Sunday, November 26, 2017

What Ornament Got Left Off the Tree This Year?

Why this one, of course.

Friday, November 24, 2017

A Dip of the Toe in the Black Friday Phenomenon

There has been little more worthy of scorn than the disgusting phenomenon of Black Friday shopping. The scenes of riotous flatscreen hopefuls grabbing at each other's entrails in hopes of an additional 30% off have served to inoculate me from the madness. Additionally, I tend to view those who do join these mobs with circumspection, even beloved family members. As of today, I have joined their ranks. Here is my story.

I woke early today, about 0645, wide awake and jonesing for a cup of coffee. I  fed the beasts and sat down with my smartphone by the fire, a device newly shorn of the Twitter and Facebook apps in support of my plan to back away from them for the rest of the Christmas season. The problem in doing so, is that my main source of news--Twitter--is now not available. Now I know, Twitter is a forum for showing off, but it is also an incredibly efficient source of news. I follow a ton of news organizations and political commentators, and they link to numerous interesting news stories and analysis. Without Twitter, I have to use other ways to get news--major news websites (NYT, WaPost), commentary sites (NR, Weekly Standard, commentary) and headlines (AP)--all of which do a good job, but a hell of a lot less efficiently than Twitter.

Enter "Nuzzel". Nuzzel is a fascinating app that links to your Twitter account, and then mines the feeds of everyone you follow, pulling out what THEY have linked to, and then supplying only the linked to stories to you (me) prioritized by how many of them have tweeted about the story or linked to it. Essentially, you get a curated news service courtesy of the people you follow on Twitter. Said another way, you get the good, non-addictive part of twitter (News) without the showing off and the bullshit.

So there I was this morning in front of the fire at 0745, having thoroughly updated myself on the news of the world overnight, with everyone else in my house asleep, for hours at least. I determined yesterday that I would not do any "real" work today, I have prohibited myself from social media (which I could then spend hours wasting time on), and I wasn't all that thrilled to go read the book I'm halfway through on.

I opened an email from Joseph A. Banks telling me about their Black Friday Sale. And then I saw that Joe opened at 0800. And there is a Joe Banks here in Easton. And I want a new suit (Blue windowpane, flat-front trousers, cuffed). And this is how I joined the Black Friday madness.

Driving there, I steeled myself for the experience. Insufficient staff. Lines. Rudeness. Lines. Maybe bait and switch. Lines.

I arrived at 0815, and there was a single employee in the store. I was the sole customer. I left in less than thirty minutes with two pairs of pants and a suit (ordered). 

How bout that?

Thursday, November 23, 2017

Happy Thanksgiving from the Conservative Wahoo

It is quiet here in the kitchen this Thanksgiving morning. I sit next to the (gas) fire with two sleeping, black labs at my feet and a rowdy kitten leaping from place to place. The Kitten popped in a few minutes ago requesting a cup of coffee for her bath, which was duly provided. The Kittens are abed. I gaze out the back windows toward the beginnings of the Miles River and see only a dock on one side of the river and a late 18th century Mansion farther downstream. Were I sitting on this spot in 1790, I would have the same view.

We will have a group of twelve today, the standard crowd. The victuals provided are the makings of perditious gluttony. I am in charge of the grilled goose breast appetizer (grilled yesterday, chilling), the goose breast sauce (blackberry currant jam, water, balsamic boiled, reduced), the turkey gravy (I cheat magnificently here, using powdered poultry gravy to which I add goosebits and pan drippings in endgame--to the delight of all), and the turkey (21.84 lbs of fresh bird). I also say the blessing--to which I attempt to bring the twin oratorical virtues of hope and brevity.

The Kitten is the maestro of this orchestra, and I (famous rule-follower) take orders well. She has a Time Phased Force Deployment Document (TPFDD) that lays out when each part of the dinner is to be begun and finished--which allows for the most efficient and effective use of the five burners on the stove, the toaster oven, the microwave, the oven itself, and if necessary--my grill. When she breaks this document out annually, on Thanksgiving Eve to go over it with me, I get tears of pride in my eyes. It is one of the many reasons I love her.

There are two new dishes on this years gustatory bacchanal; a broccoli/cheese/onion casserole and a corn pudding. The star of the meal each year is The Kitten's famous mashed potatoes, which start with my peeling and dicing while watching the Macy's parade. I have been well-trained to leave plenty of skin, which is (I believe) the second most important contribution to the well-earned fame of this dish. The most important is of course, butter, and plenty of it.

After the peeling and dicing, I retrieve the turkey from the basement reefer and let it sit for a bit before massaging it with oil, salt, and pepper. I go back and forth each year between cooking it breast side down and allowing gravity to work its magic on breast moistness, and breast side up to produce the Currier and Ives photo. I think I'm going with breast side up, but this is a game-time decision. The reason I have such wide latitude is that The Kitten does not like turkey that much and so does not care how it is cooked.

After the bird goes into the oven, I shower and dress and then return to assist in the side dishes as necessary. This part of the meal is really where the Kitten's virtuosity comes into play, and I mainly just try to stay out of the way. Each year, she and I have the same discussion--in which I say, "hey, you need to go get dressed, guests will be here soon", and each year she puts me off, such that she is annually dressing while people arrive and I meet them/provide libation and appetizers.

I am semi-famous for my love of Christmas, and haters always point to this sense that it diminishes the importance of Thanksgiving. This is a pernicious lie. Thanksgiving is one of the MOST IMPORTANT events of the Christmas Season, a ritualistic cleansing if you will, in which we offer to God our greatest of thanks for all of the great blessings we enjoy. At least that's how I see it. Happy Thanksgiving to all of you from Bryan, Catherine, Hope, Hannah, Baloo, ZuZu, Bagherra, and Miss Moppet. 

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

On Travels in Wisconsin

The blog has been quiet since last week because I have been traveling, and the winter weather clothing requirements of my destination meant I had to leave the laptop behind (while still meeting carry-on standards).

FLASH: Hey--wouldn't it be better if airlines made CHECKING bags free and made you PAY for carry-ons? Sure would make getting on and off the plane a lot faster.

Back to the post. I traveled to Wisconsin with General Dan, a reprise of a trip first covered here on the blog two years ago in "Dispatch from the Road: Wisconsin Wonderland".  I've decided not to re-read that post so that it doesn't shape what I write about this one. But I'm sure there will be commonalities.

I flew to Wisconsin on United through Chicago (O'Hare). My God, O'Hare is a big airport. We seemed to taxi on the ground there for twice the length of the flight to Milwaukee. General Dan picked me up at the airport in his land-yacht of a pick-em-up-truck (full, cavernous, heated backseat) and then drove to Dan's hometown of Hartland. That's right. Hartland. Can this be any more stereotypical?

With Joan at her coffee shop
In Hartland, we stopped in at Joan Curnane Folvag's coffee shop, a repeat of our trip here last time. Joan and I went to high school together, and she is a Hartland hero for having brought the first real coffeeshop to town. She's decided to sell it now and relax a bit--I don't blame her. Her oldest son popped in for a visit--strapping senior in H.S. headed to the University of Minnesota next year--where he'll join the Golden Gopher Marching Band (trombone). Ten minutes with him had me far less worried about America's future.

We then moved on to our destination for the night, the house Dan's father (Tim) shares with his wife Linda. Dan's mom died ten years ago or so, and from what I've been able to discern over the years, she was a force of nature. Having myself joined the family of a deceased legend, I feel a kinship with Linda. She and Tim have built a great life together, living in her house in Wisconsin for most of the year, and his condo in Florida over the rough winter months.  Both of them are salt of the earth--kind, conversational, and warm.

With Steve Hampton.
The Hampton's, Representing
Late Friday afternoon, I posted an update in Facebook that was read by my old Navy boss Steve Hampton--who actually lives in Hartland these days. Steve called, and I asked permission of my hosts to bag out for 90 minutes to go have a drink with Steve--who came and picked me up soon thereafter. We alighted to Palmers in downtown Hartland where a fetching bar-tendress served us an afternoon libation. It is always great to be with Steve. I worked for him in the early 90's on USS THOMAS S GATES (CG 51), which was perhaps the most talent laden ship of the twentieth century Navy. He taught me everything I know about killing missiles and airplanes (well, he and Mudge did) , and we've been good friends ever since. After a bit, Steve took me back to his house, where his knockout wife Terry met us in his beautiful house. Hampton's marriage to Terry is a tribute to the possibility that some women really DO seek out a sense of humor, because if she were trying to maximize looks, Hambone would not come close. I keed, I keed.

Steve and Terry have two grown daughters and live in what appears to me to be Bruce Wayne's mansion. We went for a tour, and I swear, I figured there would be a bat cave. Perfectly decorated--both in general and for Christmas--it struck me as a wonderful place to kick your feet up.

General Dan, with an Old Fashioned
Having overstayed my welcome, I asked Steve to drive me to dinner at the Hartland Inn.  Here, two of Dan's sisters met up with Tim, Linda, Dan and I--along with one sister (Liz) husband (Steve). This dinner is their way of really turning on the Wisconsin charm--and it is a request of mine. The Hartland Inn is a legit Wisconsin Supper Club, which has to be experienced to be understood. I absolutely love this place. Everyone seems to know each other there, and I swear, walking into the bar is like walking back fifty years in time.  I didn't even open the menu, because I found what I wanted to eat on the "specials" menu appended thereunto. I ordered a New England Clam Chowder and Beef Stroganoff--both of which went down smooth. The only problem was that during the pre-dinner bar time, I ate somewhere on the order of  3,000 small pretzels, and I finished up the evening uncomfortably full and very heart-burny.

I decided on this trip to throw dietary caution to the wind, and I sincerely regret it. I ate whatever I wanted in whatever quantities I wanted, and laid in bed each night enormous and dyspeptic. I went back to Tim and Linda's house to hit the sack, but the General stayed in town and hit a watering hole to receive the adulation of the townspeople.
My Legitimacy

A little of the White Stuff
With the Karbler Siblings
Saturday morning brought a dusting of snow (lovely) and a festive lunch with all three of Dan's sisters. I was granted special dispensation to attend this "Sibling Lunch", to include actual paperwork. One thing I noted earlier in the morning was General Dan being a little short with his Dad about when we would leave for Green Bay (2 hrs away). Dan doesn't get short much. This wasn't a full on jerk kind of short, but a little chippy. So when Dan and I split from lunch with the ladies to go grab Dan's Dad, I asked him what the hurry was to get to Green Bay. "Ok. I'll spoil the surprise. We're getting a guided tour of the Packers facilities along with the pilots who will do the F-15 flyover the next day.  And we get pregame field VIP passes for Sunday."  Ok. Now I understand the chippiness.

Aaron Rodgers Locker, extreme right
We made the trip up and were met at Lambeau by "T-Bone" who is both an equipment manager and the team's military liaison. His office was a shrine of stuff that military units have given him- very cool, and he loves the military. We saw everything. The training facilities. The weight room. The locker room. The shoe room. The indoor practice field. It was a behind the scenes look that really gives one an appreciation into what goes into pulling off a professional football game.
T-Bone and the General

Dinner that night was a feast--each of us got the ribeye at The Black and Tan Grille. My primary dietary foul here was the lobster mac and cheese, which was everything a boy hopes for in his lobster mac and cheese. We then waddled back to our hotel where I passed another uncomfortable night of gastro-intestinal distress.

The game (Packers v. Ravens) started at 12, and the wind chill was 17 degrees. This is not--as Lambeau goes--very cold. But it is very cold to me. So I brought along a good deal of extra layers etc, and was well equipped for the elements. Besides a little toe cold, everything else was toasty.

Tim and Dan in The Shoe Room
The Packers got beat. I feel bad for Green Bay fans, because they suffer from a severe case of cognitive dissonance. When Aaron Rodgers broke his collarbone, the entire country--except Packers fans--wrote this team off. And the whole country was right. The drop-off between an all world QB and the second string guy is huge--and they just couldn't get it done. I was impressed with how well the Ravens traveled, as there were a TON of Ravens fans there. I was also impressed with how nice the Green Bay folks were to them. They kill you with kindness there.

We dined Sunday night at a regrettable spot called "Hagermeister Park". Tim loved his wings, but there was little else ordered that night worth discussion. And since I was in the land of nice people, I'll be nice and not say anything more mean about the place.

On Monday morning, we hopped over the airport in Green Bay to meet up with our new F-15 pilot buddies to walk the flight line and learn about the planes. Then we headed back down to Milwaukee to drop me at the airport to continue my travels home. Dan was to drop his Dad off back in Hartland and then continue driving to his home outside Omaha.

One odd thing to report. I did not see a single cow in the four days I was there. I think some kind of clever ruse is being pulled on the American people, and all the cows are really in Minnesota.

Another odd thing; on the drive from Green Bay to Milwaukee, I saw a number of advertisements for "adult" establishments. Video, dancing, clothing, etc. Who knew these people were so randy? I guess you've got to find some way to pass the long winter....

All in all, a fantastic trip among wonderful people. Many thanks to General Dan, Tim, Linda, Liz, Steve Carol, Steve, and Terry for making this a great trip.

Going Dark for Christmas

Social media plays a big part in my life. I have this blog. I have a decent Twitter following. I am active on Facebook. I don't have any hobbies to speak of, so I suppose social media may in fact count as one. The problem is, I fear it plays TOO big a part in my life. I don't read as much as I used to. If I had a camera on me throughout the day, I'd be head down in my stupid phone on Twitter. Twitter is really my obsession, because of the instant feedback. I like writing pithy things (hence, a blog). On Twitter, I get instant feedback. Some like what I say, some don't. When I say something particularly important or insightful, I watch the number of followers rise. It is addictive. I am likely, addicted.

Facebook is a little different. I used to use Facebook like I use Twitter--posting all manner of political and policy oriented stuff--but what I realize is that most of the people on Facebook aren't really interested in that sort of stuff. It's more of a "here's what my kids and grandkids are up to" kind of platform--which I think is a bad thing for its future, as the kids and grandkids just aren't on Facebook. That said, plenty of other people still use Facebook to air their political views, and so I get exposed to them there. I don't answer them anymore, but they still sometimes get a rise out of me.

As I was traveling this weekend, I was thinking about Christmas, as is my habit, and how I actually celebrate the season. I thought about how people really are a little nicer to each other when there is Christmas music playing in the background. And I thought about the kind of person I want to be for the people I love. And then I got involved in a frothy little Twitter debate on my phone. In the middle of it, I realized how incompatible the tweeting was with the rosy, homey thoughts I had prior to it. And it was then that I decided that if I were going to be a real, committed Christmas freak, I needed to put down the phone.

So here's the plan. From the time I got to bed tonight to the morning after Christmas, I will not participate in Twitter, and I will not post or read Facebook--with the sole exception of my Facebook Christmas Carol posting which is after all, a huge part of many people's Christmas cheer.  I'll keep doing this blog, but the others will go away.

I'm hoping to harvest the time I waste on social media and dedicate it to my family--to being more helpful, to decorating with abandon, to cooking holiday meals, to watching wonderful holiday TV shows--to fully immerse myself in the season.

I'll let you know how it turns out.

Thursday, November 16, 2017

Tax Reform Moves Forward

Very good news today as the House just passed its tax reform bill--with no Democrat support. Thirteen R's voted against it, primarily from states with high state income taxes which would (under the House plan) be treated far differently under the plan. NYT has a good summary here, with the key graph below:

"The House tax bill, which passed in the Ways and Means Committee last week, would cut taxes more than $1.4 trillion over 10 years. It cuts the corporate tax rate to 20 percent from 35 percent, collapses the number of tax brackets to four from seven, switches the United States to an international tax system that is more in line with the rest of the world, and eliminates or scales back many popular deductions, including one for state and local taxes paid."

I honestly don't know how I will make out under this new approach--I pay a goodly bit of State and Local income taxes that I won't be able to deduct anymore, but I also run a sole proprietorship which may mean I get taxed at the Corporate rate--something I'll have to check.

What is really important here--for the future of the GOP in ANY form--is that they get this done, and by "this", I mean tax reform/cuts. The Senate has a somewhat different bill they are working on, and with their tiny margins, each Republican Senator's ability to fudge the deal rises dramatically (as we saw with health insurance). I have no idea how this will all turn out, but I think the neither the House bill nor the Senate's will be passed in its current form. I give SOME reform a 50/50 shot. But if it fails, the likely 2018 GOP Bloodbath becomes a lock.

Let's face it; if the GOP can't pass tax reform owning both chambers and the White House, then the reform they are trying to achieve is simply not possible. It isn't a sign of incompetence, but it will be taken as one. I'd love to see them work their assess off to do a solid bill that could bring a few D's along--but which would CERTAINLY lock up their own caucus. But it seems they are under the gun in terms of timing, because of how ineffective they and the President have been in getting anything done in this Congress.

Touch and Go

I landed this morning at Dulles and had to take a cab to BWI to get my car, as my flights got screwed up on the West Coast last night and I needed to be back for a 0900 event at Kitten 1's school. I landed, got in the cab, drove to BWI, got my car and drove to her school (including stopping for gas) and got there at 0901.  I love it when a plan comes together.

On the way home from the event, I stopped at Giant and grabbed a 21.84 lb fresh Butterball Turkey. This should stand our group of 12 on Turkey Day in good stead. I read an interesting article on Thanksgiving yesterday which essentially made the case that the only thing necessary to be cooked ON Thanksgiving is the Turkey. I'll have to consult with the Domestic CEO to see if she wants to buy into such a plan.

I had time a little while ago to do another carol to help move you along in the Christmas spirit.

Tomorrow early, I hop on another plane and make my way to Milwaukee to meet up with General Dan (Karbler), who many on the blog know well. Dan and I hit a Packers game two years ago and it was a wonderful time--so we decided to do it again this year. We didn't know that Aaron Rogers would go down, but those are the breaks.

I don't suspect I'll bring the laptop with me, so there won't be any posts until I get home Monday night at the earliest.

Sunday, November 12, 2017

Sunday Potpourri

I spend a lot of time criticizing the President, and all too little time thinking about how we made such an utter mistake in electing him. I had a brief moment of how it happened last night. For some odd reason, NBC has decided to resurrect a show called "Will and Grace" from its graveyard of past shows. Here is a description of the show I pulled from the Google:

"In the original eight-season run of this groundbreaking sitcom, best friends Will, a meticulous corporate lawyer, and Grace, a neurotic interior decorator, share a New York apartment after Grace leaves her fiancé at the altar. Will and Grace, along with their pals Karen, an outspoken socialite, and Jack, a free-spirited actor, face the highs and lows of life in Manhattan together. From sex, dating and divorce to cutting cultural commentary, nothing's off limits -- and all is fair game -- in this Emmy-winning comedy."

The show went off the air 12 years ago, without my ever having watched a minute of it. NBC has brought it back this year, and The Kitten seems to enjoy it, which means I sometimes watch it alongside.  Last night's episode featured a situation in which the above mentioned "free-spirited actor" Jack (in reality, about as stereotyped a gay character as one could imagine) was confronted with his 10 year old never-before-met grandson. The boy's father--Jack's son--was the product of a sperm donation, and Jack and his son were estranged.

The point of this whole thing is that the boy believed he was gay, and his parents (stereotyped Texans) were taking him to a deprogramming camp of some sort--in which the two main camp counselors were played by well-known lesbian and gay B-listers dutifully repressing their natures and lampooning/caricaturing the very notion of such a camp.

Now--here's the part you really need to pay attention to--I don't have an opinion to share with you about the notion of a camp that parents would send their kids to in order to convince them that they were not gay. I'm not going to argue with anyone about whether that kind of camp is "right" or whether homosexuality is "wrong". That's not what this blog post is about.

It is about the manner in which the popular culture portrayed the people who for some odd reason, do not celebrate the gay lifestyle. They were benighted druids, with the only point at which the boy's father was portrayed positively was when he rejected his wife's rejection of their son's (and the boy's grandfather's) homosexuality. One could not be fully human until one put away the notion that homosexuality was wrong.

The thing is, LOTS of people think homosexuality is wrong. They pay taxes. They have jobs. They send their kids to school. And they are mercilessly lampooned in the popular culture.

There's news this morning of Saturday Night Live doing a bit last night on Judge Roy Moore--who deserves everything he's getting. Take the easy shot at the culturally deprived target--but leave Harvey Weinstein alone? Where has that bit been?

It seems to me that there part of what we've seen politically is the back-lash to what we've seen culturally. I'm clearly not the first to make this point, but it cannot be made enough. Until Trump--the GOP had a HAMMERLOCK on politics in this country and the left had a hammerlock on the culture. Trump's voters got tired of how they're treated in pop culture (and presumably, much of the time in this blog), and they acted out. So now we have Trump, and the right will now begin to lose even the political arguments.

So--while I am foursquare of the opinion that Trump voters made a tantrum-induced mistake that will ultimately deprive them of the very things they sought, every now and then I get a glimpse of what brought on the tantrum.


In other news, the UVA football team stunk up the field in Louisville, and fact powerful Miami next week. Not getting any easier.


One of the charms of living on Maryland's Eastern Shore is the annual Easton Waterfowl Festival--right here in my hometown. This is a great event--art, music, food etc--and my favorite feature--exhibitions of hunting dog prowess. I have two black labs who are the best most loving dogs in the world. But they are horribly trained. I see these people walking with their calm and lovely labs down the street at Waterfowl, and I am instantly envious. They I go watch the retriever exhibition, and my heart breaks, as my two just don't seem to have that gene.  Anyway, it was a great day.

A Waterfowl Festival Street Scene

Saturday, November 11, 2017

Perhaps I Made a Mistake--In Which I Review My Decision Not to Run for Senate

As some of you know, I toyed with the idea of running against Senator Ben Cardin (D-MD) in the 2018 Maryland U.S. Senate race. In the summer of 2016, I began a process of figuring out whether or not to do so. I thought deeply about it; I gathered friends and wise people to discuss it; I began planning, I wrote a monthly newsletter, I started to work on my public speaking, and I generally obsessed with what could only have been considered quixotic exercise.

Maryland is deeply, deeply Democratic state. There hasn't been a Republican Senator in over thirty years. The last time it voted for a Republican for President was I believe, Reagan in 84.  There have been a few Republican governors, including Larry Hogan, our present Governor, and one of the most popular governors in the country. He is also up for re-election in 2018.

What I'm trying to say is that winning a statewide race in Maryland as a Republican is -- under the best of conditions -- a long-shot.

But at the time--I saw two things that made the long shot a little less long. First was the presence of the Governor on the ballot. Larry Hogan is as I said, very popular, and he had done a good job of showing snowflakey Maryland voters that a Republican doesn't have to be scary. And at the time, I was not a very scary Republican.  Second was that I thought Hillary Clinton would win the November 2016 election (I think I can be excused this mistake, as mostly everyone else did too) and there would be an inevitable backlash against her administration in the 2018 Congressional elections. Taken together, these two contributors lowered the barriers to a Republican winning--but still not by much.

Because I needed to have a rational decision-making process as I approached this, I had a series of "go/no-go" points along the way, the first of which was the Presidential election. Simply put, although I saw his chances of winning as minimal, I believed that if Donald Trump DID win, my brand of GOP politics would be so far out of favor with the Maryland electorate that I would not have a prayer in the primary. So--it was the first "no go" point. On the morning after the election, I realized I had reached that point, and I told Catherine and everyone else following my decision that I would not go any farther.

A year later, I am second-guessing myself. Not the decision, per se, but the logic behind it. A year after the election of Donald Trump, he is singularly unpopular. His support even in the Republican Party, is slowly declining, and his support nationwide reflects his position as a deeply polarizing figure. My guess is though, that among a goodly number of Republicans likely to vote in a Maryland GOP Primary (closed primary), he is still quite popular. But that popularity seems to me, to offer the interesting new angle.

If you go back and look at the GOP Senate primaries in the past few go-rounds, you see one theme repeated--there are a number of hopefuls, and they divide up the vote with the winner managing only a plurality. So, cut ahead to the 2018 primary. Let's say six people were running. My gut tells me that most--if not all--would be falling over themselves to be seen by the Trump friendly GOP primary electorate as "Pro-Trump". Which means that if one of them were to run as the explicitly conservative, old school GOP "Anti-Trump" guy--he or she could gain traction with that portion of the GOP electorate who is not on the "Trump Train".  Stay with me now.

If someone running for Senate in the State of Maryland GOP Primary--were to run as a loud and proud you think the Washington DC media would be able to leave that person alone? Or do you think they would get a BUTT TON of free media. Remember--to win the Senate race, you first have to be nominated. Getting nominated in a multi-horse race means you've got to have name recognition. Someone who mounts a campaign like the one I've described could gain a good deal of it--perhaps enough to gain 20-30% of the vote in a GOP primary--which could be enough to win. Additionally, someone running a campaign like this would have to appeal to "unaffiliated" voters to register GOP and vote for him/her in the primary. The ability to register a vote AGAINST Trump in a GOP primary would be CATNIP to some voters. 

Clearly, what I've described is an odd way to look at things, but then again, anyone running as a Republican in Maryland is somewhat odd to begin with. That said, I cannot even begin to tell you how much fun I would have with this kind of campaign, how wonderful it would be to travel the State talking about the buffoon in the Oval Office and more importantly--how he lied to his supporters and how he is leaving them behind.

Would I win? Could I win? Doubtful. But man--it would be a hoot.

UVA Basketball Has Started

Let's face it: there is no sport better than college basketball--and the season got off to a great start last night when the Wahoos beat UNC Greensboro 60-48. I watched it on ESPN3 on my computer by a warm fire, and followed along with my Twitter feed. A couple of thoughts:
UVA guard Kyle Guy, this year (thankfully) without the man-bun

--Virginia basketball is knocking on powerhouse status. Coach Tony Bennett is building a program that has had consistent success since the 2012-2013 season, including two ACC regular season titles and one ACC Tournament Championship. Bennett has a system and a defined philosophy, and it works. He is also personally likable, at least to the extent that one can discern from press conferences and the like. He is immensely popular with the fanbase.

--UVA plays a very particular brand of basketball. Stifling, crushing defense and ball-control offense that relies HEAVILY on perimeter play. They don't score much, but then again, they score more than the teams they play. Because they play deliberately, they get fewer scoring opportunities than other teams who run the floor. Because they convert their offensive opportunities at a higher rate--they win. Where they run into trouble--is when the perimeter shooting fails them. And this does not happen infrequently.

--That fanbase--especially the portion that are especially fond of Bennett--tend to brook no discontent with the team on social media. To some, any negativity/constructive criticism of the team, its players, or its coaches--is disloyalty. More frustrating even than that is the constant undercurrent of "shhh...don't say mean things or Tony will pack up and take the Wisconsin coaching job." These jealous protectors of the egos of the players and coaches tend not to specialize only in basketball--but also chide anyone with a cross word about any UVA sport. They appear (at least to me) to believe that being a Wahoo fan demands absolute loyalty and positivism, and that even objective criticism goes too far.

--Now comes the hard part. Sometimes my emotions overcome my objectivity and I write things that while (objectively!) true, come across with sarcasm and curmudgeonliness, and I suppose I am due for a bit of ragging.

All that said--I think UVA could have a solid year. They have a lot of talent--but it is unproven. The team reminds me of the 2013-4 one which muddled along though the halfway point in the season, and then got wicked hot late when the team gelled. I can definitely see the potential for this here.  Wahoowa!

Why The US Intelligence Community Dislikes The President

The U.S. intelligence community was unanimously aligned when it came to whether or not the Russian government attempted to interfere in our election. To the extent that there was even minor disagreement, it was in whether that interference was designed solely to benefit Trump, or whether it was designed to inject chaos and doubt into our system.  That's it. That's the truth. There is not getting around it. No one has mentioned collusion. No one has mentioned a single member of the Trump campaign. They messed around in our election and that is a fact.

Except to the President, who oversees the U.S. intelligence community.  To wit:

When his buddy Vlad gets upset, he gets the President's ear. The President doesn't say, "well Vlad, you're full of shit. You gave the order and your people interfered in our election." But maybe the President is just passing along the info for the benefit of his fellow that we can make our own judgments. No--that's not it either. Because he believes Putin. How do I know this?

I'm sorry I keep updating this, but he keeps giving me more material.

There was a time when "conservatives" recognized that Russia was not our friend. 

Friday, November 10, 2017

For Today's Immoral Religious Right: The Grand Inquisitor


By Fyodor Mikailovich Dostoevsky

Translated by Constance Garnett

Chapter 5

The Grand Inquisitor

"And behold, He deigned to appear for a moment to the people, to the tortured, suffering people, sunk in iniquity, but loving Him like children. My story is laid in Spain, in Seville, in the most terrible time of the Inquisition, when fires were lighted every day to the glory of God, and 'in the splendid auto da fe the wicked heretics were burnt.' Oh, of course, this was not the coming in which He will appear, according to His promise, at the end of time in all His heavenly glory, and which will be sudden 'as lightning flashing from east to west.' No, He visited His children only for a moment, and there where the flames were crackling round the heretics. In His infinite mercy He came once more among men in that human shape in which He walked among men for thirty-three years fifteen centuries ago. He came down to the 'hot pavements' of the southern town in which on the day before almost a hundred heretics had, ad majorem gloriam Dei, been burnt by the cardinal, the Grand Inquisitor, in a magnificent auto da fe, in the presence of the king, the court, the knights, the cardinals, the most charming ladies of the court, and the whole population of Seville.

"He came softly, unobserved, and yet, strange to say, everyone recognised Him. That might be one of the best passages in the poem. I mean, why they recognised Him. The people are irresistibly drawn to Him, they surround Him, they flock about Him, follow Him. He moves silently in their midst with a gentle smile of infinite compassion. The sun of love burns in His heart, and power shine from His eyes, and their radiance, shed on the people, stirs their hearts with responsive love. He holds out His hands to them, blesses them, and a healing virtue comes from contact with Him, even with His garments. An old man in the crowd, blind from childhood, cries out, 'O Lord, heal me and I shall see Thee!' and, as it were, scales fall from his eyes and the blind man sees Him. The crowd weeps and kisses the earth under His feet. Children throw flowers before Him, sing, and cry hosannah. 'It is He- it is He!' repeat. 'It must be He, it can be no one but Him!' He stops at the steps of the Seville cathedral at the moment when the weeping mourners are bringing in a little open white coffin. In it lies a child of seven, the only daughter of a prominent citizen. The dead child lies hidden in flowers. 'He will raise your child,' the crowd shouts to the weeping mother. The priest, coming to meet the coffin, looks perplexed, and frowns, but the mother of the dead child throws herself at His feet with a wail. 'If it is Thou, raise my child!' she cries, holding out her hands to Him. The procession halts, the coffin is laid on the steps at His feet. He looks with compassion, and His lips once more softly pronounce, 'Maiden, arise!' and the maiden arises. The little girl sits up in the coffin and looks round, smiling with wide-open wondering eyes, holding a bunch of white roses they had put in her hand.

"There are cries, sobs, confusion among the people, and at that moment the cardinal himself, the Grand Inquisitor, passes by the cathedral. He is an old man, almost ninety, tall and erect, with a withered face and sunken eyes, in which there is still a gleam of light. He is not dressed in his gorgeous cardinal's robes, as he was the day before, when he was burning the enemies of the Roman Church- at this moment he is wearing his coarse, old, monk's cassock. At a distance behind him come his gloomy assistants and slaves and the 'holy guard.' He stops at the sight of the crowd and watches it from a distance. He sees everything; he sees them set the coffin down at His feet, sees the child rise up, and his face darkens. He knits his thick grey brows and his eyes gleam with a sinister fire. He holds out his finger and bids the guards take Him. And such is his power, so completely are the people cowed into submission and trembling obedience to him, that the crowd immediately makes way for the guards, and in the midst of deathlike silence they lay hands on Him and lead him away. The crowd instantly bows down to the earth, like one man, before the old Inquisitor. He blesses the people in silence and passes on' The guards lead their prisoner to the close, gloomy vaulted prison- in the ancient palace of the Holy, inquisition and shut him in it. The day passes and is followed by the dark, burning, 'breathless' night of Seville. The air is 'fragrant with laurel and lemon.' In the pitch darkness the iron door of the prison is suddenly opened and the Grand Inquisitor himself comes in with a light in his hand. He is alone; the door is closed at once behind him. He stands in the doorway and for a minute or two gazes into His face. At last he goes up slowly, sets the light on the table and speaks.

"'Is it Thou? Thou?' but receiving no answer, he adds at once. 'Don't answer, be silent. What canst Thou say, indeed? I know too well what Thou wouldst say. And Thou hast no right to add anything to what Thou hadst said of old. Why, then, art Thou come to hinder us? For Thou hast come to hinder us, and Thou knowest that. But dost thou know what will be to-morrow? I know not who Thou art and care not to know whether it is Thou or only a semblance of Him, but to-morrow I shall condemn Thee and burn Thee at the stake as the worst of heretics. And the very people who have to-day kissed Thy feet, to-morrow at the faintest sign from me will rush to heap up the embers of Thy fire. Knowest Thou that? Yes, maybe Thou knowest it,' he added with thoughtful penetration, never for a moment taking his eyes off the Prisoner."

"I don't quite understand, Ivan. What does it mean?" Alyosha, who had been listening in silence, said with a smile. "Is it simply a wild fantasy, or a mistake on the part of the old man- some impossible quid pro quo?"

"Take it as the last," said Ivan, laughing, "if you are so corrupted by modern realism and can't stand anything fantastic. If you like it to be a case of mistaken identity, let it be so. It is true," he went on, laughing, "the old man was ninety, and he might well be crazy over his set idea. He might have been struck by the appearance of the Prisoner. It might, in fact, be simply his ravings, the delusion of an old man of ninety, over-excited by the auto da fe of a hundred heretics the day before. But does it matter to us after all whether it was a mistake of identity or a wild fantasy? All that matters is that the old man should speak out, that he should speak openly of what he has thought in silence for ninety years."

"And the Prisoner too is silent? Does He look at him and not say a word?"

"That's inevitable in any case," Ivan laughed again. "The old man has told Him He hasn't the right to add anything to what He has said of old. One may say it is the most fundamental feature of Roman Catholicism, in my opinion at least. 'All has been given by Thee to the Pope,' they say, 'and all, therefore, is still in the Pope's hands, and there is no need for Thee to come now at all. Thou must not meddle for the time, at least.' That's how they speak and write too- the Jesuits, at any rate. I have read it myself in the works of their theologians. 'Hast Thou the right to reveal to us one of the mysteries of that world from which Thou hast come?' my old man asks Him, and answers the question for Him. 'No, Thou hast not; that Thou mayest not add to what has been said of old, and mayest not take from men the freedom which Thou didst exalt when Thou wast on earth. Whatsoever Thou revealest anew will encroach on men's freedom of faith; for it will be manifest as a miracle, and the freedom of their faith was dearer to Thee than anything in those days fifteen hundred years ago. Didst Thou not often say then, "I will make you free"? But now Thou hast seen these "free" men,' the old man adds suddenly, with a pensive smile. 'Yes, we've paid dearly for it,' he goes on, looking sternly at Him, 'but at last we have completed that work in Thy name. For fifteen centuries we have been wrestling with Thy freedom, but now it is ended and over for good. Dost Thou not believe that it's over for good? Thou lookest meekly at me and deignest not even to be wroth with me. But let me tell Thee that now, to-day, people are more persuaded than ever that they have perfect freedom, yet they have brought their freedom to us and laid it humbly at our feet. But that has been our doing. Was this what Thou didst? Was this Thy freedom?'"

"I don't understand again." Alyosha broke in. "Is he ironical, is he jesting?"

"Not a bit of it! He claims it as a merit for himself and his Church that at last they have vanquished freedom and have done so to make men happy. 'For now' (he is speaking of the Inquisition, of course) 'for the first time it has become possible to think of the happiness of men. Man was created a rebel; and how can rebels be happy? Thou wast warned,' he says to Him. 'Thou hast had no lack of admonitions and warnings, but Thou didst not listen to those warnings; Thou didst reject the only way by which men might be made happy. But, fortunately, departing Thou didst hand on the work to us. Thou hast promised, Thou hast established by Thy word, Thou hast given to us the right to bind and to unbind, and now, of course, Thou canst not think of taking it away. Why, then, hast Thou come to hinder us?'"

"And what's the meaning of 'no lack of admonitions and warnings'?" asked Alyosha.

"Why, that's the chief part of what the old man must say.

"'The wise and dread spirit, the spirit of self-destruction and non-existence,' the old man goes on, great spirit talked with Thee in the wilderness, and we are told in the books that he "tempted" Thee. Is that so? And could anything truer be said than what he revealed to Thee in three questions and what Thou didst reject, and what in the books is called "the temptation"? And yet if there has ever been on earth a real stupendous miracle, it took place on that day, on the day of the three temptations. The statement of those three questions was itself the miracle. If it were possible to imagine simply for the sake of argument that those three questions of the dread spirit had perished utterly from the books, and that we had to restore them and to invent them anew, and to do so had gathered together all the wise men of the earth- rulers, chief priests, learned men, philosophers, poets- and had set them the task to invent three questions, such as would not only fit the occasion, but express in three words, three human phrases, the whole future history of the world and of humanity- dost Thou believe that all the wisdom of the earth united could have invented anything in depth and force equal to the three questions which were actually put to Thee then by the wise and mighty spirit in the wilderness? From those questions alone, from the miracle of their statement, we can see that we have here to do not with the fleeting human intelligence, but with the absolute and eternal. For in those three questions the whole subsequent history of mankind is, as it were, brought together into one whole, and foretold, and in them are united all the unsolved historical contradictions of human nature. At the time it could not be so clear, since the future was unknown; but now that fifteen hundred years have passed, we see that everything in those three questions was so justly divined and foretold, and has been so truly fulfilled, that nothing can be added to them or taken from them.

"Judge Thyself who was right- Thou or he who questioned Thee then? Remember the first question; its meaning, in other words, was this: "Thou wouldst go into the world, and art going with empty hands, with some promise of freedom which men in their simplicity and their natural unruliness cannot even understand, which they fear and dread- for nothing has ever been more insupportable for a man and a human society than freedom. But seest Thou these stones in this parched and barren wilderness? Turn them into bread, and mankind will run after Thee like a flock of sheep, grateful and obedient, though for ever trembling, lest Thou withdraw Thy hand and deny them Thy bread." But Thou wouldst not deprive man of freedom and didst reject the offer, thinking, what is that freedom worth if obedience is bought with bread? Thou didst reply that man lives not by bread alone. But dost Thou know that for the sake of that earthly bread the spirit of the earth will rise up against Thee and will strive with Thee and overcome Thee, and all will follow him, crying, "Who can compare with this beast? He has given us fire from heaven!" Dost Thou know that the ages will pass, and humanity will proclaim by the lips of their sages that there is no crime, and therefore no sin; there is only hunger? "Feed men, and then ask of them virtue!" that's what they'll write on the banner, which they will raise against Thee, and with which they will destroy Thy temple. Where Thy temple stood will rise a new building; the terrible tower of Babel will be built again, and though, like the one of old, it will not be finished, yet Thou mightest have prevented that new tower and have cut short the sufferings of men for a thousand years; for they will come back to us after a thousand years of agony with their tower. They will seek us again, hidden underground in the catacombs, for we shall be again persecuted and tortured. They will find us and cry to us, "Feed us, for those who have promised us fire from heaven haven't given it!" And then we shall finish building their tower, for he finishes the building who feeds them. And we alone shall feed them in Thy name, declaring falsely that it is in Thy name. Oh, never, never can they feed themselves without us! No science will give them bread so long as they remain free. In the end they will lay their freedom at our feet, and say to us, "Make us your slaves, but feed us." They will understand themselves, at last, that freedom and bread enough for all are inconceivable together, for never, never will they be able to share between them! They will be convinced, too, that they can never be free, for they are weak, vicious, worthless, and rebellious. Thou didst promise them the bread of Heaven, but, I repeat again, can it compare with earthly bread in the eyes of the weak, ever sinful and ignoble race of man? And if for the sake of the bread of Heaven thousands shall follow Thee, what is to become of the millions and tens of thousands of millions of creatures who will not have the strength to forego the earthly bread for the sake of the heavenly? Or dost Thou care only for the tens of thousands of the great and strong, while the millions, numerous as the sands of the sea, who are weak but love Thee, must exist only for the sake of the great and strong? No, we care for the weak too. They are sinful and rebellious, but in the end they too will become obedient. They will marvel at us and look on us as gods, because we are ready to endure the freedom which they have found so dreadful and to rule over them- so awful it will seem to them to be free. But we shall tell them that we are Thy servants and rule them in Thy name. We shall deceive them again, for we will not let Thee come to us again. That deception will be our suffering, for we shall be forced to lie.

"'This is the significance of the first question in the wilderness, and this is what Thou hast rejected for the sake of that freedom which Thou hast exalted above everything. Yet in this question lies hid the great secret of this world. Choosing "bread," Thou wouldst have satisfied the universal and everlasting craving of humanity- to find someone to worship. So long as man remains free he strives for nothing so incessantly and so painfully as to find someone to worship. But man seeks to worship what is established beyond dispute, so that all men would agree at once to worship it. For these pitiful creatures are concerned not only to find what one or the other can worship, but to find community of worship is the chief misery of every man individually and of all humanity from the beginning of time. For the sake of common worship they've slain each other with the sword. They have set up gods and challenged one another, "Put away your gods and come and worship ours, or we will kill you and your gods!" And so it will be to the end of the world, even when gods disappear from the earth; they will fall down before idols just the same. Thou didst know, Thou couldst not but have known, this fundamental secret of human nature, but Thou didst reject the one infallible banner which was offered Thee to make all men bow down to Thee alone- the banner of earthly bread; and Thou hast rejected it for the sake of freedom and the bread of Heaven. Behold what Thou didst further. And all again in the name of freedom! I tell Thee that man is tormented by no greater anxiety than to find someone quickly to whom he can hand over that gift of freedom with which the ill-fated creature is born. But only one who can appease their conscience can take over their freedom. In bread there was offered Thee an invincible banner; give bread, and man will worship thee, for nothing is more certain than bread. But if someone else gains possession of his conscience- Oh! then he will cast away Thy bread and follow after him who has ensnared his conscience. In that Thou wast right. For the secret of man's being is not only to live but to have something to live for. Without a stable conception of the object of life, man would not consent to go on living, and would rather destroy himself than remain on earth, though he had bread in abundance. That is true. But what happened? Instead of taking men's freedom from them, Thou didst make it greater than ever! Didst Thou forget that man prefers peace, and even death, to freedom of choice in the knowledge of good and evil? Nothing is more seductive for man than his freedom of conscience, but nothing is a greater cause of suffering. And behold, instead of giving a firm foundation for setting the conscience of man at rest for ever, Thou didst choose all that is exceptional, vague and enigmatic; Thou didst choose what was utterly beyond the strength of men, acting as though Thou didst not love them at all- Thou who didst come to give Thy life for them! Instead of taking possession of men's freedom, Thou didst increase it, and burdened the spiritual kingdom of mankind with its sufferings for ever. Thou didst desire man's free love, that he should follow Thee freely, enticed and taken captive by Thee. In place of the rigid ancient law, man must hereafter with free heart decide for himself what is good and what is evil, having only Thy image before him as his guide. But didst Thou not know that he would at last reject even Thy image and Thy truth, if he is weighed down with the fearful burden of free choice? They will cry aloud at last that the truth is not in Thee, for they could not have been left in greater confusion and suffering than Thou hast caused, laying upon them so many cares and unanswerable problems.

"'So that, in truth, Thou didst Thyself lay the foundation for the destruction of Thy kingdom, and no one is more to blame for it. Yet what was offered Thee? There are three powers, three powers alone, able to conquer and to hold captive for ever the conscience of these impotent rebels for their happiness those forces are miracle, mystery and authority. Thou hast rejected all three and hast set the example for doing so. When the wise and dread spirit set Thee on the pinnacle of the temple and said to Thee, "If Thou wouldst know whether Thou art the Son of God then cast Thyself down, for it is written: the angels shall hold him up lest he fall and bruise himself, and Thou shalt know then whether Thou art the Son of God and shalt prove then how great is Thy faith in Thy Father." But Thou didst refuse and wouldst not cast Thyself down. Oh, of course, Thou didst proudly and well, like God; but the weak, unruly race of men, are they gods? Oh, Thou didst know then that in taking one step, in making one movement to cast Thyself down, Thou wouldst be tempting God and have lost all Thy faith in Him, and wouldst have been dashed to pieces against that earth which Thou didst come to save. And the wise spirit that tempted Thee would have rejoiced. But I ask again, are there many like Thee? And couldst Thou believe for one moment that men, too, could face such a temptation? Is the nature of men such, that they can reject miracle, and at the great moments of their life, the moments of their deepest, most agonising spiritual difficulties, cling only to the free verdict of the heart? Oh, Thou didst know that Thy deed would be recorded in books, would be handed down to remote times and the utmost ends of the earth, and Thou didst hope that man, following Thee, would cling to God and not ask for a miracle. But Thou didst not know that when man rejects miracle he rejects God too; for man seeks not so much God as the miraculous. And as man cannot bear to be without the miraculous, he will create new miracles of his own for himself, and will worship deeds of sorcery and witchcraft, though he might be a hundred times over a rebel, heretic and infidel. Thou didst not come down from the Cross when they shouted to Thee, mocking and reviling Thee, "Come down from the cross and we will believe that Thou art He." Thou didst not come down, for again Thou wouldst not enslave man by a miracle, and didst crave faith given freely, not based on miracle. Thou didst crave for free love and not the base raptures of the slave before the might that has overawed him for ever. But Thou didst think too highly of men therein, for they are slaves, of course, though rebellious by nature. Look round and judge; fifteen centuries have passed, look upon them. Whom hast Thou raised up to Thyself? I swear, man is weaker and baser by nature than Thou hast believed him! Can he, can he do what Thou didst? By showing him so much respect, Thou didst, as it were, cease to feel for him, for Thou didst ask far too much from him- Thou who hast loved him more than Thyself! Respecting him less, Thou wouldst have asked less of him. That would have been more like love, for his burden would have been lighter. He is weak and vile. What though he is everywhere now rebelling against our power, and proud of his rebellion? It is the pride of a child and a schoolboy. They are little children rioting and barring out the teacher at school. But their childish delight will end; it will cost them dear. Mankind as a whole has always striven to organise a universal state. There have been many great nations with great histories, but the more highly they were developed the more unhappy they were, for they felt more acutely than other people the craving for world-wide union. The great conquerors, Timours and Ghenghis-Khans, whirled like hurricanes over the face of the earth striving to subdue its people, and they too were but the unconscious expression of the same craving for universal unity. Hadst Thou taken the world and Caesar's purple, Thou wouldst have founded the universal state and have given universal peace. For who can rule men if not he who holds their conscience and their bread in his hands? We have taken the sword of Caesar, and in taking it, of course, have rejected Thee and followed him. Oh, ages are yet to come of the confusion of free thought, of their science and cannibalism. For having begun to build their tower of Babel without us, they will end, of course, with cannibalism. But then the beast will crawl to us and lick our feet and spatter them with tears of blood. And we shall sit upon the beast and raise the cup, and on it will be written, "Mystery." But then, and only then, the reign of peace and happiness will come for men. Thou art proud of Thine elect, but Thou hast only the elect, while we give rest to all. And besides, how many of those elect, those mighty ones who could become elect, have grown weary waiting for Thee, and have transferred and will transfer the powers of their spirit and the warmth of their heart to the other camp, and end by raising their free banner against Thee. Thou didst Thyself lift up that banner. But with us all will be happy and will no more rebel nor destroy one another as under Thy freedom. Oh, we shall persuade them that they will only become free when they renounce their freedom to us and submit to us. And shall we be right or shall we be lying? They will be convinced that we are right, for they will remember the horrors of slavery and confusion to which Thy freedom brought them. Freedom, free thought, and science will lead them into such straits and will bring them face to face with such marvels and insoluble mysteries, that some of them, the fierce and rebellious, will destroy themselves, others, rebellious but weak, will destroy one another, while the rest, weak and unhappy, will crawl fawning to our feet and whine to us: "Yes, you were right, you alone possess His mystery, and we come back to you, save us from ourselves!"

"'Receiving bread from us, they will see clearly that we take the bread made by their hands from them, to give it to them, without any miracle. They will see that we do not change the stones to bread, but in truth they will be more thankful for taking it from our hands than for the bread itself! For they will remember only too well that in old days, without our help, even the bread they made turned to stones in their hands, while since they have come back to us, the very stones have turned to bread in their hands. Too, too well will they know the value of complete submission! And until men know that, they will be unhappy. Who is most to blame for their not knowing it?-speak! Who scattered the flock and sent it astray on unknown paths? But the flock will come together again and will submit once more, and then it will be once for all. Then we shall give them the quiet humble happiness of weak creatures such as they are by nature. Oh, we shall persuade them at last not to be proud, for Thou didst lift them up and thereby taught them to be proud. We shall show them that they are weak, that they are only pitiful children, but that childlike happiness is the sweetest of all. They will become timid and will look to us and huddle close to us in fear, as chicks to the hen. They will marvel at us and will be awe-stricken before us, and will be proud at our being so powerful and clever that we have been able to subdue such a turbulent flock of thousands of millions. They will tremble impotently before our wrath, their minds will grow fearful, they will be quick to shed tears like women and children, but they will be just as ready at a sign from us to pass to laughter and rejoicing, to happy mirth and childish song. Yes, we shall set them to work, but in their leisure hours we shall make their life like a child's game, with children's songs and innocent dance. Oh, we shall allow them even sin, they are weak and helpless, and they will love us like children because we allow them to sin. We shall tell them that every sin will be expiated, if it is done with our permission, that we allow them to sin because we love them, and the punishment for these sins we take upon ourselves. And we shall take it upon ourselves, and they will adore us as their saviours who have taken on themselves their sins before God. And they will have no secrets from us. We shall allow or forbid them to live with their wives and mistresses, to have or not to have children according to whether they have been obedient or disobedient- and they will submit to us gladly and cheerfully. The most painful secrets of their conscience, all, all they will bring to us, and we shall have an answer for all. And they will be glad to believe our answer, for it will save them from the great anxiety and terrible agony they endure at present in making a free decision for themselves. And all will be happy, all the millions of creatures except the hundred thousand who rule over them. For only we, we who guard the mystery, shall be unhappy. There will be thousands of millions of happy babes, and a hundred thousand sufferers who have taken upon themselves the curse of the knowledge of good and evil. Peacefully they will die, peacefully they will expire in Thy name, and beyond the grave they will find nothing but death. But we shall keep the secret, and for their happiness we shall allure them with the reward of heaven and eternity. Though if there were anything in the other world, it certainly would not be for such as they. It is prophesied that Thou wilt come again in victory, Thou wilt come with Thy chosen, the proud and strong, but we will say that they have only saved themselves, but we have saved all. We are told that the harlot who sits upon the beast, and holds in her hands the mystery, shall be put to shame, that the weak will rise up again, and will rend her royal purple and will strip naked her loathsome body. But then I will stand up and point out to Thee the thousand millions of happy children who have known no sin. And we who have taken their sins upon us for their happiness will stand up before Thee and say: "Judge us if Thou canst and darest." Know that I fear Thee not. Know that I too have been in the wilderness, I too have lived on roots and locusts, I too prized the freedom with which Thou hast blessed men, and I too was striving to stand among Thy elect, among the strong and powerful, thirsting "to make up the number." But I awakened and would not serve madness. I turned back and joined the ranks of those who have corrected Thy work. I left the proud and went back to the humble, for the happiness of the humble. What I say to Thee will come to pass, and our dominion will be built up. I repeat, to-morrow Thou shalt see that obedient flock who at a sign from me will hasten to heap up the hot cinders about the pile on which I shall burn Thee for coming to hinder us. For if anyone has ever deserved our fires, it is Thou. To-morrow I shall burn Thee. Dixi.'"*

* I have spoken.

Ivan stopped. He was carried away as he talked, and spoke with excitement; when he had finished, he suddenly smiled.

Alyosha had listened in silence; towards the end he was greatly moved and seemed several times on the point of interrupting, but restrained himself. Now his words came with a rush.

"But... that's absurd!" he cried, flushing. "Your poem is in praise of Jesus, not in blame of Him- as you meant it to be. And who will believe you about freedom? Is that the way to understand it? That's not the idea of it in the Orthodox Church.... That's Rome, and not even the whole of Rome, it's false-those are the worst of the Catholics the Inquisitors, the Jesuits!... And there could not be such a fantastic creature as your Inquisitor. What are these sins of mankind they take on themselves? Who are these keepers of the mystery who have taken some curse upon themselves for the happiness of mankind? When have they been seen? We know the Jesuits, they are spoken ill of, but surely they are not what you describe? They are not that at all, not at all.... They are simply the Romish army for the earthly sovereignty of the world in the future, with the Pontiff of Rome for Emperor... that's their ideal, but there's no sort of mystery or lofty melancholy about it.... It's simple lust of power, of filthy earthly gain, of domination-something like a universal serfdom with them as masters-that's all they stand for. They don't even believe in God perhaps. Your suffering Inquisitor is a mere fantasy."

"Stay, stay," laughed Ivan. "how hot you are! A fantasy you say, let it be so! Of course it's a fantasy. But allow me to say: do you really think that the Roman Catholic movement of the last centuries is actually nothing but the lust of power, of filthy earthly gain? Is that Father Paissy's teaching?"

"No, no, on the contrary, Father Paissy did once say something rather the same as you... but of course it's not the same, not a bit the same," Alyosha hastily corrected himself.

"A precious admission, in spite of your 'not a bit the same.' I ask you why your Jesuits and Inquisitors have united simply for vile material gain? Why can there not be among them one martyr oppressed by great sorrow and loving humanity? You see, only suppose that there was one such man among all those who desire nothing but filthy material gain-if there's only one like my old Inquisitor, who had himself eaten roots in the desert and made frenzied efforts to subdue his flesh to make himself free and perfect. But yet all his life he loved humanity, and suddenly his eyes were opened, and he saw that it is no great moral blessedness to attain perfection and freedom, if at the same time one gains the conviction that millions of God's creatures have been created as a mockery, that they will never be capable of using their freedom, that these poor rebels can never turn into giants to complete the tower, that it was not for such geese that the great idealist dreamt his dream of harmony. Seeing all that he turned back and joined- the clever people. Surely that could have happened?"

"Joined whom, what clever people?" cried Alyosha, completely carried away. "They have no such great cleverness and no mysteries and secrets.... Perhaps nothing but Atheism, that's all their secret. Your Inquisitor does not believe in God, that's his secret!"

"What if it is so! At last you have guessed it. It's perfectly true, it's true that that's the whole secret, but isn't that suffering, at least for a man like that, who has wasted his whole life in the desert and yet could not shake off his incurable love of humanity? In his old age he reached the clear conviction that nothing but the advice of the great dread spirit could build up any tolerable sort of life for the feeble, unruly, 'incomplete, empirical creatures created in jest.' And so, convinced of this, he sees that he must follow the counsel of the wise spirit, the dread spirit of death and destruction, and therefore accept lying and deception, and lead men consciously to death and destruction, and yet deceive them all the way so that they may not notice where they are being led, that the poor blind creatures may at least on the way think themselves happy. And note, the deception is in the name of Him in Whose ideal the old man had so fervently believed all his life long. Is not that tragic? And if only one such stood at the head of the whole army 'filled with the lust of power only for the sake of filthy gain'- would not one such be enough to make a tragedy? More than that, one such standing at the head is enough to create the actual leading idea of the Roman Church with all its armies and Jesuits, its highest idea. I tell you frankly that I firmly believe that there has always been such a man among those who stood at the head of the movement. Who knows, there may have been some such even among the Roman Popes. Who knows, perhaps the spirit of that accursed old man who loves mankind so obstinately in his own way, is to be found even now in a whole multitude of such old men, existing not by chance but by agreement, as a secret league formed long ago for the guarding of the mystery, to guard it from the weak and the unhappy, so as to make them happy. No doubt it is so, and so it must be indeed. I fancy that even among the Masons there's something of the same mystery at the bottom, and that that's why the Catholics so detest the Masons as their rivals breaking up the unity of the idea, while it is so essential that there should be one flock and one shepherd.... But from the way I defend my idea I might be an author impatient of your criticism. Enough of it."

"You are perhaps a Mason yourself!" broke suddenly from Alyosha. "You don't believe in God," he added, speaking this time very sorrowfully. He fancied besides that his brother was looking at him ironically. "How does your poem end?" he asked, suddenly looking down. "Or was it the end?"

"I meant to end it like this. When the Inquisitor ceased speaking he waited some time for his Prisoner to answer him. His silence weighed down upon him. He saw that the Prisoner had listened intently all the time, looking gently in his face and evidently not wishing to reply. The old man longed for him to say something, however bitter and terrible. But He suddenly approached the old man in silence and softly kissed him on his bloodless aged lips. That was all his answer. The old man shuddered. His lips moved. He went to the door, opened it, and said to Him: 'Go, and come no more... come not at all, never, never!' And he let Him out into the dark alleys of the town. The Prisoner went away."

"And the old man?"

"The kiss glows in his heart, but the old man adheres to his idea."

"And you with him, you too?" cried Alyosha, mournfully.

Ivan laughed.

"Why, it's all nonsense, Alyosha. It's only a senseless poem of a senseless student, who could never write two lines of verse. Why do you take it so seriously? Surely you don't suppose I am going straight off to the Jesuits, to join the men who are correcting His work? Good Lord, it's no business of mine. I told you, all I want is to live on to thirty, and then... dash the cup to the ground!"

"But the little sticky leaves, and the precious tombs, and the blue sky, and the woman you love! How will you live, how will you love them?" Alyosha cried sorrowfully. "With such a hell in your heart and your head, how can you? No, that's just what you are going away for, to join them... if not, you will kill yourself, you can't endure it!"

"There is a strength to endure everything," Ivan said with a cold smile.

"The strength of the Karamazovs- the strength of the Karamazov baseness."

"To sink into debauchery, to stifle your soul with corruption, yes?"

"Possibly even that... only perhaps till I am thirty I shall escape it, and then-"

"How will you escape it? By what will you escape it? That's impossible with your ideas."

"In the Karamazov way, again."

"'Everything is lawful,' you mean? Everything is lawful, is that it?"

Ivan scowled, and all at once turned strangely pale.

"Ah, you've caught up yesterday's phrase, which so offended Muisov- and which Dmitri pounced upon so naively and paraphrased!" he smiled queerly. "Yes, if you like, 'everything is lawful' since the word has been said, I won't deny it. And Mitya's version isn't bad."

Alyosha looked at him in silence.

"I thought that going away from here I have you at least," Ivan said suddenly, with unexpected feeling; "but now I see that there is no place for me even in your heart, my dear hermit. The formula, 'all is lawful,' I won't renounce- will you renounce me for that, yes?"

Alyosha got up, went to him and softly kissed him on the lips.

"That's plagiarism," cried Ivan, highly delighted. "You stole that from my poem. Thank you though. Get up, Alyosha, it's time we were going, both of us."

They went out, but stopped when they reached the entrance of the restaurant.

"Listen, Alyosha," Ivan began in a resolute voice, "if I am really able to care for the sticky little leaves I shall only love them, remembering you. It's enough for me that you are somewhere here, and I shan't lose my desire for life yet. Is that enough for you? Take it as a declaration of love if you like. And now you go to the right and I to the left. And it's enough, do you hear, enough. I mean even if I don't go away to-morrow (I think I certainly shall go) and we meet again, don't say a word more on these subjects. I beg that particularly. And about Dmitri too, I ask you specially, never speak to me again," he added, with sudden irritation; "it's all exhausted, it has all been said over and over again, hasn't it? And I'll make you one promise in return for it. When at thirty, I want to 'dash the cup to the ground,' wherever I may be I'll come to have one more talk with you, even though it were from America, you may be sure of that. I'll come on purpose. It will be very interesting to have a look at you, to see what you'll be by that time. It's rather a solemn promise, you see. And we really may be parting for seven years or ten. Come, go now to your Pater Seraphicus, he is dying. If he dies without you, you will be angry with me for having kept you. Good-bye, kiss me once more; that's right, now go."

Ivan turned suddenly and went his way without looking back. It was just as Dmitri had left Alyosha the day before, though the parting had been very different. The strange resemblance flashed like an arrow through Alyosha's mind in the distress and dejection of that moment. He waited a little, looking after his brother. He suddenly noticed that Ivan swayed as he walked and that his right shoulder looked lower than his left. He had never noticed it before. But all at once he turned too, and almost ran to the monastery. It was nearly dark, and he felt almost frightened; something new was growing up in him for which he could not account. The wind had risen again as on the previous evening, and the ancient pines murmured gloomily about him when he entered the hermitage copse. He almost ran. "Pater Seraphicus- he got that name from somewhere- where from?" Alyosha wondered. "Ivan, poor Ivan, and when shall I see you again?... Here is the hermitage. Yes, yes, that he is, Pater Seraphicus, he will save me- from him and for ever!"

Several times afterwards he wondered how he could, on leaving Ivan, so completely forget his brother Dmitri, though he had that morning, only a few hours before, so firmly resolved to find him and not to give up doing so, even should he be unable to return to the monastery that night.

The Deplorables

Hillary Clinton took a lot of heat during the campaign when she uttered the unforgettable words, ""To just be grossly generalistic, you can put half of Trump supporters into what I call the basket of deplorables," Clinton said. "Right? Racist, sexist, homophobic, xenophobic, Islamaphobic, you name it." This provided a great deal of red meat to the Trump campaign and its chip-on-the-shoulder backers, many of whom added the word "Deplorable" to their Twitter handles, some of which belonged to actual humans, as opposed to Bots generated by the Russian FSB's political consulting arm which was busy attempting to disrupt the election.

While I --at the time--questioned the political wisdom of her statement and attributed it largely to catering to her own "identity politics run amok" base, I agreed with the gist of the statement. After all, Trump's supporters had at that point already: cheered him as he urged violence against protesters at his rallies; mocked a handicapped reporter; listened to him boast of serial sexual assault; insult a war-hero former prisoner of war; and generally behave in a manner that at least some of them would not accept from their child. Their continued support for him was deplorable. They were, deplorable.

We are now in the midst of the great Roy Moore scandal, in which a blatantly Trumpist, cro-magnon, represents the once proud GOP in the race to replace the Senate seat vacated by Jeff Sessions when he joined the administration. Moore is proceeding with the backing of the Deplorable Obergruppenfuhrer Steve Bannon and the full support of the President (and sadly much of the establishment GOP). He has been accused of all manner crimes by four women who tell remarkably similar stories about his lechery (and sexual assault) when they were teens and he was in his early thirties.

I don't know if the stories are true. A major US newspaper has done exhaustive reporting with over 30 sources using four women's stories who DID NOT COME FORWARD TO THEM--but who the investigative reporters discovered. Roy Moore has a right to defend himself against these accusations, and his supporters have the right to question the facts of the accusations and their timing. Some of that is happening, and it is natural.  But this?

And this?

Or maybe this?

Or then there was my favorite--where a defender pointed to Jesus and Mary's relationship to defend Moore's behavior. 

You see--what I just laid out was a group of GOP officials in Alabama who simply don't care that whether their man was a serial child molester. This is deplorable. This is exactly what we've seen all along from Trumpkins with their man too. It doesn't matter what he says. His past conduct--no matter how disgusting, is acceptable because the stakes are so high and America's future is at stake. It is the sign of a declining civil society, and it is the sign of a polity that is sick in its soul.

The bottom line is that if you support Roy Moore or Donald Trump out of some skewed sense of nationalism or a fear that the country is going down the tubes--the country is already lost.

Thursday, November 9, 2017

You Got Taken, Suckers

Here was Donald Trump on China on the campaign trail, when he was busy mesmerizing the white working class:

"We can't continue to allow China to rape our country and that's what they're doing. It's the greatest theft in the history of the world"

Now that he's President?  Different story.

Wednesday, November 8, 2017

Just What the White Working Class Was Voting For!

Great story here of how Trump's inner circle is slumming it with the common people since being fired resigning.

Read the whole thing. 

Did Trump Lose Virginia?

I gaze upon the politics of my beloved Commonwealth of Virginia only occasionally these days, convinced its proximity to Uncle Sugar and the gravy train that provides means it will only be a matter of time until it is a mirror image of the People's State of Maryland where I live. A slate of Democrats won election to Governor, Lieutenant Governor, and Attorney General, and potentially flipped enough seats in the House of Delegates (or "House of Elegants" as I once heard it referred to) to turn it to Democratic control. The media--enamored of horse races as it is--seems convinced that this is a referendum on Trump and Trumpism. I'm inclined to believe there was a whiff of backlash to Trump in what we see, but I'm not yet ready to suggest there is a full blown electoral rejection underway. Some things to remember:

--The three Democrats who won last night are replacing....three Democrats
--The two Senators in the state are -- Democrats
--Hillary Clinton won the state by five points in 2016

My point is that any Republican running statewide in Virginia has a tough row to hoe in Virginia these days. That said, doing so IS tougher in the age of Trump, where it seems the internecine battle within the GOP seems likely to work to the benefit of Democrats who appear sane and tempered.

The doubling down on Trump is already underway by the President's legions of propagandists, starting with the President himself last night with this classic example of Trumpist douchebaggery after the race in VA was called:

Baghdad Bob has nothing on this guy.

So am I saying all is well in GOP-land, that a blue state voted blue and there is little more to be discerned from this?  No. Not at all.

Hillary won the State by 5 in November 2016, but Northam won it by 8 over Gillespie, a guy who nearly unseated the incumbent Mark Warner in the 2014 Senate Race.

White, college educated voters (a category Trump actually won in 2016) appeared to reject the GOP candidate in VA.

And what should be most worrisome of all to the GOP is that the House of Delegates--which was overwhelmingly Republican, may in fact flip to Democrat pending a number of recounts.

As I brushed my teeth before bed last night, I thought to myself how disappointed I would once have been in what happened in Virginia last night. I felt no joy, but I was not disappointed. Something is happening on the right, and I'm not exactly sure where it is going. I know where I hope it will go--and that is an utter repudiation of Donald Trump but a party that is more attuned to what created him. In order for this to happen, a blue state voting blue is not going to be enough. We're a year away from the real referendum on the Presidency, one that I hope will unshackle cowardly Republican legislators from the corpse of Trump and Trumpism and lead to the re-emergence of a right of center party of ideas, as opposed to the current photo-negative of the emotionalism of the left. We shall see.

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