Monday, August 18, 2014

Some thoughts concerning Ferguson


The Police State

From the way people, especially libertarians, are reacting, you'd think MRAPs and cops in body armor and BDUs appeared practically overnight. The emerging meta-narrative is, "One day we woke up and discovered that cops have become paramilitary soldiers."

First, if you really, really think about it, you'll realize that cops have been paramilitary forces for decades. Police academy training is a lot like boot camp, and rookies are trained to march and salute just as is every member of the armed services, including the Coast Guard. They're even part of defense planning in case of an invasion or civil insurrection. Who do you think they modeled police uniforms on — gas station attendants? Bellhops?

(Do you remember the TV series SWAT? The only difference between their uniforms and the BDUs I wore at MCRD San Diego is that they were dyed black. And that was the uniform for the Special Weapons and Tactics teams for many if not most cities that had such a unit; now many have night-pattern camouflage.)

Who or what is driving the meta-narrative?

Kevin D. Williamson tells us, "The different uniforms are meant for different kinds of policing: The traditional blue coat is for the policeman who walks a beat [has anyone seen a cop "walk a beat" in the last fifty years?], and the ridiculous stormtrooper suits are for those who roll through in an MRAP." Williamson kinda-sorta recognizes that there are different kinds of policing, but is too busy snarking to ask if there might be a valid social purpose behind the second type of policing.

We've all seen the picture of the cop on top of the MRAP, wearing grassland camouflage (really? In an urban environment?) and body armor, looking through the scope of his  rifle. That isn't what Ferguson police normally wear, or how they normally arm themselves, because rioting isn't a "normal" state, nor do cops take "normal risks" when people riot. — You do know there was looting and burning going on, don'cha?

Sunday, August 17, 2014

The end of the Fisher More College fight

Five and a half months ago, I spent the first day of what would eventually become a layoff following, and then writing about, a controversy in my home diocese of Fort Worth. It seems oddly fitting that, on the night before I start my new job, I can provide a coda to that story.

On February 24, the newly-installed bishop of Fort Worth, Most Rev. Michael F. Olson, sent a letter to Michael King, President of Fisher More College, a letter announcing that celebrations of the Mass in the Extraordinary Form had been suspended. A few days later, Rorate Caeli broke the story, with headlines screaming that the letter gave no reason, and wondering if the ban were "an effect of [the] new Pontificate". Rorate Caeli has been one of the prime vendors of the "Pope Francis Hates the Latin Mass" trope, despite the pontiff's stated refusal to cancel or strongly limit Summorum Pontificum.

Bp. Olson's Statement, 8 Aug 2014.
Well, there turned out to be a lot more to the story than just a new bishop's arbitrary decision to stomp on a poor, innocent college.

For one thing, the school was losing enrollments. For another, the leadership had approved decisions that had financially crippled the school, wiping out its endowment as well as the proceeds from the sale of its grounds. There was also some question about whether a suspended priest had performed a Mass — and whether the Masses were being said by priests from the schismatic Society of St. Pius X (SSPX). Furthermore, there were issues with the leadership of Pres. King himself, that his style of leadership and extreme "resistance" traditionalism had alienated staff members and student parents.

However, by the time this came out, most rad-trad blogs and sympathizers had accepted Rorate Caeli's version of the matter. It took a couple of days before most sites grudgingly accepted that the suspension wasn't causeless or out of the blue; Steve Skojec of Rorate still insisted that Bp. Olson was actively repressing the TLM, while Simon J. Dodd at Motu Proprio denied Bp. Olson's right to suspend the Latin Mass ... perhaps thinking that the new bishop didn't already have canon lawyers on his staff. Eventually, though, everything settled down.


Thursday, August 14, 2014

FOXNews' hit piece on Cardinal Dolan

Being the paladin and protector of all things conservative, FOXNews published on Tuesday a distorted, slanderous screed that perpetuates the "Pope Francis Hates the Traditional Mass" trope. The object of the attack: Cardinal Timothy Dolan.

Although I'm on record as supporting the Extraordinary Form of the Mass (i.e., the Tridentine Latin Mass, or Vedus Ordo), I've criticized the segment of traditionalists that aren't happy unless they feel persecuted. In reply other traditionalists have scolded me as if I were a badly-educated Episcopal convert with chrism still on my forehead and heresy in my heart — I'm part of the "neo-Catholic Brute Squad". (One woman claimed I've “politely defecated” [?] on the traditionalist movement.) And half of them, along the way, unconsciously prove the points I make with their own criticism.

So here's my warning: I'm going to criticize that same segment again. As Bill Mauldin once said, "I make a certain kind of shoe; if someone wants to put it on and loudly proclaim it fits, that's their lookout" ... but don't assume it fits your family and friends as well. If it doesn't fit, it wasn't made for you. However, if it really doesn't fit, don't go describing it in terms that will make others think you're merely uncomfortable with how well it conforms to your foot.

Having said that ....

Has Cdl. Dolan gone "liberal"?

As is depressingly common throughout the media, including the Catholic blogosphere, Shaw conflates political conservativism with doctrinal orthodoxy. As is standard practice among the radical traditionalists I criticize, he also conflates traditionalism with orthodoxy as well. (Dr. Taylor Marshall, a traditionalist himself, refers to this as "gnostic ecclesiology".) So anyone who doesn't correctly pronounce any one of a dozen or more shibboleths is a goldang Neo-Catholic librul (as is anyone who dares criticize such faithful but lonely Real Catholics™). Example:

In New York, under the leadership of the once moderately conservative Timothy Cardinal Dolan, the Archdiocese was a place that allowed the traditional mass to be said without hassle after Summorum Pontificum.
However, since Pope Francis arrived, Dolan — commonly referred to as "America's Pope" [mostly by idiots who don't know anything about the Catholic Church except what they write] — has shifted to the left, so much so that even the New York Times has noticed. Dolan has become a spokesman for Francis' view of capitalism, has softened on gay rights, been an even stauncher advocate of amnesty for illegal immigrants and incredibly — criticized ObamaCare because it didn't provide free health care to illegals, putting him to the left of Nancy Pelosi [because, y'know, Real Catholics™ don't support free health care for anyone].

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

RIP Robin Williams (1951 – 2014)

Photo credit: Alyssa Pierdomenic/Reuters.
"Comic genius" is such a pale, shopworn expression ... the exemplar of cliché. They use it of Groucho Marx; they sometimes use it of Adam Sandler, too. Overworn to the verge of meaninglessness, an empty compliment of the kind in which Hollywierd specializes.
And yet, how else do you describe Robin Williams, a man whose mind worked so furiously yet on a level few comedians can reach? How else can you describe a comedian whose improvisational talent was so reliable that, on his first television series, the writers would leave whole sections of dialogue unscripted, noting only, "MORK CAN GO OFF HERE"? A talent so seemingly free yet so disciplined he could embue it with dramatic portent, or ruthlessly restrain it, for his best cinematic performances?

It's only in retrospect that anyone could say Williams' suicide was "not surprising". Certainly he left enough bread crumbs in his trail, especially the drug and alcohol addictions which plagued his life. The manic pacing of his routines and his delivery always had this desperate edge to it, as though his life depended on getting a laugh out of every line. (He must have had flops in his early stand-up career; his first album includes a sketch that begins, "Come inside my mind and see what happens when a comedian bites the big one.")

Nevertheless, his public face was so frantically alive, so relentlessly funny, and often so touchingly warm, that you were distracted; you never asked if his demons had been put to rest.

Monday, August 11, 2014

Catholic Stand: The Identity of a Woman

As if identity politics weren’t bad enough, it’s taken a turn for the bizarre. In New Yorker magazine, Michelle Goldberg tells us of an ongoing struggle between radical feminists and the “transgendered” — a term that includes not only pre-op and post-op transsexuals, but also men and women who for their own reasons wish to identify as the other or neither sex. The problem for radical feminists is that men who claim to be women, even those who undergo “gender-reassignment surgery”, aren’t really women.

Not because the transgendered don’t have the right parts, or because the parts have been artificially implanted; oh no, that would simply be common sense, and who wants that? (“Common sense,” Stuart Chase once sniffed, “is that which tells us the earth is flat.”) No, the radical feminist objection is that the transgendered haven’t been raised with the suffering and victimization inherent in a paternalist society, and that transgenderism represents a kind of male-imperialist encroachment on uniquely female territory.

To make matters worse (?), radical feminists seem to be losing the fight. The universities and PACs, which once hosted — or at least suffered — their message of male oppression, are now starting to push back wherever that message conflicts with transgender rights. Says Rachel Ivey, “If I were to say in a typical women’s-studies class today, ‘Female people are oppressed on the basis of reproduction,’ I would get called out.” Other students, she adds, would ask, “What about women who are male?”

Women who are male. In four words, the surreality of the transgender Weltanschauung is encapsulated. This is the apotheosis of strong social constructionism, which “proposes that the notions of ‘real’ and ‘unreal’ are themselves social constructs, so that the question of whether anything is ‘real’ is just a matter of social convention. … It reasons that all reality is thought, all thought is in a language, all language is a convention, and that all convention is socially acceptable[;] hence, it uses language to socially program.”

Read more at Catholic Stand!

Friday, August 8, 2014

The death of "freethinking"

If there are Christians who don't get Christianity, there are also scientists who don't get free will. Oddly enough, some call themselves "freethinkers".

From "How Would Humans Know If They Lived in a Multiverse?" by Tanya Lewis at LiveScience:

... [I]f a multiverse does exist, it could have some wacky consequences. A world with an infinite number of universes would virtually ensure that conditions in one universe would repeat in another, [Columbia theoretical physicist Brian] Greene said. In other words, there would almost certainly be another version of you reading this article, written by another version of me.
In such a multiverse, you might decide to read the article in one universe and not read it in another. What would that mean for the notion of free will?
Perhaps it's a moot point. "I think free will bit the dust long before multiverse theory," Greene said.
Scientific equations describe the particles that make up all matter, including humans, Greene said. While more-complex structures arise that have no relevance to a single particle — temperature, for instance — everything still has a "fundamental microphysical underpinning," he said.
That means free will is merely a human sensation, not actual control.
"When I move my teapot, that sensation is absolutely real," Green said. "But that's all it is. It's a sensation."
Maybe in another universe, there's a Brian Greene that believes in free will.

And thus ends "freethinking", in a slavery more thorough, complete and unremitting than any brainwashing: material causality.


Thursday, August 7, 2014

Holding on to faith in an imperfect Church

I had a choice yesterday: I could post about the 100th anniversary of the beginning of World War I, or about the 69th anniversary of the bombing of Hiroshima — both watershed moments in world history. I choose instead to write about a friend of mine and her family, who are going through their own crucible of faith.

I'm reluctant to give any details, or even any hints, that would identify this friend. While the details will become public access soon enough, what little she has revealed to her friends and co-workers in Christ was given in privacy; until it does become public knowledge, I must for her trust's sake observe some discretion. All I will say is that what Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI described as "the smoke of Satan" has not only touched their lives but shattered them, putting their faith on the precipice.

Hilaire Belloc is said to have remarked to a friend once, "The Catholic Church is an institution I am bound to hold divine — but for unbelievers a proof of its divinity might be found in the fact that no merely human institution conducted with such knavish imbecility would have lasted a fortnight." And at the beginning of one of his books, the late Fr. Andrew M. Greeley quoted an "Elderly Irish Monsignor" as saying, "Faith, the Barque of Peter must be divine, else we boys would have kicked the bottom out long ago."

It takes no citation of Scripture to realize that an institution filled with humans will contain and comprise all the folly and evil that humans are capable of committing; all it takes is simple observation of human nature. But if it helps, Our Lord even told us it would be so, with the parable of the Sower (Matthew 13:3-8, 18-23).


Saturday, August 2, 2014

From the "Christians who don't get Christianity" department

"I was hungry, and you made me take responsibility for my own poverty." ... Nope, didn't find that in Scripture. Oh, wait ... here it is, in the Gospel according to Rand Paul.


Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Cooking katsudon for the first time

When I was a very little lad, three going on four, my father, who was in the Air Force at the time, received orders transferring him to Tachikawa Air Base, located about 32 km (17 mi) west of downtown Tokyo (now a civil airfield). Since Dad would be stationed in the Far East for three years (half in Japan and half at Clark AFB, which was on the big Philippine island of Luzon near Angeles City), he was given permission to bring his family with him.

Because I was so young, my impressions of Japan are mere flickers of half-seen images: a country full of bright colors. A fish flag waving in the breeze in front of a farm house as we drive past, and my father saying, "That means the mother just gave birth to a son." Sitting in the living room at the house of our maid/babysitter, whom we called "Mama-san", watching kabuki on the television set. (I'm told I could speak the language, but couldn't translate it.) Standing in the middle of the cul-de-sac where our house was, listening to the base speakers broadcast Kimi ga yo, and then "The Star-Spangled Banner", at sunset. Sitting in the living room as Dad takes pictures of all of us in traditional Japanese clothes ... even my little brother, who was born over there.

Katsudon.

It's not to stretch a simile too far to say that donburi restaurants in Japan are like our Denny's and Cracker Barrels, in that donburi is a "comfort food": you grow up eating it, so that's what you crave when you want to reconnect with yourself, or when you don't want/can't afford something fancy. A donburi consists of meat and/or vegetable simmered in a fish stock-based liquid and served over rice. There are many variants; katsudon is one of the most popular. According to Eunice Kwon at MamaLoli.com, Katsu means "to win"; many athletes will eat a bowl before a big game, and many students will have one before an important test.

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Pickles, refills and American weirdness

Away far away, in a land inhabitants deliberately call "Aus" (because it sounds like "Oz"), some wit has had the chutzpah to call America a weird place. And not for any political reason; no, if the unidentified Aussie had gone into political weirdness, I might or might not have agreed with him/her fully. No, let's see why this person thinks America is weirder than the Land Down Under:

1: Free Soft Drink Refills
How is it in America, you get a biggie drink and you suddenly realize you can refill it as much as you want? Why don't you just order a small drink and save money?

I'm tempted to give the writer this one. However, speaking from my QSR experience, most people leave with their drinks. Once you step out that door, refills ain't free, so tank up.

2: Tipping For Service
There's no tipping in Australia! The person gets paid to do their job. You just don't have waitresses that become salespeople to attain a big tip.

You mean they actually pay servers a living wage down there in Aus? Up here, many people — we call them "conservatives", though some call themselves "libertarians" — believe that anyone over 22 who ends up in a crappy job for any reason deserves to get crappy pay. Does that make it harder for you to climb up out of the gutter? Suck it up, buttercup; that's not your benevolent employers' problem. Other people, realizing that that rationale is a load of dingo's kidneys, eventually began to tip good service as a way to offset employers' stinginess. The employers found that the servers could make way more than minimum wage, so they got the right from the government to pay them 1/3rd less than other crappily-paid workers. Remember that the next time you come up here, and give your server a 20% tip ... and the management a piece of your mind.