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Friday, October 09, 2015

You learn something new every day.

Like, for example, it's really, really bad if the Catholic laity know what their shepherds are saying about the sacrament of marriage.

Oh, and look--is that Father Rosica at the center of the spin machine again? Hard to credit, that.

So, would it also be really, really bad if I gave you a handy, if somewhat clunky, way to translate what our shepherds are saying about the sacrament of marriage in the above link?


Just. Can't. Wait...

Oh, look--NBC is going to give us a "dramedy" about Wendy (39%) Davis.

Written by Jennifer Cecil, the untitled project centers on a female Democratic senator who, after losing the Texas governor’s race, gets her world turned upside down. In the vein of The Good Wife, while she pieces her pride back together, she goes to work in the law firm of her best friend — a black male Republican — and discovers that with no political future to protect, she can unshackle her inner badass.

So, you're telling me there will be lots of clapper lines for progressives and endless stereotyping of idiot bigoted conservatives--all heavily larded with an Ally McBeal sensibility?

Hipsters annoy me.

But I have to admit, this Renoir protest is funny--if annoyingly stupid:

On Monday, beginning around noon, Max Geller led six friends and a couple strangers in a protest at Boston’s Museum of Fine Arts. The target of their ire? The art of the celebrated French Impressionist painter Pierre-Auguste Renoir, who’s been dead since 1919.

“Rosy cheeks are for clowns, do your job take them down,” they chanted as they stood at the end of the museum’s horseshoe driveway on Huntington Avenue for about an hour. Signs they held read: “Treacle harms society! Remove all Renoir Now,” “God hates Renoir,” “Renoir sucks!”


Amidst the satire are provocative questions: Who gets to decide what gets featured in museums? What sort of standards should museums follow? How does the judgment of art change over time?

If you probe Geller’s dislike of Renoir, he says Renoir was not only a mediocre painter, but also a bad, anti-Semitic person. He alleges that wealthy, powerful people collected Renoir’s art to whitewash dirty deeds they committed to amass their fortunes—hiring private police forces to violently suppress union organizing, real estate practices that excluded African-Americans from neighborhoods. “They use Renoir to placate the public into not taking action against their usury and avarice,” Geller says. “I want people to know that’s not going unnoticed.”

But to make that point, Geller accuses the Museum of Fine Arts of not being elitist enough.

So, it's more a protest of the people who like Renoir, then? Yep--that is elitism. Ultimately, I'm left wondering what Geller would replace Renoir with. I imagine it would be utter crap.

I know--I overdid. You're welcome.

Thursday, October 08, 2015

What's the point of having children if you can't torture them with puns?

We purchased this book for Rachel's birthday, and it arrived yesterday. Our middle daughter is a Rick Riordan fanatic, to put it mildly. FWIW, I've read the first five Percy Jackson books, and can recommend them. Riordan slips in some sly commentary about our times here and there, and it's a hoot.

Anyhoo. So she has her long-awaited tome, and I ask: "Do you like the book?"

Rachel: "Oh, definitely--and I was surprised by whose child Magnus Chase is, too!"

Me:  "I guess you can say it Ragnaroks your world, then?"

Rachel: [Glare.]

Dale III, approvingly: "Oh, that's horrible, Dad."


It appears that the bishops at the Synod on the Family are raising a good number of topics--including ordaining women to the diaconate.

I scan for a hint that families like mine aren't being taken for granted...and here it is. At least some concern. Good.

Thank God for Edward Pentin's coverage. 

The problem with taking people for granted is this: one day, they'll surprise you--you'll turn to them and they're no longer there.

Wednesday, October 07, 2015

Fair's fair.

Profits at big U.S. banks soar since crisis: New York Fed: 

From 2009 to 2014, the combined net income of J.P. Morgan, Citigroup, Bank of America, Goldman Sachs and Morgan Stanley annually averaged $41.73 million, up from annual average of $25.08 billion from 2002 to 2008, they said.

Helping boost profits were trading revenues that they and other dealers have seen returning to the levels before the financial crisis seven years ago. 

Their annual income was also more stable than pre-crisis levels, they added.

Before you start griping about bailouts, Joe and Jolene Taxpayer, remember: it's not like you haven't seen your net income shoot up by roughly sixty percent in the last six years, right? So there you go. 

You're welcome.

Trust your "Nope!" instincts.

China's dizzying glass skywalk just cracked.

Cracks have appeared on a U-shaped glass-bottomed skywalk built around a mountain cliff in China, sending tourists fleeing off the structure, Chinese media reported.

Internet users posted pictures online showing cracks on the reinforced glass flooring, which is suspended more than 1,000 metres above sea level, around a cliff on Yuntai Mountain in Henan province, the Legal Evening News reported.

Ah, quality control in a workers' paradise.



"Many things which are false are transmitted from book to book, and gain credit in the world."

--Samuel Johnson.

Not in this family, Chief.

Louis: "Dad, is it weird that I like books?"

Me: "Son, in this family it would be weird if you didn't."

Tuesday, October 06, 2015

Truer words.

"I wish the Ring had never come to me. I wish none of this had happened."

"So do all who live to see such times, but that is not for them to decide. All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given us."

Deja vu.

The El Faro sinking is reminding me a lot of the Edmund Fitzgerald.

The last message from the ship came Thursday morning, when the captain reported the El Faro was listing slightly at 15 degrees in strong winds and heavy seas. Some water had entered through a hatch that popped open.
The captain, who has 20 years' experience on cargo ships, calmly told company officials the crew was removing the water.

The Coast Guard was unable to fly into the ship's last known position until Sunday, because of the fierce hurricane winds.

Steven Werse, a ship captain with 31 years' experience on the seas, said merchant vessels have access to up-to-date weather forecasting and technology that allow them to avoid most storms.

If the El Faro had not lost engine power, he added, it would probably still have been powerful enough to make it through Joaquin.

Without power, it was a sitting duck.

"The ship really is at the mercy of the sea. You have no means of maneuvering the ship. You would be rolling with the seas," said Werse, secretary-treasurer of the Master Mates and Pilots Union in Linthicum Heights, Maryland. The union has no connection to the El Faro or its crew.

While the Fitz was nowhere near old as far as lake freighters go, like the El Faro, she had an experienced captain and crew, ran into an autumn storm of unexpected intensity, suffered damage that led to a noticeable list, and may have shared the same cause of the list--hatch covers. 

The Fitzgerald didn't lose propulsion, however--which is what certainly doomed the ocean-going vessel. With power, a large ship can batter her way through a hurricane. Without it, she will quickly get caught in the trough of the massive waves and eventually roll over--especially given a list, and the kind of vessel she was, a container ship.

Prayers for the crew and their families and friends.


Oh, Lord, this is awful:

Roni Dean-Burren posted the video to her Facebook page after her son Coby sent her a photo of his ninth-grade geography book. The video shows the textbook with a map detailing immigration patterns across American history. Africans are listed as one of those "immigrant" groups; the caption reads: "The Atlantic slave trade between the 1500s and the 1800s brought millions of workers from Africa to the southern United States to work on agricultural plantations."

That...oy. Needs editing, he says with English understatement.

Immigration is generally--but not always--regarded as a voluntary activity. And "workers" underplays the horror of slavery, even in the context of a sentence that explicitly references the slave trade. Fix it--and send actual pages to insert in their place.

Where I part ways with the article is in its strong implication that this gaffe was driven by Texas' educational standards. However, those standards require students to understand both the development of slavery generally and the African slave trade and its impacts in particular.

God created the Detroit Lions to teach Michiganders detachment from the things of this world.

Can't think of a better explanation.


Monday, October 05, 2015

Fun with search keywords.

Per the Google metrics for the blog, the following traffic search keywords led people here:

1. britannia watermark mary cassatt: 2

2.  mark shea suburbs a sin: 1


3.  orcs in time machine?: 1

Coast Guard confirms that the El Faro sank.

A body has been found, but not identified.

Rescuers are no longer looking for the ship, which sent a distress call four days ago after getting caught in the powerful storm's ferocious winds and 50-foot seas, Coast Guard Captain Mark Fedor said.

He said aircrews continued to search for the missing crew - 28 U.S. citizens and five Polish nationals - but acknowledged they had faced tough odds in the storm's dangerous conditions.

"We are still looking for survivors, any signs of life," he told reporters in Miami.

Crews were unable to identify the body, discovered wearing a survival suit on Sunday, Fedor said.


The markets love that easy money!

Wall Street, et al: where bad news for the plain folks is great news for the investor class.

All you need to know about the junkies created by the Fed's easy money policy.

The Gathering Storm.

Michael Brendan Dougherty spells it all out.

My prediction is that, after much fixing and machinations by its leaders, the Synod on the Family will declare that the Holy Spirit led them to a new understanding of the truth. The Synod's leaders will adopt the position that those living in second marriages, irrespective of the status of their first marriage, should be admitted to Holy Communion. This is commonly called the "Kasper proposal" after its author, the German Cardinal Walter Kasper. 

The Synod will likely leave the details of a "penitential period of reflection" for these souls up to local bishops and parish priests. The leading bishops will assure critics that in fact no doctrine has been changed, only a discipline — even if these will make no sense when considered together.

But make no mistake, the Synod will make the sacrilege of the Eucharist St. Paul warns against an official policy of the Roman Catholic Church. And in the process the Synod will encourage the breakup of more marriages.

Certain theologians will cheer this as a radical break. They will declare this change of discipline to be what the critics alleged all along: a rupture within the tradition of the church, a change in doctrine. They will say that this glorious event proves the church is capable not only of developing its doctrines, but also of evolving them into something new, even something that contradicts the old. 

Those who had made themselves enemies of papal authority for decades will become a new kind of ultramontanist. The papacy that had been the final guardian of the faith will now become an ongoing oracle, dispensing new gospel teachings that our Lord and the Apostles missed.

The church's teachings on contraception, homosexuality, and pre-marital sex must all be subjected to this evolution, in light of what we know about how people actually live. How they ought to live is a moot question.

Over the top? Maybe. I'm not one to talk on that subject.

Be that as it may, all the signs are there.

For what they are worth, my thoughts more or less align with MBD's.

Quote of the Day.

Why waste time learning when ignorance is instantaneous?
--Bill Watterson.

Not everything is in a downward spiral to chaos.

Not when Bloom County is back!

If you're not on Facebook, then you can find the new strips here

Something is right in the world, and I'll take it.

Funny--we've got a lot of books here...

The state of the Alexandria Room catalogue, as of the early morning of October 5, 2015.

I was especially gratified to find a copy of Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? in one of our storage bins. Whatever else can be said for Dick's style, he sure leaves an impression on the memory.

Sunday, October 04, 2015

As good a guess as any...

I'm tempted to ask how this flavor craze started. But the more crucial question facing humanity is "How do we stop it?"

Friday, October 02, 2015


My first reaction was "Oh my God, no!"

That remained my basic reaction for hours.

At least until Obama mentioned Australia as a model of gun control in his posturing conference last night. Since Australia's laws included the confiscation of firearms...yeah, then I started to think he might want to take my guns. It's not the first time he mooned over the laws Down Under, either.

And right on time, Hillary Clinton chimed in that the Supreme Court was wrong in Heller.

So, yeah. I'm thinking they want to take my guns. They sure don't seem to be suggesting other alternatives.

I hope these men are all right.

But it's not looking good: the cargo ship El Faro has been reported missing as a result of Hurricane Joaquin.

The Coast Guard Atlantic Area command center in Portsmouth, Virginia, said it received a satellite notification saying El Faro was overcome by the storm, lost propulsion and had taken on water.

The El Faro has a crew of 33. One of the wonders of our contemporary world is that, thanks to modern weather forecasting and improved construction, storms don't sink big ships very often. Here's hoping that is the case here, too.

They that go down to the sea in ships, that do business in great waters;
These see the works of the Lord, and his wonders in the deep.
For he commandeth, and raiseth the stormy wind, which lifteth up the waves thereof.
They mount up to the heaven, they go down again to the depths: their soul is melted because of trouble.
They reel to and fro, and stagger like a drunken man, and are at their wit's end.
Then they cry unto the Lord in their trouble, and he bringeth them out of their distresses.
He maketh the storm a calm, so that the waves thereof are still.
Then are they glad because they be quiet; so he bringeth them unto their desired haven.



A great American gets his due.

The Man Who Saved the Union: Ulysses Grant in War and Peace is an excellent biography of one of America's most consistently-underrated historical figures. 

University of Texas history Professor H.W. Brands does a fine job of illuminating Grant's early life and struggles, not only with the bottle but with his failings as a provider--both despite his best efforts. As he does so, Brands presents the determined character that enabled Grant to overcome these failures and rise to become the most beloved general since Washington, and the most popular President of the 19th Century (at least in terms of electoral success).

The description of Grant's military tenure during the Civil War is very solid, demonstrating that he was the best strategic thinker on either side, and no slouch as a tactician. Brands points out--correctly--that Grant's casualty rates were lower as a proportion of men in combat than Lee's despite being on the offensive much more often. That said, I still think Lee was slightly better as a tactician, especially considering that the quality of leadership in the Army of Northern Virginia declined drastically over time, and that of the Army of the Potomac increased with the rise of men like Sheridan and Ord.

None of that was a particular surprise to me, given my other reading. The real eye-opener for me was Brands' revisionist (and I use that term advisedly) assessment of Grant's two terms as President. Far from the failure "everyone knows" it to be, Grant's Presidency had a remarkable number of achievements: the Fifteenth Amendment, the squelching of the attempt to corner the gold market, the settling of claims against England stemming from the giving of commerce raiders to the Confederacy and, most crucially, Grant's dedication to civil rights for freedmen. In enforcing the Ku Klux Klan Act and related civil rights legislation and appointing determined attorneys general like Amos Akerman (who had been a Colonel for the Confederacy!), Grant was the President most devoted to civil rights and racial equality until the arrival of Lyndon Johnson. Furthermore, Grant presented the most humane policy toward the Indian tribes by an American president up to his time.

Where this reassessment (slightly) fails is in providing a thorough explanation of *why* Grant's reputation as President went to and remains mostly in the dustbin at this late date. To be sure, Brands' treatment of 1872-1880 is not all praise--Grant is rapped for his too-restrictive handling of the Panic of 1873, America's first industrial depression, which cast a shadow over much of his tenure. Though, in Grant's defense, his restrictive approach to increasing the money supply was well-within the mainstream of 1870s economic thought.

Interestingly enough, the economic doldrums did not damage his personal popularity much (as opposed to damaging the GOP)--he came close to winning a nomination for a third term in 1880, and almost certainly would have won that election, too. 

All in all, the coverage of Grant's presidency is an eye-opener which should act as a welcome rebuttal to the Good General/Bad President canard that unjustly haunts him.

Finally, Brands deftly handles Grant's last battle--a race against time to finish his memoirs as he was dying of throat cancer. As he did through his military career, Grant won this battle through dogged determination, dying a few days after he finished them, ensuring that his wife and family would be well-provided for. The Mutt-and-Jeff friendship that arose between Grant and Mark Twain is also well-drawn. Brands also includes a hilarious anecdote of Twain's one "battle" on behalf of the Confederacy in 1861 that left me--and my wife--laughing out loud. I am morally certain Twain would approved.

Brands concludes his book with the dedication of Grant's Tomb in 1897, a dozen years after his death. During the dedication, Grant's veterans naturally showed up in large numbers--but so did a significant number of former Confederates, including the last of Lee's capable corps commanders, John B. Gordon. Gordon was mobbed by Union veterans who wanted to shake his hand, and also tell him that, while they were glad to see him, they would just as gladly have shot him during the War. Gordon just as good-naturedly shook their hands and said he'd have done the same. 

One of the Confederate veterans arrived in his patched butternut, declared to all and sundry that while he was a proud rebel, he was honored to take part in a ceremony honoring a great man. This was met with loud cheers and the band striking up "Dixie."

All in all, an exceptional read, even if you aren't interested in the era--but absolutely essential if you are. Four stars.