Saturday, February 06, 2016

Nobody Asked Me

I think Serena Williams is beautiful. And I definitely think the First Lady is, also. I don't know where people get the idea that "whites" aren't attracted to black women, or that there must be a  sinister reason why Maria Sharapova makes more in endorsements than Serena does.

Even though the category "white" is completely made up (there's more than a fair share of open racism once heaped on "ethnics" now considered white) I'm sympathetic to charges of anti-black racism, but, if Sharapova walked in and I didn't know who she was, I would assume she was a model. Absurdly attractive Russian tennis players is not a new thing, as you may recall. Maria is a much better player than Anna Kournikova, but let's say they have options for selling things in life after tennis.

But Serena made 13 million dollars just in endorsements last year, so even if racism has affected her earnings, try not to let it get you down. She can walk into any room and say, "I am the greatest tennis player alive" and nobody would argue, unless you had some Federer fans, or devotees of Martina Navratilova hanging around.

Friday, February 05, 2016

When He's Right, He's Right

In an otherwise totally sensible piece detailing why Ted Cruz has no chance of becoming president, a writer at The Daily Beast cited Cruz telling an audience, "It's not the law of the land," in reference to the decision legalizing gay "marriage." A violation of the natural law has absolutely no moral force. It wouldn't matter how popular that decision became, or how normal homosexual activity became, it would still have no force, in the same way that the Dred Scott ruling was null, or Roe v. Wade.

People should say, "I believe children should have their rights violated at the whim of adults," or, "I want our society to die off as a result of our sexual decadence, and fear of our properly-functioning bodies." That's what people actually mean when they say, "I'm for marriage equality."

I'm not for marriage equality; I am for marriage. I am for telling the truth. If you push me, I will concede that I am for tolerance, in that I don't see the wisdom in punishing every violation of the moral law with the coercive power of the state. But credit belongs to Senator Cruz for telling the truth. If you want to fault him, you might say that he gets as angry about marginal tax rates as he does about attacks on marriage and family. But he's right this time.

Global Warming?

I just gave a talk on Laudato Si, the new encyclical from our Holy Father, Pope Francis. One of the presenting problems that Laudato Si's framework could possibly address is of course global warming. But is it real, or is it one of those progressive articles of faith that has no basis in reality?

I found this persuasive. Now, I'm a conservative. You could argue that I'm a David Brooks kind of conservative, but a conservative nonetheless. I want you to know why I was open to considering this evidence. These people she cites have no reason to lie. There may be scientific or mathematical reasons why the data is not as persuasive as it appears. That would be at the level of the premises of the argument.

But it is not reasonable to believe that men who have devoted their lives to the study of this question would falsify data, in pursuit of an ideological end. Is it possible? Of course. It's possible Donald Trump would be the most successful president in American history, but I'm not laying a wager.

It is more likely that good data which does not serve a particular ideological end will be ignored. Ideology works best when it serves as an outside vantage point in dialogue with some other view, from which I ask intelligent and critical questions that serve the advance of knowledge. It works less well when I must suppose a vast conspiracy, or resort to bad faith, to explain away a large body of information.

I can remember the days when I became a conservative. I was probably reading Crichton's The Andromeda Strain for the 30th time. He gives us a little story within the story, of a fictional scientist named Rudolph Karp. Dr. Karp believed he'd found extraterrestrial life on the inside of a meteorite. He did dozens of controlled studies, we are told, and yet could not back away from his original contention. The book tells us at length of his mockery and ostracism. It tells also of real scientists who endured the same. Indeed, the fuel of conservatism is a principled contrarianism from a conventional wisdom too passively accepted, and too uncritically examined.

And yet it may be conservatives who have their own conventional wisdom not allowed to be contravened. Who's actually doing the politicizing? For your consideration.

Thursday, February 04, 2016

The First Will Be Last

I may have mentioned a genuine hero--both naturally and supernaturally--that also attends our daily Mass. As it happens, we share the same birthday. Anyway, it had always been the Monsignor's practice since he came to serve that man first, and then I proceed across the front of the pew to meet the line in the middle aisle. It saves the priest of a certain age a few steps, and it saves me an obstacle course. It also comports with a just order of things, in my mind. I did not save our world from fascists, whilst urging the Catholics (ordering?) going into battle during that great war to go to Confession beforehand, just in case. So that makes sense to me.

But the young priest who has returned after some time away is terribly fond of me, or so it appears, though we've never spoken. He keeps going right past the old hero, and giving me Communion first. Father can obviously do what he likes, but I want to say something. Father, don't you know who that is? Let him go first. I suppose I know what he'd say, and that's precisely why he should go first.

What I know I can do is make sure I'm prepared as much as possible to receive the gift that is Christ Our Lord. That's what the hero would do, and that's what he'd say. So be it.

Wednesday, February 03, 2016

Ever Mindful Of Church Teaching...

"I reluctantly supported omnibus bill [etc.] in spite of its public funding for contraception and other evils, because the bill's other aspects are so urgent and necessary." That is how you answer a question like that as a Catholic in public life. Anything less is barely better than the Democrats on abortion. It's against my personal beliefs, because it's objectively wrong. How's that?

Tuesday, February 02, 2016

Iowa Caucus Thoughts

You'd have to be crazy to see what happened on the GOP side as anything other than a huge win for Sen. Rubio. You don't have to win Iowa; you just have to do better than people thought you would, and he did that, coming close to winning outright. Cruz won, but not in a way that scares his rivals. He played up his evangelical credentials, and was rewarded. But New Hampshire doesn't vote like that. The nominee doesn't have to win that state, either, but you have to show strength. Cruz will get crushed. Though Rubio is at least as conservative on the issues as Cruz, these nominations are about style and perception as well. Rubio seems moderate, because the rhetoric in this "preseason" was so absurdly extreme. The reality is that Rubio would be the most conservative Republican nominee since Reagan. What exactly that means is anybody's guess. But if moderates and big-money donors flock to Rubio as the best alternative for them, it testifies to formidable political skill. Or I might say, personal skill. If the risk-averse big shots like you, knowing they don't agree with you, then your likability is pretty high.

On the Democratic side, Hillary's virtual tie with Bernie Sanders speaks opposing truths simultaneously: Clinton is a fatally flawed candidate who will win anyway. She is hoping for Trump or Cruz, because she can't win otherwise. That's how I see it. If she gets indicted, we'll see how well-liked Martin O'Malley is, because it'd be a speed date.

Bernie is a True Believer in a party of cynics and pragmatists, and I can't see any scenario where he wins the nomination. If Clinton weren't so dreadful, she'd be thanking Heaven. Anyone with an ounce of charisma and realism would trounce her, and she knows it. (See 2008.)