Wednesday, October 31, 2012

This is Halloween, Halloween Halloween

My costume this year was The Most Interesting Man In The World.


True, I'm about forty years younger than the real deal, but it's not that big a stretch for me to be interesting while drinking beer and smoking cigars all night. For next year I have already decided to be Doctor Victor Von Doom.


The costume itself might be difficult, but who else but I could match his grandiloquence or invincible superiority complex?

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

I've got a bad feeling about this...

Disney buying Lucasfilm Ltd.:

Disney is paying $4.05 billion to buy Lucasfilm Ltd., the production company behind "Star Wars," from its chairman and founder, George Lucas. It's also making a seventh movie in the "Star Wars" series called "Episode 7," set for release in 2015, with plans to follow it with Episodes 8 and 9 and then one new movie every two or three years.
 
The best Star Wars movies are the ones that Lucas did not direct: The Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi. Maybe we can convince Disney to put Sebastian Shaw back in the ending of ROTJ. There's a huge expanded universe in the Star Wars novels. Personally, I've always preferred the ones that take place before or during the original trilogy, although Timothy Zahn's Thrawn Trilogy was good (so much so that it started the expanded universe.)

There's Biden, and then there's Biden

My one vote will have no significant influence on the outcome of the presidential election. That said, I dearly hope the God King and his Fool go down in bitter defeat. Joe Biden is a silly buffoon and I've had a lot of good laughs at his expense. He says things that would end the careers of lesser politicians but I can always just shake my head and say "It's Joe being Joe." Then he goes and does something like this:

The father of one of the Navy SEALs who was killed in the Libya consulate attack has criticised the White House reaction to his son's death - especially a bizarre and obscene comment Joe Biden made to him.
Charles Woods, father of Tyrone Woods, said he thought Barack Obama had 'no remorse' over the attack and felt Hillary Clinton was 'not telling the truth'.
And he revealed that at the ceremony for the return of Tyrone's body, the Vice President approached his family and asked, 'Did your son always have balls the size of cue balls?'
 
With all due respect sir, you don't get to sidle up to the father whose son was killed the by incompetence of your boss and pretend that you're old pals yukking it up over drinks at the local seedy American dive bar. That the God King and his Fool are the odds on favorite to win the election does not speak well of us as a people or as a country.

h.t. Mark Shea

Monday, October 29, 2012

The emperor may have no clothes, but he's still the emperor

The "Year of Faith" is all well and good, but I'm not looking forward to these year long encomiums about how the bestest, holiest, super duperist council was so good, and wonderful, and outstanding, and renewal-iffic. Even after we apply all of the caveats, and look underneath the surface, and exorcize the devil from the details, the Catholic Church was doing great before the Second Vatican Council. It clearly went into free fall afterward. Correlation does not prove causation but it does waggle its eyebrows, furtively gesture, and whisper "Look over here." The secular media is running pieces on the 50th anniversary of the Council:

8:32AM EDT October 28. 2012 - In October 1962 the Second Vatican Council opened the doors of an isolated, ancient Roman Catholic Church to the modern world.
And hundreds of millions of lay people, priests, and religious walked right out!

Pope John XXIII called for the great meeting of 2,600 prelates to configure eternal doctrine with fast-changing times. In his confident opening address, he said, "… Everything, even human differences, leads to the greater good of the Church …"
The problem with trying to configure eternal doctrine with fast-changing times is that the times never stop changing. Some passages of the Vatican II documents are quite good, but it's clear that the Council Fathers embraced that naive late 1950's-early 1960's optimism that died along with Jack Kennedy. The world the Council Fathers were addressing had already changed and moved on before the ink on Gaudium et Spes was dry.


Yet, half a century later Catholics from the pews to St. Peter's dispute the changes wrought by Vatican II. Claims and counterclaims fly over what is true to the Council's legacy.
As Tom Roberts, editor at large for the liberal weekly,National Catholic Reporter, says, "These are tough times to control the message. "
Especially since Mr. Roberts's side is slowly but surely losing the battle. 

Vatican II did do revolutionary things, great and small, in substance and in style. Among them:
-- The priest turned around to face the flock. The sonorous Latin Mass performed by priests to a passive audience became a rite of active worship in the language of home.
Most Catholics today have never heard a Latin Mass but "I miss it still. It had a certain style and they should have hung on to it," says John Winter, 77 of Shaker Heights, Ohio.
Vatican II was indeed a revolutionary council. Conservative Catholics are wont to say that the revolution and abuses of the 1970's were not what the Council Fathers intended. This may be half true as a historical matter - many bishops and their periti did indeed want to overturn the Church of their fathers - but it's also irrelevant. Once a document or other designed object is out there in the world, it functions how it actually functions, not necessarily how its creators wish it would function. I presume Tim Berners-Lee did not intend for the World Wide Web to become a pornography distribution channel, but nonetheless the World Wide Web is in fact the largest scale pornography distribution channel in human history (this one liner has been shamelessly stolen from Zippy.)


The bishops realized, "You can no longer act as Christianity is the only show in town" says Pim Valkenberg, professor of religion and culture at Catholic University. "Vatican II says the usual way to salvation is, of course, the Catholic Church. But the other churches have access to this truth as well… We cannot draw boundaries for God. It was revolutionary to say other faiths have access to truths."
Paragraph eight of Lumen Gentium states that the Church of Christ "subsists in" the Catholic Church, as opposed to the teaching of Pope Pius XII in Mystici Corporis that the Church of Christ unequivocally is the Catholic Church. There's no necessary contradiction between these two points if we interpret LG to be saying that elements of truth are present in other religions. Even Satanists are correct insofar as they believe in the existence of Satan and God. The CDF eventually settled the issue by reaffirming in 2000 that yes, the Church of Christ IS the Catholic Church. But one can see how that phrase "subsists in" might cause an intelligent person of good will to believe that there was now a distinction between the the Church of Christ and the Catholic Church. The practical effect of this thinking was to kill the missionary and evangelizing spirit stone dead.

Many religious sisters stepped outside traditional roles in schools and hospitals. They doffed their wimples, donned business suits and went to work for social change. After Vatican II told them they had a role in the world, "civil rights seemed more urgent than teaching Latin," says Rev. John O'Malley, professor of theology at Georgetown University and author of What Happened at Vatican II
Read: They became social workers who can't date.

Yet 50 years is time enough for unintended consequences to emerge. The post- Vatican II Catholic Church must deal with issues that the Council skirted, issues that one day could affect who succeeds 85-year-old Benedict.
A priest friend of mine said that fifty years of chaos followed the conclusion of every ecumenical council in the Church's history. That may be true as a historical matter but I think there's a crucial difference he overlooked: Vatican II consciously set out to be different. Pope Paul VI and now Pope Benedict XVI have affirmed that Vatican II did not intend to proclaim any new dogmas or pronounce any new anathemas. That means that any chaos which followed the other councils took place between Catholics and heretics. The post-Vatican II chaos has been between Catholics in good standing despite enormous doctrinal differences. Hans Kung is still a priest in good standing; I rest my case.


Callie Otto, 22, a senior at The Catholic University in Washington D.C. and activist in Catholic University Students for Choice, is a Mass-attending Catholic who both loves and defies her Church yet may choose to study theology in graduate school.

Otto says, "If I am doing what I believe is right, no one can tell me if I am Catholic or not. When I pray, to me, I am Catholic. If God is telling you what is right, who will tell you otherwise?" 
Some people think I get angry with my fellow lay Catholics. I'm not the least bit angry with Catholics like Ms. Otto. I am quite certain she is being faithful to whatever formation she received from Father Flapdoodle and Sister Pantsuit. I am a little peeved with Father Flapdoodle and Sister Pantsuit. I'm furious with the men and women who formed them. They're the ones who exchanged our birthright for a mess of pottage.

How to deal with flakes

I blame Joss Whedon. Everyone in their mid twenties to early thirties wants their life to read like a Firefly script. We worry about having that perfect witty comeback, that genius one liner, that epic snarky put down that will earn plaudits and high fives all around. We mingle with attractive members of the opposite sex and expect it to turn out like a scene from Californication. Not everyone has Hank Moody game. It is best to have both wit and frame, but if you could only have one, it would be better to have impenetrable frame. What is frame? We'll get to that in a moment. Wit is good in moderation, but too much will cause her to think you are merely an entertainment monkey who stimulates her mind but otherwise leaves her cold. And poor you will continue to dance and clap to the organ grinder's tune until you work up the nerve to ask her out. Women tend to get offended when men outside of their zone of attraction even think about the possibility of a love connection. She might be nice enough to be polite about declining, but it will never be the same. You were supposed to be her beta orbiter, offering her emotional support when she needed it.

But suppose you've succeeded in getting her number. "Hey there!" you text. "I'd really like to see you again :D What are you doing this week?" She texts back "Work, school" or something innocuous.

"Cool. When are you available? Does Friday at 7 sound good? :)"

"K."

"Great! I'll see you then!"

Actually calling a girl and speaking to her on the phone is as dead as Julius Caesar. I've called and left girls voice messages and they still reply via text. As it happens, texting can be a good venue for displaying frame. The big night arrives and she texts you at 6:30: "hey, my friend is going through a bad breakup and I have to be there for her. Sorry :(" Don't feel bad pal. Texting has made flaking easier than ever. I've been there. I feel your pain. Pick yourself up, dust yourself off, get back in the saddle, vamos por todo.

A good rule of thumb is to not reply at all. Women who flake have revealed themselves to be of poor character. You just saved yourself a few hours and $20 worth of drinks. It's better to screen out the flakes as soon as possible so you can concentrate on women worthier of your investment. But suppose you're an incurable nice guy and you take her excuse at face value, or you find her that attractive that you aren't willing to let her go just yet. This is where frame comes in. Think caveman speak. Be terse. Your role model here is President Coolidge. If he had been born a century later, I'm convinced Silent Cal would be a great ladies man.

Wait until some time in the afternoon the next day to text her again. "It's cool. We can reschedule. You're buying." Then leave it at that. If she really likes you she'll respond. If you suspect she flaked on you and lied about the reason, then it's best not to respond at all. It will play out the same: if she really likes you she'll reach out to you. And if she doesn't, then move on. Calm, cool, and collected pal. That's gotta be your frame. Ambiguity and ambivalence will make her wonder. Chumps chase women. Champs make women chase them.

If you're going to ask out a girl via text, keep it terse. Never use emoticons. Use one word responses if you can. You are the cool cat with lots of options. If you're a naturally witty man, then you've got a leg up on the competition so long as you don't go overboard. If you're not, don't worry about it.

I am your most humble and obedient servant friends.

h.t. Roissy


Sunday, October 28, 2012

It was a dark and stormy night

Bob Hill whistled to himself behind the wheel of his sensible Sedan. He squinted, trying to make out the road through the sheets of rain that washed over the windshield, and increased the speed of the wipers. In the passenger seat, his wife Mary was asleep, exhausted after another successful showing of the play her high school drama students had written and performed. Their car was the only vehicle on the road and they were far from civilization. A deer emerged from the woods and bounded into the road. It looked at Bob's car and it was soon frozen in place by the approaching headlights.

"Damn!" Bob shouted. He stepped on the brakes. The tires skidded. Within a heartbeat, Bob knew the car wouldn't stop in time so he rammed the steering wheel to the left. The car spun out of control and crashed into a tree on the shoulder. All went black. When Bob regained consciousness, his world was an ocean of pain. He and Mary had been wearing their seat belts and both air bags had deployed, but he still felt a sharp pain in his neck. "Are you all right?" he asked Mary. "Mary? Mary!" Blood trickled from her mouth and her face and neck were an angry purple.

Saturday, October 27, 2012

We're all about the band wagon here

Everyone is upset about this ad. Before I address it directly, I'd like to tell all three of my female readers to not believe their girl friends. Men hate, hate, hate short hair on women such as that Ms. Dunham is sporting. Nothing makes me cringe like seeing a beautiful, leggy blond with the sort of golden locks you want to run your fingers through as you embrace on the cliff overlooking the ocean chop them all off so as to look like a medieval page boy. Now if you're hell bent on mutilating yourself that way, I'll wager dollars to pesos that when you walk into work with your new 'do, all of the women will cluck about how you look so cute and sexy with your new pixie cut. Don't you believe them. They're doing it because they're secretly happy to see you plunge to the bottom of the Dating Market ladder. It means they each get to ascend one rung toward the spot you previously occupied. Shoulder length is fine. Longer is better. The world needs more beauty. I am not all all surprised to see that Ms. Dunham is tattooed.

Now, on to the substance of the ad. I used to be baffled by our mania for getting as many people to the polls as possible. I'm all in favor of bringing back poll taxes and literacy tests. I think our politics would be immensely improved if the franchise was restricted to the married-and-never-divorced male heads of households with at least one legitimate child. Other things being equal, it is far better to live in a good polity with no right to vote than to live in an evil and decadent polity with the right to vote.

I used to be baffled by our fetish for election booths, but then I realized that elections are a kind of public liturgy. In the Catholic Church, "liturgy" is often used as a shorthand for the Mass. Liturgy includes the worship of Almighty God. It brings the people to God and God to the people. But there is no necessary connection between going to Mass and being a faithful Catholic. Many Catholics go to Mass who are not particularly faithful. It's possible that someone who is not particularly faithful but attends Mass regularly will eventually grow into a more faithful Catholic.

Elections are the liturgy for America's civic religion. There is no necessary connection between voting and liberalism, but someone who votes regularly may eventually grow into a more faithful liberal. I've written at length about how it is impossible that one vote will decide an election for president. Elections are not about deciding how we are to be governed, but about making our personal pledge of allegiance to our governing philosophy of liberalism.

Faithful Catholics often try to urge their fallen away friends and family to return to the Church. They do this because the souls of their non-practicing friends and family are in danger of eternal damnation if they do not return. I often see greater fervor and dedication in the eyes of those who urge us to vote. Failing to offer a pinch of incense to liberalism is to be in danger of being cast into the outer darkness where there will be wailing and being on the wrong side of history.

Friday, October 26, 2012

I got 99 units of evil...

Imagine a presidential election between Democratic Governor Johnny L and Republican Senator Andy C. Johnny L promises to give us three units of evil if he is elected. Andy C promises to give us one unit of evil. Catholic voters Bill and Ted take their faith seriously. They've both read Faithful Citizenship. Bill wants to vote for Johnny L but his conscience is troubled by those three units of evil that Johnny is promising to deliver once he's elected. Bill runs through the checklist: "I disagree with Johnny L's position on X, I agree with his stance on Y, I totally disagree with Z..." Once he's finished he sees that the agrees outweigh the disagrees, and believes this equals a proportionate reason to vote for Johnny. Yes, Johnny will deliver those three units of evil but he'll do lots of good stuff to make up for it. Ted thinks Bill is crazy. Ted believes it is every Catholic's solemn duty to avoid evil. He doesn't really like Andy C, but Andy C is only promising one unit of evil. Ted thinks it would be best if we didn't have to accept any units of evil, but it's a complicated world, and no candidate is perfect, and he doesn't want to silence himself by voting third party or staying home. He decides to vote for Andy C.

Conservatives always complain that the United States is drifting further and further away from the intent of the Founding Fathers, from Judeo-Christian values, from anything resembling a decent society. Every four years they still dutifully turn out at the polls to vote for the Republican who promises only one unit of evil to the Democrats three. It's true that people of good will must use every moral means at their disposal to check the advance of evil. But when you choose the lesser of two evils, you are still choosing evil. You are still contributing to a net increase of evil in society.

American conservatives, or right liberals as I call them, are the rear guard of liberalism's army. No Republican, save perhaps Ron Paul, seriously argues for halting the liberal advance, let alone rolling it back. They can't, because Republicans, and American conservatives in general, are themselves mostly liberals who want to give the body politic the occasional homeopathic injection of Traditionalism to ameliorate the worst symptoms of liberalism. Modern mainstream conservatism is mostly a collection of unprincipled exceptions.

You may be choosing the lesser of two evils but you are still choosing evil. Routinely, and unnecessarily, choosing evil has a small but not insignificant effect on us. Vigorously arguing in favor of choosing evil has a bigger effect. Society will not improve until you stop choosing evil. If it bothers you when someone points out what is evil about your candidate's positions, then field better candidates.


Making the sand pile bigger

I've encountered tremendous resistance to the idea that it is impossible for one vote to decide the election for president. "But it's POSSIBLE that your vote could decide the election."

"No, it really isn't."

"But it's POSSIBLE that your one vote could decide the election in your state, and your state might tip the balance of the Electoral College toward my favored candidate."

"No, it really isn't."

"I agree it's highly improbable, but it's still POSSIBLE."

"No, it really isn't. Just because you can imagine something happening without involving a logical contradiction does not mean it is actually possible in reality."

Which of the two major party candidates received the most votes in Florida during the 2000 presidential election? The correct answer is, "We don't know and we never will know." If an election for president within any one state is so close that the balance hinges on a few dozen or even a few hundred votes, then the system breaks down. There is a distinction between accuracy and precision, and our electoral system cannot handle accuracy at the microlevel (remember hanging chads?). In the lawsuits that would inevitably follow, the courts would eventually award the state's electoral votes to one candidate or the other.

An election for president is like building two piles of sand. My vote represents one grain of sand. If I add my grain to one pile of sand, my influence on the outcome of the sand pile building contest is not nil but it is negligible. There may be good reasons to add my grain of sand to the pile: maybe I'm doing it as a favor to a friend, or the bishops asked me to do it, or it makes me feel good about myself. There may be good principled or idealistic reasons to join the sand pile building contest. But I believe it's irrational to think that your one grain of sand will ultimately decide the contest. It's doubly irrational to believe that I am contributing to the victory of one of the two sand piles if I abstain from the contest altogether.

Someone may buy a Lottery ticket for idealistic reasons: maybe THIS TIME it will be the winner. It would be irrational to buy Lottery tickets as a pragmatic strategy for your retirement plan.


Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Who, whom

Majority of Catholics say Church should emphasize social justice, the poor

Washington, D.C.
Catholics overwhelmingly say the church should emphasize social justice and the poor in its pronouncements on public policy, even if it means focusing less on abortion, according to a new study conducted by the Public Religion Research Institute.
 
...By a two-to-one margin, 60 percent to 31 percent, Catholics would prefer bishops to focus on social justice issues even if it means less emphasis on abortion. While that view is held strongly by Catholics who attend church only occasionally, "the most striking finding, and one that may surprise many leaders in the church, is that Catholics who attend church once a week or more also express a strong preference for an emphasis on social justice over abortion," the report states.
"Social justice" is one of those ambiguous terms that can have a different meaning depending on who you're talking to, and even then they might use it in different senses within the same conversation. I think it's a shame that we think of social justice and pro-life activities as seperate entities and never the twain shall meet. If you spend any time volunteering for these worthy activities you notice pretty quickly that social justice types tend toward political leftism whereas pro-life activists tend toward mainstream political conservatism.
Among "social justice Catholics," Obama held a 60 percent to 37 percent lead; among "right to life" Catholics, Romney held a 67 percent to 27 percent lead.
 
There's an old joke in Latin America that goes "When the Church opted for the poor, the poor opted for the Pentecostals." Our bishops should be braver about making an explicit connection between serving the poor and the salvation of souls. Too often when I hear a social justice Catholic speak about the issues, I could close my eyes and easily imagine them as a Greenpeace activist, or maybe a college age Democratic volunteer. There's nothing wrong, ex se, with those things. But is that all it means to be a Catholic - be a good person, volunteer in the soup kitchen once in a while, support amnesty for illegal aliens, and raising taxes on the rich? If so, then it won't take people long to figure out that you don't need to go to Mass to be a good person or do any of those other things.

The candidates' coalitions reflected the religious divides across the culture. Almost 80 percent of likely Romney voters identify as white Christian, including 37 percent who identify as white evangelical, 19 percent as white mainline Protestant and 19 percent white Catholic.
Obama, on the other hand, relies more on non-white Christians, including black Protestants (18 percent) and Hispanic Catholics (6 percent), non-Christian religious Americans (7 percent) and religiously unaffiliated (23 percent). Only 40 percent of likely Obama voters identify as white Christian. Fifteen percent of them identify as white mainline Protestant, 14 percent white Catholic and 9 percent white Evangelical Protestant.
 
 I'm convinced that a significant number of that 40 percent votes Democratic because they don't want to be associated with the wrong kind of white people. "We're not like our racist, sexist, bigoted, homophobic, fundamentalist parents. We're cool, we're hip, some of our best friends are gay black single parents." That's increasingly the demographic reality among voters: the Republicans are the party of married white fathers, the Democrats the party of single black mothers.

There's enough room in a universal Church for many kinds of spirituality and service. But Catholicism is not a big enough tent to accommodate or tolerate its opposites. The danger with social justice is leaping to the conclusion that our concern should be exclusively about this world and not about some heaven that's light years away as a popular Catholic hymn puts it. For example, I would ask our bishops and priests: do you think poor Mexican day laborers are more likely to be saved in the United States where same-sex "marriage," abortion, contraception, divorce, and all the rest are permitted and even celebrated? Or in a comparatively more traditional society like Mexico? I don't begrudge them going where the work is - I very much begrudge the political elites who want easy votes and the business elites who want cheap labor - but man does not live by bread alone.

I've got your Avada Kedavra right here pal

I'm not opposed in principle to the first comparison, Mitt Romney is Dolores Umbridge. What does that make Barack Obama then?

What about Obama? Harry Potter, one might imagine, in the 9-year-old’s phantasmagoria? The damaged hero. The chosen one. The boy who saves the world. No, she said, impatiently. Like why can’t I see it? Why am I not receiving the message the universe is so clearly sending? Dumbledore! Wise, old, snowy-haired Albus Dumbledore. He has moral authority and gravitas, even when life at Hogwarts moves out of his control. He is also a master of wryness, of sharp comments delivered dryly. You can easily imagine Dumbledore saying, “We also have fewer horses and bayonets.” When the evil forces of the ministry come to take him to jail, a magnificent orange bird swoops down, and together they vanish in flame. One of the ministry members, Kingsley Shacklebolt, says, “You may not like him, Minister, but you can't deny: Dumbledore's got style.”
 
If Obama is Dumbledore, does that mean all of the rumors in the right wing blogosphere about him being gay were right all along? People who are able to pay close attention to the God King without being blinded by his brilliance might be more inclined to compare him to another Professor of Defense Against the Dark Arts: Gilderoy Lockhart.

 
"Hope and Change for Hogwarts"
 
 
He has a great talent for self-promotion, those surrounding him tend to forget what he actually does, and he's won his current position less through his abilities than his invincible self-confidence and smooth talking.

These things write themselves

I'm exceedingly poor at political analysis. I didn't pay much attention to last night's presidential debate. What was the point? I knew going in that Romney's strategy would be to say about Obama's foreign policy "I agree but show more leadership!" I was a bit surprised he didn't destroy the big O on Benghazi. Nor did Romney make any explicit connection between our push for democracy and the increasing turmoil in the Middle East. The Republican Party is rather like the US version of the House of Bourbon: they forget nothing and learn nothing. No matter who wins next month our foreign policy will remain the same: turn violent Muslims into mild mannered Minnesota Democrats, even when they use their newfound freedom to elect the Muslim Brotherhood.

But the president supplied the last B word and now I can begin writing a monograph on the 2012 election: "Big Bird, Binders, and Bayonets: America Decides Between Affirmative Action and Legacy Admission."

Saturday, October 20, 2012

I don't feel pain, I only dish it out

If all the previous US presidents were alive and running for office in 2012, who would win?

I'm imagining the candidates are not revived from the dead with their full history in tact per se, and that we are supposed to envision them as they were at the time of their presidencies, but implanted on today's world and with an eye toward how the public overall viewed their presidencies (as if they hypothetically had each served one term and so had some "history" to look at as a guide about them). So each president is "as is" from their own presidencies, in a weird reality where they aren't updated to our time but are also not exactly stuck in their own 100 percent, either.
It would come down to a handful of final contenders:

FDR
JFK
Reagan
Clinton
Typical. Biased toward presidents whose terms exist within living memory. Every president before Bill Clinton would be denounced as a right-wing lunatic. FDR was a liberal in the sense that he believed the federal government should take a more active role in bettering the lot of poor Americans. But in our diversified, pussified, secularized, feminized, bureaucratized, credentialized society "liberal" means supporting infanticide, sodomy, divorce, free love, and the triumph of the will over ontology. I doubt FDR would have been wheeled out to deliver long speeches on the beauty and dignity of homosexual liaisons or for upwardly mobile single female lawyers to murder the unborn children she conceived with the Alpha player.

I think Theodore Roosevelt would do well. He's not conservative in the 21st century sense of the word, and he's enough of a man's man to attract a majority of the white male vote, and probably a good deal of the single female vote as well. Andrew Jackson might not win, but he would be the most entertaining candidate by far. Can you imagine any modern politician, president or otherwise, responding to an assassination attempt by going after the gunman with his cane? Me neither. Abe Lincoln had the wit and raconteur skills of Ronald Reagan. George Washington wouldn't even run at all; he'd be appalled at the 24/7 media gossip culture of modern politics. Grover Cleveland, a Democrat, would be denounced as being more evil than Palpatine, Skeletor, and the Dark Lord Sauron rolled into one for his track record of hundreds of vetoes. I think Calvin Coolidge would do quite well. He didn't have the kind of hard charging lifestyle of a TR or Jackson, but that laconic, cave man style monosyllabic wit would make him a minor celebrity in a culture that prizes snark and the throw away one liner.

A more interesting contest would be if every American president were running for office in, say, 1800. All of them from Lincoln onward would be denounced as the worst tyrants since Tarquin the Proud and the country would have been torn apart in endless wars of secession.

Friday, October 19, 2012

Our ridiculous culture

Near the end of the Soviet Union's lifespan, the Soviet people, and even the party apparatchiks, no longer believed in communism as a viable economic system. It lumbered forward of its own inertia toward its ignominious and long overdue whimpering death rattle, but actually saying that the country was sunk out loud, in public, could still get you a bullet in the skull just as surely as it would have during Uncle Joe's reign of terror. Communism became a joke, and nobody does black humor like the Russians.

Liberalism is patently silly, in addition to being inhuman and untenable in the long run. For example, in the presidential debate earlier this week, Romney was asked what he planned to do about the "fact" that women only earn 72% of what men earn. The way the question was phrased would arouse the spinning hamster of even the most radical hairy armed man jawed feminist, so I'll clean it up a bit: Mitt Romney, you sexist, misogynistic, homophobic, racist, mean old man, what are you going to do about the unspeakable moral outrage of women earning only 72% of what men earn in the same field for doing the same work?

Phrased that way, our equalitarian dander is aroused and we want to leap into action, expressing our support for the sisterhood through snarky Facebook status updates or hilarious picture memes that George Takei will happily share (I swear that man is responsible for about two thirds of the stuff that shows up on my Facebook feed.) Back when I was in full possession of my senses and a ruthless desire to ascend to positions of wealth and power, I was an economics major in college. I switched to history because I'm foolish and not fond of gainful employment, but I still remember a few pearls of wisdom extracted from the muck of statistics and econometrics. Economics can be boiled down to one maxim: people respond to incentives. Everything else is commentary. So, that being the case, I'm curious about something.

If it's actually true that women only earn 72% of what men earn in the same fields for doing the same work, then why does anyone hire men at all? Are employers so eager for an all male work environment that they're willing to pay through the nose for it? If I'm a Captain of Finance and Binder of Women, wouldn't it make more sense to fire all the men and replace them with women so I can save 28% on labor costs?

Now, if Mitt Romney had possessed a lick of sense, or a death wish depending on how cynical you are, he could have said that women tend to major in less lucrative disciplines and work in less lucrative fields. Women tend to call in sick more, take more time off,  switch jobs more often, take maternity leave, and often leave the workforce all together once they're pregnant or have become mothers. The average university now skews 60-40 female. In some parts of the country, single women are actually earning more than single men, and this imbalance is likely to expand.

All of this is true, but it would clash with the triumph of the will of the free and equal liberal ubermensch to say any of it out loud. In our feminist world, women are free to criticize but no one must ever, ever criticize women or their choices. To do so reveals one to be a jerk who hates women and probably doesn't have a girlfriend. Judgmentalism for me but not for thee. Men and women are fungible and how dare you insinuate that some of their differences may not be socially constructed.

The Soviet Union formally died in 1991, but it had unofficially died when the people and their leadership stopped believing in their own founding principles. What can't go on forever, won't. Reality will out. How much longer does advanced liberalism have before reality comes roaring back?

Fund raising like a boss

I'm a third degree Knight of Columbus and this weekend the Knights are running their annual fundraiser for children with intellectual disabilities, popularly known as the "Tootsie Roll Drive." Knights set up tables outside supermarkets and other high traffic locales and we offer people complimentary Tootsie Rolls. They then see our cans for collecting money, the brochures explaining the hows and whys of the drive, where the money goes, what kind of people it helps, and so on and so forth. Normally us introverts run away screaming from the idea of actually asking strangers for money. Beefy Levinson, however, is no normal introvert and he does not ask for money like a normal fundraiser.

Ask any number of teachers, speech coaches, mentors, and other public figures who have tried to form me into a civilized human being. It usually goes something like this:

"Now remember Beefy, you're representing [X] here, so remember to smile, greet, and thank everyone..."

"Nuts to that [that's what I say in mixed company anyway]. Beefy Levinson only smiles at beautiful women. If he feels like it. Everyone else gets the almost imperceptible nod of respect."

And so it went. I stood my ground outside the supermarket, hands clasped behind my back, silently surveying my domain, the perfect example of the solemn ass. Everyone knows the Knights anyway, and their bright yellow apron which gently rested upon my person did all of the talking for me. The only words I really ever said were "Thank you for your generosity sir/ma'am."

The Tootsie Rolls are almost superfluous. I literally could not give them away. Eventually I told people to think of it as free Halloween candy to give out in two weeks. Speaking of Halloween, I've already been to one party last weekend. I have a few more to attend next weekend. Beefy Levinson is in high demand despite his casual jackassery. My costume this year is The Most Interesting Man In The World from the Dos Equis advertising campaign. Everyone called me out on my walking around with a gin and tonic or Black Russian. Without missing a beat I replied, "I don't always drink beer."

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

The God King of mankind returns

So far the debate is playing out like I expected: the God King has been aroused into righteous fury over the interloper who dared to humiliate him two weeks ago. As much as I relished hearing Obama's simpering groupies rake him over the coals after the first debate, I knew it was too good to last and that tonight we'd see a regression to the mean, i.e. Obama would do better and Romney would do worse compared to the first debate. The media will describe this as a solid Obama victory and the Republicans will complain about the moderator.

Politics in general, and these debates in particular, are cringe worthy because left-liberals control the frame, and right-liberals twist themselves into pretzels to prove negatives: "I don't have a problem with women! Some of my best employees are women!"Left-liberals wish to go full speed-ahead while right-liberals use the century old language of 20th century Progressives to ameliorate the worst consequences of liberalism without ever questioning liberalism itself. I'm not a business owner but if I were, and some man boobed busy body from the $PLC accused my board of directors of being excessively monochromatic, my response would be "Yeah, so what?"

My ears may have deceived me since I'm focusing much of my attention on laughing uproariously over the archives of hetexted.com, but I think Romney defended himself against one of the God King's accusations of being anti-woman by affirming that he favors access to contraception for all.

I just heard Romney call Obama a good speaker. I try to avoid internet abbreviations outside of texting but seriously, LULZ.

Anyway, we'll see if this manages to reverse Romney's momentum.

If only, if only

Thirty four years ago today, Karol Cardinal Wojtyla was elected to the papacy and took the regnal name John Paul II.


Many of my fellow Trads took issue with the late Holy Father's beatification. How is it, they asked, that someone who publicly kissed the Koran, prayed with heathens and heretics at Assisi, and turned a blind eye to the sins of Marcial Maciel among others, can be held up as someone worthy of veneration? Yes, they say, he may have been personally holy, and he held the line on the Church's moral teaching, but the Church continued to crumble in many other crucial areas under his stewardship.

Personally, I take great comfort from all of that. Of course it would have been better still if those things had never happened, and if John Paul II had been more willing to exercise discipline over heretics like Hans Kung and openly rebellious religious like the Jesuits. But if God can be merciful to JPII despite his mistakes, then it gives me hope he'll be merciful to me too.

If I live to be 120, I'll never understand why the hippies and Modernists complained so much about JPII's supposed right-wing tyranny. To hear them tell it, agents of the Polish Inquisition were under every bed, ready, able, and eager to drag off dissenting theologians and progressive religious sisters into the night. I could only sigh, shake my head, and say "If only, if only..."

That hamster spins right 'round, right 'round

Over the weekend I delved into Roissy's archives to learn about Game and the greater manosphere. Game has a bad reputation among women and men who don't understand it; they see it as the tools used by pickup artists (PUAs), the garbage collectors of the sexual revolution, to get into the pants of sluts and whores. This is wrong. Men who try to be good Christians see it as the means to the end of fornication and exploiting women. This is also wrong. Being the intellectually inclined ectomorphic INTJ that I am, I find Vox Day's take on Game to be especially fascinating. Whereas Roissy and his confreres focus like a laser beam on scoring, Vox takes a broader socio-sexual view of Game.

To wonder whether Game is compatible with being a good Catholic is to make a category error. It's like asking whether a hammer is compatible with being a good Catholic. You can use a hammer to build a house or smash someone's head in. You can use Game to score with a bevy of beautiful babes or you can use it to help you find a suitable wife. Game is a tool. What kind of tool?

Broadly speaking, Game makes claims about human nature. You can cry about how mean, and cruel, and insensitive those claims may be, but at the end of the day those claims either are objectively true or they are not. Roissy and Vox correctly assert that while we may invent new toys for ourselves, human nature is immutable. There is no difference between human beings in the 21st century as opposed to human beings who lived under Julius Caesar. Game holds that in addition to an immutable human nature, men and women qua men and women have natures. Sound familiar? "Male and female He created them..."

If human nature is immutable, along with the essences of "maleness" and "femaleness", then that implies we can learn truths from it just as we can learn truths about any other objective system. Game holds that women are most attracted to a certain kind of man, and that it's possible for men to become that kind of man. I make it sound bland and inoffensive, but the reason why losers and feminist harridans despise it so much is that it flies in the face of everything our culture trains men to be like today. Stop me if you've heard this one: "BE YOURSELF. Be a gentleman. Be a knight in shining armor. Be chivalrous. Open the door. Pull out her chair. She is good, and noble, and true, and pure, and superior to you in every way. You are a man, and men are nasty, brutish, sex-crazed fiends." If you learn nothing else about game, you should learn this: don't put women on pedestals. There's only one woman in human history who was without sin. Losers (gamma males in Vox's terminology) are the men who alternate between making women collectively the fourth person of the Holy Trinity and despising all of womenkind, usually depending on whether or not a pretty girl acknowledged him that day. Women love dominant men but our culture and our legal regime treats dominant men as threats to Western civilization. Women are becoming more mannish and men more effeminate.

The more I read about Game, the more it strikes me as another case of our grandparents being right all along.

Saturday, October 13, 2012

You are wasting your vote

The modern mind believes that the purpose of elections is for free and equal people to decide how we are to be governed. This is wrong.

The modern mind believes that voting for a third party candidate who has no realistic chance of winning is wasting one's vote at best, actively contributing to the victory of one of the two viable candidates at worst. This is also wrong.

The purpose of elections is to take liberalism as a given and then build social consensus around that liberalism. There's nothing wrong with building social consensus. Obviously, there must be some degree of social consensus if we are to have a functioning society or any hope of a decent life in this world. The problem is too many people believe elections to be something they are not. Most people who vote do so believing that they are influencing the outcome of the election and ultimately how they are governed. If more people accepted the truth that they are simply making a pledge of allegiance to the already established liberal consensus, far fewer of them would go to the trouble of casting a ballot.

Thus the viability argument is born. We are told that voting for a third party candidate is a vote for Obama or Romney. Leaving aside the mathematical illiteracy of that assertion for the moment, the implication is that we are silencing ourselves. Our voice will go unheard if we throw our vote away on someone who has no chance of winning. Two arguments are being conflated here. It is highly improbable that a third party candidate will win the presidency next month, no question about that. It is absolutely impossible that my one vote will decide the presidential election between the two major party candidates ("I can imagine it happening without involving a contradiction" does not mean "It is actually possible in reality.")

Let's say that in a post-apocalyptic future America, both parties support cannibalism. One party believes in the unrestricted, absolute right to cannibalism, and the other party believes cannibalism should only be allowed under certain circumstances. Now imagine that a third party candidate also runs for the presidency on the platform that cannibalism is wrong and should be outlawed in all circumstances. Is he likely to win the presidency? Not if that future America is anything like the one we have now. Should we vote for the party that only allows cannibalism under certain circumstances? There may be less cannibalism in absolute numbers, but you'd still be voting for a cannibal. You'd still be pledging your allegiance to the new cannibal order.

The only significant effect your vote has on anything at all - so big that it dwarfs all other effects it may have in the real world - is the effect it has on you. By voting for a candidate who supports cannibalism, or abortion, or gay "marriage," or no fault divorce, or endless war to impose democracy, the more you perpetuate the ruling liberal consensus. Doesn't any conservative ever stop and think about how despite thirty years of Republican ascendancy we still see liberalism advancing unchecked?

People who urge others to vote for one of the two viable candidates for pragmatic reasons are being anything other than pragmatic. I have bad news for people who believe voting for a third party is wasting your vote: you are wasting your vote. You are asking me to abandon my principles when doing so will not affect the election anyway.

Friday, October 12, 2012

A day late and a dollar short

I listened to the debate on the radio last night so I didn't see any of Biden's offensive body language that the right blogosphere is complaining about so much today. I expected Joe to be a pompous ass - because he is - and he didn't disappoint. His mission was to lift Democratic spirits out of their crushing depression caused by Obama's implosion last week. In the long run I don't think this will affect the polls much. The sort of people who give a rat's hind quarters about a vice presidential debate are mostly people who have already made up their minds how to vote.

Far be it from me to ever compare myself to a saint, but sometimes I wish I could meet the vice president and say, "Joe... it profits a man nothing to gain the whole world and forfeit his soul... but for the vice presidency of the United States?

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Hope and change, Church style

Well, look on the bright side: Most Catholics are now completely without sin! At least, most of us don't feel the need to go to confession, like, ever. Just trying to be more positive.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Worst. Generation. Ever.

The Irony of 60's "Liberation:"

The ‘60s claimed to be about liberation. In fact, they were much more about the rise of a new ruling class of experts, managers, and media people. That class, which is still with us, has some unusual qualities. The most notable is that it denies that it is a ruling class, and claims instead to be a neutral means through which expertise, rational administration, and the machinery of publicity help people attain their goals. Our rulers today tell us they are here to help us: to educate us, free us from the prejudices of the past, let us know what we really want, and make sure we all get it. They claim their power is liberating, and back up the claim by pointing to their suppression of authorities that compete with them, such as family, custom, religion, and traditional hierarchies. If we can go shopping, play video games, surf the Internet, and sleep around, and we don’t have to listen to Mom, Dad, or the Pope, we must be free. Aren’t suppression of incorrect thoughts and safeguards like the Health, Education and Welfare (HEW) mandate worth having to protect that?
 
Liberalism always speaks in terms of "rights" instead of "obligations." An unreflective modern believes that human history is the gradual discovery of more and more rights. More rights equals more freedom. Tradition and nature are allowed some space but only to the extent that they are freely chosen. Unchosen constraints are obstacles to be destroyed. If they cannot be destroyed, then they must be made to not matter or be treated as untrue within certain contexts. Racial equality, for example, demands that we believe race not matter within the context of certain moral, political, and economic questions. If this means that things which are actually true must be treated as untrue, then so be it. Hence the endless liberal agonizing over how to close The Gap in education.

This is, of course, nonsense. One man's right always implies another man's obligation. Liberalism cannot deal with irreconcilable conflicts between two visions of the good, so it puts itself forward as an impartial mediator. Barack Obama believes that Americans have the right to free contraception through Obamacare, but this right implies the Catholic Church's health care programs have an obligation to provide it. In practice, liberalism always creates an oppressor class to be overcome by the free and equal new man. It leads to entire classes of human beings being dehumanized and made acceptable to murder: unborn children, the sick, the elderly, and the crippled. It leads to people mutilating their bodies with piercings and tattoos, and being open, self-righteous sodomites.

And all the while our ruling class assures us that they are not doing what they are doing. Nice work if you can get it.

Hope and Change

Daniel Pipes on Mitt Romney on foreign policy:

First, Romney’s policy ideas echo the rosy-tinted themes of George W. Bush’s failed policies in the region. Flush with optimism for Afghanistan, Iraq, and “Palestine,” Bush spoke a language that now seems from another world. For example, almost exactly nine years ago he predicted “a free Iraq [that] will be an example of freedom’s power throughout the Middle East.”
 
The older I get the less convinced I am that people love freedom. I'm not willing to fight, kill, or die for an abstract concept like "freedom." I am willing to fight for my particular way of life. I'm willing to fight in defense of my family and my home. Freedom does not mean doing whatever we please. I doubt that even Bush thought that was the kind of freedom the Muslim world yearns for, because they manifestly do not want that kind of freedom. Freedom means the freedom to pursue the good. Freedom means freedom to do what we ought, not what we please. Other things being equal, it is better to live in a good polity with no right to vote than it is to live in a corrupt, decadent polity with the right to vote.

Second, except in reference to the attack in Benghazi, Romney pointedly avoids mention of Islam, Islamism, or jihad. Rather, he refers to “terrorists who use violence to impose their dark ideology,” avoiding the real issue and portending problems ahead.
 
Their dark ideology is, in fact, Islam. Most people in the English speaking world are raging nominalists. There is no such thing as "Islam" per se. Islam can be whatever Muslims want it to be. If we can convince enough moderate or secular liberal Muslims that Islam is actually peaceful, then presto, Islam is peaceful and all of our problems go away. Islam is what it is, independent of what any individual Muslim or group of Muslims think it is. The problem is Islam, and we should act accordingly.

Third, his readiness to jump into the Syrian morass worries me. While one can hardly disagree with Romney’s call to “identify and organize those members of the opposition who share our values and ensure they obtain the arms they need,” those friendly members of the opposition are, in fact, a bedraggled few. Operationally, Romney is prepared to arm the Turkish-allied Islamists, a long-term prospect even more frightening than the Iranian-allied Assad regime now in power.
In office, I hope that Romney will shake the GWB-era illusions, not repeat them.
That last sentence reminds me of a scene from Planet of the Apes: Charlton Heston has been imprisoned by the apes and he asks one of his guards, "When may I hope to be released?" The ape responds, "You may hope whenever you please." Mr. Pipes could, you know, take action and vigorously argue against intervening in Syria...

h.t.: Larry Auster
 

Some thoughts on the "New Evangelization"

The cynical Catholic inside of me looks at the phrase "New Evangelization" and interprets it as "Our shepherds have been running the Church into the ground for fifty years and now they need us lay people to repair all the damage they've done." The most important thing lay Catholics can do to rebuild the Lord's house is pursuing sanctity. The Church doesn't need more golf games, more Oktoberfests, more luaus, although there's nothing wrong with these things; she needs more saints. As a Traditionalist, I believe that the spiritualities and devotions of the pre-conciliar Church have proven themselves as paths to holiness, far more so than anything the post-conciliar Church has churned out since 1965. The pre-conciliar liturgy, in particular, has nourished the spiritual lives of thousands upon thousands of saints, martyrs, doctors, and confessors. If it was good enough for them, it's good enough for us. Yes, the culture is a mess but the culture is the way it is because we Catholics are the way we are.

In particular I'd like to address priests. How is it, I've often asked myself, that men who spend so much of their time speaking to roomfuls of parishioners and preparing to speak in public are, by and large, such God awful speakers and writers? It's not so much that they're preaching heresy, though many of them did in the whirlwind of chaos that demolished God's Church after Vatican II. It's that they don't preach anything at all. Think back to this past Sunday. What is it that your pastor preached about? The Gospel reading for this last Sunday was Jesus's discourse on marriage. I don't know about you, but mine hemmed and hawed and tried to soften our Blessed Lord's hard words about divorce because Catholics now divorce and remarry at the same rates as their non-Catholic neighbors. A ringing denunciation of the great moral evil that is divorce would have made many parishioners uncomfortable. Of course our Lord's mercy is greater than any sin or number of sins we could possibly commit, but it's much easier to not to think about those things. Better just to say that Jesus loves us just the way we are.

Catholics who are active on the internet are generally more well informed about the Faith, and it's easy for us to assume that all Catholics spend as much time on the web learning about it as we do. Here's the thing: they don't. The great majority of Catholics do not volunteer in their parishes. They do not take adult education classes. They don't read Scripture or the Catechism. They pray seldom, if at all. They don't go to confession nearly as often as they ought; sometimes not at all. Two thirds of American Catholics don't fulfill their Sunday obligation during any given week. They don't know and don't practice the Faith in any meaningful way during the week. Of the one third of Catholics who do attend Mass weekly, a good number of them only darken the doorstep of their parish on Sunday. In other words, the Sunday homily is the one time during the week that most Catholics will ever learn something about their Faith.

Given all of that, I think it would behoove priests to hearken to the distant green summers of the 1950's and give a good old fashioned doctrinal sermon once in a while. Most priests homilies are Scriptural exegesis that appeals to the lowest common denominator when it isn't incorporating the latest damn fool theory Scripture scholars invented to soothe their itching ears. We've all heard the Soggy Fish Sandwich explanation for the mulitiplication of the loaves and fishes. If I had a nickel for every homily I've heard that boils down to "Jesus was a nice guy so we should all be nice too," then I could buy myself a fancy steak dinner.

To give an example of what I mean, one of the best homilies I ever heard was on the subject of indulgences: what they are, how to obtain them, and what they can do for us. Did you know you can obtain a plenary indulgence for praying the Rosary in a church or other public setting, along with the other conditions? Or for reading Holy Scripture for 30 minutes a day? The priest said that if we obtained all of the indulgences that are available to us every day, we'd be on the road to sainthood. Another time I heard a homily that explained the difference between venial and mortal sin, and what confession does for us. Simple how-to stuff like that is what we need these days because we certainly haven't been teaching it in the home or in the schools lately.

Priests, I beg of you, give us solid food instead of mashed up peas and carrots baby food. We're willing to help you rebuild the Lord's house, but it would be good if you could meet us halfway.

Monday, October 8, 2012

Bizarro Clinton

Douthat on Romney's debate performance

One debate does not such a leader make. But at the very least, the fact that Romney’s strategy worked so effectively last Wednesday — that it made him seem mainstream and appealing while also winning him plaudits from almost every sort of conservative — suggests that the Republican Party can actually be led, and that its politicians don’t have to be prisoners of talking points and groupthink.
Indeed, the party may actually be ripe for such leadership. Cut through the Kabuki narratives on the contemporary right — the grass roots versus the establishment, the True Conservatives versus the RINOs — and you’ll find that what conservatism actually stands for, issue by issue and policy by policy, is more up for grabs than at any point since the Reagan revolution.
The Reagan nostalgia, the fears of looming socialism, the paranoia about a shiftless 47 percent: They are all symptomatic of a party on the brink of transition rather than one incapable of change. Republicans seem to be clinging to the past mostly because their leaders haven’t shown them what they should stand for in the present.

Romney's critics have trouble making up their minds on whether he is a right-wing extremist or a shameless bullshit artist who will say and do absolutely anything to get elected. Before last week's debate, Obama's team focused on the former. After the debate, they're focusing on the latter. I chuckle when I read liberal pundits professing to be shocked, shocked, that Romney is playing fast and loose with the facts, that he says one thing in front of one audience, and then effortlessly shifts to the opposite position in front of another audience. "The Romney we saw during the debate is not the same Romney who's been campaigning for the past eight weeks!"

I came of age in the 1990's and Romney reminds me of no one more than Bill Clinton. Mitt doesn't have Bill's charisma, but then no other human being on earth does. Bill promised not to raise taxes on the middle class all throughout the 1992 campaign, capitalizing on George H.W. Bush's "Read my lips" mistake. Of course Clinton did raise taxes and was deeply confused when people called him on it. Didn't they understand that it was all just whispering sweet nothings in the voters' ears? Didn't people understand the rules of seduction? (to be fair, if nothing else Clinton knows seduction.)

All throughout his eight year rule, Republicans couldn't decide whether Clinton was a left-wing extremist or a shameless opportunist. What did Clinton really believe in? What were the issues for which he was willing to go to the mat and fight to the bitter end? The only one I can think of is abortion.

So it is with Mitt. What does he really believe? What would he actually do in office? Only God and Mitt know. I live in California so it makes no difference how I vote or if I vote for president. If Mitt continues to make the Left have histrionic meltdowns, then I know who I'll be rooting for a month from now.

Attention budding Catholic writers

If you're interested in writing about the faith, sharing the day-to-day goings on in being a practicing Catholic, or getting to know your fellow Catholic bloggers, consider getting involved with The Catholic Talk Network. Check thou it out.

Friday, October 5, 2012

Fifty years ago today

James Bond made his big screen debut on this day in 1962. The kids of today are wrong about a lot of things, but apropos of Commander Bond's fifty years in film, they are especially wrong about "You Only Live Once." It's YOLT, not YOLO.


Thursday, October 4, 2012

Shallow, dumb post debate analysis

What was it George W. Bush called it... the soft bigotry of low expectations? Romney benefited from that in spades. It doesn't mean he's going to win the election now but it does mean he's stopped losing. Now that people have slept on it, I've noticed that Sullivan's readers are speculating that this is some Machiavellian rope-a-dope ploy on Obama's part, and that he's going to come out swinging in the next debate and put Romney away. The latter is a distinct possibility, but come on. Obama is not David Xanatos. He got walloped. He's not the super genius God King his supporters and the media believe him to be. What happened last night was the country saw the emperor has no clothes. There is simply no way a man of Obama's modest intellect or achievements would have been elected president if he were a white man.

Now that people have had more time to think about the debate, I'm seeing Romney described as a fast talking bullshit artist whose lies came so fast and so furiously that our gentlemanly president chose not to rebut them out of fear of looking like an angry black man. I don't disagree that Romney is a fast talking liar; what politician isn't? But being a fast talking liar never hurt Bill Clinton any. And I wonder if Romney is elected, he'll become the bogeyman for liberals as Clinton was for conservatives during his two terms.

Given the constraints of political correctness, Romney did about as well as he possibly could have. I suspect he'd have been thrown off his game a bit if Lehrer had gotten a word in edgewise had asked about, say, immigration, the homosexualization of the military, gay "marriage," abortion, or other sensitive issues. I used to be much more of a political junkie than I am now, back when I still believed politics and government could actually make a more just society or equitable polity. I don't pay as much attention as I used to. Our masters agree in principle, and debates are just a matter of haggling over details.

That's not to say I don't want the God King taken down. Anything that throws Andrew Sullivan into histrionic meltdowns gives me warm fuzzies. I can't recall ever seeing Chris Matthews so apoplectic. But the next four years are going to be painful no matter who wins. I haven't decided whether it's better to take a lethal dose of poison all at once or to ingest it one drop at a time.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Deep, intelligent post debate analysis

The only way that could have been more of a lopsided ass kicking would be if Romney was a one legged man. If he keeps it up during the next two debates, and Obama continues to wash down some Ambien with Henny before he walks onstage, he might pull victory from the jaws of defeat after all. Might.

The presidential debate drinking game

Take a shot every time you hear one of the following:


  • Make no mistake
  • Let me be clear
  • My opponent would tell you
  • Mired in a recession
  • Raising taxes on the middle class
  • apologizing for America
  • tax cuts for the wealthy
  • 47%
  • You did build that
  • I promise to all Americans
  • Come together to solve our problems
  • I will reduce the deficit
  • my plan to create more jobs
  • He has not provided any details
  • Leading the free world
  • Iran cannot be allowed to have nuclear weapons
  • our friend and ally Israel
Finish the bottle if any of the pundits speak of "zingers" after it's all over.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Time and Punishment

The Totalitarian Double Standard:

What is hard for anyone who is not some kind of leftist ideologue to shove down the memory hole is Hobsbawm’s lifelong dedication to communism, most particularly his unswerving loyalty to Stalin’s memory. To his credit, Hobsbawm never hid his loyalty to the Soviet experiment, and unlike his fellow Stalinist Eric Foner, who scolded Gorbachev for dismantling the Soviet dictatorship, Hobsbawm never grew into a fashionable, politically correct leftist. He died the communist he became while living in Berlin in the early 1930s (or perhaps even earlier). This shows an honesty and consistency that is admirable at some level but also invites the deception and application of double standards that one expects from the usual suspects.
 
During my undergrad years I wrote a historiography on the Soviet Union under Stalin. Basically the right-wing cranks were right all along, but no historian's career prospects were ever hurt by taking a positive attitude toward Uncle Joe. People who recognize Martin Heidegger's name almost always known he was briefly associated with the Nazis. Many of those same people dismiss his work because he was a Nazi after all. Hobsbawm may have been a perfect gentleman and a great scholar, but I believe it is - or should be - a black mark against his record that he was an unrepentant Stalinist. Even I, a dim witted reactionary, am making a distinction between a Stalinist and a run-of-the-mill useful idiot. The latter were idealists who preferred not to look too closely at how communism worked in practice. The former knew full well what the Boss did but you can't make a utopia without breaking some heads.

Why is it that Nazism is considered the most terrible transcendent evil in human history but not communism, which murdered several orders of magnitude more innocent people? Liberals see budding Nazism any time someone speaks against diversity and multiculturalism, while conservatives are hooted down in derision if they call someone a socialist or communist.

Lenin hated the mildly progressive Mensheviks with a white hot fury, far more than he hated the Czarist regime, even though his Bolsheviks had more in common with the Mensheviks than the royals. Liberalism and Nazism have some things in common such as the triumph of the will over ontology,  and equality for those who fall within their definition of human. Nazism is the furthest away from liberalism within the respectable realm of political discourse that the liberal believes exists. Liberalism and Nazism have far more in common with each other than either has in common with Catholic social doctrine.

For all their differences in theory, all of the modern isms create two classes of people: the liberal ubermensch, freed from the arbitrary fetters of history and tradition, and the untermensch oppressor who is still bound by the old ways and prevents the ubermensch from his self-realization. For the Nazi, the untermensch is the non-Aryan and the Jew. For the communist, it's the capitalist. For the liberal, it's the man who believes in a transcendent standard. Each and every one of us is somebody else's untermensch.

Like the communist, the liberal believes that we should be concerned with the things of this world and not some heaven light years away as a popular Catholic hymn puts it. The communist purports to be seeking a better world for everyone, as opposed to the Nazis who only wanted a better world for their own people. The liberal can sympathize with the communist's inclusivity, but not with the Nazi's explicit racialism.

Well, that was quick, even for them

Remember a few weeks ago how the New York Times was breathlessly reporting that an ancient papyrus revealed that Jesus Christ was married? If you don't remember, they'd like to keep it that way. Nothing to see here, move along.

Has anyone else noticed that the "real Jesus" is always a mirror image of whatever cultural hangups we have when he is discovered? Are we obsessed with feminism and equality? Well, Jesus had to have been married then, and wanted female priests too. Is Ronald Reagan picking a fight with the poor Sandanistas? Well, Jesus was a communist revolutionary. Do we chafe against the rules of the Church? Well, Jesus never intended to found a Church. Do we want to dabble in other religions? Well, Jesus spent his childhood in India. If we ever become obsessed with cheese blintzes (and we should; they're delicious) I'm positive a scholar or theologian will discover an ancient papyrus with the Almighty's recipe for the best cheese blintz this side of eternity.

I think people are always searching for the "real Jesus" because they're afraid that the real Jesus is the one who is present in every tabernacle in every Catholic church in the world. Seriously, nothing freaks people out more than the notion that the Catholic Church is right.

Monday, October 1, 2012

Little flowers of fall

On the new calendar, today is the feast of the Little Flower, St. Therese of Lisieux. This cloistered Carmelite nun never left her native France but she became one of the patron saints of missionaries. This is one of the paradoxes of Christianity: conversions are made, sinners repent, and saints persevere through the prayers of religious who may never set foot outside of their convents or monasteries. Therese reminded the Church that it is the small, hidden lives of religious who keep the world turning. If the Church is going to be restored to her former glory, then what is needed are not more youth outreach programs, more parish luaus, more lay minsters and committees, although these are good and sometimes necessary things. What we need are more contemplative religious.

Catholic men in particular are prone to desiring to do great things and end up scorning the small things. Even for those of us who are not called to the religious or priestly life, a hidden life as a layman - perhaps a janitor or a bus driver - can be a path to sanctity. Therese taught us that it is not the greatness or even the difficulty of our deeds that win God's favor, but the love with which we do them. Her spirituality is called the "Little Way" and people who don't know anything about it often think it is an easy path. Not at all, not at all, especially not if one is in the world and faces the temptations that go with it. Therese experienced a terrible dark night of the soul at the end of her life where she faced temptations to atheism and apostasy. What if God didn't exist and only the void awaited her after death? What if she had been deluding herself all along? She persevered and found peace at the end. Therese promised that she would spend her eternity doing good on earth. I don't call on her as much as I should, but it's good to know that there's hope for people who will probably always live quiet obscure lives like me.