June 13, 2019

Politicians, Bishops, and Other Swear Words

So the U.S. bishops are gathering in Baltimore to rearrange chairs on the deck of the U.S. Catholic Titanic. A few things come to mind: One, why is it that groups and committees are so ineffective? I’m thinking of Congress as well as the bishops. A decent number of individuals within these groups seem reasonably smart or well-intentioned and yet as a group they mire in a blackhole-like suckitude. It’s a mystery. They say the only effective committee in history, the exception that proves the rule, was the one that created the King James Bible.

We see it on a federal level in that the branch most effective is the executive, answering to one. The second most effective is the judicial, answering to nine. And the least effective, the one begging the other two to take away the little power it occasionally exercises, has hundreds.

The other thing that comes to mind is how disgust at bishops rhymes with our disgust with politicians, which could be because bishops act like politicians. What are the prime characteristics of a politician?

1. He values his job and reputation more than the common good.
2. He refuses to call a spade a spade (in D.C., a gaffe is said to occur when someone inadvertently speaks a truth).
3. He spouts content-free bromides that are intended to be inoffensive and speak to the widest possible audience.
4. He abhors transparency and accountability.

But these characteristics can lead to a disgust that leads to whistle-blowers. Trump, for sure, who calls spades spades and tells all sorts of inconvenient truths, inconvenient as far as if his goal is to expand his base. Pope Francis was intended by the cardinals to whistle-blow the corrupt Vatican bank, but alas he turned out to be corrupt as well. And Cardinal Viagno, the volatile anti-politician who leaked that McCarrick had been under sanctions and that Francis essentially lifted them, is the whistle-blower extraordinaire.

One thing the bishops have done is give priests and laypeople a chance to bond, a “misery-loves-company” feeling, both laboring under a cringeworthy hierarchy.

June 10, 2019

Liz Breunig on McCarrick’s, “Actually, No Thanks..."

Lino Rulli, the Catholic Guy on SiriusXM admitted he no longer finds Pope Francis the most interesting person in the world. If you’ve lost Lino...(well, Lino says he still loves Francis)... but he’s turned off by how the pope will say something like women ought to be more involved in the highest levels of the Church and then does nothing, as if he as Pope has his hands completely tied on the matter.

I’m disappointed in Francis for other reasons, like saying he couldn’t recall being told that McCarrick was a problem. So many clerical abusers, so easy to forget..

WaPo columnist Liz Breunig has an insightful take on her podcast on the situation as it stands:
I think [the confirmation of sanctions on McCarrick] shines an interesting light that what’s going on in the Church right now because I think for the majority of us the sex abuse crisis and its coverup look like an issue of a powerful institution making calculated moves to protect itself. What this suggests instead is that a lot of the coverup is due to lawlessness and weakness in the institution, where you have attempts by senior Vatican officials including Pope Benedict to censure McCarrick, by stopping him from traveling on behalf of the Vatican and putting an end to his fundraising and therefore his power, and McCarrick just says, ‘Actually, no thanks on all those penalties.’ 
And there’s nothing anyone can do about it. The Vatican secretary of state and Benedict and the nuncio, none of them were able to do nothing about it. How are you going to enforce it? They basically rely on guys like McCarrick saying, ‘ok, that’s fine I’ll respond to these sanctions and take them seriously out of the goodness of my heart’. But is he really going to do that? No. It looks like an institution that’s stumbling and scrambling in light of the crimes of the powerful...
This time it picked up media interest. So then you had an authority outside the Church that was able to pressure the Church, which appeared to not only cause the Church to act but it served as an enforcement mechanism for McCarrick: How are you going to travel around, go do fundraising events and be “good Uncle Ted” if the entire media is focused on you with a fury. You become like Harvey Weinstein, you can have all the power and money in the world but as long as there is this enormous force of the media, and then of course the point of which it all became publicized the civil authorities got involved. Then enforcement became a real possibility and eventually the Vatican did take the highest measures against him. That was helped along and made possible essentially by media sanctions, a force outside the Church...
She goes on to say how ironic that integralism is given how the Church can’t even govern itself.  She summarizes:
The rock and the hard place is that really only the civil authorities and the media can do anything for them [to clean up corruption], but at the same time the media and authorities hugely diminish the institutional prestige that they’re trying to cultivate by exposing the great weakness and infirmity that was hidden in the institution...I don’t what the answer is in terms of how do you recover an ability in the institution to self-govern, I don’t know that there is a way to do that in contemporary life.

June 07, 2019

The Storyteller

I had occasion to use an Uber recently, and I feel “taken” by the driver. Feel like a sucka. “Jeffrey” self-reports* as a 60 y/o black, married 39 years, with a brother & sister who are Black Panthers, has a best friend whose son played in Super Bowl, that best friend was drafted by the Eagles but was shot in the head which ended his career though not his life. Has 96-y/o father living with his sister and drove till 93. Has a cyst in stomach that at any day could rupture (cysts aren’t fatal - found via google so I know it's true). Has son who pitches for the Texas Longhorns, a Junior (rhp) with 97mph fastball and who has put his name in for the 2019 mlb draft but has a plan B, an internship at KPMG.

So the level of detail here is pretty astonishing given it seems likely it was all made up. I suspect that’s his hobby, lying to the Uber passengers, telling made up stories. Because his kid isn’t on the Texas roster for ‘18 or ‘19, and isn’t eligible for the draft this year. No one going by the name he gave me is in draft. So I’m thinking the whole fantastic story about his friend getting shot in the head and not dying was made up as well.  Gull, meet ible, ible meet gull.

So I spent WAY too much time trying to nail down his story in order to return my faith in humanity.

* - I've decided to self-identify as a great novelist.

May 24, 2019

Friday Four

It’s funny how any time work lets us go early on a holiday weekend, everybody in our neighborhood is already home. I got home around 3pm and Dave, 28, is home working in his yard. As was neighbor Ron, 45, and other neighbor Larry, 55, and Mike down the street, 36. (All ages approximate.). It’s really like I wonder if anyone works anymore. It’s like I live in a retirement villa only everyone is young enough to be working.

It’s funny how enthused I get about the smallest of things regarding the new Honda. Like how I can open it without getting the keys out, or how there’s a small compartment above me that holds my sunglasses. You press on it and it releases a mirror and, of course, the sunglasses. The ergonomic ease of use is what pleases. And yet it’s a ridiculously tiny savings of energy over where I used to put them, in the door of the driver’s side. And I should want to move more, stretch more, even to the point of cursing those (wonderful) automatic windows that roll down sans effort. “Ease of use” is not how humans have evolved. Use it or lose it.

Part of my appreciation is surely the cool factor, of something hidden coming to light like how some rooms have a bookcase that when you press a button moves out and reveals a hidden room. Or like how James Bond could press a button in his apartment and his bed folds out. This was a tool in his seduction ploy, by making the barrier to entry, so to speak, between making out and sleeping together less cumbersome.


Oh the astonishment of summer eves after the grind of winter! How fresh this season of May with her long tresses of days and occasionally jaw-dropping warmth? How regal this season before the flies and mosquitoes and humidity, when bounties come without price.


Intrigued by Blinkist - a little 15-minute summary of thousands of non-fiction books. I’m on the free trial period now and gobbled up Fukayami’s Idenity about, what else, the bane rise of identify politics. His thesis is that Socrates said man needs three things: physical necessities (food, water, etc), rational thinking (i.e. ability to forego rotten meat even if hungry) and thymos which “yearns for dignity and recognition from other people”. That explains a lot, he says, like how the gay movement was not just about getting treated fairly but being positively viewed and esteemed. The rise of it just as religion gets downplayed makes sense because if you don’t have a view of your dignity as child of God you’ll seek it in other lesser incantations like your skin color and sexual preference. He says that individualism combined with identity politics has made the government become on the hook for its citizen’s mental health and so therefore is in the business of laws toward that goal (like “hate” crimes).

Also read a biography of Martin Luther and a bit on Brexit. It’s a pretty cool way to digest books I would never likely read but for this app - or it might just lead me to buy these books based on the snippets.

May 13, 2019

My Prediction: the McCarrick File Resides Permanently in File 13

Still pondering the whole McCarrick thing and whether there's a responsibility for the Vatican to be transparent in explaining who enabled it.

Journalist John Allen wrote recently:
“It’s been more than five months since the Vatican promised a review of its [McCarrick] files, and nothing has been reported. One obvious question is why American bishops, either publicly or privately or both, aren’t being more vigorous in demanding that the Vatican deliver, since they’re the ones most exposed to pastoral blowback over the failure to do so.
One answer is this: Bishops everywhere, very much including the U.S., hesitate to do anything the boss and his team might perceive as disloyal. By now, being seen as siding with ViganĂ² is regarded by Francis allies as virtually a sin against the Holy Spirit, and unless a bishop has been living under a rock, he’s gotten the memo."
The refusal of Francis to allow the U.S. bishops to police their own really opened my eyes (back in November) and I think the lack of pushback from the U.S. bishops during that conference wasn't their finest hour.

Perhaps all of this even leads to Pope John Paul II.  The question I keep coming back to is perhaps a prudential one and thus without an easy answer: at what point is there “too much” transparency? Are there some church clergy “too big to fail”?  Is it true the only way to prevent something from happening again is understanding how it happened, or does that ignore the fact that institutions can change merely from immense pressure without airing every secret? It’s perhaps an act of mercy to save reputations, but if so where do you draw the line -- the Church has obviously had problems in the past saving reputations of priests by moving them around after cases of abuse.

The average parishioner is stuck between folks with agendas: journalists, to uncover the story heedless of consequences, and bishops/popes who want to bury the story, heedless of consequences.

I’m certainly not hopeful that Cbus Bishop Brennan will show fortitude on this issue given his newness to the office and his appointment by Francis.

A bishop or pope with lots of credibility is Pope Benedict, who recently put out a letter that is much along the lines of "wheat and tares" and makes no mention of the issue of transparency that I saw. He might feel crimped, of course, given his pledge of silence (though the letter itself is a breaking of silence).

I go back to a couple of things: one, is that perfidy in popes is “permitted”, certainly by God, in the sense that we understand there have been bad, immoral popes and don’t have a lot of control over it and that it doesn't change the status of the Church.  Therefore I should not be surprised that bishops, who are essentially unsupervised popes of their diocese, are similarly bad. The high view of the role of bishops in the Church tends to explain the lack of supervision and accountability they experience. So it is what it is. Hence the famous biblical analogy is the wheat and tares even within the hierarchy.

Secondly, McCarrick’s rise was partially due to his skill at fundraising, and one could look at it in the way Mother Teresa accepted donations from bad folks. You accept help from whatever source, regardless of the iniquity of that source. Of course where it differs with McCarrick was a source of bad behavior directly affecting the church in other ways, seminaries, etc. But then I go back to the point above about their "right to be evil" without molestation, just as tares are allowed to grow without molestation until the harvest.

Also there’s a truism that Americans tend to look at admin policies instead of spiritual solutions, the latter being the only truly effective measure.

May 04, 2019

We’ll Always Have ‘16

Continued my every-six-months hobby of tuning in via YouTube to 2016 election coverage. It’s ironic I get more pleasure from the election of someone I didn’t vote for than in any election previous.  I guess seeing the gods get stuffed is the stuff of legends. Akin to a Patriots-hater seeing Tom Brady lose.

This time I watched CNN. Wolf Blitzer robotically gave the numbers, constantly using the adjective “impressive”, as in “impressive lead in North Carolina”. He was touched when numbers changed rapidly, showing the enthusiasm of a small child observing a bouncing ball.

There were only two analysts, a blonde gal and Jake Tapper, and they seemed smart and sober and not crying in their beer. Not much opportunity for schadenfreude on my part. Tapper seemed unduly worried about the markets which in hindsight is hilarious given how the Dow has spiked since Trump took office.  His concern over the price of gold hasn’t aged well.  The moment du jour though was when Jake looked incredulously into the camera and said, “Donald Trump was right and all the pundits wrong about the polls and reaching disaffected voters.” This feels deja vu given how similarly Trump said “no collusion” while everyone in D.C. had Trump going to jail. The media likes to gamble all their chips on iffy propositions. But at least they’ll always have the inaugural crowd size (i.e. the really important stuff).

It certainly seemed like these two CNN’rs were far more awake and alert to what was happening than the crowd at ABC, who dined on denial a good deal longer.  They didn’t have as much air time but when they were on they were made insightful comments and took their loss manfully, which was kind of inspiring in its own way.  (Although I only made it till around the 9:30pm mark, so although by then they knew what was happening I didn’t see if despair came later.)

May 03, 2019

Proof GOP is More Bipartisan than Dems

We hear often from the hard right that Republican officeholders are squishy when it comes to principles compared to Democratic officeholders.

And based on non-partisan evidence...they're right.

Republicans are much more likely to work with Democrats than vice-versa. You can see that from the non-partisan work of the Lugar Center.  A whopping 9 of 10 of the most bipartisan senators are Republican, while 8 of 10 of the least bipartisan ones are Democrat:


The simplest and most likely explanation is that the media media protects and allows extremism in Ds more than with Rs.

Regardless, it takes a lot more courage to be a conservative in Washington than a liberal given the twin pressures of elite opinion and the grass roots progressive groups (who camp out in offices, harass senators in elevators, etc...).

April 28, 2019

How Can an Asian Possibly Even Relate to This Ad?

I'm always amused by how painstakingly circumspect advertising photos are these days. It's never accidental and I find it especially ridiculous because it's as if no human can identify with another human unless they're the same skin color, gender or non-gender, etc... It's anti-science for one thing, given how much we have in common DNA-wise.

In this case, a company recognition program called "Bravo" shows a team giving themselves high fives:

So let's do the math; insert tongue in cheek. We have five individuals:

40% women.
40% black, although guy on right is a tweener, maybe half-black, so 30%.
20% young white male hipster.
20% with some age on them. 

Reasonably well distributed, but if I were Hispanic or an Asian... (the latter is the last acceptable prejudice).  Heck maybe the guy on right is Hispanic and we can check that box off.

April 26, 2019

Comfy in Your Own Skin Metric

So it occurred to me that one of the characteristics of Trump, Obama, W. Bush, Reagan and Clinton was a supreme comfort in their own skin combined with some measure of charisma (W. Bush being the exception, but he was running against Albert Gore and John Kerry so he looked like Elvis).

I wondered how to view this admittedly subjective metric with regard to the 2020 race (and 2016).

In 2016, of all the GOP contenders, those truly comfortable with themselves combined with some measure of charisma were: Christie, Trump, and Huckabee.  Christie was fatally wounded by the bridge incident, and Huckabee never caught fire for whatever reason (some say that 2012 was "his moment", which he missed).  I liked Rand Paul but I suspect part of that was simply that I liked what he was saying, which is sort of why so many liked Trump. My father-in-law said exactly that, that Trump was saying what he wanted to hear and that's why he liked him.

There's a very thick overlay between liking what you hear and liking the person. I see that with many Catholic priests who, for me, can be very dry and charisma-lite, but because they are talking about things I wholeheartedly agree with (even if in a trite way), I like them, feel a kinship. 

So teleporting to 2020, my exposure to Democrat candidates is small given that what they say is generally nails-on-chalkboard. But based on the comfort in skin and charisma characteristics you could say that Biden and Bernie (and Buttigieg from what I hear) are extremely comfortable in their own skin.  For that reason they could be formidable candidates for Trump.  Biden and Bernie are Trump-like as far as bluntness, outrageous statements and insults, although the insults are more general than specific as in Trump's case.

My sense is that the easy candidates for Trump to defeat would include Booker, Warren, Beto and Gillibrand. I haven't seen much of Harris to even guess.

What's interesting is how when a party tries to win over the other side with folks who they think the other side might like, it mostly goes up in flames.  Like McCain, Romney, Kerry, Gore.  Gore was a Southern Democrat who didn't talk like Dukaksis. Kerry was seen as the calm alternative to the wild-eyed Howard Dean and was a military vet, which was "against type" given the liberal ethos.  Romney of course set up health care in MA and McCain bucked his party maverickly.

All of them failed.  Is Biden the "calm alternative" (to Sanders this time) like Kerry was - and thus a failure in the making - or is he completely different than Kerry since he's comfortable in his own skin and a friendly pol unlike the reserved New Englander Kerry?

A decent test is if a conservative can listen to someone from the other party and not be disgusted.  I could listen to Clinton in 1991 and not be repulsed (that came later).  I could listen to Obama similarly in 2007 (that came later).  Bernie passes this test now with me, so by this metric Sanders is the most electable 2020 candidate.  Perhaps in a perverse way the conservative's greatest friend may well be the DNC and the other Democratic elites who want anybody but Bernie.

April 24, 2019

Recent Reads

Watched television show documenting building cabins off grid, and I got a kind of small pleasure in seeing the wood beams wrapped in some sort of vapor layer, a thin layer of fabric that protects the wood from the elements.

It reminds me how satisfying it was to learn that the ancient Newgrange monument in Ireland, made of stone 4000+ years ago, has never had a leak.

I think my appreciation could be related to water flowing indoors, both downstairs in the basement and upstairs (twice, in separate incidents!) due to imperfections of the sunroom build, since corrected. Or maybe simply appreciating a hint of permanence in an impermanent world.

And I think of how the stone and windows of Notre Dame cathedral were apparently able to withstand that great fire.

So now I seem to get a perverse joy in defeating Mother Nature, to the extent we can.

Nice Peggy Noonan piece:
Finally, people sense Notre Dame is most powerful and central in its moments of suffering. “The Greek word for church is ecclesia people gathered together. On the night of the fire it was gathering people together,” literally, around the church and around the world. “Notre Dame is most potent gathering them in suffering.”
This reminded me of something someone said on social media after the spire fell: Maybe the old church burst into flames so we would look at it and really see what it is.
Interesting point, and certainly I’ve actually had far more interest in the cathedral now than before, going so far as to watch a documentary on amazon Prime Video.

What’s intriguing to me is how I wonder much we’d have remembered Jesus had he not been crucified. Certainly his crucifixion dominates the gospel accounts. Obviously had he not been risen Christianity also would not have taken off, but it’s as if you need both the suffering and the rising to have effected maximum attention from people.

Also read more about the fascinating artist Eric Gill. The guy had no scruples, no sexual morals, but was courageous, generous, and eccentric. And he was a pacifist/socialist who wanted the altar in the middle of church with everyone gathered around it like a meal. Seems a bit of a prophet given Vatican II and the general direction of the church, an errant direction one could persuasively argue.

He had a lingering illness at the end and was downcast but more importantly was said to have had a peaceful death, receiving viaticum and confession. “Sin boldly” he did. He seemed naive about evil and seemed to think there was no such thing as intrinsic evil and was taken aback and undermined by the shock of Nazi Germany. He was neglectful of the possibility of sexual sin, a priest asking him if he had somehow been protected from the Fall. (He had the good sense to put “Pray for me” on his tombstone.) Unlike modern libertines, he did seem to eschew masturbation and contraception.

“If naked bodies conceal a hell-hunger of lust, they can and do kindle a hunger for heaven.” -Gill

April 18, 2019

Retreat Notes

From a Palm Sunday weekend retreat from the Fr. Peter of twitter fame:
“I can be a good person without Christianity, so what’s the point? Rules just constrict me and limit my happiness.” A 19th century philosopher said, “The ‘yes’ to God is a ‘no’ to man.” Christopher Hitchens called religion a “police state”, like North Korea.

He admits life without limits is fun for awhile but then leads to despair. Modernity says people don’t have ends, no fixed goal...we create our own ends for ourselves. That’s the modern spirit. It’s controversial to see that people, things, animals, plants have ends (trees to flower in spring and leaf out for example). Sex is a good example - Fr. Peter said he can’t explain to someone what sex is for to a modern person because sex isn’t for anything in their eyes. The modern ethos is you can do anything you want until you prevent someone else from doing something. One problem is that when there’s conflict with someone’s else’s desire, strength wins.

We don’t pursue friendship or knowledge for its own sake because it’s not inherently worthy of pursuing, it’s just a choice I make. No reason for staying married if you don’t feel like it. No end, no reason to go I-71 south versus I-71 north because you’re not heading anywhere. The mindset is that nothing is inherently valuable about staying friends, staying married, raising kids, or serving others... Just distracting yourself till we die.

The problem is having no ends in the world starts with freedom, but ends in despair.

There’s a biblical diagnosis - biblical prophets made fun of Israelites who fashioned objects on the potter’s wheel and then knelt before them. Are we different? We make idols and worship the work of our own hands. What you worship is not bigger than you and can’t get you outside yourself. The odd thing about the ancient gods is that when people made up their own gods, they made cruel and ugly. They didn’t worship beautiful natural objects but instead crocodiles and snakes and these cruel gods asked for human sacrifices....

The classical (non-modern) view is that we discover what constitutes a good life. Modern view is we know it already via commercials. Christians have benefit of God informing us what is good for us. Limiting our options (religious/classical view of limitations and discipline) results in freeing you to purse excellence.

God isn’t into moral codes but to help us achieve our goal.

The purpose of God giving us directions and “limiting” our freedom is no different than complaining about how a GPS restricts us from using I-71 Northbound to get to Florida.

Having possessions doesn’t make you happy: you’ll either lose them or grow bored with them. And it’s not pleasure that makes you happy. An example he uses is he tells high school football players who don’t want to go through the practices and 2-a-days in the heat of August this question: what if I could have you sit in a quiet room and give you a pill that provides the exact sensible experience of winning a state championship. Would you take it? Most wouldn’t. It’s not earned. It’s not the same. Pleasure in and of itself is not enough.

Beauty and friendship are different. These are experiences worth having in and of themselves...it’s a feeling of fullness, like “this is enough”, like when listening to a great piece of music, like time has stopped.

What humans do is know and love. That’s what makes us different from animals and is our end. We can grasp things in a deeper way and we can therefore love things at a deeper level. “The human end is enjoying truth, goodness and beauty and friendship in community.”. Our end is good and valuable in itself...Develop the capacities to attain that end.

God says I want to be your father and friend. Christ thought about each of us individually while on the cross with his infused knowledge.

The lens of whole Bible can be viewed under the term “justice” or “righteousness” - it’s same thing. Bible is God manifesting his justice, and justice in society, right order in creation.

Justice is giving someone their due. Right relationships. Action that you do to maintain a right relationship. Sets up equity between two parties. The logic of justice is in God’s mind. Living morally is simply living out who you are meant to be, in right relationship.

Levitical priests wrote or consolidated the book of Genesis as a preface to the Pentateuch during or just after the Babylonian exile in an effort to collect/consolidate in the same way that if your family suddenly becomes scattered you want to gather everything in scrapbooks and genealogies in order not to lose any of the history.

Deep theological significance in first eleven chapters of Genesis. Provides vision of what it’s really like to be a human. Shows what justice really looks like.

Flourishing come to resemble God, every bird, the sun, etc...Their characteristic activity gives praise to God.

Adam and Eve can know and love, it was their special gifts. God gives tree for Adam and Eve to exercise their obedience, their free will.

Original sin is not a sin but a deprivation of original justice. It’s not meant to mean “the first sin”. God doesn’t hold us responsible for their sin. We are not directly punished. Adam and Eve were simply unable to pass on to us what they lost (we are one human body under Adam). This isn’t unjust because supernatural life isn’t owned to us.

Original sin doesn’t make us bad but limits our capacity to live fully human life. Can’t do supernaturally good things, like love God as father and friend. We see this in our tendency to sin.

The beginning and end of Bible are remarkably similar. Paradise in beginning, a better paradise in end. Story of Bible is restoring justice. God started locally, with Abraham. Israelites were intended to show other nations how close their God is to them, and how wise their laws were.

Three sets of law in Old Testament

Natural law, judicial law, and ceremonial law. Only the first one is continued in our New Covenant times.

God re-teaches them natural law (Ten Commandments) that they should already know.

Judicial law, meant to manifest God’s holiness, was used to help Israel to fulfill their vocation. Laws like the jubilee (forgiveness of all debt every 50 years), and the periodical freeing of slaves, etc. Israel supposed to live in a special way.

Ceremonial laws were about worship...dietary laws and temple instructions ...Were supposed to give the people suitable rights to worship, God’s way of telling them not to sacrifice their kids but instead their lambs. Disciplines them to show them there is only one God, and to distinguish them from other nations so they don’t slip into other ways of living like pagans. And to prepare for Christ.

The Israelites intended the Temple to be a recreation of Eden. Supposed to be very beautiful, with opulence, a reference to creation. They were all to be united and in harmony, praying in temple. They were living the original vision of justice.

Part of the point of living without supernatural power is to make you long for a savior.

So judicial laws had role for that particular society, and ceremonial laws were meant to point to and foreshadow Christ...Only natural law is maintained because it’s still operative (Ten Commandments).

Jesus, in his person, radiated justness. Everything he did he restored justice. When Jesus eats with tax collectors, he is making a new Eden. Reshapes world to make it just. Healings bringing vision of justice of God.

Why the Cross 

It’s very unfortunate that a more Calvinistic and Protestant view of the Cross has been popular even with Catholic preachers. It’s called “penal substitution” and it’s not mainstream Catholicism. In it, God is pictured as wrathful towards humanity and take it out on Christ. The thought is that God the Father actually hated the Son while he was on cross because he represented sinful humanity.

The Catholic view is the death of Jesus on cross was threefold: satisfaction, sacrifice, and recapitulation.

Satisfaction means to satisfy by giving a gift of love to the offended person in a relationship greater than offense. It’s not math though, doesn’t have to be greater in earthly terms. It’s simply to demonstrate to someone that my lack of love isn’t the last word in the relationship. Jesus demonstrated a love and obedience greater than all the sins of the world. Since he was man, he was the offending party. Jesus is restoring right relationship with God via an intense act of love coming from human race. Jesus is man’s “yes” to God, as well God’s “yes” to man since he was both God and man. How he embraces us as God. It’s not the sufferings in themselves that were salvific but his love while they were going on. The suffering merely offered the opportunity. Suffering doesn’t save us but that WHILE that was happening Jesus loved. It was more powerful than all human’s “no’s”.

Sacrifice expresses his love by dedicating his whole body and blood to the service of God.

Recapitulation: Jesus recaps human life the right way. The second Adam lives human life the way Adam should have.

Judgement is merely saying what’s truth.. Cross shows the truth of the world, what the world does without God. It kills. The cross also reveals in Jesus, “this is what is possible with me.” In other words, it shows we can love to the extent Christ did.

We participate in that justice by being incorporated into Christ. By sacraments and uniting with Him in charity. We inherit the effects of God’s satisfaction. We are mystically re-crucified and raised with Christ in sacraments. Resurrection doesn’t reverse crucifixion but vindicates it.

Justification is the remission of sins and changes us on the inside and offers grace. We can’t earn this. There’s nothing you can do to prepare for it or earn it. No work you can do, after all, is worthy of the gift of supernatural life. Nor do we have the simple endurance to do good for long on our own.

His love is what makes us good, not he’ll love me when I’m good. It’s a pride/despair roller coaster if you don’t see it. Many get off the roller coaster by accepting moral mediocrity, saying God must not really care about that because he doesn’t want me on this roller coaster and so I’m just try to be an average guy.

Christianity isn’t about trying really hard to be good. It’s realizing how much you’re loved by God and letting God love you because God’s love is creative. God doesn’t love like we do: we see steak and whiskey and recognize the goodness in them and love them. God, however, loves us even when there’s nothing in us to love. Love, in God’s way not ours, is not a response to the goodness in things but instead His love creatively puts goodness in us. When God loves me new good is created in me. You get super powers with the Holy Spirit. You suddenly get wings meant to fly into the Heart of God and you desire yourself that nothing tie us down to earth that we may fly to Him. We beg him to cut the cords to the very things we think we depend on for our happiness.

April 17, 2019

Rare Leftist Podcaster Who Gets Mueller Nonsense

As a guilty pleasure, I like to listen to podcast of young socialists Matt and Liz Bruenig.  Helps to know how the other half thinks. And they recently had a keen exchange on Mueller and Hillary that amazingly on target despite their party affiliation:
Matt: “I did find it unlikely that they’d find some smoking gun where [Trump] sat down and did anything…Does Trump even send emails? Was there some meeting no one knows about with Putin?  That seems unlikely.  Separately, what it is they supposedly colluded on was a joke. ‘Oh yes they colluded to make fake Instagram accounts.’  Oh man…the Republic is really on its knees now. What if you found that he did call up Putin and said, ‘Can you make an Instagram account that tries to persuade black people not to vote?'  What does that amount to? It was trivial.
And then of course the online people who are really interested in it, they just look like Benghazi nut cases and so clearly unhinged.  It launched at least a dozen grifter careers."

Liz: “You also got stuff like ‘Have Yourself a Mueller Little Christmas-“

Matt: “Oh there were multiple Mueller Christmas carols.  It was so cringe-y…”

Liz: “SNL had ‘All I Want for Christmas is You’…After the election SNL had Kate McKinnon as Hillary Clinton singing Leonard Cohen’s ‘Alleluia’.”

Matt: I thought that bit was really hilarious until someone was like, ‘no that’s not a joke’.”

Liz: “Yeah she was crying at the end, her eyes were kind of shining, ‘I told the truth’…”

Matt: I thought it was hilarious because it’s exactly how Hillary Clinton feels about herself because she’s such an egomanical…”

Liz: “So delusional.”

Matt: “And it’s like this victim posture.”

Liz: “Yeah how dare the American people fail her.”

Matt: “One of the most powerful human beings in the whole world-”

Liz: “God will be like, ‘You got to be Secretary of State, and a senator…”

Matt: “And she’s like, ‘I tried my best, I’m so weak’, but no. You should’ve crushed him. You had twice as much money as him and the whole media in your pocket and you still lost...The whole Mueller virus spread across the country. For example they had one poll question, ‘Do you think that Russian in collusion with Trump tampered with the vote tallies.’ 66% of Democrats said yes, that Russia actually changed the vote totals!  So there’s literally a wild-assed overheated conspiracy that has spread throughout the Democratic body.”

March 31, 2019

Latin Liturgy and my Love-Hate Relationship with Symbols

One minor motion at the Latin liturgy today transported me and lifted me, as it were.  Sometimes an action says a thousand words and there’s a beautiful economy in that effortless grace. 

The motion was during the Consecration when an altar server lifted the robe of the priest up just as the priest was lifting the chalice. I interpreted this symbol as showing that the priest, as Jesus, was lifting not just the bread and wine but himself. The priest, in persona Christi, seemed to be ascending to Heaven with the gift of His body and blood and there was great reassurance in the acceptableness of that sacrifice. 

I’ve long had a love-hate relationship with symbols. My practical side manifested itself in a strong affection for saying what you what to say plainly, don’t hide behind a symbol. If Melville meant the white whale to mean God, then he should’ve been transparent and said so.  

The irony is that I’m a word-lover, a logophile, and words are symbols.  And I’ve always been fond of math and statistics, again symbols.  But this anti-symbol manifesto showed itself early in a craving for non-fiction and poetry, the latter for the words and not the symbols or “plot”. 

A Dominican priest recently mentioned that the genius of the book of Genesis is that you can tell a child the story of Adam and Eve and then get something from it, while at the same time professors in universities spill mountains of ink to this day on the meaning.  

He said the genre is symbolic truth, which is not well understood today: “Which is more accurate, symbol truth or historical truth?” And then answered his question with another, “which is more accurate, 2+2=4 or ‘it was German aggression that started World War 1”?  “Yes, 2 + 2 = 4 are symbols and more accurate than the historical statement.”

Early on I didn’t like symbols in part because of the Wizard of Oz.  The troupe go to all this trouble to find the wizard, and he turns out to be a humbug, ordinary person underneath all the glitz and glitter. 

But Christianity turns that completely upside down.  We find that beneath the bread and wine, as humbug as those are, there is Christ himself.  We find that within our humdrum neighbor and within our humdrum selves, there is Christ himself.  Whereas the Wizard of Oz the symbol turns out to be a disappointing reality, with God the symbol turns out to be the reality, and to be a reality merely too rich for us to comprehend. 

So symbols hide things and reveal things.  As a kid having a safe made by my grandfather was a thing of wonderment because it could conceal secrets. Similarly I loved the faux library doors that led to much greater libraries inside, like the Holy of Holies within the Temple. 

St. John Paul II quoted the book of Proverbs on the joy of seeking: 
There is thus no reason for competition of any kind between reason and faith: each contains the other, and each has its own scope for action. Again the Book of Proverbs points in this direction when it exclaims: “It is the glory of God to conceal things, but the glory of kings is to search things out” (Prov 25:2). In their respective worlds, God and the human being are set within a unique relationship. In God there lies the origin of all things, in him is found the fullness of the mystery, and in this his glory consists; to men and women there falls the task of exploring truth with their reason, and in this their nobility consists. The Psalmist adds one final piece to this mosaic when he says in prayer: “How deep to me are your thoughts, O God! How vast is the sum of them! If I try to count them, they are more than the sand. If I come to the end, I am still with you” (139:17-18). The desire for knowledge is so great and it works in such a way that the human heart, despite its experience of insurmountable limitation, yearns for the infinite riches which lie beyond, knowing that there is to be found the satisfying answer to every question as yet unanswered.

March 30, 2019


I’ve always liked lines, demarcations, borders,  no trespassing zones, so now I want to go back and find the line crossed where things became untenable politically, when the polarization permanent-iscized. Certainly the election of Trump was the signal event at which there was no going back. November of 2016 might’ve marked the rubicon crossing. 

But ultimately I think the real killer was the period 1996-2003. Those momentous 7 years contained a one-two-three punch: Clinton got impeached by the House on the unlikeliest of unlikely events, namely physical proof of his lying under oath. Then Bush won in 2000 on the slimmest of margins via "hanging chads" in Florida. (Anecdotally, the 2000 election certainly radicalized Democrats at my workplace like Rick B. in a way I’d not seen before.) Bush didn’t have a chance to begin with given the election chaos, but then doubled down and threw gas on the fire by getting into an unnecessary war in Iraq on faulty pretenses (the phantom WMDs). I don’t think the republic ever recovered from the way Bush won and how he governed. It was "total war" at that point on the Dem side. 

 The Republicans,conciliatorily, offered meek and mild candidates in the form of a maverick and the Mormon, McCain and Romney, but Obama rammed Obamacare down our throats and crucified social conservatives. Republicans retaliated with the total war approach of Trump. Democrats retailiated withe collusion hoax...,

March 21, 2019

Bible Quote

"Of all the images which have been used to describe the English Bible, that which calls it a 'cathedral book' seems one of the most apt. It conveys the idea of a structure, great and ancient, the offspring of many minds which have in many ages striven to produce a home, a shrine, worthy to contain and honor that which was to them the best and the noblest of all possible visions. One thinks of the multiplicity of effort which has gone into the making of such a church as Canterbury. The building has been laid out on a venerated site and on ancient foundations; as it has progressed, these foundations have been discovered to be inadequate; new ideas of beauty have dawned on the builder…But in spite of changes and accretions and refurbishing, the aim of the whole abides. Men are to gather under its roof to worship the God who has led them from a dim light up to that bright one which radiates from the presence of his Son.

Like one of our old cathedrals, then, is our English Bible. Side by side with what is of supreme beauty, it shows us sometimes what is to us merely curious; but in neither case – of the cathedral or the Bible – are we at liberty to treat the curious thing with an unkind contempt, for we have found it in the house of God. That which was dear and holy to the mind of Origen or Augustine deserves to be gently handled by us who, believe it, are very likely less clever, and quite certainly less good than they." - M.R. James

March 19, 2019

Suffering as Speech of Love?

Give Us This Day recently had a thought-provoking meditation on the gospel of the Transfiguration from Sr. Miriam Pollard:
...And the everlasting question of suffering refuses to die a respectful death.

I remember an essay by Bede Jarrett in which he warns the reader that what he says is extravagant and semi-heretical, and still he says that our suffering is the mirror or manifestation of something within God; that in God, in the depths of the mystery of the divine, is an extravagance of love that can only be expressed in pain.

“I have loved you with an everlasting love.”

Is pain the flip side of that love, the inmost habitation of eternal desire, the urgent luminescence of that mountain encounter—the mount of glory and the mount of crucifixion?
I looked up the Dominican Bede Jarrett and while I couldn't locate that particular quote I did see this regarding the multiplicity of religious orders:
"It will, for instance, be granted that all admit the need of some austerity, some penance, as an instrument of training, and far more as the main language of love; and in this they do but repeat what even human lovers have endlessly discovered. Love finds words inadequate to hold all its deep meanings, and can only feel in sacrifice and in self-sacrifice a satisfactory outlet to its desires.

Suffering is the only full speech of love.

But how shall this suffering be selected ? What is reasonable and what merely fanatical, fantastic ? Or rather, what may not be selected in any passing mood ?

This the various religious Orders have settled each for themselves, holding much in common, yet holding much also in severalty ; for to each, as to some city state of ancient Greece, belongs its own spirit, its own education, its own music, its dress, its work, its plan of building, its schedule of daily duty, All these things are deliberately chosen in order to suit the needs of certain types of mind, and the whole assembly of them constitutes the particular asceticism of each Order."
And more from Bede:
"God sends us suffering because He loves us; we accept suffering because we love Him. Love is the only answer that can be made to suffering; it is the only explanation of suffering save that of the Christian Scientist who denies that suffering really exists.

The Christian alone teaches that suffering is to be embraced. The idea is based on the fatherhood of God for it supposes that the father only allows such suffering to come to each child as shall be for its own good... It is not, therefore, simply was a punishment that we should look on suffering, for such a view of it will add more troubles than it can answer. Suffering is also the very expression of love; almost the only language that adequately describes its feelings.

Love, then, which can alone explain suffering when it comes, can also alone give us the the strength to accept it joyfully, for life is only tolerable when it is permeated with love. There are hardships for everyone; do what we will we cannot escape them. Yet it is not the troubles of life, but the way we bear them, that makes life tolerable or not. To repine, complain, cry out, does but dig the point-head deeper into the flesh. The monk was contented in his cell, but the prisoner essayed night by night to escape: their conditions were the same, but their hopes and desires were different. The whole secret, then, of life is to adapt our desires to our conditions. Love puts into bondage as many victims as hate; but those whom love’s chains bind are glad of their lot. We are told, indeed, that God punishes with suffering all workers of iniquity; but those also whom God loves He chastens; and for ourselves who y, fitfully indeed yet honestly, to love, we can feel sure that it is only the strength of His embrace that we feel. Love, then, alone will help us to understand life and its sorrows.

Of course, the full realization of this is the attitude of the saints; for them seem to have achieved that same state of soul to which St. Paul confessed that he had reached: ‘For which cause I take pleasure in my infirmities.’...Our Lord found it perfectly compatible to shrink from suffering and yet to be resigned to the will of God, so the combination of union with the Father and anxiety about suffering is not necessarily impossible.

Sorrow, caused by Love and can be made tolerable only by Love. For it is the Crucified who alone explains the Crucifixion."

Spent some time researching a familiar line from Morning Prayer, Is 45:17.  It feels like a broken promise:

"But Israel will be saved by the Lord with an everlasting salvation, you will never be put to shame or disgraced, to ages everlasting."

There are a myriad of ways around it, beginning with different translations, some of which say basically, “you won’t permanently be disgraced or put to shame.”

You could also spiritualize it, as applying to the residents of Heaven or the Church’s final destination.  You could look at it as applicable to Christ only.

Even better, the NABRE and a non-Catholic commentary has it in quotes, as in quoting the nations.  The nations (presumably not inerrant) are exaggerating, saying, “gosh, we were wrong and you’ll never be disgraced.”

March 18, 2019

I Don't Get It, Part MDCCCXXII

Opened day with a little Moanin’ Joe. Trumpian tweets are their daily content provider. You don’t need producers on that show since it produces itself, or rather Trump orchestrates it remotely.

Sunday political talk shows have likewise declined. A good example of this is to hear Chris Wallace of Fox News hammer an administration official yesterday asking why Trump doesn’t make a speech against Islamaphobia given the news that an evil Australian killed people in New Zealand. You can’t make that shiza up. Wallace must be crazy for urging a crazy man to make a speech that he believes will magically take the crazy out of crazy people. Maybe next Chris will ask why Trump doesn't do a rain dance to help out with California droughts.

There’s the oft told lament of the nationalization of the news, such that people don’t care about their local scene but focus on things they have much less direct control over, namely the president. Now there’s the internationalization of news such that people are focusing not even on crime in our country but crime on the other side of the world.

The Sunday political shows have gone the same way of dullness as the nightly comics if for different reasons: for the Sunday shows, the soundbyte politics is regurgitated from what’s already been said on Twitter more incisively, and for the comics what used to be humor has been outsourced in favor of political outrage.

March 17, 2019

Papal Elections Have Consequences (even in small midwestern dioceses)

The Columbus Dispatch is going after the yet-to-be-installed bishop (Robert J. Brennan) of Columbus already. I’m inclined to give them the benefit of the doubt given Brennan already has one strike against him (being appointed by Francis).

But the Dispatch seemed a tad overeager in the latest piece, saying he contradicted himself when he said he had nothing to do with abuse cases back in his old diocese whereupon it was learned he had talked to victims of abuse.  The paper considered that involvement, while he figured that wasn’t official involvement but pretty much business as usual given the level of abuse in that diocese.  I lean towards his side on that question.

But there are other reasons I’m uneasy. Just five years after ordination he was appointed secretary to the bishop, which certainly seems a good career move if you’re ambitious to be bishop. And there’s no better barometer on whether you should be bishop than if you don’t want to be one.

Reading between the lines, one can see that the appointment to a bigger assignment for Brennan was a fait accompli given the timing of the Francis pontificate and former Bishop Campbell turning 75 during it. Certainly didn’t help that the new U.S. apostolic nuncio appointed by Francis in 2016 - who has a decisive impact on who gets recommended to the pope - advocates for illegal immigrants and joined demonstrations and meetings with Texas-Mexico border bishops. You can’t get a better fit for that nuncio than Brennan, who took it upon himself to learn Spanish to better minister to legals and illegals in New York. In the Francis era it's surely more useful to know Spanish than theology.  On the other hand, Brennan was made auxiliary bishop by Pope Benedict (although I suspect mere auxiliary bishops get scant attention from the pope).

So color me not super excited/enthused by the prospect of the bishop fund drive this year.

March 10, 2019

Cruise Trip Log

Up by 7am for this travel day and grateful for the (rare) multiple hours before a flight. 2:40 flight so don’t uber till 12:40. Started packing at 8:30; by 8:45 headed out with dogs for a last walk, then off to pet kennel (faulty GPS directions annoying, coupled with navigation difficulties on the new car). Finally got there and Max was all in, loved the idea, while Maris wanted to head back home.

More packing, short elliptical workout and shower and - voila! - by 11:40 all done and ready. All the overhead accomplished (meanwhile Doug and Jean have already been in Fort Lauderdale for hours!). But I wasn’t keen on getting there early - it’s surprisingly difficult to pack, get dogs dropped off, etc.. on a work day before an early getaway day. Or so I like to think. Nice to have shower, food and java in me. Ready to rest!

So Doug and Jean got there early and drank and partied and played badminton all day and too tired to come over to the mermaid show (actual live “mermaids” - females with fins - swimming in a tank at a restaurant at our hotel). If you’re too tired for mermaids, you’re too tired for life. Seems very Vegas-y. And in fact, this hotel has hosted stars like Frank Sinatra, Sammy Davis Jr, Marilyn Monroe, and, during the 1960s, the New York Yankees during their spring trainings. Hostess said bar is identical to how it was orginally. Doug had gotten ripped off by not staying at our nice hotel. Some fly-by-night intermediary website cancelled his reservation.

A woman came around at The Wreck Bar to round up signatures of everyone in the bar in order to appear on TV. We were planning on leaving since we just finished eating but were tempted to stick around for the sheer spectacle of it. Only in Florida! We signed the waiver, and I tried to get Doug and Jean to come but understandably they exhausted from their trip - Phyllis had gotten up at 5am the past two mornings. It was kind of funny to see Jeannie teasing Doug in her texts about his lack of energy despite being four years younger than her. Funny because Doug is usually the one with all the late night energy teasing Jean or me. But 50 aint’ 30, that’s for sure.

The (un)reality TV show is centered around female wrestlers, WWE. They didn’t look like wrestlers, that’s for sure, being dressed up, wearing TV pancake makeup, and looking more svelte and than bulked - more Housewives of L.A. than Hulk Hogan. For awhile I couldn’t understand what professional wrestlers had to do with a mermaid show (were they going to be mermaids for the night?) but it became obvious when around 9:15 we suddenly had the four “characters” (wrestlers) waltz in and take the table in front of us followed by a couple camera men, a lighting man and a boom mike.

Steph thought it anticlimactic and it was but then television always is. I looked at the earnest camera man who had been there since 8pm, an intelligent looking guy, and I kept thinking that he was thinking: “I studied photography for this?!”. Felt bad for him.

He always getting me in the shot which annoyed me because I couldn’t gape at the spectacle and had to pretend disinterest. Around 9:30 the mermaid show began and it was certainly different, although at the same time it was pretty much what you’d expect - sort of synchronized underwater ballet performed by bikini-topped women with legs wrapped in sheaves of fin. Think Ethel Merman meets Daryl Hannah in Splash. They held their breath for quite some time and we were told ( I was skeptical) they could hear everything in the bar and that we should offer encouragement and cheers.

Had two delicious Cigar City Jai Alai IPAs at dinner. It was chaos as it was and I had to seek out the waitress since they weren’t taking orders or dropping off checks due to the filming.

Day 2

Full day on cruise, 10:30am on! Ship is Independence of the Seas, which is our first time sailing although seems very similar as our typical one (Liberty). All these names sound alike (i.e...Freedom, Independence, Liberty...). Uber was smooth and ran into Doug and Phyllis in line for boat! What a coincidence! Doug was bringing extra wine and needed me there so without that fortunate meeting he would’ve lost at least one bottle. He snuck in with us platinum members though he’s only gold status.

Headed up for a 10:30 feast at wind jammer. Earliest by far we’ve ever boarded a ship. Lunch slowed as we waited for Jean and bill to join. Bill humorously went up multiple times to buffets and meticulously looked over every fragment of food. Around 1:15 we hit our cabin followed by sunbathing topside. I ran for 25 mins before beer o’clock with Doug and Phyllis. 3:45 muster, ugh.

Post-muster = Heaven! Peace beyond all understanding is gently moving out of port, the wind low, the water a lullaby, the sun a caress. Very contemplative. Funny to go on a cruise with 4500 people and feel a blissful rest akin to being on a deserted island - that is, the island of a private balcony.

It feels almost mystical - the shellacked waves beating a path directly towards our cabin, (we facing the western side of the ship presently). A bountiful reap of sun, seemingly magnified by the waters. I have a great hunger to read and a great hunger to just soak in the scenery.

It’s the best cruising gets, the calm period just outside of port, before the fierce ocean winds make the balcony loud with howling wind.

Today Doug and Jean, who prefer late dinners, are eating after the 7:15 comedian show. We’re doing solo dinner at 5:45. Don’t want indigestion before bed like yesterday. But tomorrow, formal night, we’ll go with their timing so we can all be together.

Dinner wasn’t exactly my thing. Our “private dining” experience consisted of a table separated from the next one by three inches. It’s basically one long table separated into segments by a tiny amount of space which allows the fiction of “privacy” without any of what privacy is actually for. Very jesuitical. The folks next to you can more easily hear you talking than your spouse who is sitting across the table (rather than three inches away from you on your side).

So we had a woman sitting next to us was solo since her husband didn’t want to get dressed up to go to the dining even though there was no requirement to dress up at all (I wore shorts and flip-flops). She was a talker and talk she did, telling us her life story, which at least is an improvement on small talk. Had a joint on Bob Marley grave tour and could barely make it up the hill. The odd thing is she and her husband are retired and yet they made little income during their lifetime such that she receives only $660 a month in social security and he $1800 a month. This translates to about $30k a year. And yet they cruise frequently, just the two of them, and only book the very expensive junior suite because the bathroom is bigger. They are doing a back-to-back cruise this time, staying on the boat for another 5-day cruise after this 4-day cruise is done. They also go to the restaurants you have to pay for (instead of pre-paid). So guessing they probably came into some money via inheritance.

Afterward we went to the comedy/variety show, just a 45 minute introduction that was mostly fluff except for the short 15 minute comedian part. He was pretty funny and I would like to have gone to his full show but it was at 11:15, way too late.

Day 3

Surprised to learn Royal is now charging $10 for breakfast room service, boo. That did seem too good to be true. Their business model seems to be to keep the rate as low as possible and then nickel and dime you. I guess no such thing as a free breakfast, even on a prepaid plan! We went ahead and did it anyway since one of our huge delights is eating breakfast on our balcony while overlooking the ocean (from 6 stories up).

It was delicious, and it’s such a cool thing for me since I’m always bringing food home when at home, so it’s great to have someone deliver to me. Since you can order any amount of food for the same price, I had a ham and cheese omelette, cereal, a donut, bacon milk, coffee, orange juice! A kingly breakfast.

In fact, a cruise is arguably the closest thing a commoner can experience to mimic living as a king: unlimited food, servants cooking and cleaning for you, commanding view of the sea, and “jesters” entertaining you. Basically frictionless living.

Surprised how easygoing the wind is this trip. Usually it’s a wind tunnel. Not sure if because boat only going to one place (Cozumel) and so is going slow, or if the weather is just cooperating. Regardless it’s been a joy to be on balcony so far. Wondrous hours on balcony until duty called in the form of exercise at gym. Saw Jean in there hard at work! Made plans to meet at Windjammer post-workout, so we had a second big meal at 12:30! Then up to 12th floor for some sun time. The rest joined me a half-hour later and Doug wanted to do something active (of course) so I went with him and Bill to a “flowrider” where you boogie board against a strong current in a pool. We started waiting in line but then went on a tube ride instead. You go down this water tube and that was a good adrenalin flush. Doug of course thought it was nothing, a baby run.

Then at 4 o’clock we had a free-throw shooting contest. Eighteen contestants (Doug bowed out saying he couldn’t shoot) so Bill and I toed the line. The top 6 or 7 would advance. I made 3 of 8 and Bill made 2 of 8 and you needed to make 4 to make the finals so we were out, boo. It was nice to shoot some hoops though and it was worth it for that and to burn a couple calories. Feel like I’m 20 again when dribbling the basketball.

Later Steph caught me trying to smoke cigar on the balcony so I was banished to the Siberia of the pool smoking area where a movie was playing at 150 decibels. From one of my books, written by a cardinal of the Church: “Noise has no moderation, like a ship without a captain on a raging sea, whereas silence is a paradise, like a limitless ocean.”

Nice formal dinner. Bill wore a tie and Doug a suit and tie but I went casual as was my plan. The food was better tonight, an amazingly good steak.

Day 4

Today was the big day, the Cozumel day. We docked around 7am and got a late breakfast served after packing and readying for Mexico. Jean and Bill were surprisingly early for them, arriving at 9:40am versus the 9:30 agreed upon time but more daunting was that Jean, who had booked this excursion didn’t have a starting time. So we were flying blind even though we did have a destination: Marti’s Sporting Goods. It wasn’t easy getting there as three of our party of six got separated from the other three when a Mexican policeman blocked our access to the sidewalk. I yelled “Bill!” but he heard too late and we headed through a maze of stores before rejoining the others. Well, except for Doug who had gone looking for us, so we waited for him for awhile. Apparently the policeman wanted to make sure that we walked by the stores instead of just going the direct route to get to the main street.

Finally we arrive at Marti’s but there’s no sign that this is where we should be until a Mexican dude named Jared shows up. It seems as though our timing couldn’t be better as he showed up just when we did. He said we should’ve gotten a confirmation email with the time but Jean couldn’t find it; later he said that she had made the reservation for Feb. 2nd instead of March 2nd and that he had showed up more or less as a lark in case someone showed up. He found the $90 deposit and Bill and I paid our part and voila, we were on the tour. Jean and given us her ID/Password last night to check her email (since she didn’t buy the Wifi package on board) for time of event, but website said “invalid password”. Then today she couldn’t log onto her PayPal due again to failed password.

Our first stop was a local tequila joint (Tequilera Reyes) handled adeptly by a practiced salesperson who gave us a short history of tequila and later gave us many, many tastes. I’d say I had at least ten half-shots. It worked its magic and all of us were amazed how smooth and un-tequila-like these drinks were. So much so that Billy paid $239 for the top of the line 18-year aged bottle. Wow. I bought a $99 minimum sipping quality, a seven-year aged, and Doug and Phyllis bought a couple amaretto bottles.

Next stop was an authentic Mexican bar (Los Mangales), that, by virtue of it being 11:30am, was almost empty. We came in and, cue the music, someone put on some loud Mexicano music - and we had very, very spicy chicken wings and Dos Equis beers. The wings, chips and six beers and the total came to...drumroll... $10. Wow. That’s the price of one drink on board ship.

We traveled to the unpopulated eastern side of the island by van while drinking copious amounts of a cooler full of beer, cans of Kloster Light, which tasted the same as Bud Light. Open container is allowed in Mexico, in a car or on foot. As Jean said, why are why not living in Mexico where the weather is good and you have the freedom to drink outside in public! America, land of the semi-free.

Next up was Coconuts, a colorful thatched bar that offered stunning views of the Caribbean on a picture-perfect (literally picture perfet) sunny day. The bar was festooned with t-shirts from colleges and schools all over the U.S. including, surprisingly, one from Aaron’s Lasalle high school. OSU was naturally represented but no Miami. There were also a lot of women’s underwear and the staff brought out albums of gals who had visited and showed their boobs for a free margarita.

Coconuts offered very strong margaritas. Just ask Steph! I had a brew instead.

Our next bar was a little mom & pop shack along the ocean. Doug and Phyllis got in a tiny hammock for pictures. We got free shots there as well. Steph gave me hers of course.

And our final stop was where we could eat a free lunch (well, included in the price) and afterward snorkel. Doug, Bill, Jean and I went in and fed the fish some tortillas. There were a good number of fish but mostly all big-bodied silver fish, only one pretty blue “Nemo”.

The van headed back at the dock where I found a unique coffee beaded rosary (using actual coffee beans) for Mom. Back to the ship around 4:30 our wallets much lighter but much fun was had. Even Steph, despite (because of?) the over indulgence.

Smoked a cigar briefly with Doug and Phyllis at teeming swimming pool with painfully loud music on. Since Steph strictly enforces no cigar smoking on balcony, I’m left with smoking only in auditory hell (up on 11 with the vulgar 150-decibel music). Jean and Bill did their own thing for dinner so just Doug, Phyllis and us in the dining hall.

Day 5

Breakfast and coffee was scheduled to be delivered at 7:30 but 8 o’clock went by and then 8:30 and then 9 and so I went down to pick up coffee to wait some more. So much for my kingship! Short-lived indeed. So goes the kingship of all earhtly kings. We eventually gave up and ate at windjammer.

Thought of water on the sea and how it’s odd that no matter where you are sitting on the boat the sun forms a line directly to you. The optics of this is (sort of) explained on Wikipedia: “This is due to the fact that when sunlight falls on the ocean's surface, it's reflected in all directions, but you see the illuminated line due to the light rays that are specifically entering your eyes.”

Feels sort like of a metaphor for God since although he’s shining on everybody at the same time, it feels like, when you’re praying he’s shining directly on you? Like how he’s simultaneously communicating with everyone but it feels individualized.

Surprised how much warmer the temps on this cruise are compared to January or early February trips. Could be due to weather luck or maybe a month difference really matters in Caribbean. The ocean view reminds me of a large farmer’s field of corn: sun undulating on the royal blue of the waters or the dark green of silken stalks. Both endless, flat vista. Uncluttered and clean-swept. Moving canvas of blue.

The odd thing is that land is the exception rather than the rule on this earth and yet it feels the reverse given how we all se land about 99% of the time. Similarly, even if there’s life somewhere else in the universe, life is the huge exception rather than the rule. Just ask the folks on Mars or Pluto.

Jonah Goldberg the other day mentioned how the oceans are mostly barren deserts but if you throw a concrete brick it will “create” life, an ecosystem, because amoebas and algae can form on the brick because it gives them something to hold on to. From there little fish nibble at the new food source, then larger fish and so on till you have a burgeoning reef. This is why environmentalists approve of used oil rigs being simply knocked down and allowed to drift to the ocean floor. Sometimes it takes a derrick to raise a village.

For some reason the old Dionne Warwick song “Do You Know the Way to San Jose” came to mind and so I played it on my iPhone. The irony is that the dreamy escape from busy L.A. to then backwater San Jose is dated now that San Jose is the center of Silicon Valley. “Fame and fortune is a magnet / It can pull you far away from home.” Wise words spiritually as well.

Spent nice time on deck, perfect temp with slight breeze, but at 3pm comes deafening music time. Gives me an earache and I’m pretty far from the source of the music. Later, wonderous balcony, beautifully quiet and quietly beautiful.

I see cruising as a semi-nature vacation - like camping but with a steadier supply of food. Ha.

At dinner, Jean wanted to rally and beat fatigue by drinking a combo of hard liquor and Red Bull. She had two of them, despite having never drank a Red Bull before! Bold!

Doug ended up $250 at the casino which made me think, dang I should’ve gone with him. I didn’t think anyone actually won money there. And he did it mostly by playing that most easygoing of card games, blackjack.

Day 6

Silky smooth roll from boat - breakfast at 7:45, left by 8:25 and at hotel less than an hour later. My latest reads: “Alienated America” by Tim Carney and a Florida novel called “Trap Line” by Carl Hiaasen. Cool to read about fishing boats while in Florida on (and now off) a ship.

Poor Doug and Jean trapped in airport Hell.

Here at B Ocean Resort, generous sun, absurdly blue sky, and the Florida chic of pastel blue buildings and orange pool umbrellas. German-speaking couple in front of us. Burnt from sun yesterday, so satisfied with some shade in the slight breeze. The infinity pool idea is something of a mirage since you face the pool not the ocean. Pool bodies here adhere strictly to age: the older, the fatter, perhaps proving that slimness is less a personal virtue than a byproduct of youth.

Lady at pool reading book “The Unexpected Joy of Being Sober”. Which is the much anticipated sequel to: “The Expected Joy of Being Drunk”.

Water here is clear and the two-tone hues fetching. Sand is like quicksand so running was a heck of an effort. Spring break so lots of college kids. Not ideal week to be here! Guy at counter said every hotel in Lauderdale booked up.

Hotel playing loud music (of course) but at least it’s 80s tunes. Some I haven’t heard since the 80s. Feels downright time-warpish. Young girls with bodies shy of the perfections to come, like green-ish bananas.

We briefly visited the second pool till 5:30 and then headed on bikes (available as part of resort fee here) towards a Winn-Dixie 2 miles away. We got a little over a half mile up the road before turning around. Too much traffic on roads and too much foot traffic on sidewalk. Plus there was a big uphill stretch Steph wasn’t keen to do. So we headed back and found a small market on the other side of us and I picked up snacks and beer.

Ordered room service at 7 and by 7:30 had delicious blackened fish sandwiches with frees and salad. From 8-10pm we watched a Office marathon. Surprising how well the shows held up. Seems like a couple of those episodes we may’ve even missed. It was Season 3, episodes 22-25, before it jumped the shark.

Day 7

I think this is the most southerly beach we’ve stayed in Florida ever (don’t think we actually stayed in Key West). New Smyrna Beach is a whopping 230 miles north and the waters and sand are correspondingly very different, Fort Myers on the other side of Florida is about 50 miles north. The temperature difference is surprising. For Sanibel in January and February the average temps are mid 50s to mid 70s... here the averages are low 60s to high 70s. Whopper-sized temperature difference between here and Columbus: 77 versus 13. I suspect that’s the biggest differential ever seen while on a vacation.

Teen next to me says, “Holy shit.” Young people here unwittingly offer homage to the tradition they’ve inherited in a thousand ways but perhaps most obviously by language. All words and phrases short of neologisms are handed down from their elders.

More crowded already at 9:30 as yesterday at 10:30 and worse they’re playing music that sound like dying quail. And so in go my AirPods.

Great “turn-about” line in Cardinal Sarah’s book about silence: “Love is always humble, silent, ...on is knees before its beloved... Jesus was on his knees, washing his apostles feet.” Wow, another sign of my missing Christ’s love for me, of a mutual devotion. (Actually, his is much more intense.) I reflexively think it’s a one way street given the mismatch in lovableness.

Saw a ship seemingly going up on the beach. It encouraged me to walk to where it had “beached”; turns out there’s a sharp right turn on the beach separated by giant boulders. The ship was labeled Maersk, a huge Danish international container shipping company and the largest by fleet size.

Steph not happy with this place given the ugly brown sand that doesn’t pack down, the loud spring breakers, the expense, the location (on busy road with cop cars sirens constantly blaring to catch bad college kids), and the fact that an attendant tried to deny us a beach chair at 4:40 because he was packing up before 5pm “chair closing”.

But we had our 20 minutes on the beach. Then we stayed for awhile on beach towels as I smoked a cigar. Back to the pool as it had chilled at windy beach, and we let the sun go down while on uber-comfy loungers there...


March 08, 2019

Why So Many Illegals? Thank Bill Clinton

Interesting backstory to why Mexican illegal immigration took over over past couple decades from Eric Scheske's podcast:
"When I grew up in this town there were like two Mexican families and then by the next summer they're all over the place. What happened?  I heard this from Benedict Groeschel.  He pointed out to me, and I've verified it since, that it was Bill Clinton who caused the problem. For generations, at least 50-100 years, Mexicans had come up from Mexico to work in the agriculture industry and they relied on that money, busted their humps in United States for six months, went back and hung out and took it easy for six months in winters in Mexico.  They came and went and it was quite peaceful.  Labor unions pressured Clinton administration in 1990s to shut down that program and reduce number of workers to come across the border to increase union wages. It didn't work, we needed the workers and people here didn't want those jobs and all that happened was they had to sneak across the border in order to do the jobs their families had been doing for generations.

But once they snuck over they didn't want to sneak back the next year, it would be far too risky, so they just stayed here. That's where the problem came from.  That's the primary cause of this Mexican population that we have, that Clinton just basically shut down the work visa program.  That was bad enough, but then we as a country one up'd that.  Mexicans who stayed ended up getting other jobs, in factories and other places, but when you hire someone they have to fill out an IRS form that has the social security number.  The IRS would reject it because the Mexican had just made one up. So the Mexican would make up a new number and the IRS would say nothing. At that point the IRS and federal government knew that factory had an illegal alien working there.  And they did nothing - and do you know why they did nothing?  Two reasons: one, we needed the workers and the unions got their victory on paper only.  But two, more importantly, the Democrats shining gem in their history, what they think is their shining gem, Social Security, was broken.  And they knew it was broken as baby boomers began to retire, so they bring in all these Mexicans, you accept their bogus SSNs and deduct 7.6% of their salary for Social Security, you put them into the system to bolster your broken system and you know the Mexicans then cannot draw the money later because they gave a bogus SSN.  It's quite insidious, these Mexicans are not wealthy people, you are basically depriving the poor of their wages."