November 12, 2018

Adventures in Babysitting 2018 Remake

Had grandkids early and often over weekend.  Adventures in Babysitting was an '80s movie which prompted a crush on Elisabeth Shue.

I’m suitably exhausted.  We started out watching OSU game but within the first twenty minutes our middle child was crying for reasons now lost in the archives of babysitting history.  Dog Max had gotten something he shouldn’t have, and 2-year old Katherine was trying to climb over Steph while grabbing everything that wasn’t nailed down.

We made it till mid-4th quarter when game seemed wrapped up before heading out in the frigid cold. First up was cutting the grass (or rather leaves, since a heavy blanket of leaves sat on it).  Despite charging the mower for a few hours the battery wouldn’t start. So next up was leaf blower which, alas, didn’t blow leaves since not powerful enough.  This left the unpalatable solution of raking the leaves by hand. The boys and I started raking and three minutes later the kids’ hands get cold.  So I told them to go in and get gloves.  They do and next thing is Max is running loose, loose as a goose in the front yard. Someone had left the door open.  So I spent then next ten minutes chasing Max around until he went into somebody’s garage and got cornered.

Max restored, we re-started the leaf-raking, doing it for a solid hour and getting it under control before diving into leaves for photo ops.

Then to hot tub, me, the boys and Katherine. Afterward Steph took Kath home and I ordered pizza. By 7pm we were happy and full.  Rented movie Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Dog Days which was surprisingly good.  For earworm purposes I introduced the boys to ‘80s song Safety Dance after reading Amy Welborn did that for her kids recently. But no earworms were said to have formed - except for me.  I'm still singing that song in my head. No bad deed goes unpunished. They had Alexa play something more their speed: “Radioactive”.

Sleep, blessed sleep, at 9:30.  For them if not for me. I holed myself up in my room like an outlaw, drinking Edmund Fitzgerald Stout and reading from the severely underrated writer Joe Queenan.  He’s sort of a sophisticated male version of Erma Bombeck.

November 08, 2018

Predicting Presidential Elections since '60

I’m too data-driven with regard to understanding events that defy logic to some extent like how someone gets elected president. The heart has its ways where reason doth not go, or something like that. And people are complex.

But I always try to figure out a formula that will determine who will win presidency.

I think in the modern era (1960s on), there are three components.
1) A feint in the opposite political direction. (Works for popes too since many thought Bergoglio was a conservative when he feinted that way years ago.)
2) Comfort with television and/or telegenic.
3) A lack of experience. Theoretically people’s thirst for a lack of experience must eventually find a bottom, though hopefully before we amend the Constitution and start electing pre-teens. Some would argue our current occupant is a pre-teen but that’s off topic.
Character plays a role too as reactions.  Jimmy Carter was a reaction to Nixon admin and George W. Bush against Clinton.  If this holds true in 2020, a Democrat like Bernie Sanders might be helped.

Let’s see if it works.

1960: Kennedy v Nixon. Kennedy feinted as a conservative with his hawkishness and fiscal sanity. A Look magazine cover in 1946 read: “A Kennedy Runs for Congress: The Boston-bred scion of a former ambassador is a fighting-Irish conservative.” Nixon, by comparison, rarely looked liberal prior to 1960. Kennedy also wins on television obviously. Experience a wash, although slight edge to Kennedy likely.
Verdict: theorem worked.

1964: Johnson v Goldwater. Goldwater never feinted left in his life, at least not prior to ’64, and Johnson as a Southern Democrat feinted that way when he had to. They were a wash as far as television, and both were career senators.
Verdict: theorem worked, although wouldn’t have predicted a landslide.

1968: Nixon v Humphrey: This one I’m going to say the theroem didn’t work. Similar experience, slightly better TV maybe for Humprhey although Nixon had a lot of experience with the medium by this point. And both career pols.
Verdict: No.

1972: Nixon v McGovern. Similar experience, similar TV skills, but Nixon by this time had most definitely feinted left early and often (picture Bill Clinton after ’94 midterms), while McGovern never feinted right in his life except in restaurants if a waiter was coming by with a tray full of drinks.
Verdict: worked

1976: Carter v Ford: No (federal) experience for Carter, better on TV, and Carter feinted right simply by being a Southern Dem.
Verdict: worked

1980: Carter v Reagan: Reagan wins on TV easily, no federal experience for Reagan, so that’s two out of three right there.
Verdit: worked

1984: Reagan v Mondale: Reagan wins on TV, plenty of experience on both sides (wash), and Mondale didn’t perceptibly feint right.
Verdict: worked

1988: Bush v Dukakis: Bush wins narrowly on TV, less experience for Dukakis (point for him), but Dukakis never feinted right. Narrow win for Bush.
Worked, arguably.

1992: Clinton v Bush: Clinton kills on TV, less experience for Clinton, Clinton feinted right with Sister Souljah and being Southern Dem.

1996: Clinton v. Dole: : Clinton kills on TV, experience a wash, Clinton feinted right with Sister Souljah and being Southern Dem.

2000: W.Bush v Gore: Bush slightly better on TV, experience less for Bush than career pol Gore, and Gore didn’t feint right.

2004: Bush v Kerry: Bush slightly better on TV, experience a wash, and Kerry didn’t feint right. Bush feinted right with “compassionate conservatism”, runaway spending, prescription drugs for Medicare, etc.

2008: Obama v McCain: Obama killed on TV, less experience for Obama, and Obama feinted right with his 2004 “can’t we all get along unity-religious" speech at Dem convention.

2012: Obama v Romney. Obama killed on TV, experience a wash (still slightly less for Obama arguably), and Romney didn’t feint left.

2016: Trump v Hillary: Edge to Trump on TV for his experience and comfort with medium, experience huge mismatch in favor of Trump, and Hillary didn’t feint right.

I want to examine why someone like Rubio wouldn’t have made it to nomination. Experience is in Trump’s favor, Rubio feinted left on immigration (not good in primary but good in general), and one would think he was better on TV but for his repetitiousness.

November 06, 2018

Fall Back Fellini

"Fall back" offers a precious extra hour of weekend and so I took time to bathe in the slow-motion documentary "Ex Libris" on Kanopy. Neat to see NYPL branches in those exotic NYC settings (Bronx, Chinatown, "Malcolm X" blvd). It blows your mind, the city does. People as art. People-watching as an activity.

Took dogs on a walk on nearby road because I wanted to read the home-made signs in one guy’s yard that I had trouble reading while passing by at 35 mph. It turns out it said something like "In 2008 you proved you weren’t a racist ... now prove you aren’t stupid. Red tsunami.".

I googled the phrase to see if it was used elsewhere and it turns out there was a book written in 2012 by a Neil Synder titled, "If You Voted for Obama in 2008 to Prove You're Not a Racist, You Need to Vote for Someone Else in 2012 to Prove You're Not an Idiot."

Seems pretty certain Synder, who has a blog called and is a retired professor from Virginia, was the inspiration directly or indirectly for the neighbor.

November 05, 2018

Halloween, Ole Miss, Voters and Old Churches

Halloween's "Trick or Treat" is no treat given our dog Max gets deeply unhappy and barks and whines at being prevented from going up to the door (we set up a gate in the hallway).  But it doesn't seem kosher to scare the kids by having a 75-lb dog coming at them full-speed. A bit too much trick.

Come 8pm I removed the gate and closed down shop and he raced to the candy and stole at least three. In trying to extract it from him he simply swallowed them, still intact in their plastic wrappings. He has the gullet of a python. Chocolate isn’t good for dogs but at his weight he can take that amount.

After reading Jeff Miller’s posts on Facebook I now lament my lack of imagination and esprit de Halloween corps. He came up with these ideas:
I am having fun shifting the colors of my porch light via the phone app as Trick-and-Treaters approach. Beautiful night so just sitting on my porch with my laptop handing out future dental problems. Next year I am going to have two bowls of candy. The first full of generic candy nobody likes, the second full of the good stuff. Will show the first one first, wait for the reaction and pull out the second.
Brilliancy.  Won't solve my dog problem though of course.

Enjoyed the 2016 election returns from PBS via YouTube. It ne’er gets old, the dawning shock and dismay of the elites. It’s interesting to see who gloms onto the storyline early. I’ve watched most of ABC and PBS now. Next up NBC, FOX News, CBS.

PBS’s Mark Shields mentioned before any returns were in that the Democrat party has become elitist and no longer attracts white working-class votes. That indeed turned out to be THE story.

Another guest mentioned that a surprise was that the gender gap was similar to past elections - she said she thought women would turn on Trump due to the Access Hollywood tape - and that could be accounting for Hillary not winning by a landslide.

David Brooks wrung his hands and was crestfallen, looking as grim as Gen Robert E. Lee immediately after Gettysburg.

Jeff Greenfield intelligently picked up early that the seemingly mythical extra white voters that Ted Cruz was always hoping for seemed to have materialized for Trump. Someone said something like “looks like white voters have some fight left in them” (before their demographic winter).

It's perhaps surprising how everything was seen completely in terms of race and ethnicity and gender instead of the candidates, issues, class, change versus more of the same. I get that, being a data guy myself.  It's a good thing to recall how voters, who are supposed to adhere closely to their caricatures, can fail to do so.

Interesting to hear Lino Rulli on Catholic Channel of Sirius XM say Michigan football isn’t even in his 5 top college football experiences.

He says Notre Dame is in top 5 but number one is.... Ole Miss. He said the tailgating, the Southern hospitality, the smaller-sized stadium all make it the best college football.

Read some of Tucker Carlson book Ship of Fools. It's scary how no one is talking about the fact that the nation’s truckdrivers are going to lose their jobs with driverless vehicles given the tremendous number of truck-drivers. He laments the passing of the old Democrats, pests to be sure but pests needed in the nation’s ecosystem. Now, alas, they have become both indifferent to the little guy and socially liberal, a fatal combo for the country. Kill the family and the working man in one fell swoop.

Also read some WSJ, an intriguing article about how some millennials are looking to retire at 40 via heroic 70% savings rates.

Listened to some of Eric Scheske podcast about how crucial it is to train your brain, aka "Catholic mindfulness". He recommended “The Virgin Eye” big time (he bought copies for al his seven kids, first time ever he’d done something like that).

Grandkids came over and one of them is bad at “transitions” and so he was sullen and angry when his mother was taking him home and wouldn’t give my wife a hug. Rebuffed her and didn’t say a word. His father wasn't happy about it when he heard from his wife.  Around 5:30 we got a tearful Facetime call from a tearful one that appeared to be a hostage video. He would get a spanking if he didn’t execute this apology with sincerity and eye-contact and one sensed he would've proclaimed an indifference to candy under those circumstances.  But it is what it is. It ain’t easy raising kids.

Local Dominican priest comments on twitter: "Central Ohio is full of little towns with really neat 19th century Catholic churches."

And there was a response from a Deacon Ambrose Dobrozsi: "Some of the best to the west in our diocese of Cincinnati - St. Patrick in Glynnwood; St. Remy in Russia; St. Augustine in Minster; Holy Angels in Sidney. St. Patrick in Bellefontaine is undergoing work to be restored to its pre-V II glory."

Shocked to see St. Patrick’s of Glynnwood get a mention on Twitter! Especially given how large the Cincy diocese surely is.

Undeniably, I think, the most beautiful church in the area hands-down belongs to neither diocese -- I’m thinking of the basilica in Covington, KY.

And for the heck of it, I checked out Google reviews for churches on the web.  The Covington church got a stunning 4.9 of 5.0 scale and 55 reviews.

Cincy’s cathedral got a 4.5 on 46 reviews.  Columbus cathedral got 4.5 on 36 reviews.  Cleveland’s cathedral got 4.7 out of 49 reviews.  St. Patrick’s Cathedral in NYC got 4.8 out of 5,308 reviews. The Washington D.C. Basilica got 4.8 out of 12,000+ reviews.

I think of all of them for me, the D.C. church still number 1, but Covington number 2.

October 30, 2018

On the Sacred and Profane

One of the more puzzling aspects of the sex abuse crisis concerns St. John Paul II, the lack of push-back against Maciel and McCarrick and others. He’s the one figure over the past 50 years with the “spiritual street cred” to have done something about it. First, he had the strong personality for it. Second, he was saintly, literally. Third, he had a mystical streak that would seemingly have served him well in “seeing” what could harm the Church so devastatingly such that now even his Polish church is in trouble.

Ironically, one of the more prophetic voices seems to have been the more "liberal" Andrew Greeley. I think years ago he said it would be something on par with the Protestant Reformation.

Perhaps God in some ways is letting us be crushed that he may again raise us. Maybe St. John Paul II handled it rightly if not in view of the world but in view of God’s will. Or perhaps he, like all of us, was flawed and this is a way of telling the faithful to look at Jesus not prelates.

Ultimately wrestling with a question like this is beyond me as one of the Psalms say. Certainly even the fifth joyful mystery suggests that.

And the "best version of John Paul II” was not when he was helping defeat Communism or evangelizing the world. A priest on Twitter tweeted: “‘The best version of yourself’ is you throwing yourself at the foot of the Cross and asking the Loving Jesus for his mercy.”

Speaking of tweets, here are a few other good quotes:
“When I became a man I put away childish things, including the fear of childishness and the desire to be very grown up.” - C.S. Lewis
Roger Scruton:
“We kill in ourselves both piety and gratitude, believing that we owe the world nothing, and that the world owes everything to us. That is the real meaning of the new secular religion of human rights. I call it a religion because it seems to occupy the place vacated by faith.”
St. Augustine:
“Why God should ask us to pray, when he knows what we need, may perplex us if we do not realize that he does not want to know what we want but wants us to exercise our desire through our prayers, so that we may be able to receive what he is preparing to give us.”
Interesting lines from George Weigel column about 1970s German Catholicism:
A German baroness by birth, she had grown up in what she described as a “Catholicism hollowed out…a shell with no serious sin and therefore no state of grace [and] no encounter with Christ.”
Interesting that we almost need sin in order to goad us towards relationship.

Which means that modernity's disavowal of sin - apart from coal emissions or Megyn Kelly suggesting it was okay for a white girl to dress like Diana Ross for Halloween - is part of why there's a lack of the sense of the sacred.

It’s interesting how counter the Word Among Us meditations are compared to the typical devotional commentaries on the daily Mass readings.

A prime example was Sunday’s gospel about storing up not treasures on earth, but those things that “matter to God”. The knee-jerk, easy interpretation of things that matter to God can be summarized as loving and serving others.

But the meditation goes:

“First, that we would know his love for us personally...Second, that we matter to him—so much so that we can trust him always to take care of us....Third, that Jesus died and rose so that we could experience God’s transforming grace in our lives. And finally, that confident in his love for us, we would dedicate ourselves to loving and serving the people around us, especially those in need.”

I think the crucified Christ shows us love, but not power. The Resurrected Christ shows us power but not necessarily love. And it’s crucial to see both in part because the human mind simply has a very difficult time seeing power and love together (which is God), and for good reason given our experience - the forces of nature are powerful but indifferent to man. Elite leaders are powerful but do not love us (hence, the invention and need for democracy). Mother Teresa showed the world love, but had no power.

Interesting Eastern Orthodox critique of words of Christ being in red in bibles:
"What Our Lord did during his earthly life is as important, if not more important, than what he said. Both St John and St Luke make this point. St John ends his Gospel, ‘There are many other things that Jesus did’; nothing about ‘said’. St Luke begins Acts with a look back at the Gospel as the record of ‘all that Jesus began to do and teach’. It is Jesus himself who is the Word of God, and his actual words are only one aspect of the mystery. To highlight only the spoken words of Jesus is a reflection of a peculiarly Anglo-Saxon attitude which effectively reduces Jesus to a teacher of a system of ethics and a teller of picturesque inspirational stories. It is not for nothing that the traditional iconography of the Holy Doors includes not only the Four Evangelists but the Annunciation as well."

October 29, 2018

Southern South Carolina Trip Log

Saturday: Controlled chaos as we brought sister-in-law and my luggage was too big for sky (roof) cap. Or the roof cap too small, as I view it.

Weather seems iffy too at least as far as high temps: 62, 71, 68, 67.... But with sun I think they’ll feel warm enough. Still, I’m wondering if late October too risky weather-wise even for south South Carolina.

West Virginia is a scenic drive. On a less figurative level than “what has Athens to do with Jerusalem?” one might ask “what has Charleston to do with Miami?” Even states, like California, seem more pluribus than unum.

I spy the Pliny Presbyterian church right next to a nudie bar next to an old farm house right out of Walton’s Mountain. All this in colorful Frazier’s Bottom, WV.

Saw a billboard advertising Dublin Irish fest in Beckley, a four hour drive. Appropriate given Appalachian mountain music has Irish roots.

Another big billboard shows a woman with a painful expression using pliers to extract her front tooth with the headline: “Let a professional do it!” A sign you wouldn’t see most places.

Quaint mountain structures along rivers conjure Rhine chalets and “Mack the Knife”.

It’s raining but the abundance of plant life testifies to the need. People flock to Vegas or L.A. deserts for the perpetual sunshine but an artificial water supply decouples rain from life, as birth control pills separate sexual pleasure from life creation.

A sign advertises for colonoscopies and I marvel at the rate of compliance for an uncomfortable test that tests positive less than 1% of the time. On the other hand, it is the third leading cancer death.

Another sign advertises “Biscuit World” and I picture patrons having an entree of biscuit with a side of biscuits. Serves all your biscuit needs and then some.

Listened to Tucker Carlson on Brian Lamb's podcast. Carlson sees the election of Trump as a cry for help, and that the big difference between elites in the 1800/1900s and elites nowadays is that back then they felt a certain amount of luck and good fortune, referring to themselves as “fortunate” and seeing a need to help others, as Carnegie did. Partially this was the influence of Christianity as well. Now elites are irreligious who think they did it all themselves and look down in remarkable ways in Trump voters, thinking their troubles are all self-inflicted and deserve no help.

Read part of book sighted in WV rest stop souvenir shop (which, belatedly, I think I should have supported and bought something). The book, written by a West Virginia native about his pet alligator, was free on Kindle.

(Later): Arrived arond 8pm and unpacked while the Buckeyes went down to ignominious defeat. Concentrated on the Buckeyes after halftime and the way they were playing it would’ve been a crime for them to have pulled it out in the end. No danger of that, as they played as suckily as I can ever recall. No discernible running game and a lax defense does not a champion make. In a way, it’s better to lose that way than to lose a close one that but for a couple plays dashes your post-season hopes - with this game, it wasn’t a couple plays, it was nearly all plays. My biggest disappointment is I wanted to see a ND-OSU playoff game but that’s not in the cards now.

Sunday: Unbeknownst to me, Steph and Marsha were up between 2 and 4am with a dog crisis. Not our dogs, but one of Marsha’s dogs at home was ill and dogsitter called saying something was very wrong with Deuteronomy. So dogsitter took Deut to the emergency room (Steph’s niece was on duty and facetime’d them) and turns out the dog has bad arthritis that somehow affected his stomach and so was given fluids and strong pain meds.

Had choice this morning between 8am and 11:15am Mass and Steph wasn’t enthusiastic about either so I headed off solo to 8am. The deacon gave the homily which was a fundraising appeal for the local high school. Same appeal last year, I guess they do it every October this week or something. He's a bit of a ham and asks the ushers for a basket during the homily and they fumble and eventually find one, bring it up to him, and he lays a $50 in it saying that leaders need to lead by example. The usher didn’t immediately withdraw the basket and the Deacon says, “What?! You want more?” and the usher scurried away. Funny. The deacon started homily by saying, “Yesterday we were in shorts and t-shirts and today I see coats. Welcome to Fall! But I think in a few days it’ll likely go back to Summer, so fear not you tourists out there.” Although even that’s relative: it’s 37 in Ohio now and 61 in Hilton Head! I’ll call that a win.

Full sun on a quiet deck in paradise. Coffee, cigar and contemplation.  What I like best about vacation is copious amounts of alcohol at night and copious amounts of coffee by day, separated by a fine cigar. That’s some marrow-suck living.

I was trying to think of the biggest environmental changes from my youth. Wetter summers, cooler springs. The invasion of Canadian geese. The near disappearance of honey bees. The lack of clover and dandelions (in our yard). Of those I think the geese are the most noticeable on a daily basis.  What’s stayed the same? Lightning bugs. Cattails around ponds. The moon looks the same as it always has.

Today’s menu involved a late trip to the beach, 2pm, after a luxurious morning on the deck. Lushed out on the empty beach, a tad cool but less so by having wind at my back. Come 4:30 I released the hounds, sending them into the tizzy of sea frolics and mad-dog gambits. By 5:15 we were back at the joint and ordered delicious pizza from Doughboys. Yum.

South Carolina's only about a month behind us. The average high in Columbus in early September is the average high in Hilton Head in mid-October. And we know late September is iffy at best in Ohio. Fort Myers is an amazing 3 1/2 months behind Ohio. The average high in December is still 77.  So Hilton Head is much more like Ohio than it is like Florida.

Monday: Max is still on workday schedule and woke us around 6:30am. Took a 2 mile walk with the dogs through Sea Pines to the Sea Pines forest preserve where I found a private trail that lead to a beautiful lake. I would’ve loved to have just camped next to that lake and read for a few hours. Spectacular sun shining on carpets of red pine needles. A gaping gator. 

Tuesday: Full cloud day, temp around 68. Brings home the fact that a vacation is a crap-shoot weather-wise. Subprime, but good church weather so headed to Communion service at 8am and it was over by 8:20. Spent a few minutes in the small but nicely appointed and furnished Eucharistic Adoration chapel. 

Come noontime Steph and Marsha wanted to take a bike ride so we went up to Lawton Stables and admired the horsies. Big Harley, the Belgian, was there. Then rode to Harbor Town and had delicious late lunch at Crazy Crab. Had tasty salad and blackened broiled grouper.

Then took the dogs on an hour run/walk to beach at 4. They were wild and I left Maris off leash as is my new tradition. She’s dependable. 

Wed: Opened up with a couple of innings of last night’s World Series and some jazz in my earbuds. Red Sox look unbeatable, a sort of super team like the Golden State Warriors or the Big Red Machine. 

It’s fun to get paid while on vacation as will happen this Friday, but it’s not fun when the stock market crashes, wiping out all the year’s gains. That’s the nature of the market: in some ways the gains feel unearned and they are also subject to being rescinded, as if you won bingo but then in a few days they can take it away from you. 

So today was lazy, capital “L”. Made it down to the beach around 11, soaked up the sun in the dunes before you get to the actual beach because the wind was 15-20mph and felt a bit chill. Later took Maris and Carly on walk with Steph & Marsha. Sunny and beautiful if cool. Read some of memoirs of a (funny) bookstore owner.  

I enpicture a cigar and drink. 

Interesting 'dote from Herodotus:
“This Candaules then of whom I speak had become passionately in love with his own wife; and having become so, he deemed that his wife was fairer by far than all other women; and thus deeming, to Gyges the son of Daskylos he used to impart as well the more weighty of his affairs as also the beauty of his wife, praising it above measure: and after no long time, since it was destined that evil should happen to Candaules, he said to Gyges as follows: "Gyges, I think that thou dost not believe me when I tell thee of the beauty of my wife, for it happens that men's ears are less apt of belief than their eyes: contrive therefore means by which thou mayest look upon her naked." But he cried aloud and said: "Master, what word of unwisdom is this which thou dost utter, bidding me look upon my mistress naked? When a woman puts off her tunic she puts off her modesty also. Moreover of old time those fair sayings have been found out by men, from which we ought to learn wisdom; and of these one is this,—that each man should look on his own...I entreat thee not to ask me to do what is unlawful to do.
The history of Herodotus 

Thurs: Cloudsome day, resolutely so, with high around 68. Too cool for beach with high wind. I looked back over last five Octobers at Hilton Head and it’s around 21-9 good weather days to bad. 70%. Come 6pm it was last shot at beach with dogs, so I rallied them and gave them one last beach hurrah and tried to video tape it with my iPhone though the action was fast and furious. 

We’re going to stay through Friday since no way do we want to drive through the rain, let alone with dogs that need to be walked at “wet-stops”. Finally slowed down enough (and de-Twittered) to do more spiritual reading. Sat on leather chair next to the front door windows, slow-sipping beers, etc... during the less than clement weather.  Slow-beer lifestyle was very nice. Then watched Life Below Zero followed by Alone finale. 

Max ended his streak of being good at night. Steph woke at 4am when she heard him thundering upstairs and peeing on the side of our bed. She went downstairs to take him out and found a pile of poop as well. She doesn’t want to bring him on vacation ever again and I told her that it’s partially on us because we could’ve crated him all night. 

Friday:  Full, long 8am mass with the saintly pastor, who mentioned an ailing Fr Bob S. who is a “real” priest, thereby casting aspersions on the average priest but probably isn’t untrue. He said Fr Bob had a horrific childhood and yet despite it became a holy man. 

Steph and Marsha went for walk on beach whilst I made myself bacon and eggs scrambled.

I never fail to be amazed at how often I take weather reports seriously. Shocked to see weather is decent, at least pre-afternoon (later: and post-2pm). Periods of sun and woke up to balmy 68, about a dozen degrees warmer than usual mornings this week. Now 75 outside and able to spend some time at beach, a rare thing this trip. 

Spent 11-1:30 at beach resting comfy till rain alert got me moving on a 2-mile run. Dogs wanted another beach visit - Max is smart enough to know which entrance is a street walk versus a beach walk (front door versus garage door) and he declined a walk until I moved to “right” door. Maris needed to go so I wanted to get two dogs done, potty-wise. Maris practiced dive bombs or fly-bys on Max, sprinting from thirty yards away and clipping Max on the ears as she went by. Max was under the constraint of the leash and was feeling the constriction. For not being big swimmers, they seem to like the (shallow) water well enough. 

Nice to see the free WSJ book of the month is the new Vietnam War history. I’d been tempted to buy it and had downloaded a sample so now looks like I’ll have it for “free”. 

Saturday: Slow boat to China today, root cause being we didn’t pack trailer night before so we didn’t shove off till 7:45 after an hour and a half of packing.  Kitchen is a time suck since there’s always a junk load of leftover groceries. There’s dog gates and dog crate and a lot to do to get to point of getting to drive 12+ hours, but the drive was easy with third driver!  (No drivers of the canine variety alas.)

October 19, 2018

Welcome to the Hotel Transylvania...

Got back home from work yesterday and we had  all three grandkids for baby-sitting purposes. Rented a surprisingly good kids movie, Hotel Transylvania 3. Graphics were pretty stunning and beautiful. And funny as hell in places. Pretty engrossing, although the kids tuned out (and turned on their tablets) after about an hour, as they’d already seen it once or twice before. But Sam insisted I watch to the finish. I couldn’t get over the resemblance of the Count to EWTN’s Raymond Arroyo. Separated at birth.

I used to lament how the 2-5 year old grandkids are like charming drunks - just so alive and funny and full of wonder but of the black-out variety and every moment I spend with them now will never be remembered when they're older.  But I don't seem to care too much after all.  Just living in the moment sort of thing and enjoy it.  I do feel guilty for lavishing so much more attention on our 2-year old than the 6 and 8-yr olds despite the 6 and 8 year olds being not in the amnesia phase.

Anyway, it's a decent break from the clamorous nonsense of current politics in which Liz Warren thinks she’s a squaw based on a drop of Native American blood, and Saudi Arabia, like O.J., is searching for the real killers. (I suspect the shock of the Western press over the murder is not replicated by the average American who knows who the Saudis are.)  If the ancient Romans offered bread and circuses to distract the citizens from politics, modern American offers politics (circus) to distract us from the more important things.  Perhaps non-distraction has its risks though: came across this about poet Donald Hall: "Often, at night, solitude loses its soft power,” says Donald Hall in the film, “and loneliness takes over. I am grateful for when solitude returns.”

Came across a Chesterton quote:
"The next great heresy is going to be simply an attack on morality; and especially on sexual morality. And it is coming, not from a few Socialists surviving from the Fabian Society, but from the living exultant energy of the rich resolved to enjoy themselves at last, with neither Popery nor Puritanism nor Socialism to hold them back... The roots of the new heresy, God knows, are as deep as nature itself, whose flower is the lust of the flesh and the lust of the eye and the pride of life. I say that the man who cannot see this cannot see the signs of the times; cannot see even the skysigns in the street that are the new sort of signs in heaven. The madness of tomorrow is not in Moscow but much more in Manhattan - but most of what was in Broadway is already in Piccadilly."  - [G. K.’s Weekly, June 19, 1926]
I researched a bit about what London/Piccadilly was like in the '20s though I suppose the quote speaks for itself. His referring to Broadway and Piccadilly, both theater and club districts, could be to the red-light district and “flapper” living of that period. People are saying he’s a prophet but for him to write that in the roaring ‘20s seems not too prophetic, as he says by rhetorically asking "who cannot see this?".  He was certainly right about New York being a bigger threat than Moscow, which surely wasn't obvious at the time so that certainly is prophetic. 

NRO had a "Spanning the Globe..." segment!  VMPDS copyright infringement alert!

October 11, 2018

Dark Times at Democrat High

I was anti-Trump in the primaries and couldn’t bring myself to vote for him in the ‘16 election.   But man has this been an eye-opening couple of years. Mostly because what Trump says about the media/Dems has the benefit of being true. (Conflating Democrats and the majority of the media is like conflating cake and cake.)

Never the “daddy party”, the Dems have stopped being the mommy party and become the scary party.  Trump may routinely lie and insult but he’s not promising to pack the Supreme Court with 13 justices or trotting out rape allegations against Cory Booker. 

One could say that perhaps the Dems/media changed in reaction to Trump but regardless they are in a dark place.  It’s surreal how blasé those Democrat judiciary members were about a presumption of innocence, and how the media was imprimaturing the baseless and basest rumors about Kavanaugh. Even Lindsey Graham found his voice. 

I’m certainly on the Trump train now given the alternatives. Maga baby, maga. I’d been skeptical of the notion that Republicans like McCain and Romney were patsies in passively accepting the liberal media environment because it seemed a realistic strategy.  Live with the bias, try not to  “provoke the beast” and reap the whirlwind from those who buy their ink by the barrel, to mix metaphors.  But the problem with that is that it’s like paying protection money to mafia goons - they keep upping the price. 

But Trump has shown “the art of the possible”, that it is possible to win the presidency without begging for crumbs of praise and recognition from Andrea Mitchell.  One insignificant example is cutting out the White House Correspondents’ Dinner where GOP presidents go to be insulted. Similarly the press ruse that every candidate needs to release his tax returns. 

Surely it has an element of fire all your guns at once and go out in a blaze of glory.  But the army of strong judges that Trump has put in the system might prove a hedge against a lean future. 

What Trump did was basically change a media environment that tipped about 60-40 in favor of liberals to one that’s now 90-10.  You can say that’s a very bad thing for the future of the Republican party.  But it’s also bad for the media.  The upending of the dynamic of the media playing the Masters of the Universe who reward and punish according to how the Republicans behave.  In the Trump era, the media no longer has no power to give carrots, only sticks.  And that hurts them because now they are taken as completely delegitimatized, which is certainly how I view the NY Times & New Yorker.  The pretense of fairness, the little carrots they gave out, engendered a benefit of the doubt.  Doubt no mo'!

October 08, 2018

Ship of Fools

In Tucker Carlson’s new book Ship of Fools, he writes of the effects of the erosion of the middle class and increased illegal immigration.

He says that the typical Republican response to U.S. poverty is one centered on rationality: that poverty in the U.S. is a much better deal than poverty in the Third World, the familiar "if they have iPhones, how poor can they be?" argument.

Which is true but he says poverty is relative.  If someone has “more plastic crap from China” than someone else, that results in envy, which results in political instability, which leads to what happened in Venezuela.

I’d always considered envy to be self-incriminating and thus illegitimate, but that ignores that it’s precisely that we are fallen and marked by original sin that it turns out to be less something we can “get over” but more as a systemic fact of existence that we need to try to head off as a society.  Given we are all sinners, often in different ways, it's rational to take human irrationality seriously.

Carlson argues, in line with Reihan Salam, that a big part of the problem is that illegal immigration creates even greater haves/have nots in society for obvious reasons like creating more labor competition and lower wages.

It's interesting that those on the right, like Carlson and Salam, are arguing with the liberals for the reduction of inequality but against liberals concerning a reduction in immigration since progressives are arguing for policies that increase inequality while saying they are against inequality.

October 06, 2018

The Somalis of Columbus

I'm reading books by a progressive and centrist on the immigration issue.

The progressive book concerns the large Sunni Muslim (Somali) immigrant population in Columbus, who are without many skills and very poor. Central Ohio has the second biggest Somali community in the U.S..

The more conservative is Reihan Salam’s new book, Melting Pot or Civil War? A Son of Immigrants Makes the Case against Open Borders.

Salam writes (emphasis mine):
[For the rich] immigrant poverty might be aesthetically displeasing, but these people are better off in absolute terms than they would be back home, and that is all that matters. That they are stuck on the bottom rungs of American society is — in a grand, global utilitarian calculus — immaterial.

To the rest of us, though, this is simply not tenable. We don’t want to live in an America with an underclass that is forever locked out of middle-class prosperity. We are glad that immigrants are better off than they were in their native countries, yes, but we also worry about the children they raise on American soil, and what will happen to our society if impoverished immigrants give rise to an impoverished second generation that has no memory of life in the old country and who won’t tolerate being relegated to second-class status.

And that is why I have come to believe that the United States badly needs a more thoughtful and balanced approach to immigration, including a greater emphasis on skills and a lesser one on extended family ties. I haven’t come to this position lightly. Though my reasons might be different from Trump’s, there is no getting around the fact that on the big-picture question of whether we ought to make our immigration system more selective, I am closer to his position than to those of most of my friends and family members.

Imagine an America in which wealthy whites and Asians wall themselves off from the rest of society, and low-wage immigrants and their offspring constitute a new underclass. Working-class Americans of color will look upon their more privileged fellow citizens with envy, if not resentment, and better-off whites will look upon their poorer brown and black counterparts with fear and suspicion. Whites will embrace a more hard-edged white-identity politics, and they will see efforts to redistribute their wealth as acts of racial aggression. Class politics will be color politics, and extremists on the left and the right will find millions of poor, angry youth willing to heed their calls to battle. No, I do not believe that this future is inevitable. But I fear that our heedless approach to immigration is making it more likely.

By limiting low-skill immigration, at least for a time, while welcoming high-skill immigration, we can change the dynamic. At the margin, doing so would ease wage pressures on established low-skill workers and make high-skill labor more abundant. Affluent professionals would face more competition, and they would surely resent it. Low-skill workers might face challenges, too, as rising wages would send employers scrambling to boost productivity. In time, though, a more selective, skills-based immigration system would yield a more egalitarian economy in which machines did the dirty work and workers enjoyed middle-class stability. And a more egalitarian economy would help heal our country’s ethnic divides.
The alternative, I fear, will be a kind of civil war — one pitting an increasingly radical socialist Left, one that sees America’s prosperity as a product of imperialism and open-borders immigration policies as a means toward a radical flattening of the global income distribution, against a reactionary Right that chooses tribalism over unifying nationalism. For our posterity’s sake, we must do everything we can to avoid that outcome.
And here are some quotes from a book by Stefanie Chambers titled, "Somalis in the Twin Cities and Columbus" in which she mentions they vote their pocketbook not their values (despite much complaining about how Democrat officeholders want their votes but don't want to do anything for them):
They are reliable Democratic voters, yet Somali social views of marriage, family values, business, and abortion rights align more with those of the Republican Party.
Unlike other racial and ethnic groups in Columbus, voter turnout is reportedly high among Somalis: precise numbers are impossible to confirm, but several respondents suggested that 80 to 90 percent of eligible Somalis vote. This high level of Somali voter turnout stands in contrast to research indicating that most immigrant groups have low levels of voter turnout.
Some Somalis express views that align with Republican social positions, particularly in terms of opposition to same-sex marriage...However, alignment on social issues is not enough, for the positions taken by Republicans on immigration and the government’s social safety net for newcomers place Somalis at odds with the party.
One of the biggest threats to Somali social incorporation is the current attention paid by authorities to alleged Somali terrorist connections and recruiting. The skepticism and frustration expressed by respondents about federal investigations in their community raise serious concerns about the effectiveness of these efforts and highlight a lack of trust.

October 05, 2018

Partisan Politics

Charlie Cook of the Cook Political Report laments that folks are judging Kavanaugh's guilt or innocence based on our party affiliation. Cook brings up Gore v. Bush in 2000 in Florida as a similar instance.

In one sense I disagree with him.  I'm a conservative, but I have no idea whether Kavanaugh is guilty and I strongly object to the presumption of guilt when there's no corroborating evidence. I can't be alone in that.  So to say that Republicans think he’s innocent and Democrats think he’s guilty seems simplistic. 

And it's complicated as well by the fact that it's alleged to have happened over 30 years ago in high school.  As Rod Dreher has said, "I do not understand why the loutish drunken behavior of a 17 year old high school boy has anything to tell us about the character of a 53 year old judge. By God’s grace (literally), I am not the same person I was at 17. This is a terrible standard to establish in public life."

On the other hand, there’s the 2000 Florida election.  It’s actually more similar to Kavanaugh confirmation than I first thought.  In both cases there was a controversy towards which the underlying truth would be hard or impossible to find.

For Florida, most observers say that Bush probably would’ve won if a limited statewide recount were allowed by the Supreme Court to go forward.  But we’ll never know for sure, and even if a limited recount were done Democrats would’ve complained that a broad recount of all disputed ballots statewide was not done.
For Kavanaugh, Democrats would prefer an investigation of months or years, preferably one they have some power to oversee.  And even then there’s no guarantee any sort of definitive proof would be reached. 

In both cases one can say that the absence of hard data, of facts, leads people to retreat to their respective political corners.  Duh, and why shouldn’t they? It's far more troubling when people cling to something obviously false because of their political ideology rather than something that is disputed.

October 04, 2018

Let He Who Has Not Thrown Ice Cast the First Icicle

credit:Steve Kelley

Hopefully our long national nightmare will soon be over.  Assuming Flake doesn't live up to his name again, although  I predict a bull market for shouters in Senate elevators.

And I'm certainly impressed by the Dem senators ability to underperform even the lowest of expectations. Kudos to them. It's hard to be pessimistic enough not to be disappointed by their performance.

There's a bit of asymmetry going on as there's been a lot of calls for investigation into Kavanaugh's past and character, but little into Ford's past. But new details are trickling out that suggest she's not the truth-teller she's portrayed to be.

Hopefully in the future confirmation hearings will be "safe, legal and rare" or something like that.  Certainly a whole lot shorter. I can see why they won't be though - the venue guarantees you the white-hot spotlight which is crack-cocaine to ambition-addled senatorial brains (I'm talking 'bout you Spartacus). And these hearings offer the huge added benefit of never facing a tough vote, as judiciary Democrats were going to vote no on whoever Trump nominated.  It's an oasis of free advertising.

We’ve heard these hearings are a job interview.  If that’s the case, then it’s as if a panel of Elmer Fudds was deciding whether a marksman should be hired as a wabbit hunter.

One partial solution is that nominees should, at the direction of the president’s party, decline to answer any question from the opposite party’s senators.   While this won’t decrease the preening, presidential auditioning and outright lies, it will allow the potential justice the dignity of not having to pretend to care. There is no reason to go through the demeaning charade in a pitiful attempt to win votes and it’s no wonder Justice Alito tries to avoid walking past the Senate building where his hazing was held. Future confirmation hearings should ideally adhere to a strict party-line vote.

It’s ironic that in a age when Congress continually strives to give away its power, it is clinging to “advise and consent” - in a predictably abysmal manner.

October 02, 2018

Spiritual Battlefield

Interesting to see a couple of recent references to the image of this world being a "spiritual battlefield".  I wasn't aware of it being a controversial image.

Surely part of the explanation for the recent mentions is how ... bloody ... the field hospital that is the Church has become.  A couple months ago our pastor felt it incumbent, for good reason, to begin praying the prayer to St. Michael the Archangel after Mass weekly.

In a David Martin interview with Bishop Campbell (bishop of Columbus), he mentions in an aside how he feels he's always on a battlefield.

Bishop Campbell responded hesitantly:
"It's spiritual warfare, as St. Paul calls it.  But it's...  we don't want to conceive of it in terms of victory or defeat, what we are doing is choosing Christ, it is a constant selection, a constant choice in all we do." 
And the inestimable Amy Welborn offers on her site:
"I have always thought of it this way. God created us in His image and our destiny is eternal life with Him. Darkness is fighting against that, is fighting to win us. It is Temptation 101, yes? But when we leave the battlefield image out of this dynamic because we are uncomfortable with it or think we have progressed beyond it, and we much prefer to talk of “journeys” and “seeking,”  we profoundly misunderstand the nature of the journey to Peace. Darkness doesn’t want you to live in the light of God’s accepting, constant, trustworthy love, and throw everything in its power to keep you out. 
Yes, it is a battle."

There is Biblical data attesting to both the reality of both God’s justice and his mercy, and a problem with having a pessimistic disposition is the tendency to read the negative data as more “realistic” and “true to life”, and to see more hopeful Scripture as unduly optimistic.  So there’s certainly a battle within the pessimist in the trusting of life after death but also in the efficacy of Christ's sacrifice in light of our often woeful merits. 

September 27, 2018

The Hearing du Jour

I got sucked in today by the dramatic Kavanaugh versus his accuser confirmation hearing. It’s powerfully addicting soap opera but I suspect not good for one’s soul.

It seems to me the cause of this debacle of bad feeling, of further division of the hate-filled camps, was created by three prime actors: wavering, dithering GOP senators like Jeff Flake and Susan Collins who cherish their image as powerful mavericks and demanded to hear a fact-free but emotional Dr. Ford, Diane Feinstein (I’m old enough to recall when she was respectable) about whom the best one can say is that she doesn’t like to ruin someone’s life prematurely unless she deems it “necessary”, and the poison of non-forgiveness in the form of a woman bringing up a 36-year old accusation from high school.  A potent enough cocktail.

Extremely moving opening comments by Kavanaugh.  His righteous indignation was apparent and perhaps it helped that he figured if this country wants to be run on emotion and not facts, he’ll serve up some emotion. As Fr. Philip Devous tweeted:

Apparently the new epistemology of corroboration, evidence, fact-finding is that becoming emotional=truth. Next time a priest is accused of something we’ll see if this new convenient cultural standard is remembered.”

As Raymond Arroyo said, it’s all Oprah, no Perry Mason.

I think it was unintentionally funny that the Dem congress folks acted like lying to Congress was no big deal at all, compared to lying to FBI. Then why hold hearings at all?

It’s frustrating that a committee supposedly spearheaded by the GOP gave Ford a platform despite her having no collaboration other than her own imperfect memory.  And then had a questionner... oy vey. Optics I get, but the optic was supposed to be a woman challenging another woman, not a woman playing footsie with her.  Senate GOP hired her? This is exactly what gave Trump traction, the belief (rightly or wrongly) that Republicans like to play by the rules set by the media.

It’s also interesting that both Ford and Kavanaugh won rave reviews today even though (because of?) they conformed to sexual stereotypes: the fragile, vulnerable woman, and the tough protective guy upset over the carnage done to his friends’ reputations, as if appealing to subconscious archetypes or prejudices.

September 26, 2018

Stream of Semi-Consciousness

Thought I’d try a new thing on the blog, a stream-of-thought(lessness) vibe induced by sensory pleasures like running or music or massage. Call it anti-politics.

This morning I dissociated with perfect insouciance from the lush landings of Parini poetry to a double-play of Hotel California (a song so Hell-scary one could use it as a sermon). Later I swum-run the ovals in the gym; I had a choice of taking dogs on a scrum or soloing around the track and oh the release of it, the lock-point unjammed. The ship sailed from the gated community. Athena from beyond her trapeze’d bars, rings the rung-bells and I dreamt from dazed eyes of the torched light.

I ran regales of Gaul, provinces of distant pleasures, azures of blue sand and white skies of tremulous clouds breaking in and out of consciousness along the horizon line of raised hairs and hares beyond cares. Work fatigue and a general world-weariness led me into the zone of Disney animation, into a doze of days, into that lush garden of fruitopia.  Work fled.  I wandered to and fro, near and far. Memories inched to the surface without quite reaching the surface.  I didn't think about the "noise".

My eyes fell into spheres quoi-distant, I ran into childhood memories.  I slowed down latitudinally under the influence of longitudinal touch.  My mind bloomed with the agate of sleep;  I pictured a luminescent blue sea that became caramelized as stone that I could carry in my pocket.  I drifted off, drifted in, my body and all its manifold flaws handled by this tactile witchcraft.  All oils and smooth sailings with terabytes of tactile data, I experience ESP: extreme sensory perception. I perceive every nuance of motion and I cauldron up places half-remembered like when I was a kid at night in bed a memory of being on the edge of sleep the comfort of voices downstairs. It's like Ps 133: "It is like precious oil upon the head, coming down upon the beard."  Like what E.E. Cummings wrote:
“Now comes the good rain farmers pray for(and no sharp shrill shower bouncing off burned earth but a blind blissfully seething gift wandering deeply through godthanking ground)”
Alley alley umcomefree!  Or words like that. Is that even English? The guppies we caught at kids in creeks.

I thought about how interesting it was that of a body made up of nearly countless muscles, we tend to hide our tension in a tiny subset of them, and how an algae bloom of relaxation can occur when released.  The whole body and mind and soul feel it, feel the release of that single muscle tendon.  An image of the Body of Christ and how the tension found in its smallest member affects the whole.  An image of the 99th sheep restored, or the the mustard seed and how we slough it off at our own peril.  The catering to the "insignificant to the point of invisible" muscles as sign of St. Therese's "Little Way".  It made me want to do my job better.

Ah gliddy gloop goopy ah la la lee low... to borrow from Good Morning, Starshine. The Sierra Nevada alps of my shoulder blades. Straightenin' the curves. Ah, ah, triple awe-ah. That little green space alien from childhood cartoons fixed in my semi-consciousness. I dreamt of outer places in my inner space, I dreamed of inner spaces in outer space.  Wandering the dream beam.  Mustn't lose balance!  Epidermis epiphanies. Ectoplasmic ecstasies, the neck that holds the unlock. Into it I bowered, accepting of fleeting emotions till I was wrung and loosed, stamped, franked and freighted to Frankfurt.  I wandered lonely as a cloud or, alternatively, I wandered lowly as a cloud.  Low cloud alert!

Dizzily, tingly, past Rembrandt’s of the past revisited in mind eye like watercolored tourniquets around veins running sideline passes.  All around the watchtower I felt the booze-soothe of the manifold, uncovering layers upon layers, lost in beckoning horizons under induction and fellow-feeling.

I was back running laps in the basketball overlook at the old YMCA gym, the banked curves...I was on the shore-beach of Calypso. The bass treble of the trombone back. The high trills of the neck groove.  The trellising along the instep and the inscape. To berry fields and bonny days, to the windswept windows of the great ship Norwegian.  My blades slumped then reversed guard, en garde! no more. More sleepy than sleep...

September 25, 2018

Done With Catholic Schools

It's anecdotal of course, but the fact that some of my nieces and nephews rarely attend church despite going to Catholic schools from cradle through high school is  souring me on Catholic schools. To put it mildly.

I'm feeling like the Church shrinkage is due to poor Catholic education at least in part. And certainly the bishops and the institutional church are hapless; it’s no accident that the bishops tried to start a TV network that was dead-on-arrival while an obscure monastic nun made EWTN a fixture on every cable box.  The problem with EWTN now is that it lost its star power (Mother Angelica) and now likely appeals only to the elderly. But I could be wrong.

And it was interesting to hear on a news podcast an author (Franklin Foer) say that the addiction to smart phones has a spiritual cost as they distract us from the eternal, non-superficial questions. It seems a perfect storm: modernity’s profound religious ignorance combined with a tech age of constant distraction. Looks like there is no hope, only Hope.

The answer is prayer, not money, but on the latter I think the way to go is to support non-institutional third parties like the Augustine Institute and the St Paul Center, both aimed towards high school kids and seminarians. Scott Hahn is also doing a lot of work in this area and the fact that two of his sons are in the seminary shows me he’s doing something right. So I stopped donation to local Catholic grade school and to the bishop's fund drive and started one to Augustine Institute.

A Twitter thread from professor Gregory Hillis, on the current bleakness:
I have students in my intro theology class write spiritual autobiographies and almost every one written by a Catholic witnesses to the failure of the Church in educating families and children in the faith.

I've thought a great deal about what needs to change. My first suggestion would be that catechesis needs to be mystagogical in approach so that children in particular are immersed in the experience of God, apart from which its doctrine and morality remain incomprehensible.

I mean by this primarily that attempting to teach the faith apart from an immersion in a genuine and profound understanding and experience of the sacraments is bound to fall short. Prayer and theology should never be separated.

My second response would be that young people have many questions and they should feel welcome to ask difficult questions without being made to feel as if they're virtual apostates for questioning the faith.

We're long past the time when theology teachers and clerics can simply say "Because the Church says so." They need to be allowed to doubt, allowed to explore, and allowed also to understand & experience the generous response the Church has always given to well-formed consciences.

I'm a convert as well, and many of the cradle Catholics I know who understand the faith are those who have explored it on their own independently of the church. They shouldn't have to do that.

September 24, 2018

Kavanaugh (Sing like Van Halen's "Panama")

I’m kind of obsessed with the Kavanaugh hearings. It’s beyond frustrating that Sen. Grassley let slip the golden opportunity he had to get Kavanaugh confirmed when Dr. Ford was making all these unrealistic demands and wishy-washy senators like Collins and Flake were getting peeved at the arrogance of Ford (or her lawyers)...  Grassley could’ve manned up and said, “no Ford” and gotten the vote done. But he dillied and dallied, enthralled with the woebegone farce of having a “fair hearing” which is the most ludicrous thing ever.  It appears the 85-year old is stuck in the 1980s - didn’t he get the memo that the Dems play bloodsport? It’s a straight party line vote now and will be for as long as the eye can see.

It's too bad the whole confirmation process wasn't two days long and a vote done immediately.  Kavanaugh was already vetted six ways from Sunday but for some arcane reason this Congress has spent almost three months and still hasn’t gotten him out of committee.  You can’t make it up.

It’s ironic that about the only congressional prerogative that the Congress wants to hold on to is the “advise and consent” of presidential Supreme Court appointments — and, of course, they’re doing an abysmal job of it.

It feels almost quaint now that the Founders intended for the Congress to make laws, declare wars, and balance the budget when the Congress now does little but grandstand, smear, and tacitly approve law-making by executive and judicial branches all so they can keep their precious jobs.

But as much as I feel like the country is going downhill I do recall that states like dysfunctional California -  and cities like Chicago and Detroit  - still muddle through somehow and survive despite their horrible governance. I guess people are resilient even given bad leadership.  Until they aren't.

September 21, 2018

When Two Titans Clash

Arguably there's no one in the public square I more admire and follow than Jonah Goldberg and R.R. Reno (National Review and First Things respectively). 

So I was shocked when Reno wrote a hit piece on Jonah and his new book. Wow. I go back longer with Jonah but Reno has the gigantic influence of being formed by Catholic Christian faith.

Reno comes off as unhinged though, sadly.  Just makes it as personal and vituperative as possible.  While Jonah’s book’s great fault lay in how he refuses to see the West’s soul infused by Christianity, and Reno’s left field rejoinder is histrionic and sympathetic to Woodrow Wilson and FDR. Jonah says a little nationalism is good, but it’s a jealous god and demands more and more. 

John Zmirak opines on the clash of the titans and seeks a middle ground perhaps: 
Catholic theocratic "Integralism" and soulless, ahistorical Liberalism are equally futile and destructive. The vital synthesis of English liberties and Christian resistance to intolerant governments is what forged America.

Speaking of stars, the morning prayer psalm that asks “oh stars of light, give praise to God!”  is more meaningful now that I have a more intimate relationship with the stars thanks to the new transom in the sunroom. I see them now, and they feel more real to me.  It still kind of astounds me that Mars and Saturn, both so far away, were so present on the southern horizon last night. They had both seemed kind of abstract to me, pictures in astronomy books back in grade school but now they’ve come alive and they seem like they’re only a mile or two away.   It’s funny how approachable the stars can be if one suspends disbelief in the rational knowledge of their great distance. No wonder the ancients were far more conversant with the stars given they probably didn’t feel that far away to them as well. 

September 20, 2018

Waylaid and Off-Kilter

I feel waylaid and off-kiltered by the news of one the early Catholic bloggers (one with extreme high-octane intellect) died in a bicycle accident.  Left a wife and college-age children, about my age.  He was wearing a helmet yet apparently still died of head trauma.  In one of those morbid things I tend to do, I went to his blog and read his last comment to one of his posts. Just feels so sad. 

He was a strong debater but not into ad hominems or straw men attacks, which made him feel like a throwback and the rare seeker after truth.  

I recently encountered someone on FB who had his back up and we got into it. It’s always surprising to encounter rough seas on the FB page of a Catholic, but Lord knows I should be used to that by now.  The funny thing is that my expectations have not altered going way back to circa 2003 when I got blasted by somebody on a Catlick blog for sport.  

Anyway, I was told to do something to myself that is anatomically impossible and is, or would be, against Church teaching. So I’m shocked a Trad(ish) Catholic would recommend I do something to myself against the tenants of the Church.  As is typical in these situations and as my pride is wont, I swung back hard although I didn’t ask him to contravene Church teaching, so there’s that. 

So today I read a lovely post on the same FB page (not the commenter mentioned above but the FB owner) who wrote about trolls: 
One of the clearest evidences that there is life outside of Facebook is that people will endure abusive, offensive comments from friends because they know that there is more to that friend's character than their FB persona suggests. The rest of us have to take it on faith, though...
It's how I know that Christian charity exists, that some people are given chance after chance even after most people would just block them.
And lo and behold my nemesis chimed in and humbly admitted he was trollish and then mentioned the loss of his wife to cancer and I realize that his life and mine may be on the same green earth but he’s seen troubles thus far that I pray I don’t have to endure.

Someone chimed in on the FB post and said, “I am lacking in Christian charity, so I tend not to post controversial things.”   Ditto for me.

And no less than Pope Francis has led the way inasmuch as he says he does not read his critics as it’s not good for his mental health. I think that’s true for most of us. (Although the Holy Father's recent homilies, like Trump's protestation that he never watches CNN, shows that he's at least tuned in to what his opponents are saying.) 

Everyone is going more towards their “natural” political and religious camps given that the unnaturalness of social media encourages spleen-venting and thus the unlikeliness of logic-based, civil discourse.   

The other telling thing is how Pope Francis went through a very dark period during the late ‘80s in which he has to basically just be a priest, which apparently was unsatisfying for the lack of power and influence. He went to a Jewish psychologist for six months of weekly visits for mental health help. This tracks well with his highly ambitious persona (such that he would feel at sea in just being a priest). 

Interestingly, he says he can’t live alone, again for mental health reasons, so that’s why no papal apartments.  This would seem to mitigate the meritoriousness of his eschewing the regal papal apartments.

September 12, 2018

Reno in First Things

R.R. Reno in First Things senses the end of conservative accommodation to the longstanding attitude of “keep the church together at all costs by sweeping disagreements and corruption under any available rug".  Seems the McCarrick mess followed by the Vigano letter has been a permission slip for conservatives to stop kowtowing to the status quo, or to emperor-bishops wearing no robes.

It reminds me of the Trump nomination, how Republican primary voters finally got exhausted with the long project of trying to go along by getting along by buying into the Democrat premise that Republicans needed to do better on diversity, racial accord, political correctness.  Like how Romney could scarcely defend himself from charges he was involved in a war against women which later was “confirmed” by stray comment showing his dedication to the Democrat ideal of patronizing women and minorities by saying he had “binders full of women” on his short list for some office.

There comes a time when even conservationists no longer want to conserve the current environment. I thought Trump was a mistake but I began to marvel at a world in which a Republican president felt free enough to speak his mind with such candor (if limited truthfulness). It was a modest revelation and a guilty pleasure. Trump reminds me of the citizen legislator who isn’t there for a career and is wiling to be unpopular.

And I have to feel like Pope Francis didn't sign up for this when he was made pope some 5 years ago, that he'd have to deal with gay clerics engaging in clericalism, or more accurately fornication.  For the pope to be blindsided by Viagno is just movie-script-like drama that would be almost too unbelievable to make the celluloid. 

I’ve been reading the book Conspiracy about how Peter Thiel secretly kept his powder dry against Gawker for outing his being gay, and how over years of picking the time and place for battle ended up backing Hulk Hogan and bankrupting a malicious outfit.  While Viagno, unlike Thiel, went about it in a much more slipshod and emotional way, he too planted this bombshell such that it upstaged the papal visit to Ireland and elicited the famous “no comment” from the pontiff.  I imagined, rightly or wrongly, that the image cagey Francis was forced to do something difficult for him - to not retaliate verbally perhaps because he thought Viagno might have something and that he could get caught in a thicket.  Francis seems to have weathered it well from a PR standpoint since the press was on his side to begin with and the lack of comment seemed to make a non-issue, ginned up by angry conservatives.

August 28, 2018

Trying to Make Sense of Absurdistan

I've been lately wandering lost in a haze of information overload, the scandal du jour that begets and begets and begets and just keeps on begetting. From the '16 election that lifted a reality TV star and insult champion to the presidency, to the now very non-rhetorical query: "Is the pope Catholic?" -- the last few years have been, uh, attention-getting.

So a few disjointed thoughts. (Are there any other kind?)

The sentimental view of religion is certainly taking a hit.  Oxymorons abound: "Catholic Ireland", "Holy Father", "pope resigns", "World Meeting of [Hetero?] Families", "hush money".  It's a world in which a cardinal tweets to his sister "Nighty-night baby, I love you."  It's a world where politicians object to bishops being called "politicians" since no politician could be so tone deaf.  It's a world in which the bishops talk about national boundaries but not the protection of the physical boundaries of seminarians. It's a world in which the flock is called upon to direct the shepherds (ala M. B. Doughtery: "I’m not looking for a perfect Church, I’d appreciate one in which bishops demonstrated anger at rapists and some determination to stop them before proceeding to try and guilt the the laity for being scandalized by it" and "Imagine the Apostle Andrew reacting to Judas’ betrayal, 'We should write up some bylaws against betraying our Lord unto death'”).

Weird sh-t is happening everywhere, like Catholic author Taylor Marshall inexplicably retweeting Alex Jones. Twice.

Well interesting times and all that jazz.

Baylor professor Alan Jacobs describes the parallels of Trump and Francis:
Like Donald Trump, Francis makes dramatic and apparently extreme pronouncements which send the world into interpretative tizzies. When he says things like “Who am I to judge?” Catholics who support him effectively say that he should be taken “seriously but not literally” — just as Trump supporters say about their man. Both men generate massive, thick fogs of uncertainty.

Like Donald Trump, Francis cuts through political complications by issuing executive orders and blunt power grabs, as when he dismissed the Grand Master of the Knights of Malta and is seeking to replace him with a “papal delegate” under his own personal control, a move of questionable legality.

Like Donald Trump, Francis is an authoritarian populist: he bypasses institutional structures and governs by executive order, but believes that there can be nothing tyrannical about this because he is acting in the name of the people and is committed to “draining the swamp” of his institution’s internal corruption.

Norms are created by institutions, and we live in an age of week and despised institutions. This is how populist leaders arise: when a great many people believe that institutions exist merely to serve themselves, they come to despise not just those institutions but also the norms associated with them, and applaud leaders who scorn and seek to tear down the whole edifice.

General contempt for our institutions, government and church alike, makes them too weak to enforce their norms, which first enables corruption — the kind of corruption American Catholic bishops and members of the Congress of the United States are guilty of — and then produces populist figures who appear to want to undo that corruption. But the institutions are too weak to control the leaders either, so those leaders are empowered to do more or less whatever they want to do. This is the case with Trump, who will surely last at least until the 2020 election, and also, I think, with Francis, who will probably last until he dies or chooses like his predecessor to resign.

Moreover, since neither Trump nor Francis is interested in doing the work needed to repair their corrupt institutions — they don’t even have any incentive to do so: the ongoing presence of ‘swamps’ is what lends them such legitimacy as they possess — all the products and enablers of corruption are safe. This is why the American bishops who spent decades enabling and hiding sexual abuse are probably feeling pretty good about their prospects right now.
This past Sunday the homilist said the problem is that many clergy live “soft lives” attentive to luxuries and this encourages others to become priests who want not only softness but outright infidelity. A slippery slope. The beach houses and grand homes of the hierarchy attract the wrong element.

It reminds me of how many say that Washington D.C. was ruined by air-conditioning. Once a/c came to the city, it became desirable. Once it became desirable it started attracting hacks who wanted to live there forever and thus made re-election their goal instead of improving the country, so they didn't have to go back to their godforsaken home districts that lacked the sizzle and glitter of the ever-growing capitol.

At least I have full closure on Pope Francis now. I unfollowed him on Twitter, lol as the kids say. The Viganò memo without the backdrop of what we already know about Francis would've felt out of left field. As it was, for me, it seems right down 2nd base. Smoke, meet fire.

But some on Twitter reminded me that the proper response to the scandals is not primarily anger but repentance on behalf of those who need it.  Sobering. The Christian response is not to weep not out of a sense of betrayal, but for the victims and Pope Francis and the enablers of abuse.

One priest tweeted:
The effect of a what has been going on in the Church will be to make the Church effectively congregationalist in its polity. The laity will attend a parish of their choice, and network with other like-minded Catholics through organizations (both on- and offline) to which bishops are marginal. In the Church today, all of the exciting things are happening outside of the management of chanceries, and all of the things under the purview of chanceries (e.g. Catholic schools) are failed institutions, which in some cases actively undermine people's faith. Note: I am not saying that this is *desirable*, I'm just saying that it is the case.

Amy Welborn provides historical perspective:
There have always – always, people – been terrible problems in the Church. It’s unfortunate that general historical illiteracy, combined with contemporary experiences of faith that are mostly determined by which party you happen to fall into, work to hide this plain fact from most people...

What is consistent, it seems, is the overarching instinct to throw your lot in with the prevailing culture and its values – power, success, money, sex, a particular social system – and be formed by that instead of the Gospel, instead of the Cross of Jesus Christ.
I thought of that in how it juxtaposes with Jeff C's FB post*. One could say, with Amy, that history teaches over and over that corruption even at the highest levels has always been. But perhaps it’s like being robbed - you know the statistics, that there is a lot of crime, but until it happens to you personally it still feels distant. And for the current pope to be implicated feels “more real” than centuries ago.

Perhaps part of the surprise of some to the degeneracy of many of these leaders is due simply to what a priest sermonized recently about, how there seems to be an ignorance that the grace of the sacraments - including obviously Holy orders - cannot penetrate without the proper disposition. There’s no such thing as osmosis or magic, he said. Disposition is crucial and that’s standard Catholic teaching. A rock in a stream of water won't absorb much water. As George MacDonald wrote, "Man finds it hard to get what he wants, because he does not want the best; God finds it hard to give, because He would give the best, and man will not take it."

* - “Tonight, many excellent Catholics are grieving due to Archbishop Vigano's devastating revelations about Pope Francis - the grief and tears of betrayal. Perhaps you and I grieved much earlier, for different reasons, and have now moved on to a cold cynicism, but that's no advantage. Remember what that grieving was like and grieve again.”