Playing the Indian Card

Sunday, September 30, 2018

I Boof in Your General Direction

Georgetown Prep.
The attack on Brett Kavanaugh now seems to have shifted focus to his entry in his high school yearbook. My leftist friend Xerxes writes, “Kavanaugh denies all allegations. The pages of his high school annual suggest he has a malleable memory.” 

The fact that this is stated as innuendo suggests how weak this new argument is: if stated plainly, it would be pretty convoluted, and unconvincing.

As it is innuendo, I am required to assume. I must.

Kavanaugh's yearbook entry suggests, one might say, a juvenile fascination with drinking, partying, and sex. In the senate questioning, Kavanaugh gave relatively innocent interpretations of these yearbook references. Xerxes and others are apparently convinced they really mean something more salacious and scandalous.

So, if I guess the rest of the argument correctly, he was really a bad guy when he was seventeen, and he is not remembering properly now. And so, being a bad guy, he probably molested someone too.

That is hardly a provable case of anything, based on a series of pure assumptions. so irrelevant anyway. But for the sake of optics, let's look at the balance of probabilities on the yearbook entrty.

One item is the word “boof.” He asks in his entry if “Judge has boofed yet.” Under questioning, he said this meant farting. Those who doubt him say, no, it means to take drugs through your anus, or something. Urban Dictionary online includes the term, and that meaning, but lists several slang meanings. In the Washington DC area, where Kavanaugh grew up, it apparently means a woman's vagina emitting a bad smell. I can see how this might also, then, be used for male flatulence.

The seventeen-year-old Kavanaugh refers to the FFFFFFFourth of July (party?). He claims this was a reference to someone's stuttering. Those who doubt this insist there is a recognized sexual meaning to “FFFFFFF.”

Not sure what it is, and if there is such a recognized sexual meaning, it does not come up in my Google search. Must not be all that well recognized.

He refers to himself, as do several other students, as a “Renate alumnius.” Renate was a girl in a nearby school. Kavanaugh says it meant they dated or kissed. His critics insist it means they had sex.

Renate denies they even kissed. Which surely suggests the more innocent meaning. When I was in high school, there was one girl whom everyone thought a great beauty. I went with her, briefly, and among the guys, it was considered an accomplishment, a matter of permanent distinction. I was now a member of a select group. I see no reason to assume this reference was anything different. Flattering, to the girl.

What else? There's a reference to “the Devil's triangle.” Kavanaugh says this was a drinking game involving three beers. Critics insist it means something else that is insidious.

Frankly, all of these secret meanings of these words and phrases are new to me. Since they are clearly not widely known, how can we assume the students who used them knew and meant these particular references?

What was it someone said? If you keep hearing dog whistles, odds are, you are the dog.

But let's even accept that Kavanaugh and his jock friends did know just what those slang terms meant to some, and it is the same thing the critics think. That does not mean they referred to actual events; more likely using them was a schoolboy prank.

Here's what I mean. I went to a public high school. Probably much more casual about what students did in their own time than was Georgetown Prep, a private boarding school. Georgetown Prep was exclusive, expensive, and religious. Its raison d'etre, being a religious school, was character formation. And parents paid big money to send their children there; it was nobody's default option.

Even at my high school, as I bet everywhere else, the yearbook committee had a faculty advisor, who had to vet everything that went in. No school, even a public school, wants scandal, or the parents thinking their kids are getting into such things as anally taking drugs. I assume that some alert Jesuit went over all these comments, and was satisfied at the time that they had relatively innocent explanations. And the kids like Kavanaugh, who put them in, must have been ready with some innocuous meaning if questioned. They must have agreed on it all in advance among themselves, so their stories would tally.

Thus, accordingly, on the strictly literal level, this innocuous meaning was what they indeed meant, as agreed to by those actually using the terms. It is not as if a slang definition is ever authoritative.

Now, the kids might have known they also meant something else to some. That was the joke; they had gotten away with something, then. Great schoolboy gag. Lots o laughs.

But then, in the real world, which meaning do you think was more plausibly literally true? The more salacious and scandalous meaning, or the more innocuous one? If these kids were anything like the kids I knew at seventeen, it was more likely a case of talking big and doing little. Especially at some exlusive prep school, among kids expected by their parents to make it in to some highly competitive Ivy League university, and in their last year of high school.

The salacious interpretation is just not very plausible.

Saturday, September 29, 2018

Mighty Bad Advice

The message quoted in full below appeared in my mailbox from a place called “The Mighty.” At first it seemed so mad I did not know whether it was worth trying to parse it: where do you start?

But it shows how messed up our current understanding of psychology is, and why it is not likely to be helpful to those experiencing any of the various forms of spiritual anguish we call “mental illness.”

Here is is, verbatum. This is not a parody:

This is for the men who are struggling in silence. 
Hey Mighties, 
There’s something rotten at the heart of masculinity today, and it’s been festering for generations. It’s in the way we speak to our children, how they then speak to their friends on the playground, and how they go on to speak to their friends in workplaces and bars and gyms. They’ll unknowingly teach their own children, someday, to live like this. That is unless we stop it now. We can change, you and I. We need to change, because the effects it has on young male-identifying people living with mental illness are profound. 
That’s why I’m sending this email, because I want you to know, no matter how you identify, that it’s OK for men to be open with their emotions. It’s OK for men to cry and to struggle with a mental illness, and it does not for a single second make them weak or any less than a man. 
And yet, our culture tells men to “man up” if they show what is perceived as weakness. Our culture tells young boys to “act like a man,” and that “boys don’t cry,” so you’re forced to bottle up your feelings and bury them deep where nobody will ever find them. That is until, one day, the pressure mounts. Studies show the effect this has; it’s part of the reason why men die by suicide 3.5 times more than women. 
So, if you’re reading this, identify as male and struggle with your mental health, it’s going to be OK. You’re not weak for feeling this way. Our biology as a species is fundamentally the same, no matter what gender you were assigned at birth. The only thing telling you that men are strong and women are weak is an outdated system of belief that kept women oppressed for generations. 
Likewise, if you don’t identify as male but have men in your life who could do with a reminder, I urge you to pass this on to them. 
We need to stand up as a society and say together in one voice that we’ve had enough. Your gender does not govern your emotions or how you deal with the challenges in your life. True strength lies in reaching out for help, whether that’s to a loved one, a mental health professional, your doctor or someone on a crisis line. It’s OK to be scared. I was scared too when I first did it. Ultimately, though, it’s made things a whole lot better. 
Ready to take the leap, #MightyMen?
--and there is a link right below to an article on “toxic masculinity.”

Me again. Now, it is pretty clear that a if not the fundamental element of depression is poor self-image, low self-esteem. So how does this message address the issue?

By telling the male reader right out of the box that he is “rotten at the heart.” His identity as a man is “festering.” It is “toxic.” Men have “kept women oppressed for generations.”

And, if you are a man, that is all your own darned fault. And so is your depression. It is a question of “male-identifying.” Clearly, had you been a better person, you would have identified as female. You need to change. Men in general could do with a reminder.

And how are you supposed to change? Cry. Submit utterly to the depression. Stop trying to get better. Become more dependent. Accept the concept that you must become and remain subservient to others.

Yeah, that ought to help.

A second issue that seems to be at the core of depression is a loss of a sense of meaning or direction in life. You accordingly crave and need clear answers and clear direction.

Instead, this advice pushes you into a classic double bind. You are supposed to unleash your emotions and cry a lot--just the opposite of what the culture and its norms traditionally tell you is right and moral. Now you have a new and difficult mental conflict. Which way to turn? Who should you believe? Either way, you are wrong.

And anything left that you thought you knew to be true? You must doubt them all. All traditional assumptions are to be doubted, and discarded as the initial assumption. Everything the culture tells you is wrong. It is just “outdated systems of belief.” Even something as fundamental and scientifically incontrovertible as there being a difference between men and women? No, reject the thought, everything must be or become ambiguous. Strength is weakness. Weakness is being “mighty.”

If you were deliberately trying to make someone's mental turmoil worse, you could not do a better job than this. And yet this is what is fed to people who are suffering most grievously. It is hard not to believe it is malicious.

The plain and bitter truth, which should become clear from reading this passage, is that those experiencing “mental illness” are far saner than those claiming to know how to cure “mental illness.” The cure is the disease, and the disease has become the cure.

Friday, September 28, 2018

Blasey Ford Testifies

Christine Blasey Ford.

I was able to watch the Senate testimony yesterday from Christine Blasey Ford. I have not seen Brett Kavanaugh's testimony. Saw a clip of Lindsay Graham; looked impressive.

To me, Blasey Ford came across as utterly sincere. But she came across as well as something else: utterly mad. Look in her eyes: there is madness there. It seems obvious to me she is what used to be generally recognized, before it became politically incorrect to see it, as a hysterical woman.

We used to know a lot more about human psychology than we seem to today. Two hundred years ago, the issue would probably have been understood immediately.

The fact that she is a psychology professor tends to reinforce my diagnosis. One common reason people go into psychology is in hopes of finding a cure for themselves. Her life, by her own account, has been one of intimate association with analysts. Is it so implausible that she might be capable of delusions?

Someone who is hysterical is capable of believing anything. They can be convinced they are blind, for example, even though their sight is physically 20/20. They can believe they have been abducted by aliens.

Part of the problem, it is plain, is that Ford is self-absorbed. This makes anyone inherently fragile. Flying in a plane is a problem. Having only one door in her home is a problem, requiring marital counselling. Being interrogated by a professional instead of the senators is a problem. Everything for her is an emotional crisis—with the implicit emphasis on “for her.” Some or all of these anxieties might be entirely real; mental suffering is nothing trivial. But they also seem to serve always to draw the attention of both herself and those around her to her. She demanded all sorts of special treatment in return for testifying to the committee; as though she were a princess. This strongly implies narcissism.

A narcissist, sadly, is not going to see Kavanaugh as a fellow human being, Kavanaugh, after all, is not her, and so of no significance in himself. She is not going to be concerned with what any of this is doing to him, if she is mistaken. Because only she is important.

One can visualise how she got to this point. It is an old story, old as time. Little girls are frequently put on a pedestal growing up, told they are perfect princesses and everything about them is awesome. They are thus tempted to primary narcissism, self-absorption. Some can resist, some bite down hard on the apple.

Then, inevitably, most likely at about age fifteen, younger if they are less sheltered, they discover the realities of sex. Suddenly it is no longer possible to be inherently good; there are moral issues and moral choices. They have no experience with such things. If they have sex, some will condemn them for it. If they refuse sex, others will condemn them for it. Either way, they are no longer perfect beings whom everyone adores.

For someone who has fully swallowed the poisoned apple of narcissism, this is devastating. They are their own entire world. If they are now damaged goods, their entire world seems to have come to an end.

Now comes second-stage narcissism. Forced now to choose between cold reality and staying perfect, some no doubt will wake up and grow up. Others are liable to reject unpleasant reality now and for the rest of their lives. From this point on, and increasingly as lie piles upon lie, to protect their perfect fantasy self-image, they are capable of sincerely believing anything, no matter how madly untrue. They live permanently in a world of self-delusion, always under siege by imagined evil forces from outside. Rapists, say.

Men too, of course, can be narcissists, and can become hysterical. Boys too can be spoiled. But it happens less often, and the moral crisis is more likely to come at an earlier age: a failing mark, for example, or not making the basketball team. And it is likely to involve less of a double bind. Being younger, they are also likely to be more resilient.

Now along comes Brett Kavanaugh. Ford knows him, he is suddenly on the front pages, and of course this really ought to be all about her, not someone else. She should be getting this attention. He is stealing it from her.

Now, by pinning her own guilt feelings over sex, whatever they are, on him, Ford gets not only to absolve herself of blame for her sexuality, in her own eyes and in the eyes of the world, but also gets the eyes of the entire world focused on her. She appears both as morally pure and an irresistably desirable being. She can be a real princess again.

It is, incidentally, the same motive usually behind political assassinations.

You have to feel sorry for her. Her suffering is very great and very real. But far sorrier for the victim, Brett Kavanaugh. Ford is ultimately responsible for her own suffering, and is suffering because she cannot accept and admit that. What happened here to Kavanaugh could happen to anyone.

Ah, you reply, doesn't it still matter that there are now two or maybe three other female accusers? No, it does not. Numbers mean nothing if each charge is independent, and no one charge can be corroborated or substantiated. More accusations at this point are inevitable; just as one political assassination inevitably prompts more assassination attempts, one terrorist attack or airplane hijacking prompts more terrorist attacks or hijackings, until it stops being such big news, and then they tend to abate. Even when there is some spectacular murder in the news, police departments must deal with a spate of false confessions. For many, the temptation for fame is that great; a really serious narcissist is prepared to die for it.

More accusers are certain to come out of the woodwork at this point to copy Ford and share her sudden fame. Just as she could not bear Kavanaugh getting all the attention instead of her, they cannot bear Ford getting all the attention instead of them.

Rumour is that Kavanaugh now has the votes to be confirmed. I hope so. Anything else would be both a grave injustice and a catastrophic precedent. American civil society might never recover.

It is hard even now to see the Democratic senators supporting Ford's accusations against Kavanaugh as anything but intentionally evil. One hopes they are instead profoundly naive. One clings as so often to the old saying, “never attribute to malice what can be explained by incompetence.”

Thursday, September 27, 2018

Believe the Woman?

My sense of things is that the current rash of claims of sexual misconduct against Brett Kavanaugh is having, and will have, the net effect of discrediting the whole “#metoo” movement.

Logically, we cannot let these current accusations influence matters. If we do, without requiring proof beyond a reasonable doubt, what we do, given that there is no penalty for making a false accusation, is leave any man vulnerable to having his life or career wrecked at any moment by a mere accusation which any woman can lodge at any time for any reason.

It would over time take all males out of the running for any prominent job that any woman wants.

The proper and fair thing would be to bring it all into a court of law. But there is no time for that, and these charges are so old that even then, it is unlikely to be possible to assemble evidence one way or the other. In the ordinary course of events, there is probably nothing here that would warrant going to court: just accusations with no corroboration or supporting evidence. We can pretty well assume, if they went to court, that the cases would be dismissed.

Accordingly, the only fair thing is to ignore them and appoint Kavanaugh. To do otherwise would have disastrous effects in future.

And for the #metoo advocates of “believe the woman,” as somebody observed, this looks like Pickett's Charge. It has been a fatal if inevitable overreach. Inevitable, because it was always madness to assume all women were incapable of lying or even being mistaken. Even if they pull it off this time, and Kavanaugh is destroyed, they will overrreach the next time, or the next.

And then—most likely already, now—it will never again be a plausible argument to demand that people simply “believe the woman.” Indeed, from now on, given the Kavanaugh example, the base assumption is more likely to be the opposite. Not good for anyone who really has been sexually assaulted, but this is the fault of the feminists.

Monday, September 24, 2018

The Meaning of Life

Winged Victory of Samothrace.

Monty Python's final movie was titled “The Meaning of Life.” The gist of it was that nobody knows what it is; we're all wandering around clueless. Douglas Adams implied the same by declaring randomly that the meaning of life was 42.

This is actually quite a new problem. Everyone used to know. It popped up more or less postwar, with dadaism, then postwar again with existentialism. Their blank black banner is now carried by postmodernism.

Until perhaps the turn of the nineteenth century into the twentieth, everyone knew what life was about. And we really still all do in our hearts; for it is graven there. We were not made without instructions. As the ancient philosophers noted often enough, life is the quest for the Good, the True, and the Beautiful. These are the things with intrinsic value, and which bestow value and meaning on all else.

Note this does not even require a belief in God; this much is self-evident to polytheists as much as Christians. Plato and Aristotle knew it; it's in the Bhagavad Gita.

Postmodernists and their tribe insist, counter to this, that there is no Truth, no Good, and no Beauty. This is just not a philosophically tenable position.

Truth: Two plus two equals four; it does not equal seven. There's truth. Today is Monday, and not Friday. There's truth. The distinction is not difficult to see; no sane person can miss it. A commitment to Truth requires you to go where reason and the available evidence lead; rather than just believing what you want to believe, what others tell you to believe, whatever first comes to mind, or what seems in your self-interest to believe.

It is a blood-red herring to object, as postmodernists will, that you cannot be certain that you have the absolute truth. So what? No glass is ever entirely full either. There is still a critical difference between full and empty. I don't have all the money in the world. That does not mean I have no money.

And, of course, the simple statement “there is no truth” self-contradicts. It cannot, by its own terms, be true.

The Good: That morality is not relative is demonstrated planly enough by the fact that evey major religion and moral system bases itself explicitly on the same maxim: do unto others as you would have them do unto you. It can be and is formulated in different ways as well, but it appears almost word for word in this same way everywhere. There is no disagreement or ambiguity here; nothing relative. Kant too found this the one irrefutable imperative of human existence: do unto others. Treat others as an end, not a means. If how this is worked out in detail can vary, so can how we build a bridge; but our calculations are all still based on the same law of gravity. Accordingly, we can plainly say there are better and worse ways to build a bridge. We can judge moral codes as more or less strict; not as randomly different.

The Beautiful: No, beauty is not in the eye of the beholder. For example, show pictures of women of various races to men of various races; contrary to what is sometimes claimed, their evaluation of who is beautiful is consistent across all cultural lines. There is, objectively, such a thing as good taste and bad taste. It makes no differencce that some people have consistently bad taste; some people also do poorly at math. Statues like the Winged Victory of Samothrace can still be easily recognized as sublimely beautiful, two thousand five hundred years later and several thousands of miles away.

The question here is why so many people so often deny what is about as self-evident as anything in existence.

The Gospel of John tells why:

This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but people loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil. Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that their deeds will be exposed.

Once you turn away from the Good, generally in favour of self-interest and for animal pleasures, you will soon deny that any true good exists. Because it stands in condemnation of you. And, as philosophers have pointed out, each of the three transcendentals implies the other: without Good, there can be no Truth, without Truth, no Beauty, and without Beauty, no Good.

Therefore, once you turn decisively from the Good, you develop a vested interest in denying Good, Truth, and Beauty, all three, altogether. If you stumble on a truth or a good deed or some beautiful thing, you will want to deny it, conceal it from others, or, ideally, destroy it.

This naturally divides mankind into two opposing tribes; which Jesus called the sheep and the goats. The sheep keep building; the goats keep trying to tear down. Sheep may stray, through temptation or through folly, but their resolve is to keep on the path to the Good, the True, and the Beautiful. Goats do not acknowledge this call. They begin by merely doing as they please in the moment. But over time they come to try also to distract the sheep away from the goal. They will actually seek and promote the false, the bad, and the ugly for their own sake, and to crush the good. Evil is an addiction.

It serves a certain inevitable justice then if, as Jesus says, the sheep at worst, if lost, suffer a time in purgatory, while the goats descend to hell forever. It has been their choice: they rejected that road, knowing where it led. If you refuse the path to Truth and Good and Beauty, you will not arrive at Truth and Good and Beauty, will you?

Understanding this, one can see, by the popularity of postmodernist views, that our Western culture is currently in great peril. It is urging us on to perdition. It obliges us, for example, to expressly claim to believe things that are untrue; such as that people can simply decide for themselves what sex they are. It often now promotes art that is deliberately ugly. It requires us not only to tolerate abortion, but to pay for it through our taxes or health premiums. It attacks any established moral system, such as Catholicism or Confucianism. These are definite attempts to prevent others from pursuing the Good, the True, or the Beautiful.

This was claimed as well of cultures in the Old Testament: the Canaanite, the cities of the plain, the Philistine. It did not end well; for the sake of all concerned, such cultures had to be wiped out. As Carthage or Nazi Germany had to be wiped out.

This begins to sound very gloomy. Is Western civilization doomed?

I trust not. I see no obvious better alternative. If the West has gone barking mad, I have lived in China, in South Korea, and in the Arabian Gulf, and found those cultures, quite different one from the other, to be even madder, even further estranged from the Good, the True, and the Beautiful.

Perhaps the Trump phenomenon, for all its wartiness, is the first glimmer of a new Great Awakening in the US, that can reverse this downward spiral. Perhaps too the countries of the old European East Bloc carry the flame of truth. Living in the Philippines, I find the average Filipino strikingly sane in contrast to the typical Canadian: perhaps the newer Christian and Westernizing cultures of Africa and Asia will lead a revival.

Sunday, September 23, 2018

Ford and the Accusations Against Kavanaugh

Brett Kavanaugh.

I guess it is proper for the US Senate Judiciary Committee to listen to what Dr. Christine Ford has to say, if she is at last ready to testify, about Judge Brett Kavanaugh. But by this point it can only be pro forma, for the sake of completing the record.

It is no longer just a case of he said-she said. Ford claimed four people were witnesses to the event; and all four of them have now stated under oath that so far as they know or can recall the thing never happened. So it is her word against five other people, counting Kavanaugh himself.

The general consensus is that it must have been a case of mistaken identity. I think the more plausible explanation, given Ford's apparent reluctance to testify, repeatedly making demands that sound patently unreasonable, is that she is simply lying for partisan political purposes. Someone who has been wronged and feels they have justice on their side should be eager to testify. Instead, it looks as though she is very afraid of having to make her claims under oath, and is looking for ways to avoid this, while stalling the nomination process as long as possible.

The argument that she must be honestly mistaken instead of lying is founded, it seems, on the confidence that someone so socially prominent as a sociology professor would not go around lying.

That is a naive and frankly classist, discriminatory, assumption, it seems to me. Sure they would. Social prominence is no assurance whatsoever of morality. Anyone who has read the New Testament should have internalized that message.

I bet in the end she finds some excuse not to testify.

Friday, September 21, 2018

Family Values

St. Joseph

The Fourth or Fifth Commandment (there are two numbering systems) reads:

“Honor your father and your mother, that your days may be long in the land which Yahweh your God gives you.” (Exodus 20:12).

This commandment raises a special problem for the abused child. What if your father or mother seeks your harm?

Worse, a narcissistic parent will use the accusation with abandon. It is a perfect cudgel for them. Narcissists are entirely likely to be superficially religious, as well, when it suits their purpose. And it usually does. The tendency to hypocrisy a core issue in the New Testament. The obvious ruse for a bad person, so as not to be discovered and punished, is to put on the airs, the external and social appearances, of a good person. It is more or less automatic that they will.

This cudgel can, tragically, then alienate too many abused children from religion itself, which should be their main help. God comes to be seen as on the side of the abuser.

We need to look more closely at this commandment. What exactly does “honouring” your parents mean?

The Greek word “tima,” as it appears in the Septuagint, translated “honour” here, does not mean “obey” and does not imply subservience ( As for the original Hebrew, the Kitzur Shulchan Aruch, a respected 19th century Jewish catechism, defines it:

What constitutes “honour?” One must provide them with food and drink and clothing. One should bring them home and take them out, and provide them with all their needs cheerfully. (Kitzur Shulchan Aruch 143:7).

In sum, then, one owes one's parents material and emotional support in their age and infirmity.

This makes sense. You owe them your physical existence, and, if you are still here, their material support while growing up. Notice that this commandment comes with an explanatory quid pro quo, a promise. No other commandment does. You do this “that your days may be long.” It is a matter of social order. If the entire society does this, everyone gets to live longer. The alternative would be, as in many hunter-gathere societies, leaving older people to starve to death.

Jesus specifically endorses the commandment to honour your parents; it remains in force. However, what he means by the commandment must be judged against some interesting Gospel passages.

For example, Luke 2: 42-49:

When he was twelve years old, they went up to Jerusalem according to the custom of the feast, and when they had fulfilled the days, as they were returning, the boy Jesus stayed behind in Jerusalem. Joseph and his mother didn’t know it, but supposing him to be in the company, they went a day’s journey, and they looked for him among their relatives and acquaintances. When they didn’t find him, they returned to Jerusalem, looking for him. After three days they found him in the temple, sitting in the middle of the teachers, both listening to them, and asking them questions. All who heard him were amazed at his understanding and his answers. When they saw him, they were astonished, and his mother said to him, “Son, why have you treated us this way? Behold, your father and I were anxiously looking for you.” 
He said to them,“Why were you looking for me? Didn’t you know that I must be in my Father’s house?”

It is not clear that Jesus disobeyed an explicit instruction from his parents here, but he certainly disobeyed them in spirit, ignoring their wishes and their right to decide for him. He must, at twelve, have been fully aware of this. And note, as a matter of doctrine, Jesus never sinned.

It follows that one is not obliged, even at the age of twelve, to obey one's parents.

And certainly not as an adult. John 2: 2-4 records,

And the third day there was a marriage in Cana of Galilee; and the mother of Jesus was there:

And both Jesus was called, and his disciples, to the marriage.

And when they wanted wine, the mother of Jesus saith unto him, “They have no wine.”

Jesus saith unto her, “Woman, what have I to do with thee? Mine hour is not yet come.”

Jesus does then do as she says, but he expressly reserves his right not to. Some translations soften this rebuff, but the American Standard, Revised Standard, and King James all have almost identical wording here.

And Jesus is making an even stronger point: not just that he is under no moral obligation to obey a parent, but even that he is under no moral obligation to recognize them as anyone special to him. In the story of his visit to the temple, he is implicitly saying that Joseph is not his father, and Mary not his mother. At Cana; he is saying he has nothing in particular to do with “this woman” who bore and raised him.

Nor is this the only time that he says something like this:

His mother and his brothers came, and standing outside, they sent to him, calling him. A multitude was sitting around him, and they told him, “Behold, your mother, your brothers, and your sisters are outside looking for you.” He answered them, “Who are my mother and my brothers?” Looking around at those who sat around him, he said, “Behold, my mother and my brothers! For whoever does the will of God is my brother, my sister, and mother” (Matthew 12: 31-5; Luke 8: 20-1).

Here again, Jesus denies that his physical family is his true family. His physical mother is not his mother; his physical father is not his father.

That sets a pretty low bar for honouring your father and your mother. You honour them as much as you would any stranger.

This lack of obligations to the earthly parents seems consistent throughout and across the gospels. So much so that it seems a core message of the New Testament.

Mark 1: 16-20, for example, describes the calling of the first four disciples:

Passing along by the sea of Galilee, he saw Simon and Andrew, the brother of Simon, casting a net into the sea, for they were fishermen. Jesus said to them, “Come after me, and I will make you into fishers for men.”

Immediately they left their nets, and followed him.

Going on a little further from there, he saw James the son of Zebedee, and John his brother, who were also in the boat mending the nets. Immediately he called them, and they left their father, Zebedee, in the boat with the hired servants, and went after him.

The scene of the calling of James and John seems almost comical: one pictures the puzzled old man, Zebedee, abandoned in the boat. That's honour.

And Simon apparently similarly abandoned a wife; for Matthew records:

When Jesus came into Peter’s house, he saw his wife’s mother lying sick with a fever. He touched her hand, and the fever left her. So she got up and served him. (Matthew 8: 14-5).

So as he was wandering about with empty pockets, across the empire to ultimately be crucified in Rome, there was apparently a family at home who just stopped hearing from him.

Not only was this abandonment of family morally proper; it was demanded. Consider Matthew 8: 21-22:

Another of his disciples said to him, “Lord, allow me first to go and bury my father.” But Jesus said to him, “Follow me, and leave the dead to bury their own dead.”

Mark 10:30:

“Jesus said, `I tell you the truth. If any man has left his house, or his brothers, or his sisters, his mother, or his father, or his children, or farms, for my sake and for the sake of the good news, he will receive his pay in this life.”

Luke 14: 25-6 is even stronger:

Now great multitudes were going with him. He turned and said to them, “If anyone comes to me, and doesn’t hate his own father, mother, wife, children, brothers, and sisters, yes, and his own life also, he can’t be my disciple.”

Literally, Jesus says here that you must hate your father and mother if you are going to be a good Christian. It's required.

This is a bit awkward: the Bible says that we must both honour and hate our parents.

This particular passage is always taken as hyperbole; but that is the literal meaning. You must hate your parents to be a good Christian. And there are theological problems with dismissing it as pure hyperbole. It paints Jesus, God, as deliberately misleading at least some of the faithful.

The two commands can be reconciled, however, if we understand “honour” as meeting our parents' physical needs, in return for their physical contribution to our being, while “hate” implies not giving them any higher moral status than this because they are our parents.

Which makes sense; giving priority to one's parents is a violation of universal love, which should not discriminate. You judge all in accordance with their moral worth, not by birth or race. Family is an idolatry, only selfishness writ large, just as nationalism or racism is an idolatry, a form of extended self-love.

Mark 6: 4 and Matthew 13: 57 even expect any good person to face trouble from their family. Mark:

Jesus said to them, “A prophet is not without honor, except in his own country, and among his own relatives, and in his own house.”

In his original commission to the apostles, reasonably understood as the charter of Christianity, Jesus warns them:

“Brother will deliver up brother to death, and the father his child. Children will rise up against parents and cause them to be put to death. ...

For I came to set a man at odds against his father, and a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law. A man’s foes will be those of his own household. He who loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; and he who loves son or daughter more than me isn’t worthy of me. (Matthew 10: 21-7).

If, then, you are being opposed by a parent, this is not a sign of sinfulness. It is a sign of your moral worth. Blessed are you. Moreover, Christianity even positively encourages such strife. Jesus says it is what he came for.

At Matthew 23: 9, Jesus requires of his disciples:

Call no man on the earth your father, for one is your Father, he who is in heaven.

Again, this is usually just dismissed as hyperbole; but this is not satisfactory for theological reasons. It has to mean something reasonably close to what it actually says.

This is actually a key teaching, surely, of Jesus: whatever special place the family might have had in the old covenant, that place is taken by a new conception of God as Father, “Abba,” in the new; the same covenant by which we are now all brothers, whereas before race, Jewishness, held a special place.

Seems pretty clear now on the face of it. You owe your parents material support as needed, but nothing more--except as towards anyone else, based on their merits.

If we are Catholics, we must turn now to Catholic teaching. Catholics are not free to read the Bible as they like. What does Church tradition say?

To begin with, it says that the state of celibacy, being without a family, is preferable to family life. So much for the primacy of family values.

The Catechism sees the obligation to honour parents as the obligation to honour those in social authority in general: “We are obliged to honor and respect all those whom God, for our good, has vested with his authority” (CCC, para 2197). “It extends to the duties of pupils to teachers, employees to employers, subordinates to leaders, citizens to their country, and to those who administer or govern it” (CCC, para 2199).

So much is required to maintain social order; we cannot all be going off on our own, or life becomes a war of all against all. Yet this obligation to obey secular authority has limits, and known limits. We render unto Caesar only what is Caesar's. In general, secular authority, the powers of this world, are understood by the New Testament as a necessary evil. They're the guys who crucified Christ. The same would then apply to the family.

Our obligations to government, or family, are strictly dependent on the behaviour of that government, or family. As the framers of the American Declaration of Independence explained, if a government or a family oversteps its bounds, it loses legitimacy, and it becomes both our right and our duty to oppose it. This comes from long Christian tradition. Contrary to much popular nonsense, Christianity has never recognized a “divine right of kings.” Aquinas recognized a right and obligation to civil disobedience.

Just so, the Catechism notes:

“This commandment includes and presupposes the duties of parents, instructors, teachers, leaders, magistrates, those who govern, all who exercise authority over others or over a community of persons.” (CCC, para 2199).

Accordingly, Clement of Alexandria, among the Church Fathers, writes, “if one's father, or son, or brother, be godless ... let him not be friends or agree with him, but on account of the spiritual enmity, let him dissolve the fleshly relationship.” (“Who is the Rich Man Who Shall be Saved?”, v. 22)

In the early days of the Church, it would have more or less gone without saying that family relations would have been godless: the other family members would be pagans. One hopes matters have improved since. But one sadly cannot assume it.

Wednesday, September 19, 2018

Free Woody Allen

Fake mug shot of Woody Allen from "Take the Money and Run."

I hate to talk about the private lives of celebrities. It is almost automatically the sin of calumny. Celebrities have the same right to privacy we all do; it is supposed to be a human right.

But I must speak out on Woody Allen, because a grave injustice is being done.

He is innocent.

Yet many people are protesting The Atlantic for even allowing his wife, Soon-Yi, to give her side of the story.

I am not a Woody Allen fan. I think his influence has been baleful. He is a disciple of Freud, and Freud has been a wrecking ball in our culture. But the man is innocent.

Allen is accused of assaulting his step-daughter Dylan, when she was seven. That's it.

This charge was looked into twice, by two independent authorities, in New York and Connecticut, and neither found any credible evidence to support the charge. Never even made it to court.

Moreover, Allen and Mia Farrow were in the middle of an acrimonious breakup when the incident was alleged to have happened. Faking a charge of child molestation is simply standard practice among unethical women in any divorce proceedings these days, to milk the husband for as much as possible in the settlement. If you are caught lying, there is no penalty; so there is no downside to doing it. Arguably, it is malpractice if your divorce lawyer does not advise it.

Dylan still insists it happened. But memories from age seven are intrinsically unreliable and subject to suggestion. Her testimony might be sincere, but it is worth nothing as evidence.

There are apparently no other allegations against Allen. This is significant, because according to the experts, pedopiles are compulsive. They never do it just once, with one victim.

Indeed, there are apparently no allegations of sexual misconduct against Allen from any adult leading ladies either, although he was obviouly in a position directly comparable to that of Harvey Weinstein. He apparently did not exploit it.

Unfortunately, it all reflects shockingly badly on Mia Farrow; as does Soon-Yi's testimony about her, which is corroborated by her sibling Moses Farrow. Perhaps, then, it is best to stop here.

Monday, September 17, 2018

Social Science

The South Sea Bubble

Why are so many so devoted to the social sciences—even though after a couple of hundred years of effort, that stake has never panned out? They have never built any solid body of knowledge about society or human life. As the mathematician and nuclear physicist Stanlislaw Ulam noted scornfully long ago, every result they have ever produced is either trivial, or not true.

Freud and Marx dominate popular culture and the academy. Even though both have been long ago positively disproven in any scientific terms. Yet everyone seems to simply ignore this, and carry on. The same could be equally said of lesser figures: Margaret Meade, Noam Chomsky, Maslow's hierarchy of needs, “learning styles,” “left brain-right brain.” Karl Popper, our reigning cultural authority on what is and is not science, compared it all to astrology. But nobody will let the false theories go.

It deserves a section right after St. Vitus's Dance and tupilmania in “Extraordinary Popular Delusions and the Madness of Crowds.” Except that this irrational faith in social science would need a section bigger than the entire remainder of the volume. We have gone elaborately crazy nuts. Mad King Ludwig had nothing on us.

So what is driving this?

I think the answer is not that hard to find. People grasp at social science as a substitute for religion. Religion is the discipline that previously covered the same subject matter: man's soul, man's inner being, man's relationship with his fellow man.

And social science appeals because it strips out all moral considerations. Leaving people feeling free from moral constraints.

How could anything be any clearer than that this is the base of Freud's appeal? Sex in the street!

Marx, in turn, gives license for envy and for scapegoating. Take what you want from others! If you have less, it's the oppressive system! You deserve what you want!

This is usually the tacit appeal of every new theory in the social sciences: it gives license for some traditional vice. Beyond freedom and dignity!

This is not going good places. I think it fair to say, from an objective consideration of history, that social science has brought us the awful mass murders and monstrous wars of the 20th century. All of them. Not to mention the growing epidemic of mental illness worldwide.

Time to wake up and move on.

Sunday, September 16, 2018

The Benedict Option and a Very Immodest Proposal

Interior of Orthodox Church.

The crisis in the Catholic Church gets worse almost by the day. The Pope himself is now under suspicion for harbouring abuse. His own closest supporters within the US hierarchy seem to be those charged with coverups. There are claims that he himself covered up abuse when archbishop of Buenos Aires. There are claims of further damning documents at the Vatican, showing he protected and promoted abusers there as well. An Italian newspaper claims to have the scoop.

Now, what can be done if the Pope himself is part of the problem?

On the face of it, available options are grim. There is no mechanism to remove a pope. Even were he to resign, some argue, this would be an awful precedent. Two popes resigning in a row? It would convert the papacy into a merely political office, the incumbent serving only so long as he held popular approval. What a disaster. He could not longer hold the line on doctrine.

Here are a couple of ideas. First, rather than simply resign, Francis resigns in favour of Benedict, cancelling the previous resignation. Then, instead of a precedent of two popes resigning in a row, we have a precedent that popes do not resign. This would require a new conclave, with Benedict again being formally named. But if Francis himself calls for this on resigning, it would probably be pretty automatic. Resignation retroactively not accepted.

This would be a cruel burden on Benedict, but surely he could appoint someone else whom he trusts to actually handle affairs, and become largely a figurehead. Like a constitutional monarch.

Now, what if Francis, though proven guilty, refuses to resign? Is schism the only remedy?

I doubt Francis is such a man as to cling to power for its own sake in such a circumstance. But even so—here's a wild thought. The alternative need not be, as many fear, schism. Dissident Catholics, parishes, and dioceses, could instead enter into negotiations to join Eastern Orthodoxy. They too have the apostolic succession. They too have the sacraments. We have always been told that theological differences are almost non-existent; mostly a case of mutual isolation and developing apart. By joining the Orthodox, Catholics would not be creating a new schism, but healing an old one.

Perhaps, indeed, that is God's plan in all this; his way to end the ancient breach. Let the greater in numbers, the Catholics, humble themselves to the lesser, and seek their help.

It is the perfect recipe for any reconciliation.

Might even draw the Pope along in the end.

Saturday, September 15, 2018

Singhing in the Rain

Jagmeet Singh

Jagmeet Singh's leadership of the NDP is in trouble. The Dippers cannot seem to budge the polls, and now internal dissent had broken out over Singh's high-handed approach to matters in caucus and in Saskatchewan.

I said at the time that the NDP was making a big mistake in dumping Tom Mulcair. I'd say now this proves me right.

The NDP thought that, with Singh, they could out-fresh face, out-hope-and-change, out-Obama, and out-progressive Trudeau's Liberals.

Bad concept. Trudeau's Liberals were already crowding that side of the political spectrum, governing left. There was not much viable ground to their left. Why vote, then, for a party with less chance of gaining power, when your agenda is being accomplished by the party in power?

Worse, if Trudeau screws up, or the public gets tired of him, Singh does not work as an alternative. He shares the same characteristics likely to alienate from Trudeau: being young, inexperienced, a pretty face, from a privileged economic background, from Central Canada, very urban.

Now imagine how much better Mulcair would play than does Singh on this score and at this point, if you are annoyed with Trudeau. If Trudeau looks amateurish, out of touch,, callow, and, as the Conservatives said, not ready for prime time, so does Singh. Mulcair has an avuncular look, solid political experience, performs well in the House. He looks like the adult alternative. Rather than crowd the left end of the spectrum, he was moving the NDP toward the centre, where they could look like a safer alternative to the Tories as well as the Grits.

Tom Mulcair.

Both Trudeau and Singh came in on the coattails of Barack Obama in the US. Whenever some new US politician makes a splash, the instinct among Canadians and Canadian pols is to find the closest parallel they can to run. But Singh is too late at the feast. Trudeau got there first. Now Obama is gone from the nightly news and the front pages, and that approach is old hat. The drive now, on the right, is to get someone who looks like Trump. Enter Doug Ford. On the left, the obvious model now is Bernie Sanders.

That's the avuncular thing.

Policies aside, Mulcair looks more like Sanders than does Singh.

Can Singh come back? Doubt it. Can the NDP get Mulcair to come back? Doubt it.

But I bet that if Mulcair were still leader, the NDP would be looking right now as though they had a serious shot at being the next government.

Thursday, September 13, 2018


Allan Blakeney.

Doug Ford is planning to use the Canadian Constitution's “notwithstanding clause” to override a court that seeks to block his plan to reduce the size of Toronto City Council.

I see a bunch of people online protesting this “unconstitutional” action, which violates “the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.”

Whether or not you agree with Ford's action, it is simply wrong to call it “unconstitutional.” He is invoking a clause of the constitution. The constitution is not unconstitutional, by definition.

Is he violating the Charter of Rights and Freedoms? Yes, in the opinion of a judge. But isn't there a real-life possibility the judge is wrong? I hear everyone in the know was surprised by the ruling; they did not think there was a legitimate charter case here. After all, how is reducing the size of a city council a violation of anyone's free speech? Can anyone really justify that claim?

Beware. If rights can come to mean whatever a judge says they mean, then they mean nothing. They are gone.

And if the courts cannot be counted on to protect our rights, the legislature must step in.

Many argue that the issue is not important enough to justify invoking the notwithstanding clause. I agree that the issue is not important. But I think it is important for some government to invoke the notwithstanding clause for its own sake. Probably best to do it on an issue not itself too big and controversial, not too fraught with partisan concerns, in order to normalize the practice without causing any real crisis. If the judiciary has gotten out of control in general, and has been appropriating to itself the duties of the legislature, this is exactly what is needed: a clear shot across the bow. Without anyone getting seriously hurt.

And I think that is exactly what has been happening, in dramatic fashion. The Canadian courts have been out of control. An obvious recent example is a court's disallowance of the Kinder Morgan/Transmountain pipeline, at catastrophic taxpayer expense. The judges need to be reined in, and the job of legislating returned to the legislatures. There has been a pileup of terrible decisions and precedents now, that without resort to the notwithstanding clause, will haunt us forever. Because judges cannot bear not to be in control, and always want to make historic rulings that go into the law books and change everything.

That's the point of the “notwithstanding clause.” To prevent this. That is exactly why Allan Blakeney fought for its inclusion in the Constitution.

Now's the time, and well past the time. Ford does us all a great service.

Wednesday, September 12, 2018

The Music of the Spheres

People like Christopher Hitchens look at the vastness of the known physical universe and maintain that this is evidence that God does not exist. Why would he create so many worlds?

This is like Emperor Joseph II's criticism of Mozart: “There are simply too many notes.”

Sunday, September 09, 2018

Objective Morality

There is really no room for debate over morality.

Every major religion, somewhere in its scriptures, has “The Golden Rule,” almost word for word: “Do unto others as you would be done by.”

In philosophy, Kant seems to have had the final word. He concluded that there is one thing that is bedrock certain in all the rational universe, his “categorical imperative.” He gave it in two main versions:

“Treat others as an end, not a means.”


“Act as you would wish all others to act.”

These can be seen to be reformulations of the Golden Rule.

So there is really nothing anywhere so certainly known as the essential difference between right and wrong. The only other proposition that comes close is the existence of God.

Granted, there can be disagreements on how this basic principle applies in some given instance. That is why we have moral traditions. Such matters must be discussed and debated, and over time, solid conclusions develop, like a body of jurisprudence. On these details, different traditions may come to differ. However, even here, in principle, one will in the end be right, and the other wrong, and that can be resolved by reference to the basic principle.

So why does everyone so often think, or claim, it is all up in the air? As a friend asked recently, “Isn't good defined by social attitudes?”

The confusion here is simply explained.

We are all conscious of having done immoral things. Aware of this, we have two choices: admit that we did wrong, or pretend that morality itself is somehow to blame.

A lot of folks would rather take the latter path.

Because it is not true, of course, it is in the end no solution. It only delays the reckoning.

Saturday, September 08, 2018

Pope Francis and Learnng to Accept Blame

Henry IV doing penance.

Friends Alan and Theresa Yoshioka alert me to a piece by Simcha Fisher which expresses a thought I had myself already half-formed: that Pope Francis is actually reacting to the current US scandal just as an abuser would.

Fisher writes:

I have a number of friends who have escaped abusive marriages. They tell me that Pope Francis is sounding more and more like the men who abused them. He’s sounding like the men who hid that abuse from the world, who taught their victims to blame themselves, who used spiritual pressure to persuade them and their families that it would actually be wrong, sinful, to defend themselves.

… This is how abusers talk. They’re not content with power; they have to keep their victims doubting and blaming themselves constantly, so they don’t become a threat.

Fisher describes the impression created as “as chilling as an abuser who smiles warmly at the world while secretly showing an open blade to the victim who stands faithfully at his side.”

Fisher is not accusing Francis of being an abuser. But she wonders what it can mean.

I think it has to mean, at least, that Francis is fully guilty of everything charged by Archbishop Vigano. And instead of admitting fault, as he should, he is trying to avoid facing the music.

If he is not an abuser—and I trust he is not—this is how narcissists and abusers are made. It starts with doing something, anything, wrong, possibly even something not so bad in itself. But then refusing to admit it. And, once you start down that path, it is like a snowball going downhill to a cold hell. Each new lie is invented to cover the last one. Any and all evil becomes conceivable, as you anaesthetize and suppress your conscience. And then you get angrier and nastier and abusive in the effort to silence its still small voice.

The genius of Catholicism is that it starts out convicting us all of sin. You can't escape it; the rules are too severe. You must be perfect, as your Father in heaven is perfect, and none of us is perfect. Masturbation is a sin. Even lustful thoughts are a sin. Insulting someone is a sin. Spreading gossip is a sin. Reading your horoscope is a sin.

Being without sin is not the point. Nobody is without sin. The point is learning to accept blame. And so never beginning down this fatal path.

Leaving aside anything and everything else, Pope Francis is presenting an appalling example to the faithful. Here, as my friend Alan says, the sheep seem to smell better than the shepherd.

Wednesday, September 05, 2018

Shepherds, Hands off Those Sheep

Giotto: Jesus clears the moneylenders from the temple.

It has come to this: two priests arrested for indecent exposure.

To be clear, the current crisis in the US church is not about any new revelations of child sexual abuse. That problem was never worse inside than outside the Catholic clergy, and by all accounts it has been drastically reduced by policies in place for decades. The charges of child abuse in the recent Pennsylvania report are almost all quite old. Consistently, abusers have been in the generation born in the 1930s and ordained in the 1960s—not since.

The problem is hypocritical clergy. The very problem the New Testament cared most about: Pharisaism. There were cynical coverups, and those responsible for the coverups are still in place, protecting and promoting one another. The generation born in the 1930s, after all, have now reached the top of the hierarchy. 

There is also now, thanks to their influence and example, a large body of priests who are priests not because they have a vocation, but because it is a convenient cover and platform to practice an actively homosexual lifestyle. Because, hey, nobody here really takes this religion thing seriously, do they? And the cynical here drive out the good.

There is also a likelihood that such actively homosexual priests will prey sexually on teenagers, destroying their faith.

Time to clean house.

Tuesday, September 04, 2018

Pope Francis on the Family

The real emergency.

Pope Francis has spoken again, apparently referring to the current scandal in the US Church and the call for him to resign. In a sermon at mass in Rome, he said:

“With people who lack goodwill, with people who seek only scandal, who seek only division, who seek only destruction, even within the family: (there is nothing but) silence. And prayer.”

This sounds like an intended justification of his refusal to answer the current charges against him, of ignoring abuses within the American Church.

Does this make sense? Is this the Christian response?

Surely it is not. There have been specific charges made. They are either true or false.

The motives of those making the charges are not relevant to the truth or falsehood of the charges.

In other words, this is a classic ad hominem attack in order to avoid the issue.

Nor is it Christian to cast aspersions on another's motives. That smacks of the sin of detraction or of calumny; like calling your brother “Raca.”

Matthew 5: 22:

Anyone who says to a brother or sister, “Raca,” is answerable to the court. And anyone who says, “You fool!” will be in danger of the fire of hell.
Pope Francis cites the family as model. He gives advice on how to handle disputes within a family: silence.

How well would that work in a marriage? If you disagree you stop talking, and condemn the motives of the other person? Isn't this the opposite of what any marriage counsellor says?

And what does the Bible say about disputes within a family?

Matthew 5:

23 Therefore, if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother or sister has something against you, 24 leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled to them; then come and offer your gift.

Are Francis's words here words of reconciliation? Is he seeking concord?

The passage quoted from Matthew is, of course, advice to someone who has sinned against their brother. What about looking at it the other way? Suppose that Francis is really the innocent victim. He has been sinned against. How then should he react?

Matthew 18:

15 If your brother or sister sins, go and point out their fault, just between the two of you. If they listen to you, you have won them over. 16But if they will not listen, take one or two others along, so that “every matter may be established by the testimony of two or three witnesses.” If they still refuse to listen, tell it to the church; and if they refuse to listen even to the church, treat them as you would a pagan or a tax collector.

This sounds a lot like what the folks calling Francis out have done. If Vigano is truthful in his depositions, he spoke first to Francis privately, then with witnesses, and now has moved on to speaking to the Church. The cardinals who issued the dubia two years ago seem to have followed the same path precisely, following established church procedure; first submitting their concerns to him privately; publishing them only when they received no response; and have still never received a response.

In other words, at each stage, it seems as though Francis simply would not listen.

And Francis, in turn, if he is the innocent party here, has clearly not followed the Biblical procedure. If the current charges are unfounded and come from the blue, he has made no effort to discuss this privately with those making them. Instead, he is attacking them publicly, and ad hominem.

It is painful to see this model being set by the head of the church. Francis's concerns here seem to be always political, never moral. Just like those of the bishops and cardinals in the American coverups. It's all politics to them.

Ironically, many of his defenders, and many in the press, claim any opposition to Francis now is purely political.

This is self-evident nonsense: either the charges are true, or they are not.

But if Francis's papacy has become embroiled in political issues, who did that? Who has been engaging in politics?

Only a day or so ago, Pope Francis issued an urgent call on world governments to do something about plastics pollution in the oceans. Isn't that a political issue?

He even seemed to speak against the building of a wall on the US southern border during the last US election, when this was an election issue. Isn't that injecting the church into politics?

The opposition to Francis looks political to some, because to them, everything is political.

That's the problem.

Monday, September 03, 2018

Did Bernier Just Make a Breakthrough in the West?

Preston Manning.

Preston Manning has an interesting op ed in the Globe and Mail on Maxime Bernier's proposed new party. Manning speaks as the reigning expert—he was the founder of the last big disruptive new party, Reform. 

Everyone is taking Reform as the model for what may happen with Bernier. Manning argues that the Reform Party was a very different beast from what Bernier is about. For one thing, it was a grassroots movement, not a split of an existing party. Manning suggests the better parallels are Real Caouette's Creditistes in the Sixties and Maxime Raymond's Bloc Populaire Canadien back in 1944.

And behind that is a more interesting point: that Bernier may, like them, take more votes away from the Liberals than the Conservatives.

The Conservatives tend to win more seats outside Quebec, Manning argues, and the Liberals win when they can get a strong Quebec caucus. If Bernier's support remains regional, he represents a more attractive local alternative for Quebecers than the national Conservatives to voting Liberal. And regional parties can survive and thrive in Quebec.

Manning does not say so, but he might then also be available to form a formal or informal coalition with the Conservatives, forcing his issues to the forefront. Well played, then.

The problem becomes greater for the Conservatives than the Liberals if and only if Bernier attracts significant support outside Quebec.

But now we come to the elephant in the smoke-filled room, to scramble our metaphors a bit. It is striking that Manning does not mention the most obvious and most recent parallel to Bernier: the Bloc Quebecois. Like Bernier, they were a split from the Conservatives, led by a cabinet minister. And they are a far more recent example than the Creditistes and the BPQ. Why does he not mention them?

Presumably because they hurt the Conservatives more than the Liberals.

In other words, the real message of Manning's column is this: Manning likes Bernier and his plan for a new party. He is trying to give reasons for people who are like-minded to support Bernier.

Bernier may have found just what he needed to really be disruptive: a prominent Western supporter.

Saturday, September 01, 2018

John McCain RIP

Senator John McCain.

I was a fan of John McCain. Somehow a friend knew this.

I wanted to see him win back in 2000. I did not like George W. Bush, who seemed a mediocrity, and I thought ran a dishonest campaign. (And Al Gore was terminally creepy.) It should have been McCain's year.

I can't help but wonder how history might have been different had McCain rather than Bush been president when 9/11 hit. A military man, a war hero. A guy who is used to improvising in a crisis.

Even if he did nothing different, he would have been a more unifying and inspiring figure to have in place at the time.