Thursday, August 6, 2015

"I was stunned."

I was so happy to read this exciting (yawn) science news about some planet that is supposedly like earth because it reminds me of one of my favorite Jack Handey bits.


I was stunned. But then I was struck by a thought that was even more devastating. What if it wasn't an exact copy of us but instead we were an exact copy of it?  The possibilities were fantastic! What were we like, I wondered. Were we warlike? Did we look like humans?

So it was with great disappointment that I realized I had been aiming the telescope at a picture of Earth on the wall. I had been right after all: it was a duplicate of Earth. And yet it wasn't a planet. I sat back in my chair stunned.

Oh, man... too funny. Read it; you'll use this one, I promise: "What in the name of a supreme being exactly like God was going on here?"

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Where the Benedict Option found its paradigm

Women Now Empowered By Everything A Woman Does*

OBERLIN, OH—According to a study released Monday, women—once empowered primarily via the assertion of reproductive rights or workplace equality with men—are now empowered by virtually everything the typical woman does.

San Diego women empower themselves by eating dinner unaccompanied by men.

"From what she eats for breakfast to the way she cleans her home, today's woman lives in a state of near-constant empowerment," said Barbara Klein, professor of women's studies at Oberlin College and director of the study. "As recently as 15 years ago, a woman could only feel empowered by advancing in a male-dominated work world, asserting her own sexual wants and needs, or pushing for a stronger voice in politics. Today, a woman can empower herself through actions as seemingly inconsequential as driving her children to soccer practice or watching the Oxygen network."

Klein said that clothes-shopping, once considered a mundane act with few sociopolitical implications, is now a bold feminist statement.

And, as we all know, Christians have only two choices:

Either it’s going to be the Benedict Option, or Moralistic Therapeutic Deism, which as we know ultimately results in a loss of the faith.

Fortunately, Rod Dreher's Benedict Option is as brilliant and universally empowering as The Onion's feminism, for it is large, it contains multitudes, and all roads lead to it:

Everybody's got an "option" these days; here's why the term #BenedictOption is the best umbrella for them all: — Rod Dreher (@roddreher) July 29, 2015

Whatever your option is, even if you're out of options, Rod Dreher's Benedict Option is the one that covers you.

Rod Dreher's Benedict Option knows you're not, bunkie. But it's got you covered, nonetheless.

Like an all-purpose, get-out-of-the-dumps spell, all you have to so is mouth the words "Benedict Option" (technically, as we see above, just "option" alone will do), and you will automatically be fighting the good fight, nurturing that consoling schadenfreude that eventually everyone else will become Caitlin Jenner just before they shoot themselves in the head, after which, if everything in the world isn't already right again, the world will immediately look to you - yes, you - to make it so. Pretty empowering, right?

But I know some of you persist in asking that terribly annoying question: just what is Rod Dreher's Benedict Option?

One person who does know what it is not is Bishop Emeritus Rene Henry Gracida of Corpus Christi, Texas, who informs us in all caps


But, troll that you are, you probably persist further and ask, well, which values and moral options of the world?

Pornography? Definitely out. Facebook, Twitter? Harder to say. The sort of outrage porn that got Noah Millman's article spiked? Required engagement.

Fortunately, except for the most heinous ones, under the umbrella of Rod Dreher's Benedict Option determining which values and moral options of the world to disengage from is quite elastically up to you - as long as you call whatever you choose to do the Benedict Option.

(As long as you keep talking up Rod's book promotion theme, you don't really think he's going to say you're not doing it right, do you?)

And does it even matter? After all, as Rod himself explains, it's your only alternative to Moralistic Therapeutic Deism. But, because it's also virtually universally inclusive, you should be okay.

Go ahead, under the umbrella of the Benedict Option - the ultimate, universal Christian self-help program - you can even hug yourself, bunkie.

As soon as you buy Rod Dreher's Benedict Option book.

A doubtless very different St. Benedict


Monday, August 3, 2015

How's that working out for you?

I was wondering when we'd here about this in some kind of anniversary "Where is he now?" thing. But it turns out that it has only taken three months for the idealistic Dan Price and his credit card processing company, Gravity Payments, to reap the "benefits" of over-paying staff members. Excerpt:

Gravity Payments financial manager Maisey McMaster didn’t pull any punches in her critique of her former boss:

“He gave raises to people who have the least skills and are the least equipped to do the job, and the ones who were taking on the most didn’t get much of a bump,” she said.

Another former employee, Grant Moran, echoed a similar sentiment:

“Now the people who were just clocking in and out were making the same as me,” he said. “It shackles high performers to less motivated team members.”

Dan Price’s own brother Lucas, who owns 30 percent of the company, even filed a lawsuit, seeking millions of dollars in damages.

According to Dan Price, his experiment in wage distribution has made him ill-equipped to handle it:

“We don’t have a margin of error to pay those legal fees,” he said.

The company has also lost customers, who were displeased with the decision. Price finally relented, admitting that, perhaps, raising the minimum wage at his company to $70,000 wasn’t the best idea:

“There’s no perfect way to do this and no way to handle complex workplace issues that doesn’t have any downsides or trade-offs,” he said.

I skipped the part about his reducing his "salary" from $1 million to $70,000 because that is a silly red herring of a thing to say about a business owner. But these problems shouldn't surprise anyone who understands economics. When I first heard about this on Limbaugh's show my initial thought was "$70,000? Why not $80,000?? What a cheapskate."

If the world was perfect, these kinds of company problems would never happen. But if the world was perfect we wouldn't need credit card processing either, would we.

Open Comment Thread (2015-08)

Haven't posted one of these in awhile. Mea culpa. Have at it....

Bluster, Distortion and the Truth

Donald Trump has been saying extreme and hypocritical things about illegal immigrants recently, but when I heard Cardinal Dolan called him a "nativist" my first thought was that the Cardinal was misusing language as badly as Trump does, just in a different way. The original nativists he mentions were bigots and didn't care if the immigrants were legal or not. Many people against illegal immigration presently are Catholics, and many of the immigrants coming across are illegals. That means that many are lawbreakers, and some are criminals of a more insidious type. I have never met nor even heard of any conservatives in the immigration debate who are against legal immigration. Never.

This makes the Cardinal's attempted historical parallel inaccurate and, I'm sorry to say, that means he's either being either intellectually lazy or dishonest. Cardinal Dolan writes 3 or 4 articles in the NY Daily News each year, and I'm confused as an American Catholic as to why the Cardinal didn't take this opportunity to write something about this latest Planned Parenthood travesty.

So wouldn't it be nice if, to dispel any confusion, the true Catholic teaching would be stated somewhere officially, in the Catechism for example? Yes, and in his latest article on Stream, John Zmirak points out that it already is:

There is a Catholic teaching on immigration. It offers a brief and sane criterion for principled policy, which it codifies in the Catechism of the Catholic Church:

The more prosperous nations are obliged, to the extent they are able, to welcome the foreigner in search of the security and the means of livelihood which he cannot find in his country of origin. … 


Immigrants are obliged to respect with gratitude the material and spiritual heritage of the country that receives them, to obey its laws and to assist in carrying civic burdens (2241).

Within the bounds of these two statements, Catholic laymen are free — indeed, we’re obliged — to argue about the proper application of this teaching in our own country and context. In the same way, we apply “just war” teaching to particular conflicts our nation faces. While we listen to the advice of popes and bishops, we know that they can be wrong, as some medieval popes were wrong to call crusades against Christian heretics or to wage war on neighboring cities.

After he quotes the passage, Zmirak goes on to parse the phrase “To the extent they are able …”:

This statement is broad enough that we could argue over it indefinitely. Theoretically, the entire population of the world could fit in the state of Texas, with several feet of wiggle room to spare. Does that mean that the U.S. is “able” to accept the entire world? Clearly not, because there are countless economic, environmental, cultural, fiscal and other factors that determine what we are actually “able” to do. All those points are things we must determine by rational argument and setting our national priorities by democratic vote. There is no secret “Catholic answer” to these questions; however, natural law principles can and should be invoked in our discussions of the matter. Such arguments are prudential, and the Church does not pretend to have the competence to answer them; if it did, we should simply ask Pope Francis to use his infallible authority to draw up the U.S. budget every year.

As we always say here, read the whole thing.  This discussion in this article represents the most sensible approach to tackling the sensitive subject of immigration and avoiding both extremes in the debate.

By the way, here's a good link for anyone who wants to get emails to help them read through the Catechism in a year. I just found it, and decided to subscribe to it. I already am using Daily Gospel which is another great email service for daily mass readings.

If Rod Dreher doesn't write The Benedict Post, who does?

Another Monday, another anonymously written The Benedict Post pushing a raft of Web-scrounged Catholicism upon which sits, as it does every Monday, another recommendation for Rod Dreher's pet book project, his so-called Benedict Option. Rod Dreher's Benedict Option even holds that place of prominence in the blog's About page that would normally be filled by its author's name.

Like The Benedict Post and its anonymous author Muzhik, an animated anthropomorphic being, magically created entirely from inanimate matter

So these three questions naturally continue to intrigue me:

  • Why would a Catholic newsletter - prominently touting Rod Dreher's Benedict Option on a regular basis - suddenly burst upon the scene - anonymously, out of nowhere - just as Dreher is working overtime everywhere else to promote interest in his landing a Benedict Option book deal?
  • If ex-Catholic Rod Dreher himself isn't writing it, who is, and why are they ashamed to reveal who they are? Why is The Benedict Post - supposedly to serve fellow Catholics, not Rod Dreher - secretly authored?
  • Why would you, as a Catholic, want to subscribe to a carefully orchestrated newsletter you don't even know is written by a Catholic?

For the sake of understanding what may very well be going on here in more detail, let's just step our way through this whole phenomenon.

Let's say that I, Keith, want to corral a large, fairly cohesive audience world wide for my Keith Project, installing big screen TVs in garage man caves.

Let's also say that I was a Catholic myself for a dozen years or so after which, for some reason - restrictive birth control policies, what I regarded as "ugly" churches, a complete faith meltdown - I repudiated my Catholic faith and took up another more amenable to my lifestyle.

Even having walked away from Catholicism, however, what have I been able to take with me? That's right:

  • a fairly deep working knowledge of the innards of Catholicism
  • my skills as a professional writer to shape that resource to whatever ends I choose

Okey doke, first order of business, set up a platform theme that resonates with the billion-plus population of Catholics I want to market to. At this point I have to admit, playing off the very attractive term "Benedict" - Catholic saint, confirmation name of millions, even the Latin for "good" prominently up front - beats pushing big screen TVs in garages hands down.

So, for the sake of argument, let's just imagine at this juncture that I'm secretly pushing Rod Dreher's Benedict Option instead of big screen TVs.

In addition to the infinitely resonant common term Benedict as a feel-good brand, what else do I need?

Something that won't crimp my schedule; it's hard enough trying to get by as a writer. Got it:

  • an only once-a-week newsletter
  • that doesn't accept comments I'd have to spend time policing
  • that my audience can also pull themselves by subscribing to
  • that I can cross-promote on word-minimal Twitter

Call it an hour's worth of work a week to help promote my project; an extremely cost-effective trade-off.

Okay, that's the vehicle. What about the content?

Let's remember that, as the style of TBP clearly shows us, the blog author is a professional writer. Thus, if I'm them, I can take just about any subject you assign me and spin out something credible sounding about it. But if I'm Rod Dreher, I've also got twelve-plus years as a Catholic under my belt.

The time it would take me each week to knock out one or two longer length Catholic articles? Maybe 15 - 20 minutes.

The rest? My obligatory weekly Benedict Option self-promotion, of course.

And then a massive, around-the-Web farm of short Catholic links I can quickly and easily paste under my lead articles. That leaves me at least a good 20 minutes over the next week to tweet-promote my blog including effortless retweet filler.

That's it. On the surface, it may look like that one-stop-shopping Catholic newsletter the billion-plus Catholics world wide have been deprived of for too long, but a child's model airplane kit is complex and time-consuming by comparison.

So. For my hour-per-week self-Benedict Option-promotional investment, what have I got now?

The perfect Pavlovian vehicle to condition potentially a billion-plus Catholics to favorably consider my Benedict Option and, ideally, also buy the book I want to write about it: if they read The Benedict Post long enough, what will Catholics who love Catholicism come to subliminally associate Rod Dreher's Benedict Option with?

Right: the Catholicism they already love. The Benedict Post/Rod Dreher's Benedict Option = bell; Catholicism = food reward for favorably heeding bell.

Hey, I've already been called a crazy conspiracy theorist by Muzhik, the anonymous author of The Benedict Post.

Fine by me: prove me wrong. Prove that this slick but effortless new blog-cum-Twitter account is anything more than an attractive vehicle with Rod Dreher's Benedict Option as it's sole recurring passenger.

Prove me wrong, Muzhik. The only reason to keep being anonymous as the author of TBP is because you're ashamed that you're either Rod Dreher or a close enough crony indistinguishable from him using trusting Catholics as rubes to sell Rod Dreher's Benedict Option as fundamental to Catholicism.

Put up, Muzhik - tell us who you really are - or STFU when reasonable people conclude that only Rod Dreher could produce such an obviously artificial Golem as The Benedict Post.