Monday, November 29, 2021

Ten years.


 Running Back Hassan Haskins (No. 25): Five touchdowns and a Michigan legend.

As sharp-eyed readers may recall, back in September I described Michigan football as a "pit toilet" despite an early ok start.

That was mostly based on the following fact: the Wolverines can't win what had become the Buckeyes' Game at the end of the year.

And the team I saw--running the ball like something out of the Ten Year War days (my first football memory was Michigan beating OSU in 1975)...that's not going to work against a bunch of speedsters playing NFL-level offensive ball who can dial up points at will.  

Honestly, The Game had become an annual exercise in crushing-disappointment-to-utter-humiliation. Absolutely the latter over the last two games (a corona outbreak killed last year's game, mercifully-so given how crap Michigan was).

Imagine the Red Sox vs. Yankees rivalry before 2004: that's what it had become. 

A rivalry mostly in the minds of the consistently-beaten.

And after the Wolverines blew a two touchdown lead over the clearly-tougher and more-motivated Michigan State Spartans, this year's match-up was another foregone conclusion, one I grimly sat down to watch with zero hope, and carefully-policed to douse any embers of deceitful hope that may start to ignite.

But somehow...this version of the Wolverines hammered, mashed and clawed their way to victory. 294 yards rushing, 169 of it from Haskins. Three sacks and 15 (!) pressures from DE Aidan Hutchinson, and a back-breaking sack from David Ojabo.

Yet, I didn't let the embers ignite until the Wolverines scored their last touchdown with 2:17 left in what was once again, The Game

It's a rivalry again. And I feel like the six year old cheering at the Zenith in the living room again.

But here's hoping that Michigan plants its feet back on the ground today. Because they are headed to utterly-unfamiliar ground: the Big 10 Championship Game. And Iowa gives me bad nightmares from the past. 


Your sports weekend was not this bad, I assure you. Even if you rooted for OSU.

I'm pretty sure the tats are temporary, so at least there is that. 

But genuine props for going ALL OUT--and in the opposing team's stadium, too.  Dude, you are definitely a diehard fan.

 Hat tip to MGoBlog for the find.

Friday, November 26, 2021

Remember this moment when the Nu variant starts rampaging.

Eh, let's wait and see about a travel stop from South Africa, says "America's Doctor."

Why? Because it's still early:

Only a few cases of the B.1.1.529 “Nu” variant have been detected [outside of South Africa] so far. By the logic of March 2020, that should make this an opportune moment to slap a travel ban on southern Africa. We might not be able to stop Nu from reaching the U.S. but we can limit the number of travelers bringing it in, slowing the spread. And the slower the spread is, the fewer people will be infected while the country waits for Pfizer and Moderna to produce an updated vaccine, if need be.

I have an idea: tell him he's acting like a fellow over-rated egomaniac when the latter was too late about stopping travel from Europe.

That might do it.

The UK has already issued a travel stop. 

Meanwhile, the stock market dropped like a stone today--maybe that will wake up a caretaker or two at the White House.

Here's some more data about the variant that's giving some epidemiologists the sweats.

It's rampaging through the South African province that includes Pretoria and Johannesburg, and has surpassed Delta in the course of three weeks.

[Update: mirabile dictu, someone is awake in DC: travel ban begins Monday, which I hope means we test everyone in the meantime and then citizens and legal residents who return, too. Good on the Administration for acting quickly.]

Wednesday, November 24, 2021

My Much Better Half and I saw our first movie in a theatre in more than two years.


But it seemed longer. Heather and I didn't get to the theatre much before the apocalypse, as being the shuttle drivers for the various activities of our unsocialized homeschoolers limited our options and frankly, energy, for Yet Another Drive. 

Yet, when Amy said Branagh's look at growing up in Belfast during the beginning of The Troubles was worthwhile, I thought: "Why not? We liked going way back when." So we did--after our shuttling duties and other commitments ended at 9pm.

We had the whole place to ourselves.

I have liked Kenneth Branagh since I popped Henry V into the VCR back in 1990. Whether in front of the camera (the underrated noir homage Dead Again), or behind it (Cinderella and--yes--Thor), he produces. One of these sets of days, I'm going to watch his four-hour Hamlet.

See above comments re: shuttle runs. It is possible--we managed to watch Lonesome Dove over the course of a month a while back.

In Belfast, Branagh remembers life in a mixed neighborhood of the titular capital of Northern Ireland from August 1969 through Easter 1970. It starts off idyllic, with the eight-year-old Buddy Branagh slaying dragons with a wooden sword and trashcan shield, and then chatting with all his neighbors as he responds to the relayed call from Ma to come home.

Then the pogrom begins. The windows of their Catholic neighbors' homes are broken out by a rampaging mob of "fellow" Protestants who finish the rampage by detonating a car.

I use "fellow" advisedly, as it is clear that Ma and Pa are only culturally Protestant and not hatemonger material. Nor are Buddy's more observant paternal grandparents, played to perfection by Judi Dench and CiarĂ¡n Hinds, inclined to hate beadsqueezers. Indeed, even the fire-and-brimstone preacher Buddy and his brother Will hear one Sunday inveighs sweatily against damnation in general terms, leaving the papists out of it.

I mean, in the reverend's circles it's presumed that practitioners of popery have punched their passes to perdition.

And yet, the fact the reverend hammers the congregation for its own sins and does not even mention Catholics after The Troubles erupt is probably more noteworthy than I originally thought. He even gets a great line at the end about remembering a deceased family member.

The Troubles strike as the Branagh family faces its own troubles: a nearly-unpayable tax debt forces Pa to work (sporadically) in England as a tradesman, straining the marriage as the two Branagh boys become unruly. Pa increasingly wants to move the family to England because of better economic opportunity, which slowly materializes as he impresses his English employer. 

As the neighborhood turns into a walled enclave, Pa also wants to get out for reasons of safety. A pair of local Protestant slobs radicalize into UVF types and start threatening the moderate Protestants as well as Catholics. Pa has no truck with them, threatening to kill their leader after he tries to extort Pa. But it becomes clear the UVEffers are becoming ascendant, with all that entails.

Nevertheless, Ma repeatedly balks against the very thought of leaving for any reason. She is rooted in this Belfast neighborhood. It is home and nowhere else is. And she is right, and quite persuasive.

That is, until it no longer is home--not any more. No matter how much you wish it were otherwise.

For Buddy and the family, the theatre (stage and screen) is an escape, and Branagh films the theatrical depictions in color: Chitty-Chitty-Bang-Bang, One Million Years B.C. (which annoys Ma considerably, for some reason), A Christmas Carol. Everything else--including the TV--is black and white. 

It mostly works, though the reference to High Noon (which Buddy watches on TV) is a bit too heavy-handed in a later scene.

But the odd moment or two aside, Belfast hangs together beautifully. Branagh conveys a sense of place, of roots, of a neighborhood where the commonalities outweigh sectarian differences--right down to betting the horses and waking deceased loved ones in the home. They're all Belfast Irish, Protestant or Catholic. It does not matter.

Until, one horrible summer, it did--and the old neighborhood slowly died.

All of the main players--newcomer Jude Hill, Jamie Dornan, Caitriona Balfe, the aforementioned Dench and Hinds--are superb. And yes, my fellow Americans, the Ulster accent, while not Glaswegian, takes some getting used to. However, you will understand everyone after some exposure.

The film ends with a dedication to all of Belfast--those who left, those who stayed, and those who were lost. Go see it--it is well worth whatever you spend to see it on the big screen. The theatre will certainly be happy to see you, too.

Afterwards, make sure to appreciate your own neighborhoods. 

And then imagine what they might look like after another couple decades of polarization.

Tuesday, November 23, 2021

The root of the Catholic Church's endless crisis? Lying to itself.

Amongst the too-many pieces of unsolicited advice I give my children is to not lie to themselves, either. Once falsehood becomes one of your mental navigation tools, you are headed to shipwreck.

Lying always takes a toll on you. Even if no one else sees it and there are no immediate repercussions.

But when it becomes institutionalized? 

It wrecks other people's lives, too. No matter how much you would like to pretend otherwise.

Which brings me to this Pillar story about the hellish priest from Cleveland, Robert McWilliams, whom the federal authorities have thankfully locked away for life.

When a federal judge decided this month on a prison sentence for Fr. Robert McWilliams — convicted of child abuse, child pornography, and child trafficking — she had two versions of past events from which to choose.

In the account of McWilliams’ lawyer, the priest needed help, therapeutic treatment, to address the “demons from his childhood” which influenced the heinous crimes of his adult life.

The “demons” were not specified, but since a prosecutor’s memo spent several pages discussing the correlation between suffering abuse and committing it, it’s reasonable to presume that’s what McWilliam’s attorney was getting at.

But the prosecutor argued that McWilliams was not “corralled into a crime by a series of unfortunate life circumstances.” Instead, her assessment was blunt: McWilliams was “cruel,” “calculating,” and a “sociopath.”

The judge who sentenced McWilliams to life in federal prison seemed to align with the prosecution.

But whether McWilliams is more like an unfeeling Hannibal Lecter or instead a damaged, criminally unmoored Buffalo Bill, both accounts leave the Diocese of Cleveland in a difficult position.

Either its seminary was unable to weed out a sociopath ordained a priest just five years ago, or it was unable to realize that a deranged and unstable trauma victim was unsuitable for priestly ministry. 

That is the sort of horror that makes honest people and institutions take stock and make changes.

So what is the response of the leadership of the Cleveland diocese to their ordination of Buffalo Lecter?

Seminary screening is not perfect, nor is it foolproof. But when the system is beaten, most observers would expect a thorough postmortem — the kind that results in a clearly articulated set of changes, and a public commitment to follow through on them.

In Cleveland, seminary administrators have said thus far that the McWilliams saga hasn’t really suggested to them any particular changes they ought to make. That prompted one victim of McWilliams to suggest last week those administrators need, as it were, to take “their heads out of their asses.”

If a seminary doesn’t see an evaluative failure in the ordination of a sociopath, some Catholics have asked, what certitude can be had that McWilliams is the only one to graduate from the place? If there aren’t specific failures to recognize and to change, is it reasonable to conclude the failures are systemic, and the changes must be, too? 

But a thorough, impartial investigation might turn up blameworthy clerics. 

Worse, it could upset the leadership's equilibrium, cause it to question itself and tell it that real penance and reform are necessary.

Better to just maintain the self-deception that everything is basically fine.

We are an Easter People.

Forward in Hope. 

Your Preferred Tuneful Whistle Past the Graveyard.

Despite the blaring klaxons, closing parishes and all the other evidence to the contrary.

That's not what the Strategic Petroleum Reserve is for.

The President has ordered the release of 50,000,000 barrels of oil from the Strategic Petroleum reserve, in conjunction with nations which are oil-poor through no fault of their own.

Here is the text of the Strategic Petroleum Reserve law, to the extent enactments of our national legislature still govern the actions of the Imperial Presidency.

And here are the statutory requirements for drawing upon the Reserve.

But here's the bottom line:

The Biden administration has argued that the supply of oil has not kept pace with demand as the global economy emerged from the pandemic, and the reserve is the right tool to help ease the problem.

Americans used an average of 20.7 million barrels a day during September, according to the Energy Information Administration. That means that the release nearly equals about two-and-a-half days of additional supply.

The decision comes after weeks of diplomatic negotiations and the release will be taken in parallel with other nations. Japan and South Korea are also participating.

The U.S. Department of Energy will make the oil available from the Strategic Petroleum Reserve in two ways; 32 million barrels will be released in the next few months and will return to the reserve in the years ahead, the White House said. Another 18 barrels will be part of a sale of oil that Congress had previously authorized.

A trickle of oil over several months...and buying more to replenish it at who knows what kind of prices.

I don't think it is going to help much.

The Children of Modernity.

All of Hitler's political ideas had their origin in the Enlightenment. These included the concept of the nation as a higher historical force, the notion of superior political sovereignty derived from the general will of the people, and the idea of inherent racial differences in human culture.

These were distinct derivations from Enlightenment anthropology which rejected premodern theology and the common roots and transcendent interests of mankind. The cult of the will is the basis of modern culture, and Hitler merely carried it to an extreme. The very concept of National Socialism as the "will to create a new man" was possible only in the twentieth century context as a typically modern, antitraditional idea. 

The same may be said of the Nazi search for extreme autonomy, a radical freedom for the German people. Hitler carried the modern goal of breaking the limits and setting new records to an unprecedented point. For no other movement did the modern doctrine of man as the measure of all things rule to such an extent. 

Thus Daniel Bell has judged that all self-centered, subjective modern culture stresses the "triumph of the will"--one of the most common Nazi concepts--and that Hitler is another typical product of modernity.

This also holds with regard to social and economic programs. No ruler in modern times has gone to such lengths as Hitler to acquire, among other things, the natural resources necessary for a modern economy. Nazi Gleichschaultung ["co-ordination", the process by which NSDAP control extended throughout society] and the effort at status revolution tended to unite German society and overcome class distinctions for the first time in German history. 

Though Nazi antiurbanism is said to have been inherently reactionary, radical antiurbanism has become a major trend of the late twentieth century. In fact, though the German war economy promoted de facto urbanization and greater industrialization, rather than the reverse, an ultimate Nazi economic goal was to balance farm and industry. When sought by liberals, this is frequently deemed to be the height of enlightenment and sophistication. Finally, Hitler was well in advance of his times in his concern about ecology, environmental reform, and pollution.

Truly large-scale genocide or mass murder is a prototypical development of the twentieth century, from Turkey and Russia to Germany, Cambodia and the countries of Africa. The unique Nazi tactic was to modernize the process, to accomplish the mass murder more efficiently and surgically than other great liquidators in Turkey, Russia or Cambodia have done. Nor was Hitler's genocidal program any more or less "rational," since the goal of mass murder is always political, ideological, or religious and not a matter of practical economic ends, pace Stalin or Mao Tse-Tung. 

--Stanley G. Payne, A History of Fascism: 1914-1945, pp. 203-204 (Univ. of Wisconsin Press, 1995). 

Monday, November 22, 2021

Boycott the 2022 Games entirely.

Until today, I thought the Administration's idea of a diplomatic boycott of the 2022 Winter Olympics would be a good response to the communist thugs in Beijing.

That was before the corrupt oafs at the International Olympic Committee pronounced themselves "relieved" by their staged "one-on-one" discussion with the imprisoned Peng Shuai


To metaphorical hell with the Games.

Yes, I know it punishes innocent foreign athletes for the misdeeds of the host nation. But really, to even be seen in events stage-managed by Xi's New Maoist it worth it?

If they go ahead and send American athletes, I think the rest of us should express our displeasure by making sure NBC has the lowest-ever Olympics TV ratings. Who knows--maybe the advertisers will take a hint or two?


May God receive the souls of the fallen, heal the injured and comfort their loved ones.

And always follow this ironclad proverb:

Be disciplined and wait for the facts. 

This is especially important in this era of bad journalism, garbage narratives, deeply-stupid hot takes and algorithmic programming for "engagement."



A very, very minor First World holiday observation.

I am happy to report that our Michigan chain grocery store had no shortage of turkeys per se. And on sale for $0.33 per pound.

But it was a bugger to find anything between 15 and 20 pounds. My youngest son and I moved the parakeets and ostriches about for ten minutes, and finally found something suitable for our oven and baking pan.

Even if we hadn't, we are still blessed beyond words. I hope your week is blessed also.

Posting will continue, but a bit sporadically.

The self-defense acquital you almost certainly did not hear about.

It happened last Friday, so you can understand why it was overshadowed.

But do not let it be overshadowed. Especially in light of the stupid, broadbrush and often mendacious rending of garments over the well-considered verdict in Wisconsin.

In 2017, Andrew Coffee IV opened fire on what turned out to police raiding his residence. His girlfriend died from a shot fired by police, and Coffee was tried for attempted murder, felony murder and being a felon in possession of a firearm.

Friday, he was acquitted by a Florida jury, except on the last charge:

His girlfriend, Alteria Woods, 21, died during the raid after being struck by 10 bullets fired by a SWAT team member, including one shot that entered her chest, records show.

The second-degree murder count, defined as an intentional killing that was not premeditated, was in connection to Woods’ death.

Jurors seated last week for a trial that began Monday deliberated for about 11 hours before returning a verdict.

The jury began deliberating Thursday afternoon following closing arguments and worked until around 10 p.m. before being told to return Friday.

After court Friday, Coffee’s attorney Adam Chrzan said his client was relieved when it became clear the jury was acquitting him of the most serious charges.

“I think they weighed the evidence and applied the law and took into account the defenses that we were provided and we argued successfully, clearly, that there was some overreaction and overreach by the sheriff's department on that raid," Chrzan said. “They should have pulled back, they didn't. And this is what happens when you go into a volatile situation without all the information.”

The prosecutor is seeking the maximum penalty for the last charge--30 years.

Which is hideous prosecutorial overreach and indicates a high degree of salt, as my children are wont to say.  The court should deny it. 

For those interested, here are the demographics for Indian River County, Florida, where the trial was held. And here's who the County favored for President in 2020.

Sweeping narratives about "us" and "them" are cancer for the civic health of our nation. Don't get swept into the dustpan by them.

Friday, November 19, 2021

May the Women's Tennis Association ever prosper.

On November 2, 2021, Peng Shaui, a female pro tennis player from China, announced that she had been raped by a former vice premier and high ranking Communist Party member back in 2018.

Shortly thereafter, the post was deleted, then she herself vanished. A statement purportedly from her was published by the state media two days ago, stating that she hadn't been raped, was fine, really, just taking some time off, thanks, don't worry.

The usual unconvincing platter of lies. 

Yesterday, the Women's Tennis Association responded to Peng's imprisonment.

I am so used to seeing cringing, bowing and scraping before the People's Republic of China that the slightest pushback against the monsters of Beijing deserves a celebratory signal-boost.

But note that the WTA's actions are not "the slightest pushback." 

This is putting money where one's mouth is, something American corporations and institutions never do when it comes to flow of sweet, sweet blood-stained yuan.

None of us should be under any illusions that China will change its behavior due to being publicly shamed in the west. If they cared about that, they wouldn’t have issued a transparently fraudulent “everything’s fine” statement in Peng's name. But having the WTA and its stars call attention to Peng’s disappearance will help further delegitimize the regime in the eyes of westerners who don’t normally pay attention to foreign policy. And it might shame other western institutions that are inclined to keep quiet when China commits crimes in plain sight to acknowledge what’s happening before their eyes. There’s news today that the UN is now demanding proof of Peng’s well-being from Beijing. Would that have happened if the WTA had shrugged off her disappearance as a matter of internal Chinese politics?

Women’s tennis isn’t a mega-bucks business in China the way, say, the NBA is but they’ll be leaving real money on the table if they pull out. Steve Simon, the WTA’s chairman, swung a deal in 2018 that would have seen China hold the WTA Finals every year for the next decade. Nine tournaments were played there in 2019 alone, with room to grow. And Simon is known for his business savvy, per the WSJ. If there’s anyone you might expect to carefully weigh the financial health of his industry against the safety of a single Chinese player, it’s him.

But you’d be doing him a disservice, if so. The second half of the CNN interview embedded at the end of this post is almost shocking in the moral clarity Simon displays by threatening to quit China. “There’s too many times in our world today … that we let business, politics, money dictate what’s right and what’s wrong,” he says at one point. “We have to start as a world making decisions that are based upon right and wrong, period.” And then the real stunner: “This is bigger than the business.”

Bravo to the Association and the athletes for standing up and saying no. Willing to leave money on the table in the process.

As compared to Marriott, which went the usual collaborator route. The American hotel chain behemoth actually used the phrase "political neutrality" in canceling a Uighur conference at one of their hotels.

Congratulations--that earns the profits-not-people chain the Elie Weisel retort:

Neutrality helps the oppressor, never the victim. Silence encourages the tormentor, never the tormented. Sometimes we must interfere. When human lives are endangered, when human dignity is in jeopardy, national borders and sensitivities become irrelevant. Wherever men or women are persecuted because of their race, religion, or political views, that place must – at that moment – become the center of the universe.

The Book Tower renovation continues.

The Book Tower is my favorite Detroit skyscraper. Built in 1916-1926, it is in the process of being renovated for reopening in 2022. 

God willing and the corona don't rise.

One of the best parts of the renovation is that it is a genuine restoration as well, with the architects and engineers having to relearn old techniques to truly return the building to its former glory.

Among the intricate undertakings for the project are the restoration of original plaster and an art glass skylight that was blocked.

Ferndale-based Russell Plastering is handling the plasterwork while New Jersey-based Femenella & Associates is undertaking the skylight restoration.  

Arthur Femenella, vice president of Femenella & Associates, said his firm, along with New York City-based ODA Architecture, used an old photograph of the dome and the remaining cast iron frame with dome to aid in the design. The restoration process will involve replicating the missing framework and glass, which will feature 7,000 jewels — of which 3,000 will have to be replicated. The dome and glass will be put back into place and a new undercroft built.

Femenella said the project is a rare one.

“In 75 years of experience in our office, we’ve never seen anything like this," he said. "Doing this type of design, again, is something very new to us. We’re going to make this whole entire thing based on the old means and methods, which we had to learn by reverse engineering.”

Read the whole thing. Note especially the restored bronze work.

When it reopens, I will get in there with my camera and post the pics here.


There's a lot to be said about the USCCB's Eucharist confab.

But I will leave most of that to Amy Welborn.

Were there really some Catholics on Twitter accusing Archbishop Jose Gomez of dog-whistling for "White Nationalism"? For saying this?

Archbishop Ireland believed deeply in what Reverend Martin Luther King and others have called the “American creed” — the belief expressed in our founding documents, that all men and women are created equal and endowed with sacred dignity, a transcendent destiny, and rights that must never be denied.

Yep, I can hear Charlottesville Tikists cheering from here. 

There's nothing they love more than hearing a Mexican-born immigration advocate quote MLK Jr.

But of course there were Catholics spitting outrage. I'm not looking for them, but there's no shortage of prominent [adjust values of "prominent" for being a Catholic twitterer] ones who have merged politics with faith who could say such things.

Keep talking--there are few things that make the Faith more toxic than cloaking your politics in its dead, flayed flesh.

Speaking of the Faith as a skin-suit, let's look at the nuncio's commentary at the conference:

Realities are more important than ideas. We can have all the theological ideas about the Eucharist – and, of course, we need this – but none of these ideas compare with the reality of the Eucharistic Mystery, which needs to be discovered and rediscovered through the practical experience of the Church, living in communion, particularly in this time of pandemic. We can become so concentrated upon the sacrality of forms of the liturgy that we miss the true encounter with His Real Presence. There is the temptation to treat the Eucharist as something to be offered to the privileged few rather than to seek to walk with those whose theology or discipleship is falling short, assisting them to understand and appreciate the gift of the Eucharist and helping them to overcome their difficulties. Rather than remaining trapped in an “ideology of the sacred”, synodality is a method that helps us to discover together a way forward.

Now, remember that the essential job function of a nuncio in the current era is to make sure everyone bellies up to the pontifical word salad bar--no matter deficient in mental nutrition it turns out to be.

"Realities are more important than ideas" being a particularly dumb piece of sloganeering. 

There's nothing more real than a motivating idea in the soul of a human being. People struggle and die for ideas every day, and change the grim realities they live in into something better because of them. If you think of the dumb slogan as a verbal truncheon to be swung at ecclesiastical opponents, it might make slightly more sense, at least as a tactic. But it's still  worthy of contempt.

Taken on its face, it is a pernicious argument for stasis and privilege. 

And, speaking of privilege: the bleak irony is that privilege is precisely what the nuncio and those who fret about "the weaponization of the Eucharist" are defending.

The right of privileged Catholic political elites to do whatever the Hell they want in their public lives despite the grim contradictions to the faith they loudly profess.

For a regime that talks about championing the poor, those on peripheries, and other related ideas, the reality truly is greater than ideas: the pontiff has no trouble kissing up to the privileged and the powerful and tossing the weak, poor and peripheral to the side.

And by taking the side of Catholic ruling castes to ensure that they get their wafers every Sunday, this privilege is made ironclad. Those Catholics who wrestle with conscience and decide to stay in the pews when the communion line forms? The message from the top is that you're chumps and almost certainly suspect for adhering to the Old Piety. 

More to the point: you struggling nobodies in the pews can't cut the Church out of the public grant money.

Thursday, November 18, 2021

It's seasonal Catholic catalog time!

And hoo, boy--am I tired of seeing Archbishop Vigano everywhere.

His decision to become an Omnipundit--ghostwritten or otherwise--was a spiritual own-goal.

Publishers feeding into it only makes it worse. 

Here's an idea for both parties:



Nothing says "lively pastoral charity" like denying extreme unction to the dying.

I saw this yesterday, but it did not sink in until Kevin Tierney pointed it out.

The bishop of Charleston leaves the spiritual equivalent of a flaming bag of crap on the porches of his sheep. Only a contemptible ideologue or equally contemptible company man could try to legislate this. 

But it matters not at all which he is. Click on the picture to magnify.

What matters is that the gratuitous cruelty of the law invites disobedience, so here's hoping it is ignored when those members of the faithful seek it anyway.  

Salus animarum suprema lex.

Wednesday, November 17, 2021

I forget how fragile human life is.

And sometimes, that reality is brought home by stumbling across a local news story.

I am a proud Michigander, preferring the term made immortal by Abe Lincoln's shot at Lewis Cass to the more TPS-cover-sheet-ish "Michiganian."

So when people want to try something new and pioneering in my beloved State, I take interest. 

Such was the case with a story about a nomadic young wife and husband, Kate Leese and Adam Kendall. I read it the day after it was published.

They had a big dream: planting a vineyard and starting a winery on Michigan's historic Beaver Island. Michigan's "King," James Strang, once ruled the Island, and the late Washington Post pundit David Broder loved it and was a frequent visitor.

The rural quiet of the Island has attracted many, so it was not surprising that the young couple fell in love with the place. Their vineyard planting had already begun, in fact:

On the surface, their dream might seem as far-flung as this island in the northern waters of Lake Michigan, but the couple has planted roots on a 120-acre tract deep in the woods of the island, the third-largest in the state. Their planting of 2,100 vines on a fallow field this past spring came after their own extensive research and consultations with others in Michigan’s flourishing wine industry.

“It feels like a place somewhere along the road where you could stop and have a glass of wine with new friends,” said Kate Leese, 35, who grew up in Charlevoix, a resort town across the lake, about 30 miles away. “Our goal is to have that kind of place that brings people together.” 

Wine grapes have been cultivated by others on the island in the past but not for commercial use, the couple says. They'll be the first to bottle and sell their wine on the island as well as the mainland.  

It’s not hard to imagine that kind of operation happening here, on the open lawn behind a turn-of-the-century farmhouse the couple is restoring. Beyond the clearing, where the young vines are sprouting from grow tubes, hardwoods frame the horizon. Apple trees, remnants of another farming era, and sugar maples, exploding in fiery colors, dot the bucolic landscape.

“We have wanted to plant a vineyard, but it was something that we thought about doing 20 years from now, in the future,” said Leese, who has a background in biochemistry and who, like her husband, is passionate about wine. “So many things came together for us in the last year."

Those things included finding a property on Beaver Island after a random stop in fall 2019, in the wake of a boat trip up the northwestern Michigan coastline. They were ready for a more stationary existence after spending three years on the road, pulling a renovated Airstream around the continental United States, working remotely. 

“Almost immediately after we pulled into the marina here, we knew this was the level of quiet we were looking for,” said Kendall, 37, a Jackson native who has a background as an attorney. “At night, there’s almost complete silence here. There’s no light pollution. You can hear every car (if one goes by). It’s the kind of place we had been looking for as our next spot.”

* * *

Part of an archipelago, Beaver Island is home to about 600 year-round residents. It’s the kind of place where everybody knows everybody, where everybody waves as they pass one another, where neighbors pitch in to help one another and where everyone does what they can to help the community.

Yes, Michigan is an excellent wine region, believe it or not. The west coast of Lake Michigan has proven to be ideal for growing wine grapes. So, growing them on Beaver Island was a risk, but promising.

But eight days after their story was published, I read that they died in a plane crash on the Island. It was stunning in the worst way. 

We recognize that we are not promised tomorrow, but we do not really know it until it slaps us in the face.

May they rest in peace and their families and friends be comforted. 

And may someone take up their dream and make it a reality.


A tax cut for the super-rich?

Yep, it is in the "Build Back Better" legislation.

In fact, it showers more money on the wealthy than all but one of the programs in the so-called party of the working class's proposal:

The House is expected to vote this week on President Biden’s Build Back Better legislation. The social spending bill includes investments in clean energy and affordable child care — but it also includes a $285 billion tax cut that would almost exclusively benefit high-income households over the next five years.

The measure would allow households to increase their deduction from state and local taxes from $10,000 to $80,000 through 2026, and then impose a new deduction cap through 2031. It’s the second-most expensive item in the legislation over the next five years, more costly than establishing a paid family and medical leave program, and nearly twice as expensive as funding home-medical services for the elderly and disabled, according to an analysis by the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget.

The "SALT" (state and local tax) deduction allows high-earners in high-tax states to rob the Federal treasury via a deduction for those taxes. Likewise, since it decreases the pain on such earners, it lessens the pressure on the leaders of high tax states, allowing them to maintain them and shove the loss on to the rest of the country.

Back in the time of Orange Man Bad, this regressive deduction was capped at $10K, to howls from the wealthy and high-tax jurisdictions.

Now they are trying to "fix" that and turn the cash sluice back on.

Hypocrisy? Not at all.

No, hypocrisy presumes a person's occasional nod to a moral standard external to him even as he violates it.

When the object of power is power, there is no hypocrisy.


Tuesday, November 16, 2021

Went up north for the early family Christmas.

My parents wisely flee northern Michigan before too much snow flies--and some did fly while we were up there, coating the ground and trees.

A great four days of family togetherness before they go. Alas, the schedules for my brother's family and mine did not work out, so we went up later. Hopefully, next year will be better that way. But still a great time.

Apparently, I was better than I thought, getting a recent biography of Saint Francis and a Gladiator grav tank for my Ultramarines

The duality of man, right there. 

Weirdly, my spiritual compass points more toward the Franciscans than any other order. A story for another time, perhaps. Or perhaps not.

Also, Dad gifted me with an eight-foot long flatbed steel trailer. Very nice, and my middle son and I will be modifying it into a cargo-hauler with a frame of two-by-fours bolted onto it. Ratchet straps only do so much to secure luggage, but they worked this time. Next time, we'll have fewer to worry about. 

Especially since ratchet straps seem to be some cunning IQ test that I almost invariably fail. 


So apparently there's this attempted hatchet job of a book about Scott Hahn.

I've been reliably informed that it is a padded version of a doctoral dissertation by some assistant professor.

I have also been reliably informed that it is, like many dissertations, Not Good At All

I know that without reading it.

Gasp--that's not fair!

Normally, yes.

But all rules have exceptions, and here's one: any religious tome that has an insult in the title is candidly admitting to you that it is Not Good At All.

And as sure as the Almighty made lots and lots of beetles, this one flings the classic insult "fundamentalist."

As the philosopher Alvin Plantinga memorably put it, "fundamentalist" just means "sumbitch":

 We must first look into the use of this term ‘fundamentalist’. On the most common contemporary academic use of the term, it is a term of abuse or disapprobation, rather like ‘son of a bitch’, more exactly ‘sonovabitch’, or perhaps still more exactly (at least according to those authorities who look to the Old West as normative on matters of pronunciation) ‘sumbitch’. When the term is used in this way, no definition of it is ordinarily given. (If you called someone a sumbitch, would you feel obliged first to define the term?) 

Still, there is a bit more to the meaning of ‘fundamentalist’ (in this widely current use): it isn’t simply a term of abuse. In addition to its emotive force, it does have some cognitive content, and ordinarily denotes relatively conservative theological views. That makes it more like ‘stupid sumbitch’ (or maybe ‘fascist sumbitch’?) than ‘sumbitch’ simpliciter. It isn’t exactly like that term either, however, because its cognitive content can expand and contract on demand; its content seems to depend on who is using it. 

In the mouths of certain liberal theologians, for example, it tends to denote any who accept traditional Christianity, including Augustine, Aquinas, Luther, Calvin, and Barth; in the mouths of devout secularists like Richard Dawkins or Daniel Dennett, it tends to denote anyone who believes there is such a person as God. 

The explanation is that the term has a certain indexical element: its cognitive content is given by the phrase ‘considerably to the right, theologically speaking, of me and my enlightened friends.’ The full meaning of the term, therefore (in this use), can be given by something like ‘stupid sumbitch whose theological opinions are considerably to the right of mine’. 

--Alvin Plantinga, Warranted Christian Belief (Oxford: 2000),  245.

Thus, to summarize: some guy with tenure at a small college devoted his dissertation to venting about that "stupid sumbitch" Scott Hahn. And then he gussied it up a bit for a wider audience. 

(Re-)publish or perish!

Truly a work destined for Dollar Tree's shelves, right next to the remainders from failed politicians paid to have someone ghostwrite about My Vision For America.

The trees that died for books by Harry Reid and Tim Pawlenty... And the academic equivalent of an "I HATE THAT GUY" Reddit page joins them--albeit in a much tinier print run.

The real scandal is that someone handed the guy a doctorate for it, but it's not my alma mater, so whatever. 

The correct response to this trivial ankle-biter is to not boost the signal. And that includes not linking to the debunkings of the, uh, work, either. Anything else will only boost the print run, and encourage more of the same.

Well and truly tired of this.

Edward Feser is an admirable thinker and superb digital pugilist. He makes the Thomist case with considerable energy, and is a welcome read....