Thursday, January 30, 2014

You Should Eat More Beef

I was thinking recently about a particular friend of mine on Facebook, the one who loves to post links Robert Reich's little fascist diatribes. Everything the guy writes goes in one direction. Kind of like this.
  1. There is inequality. We need to give the government more power.
  2. There is poverty. We need to give the government more power.
  3. It's getting hot. We need to give the government more power.
  4. It's getting cold. We need to give the government more power.
  5. The Seahawks covered the spread last Sunday. We need to give the government more power.
Every problem has the same solution. Taken individually, one can make a decent argument for each. The government has the reach and resources to do something about almost any problem. Ask the guy or his devotees how much is enough and you can never get a straight answer. Nothing is enough.

Beef is good for you. It's full of iron and protein, helping your body produce blood and rebuild muscles. You should eat more beef.

You should eat more beef.

You should eat more beef.

You should eat more beef.

You may be eating 3 pounds of beef a day already, but you should eat more because it helps your body produce blood and rebuild muscles. You should eat more beef.

Me: Is eating one of these a day enough?
Progressive: It's complicated and I don't think we can set a limit right now.

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Why Can't We Be Programmable People?

You know, if all we are is what the physical sciences say we are - chemicals, electrical impulses and the like - why can't we be programmed better? Why can't we have simple algorithms that govern our behavior?

If (num_beers > beer_limit) no_more_beers();

If (anger_level > 8) cool_down();

If (NewcastleUnited.sells(YohanCabaye) == TRUE) beer_limit = 100;

It would prevent so many problems in our lives. We wouldn't have to fall back on that unreliable "will power" which is derived from "free will" which doesn't exist anyway.

Hey, maybe that's why we continue to sin. We're relying on self-denial which has an illusory basis in free will!

There, I've cracked the code. Time to set beer_limit = 45 and crack some cold ones.


Monday, January 27, 2014

Maybe The Solution Is To Print More Yen

... and do it faster, too!

Money is leaving Japan and not just as companies and investors flee the sinking ship. Japan has almost nothing in the way of raw materials, particularly oil, so they import it all. As they've purposefully devalued their currency, they've driven the price of their imports up, resulting in this.
TOKYO—Japan logged a record trade deficit for all of 2013, the third straight year of red ink, as Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's efforts to lift exports and reverse a long-standing trend toward greater overseas production have so far failed to make much headway...

"Contrary to expectations held by many, exports are unlikely to lead the economy higher," said Meiji Yasuda Life Insurance chief economist Yuichi Kodama. "This trade structure will likely remain unchanged for a while," he said.
The plan was to make Japanese goods cheaper and sell those cheap goods for more money than they were spending on increasingly expensive imports. Meanwhile, they've been borrowing, printing and spending like mad to stimulate their economy. So on the one hand, the government is stimulating the economy, driving demand for imported goods and on the other, it's devaluing the currency making those goods more expensive.

Eventually, someone's going to run out of Yen.

Sunday, January 26, 2014

A Fistful Of ... Talc?

Oklahoma is considering getting out of the marriage business entirely. It sounds crazy, but we live in a crazy world. You can vote, but your votes don't count when judges can rule, as they did with California's Proposition 8, that your properly enacted constitutional amendment is unconstitutional. The solution is to remove the topic from discussion entirely. Let's see the judges force gay marriage on people that don't want it when marriage itself has been wiped off the law books.

I love it and I hate it at the same time. It's a terrific response to a government that has turned into a jealous religion and wants to kill off competitors*, but it's tragic that we even have to consider it.

Having said that, let's try a thought experiment. I would argue that America is becoming socially libertarian and fiscally fascist. It's an interesting combination where the bonds between people are disintegrating at the same time the government is attempting to exercise greater and greater control. It's an evolution from government force attempting to pick up a rock - a society with strong internal organization - to government force attempting to pick up a fistful of talc - a society where there is almost no internal organization.

What will happen as this keeps evolving? How can you maintain a civil society when the only organizing feature is an ever-growing list of government laws and regulations that go against the very societal forces the government has been incubating?

The analogy really hit me when I started reading about Millenials fussing about ObamaCare. They'd voted for Obama, but didn't want any part of paying for his signature achievement. When it came down to doing what was required, the government was just one more set of rules they wanted to reject. From the fascists' point of view, I wonder when it will dawn on them that in the process of weakening rival organizations and bonds in the name of libertinism, they've wiped out the bonds they needed to manage the population. That is, by telling everyone that nothing was morally expected of them, they've created a population who rebels at the idea that anything at all is expected of them.

Which, by the way, is how you end up with a $17T debt. You could vote for more and more compassion, but never be expected to pay for it.

Another data point in support of this analogy is the gun violence in communities where traditional marriage has been wiped out. The response has been to pass more and more laws, but when the people don't follow the laws already on the books (don't tell me what to do, man!), what good are 20 more laws?

Finally, how about the ginormous new financial laws like Dodd-Frank? Again, the government is trying to regulate morality in one area after having crushed it elsewhere. We released the monster thinking we knew where it would go. Oops.

When the government is the only reliable, binding force in society, what do you get?

Quick, pick up this talc. All of it at once!
* - If you disagree with this, I invite you to consider the government's attack on Little Sisters of the Poor. Just try and tell yourself that the whole thing wasn't anticipated from the very beginning by HHS. Taking LSP to court was one of the deliberately intended consequences of the regulations. The government didn't have to win the case, either, all they needed to do was bleed the Church to death. The government has infinite resources and the Church does not.

Saturday, January 25, 2014

Would It Kill You To Get Out Of Your Office Once In A While?

The City of San Diego, like many others, is considering a ban on plastic grocery bags. At Catholic Charities, we've now got this sign.

That's brilliant. Because we won't have easy access to bags, we're now forcing the homeless and poor to bring their own. If they were that organized and thought that far in advance, they wouldn't be poor and homeless in the first place.

Aside: A friend of mine came and worked with me recently. After we served a particularly scruffy homeless dude, I said to my friend sarcastically, "You see, all he has to do to access ObamaCare is click over the website, enter in his email address and navigate a few simple screens!"

I recently read The Idealist, a book about Jeffrey Sachs' attempt to eliminate extreme poverty. Using plans cooked up at Columbia University and about $120M in donations he and his proteges embarked on an ambitious campaign in Africa. It failed because it expected everyone to behave like a Columbia grad student.

Lather, rinse, repeat. Because a bunch of Prius-driving ecowarriors demand we get rid of plastic bags, we're going to be forced to ... I don't know what. Spend what little money we have to buy our own bags to distribute? Spend tons on cloth bags that the schizophrenics and disorganized among out clients will lose? Use paper bags which will disintegrate as the cold items condense water and soak the paper?

It seemed like such a good idea in the faculty lounge.

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

A Little Bit On Andrew Cuomo

So Governor Cuomo wants my kind out of NewYork.
“Who are they?” the governor asked. “Are they these extreme conservatives who are right-to-life, pro-assault-weapon, anti-gay? Is that who they are? Because if that’s who they are and they’re the extreme conservatives, they have no place in the state of New York, because that’s not who New Yorkers are.”
I'm against slaughtering babies, I don't really care if you own a gun and I guess I'm anti-gay because I think two guys who wear dresses aren't the same as man and wife. That means if I lived in New York, I'd need to leave. Basically, he wants devout Catholics who are sort of pro-gun-rights to move somewhere else.

Does this remind you of anything?

Would I need to pay a Reichsfluchtsteuer?

Monday, January 20, 2014

Lie Down With Chalk

... and you wake up with a pink tummy and paws.

Our daughter did a little sidewalk chalk artwork for one of her brothers and a friend for a birthday party. Our Maximum Leader provided hands-on (paws-on) quality control. Even after giving her a bath, the red chalk stains remained.

Sunday, January 19, 2014

When Cobras And Puff Adders Fight

... you get the #WhiteWomanPrivelege hashtag on Twitter. Unreal. The hate and bitterness are palpable. Clicking on some of the profiles and reading their individual streams uncovers whole new veins of spite and venom to be mined.

Talk about a renewable resource!

And now a palate cleanser...

Here's Yohan Cabaye's amazing free kick goal from the end of yesterday's Newcastle United - West Ham game. My wife could hear me yelling for joy at the TV at the other end of the house with the door closed.


Saturday, January 18, 2014

Libertine Fascism, Part I

I just finished listening to Mussolini's The Doctrine of Fascism from Librivox. It's pretty wretched stuff, bombastic and artless. It also contrasts somewhat with the positions taken by American progressives and, presumably, Argentinian Peronists.

A quick word about the Peronists - there's precious little English language Peronist texts out there to consume. Peron was a huge fan of Mussolini, but it's not clear to me how he reconciled his love of class warfare with Mussolini's absolute rejection of it.

Back to Il Duce. In short, Fascism is the suppression of the individual for the interest of the State. Specifically, the interest of the State is imperialism, the exertion of international influence in military, economic and cultural spheres.

Mussolini explicitly rejects both the class warfare of socialism and the individual freedom of liberalism. Benito's "liberalism" and "liberals" are not to be confused with modern American progressives, but instead most closely parallel American libertarians. Mussolini has no problem at all with explicit or implicit social classes so long as everything serves the goals of the State. After trashing the idea of personal freedom, he offers a few nods to it allowing that individuals can manage their own lives as long as they, too, serve the needs of the State, yea, even unto death.

The State's goals are straight-up imperialism.
For Fascism, the growth of empire, that is to say the expansion of the nation, is an essential manifestation of vitality, and its opposite a sign of decadence... But empire demands discipline, the coordination of all forces and a deeply felt sense of duty and sacrifice: this fact explains many aspects of the practical working of the regime, the character of many forces in the State, and the necessarily severe measures which must be taken against those who would oppose this...
What struck me most about The Doctrine of Fascism was how purpose-driven it is. Say what you like about the Mussolini and his oppressive State, the guy had very serious goals. Listening to it, I just couldn't imagine Barack Obama giving similar speeches. I would argue that the fascism of American progressives serves no purpose other than getting loaded and getting laid. Where Il Duce demanded sacrifice and discipline from everyone so Italy could recover the Roman Empire, Obama, Pelosi and MSNBC demand that productive people be shackled with taxes and laws so guys who wear dresses, make up and high heels can smoke weed and marry each other.

More later.

Uhh, yeah. I'm all in. You bet.

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Candy Crush

There must be about a zillion Americans who can relate to this.

Smartphones bringing us together? You bet. Together to hate on these addictive games! I'm going to delete all mine.

After I play just one more time.

Everyone Is "Nice"

We don't need religion and rules, we just need to be nice to each other, right? That's why it's great that the Pope is talking more about being nice and not nearly as much about rules.

So why is it that nice people who live by their own rules have problems like this?
A child living with a single mother is 14 times more likely to suffer serious physical abuse than is a child living with married biological parents. A child whose mother cohabits with a man other than the child's father is 33 times more likely to suffer serious physical child abuse.
You're not going to try to tell me that objective, external rules play some role in life, are you? That would just make you a hypocrite and a sanctimonious, moralizing prude.

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Coming Together Over Smartphone Games

In Charles Murray's excellent book, Coming Apart, he describes how American society is pixelating into disjointed subgroups. It starts by noting that back in the day, when there were only three TV networks, everyone watched the same shows and through that medium, had a shared culture. No such commonality exists these days.

Or does it?

Recently, while bagging food down at Catholic Charities, I found myself in the middle of a conversation about smartphone games. The other two working the back were big fans of Candy Crush. They spent quite a bit of time comparing where they were in the game, how often they played it and so forth. I never got hooked on that, but my wife and I love the bubble blasting games. My son just turned me on to Hill Climb Racer. It's awesome.

While we don't all share the same games, we share the smartphone gaming experience. It's not quite the same as a shared cultural and moral foundation, but it's something we can discuss with almost everyone we meet. Maybe what's happened is that we came apart during the 90's and 00's and smartphones are bringing us back together.

Of course, we all share a common interest in funny cat videos.

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

OK, Smartypants, Where Are Your New Ideas?

WaPo article: On social mobility, future party leaders Kirsten Gillibrand and Paul Ryan offer few new ideas. Elsewhere, as ObamaCare has crashed and burned, I've seen sneers from the left that conservatives aren't offering up any new ideas of their own.

When it comes to income, wealth and benefits, who says there are any "new ideas" worth considering? There comes a point in time when any technology or field of study has reached it's end. Where are the "new ideas" when it comes to toasters, waffle makers, bicycle wheels or the kind of sand you use when making concrete?

Learn a useful skill. Spend less than you earn. Avoid debt. Get and stay married. Go to church. As a nation, if you want to offer your citizens new benefits, pay for them up front. Don't bury future generations in debt or print money to pay your bills.

Nope, no new ideas there. I guess I need to redouble my efforts and keep looking for new ideas!

Or maybe I'll skip that and watch funny cat videos instead.

Monday, January 13, 2014

Sunday, January 12, 2014

How To Mount A Really Big Staghorn Fern

My wife loves her staghorn ferns. I love her. When one of our prize staghorns snapped through its restraining fishing line and pitched, face-first onto the concrete, the Catican Compound Staghorn Mounting Team swung into immediate action*.

When you google "mount staghorn fern," you get lots and lots of lessons on how to mount the babies. Oooh! Cute little pieces of wood! Strands of fishing wire! Lovely little Hello Kitty stickers plastered all over the baby staghorn's nursery**! What's missing are lessons on how to re-mount the titans of the staghorn world, the ones that weigh in excess of 100 pounds. When our big brute of a staghorn ripped through its fishing line like Hercules breaking his chains to maul the Philistines (or was that the Nazis?), we knew it was time for serious action.

Our monster staghorn, properly mounted.
Putting away our extensive collection of Hello Kitty paraphernalia, we used a sheet of contoured plywood as a base and backed it with framing 2x4s. If you don't run the 2x4s across the top and bottom horizontally, the plywood will bow out as the staghorn's weight and moisture warps the wood.

Horizontal braces to keep the mount straight over time, vertical ones as backing for the upcoming wire mesh.
Instead of fishing line, we used coarse wire mesh, the type you might use for fencing, chicken wire or laying cement. The coarse wire is strong, but it doesn't aesthetically dominate the fern. We used perforated metal strips, threaded through the wire mesh, to mount the wire. We attached one side of the mesh first, using the first vertical 2x4 as backing and then gradually wrapped it around the fern, cutting out holes for the leaves as we went. When we got the mesh all the way around, we fastened it to the board where the other vertical 2x4 was there as backing.

The perforated metal strip, threaded through the mesh.

The wire mesh clipped to allow the staghorn's leaves through.
Staghorns are effectively 1/4 oval solids. That meant that at the bottom, once you trimmed off the side parts of the mesh, you wrapped the mesh around the bottom of the fern and affixed it like you had the side, as shown above.

The end result is a happy, undamaged staghorn, ready to grow even larger and achieve its life goals of enlightenment and spiritual purity.

Or whatever it is huge staghorns do all day.

* - OK, it wasn't immediate. We did manage to watch several English Premier League games, cook some southern food and agonize over the Saints loss to the Seahawks while working on the project, but, really, we swung into action with the greatest alacrity one could expect during this busy sports season.

** - Work with me here, people. I'm on a roll.

Friday, January 10, 2014

Something Beautiful From Lurpak

I know I've been posting a lot of videos lately, but when I come across something beautiful or funny, I just want to share it. There are vitriolic polemics in me, searching for the fastest route to my fingertips to launch themselves onto the keyboard and push me into high dudgeon*, but until those tidbits of nastiness discover their exit onto the screen, accept this as a token of my affection for you, my readers.

I'm sorry this isn't available in hi-def. The movement, the colors, the blending of music and video made me feel warm and happy. It made me want to cook.

* - To be honest, the polemics currently on hold would really only push me into medium-high dudgeon, somewhere around a 6.7 on the dudgeonometer.

Wednesday, January 08, 2014

On Caffeine And Drynuary

Drynuary refers to a personal decision to avoid drinking alcohol for the entire month of January. I'm a little late to the game, but I really want to try that for the rest of the month.

Starting tomorrow.

Caffeine is great. It lifts you up, gets you going, makes you more productive ... until you crash. Then it's not so good. Personally, my crashes are emotional things - I get grumpy and anxious*. I'm like the monkeys in the commercial below. It's all good until it isn't and then it's very bad indeed.

Tonight I had an epiphany about why I like the suds when I come home. I usually have some coffee or a Diet Coke around 3 at work. That's perfect timing for the caffeine crash to hit at 5:30 or so. The stress leads to an alcohol craving which leads to a Newcastle which leads to a Firestone Union Jack or a Harp or something like that. After the whole symphony of ups and downs is over, I feel regret, but was never sure why until now.

Tomorrow, no coffee after 9 AM.

* - This is adrenal gland exhaustion. Caffeine squeezes your adrenal gland until it's empty. Your body needs small amounts of adrenaline to operate properly and caffeine will cause you to drain it dry.

Tuesday, January 07, 2014

Yet Another Hilarious Video

I've watched this any number of times and it still makes me laugh out loud.

Monday, January 06, 2014


I loved it.

Special hat tip to the National Review's Kevin Williamson for writing a blog post that manages to take this playful video of Germans talking funny and bleach all the humor out of it by dragging in the progressives' normal racialist claptrap, proving once again that if you want a good laugh, stay as far away from political hacks as you can.

Sunday, January 05, 2014

Which Came First, The Single Parent Family Or The Poverty?

Unrelated intro: I feel both proud and ashamed that I didn't blog yesterday. Proud that I showed I could master my blogging OCD* and shame that I had a blog written in my head and didn't post it. After nearly 8 years of daily blogging, I felt it was more important to break that streak than it was to share some tiny tidbit.

On with the show.

I just changed the tagline on this blog to reflect my deepest conviction - that America is in desperate need of local, Christian missionary work. See this post for a good summary of the rationale. For me, that idea focuses thought and action into something useful. The two biggest issues we face are the destruction of the traditional family and government debt. One is atomizing society and the other will destroy wealth and social stability.

By "atomizing society," I mean that intermediate institutions are growing weaker, reducing society to two primary elements: the individual and government.

So now really on with the show.

While everyone admits that marriage has declined significantly over the past 4 decades, President Obama and progressives in general want us all to focus on income inequality. There's an excellent post at the Manhattan Institute showing how income mobility correlates quite well with marriage, but not so well with income itself. The question is this: Is income a factor of marriage or marriage a factor of income? In his speeches, President Obama tells us that income inequality causes the breakdown of the family.

The question seems easily answerable. The assertion of the progressives, the solve-income-inequality-first crowd, is that low-income women will have babies without getting married because they're poor. This seems silly on its face.

If you're poor, a second, committed adult in the household can't help but make things better, even if they just watch the kids so you can go down to the HHS office to apply for food stamps. Reading the flyers about government social services posted at Catholic Charities, there are plenty available, but they all assume you have free time to travel to dispersed government offices, fill out forms and interact with clerks. It's not the sort of thing you'd want to do while carrying a screaming toddler. Government assistance aside, even if the husband is unemployed, he can at least provide labor hours in maintaining the house and raising the children.

So there you have it. The next time you find yourself in an income inequality discussion around the dinner table or on Facebook, ask that question: Why would poverty cause a woman to have a baby outside of marriage?

If I'm a woman living here, I want a husband if only for the protection.
* - This is a joke, in case you were wondering. I don't really have blogging OCD. Well, maybe just a teensy weensy bit. :-)

Friday, January 03, 2014

Past One Million

Google is telling me that as of late yesterday, the 'Post passed a million page views in its lifetime. Yay! With this, I think I'm going to fight my OCD and stop forcing myself to blog on a daily basis. Instead, I'll still blog, but will only post when I feel the quality of the content is sufficiently high. So no more mandatory daily blogging for me!

After today, of course.

Or maybe tomorrow.

In any case, thanks so much for visiting this site. It's been a wonderful learning tool for me and your comments and clicky encouragement have helped me on this journey. Seriously, even the silent visitors have meant a lot in my life. God bless you all.

Wednesday, January 01, 2014

Hoppin John With Ham Hocks

... is not as good as Hoppin John with tasso. The recipe I used comes from Terrie Thompson's outstanding Eating Southern Style and it calls for tasso, but we didn't have any. The ham hocks were easily procured at the local Albertsons and I used them along with bacon for the meat with meh results. My wife and one of our son's loved it*, but I'm non-plussed or at least only mildly-plussed.

Still, it has black eyed peas so the good luck part is still there.

Ham hocks have their place. This was not it.
* - They are both telling me that I must be crazy and are in the process of eating more of it.