Sunday, March 29, 2009

From the Florida Bored of Tourism.

Concerned that the dangers posed by lightning, undertow, alligators, and sharks were possibly becoming passé in the estimation of some of the annual invaders visitors to God's favorite state, Florida officials have upped the ante considerably by recently introducing...

Killer Whales!

And into the Gulf of Mexico at that! (Talk about a pulling a fast one -- even most marine biologists were caught off guard.)

One can only marvel at the ingenuity, and wonder what they'll come up with next.

A Defence of Baby-Worship

As we await the news of the imminent arrival of Patty's great-niece (Patty is humorously freaked out by the prospect of being a 'great-aunt'), I thought about the following G. K. Chesterton essay, and thought I'd share it. It's one of those pieces that you get something new out of every time you read it. I hope you enjoy it.

(And, lest anyone be put off by the title, he's not talking about the blasphemous kind of worship -- so relax.)


The two facts which attract almost every normal person to children are, first, that they are very serious, and, secondly, that they are in consequence very happy. They are jolly with the completeness which is possible only in the absence of humour. The most unfathomable schools and sages have never attained to the gravity which dwells in the eyes of a baby of three months old. It is the gravity of astonishment at the universe—and astonishment at the universe is not mysticism, but a transcendent common-sense. The fascination of children lies in this: that with each of them all things are remade, and the universe is put again upon its trial. As we walk the streets and see below us those delightful bulbous heads, three times too big for the body, which mark these human mushrooms, we ought always primarily to remember that within every one of these heads there is a new universe, as new as it was on the seventh day of creation. In each of those orbs there is a new system of stars, new grass, new cities, a new sea.

There is always in the healthy mind an obscure prompting that religion teaches us rather to dig than to climb; that if we could once understand the common clay of earth we should understand everything. Similarly, we have the sentiment that if we could destroy custom at a blow and see the stars as a child sees them, we should need no other apocalypse. This is the great truth which has always lain at the back of baby-worship, and which will support it to the end. Maturity, with its endless energies and aspirations, may easily be convinced that it will find new things to appreciate; but it will never be convinced, at bottom, that it has properly appreciated what it has got. We may scale the heavens and find new stars innumerable, but there is still the new star we have not found—that on which we were born.

But the influence of children goes further than its first trifling effort of remaking heaven and earth. It forces us actually to remodel our conduct in accordance with this revolutionary theory of the marvellousness of all things. We do (even when we are perfectly simple or ignorant)—we do actually treat talking in children as marvellous, walking in children as marvellous, common intelligence in children as marvellous. The cynical philosopher fancies he has a victory in this matter—that he can laugh when he shows that the words or antics of the child, so much admired by its worshippers, are common enough. The fact is that this is precisely where baby-worship is so profoundly right. Any words and any antics in a lump of clay are wonderful, the child's words and antics are wonderful, and it is only fair to say that the philosopher's words and antics are equally wonderful.

The truth is that it is our attitude towards children that is right, and our attitude towards grown-up people that is wrong. Our attitude towards our equals in age consists in a servile solemnity, overlying a considerable degree of indifference or disdain. Our attitude towards children consists in a condescending indulgence, overlying an unfathomable respect. We bow to grown people, take off our hats to them, refrain from contradicting them flatly, but we do not appreciate them properly. We make puppets of children, lecture them, pull their hair, and reverence, love, and fear them. When we reverence anything in the mature, it is their virtues or their wisdom, and this is an easy matter. But we reverence the faults and follies of children.

We should probably come considerably nearer to the true conception of things if we treated all grown-up persons, of all titles and types, with precisely that dark affection and dazed respect with which we treat the infantile limitations. A child has a difficulty in achieving the miracle of speech, consequently we find his blunders almost as marvellous as his accuracy. If we only adopted the same attitude towards Premiers and Chancellors of the Exchequer, if we genially encouraged their stammering and delightful attempts at human speech, we should be in a far more wise and tolerant temper. A child has a knack of making experiments in life, generally healthy in motive, but often intolerable in a domestic commonwealth. If we only treated all commercial buccaneers and bumptious tyrants on the same terms, if we gently chided their brutalities as rather quaint mistakes in the conduct of life, if we simply told them that they would 'understand when they were older,' we should probably be adopting the best and most crushing attitude towards the weaknesses of humanity. In our relations to children we prove that the paradox is entirely true, that it is possible to combine an amnesty that verges on contempt with a worship that verges upon terror. We forgive children with the same kind of blasphemous gentleness with which Omar Khayyam forgave the Omnipotent.*

The essential rectitude of our view of children lies in the fact that we feel them and their ways to be supernatural while, for some mysterious reason, we do not feel ourselves or our own ways to be supernatural. The very smallness of children makes it possible to regard them as marvels; we seem to be dealing with a new race, only to be seen through a microscope. I doubt if anyone of any tenderness or imagination can see the hand of a child and not be a little frightened of it. It is awful to think of the essential human energy moving so tiny a thing; it is like imagining that human nature could live in the wing of a butterfly or the leaf of a tree. When we look upon lives so human and yet so small, we feel as if we ourselves were enlarged to an embarrassing bigness of stature. We feel the same kind of obligation to these creatures that a deity might feel if he had created something that he could not understand.

But the humorous look of children is perhaps the most endearing of all the bonds that hold the Cosmos together. Their top-heavy dignity is more touching than any humility; their solemnity gives us more hope for all things than a thousand carnivals of optimism; their large and lustrous eyes seem to hold all the stars in their astonishment; their fascinating absence of nose seems to give to us the most perfect hint of the humour that awaits us in the kingdom of heaven.


Oh, Thou who Man of baser Earth didst make,
And ev'n with Paradise devise the Snake:
For all the Sin wherewith the Face of Man
Is blacken'd--Man's forgiveness give--and take!

--The Rubaiyat by Omar Khayyam

[The essay is from The Defendant, by G. K. Chesterton -- available for free legal download at Project Gutenberg]

Thursday, March 19, 2009

You Don't Know, Jack.

In a recent Commentary at, professional curmudgeon Jack Cafferty wrote a piece entitled “Obama a leader who actually leads” that I couldn't let go unchallenged. So here's my Comments on his Commentary.

"What a welcome change to feel like someone is running the country instead of running it into the ground."

Since when is using a bigger, more expensive, bulldozer to dig your way out of a hole not running something into the ground??

"President Obama has done more in eight weeks than George W. Bush did in eight years -- unless you include starting a couple of wars."

A.) Doing "more" doesn't necessarily mean doing better. And...

B.) Waging an undeclared war against the U.S. economy is hardly something to be proud of. ("Ahhhh, I love the smell of bail-outs in the morning."--from Obamalypse Now*)

"While the armchair quarterbacks second guess the new president, he gets up every day and does things, lots of things."

But are they good things? Are they the right things?? And not all of the critics are "armchair quarterbacks" -- some are quarterbacks for other teams. And some are more capable quarterbacks from his own team (they're the Kurt Warners to his Matt Leinart). He just happens to be the quarterback for the team with the ball at the moment.

"Whether it's creating commissions for women and girls, ordering the investigation of President Bush's use of signing statements, or jamming a huge stimulus package through Congress, the man is working his tail off. And he seems to be loving every minute of it. It's almost as though our president was born to do exactly what he's doing. He's leading, and boy, is that refreshing."

One hardly knows where to begin with this one:

A) Yaaaaay, more government commissions -- like the ones that looked into the artificially inflated prices of music CDs and cable TV. They found that both industries lied to keep prices artificially high, and many 'experts' predicted the prices of both would then come down -- but they only went up. (I can't wait to see what awesome things they'll spend a lot of money on not being able to do for women and girls.)

B) Man, they just can't let Bush alone, can they? Wonder how much they're spending on this witch hunt? (I can only imagine what they're paying for pitchforks and torches.)

C) Remember the movie Deliverance? Remember what the in-bred rednecks did to
Ned Beatty? That should be your mental image whenever anyone mentions the Pres. "jamming a huge stimulus package through Congress". (Let the squealing begin.)

D) The man may be "working his tail off", but that's hardly encouraging if he's going the wrong way! Jack Cafferty may have worked his tail off on his commentary, but that just made it an even bigger load of crap than it would have been otherwise.

E) So Barack Obama was born to be the
Casey Jones of the nation's economic locomotive? That's hardly comforting. And what Jack sees as "leading", looks more like driving to me (and driving recklessly at that). If Jack finds it "refreshing", maybe it's because he's chosen to mindlessly stick his head out the window like a big dumb dog.

"I remember many times when Bush was in office wondering who the hell was running the country. Then he would appear somewhere in front of a handpicked audience to utter some banalities or say something utterly stupid and I would be reminded. I don't miss him."

Yeah, Obama never appears at staged events; never babbles incoherently when speaking without a teleprompter; has never uttered anything remotely banal or stupid. Good call, Jack. Glad to know you're really paying attention. (And how much does CNN pay you?**)

"That's not to say President Obama hasn't stubbed his toe here and there. Signing that omnibus spending bill with all those earmarks in it after campaigning so hard against pork was probably a mistake. The opportunity was right there to send that bill back to Congress with a note that read, "I told you I am against earmarks and I meant it. Now do it over and send me something clean." Nancy Pelosi's head would have probably exploded, but the American people would have been ready to crown him king."

Stubbed his toe?!?! It's more like: shot himself in the foot, and now he's trying to amputate his own leg.

First of all, he already seems to think the American people have crowned him king. And as for signing the Porkulus Bill -- EVERYTHING about how it was handled violated a campaign promise. If G. W. Bush had done a similar thing within his first couple of months in office, you'd still be howling about it.

"There are serious questions about whether Tim Geithner has what it takes to solve the banking crisis. Either nationalize the big ones in trouble or let them fail. It doesn't seem that just continuing to hand them money is working."

You think? Wow,... Thanks for the keen insights into the obvious there, Jack. Sheesh. And how drunk does one have to be to think that nationalizing banks is a good idea?

"Better background checks on some of his appointees would have saved him some embarrassment. There's no excuse for asking someone like Tom Daschle with his problems to do anything."

An inexperienced Walmart manager making such inexcusably bad decisions would probably be fired on the spot. Some of the new administration's screw-ups are beyond embarrassing -- in fact, they're actually kind of frightening in the level of casual incompetence they display. (And you've got the nerve to imply that 'W' was stoopid?)

"But the point, I guess, is this: President Obama is attacking our country's problems on several fronts. He's got ambitious ideas on how to solve them, and he communicates a sense of calm and confidence to the rest of us as he goes about his business. Will all his ideas work? Of course not. But if you throw enough stuff at the wall, some of it will stick."

That's the point of the whole piece? Seriously?!? Such ridiculously cavalier sentiments about something so serious is appalling (obviously, conservatives didn't corner the market on shallowness).

Ambitious ideas (even when communicated with "a sense of calm and confidence") aren't worth squat if they're the wrong ideas. If your doctor scheduled you for a heart transplant, when all you needed was a tonsillectomy, then all the "sense of calm and confidence" in the world wouldn't make it a good course of action -- no matter how "ambitious".

And the throwing stuff at the wall approach is A) insane -- when it's already pretty obvious what the problems are, and B) worse than worthless, when all you're throwing is shit (whether any of it sticks, or not).

"And at least I don't go to bed at night worried that I'll wake up in the morning to find out we're about to invade someone."

Of course not, because we're the ones being invaded. And now it's simply a matter of trying to consolidate power. And like most political true-believers (of all stripes), you think once the revolution comes, you'll be among the blessed chosen who won't be negatively impacted by the ensuing chaos.

"The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Jack Cafferty."

Oh, if only such nonsense were limited only to Jack.

[*Obamalypse Now is only a movie in my head.]
[**To CNN: I'll work for a third of Jack's salary, and only be half as stupid (at the most).]

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Everybody Must Get Stoned... (part 1)

Over at the Internet Monk site, Michael Spencer recently posted a piece entitled: You Tell Me…Why Does Red Envelope Day Bother Me? And the usual disdain for the shallowness of conservative Evangelicals followed in the comments section, which got me to thinking about some things that have bothered me for some time.

For one thing, the cynically broad-brushed comments – that assume the participants in Red Envelope Day will be lazy, suburban, do-nothings, who are unwilling to carry their Pro-Life convictions beyond the mailbox – are so edifyingly Christ-like that, when I read them, I almost got up out of my wheelchair and walked. Thank God for self-righteous non-Evangelicals!!! (Cue the 'Hallelujah Chorus'.)

Why is it that at the same time they're chastising Pro-Lifers, for not being sensitive enough to those who may be faced with an unexpected/unwanted pregnancy, the critics show no sensitivity for those they're chastising? Why is hypocrisy so often used to condemn hypocrisy? Are they unaware – or do they just not care??

It seems the height of hypocrisy to bash Conservatives for being superficial, when so many of the criticisms are based on the most outwardly obvious manifestations of sin. And while the more 'progressive/sophisticated' critics are always quick to profess an awareness that they themselves are “far from perfect” and “the worst of sinners”, the stones they're casting would seem to indicate they don't really believe that at all.

Jesus said that the world will know we're his disciples by the fact that we love one another (you know, by attacking one another in public)? He also had strong words for those who would judge others hypocritically (and the words weren't 'blessed are you when...'). So why do critics think it's okay to show more respect for unbelievers than for fellow believers?

I wonder if part of the reason is because they usually don't know the unbeliever well enough to despise them, yet? Or perhaps there is a sense of smug superiority when around those who are still so obviously entangled in sin. Also, unbelievers are less likely to expect you to behave in a Christ-like way. And why is it always assumed that the troubled person is an unbeliever? Maybe they're as much of a believer as the critic – only their sins are a little harder to hide than intellectual pride.

Why does it never seem to occur to the 'critics-in-Christ', that people like those Red Envelope mailers may be just as in need of understanding and compassion as the pregnant teen, homeless wino, or battered wife?? Conservative Christians are often no more or less likely to have their acts together than anyone else. And you know what really stinks? They're your brothers and sisters in Christ (if your faith is in Jesus). They're your family – the unbelievers are not. Those annoying Evangelicals have been called to dine at the same table as you have – and by the same Host.

It's not that criticism is wrong in and of itself. Far from it. There is plenty to criticize about all branches of modern Churchianity. But the “I know I'm not perfect, but at least I'm not like those idiots” brand of criticism is something for which Jesus had less than positive words.