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.”
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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. 
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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."
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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.