Charlie's Blog: September 2016

9.26.2016

SOC 4


By three methods we may learn wisdom: First, by reflection, which is noblest; Second, by imitation, which is easiest; and third by experience, which is the bitterest.
CONFUCIUS

This has been a crisis week for me. A lot of things have been on my mind. They involve three words--frustration, contemplation, and distraction. I have been revolving those three things in my brain for days now. I now need to write it out.

FRUSTRATION

I am frustrated as a writer. I swing back and forth between wanting to do more versus quitting it entirely. So, I gave up being a writer this week. It didn't last long because I can be a failed writer or a frustrated writer. So, I contemplated frustration as a permanent or persistent state of being. The simple conclusion I have reached is that frustration is a normal thing. I have been heartened by watching this video about other people who endured similar frustrations. Leonardo da Vinci was a loser for most of his life.

There are three paths you can go down in life. The first and most basic is to abandon your projects and settle into a life of working to pay your bills and then spending the rest of your time sipping beer while watching televised sporting events. I have never found that sort of life to be appealing. The second and most fantastic path is to have an amazing stroke of luck where you get paid big bucks to play as a professional athlete, musician, or actor and then spending the rest of your time snorting cocaine off the naked bodies of the whores and bimbos you attract into your life looking to parasite off of your unearned success. I don't find this sort of life appealing either. The third path is to make peace with being a talented loser toiling in obscurity. This means working a day job to make money and working the equivalent of a second job as a writer.

I don't really do leisure. I think I enjoyed it briefly as a child, but I am geared more for work than play. Writing is work. It is like a kid who chooses to let the other kids go play baseball down in the sandlot while he stays home to rake leaves. As an adult, people watch television and movies. I sit down and write for hours.

When I think of giving up writing, I think about what I would do with the time. I have fantasies of other projects, but I suspect that I would just veg out in front of the tube or play games on the iPad I don't own.

Frustration has to do with the payoff. For instance, the medical student is the one who chose not to party in college but to study, make the grades, score well on his MCAT, and spend his years carving cadavers and reeking of formaldehyde. Eventually, he gets a well paying job as a physician. Yet, if he is a good physician, his workaholic ways continue. There is no payoff for him in that regard. That is the untold story in the untold story of that video. Work is its own reward.

You have to love work for its own sake. I've never been a fan of doing things for the sake of some other end. I learned this in college. When you begin school, the goal is to graduate. But if you think that goal is enough motivation to sustain you through those years, you would be mistaken. Ultimately, you have to love learning. Once you have that, the goals take care of themselves. The takeaway is that I am not a goal oriented person so much as a process oriented person. Usually, when I work, I enjoy the work while I am doing it. When the work is completed, I have already forgotten it as I move to the next project.

I am not frustrated in my work as a writer or in my opportunities. I am frustrated with the fruits of the labor. Somewhere, I lost my process orientation on things. I need to get that back. So, I will continue to write because I enjoy it.

DISTRACTION

I am back on Twitter again. Yes, it is ridiculous. But my return has been as the end of some reflection after being off of Twitter. This reflection has come as a consequence of reading this article from Andrew Sullivan. That piece of writing has been on my mind for an entire week. It probably would not have been had I been on Twitter. The irony is that Sullivan went on Twitter to discuss what is essentially all the reasons you shouldn't be on Twitter. That irony is precisely why I decided to come back to Twitter. This will be a long one, folks, so hang on for the ride.



Basically, Sullivan blogged for 15 years solid. Unlike me, Sullivan was a successful blogger. He brought in more readers in a single day than I have for the past four years with my blog. Of course, the guy came to the point where he was posting every half hour. That is insane but understandable if you aren't holding down a day job. I remember posting up to three times a day at one point in my own blogging career. Now, I am fortunate to post three times in a week.

Andrew Sullivan had a meltdown last year and abandoned his blog. He was tired of the mental and physical toll the project was taking on him. Like Arianna Huffington with her sleep gig, Andrew Sullivan seems intent on a new career of warning us of the dangers of the internet. Naturally he will use the internet to warn us of these dangers.

The internet has happened! It can't unhappen. This is why anything Sullivan or anyone else says about chucking the internet will make as much sense as unscrambling the egg and cramming the genie back in the bottle. Sullivan does a remarkable job in diagnosing the problem of internet distraction, but he fails in giving a definitive solution to the problem. But he does point the way to a possible solution to the problem.

CONTEMPLATION

Distraction existed before the internet. It was called television. Before that, it was the radio and mass market publishing and movie theaters and Gutenberg with his printing press. The difference between those old forms of distraction and the internet is that those things had a certain end. Stations signed off by playing the national anthem. Books had endings. Movies did, too. The internet is endless. With the advent of smartphones, that infinity has added ubiquity to its saturation level. Naturally, this has led to mass distraction, short attention spans, and an urge to purge the world of the offending thing. But I think it helps to look beyond the technology to the issue of distraction itself.


People pursue distraction because it produces the sensation known as "flow." This is that feeling of losing contact with time and place as you immerse yourself into something. It is how I feel when I am writing an essay like this one. Flow is a good thing, and I confess to committing a large part of my life to cultivating it. But flow is not the only thing. It has the adverse effect of making us unable to contemplate. This is the kernel of Sullivan's essay. We are no longer able to sit in a room alone with just our thoughts.

For Sullivan, the solution was to go on a meditation retreat. Now, I am not a fan of meditation in the Zen Buddhist sense. But this retreat served as a digital detox for the man. He goes on to talk about the salutary effects of the retreat. He regained his physical and mental health. Unfortunately, it has come at the cost of his blog. And what is to be his post-blog career?

Sullivan's retreat is like bypass surgery for a cardiac patient, but it does little to address the long time needs of the patient. We do live in an age of distraction, and I feel it all the time. The sad thing is that I do not own a smartphone and spend large portions of time away from the computer and the internet. Yet, I feel the same digital fatigue. What is the answer?

THE DIGITAL SABBATH

Sullivan points to it in his term "digital sabbath." We need flow in our lives, but we also need contemplation. I used to drink a great deal throwing back at least three Beam and Cokes on a daily basis. Feeling this was a bad habit, I swung into being a teetotaller for a decade. I remember one recovering alcoholic girlfriend who dated me specifically for the reason that I was not a drinker. I was "safe." Today, I buy a 12 pack of Pabst Blue Ribbon which lasts me one month as I have three beers each weekend to unwind from the week. That destination is where I am also headed with the distraction sickness Sullivan points out.

We need what I call "contemplative spaces." As a Catholic, I find those spaces at Mass, adoration, and personal times of prayer and lectio divina. This is also what Opus Dei provides with its circles, evenings of recollection, and retreats. For the sake of your soul, you need periods where you turn off your phone and your computer and just spend time in contemplation, reflection, and worship of the Lord. This is a basic and regular part of the Plan of Life.


The antidote to distraction fatigue is to have regular times of contemplation. You don't have to give up the internet. You just have to turn it off. For me, the plan is to turn it off completely each Sunday. My wife and I refrain from work or making others work on Sunday. But I realize now that spending the day goofing off on the internet is a violation of the spirit of the Sabbath. Sunday should be a day of total contemplation. This means prayer, Mass attendance, and spiritual reading.

The distraction/contemplation thing is a syzygy which is a term I use frequently. Usually, I find the answer is not to embrace one extreme or the other or to aim for some "balance" between the two. The answer is to embrace both things at the same time. For six days, you should flow out with whatever. On the seventh day, you should shut it down and aim for total contemplation and quiet.

The Bible does not address distraction sickness directly because such things as the internet did not exist in Bible times. But it did deal with the distraction of work with the commandment to observe the Sabbath. The fact that prayer and worship were primary activities on that day are strong indicators of the contemplative nature of the day.

I am running with this new strategy. This is why I am back on Twitter. I will still eschew Facebook and smartphones for other reasons, but I am not going to waste my time trying to follow some path of moderation on this matter. I am following the path of syzygy.


A guy who I think has a handle on this issue is Rich Roll. Rich is a meditation practitioner, but he also has a huge presence on the internet as a vegan ultraman triathlete podcaster blogger whatever. Yet, unlike Andrew Sullivan, this guy doesn't seem beset by mental and physical illness despite being in the same line of work as a content guy on the internet. Part of his secret is the triathlon training, but I also realize this guy's daily practice of meditation is also a big part of his secret. The guy literally shuts it all out every day to spend alone with his thoughts. If you add in time on the roads and in the pool, this guy spends a great deal of time in a contemplative space.

Once upon a time, I used to live in such contemplative spaces, but I quit that when I became an atheist. I did not want to spend large amounts of time alone with my thoughts probably because I knew God was lurking there. So, I turned to distraction as an antidote. I know I am not alone in this. Distraction has become a way of life for most people today.

I don't do meditation except in the Catholic sense. I think Zen meditation is a practice for pagans and Jesuits. But I can get down with the contemplative practices of Trappists and Carmelites. I feel chastened that a guy like Rich does a thing that I should have been doing all along. But I admire that he can be in both the contemplative world and the world of distraction without becoming Andrew Sullivan.

The digital sabbath is the answer. Schedule regular periods away from your devices and your distractions. I am going to try this and see what happens. And I will report back on my progress in my next SOC post.

9.24.2016

Random Thoughts on Various Subjects 29


I haven't slept for ten days because that would be too long.
MITCH HEDBERG

1. CHARLOTTE RIOTS

A black guy with a gun who refused to drop it gets shot by a black cop in Charlotte who works for a department with a black police chief. Naturally, this is racism, and a thug mob erupted in a multi-day riot looting, pillaging, and burning the Queen City. White people were attacked just for being white. Gun sales soared. George Soros gave an evil Darth Sidious laugh somewhere.

The first thing I can say is that a protest and a riot are not the same thing. Regardless of how you feel about something, there is never justification for violence, mayhem, and destruction. But, of course, the rioters don't know these things because the vast majority of them don't know who their fathers are and could never be a disappointment to any of them. The people who rioted are the ones who sag their pants, listen to that sickness known as hip hop, and spend their days smoking reefer and not working.

The second thing I can say is that the riots in Charlotte put NC firmly in the Trump column. Those thugs just helped to unelect Hillary Clinton. Trump is the law and order candidate, and I believe that he will support our police instead of undermining them like Barack Obama has.

The third thing I can say is that the shooting of Keith Lamont Scott was entirely justified. The guy had a gun. He wasn't reading any book. What a ridiculous story. Here is the picture of Scott on the pavement with the gun at his feet:


I have watched the cellphone video of Scott's widow, and I can say just from that footage alone that this was a justifiable homicide. Scott had every chance to drop his weapon, and he refused. The release of that video by Scott's family didn't help their fabrication at all. Scott's wife lied through her teeth and deliberately provoked the Charlotte riots that ensued. They need to bring charges against her for this incitement. That woman needs some jail As for Keith Lamont Scott, he got what was coming to him.

The real story here is our nation's cities are full of thugs wanting to loot, riot, and murder on the thinnest of excuses. These are the same thugs who kill other black people in numbers that are staggering in comparison to anything the cops do. Yet, those black lives must not matter to the BLM or Obama.


This country is at a crossroads on the race issue. We have a black president. We have black police officers, chiefs of police, sheriffs, and deputy sheriffs. Yet, somehow, the fact that these fatherless thugs can't make it in life is because of the racism of the white majority. The reality is that these thugs are a criminal class, and they belong in prison for the rest of their lives. I am grateful for the brave men and women in our police force who keep law and order in this country.


What is the endgame here? I see things becoming worse unless something changes in the thug culture in the inner cities. When their violence becomes unbearable, martial law will come, and these thugs will be shot indiscriminately in the streets. And if the National Guard won't do it, vigilante militias will. This is the thing violent thugs don't get. Violence begets violence. When you make a mockery of law and order, do not be surprised when you get murdered. And don't complain either. That is the endgame here. It is foolishness to the extreme.

Cops aren't the bad guys here. Thugs are the bad guys. And they know they are the bad guys. Somehow in their pot addled brains, they feel they deserve to be shot like animals in the street. They want to debase this country down to their level. I have a message for the thugs. Before you destroy yourselves utterly and completely, at least have the dignity to pull up your damn pants.


2. COLIN KAEPERNICK

These guys are a complete disgrace to our nation:


There are three basic things this country needs to believe. The first is God. The second is family. And, the third is country. Does Colin Kaepernick taking a knee before an NFL game matter? Absolutely. In this revolting act, Kaepernick makes the mockery of the social fabric complete. Fans are now tuning out the NFL in big numbers over this. If I owned the 49ers, I would have let this player go.

Kaepernick could be a real inspiration if his convictions were pointed in the right direction. But they are pointed in the wrong direction. He has made himself the poster boy of spoiled brat athletes across the three leagues. Kaepernick's protest is against cops killing black people. I will leave aside that issue because it doesn't matter if he was protesting something else like Obamacare. Whether you agree or disagree, there is one thing we all must believe in. We have to believe in this country. This is why we all stand for the anthem, and we show respect for the flag and the country.

It is my country. It is your country. It is also Colin Kaepernick's country. There may be some messed up things in this country, but you stand with your country. You try and make it better. Colin Kaepernick craps on the country every time he takes a knee during the national anthem. That act overwhelms any message he might have to convey. And in doing so, he makes a mockery of himself.

3. TRUMP

Ted Cruz finally endorsed Donald Trump. A lot of Cruz people are mad over it, but it has to be this way. Like Mark Levin, Cruz had to choose for Trump because the alternative was Hillary Clinton. I was a Cruz guy and still wish he was our nominee. But I knew early that I was going to vote for Trump. Why grandstand? Cruz lost. Trump won. Let's not let Hillary win.

People still holding out on not voting for Trump are being pigheaded and stupid. You don't have to like the guy. You can still criticize him for his faults which are substantial. But this country will have a hard time surviving four years of Hillary Clinton. We are in extremely bad shape now after eight years of Obama. Not choosing Trump is like choosing to walk because all you have to ride in is a Ford, and you are a Chevy man.

With that said, I believe Trump is going to win. The momentum is on his side, and Hillary looks like a wounded animal. I don't believe half of what Trump says, but I believe everything Hillary says. And it frightens me. The wolves are not wearing sheep suits anymore. Their agenda is naked and exposed to the world.

Both Trump and Cruz are fighters. They may not like each other, but conservatives know that victories are won one battle at a time. The battle for the soul of the Republican Party will have to be put on pause as we fight the greater battle for the soul of this country. Trump is right. There probably won't be much left to save after a Clinton presidency.

4. Q & A

Q: What do you eat?!

A: This question always hits me when people learn that I am vegan. It isn't what I eat. It is what I don't eat which are animal products. But I am not dismayed at the question because I realize they see how hard it is being a vegan in a meathead society.

I rarely eat at restaurants. I find Taco Bell and Subway to be vegan friendly, but that's it. Chipotle is very vegan friendly, but I don't want food poisoning. Moe's is a pretty good place, and I would go there before going to Chipotle.

Social events are also hard. I eat beforehand and nurse a drink when I am at these things. It makes me want to cry when they debauch a salad with cheese, pork products, and egg filled dressings. Needless to say, being vegan has made me antisocial.

Is the social cost worth it? Absolutely. Going vegan was the best thing I ever did for my health, and I am never going back to my old way of eating. I will only eat meat in a short term survival situation. But my long term survival depends upon a plant based diet.

5. JOKE OF THE WEEK

A horse race joke from the late, great Henny Youngman:

I played a great horse yesterday! It took seven horses to beat him.


6. QUOTABLE QUOTES

Ignorance of Scripture is ignorance of Christ.
ST. JEROME

If you are what you should be, you will set the whole world ablaze!
ST. CATHERINE OF SIENA

Charity is certainly greater than any rule. Moreover, all rules must lead to charity.
ST. VINCENT DE PAUL

The nation doesn’t simply need what we have. It needs what we are.
ST. TERESA BENEDICTA (EDITH STEIN)

We always find that those who walked closest to Christ were those who had to bear the greatest trials.
ST. TERESA OF AVILA

Give something, however small, to the one in need. For it is not small to one who has nothing. Neither is it small to God, if we have given what we could.
ST, GREGORY NAZIANZEN

I have no taste for corruptible food nor for the pleasures of this life. I desire the bread of God, which is the flesh of Jesus Christ, who was of the seed of David; and for drink I desire his blood, which is love incorruptible.
ST. IGNATIUS OF ANTIOCH

When you approach the tabernacle remember that he has been waiting for you for twenty centuries.
ST. JOSEMARIA ESCRIVA

Apart from the cross, there is no other ladder by which we may get to heaven.
ST. ROSE OF LIMA

Love God, serve God; everything is in that.
ST. CLARE OF ASSISI

7. ODDS AND ENDS

--I believe we will remain in perpetual economic stagnation courtesy of the Federal Reserve. Basically, you can embrace the prosperity and creative destruction of free markets, or you can let the Fed print your economy into stagnation. Keynesian policies stimulate in the same manner as putting jumper cables to a corpse. There may be some movement, but the corpse will remain dead.

--I believe Hillary has Parkinson's disease and/or brain damage. There many visible symptoms of this brain damage, but the most visible ones would be that she is a liberal and a Democrat.

--Barack Obama delivered on the hope of black kids that they could be president one day. Now, they can pursue the hope of being a black president who is also a good president.

--Black America has to admit that it is worse off today than it was eight years ago.

--As bad as Black Lives Matter can be, they are not as bad as that Islamic horde taking over Europe.

--I don't comment on celebrity divorces. They may be famous, but it is still gossip.

--Before they become teenagers, they belong to their mother. After, they belong to their father. Mom should have the good sense to step aside.

--Bruce Springsteen is a moron for liking Hillary Clinton and hating Donald Trump.

--There should be a moratorium in Hollywood on sequels and reboots. Reboot of The Exorcist?! Scariest move ever. Still!

LINKS OF INTEREST

Christians can’t back out of modern politics

The Francis Doctrine: On Communion to "Divorced and Remarried", one is either with Christ or with Lucifer

Hillary Clinton's Illness Revealed

To attain great success (and great sanctity), you have to learn to play the long game

9.20.2016

SOC 3


I see it all perfectly; there are two possible situations — one can either do this or that. My honest opinion and my friendly advice is this: do it or do not do it — you will regret both.
SOREN KIERKEGAARD

This is Kierkegaard's famous "double regret." It is the acknowledgement that each choice comes with a drawback and consequent regret. For instance, one cannot become a Marine and also a Navy SEAL without leaving the Corps and joining the Navy. The program only takes Navy personnel. If you become a Marine, you forfeit becoming a SEAL. If you join the Navy, you might become a SEAL, but you could have at least been a Marine if you fail to make it to or through BUD/S.

The double regret thing also applies to getting married. There are benefits to both married life and single life. When you are single, you are free to do many things with your life because your choice only impacts you. When you are married, your choices must be cleared with your spouse. Conversely, when you are single, no one has your back, and you are alone in the world. When you are married, you are not alone.

I have no regrets about being married, and it remains as the best thing that has ever happened to me. But I have to confess that I married late in life. I lived as a bachelor for many years, but this has had the benefit of extinguishing any regrets I might have had about leaving the single life. I really love my wife, and I think people notice this. She is my world. But I also know that my deep love for her comes from the two solid decades of loneliness and frustration that I had before I met her. Contemplating single life again leaves me with a fierce stabbing pain in my being. I would really hate to go back there again.


You will have regret in life. That is Kierkegaard's point. I think a firm belief in Providence is an antidote to this. You have to believe and trust that your life has turned out and will turn out exactly as God has planned for you. The only real regret we should have is offending God and falling into sin. Beyond that, we should put regrets out of our mind. The only permanent regrets are the eternal ones.

Back on the temporal plane, I am experiencing the double regret of leaving Twitter. When I am on Twitter, I regret the time that it eats. When I am off Twitter, I regret not having the options that service provided. One of those options was being able to share links to things I found interesting and important. I can't read anything or watch anything without feeling the urge to tweet it. This is when I relapse back into Twitter addiction. In times like these, it helps to recall and remember why you made the decisions you made.

I have left Twitter because of the time and resources it sucks out of my life. I am tired of the short span my attention has become. I think social media is a vast waste of time and life. Of course, I have some of the same regrets about blogging. Double regret!

One of the things I have noticed is the rise of the cross-platform internet entrepreneur/guru. I will give an example--Rich Roll. This guy has books, a blog, a podcast, a YouTube channel, and social media accounts on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, etc. He also sells products in his online store. Then, there is Taylor Marshall who basically does the same thing except Taylor promotes Catholicism and meat instead of Zen meditation and veganism. Then, there is Alex Jones who has the same thing going on with a show, a podcast, a YouTube channel, social media accounts, and an online store. There should be a word for what these guys do, but I don't know what that word would be. I will have to dream one up.

My temptation is to follow their example. Instead of fighting it, I should embrace all of it--Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, a smartphone, and on and on. But I have misgivings about it all. It all seems like a funnel for egocentrism, vanity, and a slew of vices. But is that really the case with these guys?

I don't see Rich Roll as narcissistic but very humble. The guy is very candid about being a former substance abuser and doing a stint in rehab. I can say the same for Taylor and Alex. The temptation is to see these guys in the same vein as some ego driven celebrity. But this is not accurate. The only similarity is that these guys produce media which makes them sorta famous. They are really entrepreneurs which makes them more like the local guy who opens a bike shop or restaurant. Entrepreneurs tend to be humble and self-effacing because they must subordinate themselves to serving customer needs.

Much of what these guys offers is free of charge. When they do make money, it comes from selling a product or service that renders value to their customers. They do not solicit donations or masquerade as charities. They also live in service to a message and a cause. For Rich Roll, it is primarily about living a plant powered lifestyle. For Taylor Marshall, it is about Catholicism. For Alex Jones, it is turning back the evil machinations of the globalists and the New World Order!

This is the world of internet entrepreneurship. It is content creation, cross platform self-promotion, and selling products. Let's call it what it is. It is capitalism. This begs a question that nags at me repeatedly. Is capitalism antithetical to Christianity? Is it wrong to advertise, promote, and sell things? Is it wrong to advertise, promote, or sell yourself?

My answers to these questions are elemental. You can promote yourself as long as you are humble about it and don't tell lies about yourself. That seems like a weird contradiction, but we know it as truth in advertising. When you apply for a job, you shouldn't pad your resume. You should be plain about your work history and skills. Likewise, companies selling products shouldn't make fabulous claims about their products. Finally, they should deliver value for the dollar.

I see two flavors of capitalism. The first is the dishonest shysty kind where you trick people into giving you money. I think of Shylock from The Merchant of Venice. The other is the honest businessman. I would like to cite an example, but I can't. The one that springs readily to mind would be Yvon Chouinard with Patagonia, but his hippie enviro green thing makes him a weird example. His mission has been more about saving the planet than rendering value to the customer. This isn't a bad thing because he isn't ripping anyone off in the process. But his uniqueness makes him a bad model for the local plumber running his business.


My thing is that my readings on distributism have made me turn a critical eye towards capitalism. I watch today as so much corruption is perpetrated by people who claim to be capitalists. But other capitalists would call these people "crony capitalists." They are at pains to make a distinction between different flavors of capitalism. For instance, the hardware store owner, the strip club owner, and the drug dealer are all capitalists, yet they are hardly the same.

One thing Catholicism rejects is a capitalism divorced from Christian values. This means you can't open a strip club. You can't cheat workers out of a fair wage. You can't sell shoddy products and lackluster services to your customers. And I would go on to say that you can't be involved in the business of usury. Basically, in all economic exchanges, you can't leave your customers or employees worse off instead of better off.

The problem I see is capitalism divorced from Christian values. And, how did this come about? I can name the culprits--Ayn Rand, Ludwig von Mises, and Milton Friedman. The thing these three all have in common is that they are Jewish. Now, I am not an antisemite, but I do think being excluded from Christian society has a tendency to shape your worldview in a non-Christian way. I would lump Hayek in with these people, but his viewpoints differ from these three. This comes from Hayek's Roman Catholic upbringing. Hayek was an agnostic and did not practice Catholicism. But being Catholic will color your perspective on things. The economics of Hayek has a different flavor to it. But that will be saved for some future discussion.

Rand, Mises, and Friedman were at pains to defend a values free capitalism. This is why these three are darlings of the libertarian movement. These three were not in agreement on many things such as central banking. But they did advocate an agnostic or atheistic capitalism. What is the difference? The best example I can give is the bartender. The libertarian bartender keeps pouring the drinks as long as the patron can keep paying. The patron's liver and means to get home are his own problems. The Christian bartender cuts off the patron at some point even though the patron still has money for drinks. The Christian bartender has a moral obligation to not cause harm to his patron or be a means of harm.

The criticism of the Christian bartender is that he won't be in business for very long if he cuts off drunks. You can see where Christian values can make for bad business. The Christian landlord cannot rent to cohabiting couples or gay couples. The Christian bookshop can't sell D.H. Lawrence books. The Christian businessman who pays a fair wage can't compete with the shyster who pays an unfair wage.

The Jewish issue comes from the fact that Jews in foreign cultures felt little to no moral obligation to Christian customers especially when those Christian customers felt little to no moral obligations to those Jews. The result is the Jewish stereotype where Jews are hyperdefensive about not getting screwed over in a deal while also being very willing to screw over someone in a deal. Being pushed around in life will make you like that.


These issues are the main themes in The Merchant of Venice. People criticize Merchant for being antisemitic, yet these critics overlook the sympathetic portrayal of Shylock as an oppressed minority. The play is complicated in its plot, but the conflict is between a Catholic view of things and the Jewish view of things. Shylock rejects the Christian ethic in his dealings. He lends at usury, has no mercy when the deal goes sour, and pursues revenge even when that revenge will be to his financial detriment. It is a deep play and well worth reading.

Rand, Mises, and Friedman tend towards the Shylock view of things. They are at pains to defend the morality of "free market capitalism." The free market is inherently moral in their estimation of things, and the only immoral thing is to interfere in these free exchanges. Consequently, this is why free market proponents tend to despise charity and turn a blind eye to externalities like pollution and waste. The other funny thing is that these free market capitalists are very bad capitalists. None of them made a red cent beyond their books.

Ben and Jerry

Another funny thing is the irony of left wing hippie types that are successful businessmen. The conventional wisdom is that these pot smoking commies should be awful at business. Yet, their insistence on not polluting, paying fair wages, and rendering value to customers has not hurt them at all. To be honest, the only successful libertarian entrepreneur I can think of is John Mackey of Whole Foods Market who extols free market capitalism but makes his money off the Ben and Jerry crowd.

The reason I find these hippie capitalists so interesting is that they show that capitalism can succeed while wedded to values that seem downright anticapitalistic. I believe it is possible to run a business according to Christian principles and succeed. Of course, if the government shuts you down, that is another story. But in a free market, people would rather deal with Ben and Jerry instead of Shylock. Exchange is dependent upon mutual benefit and trust. This is basically what the guys at Acton are about. Markets should be guided by Judeo-Christian values.

The Distributists view things differently from the Actonites. They are adept when it comes to Catholic Social Teaching but clueless when it comes to economics. They make their best arguments as critics of free market capitalism, but they look stupid when they offer their own solutions which involves the heavy hand of government which looks very much like socialism which is also condemned in Catholic Social Teaching.

My view is that the Catholic view on economics is at a crossroads similar to the one the Church found itself in when Aristotle was reintroduced to the West. Prior to this, Catholic thinkers like St. Augustine had adapted Plato to Christian thinking. When Aristotle reappeared, his writings were condemned as antithetical to Catholicism and the Christian faith. That was when St. Thomas Aquinas took Aristotle and ran with it in a way that was profound and still impacts us today. My personal belief is that Aquinas is the greatest philosopher that ever lived. But he couldn't have done it without Aristotle.

I think the Distributists are like those old Platonists/Augustinians while the Actonites are like the readers of Aristotle who think there is value in the writings of free market thinkers. The Catholic world needs an economic Aquinas to settle the issue. I can't wait that long, so I will work to be that Aquinas. I am not an economist by training, so I will probably fail. But I have grown weary of the conflict.


The Aristotle of free market economics would most certainly have to be Ludwig von Mises. I have read a great deal of economics, and I think the Austrians get it more right than any other school. Like Aquinas who read Aristotle, my task will be to learn everything that Mises and the Austrians taught. Then, I will have to reconcile this with what the Catholic Church teaches. That will be a monumental undertaking.

I am at the point where I reject distributism. I don't reject all of it anymore than Aristotle rejected everything his teacher Plato taught. But it is deficient. Their main argument is that economics should not be divorced from Christian values, and I agree. But they make no sensible arguments for how economics can be wedded to Christian values. The problems with critics is that they can tear down with little effort, but they can never construct anything to replace what was torn down. As for the Actonites, they believe in wedding Christianity and capitalism, but they are merely shacked up at the moment living in sin.

9.19.2016

Anti-Minimalism


Prose is architecture and the Baroque age is over.
ERNEST HEMINGWAY

Ernest Hemingway was a good writer. He was also a bad writer. He could be a really bad writer. The reason he was both good and bad is the same. Hemingway was a minimalist. Minimalism can be a cure, but it can also be a curse. To avoid the curse and embrace the cure, I recommend anti-minimalism.

We live in an age of extremes where to embrace a position means to automatically be opposed to its opposite. Readers of this essay will assume that anti-minimalism is the same as maximalism. This assumption is a mistake. People can't seem to think except in terms of either/or. This represents a mental trap. They see a front door and a back door, but never reflect that a window is a perfectly suitable exit from a burning house. Anti-minimalism is a window.

The problems with maximalism are obvious. There is such a thing as too much. Whether it is art or lifestyle or interior design or suburban homes, adding more on top of more ends up being stupid, wasteful, and ugly. More is not more. More is just trash burying the treasure beneath it.

Minimalism is the extreme reaction to those maximalist impulses. When people go down the minimalist path, it is liberating at first in the same way that going on a diet yields healthy weight loss in the beginning. Then, there is anorexia nervosa where that healthy weight loss zips by the window as you race down the interstate highway of oblivion.


Minimalism is anorexia. You don't have to become a skeleton to not be fat. You just have to not be fat. Likewise, you don't have to be a minimalist to not be a maximalist or a materialist. Yet, people go to extremes because they can't do the hard mental work of deciding what is enough.

I believe in simplicity. I like a watch that is inexpensive, tells the time reliably, and maybe even tells the date. I don't need a maximalist smartwatch that connects to my phone and the internet and notifies me of Facebook status updates. But I also hate watches without numbers on them. A numberless watch makes it hard to tell time, so I have to guess if it is 10 o'clock or 11 o'clock. That is the stupidity of minimalism. This is where less becomes less.

The way to escape the minimalist/maximalist mindtrap is to stop thinking in terms of less or more. Instead, think in terms of better or worse. We do this all the time. For instance, we adjust the volume on our devices to a midpoint between mute and deafening. We find that point where it stops being bad, but we stop before it becomes bad again. Yet, some people can't apply this same distinction to things like product design, their wardrobe, the homes they live in, the cars they drive, and on and on.

I believe that you should make things as simple as possible. Simplicity is awesome. I love simplicity. If you can subtract something, then you should do it. But the level at which you stop subtracting is that point where it stops being better and starts becoming worse. If only Hemingway could have figured this out.

Minimalism is prone to becoming ridiculous. This is why you have to become an anti-minimalist. To be anti-minimalist is to follow common sense. Common sense dictates that you should improve your life not empty it or fill it with needless crap. Learn how to be simple and better.

9.17.2016

Random Thoughts on Various Subjects 28


When everything is coming your way, you're in the wrong lane.
STEVEN WRIGHT

1. MAN CAVES

I despise man caves. For those who don't know what they are, man caves are essentially playrooms for grown men. These rooms may have pool tables and dartboards and bars, but they mostly have a big screen TV for sports and porn and video games that used to be a thing for kids but now count middle aged men as players. Then, you have the man cave stripper pole:


I am not against spaces dedicated to men. But these spaces used to be known as the workshop, the office, and the study. These were places where men worked. It might be woodworking, lawn mower repair, banging out a novel on the typewriter, or simply enlarging the mind with the classics. But the key was work. It wasn't play. When men wanted to play, they went outside.


There are many reasons for the phenomenon of the man cave. The first is that men became lazy. Spaces dedicated to work gave way to spaces dedicated to sitting on your dead ass. The second is that men became accustomed to watching games on television in opposition to playing games which help your physical fitness and provide a chance for real camaraderie with your fellow men. The third is that men have become debased to a juvenile level of existence which is why they prefer video games and porn to the real thing. That is a real shame.

Real men don't have man caves. If you got one, get rid of it.

2. ACTS OF RESTROOM TERRORISM


I think there is a special place in Hell for people who insist on urinating on the toilet seat and other acts that I refer to as "restroom terrorism." I realize that the tragedy of the commons is the reason behind the sorry state of restrooms across the land. It isn't your bathroom, so why keep it clean? Yet, everyone wants to use a clean restroom. Who are the people who commit these acts of restroom terrorism?

Recently, a coworker caught one of these restroom terrorists in the act. He used the private women's restroom when the men's was occupied. When he exited, it was plain that this villain had urinated on the seat of the toilet and all over the floor of the restroom. She confronted him, and he laughed about it. No apologies given.

Special place in Hell!

3. TIM KAINE

I am not a fan of Tim Kaine. He is the epitome of a Catholic in Name Only. This week, Kaine announced that the Roman Catholic Church would embrace same sex marriage. His bishop disagreed. And as one priest put it to me, "If he were in my Communion line, I would make him recant publicly if he wanted Communion." Amen to that.

When you have guys like Tim Kaine dictating what the Church will teach or a guy like Vice President Joe Biden openly flouting church teaching by officiating at a gay wedding ceremony, it is a mockery of the faith. The mockery is only made worse when their prelates and priests do not discipline them. I can only wonder why such politicians or men of the cloth can even be Catholic.

I respect people who exit the Catholic Church. I don't recommend it, but I respect it. This is because the apostate at least does us the favor of not soiling the Church's reputation with his apostasy. I have always preferred the honest scoundrel to the hypocrite.

Catholic politicians that publicly support abortion or same sex marriage should face church discipline. It is for the good of their souls as well as our own. As for Tim Kaine, I pray that he publicly repents of his sins. Of course, that will mean automatic ejection from Hillary Clinton's ticket, but that is a small price to pay for your own soul.

4. Q & A

Q: Can a Catholic vote for a pro-choice politician in good conscience?

A: No. Anyone who says yes does not have a fully formed conscience.

The people who ask this question are people who want to vote for Hillary Clinton and support all her positions on the issues except when it comes to abortion. I will address those other positions, but let's focus on the abortion thing.

You could vote for a pro-abort politician if the goal is to prevent a worse evil. In the case of Hillary Clinton, the only candidate that can be worse would be one who advocated for post-abortion infanticide along with abortion. Beyond that, we get to the Hitler comparisons. I would rather have Hillary than Hitler. But let's be real. And, no, Donald Trump is not Hitler. Anyone making such a foolish argument is a deluded person.

A counterargument is the advice to not be a single issue voter. Unfortunately, life is one of those singular issues that breaks the deal. I would vote for a pro-life progressive Democrat over a pro-choice conservative Republican. Do such pro-choice Republicans exist? Yes. Rudy Giuliani is the most visible example. As Rudy put it,
There are millions of Americans, who are as of good conscience as we are, who make a different choice about abortion. And I think in a country where you want to keep government out of people’s lives from the point of view of coercion, you have to respect that.
This is why I could never vote for Rudy Giuliani. The man is pro-choice. That might be a newsflash to those who see him as some sort of hero since 9/11. But Giuliani is no different than any other pro-abort politician.

Are there any pro-life Democrats? Yes! Unfortunately, they belong to a party that is unlikely to ever be pro-life. Generally speaking, the GOP is the party of life while the Democrat Party is the party of death. But I could vote for a pro-life Democrat if the Republican was Giuliani.

What if both candidates are pro-life? I actually had this choice in the last two gubernatorial elections in my state. It is a pleasant problem to have. Once the abortion issue is off the table for you, then it comes down to political philosophy. I am a conservative, so I go with the Republican.

What if both candidates are pro-death? This is when things get complicated. I would vote for Hitler over Stalin because Hitler had a lower body count. As I said before on the C-blog, it is perfectly acceptable to vote for a lesser evil to prevent a greater evil. This is why I prefer a cruel tyrant to anarchy. With two pro-abort politicians, I would have to determine which one was the lesser evil.

What about the politician that lies? This is the argument people make to me about Donald Trump. He might campaign as a pro-lifer but will probably govern as a pro-abort. All I know is that Hillary will definitely govern as a pro-abort. I realize that politicians will say just about anything to get elected and probably betray the voters that elected them. But the alternative is cynicism where you choose not to vote at all. This would be the situation that Edmund Burke described when he said that evil prevails when good men do nothing. Jesus did not sin in choosing Judas Iscariot nor when He was betrayed. And, yes, Jesus knew it was coming. But He still gave the man every opportunity to do the right thing. He does the same with us.

And what about the seamless garment? This term can be a bit cynical since those who support it seem to not notice the holes in that seamless garment. War, poverty, and the death penalty are also life issues. But I can't think of a single politician who actually supports these things that wishes they did not exist. One politician prefers diplomacy and treaties. Another politician believes in a robust national defense as deterrence. But I see both as preferring that war not exist at all. Such things boil down to policy differences based on political philosophy. These are matters mostly of prudence instead of morality. You can debate whether to plant corn or wheat. You cannot debate whether you should eat Mr. Jones in spring or fall. The seamless garment cynics make arguments based on false equivocations. It is saying that the choice to plant corn which may fail is a vote for starvation and mass murder.

Abortion is not a debatable topic. It is murder. When you can't outlaw and condemn murder, nothing else that you say or do really matters. Always vote for life.

5. JOKE OF THE WEEK

From the late, great Henny Youngman:

Getting on a plane, I told the ticket lady, "Send one of my bags to New York, send one to Los Angeles, and send one to Miami." 

She said, "We can't do that!" 

I told her, "You did it last week!" 

6. QUOTABLE QUOTES

The deeds you do may be the only sermon some persons will hear today.
ST. FRANCIS OF ASSISI

Don't judge without having heard both sides. Even persons who think themselves virtuous very easily forget this elementary rule of prudence.
ST. JOSEMARIA ESCRIVA

When faith grows weak, all virtues are weakened.  When faith is lost, all virtues are lost.
ST. ALPHONSUS DE LIGUORI

Sorrow can be alleviated by good sleep, a bath and a glass of wine.
ST. THOMAS AQUINAS

The punishment of every disordered mind is its own disorder.
ST. AUGUSTINE

We used to hate and destroy one another and refused to associate with people of another race or country. Now, because of Christ, we live together with such people and pray for our enemies.
ST. JUSTIN MARTYR

I have long since come to believe that people never mean half of what they say, and that it is best to disregard their talk and judge only their actions.
DOROTHY DAY

If you’re experiencing stress or tension give it to Jesus. Tell Him, ‘I feel like crawling the wall, but I love You and I want to give this to You.’ Do you think our Lord wasn’t tense living with those twelve screwball apostles?
MOTHER ANGELICA

All those who seek truth, seek God, whether this is clear to them or not.
EDITH STEIN (ST. TERESA BENEDICTA OF THE CROSS)

God would never inspire me with desires which cannot be realized; so in spite of my littleness, I can hope to be a saint.
ST. THERESE OF LISIEUX

7. ODDS AND ENDS

--I totally believe this is the real reason Apple killed the headphone jack:


It is Apple Pay or nothing!

--It makes sense to pick Bernie Sanders as the backup in case Hillary drops out. The guy deserves something for winning his party's nomination.

--I need to start my own charitable foundation, so I can live large tax free and also feel like a swell humanitarian. I will make the world a better place for all humanity. And I am going to start with the human I know best--myself!

--It is a crying shame that taxpayer dollars will go to pay for Bradley Manning's mutilation surgery to turn him into Chelsea Manning.

--Hillary is in such bad shape physically that I doubt she will even survive to Election Day much less four years in the highest stress job in the land.

--No smartphone rant this week. If you spend $700 for a new iPhone 7 to replace your iPhone 6, I want you to tell me the smart in that smartphone decision. You can find my email address in the sidebar of this blog.

--You kneel for prayer and stand for the anthem. If you kneel for the anthem, you are a disgrace.

--Pension funds will collapse. It will be Alpo time then.

8. LINKS OF INTEREST












9.12.2016

SOC 2


Life is not a problem to be solved, but a reality to be experienced.
SOREN KIERKEGAARD

I am done with Twitter. My battle with Twitter addiction will not be new to longtime readers of the C-blog. I gave up on quitting, but I recently became disgusted again with social media as a thing. I think it was the story about Facebook censoring the naked Vietnamese girl picture which is an iconic piece of American history. Then, there are the other stories of politically motivated censorship of conservative types like myself. Both Twitter and Facebook have been hit with these allegations. Now, I am not the object of such censorship efforts, but those stories make me question social media. Then, I see the whole project as one vast bad habit.

I've been off of Facebook for a couple of years now. Without a doubt, getting off that social media website has been a positive thing for me. I was a heavy user of Facebook, and it took me two times to quit. Then, I fell into Twitter which isn't as bad. I liken it to quitting heroin to become a pothead. I replaced a bad habit with a lesser bad habit.

Twitter is not as satisfying as Facebook in the same way that ganja is not as satisfying as opium. This is probably why Facebook makes a lot of money while Twitter has yet to show a profit.  Despite its popularity, Twitter is a failure. I expect it to be sold to some other firm in the near future. Twitter is to Facebook what Burger King is to McDonald's. It is the same concept but a slightly different experience. For me, I don't debate McDonald's vs Burger King because I am a vegan who thinks fast food is crap food that will kill you. Likewise, I think social media is bad in the same way.


I don't know why I push back against tech today. I wasn't always this way. Without a doubt, refusing to buy a smartphone was my first definitive refusal of technological innovation. Now, my refusal of social media is my second. I am in a life editing mood right now, and I want to clean some clutter from my life. Twitter has been on the top of the list for a long time now. I would scroll that Twitter feed for an hour or more at a time. It feels weird not doing that now. I can feel my brain rewiring itself in a post-Twitter existence.

I still use tech and the internet, but I seem to value it differently than other people. I remember being seriously into the internet while others were mostly indifferent. Then, Facebook and smartphones happened. I didn't change, but those people changed. Where I saw the internet as my book-and-library life supercharged, they saw it as a smorgasbord of endless distraction and have been mired in it ever since. For me, the internet was and is intellectual. For them, it became social. Twitter was the midpoint between the social and the intellectual worlds. Twitter is the busiest but least social of social media.

I have really enjoyed this article about going dark on social media. This is a favorite bit from the article:
To those of us who are social obsessed, the abstainers possess an air of self-assured coolness. Inhabiting a world apart from the artfully posed selfies and embarrassing bachelorette pics, they are elusive, rebelling against the digital status quo and not suffering from crippling FOMO about what everyone else is eating, wearing, or doing.
Reading that makes me want to be a social media abstainer. Here's another great bit:
 “I don’t really see the point of it all,” said Cathy, a 35-year-old sales director in Florida. (Incidentally, many people who aren’t on social media also do not want to be quoted with their full names on the Web.) “I keep in touch with my real friends and family via phone, email, and text. I find it’s just more personal that way.”
Phone, email, and text is definitely me. I have kvetched before about how people do not respond to email, but I have changed my opinion on why that is the case. I used to think their email inboxes were overfilled, but I think they spend the bulk of their time on Facebook and never check their email. I think someone is wearing a hearing aid because they are deaf when it is really a pair of earbuds blasting rock music which is the equivalent of being deaf.

Social media should be an engagement with the world, but I see it as substitute for the world. Social media is an escape from the world to a pseudoworld where things are valued differently. Likes and friend requests and shares and retweets become the currency in this social media economy. When you don't play along, it is like setting fire to a pallet of cash.


There are other social media sites like Instagram and Pinterest. There is Snapchat and Periscope. I have never been on any of these things. It all comes back to the phone, the text, and email for me. It's like having gold in a world of paper money.

I've also been following the aftermath of iPhone 7, and the biggest criticisms I hear have to do with those ridiculous and expensive AirPods. This led to a lot of Apple bashing in comboxes, and some of the comments were too good not to share. Here is one of them:
Ever try running math-heavy programs on a Mac? How many Mac engineering workstations have you seen / worked on? How many server farms are Mac-based? Workstations are back-of-house heavy machinery, not subject to the aesthetics Apple sells. Apple products are consumer grade electronics, designed for conspicuous consumption and graphic design. That is their market. And like all superficial businesses, they need periodic facelifts to excite their fans.
I liked what this guy had to say about the aesthetics vs. function of Apple products. Real geeks use real tools and real machines. Apple just makes eye candy for consumers. Here is another great comment:
The whole tech industry business model is planned obsolescence on hyper drive and software servitude.
I've been a Apple fan since PCI macs came out. However over time I realized the truth. I've thrown away into the land fill numerous Macs and periphel dives, scanners, removable hard drives, cables galore, etc. Because they became obsolete. Not because they didn't still work but because they could not run new software on the computer and Internet. I have a Mac Pro works fine. Runs my Photoshop 5 installed software just fine. Can't access the Internet because the old Safari won't work on the web sites and it can't be upgraded. Same with Firefox, etc. It tops out with OSX 10.6.8. Can't be upgraded. And these companies refuse to provide support for out dated software. It's only available through shady third parties who aren't affiliated with the companies. Had a bad experience with an old Adobe suite.
The "we are upgrading you" is a lie! The truth is we are forcing you to buy new computers at a faster and faster pace. You will have no choice because we will make them unusable. If someone tells me their upgrading me again my thoughts will run along the lines of chasing them down the street with a bat. Even my Bank has sent me "New" credit cards for my benefit which then means I have to change ALL my automatic payment accounts individually.
Software servitude. Everything is on the cloud for a monthly fee or you can't use it. Who can justify the costs unless you are a professional user.
I refused to upgrade my iPhone 4s because of all the peripherals I bought. Hands free car speaker, stereo players, Chargers for home and the car. Bluetooth accessors to play on the car radio back up batteries, etc. So it's not just buying an iPhone or Mac anymore it's about replacing everything that goes with it. I own an iPad which can't print unless you have a Bluetooth printer. My Canon printer can do wifi printing and USB but it won't work with the iPad. I have to email it to myself then use an old MacBook to usb print. This is ABSURD and we buy it.
Each time Apple makes one of my Apple devices obsolete I will be switching to a Windows system. I can't afford Apple anymore. And I definitely won't be buying an iPhone. 7.
The Tech people made our country vulnerable to cyber attacks and thieft and then turn around and SELL us security. Awesome business model. Like a doctor who makes you sick and then sells you the cure. They just don't care about the user they only care about the bottom line and exploiting foreign workers for that purpose. They aren't innovators they are corporate con artists.
When I read things like this, it makes me glad that I still carry and use a humble flip phone. I see the smartphone thing as a way to extract ever increasing amounts of cash from people for handsets, protective cases, phone insurance, data plans, cloud storage, and on and on. Then, with each upgrade, you have to buy all of this stuff all over again. This pushiness makes me want to push back, and I do.

When people argue over my flip phone, I usually win the debate when I ask them how much they pay for their phone. The iPhone 7 Plus costs $769.99 on my carrier. That is more than my rent. And it will be obsolete by next year when the iPhone 8 comes out. You can keep using the 7, but who wants that? We don't do this constant buying with other products like washing machines or cars or even our personal computers now.

I let my needs dictate my purchases instead of my wants. This is because needs are finite while wants are limitless. Apple knows this which is why their genius is in making people want their products. But they don't actually need their products. I need a cellphone and a personal computer to function in the world today. But I don't need an iPhone or an Apple Watch. This mindset is called modesty. When we think of modesty, we think of women wearing long skirts and no make up. But modesty applies to men as well. I would never own a BMW or a Mercedes. I will never wear a Rolex. I try to get my clothes from Goodwill before I move to Walmart or Tractor Supply Company.


I am just not into conspicuous consumption. The weird thing is that being limited to what I need gives me a great deal of satisfaction. And when I think about products, I ask the same question. Do I need this? Once I realize that I don't need it, I let it go. The opposite of modesty is vanity. People buy things to impress other people. This is why they "need" the iPhone 7. It is also why they need Facebook, so they can indulge the vanity.

My wife wants me to plug this Wikipedia article on planned obsolescence. You can't read this article without thinking of Apple as a prime culprit.