June 28, 2010

Staycation

Saw "The Departed" last night starring Matt Damon, the kid from Titanic (Dicaprio) and Jack Nicholson. Nobody plays evil better than Jack, and he had all the deadly sins covered. I could've done without the scene involving the severed hand, but then I guess you don't get across depravity without showing it. Mesmerizing performances from the three leads. One of the rare movies (for me) that goes over 2 hours but that you can't turn off. Still when I see Nicholson I think of him as an extra Laker coach. Heckuva basketball fan.

Drinking Ceylon beer, Lion Stout, a product I believe of English exiles. They knew what they were doing, that's for sure. It's hot enough outside to evoke those Masterpiece Theatre type shows set in India during the colonial period.

I find it Lion Stout a fine opening salvo, to be followed by a lighter offerings such as the surprisingly good Great Lakes White Ale. I'm not sure if they use Lake Erie water for their brews but I doubt it. One of my favorite names of beers is the mouthful: "Great Lakes Lake Erie Monster Double IPA". It's as flavorful and strong as the name indicates.

Trying a stay-at-home vacation. Thought about going to the spa for a massage but ever since reading about Al Gore's alleged misadventures it's become less appealing. A naked Al Gore is almost as disturbing as that disembodied hand in "The Departed".

Oh, So This is Why Obama Won

Folks don't understand basic economics:

http://www.newyorker.com/talk/financial/2010/07/05/100705ta_talk_surowiecki?printable=true

Morning Joe today....

Joe Scarborough:
"What gets me so worked up about this is that everyone on Capitol Hill knows there is no end game, there's never been an end game in Afghanistan and they're going to keep sending troops there, and young Americans are going to continue dying and we're going to continue spending billions of dollars because it is politically unacceptable for Republicans or Democrats to do the right thing and bring the troops home...We're just sending more Americans off to bleed to death in Afghanistan."
With the exception of the promotion of abortion, arguably the most immoral thing this government is doing to its own citizens is this insane war in Afghanistan. Service members are doing four and five deployments despite the fact that that country has only has 50-100 Al Qaeda - they're all in Pakistan and yet we're in Afghanistan simply because we're too proud to accept the inevitable. Pathetic!

It's truly shameful how little regard and compassion this Congress and President appear to have for our citizen soldiers and their families.

June 27, 2010

Diaristic Wanderings

Started reading a biography of Babe Ruth and found it hypnotizing, especially on those mornings and other carved-out spaces of time such as the Thursday lunch at home. Also enjoyed a bit of Wordsworth in the luncheon sun.
_____

Ol' Bob came over to tell me that one of the young interns confused us. Thought I was Bob or vice-versa. All us middle-aged white guys look the same. He's a bit more portly than me, or so I imagine, but he's also taller so I 'spose it's a wash.
_____

At work Philip told me he was on the phone and in meetings for four hours, and I felt like I should offer my condolences, as if he'd told me of an illness he'd contracted. "I'm sorry," I wanted to say, "for this sickness."
_____

Steven Riddle saves all his old journals and doesn't care what his wife/kid might think in the event of his death and there's something admirable in that. Let the chips fall where they may.

My journals fall in that space between not being worth digitalizing (and password protecting them) and yet not so completely worthless, at least to me if only me, in discarding them. Steven's journals are reportedly more misanthropic than mine, so it says something given that he's willing to wing it. "What others think of you is none of your business," his mother used to say. Sounds like a wise woman.
_____

Fr. B be back at St. Pat's and he's always inspiring, if only for his energy! He'd spent most of June at some Dominican conference. The soul of consistency, he is unfailingly optimistic and positive and makes me want to be better, such that I substituted cheese pizza for pepperoni Friday night as a small way of, as he puts it, "showing who's boss." I'm in charge of myself in other words, in charge of my appetites. (I hope myself was fooled. Ha ha.) He gave a "meta-homily" in the sense of saying that he doesn't know how the lectionary dude thinks the homilist was supposed to say about today's First Reading. It was like those "cursing Psalms," the one C.S. Lewis wrote about it. Fr. B. said that Lewis said that we should spiritualize the negative Psalms and see our enemies as our sins and vices. (To quote Mark Shea, "we are not our sins.")

Comfest '10

Spent my lunch hour Friday listening to a band at ComFest, aka Community Fest. It's a 3-day series of free concerts ala Woodstock but without the mud or acid. A jazz band played while I read This Rock (surely the only person there reading a Catholic apologetic magazine). Copped a pretty sweet vantage point near the entrance. (Picture taken below was from said vantage.)

Each year it gets bigger and more commercialized; you could say it jumped the shark when fair food was introduced. Somehow cotton candy and BBQ ribs don't gibe with the general hemp-isphere and veganopoly.


The particular article I was reading in This Rock was a piece by Carl Olsen, excerpted below. But first...:
By then, John understood that some things mattered and some things did not and that the happy people in this world were those who could easily and rapidly distinguish between the two. The term unhappiness referred to the feeling of taking the wrong things seriously.
I read that selection from the novel Prague, and then Godincidentally the Olsen piece on the consolations of philosophy. "Ye shall be like gods," I think the serpent said to Eve, and ironically we shall be like gods - in God's time, when we are made saintly, when we assume his nature as He assumed ours, i.e. when we become happy. Boethius as quoted in This Rock:
What they [men] wish to acquire and accordingly long for are riches, high positions, kingships, fame and pleasure; and the reason why they want them is because they believe that those are the means by which they gain self-sufficiency, respect, power, renown and joy. So in their differing pursuits men seek what is good, and this readily indicates the scope of nature's power; for though their aspirations vary and are at odds with each other, all are at one in choosing the good as their goal.
Olsen comments:
Before providing a more accurate and exact account of the perfect good, Philosophy explains why each of these five goods are lacking and, in fact, can easily lead to false happiness and melancholy...True happiness is found in the perfect good, and the perfect good is God... "The belief which human minds share demonstrates that God, the source of all things, is good; for since nothing better than God can be imagined, who can doubt that something has no better, it is good?"
He goes on to say, "Since men become happy by achieving happiness, and happiness is itself divinity, clearly they [men] must become happy by attaining divinity....Hence every happy person is God; God is by nature one only, but nothing prevents the greatest possible number from sharing in that divinity."

June 25, 2010

The Stoic Christian

One for my archives: Eric Scheske on Russell Kirk in Touchstone...

June 24, 2010

Spotted in Our Alternative Weekly....

Tips for Comfest, the "Community Fest" ala "Communist Fest" held annually in Columbus:

  • Pick arguments with folks at the political booths—it’s uncool as hell but so much fun! Here’s a few suggestions: Urge feminists to read their early history about when feminism was against abortion; tell pot-legalization proponents Bob Marley died for their sins; go to the socialist/communist book stall and insist on speaking truth to power—namely, Lenin was an asshole and North Korea was not an aberration; tell the wind-and-solar-power crowd oil is still the best form of energy going unless they want to revert us to a skateboard-based economy...
  • Wars, Spiritual and Material

    I'm hyp-mo-tized by the spectacle of a lack of discipline in that most disciplined and hierarchically-friendly of institutions: the military. That a general like McChrystal and his staff could let their hair down around Rolling Stone magazine and diss their civilian superiors, well, it makes you wonder if McChrystal wanted to go down in flames.

    Even more ponderous is the fact that we're even still in Iraq and Afghanistan. It's fascinating how resistant we are to the lessons of history - even recent history given the Soviet example in the same country. But then another lesson from history is that wars are infinitely easier to start than to end, which we seem to be demonstrating with fervor.
    ______

    Am reading a biography of paleoconservative Russell Kirk who, like the military, had a similar appreciation for discipline & hierarchy and yet whose Sunday mass attendance was spotty. (Should we carve out exceptions for the exceptional?)

    Crucial to Kirk was the "moral imagination", loosely defined as the ability to hold two thoughts in one's mind: "Human beings are flawed but at the same time responsible for moral choices, beloved by God, and meant for eternity." [James E. Person in "Russell Kirk: A Critical Biography"] The errors of the last few centuries have attacked one or the other of these precepts. Either man is expendable and not beloved (i.e. Stalin, Hitler, Nietzsche, Marquis de Sade) or man is not flawed but institutions hold him down (Rousseau, hedonists).

    Ah But That's What the 'Net Provides

    I usually avoid a certain Catholic blog, finding it irritating and needlessly damning of a particular group, and yet I'm drawn to it because it so fascinates, titillates me. Why does he/she hold such opinions? We are strangely drawn to what irritates us, no? I find it akin to a train wreck but I shouldn't be as surprised for where there is praise there is always going to be damning and there's a market for everything, be it for praise or damnation. If a blog seems gratuitously divisive I remind myself that blogs - the Internet - exists to exploit gratuity, is designed by its very nature to find what we cannot find elsewhere. It's not divisiveness that is surprising; we do that by human nature. It's expressions of unity amid diversity that shock, such as the return of dissenters to the sheepfold.

    June 23, 2010


    Future titles to be released:

    The Girl Who Kicked *ss on the Best-Seller List

    The Girl Who Thought up "The Girl..." Title

    Not That Mark Steyn

    Premature excite-ulation:










    But more importantly, that's the real Steven Riddle. 

    June 22, 2010

    Spanning the Proverbial Globe to Bring You
    the Constant Variety of Posts


    The priesthood... is not simply “office” but sacrament: God makes use of us poor men in order to be, through us, present to all men and women, and to act on their behalf. This audacity of God who entrusts himself to human beings – who, conscious of our weaknesses, nonetheless considers men capable of acting and being present in his stead – this audacity of God is the true grandeur concealed in the word “priesthood”. - Michael at Psalm 46:11

    All that memory wants to latch onto is the essence of what made me like these people in the first place. I feel helpless but to wish them only the most ordinary of good things: that they have known reasonably good health, found love, got married, had children, and enjoyed whatever measure of happiness is allowed us in this life. Maybe it's just that I hear the swish of the scythe now whispering through the field of all our lives, and I'm hiding out in the weeds in a corner of that field where I've yet to be found, knowing all the while that the whole of it must, and will be, harvested. - Bill of Apologia on class reunions

    Some young people (and I was one) develop the convenient fiction that they can only _be_ hurt; they can never hurt anybody else or be held responsible for doing so. - Lydia McGrew commenting on Apologia

    Fr Casey on the last few verses of the Gospel -- "the Son of Man must suffer and die."... said suffering in itself is not good, but it is us, an inextricable part of the human condition, and God-made-man shows his love for us by choosing to delve the depths of suffering -- because it is us. And although we could be excused for thinking that God is absent in our sufferings, we shouldn't. - Dylan of "dark speech upon the harp"

    Mercifully I'm shielded by my sage mother's admonition: "What other people think of you is none of your business." - Steven of Momentary Taste

    I used to drink copious amounts of beer and watch the VHS of The Blue Brothers. I didn’t realize I was engaged in a quasi-religious experience: L’Osservatore Romano is apparently calling it a Catholic classic. Heck, and I was always concerned that the derogatory digs at nuns and religious symbols was, well, derogatory. Maybe I just need to lighten up. - Eric of "The Daily Eudemon"

    The business of art lies just in this, -- to make that understood and felt which, in the form of an argument, might be incomprehensible and inaccessible. - Leo Tolstoy via Anne Rice via Tom of Disputations

    T.S. Eliot remarked that a great writer creates the taste by which he is appreciated; [Norman] Mailer helped create the moral confusion amid which he was glorified—not quite what Eliot had in mind. - Commentary magazine via "The Paragraph Farmer"

    I’ve pretty much sworn off horror movies for the same reason T.S. Eliot wouldn’t read Flannery O’Connor: the horror sticks in my mind and doesn’t go away. I keep thinking about it, and I think it hurts my mental development in the long run. - Eric Scheske

    The ISI edition of Orestes Brownson's The American Republic arrived today. My initial impressions: good solid typesetting with a stylish but unobtrusive italic face (I would have known these faces 15 years ago); a beautiful buff and blue cover with a dark red spine; a readable and useful introduction by Peter Lawler that's nearly half the length of Brownson's work. Every time I see the UPS man I think of Arthur Clarke's line upon receipt of Stephen Wolfram's massive A New Kind of Scienceat his Sri Lankan lair: "another ruptured postman staggers away from my front door." - Bill of Summa Minutiae

    June 21, 2010

    Quite a Line-up

    Impressive line-up at the Chesterton conference, including:
    David Zach (Futurist)
    “A Great Many Clever Things: The Mistake about Technology”

    Nancy Brown (Author and ACS Blogmistress)
    “The Woman Who Was Chesterton”

    James Woodruff (Mathematics Instructor at Worcester Academy)
    “GKC and Edmund Burke: The Mistake about Conservatism”

    Fr. Peter Milward (Professor Emeritus from Sophia University, Tokyo)
    “Chesterton and Shakespeare and Today”

    Msgr. Stuart Swetland (Theology Professor at Mt. St. Mary’s University)
    “Out of the Desert: The Mistake about Islam”

    Fr. Ian Ker (Theology Professor from Oxford University)
    “Chesterton and Newman”

    Joseph Pearce (Author)
    “The Mistake About Progress”

    I'm half-tempted to give up annual week at the beach and go to this instead. Thus displaying my Catholic nerdhood credentials.

    Perspective

    A well-known author writes in his memoir:
    "[My literary agent]..in her last, sad days...she died of pancreatic cancer...The last time I saw her, by which she had been reduced to a one-room studio apartment on York Avenue, a long way from that castle on the Danube..."
    This seems a good example of how looking at life without the hope of eternal life makes all the difference in the world. If the assumption is that this world is all there is, a tragic tone necessarily attends. But heavenly existence is a long, long way "from that castle on the Danube" too, it being so much better. The best times of her life would look pale and sickly from the heavenly perspective and the worst of times less troubling.

    Two in a Row

    Raymond Arroyo of The World Over has had back-to-back interesting shows.

    The first included an interview with Joseph Pearce, who entertained the sort of questions you wouldn't hear at a stuffy academic conference, like why the Bard's prose was so baudy.

    The second included an interview with Dr. Ray Guarendi on the importance of fathers. Guarendi said that studies have shown that if both parents take their children to church, the children will likely (80% chance) go to church as adults. If only the father goes with the children, only a slightly less chance. But if only the mother goes, the percentage plummets.

    Why do men tend to be less religious than women? It was suggested that they are greater risk-takers, and so are more willing to sleep in on a Sunday morning or not have an active prayer life because they'll take the chance...

    June 18, 2010

    More Why's My Bookbag...

    From the Novel Prague by Arthur Philips:
    A permanent institution is composed of impermanent humans, and each of them must contribute their very souls, their impermanent and unimportant lives, if the institution is to preserve its immortality.
    _____

    Imre marveled at what had happened of its own accord: A purpose could grow over decades without your ever knowing, until the end, when a garden was laid out for you, a garden you helped plan and build without ever knowing it, and it waits for you.

    From God and Guinness:
    The revered Irish tradition of waking the dead played a role in spreading disease, as well. Routinely, the body of a deceased loved one would lay in the family home for as many as four nights. Meanwhile, the grieving family was expected to provide food, drink, and tobacco for huge crowds of visitors who milled about the dead body and thus exposed themselves to whatever disease had killed the deceased. Making matters worse, this tradition had the tragic side effect of spreading poverty, a condition in which disease thrives. As Tony Corcoran has written in his tender tribute, The Goodness of Guinness, “even for the poorest Dublin family, a four-horse hearse constituted a show of respectability to the community—despite the fact that the family had to borrow...

    From The Essential Pope Benedict:
    In ancient times the really terrible thing about prisons was that they cut people off from the light of day and plunged them into darkness.
    _____

    There is a great temptation to say, “But there is so much suffering in the world!—let’s suspend the question of truth for a while. First let’s get on with the great social tasks of liberation; then, one day, we will indulge in the luxury of the question of truth.” In fact, however, if we postpone the question of truth and declare it to be unimportant, we are emasculating man, depriving him of the very core of his human dignity.
    _____

    And in fact, in St. Paul, this sacrament is called “the Lord’s Supper.” But it is significant that this title very soon disappeared, and from the second century it was used no longer. Why? Was it perhaps a moving away from the New Testament, as Luther thought, or something else? Certainly the Lord instituted his sacrament in the context of a meal, more precisely that of the Jewish Passover supper, and so at the beginning it was also linked with a gathering for a meal. But the Lord had not ordered a repetition of the Passover supper, which constituted the framework. That was not his sacrament, his new gift. In any event, the Passover supper could only be celebrated once a year.

    Nellie Bar the Door....

    ...and Katie too, for I just discovered that all my highlights are available online. So now I can cut & paste with the greatest of ease. Will surely from now on compulsively blog-quote from books I'm reading since it no longer requires a cumbersome USB connection to the Kindle.

    So, without further ado, let's play Why's My Bookbag or E-Reader Equivalent So Heavy? (that used to be so much more succinct in the pre-Kindle daze).

    My latest read is A Geography of Time by Robert Levine. A few snippets:

    The essential purpose of diligent and brave observation of the other is to clarify the nature and the limits of the self, which leads one to conclude that the best travel writers are people who, needing that clarification, are at bottom unsure of the nature and limits of home and their relation to it. They move out of the house. So that like Hawthorne's Wakefield, they can look back and see what's true there.

    *

    The more developed the country, the less free time per day. What kind of rule is this? The more timesaving machinery there is, the more pressed a person is for time. SEBASTIAN DE GRAZIA, Of Time, Work, and Leisure

    *

    It is one of the great ironies of modern times that, with all of our time-saving creations, people have less time to themselves than ever before. Life in the Middle Ages is usually portrayed as bleak and dreary, but one commodity people had more of than their successors was leisure time. Until the Industrial Revolution, in fact, most evidence suggests that people showed little inclination to work. In Europe through the Middle Ages, the average number of holidays per year was around 115 days. It is interesting to note that still today, poorer countries take more holidays, on the average, than richer ones. It has often been the very creations intended to save time that have been most responsible for increasing the workload. Recent research indicates that farm wives in the 1920's, who were without electricity, spent significantly less time at housework than did suburban women, with all their modern machinery, in the latter half of the century. One reason for this is that almost every technical advance seems to be accompanied by a rise in expectations. For example, when cheap window glass was introduced in Holland at the end of the seventeenth century it became impossible to ignore the dirt that accumulated indoors.

    *

    "hurry sick- ness. If you are curious whether your case has progressed to this advanced stage, look for these three symptoms: Do you notice ... • ... deterioration of the personality, marked primarily by loss of interest in aspects of life except for those connected with achievement of goals and by a preoccupation with numbers, with a growing tendency to evaluate life in terms of quantity rather than quality? • ... racing-mind syndrome, characterized by rapid, shifting thoughts that gradually erode the ability to focus and concentrate and create disruption of sleep? • ... loss of ability to accumulate pleasant memories, mainly due to either a preoccupation with future events or rumination about past events, with little attention to the present? Focusing on the present is often limited to crises or problems; therefore memories accumulated tend to be of unpleasant situations.

    State of the Garden Address

    The state of the garden is good. In fact, exceptional.

    Late May and early June have been unreasonably wet and unseasonably warm, both conducive to steroid-like growth in the vines.

    These are likely the biggest tomato plants I've seen at this point in the growing season in over a decade or before measurements were recorded, whichever is sooner. The only problems seem to be a) the lowest leaves are crisping-brown due to the heat, and b) the effrontery of weeds which seem to appear literally over night. They like heat and water too, and who can blame them? There's a reason we all go to Florida...

    For Ohio Readers...

    The Ohio Project

    Country Song Friday

    Today's song is titled Rain is a Good Thing. It examines the root cause of the lyricist's lack of worries, i.e. rain:
    Rain makes corn, corn makes whiskey
    Whiskey makes my baby feel a little frisky
    Back roads are boggin' up, my buddies pile in the truck
    We hunt our honeys down, we take 'em into town
    Start washin' all our worries down the drain
    Rain is a good thing.
    _____

    Meanwhile a cartoonist in the New Yorker, Michael Crawford, sets our minds at ease:

    June 17, 2010

    Purgative Pyrotechnics

    From the Word Among Us:
    [Immaculée] begged the Lord to help her to forgive. But how could she possibly forgive people who would do such things? Immaculée put that question to the Lord, and after several days of intense prayer, she heard God say to her: “You are all my children.”
    And, from a random flipping through St. Faustina's diary, came across the very beginning of Notebook #2, and there was her insistence that the blood and water that flowed from His side was for sinners:
    The bowels of God's mercy are opened for us
    Through the life of Jesus, stretched on the Cross.
    O sinner, you must not doubt or despair,
    But trust in mercy, for you also can become holy.

    Two streams in the form of rays
    Have gushed forth from the Heart of Jesus,
    Not for Angels, nor Cherubim, nor Seraphim,
    But for the salvation of sinful man.
    Too often I think it not right, not fair, or perhaps wishful thinking to think that these streams of mercy will be enough. I think that's human nature talking - a nature that doesn't easily forgive and thus accuses God of the same. "To err is human, forgive divine" indeed, and too often I fall into the trap of erring by not believing the second clause.

    The Psalm for Morning Prayer today asks, "What burnt-offering could be worthy of the Lord? The forests of Lebanon could not feed that fire; all the animals of Lebanon would not be enough for sacrifice."

    But Christ fulfills that perfectly. He's the sacrifice that is worthy. And if the fire comes down from Heaven in the form of the Holy Spirit, in the form of purging, then let me not shrink from Him!

    "The prophet Elijah arose like a fire...By the word of the Lord, he shut up the heavens, he also, three times, brought down fire. How glorious you were in your miracles, Elijah!...to allay God's wrath before the fury breaks." - from today's First Reading.

    A Quintessentially American Story....

    Here's a story of our man in Pakistan, out to kill Osama bin Laden himself. Is there a more American story? A self-reliant lone ranger setting his sights on Al Qaeda's head and henchman?

    Here's the "can-do" American spirit that says if you want something done right you have to do it yourself, leavened by a healthy dose of naivety, a good dash of courage and seasoned with the religious fervor of private revelation.

    June 16, 2010

    A Few More Cellphone Pics...

    ...from OSU & vicinity:






    It’s twenty minutes from work up to the aerie on Clingman’s Dome, aka the OSU library. It being early summer, I thought I’d have the pick of carol-rooms, but there are still kids here and only about 3-4 spaces available. I take one looking either east or north; my familiarity with this college landscape is limited at best. I have a fine view of “Orton Hears a Who” hall and, farther to the left sunbathers loll about and I consider again the lure of lust and why it is we long for things that can’t satisfy. Is the solution merely to recognize the lesser things for what they are?

    George Will said a fascinating thing. He said that cheaters in sports don’t understand sports. They may be technically excellent at them but they don’t realize that fundamentally sports is about character. Developing or displaying it. And to cheat is to miss that whole purpose. It puts into a larger framework the reason using steroids in baseball is wrong. For the sake of argument what if it were not wrong in and of itself - it’s still wrong because it misses the purpose of the activity, much as sex loses its meaning when separated from procreation. In both cases it’s: “look at the bigger picture.”

    Meanwhile I hear the appreciative sighs of those touring the place: “This is nice…”. Indeed. It makes me slightly less squeamish for the trouble I went to get here. They gather at stray windows eating up the view. One is an old codger, an octagenerian. The young guy points out landmarks. “You can see the Schott…”.

    The only thing missing is a hot cup of coffee and maybe a fine cigar. That would complete the gentleman’s drawing room image I have of this place.

    Take Me Out to the Ballgame...

    Caught (i.e. saw) a minor league game yesterday. The plays added up - the good catch in left, the well-hit balls to center, the double-plays. It makes me want to read George Will's "Men at Work" again to remember why it is that watching a game at the stadium feels so different from watching it on a screen. In Bunts, Will writes that "baseball is the most observable of team games - everyone is nicely spread out on an eye-pleasing green stage. And the rhythm of the game and the general absence of hysteria make for an intimacy between game and spectator, when the park permits it."

    This park permits it.

    A pleasant interlude was the between-inning entertainment. A golden retriever appeared on the field and fielded frisbees. But the real "golden" moment was when said dog carried a bucket containing three bottles of water to behind the second base bag where umps in the vicinity gathered and sated their thirst. Even better was when the dog took over the bat boy's job and began retrieving the bats, swiftly going to and from the batter's box and the dugout. Philip mentioned about how the batters must have slick bat handles from the saliva of the dog.

    The game awakens a thirst for prose such as that of Rogers Angell or Kahn, without the "pathos" that Will mentions in Bunts: "Because athletic careers compress the trajectory of life, from aspiration to apogee to decline, writers about athletes are constantly tempted by facile pathos."

    June 15, 2010

    The Mystery of Newman

    Riveting read in Portsmouth Review concerning John Henry Newman, likely soon to be known as St. John Henry Newman:
    He holds that we are kept from truth not only by error, but also by truth. This sounds paradoxical in the abstract, but it is quite undeniable considered in the concrete. Some truths can get in the way of our recognition of other truths; some can seem to exclude others. Heresy has sometimes been defined as not an outright error, but rather someone truth that is played off other equally certain truths. Thus Newman teaches that the fullness of Christian truth involves the union of apparent opposites; as he says in one place, "One aspect of Revelation must not be allowed to exclude or to obscure another; and Christianity is dogmatical, devotional, practical all at once; it is esoteric and exoteric; it is indulgent and strict; it is light and dark; it is love, and it is fear."
    And...
    Newman anticipates some of [the modern] reserve about scholastic philosophical theology when he says of the traditional demonstrations for the existence of God that they "do not warm me and enlighten me; they do not take away the winter of my desolation, or make the buds unfold and the leaves grow within me, and my moral being rejoice." For all of his zeal for doctrinal truth, Newman was a great friend of religious experience..
    And...
    And when the historical sciences began to develop and to be applied to Scripture and revelation, Newman remained calmer than most of his friends. He was not scandalized to learn more than previous generations of Christians had known about the human side of revelation, and about the ways in which God had subjected His revelation to natural laws of growth and development. It did not trouble his faith, which continued to discern the hand of God in history. He did not see why revelation should not have both its human and divine aspect, seeing that it comes from the God who created man by infusing a spirit into the dust of the earth.
    When ancient Hebrews looked at the rainbow, they saw God's promise that there would not be another flood. Would that we saw a rainbow with the same appreciation. But we have something far greater - Christ Himself in the Eucharist!

    From a Mildred's Umbrella post....

    "A poem is more like a plankton than like a vigilante. Whoever thinks of plankton as particularly active? But did you know that within the plankton are the seeds of the clouds?"

    Today, a Very Special Spanning...
    (say like TV promos)

    A reprint of the first Spanning the Globe to Bring You the Constant Variety of Posts, from Sept. '03:

    I bought some books the weekend. And it gives me a little shame to confess it. Because I have too many books (and too many without reading...)? No, not as much for that reason... to that already I have resigned myself. Anyway, the U.S. technical books (at least, those that are not too popularizer, those that has quality within their branch) usually have his; there are writers who have their cuasi-literary grace, and some that another characteristic of culture, breaking a little the stereotype nerd... And - retaking what said in the beginning, on libraries too much populated... brought an appointment of Borges, that alluded as well to Cicerón (I mention of memory, safe Borges that it said it better): "Like all person who has a great library, Cicerón felt like culprit not to know it absolutely..." - from Spanish Blogger Hernan Gonzalez, thru the fracturing lens of Babelfish

    The only thing I would quibble with (both then and now) is the defamation of the character of Balaam's ass. Balaam's ass was the instrument of the Lord; her speech was supernaturally produced! - Kathy the Carmelite defends an ass

    I did inform one young lady that she was on 'the bullet train to hell.' In my little sphere, though, I'm not asked so much to give advice; rather, I end up hearing presentations of the cultural values of my seeker friends (and they ARE friends, not merely curiosities or my version of 'the white man's burden'.") - Kathy the Carmelite

    Thyme’s always short. - Gregg the Obscure

    There’s a word for this book and the word is crap. This cost maybe $0.75 at the thrift store. When I think of the 20 oz. Coke I could have bought with that money, I’m peeved. --blogger at Literarium

    The icon of mother and child is probably the most powerful symbol and the most accurate synthesis of Christianity....Between divinity and humanity, there is a unity. God made himself little to join humanity and allowed man to achieve his full dignity. - Rev. Johann Roten

    If they knew what it was, they'd know where to put it. - our pastor, regarding confusion over where to place the Tabernacle in the sanctuary.

    June 13, 2010

    Various & Sundry

    Had to smile at the first reading at the Byzantine church today - it was my latest favorite verse, from St. Paul on how "affliction leads to endurance which leads to tested virtue which leads to hope." Then too the homily mentioned "Seek first his kingship over you," which has been particularly in my mind lately. Fr. Terry said the way we do that is through morning and evening prayer. Morning prayer especially because God owns the mornings because Christ rose on a morning. Was warmed by the way Deacon Jeff said, "Thomas" as I received the Eucharist. I love the personal aspect of receiving Communion by name. It's a small thing, but at the same time not really that small. It's also nice to be called a "servant of God" given how lackluster my service generally is. (FYI: with the Eastern rite you hear, "The servant of God, [name] receives the precious Body and Blood of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ...".)
    _____

    A fun recent activity involves scavenging for musical CDs in my home for use on the Ipod. Out of nowhere an old '80s song came to me: "Welcome to the Boomtown" by David David. It came out in '86, it's mood suitably tracking my own "shock-in-trade", my 2nd year of work. Though I didn't make much money just out of college, it did feel like a lot of money compared to working at Long John Silvers. It seemed a boomtown at the time.

    Found an old recording of Beethoven's Ninth, ripped it to iPod and was blown away again by the crispness and richness of sound. Here was an ode to joy even as the composer had little external cause for joy given his deafness.
    _____

    Ran through the drunken heat Friday around Goodale Park downtown, where stylishly if lightly appareled young women run by. They are Platonic forms of woman and my mind wanders. Never feels too far afield to appreciate the female form as the pinnacle of God's creation. Naysayers will say that because I'm a guy I look at a girl as the pluperfect figure and there's probably something to that. It's difficult to separate the purely erotic from the purely aesthetic. No doubt some of what I'm attributing to aestheticism is actually a veiled eroticism.
    _____

    Lion Stout is simply amazing, but expensive enough to warrant only on special occasions, such as the end of a work-week.

    Other up & comers: Sierra Nevada Pale Ale is very likable, a crisp hoppy "hello!" flavor. And finally for a sweeter beer, I've grown surprisingly fond of Samuel Adams' Blackberry Witbier.

    Bad haikus for youse:
    Sam's Blackberry beer
    Amber as a Budweiser
    But fresh as the fruit.

    ___

    Tall glass, Lion Stout
    Succulence in a dark wood
    Flavor to the max.

    June 11, 2010

    Top Ten Football Players I Pretended to Be While in Grade School


    1) "Bronko" Nagurski... because I liked saying his name

    2) Earl Campbell...because I liked the way he went not around but through

    3) Sam "Bam" Cunningham....because I liked the way he went not around but over

    4) Johnny Unitas....because you could abbreviate his last name as "U"

    5) Len "Lenny" Dawson ... because anyone named Lenny who made the NFL must be good

    6) Daryle Lamonica...because he was the only NFL star whose last named rhymed with "harmonica"

    7) Sonny Jurgensen ...because he played in our nation's capital and it felt patriotic

    8) Alan Page...because he looked mean and wore purple

    9) Bob Hayes...'cause he was fast

    10) Y.A. Tittle...because his name was titillating

    Today is...


    Insight Scoop defends the devotion :
    It would be accurate to say that by the middle of the twentieth century the devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus had universally triumphed throughout the Church. Everywhere in the world, churches, monasteries and congregations were to be found dedicated to the Sacred Heart.
    And indeed my church/school growing up was called "Sacred Heart".

    June 10, 2010

    Of Food

    Allow me a bit of self-indulgence ass-whinery. Long-time readers first time followers might know that one of the things I'm most proud of is bringing home the bacon, literally, and without spillage. Our semi-subsidized cafeteria provides lunch for me and dinner for two at night, but that requires the delicate feat of balance, dexterity and even memory.

    Daily I task myself to carry one 20-oz beverage, three styrfoam cartons full of food and sometimes a dessert. I carry it to the elevator and then down to my cube. And after over 1,000 trips I've never dropped anything or ran into anybody.

    But there's a definite chink in my food acquisition armor and that is gravy. The styrofoam containers are not leak proof and it was some time before I realized today that there was more gravy on my pants and shirt than in the carton. Drenched with the sticky liquid, I headed home for lunch and a change of pants. One of the downsides of modern day hunter/gathering.

    I say that memory is also required because yesterday I trundled the food to the workout room where I made the fatal calculation to separate workout bag from food. It's possible to forget food since it's not always with me when I workout, but never possible to forget the workout bag. To separate them is to court mini-disaster; it's to rely on a memory that dulls as the sheen of sweat grows.

    I'd put the food under the staircase, where many others store their bags, but took my workout bag with me to the stairclimber so that I could have easy access to books. Needless to say, the food remained stationary, obedient to the laws of physics, and did not levitate towards my car when I remembered I'd forgotten them. Sometimes it's hard bringing home the bacon even if you don't fry it up in a pan.

    June 09, 2010

    Virtual Bookstore/Library Tour

    ...at Old Scrolls in the Finger Lakes area of New York state.  Old Scrolls blog has a post about how to create a home library such as:


    The public library I used to frequent as a kid:

    Persistence Pays

    I've long appreciated Pope St. Pius X, and so I'm linking to a post from a traditionalist blog as was requested. This post on Ireland also looks interesting:
    Saint Brigid and the Blessed Virgin Mary
    A careful and reverent study of the Irish traditional appelation of St. Brigid of Kildare as "Mary of the Irish," contrasting the approaches of the various ancient Irish sources such as the Hymn to St. Brigid of St. Ultán of Ard Breccan and the Life of St. Brigid by Cogitosus.

    The Kildare Poems and the Friar who owned them
    A fascinating article examining the possible origins, authorship, contents and style of a cycle of poems known as 'The Kildare Poems' as well as the use that they were put to by itinerant Franciscan Friars in medieval Ireland.

    June 08, 2010

    Spanning the Globe to Bring You the Constant Variety of Posts

    The pope made a good speech this week, to one of those think-tanky conferences about using computers for good and not for evil...[He] basically encouraged Christians to act like it when they’re on the computer (“living in the digital world with a believer’s heart”), and for everybody to acknowledge each other’s worth as human beings, avoiding “the many forms of degradation and humiliation” that mistreat “the intimacy of the person” and make people into “objects of exchange and consumption”. He encouraged us not to forget “to look each other in the face”, figuratively speaking, and “to give attention to people and their spiritual needs”. He also encouraged everyone to fight “the decline of the critical spirit” (although that’s not a problem in some places in this world!), and to resist “truth reduced to a game of opinions”, or OTOH, conformity and homogenization. - Maureen of "Aliens in this World"

    When I was in college, everybody was bungee jumping, skydiving, doing triathlons, and any sport with the word “extreme” in front of it. Leisure activites were all about bodily thrills. But fifteen years later, the world has gone virtual. No more bodies bouncing through the atmosphere (at least not in my set). Static bodies sit unexercised and unimproved, behind the computer screen...And so began a series of compromises, not so much related to the blog as to the status of culture in general, that what I really want is a living breathing community, but I will be satisfied with logging into some sort of online community. - Betty Duffy

    The Internet is like alcohol in some sense. It accentuates what you would do anyway. If you want to be a loner, you can be more alone. If you want to connect, it makes it easier to connect. - Esther Dyson

    In the print edition of The New York Times today, Janelle Brown's profile of the Democratic challenger for U.S. Senate in California says "For a solitary blogger, Mickey Kaus is astonishingly social and well connected: It’s difficult to find a writer or politico in Los Angeles who hasn’t knocked boots (or opinions) with Mr. Kaus..." In her correction, Ms. Brown tweets Cripes: Meant "rubbed elbows." Wrong body part/metaphor. ...- Terrence Berres of "The Provincial Emails"

    At the end of my morning walk around the lake, I saw a Hairy Woodpecker, flitting from tree to tree in front of me - until it was rebuffed by a robin. And then I found myself right next to a blue heron on the bank. The other day in traffic, I saw a starling-sized bird with a yellow belly and black wings, and a slightly curved beak – it must've been some kind of oriole. These birds are discreet tokens of of the infinite in my life, signposts that mark a path: "All the paths of the LORD are kindness and constancy toward those who keep his covenant and his decrees. The friendship of the LORD is with those who fear him, and his covenant, for their instruction." (Psalm 25) - Fred of "Deep Furrows"

    I fell in love with the Sherlock Holmes stories as a teenager and pledged myself to live as Mr. Holmes. The reason and apparent stoicism of Sherlock Holmes appealed to me as a young atheist in so many ways. Really Sherlock Holmes and Spock were my very ideals as to how to live. I guess I didn’t realize how ironic it was that my atheistic ideals for how a human was to live was based on fictional characters. - Jeff of "Curt Jester"

    The decline of Detroit holds an odd fascination for me. The abandonment of so much beautiful architecture rips my heart out -- I've longed all my life to live in such houses, and to see them fall into irreparable decay saddens me in a way that the meager offerings of modern housing are incapable of doing.... [Detroit has] a police force so understaffed and busy with major crime that petty theft, break-ins, and even arson fall through the cracks. Architecture is one thing, but how can any city survive if the people who pay the taxes don't feel safe enough to live there? - Mrs Darwin

    Ann Althouse recently said, "A love of autocracy often lurks beneath the liberal veneer." The inimitable Andrew Cusack gives us further light in a single simple sentence: "...the government is attempting to solve a problem with a law, when really the only solution is a virtue." - Bill of Summa Minutiae

    Someone asked me how I’d invest right now, given all the market uncertainty. I can’t answer that question because everyone is in a different situation, but I came up with what I would do if I fit the following description: young person, married, a baby on the way, no or nominal debt, renting an apartment/house, decent wage but only a little extra for future savings, and $20,000. It gives you an idea of my general investment preferences right now: $2,500 cash/savings/checking (approximately two-three months of living expenses) / $2,000 silver (say, 100 silver Canadian Maple Leafs or American Eagles) / $1,500 iBonds / $3,000 Merk Hard Currency Fund / $8,000 Emerging Markets/Pacific Rim ETFs (e.g., EEM) / $2,500 North American Mutual Funds/ETFs / $500 in emergency food, batteries, candles, matches, water, and red wine. - . - Eric Scheske in early January; since then silver up but hard currency fund and emerging markets down. Wine? Always a good bet.

    This & That


    This is almost funny, taking pictures of different points of a highway. Don't they all sorta look the same?
    ____

    That's some serious modesty going on there.
    _____

    Our library won "Library of the Year":
    Today, we had the incredible honor of officially announcing that Library Journal has selected Columbus Metropolitan Library as Library of the Year. This is one of the highest honors in the library world, and comes on top of our 5 Star rating and our #1 Hennen rating. What an outstanding set of accomplishments!
    New York, L.A., New England, can have their fine sports teams. We got library!

    June 07, 2010

    Column Excerpt

    Interesting Michael Medved USA Today column on the imperishability of music:
    The "sunset glow" suffusing the work of all these great orchestral interpreters also enriched the late creations of celebrated composers. Beethoven (The Late Quartets), Bach (The Art of the Fugue), Mozart (The Requiem), Mahler (The Ninth and Tenth Symphonies), Bruckner (The Ninth Symphony), Bartok (Third Piano Concerto) — all forged eloquently elegiac masterpieces in the shadow of failing health and impending death.

    In most fields of endeavor, even geniuses face declining powers in the final phase of existence: Leo Tolstoy wrote no big novels afterAnna Karenina (completed 33 years before his death), and the immortal Shakespeare finished The Tempest, the last play definitively acknowledged as his work, at least six years before he died at 52).

    Only in music, the most spiritual of all arts, has old age conferred frequent advantages, often bringing new richness, depth and even grandeur to the artistry of both composers and performers. Most of us spend the first third of our lives ignoring death, the second third denying it and the final third struggling against it. That struggle can shine through in musical expression with a nobility that trumps youthful impetuosity.

    June 06, 2010

    Seductive Lies Newspapers Tell

    A newspaper article touts two Pakistani novels that deal with the question of what makes someone go from a happy immigrant to a terrorist. One of the Pakistani authors says it comes down to a personal trauma (broken love affair, financial disaster), combined with a personality type that doesn't "embrace complexity" and third, feelings of persecution.

    Isn't this reductionist concerning humans? Doesn't it ignore the role of religion? Doesn't it ignore the existence of evil, the devil and the operation of free will?

    What the author, Mohsin Hamid, conveniently ignores is that millions of Christians could be said to have feelings of persecution, a personality type that fails to embrace complexity and a personal trauma, and yet you don't see Christians attaching IED devices to themselves. Ironically, I think Hamid is not willing to embrace the complexity of the role of religious belief.

    June 04, 2010

    Flannery O'Connor Debate

    Riveting exchange between Alan Jacobs and Margaret Soltan on O'Connor's view of humanity.

    Top Catlick Blogs & a Cranky Aside

    I like the effort and accuracy that went into this ranking system, even if I'm saying: "Where's Betty Duffy!??!"* My faith in the Catholic blogosphere readership is tainted by this omission but I'll charitably attribute it to invincible ignorance. After all I glommed onto her late.

    One semi-interesting thing about it is that all of the top 10 except for Amy Welborn are, I think, more or less "blogging newbies" - defined as having started well after my own start a million years ago. At the least I think they're all post-2004.
    ______

    Huge 8th grade graduation party for a niece. Crankily I say that back in my day, back when I walked ten miles to school, 8th grade graduation was not a major life event. I think it shows again how everything is so much bigger and more involved with child-raising nowadays which, as Amy Welborn once mentioned, is a result of having fewer children such that you can do everything up big.

    * - UPDATE: Betty Duffy is number 96! My faith in the Catlick blogosphere readership is redeemed.

    Columbus Art Festival

    Strolled through the Columbus Art festival and came across the photography of Daniel Powers. He looks like a photographer, keen of eye with the obligatory two-day stubble. Naturally I liked the images of Ireland, such as this pub:

    Irish pub

    Prague

    From his artist biography:
    The great cities and countrysides are bathed in rain, fog, mist and twilight. Solitary figures walk through empty streets and parks absorbed in thoughts not meant for us. The intimacy of these photographs takes familiar scenes and transforms them into an emotional landscape. A place to linger and enjoy the peace of a rainy day. It is the romance of solitude and the romance of melancholy.

    Photography is defined as a record made with light. Whether exposing the image or printing the image, photographers work with and manipulate light. Once an image is taken into Photoshop the artist is no longer working with light and has entered a new medium.
    Maybe that's why Dylan of "Dark October" likes the rainy-ish days.

    Another artist that caught my eye is named Kana Handel. Not sure if I'm supposed to be posting these pictures and paintings so let's just keep it between us. I won't tell if'n you don't.





    Serving All Your Bad Catholic Needs....


    Clip 'n save!

    June 03, 2010

    This & That

    Ken Griffey Jr. retires with 630 real home runs, i.e. not steroid-aided.
    _____
    I'm liking my Chase amazon.com credit card. The rewards program consists of amazon.com gift certificates, so now I try to wait and get free books each month.
    _____

    It's too bad that Orchard's A Catholic Commentary on Holy Scripture isn't in print. It would be nice if TAN or Roman Catholic Books was able to get the rights to it.
    _____

    One problem with big government is that it doesn't live close enough to the land, where those pesky details live.
    _____

    I think most people don't want Obama micromanaging the BP spill (see above) but do want him to apply pressure and provide resources. There's a sense that if the right brains were brought to bear this thing could've been ameliorated sooner, and a president is in a position to make those connections happen.
    _____

    Jonah Goldberg on the spill:
    The Deepwater Horizon disaster really does demonstrate that the technology isn't fully ready for deepwater drilling. Yes, we know how to do it pretty well when everything goes right. But when things go wrong, the last couple weeks clearly show that we don't know how to get them right again. I am still very much for domestic oil exploration, in part because, if we don't drill more here, there will be more spills in the ocean (tankers are still more dangerous than rigs). But I can't argue with the folks who want a moratorium on deep drilling until we have a serious accounting of what we know how to do and what we don't.
    _____

    Spammer uses phrase "to the tune of," a mercenary flourish: "I decided to divide my late husband wealth to the tune of $10 million to churches in Africa, America, Asia and Europe and for humanity in general." Thank God for the last phrase. I was worried about Australia.
    _____

    Politically correct way to sing "He Ain't Heavy, He's My Brother": "Human Beings Aren't Heavy, They're My Siblings."
    _____

    An example of good coming out of bad: Galarraga's near perfect game and the class he showed will be remembered far longer than most perfect games.
    _____

    I wonder if there's an age divide as far as who is calling for Obama to show some emotional outrage over the spill. The young, who voted in droves for the the cool Obama may think that outrage from him lacks "authenticity."
    _____

    On Morning Joe today, one of the guests mentioned that Obama needs to be "head and heart" in his governance. The guest said it's not enough to be cerebral but you need also suffer with them in some small way, which I think is the original meaning ofthe word "compassionate." It occurs that the ultimate, fully integrated example of heart and head is God.

    June 02, 2010

    You Say To-may-to, I say To-mah-to

    Excerpts from real, live, actual email conversation with my brother-in-law:

    BIL:
    RECIPE FOR THE BANKING CRISIS: Have lawmakers insist that banks make mortgage loans to people who can't afford them. Allow banks to sell 'floating rate' mortgages that have interest fixed only for a short term, ballooning to big numbers after just 5 years with a wink and a nod that they will be able to refinance before that happens...
    ME:
    Yeah but you don't address the "multiplier effect" of these huge derivative bets that housing would never go down in price. Granted Fannie & Freddie were disasters, but the reason much of the private market for mortgages was so screwy was because banks were selling them to other banks and so had no skin in the game. They didn't care if you had any income because they knew they were going to turn around and sell it. I think for the free market to have truly worked, we would've had to let those banks fail.
    BIL:
    In order for the free market to work, the Gov't should not have been requiring banks to loan money to satisfy demographic profiles that granted loans to people who couldn't afford them -- even with the Feds holding the bag. That's really where the whole thing went south.

    FM&FM jumped in the game too, buying and selling these things just like they were there to turn a profit like a real company rather than service mortgages as an agent of the Gov't.

    There was no free market to start with -- banks were failing because they were setup to fail by Lawmakers in Congress who passed regulations that upset the free market for home mortgages.

    Letting those banks fail would've been a much larger disaster, IMHO, with even more companies gone and less jobs. Of course, I'm not sure we've hit bottom yet either.
    ME:
    But the banks were failing not because of bad loans - Lord knows they can absorb a huge rate of defaults - but because they avoided government regulation and placed bets that those homes wouldn't default. It's like if I were a bank, and I made a loan to somebody of $1,000, and then I bet $1,000,000 that whoever borrowed that money would not default. I can deal with the $1,000 loss, but not the $1M loss.
    BIL:
    Those loans you were betting on were on mortgages using property as collateral, property whose value was inflated because the Feds had spurred a housing bubble by 1) requiring banks to loan money to people who were likely to default, and 2) allowing banks to make money on the origination of these loans, then trade these loans on the stock market immediately.

    The whole bank-failure-process was started as a result of over-priced mortgages being made to people who could not afford them -- something regulated by Congress to make homes affordable to everyone, even those who couldn't afford them.

    And the whole thing seems to me a lesson in the terrible unintended consequences of the Gov't regulatory interference in any market.
    The classic "bad mortgages versus bad bets" argument.

    Spanning the Globe to Bring You the Constant Variety of Posts

    [William] Wordsworth argues that the pliable mind, the mind absorbing knowledge must be encouraged to look far beyond, to works that exceed the possibilities of the person and the time--at least seemingly.--"works which the enthusiast would perform with love." - Steven of "Momentary Taste"

    Previously read Georgette Heyer novels are probably the best sort of books to read after surgery. They are light and undemanding, -- essential qualities for a book intended to distract one from pain and nausea. (Note to self: No fear of ever becoming a drug addict -- everything seems to make me throw up.) Netflix is wonderful resource for light and cheerful movies, and since my new laptop can use their instant play feature, there's no waiting for the US Postal Service to deliver the next disc. - blogger at Catholic Bibliophagist

    This book was a life-changer. After reading it I began to notice for the first time the “Britishness” in my own life and the lives of my neighbors. Even the barbarians among us still know how to wait in line patiently, for example. They still unknowingly quote Shakespeare, the King James Version of the Bible, and the Book of Common Prayer in their everyday speech. Most Americans still have a fundamentally British understanding of law and order, of fair-dealing in commerce, and of civility in public life, however diminished by ignorance and neglect. - Jeff of Stoney Creek Digest on Russell Kirk’s “America’s British Culture"

    What’s especially nice is that the proprietress of Battlebeads.com prays for each person who buys a rosary or chaplet in particular; she touches each set of beads to a first-class relic, making it a third-class relic; and asks you to pray for her ministry and include her your intentions. - Domenico Bettinelli of Bettnet

    To say that Hitchens is stirred – even obsessed – by the question of courage would be to state the obvious. It seems therefore highly likely that his longing for the great Orwellian test – the momentous moral challenge to match the 1930s – might tempt him to overstate the threat of Islamic fundamentalism. - or not, but interesting. From Guardian profile of Christopher Hitchens

    The Catholic Church is not a super-denomination, not the top brand in an ecclesial supermarket. There is one Church to which all Christians belong through baptism. Christianity is a single experience that includes many gifts despite our divisions. The experience of Jonathan Edwards – though he detested Catholics – is valuable to me. The problems he and his congregation faced in the Christian life are the same problems we may face today... One purpose of doctrinal definitions is to close off those dead ends of faith where people may get stuck: for example, double predestination which leads to despair or an 'assurance' which may include a presumption of salvation. - Frederick of "Deep Furrows"

    June 01, 2010

    Paul Cella article in Christendom Review

    The banking crisis of 2008 is of continuing interest to me in part because it challenged my free market assumptions. Large and small financial institutions operating freely in an interconnected global market had developed highly leveraged instruments that served as the financial equivalent of nuclear bombs. Which, of course, were gleefully held over the head of the U.S. taxpayer in '08 such that a Democrat president (!) bailed them out.

    Instead of "laughing all the way to the bank" you can say the banks were laughing all the way to U.S. Treasury. But just as the bomb has made a nuclear war nearly unthinkable, so too did these highly leveraged institutions make letting them fail seem unthinkable.

    Paul Cella proposes that Alexander Hamilton's work in creating a "commercial republic characterized by liberty" has become compromised, perhaps fatally so. An excerpt:
    In the American constitutional order, particularly as molded by the teaching of Hamilton, Madison and Jay...the commercial republic is refashioned as federal structure and presides over a welter of private interests emanating from the natural passions; despotism is checked by the very factionalism which previous writers had imagined were productive of those “countless calamities” that beggar modern states. Liberty is secured, not by those constitutional “parchment barriers,” about which Publius is generally scornful, but by the rough and tumble of private enterprise engaged in by men pursuing their own interests and desires.

    ...

    For what was disclosed back then, in late 2008, when the upheavals of the financial world crashed into every living room, was nothing less than the transformation of the American political economy, and with it the American constitutional order. The commercial interest, with its constitutional role as an inadvertent bulwark against majoritarian or factional despotism, was captured by a particular faction of it—namely the financial interest. And the wreck of finance capitalism presaged the crumbling of that bulwark and, thus unfettered, the ascendance of that despotism.

    In a word, the American Republic would no longer be that; it would be, instead, something closer to a plutocracy.

    ....

    What if, for example, the financiers, intoxicated with their own cleverness, alienated from the true sources of property and prosperity, commence to erect vast conduits of financial infrastructure by which capital from all around the world, all chasing fractionally higher yield, might come pouring into various American debt markets? What if this adventure in abstractions ultimately disrupts the equipoise of the US economy so severely that the natural market correction cannot be endured, because for policymakers to approach it according to a principle of laissez faire would be to risk total ruin? What if, faced with so awful a choice—ruin or socialism—policymakers were obliged to replace the private capital that long had fueled this riot of speculation, which by late 2008 lay in smoldering ruins—what if, I say, they were obliged by prudence to substitute for this private capital the public capital of the commonwealth?

    We have at least the outline of an answer to these hard questions, and it ain’t pretty. Free enterprise has been dealt a series of savage blows, many of them self-inflicted. A broader swath of the American economy was absorbed into the machinations of the state over the course of the grueling days of fall 2008 than perhaps in all of prior US history. Taxpayer capital was staked to support a dizzying array of markets. Ruined firms were saved, and then, after the panic, turned loose to carry on with their speculations. Finance capitalism was further concentrated; few actors among it felt the bite of market discipline. Risk was socialized at the highest levels of sophistication by instruments and maneuvers so arcane that to describe them requires almost another language. Meanwhile, small enterprise was left to wither and perish. For a year and more now, finance firms have been making a killing by borrowing money short-term from the Federal Reserve at near-zero interest rates and lending it long-term to the Treasury at 2 or 3%. That’s a trade a child could get rich on.

    In a word, the answer to the hard questions may be that we have had the misfortune to witness the degradation of [Alexander] Hamilton’s noble work, his painstaking formation of a commercial republic characterized by liberty, into a much baser form of political arrangement: plutocracy, an aristocracy of alienated wealth, characterized by insolent speculative gain. Instead of patriotic statesmanship grounding prosperity in the security of property, we shall have idle elitism, grounding narrow interest in sophistication and the abstraction of property.