Monday, December 28, 2020

Happy Birthday, Dad

 I find as the time passes that it is more important each year to celebrate my Dad's birthday. I don't want to commemorate the day he died--I certainly remember the day, but not the date--because God is the God of the living, not the dead. There must be some golden mean between ignoring death completely, and giving it too much credit.

You know, there is a powerful benefit in losing your Dad when you are small. A boy is not a young man yet, who thinks he knows everything, and that his Dad is a fool. There aren't too many benefits to this whole thing, but I do cherish that one. There are some men of course who grow into adulthood and maturity, and they realize that they in fact were the fool, and they can be adults and friends, as well as fathers and sons. That is beautiful, and I celebrate that when I see it, giving profound thanks to God.

We should also celebrate those men who step in to be father figures for other people's sons and daughters, because I am all too aware that sometimes biological fathers fail horribly as fathers, and then the rest of the community has to try to pick up the pieces. St. Joseph, pray for us!

I'm thankful for my Dad's life, because he gave me life. And if we are fortunate enough that our fathers have done something praiseworthy--maybe a lot of things--then we have all the much more to be thankful for. Let us start from thankfulness, if we can. If we cannot, we should pray for that kind of vision. God can sort out the blameworthy things, and surely sentiment cannot erase them, but it also does not serve us to be consumed with bitterness. We can have clear vision, based on truth, but bitterness is anger that consumes.

And so, I want to thank all the great Dads out there. It's not easy to be a Dad, in the good ways that matter, especially not now.

Wednesday, December 23, 2020

The Great Intruder

 You can't really go a day as an adult in this world without hearing about death. Especially if you happen to be one of those people with a fairly large group of associates. Probably the greatest challenge to any sort of faith is death.

The secular types like to say that religion copes with death, but honestly, if that's what we've been trying to do all this time, we're not doing very well. If we were making this all up, why couldn't we just get rid of the death part? I absolutely won't give up my hope in eternal life, but eternal life doesn't eliminate death, as much as overcome it.

There is a film I like called, "The Last Samurai," where the protagonist essentially ends the film in the presence of the Japanese Emperor. The Emperor and this American have a friend in common, a man who was once the Emperor's teacher. This mentor died at the hands of another unscrupulous advisor to the Emperor.

"Tell me how he died," said the Emperor. The American, Captain Nathan Algren, replied, "No. I will tell you how he lived." There is something true in that. We want to live in such a way that death is seen as the intruder that it is. None of us should want to be the kind of people who make others glad when we are gone.

The truth about death as I see it is that it snatches away all that was good about us, taking us from the land of the living to someplace else. An especially generous soul will occupy the hearts and thoughts of many after they leave. It's not a shock that we are often generously sentimental about those who die, even if they don't deserve it. If we are honest, a lot of us are plainly hoping that someone will care, when we die. In any case, what's so special about a person, that we will bend over backwards, no, even injuring ourselves in the attempt to say anything good about someone who dies?

I suppose I could make the opposite point: that human beings are desperately wicked, and are the most skilled in finding new ways to harm one another. I suppose that is true as well. Isn't it interesting, how we are so fond of redemption stories that sometimes our redemption stories don't even make sense? It is true to a large extent that we are what we do, and yet, it is almost as though we have a congenital weakness for the rehabilitation of the "bad guy." I digress.

I suppose what I'm trying to say is that we all yearn for a peace and rest which we have no ability to create for ourselves. If it's real, we had better find it. There is little on Earth more certain than death.

Thursday, December 17, 2020

Some Thoughts On John's Prologue (John 1:1-18)

 I have often seen this section of John 1 described as the "prologue" of this Gospel. I think it is because the divinity of Jesus, and the Incarnation--Jesus Christ becoming man--is so vital that we need to recognize it as a special thing. I agree with this decision, and I see no reason to go against what all other commentators seem to do. I will, however, extend my marking of the prologue through verse 18. The discussion of John the Baptist begins right after that, and so thematically it is slightly different.

Please notice that this Gospel begins with, "In the beginning…" Genesis 1:1 at the very beginning of the Bible, begins with the same phrase. John wants us to know that Jesus was there at the creation of the universe. As we read along further, he also wants us to know that Jesus is going to re-create the world and us, if we will allow Him to do it.

This is an interesting word choice, "Word." Suffice it to say that John's Greek speaking audience understood this word to mean something like the totality of reason or rationality. Or, if we can set in a joking way from another human book, "the answer to life, the universe, and everything." In other words, John is saying something very bold about Jesus: he is God. Not only was Jesus present at creation, but John says he did the creating. We should not understand this in a way as to take away any power or glory from God the Father, or from the Holy Spirit, but the divinity of Jesus is absolutely crucial to understand what John believes, and what he wants us to believe, as his readers.

We can go back to Genesis 1 in fact, to see that "life" is a very important idea for Moses there. Genesis says that God breathed life into Adam's nostrils, and he became a living being.

We also notice the theme of light and darkness. Jesus is the light shining in the darkness, and we are invited to think about what we're going to do about that. Are we going to run away from the light, or to live in the light?

John knows that most people know where babies come from; we know that we had a mother and a father, and thus were born into the world. But here at the end of this section, we are invited to be born again, to be born of God. The very first step in being a child of God--besides knowing that we need God--is to believe the testimony about Jesus. That's why John is giving this testimony. He's also telling us about Jesus's relative, John the Baptist. John the Baptist is also very important, but as we keep reading, it becomes important for him that people understand that he isn't the Christ, either. It seems the people of this time weren't too much different than us: trying to make heroes and gods out of the wrong people.

St. John, who wrote this Gospel for us, was the last person to write a Gospel. A Gospel is a direct testimony concerning the life of Jesus. These four Gospels--Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John--are eyewitness accounts to the life of Jesus. The word "gospel" means "good news," and writers of this time would sometimes use this word to describe a messenger bringing news of a great victory by a conquering king or warrior. Therefore, the new Christians and the new Church knew exactly what they were doing, when they chose this word to describe the eyewitness accounts about Jesus.

There is a great mystery, when it says, "He came to his own home, and his own people received him not." We need to be careful here, because anti-Jewish attitudes have always been present in the world, and even some Christians have had a role in promoting that, leading to bigotry and genocide. Even the word which gets translated, "Jews" in this Gospel, and in some places elsewhere in the Bible, can seem like a slur.

However, we need to remember that for our purposes, nearly everyone--Jesus's friends, and his enemies--were Jewish. Later on in the Bible, the apostle Paul spends several chapters in the book of Romans trying to explain the mystery of who receives Jesus and who does not. There is no sense in trying to congratulate ourselves, if we hear and receive the saving message of Jesus, because God has given us the grace to receive it. Elsewhere Paul says, "For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith, and it is not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, so that no one may boast."

Humility is clearly called for on our part, when thinking about coming to faith in Jesus, and in the struggles of perhaps sharing our faith with others. God alone is Judge, and we should tremble at the thought, though not in terror.

The other very interesting point concerning this passage has to do with verse 14. When it says that Jesus "dwelt among us," some translations say "tabernacled". The Tabernacle was a temporary place of God's presence, and of worship, until the Temple could be built. When the people disobeyed God, and took the Ark of the Covenant into battle without God's permission, their enemies stole it. As the people were trying to describe the sadness of that event, they said, "the glory he has departed." When John says, "and we have seen his glory…" John is saying that the glory has returned in Jesus! One final question and thought about this section is, "Is John trashing Moses, or the covenant that God made with Moses?" No! What he is trying to say is that as much glory as Moses had, and that he saw, the glory of Jesus is that much greater. Jesus came down as God in the flesh, and literally pitched his tent with us! When we read in another Gospel, "and you shall call his name "Immanuel," which means "God with us," that's as real as it gets. We can't really say that God doesn't understand what we have gone through, because He came down here, and experienced everything we have, all except sin. Jesus's given name in Hebrew is Joshua, which means, "the Lord saves". John is trying to make it as easy for us as he can, although for us, the old Hebrew Scriptures are not necessarily second nature to us, as they would have been for John's audience. [Note that this is a draft of something which may appear in a physically published work at a later time.]

Do Your Thing, Chef Kings And Queens

 I have a new respect for chefs, and for those who know what they're doing in the kitchen. I had about a pound of eye of round beefsteak, cut into small fillets. With the lid open, "sauté" is your only option on an Instant Pot. I could be wrong, but I think that setting is much hotter than the 145° recommended for medium-rare steak. My fillets were only about an inch thick, and I would say that I cooked each one for about a minute on each side, and I did this twice. There was no pink anywhere, which in the end is fine, for I am not a chef. Food safety is more critical than food preference, for me right now.

How do they do that, where the outside of a steak is charred, but the inside is pink, or even red? Anyway, I'm impressed.

It tasted great, which I suppose is the point. I will keep trying to discover things, and to potentially make modifications to my setup, to expand my cooking options.

Mohler, le Carre, And The Evangelical Mind (Still A Scandal)

 I just read the transcript of what I think is a podcast by Al Mohler, the Baptist leader. Part IV was about John le Carre, who died a few days ago. The novelist and former spy wrote many celebrated stories, several of which I have begun reading. The New York Times noted that le Carre used "moral ambiguities" to push the story forward. Mohler became fixated on that, roughly interpreting that as "moral relativism". I know that Mohler is a culture warrior, maybe above all, but I do not find moral relativism in le Carre's protagonist George Smiley. Moral ambiguity does not equal moral relativism. What Smiley finds--and the reader is invited to contemplate--is moral inconsistency. I think it is brilliant of the author to invite us inside a story of good and evil, to consider that good and evil coexist within each of us. A John le Carre novel is about the struggle within, more than the struggle without. That's something in general that a Christian should be able to understand.

But the scandal of the evangelical mind, to plagiarize a title, is that art itself has been subordinated to the missionary impulse. Evangelicals make bad art, and enjoy bad art, because there is an apparent inability to take the transcendentals of the good, the true, and the beautiful on their own terms. Now John le Carre is simply a popular novelist; I won't necessarily argue that he represents any form of high art. But we have to do better than this, Reverend Mohler. One of the things that I enjoy reflected in Sir Alec Guinness's acting at the end of the miniseries for "Smiley's People," is that George can't even enjoy his greatest victory, because he broke a man to do it. He violated his own principles to achieve the end that Britain's intelligence service needed. That doesn't seem like moral relativism to me.

I don't know about David Cornwell's soul, and I won't presume either way. I do know that it is incumbent upon me as an act of charity not to reduce a work of art produced by him for my own purposes.

To some extent, we ought to let art be art. The moral inconsistency of the characters in le Carre's most famous trilogy is disquieting. It's not celebrated; in fact, that's how a moral absolutist should feel, in a story like this. Moreover, any Christian, no matter how firm his commitment and resolve, should recognize people that will crack, if you pull the right lever, or apply the right pressure. Isn't that the story of all of us?

I don't want to beat up on Mohler too badly, but I just had to get that out. Le Carre is quickly becoming my favorite novelist. Maybe I just didn't like the potshots at his memory, especially in the service of taking some cultural shots at the New York Times.

Tuesday, December 15, 2020

The Book Of Signs, And The Book Of Glory

Somewhere, I was taught to divide the Gospel of John into two parts: the book of signs, and the book of glory. Sometimes with very large books of the Bible, it is prudent to make a brief outline, with memorable headings. You won't capture everything that goes on in the text that way, but you can go back and do a more detailed outline after that.

I was debating with myself pretty much for a week, regarding where the "book of glory" should start. I think it should start after verse 15 of John chapter 12. There we have the quotation of Zechariah 9:9, and the rising tension of the growing opposition to Jesus and his ministry. One reason to call the first part of the book "the book of signs" is that Jesus did miracles to announce the kingdom of God. His journey to Jerusalem, which will result in his death by crucifixion, is the beginning of the fulfillment of the kingdom of God. In this way, the signs pointed forward to the cross; afterward, they point backward, to the cross, and Jesus' victorious resurrection. It makes good sense to put it here in chapter 12 anyway, because 13 through 17 will have Jesus alone in the Upper Room with his disciples.

The tension rises quickly in this Gospel. Some of us have become so familiar with it that it doesn't shock us anymore. On the other hand, John essentially admits that he has selected what he regards as the most significant events of Jesus' ministry, in order that we may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Messiah.

Monday, December 14, 2020

Answer Me When I Call

 I won't say that I have been especially pious lately; it's been quite the opposite, frankly. And yet, it seems like God is very near. I don't know any better way to say it.

I've been reading through the Gospel of John. [Aren't you always reading through the Gospel of John?--ed.] Point!

No matter how sketchy things get, we need to be reminded and to remind ourselves that Jesus has not wavered. What he wills has not changed, and he has willed our salvation. It is a grace to us, simply to recognize this.

It has never been a question of God's disposition toward us; the spiritual life is about our disposition toward Him.

Saturday, December 12, 2020

Some Important Clarifications Regarding Abortion

 If I reject the premise that I must vote for whomever opposes abortion with the most ferocity--at least rhetorically--to the exclusion of all other issues, it does not entail accepting another premise that abortion is acceptable.

If I accept the premise that there are economic components to decision-making regarding abortion, it does not entail my acceptance of a premise that abortion is entirely driven by economics.

I am still free to accept the premise that abortion is never acceptable, even if individual situations where it is chosen are less morally culpable than others.

I don't want to believe that this is entirely too much nuance in today's environment. I'm hoping for the best; don't let me down.

Friday, December 11, 2020

I Don't Owe Equal Time

 There are some people who seem to think that I am now obligated to criticize Democratic political leaders with the same ferocity. Where is that written in my contract? I don't have any idea what someone's personal calculation of "fair" in politics is. All I can promise you is, I'll continue to talk about the things that matter to me, and if I change my mind, I'll try to explain why.

It must be a special feature of our polarized times, to pretend that both sides are equally bad. It depends on what we are talking about. And to be seen as good, one need only publicly demonstrate their hostility to the opposing side. It's seemingly irrelevant, whether some articulation of public policy makes sense, or addresses an issue of real concern.

It might be profitable to try to find the furtive attempts at real discussions in the various statements of our political leaders, rather than attack or ignore them in bad faith. But this is really hard, especially when particular people attack democracy itself.

Anyway, it was nice talking to you. Until we meet again.

Saturday, December 05, 2020

"Pastoral" Comes After Agreement In The Truth, Not Before

 You know, I don't have any time for a Catholic priest that won't tell the truth. If we have a paragraph in our catechism(s) about a serious issue that affects the way people live, and how they think of themselves, and how to use their bodies in this life, we should pay close attention to it. It means that something of grave Christian concern has come up that requires direct pastoral attention. We would always joke when I studied canon law, "It's in here, because it happened."

I will never tell someone that any feeling in itself is invalid. Even how we choose to identify ourselves sexually can have roots in something confusing or terrible that has occurred. Sooner or later, however, I must consider my primary identity. If I identify myself with something the Church describes as "intrinsically disordered," it means I have set myself in opposition to what is intrinsically ordered, and in this case, it means that I have chosen to express myself as a sexual being in opposition to God's own design.

Any cleric should want every person that he meets to enter into a saving relationship with Jesus Christ. How can anyone who is tasked to defend the proposition that the Church teaches salvation for all people in and through Jesus Christ, and at the same time, believe that something the Church has proclaimed as a fundamental truth of natural law, needs to change? That is, the truth about human sexuality is not even a point of Christian doctrine per se; it is accessible to all people of goodwill by reason alone. The Church couldn't change it, even if she dared in presumption to think that she could.

To be blunt about it, our task as theologians and pastoral leaders is to explain what the catechisms teach about the issues of concern to the people. I could sit around with my friends and go through every single paragraph, telling them which parts I didn't think were phrased terribly well, and we would fall asleep before we reached the end. Yet nobody cares what I think is phrased poorly. And if something is phrased in such a way that it causes pain, I will deal with that in the task of sharing the gospel as a pastoral theologian. But no one can see the truth or accept it, unless in some measure they understand the truth that is presented to them. You can't love what you don't know.

As one who in some form or fashion proclaims Jesus all the time, I too want to build bridges. But the thing is, if you build the bridge without carrying the truth with you, you've built a bridge to nowhere. I myself don't need to hear that everything is fine with me, because I know better. Why do we exalt these supposed teachers, whose basic message is, "I'm OK, you're OK, we're all OK"?

And I want you to understand who it is that is talking to you. I use words like "free grace" and "radical grace" and "total acceptance". It is not news that we mess up; it is good news that it ain't over till it's over. How do we do better, if we do not distinguish good from evil? It is an established fact that God loves me, and everyone else who has ever lived, or who lives now. It is also true that to live in the experience of that love, we must throw aside everything that hinders us. How then could we make a point of identity out of something that hinders us? That takes us further from what we want and need, which is communion with God.

Choose this day whom you will serve. And if you carry the privilege to be signified as Christ Himself in the world, you have an even greater responsibility. He is Love, tenderness, and all those things. But he is Truth embodied. Speak accordingly, or don't speak at all.

Tuesday, December 01, 2020

Wednesday, November 25, 2020

Death Is Absurd

 You hear people say things all the time like, "Death is a part of life." That's true as far as it goes. The crucial truth, however, is that death is not supposed to be part of life. That's why it's always so shocking, so unwelcome.

I've never met a boring person in my life. Even the people who had a skill at being boring were hilariously boring. There is a charm in those who draw a contrast in life, by deliberately not attempting to be interesting. Such a person is his own kind of interesting.

I suppose what I mean to say is that people are special, and life is meaningful, even if it's hard. And that we should not get used to death, or even accept it. I'm not advocating reality-denial; I more boldly suggest that we live in a truer reality.

If people are unique and unrepeatable, how much more unique and unrepeatable is the God who made us?

This is the God who came down, and shared our reality with all its sorrow, even knowing that he would raise up his friend from the grave by a miracle in the next few moments, still wept with us, and for us.

We're losing friends and neighbors all over the place due to this evil virus, but more than this, so many friends are losing parents and grandparents, and it's always so sad to me, even if they were old and full of years. Like I said, death is absurd. It will always be absurd. It will always be wrong.

I still look back with joy on friends and loved ones who have died, but we know the joy is tainted. The joy is the fullness of their lives, snatched away by death. When we laugh and smile about them, it is the joy of the gifts they gave us, not any credit to the death which took them away from us. It is altogether right and good that we should remember those things, because those gifts made life a little more bearable and even enjoyable in their company.

Have you ever stopped to think about how elaborate a funeral usually is? Quite aside from prayers for the repose of their soul, I think a lot of the elaborate ritual is for us. It's hard to describe someone else, isn't it? What if you had to describe what someone else means to you? Suppose they weren't there to laugh, or smile, or tear up, or tell you to be quiet, and stop making such a fuss? Wouldn't it be hard--and isn't it hard--to tell other people what someone else means to you?

As I think about all the people I know and love, it is a mercy to us that we can express this love for one another nonverbally many times, because it seems words are insufficient.

Therefore, if one person whom I love is almost completely indescribable, then my entire life is full of indescribable mystery. Why are we wasting time doing nothing of consequence? Find the mysteries. Enjoy the mysteries. Contemplate the mysteries. Not only in ourselves, but more importantly, in the God who made us.

The reason I love words so much is that the person who writes or speaks words is attempting to describe the indescribable. He or she means to bring clarity to the mystery. We do not want or desire to be overwhelmed by mystery, at least not in the main. We want to love mystery, to contemplate it. We want to understand our place in the cosmos.

Tuesday, November 24, 2020

Come, Holy Spirit

 This is one of those times where we may not know why He even bothers with us. We are commanded, "do not grieve the Holy Spirit," and we often do. But His love is relentless, because the "desire" of God is relentless.

The Holy Spirit is the power for us to keep the law of Love. We have no power on our own. We talk a good game about this, but if we really actually believed it, I think we would understand our sins and the struggle against them much more clearly. You cannot grit your teeth, and please God by your own efforts. You can plead with the Holy Spirit. Quoting the poet, Paul said, "in him we live and move and have our being."

Something Bishop Barron said once is floating into my brain. Something about the gentleness of God in Providence, that there is no violence or coercion in God's governance of the world. And yet, being the feeblest of all, we have the most trouble being gentle with ourselves. We are indeed proud sometimes, maybe most of the time.

It's time to get honest in prayer with the Holy Spirit. I might as well tell Him that sometimes, what I am being called to is not joyful or easy. Even if I run completely the other way, the Holy Spirit will not give up on me. Jesus Christ already saw the worst of me, and joyfully died for me. The Holy Spirit has the same outlook on the entire situation. The problem is that we do not share God's outlook. Oftentimes, we would rather punish ourselves, and create some fictional standard to believe in, rather than agree with God.

This is how we end up as the older son in the parable of the prodigal son, if we persist. Let's not do that, if we feel His grace empowering us to make a better choice.

Wednesday, November 18, 2020

We Can Do Better

 I am caught between a rock and a hard place. On the one hand, independent political voices tend to be crackpots. We have a system which produces two mainstream political parties intentionally. May the Lord save me from his crackpot followers, muttering about "the duopoly".

On the other hand, we are at least vaguely aware of the various ways in which political participation is marred by grave errors in moral judgment. It is hard to imagine that we cannot do better than what we have done.

We need better leaders, because if we have bad leaders, the people obviously will follow them, and that is now beyond question. People love to believe that they are self-possessed and independent thinkers, but they are not.

To be specific, I do not understand why it is difficult to affirm the dignity of all human life, from conception until natural death, and consequently, to defend the idea of a robust social democracy.

I do not understand why we cannot maintain basic norms of civility and decorum, and why people insist that such norms are hiding some evil underbelly, as if respecting people and wishing them well means that we must agree with them.

A radical idea need not be a dangerous idea. We may instead find that a particular consensus which has developed is not rooted in anything morally coherent.

Moral coherence and norms of civility go together, because those leaders who cannot orient themselves toward the good cannot lead others in the creation and in the implementation of a public morality. Politics is public morality. Again, the people who say, "you cannot legislate morality" are in fact saying, "I don't like this morality." If the political community cannot legislate morality, then who can? It is foolish to say that a very wealthy person who only pays $750 in income tax has somehow cheated the people, and then to say, "you can't legislate morality".

The dignity of all people rests upon the greatness of their purpose. Human dignity does not begin and end with what any one individual is able to accomplish for someone else. A person's dignity abides, even if he or she chooses to disregard that human dignity. A person's dignity endures, even if they cannot accomplish anything at all.

It is time to finally reject the apparently endless parade of false choices we have been offered, and to begin very slowly making other choices. If we know that particular things are unacceptable for leaders to do and to say, maybe we should stop holding our noses, and start holding our own.

Tuesday, November 17, 2020

MacIntyre, Fred Noltie, And Scarcity: A Few Thoughts

 I had gone on a trip with Confirmation Sponsor Guy, and a few others, including Fred Noltie, whom I had met on that trip. I was spouting my usual right-wing economic talking points, and Fred was having none of it. Dr. Cross was having none of it, either, but in his usual diplomatic way, he said something like, "If you had no idea what you're talking about, how would you know?"

I had used the phrase "human capital," and that had triggered something. I got out of that conversation by saying, "I'll think about it more, and get back to you." I know I didn't mean to offend my friends. I also know that I had learned that the purpose of economics was to manage scarcity. The critique of the capitalist system in basic form is this: the system creates artificial scarcities, and claims to be value-neutral when it is not.

It always drives me crazy, when I see that so-and-so "needs to read an economics textbook." Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, for example, literally has a degree in economics. What are the starting assumptions in the traditional teaching of economics? Why must we begin with those assumptions, and not others?

I keep thinking about this, as I read through MacIntyre in After Virtue. Before we begin arguing about whether to accept this or that unintended consequence, we need to talk about our intended consequences. In my reckoning right now, that hasn't happened to the degree that I would like.

It seems to me that the big problem with classical liberalism is that it encourages people not to distinguish between an imprudent action, and an immoral one, as such, with respect to government. The individualism at the heart of the whole thing encourages a person to view all trade-offs as equally valid, and one's own displeasure at a certain inconvenience to be the same thing as opposition to tyranny or genocide. Naturally, the electoral process does the exact same thing; the guy who thinks his property taxes are too high counts the same as someone else, who may rightly believe that their opposite vote was against state-sanctioned violence and tyranny itself.

All those considerations in fact lead a great many people right into the fallacious idea that a popular person or program is just, simply because it is popular. I'm rambling at this point, so I'm going to stop.

Monday, November 16, 2020

Fight Night In Las Vegas

 I hadn't seen a championship boxing match in some time. That is, a live fight. The first warm-up fight was between two small guys at 114 pounds. It ended with controversy, as cuts forced a no-decision after four rounds.

The next fight with between a current and former champion, both at 147 pounds. This is the division dominated by Oscar De La Hoya for so long. Terence Crawford is regarded as the best pound-for-pound fighter in the world, and the champion in this division, by the World Boxing Organization (WBO). His record coming in was 36-0, with 27 knockouts. His title was on the line against Kell Brook of Sheffield, England, who came in with a record of 39-2, with 27 knockouts. It looked like Crawford was a little confused to start the fight. He came out in a right-handed stance, and Brook hit him with several jabs. Evidently, Crawford saw a slow jab from Brook in the fourth round, because he timed a straight right over the top of it, and that was the beginning of the end. Three punches, and it was all over.

Crawford reportedly will fight Manny Pacquiao (62-7-2, 39 KO) one of the greatest and most popular fighters in the history of boxing, next year. He is also a senator in the Philippines, so that will be some interesting scheduling. I can definitely see why mixed martial arts is becoming popular as an alternative. In MMA, the best fights get made. Rivalries and financial disputes keep the various boxing organizations and promoters at each other's throats, instead of the skill in the sport fighting one another in the ring. Even so, I still much prefer boxing. And it was good to see it again, on a big stage, even during a pandemic.

Friday, November 13, 2020

I Think (And Feel) This Will Be An Important Line Of Inquiry

 Confirmation Sponsor Guy has an essay in the National Catholic Bioethics Quarterly, entitled, "Thomistic Conception of Impairment and Disability". That'll be a fun one to read, when the time comes.

When I commented on this exciting news, I separated out my thoughts from my feelings. I remember Professor Cross saying something in class, about the young people today. When they want to say "I think," they usually actually say, "I feel…" Actual thinking, however, is not done with the heart primarily, but the mind. A certain thing could be true, independent of what we feel about it. And if we are to avoid deconstructing everything according to an uncharitable assumption about the motivations of others, we should be bold to say, "I think…" The truth is that the nobility of saying "I think…" is the freedom to potentially later say, "I thought wrongly about that."

There is a scene in a TV show that I have enjoyed, where a schoolteacher with several male roommates is trying to get them to open up about their true feelings. She has a "feelings stick," and whoever is holding the feelings stick may say whatever they choose, presumably without reprisal. The scene is a bit crass, but I remember several times that the characters say "I feel…" when they really mean, "I think…"

Anyway, as a person with a disability, who has at least indirectly been influenced by the thought of Thomas Aquinas, I want to have a thoroughly Thomistic view of impairment and disability. As you may have heard, I am thinking and writing a lot about impairment and disability. Knowing St. Thomas, I know at the very least he will attempt to keep all his readers focused on their true final end. This is the foundation for the dignity which sometimes lacks expression and realization in our present society.

I know that in general, the work of my life will be to assist people of goodwill in rebuilding the kind of intellectual space where the dignity of all people is honored, understood, and defended.

Happy Birthday, King Friday XIII: An Appreciation Of Fred Rogers (Again)

 My childhood was pretty rough and dramatic. I can just leave it there. If there was one person who is the opposite of rough and dramatic, it's Mister Rogers. You can find any clip that you want from the show; he consistently affirms and validates the feelings of the small children in his audience. Even when I was much older, I would check in sometimes, because I knew that I would feel valued. He didn't even know me, but honestly, he did. It's more than nostalgia, for so many of us. It is the memory of being loved, even from a distance.

He was a mainline Protestant, back when that still meant something. And I didn't know as a kid that in fact he was a minister, but I should have guessed. There is something about godly people that you can't fake or fabricate. There are church people, and there are godly people. Church people are a roll of the dice; godly people live by a power that is not their own. When they leave, their lives of genuine kindness and empathy leave marks on the world. These are the stories that other people tell long after they are gone. I used to watch such a person on my TV most afternoons as a kid. It's why the videos still fly around the Internet, of his testimony in 1969 before the Congress, of him asking money for public television. It's why movies are made about him, nearly 20 years after he is gone. I took a shot at Tom Hanks yesterday, but the truth is, there is no one more venerable in Hollywood right now than Tom Hanks. Hanks had to play Mister Rogers, because we don't have any movie star with anywhere near the empathy and goodwill he can generate. It's not the best casting, and I haven't even seen the movie, but again, who else could play Fred Rogers?

I've seen the clip of him accepting his Emmy award, and he used the moment to make all those high-powered actors and actresses uncomfortable, by making them meditate for a solid minute on those who had loved them, and sacrificed for them. It didn't surprise me, or even choke me up, because of course he did that. He did that all the time. It seems he lived a life of thankfulness, and the best compliment I can give is that he taught so many of us--including me--to do the same thing.

Thanks, Mister Rogers.

Thursday, November 12, 2020

Godwin's Law Is Funny, Until It Isn't

 It's often said that if you invoke the Nazis, you lose any online argument. On the other hand, how close to a dangerous authoritarianism do you have to get, before those who are sanguine about it turn out to be the foolish ones?

On the one hand, a close examination of the physical ballots involved in the election will eventually be necessary. I have no objections in theory to any group exhausting all legal challenges and remedies. On the other hand, the president is not a person who can be trusted. If he could find his own version of the Reichstag fire, he would do it in a second.

That's why I don't buy the stuff from right-wing media, to the effect of, "just asking questions". You have tens of millions of people living in an alternate reality anyway, and a good number of them will not renounce violence, or in any manner accept the results.

We ought to keep our processes and timelines firm. Challenge whatever you like, but it's all over by December 14. And if you're in court, it's "put up or shut up" time. The common rabble can believe whatever it wants about stolen elections, but in a court of law, you prove what you are saying, or you go away.

On the other hand, I don't think anyone thinks it's a good thing that large numbers of people have mistrust in our electoral processes. Then again, an epistemic flaw is not the same thing as a democratic flaw. If you are the problem, you can't expect everyone else in the system to shape their beliefs to your own.

It was almost inevitable that it would end this way. We had never been governed by someone so pathologically narcissistic. Those people fall hard. And they try to take as many people down with them as they can. I don't need a doctorate in psychology to figure this one out. The real astonishing thing will be the number of people who can't acknowledge this basic reality. There is always a small group of people who claim to be above the emotional fray, but when the truth is revealed, they are revealed as the most hardened partisans that could be found.

I would say wake me up when it is over, but I'll be watching. I will continue to do what I have always done, which is attempt in my own way to put the world in order. Someone may not like the conclusions I reach, but I don't like Tom Hanks, and the world still seems to go on.

Thursday, November 05, 2020

Underneath, It's All The Same

 As a general rule, I hate "pox on both your houses" takes on politics. Most of the time, I'm inclined to think that a particular person chooses this take because someone else has made them uncomfortable with a certain aspect of their own philosophy. If they adopt a posture of cynicism, maybe they can escape the moral force of that criticism. That could be bulverism in any one case, but I have seen it before, and I can't paint a picture without generalizing. Anyway, I didn't come here to talk about that.

I came here to say that both major parties in the United States--and the people themselves--have embraced the absolute individualism at the heart of classical liberalism. Rightists want freedom from constraint in economics, environment, religious liberty, and a few other things. Leftists don't believe in this absolute individualism with respect to economics or the environment (not to mention religious liberty), but they do embrace it with respect to human sexuality and self identity. If there is a social dimension to the family, this choice is disastrous. In the end though, you don't get solidarity and common good out of a fundamental individualism. You can't get the common good out of an absolute primacy of private goods over the common good. It will not happen. We are facing as a society the frustration of wanting different aspects of the common good, and wanting other citizens and members of society to join us in it, all the while embracing a philosophy where I alone determine what is good, and the obligations which flow from what I determine.

Whatever benefits we receive as a people when Joe Biden is declared to be our next president later today or tomorrow, it must be remembered that Joe Biden was a pioneer in selling abortion rights in the language of individual liberty, classical liberal style. "My body, my choice" doesn't come from nowhere; in fact, it's American right wing individualism, applied to human sexuality.

When I read Conserving America… By Patrick Deneen, the inherent tension between the desire for solidarity, and the commitment to individualism pointed out by David Mayhew in Congress: The Electoral Connection came more into focus.

We will never have social peace, as long as the basis for the government's authority is premised upon individual whim. Moreover, no exercise of that authority will ever be in fact legitimate, unless and until that same authority is grounded in the natural law. "Limited government" is bandied about, without a discussion about the basis for the limitation. Also, the premise that the government's authority is limited to the maintenance of property rights, and an ever shifting batch of personal freedoms, should be examined.

The challenge is, it's awfully hard to re-found a country without anyone noticing. But that's exactly what we need to do.

Sunday, November 01, 2020

Final Election Analysis

 We might even say we're mere hours away from beginning to know who will assume the office of president on January 20 of next year. I'll cut right to the chase: I think this is going to be a really big win for Joe Biden. Real Clear Politics has shown a very heavy right bias, in the including of sketchy online polls, and in delaying the release of live voter polls more favorable to Joe Biden. Even so, their national polling average shows the lead for Biden at 7.8%. Keep in mind that if that were to hold, it would be a bigger percentage margin than Barack Obama achieved in 2008. The state polls are tight nearly everywhere, but they show clear leads for Joe Biden. The upper Midwest probably will not make any presidential calls on the night of the election, but Biden's lead in states that Trump should absolutely easily hold in a reelection campaign indicates to me that the president is in real trouble. He achieved a popular vote percentage in 2016 of 46%. He's going to be nowhere near 46% nationwide on Tuesday. You may see a number closer to 43%, or even less.

I will be watching Florida, Georgia, Texas, and Arizona. If any or all of these goes to Joe Biden, the game is over. I also believe that the president is chasing fools' gold in the upper Midwest of Minnesota, Wisconsin, and Pennsylvania. There is clear movement relative to 2016 toward Joe Biden by the voters who supported Trump in those states. Nor was the president's margin in those states large at all. Any loss of those voters spells doom for the 45th president's reelection campaign.

I originally said that the electoral college would be 340-198 in favor of Joe Biden. I absolutely stand by that, but do not be surprised if the upper bound is close to or beyond 400 electoral votes. This could be a thrashing that no one my age and younger has ever seen.

I do think that the president has a chance to retain Iowa, and Ohio, but the problem is, that he absolutely needs to retain those, even to make a respectable showing. In other words, the doubts about Joe Biden from some in the press during the primaries look almost unimaginably silly right now.

I hope for a happy day for both candidates of the major parties, but I know that only one will realize it. We pray earnestly for grace and wisdom to all four of the members of the tickets, especially blessings and safety upon their families. I pray for the safety of everyone involved in the election, that the virus would not harm anyone, and then everyone returns safely to their families.

And at the risk of presumption, I will congratulate the next president of the United States, Joseph Robinette Biden, Jr.

Friday, October 30, 2020

You Can't Make Everyone Happy, But I Indulge The Urge To Explain Myself Anyway

 You know, I've gotten a fair number of messages privately recently, and over recent months, to the effect that I have really stirred people up. Sometimes, I can tell people are angry, even if they don't say it. On the one hand, I've never been afraid to make people angry, even sometimes for not the best reasons. In our younger days, I'm sure we can all tell stories of spoiling for a fight, and not backing down, even if you should.

This is still me. I am the mass of contradictions who does this all the time, and yet has a powerful need to be liked and even loved. At my best, I am the guy who speaks the truth that everyone else can see, but is afraid to say. At worst, I'm something else. Fill in the blank yourself; I have spent too much time on self-hatred in general.

Let's talk about what this is really about: the election. I should have known back in 2013 or 2014 that my own comfort level with being a Republican was becoming unacceptably tenuous. I was still grievously unfair, and often more passionate than thoughtful, but I had begun to learn about the social doctrine of the Catholic Church. As a person who loved politics, I realized very quickly that how I had thought about politics up to that point needed to change. I could see a richness in the Church's own reflection that I did not find in my own engagement. I saw challenges to my own deeply held opinions--especially about capitalism and freedom--that I had no intention or willingness to abandon. Yet anyone who dares to learn at the feet of Jesus, and from holy mother Church, had better be prepared to abandon some things.

If you are expecting this post to turn into some standard progressive left-wing rant, you may be sorely disappointed. On the other hand, if you hadn't noticed, the Catholic Right is pretty sad. To be more precise, it's pretty selective about exactly what they will embrace from the Church's own teaching. If it doesn't apply to you, wonderful. But dollars to doughnuts, most people reading this are going to check off the boxes on sexual ethics, point out to themselves or others exactly how heinous the Democratic Party is on such issues, and frankly, pretend that that's all that matters. In fairness, they might even believe that the Church teaches us to worry primarily if not exclusively about life, sex, and family, and after that, to be done with it.

In a way, I don't blame people for doing this. Life has enough trouble of its own, without expending enormous amounts of energy pouring over reams and reams of documents, that scant few experts have even read. On the other hand, I can't be the only one who has seen the total capitulation of things like EWTN and the National Catholic Register, to a particular rightist interpretation--and an American one at that--of the social doctrine.

I've had unpleasant experiences with the other "side" of the package deal, but having been some form of American conservative at some point, those distortions were easier to recognize and reject. I left a forum involving the social teaching on one of the social networks, because everyone there it seemed was viciously partisan, and could not even imagine anything good coming from Nazareth, as it were, if that person were a Republican or something close.

I can recall going into the 2016 election season, and it was the first time that I did not even self-consciously gravitate toward the candidates who promised to be the most "conservative". My top three candidates were Marco Rubio, Jeb Bush, and John Kasich. I think I had begun to know enough about a left-leaning critique of Republicanism to realize that even these three guys weren't going to fundamentally change anything for the better, but I flatly reasoned that these three guys would not antagonize their opponents enough to lose the election. They weren't radical enough in any sort of way to cause an irreparable harm to vulnerable people--or so I thought--so I could let my ardent social conservatism control my voting decision, without being terribly troubled in conscience about my part in it. I wasn't ready to lead any socialist revolutions--not that I ever would be--and I still firmly believe that the radically permissive abortion policies demanded of high-level Democrats are completely absurd, and philosophically and morally indefensible.

We all know what happened in the primary.

I refuse to concede even now that Donald Trump has somehow become more acceptable than he was in the early days of that primary, when I could even count his ardent stooge, Lindsey Graham, among my allies. I daresay that no criticism offered at that time of Donald Trump has proved false or even exaggerated. What has happened is that the lure of power convinced each one of them that they should fall in line. I witnessed even my friends--who I went to battle with in earlier parts of the primary process to stop Trump--convince themselves that the things they said before somehow didn't matter. Maybe a whole bunch of people truly believe that the Democrats are always worse. I don't know. What I do know is that if I say, "I will never support that person," I bloody well mean it. I said it, and I still mean it. Never means never.

John Kasich stayed in too long, and he had the same voter profile as Marco Rubio. Had the governor dropped out three weeks before he did, I still believe Marco had a shot. Whether he deserved that shot is another matter, but there is no doubt in my mind that Marco would have also trounced Hillary Clinton in the general election, without the baggage that Trump brings, the lot of which most of his voters can barely acknowledge. He is not simply mean; he is obviously unfit to be the President of the United States. I'm an unemployed, overeducated 40-year-old cripple, with absolutely no experience running anything, and I can tell you easily with no boasting that I would be a better president than the one we have. If I tell you that I believe that, and that I'm angry that that is true--and undeniably so--how can anyone possibly be surprised, when I say that I will oppose that man with everything that I am? Frankly, don't you dare act like I'm the abnormal one, when most of us realize that everything I just said is true.

I don't like it when progressives overuse the term, "gaslighting". I don't believe that a terribly great number of men are pathological narcissists, or any such thing. I am however a person who remains angry that my own righteous indignation about scores of inappropriate and flagrantly offensive things, has been ignored for political expediency. If anyone says, "that is beyond the pale, and it should never be done, and never be said by the American president," a great number of people just assume that you have watched too much of a "liberal media" source, or that someone else has done your thinking for you. If someone does that to me too many times, I get angry, and I stay that way.

I don't have enough time in my life to go through every mainstream media source, and find all the distortions and biases that may be present. If you tell me that they are flagrantly biased, sloppy, or partisan, I'll probably believe you. But I also know--I think--that if the mainstream media doesn't report something at all, I don't need to know about it. I do not believe that there are secret caches of hidden truth in the minds of millions of non-professionals, such that the "real story" is hidden, waiting to be uncovered by the wise one, with "secret knowledge". It's a shame that so many churchgoers are so obviously Gnostic, and they don't notice. I've been a conservative most of my adult life; what now gets derisively called, "the mainstream media" used to be an agreed-upon neutral ground, for the awareness and discussion of facts in common. There have always been partisan newspapers and tabloids, and as technology advanced, we received those sources in all the new forms. Yet I would like to believe that most people wanted to bring their perspective into some neutral ground of the public space. Our free press were the people whose attention and power of amplification were necessary. Sadly, we have lost our powers of discernment. Because a so-called gatekeeper may have done badly on one occasion--or perhaps many--we have convinced ourselves that we need no gatekeepers at all. We have convinced ourselves that a distinction between an expert and a non-expert does not exist. In many cases, passion is only outmatched by ignorance.

Most distressing to me personally has been the recognition that to be committed to my ideology as I had understood it would have given me nothing more than a list of things I saw fit to ignore, or to deflect away. At least in economic terms, I had not given any sort of non-capitalist viewpoint a fair airing, either as an articulated moral stance, or in its practical applications. In point of fact, my moral reasoning was terrible. Functionally, I had decided that anyone who didn't understand that an unborn child was a person had nothing to say to me that I could learn from. I believed that all such people were so wicked that they were unable to say anything true about anything at all. I know that I probably sound familiar to somebody who might be reading this. Rather than deny it, you should probably think about how crazy that viewpoint actually is.

One of the things that helped me realize how crazy this viewpoint is, was reading about long dead Democratic officeholders, like Senator Paul Simon of Illinois, and George McGovern of South Dakota. I am a lover of truth, and a lover of people. When I see truth, when I see moral clarity, I have to appreciate it. I have to say that there is something godlike in such a person. A gift of wisdom that by the misfortune of unlucky chance--if there were such a thing--we would miss, but for the fact that they gave it to us.

The things that keep us from having a healthy politics are numerous, and they are too big to be solved by one person, one election, or even a series of them. But I refuse to believe that the only proper response to what we see is cynicism. I believe that people of moral clarity--and not just passion--can rise up and say, "this is what we want, and this is who we are, and we can do better." I still admire so many people who probably aren't going to show up at the next Republican convention. And to summarize, I can't simply run over them, or dismiss them, in a rush to embrace whatever someone's idea of "real Americans" and their ethics would be.

I guess I'm turning over the tables, so to speak, in saying that too many people have embraced the mediocre at best, and called it great. They have embraced the past that never was, to bring into the present things that should have stayed in the past. That is not to say that my morality is whatever the Zeitgeist is in these days. I hope you've been paying attention. It is to say that a straight line from what I know to be true, and believe to be prudent, to a better life for everyone, does not flow through electing "the right people". Heaven's sake, rather than re-examine their assumptions about economics, my Rightist fellow-travelers in faith say, "Of course those godless baby-murderers would say that, and try to make it about something else". It's an exaggeration, but barely. And if we could let the Cold War die, we'd be the better for it. You will not be draped in a hammer and sickle flag, and forced to sing Stalinist drinking songs, if someone wins an argument about a larger public investment in, well, anything. I feel this most acutely, when I hear my "friend", Bernie Sanders. I'm the first to acknowledge that he may be the absolute king of false dichotomies. But hear him tell you about the destitute on our streets, the insufficient wages, the shoddy or non-existent health insurance. BEFORE we tell him that this or that idea won't work, or has really bad consequences, or whatever, let's acknowledge the moral claim he is making upon us, and affirm it as good. We never get there, because most of the time, we use some assessment of another's shoddy ethics to deny the existence of a moral claim. We shift the conversation to another topic where our interlocutor is weak, or perceived to be so. "Whataboutism" is the colloquial name for it. Even worse, when we aren't doing that, many people give ready agreement to the moral principle--extreme poverty is wrong, unacceptable, etc. for example--and change nothing. It is apparently enough to say something is bad, and to think well of ourselves. How dare anyone suggest that leaving everything as it is now could be a blameworthy decision!

If politics is supposed to be the art of figuring out how to solve problems as a political community, then anything premised in a denial of the existence of that community is not political, as such. It's an anti-politics, properly speaking. To be brief, this is going to be a problem for classical liberalism in the American tradition. Maybe we have a uniquely bad manifestation of a kakistocracy; it's possible. Or our leaders reflect what we want politics to be concerned with: ourselves, and only ourselves.

Confirmation Farce, In Polarized Times

 I was wrong about Amy Coney Barrett; she is sitting on the Court, and the Republicans did go through with it. I think it was a terrible idea, for the sake of social peace, and cooperation between our elected representatives. Yet that judgment is probably weighted by the fact that I don't put much stock in the effort to put anti-Roe justices on the Supreme Court. I did not vote with the purpose to do that, so I must not have much faith in its success. Even if I thought it would be successful, I may not have supported the president, anyway.

It is silly that the Democrats want to ask people about their faith, and act incredulous, when they find someone who actually believes what their church teaches, especially in regard to sex. As we all know, Pleasure is the one and only sacrament in the Church of Self, and it has more members right now than anything else does. The Democrats don't even bother trying to hide it: they love religious belief, as long as it serves them, and doesn't get in the way of what they want to do.

Of course, the Republicans and their loyal followers do the exact same thing. Their rite in the Church of Self is the same, it just has some variations, involving wealth, "freedom" and whatever else.

Anyway, I probably was a bit too hasty, when I said that I would vote to confirm Judge Barrett, because every time we have one of these confirmation battles, I find myself unable to just shake off the pointed questions about the influence of corporations, and how these potential justices always seem to find for the corporations, and never seem to find the judicial authority to do otherwise. I can appreciate a certain desire of judges, in wanting to defer to the people's representatives, and to their legislative prerogatives. Yet it is rather convenient, when the judges' claims of tied hands just happens to coincide with a result which they would want to reach anyway.

Moreover, I have yet to see articulated anything approaching so-called "originalism" that has been applied in a principled manner, or taking into account the legitimate changes in our Constitution itself. It seems--and the membership in so-called "conservative" legal fraternities appears to confirm--that the American people are witness to a judicial branch which is just as ideological and partisan as any of us, and their alleged fealty to principle is nothing more than an opposition to what they oppose. In other words, I don't think anyone really knows what they mean by originalism, but I know what its advocates don't want, and don't like.

Judge Barrett would face no questions from me about the Catholic Church, or her membership in any such ancillary organizations as she deems appropriate. Yet I can tell you that the Republican attempt to give their nominees a verbal hug, especially after an intense round of questioning from the Democrats, is sickening. I don't want or need a discussion of some justice's pet cat, or how proud they were of having graduated from the extremely intimidating University law school which they no doubt attended. Beyond the opening statement, I don't need anyone to try to convince me that this is a normal human being, who is liked and loved by someone somewhere. And it is not that I would be intentionally unkind, or unwilling to exchange pleasantries on any level. It's just that, I would be the people's representative; they deserve to know important things about why this person would judge cases the way they would. They could probably use at least a cursory discussion of the terms and words involved in judicial ideologies, and in the normal decision-making process of any judge, regardless of ideology. These people are smart; if I ask one of these people--who have usually taught law students and the like--about real ideas in the legal profession, they should be able to give me that information. Personal questions especially about conduct are fair game, but only to the extent that the answer or non-answer may reflect on the temperament or the character of the individual. We play this game now, where none of the nominees actually answers anything--and I didn't even watch it--and one side pretends that the other side is vicious and horrible, and how can they besmirch such a noble and honorable judge, while they themselves get the nominee some warm milk, and some cookies, and asks if they enjoyed their last vacation.

Sheldon Whitehouse of Rhode Island tends to ask questions of nominees appointed by Republicans that I actually want answers to. He and I don't agree on the morality or necessity of "reproductive choice," but beyond that, if he's mad, I can at least understand where it comes from.

I saw Senator Russ Feingold ask a question and make a statement that I appreciated once. I don't even remember who the judge was, but Feingold wanted to know if this particular person had re-examined his position on the death penalty in light of numerous degradations, and even court rulings intended to address those. Of course, this appointee had not, and made the allegedly appropriate noises about not bringing their moral judgments into the cases. First of all, there is nothing neutral about pretending to be philosophically and morally neutral. If the legal establishment is a bureaucratic edifice created for its own preservation, I can see why this myth would take hold. But no sane person comes to any situation where they conceivably could avoid making philosophical and ethical judgments. We already know this, when we're pretty sure we knew how Ruth Bader Ginsburg would rule on any abortion case. I don't want to torpedo any notion of impartiality altogether, but come on. The very notion that a judge would, or could, rule something expressly contrary to what they think best, is absurd.

Many people love to glorify judicial restraint, but it doesn't exist. The only thing I see judges restraining are the rulings made by the opposite judges. And if we are completely honest, I never saw any judge score any points with anyone for their limited rulings, as a matter of principle. I bought an entire book of Scalia dissents. I didn't buy the book for some deep intellectual exploration of judicial philosophy; I bought the book because we all know that Scalia's frustration with other justices is pretty entertaining.

If we know that we are participating in a farce, why does it make us so angry? We act like every battle will be the triumph of the Republic, or the end of it, but I haven't learned anything useful from one in a while.

Thursday, October 29, 2020

The Feedback Loop

 There comes a point in every Christian's life--and it circles around sometimes--when s/he becomes revolting to himself. This of course presents an opportunity, because we might not understand the depths of God's love for us in the moments of our failure, but we have a chance to recollect, and begin again.

Unfortunately, there is also an opportunity for someone to say, "Look at this, and look at me! I might never have believed in the first place!" This is of course foolish, but we do it all the time. Many of the people who go on and on about how horrible they are are actually proud of themselves; that is to say, too proud to turn around.

But grace is grace. We didn't earn it on the first day, and we can't earn it today, and we won't earn it on our last day. We never have actually deserved anything of ourselves. As a professional screw-up, I can offer first-hand testimony about this.

I guess I'm going to have to keep saying it, first of all to myself. There is no Good News, if it just means we put a pretty shine on things, and pretend that we would never do all sorts of things. When we examine our conscience, assuming that it is still sharp, whatever comes out is reality about us in the moment. It is not the final word on who we are, and more precisely, who we are meant to be.

Thursday, October 22, 2020

Democratic Norms, Or Nothing

 Right now, the Republican Party can only win an election when it actively prevents large numbers of eligible people from casting their votes in a free and fair election. They have arrived at a point where they must actively make it more difficult for most citizens to vote easily and quickly. If any election has high turnout, they lose. If any election has high numbers of racial minorities, they lose. If the Democrats are competitive with white men, the GOP loses. Why would I support anything or anyone whose path to power is non-democracy?

It becomes irrelevant, all my vociferous and numerous disagreements with the Democratic Party, because at least they are committed to the basic outline of representative government. That's why I have not hesitated to use the word "fascist" in reference to the Republican Party under Donald Trump: they are no longer engaged in the task of persuading anything close to a majority of the rightness of their policies. It may well be that after this shellacking they are about to take, that wiser heads will prevail, and lead that party back to functioning as a political party in a representative democracy. Right now, it's a grievance club, for a dwindling number of people, chiefly concerned about the loss of their own power and influence. I do not think it was an overstatement to say that this political movement centered around Donald Trump was and is rooted in what I called, "white identity politics". Hopefully, it dies a quick death at the hands of the levers of democracy, as they are pulled in a few short weeks. I do not intend to say that every person who supports this movement is committed to its most dangerous aspects; I do aim to say that its non-democratic elements and instincts outweigh whatever laudable impulses exist in the wreckage of the Republican Party, as it existed not that long ago.

I should have seen it coming, sooner than I did. Mitt Romney, for all the praise he gets now for being sensible, and receptive to the popular will with respect to racial justice, and executive overreach, foolishly and dangerously thought that the populism that crystallized around the alleged issue of immigration in 2012, could be harnessed to defeat Obama, without becoming dangerous to the social fabric itself. Remember, "immigration" was the issue he chose to shore up his own standing with the GOP base in the primary. The aftermath--which includes the meteoric rise of Donald Trump--already indicated that there was no principled and reasoned policy position on immigration which would satisfy those voters, except outright opposition and rejection of immigrants and asylum seekers. Even in an alternate scenario where Romney wins the 2012 election, there is no way he could have initiated a reform of the immigration system, with any bipartisan support whatsoever, without damaging his own standing with the GOP base. The attempt to win the 2012 election was fools' gold in the first place, because anxious whites did not turn out to vote for Romney, and they did not turn out for anyone, until someone who more bluntly articulated their anxieties and hostilities toward outsiders became the GOP nominee.

Granted, it was a stroke of luck for Trump, to end up running against the most unpopular Democrat in American history. But Trump is merely the extension and the reincarnation of Pat Buchanan, and his hostility to outsiders. I find it interesting how easily and quickly some alleged commitment to libertarianism has morphed into economic and racial nationalism. A consistent globalism welcomes outsiders of every color and nationality, because a consistent libertarianism is fundamentally incompatible with the idea of nation states themselves.

I digress. I'd rather lose fighting fair than win fighting dirty. And I'm not afraid of the future. I never have been, and I never will be.

Oddly and somewhat awkwardly, Bernie Sanders tapped into this nationalism, with his anti-trade rhetoric. Sooner or later, the mathematical reality of racial hostility would have come home in the general election, since nearly one out of every five Bernie Sanders supporters would have defected to Donald Trump. The victory of Bill Clinton in 1992 delayed the reckoning against racial and economic nationalism within the GOP, but it is here now. And it will be here, unless and until it is soundly repudiated.

OK, I Was Mad

 I wanted to say, "We've got everything from snake handlers, to people denying the Trinity, and everybody says, "the Bible clearly teaches". So you'll have to forgive me, if I'm not impressed with your naïve biblicism, brother."

It might have been better if I said that.

On the other hand still, upon reflection, I'm probably as much the reason why some people aren't where Jesus truly wants them to be.

It's probably still worth asking yourself, "How do I know what I think I know? Do I have the courage to examine the basis for those beliefs?" Most especially those to do with Jesus. He is still asking, "Who do you say that I am?" And getting that answer right is a beginning--a great beginning--but only a beginning.

Monday, October 19, 2020

If Christ Has Not Been Raised

 The Dodgers made the World Series last night. My father loved the Dodgers. The last time they won the whole thing in 1988, my father was still here. The Dodgers are not my favorite team, but nevertheless, I am unable to be objective in any sense about the Dodgers.

I have a recording of Vin Scully leading others in "the prayers" (let the reader understand) and I thought it would be nice to say them myself along with him, and whomever was in that group. As it went along, I had greater and greater difficulty controlling my emotions. The heart of the Christian story is resurrection, and our hope of resurrection with Christ in glory. In my mind, I actually had a brief conversation with Tommy Lasorda. I heard him only half jokingly say once that God was a Dodgers fan, and it's pretty difficult to get into heaven if you're not. And I heard myself say, "Well, they're not my favorite, but they are special to me. And Dad was still here when you won it the last time."

All the judgments of God are just and righteous altogether, and so I leave them to Him. Yet to look my father in the eyes again in the new heavens and the new earth is a powerful desire. As much as I love the game of baseball, the innings and the games fade from my memory almost as quickly as they come. If you meet someone who says they love baseball, they might be trying to tell you much more than their appreciation for the spin of a curveball, or a player's precise baserunning, as he lines a double into one of the gaps. This is a game that serves as a backdrop for conversation, connection, and solidarity. I've had some of the best conversations of my life with people at baseball games, or sitting around a TV as we watched a baseball game. We're talking about love. In the end, all hope of love and connection relies on the resurrection from the dead. Everything good is a little echo of the life we are meant for.

Many Christians waste their time arguing about the nature of hell, but one thing cannot be underestimated: the meaning and the extent of any metaphysical place where no love of any kind is present. Truly, I have no fear of anything except this. This is why hope is so powerful, because hope tends toward everything that is good, and hope desires it for oneself. Whatever you can do to avoid losing hope, you should do it.

If we are honest, sometimes heaven is hard to imagine. Sometimes harder still is to break the power of earthly pleasures, especially in relation to loving God. But at this moment, I fix my mind on the fundamental goodness of so many things in the world, and I realize that the fulfillment of all desire is in God. Everything my father wanted, whether he knew it or not, is in God. Everything that I want, even if in a moment I should be confused, is in God. That's something to get you out of bed each morning.

Friday, October 16, 2020

They Have No Wine

 I was hanging out in John 2 the other day. This title is what Mary said to Jesus, when she discovered they were out of wine. Jesus's response is kind of cryptic, but we can say humorously that no self-respecting son can say no to his mother, at least within the bounds of propriety.

It's worth saying that Jesus was thinking of His mission as a whole, and how miracles would fit or not fit within it. Perhaps he even knew that doing this miracle would start the clock in a sense, for his opposition, which will lead to his death.

As I meditated upon all this, it came to me in this way: "they have no joy". I could see in my mind many people I know who were on the ragged edge of life, especially in these days. Wine is a symbol of abundance and joy in the Scriptures. I needed therefore to ask for the joy of the Holy Spirit, and to ask God to make me a conduit for the joy of the Holy Spirit to others.

It is even more important to say that the joy of the Holy Spirit has nothing to do with current difficult circumstances. We can be physically hurting--downright suffering--and still have this joy. I suppose we could even be emotionally suffering and have this joy, but that seems like it would be harder. This is all the more reason to recognize the extra weight of the cross, if we have a mental health issue. We might not even be able by ourselves to correctly ascertain our own circumstances.

In any case, we need true joy, and therefore, we need to pray to the Holy Spirit. That's weird for some of us, because we have misunderstood the Holy Spirit as a strange impersonal force, and not a Person of the Trinity.

Friday, October 09, 2020

You're Not Going To Die If The Democrats Win The Elections

I guess I'll tell you my gripes with Crisis magazine: the whole thing sounds like a Rod Dreher fever dream. You would think that armies of drag queens were kidnapping children to take them to the infamous Story Hour, in some kind of right-wing dystopian novel that is the reverse of The Handmaid's Tale.

Come on, man.

In other news, I would like to congratulate the Democrats, on seemingly finding some semblance of an economic message. You know, I'm old enough to remember when they actually were the party of the working class; it seemed like there for a while, they were the party of debt-ridden upper-class English majors, complaining because their slice of the pie lacks cherry sauce. [Wait, aren't they still those people?--ed.] Too soon.

Anyway, I am what they used to call a "social conservative". And to be clear, I am not a social conservative for the sake of winning an election; I really believe and try to do the things that I say in this regard. Someone, however, forgot that party politics is made up of coalitions, and a fairly decent chunk of those people are just about ready to vote for a heavy dose of Normal. I suppose I salute the constancy of those running to the barricades, firmly believing that Biden's vice president is a female version of Che Guevara. In the end though, I would like to believe that nobody really believes this. I would like to think that they're just following through on the team cues, because a major sense of belonging, a certain protection against anxiety and aloneness, is wrapped up in the electoral fortunes of the GOP as currently constituted.

This is not to say that the late Henry Hyde won't be at least threatening to turn over, but personally, I don't think that the old glad-hander Joe Biden has the stomach for revolution.

As it turned out, we needed a firm hand, like a Bush or an Eisenhower, and we got an empty-headed, malevolent Wink Martindale. Camille Paglia called Trump a carnival barker. The problem is, people's lives and the social context in which they live them, are so much more important than a few hours of diversion on a lazy Saturday. These are serious times, for everyone. Petty arguments might be at least tolerable and entertaining at Thanksgiving dinner, but that ought to be beneath the president of the United States.

So goes Alexander Vindman, so goes the country. And "conservative Catholics"--whatever that's supposed to mean--will just have to deal with it.

Thursday, October 08, 2020

Behold The Lamb Of God

 I was praying with the Scriptures yesterday, and I'm going to tell you something that hasn't even made it in my prayer journal yet. But I was hanging out with John, in the first chapter of his Gospel. I started from the top, figuring that God and I would talk about something majestic in the prologue. There's a lot in there; it stands to reason that you could spend some time meditating on anything in there. But no, the Holy Spirit didn't want to talk about the prologue. I kept reading, and then I came to this: "Behold the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!" John the Baptist sees Jesus here, and points Him out to his own disciples. It's often right to understand that "behold" in the Scriptures as something like we would say, "Look!" This stopped me in my tracks this time, because Jesus was saying, "Don't you understand? I am still for you." Christ walking around, Christ healing people, Christ teaching his disciples. The offer is still good. The offer culminates in the cross, and it's still good.

There are so many people who still think that if they've made a mess of things that they can't go back to Jesus. All the talk of free grace, and people still act like it's no longer free, when they sin, and finally embarrass themselves. We've all been there, so I won't gloat over you. Yet Heaven help me, destroying my own self-image seems to move me more than hurting Jesus seems to do. If Jesus finally brings us to glory, he still considers it worthwhile, and I'm glad for that.

It reminded me of a time that I talked to a pastor, and I was confessing sins, and getting advice. He said to me, "The blood of Christ is still fresh for you." What a revelation, if you'll pardon the term. Faith is not one time; trust is not one time. It's forever, and again, if necessary.

Let us realize that the life and death of Christ for us is not trapped in the past as a distant memory of what he has done for us. Everywhere that we encounter Jesus is a reminder that he is always the same one who offered and is offering Himself to us. It is us who forget what we promise; it is us who are flighty, who can barely carry through with what we say. Who is Jesus? Has this ever described Jesus?

When you are able to answer those final questions correctly, then you will run to the fount of mercy.

Sunday, October 04, 2020

"Brother Lacon Will Reluctantly Scramble To The Top Of The Heap"

 John le Carre is becoming one of my favorite authors. His character George Smiley--memorably portrayed by Sir Alec Guinness in two celebrated miniseries for the BBC--is supposed to be a more realistic version of a British spy, in contrast to Ian Fleming's James Bond. Sir Oliver Lacon is an assistant to the Cabinet minister in charge of national intelligence. Lacon is the bureaucrat no one in the intelligence service likes, because his job is to keep an eye on especially domestic political implications of intelligence. He usually limits what the pros want to do, for some political consideration. He's amiable, but unprincipled, and ambitious. I think what le Carre loves to do is have his protagonists wrestle between their idealism, their patriotism, and pragmatism. Tonight, I fell asleep in Lacon's living room, so to speak. When I woke up, everyone was still in Sir Oliver's living room!

I love these Cold War stories. My sympathy for the West is undimmed, despite my ambivalence--at best--toward liberalism and capitalism. These stories are as much about people, as they are about espionage. Both Smiley and Lacon have unfaithful wives. Most of the spies carry on affairs. The adversaries, respectively, attempt to use these facts against their counterparts. 

We are continually challenged to think about virtue and vice, even as citizens of nations. What would we be prepared to do, to defend our way of life? What might be done, that would fundamentally alter the national character, or that of the free West?

Pope Francis Has The Floor

 The papal encyclical, "Fratelli tutti", or, "On the Fraternity and Social Friendship," was promulgated today, and may be accessed here. I'll read it completely, before offering any comments.

Saturday, October 03, 2020

I Just Said What I Thought

 It just came into my mind: "I hate adulterers." And then I caught myself, because I know that I don't actually hate adulterers; I hate adultery. I have a visceral reaction, partly because I recognize the little adulteries I have committed in my own heart. They won't make the national news, more than likely. If I'm exceedingly fortunate, no one will ever know the details of any of it, except for some clergy, sworn to secrecy until they are dead.

I also recognize that I'm passionate about this, because adultery is one of the things which causes divorce. I am a childhood victim of divorce, and so I generally hate everything that causes people to divorce. If "childhood victim" sounds like too strong a word, I might dare suggest that you have not considered the gravity of divorce, and the chaos it causes. I could grant for the sake of argument that it might be sometimes necessary, but my version of "necessary" and the version of "necessary" held by the previous generation (and maybe this one and the next) is probably different.

Sometimes, I think I shouldn't let it bother me so much, but then I remember all the stories I've heard, in addition to what I have experienced, and I come to the conclusion that staying together for the kids is noble, if it's safe to do so. The thing people don't tend to do sometimes, is to work on the things that force them into this grudging arrangement to begin with. Children are literally the fruit of your love, so it had to come from somewhere. I have to believe that if you had it, you could find it again. Yet perhaps "love" is too general a term. I understand that difficulty, but then again, we have to call it something. Maybe our ideas of love aren't wrong, they're just not big enough.

I think it's often true that we are not totally wrong, but we're only partially right. Sex is definitely not exactly equal to love, by any stretch. But I also don't think you can have erotic love without it. I suppose you could still have romance without it, but the romance would be an echo, and a tribute to the erotic love celebrated previously. (Or in anticipation.) Then again, I'm just a single bachelor; what do I know?

Yet maybe the trouble is that sex is everything today, and so it is nothing. It's not part of something else; it doesn't signify something else, or tend toward something else. You know, I have always admired Katharine Hepburn. I've seen at least a few of her movies, and an interview she gave really led me to appreciate her. In the course of the interview, she said that we had become so wrapped up in ourselves sexually that we had lost the ability to tell the grand stories anymore. I thought it was a startling piece of insight, from someone who made a living pretending to be someone else, and who--to be frank about it--was an atheist. But that was 1973; you'd have to say that if she was on to something, she would absolutely know she was right, if she were living today.

I guess I would say we can take all this, and do our best not to be adulterers today. Of course, if we fail,--in some small way, or in some large way--mercy is greater than even our capacity to ask for it.

Wednesday, September 23, 2020

Fall Election Update

 I'll cut right to the chase: Joe Biden is going to win this thing pretty easily. It could be what they call in layman's terms a landslide. None of the political press is going to tell you that the president of the United States is going to get crushed in an election. That doesn't make headlines, except maybe after the fact. I said on Twitter in March, "It's not whether Biden is going to win, but by how much."

Here's what I see: there are swing states everywhere, which would be fine, but for the fact that they're in the wrong places. That is, the president should not be fighting for so-called "red states". North Carolina is always decently close, but a Republican in decent position for re-election shouldn't have to worry about it. Texas is one of the most Republican states in the country. It's the "new" home base of the Republican political dynasty, the Bush family. No Republican president should have to fight for Texas. Georgia is in play; that's the same story: it shouldn't be happening.

Arizona never goes to the Democrats, not since Bill Clinton. Biden appears to be leading in Arizona by a healthy margin. Please bear in mind that Mitt Romney, who lost fairly convincingly, won Arizona by more than nine points.

Trump absolutely needs Florida to win the election, and that too is competitive. What about Michigan, Wisconsin, and Pennsylvania? You'll recall these states that decided the election, because Trump carried them narrowly, and Hillary Clinton absolutely needed them. All three are slipping away fairly convincingly from Donald Trump.

Trump's supporters are fond of shouting, "Hillary had a polling lead, too!" True, as far as it goes. But here's the facts: the polls weren't that wrong. The polls showed significant tightening in the race, even in the final week. Trump's victory was plausible, and in fact occurred. James Comey functioned as an October surprise last time, and it worked. The voters were pretty tepid in their support for Hillary Clinton anyway, and a huge proportion of late deciders went for the challenger, Trump. (Technically, it was an open election, but I think it fair to put Clinton in the role of the incumbent after eight years of Obama.) Challengers are never held to account before the fact on the promises they make, and the uproar concerning Trump's character was so fierce for so long, that a great number of white men probably just decided that a bunch of women and minorities were being sensitive. Or it was the "liberal media" or whatever you like.

But this election is a referendum on the incumbent. Even if some significant portion of the electorate does not blame Trump for the troubles related to his handling of the coronavirus, the pandemic itself took away his special advantage on the economy. An incumbent widely seen as at least distasteful cannot lose his advantage on the economy, especially when he is perceived as lacking empathy.

Let's get back to the numbers. What you'll see in every summer with an incumbent president going into an election year is a malaise of approval ratings in the mid-40s, and then sometime in late July, when actual voters start paying attention to political news, and begin to think about how they will assess their choices in the fall, you usually see the president's numbers improve to the high 40s, or more. If the president has an approval rating at 47 or 48% on election day, the incumbent will likely win. There is some non-negligible segment of the electorate that will choose third parties, or not vote at all. Take an honest look at where Trump is right now. I'll give you my upshot: I don't think he'll get near 47%. In the national polls, Biden is pegging pretty close to 50% or higher, and averaging about 48% in the battleground states. Trump trails in most states on both counts. We might be able to say that whoever hits that "incumbency number" and hits it consistently, is going to be the president.

What do I think about the debates? I think the debates are Biden's to lose. If Biden has some sort of catastrophic performance in all of them, the undecideds and tepid supporters currently supporting him could stay home, or vote for Trump. Usually though, debates reinforce the narratives and thought processes of the voters. If it is ever said that a debate shifted an election, it ought to be said that whatever the big moment was reinforced something the electorate already thought.

The quintessential example is Reagan in 1980. When he asked, "Are you better off than you were four years ago?" he had the benefit of being the challenger, against an incumbent who seemed overwhelmed by events. When Reagan asked the question, nothing President Carter could say in response could dislodge the perception that the overwhelmed president was making a last-ditch effort to scare voters away from his opponent. He added, "there you go again," which added to the perception. But the debate didn't shift the perception; it simply clarified the perception. If Donald Trump is a malignant narcissist with a shocking lack of empathy, who has no ability or willingness to actually confront the problems he has faced or created, something in the debate will confirm that perception. It's already out there. Strategically, the Biden team needs to try to find a way to reinforce this perception during the debate. Maybe anger the president into a random argument, the thrust of which challenges his sense of self. A normal person will somehow seem to accept the criticism, and somehow deflect it. Sometimes, a little joke at one's own expense will seem endearing, and take the bite out of an attack. Trump can't do this, and Biden's team knows this.

Conversely, I think Trump's best line of attack will pertain to Biden's age, and perceived lack of mental acuity. This is a dangerous attack, because Trump's own vocabulary indicates an age-related lack of mental acuity, or worse. But I think it's the best they've got. If Biden can't hack it, some segment of the electorate may hand the keys back to Trump, even knowing all of his flaws, and decide hopefully that we can do better in four years. I don't think that attacking Harris will help Trump. I think the middle of the electorate understands that it's Biden's show on the Democratic side. He's not a Trojan horse, because he wasn't fundamentally that exciting of a moderate candidate. If you wanted to use a moderate to hide radical influence, why not Mayor Pete? Why not Harris herself? Biden won the primary, because he is a deliberate contrast to the weaknesses of Donald Trump. Politics is much like sports; it's not about the absolute level of talent; it's the match-up.

If they have an October surprise in the Trump camp, it had better be a good one. Maybe they should have two or three. They're going to need them.

Tuesday, September 22, 2020

Senator Kettinger Has The Floor

 Here's what I believe about judicial appointments: I believe that the President of the United States has the authority and the duty to nominate whomever he or she chooses for these offices. (This goes for Cabinet appointments, and other offices, as well.) I do not understand "advise and consent" to mean that a sitting US Senator cannot oppose a presidential nomination to some office, but I personally believe that ignoring a nomination for long periods, that is, to refuse to bring a nomination to the floor for a vote, is a failure of constitutional duty. If I believe that a particular nominee is unsuitable in either temperament, policy preferences, or lacking a basic sense of justice, I should have the courage to vote "no". I think a reasonable time for debate between the Senators about political or policy matters that may be germane is appropriate, but not necessarily while the nominee is giving testimony.

The one thing the American people do not need or want is extended soliloquies about my disagreements with some nominee or other. I have an opportunity during the hearing testimony to actually ask the nominee questions about things that I believe are important. As I have watched hearings over the years, what I see are Senators essentially talking to themselves, and to their voters, as opposed to asking questions of potential nominees. That needs to stop. A group of voters may be able to discern from the nature of my questions the areas of my concern with any nominee or other, but if I ask a question, I actually want an answer. I do not need to score points against the sitting president, or to score points against the sitting president's enemies. It is my responsibility to ask questions about the relevant philosophy of said nominees, simply and directly. If the answer to such questions alarms me sufficiently that I must oppose a nominee, then I will take to the Senate floor, explain my reasoning, and vote accordingly.

I do not intend, as a putative US Senator, to oppose the sitting president's nominees, simply because he or she is from the opposing party. Likewise, I recognize no such automatic duty to support the nominees of a president from the same party. To be very frank with you, I do not know how I will resolve the tension of being a representative who reflects the will of my voters, or who does what I think is best and most prudent. That is a tension inherent in any representative democracy, and highlights the different approaches to that representation. At this moment, I am most inclined to say that in grave matters of consequence, my ethics and my philosophy takes precedence over the will of the majority of the voters who elected me, if they should conflict. If I cannot convince a majority of the voters to support me, even when they do not agree in particular with something I have decided, I would rather have done what I believed is right,--especially in the most important matters--rather than chase the vagaries of public opinion. In less consequential matters, I may well say, "I have this opinion, but the voters of the state of Missouri have a different view, and in this case, I will defer to them."

It is most sad to me that so many members of both parties over the decades have changed their views on fundamental moral issues, or compromised their stances, in order to remain at the levers of power. This situation is distinct in my mind from changing one's mind in response to new information. If someone believes in a certain definition of marriage for example, and they say, "I believe that it is written in the natural law, and in the revealed will of God that x is correct/not correct," you cannot simply easily back away from such a position in a short amount of time. In other words, if I say that such a position of mine is fundamental to how I understand the world, I at least owe the people a detailed account of why I believe it, or why I do not believe it any longer, if I change my mind.

I digress. My main purpose here is to explain that I believe the president of the United States is entitled to a certain deference in his or her choices of personnel for the offices under his authority. If I find that I cannot offer my consent, I will explain and vote accordingly. In large measure, most people in America today are frustrated with elected officials who "play politics". I think the root of this is a lack of principle and consistency from our public officials. I do not believe that partisan rancor is inevitably a part of either the American people's engagement with politics, or inherent to the behavior of their elected representatives. Issues that matter will never be easily settled. Yet we need to actually discuss the issues that matter, and not essentially hide what we truly believe, for fear of political gain or loss. Perhaps it is a weakness of our system as it is currently designed that we are incentivized to hide our true ideas, and to engage in point-scoring against our political opponents--and their voters--but I do think we can do better.

Monday, September 21, 2020

I'd Most Likely Vote To Confirm Amy Coney Barrett

 That being said, it's foolish to pursue a confirmation right now. Progressives are usually always alarmed by Republican judicial nominations. If these lame ducks and losers force her through at the behest of a president regarded justly as lawless and authoritarian in the span of 45 days, the country may not survive.

I can understand the desire to try. Trump is overwhelmingly likely to lose. They know it. If you can get a Justice you like on the Supreme Court before the clock strikes midnight, as it were, it makes sense. Romney, Collins, and Murkowski signalling an unwillingness to go along with it confirms this. If Trump were powerful, they wouldn't. None of these three will pay a penalty for opposing Trump, though Collins will lose because she voted to confirm Kavanaugh. 

It's the perfect nightmare for a Republican Senator: All the chaos of a Trumpian circus, added to a nomination fight, with no discernible electoral benefit. I hate it when that happens.

Barrett in the abstract is fine. I certainly won't hold "the dogma lives loudly within you" against her. Quite the opposite. I don't even like the Republicans, and alarming Diane Feinstein, especially with respect to Roe v. Wade, or devout religious observance, is a benefit. In the end, it's a moot point. Barrett or someone else won't be sitting on the Supreme Court.