Friday, October 29, 2021

"I Have Been Through This Before."

Ann Bauer, mother of an autistic son who died at 28, writes a long, heartbreaking piece about how unquestioning obedience to experts and their well-meaning hypotheses can ruin lives. A snippet, and you need to read it all.

That’s what county social workers saw when they were called to assess Andrew, following his meltdown at our public library. A tiny house, a fraying marriage, two depleted parents in cheap clothes. It was winter on the Iron Range, where advances in psychology took some time to travel. The experts—a stoic North Country man-and-woman team—decided we were the cause.

They questioned us separately and casually brought up the idea of temporary foster care. We protested and were told we could keep the boys but only if we submitted to frequent visits and attended parenting classes twice weekly, which we gladly did.

While we were being taught how to impose consequences and establish routine, Andrew and his brother were taken to a child care room where teachers helped them sing, play, and socialize. At first Andrew seemed to improve, brightening and even talking a bit, but then he regressed again, a pattern we’d see repeat on a loop for the rest of his life.

When an older relative came to visit us in spring she took one look at my 4-year-old sitting in the corner, staring at his hand. “You’ve ruined that beautiful child,” she said, her face tense with fury. “You and your careless life. Ruined him. Aren’t you ashamed?”

We eventually moved to Minneapolis, where treatments were supposedly more advanced. At 5, Andrew was diagnosed with autism and enrolled in a program that involved rocking boards, chewy toys and roughing his skin with surgical brushes three times a day.

We blamed ourselves for our son’s problems and most of the new theories did, too. His autism was because we’d had him vaccinated. Because we fed him wheat or dairy or corn. Because we hadn’t employed a team of workers to have constant “floor time” with him (the so-called Son Rise cure) or apply behavioral techniques according to the Lovaas method, beloved not only by late ’90s autism parents but also by conversion therapy folks.

Each new wave was certain: The approaches to autism that had come before were barbaric and uninformed, but this most recent breakthrough was the one clear truth. Science had spoken. Over and over for a dozen years.

We were heartbroken each time a treatment failed—and guilty because without fail, someone would insist we hadn’t tried hard enough. Sure, we’d gone gluten-free, but had we cleansed with hyperbaric oxygen? Behavioral training worked, but only if you did it 18 hours a day. Why hadn’t we taken a second mortgage and flown to the Catskills for a workshop at the Son-Rise Institute?

Just shy of his 36th birthday my then-husband gave in and began drinking in earnest. He lost his job and grew dark and silent. One day he apologized, hugged us all, got in his truck, and drove away.

Accountability is entirely absent from the assessment of our educated "gurus," the bureaucracies that enable them and their joint records of failure. Once a credentialed hero is raised on a pedestal, attempts to point out all manner of quackery--and worse--are ignored or shouted down. 

This is why my sympathy for skepticism and good people who buy into conspiracy theories never vanishes entirely. Given the bad examples of our institutions, it's understandable why people would buy in.

Thanks to Amy Welborn for the find.

For Papal States Cosplayers Only.

Rod Dreher has a reasonably sound take on the efforts of some American Catholics to imagine (word chosen deliberately) a Catholic version of our post-liberal political order

Now if he could stop uttering "the Benedict Option" every five minutes...

First, let's take it as a given: the classical liberal order is dead, largely by its own hand. Or, if you prefer less gore, a victim of its own atomizing success in elevating the abstract concept of the individual above all other societal goods. 

Not persons, mind you--but individuals. And the substitution of abstractions for persons goes the way of all political flesh in the end, complete with the obligatory body count.

So what is the alternative to the illiberal, technocratic oligarchy which is establishing itself as its heir? 

Some Catholics--influential ones--clearly want to embrace that which is emerging, dutifully washing its feet and perhaps massaging its arse. A different kind of church and state relationship--caesaropapist--but recognizable from the worst eras of the Church.

On the other hand--and with more than a few pounds of irony--there are the Integralists. Americans, led by Harvard Professor Adrian Vermeule and Sohrab Ahmari, they imagine a world where church and state work together as harmonious institutions.  

First, I will state the good: I like Ahmari and can recommend his Unbroken Thread without hesitation. Vermeule has a fine mind and, when his verbal pugilism connects, it is a wonder to behold. I certainly respect their overall intellectual framework better than the "Being Assaulted? Call a Lawyer!" approach of David French.

As to Ahmari and Vermeule's colleague Gladden Pappin, I haven't read anything by him that didn't set my teeth on edge. And that most definitely includes things I was inclined to agree with.

But here's the thing: the entire integralist enterprise can be summed up in two words: Clericalist Cosplay. Or, if you'd prefer a rather more vulgar analogy: clericalist underpants gnomes. 

Step One: Assert Integralism.

Step Two: ?

Step Three: The post-liberal Catholic nation-state.

The Achilles' heel of the plan is exposed in step one, which demands a hyper-ultramontanist devotion to the papal office. I daresay even Leo XIII would have found it off-putting and the current occupant of the Chair will find it uproariously funny when it is eventually brought to his attention. 

Can't wait for that gossipy soundbite! 

At a minimum, it should be painfully clear that the pontiff is not going to sign on to the program, what with his view that God wills a diversity of religions and related policy and staffing whatnots over which the Integralists permit no questioning whatsoever. 

As to their plans, sure: there's talk of a Gramscian march through the institutions, but it's difficult to manage that when the man to whom you pledge unquestioning obedience is razing the few bastions which used to support at least some of your ideas.

Another cold reality is they couldn't find a bishop who would sign on to the plan who is in unimpaired communion with Rome.

That's not a long march--that's wandering through the most sterile of deserts, generation after generation, without a Moses or Aaron.

Say what you will about the vain faith of the Jacobites, at least they had a king.

So, yes, the Integralist enterprise boils down to a combination of nostalgia, cosplay, and, yes, shitposting (see, alas, Ahmari's tweet at the end). There are some good ideas to salvage from them, including a well-warranted skepticism of apologetics for end-stage liberalism and the genuine ability to display the gold of a truly Catholic worldview.  

But it kneecaps itself from the start.  And even with my leanings toward catastrophism, I can't see an integralist triumph. Nor, in its stronger forms, would I care to. My clericalism is in permanent remission.


Friday, October 22, 2021

A hospice, not a hospital.

One of the metaphors used early on by the current pontiff was to describe the idea of the Church as a field hospital treating the wounded.

This excellent metaphor, like the reasonable concept of parrhesia, faded from use after the early pontificate. The last recorded use by the pontiff I can find being in February 2015.

This is just as well, as Larry Chapp points out in a fascinating blog post. The "different church" he is trying to birth is not so much interested in treating the spiritually-wounded as making them comfortable. Or, in the case of the tiny traditionalist bands themselves in need of genuine, sympathetic pastors--driving them away with mortar fire.

He [the pontiff] is being honest when he says that he holds to those things as proper moral and spiritual ideals.  And therein is precisely the problem.  The Pope’s concerns are not focused on theological precision, but on pastoral application.  And in the service of the latter he sacrifices the former, reducing the teachings of the Church, especially on moral matters, to mere “ideals” that do indeed act as proper teleological goals but not as binding moral commandments requiring confession, conversion and true repentance when we fail them. 

This is why Pope Francis routinely, and wrongly, pits doctrine against mercy, truth against compassion, and treats the commandments as “rules” that are pharisaical when applied with anything approaching a robust rigor. The “field hospital” metaphor for the Church is a good one, and I endorse it most heartily, but field hospitals are extensions of real hospitals and their goal is to heal and to restore to health.  And a hospital that treats health as a mere “ideal” that is impossible to achieve for most “ordinary people,” and leaves them as they are, is no real hospital at all but a hospice.

There is far too much here to excerpt, and it edges toward being overlong--a venial problem that I would be hypocritical to criticize. 

The hospice, not a hospital metaphor leapt to mind when I read this news out of New Zealand today. 

It is one thing to recognize the trinitarian baptisms of fellow Christians done with the proper sacramental intent as valid. Doing so is, in fact, mandatory

But it is very hospice-y--indeed, the behavior of a different church--to not care about where a Catholic is baptized. At least if the sacramental economy of the Faith is something other than optional.

[John Cardinal] Dew agrees, saying it “honours our commitment to seek the unity that draws us together, to be transformed by our encounter with one another, and to promote further expressions of our unity across our churches.The Catholic and Lutheran churches can learn from one another and speak with a common voice on issues of concern in modern society, with the conviction that they share one baptism and one faith.”

While there are differences in understanding and emphasis between the two churches, the Commission’s statement notes:

“Catholics and Lutherans both assert that through baptism a person becomes a member of the one, holy, catholic and apostolic church.

“A parent couple that includes both a Catholic and a Lutheran partner are encouraged to bring their child for baptism in the church of their choice. They may seek to have both of their pastors/priests participate in the baptismal service.

“Christians are encouraged to speak of being baptised into the Christian church, into the Christian faith, or into Christ.

“They may say that they were baptised in the Catholic or Lutheran church but are discouraged from saying that they have been baptised Catholic or baptised Lutheran.”

I'm sure there's a nice, soothing memo explaining how this is just fine, and definitely in line with the reforms of Vatican II. There always is.

There always is. 

And it would be divisive to question it in the slightest respect. In fact, it would be a sign of psychological problems--or even being a pawn of the devil. Or best of all, both.

So it's fine.  

Just don't dare say you were baptized Catholic, and wait for the next set of talking points from the Different Church.

 

It's very comfortable here, and the nice chaplain always has a smile as he walks past my room.

Is he a priest? Doesn't matter, I'm told.

Plus, he's a very nice man, always has a smile.

The IV drip helps a lot. 

Sometimes I'm bothered, like something isn't quite right.

But I'm sure I'm fine.

It's fine.

I'm fine.

Thursday, October 21, 2021

A good explainer about antibodies and our immune system's ability to evolve.

Short, distorting summary: when it comes to antibodies, quality replaces quantity

Most of our B cells, or the antibodies they produce, won’t actually react at all to SARS-CoV-2, or a vaccine that resembles it. That’s because our bodies are always churning out B cells at random, repeatedly futzing with their genetics so that they’ll make a diverse array of antibodies—billions or trillions in total—that can collectively recognize just about any microbe they might ever see. This process is haphazard and imprecise, though: When B cells are born, “they don’t have any particular pathogen in mind,” Gabriel Victora, an immunologist at Rockefeller University, told me. Instead of gripping firmly onto the virus’s surface, many antibodies might just “bounce on and off,” giving the pathogen ample time to wrest itself free, Bhattacharya said. It’s the best defense the body can slap together on short notice, having never met the bug before. Early antibodies are sort of the immune system’s best guesses at defense—the immunological equivalent of throwing spaghetti against a wall to see what sticks—which usually means we need a lot of them to truly pen the pathogen in place. They’re also fragile. Most antibodies don’t hang around for more than a few weeks before they degrade.

Such flimsy fighters aren’t terribly good investments for the long term. So while the subpar antibodies are duking it out on the front lines, the immune system will shuttle a contingent of young B cells into a boot camp, called a germinal center, where they can study up on the coronavirus. What happens inside these training camps is a battle royal in miniature: The cells crowd together and desperately vie for access to the resources they need to survive. Their weapons are their antibodies, which they wave frantically about, trying to latch on to chunks of dead coronavirus, while a panel of other immune cells judges them from afar. Only the most battle-ready among them—the ones whose antibodies grip most tightly onto the coronavirus—move on to the next round, and the losers perish in defeat. As Gommerman put it, “If they suck, they die.”

The harrowing cycle repeats itself over and over, and only gets more grim. Survivor B cells will xerox themselves, deliberately introducing errors into their genetic codes in the hopes that some of the mutations will enhance their antibodies’ chances of gluing themselves to the virus. The entire process is downright “Darwinian,” like a super-sped-up form of natural selection, Victora said. The weaklings are weeded out, leaving just the sharpest and strongest behind. It’s also very prolonged.

Researchers such as Ali Ellebedy, of Washington University in St. Louis, have found that these tournaments of culling continue for at least 12 to 15 weeks after people receive their COVID-19 vaccines, perhaps longer.If all of this is getting a little too Squid Game, consider the much rosier upshot: At the end of this process, our bodies are left with some truly primo antibodies, well poised to take up the mantle of protection as the first waves of mediocre defenders start to fall away.

 



Appeasers gonna appease.

First, the good: Boston Celtics center Enes Canter takes a stand on Tibet. 

It should also be noted that the Turkish native cannot return to his homeland because of his fierce and well-supported criticisms of the tyrant there.

So, yes--he's the real deal.

Xitler's Reich responded as expected, yanking Celtics games from broadcast.

Which brings me to the bad: the best case scenario is a tepid defense of Canter. But more likely, you'll see anger from those who always take yuan--no matter how much blood you have to wring out of the bills.

Speaking of such: the bowing and scraping sell-out collared practitioners of neo-Ostpolitik (a failure, no matter what the red-friendly apologists try to say) are floating trial balloons about abandoning Taiwan.

Because of course they are

Makes me wonder how many yuan are cycling through Vatican City at the moment.

No doubt some sold themselves too cheaply, not understanding the market.

And let me end on a final grim note:

If you don't have a "Guns of August" square on your 2020s Apocalyptic Bingo Card, get one that has it. It's just about a certainty to happen.


 

Wednesday, October 20, 2021

Book Review!

And it's sci-fi (sorta) and unsubtle satire rolled into one!

Very, very unsubtle.

After all, it comes from Norman Spinrad, about whom I have very mixed feelings. To the good, he can be a genuinely-talented writer and world-builder. 

To the bad, he has usually has A Message or two in his works, and he's not shy about trying to get the point across. Which, hey, you do you. But the problem is, he too often doesn't trust his readers' ability to get the point and feels the need to repeatedly jab his literary elbow into your ribs and say "Get it? Get it? GET IT?" 

It nearly ruins a climactic scene in his pro-EU paean Russian Spring, with one of the characters literally shouting out spoilers for another character's big surprise for the bad guys.

Yes, Norm--I got that something good was going to happen with your character's poker-playing buddy who always has a hole card or two. That's why I wear the martial arts torso armor when I pick up one of your books.

The same thing nearly happened in Journals of the Plague Years, a pro-sexual-liberation-in-the-age-of-AIDS tract that created an orwellian "Sex Police" making sure folks didn't get busy inappropriately. But happily, Spinrad threw a welcome curve ball by making a pivotal Christian fundamentalist character a good guy without the character--a major US government leader--"growing up" and abandoning his beliefs. 

Short version: don't go to Spinrad if you are looking for the light touch.

However, in The Iron Dream, Spinrad's lack of subtlety works to good advantage. And, given the reports that readers still missed the point, breaking out a rhetorical board of education was necessary, I suppose.

Basically, the conceit of the story is that the book is the late Adolf Hitler's Hugo Award-winning science-fiction masterwork. Which, if you know how woke the Hugos have become over the past decade, now works humorously at multiple levels. Not least of which is the reality that if The Iron Dream were published today, the current Hugo commissariat wouldn't touch it with a sequoia-sized pole, no matter that it is an anti-fascist satire.

In the world that led to the book, Hitler emigrated from Germany after the First World War and set up shop in New York as a fiction writer. Soviet Russia went on to swallow Eurasia and by the end of the 1950s only Japan and America are independent.

In the meantime, Hitler mastered English (more or less) and became a very popular science-fiction writer. His magnum opus, "Lord of the Swastika," was published posthumously, and inspired a Nazi-like legion of fans to follow the book rabidly, right down to forming clubs which follow the book's ethos ("Say what you will about the tenets of National Socialism, Dude...")

Spinrad is trying to do three things: (1) zing Hitler's genuine weirdness and mediocrity, (2) note the effectiveness of fascist imagery, and (3) most imporantly to him, zing what he regards as Freudian-fascist undercurrents in sci-fi/fantasy. 

It works, for the most part, with the reader finding himself (however loathingly in retrospect) rooting for Hitler's protagonist, Ferric Jaggar, who wants to free a post-nuclear True Humanity from mutants and Dominators. Spinrad throws brickbat after brickbat, pummeling hypermasculinism, fetishism, lack of female characters, military gear worship and probably most tediously, homoeroticism. 

Yes, Norm, Jaggar's legendary weapon is A Really Big Steel Dick. That occasionally throbs and awes his Inner Circle of Deeply (?) Closeted Heroes.

Again: Spinrad and subtlety live on separate continents and their correspondence is sparse and strained.

Given how many shots he fires, he scores plenty of hits even as he becomes painfully repetitive and exaggerates past the point of no return. Especially for readers who have embraced the science fiction and fantasy genres since the 70s.

I think it's safe to say modern sci-fi and fantasy have broadened considerably from their levels of development in the before times, and the pathologies he perceived then--exaggerated to ludicrous levels--are nowhere near as prevalent. Still, it's worthwhile and a handy corrective to bad writing tendencies, and it will leave an indelible impression.

Red China: America's Package-Deal Slave Auction and Overseer.

I saw a barge once, Mr. Yeaman, filled with colored men in chains heading down the Mississippi to the New Orleans slave markets. It sickened me. And more than that, it brought a shadow down. A pall around my eyes. Slavery troubled me, as long as I can remember, in a way it never troubled my father, though he hated it. 

In his own fashion. He knew no smallholding dirt farmer could compete with slave plantations, he took us out from Kentucky to get away from 'em. He wanted Indiana kept free. He wasn't a kind man, but there was a rough moral urge for fairness, for freedom, in him. I learnt that from him, I suppose, if little else from him.

Uighurs being shipped to work in America's outsourced electronics factories.

Universal Electronics, Inc. 

They make remote controls.

Remember that name, and the names of the blind-eye multinationals they supply.

The Nasdaq-listed firm, which has sold its equipment and software to Sony, Samsung, LG, Microsoft and other tech and broadcast companies, has employed at least 400 Uyghur workers from the far-western region of Xinjiang as part of an ongoing worker-transfer agreement, according to the company and local officials in Qinzhou and Xinjiang, government notices and local state media.

In at least one instance, Xinjiang authorities paid for a charter flight that delivered the Uyghur workers under police escort from Xinjiang's Hotan city - where the workers are from - to the UEI plant, according to officials in Qinzhou and Hotan interviewed by Reuters. The transfer is also described in a notice posted on an official Qinzhou police social media account in February 2020 at the time of the transfer.

Evil. Pure evil. 

No doubt UEI, like the rest of the scum corporations it supplies, is big into preaching "equity" to its American serf class and paying customers. 

So, my children, this sort of thing is one of the reasons why the notion of Hell does not bother me as much as it does other people. 


Tuesday, October 19, 2021

Bari Weiss channels Saint Anthony the Hermit.

“A time is coming when men will go mad, and when they see someone who is not mad, they will attack him, saying, ‘You are mad; you are not like us.'”

Bari Weiss, driven out of the NYT, talks about a world gone mad with Brian Stelter, the latter of whom is baffled by the very idea.

"Where can I start? Well, when you have the chief reporter on the beat of COVID for The New York Times talking about how questioning or pursuing the question of the lab leak is racist, the world has gone mad. 

When you're not able to say out loud and in public there are differences between men and women, the world has gone mad. 

When we’re not allowed to acknowledge that rioting is rioting and it is bad and that silence is not violence, but violence is violence, the world has gone mad. 

When you're not able to say the Hunter Biden laptop is a story worth pursuing, the world has gone mad. 

When, in the name of progress, young school children, as young as kindergarten, are being separated in public schools because of their race, and that is called progress instead of segregation, the world has gone mad.

There are dozens of examples."

Weiss and several like-minded old-school liberals have established the Foundation Against Intolerance and Racism, doing what self-styled civil liberties organizations used to do, but now oppose, in the name of the ascendant religious ideology. 

Ultimately, Weiss and company will lose. The tides are running too strongly against them. But that does not mean it is not a fight worth having, much less that one should not stand up and be counted.

One generation's defeat can lay the groundwork for their great-grandchildren's victory.

Is it wrong to stereotype drivers of certain motor vehicles?

Answer: I don't care.

Dodge Chargers are the worst. I hate the car with the fury of the thousand sons. Yes, 40K reference deliberate.

No, really: giving the drag racing in our neck of the woods, I have taken to calling it The Official Car of the Detroit A--h--e. Though at least the racing down our street seems to have declined this year.

Exhibit MCLVI for my judgmentalism.

Troopers spotted a white Dodge Charger SRT Hellcat "traveling at an excessive speed" on westbound Interstate 696 near Interstate 75 in Royal Oak around 2:15 a.m. Sunday, MSP said on Twitter.

The driver, 29, allegedly clocked in at more than 150 mph before troopers lost sight of him, according to the post.

Minutes later, the troopers found the motorist at Greenfield Road near I-696, pushing his car into a parking lot, MSP said.

"After further investigation it was discovered the suspect, a 29-year-old male out of Oak Park, ran out of gas in the middle of the roadway," state police said. "The suspect admitted to his reckless acts and was found to be highly intoxicated."

Got to 150 mph? 

And intoxicated?

I can only imagine on what, he says rhetorically, recalling the toker walking down the middle of the street early yesterday evening.

One of the many reasons I look forward to winter is that it offers us a partial reprieve from Charger-driven idiocy. Not a complete cessation, mind you--but a definite dial-down.

Monday, October 18, 2021

Monday music.

1. Over the Hills and Far Away, from the "Sharpe" series. 

Beautifully done by John Tams:

2. Your Jumpin' Heart, a mash-up of Hank Williams Jr. and Van Halen.

Bill McClintock is a technical virtuoso, whatever else one might think of the results. Personally, I think his results are always worth a listen.



Why not let him stay on leave for the rest of the Adminstration?

Much Outrage! at our Transportation Secretary being on extended family leave during our transportation crisis.

Me?

I think it's just as well.

Is there a non-cognitively-impaired watcher of the political scene who thinks the former Mayor of South Bend was selected for the post because of his transportation background and experience?

"Pothole Pete"? 

Of course not. He was picked because he was a loyal campaigner and he checked a demographic box. He has nothing to add to the solution of the problem--unless pouring some additional sidewalks would help.

Though, to be fair, he likes trains--and we're certainly having problems with those, too. 

But then again, so do I, and I even had a set of operable toy ones, complete with Exciting Electrocution Effect!


I will pre-emptively decline the nomination.

To end the digression, I don't have the slightest problem with him being on extended leave. It leaves the long-term civil service professionals in charge.

The part we should be focusing on is that the long-term professionals don't have any answers, either.

And that's the part that worries me.

 

A real-life Kitty Genovese.

A woman was raped on a commuter train in suburban Philadelphia last Wednesday evening...and no one riding in the same train car did anything.

It took an observant SEPTA employee to get help.

The entire episode was captured on surveillance video that showed other people on the train at the time, [Police Superintendent Timothy] Bernhardt said.

“There was a lot of people, in my opinion, that should have intervened; somebody should have done something,” Bernhardt said. “It speaks to where we are in society; I mean, who would allow something like that to take place? So it’s troubling.”

For those who might not get the reference, Kitty Genovese was a young woman in who was stabbed to death in Queens in 1964. The newspaper that launched Walter Duranty into the journalistic stratosphere notoriously got the facts very, very, wrong, claiming that 38 witnesses saw the attack and did nothing. As it turns out, that was not the case at all, and the police were summoned by two witnesses. And none of the witnesses saw the whole event

But, if officer Bernhardt is correct here, there's film of people doing nothing as a rape unfolds in front of them.

What, are we our sister's keeper these days or something?



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

 

 

 


Down with covid.

  That's both a confirmed-PCR diagnosis and my general feeling about the situation. Anyway, my case and that of my eldest son are the wo...