Friday, November 30, 2018

Why the sorry state of debate?

Some original answers to the question in the post title are now posted at American Spectator Online.

Wednesday, November 21, 2018

Some things to be thankful for...

...and YouTube videos that actually brighten days

Here's another one, this time with a great cover of an iconic Beach Boys tune:


Tuesday, November 6, 2018

Bookworm on Birthright Citizenship

Her essay is long, but -- as always -- worth reading.

One conclusion:

"Congress was thinking about former slaves, not immigration, whether legal or illegal, when it drafted the 14th Amendment. Indeed, it could not have been thinking about immigration, because, before 1882, the wide open, primarily agrarian, income-tax free and welfare-free United States had no immigration laws."

This photo seems tangentially related. I saw the little shoe on a tree outside my polling place.

Wednesday, October 31, 2018

Missing Apu

I already miss Apu. And I'm not even a regular watcher of The Simpsons.

Tuesday, October 23, 2018

Mixed media

Food, music, logic, and media criticism (to be more specific) -- the part-time pundit's equivalent of this fountain in downtown Cary, NC. Originally published a few days ago, but still fresh.

Monday, October 8, 2018

Scorched earth and its consequences

Progressive ideology has so corrupted western culture that in many places, that ideology now passes for conventional wisdom.

The #MeToo movement seems to have become a prime example of that. Have you read Neo (formerly known by the nom de plume "Neo-Neocon")? I don't know of any other blogger who has so succinctly summarized why that is so, which means that her thoughts on the #MeToo movement are worth pondering. She points out that it "always contained the pernicious idea 'believe the women', " and the problem with that reflexive response is that it is "a rubric incompatible with fairness and justice." In a just society, what we ought to believe is the evidence (hence that cornerstone of American jurisprudence that lawyers like to call "the presumption of innocence.") Moreover, #MeToo has what Neo calls "a built-in contagion effect in which the very title of the movement encourages a willingness to join in the accusative chorus and be part of the victim group."

That same penchant for finding victims and turning them into totems inevitably corrupts public discourse by weaponizing empathy and compassion so that they become clubs with which to beat ideological opponents. In the minds of activists, this is a feature, not a bug. In a milder form, it's what made a former writer for Sesame Street claim that Bert and Ernie, the iconic Muppet duo, are gay. Muppet creator Frank Oz tried to set activists straight (heh!), but they had the temerity to claim that Oz did not understand the characters that he and the late Jim Henson had created, or what those characters meant to the people hoping to hijack their identities.

Here's hoping that Frank Oz has a chance for a friendly beer with Hank Azaria, the actor who took fire from the left for voicing the estimable Apu Nahasapeemapetilon, Indian-American grocer extraordinaire on The Simpsons.

David Harsanyi shed light on what happens these days when he noted in a recent essay for The Federalist that "According to liberals, every conservative-run institution is illegitimate" and "Working out how it's illegitimate is the only question." Forensic looks at that "problem" start in academia.

Ironically, the mindset that sees illegitimacy in things like the Electoral College refuses to see it in such cultural touchstones as Roe v. Wade, and this in spite of the fact that (as National Review once opined) "the abortion regime was born in lies." More specifically, "The abortion lobby lied about Jane Roe, claiming her pregnancy resulted from a gang rape. It lied about the number of back-alley abortions." And Justice Blackmun, writing the majority opinion, "relied on fictitious history to argue, in Roe, that abortion had never been a common law crime." 

Not to jump too far down the rabbit hole, but abortion corrupts everything it touches -- including logic, the Senate Judiciary Committee, and the nomination process for Supreme Court justices. If the vitriol looks one-sided, that's because only one of the two major political parties in the U.S. explicitly endorses abortion in its party platform (see, for example, this language from 2016).

David Horowitz agrees with David Harsanyi: "Under the leftist mantra of 'social justice,' " he writes, "American society is falsely portrayed as a system of racial, gender, and sexual hierarchies." Accept that assertion (as progressives do), and you are paradoxically empowered, because if the deck is stacked against you, then victimhood in that twisted calculus exempts you from norms of civilized behavior. That's why, as people have noticed, "leftists have a huge problem with the concept of rational debate with people who think differently than they do."

Saturday, September 15, 2018

Aftermath of the storm

All is well, says "thunder dog," who was with me throughout Hurricane (and then Tropical Storm) Florence.

Friday, August 31, 2018

Late Summer in the Carolinas

Right place at the right time to capture a double rainbow late on a stormy afternoon.

Tuesday, August 14, 2018

Some sobering church thought

Weasel Watchers recently discussed the change to the Catechism of the Catholic Church and what it says now about the death penalty.

Meanwhile, John Zmirak kept heretical comments by a papal adviser from being flushed down the memory hole.

I'd like to file both of the above stories under the "theology" label, but the truth is that if I regularly used a "politics" label, that might be more accurate, even within the church.

In times like these, the following quote by 20th-century Catholic apologist Frank Sheed is worth remembering:

"We are not baptized into the hierarchy; do not receive the cardinals sacramentally; will not spend an eternity in the beatific vision of the pope. Christ is the point." 

The grand jury report from Pennsylvania that made news for describing sexual abuse by Catholic clerics in that state over many years raises serious concerns of its own. This reaction by Fr. John Zuhlsdorf (aka "Father Z") is worth reading. "This is primarily a supernatural battle that is being fought right now," he notes.

Reaction from Pope Francis to that news, when it came a few days later, was heartfelt but also inadequate because it tried to collectivize guilt and make predatory priests and their enablers a microcosm of injustice throughout society. But if everyone is guilty, then no one is guilty. Some bishops did better.

POSTSCRIPT: This homily by Fr. Robert Altier is well worth a listen. Among other things, Fr. Altier explains twin assaults on the church that started in 1924 and 1929, respectively (documentation backs him up about both starting points). Let the Marian-driven housecleaning commence!

As Fr. Altier noted: "Our Lady gave the bishops 16 years to clean up this mess, and they did nothing...but remember that our faith is in Jesus Christ, period." He also developed a fine analogy: "Back 2,000 years ago, Jesus cleaned out the Temple, but he did it like a man. He picked up the big stuff in the middle of the room. This time, He's sending his mom, and she's gonna clean like a woman. There won't be a cobweb left, and there will be no dust, even in the corners. She's gonna clean house, and it's gonna be beautiful. But it's not gonna be pleasant getting there. The resurrection will happen only after the crucifixion. And are we gonna remain faithful?"

If you're more inclined to read (or don't want to spare 22 minutes), Neo-Neocon (who, as far as I know, is not Catholic) does a good job summarizing the lowlights.

Sunday, July 29, 2018

Answering a pessimist

An assistant professor of English at the University of Notre Dame insists on walking around with a cloud over his head, it seems. The New York Times trades in pessimism of that kind, but I don't. Ergo, a new essay at American Spectator Online -- "Even Sunset is a Harbinger of Doom" (for progressives)

Note: An algorithm at the Spectator website might confuse my essay with this fine piece by H.W. Crocker III on why America's next Civil War will be worse than its previous one. I liked that essay, which features a cameo appearance by none other than George Armstrong Custer, but it's not mine.

Postscript: WoW magazine now has the essay, also.

Friday, June 29, 2018

Messing with my childhood

From the Karen Grassle archive at IMDB
Well, that tears it...

It turns out that Leftists don't like Little House on the Prairie.

I believe it's time I finally read those books by Laura Ingalls Wilder on which the fondly-remembered TV show of my youth was based.

Wilder was not a bigot.

Some thoughts on Voter ID laws

I have another essay out for a local think tank. This one looks at Voter ID laws and the ideologues who insist that anyone who wants to safeguard elections is a tool of the patriarchy.

Monday, June 11, 2018

Summer-ish fun

The Blue Dash dragonfly above is one symbol of warm weather. Late last night, I had a few others: I played frisbee catch with a German Shepherd while fireflies drifted erratically through the humid darkness around us like yellow-green embers and distant lightning strobed the sky to the southwest. Good times!

Thursday, June 7, 2018

Saturday, June 2, 2018

Two movies I liked

Both seen on video recently--

The bigger-budget movie with known actors: New In Town (2009). My favorite characters were actors in supporting roles: Siobhan Fallon Hogan as warmhearted secretary Blanche Gunderson, and J.K. Simmons as factory foreman Stu Kopenhafer.

The smaller-budget movie with unknown actors: Until Forever: The Michael Boyum Story (2016). It starts slow and improves over time.

Still haven't seen, but plan to: A Quiet Place (2018)

Friend Bookworm is talking movies, also, albeit in an intelligent metaphorical sense, with a salute to Scott Adams of Dilbert fame.

Tuesday, May 22, 2018

Pondering what faith does

Fellow weasel-watchers and I were thinking aloud about whether faith in God brings common sense. It's a good question for "Pentecost Week."

Tuesday, May 15, 2018

On keeping your powder dry

Why committed pro-lifers are NOT "social justice warriors," and other wisdom from David Warren, who manages to be edifying while explaining why he does not blog every day.

When teachers lobby legislators...

My take on some local goings-on planned for tomorrow. Bonus points to any readers who get the two band references in that essay!

Tuesday, April 24, 2018

Pop Culture and pathology

Earlier this month, WTKK morning radio host K.C. O'Dea and his producer, Ross Hayes, were trading on-air quips inspired by a news story about drugs found in Disney character figurines. I only heard part of their exchange, but callers to the show got in on the conversation, which continued into a segment with Bloomberg Business reporter Patrice Sikora, who has proven before that she's a good sport when talking with K.C. and Ross.

I've reconstructed what I heard from memory and contemporaneous notes.

[Caller]: I can't believe you guys went right past a discussion about which Disney characters are most likely to be meth-heads. My money's on the Seven Dwarfs. C'mon, they're there with a babe in the woods and nothing's happening? They're meth-heads!

K.C.: But one of the dwarfs is named 'Sleepy,' sir.

[Caller]: Sure, but there's Dopey, too.

K.C.: Fair point. But I'm thinking Abu is a better bet. Abu, the monkey from Aladdin. And there was one other character I was thinking of: Pete. I mean, the dude sees dragons!

Then Patrice Sikora called in for her business news segment, and K.C. brought her up to speed on the "controversy." She had an opinion:

"I'm thinking Tinkerbelle. But Captain Hook's Number Two guy, Smee? If anybody had a reason to do drugs, he did!"

Thursday, April 5, 2018

Opposing views of the United Nations

I have an original essay over at WoW Magazine explaining why I think that John Bolton's criticisms of the United Nations make more sense than U.N. defenders do, even though one of those defenders is my friend, Felix.

Friday, March 30, 2018

On confusion over last things

A ne'er-do-well Communist of whom Pope Francis is fond has leaked parts of what had been a private conversation between them, and what's out there contradicts Catholic doctrine, in that it has Pope Francis, who mentions the devil more frequently than many other religious leaders, suggesting that Hell does not exist.

Father Z has some thoughts about that. The pithiest of those is his wry but also reassuring and exasperated declaration: "The Pope and the Church do not and cannot change the Church's doctrine through unrecorded chats with Communist newspapermen."

Amen to that.

It's too bad that the relationship between this pope and that journalist isn't a lot more like the relationship between Don Camillo and Peppone, because (if my memory of the Don Camillo books is correct) Don Camillo was not the kind of priest to ignore error and apostasy for the sake of friendship.

David Warren, a lay Catholic journalist fresh from a thoughtful Good Friday column, also weighed in on this subject, first writing about the pope's unfortunate penchant for walking jovially into doctrinal controversies, and then explaining what a denial of the existence of hell would actually mean for Christian faith.

Both Warren and Zuhlsdorf are worth reading. John C. Wright is not as theological as those two, but his cogent thinking also illumines the gulf between Christian and Communist worldviews.

There are reliable priests, scripture study programs, and catechisms out there, even apart from the millions of earnest Christians who lean on each other while on this earthly pilgrimage toward heaven.

Me, I'm grateful for my "prayer peeps" (not all of whom are Catholic), inspired by the fierce integrity of my sweetheart, and glad that I saw Andrew Hyatt's new film, Paul: Apostle of Christ the other day. The poor lighting in parts of that film is offset by gems in its script, such as the moving recitation of the Lord's Prayer by several dozen Christians who are about to die in one of the Emperor Nero's infamous circuses.

Thursday, March 22, 2018

Thunder from the archbishop

"The moral conflicts that permeate our public policy debates are endless and irresolvable because our culture no longer has a rational, mutually accepted way of getting to moral agreement. The answer of the liberal state (including our own) to these stubborn disputes is to remove morality to the private sphere. But that course of government is itself a value judgment, a morally loaded act disguised as neutrality. All law and all public policy embody somebody's idea of what we ought to do, including the notion that we 'ought' to keep personal moral beliefs out of public debates.

"The underlying assumption of our public discourse today is that facts and values are radically distinct. 'The plane crashed' is a statement of fact, and therefore 'real.' Crash evidence is tangible. Nobody can argue with debris. On the other hand, 'Don't kill the disabled' is a statement of value. It's an expression of opinion and sentiment-- so the logic goes-- and therefore not 'real' or 'true' in the same solid sense. For example, the importance of protecting disabled persons is an admirable and widely shared view; surely that's obvious. But some people might disagree. Some people might argue quite sincerely that disabled persons are a waste of precious resources, and we'd be better off without them. Some people did argue that way in Germany in the last century, with great effect.

"Of course, for most of us, murdering the disabled, starving the poor, or deliberately targeting innocent civilians in war is an appalling idea, a crime against humanity. But apparently sucking the brains out of unborn children, or trading in their body parts, is not so appalling. It may even be 'good,' because we already do it. We not only do it, but we also build a fortress of pious-sounding chatter about reproductive rights to surround and bless it.

"This is the kind of obscenity that comes from reducing a nation's politics to a clash of allegedly equal values. What it masks is a transfer of power from proven traditions of moral wisdom to whoever can best lobby the media, the courts, Congress, and the White House."

-- from Strangers in a Strange Land: Living the Catholic Faith in a Post-Christian World, by Charles J. Chaput (Archbishop of Philadelphia)

Sunday, March 18, 2018

Comedy gold

I was talking with my friend Carlo after church early last night. This is our conversation as I remember it:

"Hey Patrick! Do you know why people wear green on Saint Patrick's Day?"

"I think so, but I'm not really sure."

"Because it's one of the colors in the Italian flag! Saint Patrick was Italian!"

"You say that all the saints are Italian."

"Most of them are. But Saint Patrick was kidnapped and brought to Ireland."

"I know about the kidnapping, but he wasn't kidnapped from Italy! It was Wales."

"Would I lie to you? You can look it up! Happy feast day!"

Thursday, March 1, 2018

Conversing with Jesus?

Some thoughts on a recent controversy, with musical help from a couple of legends, meaning Mr. Ray Charles and Mr. Elvis Presley.

Friday, February 9, 2018

Scouting the hinges of history

I like Thomas Cahill's perspective. This is from the introduction to his book, "How the Irish Saved Civilization," which I've read once before, but am reading again:

"We normally think of history as one catastrophe after another, war followed by war, outrage by outrage-- almost as if history were nothing more than all the narratives of human pain, assembled in sequence. And surely this is, often enough, an adequate description. But history is also the narratives of grace, the recountings of those blessed and inexplicable moments when someone did something for someone else, saved a life, bestowed a gift, gave something beyond what was required by circumstance.

"In this series, The Hinges of History," I mean to retell the story of the Western world as the story of the great gift-givers, those who entrusted to our keeping one or another of the singular treasures that make up the patrimony of the West...

"The great gift-givers, arriving in the moment of crisis, provided for transition, for transformation, and even for transfiguration, leaving us a world more varied and complex, more awesome and delightful, more beautiful and strong than the one they had found."

Tuesday, January 23, 2018