March 31, 2016

Mary of Magdala

The Mary Magdalene encounter with Christ post-Resurrection is more poignant than I'd thought. Her grief was intense and it's easy to forget how real it was in that moment, now with the hindsight of the Resurrection. Like us, her hope was touchingly modest: merely to find the corpse of Christ. Like us, much of the time, seeking so little. She's very human, like Peter.

A commentary makes the point that it's interesting that her love was intense but her faith not so much. Her love carried her to faith.

From a commentary:
“Jesus was standing there, but either because he did not show the appearance which Mary Magdalen had known, or because of tears in her eyes, or because of her state of soul she did not recognize him. His double question was identical with that of the angels ("Why do you weep?”). With her fixed idea regarding the removal of the body, Mary grasped at what seemed some hope of finding it. This man (whom she thought to be the gardener) could tell her. In her request to the stranger she names no name, only him, him, him, as if the whole world should know who he was. In saying: ‘I will take him away’, it is ‘the audacious Mary Magdalene’, as St Thérèse called her, who speaks.“

March 30, 2016

A Hodge-Podge of Discontinued Items (Now 50% off!)

Trump is very ancient Roman:  he'll provide the bread ("We'll take care of everybody") and the circus (himself). One stop shopping.

Our dog Max is to dogdom what Trump is to politics: a wrecking ball and a perennial surprise. Just as I wake up every day in shock and amazement that Trump is likely our nominee, I wake with shock and amazement that a dog can be so much trouble, both in terms of barking and counter-surfing.

I put Max in his crate and feel the ahhh…. I read six poems slowly, nature-themed, from the Keillor anthology. I rested my mind inside the words and phrases, between the refreshing cracks of font-faced symbols:
…under the outhouse vault, and ravens have left the ridges to gorge on Mormon crickets in the meadows. Flakes of obsidian and red flint knapped from arrowheads hundreds of years ago appear in the trails each day, and the big fish fossil in the limestone cliff dissolves a little more with every rain.
For awhile I sat, glued to the silence. I reveled in the heroin-like reprieve and half-dozed under the domed light in the book-room, the incandescence a foot from my face. I reckon I was in the daze of poetry and schlafen for two hours. I think it's safe to say that it made my day.


The latest Jonah Goldberg National Review (GLOP) podcast featured a humorous “candidate” supported by Goldberg in lieu of Trump and Shrilllary: SMOD: Sweet Meteor o' Death. A meteor hitting earth would wipe out ISIS, cure global warming, fix the Arab-Israeli conflict and end the IRS. Support SMOD today!


The Bible emphasizes, to put it mildly, giving God the benefit of the doubt.  Both the Old Testament and New start with the same story but with different actors: God gives us something very good and we use our freedom to destroy it.

In the Old Testament, God gives us a bountiful Garden of Eden free of death and suffering and we make the choice to sin. Then God gave us another along the same lines: In the New Testament, God offers us his Son, goodness personified, who only healed and saved, and we chose to put him to death. In both cases God was judged wrongly by man, but in the New Testament there's a different ending: Christ defeats death and saves man.


Interesting juxtaposition of reads is Dreamland, about the heroin epidemic and our dream to evade pain and suffering, and Jeff Cavin's When You Suffer, about the meaning of suffering and offering it up.

A thought occurred: do oppressed peoples favor the OT and the less so the New?

Specifically I came across this quote in Dreamland: “Russian Pentecostals leaned on the severe God of the Old Testament to shepherd them through Soviet oppression.”

You'd think there'd be more desire to see their foes smite'd for the oppressed. More emphasis on justice rather than mercy. In the New Testament, the Book of Revelation is very hard on the lukewarm and bad actors perhaps because it was intended specifically for the persecuted.

I thought about how African-American slaves used to be particularly fond of Moses and his story in Egypt, for understandable reasons. How much St. Paul ran through the black community of the early 1800s? “I can bear all things, through Christ”? Most of the slave hymns were about escape to the Promised Land. Much about crossing the Jordan. The dreamland of Heaven, only it's no dream but real.

Michel, row the boat a-shore
Then you'll hear the trumpet blow…


Swing low, sweet chariot
Coming for to carry me home

Those seem much more of a longing for escape rather than a desire to see their masters humbled, at least in that very hasty survey. 

March 28, 2016

Mother Angelica

Well, how about that?  Mother Angelica died on the day of days, the day of the Resurrection.  It seems as if God was putting his imprimatur on her, thumbing his nose at her critics. 

It's rather uncommon, to get the honor of dying on a major feast day. Archbishop Sheen just missed a Marian feast by a day.  Mother Teresa died five days after Princess Diana and perhaps that was the meaning intended. Fr. Benedict Groeschel died on the feast of someone he'd long admired, Blessed Columba Marmion (Fr. Groeschel wrote the forward to the Ignatius Press edition of one of Marmion's works in 2008).  Padre Pio fell ill the day after the 50th anniversary of receiving the stigmata and died a couple days later. 

Of course you can't have saints dying on big feast days else it would hurt the liturgical calendar.  If they all died on Christmas Day you wouldn't have remembrances spread throughout the year and thus wouldn't have every day made sacred by the death of one of the Lord's faithful ones. 

March 25, 2016

From the Jubilee Museum exhibit


March 23, 2016

On the Split of Republican Party

Saw this op-ed in newspaper by a Joel Kotkin and it seems pretty accurate: 

"Successful political parties unite interests under a broadly shared policy agenda. The Clinton Democrats may seem ethically challenged, condescending and bordering on dictatorial, but they share basic positions on many core issues and a unifying belief in federal power as the favored instrument for change.

In contrast, the Republican Party consists of interest groups that share little common ground.

GOP libertarians want more social freedoms; social conservatives want less. Neocons hunger for war, while most other Republicans, both libertarian and constitutionalist conservatives, reject Bushian interventionism. The rising populist wave now inundating the party and driving the Trump juggernaut both detests, and is detested by, the party’s media, corporate and intellectual establishment.

Some 'movement' conservatives are returning the favor, essentially blaming the white working class for their own failures. Among some on the right, it appears, capitalism and the law of the jungle are always noble, and those who fail to make the grade clearly are not. No surprise, then, that the new generation of voters seems more ready for socialism than for laissez faire."


And from Jonah Goldberg, what I've been saying for awhile now: 

"Nominating Donald Trump will wreck the Republican Party as we know it. Not nominating Trump will wreck the Republican Party as we know it. The sooner everyone recognizes this fact, the better.  Trump represents just the most pronounced of a spiderweb of ideological and demographic fault lines that are increasingly difficult to paper over.  To wit: This ends in tears no matter what. Get over it and pick a side." 

March 21, 2016

Gov't Of the Trump, By the Trump, and For the Trump

My fascination with Trump is certainly not with Trump himself.

But what is fascinating is the hoodwinking of a huge segment of the Republican party "faithful".  It's a measure of what our country is becoming, of attitudes and mores that touches on everything: social media, race, the entertainment-ization of politics, conservative media failures, immigration politics, religious decline, victimization politics, the fear the country seems in the grip of, economic malaise and the splitting of a large segment of the middle class into lower middle class... It's a cornucopia of impacts and reactions and unintended consequences.

Two prisms from which to look at it: economics and the desire of moderates and some conservatives to play the game as liberals do.

1. Economics: Ohio went for Trump in the counties where poverty is highest (Appalachian) and the root cause of Trumpism could be when factory and other good blue collar jobs went away.  I thought years ago that would kill us as a country.  Capitalism's fatal flaw is that it has no mechanism for providing jobs that fit a given workforce. Not everyone is called to be a accountant.  And capitalism spurs consumer wants and thus consumer debt, creating a viscous cycle of people saving less at the same time jobs wither away.

Ronald Reagan once said, "The Founding Fathers knew a government can’t control the economy without controlling people.”  That now seems a quaint notion that gets to the heart of it - people now expect government to run the economy. You're judged on how many jobs you “create”. It explains the popularity of Bernie Sanders on the Left, and Trump in our party. People ultimately want government to do something it's constitutionally and financially unable to do: to save the middle class. The problem with saving the middle class is there's just too many of us.  Once a given economic pain threshold is met, the country lurches left much as it did during FDR and the Depression.

2. Play like liberals: As far as resetting the terms of the national debate, there's a desire to get into the liberal game.  The following, from a Russell Kirk biography, is interesting in light of how Trump sans opprobrium mentioned FDR's internment of Japanese Americans:
[Russell] Kirk ...saw the internment of Japanese Americans as the logical consequence of nationalism (liberal or conservative) and progressivism. “And even when bullying became actual maltreatment, and thousands of American citizens of Japanese descent were thrown into ‘relocation centers,’ without any charges against them,” he brutally asked later in 1953, “how many liberals protested?” When the liberals speak of liberties, he continued, they really mean “friendliness toward the rights of collectivists” and "absolute freedom for 'liberals' of their own kind." 
The Trump playbook is bullying those against him and you could rewrite that last sentence as: "When [Trump] speaks of liberties, he really means friendliness towards the rights of whites and Christians and absolute freedom for 'conservatives' of his own kind."

Of course liberals abhor the idea of conservatives trying to gain purchase on their turf, much as they save especial outrage for black conservatives or women pro-lifers. Most of the Trump voters I know fit in the demographic of older white men.  But one young millennial family member sent me this in light of recent events (the left's protests, threats):
[Trump is] unsavory. But the fascist attempts to silence his message (nationalism and mercantilism?) by the left at large are really unsettling. Part of me hopes he wins just to vent my spleen. It’s so troubling how free speech is conditional. Screw them.
I doubt I can bring myself to do it, but I get it.

I got to thinking how it's ironic that as politicians become more and more data savvy, voters less so. Companies (and major league baseball for that matter) have become increasingly enmeshed with“Big Data”, into quantifying and measuring and making more objective decisions, while the American voter has seemingly become less “data-literate”.

Kasich is a “kase” in point. Nobody can touch his numbers as governor. Obviously unemployment rates and wage rises are the result of many forces... But it is at least more objective than, "I like so-and-so because of they smile a lot and I'd like to have a beer with them."

March 18, 2016

Politics Again? Sadly, Yes

Saw a poll today that said Sanders supporters would be reasonably happy with Clinton as nominee, and vice-versa.  Republican side, not so much, lol.

And I got to wondering why.  And I suspect it's because the conservative media eats its own.  There's no Drudge equivalent on the Left that beats up regularly on Harry Reid, Nancy Pelosi and Hillary Clinton, as Drudge does on Paul Ryan, John Boehner and Mitch McConnell.  You don't see Huff Post killing their brand, dissing their gang.

That's okay in theory - establishment leaders deserve huge criticism (see Peggy Noonan's columns). But an unfortunate result is that where it really matters (the ballot box) most Republican voters actually hate Mitch McConnell and John Boehner more than Hillary Clinton --  because we're going to nominate somebody so as to make her president.

Burning down the party is all well and good but I just wish we'd waited till someone other than Shrillary was running on the Dem side. I think the powerful emotive force from the Trump voters is a willingness to suspend disbelief.

I had a crush on a girl in 5th grade named. I thought she was beautiful! No one else did though, and looking back, she really wasn't that attractive.

Love is blind, and that's fine - it didn't matter to me in 5th grade that nobody else found her attractive.

But the problem with falling in love with a politician is that it actually matters what other people think. It has real world consequences, i.e. Hillary in the White House.

Newt and Pat Buchanan say Trump will beat Hillary.  Newt's the same guy who ran for president last time and won like one primary -- if he had any sense of even the Republican electorate he would not have run?

Same with Pat B. by the way back in '90s who won one primary.  I think people believe what they want to believe too much.

There's not a shred of evidence, like any poll, that shows Trump beating Shrill.  It's the victory of faith-based voting.


So Pat Buchanan is on the Trump train, predicting he'll clean Hillary's clock and win in November. He always did have a romantic streak, spending nights reading the poetry of Shelley and Keats.

Trade protectionism is stupid, ask any economist, and I mean any economist whether a conservative or liberal economist. (I think it's the only thing all economists agree on.) There's a reason both parties have been free traders since the Great Depression.  Put this down under "reality bites".  The problem with Trump and Sanders is they sell unreality.

On immigration it's just not most people's number 1 issue. It falls below jobs,  wages, etc...  People are scared. They want protection from ISIS and from declining economic conditions primarily. They're just not as interested in who flips their burgers.

So is Trump popular because of his policies or because he's a realty TV show, entertainer extraordinare? I suspect the latter.  I don't know, but I guess we'll find out if this is a Trump phenomenon or an issue-based (immigration/trade) one.  Two out of ten Americans currently support Trump. That's hardly a revolution.

March 17, 2016

Jim Geraghty Gets It

NR's Jim Geraghy tells it like it is, or at least exactly as I see it! Pretty good to see some reality-based punditry:

This year should tell us that nothing in politics is certain, but right now, there’s just no way for the Republican party to leave the convention in Cleveland unified. You can’t square this circle. A certain percentage of Trump voters won’t support anyone but their man as the nominee. On the flip side, 37 percent of Republican voters yesterday said they would “seriously consider” voting for a third party or other candidate if Trump is the nominee.

Barring a sudden Ted Cruz surge in the final 20 contests, the Trump folks will argue their guy won the most votes, the most states, and has the most delegates. Nothing we’ve seen in Trump’s behavior going back years indicates he’s capable of graciously conceding defeat and pledging to do his part to help elect the Republican nominee. Nothing we’ve seen from his supporters suggests they’re amenable to voting for Cruz or some other Republican.

All the polling indicates Rubio would have crushed Hillary Clinton in a general election. Cruz looks like he’s got a shot -- not a great shot, but a shot. Donald Trump’s general-election numbers are sinking like a stone. (If you can stand him, John Kasich matches up quite well.)

Trump’s fans walk around with great confidence about his general election strengths for which there is no real evidence. They’re convinced he will win over traditional blue-collar Democrats. So far, he doesn’t. They’re convinced he will win over African Americans. Polling in February puts his support among African Americans between 4 and 10 percent. (Romney won 6 percent.) They’re convinced he’ll win a lot more Latinos than everyone thinks. (He’s currently at less than half Mitt Romney’s level of support.) They’re convinced he’ll win Democratic states like New York, New Jersey, and Michigan. (He trails by 18 to 23 points in those states in the most recent polls.)

Trump fans gleefully point to his 7.5 million votes in the primary so far, and forget that the universe of voters in the general election will be on a completely different scale -- probably 130 million voters. (Mitt Romney won 10 million primary votes.)

When you mention Trump’s awful head-to-head polling with Hillary Clinton, you hear a lot of references to Ronald Reagan’s trailing Jimmy Carter in March 1980. Ronald Reagan never had the unfavorable numbers Trump has now.

March 16, 2016

Music & Sex

So this link purports that when you listen to music on earphones you're not actually alone:

The money quote appears to be:
The moment you hear a sequence of hierarchically organized abstract sounds we call music, a multitude of associations are activated in your brain. These can include memories, emotions, and even motor programs for playing music. Together they can imply a sense of human agency. That sensation is what sets music apart from other types of sounds. “The brain interprets the structure of the music as intentionality that is coming from a human agent,” Molnar-Szakacs says. “This, combined with all the associations evoked by the music, is what makes the experience social.”
This seems to equate simulation with reality.  If your brain believes it, then it's true.

Which would seem to lead eventually, inexorably, to simulated sex acts being the same as real sex acts. Sex with robots fooling the brain into thinking they can "love".  Sad.

Establishment and Trump Supporters Share Same Flaw

Ironies abound in this campaign including how both Republican "establishment" figures and Trump supporters lack the simple ability to read polls.  Even when polls say the same thing over a long period of time.

Establishment types were blind to polls and didn't think Trump was real until it was far too late.  

And Trump voters are making the same mistake by disbelieving polls that show Trump will get creamed in general election due to his sky-high negatives. 

I think it's a case that establishment and Trump voters want something to be true so much that they ignore data to the contrary. But facts are stubborn things. 

People say the polls are always wrong, but I'm having a hard time coming up with a primary race (outside caucuses, which are not really elections in the normal sense) where the results were truly surprising, the single big exception being Bernie Sanders winning Michigan.

Political candidates have made the same mistake with Jeb Bush and Marco Rubio staying in too long, thus paving a path for the Donald. 


I'd never vote for Trump of course, but I do wonder if it's best not to contest the nomination at this point. 

Because if Cruz is nominated while Trump has the majority of delegates, Trump supporters stay home and Cruz loses the general. If Trump wins nomination, plenty of folks like me won't vote for him, giving Hillary the win. 

And if Trump is denied the nomination at a brokered convention he might run in 2020 and we'll have a guaranteed two Clinton terms instead of one. 

Maybe the honorable thing is to deny him to the extent possible regardless of political consequences, but it seems like Trump fever is a virus that can't be cured except by him losing at the ballot box.

March 15, 2016

Dayton You Slay Me

Easy hour drive (albeit in the rain) to Dayton Art Institute. Once there = immediate captivation. I left, satisfied about three hours later. It felt like thirty minutes.

First I had to take in the neighborhood. I was struck by an imposing bomb shelter of a building (literally one back in the day), a 1920s-era colonnaded structure with the inspiring message “To the Glory of God” in huge block letters at the top. Alas, it turned out to be a Masonic temple. I walked to the front and saw a guard inside, so didn't try to enter.

Then another difficult building to access: a Greek Orthodox church. I knew the Orthodox are squeamish about outsiders, and sure enough the lady saw me enter and wanted to know what I was there for. I said I was a visitor to Dayton and just wanted to check out the church. “Are you Greek?” she asked, perfectly in tune with the stereotype that “only Greek may apply”. Anti-proselytizing at its finest. “Greek Catholic,” I said, because I am technically a parishioner at a Greek Catholic church (as well as an RC church). I said, “Just want to take a picture.” She said, “take one quick and then I have to ask you to leave”, while staring at me like I was going to torch the place. I took two pictures and bolted immediately if not sooner.

But then to a place where I was welcome, with far more precious and inspiring works of art. What a privilege to have such close access to these wondrous works of art from 500-1000 years ago. I predict in a generation people will not be allowed to come so close to these masterpieces given the increasing percentage of mentally unbalanced people who want to do them harm (such as the one-man wrecking crew at a Columbus-area modern art museum who damaged many paintings, although I wasn't sure what was damage and what was intended given the state of modern art).  Art treasures may go the way of the White House - once unfettered access to any Joe Citizen, now a fortress impregnable.

How cool to see art from a contemporary of Durer, of whom I'm currently reading about in the latest Christopher Buckley novel. The history here feels so immediate and so personal in a way books rarely feel. I read Shakespeare not as an encounter with an individual who lived 400 years ago but as a contemporary, in the sense that his plays are ever ancient and ever new.

But here, in these pleasingly labyrinthal set of rooms it's like I'm a time traveler, seeing the most minute brush stroke a human made. It's like reading Shakespeare in his actual hand, the ink scarcely dried.

Some of the paintings illustrate a Martian-like oddness in dress, like the 1600s depiction of the daughter of Dieterich Bromsen. Shades of Lady Gaga! Amazing to think that was ever considered an attractive look.

I happy-thought this little icon in the corner of the deep black oils, that small shovel five centuries old, like a copy monk's doodle drawing of genitalia, signifying the German painter Schäufelein–meaning “small shovel” of course.
The art museum is a Lenten place in the sense of being a huge occasion for momento mori given all the artists and their subjects are long dead. The myriad of religious paintings and statues make me feel like I'm in the old churches of Rome. (Which is why most people go to the old churches of Rome - for the art and architecture.)

I see Byzantine pediments from the 600s and it occurs to me that this place can seem like a garage sale set back in time, only with a primo selection. The presence of old desks, bureaus, tables, clocks and teapots make it even more so.

It's been 7 years since I'd been here and I'm pleasantly surprised at how fresh and generally unfamiliar things feel. Of course great art should bear repeated viewings, but I'm subpar at art appreciation. A true student could go every other day and find something new and vivifying each time. I guess I could go to the wonderful Dayton Art Institute at a slightly more frequent interval than every seven years.

What's interesting too is how the pictures that struck me so forcefully seven years ago did not this time, and vice-versa. A completely different set of art enraptured me. Interesting to think my tastes or at least frame of reference have changed that much.

Short-fingerd Bulgarians

So of course I'm obsessed with setting my friend "R" right on Trump. Not. my. job. So not my job on so many levels given that politics is next to nothing compared to spirituality, for one thing.  Not to mention successfully convincing him is as likely as manually reversing the ocean tides. I ended up with telling him both Repubs and Dems desperately want to lose, as evidenced by putting up two deeply flawed candidates.
Calm and steady Brian Lamb
a lonely nation turns its ears to you
I break the Trumpine pattern
and podcast my commute home
sighing with civilization.
Kasich was asked what was the cause of the dispiriting incivility in the campaign he said it was simple: insults draw eyeballs, eyeballs draw money for the media. He said everything has changed in the media environment and the media is still in the process of discerning its calling. Is it merely to get the most eyeballs? Or should it balance that with a need to educate the public?


At a Byzantine liturgy not long ago there was a reading from Proverbs 17 and 18. And it contained a decent bit of comeuppance for me: “The foolish have no interest in seeking to understand, but only in expressing personal opinion.” I do have an awful lot of personal opinion expressing going on, especially re: Trump.

Another verse: “The discerning person looks to wisdom, but the eyes of a fool to the ends of the earth.”. Other translations: “The intelligent has wisdom there before him, but the eyes of a fool range to the ends of the earth.” (NJB). And “The perceptive find wisdom in their own front yard; fools look for it everywhere but right here.” (Message)

Goodly reminders!


It was all sweetness and light when I got home and Daylight Saving Time paid off with a therapeutic 20-minutes spent in the sun (at 6:10pm) listening to the old chune Crimson and Clover. Over and over.


Love this, from a Charlotte Observer columnist on yoga pants:
They are not for the purpose of running errands… You’re wearing the equivalent of pantyhose. Keep them out of the school. And out of Starbucks. Which is where I learned this lesson, when I scooted in line for coffee after yoga and the guy behind me said, “I like it when girls wear yoga bottoms as pants. I wish they did it all the time.”
Really? You do? Is it because they make us move faster through the Starbucks line? I’m guessing that’s not it, but thank you for making the distinction between bottoms and pants. And a case for a full-length coat.

And kudos to actress Debra Winger on her lack of plastic surgery:
'Never say never, but the thought of electively cutting oneself is beyond my grasp,' she says, 'and I also object to it politically. Denying the lines on our faces makes a comment about age and wisdom I don't care to make.

'I think when it comes to Botox and surgery, actresses should do it or not do it, but be honest about their choices. I think it's a little irresponsible for women who choose surgery to then say they can portray the average woman on the street, because if the average woman can't afford those treatments, then she's going to say, 'I'm 53 and I don't look like that', and start thinking she's ugly or inadequate. We do need to assume some responsibility for our choices.'


Listened to Jennifer Fulwiler on Sirius interview Marcus Grodi on radio. I loved how he said how he is a terrible friend because he's so introverted, and how he's trying to do better in that department.  And funny, he was a beer-drinking champion in his college fraternity. While I wasn't a beer drink champion, I was likewise in a fraternity so I feel some kinship there (introverts in fraternities unite! But not, like, in a room together. That would be awkward).


I thought about how so often I say, with the old Catholic song, “Take our bread, we ask you, take our hearts, we love you, take our lives.”

And it occurred to me for the first time today that these strippings are not really strippings at all. “Take our bread,” we pray so that God will give us Communion. “Take our hearts,” we ask, that Jesus might remake them into something beautiful. “Take our lives,” we bed, so that God may give us real life, in Heaven, with Resurrected bodies. So much of what I think of as loss is really gain for us.


At Communion on Sunday I notice something unexpected. A mentally retarded youth wearing a pink t-shirt with “TRUMP” in giant letters. I blink, and think it must surely be an anti-Trump shirt, so I make out the smaller print under the name: “Make America Great Again”. Wow. Didn't he make fun of a disabled man?  Then I see her father coming up behind and there, big as life, is a huge Trump button on his lapel.

I happen to look to my left in my pew and the woman whose husband is between us, and she is rolling her eyes at her husband, obviously seeing the same thing I'm seeing. I roll my eyes in sympathy at her. What's interesting to me is how wearing this to church reflects Trumpism in its purest form: gauche, inappropriate, and utterly (thrillingly?) lacking all introspection.

March 10, 2016

Bernie "Soviet" Sanders

Donald Trump says gobsmacking things, but Bernie Sanders occasionally does his best to one-up him. From Jim Geraghty:
One of the night’s most surprising joys was tough questioning from Univision anchor Jorge Ramos and Maria Elena Salinas. She showed the audience and candidates video from 1985, where Bernie Sanders praised Fidel Castro:
Sanders also commented on Fidel Castro, pointing to the lack of resistance to Castro as proof that Americans would be “very, very mistaken” to expect a popular uprising against the Sandinistas in Nicaragua.
“In 1959 [ . . . ] everybody was totally convinced that Castro was the worst guy in the world and all of the Cuban people were going to rise up in rebellion against Fidel Castro,” said Sanders. “They forgot that he educated their kids, gave their kids healthcare, totally transformed the society.”
“So they expected this tremendous uprising in Cuba,” Sanders continued, but “it never came. And if they are expecting a tremendous uprising in Nicaragua, they are very, very, very mistaken.”
Then, when given to chance to attribute those comments to the naïve, foolish thoughts of an . . . er . . . 44-year-old, Sanders just kept going:
SALINAS: In retrospect, have you ever regretted the characterizations of Daniel Ortega and Fidel Castro that you made in 1985?
SANDERS: The key issue here was whether the United States should go around overthrowing small Latin American countries. I think that that was a mistake . . .
SALINAS: You didn’t answer the question.
SANDERS: . . . both in Nicaragua and Cuba. Look, let’s look at the facts here. Cuba is, of course, an authoritarian undemocratic country, and I hope very much as soon as possible it becomes a democratic country. But on the other hand . . .
. . . on the other hands, it would be wrong not to state that in Cuba they have made some good advances in health care. They are sending doctors all over the world. They have made some progress in education.
It was up to Hillary Clinton -- Hillary Clinton! -- to point out what the Castro regime actually does:
He praised what he called the revolution of values in Cuba and talked about how people were working for the common good, not for themselves. I just couldn’t disagree more. You know, if the values are that you oppress people, you disappear people, you imprison people or even kill people for expressing their opinions, for expressing freedom of speech, that is not the kind of revolution of values that I ever want to see anywhere.

Elsewhere from National Review:
Washington was a surveyor, Lincoln worked on a riverboat, Reagan was a lifeguard. And how did young man Sanders pass his days? In 1963, he worked on a kibbutz in Israel. The Sanders campaign has never said which, but in a 1990 interview with the Israeli newspaper Haaretz, Sanders gave the name: Shaar Haamakim. This was a hard-left kibbutz, founded by a movement of Marxist Zionists: Ten years before Sanders went there, they had mourned Stalin’s death; in his day, they still flew the red flag and sang “The Internationale.” It recalls the youthful follies of half the founding editors of National Review — except they repented their delusions while Sanders barely modified his: running for office in Vermont as a Socialist, taking his second wife on a honeymoon in the Soviet Union. The most Sanders appears to have learned about his past is to hide it. That old red magic’s got me in its spell . . .

March 07, 2016

Venn Diagramming the '16 Race

Or Your Guide to a Difficult Choice:

(click to enlarge)
The raw scores:

Trump a perfect ten across all three categories.

Sanders a 1 for lying, a 6.5 for dumb (on the strength of his grasp of economics) and a 10 for unrealism.

Clinton a 10 for lying, a 2 for dumb and a 3 for unrealism.

Cruz a 10 for unrealism, a 1 for dumb and a 4 for liar.

Pick your poison!  As always, your mileage may vary.

March 03, 2016

What concerns me most about Trump

What concerns me most about Trump is not that he's not a conservative. There's a decent chance he would govern to the right of Hillary. He might nominate a better justice on the Court.

I worry about his threat of tariffs and potentially starting a great depression.

I don't like how he wants to fiddle with libel laws.

I don't like how he tells people who are against him, like the Chicago Cubs owners, to "be careful...They better be careful, they have a lot to hide!"  Reminds me of how Obama used IRS to audit enemies. Trump seems very Nixon and Obama-like there.

I used to not worry too much about the character of the president since the founding fathers provided a check-and-balance mechanism that would keep a rogue branch of government in check, but Obama really taught me (via executive orders and such) that there's no alternative to a president of character.

Then I came across the thought of one of the wisest men in history, Edmund Burke, and it hit me like a ton of bricks:
"Constitute government how you please, infinitely the greater part must depend upon the prudence and uprightness of ministers of state." 
Rut row!

Update: Zmirak on Trump.

March 01, 2016

Three Times I Didn't Recognize My Country

Over the past couple decades, three events left me feeling like I didn't know my own country.

First, the election of Bill Clinton in '92 despite sexual predation and borderline criminal activity.

Second, the acquittal of OJ Simpson and subsequent cheering in the black community, which woke me up that we were still two countries despite seeming racial progress, showing it takes both sides to end a feud.

Third, the rise of Trump, who is now on the verge of the Republican nomination.

Honorable Mention: the '08 election of a president without a resumé and with close ties to anti-Americans like Bill Ayers and Jeremiah Wright.

Now for something lighter.  Too funny, this from Jonah Goldberg:

Donald Trump, Christian Martyr

Dear Reader (including all of the Manhattan-street-corner watch salesman pondering what might have been),

I was starting to doze off. The debate was all but over, and the exhaustion from the day was catching up with me, as was the scotch. The rush of finally seeing the candidates go after Trump in a serious way was wearing off replaced by a mix of dread and resignation that it may all be too little too late.

I was only half listening when Donald Trump came into the spin room on CNN to explain why he’s been audited every year for twelve years.

“I'm always audited by the IRS, which I think is very unfair -- I don’t know, maybe because of religion, maybe because of something else, maybe because I’m doing this, although this is just recently,” Trump said in an interview with CNN’s Chris Cuomo immediately following the 10th GOP debate on Thursday night.

Cuomo cut in: “What do you mean religion?”

“Well, maybe because of the fact that I’m a strong Christian, and I feel strongly about it and maybe there’s a bias,” Trump said.

Cuomo cut in again: “You think you can get audited for being a strong Christian?”

“Well, you see what’s happened,” Trump said. “You have many religious groups that are complaining about that. They’ve been complaining about it for a long time.”

“Spit take” doesn’t even come close to describing my reaction. As it was, I gagged so hard my spleen almost came out my nose. It was nearly the first recorded instance of spontaneous self-mummification. I scared the cats because I reacted like members of Delta House when the picture of Flounder appeared on the screen.

There are two possibilities here. Either Donald Trump believes what he said, or he doesn’t. If he does believe this, he’s sufficiently delusional to disqualify himself for public office. If he doesn’t believe this, he thinks his conservative Christian supporters are morons.

Leave aside the question of whether it’s permissible to question someone’s faith. Trump says it’s outrageous when people do it to him, but he thinks it’s fine when he does it to Ted Cruz nearly every day.

The public evidence that Donald Trump was a “strong Christian” prior to saying so in the last year is, as the Donald would say, “weak, very weak.”

Even Trump’s sincere Christian supporters don’t believe that he’s a very sincere Christian, at least according to the very polls Trump prints out and sleeps on like a dragon atop a pile of gold. (Though, looked at from the right angle, it’s more like a guinea pig hoarding all the shredded-paper cage-lining.) In fact, only 5 percent of Republicans believe that Trump is “very religious,” while nearly half think he’s “not at all” religious or “not too religious.”

I know he now says that “nobody reads the Bible more than me.” But, again, I can’t imagine anyone actually believes him. (I also would have thought this is the kind of lie truly God-fearing people would not utter, for fear of, you know, lightning bolts or salt-pillarification.)

Anyway, all of this public religiosity is fairly new. Before he ran for president, if you played the word-association game with 100,000 Americans, I’d venture that not one of them would have said “Christian!” when asked, “What first comes to mind when you think of Donald Trump?”

Apparently, according to Trump, that’s only true of normal Americans. The IRS is different. It’s like the eye of Sauron searching the land for “strong Christians.” When its cruel gaze landed upon the failed casino magnate, beauty-pageant impresario, thrice-married and confessed adulterer who’s talked about how his own daughter is so hot he’d date her if she wasn’t his daughter and bragged about how it doesn’t matter what critics say about you so long as “you’ve got a young and beautiful piece of ass,” and who told Howard Stern that his ability to avoid getting the clap while sleeping around was his “personal Vietnam,” the IRS immediately saw the truth of the matter.

Suddenly, the alarms at the IRS Christian persecution squad started flashing. Over the P.A. system came: “Code Red! We’ve got a ‘strong Christian’ in sector 7!”

Now don’t get me wrong, I’m not making light of the IRS’s well-earned reputation for inappropriately scrutinizing conservative Christian groups. (But let’s not forget, they target them because they are conservative. And for most of Donald Trump’s audit period he was a major Democratic donor.)

What I am doing is unapologetically mocking the idea that Donald Trump, a bankruptcy impresario and formerly mob-tied businessman, who likes to mock the disabled at that, was singled out by the IRS for his tendency to ask “What would Jesus do?”

Oh, and keep in mind, according to Trump, this potential Christian persecution started on George W. Bush’s watch.

I could go on for hours listing everything ludicrous about Trump’s attempt to claim he is being crucified on a cross of shady tax shelters.

But what is so dismaying is the way Trump supporters took the bait instantaneously. I won’t bore you with my Twitter feed, but I was amazed by how many people (1) immediately bought Trump’s explanation as plausible, (2) claimed I was defending the IRS’s persecution of Christians, (3) actually believe that Trump gives a ton to Christian causes. (I mean in the past. I’m sure he’s written a lot of checks this year. I personally can’t wait to see the Trump Student Center and Hall of Greatness at Liberty University.)