Friday, July 11, 2014

Saint Pius XII: Commentary on St. Benedict

Pope Pius the XII provides the commentary for today's feast day. I found it to be interesting reading.

While the century had grown old in vice, while Italy and all Europe seemed to be a wretched theater for the life and death struggle of nations, and even the monastic discipline was weakened with worldliness and was not up to the task of resisting ..., Benedict proved the perennial youth of the Church by his outstanding sanctity and work; he restored morality by his teaching and example; he protected the sanctuary of religious life with safer and holier laws. Nor was that all; he and his followers reclaimed the uncultured tribes from their wild life to civic and Christian culture; directing them to the practice of virtue, industry and the peaceful arts and literature, he united them in the bonds of fraternal affection and charity...

Cassino, as all know, was the chief dwelling place and the main theater of the Holy Patriarch's virtue and sanctity. From the summit of this mountain, while practically on all sides ignorance and the darkness of vice kept trying to overshadow and envelop everything, a new light shone, kindled by the teaching and civilization of old and further enriched by the precepts of Christianity; it illumined the wandering peoples and nations, recalled them to truth and directed them along the right path...

It was here that Benedict brought the monastic life to that degree of perfection to which he had long aspired by prayer, meditation and practice. The special and chief task that seemed to have been given to him in the designs of God's providence was not so much to impose on the West the manner of life of the monks of the East, as to adapt that life and accommodate it to the genius, needs and conditions of Italy and the rest of Europe. Thus to the placid asceticism which flowered so well in the monasteries of the East, he added laborious and tireless activity which allows the monks "to give to others the fruit of contemplation", and not only to produce crops from uncultivated land, but also to cultivate spiritual fruit through their exhausting apostolate.

But I don't know if St. Benedict sold coffee or not.

Good Point by Rich Lowry on "Katrina moment" meme

From his National Review article:

The Katrina analogy is both over the top and too generous. It is over the top because the border influx isn’t a deadly catastrophe swallowing an American city. It is too generous because Bush didn’t do anything to bring on Hurricane Katrina, whereas Obama’s policies are responsible for the influx of immigrants from the border. It is, in the argot of his administration, a “man-caused disaster.”

I didn't like the analogy to begin with. Analogies can be dangerous. Yes, Bush may have not optics correct during an acute disaster, but Obama has done everything wrong on this crisis which he brought about himself.

Thank God for WJR Detroit

I was listening to Rush on WTAM 1100 when suddenly they and a breaking news flash about Lebron James, a subject which is only trumped by the world cup for things I care less about.

Fortunately there is at least still one business operating in Detroit, that is WJR 760. So I'm able to continue to listen to something meaningful.

Yes, Lebron James is signing with Cleveland. We are all witnesses... or perhaps witlesses.

Darn dat Dinesh D’Souza!

His books and movies sell like gangbusters. Mine don't. I don't even have a movie. I wonder why. Why would someone even read someone who's not as sexually pure as I tell you I am every day? Oh, I meant to update you: a doctor emailed me and told me I got my oral herpes kissing disease from a mosquito. Darned mosquitoes! Darn dat Dinesh D’Souza!

Oh, well. I'm gonna tell you all about rubbing Vicks VapoRub all over my chest and tummy and put on a clean white T-shirt so you'll like me more and buy my books, too! And if you "like" me on Facebook, I'll even let you peek underneath!

Why is my wife still in Alaska?

Thursday, July 10, 2014

For Me, Not For Thee

I am registered at The Daily Kos blog under the name of Gary. So I get all their blast emails about how we all need to support Obama, kiss Elizabeth Warren's butt, throw the Koch brothers in jail for something, etc. I do this because I think it's good to know what the enemy is yammering on about. Here's the latest one I got, with my emphasis in italics:

Gary, almost 90,000 people signed our pledge to boycott Hobby Lobby after an ultra-conservative Supreme Court ruled that for-profit corporations are not only people can have religion, but people who can impose that religion on their employees.

Your signature is missing. Please add your name: Boycott Hobby Lobby.

We can vote with our dollars to register our dissent.

Keep fighting,
Chris Bowers, Daily Kos

I would be the last person to disagree with the statement "We can vote with our dollars to register our dissent." But ironically that is what this entire case is about! The people who own Hobby Lobby are willing to pay for 16 different types of birth control but believe that 4 types are morally reprehensible and they don't want to be forced spend their dollars on those. They don't tell their employees not to go and pay for these themselves any more that they force them to attend mandatory Bible study meetings.

Minor point: the notion that the Supreme Court is ultra-conservative is almost as silly as Harry Reid's suggestion that Justice Clarence Thomas is white.

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Compare and Contrast. (Plus a caption contest)

I was looking over the classic viral blog Is Barack Obama the Messiah? from the 2008 Election season. It would be funnier if he hadn't been elected President. But it is good to contrast the latest picture posted there...

...with the latest photo proudly featured on the main page of the White House web-site today:

In the first picture, a painting by artist Alex Gray, we see the sphere of our planet Earth being perfected and re-imagined by the power of President Obama's solar-powered brain. In the second picture we see the Prezzie of the United Stezzie puckering as he holds in a choom hit and attempting to "stick it" to an insignificant, white sphere. Maybe I'll throw that photo into a demotivator; feel free to send suggestions for the caption.

Moral Therapeutic Dante

The Southern Bookman writes about the upcoming Divine Comedy self-help book. Excerpt:

Conservative writer Rod Dreher is cutting his way into the self-pity-therapeutic literature market staked out on the left by Anne Lamott. Dreher, who wore his heart on both sleeves, pants legs and shirt collars in his memoir of his late sister, Ruthie Leming, recently discussed his further bouts of depression and how he's cured himself by reading Dante. His account of his continual self-actualization appeared on the front page of the Wall Street Journal's Review section on Easter Saturday.

Dante's great poetic work is really a self-help book, Dreher says. Why, one of Dreher's correspondents even quit smoking by reading Dante. Somehow, I missed the canto about the Marlboro Man in one of Dante's circles of hell.

Dreher's "The Little Way of Ruthie Leming," tells the story of Dreher moving back to his hometown of St. Francisville, La., and rediscovering the importance of community from the support given his family through the illness and death of his beloved sister, Ruthie. He moved back home after a dispiriting stint in New York and Washington as a budding conservative pundit. Dreher's book gives a memorable portrait of his sister and delivers an in-depth examination of small-town life, but his emotional extremes ruined the book for me at the end.

My shelf is devoid of anything by Anne Lamott, but I do have some for Dummies books. But there's no Dante for Dummies book yet. So I was thinking that maybe Dreher is writing for that imprint, a division of Wiley. Or even better he could start a whole new brand of Can Save Your Life books. If that happens, I want to sign the contract to do How Blessed Anicius Manlius Severinus Boethius Can Save Your Life just for the Trivial Pursuit card.

Do people still play Trivial Pursuit?

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Rights Versus Entitlements

Megan McArdle explains what is going on underneath the Hobby Lobby furor. Here's her first home-run paragraph:

I think a few things are going on here. The first is that while the religious right views religion as a fundamental, and indeed essential, part of the human experience, the secular left views it as something more like a hobby, so for them it’s as if a major administrative rule was struck down because it unduly burdened model-train enthusiasts. That emotional disconnect makes it hard for the two sides to even debate; the emotional tenor quickly spirals into hysteria as one side says “Sacred!” and the other side says, essentially, “Seriously? Model trains?” That shows in Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s dissent, where it seems to me that she takes a very narrow view of what role religious groups play in the lives of believers and society as a whole.

So that is part one, kind of a "don't hold your deeply-held beliefs any deeper than anyone who doesn't have any deeply-held beliefs" on the part of the secular left.

The second part of the explanation is the classic rights versus entitlements struggle. Conservatives want rights, liberals want entitlements. McArdle describes these as negative rights and positive rights.

All of us learned some version of “You have the right to your beliefs, but not to impose them on others” in civics class. It’s a classic negative right. And negative rights are easy to make reciprocal: You have a right to practice your religion without interference, and I have a right not to have your beliefs imposed on me.

This works very well in situations in which most of the other rights granted by society are negative rights, because negative rights don’t clash very often. Oh, sure, you’re going to get arguments about noise ordinances and other nuisance abatements, but unless your religious practices are extreme indeed, the odds that they will substantively violate someone else’s negative rights are pretty slim.


In this context, “Do what you want, as long as you don’t try to force me to do it, too” works very well, which is why this verbal formula has had such a long life. But when you introduce positive rights into the picture, this abruptly stops working. You have a negative right not to have your religious practice interfered with, and say your church forbids the purchase or use of certain forms of birth control. If I have a negative right not to have my purchase of birth control interfered with, we can reach a perhaps uneasy truce where you don’t buy it and I do. But if I have a positive right to have birth control purchased for me, then suddenly our rights are directly opposed: You have a right not to buy birth control, and I have a right to have it bought for me, by you.

I think this all is worth taking a lot of time to meditate on. For example, I'm a parent. In a sense it's true to say that my kids are entitled to "free food" since they can't earn it themselves. However, to me, it is much more true to say that my wife and I have the responsibility to feed them than it is to say they have the right to free food. So I have to figure out how to earn the money to do that and my wife has to figure out how to deliver meals to them three times a day, etc. Any entitlement they could claim is secondary and subsidiary to my actions in carrying out my duty.

The language of positive rights or entitlements devoid of any discussion of reciprocal responsibilities is what is found in many places on the left today. For example, people on unemployment are suppose to be looking for work and applying for so many jobs a week. But do they really? If you are out of work you can get low-cost or no-cost tech training in most states; I have a friend who did that. He hated being taxpayer-subsidized, but I'm afraid he's an exception. I've run into many more people who are sitting around waiting for the factory to re-open, content to subsist and blame whoever they dislike for their predicament.

I could go on with more, but you get it. Not only do our negative rights not clash with each other, they fit hand-in-glove with the personal responsibility that is part of the inherent dignity of the human person. On the other hand, so-called "positive rights" are the opposite of personal responsibility. Do you have a right to health care? Of course you do, but you have to pay for it. Do you have a right to food? Yes, and you can pay for it in the self-checkout line or the line with the cashier.

What if you walk into my wig store and hand me money for a wig and I don't want to sell it to you because you are a Zoroastrian? To bad for me; I have to sell you a wig. Otherwise I'm discriminating and trampling your rights. But you don't have a right to free wigs whether or not you are a Zoroastrian. However the entitlement mentality would state that if someone wants a wig but can't pay for it then they should have a right to it. The taxpayers should pony up to make sure there is "economic justice", yet another synonym for the entitlement mentality.

We need to continue the attack the left's constant assault on our personal liberty and the true nature of the rights we have as human beings which the state recognizes and protects. The government's job is not to enumerate ever more "positive rights" to squeeze out the true freedoms and the true nature of our personal responsibilities. We also need to teach our kids this, first by throwing propaganda like The Rainbow Fish into the garbage can, then by explaining the difference in how a Christian views our rights and responsibilities as citizens and how secular leftists like Obama and Ginsburg defines them. And of course by trying to fulfill our duties and respect the true rights of others.


Cleveland gets the GOP convention.

Okay, Cleveland, don't screw this up.

Maybe I'll gate-crash it.

Monday, July 7, 2014

Don’t be sad when the nights are over...

"Wh-what are you listening to?"
"You wouldn't dig it, man."

Makes me smile everytime.