Monday, December 29, 2014

Merry Christmas you filthy animal, and a happy new year

When I was a boy, my birthday and Christmas were occasions for indulging my youthful avarice: "I want rocket skates, and a laser rifle, and a breakdancing robot, and all of these video games I've written down here, and cookies, and candy…"

Now that I'm an adult, when my friends and family ask what I want for my birthday and Christmas, I reply, "Uhh… hell, I don't know. I could use some new socks, I guess. Maybe some whiskey. Somebody get me a pack of smokes too. I don't suppose anybody wants to pay one of my bills?"

My mother is the only immediate family I have left so Christmas has become a pretty sedate affair. We used to drive to Washington state to visit my maternal grandparents. I like Washington. It's rife with Godless heathens like California, but their political and cultural scene is much saner nonetheless. My grandparents lived way out in the sticks in the western half of the state. Green forests as far as the eye can see, cool climate, constant rain… I might retire there some day, assuming my generation ever can retire, heh.

Sometimes I describe myself as a "Christmas and Easter Trad." The FSSP parish in my diocese is a decent drive, so I go to the Novus Ordo on Sunday more often than not. But I always make the trip for Christmas and Easter Mass. I need the occasional homeopathic injection of Tradition in order to stay sane.

Today is the feast of St. Thomas Becket. If Holy Mother Church still did it like this, I imagine that Catholic politicians giving her the finger would occur much less often:


Monday, December 22, 2014

This day in history

On this day in the year 69, the Roman emperor Vitellius was captured and murdered at the Gemonian stairs in Rome.

On this day in 1216, Pope Honorius III issued the papal bull Religiosam vitam which approved the Dominican Order.

On this day in 1790, the Turkish fortress of Izmail fell to Alexander Suvorov's armies. Suvorov is one of the very few generals in history who never lost a battle in his entire career.

On this day in 1864, Savannah, Georgia, fell to William Tecumseh Sherman's army, concluding his infamous March to the Sea.

On this day in 1894, the Dreyfus affair began in France when Captain Alfred Dreyfus was wrongly convicted of treason.

On this day in 1944, German forces demand the surrender of American troops at Bastogne, Belgium, prompting General Anthony McAuliffe to reply, "Nuts!"

On this day a little over three decades ago, your not so humble host was born.

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Is he solid?

There's a certain type of character you'll encounter if you spend enough time working with or for the Catholic Church. This character can be male or female, lay person, priest, religious, or bishop. They put in their 8 hours at the office. They do what's formally expected of them. But you get the impression that this is just a paycheck. They don't like discussing the faith after hours. They're just here to get things done, and they get irritated with "those people" who are al...ways complaining about irreverent liturgy here, or diocesan money supporting a pro-abortion company there. They find orthodoxy tiresome. Sometimes they actively undermine it because it's just too onerous for educated Americans who live a fast paced technological lifestyle, although they always furiously resent having their own orthodoxy questioned.

Religion is first and foremost about providing comfort to the people, then about doing charitable works. God is both our therapist and our cheerleader. They're glad, sometimes secretly, sometimes out loud, that Vatican II did away with all of that barbaric medieval nonsense about unbloody sacrifices, about sin, and hell, and demons, and any pretensions about the Catholic Church alone holding all necessary truths for salvation. That kind of talk would make us a laughing stock today. It's fine if a few reactionary fringes believe it privately, but they can't be allowed to become the public face of the Church.

That kind of character gets under my skin far more than any heretic, pagan, or Godless heathen ever could. They, at least, have the integrity to remain outside a Church whose tenets they don't believe. The Catholic who doesn't believe anymore but still collects a paycheck from the Church puts souls in danger of hell, most of all his or her own.

I've noticed that whenever Catholics meet a new priest, they always ask each other, "Is he solid?" What they mean is, is he orthodox and does he celebrate a reverent Mass? And I be over here like, "Shouldn't they all be like that? Shouldn't that be the bare minimum instead of a pleasant surprise?"

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Book Review: The Generals, by Thomas E. Ricks

Ricks is one of my favorite commentators on the American military. His book Fiasco probably did as much to turn American public opinion against the Iraq war as the nightly casualty reports on the news. The comedy of errors that was our adventure in Iraq beggars belief when you really study the personalities and lack of planning involved, but Ricks set it all down in black and white. His latest work on American generalship isn't exclusively or primarily about the 2003 Iraq war, but he shows that the incompetence of our current brass is rooted in the mistakes and personalities of the past.

Ricks begins by describing the American military experience in World War II. Only serious history buffs can usually name any American generals from that time besides Eisenhower and Patton. George Marshall is the closest the modern American military has to a founding father. It was Marshall's system of promoting and firing officers that turned the American armed forces from a third rate backwater to the superpower it is today. Marshall worked hard at remaining cold and impersonal. He never met or chatted with the president socially. He was ruthless in his drive to identify and promote those who could hack it in combat and fire those who couldn't. Marshall and his protégé Eisenhower wanted cool, calm, collected, cooperative team players above all else but who still maintained streaks of optimism and aggression. Marshall relieved some officers who probably didn't deserve it, but back then being relieved of your command wasn't the kiss of death for your career that it is today. It was a sign that the system was working. Men who were relieved often got a second or third chance to prove themselves too.

Some men had trouble fitting into this new paradigm, mainly George Patton and Terry Allen. Douglas MacArthur was the polar opposite of George Marshall, a bombastic, pompous, and increasingly erratic figure who was finally fired by Harry Truman because the Joint Chiefs of Staff didn't know what to do with him anymore. Unfortunately, MacArthur poisoned civil-military relations for decades to come.

The Army failed in Vietnam because it waged World War II style warfare against a 4GW style opponent. William Westmoreland - probably the most unimaginative American officer to ever wear stars - wanted "search and destroy" missions. He failed to realize that in Vietnam the prize was the people, not the terrain or even destroying the North Vietnamese army. The Marines were somewhat more successful because they integrated themselves into villages, making friends, learning the people's routines and thus quickly being able to identify strangers who were Vietcong.

The Army nearly fell apart after Vietnam and was rebuilt from the ground up by William DePuy, Huba Wass de Czege, and William Richardson. DePuy greatly strengthened the Army's tactical proficiency while Wass de Czege and Richardson founded the School of Advanced Military Studies which focused on teaching officers slated for the higher ranks how to think as strategists. Unfortunately, DePuy didn't appreciate the other two or the school they founded. This is reflected in many modern American generals effectively being jumped up battalion commanders. They're great tacticians most of the time, but few of them really know how to think at the operational or strategic level. That's why General Tommy Franks of the recent Iraq and Afghanistan adventures could be asked, "What kind of war are we fighting?" and he responded by describing how to clear a cave. It was a fine answer for a sergeant. From a general, it was astonishing.

The Army is a big institution, and like all big institutions, it tends to put its own welfare first ahead of its ostensible mission. Since World War II, almost all generals who have been relieved have been relieved by civilians, not their brother officers. The rotation system in particular has stymied effective military operations. By the time the officers and men come to fully understand their new environments, they're rotated out. Incompetent officers are left in place because they'll be rotating out anyway, and why bother with all the paperwork? It undermines unit cohesion and sometimes leaves outright criminals unaccountable for their actions. Officers come to "punch their ticket" for a combat tour, and rotate out. This is opposed to World War II where the only way soldiers went home was through Tokyo and Berlin.

These days, officers are generally only relieved because of personal peccadilloes that become public. When careerism waxes and accountability wanes, soldiers get killed. Marshall understood that the career of an officer is not worth the lives of his men. It's unfortunate the Marshall system has broken down. We've returned to our Vietnam type, expecting that moar dakka will fix everything. I hope the Iraqis have tasty cuisine, because a massive influx of Iraqi restaurateurs and cab drivers will be the only thing we gain from our recent adventures.

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Traditional readings, Third Sunday of Advent

Philippians 4:4-7: Rejoice in the Lord always; again, I say, rejoice. Let your modesty be known to all men. The Lord is nigh.
Be nothing solicitous; but in every thing, by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your petitions be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasseth all understanding, keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.
I'm always suspicious of Christians who go on and on about the joy of the Gospel. God wants us to be rich and successful and maniacally happy at all times, they tell us. Rejoice, celebrate, party hard, carry on! Those of us who are grim and reserved by nature, well we must be bad Christians then. The Gospel hasn't really taken hold of us. We lack faith. We make the little baby Jesus cry. The Joel Osteens of the world, they must not ever suffer or feel bad at all, so strong is their faith.

Scripture superficially supports the happy go lucky types. Today is also known as Gaudete Sunday, taken from today's epistle: Gaudete in Domino semper. Doesn't St. Paul himself tell us to rejoice always in the Lord? I think the words "rejoice" and "joy" are becoming as abused as the word "faith." Many people, even many Christians, believe that faith means to believe in something without any evidence at all to support it. The Church has never held to this definition of faith, going so far as to anathematize those who claim the existence of God cannot be proven through reason alone. The theological virtue of faith means accepting truths solely upon the authority of the God who has revealed them.

When St. Paul tells us to rejoice in the Lord always, does that mean we should always be partying hard? Not necessarily. We may feel emotional joy in the fact of our baptism and being in a state of grace, but such emotions are generally gifts from God. We can't manufacture them at will. Everyone suffers and everyone feels bad from time to time, even and especially Catholics. The joy of the Gospel consists partly in rejoicing in our suffering. We have hope in God and hope for paradise where every tear will be wiped away and there will be no more death. As far as the Godless heathen is concerned, suffering is just one damned thing after another. The Christian suffers but he has faith that the God who loves us won't test us beyond our endurance.

John 1:19-28: And this is the testimony of John, when the Jews sent from Jerusalem priests and Levites to him, to ask him: Who art thou? And he confessed, and did not deny: and he confessed: I am not the Christ.
And they asked him: What then? Art thou Elias? And he said: I am not. Art thou the prophet? And he answered: No. They said therefore unto him: Who art thou, that we may give an answer to them that sent us? What sayest thou of thyself? He said: I am the voice of one crying out in the wilderness, make straight the way of the Lord, as said the prophet Isaias. And they that were sent, were of the Pharisees. And they asked him, and said to him: Why then dost thou baptize, if thou be not Christ, nor Elias, nor the prophet?
John answered them, saying: I baptize with water; but there hath stood one in the midst of you, whom you know not. The same is he that shall come after me, who is preferred before me: the latchet of whose shoe I am not worthy to loose. These things were done in Bethania, beyond the Jordan, where John was baptizing. 
Humility is one of the greatest of Christian virtues. Christ tells us, "Learn from me for I am meek and humble of heart." Unfortunately, humility has a bad reputation these days. We think being humble means being a door mat. We think of the humble man as one who neurotically runs himself down, who never stands up for himself or speaks out when the situation warrants it. The humble man is the beta male, the runner up, the good sport who doesn't care about winning or losing. Sounds like a nerdy loser, right?

That's not how the saints understood humility. Humility means recognizing yourself for what you truly are. What are we compared to God? We are weak and sinful creatures. We are incapable of performing meritorious good works without the grace of God. It's God who leads us to prayer, to fasting, to all virtue and holiness. Humility means acknowledging that we are as nothing compared to God, and yet still he loves us and takes care of us. Because we are made in his image and likeness, no human life is worthless or useless. Our fallen nature often rebels at submitting to earthly authority, let alone the authority of God. The saints tamed their egos through mortification. Mortification can take many forms: fasting, abstaining from harmless goods, wearing hair shirts, keeping silent, forgiving injuries, etc. The idea behind mortification is to strengthen our will and our spirit to be more devoted to the things of God. We see the spirit of mortification live on in an increasingly secular world. How many people diet and subject their bodies to rigorous discipline because they want to look beautiful on the outside? Are we going to do less to look beautiful on the inside?

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

The torture report, or the seamless garment of death

One of the devil's greatest tricks is getting us to sin without ever giving us the thing we are willing to sin for. The torture report tells us that not only did we end up torturing innocent men (ice baths, 60+ hours of standing sleep deprivation, rectal feeding, etc.) but the bad guys didn't even give us actionable intelligence. The American Right, still in the thrall of neocons for whom it is always 1938 and everyone is Hitler, says the Democrats are at fault for handing our enemies a propaganda victory.

The Obama administration is reluctant to use the word "torture," and it's inconceivable that they will hold anyone in the torture regime responsible for their actions. So he's pro-abortion and pro-torture by default... a seamless garment of death.

I'm old enough to remember a time when you could think of the United States as basically a good nation that, for all its blunders, had its heart in the right place. I grew up with Ronald Reagan, the shining city on the hill, Mr. Gorbachev tear down this wall, and so on. I remember when the Evil Empire dissolved on Christmas Day 1991 when the Soviet flag was lowered from the Kremlin for the last time. Nothing in this world is all together evil since our being is sustained by the God in whose image and likeness we are made. But the United States did serious evil under George W. Bush and it's unlikely Barack Obama or any future president will hold anyone accountable for that evil.

We like to think of ourselves as so much freer, smarter, more tolerant, more liberal, and just plain better than our savage ancestors. We like to tell ourselves that we've transcended the old superstitions and ideologies that led to the Holocaust or the Communist bloodbaths. It's a bad joke when we consider the bins of slaughtered infants or the dozens of men whom we subjected to torture. We haven't transcended the past. Transcendence can't happen without repentance.

Fake but accurate

Does anyone else remember the 2004 election when Dan Rather was busted for using fraudulent documents as the basis for a major story, and how he defended himself by claiming the documents were "fake but accurate?" We all had a good laugh at his expense and he ultimately lost his job.

With the UVA rape story turning out to be a hoax, Lena Dunham exposed as the white Tawana Brawley, and the media penning non-ironic editorials about how the truth and the facts don't matter because social justice, it turns out Rather was simply too far ahead of the curve. Sure, innocent men may have their lives ruined, but as another great Social Justice Warrior once said, you can't make an omelet without breaking some eggs.

Monday, December 8, 2014

On the Immaculate Conception

Today is a Holy Day of Obligation, so Catholics need to go to Mass. The Novus Ordo readings include the account of Adam and Eve partaking of the forbidden fruit. God punishes the serpent thus:
Then the LORD God said to the serpent:
“Because you have done this, you shall be banned
from all the animals
and from all the wild creatures;
on your belly shall you crawl,
and dirt shall you eat
all the days of your life.
I will put enmity between you and the woman,
and between your offspring and hers;
he will strike at your head,
while you strike at his heel.”
That is the New American Bible translation. The venerable Douay-Rheims puts it like this:
And the Lord God said to the serpent: Because thou hast done this thing, thou art cursed among all cattle, and beasts of the earth: upon thy breast shalt thou go, and earth shalt thou eat all the days of thy life. I will put enmities between thee and the woman, and thy seed and her seed: she shall crush thy head, and thou shalt lie in wait for her heel.
The Latin says "ipsa" and so is rendered "she" in English. Some of the Fathers read it as "ipsum," or "he." In the latter sense, it is the woman's seed, Jesus Christ, that will crush the serpent. In the former example, the woman, understood to be the Virgin Mary, is the one who crushes the serpent. It's an old chestnut of Protestant polemics that Catholics worship the Virgin Mary. Whatever virtues Mary possesses come from the unique graces she received from God. Whatever homage we pay to the Virgin Mary is reflected upon her son, Jesus Christ, from whom all virtue springs.

The way I describe the fall of the angels to children is thus: "God, in his infinite power and wisdom, showed his entire plan of salvation to his angels. Being of preternatural intelligence, angels understand everything at once as opposed to us natural human beings who learn things through linear progression. Lucifer was the most beautiful and powerful of the angels. When he heard that the angels were expected to be helpmates to human beings, when he saw that God would become incarnate and be born through a woman, he balked. 'You expect us magnificent angels to bow down before these... these filthy apes whom you've made from the mud and the slime?! Non serviam!' It was then that St. Michael the Archangel bellowed, 'Who is like God?!' The war in heaven ended when Michael grabbed the traitor Lucifer and power-bombed him spine first onto a fire hydrant so hard that he and his fellow rebels were sucked all the way down into the fiery pit where they remain to this day."

Tradition holds that what really ground Lucifer's gears was the idea that a human woman was to be the greatest of God's creatures. It was offensive enough to him that God was to become man, but to expect that he, Lucifer, would acknowledge a creature to be greater than himself was too much. Anecdotes from exorcists suggest that demons particularly hate invoking the intercession of Mary. She is the greatest of saints and her intercession is uniquely powerful among the saints. If you think loving Mary detracts from the love of God, remember that it's impossible for any of us to love her as much as her son Jesus Christ loved her. Catholics are not bound to believe private revelations, but when the Church hold that private revelations such as Fatima or Lourdes are "worthy of belief," the wise Catholic will listen to what Mary tells us.

This year marks the 160th anniversary of Pope Bl. Pius IX's proclamation of the dogma of the Immaculate Conception. Today is also the 150th anniversary of that same pontiff's "Syllabus of Errors." The Syllabus isn't dogma, but one dearly wishes churchmen still talked like Pio Nono.

Seasons Beatings: Be There or Go to Hell!


Saturday, December 6, 2014

Thursday, December 4, 2014

The Sexodus, or: People respond to incentives

From the comments at Dalrock's blog comes this story from Breitbart:
"My generation of boys is f**ked," says Rupert, a young German video game enthusiast I've been getting to know over the past few months. "Marriage is dead. Divorce means you're screwed for life. Women have given up on monogamy, which makes them uninteresting to us for any serious relationship or raising a family. That's just the way it is. Even if we take the risk, chances are the kids won't be ours. In France, we even have to pay for the kids a wife has through adulterous affairs. 
"In school, boys are screwed over time and again. Schools are engineered for women. In the US, they force-feed boys Ritalin like Skittles to shut them up. And while girls are favoured to fulfil quotas, men are slipping into distant second place.
"Nobody in my generation believes they're going to get a meaningful retirement. We have a third or a quarter of the wealth previous generations had, and everyone's fleeing to higher education to stave off unemployment and poverty because there are no jobs.
"All that wouldn't be so bad if we could at least dull the pain with girls. But we're treated like paedophiles and potential rapists just for showing interest. My generation are the beautiful ones," he sighs, referring to a 1960s experiment on mice that supposedly predicted a grim future for the human race.
After overpopulation ran out of control, the female mice in John Calhoun's "mouse universe" experiment stopped breeding, and the male mice withdrew from the company of others entirely, eating, sleeping, feeding and grooming themselves but doing little else. They had shiny coats, but empty lives.
"The parallels are astounding," says Rupert.
Asking "What's wrong with young men?" has become a cottage industry since the recession began in 2008. Amusingly, many of the stories are framed as, "Get over it, men! Those young ladies need husbands!"
Social commentators, journalists, academics, scientists and young men themselves have all spotted the trend: among men of about 15 to 30 years old, ever-increasing numbers are checking out of society altogether, giving up on women, sex and relationships and retreating into pornography, sexual fetishes, chemical addictions, video games and, in some cases, boorish lad culture, all of which insulate them from a hostile, debilitating social environment created, some argue, by the modern feminist movement.
You can hardly blame them. Cruelly derided as man-children and crybabies for objecting to absurdly unfair conditions in college, bars, clubs and beyond, men are damned if they do and damned if they don't: ridiculed as basement-dwellers for avoiding aggressive, demanding women with unrealistic expectations, or called rapists and misogynists merely for expressing sexual interest.
 I like to think I've contributed in some small way to correcting one of these problems. I've told the girls at LifeTeen that whether they decide to marry or enter religious life, they're going to be asked out by many guys in the mean time. If they're just not feeling it, then kindly reject him. Don't get onto social media and be all, "OMG a total creeper harassed me today!!!"
Meanwhile, boys are falling behind girls academically, perhaps because relentless and well-funded focus has been placed on girls' achievement in the past few decades and little to none on the boys who are now achieving lower grades, fewer honors, fewer degrees and less marketable information economy skills. Boys' literacy, in particular, is in crisis throughout the West. We've been obsessing so much over girls, we haven't noticed that boys have slipped into serious academic trouble. 
I was fortunate that my high school offered a mix of traditional literature in English along with the nascent multiculti propaganda. College, in contrast, was much worse. You could practically see the guys deciding that reading was for chicks and fags. Granted, I have a financial interest in urging more people to read, but it's sad to think the classics of the Western Canon are going untouched because of bad experiences in high school or college. Heinlein probably doesn't qualify as great literature, but I guaran-damn-tee boys would much prefer to read him as opposed to Barbara Kingsolver or Maya Angelou.
Men say the gap between what women say and what they do has never been wider. Men are constantly told they should be delicate, sensitive fellow travellers on the feminist path. But the same women who say they want a nice, unthreatening boyfriend go home and swoon over simple-minded, giant-chested, testosterone-saturated hunks in Game of Thrones. Men know this, and, for some, this giant inconsistency makes the whole game look too much like hard work. Why bother trying to work out what a woman wants, when you can play sports, masturbate or just play video games from the comfort of your bedroom?
This one is easier to solve: pay attention to what women do, not what they say. Whenever a woman states an opinion, mentally tack on, "...right now," to the end of her sentences, i.e. "I believe divorce is a bad thing... right now."
Jack Donovan, a writer based in Portland who has written several books on men and masculinity, each of which has become a cult hit, says the phenomenon is already endemic among the adult population. "I do see a lot of young men who would otherwise be dating and marrying giving up on women," he explains, "Or giving up on the idea of having a wife and family. This includes both the kind of men who would traditionally be a little awkward with women, and the kind of men who aren't awkward with women at all.
"They've done a cost-benefit analysis and realised it is a bad deal. They know that if they invest in a marriage and children, a woman can take all of that away from them on a whim. So they use apps like Tinder and OK Cupid to find women to have protected sex with and resign themselves to being 'players,' or when they get tired of that, 'boyfriends.'"
Extramarital sex is not an option for serious Catholics. Otherwise, I really can't conceive why Godless heathens bother with marriage at all anymore. Civil marriage isn't even a contract when one party can unilaterally dissolve it on a whim. Divorce will financially destroy a man for the rest of his life in most cases. The mother will almost always get the children unless she explicitly says she doesn't want them. I agree it's tragic that so many young men believe being players or permanent boyfriends are their only options. I laugh (because otherwise I'd cry) when the usual suspects say that men need to man up. If you're serious about encouraging young men to get good jobs, marry, and have children, then we need to completely reform our socio-economic paradigm. Because where feminists and white knights see a bunch of immature boys, I see men responding rationally to the incentives of the modern world.

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Book Review: Live Free or Die, by John Ringo

This is a good old fashioned hard science fiction novel. Hard SF is difficult to do well. I've read lots of hard SF that was bad. It generally contains stuff like this:

"Hey professor, are we ready to head off to Alpha Centauri?"
"We certainly are. As you know Bob, we've made remarkable breakthroughs in interstellar travel thanks to work done in the early 21st century by JPL and its dedicated team of scientists such as..."

Bad SF uses its characters as mouthpieces to provide infodumps. At the other end of the spectrum, soft SF and space operas are essentially fantasy stories that take place in the future or in outer space. They seldom go into great detail about how their superior technology actually works. The Star Wars movies are space opera; the films don't explain how lightsabers work or go into much detail about what "hyperspace" is and how it allows them to travel faster than light. Star Trek is soft SF; once in a while an episode will focus on some technical problems the crew is facing, always solved with technobabble.

Hard SF is speculative about science as we currently know it. It takes currently existing technology or what we know about physics in the 21st century and extrapolates it further, whether by decades or centuries. It's difficult to do well, and even if the author fails, he failed while attempting something great. Live Free or Die isn't great but it's a fun read.

Humanity's first contact with extraterrestrial life comes when the Glatun federation builds a "gate" inside our solar system that allows any other species in the galaxy to travel to earth via other gates. The Glatun only want peaceful trade. The Horvath, on the other hand, show up and declare that humanity works for them now. We are to turn over our precious metals or face annihilation. Enter Tyler Vernon a crusty old computer tech, who accidentally discovers a resource on earth for which the Glatun will pay handsomely. Vernon becomes the richest man on earth and uses his newfound wealth to begin constructing weapons that will enable humanity to shake off Horvath rule.

Even the aliens use technology that is reasonably extrapolated from what we currently have. The Glatun, for example, have implants in their brains that basically give them access to the extraterrestrial version of Google. Vernon's crowning achievement is a new space station the size of the Death Star. To acquire the necessary power to mine asteroids for precious metals, his company builds an array of solar powered lasers. Throughout the novel is a 1940s-50s style can-do attitude. The Horvath have seemingly invincible superiority, but we won't go down without a fight.

The dialogue and infodumps can be dry in places, but it succeeded in filling me with a sense of wonder and optimism about what humanity can achieve. As we're living through the self-inflicted fall of Western civilization, I need all the good escapism I can get.

Monday, December 1, 2014

The problem with Francis

"Woe to you when men shall bless you: for according to these things did their fathers to the false prophets." - Luke 6:26

Many of my Godless heathen friends have spoken about how much they love Pope Francis. Just now I saw one of them praise him in a Facebook update, specifically how the pope said atheists can be saved if they do good works. I presume she was referring to this old story. The patheos Pollyannas were quick to leap to the pope's defense, declaring no, he couldn't possibly have said anything like that. It was a translation error and he was only making the nuanced point that if non-Christians are invincibly ignorant and live according to the Natural Law as best they can discern through the lights of their own reason and conscience they can go to heaven. And besides, Pope Francis is a genius at evangelization, something all of you stupid, hateful, evil bigoted Reactionaries hate! You hate your neighbors, you hate Jews, you're schismatics, and you're not as humble, faithful, and eager to share the faith as us! Excuse me, I was channeling Mark Shea there for a minute.

Leaving aside that specific example of the pope's logorrhea, we've seen other examples of Godless heathens praising Francis to the skies such as Elton John and the Advocate magazine. Is this love for Francis motivating them to repent, confess or be baptized, become a formal member of the Catholic Church, and live lives of virtue and holiness? It's possible that it could happen. The example of St. John Paul II has demonstrably inspired conversions. Or is Pope Francis popular with the world because they believe, rightly or wrongly, that he's one of them? That he has to say certain things in public for the sake of us rubes who actually believe this stuff, but he does it with a wink and a nod toward our progressive overlords?

Francis does not inspire confidence. Whenever he appears in the headlines my first thought is always, "Oh God, what has he said this time?" I stand by my earlier assessment: he's a bog standard liberal Jesuit who has a fierce contempt for anything or anyone that smacks of pre-Vatican II Catholicism.


Traditional readings for 1st Sunday of Advent

What goes unsaid eventually goes unthought, which is why I appreciate the prayers of the old Mass so much. Yesterday's Collect:
Stir up thy power, we beseech thee, O Lord, and come: that from the threatening dangers of our sins we may deserve to be rescued by thy protection, and to be saved by thy deliverance: who livest and reignest with God the Father in the unity of the Holy Ghost, God, world without end. Amen.
Compare that with the Novus Ordo Collect for yesterday:
Grant your faithful, we pray, almighty God, the resolve to run forth to meet your Christ with righteous deeds at his coming, so that, gathered at his right hand, they may be worthy to possess the heavenly kingdom. 
This pattern holds throughout the year: the old Mass frequently beseeches God to deliver us from our sins and always has our judgment in mind. The Novus Ordo seldom mentions such things. The first traditional reading comes from St. Paul's letter to the Romans:
Brethren, knowing the season; that it is now the hour for us to rise from sleep. For now our salvation is nearer than when we believed. The night is passed, and the day is at hand. Let us therefore cast off the works of darkness, and put on the armour of light. Let us walk honestly, as in the day: not in rioting and drunkenness, not in chambering and impurities, not in contention and envy: but put ye on the Lord Jesus Christ.
Advent emphasizes the two senses in which we await the coming of Christ: in the weeks before his Nativity, and the end times before his Second Coming. It's not as severe as Lent, but Advent is traditionally a penitential season where we are expected to increase our prayer, fasting, and almsgiving. Every day of Advent brings us closer to the coming of Christ in both senses of the term. Paul urges us to give up the works of darkness because even if the Second Coming isn't happening any time soon, our personal judgment at the moment of our death can come when we least expect it.

The traditional Gospel reading comes from St. Luke:
At that time, Jesus said to his disciples: And there shall be signs in the sun, and in the moon, and in the stars; and upon the earth distress of nations, by reason of the confusion of the roaring of the sea and of the waves;
Men withering away for fear, and expectation of what shall come upon the whole world. For the powers of heaven shall be moved; And then they shall see the Son of man coming in a cloud, with great power and majesty. But when these things begin to come to pass, look up, and lift up your heads, because your redemption is at hand. And he spoke to them in a similitude. See the fig tree, and all the trees: When they now shoot forth their fruit, you know that summer is nigh;
So you also, when you shall see these things come to pass, know that the kingdom of God is at hand. Amen, I say to you, this generation shall not pass away, till all things be fulfilled. Heaven and earth shall pass away, but my words shall not pass away.
The Catholic religion is by nature something of a reactionary enterprise. Doctrine develops, sure, but the New Testament is rife with warnings to Christians to pass on the faith exactly as they received it. Jesus says that heaven and earth will pass away, but his words never will. Paul urges us not to believe any new doctrine even if it ostensibly comes from an angel. The first coming of Christ was in the humblest of circumstances: a stable or a cave. There will be no mistaking his second coming. And that's why Holy Mother Church traditionally urges us to greater works of prayer and penance during this season. At least she used to anyway.

Sunday, November 30, 2014

1st Sunday of Advent


That's long been one of my favorite hymns. Fortunately, the Novus Ordo parishes I've attended almost always include this in their Advent repertoire, albeit in English. I attended Mass after confession last night. If I could only change one thing about the Novus Ordo, I'd have all of the clergy celebrate it ad orientem, read "his back to the people." Having the priest face the people caused more chaos and probably did more long term damage to the Roman Catholic Church than the Protestant Reformation. When the priest faces God, he is exercising his spiritual leadership and fatherhood over the congregation. When the priest faces the people, the temptation is strong for him to become an entertainer. He's nothing so patriarchal as a priest offering sacrifice. No, he's just another member of the community who's been chosen to preside over a gathering of friends. We look at each other, he smiles, cracks jokes, we laugh, we hold hands, etc.

Novus Ordo parishes can be very nice and chummy, the way office parties can be nice and chummy. If you attend daily Mass regularly they might ask you to be a lector or an Extraordinary Minister of Holy Communion. I've been a lector, but I always politely but firmly refuse to ever be an EMHC. I don't believe unconsecrated fingers should be handling the chalice or paten, let alone the Eucharist.

It's funny how I feel much closer to the FSSP congregation than I ever have at a Novus Ordo parish where they emphasize how welcoming and inclusive they are. It might have something to do with how Traditionalists generally wear the same scars from the same battles with the hierarchy. But ultimately I think it's because in a Trad setting, I know we're mostly on the same page. I know these people believe and worship and pray in the same way I do. We all have the same goal: getting into heaven. At Novus Ordo parishes, you never know what people really believe. This isn't Beefy Levinson being uncharitable, this is statistical fact. We may share a common baptism, but many of my fellow Catholics feel as alien to me as mainline Protestants or Evangelicals.

I'm friends with many priests and seminarians on Facebook thanks to my years in the seminary. One of them posted this story this morning. "If only I had known, if only someone had told me," said one of the husbands. God have mercy on those whose responsibility it was to teach him. Orthodoxy and charity are never in conflict. If it appears that they are, either you don't understand orthodoxy or you don't understand charity.

Saturday, November 29, 2014

Book Review: The Profession, by Steven Pressfield

Pressfield has always had a gift for writing the warrior's mind. His first novel was The Legend of Bagger Vance and he somehow went from writing about a magic black man to the Spartans at Thermopylae.  The Hot Gates was the first Pressfield novel I ever read many years ago and I was hooked. Thanks to 300 everyone now knows the story of Leonidas's stand at the Hot Gates. The movie was based on a comic book fantasy. The novel takes a more realistic approach but it was still a great read.

The Profession takes place in the not too distant future, almost next Sunday AD. In the year 2032 private military companies wield power that rivals some nation states. The story is told through the mouth of Colonel Gilbert "Gent" Gentilhomme. He works for Force Insertion which is commanded by disgraced ex-Marine Corps General James Salter. Salter manipulates, bribes, and forces his way onto the world stage when his company seizes control of Middle Eastern oil fields. He becomes the wealthiest and most powerful man on earth. What he wants most is to return to the United States where the American people are willing to make him a Roman-style dictator. Salter and Gent are as close as father and son. The climax of the novel is Gent having to decide what he loves more: the general under whom he's served all of his adult life, or the principles on which the United States was founded. I have to admit, the ending was a surprise.

Gent admits that no PMC is a match for the United States military in a straight up fight. The American people quickly grow to love mercenaries though because 1) many of them are American born and American trained professional soldiers who are finally getting paid what they deserve; 2) mercs specialize in the kind of warfare that takes place inside so-called failed states; and 3) Americans can continue scratching that itch for humanitarian interventions around the world without putting their own children in harms way anymore. Just hire your friendly neighborhood mercenaries.

Gent waxes poetical a few times about the nature of soldiering in a world dominated by mercenaries. Every one of them has fought for a nation or a flag. All soldiers - all men for that matter - are romantics. The mercs all had their hearts broken fighting for a nation. It's become a cliche that soldiers fight for the man next to them, but the mercenaries in this book have gone even further: they fight because they like to fight. For some of them, it's the only thing they're good at.

In the real world, PMCs are mostly used to provide support or personal protection for VIPs (see Blackwater in Iraq.) In waging conventional warfare, the United States is second to none. But conventional wars a la World War II are now the exception and not the norm. Small scale clashes involving non-state actors is what makes the world go round today. Twice in this century the US has attempted and failed to put down insurgencies by guerrilla forces in Iraq and Afghanistan. The much celebrated "Surge" during the Bush years only made the insurgents lie low. In short, they live there and we don't. The only reasonable opportunity for victory we ever had was strengthening the feckless Iraqi government. Rumors on the internets say that Iraqi soldiers are throwing down their weapons and running for their lives against the forces of ISIS. Afghanistan was never going to change. Alexander the Great, the British, and the Soviets were all serious about building empires and they all failed. The United States, which is an empire in denial, never stood a chance.

Bill O'Reilly received much mockery for his suggestion that the US create a mercenary force to fight for us against ISIS. But who else is going to do it if the US is unable or unwilling to wage another full scale war in Iraq? One thing insurgents everywhere understand is that the will to fight is paramount. If you can break your opponent's will, then it doesn't matter how strong he his, how much hardware he has, how much money he can throw around. The Vietnamese communists never stood a chance against the full power of the American military, so they continued the strategy that was so effective against the French: avoid pitched battles whenever possible and whittle down their forces through attrition. The Confederate States of America never officially made up its mind how it wanted to fight the Civil War. Robert E. Lee wanted to wage conventional warfare offensively against the more powerful North. Ulysses S. Grant and William T. Sherman believed that they had to destroy the Confederate army and break the Confederate will to fight, respectively.

As Satanically evil as ISIS may be, the United States won't wage war against them unless and until they strike us personally. As always when it comes to American policy in the Middle East, it's the Christians who are suffering the most for it. And what will we have to show for our Iraqi adventures fifty years from now? I hope the Iraqis have tasty cuisine because they're going to open a lot of restaurants here.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Book Review: Swords of the Emperor, by Chris Wraight

I purchased the two books Sword of Justice and Sword of Vengeance separately a few years ago. Today they're bundled in one volume. Warhammer tie-in novels probably won't ever rise to the level of great literature. If you want stories of badass dudes performing badass deeds though, they've got you covered.

The books focus on the Emperor Karl Franz's greatest warriors, Ludwig Schwarzhelm and Kurt Helborg. Schwartzhelm is the strong and silent type who never, ever smiles. Helborg is the more flamboyant of the two who embraces his role as military celebrity. The plot involves political succession in a backwater realm of the Empire. Schwarzhelm is sent to mediate the dispute. Political intrigue, street fighting, betrayal, pitched battles, and of course Chaos are all involved.

Wraight paints vivid pictures of Schwarzhelm and Helborg. By the end, you know how they'd react to any situation. The villains are despicably evil and you become invested in seeing their defeat. The rich cast of supporting characters also have strong personalities: the spy, the infantry captain promoted through the ranks, the two contenders for the throne, and the Chaos-ridden puppet master. Besides strong characters, the plot was intriguing and compelled me to read on. Wraight is quite good at describing the Renaissance-era type warfare of the setting. As a Ren Faire actor myself, I could sympathize with the halberdiers.

I've always liked Warhammer Fantasy more than Warhammer 40K. The latter is so unremittingly grimdark that it's difficult for me to become invested in the characters. WHFB is also far out on the cynical side of the sliding scale but there I get a sense that it's possible for humanity to survive and thrive. Plus I'd be lying if I said I didn't want the Catholic Church to be less of a humanist social work organization and more of a literal Church Militant.

The Cult of Sigmar reads like a parody of atheist stereotypes about the Catholic Church: warrior priests swinging mighty warhammers while bellowing hymns about burning the heretic and purging the unclean. I dare say the Church would probably be in better shape today if she was closer to that extreme than its latitudinarian opposite. I admit it was inspiring to hear Schwarzhelm, Helborg, and Grand Theogonist Volkmar the Grim assure their men that faith preserves.

I give Chris Wraight's Swords of the Emperor duology four out of five stars.

What price, truth?

Father Jerry Pokorsky asks the question:
On the flight home, I reflected about how gloomy it was. A woman dedicated to Christ – a woman who received from lay benefactors a lifetime of pay and benefits, the costs of formation and education – reducing her ministry to an epitaph fitting nicely if sadly on a tombstone:  “I do not believe in doctrine, I believe in love.”
In return for all the money spent on priests and religious, is it too much to expect that our benefactors receive the faith, the true faith, and nothing but the faith?
A graph is worth a thousand words:
Last weekend we read out a Diocesan pastoral letter at all Masses and distributed leaflets outlining future plans for the development of the Diocese. The leaflet makes interesting and indeed, amusing reading in that it speaks of a diocese “founded on an immensely rich Christian heritage that has thrived and flourished over hundreds of years despite the many difficulties it has faced”. Directly beneath these words are two graphs showing the decline in Diocesan priests (from 360 in 1972 to 150 in 2013) and of Mass attendance (from 100,000 in 1980 to 40,000 in 2014).

If the Diocese flourished so well during the Viking Invasions and Reformation Persecutions but has dwindled in the last fifty years, we need to ask “what have we been doing that precipitated this?”. After all, we came through the Viking raids and Reformation in flourishing manner; why have we not overcome the person-centred, subjectivist, relativist ideologies of the 1960’s? Probably because the person-centred, subjectivist, relativist ideologies tap into our concupiscence; we are all too keen on self-satisfaction and aggrandizement.
 Well formed lay Catholics always figure out pretty quickly if a diocese, religious institute, seminary, or other Catholic organization is squishy on doctrine or not. If they are, then those organizations die out from lack of money or lack of vocations. Where doctrine is solid, money and vocations are seldom a worry. This is empirically demonstrable, but still so many dioceses and religious communities cling to the humanist, subjectivist, relativist ideologies of the 1960s that have led them to the brink of ruin.

I think Father is on to something when he blames our self-satisfaction and self-aggrandizement. Many active priests and religious have spent their entire adult lives high on the spirit of Vatican II, and nobody likes to hear that their life's work, though perhaps a noble experiment, has been an unmitigated disaster.

Things are gradually improving to be sure, but we can't take that improvement for granted. Lay people must know the faith well enough to call Father or Sister out when they go off the rails. Father and Sister must know the faith well enough to be confident in their leadership and teaching. Whenever Father gives a good homily I always shake his hand and tell him so after Mass. If he gives the bog standard "Jesus was a nice guy so we should all be nice too," then I just scowl and shake my head. If we're outside, I spit too.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

For Sigmar! For the Empire!

In these dark days, men need the Church to man up:
All this is true, but misses the elephant in the Church that Monsignor Pope writes about, the unspoken force that pushes men out of the Church.  It is not enough for men to man up to manhood, but the church herself needs to man up and make room for these men being men. An unbalanced message that concentrates on forgiveness, love, receptivity, and niceness to the exclusion of other virtues and spiritual truths, does not make this room.  Being shamed for their position of leadership in the home, in the culture, and in the Church, does not provide this space.  Failing to equip men to assume their God-given role as husbands, fathers, pastors, priests, leaders, followers--ultimate responsibility for correcting this failure falls upon Church leadership, not on lay men.

Simply hectoring lay men to step up isn't enough. In fact, it's the opposite of enough, and it pushes men away when they see actions at cross purposes with words.  Instead, when one looks at the faith traditions that are growing today--liberalism, Islam, evangelical Christianity, Orthodox Christianity--one notes a common thread connecting them all: An unapologetic assertion of truth and, for the latter three, clearly demarcated roles for the masculine and feminine.
Women pretty much run the US Catholic Church in every position that doesn't explicitly require Holy Orders. Even then, I've seen some priests find creative ways to let women give the homily, usually calling it a reflection or a testimonial. My own diocese of Sacramento has a chancellorette. Priests are always loathe to bite the hand that feeds them, which makes it a bit rich when they deliver a bog standard "man up" homily. Why should I listen to a man who can't even stand up to a few ball breaking soccer moms or brassy old grandmothers on the parish council or liturgy committee?

To be fair, Monsignor Pope is a good priest and I can't really disagree with anything in his original column. I posted this on Facebook and the feedback I got from one girl got me thinking. Monsignor said that the men he's spoken with avoid the Church because it's feminized. This jives with my own experience and the opinions of a lot of other men I know. Would the opposite be true though: would women avoid the Church if it was a hardcore, ultra-masculine, Crusader-spirit, witch-hunting, heretic burning, hellfire and brimstone preaching Warhammer like organization?

 Cardinal Burke (L) correcting Cardinal Kasper (R)
 
Of course not. If anything, the Church would see an influx of more women as more men flocked to its gates. Islam isn't known for being especially female friendly, yet more and more Western women who grew up as Godless heathens are converting and putting on the burka.  Men need to be men of course, but it would be of great help if the Church supported us and gave us room to be men within her structure, whether as priests, religious, or lay men.

Greetings to a new friend, diets, and the dearth of youngins

I have been added to the blogroll of the Deus Ex Machina blog. Check him out. I may have to begin speaking of my five loyal readers now.

The diet is going well. It's been six weeks and I'm down thirty pounds. Remember: eggs for breakfast, rare steak for lunch, whiskey for dinner. Every sixth day is your cheat day. I've got more energy than a train loaded with dynamite crashing into a nuclear submarine that's on fire.

The local FSSP parish is the exception to most of the rules, but there's definitely a shortage of singles at the typical Novus Ordo parish. Whenever I attend the Novus Ordo on Sunday, it's mostly a sea of white hair interspersed with a few young families who have very young children or recently baptized infants. Unmarried young adults between the ages of 18-29 are virtually nonexistent. I don't think it's a phenomenon restricted only to a few parishes in northern California. It's a cliché now: good Catholic boy or girl is an altar server, attends all of the classes, receives all the sacraments, goes off to college, never darkens the doorstep of a parish again until sometime in their mid to late thirties, if ever.

Everyone from bishops to bloggers has spilled a lot of virtual ink about this problem. The hierarchy usually blames things like our sex obsessed culture, the easy access to contraceptives, and the secular nature of most universities, including and especially the so-called Catholic ones. The real problem lies squarely with the Church herself. Bad catechesis is always the scapegoat but I think it's a symptom of a deeper problem: we don't take the faith seriously anymore.

That's not to say we should always come across as grim and dour when teaching or talking about the faith. But earlier generations approached it in a way that we haven't for a long time. They could have fun but in the end they understood that obeying the commandments and the precepts was a matter of eternal life and death. They accepted the reality of the supernatural and preternatural in a way we don't.

This is reflected in the documents of Vatican II which have informed virtually all of the Church's official thinking and analysis of the last fifty years. To be blunt, a lot of the Church's official teaching has been informed with humanist gobbledygook. We don't think of the Church's mission as the salvation of souls anymore but providing ease and comfort to man in this world. We used to make a distinction between the corporal and the spiritual works of mercy, and both were laudable. Now the Church herself often scolds us for performing old fashioned works of mercy like "instructing the ignorant" or "admonishing the sinner."

Young people pick up on this. If all it means to be a Christian is to be a nice guy, then what do we need to go to Mass for? Why do we need to believe in God at all for that matter, beyond thinking of him as our personal cheerleader? If nothing else, working with teenagers has proven to me that young people crave discipline and order. The harsher I am in my instructional methods, the more they eat it up. You don't have to be drill instructor hardcore; just don't sugarcoat anything. If they're instilled with good habits and good instruction as teenagers, it's that much more likely they'll stick with the faith through college instead of going off to sow their wild oats.

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Ideological warfare, 4gen, and the will to power

A general reflects on two failed wars:
Here’s a legend that’s going around these days. In 2003, the United States invaded Iraq and toppled a dictator. We botched the follow-through, and a vicious insurgency erupted. Four years later, we surged in fresh troops, adopted improved counterinsurgency tactics and won the war. And then dithering American politicians squandered the gains. It’s a compelling story. But it’s just that — a story.
The surge in Iraq did not “win” anything. It bought time. It allowed us to kill some more bad guys and feel better about ourselves. But in the end, shackled to a corrupt, sectarian government in Baghdad and hobbled by our fellow Americans’ unwillingness to commit to a fight lasting decades, the surge just forestalled today’s stalemate. Like a handful of aspirin gobbled by a fevered patient, the surge cooled the symptoms. But the underlying disease didn’t go away. The remnants of Al Qaeda in Iraq and the Sunni insurgents we battled for more than eight years simply re-emerged this year as the Islamic State, also known as ISIS.
Much as I despise President Obama, it's a bit rich for neocons to speak of him "losing" Iraq and Afghanistan. That presupposes that 1) we won in the first place, and 2) it was possible for us to win by any reasonable definition. In short, they live there and we don't. It would make no difference if we stayed for ten years or a hundred years, and there was no way in hell we were going to stay for a century. If anything, it might have been more effective to have simply smashed their governments and then immediately withdrawn, leaving them to their own devices from day one. There was simply no way that either the Iraqis or the Afghans would ever evolve into mild mannered Minnesota Democrats. Americans don't really do counterinsurgency because we don't really understand ideological warfare:
Americans have never really understood ideological warfare. Our gut-level assumption is that everybody in the world really wants the same comfortable material success we have. We use “extremist” as a negative epithet. Even the few fanatics and revolutionary idealists we have, whatever their political flavor, expect everybody else to behave like a bourgeois.
We don’t expect ideas to matter — or, when they do, we expect them to matter only because people have been flipped into a vulnerable mode by repression or poverty. Thus all our divagation about the “root causes” of Islamic terrorism, as if the terrorists’ very clear and very ideological account of their own theory and motivations is somehow not to be believed. 
ISIS knows what they're about, and they speak at great length about it. Presidents Bush and Obama are loathe to admit the Islamic nature of the enemy. Even if they did, we're not suited to that kind of ideological or religious warfare. Whenever anyone brings up the nature of Islam, sure enough there will be plenty of Westerners who claim that Christianity isn't all that different, which is prima facie laughable. Thirteen years after 9/11 we still welcome Islamists onto our shores and woe betide the commentator who seriously suggests that we don't.

The best solution is separationism:
I subscribe to the now tiny but, I believe, some-day-to-be prevalent Separationist School of Western-Islamic Relations. We separationists affirm the following:
  • Islam is a mortal threat to our civilization.
  • But we cannot destroy Islam.
  • Nor can we democratize Islam.
  • Nor can we assimilate Islam.
  • Therefore the only way to make ourselves safe from Islam is to separate ourselves from Islam.
I miss Auster.

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Elephant stampede

As you well know, I don't think much of democracy or liberalism. It's rather amusing to see people like Chris Matthews and Andrew Sullivan hyperventilating about those terrible, terrible extremists in the Republican Party. Even the most hardcore tea partier is essentially a right-liberal. The Republicans are already burbling about "working with the president," even though they won an enormous mandate to do the opposite. The Democrats tried to spin this as anti-incumbent sentiment. They're half right: it was fierce anti-incumbent animus against the president. In practice, not much is going to change. The Republicans are not going to repeal Obamacare, campaign propaganda to the contrary. They'll continue to tiptoe toward left-liberalism, reach out to minorities who will never vote for them, and timidly voice opposition to abortion and sodomite "marriage" based on narrow Constitutional technicalities.

Still... I do enjoy it when Democrats and left-liberals get whipped like a government mule.

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

The steak and eggs diet worked for me

Inspired by Victor Pride, I decided to give the Vince Gironda steak and eggs diet a try. For the last four and a half weeks, I've eaten nothing but steak and eggs with every sixth day being a cheat day. If the cheat day arrives and you want to eat a large pepperoni pizza, a gallon of ice cream, and wash it all down with a 12 pack of PBR, go for it.

I've lost 18 pounds since the experiment began. I feel like I have enough energy to win a fist fight with a grizzly bear. Moreover, this diet jives with my instincts. I've always tended to be a carnivore, but I didn't eat as much red meat as I wanted because I believed the weenies who said it's bad for you. No more. I could easily keep up this diet for the rest of my life. My original plan was to try it for a month, but I'm going to keep going.

One thing this has taught me is that regular exercise can't compensate for a crappy diet. I was always amazed at how some girls on Facebook could go to the gym, do Zumba or whatever, and still look like land whales. It's because they treat themselves to Starbucks frappucinos or other goodies that are loaded with sugar. I wasn't able to exercise as much last week due to both a cold and a sprained ankle, but I still ended up losing three pounds with steak and eggs.

Thanks a lot Uncle Vic. I'll keep going.

Celebrating our public liturgy

The polls say the Republicans are going to do quite well today, which means I'll be watching the androgynous drones have emotional breakdowns on MSNBC tonight.

I should hope that my four loyal readers know by now that I don't believe voting makes any real difference. As Mark Twain said, if it did they wouldn't let us do it. Voting is not so much about choosing who will actually rule over us or the policies that will affect us. It's more about publicly reaffirming our allegiance to our state religion: liberalism. Every two years we must choose between the left-liberals or the right-liberals. The left-liberals are leading the march toward our inevitable socio-economic collapse. The right-liberals are bringing up the rear, impotently grumbling about how the vanguard is moving too quickly but not really disagreeing about our ultimate destination. Those who are inside the Overton window are allowed to criticize some of the symptoms of liberalism without ever really questioning liberalism itself. Everyone agrees that the purpose of government is to maximize freedom which, paradoxically, always leads to an ever larger and more intrusive State. If the goal is to maximize freedom, then we necessarily need a bigger and more powerful State to ensure that nobody oppresses anyone else.

Both left-liberals and right-liberals support the separation of Church and State. In democracies and republics, every citizen is theoretically part of the State. In practice, this means the separation of individual believers from the Church which is proceeding apace.

As is the case every election cycle, right-liberals urge us to vote because the left-liberals are worse. They are worse in the sense they want to hasten our decline and fall. They're worse in the sense that they passionately despise men like me, as opposed to right-liberals who eagerly court my vote while treating me with benign neglect during the off season. On an emotional level, I admit it's fun to watch left-liberals clean egg off their faces. But deep down inside, everyone knows that their individual vote is not going to make a difference in how we are actually governed.

My vote makes less of a difference toward the common good than my smiling at the girl who prepares my coffee at Starbucks. My smiling at her makes an immediate difference in her day, far more than my vote will make at the local, state, or especially the federal level. Good Catholics have a responsibility to work for the common good. Voting is not the only, or even a particularly significant, part of that responsibility.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

No one cared who I was until I put on the mask

People oppose anonymity because they can't think for themselves:
Feminists and social justice warriors hate online anonymity. In the recent months, there has been a deluge of articles arguing that the internet is rife with harassment because people can hide behind online handles, and only total digital monitoring can make women feel safe online. Likewise, many in the manosphere have said the only way to root out fakes and posers positioning themselves as internet alphas is for men to write under their real names. Imagine that, men and social justice warriors in agreement. Too bad they’re both wrong.
In the early days of the internet, before AOL brought vast unwashed masses online, there was a utopic and perhaps naive vision, that anonymity would make the internet a place where ideas were evaluated based on their merit rather than who said them. Elite-approved experts were a constraint of old media. The internet was a meritocracy. It didn’t matter what the gatekeepers thought of you. If you had a voice and your content was good, you could have an audience.
It is ironic that social justice warriors would want to eliminate a system that removes race, gender, class, and age. You don’t know if the writer behind these words is an elderly Jewish woman, a grandfather of ten, or a very articulate thirteen-year-old. Sure, I write for Return of Kings and present myself as a young man, but how do you know?
Those of us outside the Overton window are dismissed as cranks, fools, reactionaries, extremists, and all around dangerous individuals. If all of that is true, then why do the SJWs, freaks, degenerates, feminazis, and beta herbivores work so hard at doxxing us? Surely if our ideas are so very wrong and irrational, they'll fall down on their own accord?

Truth always outs, if only because of the enormous mental and financial resources necessary to maintain the lies. I write under a pseudonym more out of long habit than anything else. If my four loyal readers are burning to know my real name, a cursory google search will probably dig it up.

The reason why they oppose anonymity is they want an easy way to disqualify persons or facts they don't like. Whether I speak truth or not is of no consequence to them. No matter what the subject, if they don't like what they hear, then they will seek to disqualify through speculation on the author's sexual prowess, his penis size, his socioeconomic status, his religion, or any number of things they'd get angry about if one poked fun at them for the same reasons.

Show me someone who is frustrated by internet anonymity, and I'll show you a wannabe dictator impotently stamping his feet in outrage.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Molon Labe

I'm admittedly impatient with people who are always speaking of nuance and shades of gray. Gray is the devil's favorite color. I'm impatient with nice Catholics who wring their hands and ask whatever shall they do about stuff like this:
Spurred by faculty and staff outrage over the refusal by two Catholic universities to pay for elective abortions, Gov. Jerry Brown's administration on Friday announced that health insurance companies in the state can no longer deny coverage for these procedures.
California's Department of Managed Health Care, which oversees HMOs, issued letters to seven insurance companies saying refusing to pay for any abortion, whether medically necessary or not, violates the state constitution and a 1975 state law.
"All health plans must treat maternity services and legal abortion neutrally,'' department director Michelle Rouillard wrote in the two-page letter that also noted the decision becomes effective immediately.
Catholic organizations should calmly inform the governor, "You and your damned laws can go straight back to the bowels of hell from which you both came. We will not comply with this law under any circumstances. We will literally be damned if we help pay for the murder of infants. We will not pay any fines, nor will we respond to any court summons. If you don't like it, send your goons to come and get us. Go on Jerry. Make us all famous."

Catholic universities and hospitals need to decide which is more important, God or Mammon.

Chivalry is dead because women want it to be dead

Poor bastard is getting heat from both red pillers and manjawed harridans:
Dating is done. Seriously, who goes on dates anymore? It’s all about hooking up, getting a number, grabbing a drink and getting down. I think I’m the only single guy I know that actually takes a girl out to a restaurant on a first date. There’s a reason for this.
I know what that reason is, though I suspect he doesn't.
 If you take a girl out and show her you’re more than some douche looking to just get in her pants, odds are, you’re going to get a second date, at least. Call me old fashioned, but a nice dinner is worth the money to get to know someone to some extent.
For me, it’s not about the money, and I get why people are stingy when it comes to going out with people they don’t know. Look, I get it. Sh*t costs money. But really, what’s the difference? Treat yourself to a good meal, and if the company is good, why the hell wouldn’t you take a girl out to a nice dinner?
I've never found dinner to be a good venue for a first date. You spend a lot of the time chewing food. A better way to get to know her on a first date is take her out for either coffee or adult beverages.
All I know is, the more I look around, the less I see men treating women the way that we’re raised to. What happened to paying for dinners and drinks? What happened to pulling out chairs and holding doors? What happened to walking on the outside, closest to the street and all that sh*t?
Articles like these always presuppose that men just spontaneously decided to stop being chivalrous out of the clear blue sky. The more reasonable, and more accurate, explanation is that most men are responding to how women behave in the 21st century.
The real problem here is that women, for one reason or another, have become complacent and allowed men to get away with adhering to the bare minimum.
We no longer have to put in the effort of flowers, chocolates, dates, etc., and if we do, we come off as stage-five clingers. I’m not looking for a girlfriend, nor am I looking for a wife.
Women are "allowing" men to get away with this. As if they're our mothers instead of women in whom we are romantically and sexually interested. If you're looking for neither a girlfriend nor a wife, and you're not a cad looking to get into her pants, then you're just another one of her beta orbiters, one of her court eunuchs.
Eventually, I feel that women will wise up and start asking for the things that they deserve, the things used to be automatic and expected of men, like holding a door, pulling out a chair, and paying for dinners.
Until then, men are going to get away with putting in the bare minimum and receiving what we ultimately want anyway – sex. It’s pretty obvious that women own the cards, and when they start acting like it, they’ll finally start getting dinner from places that don’t deliver.
If men can get sex just by doing the bare minimum, then why the hell would they put in more effort? It used to be simple: if men wanted sex, they had to get married. If men can get sex without marrying, then they won't marry. People respond to incentives.

Chivalry presupposes that 1) men and women are different, and 2) women are the weaker (fairer if you prefer) sex. Those are not popular attitudes in a 21st century feminized society. Chivalry is also a two way street: if men are expected to be gentlemen, then women are expected to be ladies. If you expect me to treat you like a lady, then you had damn well better act like a lady. If some manjawed ballbreaker presumes to be my equal in every way, and she still expects me to pay for everything, then she's just asking like an entitled princess, putting the lie to her presumption to equality.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

The first feast day of St. John Paul II

Pope St. John Paul II passed on to his eternal reward one week after I was received into the Catholic Church. Sometimes I wonder if that was what pushed him over the edge.

I credit JPII with starting me on the road to being the Traditionalist crank that I am today. Like many converts, I was high on papal encyclicals when I was studying the faith on my own. It must have been the second or third confession I ever made, but I got into an argument with the priest over moral theology. He told me that it's virtually impossible to commit a mortal sin unless you consciously and willfully intend to reject God forever when you perform the sinful act. I retorted, "Excuse me Father, but JPII condemned that idea." Which he did, in his encyclical Veritatis Splendor. The short version is that some actions are objectively evil and no intentions or circumstances can possibly make an objectively evil act into a good act, although they can lessen the acting subject's culpability before God.

The priest got huffy over my citing JPII but still gave me absolution. Even before I became Catholic, I knew that progressives and heretics tended to bemoan the reactionary tyranny of JPII and how he was obstructing the Spirit of Vatican II with his Polish obstinacy and outdated theology. I always sigh and say, "If only, if only..."

The incident got me wondering what else priests and bishops were either getting wrong or actively concealing. I was already dismayed over how Protestantized the Novus Ordo appeared compared to what I was expecting. That was when I decided to learn more about Vatican II. I knew of it, of course, but I didn't realize it's watershed status until later. Nine years later and I'm the lovable Trad grump I am today.

Ideally we shouldn't need to use labels like Traditionalist because all Catholics are Traditionalists to some degree. Even the most wacked out liberal priest puts on vestments for Mass that have existed in one form or another since Antiquity. Labels have become necessary these days. How else are we to distinguish between heretics like Kasper and good men like Burke? So I accept the label of Traditionalist when others use it to describe me, and I use it as a shorthand way of describing the kind of Catholicism I signed up for and expected to find in every parish. It's not in every parish, to put it mildly.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Wooden ships and iron men


Happy Trafalgar Day. We didn't fight in the Napoleonic wars, but I'm always happy to toast a French military defeat.

Monday, October 20, 2014

Wooo, getting some cold cuts baby

The good guys won this time.
An additional point concerns Cardinal Burke, this exemplary servant of the Church. He has been nothing if not humble, accepting all humiliations patiently. The way he has been treated by Francis is embarrassing for the pope, not for him. Consider how different John Paul II and Benedict XVI were with outright dissenters, such as the anti-African German cardinal Walter Kasper, and many others of a similar vein, who were never humiliated and threatened of demotion and exile, despite their position -- quite the opposite. This was not because these popes were "soft", but because they fought for the unity of the Church. 

Francis, on the other hand, played with fire and brought the Church to the brink of the precipice, her most serious division in five centuries, in order to implement what even his nominee Cardinal Pell called "the secular agenda"; not even in a Synod whose members were chosen by him and steered by Cardinal Baldisseri under his command was he able to achieve even 2/3 of the votes on the issues close to his heart, even after they had been considerably watered down. Compare and contrast this to both Vatican I and Vatican II where not even the most controversial issues reached this level of disagreement from the clear will of the Pope -- and even when there was a much smaller proportion of "non placet" votes (even fewer than 10%), the texts were changed to achieve agreements as close to unanimity as possible. 
If it wasn't already painfully clear, the problem is Francis. He's never outright said so, but anyone with eyes in his head can see that he wanted the change in pastoral discipline. The heretic Kasper was a convenient front man, but the Synod was Francis's baby. Francis has enough political sense to not publicly break with the other bishops, but everyone can see the price Burke paid for heroically defending the orthodox faith.

So what's a Catholic to do when we have a disastrous pope like Francis? Choose your blogs carefully indeed. I'm not as tough a critic as Mundabor, but it's amusing (in a painful sense) to see the mental gymnastics the New Advent and Patheos type bloggers put themselves through to assure us it's business as usual. I'm sorry, but it's not. The buck stops with the pope. He very nearly caused the Church to blow up, but the Holy Spirit intervened at the last second to prevent a major compromise in doctrine.

A Catholic's faith should be in Jesus, not the pope. The pope is not an omnipotent tyrant who can change doctrine at will. If you are an orthodox Catholic you have a duty to rebuke your superiors when they say or do wrong. Like St. Thomas More said in another stormy debate over marriage, silence means consent. I haven't watched Voris as much lately, but maybe this will move him to break his self-imposed silence about Pope Francis. Ideally we shouldn't criticize the pope because there'd be no need to. But as any barely historically literate ankle-biter can tell you, we've had plenty of bad popes in history. God has inflicted another bad pope upon us. We should take that as a well earned rebuke. The Holy Spirit does not choose the pope but he has a way of making sure we get the popes we deserve.