Friday, October 15, 2021

Worthwhile book review of tome from somewhat noteworthy pundit.

A thorough critique of a book by one of the more visible of America's soi disant experts and adjunct intellectuals, Tom Nichols.

A lecturer at several American schools, Nichols came to modest notice for a fairly unobjectionable book about the dangers of spurning expertise. Since then he has acquired more notoriety for fierce political denunciations on social media, managing to harangue himself into occasional national notice. Usually whilst invoking his lecturing credentials.

Alas, as it turns out, bellowing "I'm smarter than you!" over and over again on Twitter doesn't make it so.

It also can't save you from contradicting your thesis--such as it is--from chapter to chapter:

Here is the central subject of his book, as he sees it: “If we believe democracy has failed us, we should first ask ourselves whether we have failed the test of democracy.” It’s a trivial observation that democracy would work well with a perfect populace, since anything would work well in that circumstance. For democracy to fail it must be the case that “we” have failed.

Indeed, Our Own Worst Enemy is peppered with so many internal tensions and contradictions that it’s hard to believe it’s not an attempt to use paradox to convey some sort of secret, true meaning.

* * *

Nichols theorizes that line-crossers [e.g., Obama-Trump voters] are self-interested voters looking for better “deals”—but he doesn’t explain why this would be the case, or why it would be such a moral or systemic problem if it were true. If the political parties are so stable that coherence can only be found in sticking with one or the other, then why would the same person be able to get a better deal on one side than on the other? Why are those who change party affiliation—as Nichols did—necessarily any more self-interested than those who don’t change? Actually, there’s little reason to think a self-interested person would bother voting at all—the so-called “paradox of voting.” And Nichols attributes to these voters both a comfortable, prosperous lifestyle and a desire for “apocalypse”—how could that combination be self-interested? Nichols engages none of these debates.

The third chapter covers more familiar ground: There’s an epidemic of narcissism in America, along with rage, resentment, and nostalgia. Of course Nichols’ formless pomposity on this subject cannot match the keen rhetorical incisions of Christopher Lasch, whom he cites. What’s odd about this chapter, however, is that Nichols, now relaying passages from the famous 2005 book What’s the Matter with Kansas?: How Conservatives Won the Heart of America by Thomas Frank, adopts the view that resentment causes Americans to vote against their self-interest. And no, you are not going crazy: Just a paragraph ago, I was explaining Nichols’ claim that the problem with American democracy is that voters act on pure self-interest.

It sounds like "the secret, true meaning" of the book is to demonstrate that editors are indispensable to book publishing. That, and the more time you spend being contemptuous, the more at risk you are of becoming contemptible. 

But $25 is a bit pricey for an inadvertent cautionary tale, so I will content myself with the review.

Simcha Fisher on the slog of the daily Rosary.

"The slog" is my term, but her experience sounds very familiar.

Despite these past failures, we have returned once again to this old practice of walking through the events of the life of Jesus of Mary, one bead at a time, a verse or two of scripture per prayer, just one decade a night, because that’s what’s sustainable. As with so many other things in my life these days, I’ve arrived at a possible workable solution by failing at everything else. The plan is just to respectfully witness what happened. Just speak the words if it’s my turn to lead, and listen if it’s not, and just be a witness.

What I’ve found is that the extreme familiarity is not a bad thing, any more than it’s a bad thing to be extremely familiar with the events and memories of my own life. In fact, that’s kind of the point: The mysteries of the rosary ought to be very close to our hearts, very familiar, very well-known. They ought to live with us. We do a different mystery each night, so it’s not the exact same prayers every night. The kids take turns leading, so there’s some variation there. There’s enough variety that you have to pay some attention, so we avoid the rocket prayer effect. But basically, it’s nothing new. And that’s a good thing.


* * *

But I don’t think it’s necessary or helpful to try to torment ourselves into some kind of jarring insight or ecstasy every single time we approach the mysteries of the rosary. Spiritual novelty, it turns out,  is overrated, and probably has to do more with spiritual vanity than with a genuine thirst for holiness. Sometimes it’s more important to sit right where you are and just accept what God has given us, even if it’s just the same old same old. Especially if it’s the same old same old. (It’s called “humility.” Look it up, sweaty.)

My Much Better Half and I have been reciting a daily rosary for more than a year now.

Spiritual insights occur, and this long-out-of-print classic is a very worthwhile companion.

The Presentation in the Temple, featuring one of my favorite New Testament figures, Simeon, is one which holds my focus better than most.

Lord, now lettest thou thy servant depart in peace according to thy word.
For mine eyes have seen thy salvation,
Which thou hast prepared before the face of all people;
To be a light to lighten the Gentiles and to be the glory of thy people Israel.

Faith rewarded, at the very end, right before the Short Darkness falls: it never fails to move me. 

Honestly, though, recitation is often a drill we push ourselves through. And I have come to the conclusion that that is not a bad thing. Love is at least to some extent an act of will: we have to act, and sometimes our heart is not entirely in it. Feelings are far from infallible guides to what love is, let alone to what love may ask of us.

I like to think it has made me a better pray-er, praying more for than against. I also liken it to a kind of spiritual training. As with any other form of training, it is a process with ups and downs--and frequently no obvious results. But with God as the trainer, He will be the judge of progress.

Thursday, October 14, 2021

Deere employees go on strike.

They rejected 5% or 6% pay-increases.

To which I say: good call

Management has a lot of money to spare:

Under the agreement that the workers rejected, a top scale Deere production worker would make just over $30 per hour, rising to $31.84 after five years, according to summary of the proposal.

Creighton University economist Ernie Goss said workers have a lot of leverage to bargain with right now because of the ongoing worker shortages.

“Right now across the US, labor is in a very good strong position to bargain, so now is a good time to strike,” Goss said.

Earlier this year, another group of UAW-represented workers went on strike at a Volvo Trucks plant in Virginia and wound up with better pay and lower-cost health benefits after rejecting three tentative contract offers.

The contracts under negotiation cover 14 Deere plants, including seven in Iowa, four in Illinois and one each in Kansas, Colorado and Georgia.

The contract talks at the Moline, Illinois-based company were unfolding as Deere is expecting to report record profits between $5.7 billion and $5.9 billion this year. The company has been reporting strong sales of its agricultural and construction equipment this year.

 The shareholders will just have to be a little disappointed, I guess.

"The new windows should help. The new windows should help. The new windows should help....."

Ah, just in time for Christmas: winter heating bills going through the metaphorical roof.

Especially here in the Midwest.

With prices surging worldwide for heating oil, natural gas and other fuels, the U.S. government said Wednesday it expects households to see their heating bills jump as much as 54% compared to last winter.

Nearly half the homes in the U.S. use natural gas for heat, and they could pay an average $746 this winter, 30% more than a year ago. Those in the Midwest could get particularly pinched, with bills up an estimated 49%, and this could be the most expensive winter for natural-gas heated homes since 2008-2009.

The second-most used heating source for homes is electricity, making up 41% of the country, and those households could see a more modest 6% increase to $1,268. Homes using heating oil, which make up 4% of the country, could see a 43% increase — more than $500 — to $1,734. The sharpest increases are likely for homes that use propane, which account for 5% of U.S. households.

This last is critical, as propane is essential for the invisible rural poor--certainly in northern Michigan. And because the rural poor do not register at all in the national consciousness, there are looming threats to the propane supply courtesy of the State government. However, Justin Trudeau (!) may be able to rescue rural Michiganders.

Just another reason I'm glad my propane-reliant parents winter in an Arizona camper and not in the Great Lakes State.

 

The least objectionable.

 

The spectacle of Vatican II popes being canonized is...distinctly unedifying. 

Recall that between Pius V and Pius X, a run of nearly four centuries, there was no other pope beatified, let alone canonized. Though Innocent XI was declared blessed in 1956 (following the canonization of Pius X) after an arduous process. That's probably where that eminent and holy pope will remain, officially.

And yet with this announcement, all four of the Vatican II era popes who have left this vale of tears will be at least beatified.

Neat. 

Too bad about, well, you know...the bad training, ill-advised navigational plan, lack of safety equipment, stampeded and drowned passengers, etc. But at least the officers were smartly-dressed and clubbable?

However, I have the least trouble--indeed, none whatsoever--with Pope John Paul I. 

A life of personal holiness unencumbered by governance failures for the Church Universal? That works for me.

Plus, his Illustrissimi is charming, if not always gifted with a flowing translation.

Wednesday, October 13, 2021

Yeah, I'd noticed.

Inflation spikes to 13 year high.

Here's the basic list

Rental cars +43% over last Sept 

Gas 42% 

Used cars 24% 

Bacon 19% 

Hotels 18% 

Beef 18% 

Pork 13% 

Eggs 13% 

TVs 13% 

Kids' shoes 12% 

Furniture 11% 

New cars 9% 

Chicken 8% 

Apples 8% 

Restaurant prices: 5% 

Electricity 5% 

Rent 2.9%

Obviously, those will hit differently for different people. 

I would add that in my experience, even if the price hasn't gone up much, availability has gone down with inventory problems. For example, those shopping for new cars (one of these years, maybe...) will run into continuing microchip-related production issues, leaving the lots a bit lean. 

But yeah...the gas and groceries have been wince-inducing. 

And it's worst for the most vulnerable. Of course. 

Fair questions about an influential theologian.

Hans Urs von Balthasar looms large over the Catholic theological landscape, most notably with his near-to-fully (depending on whom you read) universalist take on salvation.

But I'm not interested in that taffy pull.

Rather, I am more interested in the mystical influences on his thought, having taken an interest in Catholic mysticism (e.g., St. Bonaventure) in my middle age.

Sacred Heart Seminary Professor Ralph Martin argues that in von Balthasar's more speculative forays, it may have been less the former Jesuit speaking than his friend, Adrienne von Speyr. Von Balthasar took down volumes of her purported mystical utterances--and Martin applies some critical criteria to evaluate the purported part

An interesting and--despite some furnace-hot responses to the contrary--reasonable evaluation. Critical--sure. But not a hatchet job.

Just so I can offend everyone: it reminds me of the arguments over Bl. Anne Catherine Emmerich and Clemens Brentano--the relationship and line between mystic and recorder has to be very carefully and objectively evaluated.


Tuesday, October 12, 2021

Before you read this, ask yourself: "How much faith do I have in humanity?"

Because it will be lower when you are done.

The handcuffing of an eight year old, charges drawn up during the hearing into alleged wrongdoing, denial of medication and solitary confinement for a fourteen year old: just a few scenes from the life of the Rutherford County, Tennessee, juvenile justice [sic] system.

When "due process" means "duly processed."

A nightmarish read.

 


And now for something fun.

 More fun Youtube Channels, 

or  

Why Do I Still Have Cable Again? Oh, Right: My Purgatorial Devotion to Detroit Sports.

  •  Let's Game It Out, wherein a gamer tries new "__-operator" type games and deliberately does so in the most incompetent/Rube Goldberg way possible. Painfully funny at times--especially the Zoo and cooking games.  
  • Binging With Babish a/k/a the Babish Culinary Universe. More serious cooking, but deliberately light-hearted. For example, he does episodes where he put together what a hobbit would eat throughout the course of a day, and another one where he did the Deep-Fried Crabby Patty from Spongebob Squarepants. And there's been a mock feud between Babish and Mister Sausage which has been good for laughs.

Pondering *That* Council.

One thing most Catholics agree upon--for various values of the term "agree"--is that the Church was in need of some kind of reform prior to the most recent ecumenical council.

The disintegration of the church in the wake of that council--observance, organizations, publishers, etc.--illustrates that the strength of the edifice was more apparent than real. The centralization of the church had become such an exercise in micromanagement that parish art was given the kibosh--directly from Rome itself. Read it all--it is a remarkable bit of history, and not an edifying one. No less than Jacques Maritain shows up--to defend the decree against the Stations.

"You had nothing better to do?" applies in spades to HQ's behavior here. And elsewhere, as I think most people could agree--at least on a few points.

Then the agreement ends, of course, as arguments over baby and bathwater cycle on endlessly. 

But here's the thing: the same church that policed parish Stations of the Cross also set the agenda for reforming itself at the 21st ecumenical council. 

My question is straightforward:

Was it capable of doing so honestly?

How could that process of discerning the proper path for self-reform not be contaminated by the same arrogance, centralizing, we-know-better clericalism that led it to the brittle, parlous-behind-the-facade state it was in 1962?

And don't give me that "but the Holy Spirit!" bit of apologetic magical thinking.

The Holy Spirit protects councils from damnable error. It does not positively-inspire them, turning the attendees into faultless stenographers of God's will. Put another way, He keeps the church from a fatal loss of blood, but not from shooting itself in the first place.

The litter of failed-but-Holy-Spirit-protected-and-valid councils is pointed evidence to the contrary.

From my perspective, at VatII it just looks like one group of confident centralizers stole a march on another. And Group One never questioned its own premises, either. 

And here we are, with a still-micromanaging Rome licensing a handful of parish priests to say the same mass that was celebrated at Vatican II. 

"Meet the new boss..."

Or, if you'd prefer: the Church learned nothing and forgot nothing.

Irony: the Almighty's favorite kind of humor.

 

This is one of the school boards our Attorney General is rushing to protect.

A ninth-grade girl was raped in a public school bathroom in Loudoun County, Virginia.

The male student (alleged) rapist in question got access to the bathroom by...wearing a skirt.

Naturally, the Loudoun County School Board had the father of the victim arrested when he protested the bathroom access policy.

Oh, and the (alleged) rapist has offended again (allegedly) after being arrested.

Not that our conflict-of-interest-ridden AG will care about any of that. 

The good news about America's demographic collapse is that public school boards will be a much smaller part of American life in two generations. But in the meantime, they have become positively Catholic in their determination to be regarded as infallible and treated as unaccountable. And that will invariably come with a victim list.

And they now have the law enforcement machinery of the federal government and narrative-shaping cultural forces in their corner.

Oh, and "back the blue," eh? 

Not when they do crap like they did to Scott Smith.

 

 

 

Friday, October 08, 2021

I know there are staffing shortages...but this is ridiculous.

Tonight's Homecoming game for Mount Clemens High was cancelled because there are no refs.

And apparently the school has been scrambling to find the minimum four referees for weeks.

For some context, Mt. Clemens is central Macomb suburb with a Division 5 (out of 8, with higher numbers meaning smaller schools) program, which means enrollment toward the smaller end. But it's also easily accessible travel wise.

Don't get me wrong: ref work can be grim, especially at the HS level. 

And yet, nobody can be found to fill out the roster? Heartbreaking for the young men and their families.

 

Thursday, October 07, 2021

My preferred metaphor for our moment.

Arrogance. 

Corruption.

Failure.

Catastrophe. 

But also glints of virtue: Duty. Heroism.

Still, the roentgen count is looking grim, no matter where you want to apply the metaphor. 


 

I hope Amazon stays in Seattle.

A small part of it is the bleak comic value it provides.

But mostly because I don't want to again see cities and States throwing themselves at Bezos's enterprise like desperate groupies at a rock band.

Yet, as with most things in this age of decline, I usually don't see what I hope for.

 

Repeating this like a metronome: The Legion of "Christ" [sic] has no reason to exist.

Perhaps the most glaring error of papal governance during the reign of Benedict XVI was to let the Legion of Christ continue to exist.

Benedict was too good a theologian to recognize that such was not remotely defensible.

Actually, you don't need to be a good theologian--or, indeed, any kind of theologian--to know that an organization founded by a demonstrable satanic monster deserves to die, and instantly.

Take, for example, the Second Mile. It was a charitable endeavor serving underprivileged and at-risk youth founded by a godawful predatory beast named Jerry Sandusky. If you have the slightest interest in college football, you will know that Sandusky is a convicted serial child-rapist who got away with his crimes for decades while a treasured assistant coach at Penn State University. 

Here's the kicker: he met his rape victims through the foundation.

Now, from my limited research, it appears that--unlike the football program--the members of the foundation were genuinely unaware of Sandusky's monstrous crimes.

And yet, the charity recognized that it could not continue with the stain of Sandusky's founding and folded up shop as soon as legally possible.

Integrity--that's what it looks like.

Meanwhile, back in the Church of the Nicene Creed, Benedict was given proof that the founder of the Legion, Marcel Maciel, was a creature deserving of the darkest pits of Hell. His crimes defy easy summary, but Wikipedia takes a fair shot starting here.

Frankly, the idea that the leadership of the Legion was unaware that Maciel was a minion of Satan is too farfetched to be taken seriously.

And yet, Benedict's solution was to order Maciel into a life of penance (which he spurned, to his no-doubt-eternal regret) and to order a visitation, which culminated in an attempt to renew the order.

An order which still clearly venerates Nuestro Padre.

Here's the thing: think of an existing Catholic religious order whose founder was a spiritual rent in the fabric of basic human decency.

Go ahead--rack the brain, going through the entire two millenia. 

Aside from the wreck that appropriately calls itself Legion, there is not a single one.

The founder of a legitimate, God-inspired order has what is called a spiritual charism which his gathered followers emulate thenceforth. Think Saint Francis or Saint Dominic.

Whereas The Imitation of Maciel sounds like a bestseller in the bookstores of Dis

Probably is.

So, the Legion was left a religious order without a charism--and Benedict knew this. The response called for by this was obvious--suppress the order as invalid and scatter the people and assets to comparatively healthier orders who at least can boast of a Saint or two. 

But no, Benedict decided on a novelty: to invent a charism for the LCs instead. One is left with the distinct impression the Legion's size, assets and influence (think Bransfield's check writing) with fellow clerics made suppression impossible.

That decision was unprecedented, theologically-untenable, inexcusable and now self-evidently an utter failure, leaving a satanic fraud running through the veins of the Body of Christ.

One which continues to do its make-it-rain games for its "reformed" leadership.

In related news, it looks like the Vatican's joke of a legal system is going to let some connected grifters skate.

Meanwhile, low-asset and influence-impaired orders continue to get the inquisitorial treatment.

See the pattern?

It is indeed "a p__s-poor church for the poor."

A far more fitting rendering of the empty pontifical slogan.

[Hat tip to Tito for the find.]

Wednesday, October 06, 2021

Follow which science?

Or whose scientists?

When ardent pro-covid-vaxxers jump down the throats of the hesitant, some variation of "trust the science" is part of the overall Deus Vult crusade sermon.

And yet, nothing has exposed the problems with the American medical establishment quite like a global pandemic with a novel virus.

We could factor in the politicization of American medicine, which promises to reap quite a pile of caskets in coming years. The early preview here being the seeming magical belief that virtuous protests confer immunities that unvirtuous ones do not. But let's circle back to that one later.

No, right now the main problem is that there's a welter of problems with the actual collection and genuine scientific analysis of medical data relating to the plague. 

Now, understand that this is coming from, depending on your vax perspective, a Citizen Hero or Traditor Drone who got his Pfizer shots in April of this year. Me, I just ran some calculations with the data and it seemed that I was high-risk for bad corona results, so that's what I think of it.

Further, having had the flu vaccine before, I recognize the corona versions are not and cannot be magic bullets. But like flu shots, they do promise to and have successfully reduced the severity of symptoms for breakthrough infections.

  • Which brings us to problem one: how many breakthrough infections are there? 

Thanks in part to our continuing grievous failure to develop fast, cheap and effective tests, we have no idea at all. I have a sneaking suspicion that My Much Better Half and I had mild cases back in August which were beaten back by the vaccine. You see, our son had a Little League teammate who got a mild case in late July, but since my son was vaxxed along with his teammates, the season went on. Quite possibly corona...then again, summer cold? "Worst" symptoms gone in 48 hours and lasted a week total. But it sure would have been nice to have those cheap home tests like the Brits do.

Sure looks that way, he says with a measure of disquiet after a quick glance at the calendar. 

So, it sounds like boosters would be called for, which is what Israel did after that nation experienced a post-vaccine wave, tamping it back down.

The discussions have taken place amid ongoing tensions between scientists at the CDC and FDA and other federal officials working on the Covid-19 response about the administration’s public messaging on vaccine efficacy and boosters, given the gaps in available data.

The Sept. 27 call was originally planned for the week before. The White House abruptly rescheduled it after the CDC’s independent vaccine advisory committee recommended that the Pfizer-BioNTech booster be reserved for high-risk groups, including the elderly.

The rescheduled call was the tensest one to date, according to the three people with information on the talks. Fauci argued that the CDC committee’s stance — that science did not support giving boosters to all adults — was incorrect. And he dismissed suggestions that the administration had to choose between a broad U.S. booster campaign and donating vaccines to countries in need.

The president’s chief medical adviser also told the outside experts that boosters could, and should, be given widely to reduce the spread of the coronavirus rather than only to prevent severe disease or death.

Fauci’s remarks drew disagreement on the call, the five people familiar with the matter said. Several participants were left mystified about the goal of the government’s vaccination campaign.

“It was very tense,” one person said. “More than anything, it was like Fauci felt he needed to make a point.”

Since the FDA and CDC authorized limited use of the Pfizer-BioNTech booster in late September, top administration health officials have said publicly that they will follow the recommendations of scientists in planning the booster rollout.

But hours after the Pfizer-BioNTech decision, Biden predicted that booster shots would soon be available “across the board.”

“In the near term, we’re probably going to open this up,” the president said.

So which is it? Boosters or no?

Trust the science? 

Sure.

Which set of results? 

It seems that knowledgeable experts are in disagreement. Meanwhile, the clock is ticking and there are mandates shoving needles into arms.

Tuesday, October 05, 2021

Crime Data for Michiganders.

The wildly-uneven Detroit News has offered some helpful data to track the surge in violent crime in the Great Lakes State, breaking it down by city.

In our city of residence, it jumped by over 8 percent, with homicides and aggravated assaults driving the increase.

Little wonder our nearest firearms store just announced that it is opening on Sundays. 

Even less wonder that variations on "defund" have no traction in a city that is 40 percent African-American.

Some advice for those facing recreational marijuana legalization initiatives.

 


If they pass, get used to having to close your windows or leave your open air front porch on pleasant days.

The lingering, worse-than-skunk-ass smell offers a whole new dimension to "second-hand smoke."

It hangs in the air--even in a light breeze--much more than any carton of Marlboros ever dreamed of. 

Why? Try burning some wet leaves sometime and see how the smoke lingers. 

Likewise with mary jane.

It will be a pot-smoker's world, and you'll all be forced to live in their hotboxes.

As with all "don't like it/don't do it" and "it won't affect you" claims, it too turns out to be bullshit in the end.

Signed, 

A Gen-Xer Who Voted For Medical But Not Recreational Marijuana

 

 

 


Monday, October 04, 2021

I'm surprised it's that many.

And no, I'm not being sarcastic:

4 men enter Irish seminaries in 2021.

Sure, there's the NCs, too, but I will leave them out. 

Actually, I can't resist this parting thought--the Neocats serve a valuable purpose for the western church:

They remind us that the current administration's concern with liturgical uniformity and respect for authority is really selective. Actual parish-rending schisms are tolerated when you have power and influence. See also the "Legion of Christ" [sic].

Back to Eire:

Yes, I'm surprised that four men actually made the leap. Given the (deservedly) low regard in which the Irish Church is held, that anyone heard--or heeded--a call to serve is remarkable. 

When you add in leadership cadres which think an endless spiritual beta-test is ideal and which also demand believers have a sense of the past comparable to Leonard Shelby in Memento, it is more remarkable still. Committing to "at the moment," "perhaps" and "sorta...?" takes a genuine leap of faith.

That said, I wouldn't bet more than a couple of stray Euros that any of them will make it to ordination. Attrition is what it is.

Sweatshop Hollywood.

Work conditions have been hellish for quite some time in LaLa Land. 

It just took a pandemic to draw long overdue attention to it.

One is left wondering where State and Federal labor regulators and legislators have been all this time.

If your answer does not involve the phrase "in the studios' back pockets," it is partially invalid.

A lack of guaranteed meal breaks makes these long days even more taxing, according to some crewmembers. “I just worked on a feature in Atlanta where we never once had a lunch break. Not once did we have a lunch break for 40 shooting days,” says costumer and Local 705 member Eric Johnson. Union members claim that meal penalties, the fee productions pay when workers miss mandated meal periods, have become so affordable that productions bake them into budgets (Basic Agreement signatories have to pay members of at least some major IATSE locals between $7.50 and $13.50 per half hour after the missed mealtime).

 And while the extra meal-penalty compensation can be helpful to those with low pay, “after 10 years of [missed meals], you just can’t sustain that,” says Johnson. Some productions advocate for “rolling lunches” where workers step away briefly and/or fill in for one another during an uninterrupted workday so they can grab food, but crewmembers in certain roles — like those in the camera department — say that they can’t realistically leave or have someone else briefly assume their roles.

On social media, IATSE members and their allies have advocated for guaranteed meal breaks. The studio source says the AMPTP offered an “alternative meal break solution,” with rolling lunches being just one of the options discussed, which was rejected. 

* * *

Individuals in some of IATSE’s lowest-paid roles say that, beyond long hours, they face additional struggles due to what they describe as unlivable pay. Currently, writers assistants, assistant production coordinators and art department coordinators make a contractual minimum of $16 an hour or a little bit above, while script coordinators make, at minimum, $17.64 an hour. 

While trying to learn how to make ends meet in her role, Bachiller remembers being advised by support-staff colleagues to, on Fridays, take “all the food that was about to expire from the kitchen and that would be our groceries for the weekend.” She adds, “That was just considered normal, that was just part of paying your dues.” Alison Golub, a writers assistant and Local 871 member, counts herself lucky that she’s an L.A. native and can live at home — “because I can’t afford to pay rent.” A strike would be especially challenging for members in these roles, and Local 871 is currently putting together a program, potentially financed at least in part by a strike fund, to offer financial support to them in the event of a strike; at least one other Local is working on an economic relief program.

Concern over crewmembers’ working hours, rest periods and low wages isn’t new, and has been building steadily for years. According to one union insider who spoke on the condition of anonymity, the issues the union is fighting for this round of negotiations are “the same five or six issues that we have been talking [about] with our employers for a decade,” namely, low wages, long hours, rest periods, compensation from new media, and health and pension plan funding. (“There are some issues that both sides, producers and unions, want to resolve in negotiations,” the studio source counters. “At the end of the day, there have been deals made the last five or six rounds of negotiations, and clearly both sides, including the union, agreed to the contract, so they must have agreed to those lists of priorities.”) 

The 1997 death of second camera assistant Brent Lon Hershman in a car crash and the 2006 release of Haskell Wexler’s documentary on entertainment’s long working hours, Who Needs Sleep?, ignited similar conversations decades before. Members of the Motion Picture Editors Guild and the Costume Designers Guild have discussed a potential strike for years.

But IATSE members — whose union represents roles as disparate as studio publicists and lighting technicians — are “straight-up united” about these issues in 2021, says Bouzi.

Going to have to give this a try.

Our local hip hop empresario has opened a new spaghetti restaurant on Woodward in Detroit. 

And by spaghetti, I mean that's it: the other menu items are garlic bread, meatballs and cheese.

How's the food, though? 

It's not too far from something my own mom — who served us spaghetti at least once a week, often with sauce using tomatoes from the backyard — would have put on the dinner table, meaning it's more homespun than chef-driven. 

The noodles are cooked just right, not too al dente and not mushy. The sauce smells sweeter than it tastes and has more of a tangy flavor. There's a hint of basil, some parmesan for texture, a flagrancy of garlic and it's less salty than your low-end sauce from a jar. The portion, served in a huge Chinese food-style takeout container open at the top with a plastic fork and slice of garlic toast sticking out, is massive and heavy.

Sounds pretty good, though--and having a limited menu makes a lot of sense. 

The lines are nuts right now, but after the buzz dies a bit I'll have to give it a shot.



Our Terrorist Pope.

As the old proverb goes: What's sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander.

One of the many rhetorical flights into low-oxygen realms that the Roman Pontiff has gone on is to condemn gossip.  

Which is welcome and salutary as a general concept.

The problem is he escalates it to a moral plane that undercuts any possible value he may have intended.

In his most ludicrous formulation, he has called it "terrorism," an exercise worse than the murderers of the Shining Path, a thankfully-dead communist organization responsible for more than 31,000 deaths in Peru.

Besides the morally-bankrupt overstatement, here's the problem.

If you glance back over his record, such edicts are a fascinating exercise in self-condemnation: because no one has been a more forthright public gossip than the pontiff.

Especially when he gets chatty with his Jesuit pals or the media.

For example, he recently sat down with a group of Slovak Jesuits and...engaged in gossip.

I can hear the high-pitched outrage from the usual and too-often square-headed cultists from here:

"What?!" 

Why, yes, he engaged in two bits of full-on, chattypants gossip. First, relating an accusation about an unnamed Catholic television organization criticizing him. Naturally, criticism of Number One is "the work of the devil."

That eyeroll aside, here's the thing: we are reliably informed that the pontiff hasn't watched TV since 1990. So he's relaying what he's been told about (Gloria TV? EWTN?) this satanic network...making it simon-pure gossip.

By his own standards, that was worse than the bereaved weeping at the gravesites of those butchered by the Sendero Luminoso

And then he followed it up by gossiping about a pair of newly-ordained priests who had (unwisely) asked their cardinal for permission to say the Mass of the Ages. In response, the unnamed cardinal (quite possibly Blase Cupich) told them they had to learn Spanish and then Vietnamese first. 

And no doubt quite-possibly-Blase-Cupich will throw in Esperanto, Romansch, Basque and Quechua if they leap those hurdles. Cardinal QPBC related this pastoral smackdown to the gossiping pontiff who then happily shared it for the whole church to hear.

More terrorism, by the pontiff's own standards.

And let's not forget that he does this sort of point-making gossip as a matter of routine, with Rabbit Mom and slapping about the South African Catholic who introduced him to converts to the Faith.

In this, as with other matters, the giddy bomb thrower from the Vatican should be taken seriously only as a cautionary tale about how not to behave.

Don't forget to include the ridiculed subjects of the pontiff's IEDs in your prayers.



Friday, October 01, 2021

Good people in need of your help.

Most of you beadsqueezers have heard of Dom and Melanie Bettinelli and their lovely family.

Well, now they need your help: they have a horrific plumbing related problem that is forcing them out of their home and it's not remotely certain what insurance will cover. 

If you can sling any cash their way, it would be greatly appreciated

And you can do so knowing it's going to some of the finest, most decent people around.

Hopefully.

Merck claims its new anti-viral halves hospitalization risk from coronavirus.

I genuinely hope so, but we shall see. 

Overselling has been one of the myriad failures of the American medical establishment over the course of the pandemic.

Yes, a bit out of sorts.

As you may have noticed, my mood is...not chipper, he says, trying to keep the expletives down.

I had to restructure family travel and gathering plans, drop out of my first chance to be in a play since the corona deluge and otherwise scramble to accommodate a high-pressure schedule.

Until yesterday, when the person in charge of the high-pressure event arbitrarily kicked the schedule back 90 days.

So, no:




"Erase Women 2021."

Amy Welborn finds that Commonweal has joined the "personification" crusade against the female half of the human species.

That once-formidable publication has taken the last part of "there is neither male nor female in Christ Jesus" to a new level. 

And she has plenty of other examples, including the ACLU, the British Labour Party and now the LaLeche League.

At the rate we are going, they'll probably bring back lobotomization of women who object.

But always remember--blame anybody other than those acting like the Thought Police.

Especially when they're acting like the Thought Police and doing their damnedest to stop anything resembling an honest societal conversation.


This is what happens when you erase border controls.

 


 Eight hundred covid-positive Haitians quarantined in El Paso motel.

Note the source: not America's Praetorian-Corporate Media Complex, which at best underplays and more typically ignores disastrous decision-making by the current party in power. 

The body count meter is suspended when you wear a "-D."

Covid is an especial problem amongst Haitians because less than 0.2 percent of that tragic nation are fully vaccinated. And those who are are almost certainly part of the corrupt ruling class who aren't leaving.

How bad is it? So bad that Laredo's Democratic Mayor is calling the policies of Orange Man Bad favorable by comparison. THAT bad.

Finally, take note: 60,000 more migrants surging north now.

But that's fine with both the ruling party and Wall Street. In fact, it's the whole idea: allegedly strengthening the ruling party's voting bloc(s), and ensuring a wage-depressing stream of ultra-cheap labor.

All during a pandemic we're forcing the locals to get shots for.

Lucky about that body count meter.

 

Wednesday, September 29, 2021

A fun Youtube diversion.

Ordinary Sausage, wherein a gent makes sausages from ingredients both sublime (Beef Wellington) and atrocious (toothpaste).

Very enjoyable.

 

"That silly man who wouldn't use his wireless!"

 


 

Confiteor Deo omnipotenti,

et vobis fratres,

quia peccavi nimis

cogitatione, verbo,

opere et omissione...

--From the 1970 Order of Mass

 

 I'm not a coward, I've just never been tested/

I'd like to think that if I was I would pass/

Look at the tested, and think "There but for the grace go I"/
 
Might be a coward, I'm afraid of what I might find out/
 
Never had to/
 
Knock on wood/
 
But I know someone who has/
 
Which makes me wonder if I could/
 
It makes me wonder if/
 
I've never had to/
 
Knock on wood/
 
And I'm glad I haven't yet/
 
Because I'm sure it isn't good/
 
That's the impression that I get/

 --"The Impression That I Get" by The Mighty Mighty Bosstones (1997).


The late American author Walter Lord wisely entitled his immortal book about the S.S. Titanic "A Night To Remember." 

Due in no small part to him, the sinking still has a hold on the collective imagination of the world. Even in places like America, where the majority of people increasingly live in a perpetual present tense. Of course, Robert Ballard's 1987 revelation of the wreck site and James Cameron's technically-stupendous and narratively-vicious film from 1997 certainly play even larger roles.

The flow of books has increased because of the latter two, no doubt. Yet, there are still enduring mysteries from the tragedy. What were done with the ice warnings the ship received? What was the speed of the ship at the time of the accident? Did the coal fire in a fuel bunker play a role?

For my part, the great mystery has always been the identity of the ship whose lights were seen from the Titanic. In fact, the lights were so noteworthy that several of the lifeboats started pulling toward the ship lights.

Could this ship have rescued the Titanic's passengers?

Ever since I read Lord's book, the ship that most likely to fit the bill is the Californian, a 5,000 ton steamer which stopped in the evening before the sinking to avoid trouble with the ice. It is undisputed that the Captain of the Californian, 36 year old Stanley Lord (no relation to Walter), had no experience in dealing with field ice. The decision to stop until morning was quite sensible. 

How the Californian's deck officers behaved after they stopped that evening has been the source of endless controversy.

In my opinion, that controversy has always seemed more apparent than real. To me, the defenders of the "slackness" (to use Captain Lord's own term) of the Californian's officers that night offer arguments that are a colorfully-lit flambé of ingenuity sitting atop an over-cooked hash of special pleading, speculation, hero-worship, unsupported claims of frame-ups and studied ignorance of inconvenient data.

That is because there is no dispute that (1) the crew of the Titanic fired eight white distress rockets into the sky starting around 11:40pm and (2) the crew of the Californian saw a ship firing eight white rockets into the sky at the same time.

The Second Officer of the Californian, Herbert Stone, noted the first rocket and reported it to Captain Lord. In response to this, Lord asked for the color of the rocket (he was napping in the chart room at the time), and was told the first rocket was white. He told Stone to try to contact the ship with a Morse lamp.

White rockets were universally known to be distress signals--there is no dispute here.

The ship did not respond. Stone and other crewman noticed other rockets being fired, and noticed, over time, that the lights of the other ship began to look "queer," and admitted this was consistent with a ship with a list.

Then, some time after 2:00am, both lights and ship vanished.

The Titanic sank at approximately 2:20am.

Ever since, the supporters of Captain Lord have, with much hand-waving and minimizing, dismissed the rockets as roman candle flares, some form of unknown shipping company signal, or something else from an unknown ship that has defied the most dogged nautical research in history and also fired eight somethings into the same night sky in the same basic patch of the ocean. Whatever else may be said, the persecuted Captain Lord's ship definitely did not see the Titanic's distress rockets, say the Captain's defenders.

The last word on the subject should be the late Leslie Reade's 1993 book The Ship That Stood Still: The Californian and Her Mysterious Role in the Titanic Disaster.

As a matter of definition, the defenders of Lord and the Californian are called "Lordites." Their opponents are called "anti-Lordites." Reade was a definite anti-Lordite, but it is to his very great credit that his presentation led me to have more sympathy and respect for Lord by the time I finished. 

This was not what I expected, to put it mildly. In my mind, this is extremely important, as Reade points out that it was Stanley Lord's otherwise spotless record and post-retirement gentlemanly charm which created the dogged devotion of the Lordites that persists to this day. As you can see from my last full paragraph above this one, I am in the anti-Lordite camp, despite that increased sympathy and respect.

If I could sum up the crux of Reade's argument in one vulgar catchphrase, it would be 

"THE. CALIFORNIAN. SAW. EIGHT. ROCKETS. DAMMIT!"

As said above, Lordites have tried to dispense with the rockets by claiming such were company signals. 

"Company signals" were a way for ships to identify themselves as part of a particular shipping line--and were fading out of use by 1912 anyway, in part due to the companies themselves frowning on using them. As an example of Reade's impeccable research, he obtained records detailing the company signals used by all the shipping companies which traversed the North Atlantic at the time. And this last company had no ships remotely in the vicinity at the time. Three companies used white lighting or flares, but punctuated them with other lights or signals, and none used full fledged rockets. None of these companies had ships in the area at the time, either.

As can be seen, Reade leaves no shell unturned in his analysis. He read the voluminous transcripts of the American and British inquiries. It is patently clear that Reade regarded the American chairman and Michigan Senator William Alden Smith as a good-hearted buffoon: florid, ignorant of nautical matters, painfully repetitive and given overmuch to bombastic speechifying. And to be fair, there was a good deal of posturing, ignorance and baffling question threads on display from the American Senators on the committee. 

But Reade just as readily concedes that the findings and recommendations of this much-condemned (at least by the British) American assemblage were sensible, well-supported and judicious. And, for all of his understandable facepalming at Smith's rhetorical flights, Reade concedes that Smith's presentation speech for the findings was delivered to a spellbound audience and elicited no few tears. [For a more positive and largely-persuasive evaluation of Smith and the work of the American hearings, I recommend Wyn Craig Wade's The Titanic: End of A Dream.]

Yet Reade is no respecter of persons or nations, and he takes a switch to the flaws in the British hearings, too. He pointedly notes that, unlike the supposedly-inferior American version, there wasn't much interest in hearing from passengers in Britain--certainly no one below First Class. It was the British Board of Trade as both plaintiff and defendant, and despite the selection of capable and knowledgeable men to head the hearing, it was an upper class corporate proceeding from beginning to end. Reade is scathing about that part of it, sounding like an old school Labour man--and I mean that as a compliment. 

Moreover, Reade is in the ideal position to swat at each of the hearings, as his familiarity with and command of both volumes of transcripts is that of a virtuoso.

Finally, to the transcripts themselves and the Californian officers' testimony. 

It is some of the most irritating testimony I have ever read. Most of the Californian's officers refused to admit that they thought the white rockets were "distress rockets." The British questioners, experienced barristers all, were almost indignant with the obtuseness of this evasive testimony, as white rockets were uniformly-recognized as distress signals. 

One can only come to the conclusion that there was a meeting of Lord and the senior officers to coordinate their stories after learning of the sinking. Statements were drawn up on the way back to Boston. An additional dubious oddly was that the ship's "scrap log," a standard draft document which contained the weather conditions and locations of the ship for entry into the official log, went missing. This, to me, suggest that the Californian was much closer to the Titanic than the 19.5 miles claimed by Lord.

These and other problems were noted in the British inquiry, which finally squeezed out of Lord an admission that the white rockets may have been distress signals.

To which the Californian responded with a Morse lamp, but not turning back on its wireless. Tragically, the Californian's wireless officer ended his 16 hour shift at 11:30pm that fateful night, missing the distress signals that blared from the Titanic until nearly the end.

It would have been a simple matter to wake him up and crank up the wireless--but that did not occur to any of the deck officers.

Hence the quote at the top of this post. 

It came from Carpathia Captain Arthur Rostron, whose ship under his orders heroically charged to the rescue of the Titanic's passengers that night. While sympathetic to Lord as a brother officer, he uttered that statement to his fellow officers when privately discussing the controversy.

A final interesting fact about Reade's book is not that he spent years writing it. It is that it took nearly twenty years from his completion of the work in 1975 for it to see print. Edward DeGroot was Reade's Dutch friend and collaborator and authored the final chapter added to the book after Reade's death to account for yet another British inquest in 1992. This last contained conflicting views, and satisfied no one.

He indicates that the publication delay was due in part to the eminent Lordite Leslie Harrison, the greatest champion of Stanley Lord, revoking his permission to use certain material that he originally granted to Reade. After publication, Harrison sued Reade for defamation (on dubious grounds to me, objecting to being characterized as badgering an elderly witness to make a pro-Lord statement) and unauthorized use of a photo of Harrison given to Reade (on more solid ground here, but petty beyond words). If I understand correctly, the suit was settled with an agreement to remove this material in the next printing of The Ship That Stood Still--which never occurred.

Indeed, it is probably safe to say that the antagonism between anti-Lordites and Lordites exceeds that displayed when the principals involved in the incident were still alive. Reade certainly had no respect for Lordite arguments and the bare civil minimum for their persons--though at least some sense of genuine respect for Harrison occasionally glints through the contempt for the latter's efforts.

I've never been a Lordite, and never will be. The answers given by most of the Californian's officers during the British investigation were incredibly (in both senses of the term) evasive. But I do feel considerably more sympathy for Lord. His nautical service was otherwise honorable, including later in wartime. But on the night of the sinking, the "slackness" (to use his own term) of the officers was inexcusable. Faced with that reality, he followed the self-serving route and tried to cover his backside. The cover story broke down under contradictions and sheer weight of falsehood. The stain never came off. 

In the end, I think he came to believe his untruthful version. Ultimately, and unfortunately for Lord, there was another captain on the ocean that night who behaved in the finest traditions of seamanship: Rostron. Against that exemplar, he did not remotely measure up. Lord is not the cartoon villain some anti-Lordites will suggest, but he is certainly a moral cautionary tale. But for the grace of God go I.

Who is 2021 America to judge?

The federal prosecution of FGM cases in Detroit came to a probable end today.

An undoubted horror we are sure to see more of, sadly.

In the meantime, increasingly-common and legal versions of child genital mutilation were given further protection in one-seventh of America

An undoubted horror we are sure to see applauded, sadly. 

A difference being that the latter will be lavishly-funded and lucrative for the doctors and corporate suppliers involved.

Good luck trying to have it both ways, dying empire of empty men.

    The eyes are not here
    There are no eyes here
    In this valley of dying stars
    In this hollow valley
    This broken jaw of our lost kingdoms
   
    In this last of meeting places
    We grope together
    And avoid speech
    Gathered on this beach of the tumid river
   
    Sightless, unless
    The eyes reappear
    As the perpetual star
    Multifoliate rose
    Of death's twilight kingdom
    The hope only
    Of empty men.

Tuesday, September 28, 2021

Labor: The most important part of the economy.

The primacy of labor has never been more on display than right now--people make the machine run.

And this article from the Atlantic does a nice job of summarizing "supply chain issues" worldwide.

If you look hard enough at the problems plaguing any other part of the supply chain, you eventually find the point at which the people who do the actual work of making and moving things just can’t keep up. Container ships wait offshore, sometimes for months, because ports don’t have the capacity—the longshoremen, the warehouse staff, the customs inspectors, the maintenance crews—to unload ships any faster. 

Truck drivers to distribute those goods were in high demand even before the pandemic, and now there are simply not enough of them to do all the work available. The problem is so bad that some U.S. staffing agencies have started recruiting truckers from abroad, and some experts worry that the Biden administration’s recently announced vaccine mandates for large employers could constrain that labor pool even more, at least for a time. 

Many industry groups and freight companies believe the number of vaccinated truckers to be low, according to FreightWaves, a website that covers the shipping industry. Small trucking companies anticipate that a significant number of drivers will want to jump ship from larger carriers, which will likely be subject to the mandates once they go into effect. Even in a best-case scenario, such upheaval would scramble freight availability for months.

Read further, and you'll see the horrors afflicting our meat-packing industry. Remember the death toll before you gripe about beef prices.

Anecdotally, this labor shortage spills down to the retail level, with local chain restaurants having limited hours, one nearby previously-booming sports bar closing permanently because of a labor shortage it couldn't resolve and all sorts of other employers, small and large, ringing the bell with job offers. A friend of mine in Indiana reported that her big box home improvement store had two cashiers available for an entire Sunday recently. And salary managers worked sixteen hours to help fill in.

My eldest son was virtually insta-hired at Home Depot. He has a 401k and, with the scaling up of hours, health insurance benefits in the offing. But my next-door neighbor, a department manager at another Home Depot, reports that they are still hurting for help. 

I don't have the beginnings of a persuasive answer, but it's clear that this problem--and the attendant consequences--will be with us for a long time.

Worthwhile book review of tome from somewhat noteworthy pundit.

A thorough critique of a book by one of the more visible of America's soi disant experts and adjunct intellectuals, Tom Nichols. A lec...