Friday, August 29, 2014

Imagine that you are Rod Dreher, and you have one life to live...

In a post entitled What Would Flannery Do?, Rod Dreher muses

Imagine that you are Marc Juris, and you have one life to live, and you get to the end of that life, and you survey what you’ve done with what you’ve been given, and you see … Sex Box.

Certainly a fair question from someone who has made a professional career out of minding other peoples' business, particularly if his bloodhound nose picks up the prurient tang of sex. But, surely, turnabout is fair play, and so it's imminently fair to muse in turn

Imagine that you are Rod Dreher, and you have one life to live, and you get to the end of that life, and you survey what you’ve done with what you’ve been given, and you see …

Well, what do you see? What has Rod Dreher done with his life?

Because my co-bloggers here have far better archives than I do, I'm going to encourage them to take the lead in filling in the timeline for our new anonymous fan Anonymous.

I will kick things off, though, by starting arbitrarily somewhat in the middle and asking, how did that Templeton Fellowship turn out for you, Rod? People do recall that Rod did win one of these rare opportunities, don't they?

Most people would kill for the chance to score one of those research fellowships. What became of your Templeton-Cambridge research, Rod? Was it notable? What was it even about? Did it lead to further career opportunities, perhaps with the John Templeton Foundation itself? How did you leverage that even more rare gift in turn?'

As I said, I jumped in somewhere in the middle. To be scrupulously fair, though, we should start at the beginning and see what Rod has done with what he's been given and then judge, as he himself feels free to do, whether he has managed to turn his God-given apples into apple pie or whether he has somehow lost them on the road of life as just so much squandered applesauce instead.

Thursday, August 28, 2014

The times, they are a-changin'


The First Minnesota Volunteer Infantry Regiment served in the Union Army during the American Civil War, including at the First Battle of Bull Run and Antietam.  On the second day of the Battle of Gettysburg:

Major General Winfield Scott Hancock, Commander of the II Corps, ordered the First Minnesota to charge into a situation where it would be outmanned by odds of at least 5:1.  The General's purpose was to buy minutes of delay with human lives, and one survivor spoke afterward that he expected the advance to result in "death or wounds to [every single one of the attackers]."  The Regiment fully and instantly executed the order, received at least 82% casualties among those making the attack, and contributed significantly to the preservation of a key Union defensive position on the heights of Cemetery Ridge. . . 


Now, in a different civil war: 

On August 27, the identity of a second American killed fighting for Isis was revealed, "Abdirahmaan Muhumed from Minneapolis." 

According to FOX 9's Seth Kaplan, Muhumed was profiled by Minnesota Public Radio in June. 

MPRNews reported Muhumed was one of "as many as 15 Somali-American men from the Twin Cities [who] have traveled to Syria to join radical groups to overthrow President Bashar Assad's regime:...

On August 26 The New York Times reported that the first American killed fighting alongside ISIS was 33-year-old McAuthur McCain.  He also had ties to Minnesota...


Pro-Fracking Ad for "My friends in the Colorado..."



Rod Dreher's Benedict Option™: the medium is the message

What is Rod Dreher's The Benedict Option™? It's an advertising branding construct designed to draw readers into conversations about Rod Dreher writing about Rod Dreher's Benedict Option™. That's it. Because conversations about Rod Dreher writing about Rod Dreher's Benedict Option™ is a consumate end in itself, it doesn't have to do anything else.

Dreher recently reopened the conversation himself from some who suggested his gecko wasn't green enough, Cockney enough, and maybe really didn't save them all that much money after all the advertising costs were finally factored in. In true Dreher form he appealed to someone else to keep his illusory imperial pants decently up where they belong, in the process hysterically charging his critics (second hand, passive-aggressively) with "Christian Derangement Syndrome".

The very first commenter out of the starting gate nails Dreher's advertising chimera:

Republican or Christian derangement syndrome is often easy to identify, and to justify: because we generally know what a Republican, or what a Christian is.

The problem with your “Benedict Option,” Rod, is that too often you tell readers what it is not, or give some highly refined and narrow example of what it is by means of anecdote.

But unlike Christianity or Republicanism, I don’t see a clear articulation of “the Benedict Option” is supposed to be, and more pointedly, how it is supposed to work (economically, financially, socially.)

From another angle: people often don’t misunderstand “the Amish option” because it’s so clear how (most) Amish people live, even if Old Order Amish get to speak for the rest of the Amish, who may not be as strict.

In short, it’s not “derangement syndrome” if it’s hard to categorically articulate and describe what “it” is supposed to be.

Dreher then unequivocally explains what the is of it is if it were:

[NFR: And for the millionty-billionth time, the question I'm asking is: is it possible to build a community that avoids, or at least minimizes, the problems of these failed ones? Can we learn from their mistakes? I don't accept the jibe, "Oh, see, you're JUST LIKE David Koresh!" -- RD]

Alright, let's accept for the sake of argument that, if it's not in fact nothing more than a conversational eschatological gecko, Rod Dreher's Benedict Option™ is something that actually might be striven for. And who better to illustrate that lifestyle than the creator of the brand himself, Rod Dreher?

What sort of Benedict Option does the brand master Rod Dreher live out in real life?

I am a prosperous middle-class Christian living like the King of Exurbia in the freest and richest nation that ever was.

Yes, indeedy. And Crunchy Con himself ain't about to give up strolling tastings of premium bourbons on the streets of his fairytale Southern Shire, or vacations in France, the Netherlands and Italy, or trips to eat at New Orleans' finest restaurants in order to spend the extra time either getting closer to God or carrying out Jesus' mandates. Oh - remember Crunchy Cons? They too were important, at least until his book about them hit the remaindering bin like a meteor; he hasn't wasted a dozen paragraphs on that dead nag of an idea since.

Because, in reality, Rod Dreher's Benedict Option™ can be whatever you want it to be. It's that magical copper bracelet that helps you think of yourself as exactly the sort of person you would like to think of yourself as, except, you know, more so. When you take Rod Dreher's Benedict Option™, you flee the morally corrosive effects of that single mom who works at the porn store because in Dreher's Obamacon America that's the only job she can get and that grubby kid of hers who might teach your kid a bad word for the theotic refuge of fellow effete foodies who smash ice for their mint juleps together with handmade pear wood mallets on granite counter tops. Really, could Jesus' mandate be any more clear?

While those who stubbornly still can't find their way to that happy place somewhere over the rainbow continue to totter around, rebounding from door jambs, the Christian butt sex team comes to Dreher's rescue, bringing Rod Dreher's Benedict Option™ full circle, nose to tail, or back to its "proper place", as classicists talking about these things might say: clickbaity readers' conversations about Rod Dreher writing about Rod Dreher's Benedict Option™. Alpha and Omega.

Rod Dreher's Benedict Option™. Coffee talk by discriminating religious talkers talking about Rod Dreher writing about Rod Dreher's Benedict Option™, because Christ's Church alone just might not be good enough, not smart enough, an ordinary, worldy pea tormenting your well-fed, something-more-seeking princess bottom  - and of course you might end up having to sit next to that mousy single mom who works at the porn store.

Frankly, when Rod Dreher finally concludes there will never be a profitable book to be had about Rod Dreher's Benedict Option™ (subtitle: Crunchy Cons Refrijoles), I expect talk about Rod Dreher's Benedict Option™ to go exactly where all that important and exciting talk about Crunchy Cons is furiously boiling away these days: like yesterday's dew in the desert.

In the meantime, if you stubbornly cling to your guns and religion and your ordinary ice-crushing framing hammer instead of taking the more ultimatey everything Rod Dreher's Benedict Option™ (or the ALS challenge, for that matter), if what-ees-thees-ordinary-"church"-theeng? happens to be all the Rod Dreher's Benedict Option™ you need in life, don't be surprised if your betters hold their noses, insinuating your manifest "derangement". Passive-aggressively, of course.

UPDATE (as they say): What Rod Dreher's Benedict Option™ surely must be good for: providing additional plausible deniability the next time some parenting app exposes your own failings in that department.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Something Cosmic from Austin, TX

I pulled a "what the..." when I saw the title. Sabbath cover, obviously, but WOW. Blew me away.

"Fairies Wear Boots" performed by Brown Sabbath.

From this page I learned that "Brown Sabbath is the alter ego of Austin-based psych-funk collective Brownout. When performing as Brown Sabbath the eight-piece group delves deep into the catalog of the mighty Black Sabbath."

That guitarist can really shred. Good drums and percussion as well.

I don't know what you are if you can't sign this

The Iraq Rescue petition is another one worth signing. The ISIS/ISIL maniacs are far more powerful and determined than Hamas and possibly more evil (although if you read the Hamas charter there isn't much difference in their belief system, just their location and competence.)

Here is part of the petition which you can read on the page. If you really need to.

We, the undersigned, are Democrats, Republicans, and Independents. We are conservatives, liberals, and moderates. We represent various religious traditions and shades of belief. None of us glorifies war or underestimates the risks entailed by the use of military force. Where non-military means of resolving disputes and protecting human rights are available, we always and strongly favor those means. However, the evidence is overwhelming that such means will not be capable of protecting the victims of the genocide already unfolding at the hands of ISIS/ISIL. That is why Iraq’s Chaldean Patriarch Sako has requested military intervention.

Therefore we call upon the United States and the international community to do everything necessary to empower local forces fighting ISIS/ISIL in Iraq to protect their people. No options that are consistent with the principles of just war doctrine should be off the table. We further believe that the United States’ goal must be more comprehensive than simply clamping a short-term lid on the boiling violence that is threatening so many innocents in ISIS/ISIL’s path. Nothing short of the destruction of ISIS/ISIL as a fighting force will provide long-term protection of victims.

There are 12,260 signers so far. Who would object to signing it? You have serious conservative thinkers like Robert P. George and Ben Carson signing along with serious liberals such as Martin Peretz and Susannah Heschel.

I guess if you like genocide and want to sit around and watch it happen you shouldn't sign this.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Not going to happen

Catholic Culture reports the pleading of the Prelate of the Chaldean Catholic Church in Iraq, Patriarch Louis Raphaƫl I Sako. Excerpt:

The same is true with regard to the Muslim community, whose statements about the barbaric acts in the name of their religion practiced against the life, dignity and freedom of Christians were not according to our expectation, knowing that Christians have contributed and fought for this country, living in partnership with their Muslim brothers alongside the Islamic civilization.

Religious fundamentalism is still growing in its power and force, creating tragedies, and making us wonder when the Islamic religious scholars and the Muslim intellectuals will critically examine this dangerous phenomenon and eradicate it by educating a true religious consciousness and spreading a genuine culture of accepting the other as brother and as an equal citizen with full rights.

I applaud the Prelate for his appeal, but there is a big problem. "[A]ccepting the other as brother and as an equal citizen with full rights" is not an Islamic teaching. "The Other" in an Islamic society is at best a dhimmi, not an equal anywhere in society including in a court of law. True, having this status might be reasonably considered better than having an unprotected status whereby you can be killed—dhimmi literally means protected. And that makes sense since they have to pay protection money to keep this status.

But the Prelate is asking the Muslim community to go against the traditional interpretation of the Koran 3:110: "You are the best nation produced [as an example] for mankind. You enjoin what is right and forbid what is wrong and believe in Allah. If only the People of the Scripture had believed, it would have been better for them. Among them are believers, but most of them are defiantly disobedient." Traditionally, this has been coupled with the belief that Christians and Jews must be humiliated and not given full status due to their "unbelief". Here's a good primer on this topic.

So in order for the Muslim community to take the Patriarch's words and follow them, Islam will have to be first changed, or you can say "reformed" if you want. Like that will make it any easier. It will have to be admitted that Mohammed was wrong. Yeah, good luck with that.

I myself see little chance of that and NO CHANCE of that while the Islamists are in the strong horse position and decorating airfields with the heads of their conquered foes. Many individual Muslims have come to see that their religion is wrong in the practice of dhimmitude and the subjugation of those with other religions. But ironically, it doesn't help Islam to reform when these individuals convert to Christianity.

Monday, August 25, 2014

Thoughts on the latest fad

The ALS ice bucket challenge makes me long for the days when I'd get chain emails stating that, oh, something like "your favorite grandparent will fall down 3 flights of stairs if you don't forward this to 7 people immediately RIGHT NOW!!" It was so easy to delete the email and lie about it. And not just because all my grandparents had passed on by that point.

I was talking to some young doctors I know—a married couple—and I stated this (after 2 beers, mind): "I think ALS sucks, I know someone who died from it, but I'm not going to dump ice on my head." They laughed. The wife pointed out that she was working in a trauma unit and she was thinking, "Gee, ALS affects so few people. Why don't we do something for these folks?"

I noted that if you say anything like this publicly then you're Hitler. They both agreed.

I did see a piece of useful advice on a friend's Facebook page: "Remember guys, don't donate to ALSA unless you support embryonic stem cell research. Donate to something like Mayo Clinic or MSCTC." He posted this along with a great video of himself pouring a whole teaspoon of cold water onto his head. It looked grueling. Well, hey, he's a Catholic, not a Baptist! So if I do it I'm going to use a whole tablespoon just to show how serious I am about wiping out a horrific disease.

What more can the "sage" Putin teach us?

What a bad idea it was to get rid of the Czar, maybe? After all, look how that turned out, John McCain.

Phoning in from infinity and beyond somewhere from within his fortress of solitude in the verdant suburbs of St. Francisville, LA,

Rod Dreher turns a question from Ishaan Tharoor (formerly of Barsoom, now writing at the Washington Post) into a statement of fact:

Putin Told Us So

while with trademark Dreher fecklessness retaining Tharoor as his mouthpiece to avoid direct attribution.

So, what more can the "sage" Putin teach us? Well, for one thing, if you want the nicest spot for your Benedict Option in Ukraine or wherever, you should just take it. That's how a strong, pre-Enlightenment Slavic leader runs a masculine organization with a masculine church, right? Well, not directly, of course, no more than using your own words in a blog post. You need a cut-out, either a Tharoor from Barsoom or patriotic separatists you can arm with BUK surface-to-air missiles to make your point at 30,000 feet.

Or am I missing something from today's lesson?

Let's dig a little deeper.

Commenter Chris 1 writes  

According to Tharoor, this is exactly what Vladimir Putin warned about in his New York Times op-ed last September advising the West not to engage in airstrikes against Syria to help the rebels.

Did I miss something? When and where did the West engage in airstrikes to help the Syrian rebels?

Dreher responds:

[NFR: On September 10, 2013, Obama went on national television and said the United States would conduct a "military strike" against Syria to punish it for using chemical weapons. He got significant pushback from the public and from some in Congress over this, and stood down. Click the link and read the speech; Obama plainly wanted to bomb Syria, and asked the public to support him. -- RD]

I think I see now. Obama wanted to draw a red line in the sand as CINC, but then demurred and didn't, and now Putin has told us so about what would happen if he had, but actually didn't.

Even Rachel Maddow-loving commenter Jack Shifflett throws up in his mouth a little bit at Dreher's reflexive prevarication:

I’ll also note that President Obama, for whatever reason(s), did in fact call off last year’s proposed airstrikes, and that he has all along resisted arming the Syrian rebels; and yet here ISIS is anyway. I think the president made the right call–that is, he followed Mr. Putin’s (and Rachel Maddow’s) advice–but in what way did that make the slightest difference about this particular threat?

If you go back and read the entire Putin editorial in question, you’ll see that, as a paean to international law, it’s an astonishing exercise in hypocrisy and disingenuousness. I concede that even a blind pig can find an acorn now and then, but why are you so determined to laud this particular blind pig’s vision?

So, in the end, what was the correct decision?

Leaving the raising of the children almost entirely in the hands of Mrs. Dreher while Rod splits his time reading Dante, chasing the latest food morsel, and sleeping off the effects of Ambien, depression, fanboi worship of strong, masculine, dominating men, mono, or whatever this week's story happens to be, of course.


Finnish roots acoustic style, that is.

Tea Party Pope?

I report, you decide. This is an excerpt from a recent Fortune article about Pope Francis.

The pope’s strategy for addressing both spending and pension issues is to gradually shrink the Vatican workforce through attrition and raise more money to maintain the benefits. In February of 2014 he imposed a hiring freeze and also stopped formerly generous overtime payments. The plan is to move existing employees from overstaffed congregations to growth areas, such as financial management, without replacing those who depart.

You have to read through a lot of yadda-yadda to get to this which, to me, is the meat. Workforce reduction is the only way to meaningfully reform a budget. If you think in terms of centuries like the Catholic Church does, attrition is the best way to do it. Cutting overtime is a great idea to since it saves money right away AND can make people quit who need their cushy lifestyle. They should grub for it in the "non-Church" sector.

This is what I wish would happen in our government at all levels. Due to automation, we should need less employees than we used to in places like the IRS and the welfare/unemployment offices. And that's just the tip of the iceberg.

Takeaway quote from the Pope on money:

Pope Francis has a complex but pragmatic view of money. “Money is useful to carry out many things, for works to support humanity,” he has said. “But when your heart is attached to it, it destroys you.”

Classic virtue of detachment, put simply. Not sure what is "complex" about that.

Creative Self-destruction

That's my term for what Oswald Sobrino calls the "silver lining" of people being their own worst enemy. He gives some examples of the evidence:

  1. The bartender who can't help aggressively intruding on your private conversation;
  2. The rude manners that get someone no slack or sympathy from a restaurant server;
  3. The insecure who bore you with their clay pillars of self-esteem to the point that you don't want to hear any more about their school, their exercise regimen, their ancestry, or their possessions and investments;
  4. The sexually promiscuous who expect to be accorded the honor of a virtuous Roman matron or a biblical Joseph;
  5. The patronizing Christian who consistently mimics a Pharisee;
  6. The pedant who expects people to want to interact with him;
  7. The panhandler who thinks bullying will get him a donation.

It seems to me as though the good Mr. Sobrino may have run into all these profiles recently within a short period of time and had some time to reflect on them.

I guess I would just add as a corollary to number three that some people talk about all their problems which are all the fault of others. That's probably a sign of insecurity also.