June 26, 2015

Today's SCOTUS Rant

So the panel of political hacks also known as the Supreme Court came up with a decision that suggests the rule of law in terms of the written word is a fiction. The emperor wears no clothes. As Scalia said in dissent, “words have no meaning.” It's gobsmacking that justices decide they can interpret anything in any way. The Obamacare decision teaches kids that actions don't have consequences, that you can write a statute any way you want it and the Court will back you if your “heart is in the right place”, even when your “heart” says there's a right to kill an unborn child.

The amazing thing about our current system of government is you can write bad law and have it edited and amended in your favor by the SCOTUS.

The other longer term stunner is how with one of the defining issues of our time, healthcare, the Republican party simply bowed out. For decades. It's pretty amazing that half of D.C. sat it out and couldn't come up with a plan over the course of twenty or thirty years. And then be “outraged” when the Democrats came up with one and passed it and the SCOTUS played the role of Nancy Pelosi and helped write it after the fact. Republicans seem to think that serving in office is similar to the role of homecoming king and queen in high school: you just wave to people in parades.

I'm not overly comfortable with where this 'words have no meaning' leads. It feels like we're just winging it, that nobody is competent at their job, that standards and rules are for suckers or the politically unconnected. See Lois Lerner, who is said to collect a lifetime retirement pension north of $100k.

I guess it irritates that the third branch of government has become so political, that Roberts worries more about the effect of the law than the letter. This is likely a flaw in me - law was made for man, not man for the law to paraphrase Jesus. And it's surely possible that Roberts wants to conserve the Court's reputation in the minds of ordinary Americans to prevent a future complete breakdown of social order. You have to have one of the three branches with some credibility I suppose is his thinking.

It irks me though that we're not getting “what we paid for”, or rather what our Founders paid for with their blood and treasure, that of a disinterested judiciary not subject to the whims of the voter. That's the beauty of the law, I thought, being blind to repercussions. But I guess that's also the ugliness of the law, being blind and not taking into account the complexity of individual cases or how it will affect people. Reading Dickens' Bleak House reminds one of how the law can be an ass, even/especially when interpreted by the letter.

Perhaps I'm too imbued with the spirit of sports, particularly baseball, which has rules applied consistently with (mostly) admirable results. Baseball always seemed the most impartial of games, where you were judged by your statistics and not affiliation. (Of course the MLB was not immune to prejudice pre-Jackie Robinson, but players in the Negro League were judged by their stats, mostly.) I always thought of the Supreme Court as the most baseball-ish of the branches, and it's telling that one of the analogies used to explain the Court's role is as an umpire “calling balls and strikes”.

And obviously it's frustrating how Republican presidents seem 50/50 as far as appointing conservative judges while Democrat presidents have a near perfect record with liberal judges. Are Democrats just naturally better at politics?

Ross Douthat thinks the reason Roberts ruled as he did was because he had no faith that a broken legislative branch could recover from a SCOTUS veto, and that makes sense. Roberts has shown that he's about ends, unconcerned over means, and if the Republicans in Congress can't deal with Democrats then there's disaster if the Court overturns. In a sense it's a miracle Obamacare got enacted whatsoever, so having it be coherent was surely a bridge too far. Such is the state of our politics today, although one could also argue that the Peter Principle applies in the sense that the world and government has gotten so complex that nobody can perform well in it. Obamacare implicitly argues that it is beyond our capability to provide health care effectively.

Douthat matches my feeling, that it's another sign of how we're fast we're waning as a country:
But it was depressing, over all, in what its genesis and outcome say about the state of our politics. It’s a case that exists in the first place only because yesterday’s go-for-broke Democratic-led Congress passed a mess of a law that an increasingly imperial executive branch has had to tweak and rewrite ever since. And it was litigated and debated under the (sadly plausible) assumption that today’s dysfunctional Republican-led Congress wouldn’t be capable of the negotiations required to actually fix the legislative problem the plaintiffs identified.
That’s my pessimistic, decline-of-the-republic reading… It’s always been clear — well, at least to me — that the chief justice is a pragmatist and a political animal, and conservatives have benefited from his outcomes-based rulings in the past. (To take just one example: His ruling on the Voting Rights Act read more like a brief for something Congress ought to do to change the act than a principled case for how a court should interpret the existing law.)
“Principled” is not an adjective you'd use with the Roberts court indeed.

UPDATE: So, no surprise, the Court found language in the Constitution - written in invisible ink! - that said marriage can defined any old way.  Rod Dreher has more doom.

June 25, 2015

24 Hours in Hocking County, Ohio


Whoda thunk I'd be sun-starved in mid-June? Whoda thunk that every day last week no nice one-season-room patio time?  Call it a "half-of-one-season" room?

Even in Cloudumbus that's pretty rare in June. But we've had just a remarkable string of gray, cloudy days. Temperature-wise it's warm, but man doesn't live by temperature alone. It certainly brings home why I visit Florida and Hilton Head.

June weather rebounded with a giddy-up briefly on the 23 and 24th, just in time for my going back to work, naturally if uncannily. But it's pinch-me time, the solstice, which literally means “sun stands still” and it was nice to further that aim by taking my birthday off and spending time relaxing, making time stand still, to some extent. "The best day of the year is the longest, June 22," wrote poet Donald Hall.

Forewarned is forearmed they say, but despite being forewarned that the time between my birthday and July 4th and then the end of July is whip-fast, there's not much I seem to be able to do to slow it down. It is what it is as the great modern philosophers say.


Quick-pack on Friday afternoon and by 5pm we were on the road, arriving in the hock of hills (aka Hocking Hills) by 6:30. We're staying at a modest place (no wi/fi and no phone coverage) about 9-10 miles beyond Laurelville, which is about 20 miles beyond Circleville. In other words, out in the boondocks.

There's nothing quite like exploring a new place and this one has a killer gravel hill driveway requiring 4-wheel drive when it rains. It's a cement block structure with cement floors, so that's good for our dog since she'll be tracking mud all over sooner rather than later. The place with a postage-stamp cleared backyard surrounded by deep and enthusiastic woods. I tried a bit of the trail with Maris (for "Stella Maris", but aka “Mare-bare”, aka “Nightmare bare”).

We crated her briefly while we headed to the fabulous next-door biker burger joint. I got a black and blue burger to go, and Steph a black bean burger. Yummy. And homemade chocolate cookies for dessert. The mom & pop diner had a decent craft beer selection, including the oddest beer I've ever had. It's called “Not Your Father's Root Beer” and it tastes, I swear, exactly like root beer. And yet it's like 5.8% alcohol. Crazy how you can have that amount of alcohol with no bitterness, no hops, no beer aftertaste. A novelty drink for me, since I obviously prefer the taste of beer to root beer, but quite an ingenious concoction.

I'm reading the new encyclical down here because it jibes so well with the beauty of this natural environment. “Nature is nothing other than a certain kind of art, God's art…” he writes.

Francis argues that the best way to ensure man doesn't harm creation is to speak of an all-powerful Father who alone owns the earth. This reminds me of how the only way to ensure the rights of the unborn any American for that matter is to insist that our rights do not come from government but from God, as stated (but sadly ignored) in the Declaration of Independence.

That rhetorical device of the Holy Father's seems pretty brilliant evangelistically, to ask nonbelievers to take a more positive view of religion because it's the best way to stop people from damaging the earth.

I marvel at some of the trees here, how straight they stand! Their trunks as freakishly and unwaveringly vertical as telephone poles.  It seems four black bear sightings were confirmed last year in this county. There's a picture of one in cabin, in what looks like area woods, not far from a wall-mounted 22 rifle.


Mega-rain this morning, from light to heavy. No worries though with a nice porch - sipped coffee and played tunes previously downloaded via amazon prime. 'Round 10am breakfast of peanut butter on toasted English muffins with milk.

Went on a noontime three-mile hike with Maris down the main drag, right through beautiful downtown South Bloomingville, ha. The rain was omnipresent, to varying degrees, but I didn't care. In fact I took off my hat and let the rain descend on my head, a primal childhood feeling that I experience every twenty years or so in adulthood.  Another benefit of the rain is how deep in green and shiny all the leaves look. (To make lemonade out of lemons.)

The “town”, using the term loosely, seemed a collection of perhaps a couple dozen houses slung along the avenue. One looked like the Walton's homestead but for the confederate flag. It's a place rich in local color and I saw two young boys in a small greensward between house and outbuilding with a bat and ball. They looked so “Appalachian-y” that I felt like I was in a Walker Evans photograph. Mulleted, unabashedly country, pale-white as if they'd never seen the sun (as well they might not have living in this canopied forest), high cheekbones and narrow chinned like Jefferson Davis. They praised my dog and asked the name and I told them, and they told me the name of theirs.

P.C. it ain't. 
Unfortunately as good and as relaxed as my time has been so far, (with miles to go and books yet to read) my wife has been killer bored. I see hottub, burger joint, beers, music and reading on the horizon, but she sees home. I suspect the boredom is due not only to the poor weather but the lack of internet connection.

Speaking of boredom, I read recently in the New York Times that the huge heroin problem in Vermont is due to teenagers feeling bored. Which is sort of counterintuitive given how ubiquitous entertainment is now. Maybe we're made for work, and when it's missing we get bored. Maybe we've evolved to work.


An amazing sight was beheld this morning: the sun. Whoever wrote that song from the musical Annie, about the sun coming out tomorrow, was obviously unacquainted with Cloudumbus. But today magic happened.

Sailed our yard from 4 till 6pm, by which I mean walked from corner-to-corner, enjoying even the shady parts given how hot the sun was. Savored the breezy if mosquito-laden spot in far right corner, then spent some time in the center of the tree line. Got bit multiple times despite putting repellent on. I'm a mosquito magnet. They are said to be attracted to those who eat bananas and drink beer and I do a lot of both, though never at the same time.

Even Columbus can occasionally produce an azure sky and the surreal clarity of a sterling day: temperature in the mid-80s, sun just beaming down beamily. I love the feel of heat-soaked pavers on my soles, the sheerness of summer. I hit the block for a walk in the golden, our dog Maris accompanying me and drawing significant (too much?) attention. Her fan club awaits: went a half-mile and three people greeted her.


Later, mid-week, tripped to the minor league park. One of my favorite days of the year if partially due to the novelty of having a summer afternoon mid-week workday off. It's rare as snow in Jamaica. Let's play two!

Arrived at ball orchard pleasantly early: 11:40 for the 12:05pm start. I relish the pre-game atmosphere, the lack of crowds, the ministrations of the grounds crew (watering the infield to keep the dust down) and eating a hotdog and Crackerjacks ala the song of yore. And there was the sweetness of expectation. So soon came the National Anthem followed by the rather anticlimactic first pitch.

The uber-handy MILB app allowed me to study the pitchers, and I expected a duel given these were two sharpies, especially the Norfolk Tides hurler (Tyler Wilson). He's pitched in the majors and is expected back up. Ours was Nick Maronde, a respectable prospect. But Maronde gave up three runs in less than 5 innings, and Wilson pitched a shutout through 7.

There's something poignant about a minor league game. They try harder, the stakes feel higher. In the majors, you've made it already. It's sort of like March Madness college bball compared to the NBA.

June 19, 2015

A Lotta Reading Goin' On

Interesting to see a columnist in our diocesan newspaper (David Hartline) write that he went to Ireland in 2004 and said he talked to a priest who predicted what we see today:
He told us there was trouble on the horizon. He told us below the surface there was a lot of anger against the Church, some of it justified, but much of it from a position of pride and rebellion.

I remember thinking, "Is this possible?" Indeed, it has come to pass. I remember saying to the priest that surely, if there was a scandal in Irish soccer, the populace wouldn't abandon soccer, so why would they do so with the Church? The priest said the rebellion wasn't so much against the Church as it was against God - a story as old as time itself.

I certainly have thought about his words lately, especially since the scandal at FIFA, the international soccer federation, came to light. Although bribery, graft, and other tawdry misdeeds costing hundreds of millions of dollars are alleged to have taken place at FIFA, I highly doubt anyone will stop watching soccer.

Yet people will leave the Church when scandal occurs.

Read great dollops of the hot-off-the-presses Francis encyclical on the environment. Have savored it and highlighted it and am maybe a quarter of the way through the 192-page monster. Remember when the air was clean and papal encyclicals were a manageable thirty pages? I jest, the length is warranted and much appreciated given the subject matter, which touches on everything given how interrelated everything is.

I was sore tempted to read the snippets provided by Mrs. Darwin on FB but it felt like cheating, like looking ahead to the mid or end of a book. If I don't read the whole thing I ought avail myself though.

Francis quoting of Gen 6:13 on the Flood lead me to Verbum app and the plentiful rich commentaries held within. In the Brazos bible study on Genesis from R. R. Reno I hit allegorical gold:
A spiritual sense also follows the pattern of fitting punishment. To inundate sinners with the natural elements is to fulfill the desire of Adam and Eve to rest in finite things. God does not pour out an alien wrath or muster an invading force. He opens the floodgates of our desire for things of the earth. The flood is what happens when the decision of Adam and Eve is given free reign. We drown in the consummation of our finite loves. The soul that desires pleasures of food and drink becomes bloated and bursts. Envy finds perverse pleasure in implacable grudges. Anger burns and overflows. Greed piles up coins and hungers for more. We want to live by bread alone, and in the flood, God allows water, the primal power of finite, organic life, to reign supreme.
That is rich.


Later read some of de Montfort's magisterial True Devotion to Mary. Unfortunately, he's come to the part where he identifies false devotion which, of course, means devotion tainted by sin.  It's kind of a discouraging tautology: “in order to pray effectively, you need to be saint. In order to be a saint, you need to pray effectively.” (I exaggerate, but that's the feeling I got anyway.) That's the downside of reading books by saints. They don't suffer fools like me gladly or have patience for nonsense.


The commentary spurred by "Laudato Si" has been tsunami-like, but here's a unique take, that the Holy Father implicitly praises America:
The encyclical is written to the world, not just to the United States. Industrialization and its negative effects are not an American problem. Indeed, one could make a strong argument that this entire encyclical is targeting Asia, specifically, communist China and its satellites.

Communist countries are renowned for the ecological disaster they wreak upon their environments. Precisely because communism is atheistic, it exploits and destroys the natural ecology of the areas it inhabits to a degree that is astounding to behold. Indeed, article 21 is virtually a laundry list of complaints about these industrial areas.
"But our industrial system, at the end of its cycle of production and consumption, has not developed the capacity to absorb and reuse waste and by-products. We have not yet managed to adopt a circular model of production capable of preserving resources for present and future generations.."
Americans try to wring every last dollar out of a production cycle. As any businessman knows, it is more profitable to sell the "waste" products you don't know how to use to someone who does know how to use them than it is to throw them away. You can't use them, but someone else can, and they will pay. Precisely because the American economic system rewards the man who can make those kinds of connections, American production cycles tend to be much more "closed circle" than those of other countries. That's why our economy tends to be much more robust. Far from being a critique of America, this article can be seen as praise for American processes that don't conform to the negative stereotype...

No one mentions that the Pope praises the national park system. The first national park in the world was created by the United States. The Pope is implicitly praising the West as a whole and America in particular, but no one takes notice:
"37. Some countries have made significant progress in establishing sanctuaries on land and in the oceans where any human intervention is prohibited which might modify their features or alter their original structures."
When considering the top ten largest national parks in the world, America, Britain and Australia comprise 60% of the list, each having two of the ten largest parks. Eight of the top ten largest preserve areas in the world were designated as such by western capitalist countries. Nine of the top ten countries with the largest national parks are predominantly Christian countries. This encyclical is most certainly not targeting the West or the profit motive per se (more on that later). Instead, as can be seen in the very next article, Pope Francis specifically chastises South America and Africa for not imitating the practices of North America and Europe.

June 18, 2015

Subject du Jour

Good post from Darwin Catholic on the topic of climate change.

June 17, 2015

Who Am I to Leak?

So have you heard the environmental encyclical got leaked?  I predict you have. I find the “heinous” adjective used by someone in the Vatican to be heinous. (Is that heinous of me?) It's not exactly murder to have leaked a document four days early, even a draft copy.

(And lo and behold, I find Jeff Miller says similarly:
I have seen multiple reports of somebody in the Vatican calling this a “heinous act”, although have not seen a actual source for this. If accurate this is pure hyperbole. Yes reprisal against Magister is appropriate for violating the embargo, “heinous act”? — not really. As if this Encyclical needed more drama involved.)
I like the idea of an environmental “win-win” in which I buy solar panels and hope for an eventual break-even on lessened electricity costs. That's a lot easier than alternatives involving more self-sacrifice and more spiritual merit.

As Curt Jester also goes on to say:
Still it will be an interesting upside down week when progressive Catholics tell us how we must obey the Pope’s teachings and conservative Catholics tell us how we don’t have to. 
Probably same as it ever was, since we usually measure the standard rather than let the standard measure us.

Books I Have Known

June 15, 2015


"You may say I'm a dreamer
But I'm not the only one
I hope someday you'll join us
And the world will be as one.."

Higher Thoughts

From a biography of St. Anthony of Padua:
In the mean time he inflamed his devotion by assiduous prayer and holy meditation, and nourished daily in his soul the strongest sentiments and affections of piety, without which means the heart is left spiritually dry, the usual consequence of studies whether sacred or profane unless prayer imparts to them its unction.

This below, quoting a saint from a seven deadly sins book, reminds me of how we have to religiously attribute all of our good behavior to God, and all of our bad behavior to us. This was said by a priest on a retreat once, and said it was something to take on faith.
“When you have enjoyed a notable success in warring against the carnal vices and you see that you have been freed from their filthiness and from this world’s way of life, you should not be puffed up with the success of the struggle and the victory and ascribe this to your own strength and wisdom, believing that you were able to obtain victory over evil spirits and carnal vices through your own efforts and application and free will.”

Reading Pope Francis, there's the imprecision of translation added to some imprecision of Francis himself.  But to say he's interesting is like saying Michael Jackson could dance.

And his angle on apparitions and visions is interesting as well. Back when Medjugorje was only a few years old I thought it was so cool that the Mother of God would deign not to just appear and then disappear, as with other apparitions, but would give consistent, seemingly inexhaustible, messages. This was a sign of caring, I thought, and this seemed a case of God and his Mother going the extra mile for our time, the 20th century and beyond.

As “personal” as these messages seemed to me, a Mother to her children, Pope Francis looks at it impersonal! He says, “Our Lady is not a postmaster, sending messages every day.” Probably a product of his own closest to Mary and deep faith.

And I think he also sees this as a danger of exclusivity inasmuch as we can think of “Mary for the visionaries, but not for us”. That is a understandable danger.

But the kicker is where Francis says, “Jesus says the Kingdom of God does not come in a way that attracts attention: it comes by wisdom.”

And that pretty much shuts me up, being hard to refute.

From the source:
Curiosity, the Pope continued, impels us to want to feel that the Lord is here or rather there, or leads us to say: “But I know a visionary, who receives letters from Our Lady, messages from Our Lady”. And the Pope commented: “But, look, Our Lady is the Mother of everyone! And she loves all of us. She is not a postmaster, sending messages every day.”
Such responses to these situations, he affirmed, “distance us from the Gospel, from the Holy Spirit, from peace and wisdom, from the glory of God, from the beauty of God.”
“Jesus says that the Kingdom of God does not come in a way that attracts attention: it comes by wisdom.”

Read interesting critical review of Sherry Weddell's book Forming Intentional Disciples. While I haven't read it all, or even most of it, Weddell's book gives me the jibe of being a Catholic version of The Purpose Driven Life.   So I was pleased to find someone on the Internet say what I think (and who can't find someone on the Internet who hasn't said what you think? Fish, meet barrel). It's perhaps noteworthy that in both books the main title makes no reference to Christ or Christianity.


GK Chesterton:
[Christianity] does not exactly work outwards, adventurously, to the wonders to be found at the ends of the earth. It is rather something that surprises us from behind, from the hidden and personal part of our being; like that which can sometimes take us off our guard in the pathos of small objects or the blind pieties of the poor. It is rather as if a man had found an inner room in the very heart of his own house, which he had never suspected; and seen a light from within. It is as if he found something at the back of his own heart that betrayed him into good.

We Can't All be NYC

Who can fault a destination
for playing favorites
and making lemonade
from lemons?

Spare me a lakeless day
in Minnesota
or an Iowan traffic jam.

Cast only a sidelong glance
at the trees of Central Park,
ignore the football games
of Cooperstown.

Savor the cabbie in New York City,
spurn the weather forecaster in L.A.

Wouldn't we be distraught
if we visited San Fran
on a hot summer day?

And who could stand
a dry Seattle, a chill Hawaii
a priestless Ireland?

Relish the stereotype,
celebrate difference.


Good thing for Hillary is that she can sound like Elizabeth Warren, and no Wall Street donor will take her words seriously so she can play to the base and still collect $2+ million dollars and pass go.

Good thing for Jeb Bush is his voice and speech doesn't remind one of his brother.


It seems like the letter of the law gets easily lost after the fact of its exercise -- sometimes almost immediately.

For example, I doubt even 2% of the electorate knows that the invasion of Iraq was the result of Saddam Hussein refusing weapon inspections, that being the condition/terms of the ceasefire at end of the first Iraq War in 1989.

And does anybody realize Bill Clinton was impeached by the House of Representatives not because of having sex with Monica Lewinsky but for perjury?

It's pretty impressive how quickly myth can override truth.

June 09, 2015

Aye Columba!

Happy St. Columba Day!  Turns out I'm related to the 6th century saint. He's my uncle. No actually a genetic test revealed the likelihood that I (along with three million of my closest friends) am related to Irish king Niall of the Nine Hostages, and St. Columba was a great-great-grandson of Niall.

Instill Ye the Gift of Reason

When intellectuals or rich people go wrong, they go very wrong.  Lose all common sense.  So, let's say you have an extra $400 million burning a hole in your Lamborghini and want to donate it.  Help the poor?  Donate to world's richest university?  Tough call 'eh?

Malcolm Gladwell called out John Paulson on Twitter:
It came down to helping the poor or giving the world's richest university $400 mil it doesn't need. Wise choice John! 
Another example:  Let's say you remove Saddam Hussein and then look forward to Shias, Sunnis and Kurds singing Kumbaya.  Your average fourth grader would say, "Maybe they should be separated so they won't fight."

But the best and brightest in American foreign policy laughed at that, and laughed at Joe Biden when he suggested as much.  Ol' Joe may not be an intellectual, but he sure nailed it on "Iraq", a country not deserving of a label that makes it sound unified.
He was ahead of his time. "Biden got it dead right, and I still think transitioning to a federal power-sharing arrangement is the only way to stop the killing and hold Iraq together," says Leslie Gelb, former president of the Council on Foreign Relations, who wrote the op-ed with Biden.

June 04, 2015

Authenticity and the Heisenberg Effect

Jesus among the doctors

From Rabanus (Hrabanus) Maurus (say five times fast), an 8th century Fankish monk who wrote what seems as true today:
When the author says that he sought wisdom before his youth, before the opportune time to ask, he shows to have desired it prior to the errors of childhood and adolescence, and even before his youth, and to have asked insistently that God would give it to him, promising to seek it always. Adolescence and youth are fraught with dangers, because the actions of the exterior person dominate, as Solomon says in the book of Proverbs, confessing that he does not know “the way of a youth in his adolescence,” and the prophet asks the Lord, “Do not recall the sins of my youth and of my ignorance.”

For this reason philosophers, representing human life with the letter Y, assign the lefthand stroke to infancy and adolescence and the righthand stroke to the more mature age, when the intellect is more robust and rejects the earlier foolishness of the senses. In fact, this letter was first used by Pythagoras as an example of human life, in such a way that the bottom stroke, thinner than a comma, would indicate the uncertain condition of the earliest age, not yet given to either vice or virtue. The junction above it begins with adolescence, of which the right side is difficult but tends to a blessed life, and the left is easier but leads to perdition and death. On Ecclesiasticus 10.31.

To search and find authenticity kills the very thing it seeks and finds. The authentic is a fragile flower, susceptible to exploitation and subject to observation alteration, aka the Heisenberg Principle.

This was true with country music when searchers for roots sounds ended up blowing the thing up with too much money.

And in the early '70s, commercialism killed the authenticity star with respect to rock music:
[Songs] like “Indian Reservation” appeared on first listen to be bucking the status quo but, by 1971, they were the status quo. The music industry had figured out that political integrity was a selling point for the rock audience, and the sense of purpose that had once accompanied protest music was gone. Things hadn’t always been so cynical. Buffalo Springfield’s “For What It’s Worth (Stop, Hey What’s That Sound)” (1967), the Young-bloods’ “Get Together” (1969), and dozens of other protest songs had been integral to the peace movement at a time when bands still felt their music could provoke change. But the “statement” songs that opened the seventies often aimed to succeed within the system while merely creating the appearance of subversion.“ - Jeff Breithaupt
I think we see this in the gospel where Jesus said don't let your left hand know what the right is doing when it comes to giving alms.


Fr. B. can be a little blah, but he shot and scored with his sermon yesterday.

First, he said that in the first reading not only did Tobit error when he accused his wife of having stolen a goat rather than having received it as a bonus, but his wife err'd too when she said, understandably, “Where are your good works and virtue now? Your true character has been revealed!”

I've always thought of that as truthful if hurtful but it's not even truthful because “we are not our sins” as Mark Shea often says.  I too often self-define and other-define by our weakness. And so her line about character being revealed was false, said Fr. B.

He also talked about the gospel today where Jesus famously asked whose image was on the coin and then said, “Give to Caesar what is Caesar's and to God what is God's!” And Fr. B said (paraphrasing), “and if Caesar's image is on the coin, whose image is that of other people? God's image! We are made in his image and likeness. So we need to give God what is God's, namely each other, because when we serve each other we are serving God."

June 03, 2015

Found Comedy

A recent guest blogger on Catholic Bibles blog made the argument that the New American Bible Revised Edition is on the cusp of greatness. What struck me most was the end which was a humorously self-inflated self-blurb in which the author declared himself to be of high IQ and a precocious child fluent in multiple languages, apparently without irony!  So I appended to my comment this:
--- Commenter Tom is an award-winning blogger and slightly above average husband. Gifted with a high IQ, Tom began studying baseball statistics at a young age, successfully memorizing the complete roster of the '75 Cincinnati Reds.
I was pleased to see a couple commenters follow up on the meme, including this one:
Neil Short is no genious but he is the best husband he can be. He can read and write exactly one human language. In his youth he wasted a great deal of time memorizing PI to the 50th digit past the decimal point - when he could have been memorizing the Sermon on the Mount or the Book of Colossians.
and this one:
MAX was an award-winning pianist in a past life. Gifted with an IQ, he is fluent in one language, but can understand at least four more, because all Romance languages sound the same anyway. In his youth, he memorized many Beethoven sonatas, all sadly forgotten now.

June 02, 2015

Rand No More

Remember the good ol' days when the air was clean and only Damnocrats were evil?  Looks like Rand Paul just doesn't have the temperament to be president. From NRO's Jim Geraghty:
"On paper, I should be relatively easy pickings for Rand Paul. I’ve been not just critical of the NSA domestic-surveillance programs, but I came pretty close to frothing at the mouth... And I either agree or begrudgingly nod at a lot of what Paul says . . . and then he goes and says something like, “People here in town think I’m making a huge mistake. Some of them, I think, secretly want there to be an attack on the United States so they can blame it on me.”

...Paul can’t lead the Republican party when he’s accusing some members of the Republican party’s coalition of wanting to see terrorist attacks in order to prove a point.

A.J. Delgado is convinced Paul only meant John McCain and Lindsey Graham in that statement of “some” “people in town.” I don’t know how she can draw that conclusion with certainty, but even if she’s interpreting Paul’s statement correctly, that’s still a rotten thing to say. Let’s assume John McCain and Lindsey Graham are every bit the fair-weather RINOs conservatives fear they are; do you really think that as the Patriot Act expired, either of them was saying, “Come on, al-Qaeda! Let’s get moving, ISIS! I want to see bodies in the streets so I can finally prove Rand Paul wrong once and for all!”

If you do think that, you’re wrong.

Even if you think of McCain and Graham as the worst options the Republican party could possibly offer, a lot of Republicans disagree with you. These guys are deeply unpopular with conservative activists, but they’re not that unpopular with Republicans as a whole. Lindsey Graham won 56 percent in a 7-way primary in 2014. John McCain won 56 percent in a three-way primary in 2010. For better or worse, there are a lot of Republicans in states like South Carolina and Arizona who are just fine with these guys. Those aren’t blue or purple states.

Politics -- particularly presidential politics -- requires building coalitions. If Rand Paul wants to be the Republican nominee, he has to bring together his base -- those non-traditionally-GOP libertarians, the Silicon Valley crowd, the minority audiences intrigued by his arguments on mandatory sentencing and the drug war -- as well as the parts of the GOP that aren’t his base. Right now, Rand Paul isn’t just failing to win them over; he’s antagonizing them by accusing them of having bad motives.

June 01, 2015

Random Thoughts

Saw today I examined the great window at St. John's depicting Christ showing his wounds to St. Thomas, and I noticed for the first time that it looked like they were meeting just in front of a Confessional. And I thought how maybe that was appropriate in multiple senses, one Thomas was receiving absolution for his doubt, and two, Christ was showing the wound we gave him, and his presence among humans meant we were forgiven.


Chesterton wrote that peasants are the subject of poems but not businessmen and he made it sound as though that should tell us something.

But I suspect it's simply because peasants do physical, visible things while business people work in their heads doing abstract things. Money is boring to poets because it's a number. Abstractions and math aren't that romantic. No one's written a poem about computer programming either.

The Bible is a romantic shelf of books. It's not a science book as has often been said. It traffics heavily in symbols but not of the = or > or < or % variety. Whether you are saved or not saved, a binary '1' or '0', isn't romantic, so that's not given to us to know. God is a romantic, not an accountant, and nothing illustrates this quite so well as the story of leaving the 99 sheep to rescue the one.


It strikes me as kind of funny that the role of the body during sex on the macro level often mirrors what happens on a micro. In the sex act, the male is all about movement, thrust, motion, forward ho! The female is about receptivity even passivity. And on a microscopic level, the sperm do the strenuous thing, swim -- forward, tally ho! And the egg sits in regal repose. I'm not sure it's a necessity, it seems to me, that these two things ought parallel each other so neatly. The body has purpose, that we in this gnostic age ignore to our peril.

If the outward body can mimic the inner body, why shouldn't the outward body mimic the inner soul, such as in kneeling in adoration of God, the corporal works of mercy, etc…


I saw a little glimpse Sunday of what it means to be attracted to the Christian lifestyle. I saw it in the face and demeanor of a young girl, maybe 11 or 13, who smiled sweetly and politely thanked me as I held the church door open for her. Such a simple thing but somehow pregnant with meaning since God himself became little for our sake.

Many times it's been said that the best evangelization effort is to live in such a way that it's attractive to others, that they may long for the peace you have. But I'm not sure I've been especially drawn to devout Christians for that reason. For example, Tim Tebow seems a very legit Christian yet despite his friendliness and tranquility I'm not especially someone who thinks to himself, “I want to be like Tebow!” Similarly with even Mother Teresa, who (sadly) doesn't exactly spur emulation in me since her life seemed a constant suffering, be it from not feeling close to God or from having to give 24/7 to people in need.

But today this little girl won my cold heart. First because a polite, effusive pre-teen girl is like seeing a leprechaun or a unicorn. Pretty amazing. An outlier of untold proportions. Kids are pretty barbaric by nature, so this was like seeing a tame lion!

I am also attracted by humility, and I was humbled by the way the black Somali men next to me so reverently bowed before Christ. They even sometimes knelt when the rest of us stood. There was just something about their actions that was not in the least perfunctory or rote, a real humility before God, and that I find very charismatic and triggers a “I want to be like them” vibe.

During the homily, St. John's priest mentioned how sad it was to hear a couple people talking about the lottery and how they desperately wanted to win and be rich so they could quit work. The priest said, “is that all? You just want to be rich?”

I thought then of the sad life of pop singer Michael Jackson. Of how he was given the whole world, had pretty much unlimited money, unlimited travel, sex, food, art…And yet he was so deeply unhappy that all that money couldn't even buy him a good night's sleep. He put himself into the hands of this world's pleasures and zeitgeist and it got him only a disfigured face and a premature death. I can think of no greater example of how this world can not only not satisfy, but can actively ruin you. God has the reputation of being tough or harsh in some circles, but look at the harshness of what this world itself can do to you, even when you're on top of it.

I can say that Michael Jackson inspires me much in not wanting to be like him. And since we've all got to choose one way or another, this world or the next, I best be actively liking Mother Teresa's way!


Humorous line from Sirius/XM host Martin Goldschmidt on his upcoming knee surgery:
I'm not particularly looking forward to the surgery. I tend to agree with Oscar Wilde when he wrote, “Lord, spare me from physical pain; I'll take care of the mental anguish.”
Ideally, I'd rather be spared from both.


Boycotted ABC's This Week and enjoyed Meet the Press. Not a bad replacer despite Chuck Todd being not a fraction as likable as Zorba the George. But Zorba ruined it with his ridiculousness re the Clinton Foundation.


Back in 2000, I thought that given the changing demographics of the country, George W. Bush's popular vote loss to Al Gore meant he (Bush) would likely be the last Republican president of this generation, loosely defined as twenty years.

So far I was right, although it's only been eight years. This next election will be the big test. But my theory ignores the fact that presidents can be so terrible (like Jimmy Carter) that it almost forces people to vote for the other party. So Hillary could get elected and then do something so outrageous that she actually loses Democrat support. Never underestimate the ability of a political party to kill themselves – like Bush almost did in Iraq.

All My Gadgets Are Charged...

Watched last half hour of 40-Year Old Virgin because it was on TV as I was flipping channels and a more joyous ending I'd not seen since one of Kenneth Branagh's Shakespeare flicks, I think A Midsummer Night's Eve. In both movies there's a group dance scene and in this one the cast went '60s retro, singing Aquarius.  Just so well choreographed and well-played. As much as I think movies so passé now (television is king), I am a sucker for a goofy musical number like this.

Inspires me to go for a joke piece. To tune of Leaving on a Jet Plane:
All my gadgets are charged,
I'm ready to go,
I'm waitin' here on Instant Messenger,
I hate to send this text to say goodbye.
But the Keurig's brewing
It's early morn
The Uber's waitin'
He's texting my phone
Already I'm so bored
that I could die
So tweet me and facebook me
Tell me that you'll instagram me
“Like” my posts and never go offline…
'Cause I'm leavin', goin' to rehab
Don't know when I'll have wifi again
Oh babe I hate to log off….