Epiphany that mentioned only the bringing of gold and frankincense.

I thought briefly that maybe the omission was due to the people of the Old Covenant mostly measuring success in terms of earthly rather than eternal life and thus death was without much silver lining.

I even wondered if perhaps the wise men's additional gift of myrrh was a cryptic message to Jesus, relayed to him much later by his mother, that he was to go the way of suffering and death rather than being a worldly messiah.

But wait, there's more! (say like in those infomercials). Because then I came across this excellent post from Henry Dieterich and realized how that's only the half of it...