Sunday, December 9, 2012

Thinking About the Unthinkable

As the days pass, I am finding myself increasingly distraught over the prospects for the political future of our nation, and the absolute irrationality and irresponsibility of those both sides of the arguments over dept, taxes, spending, etc. I read this column this morning and it is so far the only intelligent thing I have read which offers some prospect - even an unpleasant one - of addressing the core issues at hand.

Thinking About the Unthinkable

I was livid in 2011 when the "debt deal" was struck because I saw it for what it was - a highly political maneuver to avoid responsibility.  The fact is - and every rational adult knows this - that we either need to shrink the government drastically to meet our tax revenues, or raise revenues drastically to fund the level of government we have.  The argument can be made for either course - though I much prefer the former. There is, however, no rational or intellectually honest case to be made for the status quo of taxing like the former and spending like the latter.

So, I believe that the time has come for the Republicans in Congress to go "all in" and just say no. No more borrowing - not one dime - until the core issues are addressed.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Requiescat In Pacem, Vincenzo

He was a Good, kind man. 

He was as loving as he was brilliant and funny.

He was tough as steel when he needed to be, but understanding and kind when I needed him to be.

He Was My Dad.

And I miss him more than I ever knew I could miss anything or anyone.

Arrivaderci, My Friend.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Casino Capitalists Playing With Fire

The always impressive Pat Buchanan has summed up perfectly the horrendous funk of a situation we as a culture and as a nation have allowed to develop.  A system where "wealth creation" is largely detached from productive work.

Casino Capitalists Playing With Fire

As Jacob McCandles so rightly said: "You decided alone.  Now live it alone"..

God Help Us.

Saturday, July 7, 2012

Old Pickup Trucks

I Love Old Pickup Trucks. In fact, I have a great fondness for old vehicles in general, but there is something unique and special about old pickup trucks. The stark, simple functionality of them appeals to me. In fact in the same way, I find that old horse-drawn farm wagons - the pickup's direct ancestor - have the same effect. I suppose it is that are really the essential vehicle for hauling around a man's goods and produce. And if you look closely, their evolution over the past 100 or so years draws a pretty good parallel with our evolution as a society. In fact, even in the past 60 years the size, complexity and overall fanciness of the vehicles has grown incredibly. Especially the size! A 1946 Ford Pickup was positively tiny compared with even a regular-cab new Ford F-150. Leaving out entirely, of course, the fact that there are now crew-cab versions as well as larger heavier duty models. I suppose we just have so much more stuff to haul around - not to mention fatter asses - that we need bigger vehicles to do the job. Oh, and bigger egos too!  But I digress.

The thing is, that while so many of my generational peers love old pickups, they love them in a different way.  While I like them to be the way they were, be used the way they were meant to be, and enjoy them for that, pretty much everyone else sees them as a vehicle (no pun intended) to creating their own preferred ego (and falling testosterone) driven ideas.  It is nearly impossible to find one that has not been made into some sort of hot rod.  Bigger motors, bigger wheels and tires, loud exhausts, souped up motors, and interiors partially (or wholly) transplanted from some late model sedan. All in some baby-boomer youth obsessed attempt to produce - decades after the fact - an ideal representation of their teenage dreams.  Yet in the very process of producing their "ideal truck" they are in fact destroying the essential beauty of what was there before.

It occurred to me this morning the similarities between this and the evolution and changes and conflict within the Church over the same time period.  The traditionalists want the Catholic Church and her liturgy to be exactly the same as it was in 1946 - they are loathe to take the truck out of the museum or garage lest something happen and it would "never be the same".  The modernists want to take the 1946 Model, strip it to the bone, and transplant everything on their wish list into it until it is nearly unrecognizable, yet are never really satisfied with the finished product, and so are always willing and ready to "do it over" when they see a cool trick that some other "hotrodder" has come up with.  This updating process must take place every few years or the truck will begin to look "dated".

I prefer the same approach to the liturgy as I do with old pickup trucks.  Keep them the way they are, yes.  But keeping them essentially the way they are does not mean that you should not use modern lubricants (to make the parts work better or last longer) or modern tires (instead of old blowout-prone designs), or even newer better paint when it becomes time to repaint.  These things do not change the essence of the truck, they merely enhance its functionality.  And so keep the Mass the way it was, but don't be afraid of a few changes every now and then, as long as the essence of the Mass is the same.  Let the readings be in the vernacular, for example, but not the prayers themselves.  Add new saints as needed, but don't wipe out the whole calendar.  Add more and diverse readings, but only where it will enhance the mass.  In other words, to the casual observer the Mass and the pickup truck should both look the same. If they don't, they are ruined.

Saturday, June 2, 2012


Small Corrections, a term I keep repeating to myself when "flying" my flight simulator program.  It's also a practice drilled into me by my flight instructor brother-in-law on those wonderful nights in a Cessna 152 so many years ago.  The basic concept being that to stay on a smooth and level flying path one must use the controls smoothly and not too radically. Start yanking things around a lot and you get yourself in to trouble really fast.  I have found the concept useful in many aspects of life - and equally hard to follow.  When we see things going wrong our human instinct is to "yank on the controls" to get back to where we think we need to be.

The same rule applies to the Liturgy and Liturgical Reform in general.  After the rapid, inconsiderate, and disastrous changes that occurred in the late 1960's when so much changed so rapidly, the importance of the Mass, properly celebrated, was largely forgotten. To be sure there were pockets here or there where people remembered the breathtaking gravity which the mass is, but there were great swaths wherein it became the religious equivalent of Thanksgiving Dinner ... "Happy are those who are called to His supper" ... it was even made to sound like Thanksgiving at Grandma's.

It was in that atmosphere where the celebration of the Mass more or less settled into a slow spiral down of sentimentality and sappiness.  Vapid lyrics set to mediocre (at best) melodies.  Homilies which didn't go much beyond the concept of  "Jesus loves me this I know, 'cause the bible tells me so".  Architecture less inspiring than a supermarket.  An atmosphere in church less reverent - by far - than a movie theater.  I could go on, but the point is that there was much that needed fixing.

It was also into that atmosphere that a whole generation of new priests were born - and continue to be.  BUT these priests seem without exception to know that things are, shall we say, less than ideal.  They also seem to know that Catholicism and Catholic Identity are important and needed in the world. That the Church is THE CHURCH and not just a big social program with Crucifixes in the offices. And they are smart - very very smart. They know what needs fixing and they are setting about to fix it, slowly, methodically, fixing it - using Small Corrections.

I have watched this evolution taking place over the last 6 years at Our Lady of Grace parish in my hometown.  When the current administration took over it was not a great situation.  The church building itself was the most inspiring and beautiful I have ever seen, but pretty much everything else was generic post 1970's blandness.  BUT then, after a few months, the Small Corrections started.  They continued slowly but relentlessly.  The parishoners were allowed to "grow into" each change before another came.  It has taken years - but it has taken hold.  I have seen it. And it works, for example, at 10:00AM Sunday Mass last week, I witnessed the most dignified, inspiring Novus Ordo Mass I have seen in my entire life.  The music was traditional hymns - good ones.  The young Priest sung much of the Mass.  The congregation sang their parts well and with passion.  The homily was inspiring and germane to the occasion.  And the whole atmosphere was just so... catholic.

In the traditionalist-catholic world, there are many who are ready to go in with torches and pitchforks and axes and "fix" the rest of the Catholic world.  But that isn't a Small Correction, that is a huge yank on the wheel.  The kind of yank which spins you out of control and into the ground.  That is not what the Church needs.  She needs Small Corrections.

AND, Thank God, She is getting them.

Monday, February 20, 2012

Scheisshaus Economics II

Perhaps this post should be called "Scheisshaus Socio-Economics" but the combination of the unwieldy size with the desire for a tie-in with my previous post made for the change.  Plus, I suppose it's just a subset of economics, so its just as well.  The basic motive for the post is sort of an attempt to examine the "science" of economics and help describe how its development in the vacuum of academia has resulted in a long series of macroecomic decisions that are the root cause of so many of the societal woes the western world is experiencing about now.

Economics as a predictive science is highly effective.  The evolution of economic theory has allowed us to understand much better how the systems of the world operate.  Note that I say much better - no perfectly.  Economic prediction is much like weather prediction in that it is subject to huge amounts of error at times, largely because of our limited ability to know, track and understand all of the data that go "into the mix".  Nonetheless the modeling and widespread knowledge has allowed us to allocate resources in such a way as to increase the overall wealth of the world (or a country) astronomically. 

The problem is that we are not countries, or nations, or states, but individuals and families.  To a man who is newly laid off it is no comfort to know that the country overall is better off with his steel mill being relocated to the Pacific rim.  All he know is that the family is depending on him and he has no work and no prospects.  If you were  to ask the economist about him the answer would be that he should be retrained to work in "the service economy", or learn to work in an "intellectual innovative environment" or some such drivel.   THAT is where the vacuum in which the economist lives and works is such a problem. There are several fundamental problems with that. 

First: Because of the economist (and economic) driven changes in the world (together with their co-conspirators on Wall Street and the accompanying Washington DC based enablers) there is likely no job for which he can be quickly retrained.

Second: Even under the best of circumstances, the retraining for any position of consequence - or comparable income - is going to take two years at a minimum.  That is two whole years of a productive life just thrown away for nothing. Economically speaking he will be no more productive at the end of the retraining than he was at his old job at the steel mill.  So FIVE PERCENT of his 40-year working life has been discarded needlessly.

Third:  Chances are that, if there is any level of professional pride in him, that he will have been much more productive in his previous job as he will be in his new one - simply because of his level of expertise and experience.  If you have any doubt about that think about the next time you hire a professional and ask yourself if you would rather hire the rookie or the one with the proven track record.

Fourth:  With the changes in the world, economically speaking, being so many and so rapid, it is highly likely that the worker in question will have to go through the lay-off - retrain - relearn - gain proficiency cycle several times in a working life.  And each cycle is accompanied by the associated loss of productivity.  Add two more cycles and you have turned 40 VERY productive years into 31 somewhat productive ones.

All of this tumult - along with the not inconsiderable social costs - is ignored completely in the current world of economics.  It is all simply written off with the statement that "he is better off in the end" ignoring the fact that the data is simply not there to support that. 

I can appreciate that the social casts of this disruption are hard to measure and are in fact outside the economists area of practice - but the direct economic costs I have listed above are ignored completely as well.  The reason for this I can only guess.  The fact is that these (the economists) are VERY bright people.  Sadly based on the evidence presented above, it appears that they are either blind to any facts which do not fit the models for which they have been trained, or they intentionally ignore the facts simply because those who patronize their profession have their own motives for continuing to proceed as we have.

You Decide...