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Group Writing: Orders of Knighthood and How they Affect Us

 

A Knight

Knights have gotten into our heads and into our hearts and they move us on a level so deep that most of us don’t even examine why do we care about knights so much? It is a hard question to answer but I think some responsibility has to go to the Orders of Knighthood that spread all over Europe with their heroics, villainy, and romanticism embedding themselves deep into our imaginations.

A very remarkable thing happened in 1096: a mismatched international group of Nobles, their knights and many thousands of hangers-on, prostitutes, servants, and soldiers headed east to go on Crusade in order to free Jerusalem from Muslim rule and perhaps find salvation. Most of the people on the Crusade traveled more than 1,000 miles with no central organization and only a vague outline of a plan. Arriving in Constantinople the disparate groups of knights banded together and started their campaign. In a world where wars usually lasted no more than a couple of months the First Crusaders campaigned from April 1097 until August 12, 1099 it what had to be one of the most remarkable military feats in world history. From the wilderness of the Anatolian plains, to the mountains of Cilicia to the bloody forge of Antioch the Crusaders became what was probably the fiercest, deadliest and most effective army since the glory days of Roman Legions eight centuries before them.

Again, the Crusaders provided spectacular displays of manhood, martial valor and incredible fighting spirit. From the incredible cavalry charges that smashed massive Muslim armies, to the unbelievable hand to hand ability of the knights on the walls of Antioch, the Crusaders earned a lasting legend.

At Antioch the Muslim ruler Kerbogha of Mosul attacked with a massive army from outside the walls, which the Crusaders famously faced down. A lesser known part of that battle was that just a few hundred knights and men at arms were left inside to hold back the garrison of Antioch still firmly established in the citadel of that city. The soldiers left to hold back the garrison were pretty sure they were going to die, many of them hid in the houses and streets of Antioch to try and avoid the inevitable. The commander of this force went down into the city and lit the buildings on fire to drive them out and out they came once again to the walls. There they stood against thousands of Turks and Arabs and did not give an inch. They held, and against all odds their brothers outside the walls smashed Kerbogha’s mighty army a victory so stunning, so unexpected that it rose in the minds of most to the level of a miracle.

The memory of the First Crusade lived long in the minds of the Europeans and the incredible accomplishment of that First Crusade fired the imaginations of everyone. After the Crusade was over the legacy of that epic event was preserved in the idea of knightly orders. Knights not given over to greed, conquest and glory but to a worthy cause. A warrior, motivated by a righteous cause. How poor our fiction, our imaginations, and our history would be without this figure; and because of this, there is no more iconic image of this heroic warrior than the knight. The first of the Orders was the Knight of the Hospital who were to fight Muslims longer than anyone on and land-sea for 500 years. Then of course come the Knights of the Holy Sepulcher key to that glorious and all too short-lived Kingdom of Jerusalem and then the most famous of them all the Knights Templar. Just saying their name aloud makes one think of epic adventure, noble causes, bloody wars, dark conspiracies, and ancient evil.

The Knights Templar evoke so much from us because they have been in the background of our culture and stories for centuries. Known for reckless courage, epic last stands and incredible castles the Knights Templar inform our image of knights, even when we think of Castles we often think the castles that Templars built. From their humble beginnings to the ultimate heights of wealth and glory the Knights Templar had everything going for them until the evil King of France betrayed them and suppressed them. That epic fall gave us the ill-omened Friday the 13th and a swirl of rumor, legend, titillation that would keep some of our best and worst writers and creators busy for centuries.

Knights have always been fodder for fiction from the tales of Roland, Oliver, and Charlemagne, to King Arthur and his Roundtable, early creators projected Knights into our past and modern-day creators have pushed them into our future. Jedi Knights and high-tech knights can the heroes of stories such as Robotech, Warhammer, Gundam, and even Voltron. We bring the sensibility of knights not just to our fiction but into our reality as well. Where do we train highly specialized warriors, that are given special emblems to bear, unit history to live up to, a code of honor to guide them and the very best weapons to employ against our enemies? We may call them by names such as Delta Force, Seal Teams, Force Recon and Special Operation Squadrons but a knight of the past would recognize much of himself in the units of our special operators.

In an important sense Knights are no longer part of lives culture, tradition, technology, and countries have passed them by but in another very important sense they are still with us today. When we feel there is a righteous cause worth dying for, when we train and work to be the best we can be, when a Cowboy and his pistol is all that stands between justice and chaos, when a Jedi confronts a great evil with his laser sword, when our brave men of Special Operations take to horseback in the mountains of Afghanistan to bring payback for our fallen towers and dead innocents, the idea of the knight is still with us.

Imagine with me for a moment the best of what a knight can be: there across the field is the enemy, evil, ruthless and relentless. They want nothing more than to see you and all you hold dear destroyed. Then the men come, they have trained and prepared for this their whole lives. They have often drawn their swords for greed, ambition or mere glory and perhaps they in their time have even done evil. But not this day. This day they draw their sword in honor, for a righteous cause worthy of their efforts and even of their lives. They have lived and trained for this moment and now they stand tall in the face of their fear. You see a flash of light from their bright armor, hear that deeply moving scrap metal on leather as swords are unsheathed and then the movement of the horses as their hooves slam into the ground from a walk, to trot and

Finally to a full charge….

What can you do but shout…. Excelsior!

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It’s poll time!

 

I just got a call from a pollster.

After the usual questions about my age and where I lived, she asked:

“Do you consider yourself White, African-American, Native American, Asian or Pacific Islander, or some other race?”

“No.”

“I’m sorry, sir, you have to chose one.

“I don’t consider myself any of those things.”

“I need to put a race down.

“Okay, Human.”

“I can’t put that down.”

“I guarantee that I’m not a fish in disguise.”

“It needs to be one of the choices: White, African-American, Native American, Asian or Pacific Islander, or some other race.”

“Race is an a artificial construct historically used to separate and divide people. By its very nature, race is a racist concept. I am not a racist, therefore I don’t use racist labels for myself or others.”

“Okay sir, thank you. That is all the questions I have for you. Have a blessed day.” [Hangs up]

Conclusion: Only racists are allowed to answer polls.

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Collectivism, Tribalism, and Paganism, oh my!

 

An atavistic longing after the life of the noble savage is the main source of the collectivist tradition.” —FRIEDRICH HAYEK, THE FATAL CONCEIT

On its face, that statement makes no sense. What do primitive tribes of 10,000 years ago have to do with our current fascination with socialism, fascism, and other complex modern societies? But there does seem to be some connection. I always found it odd that highly educated elites tend to sneer at my skepticism over their brilliant new concepts like organic vegetables, windmills, primitive shoes, trains, and other centuries-old ideas which, to me, seem more quaint than revolutionary. Why do those who consider themselves to be on the leading edge of society drink organic coffee from hand-thrown mugs while wearing primitive sandals over wool socks? The dichotomy is jarring.

Modern leftists are, essentially, collectivists. I suppose it’s not surprising that collectivists would yearn for the last time that collectivism made any sense, which was when humans were tribal hunter-gatherers who were completely dependent on their chief and each other to survive. Sounds awful to me, but a collectivist might see such an existence as sort of romantic. Especially if they’re as deluded as Rouseau, who remarked on how healthy and fit all the Indians were, not realizing that anyone over 25 who was not in perfect health was unlikely to survive the next winter. So any primitive Native American that Rouseau was likely to encounter was likely to be extremely healthy. All the others were already dead. But those remaining were very healthy, presumably because they were so in touch with nature, right? It must be all the organic vegetables.

It must frustrate collectivists (liberals) that collectivism thrives most where people are most dependent on one another – cities. Many collectivists live in cities, where the pollution, noise, and stress make them long for their romanticized versions of the bucolic rural lifestyle, of picking wild blackberries and churning butter, that exists mainly in their imaginations. But rural life is hard – it’s not as relaxing as collectivists generally imagine, and in reality is a lot of work. So people naturally gravitate to cities, and to jobs other than farming, in which they are not dependent on the next rain to survive. 

Garden co-ops are a wonderful substitute for these people, giving them a sense of belonging to a tribe, and cooperation, and a connection to nature, without trying to survive off the land. If your kale dies, you don’t. It’s like going on vacation to a resort in the Caribbean and dipping your toe in the ocean, on your way to the pool and the swim up bar. That’s as close as I get to swimming in the ocean, and it’s as close as most people get to a hunter-gatherer lifestyle. Which is ok, because I would drown, and collectivists would starve. The difference, of course, is that I don’t think I’m a fish.

Modern progressivism (collectivism) is not a political movement, it’s a religion. The fastest growing, and most powerful religion in the world. And religions don’t have to make sense. I’m a Christian, and to non-Christians, much of what I believe must seem ridiculous. I can’t prove what I believe, but I BELIEVE. So I try not to criticize what I see as the goofier aspects of the religions of other people. As a man of faith, I have a certain level of comfort with that which I don’t fully understand.

But when an Ivy League educated millionaire software entrepreneur glorifies primitivism and paganism, I just shake my head. If that’s the only environment in which his ideas make any sense, perhaps he might consider some new ideas. Just a thought.

#moveon.org

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Icon, Part 1: The Nativity of the Theotokos

 

September 1 marks the start of the liturgical year of the Orthodox Church. This goes back both to the Romans, who assessed a tax called the Indiction on this date, and to the Jewish calendar, with Rosh Hashanna marking the new year at about this same time. As this is the start of the liturgical cycle of great feasts and great fasts, I’ve decided to put out a series of posts on one of the most recognizable features of Orthodoxy: The Icon.

There are 12 Great Feasts in the Orthodox liturgical year, plus Pascha (Easter), which is the Feast of Feasts (there are also 12 in Catholicism, but with differences). In this series, each part to be posted close to the feast, I’ll be looking both at the event commemorated, and at its iconographic depiction. Through this series I will also try to lay out the functions of icons, their liturgical use, and their accepted proper forms both historically, and as they have developed throughout time (and have both departed from, and returned to their older roots in the process). Here and there I’ll fill in with some additional posts on related topics, certain saints, and the major other icons. Our first selection, corresponding with the first of the Great Feasts, is the Nativity of the Theotokos, which occurs on the eighth of September, just a few days hence.  (Nota Bene: any errors in this series are my own fault.)

The liturgical year in part follows the lives and ministries of two people, Jesus and his mother Mary, as well as significant events in the lives of the Apostles, and of the Church itself. Two of the Marian feasts mirror or foreshadow similar feasts of Christ. Thus we have the Nativity of the Theotokos, and later the Nativity of Christ; and we have the Presentation of Mary at the temple, followed later by the Presentation of Christ at the temple. These two foreshadowing events of the Marian feasts, however, do not celebrate events depicted in the Gospels of the Bible we know today, but events that nonetheless entered the Christian cannon at a very early date. These events are told in the apocryphal gospel of James (The Protoevangelium of James), which, while not accepted into the formal cannon of scripture, is nonetheless considered to illustrate something that was spiritually true or necessary, even if not completely verifiable.

The Feast

In the case of the Nativity of the Theotokos, as Mary had to have been very special to have been chosen by Gd for his Incarnation on Earth, so it must be reasoned that her own parents had to have been special and godly too, so this feast celebrates her parents, and her own birth, as a foreshadowing of Christ’s coming.

In the Protoevangelium of James, Mary’s parents are named Joachim and Anna. Of Joachim we are told little, but we can infer that as Mary and Elizabeth (mother of John the Baptist) are first cousins, Anna must have been the sister of Elizabeth’s mother. In a pattern familiar to any reader of The Old Testament / Torah, Joachim and Anna are said to be old and barren, and well past the point of child-bearing years. As with Abraham and Sarah before, and Elizabeth and Zacharias yet to come, Mary’s conception and birth is itself a miraculous gift to her parents (though the Orthodox do not refer to it as “immaculate”).

What is the spiritual meaning of the feast? I’ll leave it to the words of Father Thomas Hopko (of blessed memory):

The fact that there is no Biblical verification of the facts of Mary’s birth is incidental to the meaning of the feast. Even if the actual background of the event as celebrated in the Church is questionable from an historical point of view, the divine meaning of it “for us men and for our salvation” is obvious. There had to be one born of human flesh and blood who would be spiritually capable of being the Mother of Christ, and she herself had to be born into the world of persons who were spiritually capable of being her parents.

The Icons

Icons serve several purposes in Orthodoxy. They are not meant to be realistic depictions of events, but rather, coming from a time prior to general literacy, meant to illustrate the spiritual truths of events or people. They are pure symbolism, and the symbols must follow certain conventions so that their meanings are understandable to all, and all must point to Christ. The dangers of overly realistic depictions are that of sentimentality, or attachment to a specific image in the mind’s eye as being the “authentic” one, which would in turn lead the viewer to latch on to that image above all others. Think how jarring it is to see an actor in a film depicting someone you know well, especially if the depiction is poorly done – you have trouble moving past that actor’s portrayal and so never engage fully into the story. So it is with iconography – by remaining at the symbolic level, you can, and indeed must focus on the narrative and spiritual truths depicted, and need not be stalled at the superficial level.

Some conventions to bear in mind:

  • The perspective of the image may be distorted, or even inverted. Figures, shapes, and objects at the back may be the same size, or even larger than the foreground images.
  • Even if the events depicted occurred indoors, all icons depict everything out of doors. This is because nothing is hidden from Gd. If an event did occur indoors, then a drape will be laid across the top of the image.
  • Time is flattened. Multiple things may be shown all at once, out of sequence, with the same people shown multiple times.
  • The colors worn by people have their meanings too.
  • Not all icons of an even may show exactly the same things. Some will leave out some details that others include, but they all will show the major event itself.

I’ll bring up other conventions, as well as differences in traditions (such as Byzantine, Russian, and modernist) throughout the series as appropriate.

The traditional icons of the Nativity of the Theotokos all depict Anna laying in her bed, with the infant Mary swaddled and laying in a cradle of some sort, or about to receive a bath, or perhaps both separately. Anna is attended by midwives and may or may not be still pregnant, but Joachim is not by her side at her bed. Joachim may be shown elsewhere in one of several ways: receiving the news of Mary’s conception from the Archangel Gabriel, embracing Anna in joy of their good news, admiring his daughter at her cradle, at a distance fretting over Anna’s labors, or with Anna and Mary together elsewhere. The focus of the icon is nearly always on Anna herself, often in her birth pangs.

Regardless of the details, the story is always the same. Anna has / is giving birth to Mary, the future Theotokos, and her arrival in the world is something Christians celebrated and marked at a very early period in church history. Why is Mary called Theotokos? Theotokos is a Greek word which means “the birth-giver of Gd”. Gd, the infinite I Am, chose her to be the vessel of His incarnation, His becoming, for a time, a living and breathing human being like us, in the form of his son, Jesus Christ.

For more on the feast:
OCA Nativity of the Theotokos
OCA Saints Lives
GoArch Nativity of Theotokos

There are numerous books on icons, but I’ll give 2 favorites:
The Open Door, by Frederica Matthews Green
Beyond the Image, by Katherine Khorey and David DeJonge (you can get it cheaper on Amazon, but this is the author’s own site, which also sells icons)

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Why do they despise the U.S. flag and national anthem?

 

We’ve all read about the U.S. flag being protested in schools and the kneeling during our national anthem. Mark Steyn discussed yesterday a person who kneeled while singing the national anthem. Yet other countries’ symbols aren’t controversial. Illegals are being given in-state tuition rates and thus are being preferred over Americans from other states. My […]

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Gassy Bovines and Bob the Dog

 

Damned cows. As I drive by their pastures, I like the way they look—all bucolic and innocent as you please. But they’re out there farting like crazy. Even worse, they’re emitting methane as they fart. In fact, each cow on the planet produces about 40 gallons of methane each day, methane that wafts up and blocks heat from escaping into space. Forty gallons! Each cow! Think about that.

Science to the rescue. At the University of California, scientists have been feeding seaweed to cows to see if it reduces the amount of methane when cows fart, burp, and poop. So far they’ve been able to reduce methane gasses within these bovine emissions by 30 percent. Is this a great world or what?

Unfortunately, we humans vastly outnumber cows (by about 6 billion), so we greatly outproduce bovines in methane production. So naturally, food production engineers are working to introduce seaweed into human diets. In fact, Kellogg’s has already introduced a variety of seaweed into Special K cereal, and General Mills has mixed seaweed into their recipe for Toaster Strudels. In the near future, food companies plan to add seaweed to Pop Tarts, Gold Medal baking flour, and Ben and Jerry’s ice cream. I like to think that even Kim Kardashian, whose life has been drifting along without much of a purpose, will now help save the planet by producing less methane.

Postscript One. The first two paragraphs are based on a news story. The third paragraph is a complete invention. But you probably knew that. I wouldn’t put it past the scientists, however. When there’s a planet to save, you have to break a few eggs, rotten I assume. Thus far, only the Japanese, inscrutable as always, eat seaweed, and they use it to wrap up their sushi. Eew, I know, right? (I’d rather not hear from you sushi lovers out there, with your sophisticated palates and all. I think you’re faking it.)

Postscript Two. Obviously, almost the entire weight of the humor of this piece rests on multiple uses of the word “fart,” one use of “poop,” and a one “belch”— a kind of humor appreciated largely by pre-adolescent males and a few Ricochet peeps who will remain nameless for now. You know who you are.

Another Postscript. Marie the wife, so deliciously Rubenesque in form, so modestly endowed in intellect, totally disavows any connection with this essay, including her relationship with its author. In fact, she says that if I post it, she will secretly introduce kitty hair into my vegetarian lasagna.

Yet another: Listen, I know this post is no great shakes and is unlikely to garner many Likes, so I’m adding a photo of Bob the dog with his new toy to shamelessly troll for a few additional Likes. In Madison Avenue lingo, the Bob photo is a value-added item.

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Arizona State Supreme Court; Words Have Meaning

 

There has been some wailing, gnashing of teeth, and rending of red t-shirts from the Red Teachers Movement in Arizona due to the Arizona State Supreme Court removing an initiative from the November Ballot. The required number of signatures were gathered to place their initiative on the ballot, but the problem is the fuzzy math on what the income tax surcharge percentage will actually cost upper-income taxpayers.

An Arizona Supreme Court ruling Wednesday knocked the Invest in Education income-tax measure off the November ballot.

According to the ruling, the measure’s description “did not accurately represent the increased tax burden on the affected classes of taxpayers.”

The measure, recently titled Proposition 207, was expected to bring in $690 million in additional funding for Arizona public district and charter schools.

Supporters had framed Prop. 207 as a way to fully restore the more than $1 billion in cuts to education funding since the recession.

Prop. 207 would have raised income-tax rates by 3.46 percentage points to 8 percent on individuals who earn more than $250,000 or households that earn more than $500,000. It also would have raised individual rates by 4.46 percentage points to 9 percent for individuals who earn more than $500,000 and households that earn more than $1 million.

Here is where the math gets fuzzy;

Prop. 207 would have raised income-tax rates by 3.46 percentage points to 8 percent on individuals who earn more than $250,000 or households that earn more than $500,000. It also would have raised individual rates by 4.46 percentage points to 9 percent for individuals who earn more than $500,000 and households that earn more than $1 million.

Currently, both incomes are taxed at the highest state bracket of 4.54 percent. So, under Arizona’s graduated tax, an individual who makes $750,000 now pays about $33,000 in state income taxes. Under the #InvestInEd proposal, the individual would have paid about $53,000.

The complaint alleged the petitions were misleading because they referred to the proposed tax-rate increase as a “percent” increase and not the more accurate “percentage point” increase. According to the complaint, the tax rate would have seen a 76 and 98 percent increase and not a 3.46 and 4.46 percent increase.

Kudos to the Arizona Republic for telling the full story for the Court’s decision. Perhaps it’s time for some red teachers to take a refresher course in mathematics. I’m sure it’s much easier to sell a 3- to 4-percent tax increase rather than a 76- to 98-percent tax increase. They can pass on the refresher course in marketing.

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Some Thoughts on Herd Medicine

 

Farmer Bernie has 1,000 cows on his dairy farm. He learns that if he adds a certain new antibiotic to their feed, he is likely to experience a 10% higher yield of milk. Unfortunately this antibiotic causes a potentially fatal allergic reaction in about 0.005% of cows. There is a test he could do to identify the allergic cows ahead of time, but the testing is expensive. Also, separating out the allergic cows each day at feeding time would be impractical. What will Farmer Bernie do?

We all know what he will do. He and his Progressive friends are doing it right now, in their administration of our increasingly centralized healthcare system. And in doing so, they have firmly established a set of ethical precepts that perhaps we had better stop and think about.

I am not really a student of philosophy so maybe I am mistaken about this, but I trace the lineage of our current generation of medical ethicists back to Jeremy Bentham. Bentham formalized modern utilitarian ethics and attempted to make it scientific. First, he said, deciding on the ethical path is a simple matter of determining which decision will lead to the greatest good for the greatest number. And second, he insisted that the technique that should be used in making this determination is based on straightforward mathematics. (He called it “felicific calculus,” that is, performing the calculations that will reveal which choice will maximize felicity for society.)

It should go without saying that in the traditional practice of medicine, utilitarian ethics is anathema. Through history, medical doctors have taken oaths to always do what is best for the individual patient in front of them. The doctor’s relationship to the patient is supposed to be the same as the lawyer’s to the client — strictly defending the patient’s individual interests. Without their personal expert acting in a fiduciary role, a patient (like an accused felon) has little chance against the awesome competing interests of society. So according to classical medical ethics, above all else, doctors are obligated to advocate for the interests of their individual patients.

But in an era where healthcare expenditures are collectivized, that is, where society is footing the bill, classic medical ethics no longer make sense. Making the decisions that would optimize medical outcomes for each individual patient obviously would be prohibitively expensive for society. Equally as obviously, such decisions can no longer be permitted.

So, for at least three decades doctors have been trained to make decisions based on utilitarian ethics. I’m not sure the average American doctor would recognize this fact, because their Progressive leaders insist it’s not true, and the utilitarian decisions doctors are coerced into making are disguised sufficiently that, by employing generous portions of cognitive dissonance, many doctors can convince themselves it’s not the case.

As Bentham carefully described, much of the process has been reduced to math. We no longer call it felicific calculus (though I wish we did). We call it the randomized clinical trial.

Your average doctor will tell you that we rely on RCTs because they are the only way we can achieve scientific truth in clinical medicine. And while a well-designed RCT can indeed tell us things we would be hard-pressed to learn by any other method, RCTs do not actually distinguish truth from falsity. More accurately, RCTs allow researchers to do a study that more effectively incorporates the particular bias they wish to incorporate.

Most of the time, what medical researchers (at least the ones working at the behest of the central authority) are interested in is purely utilitarian — determining how to get the most benefit for society for the least money. So this is the bias they build into their research.

Let us do a thought experiment. Assume that you are the chief administrator of Medicare-For-All. Through the actions of evil automaker lobbyists, Congress determines that seat belts are an aspect of preventive healthcare, and therefore, if seat belts are to be required, automakers would have to be reimbursed for them by MFA.

This could be a massive hit to your budget, and suddenly you view seat belts in a whole new light. Fortunately, it is up to you to determine if seat belts are reimbursable. So you set up a study to see if they actually do any good.

You mandate that, of the next million cars sold in the US, seat belts will be randomly removed in half of them at the dealership — after the sales contract is signed, but before they leave the lot. (As the chief administrator for everyone’s healthcare, you are endowed, like Lincoln, with awesome power.) You then wait five years and count the dead people.

The results of this study are reasonably predictable. Auto accidents will account for a pretty small proportion of all the deaths that occur among the people who own those million cars, seat belts or not, and seat belts will likely not significantly reduce the overall mortality of this population. Seat belts will be declared “ineffective” according to the authority of your randomized trial, and you are off the hook.

You could have biased your study differently if you wanted a different result, of course. You could have compared results only in people who had auto accidents (instead of the whole population), in which case you would be far more likely to show a benefit from seat belts. But why would you want to do that? The greatest good for society, obviously, is saving money by not spending it on useless crap.

The game is established. First, mandate that, in order to remain a physician in good standing, doctors have to follow formal guidelines in treating their patients. Second, mandate that, in order for a therapy to be included in the guidelines, one or more RCT has to conclude that it is safe and effective. Third, gain control over designing the RCTs. The first two steps are largely in place. Medicare For All will finally complete step three.

Practicing medicine for the good of the individual, instead of for the good of the herd, would look very different. If seat belts were an option in cars, many would choose to buy them for the sake of their family, regardless of negative results of an RCT. Women with advanced breast cancer might choose to buy a new chemotherapy that has a cure rate of 5%, even though it might not significantly reduce the mortality of the whole population.

But as long as we insist on collectivizing our healthcare expenditures, those kinds of options will become less and less available. The distribution of medical care necessarily will be made on a purely utilitarian basis — to do what’s best for society as a whole — no matter how our overseers attempt to dress it up.

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Policy, Personality, and Political Performance

 

We are in the midst of one of our more interesting and dangerous political times as a practicing republic. There seems to be no end to vague theories or embellished opinions about how we arrived here or to explain the presence of Donald Trump in the middle of it all.

My semi-attempt at clarifying the matter is simple-minded and comes from being born of a simple mind. But as I have observed before, just because a solution (or explanation) is simple does mean that it is easy. In fact, often the simplest, most fundamental approach is the hardest to accept by many. And even harder to implement.

Much of the positive and negative reaction to Trump’s arrival and presence of the political stage has been assigned to his personality. Despite the unavoidable distraction (in most cases) of his personality, Trump’s presidency (and the reaction to it) are a direct result of policies; it certainly has nothing to do with racism, white nationalism, Russian collusion or any number of other elements run up the media flagpole as soon as the last one fails. Trump does not hold his approval numbers because of his personality or imagined collusion. He holds them and actually grows them because of policy; policy which has been wanting and ignored by both parties, each for their own reasons.

I said before that Donald Trump: a political candidate was born of the failure of the GOP to embrace the Tea Party. If this completely grassroots movement had been honestly dealt with by the elites of the Republican Party, the GOP would have established itself in an almost unshakable place of power. But the Tea Party itself was born of not just the coming excesses of Obama but failures of the GOP to actually implement policy. It was the GOP that ran up record debt and turned its back on Swiss-cheese borders before Obama even had his short and uneventful time in the Senate. Before Obama began his assault on our military power and his dismal leadership from behind, it was a Republican administration that put faith in an almost directionless nation-building effort.

The election of Tea Party candidates and the turning of both houses of Congress was a cry, a demand, for actual policy. But these changes only brought more excuses from the establishment types. Those newly elected Tea Party-backed candidates either quickly slipped into the D.C. mode of things or were publically isolated of the party elites.

It is my contention that the real hope for actual policy progress was what made the Trump campaign a success. Those who had mounted sincere efforts to make the policy changes through the regular processes had been marginalized by both the GOP and the media. The “system” had fought back against them. They, in fact, were resented by the GOP establishment. The lack of acceptance of the few who remained on course for those policy changes caused them to be seen as ineffective in their efforts.

Despite a large field of possible GOP presidential candidates who began the race for the nomination, there were few who could have honestly been seen as strong possibilities for actually pushing the full field of policy offensives needed. The truth is, that at first, I only saw one. And he was even more worrisome to the party elite and the media than was Trump, at the time. They still considered Trump to be a passing phenomenon that would soon play itself out. And even if he did prevail to get the nomination by some weird turn of fate, he would surely lose. Their positions and the “system” (or “swamp” if you will) would be intact and they could still dance around the policy issues they had managed to always promise but never deliver on.

Ted Cruz might have been better versed and truthfully at the time more dedicated to actually implementation of the needed policy but a frustrated, lied to and disillusioned set of “every-day” voters saw him marginalized and left standing almost alone as he tried to rally a lukewarm party to actually back up one of their most basic campaign promises. The grit to fight both Washington and the media from the “outside” had appeal to these voters. There was a hope for action on policy.

It mattered little that everyone probably understood that Mexico wasn’t really going to end up paying for “the wall.” The exact details behind the tough, over-the-top talk of a natural promoter wasn’t the issue. The issue was that the policy would be dealt with and that a wall would actually be pushed and border enforcement would actually happen. The talk of Mexico’s funding was a signal of determination to carry through policy more than details of construction.

Trump’s saber rattling tariff talk does not sit well with me and I would prefer a clear, directional endorsement of free-market philosophy. But at the same time, I understand the over-the-top bargaining style of a semi-honest horse trader. And I see the chips falling into a more open and even-footed trade around the world. Mexico is played against Canada, China sees a chance of having to defend a fairly weak currency, Germany bends and things really do drift toward a more free market, a goal never quite realized but hopefully constantly moved toward.

Despite what many view as crudeness, vulgarity and civic brutishness, what we finally have is an aggressive, effective president in regard to conservative principles. Policy is how principles are realized. If the Trump presidency is to be judged at this juncture strictly on a constitutional basis and on conservative policy, it is one of only two clear succcesses since Coolidge.

We have never had so aggressive assault on the liberal hold on our courts; there have been 60 federal judges appointed and confirmed, including Justice Gorsuch but also 33 district judges and 26 seats on courts of appeals.

There has been a genuine attack on the over-regulation of a blotted administration state, and this clear signal has been every bit as responsible for the economical surge were are experiencing as the tax cuts which need to be broadened to include everyone.

Any sustained or growing support for Trump has been because of policy and its results. But this has been policy long-preached about by GOP standard bearers and, yes, those oh-so smart and proper members of NeverTrumpers. It is the success of those policies long promised that are reshaping what was a tired but content GOP. By being aggressive in those policies, it can actually be a “working class” (I hate that term!) party. The results of these policies are the answer to the left’s practice of hiding their true beliefs and goals behind different “coalitions” of a divided citizenry.

Principle does not know color, class and gender. The real way in which an individual’s principles are truly known is through their actions. The real way for a government’s (or party’s) principles can be known is through its alive, active, on-the-ground policy.

The so-called political revolt of 2016 was about policy and only about personality as far as how that personality might actually be able to put that policy into action. But this policy revolt has been seen as more of a “peasant’s revolt” by elites of BOTH parties, the media and all who fail to see that theorizing about policy is not nearly as important as putting it into action.

Therefore, it is important for those who value those policies to realize that the real target of those from both the “left” and “right” who would be either quietly or loudly excited to see Trump’s scalp hanging on someone’s (anyone’s) lodge pole is not Trump himself. In the end, that target is the people and the policies themselves. That is who will be harmed if that orange scalp-lock is lifted.

There certainly can be a nicer and even quieter way of doing the same thing; Reagan showed that. But the hard truth is that of all the seventeen or so potential presidential candidates who paraded before us two years ago, there are only two who we can honestly believe would have been so committed to pushing policy on such a broad scale. And I now have come to believe that the one most capable of doing it, at this time, was elected.

This hardly means I might even like spending time around him. This hardly means that I will not continue to call out what I consider terrible failures (like not vetoing that damn spending bill). I will hardly completely trust anyone living in a political situation.; they need both constant reminding and constant critical observation. This hardly means that I believe he can sit and clearly explain conservatism. But one of the best explanation of conservatism (Americanism) is the every-day results it can reap in a free society. For that to happen policy has to be practiced.

We still need leaders who can explain American principles with clarity. And perhaps we will have one in the White House one day again. But the party we have looked to for advancing those principles has too long been content to pursue them only nominally and comfortably. There may well be some who would be more “comfortable” to the elite and NeverTrumpers, but this critical juncture was created by those who were comfortable with watering down policy and the growth of government. Liberty was not intended to be comfortable. And the constant battle for it certainly wasn’t.

Another important view of Trump is to realize that since it is actually conservative (true American) policy that is the issue, he is only the beginning first steps of a restoration. He is only the instrument used to begin. It is a stone to be built on. The destruction of the Trump presidency in its present form is a step backward and a victory that will entrench “the swamp”, “deep state” and political class even more than they were before. Because they will not have defeated Trump. They will have once again slapped down the people’s demand for policy that reflects the Founding and not political comfort.

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Why I Love NJ: An Ever-Shrinking List

 

Cheap gas. That, along with great pizza and bagels, was always one of the benefits of living in New Jersey. Even though there is no self-service gas in NJ, the price per gallon was still less than what I would see in any other state I drove through. Until the end of 2016, that is. […]

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On Those Pesky ARs

 

Washington State has been my home for nearly 50 years. I’ve been to many other states, none of which I love so much as home. I live in a part of the state which is simply breathtaking in its natural beauty. Even so, I have begun thinking seriously about moving. The reason is something known as I-1639. This is an initiative that would, if approved this fall, implement firearm regulations that I am not sure I can live with. The initiative is aimed at preventing people from getting “assault rifles”, though it imposes its restrictions on all semi-automatic rifles, regardless of caliber or type. So my Del-Ton 5.56 AR, and my daughters Mossberg .22 Plinkster, both fall under the provisions of the proposed law. 

In honor of I-1639, I have decided to provide each of my children with an AR-15 rifle, which I plan on building from parts. Now, I have put many rounds through the AR platform, but I had never, prior to the last few weeks, spent any time looking in to how to build one, the laws and rules around procuring the various parts, etc. I knew there was one part you needed to go through the normal checks to get, while other parts you could simply order online and have delivered. Having now studied all of this, I’m even more convinced that I-1639 is nonsense, and will not do anything to keep “assault weapons” out of the hands of people who shouldn’t have them. 

To explain my point, see the below diagram of the typical AR-15 style rifle.

Basic AR Diagram

 

You can see it is made up of four basic parts: the upper receiver, the lower receiver, the barrel, and the stock. Now, this is pretty simplistic, for you AR novices. The lower receiver is the only part of the firearm for which you need go through any legal approval process to obtain. But, that’s not completely true. Because the actual part that is covered is known as the “stripped lower receiver.” Here is another photo just to give you an understanding of what that is. 

 

Ruger Stripped Lower

The stripped lower receiver is a milled or forged hunk of metal that in no way resembles a firearm. It could not, by itself, cause a bullet to go flying in anyone’s direction. It doesn’t have a trigger, nor a hammer, nor any mechanism to hold the magazine in. It’s useless by itself. But this is the part that has the serial number. And you can buy one today for as little as $50. And nobody on this earth knows how many of these are in existence. Anyone with the skills and tools can mill their own lower, and there are many kits that provide you with legal, un-serialized lowers which can be easily turned into a “stripped lower” by drilling a few holes. Once I-1639 goes in to law, and I’ve no doubt it will, there is nothing whatsoever to stop folks from transferring these things to whomever, and no way to prove it was done illegally. And once you have a lower, you can build a complete AR, mail order. 

The fact is, the gun lobby is so ignorant regarding the issue for which they display such passion. For them, enacting any law, regardless of whether it has merit or results, is enough. And it’s driving many of us out of this state.

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Poor Unfortunate Soles, Part 1: The Foot

 

Me: The only way to get comfy feet … is to get comfy shoes yourself.
Customer: You can do that?
Me: My dear, sweet child, that’s what I do. It’s what I live for. To help unfortunate soles like yourself.

Yes, I am a shoe expert who is happy to help you find the perfect shoe. (Well, shoes. You really need at least two to rotate between, but I’m getting ahead of myself.) But lest we find ourselves like mice knowing the ultimate answer to life, the universe, and everything is 42 without knowing the question being asked, you cannot find the perfect shoe without knowing your foot and its needs.

Let’s start with the bones.

A couple things I want you to note here: first, there are a lot of bones. While the foot seems pretty solid and inflexible, it is so because of strong ligaments and tendons, not a solid skeletal structure. Note that the biggest bone is the calcaneus or heel bone, and that it has a rather odd shape compared to the overlying skin. That large apparent backward protrusion is actually the anchor for two important connective tissues: the Achilles tendon going up the leg and the plantar fascia that goes along the underside of the foot. The “ball” of the foot is where the five metatarsal bones meet up with their corresponding phalanges, and the first metatarsal/phalange joint is known as the hallux. This is a major trouble spot. If the joint cannot bend in the walking process, one’s walking pattern will adjust, and the adjustment is normally to start rolling over the side of the big toe. This pushes the second big toe phalange into the other toes and the first phalange out the side of the foot. The protrusion it makes is what we call a bunion.

Let’s move to the nerves of the foot.

The big thing to note here is that if you scroll between this picture and the bones one, you’ll note that at the ball of the foot, the nerves actually run between the metatarsal bones. A shoe that is too narrow in the ball of the foot can cause the bones to pinch and aggravate those nerves, causing shooting pains, tingling, and numbness in the toes. (Proper name: metatarsalgia) The nerve between the third and fourth toes is so commonly aggravated it has its name: a Morton’s neuroma. (Quick and easy diagnostic tool for this ailment: lean in close to the foot. Push the third toe up and the fourth toe down, then alternate. If the bones are rubbing against each other enough to cause a neuroma, you’ll often be able to hear them click together as you manipulate the toes.)

Let’s add some connective tissue. This is a lateral (or outside looking towards center) view of the right ankle.

The picture shows all the different connections (and you can see how incredibly complex the foot is), but two tendons are noteworthy for their common problems: the calcaneal (or Achilles) tendon going from the back of the calcaneus up and the Fibularis (or peroneus) short tendon that connects the fibia to the fifth met. The Achilles tendon has two common issues: if the tendon is very tight, a shoe with no or even a negative heel will cause tendonitis, and if the back of a shoe is too tight, it can pinch, blister, or otherwise damage the tendon. The Fibularis tendon can be stretched if the foot is rolling out when one walks (a process called supination) or pinch if a shoe is too narrow.

For the king of foot problems, though, we have to go to the fascia. Fascia is the webbing under your skin that holds everything in place, and the plantar fascia on the bottoms of the feet is the cause of probably 75% or more of foot problems.

Quick note on terminology: “plantar” refers to the bottom of the foot. The suffix “-itis” means swelling. Thus, “plantar fasciitis” means nothing more than “swelling of the fascia on the bottom of the foot.” The main symptom is pain at the base of the heel where the plantar fascia meets the calcaneus, most prominently during the first few steps in the morning. Why? Well, the fascia has some small amount of elasticity, and all night long, it is unstressed. When one stands up in the morning, it is stretched, but it resists. In fact, it tears, and that is the pain one feels. As one walks around more, the fascia warms up, relaxes, and is better able to stretch with one’s movements. However, if left unchecked, the body will create its own solution to keep the fascia from tearing — it’ll just grow bone spurs to extend the calcaneus to meet the short fascia.

I would be remiss if I didn’t talk about another big cause of foot problems, though one that doesn’t start with the foot: diabetes. High blood sugar can damage and eventually kill nerves, and the nerves of the foot are often the first affected. Neuropathy generally starts with tingling in the foot and can lead to numbness or even complete loss of sensation, with all the problems that affect lepers.

Over the course of several posts, I’ll talk about how different shoes will help various different problems, but I also have some handy pain relief and foot health tips that require no shoe purchases at all. Really.

  • Cool water foot baths. Whether you’re dealing with plantar fasciitis, tendonitis, or neuromas, the single best thing to take down the swelling is cold. If you read plantar fasciitis advice, everyone has a variation on this recommendation: rest frozen peas on your foot! Roll a frozen water bottle on the floor! I recommend just a cold water bath for a couple reasons. First, it’s much easier to keep your feet in cold tap water for ten minutes than tough out the pain of the ice; after all, nothing is less effective than therapy you don’t do. With cold water, you don’t have to worry about frost burns. Immersing your foot in water both increasing the surface area of your foot being exposed to the cold for better results, and more water means that it can trap more heat from your feet. You can use a fancy foot bath or just sit on the kitchen counter and let your feet soak in the stopped up sink.
  • For ball of the foot pain (metatarsalgia) or neuroma: buy a set of pedicure toe spacers (<$2). While sitting or sleeping, wear them. This will gently pull the heads of the metatarsal bones apart and relieve the pressure on the nerves.
  • For plantar fasciitis, stretching. Everyone again has their own version of this. (pull against a belt! write the alphabet with your toes!) I recommend a simple one, on the basis again that minimal compliance is always better than noncompliance. Before you take your first steps in the morning, sit up on the bed. With both feet, point your toes down. Slowly draw a circle with your toes so that at the top, your heel is pointing out and your toe is pointing towards you as much as possible. Then slowly finish the circle. Do this several times before you stand up. I like this stretch because it warms up not only the plantar fascia, but also the Achilles and all those other tendons shown above.
  • On the subject of stretching, another good one for foot and leg health is to rest the bare foot against the modesty panel on your desk as close to straight out as you can get. Then try to sit up straight. If you’re like me, you’ll feel the stretch in your calves, thighs, and lower back, and as you get better about it, you’ll notice less sciatic pain.

Join me next time as I move from feet to the most important part of the perfect shoe: the perfect fit.

This series was inspired by @westernchauvinist here

Part 2 has been posted here.

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Why aren’t social justice warriors boycotting Nike?

 

Did no one on Nike’s marketing team speak up and say, “Um, hey guys, I’m not sure this is such a great idea here. Glass houses and all that…” You would think the social justice crowd would jump all over Nike for this insanity. But they don’t. I don’t understand why not. I really don’t. […]

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Quote of the Day: Americans

 

I’ve been reading Paul Johnson’s A History of the American People. I’m enjoying it so far. I’m about a quarter of the way through, but this line from the preface has been resonating with me:

I do not acknowledge the existence of hyphenated Americans, or Native Americans or any other qualified kind. They are all Americans to me: black, white, red, brown, yellow, thrown together by fate in that swirling maelstrom of history which has produced the most remarkable people the world has ever seen. I love them and salute them, and this is their story.

It’s a shame that today there are many people that only care about the qualifier and would much rather drop the American label altogether.

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Statistics and Lies

 

The daughter was accepted into the advanced math course in 6th grade and I’m very proud of her. Her history with math prior to the end of last year was filled with struggles and anger. We had a major breakthrough though (and it’s a cute story) and she managed to do well on the state-wide […]

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Infuriating Insanity

 

The September 10 edition of NR has an article on a gross miscarriage of justice. It seems that before her sterling* performance as the Attorney General back in the Clinton administration, Janet Reno was one of the first prosecutors getting convictions in the mass hysteria about child abuse in daycare centers back in the late 1980s and early 1990s.

As it happens, there is still one man in prison, Frank Fuster, from those cases. It’s bad enough that he’s there for a crime that never happened, but the way that the conviction was obtained makes it so much worse.

How does this happen? How can a prosecutor (along with the police investigators) abuse children into accusing an innocent man and then torture a confession from his wife and everyone pretends it’s all just fine? And when the truth comes out, that we sent several completely innocent people to prison for years because of nonsense psychobabble about repressed memories, how have we let someone stay incarcerated all this time? Why do we as a society have such a hard time saying “We were wrong” and trying to make amends?

We pay lip service to the idea that “it’s better that 10 guilty men go free than one innocent man be convicted” but when we do convict an innocent man, we just shrug our shoulders and say “[redacted] happens.”

Instead we get all outraged over nonsense like a controversial ex-NFL QB getting a contract with a big promotions company or whatever the next Twitter freakout will be 10 minutes from now when the current freakout ends. It’s infuriating.

*No, wait. The exact opposite of that.

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Mus Ex Machina

 

I recently spent $511 on long-overdue servicing for my ride-on mower. Then I got busy with work for a couple of months, spent a lot of time out of town, and finally got around to mowing this weekend. The mower didn’t start. I briefly entertained the idea of pushing it up onto the trailer and hauling it back to the service center, but decided to first disassemble it and see if I could figure out what was wrong. The problem seemed simple enough: the starter clicked but wouldn’t turn the engine. I’m not mechanically adept (my engineer clients worry whenever I pick up a screwdriver, and with good reason), but I thought it was worth a quick look since the machine had worked when I drove it into the garage just a few weeks before.

The problem, it turned out, was that a family of mice had taken up residence in the engine. The mother had built her nest precisely at the point where the starter gear engaged the flywheel (or whatever you call it) on the engine, and the dry matted vegetation was sufficiently dense to prevent the starter from spinning.

I removed the nest, trying unsuccessfully not to dislodge the mother mouse and her two tiny babies, one of which fell to the garage floor. As I retrieved it, I wondered: just how big is a life, anyway? I mean, look at the thing. It’s as alive as I am, though no bigger than a large grape. It’s a simple-minded little animal, but it’s still miraculously alive.

I have a mechanistic sense of things, a belief that life is the wildly improbable energetic organization of molecules in precarious balance. In that sense, every living thing expresses that improbable order, and so is an instance of something as far removed from inanimate nature as I am. This isn’t a theological or spiritual understanding, but a recognition of the vast category difference between something alive and something inert.

In his novel American Pastoral, Philip Roth described the religious practice of Jainism. Non-violence is a prominent component of the Jains’ religion and, according to Roth, they carry it to seemingly absurd extremes: not only are its adherents vegetarians, but they eschew washing their bodies to avoid killing whatever invisible organisms might inhabit their skin. I thought of that as I mowed the lawn today, sure that I was ending an uncountable number of lives visible and invisible.

It didn’t bother me, not really. I’m not overly sentimental, however much I might appreciate life in the abstract. The lawn has to be mowed, and most creatures face unpleasant ends: being run over by a Husqvarna ride-on mower likely has the virtue of being quick and unexpected.

Still, life is amazing. If our planet were the size of an apple, the entire habitable portion, the area where we know life exists, from the highest mountain peak to the deepest ocean trench, is about as thick as the skin on that apple. That’s it: in all the universe, that thin patina is the only place which we are certain contains the unique dynamic organization we call life. Everything else, however cosmic and dramatic, however vast and energetic and mysterious, pales in its simplicity when placed beside the still-developing Mus musculus I held in my hand.

I hope, and more than half expect, to have confirmation during my lifetime that ours is not the only life in the universe. I think we’ll find its remnants on Mars, or find it still living on a moon of Jupiter or Saturn. That will please me.

I put the nest, with its mother and babies, in a back corner of the garage. I don’t know if holding the infant doomed it, or if the mother will take it back — or if they’ve all already fallen victim to the numerous predators my son’s game camera routinely reveals to be living on our property in the woods behind my house.

It’s surprising what goes on in the wee morning hours, fifty yards from my open bedroom window.

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Judge Kavanaugh Confirmation Hearings: Kabuki Television

 

Japan’s Kabuki theater tradition is over four-centuries-old. Kabuki performers are heavily made up, ornately dressed, and engage at a snail’s pace in a highly stylized dance-drama, the meaning of which is a total mystery to Occidentals.

Pundits in the U.S. have come to use the term “Kabuki theater” in describing a performance that is posturing—all show and no substance.

Judge Brett Kavanaugh’s Senate confirmation hearings began Monday. The senators will not dress like Geishas or wear white pancake makeup. But, when the lights and cameras are on each senator, his or her performance will be 100 percent posturing.

Why is the Senate hearing pure Kabuki theater? Because each senator has already made up his or her mind on Judge Kavanaugh.

Every Democrat senator in a blue state, and every Democrat senator not up for re-election on November 6 will give Kavanaugh the thumbs down. Those Democrat senators up for re-election in states that President Trump carried decisively—Joe Donnelly(D-IN), Heidi Heitkamp(D-ND); Joe Manchin(D-WV); Claire McCaskill(D-MO), Bill Nelson(D-FL), and Jon Tester(D-MT)—will probably vote to confirm.

All Republican senators will vote to confirm, even Alaska’s Lisa Murkowski, Maine’s Susan Collins, and perhaps even the aptly named Senator Jeff Flake (R-AZ).

So, why the need for the hearing?

It’s simple. Every senator covets time in the glare of the klieg lights. It’s free media, wall-to-wall television exposure to the senator’s constituents and donors. Each senator’s time on camera furthers the only two issues each really cares about: 1) re-election, and 2) raising money for re-election.

Unfortunately, Supreme Court Kabuki confirmation hearings have been orchestrated this way since 1987 when Senator Ted Kennedy destroyed Judge Robert Bork’s nomination and reputation with a compendium of lies and demagoguery broadcast live to the nation.

Judge Kavanaugh will not be required to give his opinion on an issue that might come before the Supreme Court during his tenure. This is the “Ginsburg Rule,” followed since 1993 when it was invoked by the Democrats to protect Ruth Bader Ginsberg from probing questions about her representation of the ACLU and other leftist causes. The Senate vote to confirm her was 93-3.

Brett Kavanaugh, 53, graduated from Yale Law School in 1990. He clerked for Justice Anthony Kennedy on the U.S. Supreme Court, worked in the George W. Bush White House, and in 2006 was appointed by President Bush to the District of Columbia Circuit Court of Appeal.

In his 12 years on the DC Circuit Court of Appeal, Judge Kavanaugh authored over 300 opinions covering a wide range of issues.

Although the White House has authorized the production to the Senate committee the largest number of documents in the history of judicial confirmations, Senate Democrats are claiming to need another 100,000 documents from Kavanaugh’s tenure in the White House. This late demand is a stall tactic by Democrats, who are doing their best to delay, then deny President Trump his nominee.

Legal scholars agree that Judge Kavanaugh’s 300 opinions establish that he is an originalist, has a healthy distrust of administrative overreach, and is a strong proponent of the separation of powers.

Everything any honest arbiter needs to know about what kind of Supreme Court Associate Justice Judge Kavanaugh will be is contained within the four corners of his 300 Circuit Court opinions.

Remember, the senators are staging a Kabuki hearing. Judge Kavanaugh’s answers are not important to the senators—only their questions are.

The Democrats oppose Judge Kavanaugh because he is conservative. Democrats should heed the words of their President Barak Obama, who lectured us in 2009 that “Elections have consequences, and at the end of the day, I won.”

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The Pope’s Projectionist Play

 

The Pope, in his message to Catholics Monday, is accusing those demanding answers and an investigation into his actions as a “pack of wild dogs” and that they are seeking scandal, division, and destruction — even familial destruction. The cognitive dissonance and tone deafness is heavy with the pontiff, or worse and more troubling, if he’s deliberately projecting and attempting to deflect the blame away his Leftist and Lavender Mafia clerical supporters and put it squarely on orthodox Catholics.

“With people who do not have good will, with people who seek only scandal, who seek only division, who seek only destruction, even within families,” the solution is “silence. And prayer,” Francis said, according to Crux Now.

To paraphrase Aragon from the Lord of the Rings: “Scandal, division and destruction are upon you whether you would acknowledge it or not.”

And to set the record straight, the scandal, division, and destruction in the Church was a direct result of the repeated cover-ups and protection of pederast priests and bishops and the reinstatement to his priestly duties of McCarrick by Pope Francis himself. The laity and the clergy who have adhered to Christ’s teachings did not create this scandal, division, and destruction — the Pope’s permissiveness and the Lavender Mafia has.

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Quote of the Day – Freedom of Speech

 

Freedom to differ is not limited to things that do not matter much. That would be a mere shadow of freedom. The test of its substance is the right to differ as to things that touch the heart of the existing order. – Justice Robert H. Jackson writing for the 6-3 majority in West Virginia v. Barnette, 1943.

Freedom of speech exists to protect the opinions and the speech we disagree with. It is not needed for things for which a broad consensus exists. There is no “hate speech” exception, because “hate speech” soon becomes equivalent to “speech with which I disagree.”

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Goodbye, Plastic Bags. Hello, Despair.

 

Kroger, the grocery store chain, recently announced that it will phase out plastic shopping bags by 2025. And somewhere in the smoky backrooms of all the other grocery store chains, where the captains of that industry make decisions that control the lives of millions, (“A truckload of Tough Actin’ Tenactin just drove off a cliff in Switzerland. It’s gougin’ time!”) they’re feeling the pressure to follow suit, and the fear of being left behind at the PR docks. That pressure will build and build and they’ll all do it. I find this news depressing and can’t help but feel this is a big step backward for our society.

Perhaps some of you are too young to remember what life was like before plastic shopping bags. Well, let me paint the picture for you. I warn you, it’s dreary.

See, back then there were only paper bags — pathetic, handle-less paper bags. Every trip to the grocery store was a dance with disaster.

Imagine it’s 1981 and you’re getting ready to leave the grocery store. You’re happy because Beavis, the cashier, erroneously typed in the prices of only six items, and you breezed through the checkout in only 18.5 minutes. But your smile fades as you head to the car because you know the battle is really only half over. What are the are the odds you will actually make to your kitchen with your eggs, your glass bottle of ketchup, your little cans of Vienna sausages all intact and undented? Driving home with no air conditioner, condensation building up on that package of frozen peas by the second, and the hard corner of an ice cream carton pressing against the soft paper? Not high, my friend. Not high.

And once you get home, how many trips from the car to the kitchen will you have to make? You can only safely carry two bags at a time. Is Thanksgiving coming? Did you go shopping for all the stuff you need to host that meal? In that case, you’re looking at an hour and a half to get things brought in. Hopefully, you’re among those parents who decided to have a large number of kids just to help bring in the groceries.

And if it is raining? Well, then you might as well forget even getting to the door. You’re going to spend many, many soggy minutes on your hands and knees, getting soaked, picking up your muddy, cracked items, strewn all down the walkway like the wreckage from a derailed train.

Even if you manage to get all these items back into your disintegrating bags, do you have someone to help you open the door when you get to it? No? Well, you are in for yet another treat. You’re going to have to delicately put one of the bags down, letting it slide down your hip, crouching until it lands, then open the door, then somehow pick the bag back up again. At this point, your Doberman leaps at you and knocks a bag out of your hands. In seconds, he has found the ground beef, torn through the butcher paper, and gobbled it up. While you sink down and sob, the dog goes back for the cheddar cheese block. God only knows where your keys are.

Does this sound like any way to live? But that’s the way it was. Crap was on the ground everywhere and life was dark and sad.

And then, sometime in the early- to mid-’80s, like a miracle, like a rainbow, like an April breeze, came the plastic bag. With handles! Impervious to all moisture! Like steel, but light and flexible. And if you double-bagged? Well then, Good Lord, you could carry a bowling ball in one! Your hands were free to open doors, fight off dogs, neighbor kids, or anything else that threatened to grab your hard earned grocery bounty. In no time, refrigerators and lazy-susans were full again. Sidewalks were free of grocery debris. The misery index plummeted. Communism fell. Alf was a hit show. Mothers started nursing their babies again. Everything came together.

And the secondary uses! Well, they proved just as beneficial. Why, how much have I saved on luggage just by using 20 or 30 grocery bags instead? And the change for those who walk dogs? Revolutionary. If you walk a dog, you know what I’m talking about.

But so much for all that happiness. Picture the awful scenes I have described above and behold your future. And for what? Apparently, a few of these bags end up in the ocean. Maybe every now and then fish gets strangled by one. We’re going to give all this progress up for that fish? What, was that fish going to find the cure for cancer? No, It was just going to get eaten by a bigger fish anyway!

Look, I like a clean earth as much as the next guy, but honestly, is Earth really as great as everybody makes it out to be? The excessive gravity here kinda sucks when you think about it. It’s killed millions. And you know about spitting cobras, right? They spit right in your face and then fatally inject you with poison. We shouldn’t have to put up with that.

I’m just saying there could be better planets out there. Maybe even ones with better-tasting vegetables. Cauliflower tastes like flatulence solidified and everybody knows it. (There, I said it.) Zucchini’s terrible, too.

We should see what other planets have to offer. Who knows what might be waiting for us? Beaches with no jellyfish? Chocolate rain? Maybe through some wormhole that might not even be very far away, right? We just need the motivation to get out there and find it.

But I fear that day has been pushed out again. This news is a real setback and our descendants — our hungry, exhausted, dirty-kneed descendants — will surely curse us for it.

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The Devil’s Bargain: No Work in Hell

 

I don’t work. Oh, well, I mean I work, just not for money. I’m a stay-at-home mom with a hard-working husband, two medically challenged daughters, and two dogs. I tend a garden and try to make a pleasant home and take care of friends in need. In fact, I work pretty dang hard and rarely have a day off from my “work.”

But, one of the bennies of being a stay-at-home mom is being in charge of my own schedule (except when the kids’ schedules make demands on me). I try to make time to practice my faith and, of course, I read a considerable amount on-line. Sometimes those things come together in unexpected ways.

For example, today we Catholics commemorate Saint Gregory the Great. I was reading about him in the Magnificat magazine (mini-liturgy of the hours):

One of three popes to be called “the Great” Gregory was born as barbarian tribes assaulted Rome – the bloody beginning of the Middle Ages. After a distinguished career in civil service, Gregory renounced all and entered a monastery. He was elected pope in 590. Gregory’s levelheaded yet profoundly prayerful approach maintained the peace and won souls for Christ from among the invading tribes. Through The Dialogues, accounts of the heroism of the saints, and his many letters, he guided and formed his flock. “Study, I beg you, and each day meditate on the words of your Creator,” he wrote. “Learn the heart of God in the words of God, so that you long more ardently for eternity.” Gregory died in 604.

Okay, sounds like the kind of guy we need right now. Saint Gregory the Great, pray for us!

But, then I read today’s meditation authored by him (excerpt):

“Since the hours and their moments are running away, see to it, dearly beloved, that they are filled with what will earn the wages of good work. Listen to what Solomon in his wisdom says: Do vigorously everything your hand can do, because there will be no work or plan or wisdom or knowledge in the lower world, to which you are hurrying. Since we do not know the time of our coming death, and we cannot work after death, it remains for us to seize the time granted us before death.”

What’s this? There is no work in hell – “the lower world to which you are hurrying,” according to Solomon? This is a new thought for me. I mean, I kind of imagined heaven as a permanent vacay from work and troubles, but hell?

Turns out I had read an excerpt from Dinesh D’Souza’s book (Death of a Nation) at American Greatness yesterday, LBJ’s Democratic Plantation (Warning: many uses of the n-word; he is writing about LBJ after all). And, boom, everything came together.

Of course there’s no work in hell! Just look at the hell created for black Americans when they swapped one plantation for another! No work. No education to speak of. No opportunities for entrepreneurship. No more intact families to be responsible for. Nothing to encourage character development. LBJ and his racist, segregationist Democrat friends took it all in exchange for the “black vote.” It’s a cautionary tale.

Freedom is a scary thing. Most people would rather be “taken care of.” That’s evident in Americans’ growing preference for socialism – whereby you’re guaranteed “free stuff,” even if it means taking the fruits of someone else’s labor to pay for it. Also known as “slavery.”

Democrats and their plantation politics are a devil’s bargain. All we’ll ever see from it is slavery and hell.

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This Is Why I Love the Catholic Church and Why My Faith Has Not Been Shaken

 

My pastor, Pater John-Mary S. W. Bowlin KCHS, knocks it out of the park. My home parish is St. Kateri Tekakwitha, in Buffalo, TX.

Praise be to God for Fr. Bowlin. Please pray for him and for all faithful priests. For anyone on Facebook, please leave a comment thanking Fr. Bowlin for preaching the truth. Below is his sermon:

SERMON
on the Crisis being experienced in the Church today
given on the 22nd Sunday per annum (B)
2 September AD2018
Rev. John-Mary S. W. Bowlin, KCHS

I. Introduction

Our blessed Lord says: “For nothing is hid that shall not be made manifest, nor anything secret that shall not be known and come to light.” (Lk 8: 17) In recent weeks, much that had been hidden, at least from the general population of the Church, has come to light, and it is ugly. The evil perpetrated by men consecrated to God is an abhomination. Allowing this to continue by those responsible for their flocks is unconscionable. And yet it happened, many, many times. The question which many are asking is: how does one respond to this?

II. Founded on rock

I cannot speak for others, but I will share why my faith has not been shaken one bit by these revelations. These reasons are founded in a faith which all who follow Christ should have:
1) I know my own sinfulness. While I may never have committed the particular crimes that these men have committed, I have crucified my Lord over and over again. Like St. Dismas, I recognize that I deserve punishment, even if I do not want to accept it. (Cf. Lk 23: 41)
2) I know my Church history. This is neither the first nor the last time that men of God shall be guilty of such evil. St. John Chrysostom is said to have said: “The road to hell is paved with the skulls of erring priests, with bishops as their signposts.”
3) My faith is not in men, but in Christ. He instituted His Church on Peter, certainly (Mt 16: 18), but it is yet His Church. In recent days, the words of Hilair Belloc have been very popular: “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.”
4) I know who our Enemy is, and he does not rest, but prowls about the worlds seeking the ruin of souls, especially priests.
5) I know Who my Lord is. This is the same Lord Who bid Peter come to Him across the water as the waves rose around him. Peter’s faith wavered and He sank. The waves are today rising very high. At the same time that He promises that He will found His Church on Peter, He promises that the gates of Hell shall not prevail. He did not say that they would not give us a sound thrashing.

III. Considering the Problem

A. One of the things about all this that saddens me, however, is that I know we deserve to be in this situation. I AM NOT SAYING THAT THOSE WHO HAVE BEEN ABUSED DESERVE IT. I mean that we deserve to be the mockery of the world. We have not been the city on the hill nor the lamp on the lampstand for many years now. (Cf. Mt 5: 14-15) We have been so preoccupied about accommodating to the world and not offending Jews and Protestants that we have betrayed Christ.
B. I was also wondering why I wasn’t more angry about these revelations. Part of it is that there has been nothing new revealed about the abuse of minors. That all came to the light in AD2002, starting in Boston. We have taken great strides to prevent abuse since then and have succeeded to a great degree. No, what was revealed by the Grand Jury report in Pennsylvania was the systemic ignoring of this problem by the chief shepherds of our local Churches (i.e. Dioceses). And the reason why this did not provoke me to anger against our bishops is because I have been angry at them for a very long time. (I don’t mean every bishop, nor our own bishop, but collectively.) Why is this?
1. Because it is bishops which have continuously implemented policies which are at the root of this disease.
2. They have not guarded the Sacred Liturgy but caused it to be treated as communal celebrations and not the Sacred Rites of the divinely-founded Church of Christ, permitting them to be celebrated in a way which betrays their sacredness and mystery.
3. The Sacred Liturgy since Bugnini’s reform has been “ritually demilitarized”, removing so much of its spiritual combat effectiveness, even after Pope St. Leo XIII warned of the stench of Satan in the Sanctuary. The form of major exorcism performed in the vernacular and not in Latin has been objectively identified as less effective by exorcists. There are weaker exorcisms in the new rite of Baptism. The reading from the Office of Compline (the last “hour” of the Liturgy of the Hours) warning us to constant vigilance against the Devil which was read nightly is only read once a week now, and the daily collect invoking the protection of God’s angels has been relegated to Solemnities. The prayer to St. Michael after Mass was eliminated. The formula for the blessing of Holy Water lost all of its militant intentions. The blessing and use of incense, which had a role in the spiritual combat, was diminished.
4. Our Shepherds have consistently reduced our obligations, accommodating to people’s sloth. Holy Days of Obligation are often not celebrated so that the People of God might not be burdened with Holy Mass two days consecutively (note: sarcasm). The Holy Communion fast, traditionally from midnight on, was reduced to only an hour before Holy Communion itself. The laws of fast and abstinence, traditionally a true sacrifice, have become a joke.
5. For decades, we have watered down faith and morals. If we truly understood what sin was and how it offended our Lord, our lines for Confession would never stop. But for decades we have been told that everything is “not that bad” to the point that real belief in Hell is very rare. Those who want to blame this current crisis on homosexuals need to examine what role no-fault divorce and contraception did to the unitive and procreative aspects of marriage in our society and why the rejection of those by married couples were the precursor to so much of the acceptance of sexual sin.
6. In this, the bishops have been assisted by so many of our priests.
7. “The Church as the Ark of Salvation always floats in and above the torrid waters of the age: we can’t only condemn Priests and Bishops for their infidelities and broken vows when lay people do so also with relative impunity. Today is an opportunity to take our Christianity seriously, for both lay people and Priests. We need to be outstanding in chastity and charity, as we were in the Apostolic Age.” (Fr. David Waters)

IV. Need for Charity

A. I do not say any of this to place blame, but to frame the greater context for this crisis. Certainly, those responsible need to take responsibility (though it seems they will not). But I am not speaking to bishops and priests. How should you, the People of God, respond? With charity. Charity must be our guiding principle in all things. To be Christian, to be a follower of Christ, means that we must respond in charity.
B. This means, firstly, that we must not seek revenge, but justice. I have seen priests even invoke the death penalty for those who abuse children or cover it up. This horrifies me because this is not the reason for the death penalty. The death penalty is only to be used as a preventative when all else fails. If that means that we must lock up the perpetrators and throw away the key, so be it. But that is prevention, not revenge. God will give them what they deserve (cf. Rom 12: 19).
C. Charity also dictates that we are not prejudiced. Not all priests are abusers. Not all homosexuals are abusers. Not everyone who has a disordered desire for children acts on it. We must only react to what individuals have actually done.
D. And we must have charity for all:
1. Charity for the victims of this abuse dictates that we pray and sacrifice for them and that the Church provide the counseling and opportunities for healing that they desperately need.
2. Charity for the perpetrators means that we prevent them from having opportunities to abuse others and that they are provided, if they will accept it, the therapy and counseling they need to avoid future sin.
3. Charity to all children causes us to ensure that they are not put into situations where they can be harmed and that they receive proper formation in sexuality (starting at home).

V. Conclusion: our Response

A. I have one admonition to those who want to respond to this crisis: be a saint! Because the only soul you have to answer for is your own. Yes, part of your sanctification is your duty to others, because a Saint not only loves the Lord with his whole heart, mind, soul, and strength, but also his neighbor as himself. (Mt 22: 37-40)
We cannot change the world, yet we can, by the grace of God, change ourselves; and if we grow in holiness, then that will affect others, starting with those around us.
B. You already know what you need to do:
1) Christ is the answer – find Him in the Holy Eucharist, in the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, in fervent Holy Communions, and devote adoration of the Most Blessed Sacrament.
2) Do penance. Some demons can only be driven out by prayer and fasting! (Cf. Mk 9: 29) [Specific details have been given in previous preaching.]
3) Pray! Pray! Pray! Especially the Holy Rosary. Our Lady is powerful. Call upon her. With the chain of the Holy Rosary, bind victims of abuse to her for protection and healing. Bind priests and bishops to her, to be protected and healed and converted.
C. Enough with the mediocrity! We now see the fruits of our mediocrity over many decades. The only true response to evil is holiness – so be holy!
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“The most evident mark of God’s anger and the most terrible castigation He can inflict upon the world are manifested when He permits His people to fall into the hands of clergy who are priests more in name than in deed, priests who practice the cruelty of ravening wolves rather than charity and affection of devoted shepherds …When God permits such things, it is a very positive proof that He is thoroughly angry with His people, and is visiting His most dreadful anger upon them. That is why He cries unceasingly to Christians, “Return O ye revolting children … and I will give you pastors according to My own heart”. (Jer. 3:14,15) Thus, irregularities in the lives of priests constitute a scourge upon the people in consequence of sin.”-St. John Eudes
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A helpful blog on these subjects: Scutumetlorica.com