Never, Ever, Ever Debate Anyone, Ever.

Our favorite litterbox-liner, the New York Times, must be run by some of the smartest, unbiased, even-tempered, and totally not insularly-clueless people in our great nation.  With Thanksgiving in mind—that glorious time of year the whole family gets together to have a good home-cooked meal—they released an interactive quiz-guide on how to deal with that weird, red-hat wearing, conservative uncle that’s ostracized himself from the rest of the family because he’s just too rough around the edges.

See for yourself.

This turned into a slightly longer post than I had intended, but the audaciousness of its writer needs a decent expansion in order to fully enjoy.

Take its little interactive test a couple different times and play around with both Uncle Conservabot as well as Uncle Libbot.  As always, the nature of the quiz and its answers reveals a lot more about the people who designed it than it did about the people it’s supposedly tempering you for.

Let’s take Uncle Conservabot first.  For the purposes of simplicity, we’ll call him Uncle Ted.  Uncle Ted’s a firebrand #MAGA Trump supporter, eagerly waiting for any opportunity to slander Hillary Clinton and proclaim the greatness of Donald Trump’s administration—a character that, clearly, all of us probably know in real life.  Except, apparently, me, or anyone that I know.  In fact, Uncle Ted seems more like something out of a poorly-thought out political cartoon (but I repeat myself) than a character in any way pertaining to someone that might exist outside of the imaginations of liberals.

Our friends at the NYT have a very simple, foolproof, and clearly enlightened method of dealing with Uncle Ted’s rampant political extremism: pointed and direct questions about his personal life, and in particular, his lousy finances and how the economy has left him destitute.  But uh, hey there… what’s her name, Dr. Karin (with an “I”) Tamerius, founder of SMART POLITICS and a FORMER PSYCHOLOGIST, what if our buddy Uncle Ted isn’t having significant financial troubles and isn’t as easy to distract with personal questions as you make him out to be?

The founder of Smart Politics made this quiz.  Shit man, I didn’t realize I was dealing with a professional.  Smart Politics.  Just saying it loud makes you feel like your IQ has increased a few points.

Okay, well, we get the gist of Uncle Ted.  The solution when dealing with a mad Trump supporter is to 1) expect them to be financially insecure, like most of America is, 2) commiserate about the economy, and 3) avoid talking about politics or engaging in any sort of debate.

So let’s look at his equally robotic liberal counterpart, Uncle Greg, from the perspective of a conservative nephew.  Right out the gate, Uncle Greg is convinced—unprompted—that Medicare for all is an unalienable right.  Like the atheist at the table, the implied “DEBATE ME” imperative goes unsaid.  This is where the quiz gets amusing.

Predictably, the line of questioning goes more or less the same: completely passive questions, noncommittal responses, and a distinct unwillingness to engage in any particular form of debate.  Amusingly, however, the entire form of the conversation is different.  The guide asks us to humor Uncle Greg, and listen to him make poorly thought-out remarks about universal healthcare, and we aren’t even given the option to ask about Uncle Greg himself.  So I guess the initial takeaway here is to ask Trump supporters personal questions but to humor liberal relatives when they’re speaking nonsense.

And it gets better.  When selecting a particular wrongthink response to Uncle Greg’s position on healthcare, our helpful big-brained founder of Smart Politics gives us this helpful tip:

Rebuttals reinforce the sense that you are on opposite teams. If you want people to listen to what you have to say, create an alliance by finding something to agree on before sharing your perspective.

Don’t engage!  Abort, abort! Pull up!

All of Dr. Karin’s helpful tips are oriented around the same socially frail method of interaction.  “Do X to SHOW the other person that you understand!”  “Do Y to make the other person FEEL SAFE!”  The whole point of a piece like this is to enforce this idea that all dialogue must be conducted as though everyone is standing on eggshells.  Mindfulness of words is one thing; hypersensitivity to disagreement is something else entirely.  After all, you might find out what their opinions are!  You might start to learn about who they are!  You might even end up unable to generalize them into some kind of stereotype!

At the end of each segment we reach this doctor’s conclusive method of talking across the aisle:

1. Ask open-ended, genuinely curious, nonjudgmental questions.
2. Listen to what people you disagree with say and deepen your understanding with follow-up inquiries.
Reflect back their perspective by summarizing their answers and noting underlying emotions.
Agree before disagreeing by naming ways in which you agree with their point of view.
Share your perspective by telling a story about a personal experience.

Remember being in grade school and having large, brightly-colored posters on the wall about how to follow rules or how to write a paragraph?  This is what that is—it’s even worded the same way—but the difference is that it’s targeted at people older than seven.  You shouldn’t feel informed by reading this.  You should feel patronized and condescended.  The NYT really does believe you’re dumber than a seven-year-old.

But the real diamond in the rough is after this.  I have to quote it directly because if I didn’t, no one would believe that the staff of the NYT, to say nothing of the FOUNDER of SMART POLITICS, would be so bold as to make this admission:

People cannot communicate effectively about politics when they feel threatened. Direct attacks – whether in the form of logical argument, evidence, or name-calling – trigger the sympathetic nervous system, limiting our capacity for reason, empathy, and self-reflection.

That’s right, folks.  Logical argumentation and evidence limit our capacity for reason and self-reflection.  Reasonable debate is a form of personal attack.  Rebuttals, counter-evidential claims, and arguments from rationality are all bullying tactics that just make people feel really gosh-darn sad!

This says a lot more about the writer of the article than it does about anything contained with in it.  Debates trigger the sympathetic nervous system?  Evidence of a claim puts you on the defensive and limits your ability to assess your own perspective?  Maybe if you’re functionally retarded–or, apparently, an ex-psychologist and the FOUNDER of SMART POLITICS.  No wonder she’s an ex-psychologist.

Who is offended by a sound argument?  Who fears being proven wrong, except those that might have something to lose?

Who fears the truth?

Well, I think we know the answer to that one, at least.

Don’t Eat the Rich—They Taste Bad!

Imagine writing something like this.

Here it is: adhere to a narrative.  Screw the rich—they’re bad people, they’re sad people, they’re pathetic and impotent and whatever.  Maybe the writer is correct!  They probably are sad or pathetic or impotent.  The modern world demands that wealth comes with sacrifices most of us aren’t willing to put up with: horrendous work weeks, miserable jobs, awful clients, and, of course, nepotism that most of us simply don’t have access to.  Plenty of skill and intellect go into it, at least at first, but beyond that, it’s up to your contacts after a certain point.

But these people aren’t the super-rich.  Are they the one percent?  Maybe, but numbers mean little in a world run by a technocratic elite.  But having an outside service come in and clean your home while you’re at work as a doctor, or on a meaningless date at some random bar?  No, the super-rich don’t work that way.  The people whose opinions actually matter, who really run things—they don’t just let some random maid in to clean their home office.  They also don’t go to random bars in town that, apparently, some random maid can afford to meet her own date at.

On that note, I’ll take “Things That Never Happened For $400, Alex.”  The writer had me going—I did start to think she was being truthful—up until she described being at some bar and casually spotting some madam of the house that she cleaned before.  That sort of thing simply doesn’t happen.  The super-rich don’t even look at such bars, and the rich-enough generally don’t go to them—particularly when they’re on a date with a person they’re already involved with.

So what’s the point of an article like this?  For context, I found it recommended to me by my browser upon startup.  That recommended feed just grabs stuff off the internet based on parameters I neither set nor influence, given that it’s always recommending me articles from sites I never browse based on topics I never search.  So this was clearly something that was “recommended” in order to steer me towards it in the first place.

Articles like this attempt to steer the narrative.  “Don’t wish that you’re rich,” it’s saying.  “Look forward to being poor.”  “Rich people are all unhappy losers.”  “Rich people don’t pay attention to anyone but themselves.”  Rich people!  It’s sort of a you-know-it-when-you-see-it thing, I guess.

You know that’s what the message is because the piece is purely anecdote and rhetoric, written in scenes and spiced with statements about the author’s feelings and reflections.  It’s a self-indulgent exploration into the writer’s own sense of self-importance.  “Look at what these rich people are like based on the garbage I had to pick up at their houses!”  Judge a man by the garbage he leaves behind and you’ll only ever have a negative opinion of them.  If I remember right, the adage goes “by their fruits ye shall know them,” not “by their refuse.”

But that’s how it goes.  That’s what counts as publishable and worthy of recommendation.  Thanks.

The Midterms Weren’t Bad!

All things considered, the election turned out pretty swell!  Despite the liberal news & entertainment complex’s decree that Trump and his party would suffer during the midterms, the opposite seems to have transpired.  Now yeah, we have to admit, the GOP could have swept the house and turned the Blue Wave into a Red Tide, but we’ll take what we can get.

And what we got, it turns out, wasn’t bad at all.  The House is still divided to a point of near-gridlock, though it now has a Democratic majority and that joke of a politician, Nancy Pelosi, who famously had Obamacare pushed through congress with the words “We have to pass it in order to find out what’s in it,” is back in her clown chair at the head of it all.  Meanwhile, the GOP made history by losing their majority in the House but gaining several seats in the Senate, where most of the legislative power is held.

It turns out that many if not most of the GOP seats lost in the House were those moderates who tended, more often than not, to be thorns in the side of the Trump agenda.  Such seats deserve to be lost in an embittered political landscape that has polarized beyond hope of any immediate solution.  Republicans equipped to debate the nuances of the free market, or those who seem to still think that Democratic voters can be convinced with rhetorical arguments of Reagan, are of no use today.

The lessons from Tuesday should be the same lessons from 2016, albeit perhaps more in the vein of verification rather than discovery.  The important take-away is that the voting blocks of the United States are divided across ethnic lines.  This is not up for dispute.  Falling back on a liberal point of view and simply expecting the entire voting base of the country to respect each other’s wishes as free thinking, autonomous individuals is as blind as it is cowardly in today’s political field.  It is now no longer feasible to call “well-meaning but deluded” any republican politician running on a platform of classical liberal values; attempts to do so, when confronted with the obvious reality of the opposition’s race-fueled platform, is intentional suicide.

Worse, the GOP has no hope of capturing those Democratic voters invested in their ethnos.  Between the entrenchment of the propaganda system at the top of American life and the fierce in-group ethnic dedication among these voting blocks, the GOP’s only hope is to rest its laurels on white America.  The problem is that white America has only a few short years left as a national identity.

The second lesson: radicalism is the way forward.  Not violence, although the country’s accelerating slip toward balkanization should be clear to those paying attention.  Rather, ideological radicalism; the two sides of this political argument are well past the point of listening to one another.  Around dinner tables, fortunately, there still exists some semblance of political sanity—at least for now.  But at the federal level, and at the national level of media and entertainment, neither side can afford to paint the other as worthy of the same respect due to a neighbor.

The GOP has to play to win and play to keep.  Trump understands this.  If there is any hope of curbing the takeover of the country by the Democratic party, it’s to breakdown on immigration and start taking aim at the media giants and monopolies—tech valley, I think, will soon be under scrutiny for this reason.  If this sounds partisan, just sit back and remember a few things: major Democratic leaders slandered Kavanaugh during his hearings and propped up a liar purely to suit their political agenda; Democratic leaders like Maxine Waters have called for public hounding—arguably violence—against Republican congressmen; Democratic leaders have given platforms and sympathy to radicals who loudly proclaim “Abolish I.C.E.” as if I.C.E. is America’s gestapo unit; Democratic leaders are all cozied up to the handful of people who run the entertainment industry, the major internet sites, and the mainstream news establishments, all so they can be turned into mouthpieces for their own ridiculous agenda.

These people are not your friends.  They aren’t even their own friends.  They are motivated by power and have ceased to bother attempting to conceal their unapologetic disgust for the American identity.  These midterms did not teach us anything new, but for those who had any lingering doubts after 2016, those doubts should have now been driven firmly from your mind.

Sorry for the infrequency.  Been a rough couple of days at home managing a few real-life projects and family obligations.  I expect to make a post related to one of these things in the future, but as yet it’s too early to start.

I have a lot of content planned for the coming few weeks for both this site and the main blog, so stay tuned.  Hopefully I can get a few of the recordings done that I’ve fallen behind on, as well.

From the Shelf: A Mirror for Artists

I’ve written before on the degradation of the art world, and specifically Modernity’s impact upon both the interpretation of art and its creation.  In short, the commodification of art, the development of the art market, and the disintegration of art patronage by an aristocratic class has had a twofold impact upon the development and presentation of the arts: on the one hand, art has become inaccessibly obtuse and designed for the consumption of a philistine elite, and its market increasingly a platform for money laundering; on the other hand, art has been reduced to the most base common denominator of a banal and equally philistine public, in which consumption and marketability are the deciding barometers of its success.

Well, as it turns out, it doesn’t take the wretched state of the market in 2018 to have figured all of these things out.  Continuing on with our brief excursion into I’ll Take My Stand, Donald Davidson approaches the topic of the arts in the wake of an industrialized society in his essay, which follows up John Crowe Ransom’s piece that I touched on last night.  Davidson’s work, “A Mirror for Artists,” directly attributes the over-commodification of the arts to industrialization’s tendency to reduce all objects and peoples into economic units which can be measured according to terms like scarcity and surplus.

Davidson outlines rather clearly how the revolution in thought that both precipitated and got energized by the industrialization of the last three hundred years left its tracks all over the gradual shifts in artistic output beginning with the Romantics of the nineteenth century.  The Romantics, he argues, emerged as artists who pitted themselves against the societies in which they functioned as artists; art became removed from its proper place and in turn became a vessel for critique or for fantasy.  It’s not hard to follow his logic when one considers how suddenly artistic output shifted from not only the aesthetically pleasing, but also the glorification of the religious and the veneration of the past, into an outright glorification of ancient paganisms and eventually the myopic interest of the mundane, as exemplified by the impressionists and realists.

As that perfidious herald of Modernity crept into the brush strokes of artists and the pens of poets, they ceased to deliver content made explicitly to serve an audience—and not simply to please but to elevate that audience spiritually—and instead produced works of increasing rational opaqueness, limiting its reach until works were made with only the artist himself in mind.  “In short,” he says, “the condition of the arts themselves, whatever the field, gives little ground for thinking that they are actually cherished by an industrial civilization” (47).

He continues by separating, I think unsuccessfully, the democratic politics which have endangered the art world so catastrophically from the industrialization that allowed that democracy to crystalize into its current form:

“Democracy did not, after all, disturb society unduly.  It was a slow growth, it had some continuity with the past, and in an agrarian country like pre-Civil War America it permitted and favored a balanced life.  Industrialism came suddenly and marched swiftly.  It left a tremendous gap.  Only as democracy becomes allied with industrialism can it be considered really dangerous, as when, in the United States, it becomes politically and socially impotent; or, as in the extreme democracy of the Soviets, where, converted into equalitarianism within class limits, it threatens the existence of man’s humanity.” (49)

I mention that this separation is unsuccessful because the democratizing principle at work in the arts, which turned the reverent artistic content of the past into the naval-gazing output of the nepotists today, was already at work prior to the rampant growth of the industrial age.  It was the ideological schism with the past—the philosophical revolution of the Enlightenment in particular—which brought this change on.  When Donaldson is referring to industrialization, he’s only referring to the tangible, economic results of the sudden philosophical changes that had run roughshod over the eighteenth century elite.  America, as you can note in a reading of Alexis de Tocqueville, was birthed as a direct result of this schism.

Donaldson wraps up his essay by drawing the contrast with the Southern way of life and its relationship to the arts, and here he is fairly undeniable.  The South’s style of architecture had remained, at the time of his writing, quintessentially Southern; its great writers had already begun to peak, and they wrote not against the Southern tradition but directly within and in line with the arteries of its culture.  The Southern artistic traditions did not lapse into the broadly self-obsessed and indulgent culture of narcissism that awaited their industrialized counterparts in Europe and New England, at least for the most part.

What we see with Donaldson’s piece is an optimistic glimpse of what was perhaps the last worthwhile American artistic movement before the academies, universities, and institutes were so fully compromised as to make the arts—be it visual, literary, poetic, or musical—unaffordable, useless, stupid, and irrelevant endeavors.  In retrospect, it reads in some senses as a timeless commentary on the dangers of industrial modernity and how damaging it is to artists.  On the other hand, it is also a product of its time, as Donaldson here failed to fully grasp the utter wasteland of the arts that awaited not just the South, and not even just America, but the West as a whole in just a few scant decades.

From the Shelf: Reconstructed but Unregenerate

I recently obtained a used copy of I’ll Take My Stand, a “manifesto” of Southern Agrarianism written and published back in 1930 by Harper Press.  It’s a collection of essays by the Twelve Southerners, a collection of men who represented a minor, but important aspect of American Conservatism prior to the Buckley-Goldwater movement of the fifties and sixties, which forever altered Conservatism in the United States (some would argue for the worse).

I’ll limit today’s post to just the first essay, written by poet, essayist, and critic John Crowe Ransom, entitled “Reconstructed by Unregenerate.”  It’s really good.

The piece serves as both an overview and a preview of the themes that rest of this manifesto gets into: the impact of industrialism on social cohesion, the decline of man’s dignity as a worker and his reduction to a unit of labor, industrialism’s direct attack upon the environment and countryside, and the generally unlivable conditions afforded by large-scale industrialization in comparison to widespread populously-dispersed agrarianism.  This comes with a direct attack on the modern notion of progress, a vaguery which “never defines its ultimate objective, but thrusts its victims at once into an infinite series” (8).  Specifically, Ransom places progress within the context of Man’s willingness and intent to abolish the environment, which extrapolated a little further, comes to reflect Man’s incessant desire to control all things.  Nature, being innately uncontrollable, remains forever unyielding to the advances of Man’s interests in absolute control; industrialization’s answer to this is to simply try to destroy what cannot be controlled.

Naturally, Ransom characterizes this as something intrinsic to the North/South divide, even in 1930.  The war, obviously, had ended more than two generations before; some veterans still lived to tell the tales but, by and large, the memory of the antebellum South was not a living one.  It remained alive as a cultural artifact, but not as a tangible myth to be recounted by old-timers on back porches.

This makes his dichotomy both a bit easier to digest and harder to pin down.  The North/South divide, for the purposes of Ransom’s point, is an industrial/agrarian divide.  It’s a divide not altogether uninformed by the passage of history, but it should be remembered still that most if not all of the Founding Fathers believed fundamentally in the agrarian life of the United States—Jefferson being the most famous proponent.  Even Tocqueville, during his travels around America a full century before this piece was written, recognized the decentralized, small-community method in which the American experience unfolded.  The North, back then, showed signs of industrial equipment, but it maintained the fundamental cohesiveness of classical communities.

What’s fascinating about his essay here isn’t really its cultural divide that recognizes industrialism as a fundamentally Northern infringement upon Southern identity; it’s bigger and deeper than that.  As he alludes to at the end with his brief critique of the Democratic party’s embrace of progress—the party that was once a conservative bastion of Southern Agrarianism a mere quarter-century before—industrialism and it’s attack on what is fundamentally human remains one of the key problems that has yet to get a coherent and convincing answer even today.

Get Rid of Your Television

Netflix, too.  Everything.  Hulu, Amazon, whatever.  Anything that has what’s jokingly referred to as a TV show on its platform: nix it.

Before you accuse me, yes.  You’d be right. I don’t like fun and I don’t want other people to have it.  That’s why I’m here, blogging like a retard, instead of out watching the newest, dumbest attempt at entertainment that can be found on these popular, soul-crushingly empty television outlets.  Am I a snob?  Sure.  But I don’t pretend to have taste.  I just know garbage when I see it.

“Did you watch Game of Thrones?”  No.  “Did you see that new DC show on the networks?”  No.  “Did you get into that newest attempt to cash in on your childhood nostalgia with the current adult-oriented flash animation jokingly referred to as a cartoon?”  God, no.  And especially, especially avoid that horrific child-oriented series that just got its second season on Netflix.  The mere sight of the preview for that series is enough to make any red-blooded seethe with a mixture of rage and disgust.  But maybe that’s the point.  It’s enough to make you wonder at this point, if they’re just mocking you.

Well, it’s safe to say they are.  It’s safe to say they probably always have been.

Shield yourself from this kind of garbage.  Save yourself the trouble and the time.  And the money.  Get faster internet instead of paying for cable packages that just serve to keep no-talent CIA spooks like Anderson Cooper on the air.  Better yet, read more.  Read.  Like I should be doing.

Art? More Like Fart

I’m getting pretty tired of this push to call everything some sort of art form.  You see it the most with people online talking about video games, or at least, that’s where the rhetoric is at its most obnoxious.  Categorize video games in their proper place and preclude any possibility that they could be works of art and suddenly the pretentious YouTube reviewer fan squads start crawling out of the woodwork enraged as if you’ve leveled an insult directly at them.

I’ve been meaning to do a Friday longpost on the topic of art and video games for a while, but other topics have been taking priority.  The details and actual argumentation for what I’m saying will be ironed out in that, if I ever get around to writing it.  Maybe it’ll be this week!

In the meantime, sit back and think about what art is and means and whether leveling the accusation “This thing here is a work of art!” is in any way a compliment.  The term itself has become so degraded over the last century that it’s no surprise that there’s so much confusion surrounding it, but at the same time, given all the awful, ugly, emotionally- and intellectually-stunted pieces of garbage that have been churned out by the contemporary art world over the last couple of generations, it makes one wonder how exactly the word “art” can still be viewed in a favorable light.  I guess that goes to show the resiliency of some words in their ability to retain meaning, since most people hopefully still think of Rembrandt or Michelangelo rather than whatever can be found in the Hirschhorn this weekend.

Either that, or somehow, the contemporary art world still carries a fair bit of prestige despite the obviousness of its nepotistic self-indulgence and its shameless lack of talent.  I find it hard to believe anyone would be that gullible that isn’t already born in that circle, though.


How the Hell do I Organize this Crap

I do not have too many books.  I don’t.  In fact, by my estimation, I’m probably a few hundred short.  For now.

That said, however, I haven’t figured out how to organize them.  Last year, I thought I’d found the answer: alphabetical order by the author’s last name.  Seems reasonable enough for an amateur’s library, right?


The problem is that most of my books are nonfiction.  A great many of them are works by famous writers—the Greeks, the classics, etc.—but a great many more are of more contemporary writers whose names can sometimes be hard to remember.  A couple of years ago, I didn’t have enough of these things to matter.  Now, apparently I do.  In fact, it’s gotten chronic enough that at some point, while I was reshuffling the stacks to the right when I had to add into the shelves a newly arrived order of books, I somehow took a whole stack of the “H” section and dropped it a full shelf down without even realizing it.  I had to check something from Hegel and found it, along with five other Hs, in the middle of the Ks.

My wife suggested using the Dewey Decimal System, or maybe the system used by the Library of Congress.  She worked as a librarian’s assistant when she was in high school, so I should probably listen to her.  I don’t think I have quite enough volume for that yet, but it’s a good goal.  She also suggested just separating them up by genre—philosophy, history, theology, whatever—which was how I’d had it before.  I forget why I changed it up.  It probably had to do with some works blurring genres and my retarded self not willing to pick a category.

If any of you have any advice, please send it my way.

The Mad Abortionist

So the mad abortionist Kermit Gosnell has a movie about him coming out in about a week from now.  I probably won’t have a chance to see it, and given its subject matter—a grisly topic whose imagery I have no interest in seeing projected into full color on a screen the size of my house—I probably won’t any time soon.  That said, given the heads who were put together to get the project to the silver screen, I anticipate it being good if not great.

For those of you who aren’t familiar with Gosnell, he’s hailed as the most prolific serial killer the United States has ever experienced, though the line between “serial killer” and “doctor” seems these days to be an increasingly vanishing distinction.  As John Water’s review of the film (no, not that John Waters) explains, Gosnell’s trial highlighted the absurdity of Pennsylvania’s moratorium on 24-week abortions.  What, indeed, is the difference between vacuuming a child’s brains out of his skull when he’s at 23 weeks versus at 24?  And this, of course, is to say nothing about what difference a short passage through the birth canal makes with regard to something as ambiguous as personhood.

One of the more ironic parts comes into play when you look at the place he was operating out of.  Just take a look at his Wikipedia page:

Practice conditions and procedures

  • Extreme unsanitary conditions (resulting in cases of STDs and sepsis); pervasive non-sterile conditions; blood stained materials and instruments; contamination of the facilities by animal feces, urine, and other noxious fluids and waste; and months-old fetal remains stored in “jars, bags and jugs”[56] (in 2013 the trial heard that Gosnell had also been in dispute with his medical waste company, with the latter stopping their services);[57]
  • Surgical malpractice including perforation of bodily organs and “on at least two occasions” death;[55]
  • Improper equipment and usage, including repeated reuse (“over and over”) of disposable supplies, and “generally broken” life-saving and monitoring equipment (including blood pressure monitoring, oximeters, and defibrillators);[58]
  • Padlocked emergency access and exit routes;[58]

You get the idea.

Take a look at the image that was just constructed for you: a horrible, bleak facility quite literally strewn with infant carcasses, blood stains, and garbage, with locked doors, and God knows what else.  If this doesn’t sound like the “back-alley butchers” that abortionist advocates fear-mongered about back in the seventies, then I don’t know what does.  The ironic part is that this facility—mediocrely named the Women’s Medical Society clinic—operated in this condition at the time in was raided in 2010. 

Roe v Wade had passed thirty-seven years before that.

So the next time someone tells you “women will always find ways to get abortions, and you don’t want them going back to hiring unqualified amateurs using coat hangers do you?!”  Just remind them that this facility was allowed to operate this way for decades.  Don’t even bother trying to explain the strikingly obvious point that the less appealing child murder looks, the less likely any woman would be willing to go through with it.

That said, of course, the grisly image of a blood-smeared extermination chamber at least evokes the connotations of abortion’s grim reality; the sterilized stainless-steel surfaces and bright hospital-like linoleum of, say, a Planned Parenthood clinic has to extend the lie in its moniker all the way into its very aesthetics.  “Relax, it’s a medical procedure, look how easily we can role-play being life-savers as we expertly drive forceps through the base of your child’s skull.”  The only reason Gosnell is in jail, apparently, while these liars are still in operation (with the financial consent and support of the US tax payer, no less!) is because he had the temerity to wait until the kid was already out of the womb before he did it.

Oh, and there was some drug charges about the distribution of oxycodone, but I guess it comes with the territory when you’re butchering children out back.

From the Shelf: A Catholic Introduction to the Bible – The Old Testament – Chaps 1 & 2

I bought this tome a few months ago and have spent much my time around it flipping around to random chapters, so today I thought I’d crack it open from the beginning and share some general thoughts.

This strikes me as one of the single best resources a Catholic could have when it comes to education on the context of the Old Testament.  As both tradition and the physical composition of the Bible teaches us, the Old Testament is to be read in light of the revelations of the New.  Unlike some commentators who insist only on the importance of the New Testament, the Old is not simply a collection of antiquated myths that served to somehow contextualize the New Testament back when it was complied, and as a result have little to say to contemporary audiences.  It isn’t just a bunch of Hebrew or Jewish gibberish thrown in to pad out the story, and the God of the Old Testament is every bit the same God of the New.

So with this in mind, authors John Bergsma and Brant Pitre take a crack at examining the nature of the biblical canon both in substance and in history.  A sort of canon used by the Hebrews around the time of Christ had already been more or less agreed-upon, and it resembled what is today called the Tanakh.  Organized into three parts, the Tanakh derived its name from the Torah (the Books of Law or Books of Moses), the Nevi’im (the Prophets), and the Ketuvim (the Collected Works).  This resulted in a Hebrew Bible that numbered about 24 in total; compare this to what was eventually to become the 46 books of the Old Testament as agreed upon by the early Church fathers of the first half of the first millennium.

It was the words of Jesus to St. Peter, however, which formed the guiding principle around which the Catholic Old Testament would be organized.  The authors point out that Jesus said:

“And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my Church, and the gates of Hades shall not prevail against it.  I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.” (Matthew 16:18-19)

What the authors explain is that the “binding” and “loosing” include the binding of books—i.e. the canonization of sacred scripture for the obvious purpose of evangelization.  Pointing out an historical case of de facto Papal authority, the bishop of Rome had by custom been the authority for deciding disputes as to the binding of what constituted sacred canon.  And this in no way contradicts the fact that councils and synods were the ultimate validator, of course.

The authors close the second chapter by tackling various methods of criticism and analysis with which the Old Testament is approached.  They outline a variety of methods of critique, some more obviously valid than others, and emphasize the importance interpreting the scriptures as we have them, even though outside information such as the context of their writing and the context of the period in which they are written can still important.

While this hasn’t gotten into the meat of the book yet, the first couple chapters display an interest and rigor of historical study that many laymen with even a passing interest in Catholic thought should invest some time into reading.  This book is a 1000-some page monster, so stay tuned for more.