Monday, September 28, 2020

"Remember *no* man is a failure who has friends!"

I finished A.H.M. Jones' worthwhile short biography of Augustus Caesar back in 2018. I posted this on FB, but decided it was worth importing to the blog.
At the end of this excellent survey, Jones attempts to assess the character of the sphinx-like man who was startled to learn at age 18 that the great-uncle he hero-worshipped, Julius Caesar, had adopted him as his son in his will--and named him his heir.
No pressure there. And never mind the target on your back.
That he was intelligent, capable and sometimes ruthless is not in doubt. The primary sources are good, showing a man who managed to dodge the falling rubble of the Roman Republic, survive the efforts of more experienced intriguers and better generals than he and rallied battle-hardened legions to his banner. In the space of 14 years, he went from a young man slightly famous for being Caesar's relative to the apex of the Roman world.
And he stayed on top of it for more than forty years, dying of old age.
Jones evaluated the evidence and noted what the record showed a man who was shrewd, conniving, sometimes harsh but more often generous, eager for power but a stickler for legalism, quite willing to kill to cement his authority but also capable of shame for it, a servant of the public but determined to get credit for it.
Keeping in mind the public nature of the sources, Jones notes that all of this can be credibly read in multiple ways, positive and negative, leaving us with the enigma: who was this man, really?
It was at this point that Jones pointed out one salient fact that the historical records agreed upon: Augustus had friends. Good friends--men who stuck by him for life, and he by them. Men who were themselves capable, intelligent and had advice worth taking. And Augustus grieved their loss. 
I think this insight into Augustus is a handy key for looking at historical figures across the centuries. Did X have friends? What kind of people were they? How did he treat them, and they him?
In fact, it's probably not a bad way to evaluate people in general, as Frank Capra wisely pointed out about sixty years ago.

Quick thoughts on Trump's tax returns.

If government functionaries feel empowered to leak confidential documents they are supposed to safeguard when they hate the chief executive of the nation, just imagine what they are willing to do people they loathe who are lower on the food chain.

As to the substance, not exactly surprised a real estate guy has a lot of losses. 

But that bothers me a lot less than the leak. 

[Bonus, 9/28/2020: the hoofed leakers also made sure the Times got access to employee compensation information for Trump enterprise employees.

Trust them: they're fighting for the little guy--by running their corporate snouts through their payroll data.]


Sunday, September 27, 2020

Law360, the publication of the corporate giant that is Lexis-Nexis, has some news for you about Amy Coney Barrett.

Go ahead and guess.

First sentence:

Judge Amy Coney Barrett is a devout Catholic and a law professor who has developed a conservative record in her relatively brief time on the Seventh Circuit.

Four sentences later, it's Roe time: 

"Judge Amy Coney Barrett has compiled a record in her decision-making and her written opinions that show she is extremely ideologically conservative, especially on issues such as reproductive freedom and religious freedom," said Carl Tobias, a professor at University of Richmond School of Law.

Much of the debate about Judge Barrett seems certain to center on her views on abortion and the likelihood she could play a role in weakening or overturning the high court's landmark
Roe v. Wade decision that established a woman's right to terminate a pregnancy. While Judge Barrett has not written an opinion directly on abortion, she has in two cases appeared to back the state of Indiana's right to impose restrictions on the practice.

But since you already know she's a certain type of devout Catholic, L360 leaves it hanging there to let you go ahead and assume.

L360 later generously admits she has her supporters, but you already know how to react by then.

The reality is, there are two types of "devout Catholics" in the political world: 

First, there those whose faith meshes just fine with the elite consensus, and are therefore acceptable. For such, they'll even smile indulgently when you get out your rosary--all you have to do is abandon your support of the Hyde Amendment and tell pro-lifers to develop "open minds" on abortion.

The second are those whose faith does not mesh as well with the same consensus. 

For those kinds of devout Catholics, only the Carthaginian peace will do. They'll come at you and your kids right out of the gate.

Can't wait to see how ugly this one gets.

This one should be proverbial.

"When your core value is truth, you'll eventually find yourself defending your enemies to your friends."

--Dave Martens.

Friday, September 25, 2020

Massimo Faggioli: A Know-Nothing in both senses of the phrase.

Mr.-I'm-An-Expert-In-These-Weirdo-Catholics-of-Dubious-Communion-Status somehow managed to miss the somewhat-relevant fact that the People of Praise's supposedly-sinister secret covenant has been on their webpage since January 2018.


Because my brain goes off on weird tangents, I love the movie Office Space.

Without God, everything is permitted.

In fact, it will likely be mandatory.

Except for the parts that are forbidden.

If the religious entity ratified by the Vatican in its concordat with China is an acceptable way of "being church," then no Church-State entanglements are out of bounds.

A church that is merely the State's foot-washer, reciter of approved national polices and junior police force? 

Just fine!

Behold the present of the Vatican-approved Church in the People's Republic of China: 

Jesus Christ Executioner

Here is how the textbook presents the story of the woman taken in adultery: “The crowd wanted to stone the woman to death as per their law. But Jesus said, ‘Let the one who has never sinned throw the first stone.’ Hearing this, they slipped away one by one. When the crowd disappeared, Jesus stoned the sinner to death saying, ‘I too am a sinner. But if the law could only be executed by men without blemish, the law would be dead.’”

Christians in China are protesting against a textbook making Jesus a sinner and a killer. Actually, however, the incident is subtler than that. It is not, or not mostly, about painting a negative image of Jesus. It is about the CCP itself. Many CCP bureaucrats, judges, and police officers are notoriously corrupted. Yet, the story teaches that they should be obeyed. If “sinners” would be prevented from “executing the law,” including administering the capital punishment with or without due process, “the law would be dead.”

As told to Chinese students, the story teaches that the law and the Party are good and pure, and transcend the impure human beings who happen to represent them.

Even if the officers are corrupted, their decision should be acceptedbecause, honest or corrupted, they represent the Party, and the Party’s law should never be questioned.

There's a line from one of the faithful monks in the final section of A Canticle for Leibowitz, watching the triumph of the Texarkana superpower and its sidelining of the Catholic Church:

"Caesar is to be God's policeman, not His plenipotentiary successor, not His heir."

Meanwhile, back at the Vatican, our normally-voluble pontiff continues his deliberate silence as Xi enthrones himself as China's god.

[Editor's note: yes, Dostoevsky said the phrase I used in the title.]

Thursday, September 24, 2020

Unflagging apologist for papacy which hides treaty with government that operates concentration camps develops sudden interest in transparency and religious freedom.


Ah, Villanova's Massimo Faggioli. What can you say about a guy who calls the Holy Spirit "she" and thinks Francis is super, if not radical enough?

A lot, I suppose, but the most important part is that he is a hearty cheerleader for this pontifical era, and hails the secret concordat with the Chinese Reich as "geopolitical repositioning."

No matter the unrelenting persecution wrought on those he is supposed to regard as brothers and sisters under said shameful agreement.

The reality is, Faggioli is quite comfortable with Church-State entanglement--so long as it aligns with his political preferences.

With the right government, Massimo is very, very Vichy.

To be fair, he recently claimed to be able to discern nascent fascism in the world. 

No, not in Xi's China. But rather in the phenomenon of Catholics supporting the Trump Administration, which he attempts to describe in this characteristically-loggorheic-yet-empty meditation.

So it should be no surprise that this defender of Vatican-enforced submission to the State insists that an American circuit court judge be subjected to a religious test and her ties to a Catholic charismatic group be explored in minute detail, should she be nominated as a Supreme Court justice.

For the freedom, of course:

Such a request to examine the covenant may seem unseemly to some. After all, the Constitution says that “no religious test shall ever be required as a qualification to any office or public trust.” Catholics and scholars of Catholicism know how important this foundation of freedom is in the history of American Catholics; anti-Catholic bigotry is an old and ugly story in the United States.

But this is not a matter of anti-Catholicism or even liberal bias against conservative Catholics. Barrett’s nomination would raise an important new problem: Is there a tension between forthrightly serving as one of the final interpreters of the Constitution and swearing an oath to an organization that lacks transparency and visible structures of authority that are accountable to their members, to the Roman Catholic Church and to the wider public?

Say what you will about Massimo, but he knows his shell games. He moves from potential concerns about Barrett's group to a general critique about potential problems with charismatic movements in general, never specifying anything untoward about the People of Praise. 

And he does so whilst touting about wide-open conscience protections and freedom of thought in the Church...even as he issues oily demands for Catholics to be brought to heel.

Three-Card Massimo can be fun, when you know what to look for.

Meanwhile, membership in the Knights of Columbus has been deemed to be disqualifying by the Democrats' vice-presidential nominee and Massimo was silent. Despite, you know, Knights being open with their vows and being fully in line with Catholic dogma. Because he's already crafted a rationale to smear them, with just a whiff of plausibly-denied racism, of course.

So, yeah, he's happy to see Catholics he doesn't care about get squashed by the State for any reason. He's a sincere partisan. But his arguments here are patently insincere.

The rare worthwhile "open letter."

In my experience, most internet "Open Letters" are exercises in virtue signaling that range from failed fisks to snarkfests to passive-aggressive declarations of war.

This one, from Saint Corbinian's Bear to my friend Steve Skojec, is one of rare ones that are worthwhile.

If you compare the current realities we see around us with what Catholics are required to believe about the Catholic Church, you’re going to get a bad case of cognitive dissonance. The term comes from the book When Prophecy Fails, a case study about a Chicago UFO cult when the UFO failed to appear. It makes for fascinating reading.

Some resolve it by simply erasing Francis, as if that solved all the problems. I understand that, but without going further, will just say that’s not an answer that satisfies me, and for many reasons.

One reason is you can’t isolate what is going on in the West from what is happening in the Church. I take the Spenglerian view about that. That’s why I go off on seeming tangents about declining Total Fertility Rates and cognitive dissonance and Neil Postman’s Amusing Ourselves to Death (“information/action ratio”). The Church is a Western institution. Yes, it’s Universal in essence, but it’s Western. As goes the West, so goes the Roman Catholic Church, and the West is circling the drain. The “men of the West” speech in Lord of the Rings would have a much smaller audience here and now.

You’re smart enough to see this, and honest enough to be bothered by it. 

There is no “solution.” There is no way to blog ourselves out of this, or come up with clever theories to dodge (one of) the problems, or even Winning with Latin! It is the time in which we live. Private revelations are that: they’re not meant to be universal solutions. The Church is wise in recognizing that different things appeal to different sorts of people, hence her rich and varied devotions.

* * *

In my opinion, Roman Catholics think too much. Of course they do. That’s our Thomistic-Aristotelian heritage. However, in the collision between that and the post-rational, post-Christian, post-print age, there are going to be many casualties. You know, St. Augustine had a touch of Neoplatonism. I don’t think he knew his Aristotle.

At this point, I'll cut off because I don't want to quote the whole thing. 

And you should give him the traffic yourself. It is filled with positive advice and insights, including the dangers of Catholic blogging in the Age of the Information Tsunami. 

And I think that plugging into the other matrices of Catholic thought is well-taken. St. Thomas is indispensable, but the Christian Platonist tradition of Augustine and Bonaventure is very helpful and considerably under-utilized by Catholics of a more traditional bent. A mystical correction to our linear minds can't be a bad thing.

Anyway, read the whole thing. It's insightful and helpful.

Every day, another step.

Mom was laid to rest after a funeral Mass at our parish yesterday morning. 

It helped that Father knew her, and it helped that so many offered sympathy, either in person or virtually. Social media isn't all bad. 

Thank you.

It also helped that the sun shone on her casket through the stained glass during the middle of Mass. 

She is buried next to her husband now.

And now those left behind will continue to try to heal. 

Monday, September 21, 2020

The New York Times has always been at War with Oceania.

The neutral-sounding-but-corrosive "1619 Project" was expressly presented by the New York Times as a revisionist reset of the American founding, shifting it from 1776 to 1619, the year the first African slave arrived in what would eventually become America.

Now that that that position has become unpleasantly controversial, the Times and the Duran-- er, Pulitzer Prize-winning designer of the Project had a choice: they could admit that it was so designed, or they could lie about it.

Predictably, they chose to do the Orwellian thing and erased that damning language, pretending they never said it.

Despite the fact it's impossible to do that in the internet age.

We need a new term for "beneath contempt."





May God rest her soul.

Prayers for the family and friends of Ruth Bader Ginsberg, and the repose of her soul.


Friday, September 18, 2020

An update on the possible mass sterilization of migrants case.

More evidence of a lack of informed consent, and a lack of complete medical records which would answer critical questions

But perhaps--perhaps--not mass hysterectomies. 

Regardless, the pressure needs to be kept up.

Sitting across from her lawyer at an immigration detention center in rural Georgia, Mileidy Cardentey Fernandez unbuttoned her jail jumpsuit to show the scars on her abdomen. There were three small, circular marks.

The 39-year-old woman from Cuba was told only that she would undergo an operation to treat her ovarian cysts, but a month later, she’s still not sure what procedure she got. After Cardentey repeatedly requested her medical records to find out, Irwin County Detention Center gave her more than 100 pages showing a diagnosis of cysts but nothing from the day of the surgery.

“The only thing they told me was: ‘You’re going to go to sleep and when you wake up, we will have finished,’” Cardentey said this week in a phone interview.

Cardentey kept her hospital bracelet. It has the date, Aug. 14, and part of the doctor’s name, Dr. Mahendra Amin, a gynecologist linked this week to allegations of unwanted hysterectomies and other procedures done on detained immigrant women that jeopardize their ability to have children.

An Associated Press review of medical records for four women and interviews with lawyers revealed growing allegations that Amin performed surgeries and other procedures on detained immigrants that they never sought or didn’t fully understand. Although some procedures could be justified based on problems documented in the records, the women’s lack of consent or knowledge raises severe legal and ethical issues, lawyers and medical experts said.

Amin has performed surgery or other gynecological treatment on at least eight women detained at Irwin County Detention Center since 2017, including one hysterectomy, said Andrew Free, an immigration and civil rights lawyer working with other attorneys to investigate medical treatment at the jail. Doctors are helping the attorneys examine new records and more women are coming forward to report their treatment by Amin, Free said.

“The indication is there’s a systemic lack of truly informed and legally valid consent to perform procedures that could ultimately result — intentionally or unintentionally — in sterilization,” he said.

The AP’s review did not find evidence of mass hysterectomies as alleged in a widely shared complaint filed by a nurse at the detention center. Dawn Wooten alleged that many detained women were taken to an unnamed gynecologist whom she labeled the “uterus collector” because of how many hysterectomies he performed.

This is hardly a clean bill of health for ICE. Evidence is still being gathered. And even one unwanted sterilization is a horror for the woman involved. But it shows the importance of gathering facts before forming firm judgments.

And not, say, blasting people as ideological robots because they are cautious about initial reports.

One big corporation helps out another.

My friend Hilary White discovered that the official newspaper of the Italian bishops' conference is playing Chip Diller for that French film.