November 20, 2012

San Bernardino's Fall

It's all sort of Decline and Fall-ish, catnip for doom & gloomers, these tales of city bankruptcies. You always wonder how they allowed it to happen, how they didn't see the barbarians coming and prepare if only out of naked self-interest.

The money quote, literally and figuratively, appears to be:
The chronic mismanagement in San Bernardino, though, is a common feature of local government in California and around the United States. Much power over municipal finance lies in the hands of those with the most at stake — city employees, elected officials and others who depend directly on government for their livelihood. And California is moving to put even more responsibility and funds, not less, in their hands.
Which seems (and that quote is from a liberal news source) to bolster Romney's argument that if you hook enough people/institutions/local governments on benefits then they'll bleed you dry. (I used to think that employees of the school district should recuse themselves from voting for levies, ha.)

The famous quote goes, "A democracy cannot exist as a permanent form of government. It can only exist until the voters discover that they can vote themselves largesse from the public treasury.”

The attribution of which turns out to be hotly debated. I'd thought it was from the 18th or 19th century, which suggests that people are being extremely dilatory in discovering the unearth-shattering fact that they can vote themselves largesse. But according to Wiki, it was first said by someone in 1951, an Oklahoman named Elmer. Perhaps he's a prophet.

*

Tangentially-related, in an item in the liberal New Yorker on the rise and fall of Twinkies, we read that unions were looked on favorably when there were a lot of union members but that now they aren't since they get perks few people get these days. Which might also be read as saying that as more people get dependent on government, people dependent on government will be looked on even more favorably:
"The real issue here is that people’s image of unions...seems to depend quite a bit, in the U.S., on how common unions are in the workforce. When organized labor represented more than a third of American workers, it was easy for unions to send the message that in agitating for their own interests."
And perhaps similarly now if perhaps a third of Americans are dependent on government, it's easier to sell the message that Democrats are agitating for their own interests.

November 19, 2012

Rantasaurus Rex

I'm fascinated that we refuse to learn from history. Or heed a siren call.

Before 1993, the Republican party was reasonably popular in California, of all places. But around '93 the Republicans in that bellwether state decided to be hardline on immigration policies. If not actually anti-immigrant, close enough for government work.

And what was the result?

The end of the Republican party in California. For a generation and counting.

The more I think about it the more pissed I get that Republican candidates are so lousy on immigration policy as well as on health care. Self-inflicted wounds are the worst kind. Of course the Dems are horrible on both issues, but I expect more from the Republican party. Maybe the problem is that the "conservative" party wants to "conserve" a broken immigration system and a broken health care system. The old think tanks like the Heritage Foundation either suck, or their ideas aren't making it down to the candidates.

It's one thing to be a party bent on making government smaller and taxes less. It's another thing to refuse to do anything but that -- to be completely insensate to problems not related to taxes. It's pretty bad when even the National Review knocks the party for failing to come up with many quality ideas on keeping health insurance affordable. I almost feel like the Republicans deserve being in the political wilderness simply for being uninterested in solving any problem but high taxes.

November 16, 2012

Mitt's Comments

Romney blames his loss to Obama on gifts to minorities and the young, but gifts to certain groups of voters seems the way it's always gone throughout our history. Certainly the ol' Democratic machine politics in the 19th century seemed to work that way.   Of course our debt situation is at the point where the givin' has to stop sometime.

You could look at it as a contest between the Republicans -- who like to give the gift of tax money back to the tax payer (recognizing, of course, that it's our money in the first place and thus not technically a 'gift') -- and the Democrats, who like to spend borrowed money to use for gifts. Perhaps part of Romney's problem was he wasn't promising big tax cuts, which may've been what got Bush elected in '00. (Or it could be simply that Romney didn't speak any Spanish, ha. And was worse on the border from the Hispanic perspective.)

With the debt as crushing as it is, the Republicans seem to have been the first to "blink", to promise less.

In some ways, pundit Michael Kinsley's thesis back in 1993 has a whiff of truth about it. In an interview with the sainted Brian Lamb:
There is a theme running through [my collection of essays], which is irritation at what I regard as the fairly fatuous pseudo populism that suffuses our politics at the moment; this idea that the politicians are terrible and the people, but the people are wonderful; that the people are being ignored by the politicians and that's the reason for our problems. I think the reason for many of our problems is that the politicians are exquisitely attuned to the people. The people say, "Cut our taxes, raise our benefits," and then get shocked when the result is a huge deficit. That's just one problem. That's the best example of my problem; that the people are very often big babies, unable to understand, as babies can't understand, that you have to give up something in the short term to get what you want in the long term.

November 15, 2012

Quotable

Starbucks has probably improved your coffee-drinking life even if you never step foot inside a Starbucks shop. Because, again, what chains do is set a floor for standards beneath which it is not wise to fall. Starbucks may not be the best coffee in the world but if you’re competing with Seattle’s largest you better offer something better than they can provide.
The reason Starbucks and other chains have made less impact in, say, Italy or the Netherlands is that these countries were amply-stocked with places you could purchase good coffee before Starbucks et al arrived. Britain? Well, not so much.
Those wealthy consumers who deplore Starbucks and want to stick to their single-tree sourced, Ethiopian high-roast or other comparably trendy, exotic and fussy brews are entitled to their prejudices. But they might at least recall that Starbucks created the market in which they can parade their snobberies. They owe something to Seattle too.
 Alex Massie

Apples Far from the Family Tree

Read a fascinating first chapter from Andrew Solomon's book (thank God, not Andrew Sullivan's -- they're both gay but Solomon's calm and more reasoned view of things makes for a much better reading experience). Solomon has written Far from the Tree about how parents deal with children very different from themselves. A good and sometimes sobering look at difference, disability and diversity. I hadn't really considered just how strong the human desire for conformity is and how that will eventually be reflected in a homogenization such that future parents will simply abort children with genes that show deafness, autism, a cleft lip, homosexuality, dyslexia - i.e anybody not perfect. The author also makes a case for how the "disabled" in some form or another, makes up the majority. One person put it, 'we begin disabled (i.e. as infants), we reach some level of of ability, and then reenter disability in old age. That's if we're lucky. " True words. The author says that diversity is, counter-intuitively, what ties us together. It provides grist for what he calls the "imagination" of love. To love our children who look like/function like us is natural, but what if a child has inherited some "horizontal" trait, a recessive gene or a deformed gene that results in some anomaly? Then it takes this imagination he says, and there's more of that around than one would think.

A quote from writer Claira Claiborne, who has an autistic daughter: "I write now what 15 years past I would still not have thought possible to write: that if today I were given the choice to accept the experience, with everything that it entails, or to refuse the bitter largesse, I would have to stretch out my hands - because out of it has come, for all of us, an unimagined life. And I will not change the last word of the story. It is still love."

Another mother interviewed said she had no sense of purpose until her son was born with severe disabilities. "Suddenly, I had this object for all my energy. He gave me a whole new reason to be alive."

According to a psychologist, "'The great surprise of resilience research is the ordinariness of the phenomenon.' Resilience used to be posited as an extraordinary trait, seen in the Helen Kellers of the world, but cheery recent research suggests that most of us have the potential for it, and that cultivating it is a crucial part of development for everyone."

2013 Office Tour

At lunch before Mass I decided to go on an impromptu "office tour" to see where the big guys live. First up was a senior vice president Tim F., who is a giddy five levels above me in rank and three floors above me geographically. I was surprised to find a large section of the floor sectioned off with glazed opaque windows and special card key entry. But I eventually came to Tim's rather pedestrian office. Not too much bigger or better furnished than the big cheese's on my floor. Of course I couldn't penetrate the office since it doglegs to the left and thus achieves perfect secrecy. It even features a secretary guarding the entrance to this "bat cave".

Next up was Tim's boss, one Mark T, who lives on the 37th floor, some 24 floors above Tim. Quite a lot of distance between boss and report, ha. I self-consciously headed for that odd bank of elevators on the other side, the ones labeled Floors 20-38. I entered with a well-dressed man and pushed the 37th floor but to no avail: it wouldn't light. So I pushed 36, hoping to walk a flight. The 36th floor had folks like one Terri Hill, the president of something. This indeed was rarefied air, with plush home-like surroundings full of comfortable furniture, artwork, wood paneling and wood filing cabinets instead of plain walls, whiteboards and grey metal. The rooms (aka offices) reminded me of the congressional offices in D.C.

Then to the 37th floor! I hiked up and found..it locked down. I tried my keycard to no avail, our leaders inaccessible as US presidents, their workplace as locked down as the White House.

Power to the people! Let's storm that Bastille!

*

Had 9am meeting, meetings being not my favorite way to start, end, or middle a day. Craig and the big guns sitting around a conference table talking about the potential of a "universal datasource". (Only twelve years too late, in my opinion.) The upshot is there is little potential for it happening. "It can be done," sayeth Dan, "but not without a lot of work." Thus we see nature at work: boss asking worker to take on a great amount of additional work, worker pushing back saying, "tell me you mean it by clearing my other work." In other words, boss asking, "can I get free stuff?" and employee says, "no, you have to pay for it." Of course the adversarial relationship is necessary. Bosses have to push against employee complacency and employees have to push back when too much is asked. A see-saw where balance is sought.

November 12, 2012

From Ex-Major League Pitcher Dirk Hayhurst

Quote:
It’s silly. I miss the feel­ing of run­ning out to the mound to music I picked. My walk-out jam. The clos­est thing a play­er has to his own, per­son­al super­hero theme song, since, after all, he is dressed in a hero’s cos­tume while it’s play­ing. The dra­mat­ic entrance, the announc­er call­ing my name, the fans clap­ping mod­er­ate­ly to reflect my obscu­ri­ty… Music has such a strong tie to mem­o­ry that when the songs from my super­hero past hit me, in the car or gym or wher­ev­er, I go back. Back to the scent and sound and nerves and hope that coa­lesce into what a play­er calls life, or some­thing like it. Some­thing that, even in those moments of music and nerves and hope, I never truly under­stood.

The irony of a life lived in the moment is that it can only be appre­ci­at­ed when the moment is over. But how hard it is to face that moment. How trag­ic it is to know that we can never fully embrace the moment since we have no idea how it will unfold, nor can we go back and enjoy it when we can final­ly make sense of its unfold­ing?

Thank you music, for tor­tur­ing and humor­ing me with a sound track to my mem­o­ries that will never match the real thing, but never let me for­get it was once real.

St. Basil Quote

A keeper from St. Basil:
"Any part of the Scriptures you like to choose is inspired by God. The Holy Spirit composed the Scriptures so that in them, as in a pharmacy open to all souls, we might each of us be able to find the medicine suited to our own particular illness.

Thus, the teaching of the Prophets is one thing, and that of the historical books is another. And, again, the Law has one menaing, and the advice we read in the Book of Proverbs has a different one. But the Book of Psalms contains everything useful that the others have. It predicts the future, it recalls the past, it gives directions for living, it recalls the past, it gives directions for living, it suggests the right behavior to adopt. It is, in short, a jewel case in which have been collected all the valid teachings in such a way that individuals find remedies just right for their cases.

It heals the old wounds of the soul and gives relief to recent ones. It cures the illnesses and preserves the health of the soul.

Every Psalm brings peace, soothes the internal conflicts, calms the rough waves of evil thoughts, dissolves anger, corrects and moderates immorality.

Every Psalm preserves friendship and reconciles those who are separated. Who could actually regard as an enemy the person beside whom they have raised a song to the one God?

Every Psalm anticipates the anguish of the night and gives rest after the efforts of the day. It is safety for babes, beauty for the young, comfort for the aged, adornment for women.

Every Psalm is the voice of the Church."

This & That


Rain-sotted morning but at 55 degrees still pleasant to soak up the atmospheric atmosphere on the front porch. The nearby Japanese ornamental is budded with drops.

Oh would love to stay on this front porch and continue to watch this movie of gentle rains falling on terra firma! Very cinematic. The neighborhood trees have mostly lost their leaves but I see some yellow and rust across the street.

Oh the exhilarating smell of rain in the air! Oh nature's bounty rakishly lavishing itself on us! How it reminds me of my childhood when I loved to be in the rain, when I was so much weather hardier. Adults, we fools, carry umbrellas, a tool of the devil!

Oh yes what a fine day it would be to play hookey. To find a good movie to watch - oh but it feels like it's been forever since I've done that. To drink hot chocolate and curl up on the porch all day. To eat chicken noodle soup as if I were sick. To read gratuitously and indulgently and prolifically. To read poetry. To drink the stars. To ride the sun.

Fall is a far-cry from winter, fall a season unto its own that refuses to be stereotyped or lumped with its adjacent bedfellows.

*

Woke to reality of a plugged-up toilet. Worst part was finding plunger which was in the garage. I couldn't find it but Steph immediately did. I don't know how she finds anything in there, it's like a wonder of the world. It's frustrating because the plunger should not be in the garage, it should be in the hall closet. The secret to finding things seems to have everything in duplicate and have a secret place for things, the way I keep a scissors and hammer and nails hidden atop a bookroom bookcase.

*


Read some of "Telegraph Avenue" last night in order to round out the weekend but it felt of a checking-off-a-list type of thing. Had not that desire to revel in the understudy of words, examining their carriage and heft, their beauty and sagacity, their allure and sensuality.

Feel in something of a book-buying frenzy. Spent the $25 gift card that I won in a work contest in a hurry: Douthat's "Grand New Party", Alquist's "The Complete Thinker: GK Chesterton" and "The Short Night of the Shadow Catchers". But wasn't slaked because I came across Basbane's bibliolatry essays and then a history of Columbus. Going thru a rare hard thirst for history over the delights of language in fiction. Likely partially the result of the election, which has me curious again about past and present realities. You'd think I'd want to escape in fiction.

The Shadowcatchers book is likely the weakest purchase since it's dense and of a topic only tangentially interesting. Alquist's book on GKC is something I'd have bought eventually since I seem to have to have everything on GKC. The Grand New Party book was only $4 so it almost doesn't count. Basbane, an impulse purchase, was just too delectable to pass up even though I have one of his other books unread in my library! The history of Columbus seems a no-brainer, since I don't have much local (Columbus) history and this looks like a tasty morsel.

Still reading Hillerman's book that I took from my New Mexican villa. (The owners said I could take any book I want - Steph interestingly said that that only applied to fiction, which I more or less agreed with. I'd have not taken Fodor's Guide to New Mexico, for example, or even the essays of Bernanos (even though I suspect I'll be the only one ever to read that one) but to take one of the four or more Hillerman novels seemed less audacious.)

As much as I don't appreciate Mark Shea's heavy-handed hatred of the GOP, I do appreciate that he appreciates Ross Douthat.

*

Read a particularly spiritually fragrant Horizons, the newsletter of my Eastern Catholic diocese. There was an article on the new evangelization, as well it might given how dire things look in both RC land and EC land. I don't doubt that EC is sort of a canary in the coalmine and may go down quicker than RC since high liturgy doesn't seem to do it for most people. People seem to want more community, something the ethnic Eastern churches are losing due to homogenizing forces, and more Protestant style worship, again something extremely far from the Eastern rite look and feel. Certainly there's a reason the Latin Mass was ditched, and I suspect it's because the RC is flexible enough to change with people. The bend but don't break philosophy is partially what has kept the Church in decent stead these past 2000 years. It would be a great loss to the Church to lose the Eastern Catholic branch so it's a crisis for all involved.

Like it or not, we Catholics are going to have to become more like Mormons as far as lay participation. In a sense, it's sort of like how the Republican party must reach out to Hispanics - it's not optional. Similarly the Church must change and follow the instructions of Popes John Paul II and Benedict.

*

Bought orange circus peanuts for grandson Sam but the verdict was thumbs down. I'll give it another try in a few years I guess. Kind of surprised since I thought sugar was the universal language of childhood. Redeemed myself by offering him some dark chocolate in recompense.

More popular was jumping in the leaves with him. I threw him in there at first, but instead of Sam-tossing he wanted the more strenuous form of activity where we both ran and fell in the leaves head-first. We must've done that about twenty times, each time prefaced by the phrase, "ok, one more time!" I bring new meaning to the term "indulgent grandfather". Can't say no to that young whippersnapper.

*

Kind of taken aback by the boldness of a local priest who is politically conservative and not afraid to show it, recommending on Facebook that people read Thomas Sowell. Not used to priests being as obvious as he is, politically, especially on the right.

Heard Cardinal Dolan on his radio show today mention that he really gets steamed over the fact that Billy Graham can endorse Mitt Romney without the press going bananas, while if he or a priest did that all hell would break loose. Says it "gets his Irish up", that double-standard such that Protestants can get away with a lot more than Catholics.

November 09, 2012

You Gotta Be Kidding

You mean Romney was shocked he lost?

Reminds me how Bill O'Reilly says that the rich can be too confident of the future, can get so used to personal success that they lose a sort of reality-based view of things that the poor or middle class often have. O'Reilly said George W. Bush had that disease and that's why he was so cavalier about Iraq even when it was not going swimmingly.

As I've said here often, the Columbus Dispatch poll is uncannily accurate in these matters and they had Obama up by 2 on the eve of the election, so it's hard to figure Romney's surprise. Apparently he doesn't have internal pollsters as good as the Columbus Dispatch. So much for his reputation for excellence in management, ha.

Sundry & Various

Oh the banter of light play in the morning! For a brief period now - at least until maybe early December? - light floods the pathways of my mind and face on the way to work, now that the time change has taken effect. The time change seems perfectly timed since I don't even miss the hour on the other end. Morning light over late afternoon/early evening light in my book, or at least I think that in the morning.

*

Read compulsively more news, the Columbus Dispatch, perverse as that is given the negativity of it, i.e. Obama's reelection. I seem to be fascinated by the turn this country has taken and long to read Douthat's book called "The Grand New GOP", written a few years ago, which is supposed to blueprint a way forward. If I wasn't convinced an overhaul was necessary before, I'm certainly sure now. Those election results concentrate the mind powerfully. For the first time in a long time (or ever?) I feel like the country's changed, that here was an objective result of the culture of death and decay and sloth. Perhaps I felt it in '96 when Clinton, a perjurer, managed to beat Bob Dole, war hero. In the black and white of voting statistics, this election seemed an index of our citizenry's venality.

Was surprised to learn that Romney had been secretly taped awhile back saying that Republicans have got to appeal to Latino voters. Ironic given his own inability to connect with them. He might've taken his own advice. I think it was George Will who said, in his election recap, that this one might've been lost when a primary opponent challenged Romney to be tougher on illegals and Romney made some sort of over-the-top statement decrying the Dream Act and such. It kind of surprises me that Romney didn't move into an open border sort of guy after winning the nomination. Sure he'd catch hell, but that's never stopped him from changing a position before. If I were Mitt I'd have hijacked Hispanic media and outspent Obama hugely there. In the end the Mittster tried very hard, fought hard, but was a bit too predictable. He evinced a sort of lack of creativity and relied too heavily on the debates alone to change his course. I mean Mitt was losing practically the whole election, so there was plenty of opportunity to try something like a screen pass instead of simply handing off to the fullback every play. But that's Monday morning quarterbacking.

Whether it's the dog or the dog food is interesting. Rubio ought to test the theory in 2016 just to see whether Hispanics are hooked on ideology or packaging.

Also surprised that McCain supposedly got more votes than Romney. That be a headshaker. How Rs could not come out for Romney after the chastening effect of four years in the political wilderness under the messiah-bama is beyond me. File it under the "People Are Different" category I suppose. The funny thing about politics, and religion, is that it's so difficult oftentimes to imagine how people come to the conclusions they do.

*

A good reminder:
The great challenge for the Republican Party now is how to change its ways without changing its principles. Its principles are right and have long endured because they're right. But do all the party's problems come down to inadequate marketing, faulty messaging, poor candidates? Might some of it be policies, stands, attitudes?

...Some of these are referred to as "the woman problem" or "the Hispanic problem"—they presumably don't like the GOP. But maybe they think the GOP doesn't like them. What might be the reasons?

That will be a subject here in the future. For now, in politics as in life, you have to play the hand you're dealt. You have to respect reality. Which is where conservatism actually starts, seeing what is real.
- Peggy Noonan

*
Powerfully attracted to upgrading to the starter's package on Logos Bible Software. A pricey $210 though. Get a lot of new resources like the Catena Aureau, Haydock commentary, a lot of the early Fathers. The top package is something like $2,200! These guys are serious.

The Protestants are, as usual, even more serious about Bible study. Their packages go up to $5k. I think unless you're a pastor or something it seems a bit much. But they're hardcore. People like to have the best, witness the sums bikers spend on their bikes and colorful unitards. Or amateur photographers, who've got to have the best equipment. Or me, who has to have the best craft beer.

*
I was somewhat surprised, if disappointed, to learn that St. Kateri was into that self-flagellation stuff. Sounds masochistic to me but then of course it would since I seem to place fleshy desires so often above the spiritual. It's not by accident that the ugly small pox scars that she bore in life disappeared upon her death, one of the first signs of her sanctity. "The violent bear it away," said Christ. (Now if I had my Logos I could read every commentary and early church father on that verse in Matthew.)

*

Going through the beer drive-thru, my eye is caught by the sight of Circus Peanuts. I buy it on a whim, hoping to try that childhood treat on grandson Sam, eager to initiate him into the secret Circus Peanut society and to "differentiate myself" from his parents and grandma with this particular treat. I so closely associate it with my own childhood. I want to be the first to introduce him to them but not at too early an age. Such goes the thoughts of a foolish grandpa!

"Grandpa" still sounds ridiculously premature. It wasn't really until I entered the early 40s that I had a sense of the brevity of life and a greater sense of the passage of time and a generational view, such that I could actually be a father with a kid going to college. That's an eye-opener. I understand more deeply the three ages of man: young adulthood with death as a joke, in middle age, when you're in the on-deck circle, and in old age, when you face the "last enemy" as St. Paul calls it head on. There's a sense in which all of life is a lead-up to your death. Certainly in the time of Shakespeare that was the thought: a good death, defined as one in which you'd repented of your sins and were in the grace of God. And even in the 4th century, Emperor Constantine didn't get baptized till he was on his deathbed because there was the belief that the only time that counted was your deathbed and he didn't want to take the chance of getting baptized too early in his life and spoiling his baptismal garment with sin. At death was said that the eternal decision is really made, for or against God, which is why I suppose suicide is considered such a huge sin: it's the opposite of a "good death".

*

Beer Haikus:

Drink the hops product,
enjoy the beery merry
Cold beer beats the night.

First beer, second beer
a holy rush to the head
third beer all decline.

Oh Columbus Brew!
You make the drink of angels
You'll do till Heaven.

When in doubt or fear
brew a cheer and drink a beer
and you'll sing ye poem.

November 08, 2012

Voting Patterns

Manalive but black political solidarity is a force of nature. Their vote is just supremely strong and monolithic. In Ohio African-Americans voted 96-3 in favor of Obama. You don't get numbers like that except in the old Soviet Union. One would think that 96% of any given group of people wouldn't agree that the sky is blue or that grass is green, let alone concerning a president with an uneven record. When blacks call each other "brother" they ain't kidding - on politics, at least, they think in unison.

One can't help but feel a bit of envy wishing Catholics thought a smidgeon more coordinately given that even in 1960 only 78% of Catholics voted for Kennedy (who back then was considered a candidate for canonization). Alternatively, you can look at it as a good thing, as a sense that people are thinking for themselves. The irony is that Catholics are perceived as being decided by Rome when their vote is anything but. It's true that most people vote like the groups they belong to but still...
Non-practicing or occasional Mass-attending Catholic voters tend to vote based more on the larger group within which they live and work: Their voting patterns reflect their education, economic class, region in which they live, etc.
Why blacks vote overwhelmingly liberal is a question that may be less interesting than the mere fact that they do in unison. Whatever their shared experiences, education, brotherhood of blackness, grievances against Republicans, etc... they certainly share a common outlook. We are asked to "think with the Church" and blacks certainly think with each other politically, although I'm not sure their's is necessarily a good model. I suspect part of the uniformity is coercive in nature in that if you don't think with the group you'll get ostracized, ala Clarence Thomas and other conservative blacks.

"Shunning" certainly works as a social force given its success in the Amish community where 85-95% stay in their communities. I don't know that it would work too well with Catholics today, given the general lukewarmness. Shaming is mostly outside the mainstream nowadays. A birth out of wedlock used to be a badge of shame but now is almost a badge of honor where the alternative - to kill the child - is so routine. To shame or shun seems like "tough love" in a society averse to that sort of love. It's perhaps self-perpetuating: by the Golden Rule we do until others as we would have them do unto us, and we would not like to be shunned.

Still, I do wonder about the long-term viability of any society where "shame" is defined so downwardly as to be nearly invisible.

November 07, 2012

Well, Hmmm.....

Another view of what it would actually take to get Hispanic votes. And Mark Steyn says this new culture is in white America as well. The social issues are not to blame.

Thought of the Day

Found here:
There is a Taoist story of an old farmer who had worked his crops for many years. One day his horse ran away. Upon hearing the news, his neighbors came to visit. “Such bad luck,” they said sympathetically. “May be,” the farmer replied. The next morning the horse returned, bringing with it three other wild horses. “How wonderful,” the neighbors exclaimed. “May be,” replied the old man. The following day, his son tried to ride one of the untamed horses, was thrown, and broke his leg. The neighbors again came to offer their sympathy on his misfortune. “May be,” answered the farmer. The day after, military officials came to the village to draft young men into the army. Seeing that the son’s leg was broken, they passed him by. The neighbors congratulated the farmer on how well things had turned out. “May be,” said the farmer.

As Hispanics Go, So Goes the Nation

"The situation is hopeless, but not serious." - Italian proverb

What can you say but that the definition of insanity works both ways, for both parties. Keep doing what you're doing, Democrats, i.e. voting for Obama despite the lack of results. And keep doing what you're doing Republicans, not rebranding as the Hispanic-philiac party and you'll keep losing elections. Why can't we appeal to Hispanics given their supposed conservative leaning on social issues? Why is it so hard to win their vote? Is it simply immigration policies? Shouldn't there have been loads of focus groups and studies done to determine what it will take to at least split the Hispanic vote? How much advertising is directed to that community? A telling stat is that Republicans have lost the presidential popular vote in five of the last six elections despite nominating people like McCain and Romney, hardly rightwing ideologues.

Ultimately it would've been hard for Romney to devote resources to Hispanics when it might cost him some of his base. There are those on the right, like Laura Ingraham, who will hold as a litmus test taking a hard line on the border. And it's pretty hard to forsake voters you know will vote for you in order to reach out to those who likely won't. The close 50-48 result suggests Romney's plan was credible. He's thinking short-term, of course. Nobody wants to think long-term, to court Hispanic voters at the cost of their own elective chances.

This election is a case study: conservatives all afire, electrified, while Obama's base not as excited and still Obama wins. The Dems have all the untapped power of many, many undermotivated voters. The Republicans have to consistently get out a big percentage of their vote in order to be competitive while the Dems are sitting on this huge goldmine of would-be voters who don't vote but who could should the spirit move. Which it does to an effective degree in presidential elections. I think this trend will only be exacerbated in the future.

Romney seems to have fought harder this election than McCain did in '12, ran a tougher campaign, but...how could he lose Ohio? That doesn't compute for me. Perhaps it comes down simply to Obama "defining" him in June and July with blistering, unanswered ads. There's a reason advertisers spend billions advertising their products: advertising works. And political advertising obviously works with voters.

*

So the election result can't be too surprising. It's been 25 years in the making. Reagan won the same percentage of white vote as Romney and won in an landslide. It's both cultural and demographic. It's like going uphill: every election cycle it gets tougher for conservatives given the demographic makeup and the erosion of Christian values. With the demographics it's simply math taking its course (a libertarian on my twitter feed said that math, not the Republicans, will slay big government. Perhaps. but there appears no quick hope of slaying the abortion industry or protecting religious liberty.)

On the bright side, at least we had the Bush appointees for the Supreme Court. How large that looms now! How incredibly close we came to having an Al Gore presidency. (Of course without Bush, perhaps there's no Obama, but a Supreme Court justice in the hand beats two in the bush.)

I'm grateful that at least we got some appointees on the Court because without the Bush appointees we'd have a liberal-stacked Court and would basically have no protection to limit Obama's worst impulses. That is truly a bright side. A few votes in Florida resulted in 2000 resulted in a lasting legacy in the form of the lifetime appointment of two conservative justices. Thank God!

November 04, 2012

People Are Different

Haley Barbour and other Republican politicians say that Hurricane Sandy has arrested Romney's momentum and has seemingly all but handed the election to Obama.  The latest Columbus Dispatch poll, typically uncannily accurate, has Obama up by 2 in Ohio.   These pieces of bad news suggest the possibility of a bad Tuesday night for Republicans. 

But...as Scott Hahn says, no matter who wins the presidency, Jesus Christ is still Lord of this earth. And that we can take enormous and ultimate comfort from.   

And...even if Obummer wins, there's a kind of just dessert in having him have to deal with the runaway spending he's ushered in. Assuming he doesn't want to tank the U.S., he'll have to clean up his own mess and face fiscal discipline and accountability for the first time.  It could be priceless to see Obama having to tell his worshippers that the time of crazy spending is over.  If Bush had to face in '05-'08 the mess he'd created in Iraq, then Obama may have to face in '13-'16, the mess he created financially. 

Unfortunately though that's finances. In the more important issues of life and religious liberty, an Obama reelection is pretty much a relentlessly gloomy proposition.  Which reminds me to remember Scott Hahn's message. 

*

This year, more than most, I look on supporters of Obama as startling curiosities. When I see an Obama sticker on a car I look over at them if I'm passing or at a stoplight. They are like unicorns to me, completely unfathomnable, like the folks voting for Nixon were to Manhattanites in '72.

I was particularly shocked to hear that a retired accountant, for heavens' sake, who used to work with my wife, was voting Obama. Why? Because AARP supports Obama. Because, although he's really well off, he wants his goodies from the feds. You can't make it up. We do deserve the leaders we get, don't we?

In '08 I understood Obama's appeal:  the magical bipartisan speech at the '04 Democratic convention with its religious overtones, his blank-slate record that anyone could pin his or her hopes on, his charm, his blackness, his hipness.  He seemed a candidate suited for the times:  in one fell swoop America could trade a square who went to bed at 9pm for a hipster who listened to Jay-Z, a guy without the burden of quotes or votes, a candidate with whom we could pay for our original sin of slavery. Obama was to the other candidates what a freshly planted evangelical Christian church is to Roman Catholicism: no history and thus no sins, no baggage.  In the long history of popes and presidents, it's often that the opposite follows an unpopular leader, and so Obama was destined to be the anti-Bush.

But now it's '12.  And now Obama has a record, and a startlingly unflattering one that includes forcing through an unpopular health care law, spending trillions with no obvious effects, having an unemployment rate that was promised to be in the 5% range but is nearly 8%, promising health care premiums to dive even as they've risen precipitously, and offending millions of Christians by giving the middle finger to religious freedom. 

Now I can understand those who say, "it could've been worse!"   Or, "hey I can have my child on my insurance policy until my kid is 26!"  But is THAT such a rallying cry that you put new stickers on your car supporting him?  I would've felt sheepish to have put a Bush sticker on my car in '04 even though I supported him, having seen his mixed record in office. Is Obama's record really worth putting a yard sign in your yard?  Are they shameless? It's fascinating to see that the "hope and change" addicts unbowed by realities. It seems like now those supportive of Obama to the point of putting a bumper sticker on their car are of a mindset that is just completely foreign to me.

November 02, 2012

On Voting for Lesser of Two Evils

"Concerning democratic voting, the Jesuit moralist Father Henry Davis wrote in the 1930s, "It is sinful to vote for the enemies of religion or liberty, except to exclude a worse candidate, or unless compelled by fear of great personal harm, relatively greater than the public harm at stake."

...It is therefore quite clear from the moral theology tradition and specific magisterial teaching that a Catholic may vote for a candidate who does not wholly embrace Catholic teaching on the non-negotiable issues.

This can be done:

in order to limit the evil that would result if a worse candidate on these issues were elected;

provided that this is predominately the intention of voting (other good but lesser motives may also be present); and

that the other candidate is indeed worse, and any scandal caused by the appearance of voting for evil is corrected, such as by explaining Catholic teaching and one’s full adherence to it."

--Colin Donovan, STL, is vice president for theology at EWTN.
Read more: here

Quotes and Random Thoughts

Twas a treat to see a new place, New Mexico. I think sometimes about how odd it is that travelers to Columbus are often times impressed but any time you're seeing something new, something for the first time, that contains the seeds of its own reward.

I think there's no better place to people watch than at an airport. I love going to the different gates and seeing how well the people match the destination. Hispanics going to San Antonio? Makes sense. Tall Danish-looking people to Minnesota? Check.

In the Dallas airport saw a man with a Stetson hat and expensive looking boots talking to a lady with a ginormous diamond ring, if in fact it was diamond and not cubic zirconium. It was on her ring finger and was gaudy as the day is long. Pure Texas.

There's just such a striking variety of people despite the fact that you'd think it would be less so, seeing how the expense of flight would self-select to a certain extent. Perhaps the self-selection happens in first class versus coach.

*

The trick to life, it seems, is to view ourselves, other people, and our things as God-owned. To see beauty as emanating from Him, not from an impersonal force. I used to think it trite that someone would attribute the beauty of a sunset to God, but that seems to be the secret! As well as to see Him in the simple. Archbishop Sheen said we look for God in power, not seeing him in simplicity, in the Eucharist.

Beautiful reading the other day from Ephesians 3. It's no wonder bible-loving Protestants love St. Paul so much - they've naturally gravitated to the most consoling part of the bible. It's inconceivable to think of the NT without the writings of Paul, and there's an vibrant sense of hope in most of Paul's work. I get goosebumps sometimes, especially when I read different translations. The fresh words, though conveying essentially the same meaning, really ring out. So glad I got the Knox version since it offers yet another beautiful voice. It feels almost magical to have the NABRE and New Jerusalem versions both on my smartphone and being able to conjure up those life-altering words at a moment's notice.

*

I am far, of course, from denying that every article of the Christian Creed, whether as held by Catholics or by Protestants, is beset with intellectual difficulties; and it is simple fact, that, for myself, I cannot answer those difficulties. Many persons are very sensitive of the difficulties of religion; I am as sensitive as any one; but I have never been able to see a connexion between apprehending those difficulties, however keenly, and multiplying them to any extent, and doubting the doctrines to which they are attached. Ten thousand difficulties do not make one doubt, as I understand the subject; difficulty and doubt are incommensurate. There of course may be difficulties in the evidence; but I am speaking of difficulties intrinsic to the doctrines, or to their compatibility with each other.... - Blessed John Henry Newman

*

Lino Rulli gave us a "trick" instead of a "treat" on Halloween. Turns out he's dialing back his radio show from 4-7pm to 5-7pm. Surprisingly I guess it takes quite a toll on him since he said this change will make him mentally, spiritually and physically healthier. I suppose it's the mark of someone good at their work that they make it look effortless even when it's not.

Lino always humorously dances perilously close to the line of propriety. Very juvenile, he. Something about Fr. Rob not getting to "whip it out" much since he's a celibate. He's big on double entendres for sure. Whenever Fr. Rob says a word that ends in the syllable "er" Lino will repeat the word and attach, "I don't even know her!"

*

The day was discombobulated by the latest sign that "business-as-usual" is something of an oxymoron: we got our asses re-org'd. Yes our division has been rent: we lost a host of good folks and took on a motley crew of hard-looking strangers from another area. Instant marriage, just add shotgun. The guy at the top of the ladder apparently loves to shake things up, and we're the recipients of this latest social experiment. A big believer in change is he, and so I suppose I can't be surprised that change eventually filtered down to my level. Leaders are too smart to be fooled indefinitely by witch-quackery: they read "Dilbert" too, although admittedly the engagement surveys are a joke. But in general they seem to have become more pragmatic and less airy and ethereal, much to my disappointment.

So I'm in mourning because the people I felt most comfortable around, especially in the social gatherings our boss adores, like Marvin the bibliophile and Nancy, my likable compatriot for the past 7-8 years, are both being exodused to another area.

*
In brighter news, my crisp, old-fashioned copy of Ronald Knox's Bible arrived today! Baronius Press has a winner with that - exploiting a market niche that had gone unexploited. Giddily I read a few chapters from Ephesians - it's said that Knox is best at the oft-confusing letters of St. Paul and he really does nail it. A fine introduction by Scott Hahn that gave me some good food for thought in just a page and a half. I don't like the overly formal language and the unfamiliar names of the OT books, based on the Vulgate as it is, but I'm certainly glad to have it in my quiver. As a bonus Baronius includes a small booklet by Knox on how he wrote it called, "On Englishing the Bible". Well-played Baronius.

My favorite quotes from Hahn's intro are: "On the barque of Peter, those with queasy stomachs should keep clear of the engine room" which perfectly encapsulates how I feel about my friend Ron's constant attention to the seamy underside of the Church.

The other quote is from Frank Sheed,
"The Biblical attack on Catholic dogmas did not (after the shock of the attack) destroy Catholic attachment to the dogmas; but it sensibly weakened Catholic attachment to the Bible. A man can never feel quite the same about even the nicest book if he has just been beaten round the head with it...

This Scriptural insufficiency of Catholics is the last heritage of the Reformation still to be liquidated. Liquidated it must be. How necessary Scripture is to the life of Catholics, St. Jerome indicated long ago with his phrase, 'Ignorance of the Scriptures is ignorance of Christ.'"