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    Episode 75
    May 10, 2020

    New Episode Released

    Episode 75: Charles MacKay, Popular Delusions, Radical Spiritualists

    Some Protestant sects were freakish, whether the Anabaptists in Munster or those iconoclastic peasants who took craps in holy water fonts, the Reformation brought more freaks to the open than a hurricane brings starfish to the beach.

    As a preliminary matter, let’s take a general look at the various sects, freakish and non-freakish.

    First, you can argue that all Protestant denominations besides the Adventists and Pentecostals (it has always cracked me up that the Pentecostals started in LA in the early 1900s, but man, talk about explosive growth) can be traced to the four early branches of the Reformation: Lutheran, Reformed/Calvinist, Baptist/Anabaptist/Radical, or Anglican.

    Lutheranism obviously started with Martin Luther. Although we commonly refer to 1517 as the year the Reformation started, you can’t say there was a separate Lutheran church until 1519, possibly 1520. At that point, Luther was excommunicated and people were still following him and going to his church services.

    The Reformed branch of Protestantism started in Zurich, Switzerland, by Huldrych Zwingli at about the same time. By 1522, the priest Zwingli was in open revolt against the Catholic Church and banging a wife (a common theme among reformers . . . “It’s all about doctrine and the Bible and, uh, and . . . Damn, she’s hot”). Zwingli, it must be noted, came to his doctrines quite apart from Luther. It was never like he was a follower of Luther and then branched off. They started separately. John Calvin would later pick up the Reformed banner in the 1530s. From this school comes today’s Dutch Reformed, Presbyterians, Congregationalists, Church of Christ. You can even pin the insufferable Puritans on the Reformed/Calvinist branch.

    Years later, the English Reformation started with Henry VIII when he saw Anne Boleyn and said, “Damn, she’s hot, maybe as hot as her sister Mary who I’ve been banging for years.” He asked the Pope for an annulment of his marriage from Catherine of Aragon, was denied, and decided to establish his own church, with its own Pope/leader in the form of the Bishop of Canterbury, who annulled his marriage to Catherine, paving the way for legalized banging of Anne Boleyn. From this you have today’s Anglicans and Episcopalians. The Methodists and Wesleyans are offshoots, but so different, you can’t even call them part of the Anglican tradition.

    And then you had the Radical Reformation. The Anabaptists. They were among the earliest and most enthusiastic reformers, eagerly listening to Luther and plowing forward. Depending who you ask, they actually pre-date Zwingli and the Reform branch of Protestantism. From this branch, you have today’s Mennonites and Amish.
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    Reasons to Drink
    May 8, 2020

    You Can Always Find a Reason

    Are you getting older but like to remain active? As a result, do you have aches and pains? That’s me. I think I found the magic bullet: the foam roller. Jack and Meg have been using it for years, and I just kind of shrugged it off as a “uber athlete” thing, not meant for the middle-aged.

    Not so. Man, I started using it 10-15 minutes every day about two months ago. It helped my lower back a lot, so I started working it to ease my carpal tunnel (or arthritis in the hands cause by carpal tunnel), and it helped . . . not a lot, but it helped. And then last night I used it for, literally, two minutes for my feet and ankles, which had been hobbled since playing ultimate frisbee on Sunday and a lot of walking in the garden. This morning? My right ankle is 100% fine and the left ankle is greatly improved.

    I’m so stoked, I might celebrate with a few drinks tonight, especially now that I have a social distancing meeting place. It’s the picture above. We installed a walk-out basement, then added narrow “patios” on each side, resulting in two areas about seven feet away from each other. One couple can sit on one side, another on the other. They couldn’t close talk if they wanted to, yet there is still the “intimacy” since you’re enclosed in an open-air setting together. Unfortunately, the weather forecast is terrible, so we won’t try it out tonight.

    Other reasons to drink? Well, Marie likes to drink, and it’s Mother’s Day weekend, so she gets to set the agenda. Plus, she had scheduled a family party in Detroit, which has now been dashed to hell, so I suspect she’ll demand recompense in some fashion this weekend. Maybe I’ll buy her a bottle of orange wine (white grapes made into wine with methods meant for red wine), which I guess is all the rage these days (further evidence of my adage, “There’s always something new under the sun in the world of booze”).

    Enjoy the weekend, everyone. Stay safe.

    ADDENDUM

    I guess it’s important to get a good foam roller. Cheap brands don’t work well. Amazon Choice products have normally been pretty reliable, so its choice foam roller is probably pretty good and not cheap. My son swears by this short TriggerPoint roller.

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    End It
    May 7, 2020

    Alternatives to Quarantine

    Joe Rogan has come out and said it’s time to end the lockdowns:

    The vast majority of people that are going to get this … it’s not going to be fatal,” added Rogan. “We have to figure out how to protect the people that are high risk, but to quarantine the whole country, it just seems like maybe it was a good move to do initially, but we can’t sustain that, so now, we have to figure out how to move forward.

    I agree with all that. “Like maybe it was a good move to do initially . . . We have to figure out how to move forward.”

    At this point, we need to shift quickly from government forcing people to social distance to government helping people social distance. A list of samples:

    1. A law that prohibits non-consensual close-talking. Of course, this might kill Biden’s campaign, but we need to stomp out the close-talkers once and for all.
    2. Related: A law that prohibits one dude from walking up to another dude and giving him a massage or otherwise touching him. That’s some weird stuff. I used to see it all the time, but it has decreased over the years.
    3. And heck, why not: A law that makes it assault to touch anyone, period, without their explicit or tacit consent. When I’m at the restaurant, I don’t want someone walking up next to me and putting his hand on my shoulders while he talks to my group. That happens all the time and, though I appreciate the well-meaning sense of friendship it is meant to convey, it turns my spine into a steel rod of awkwardness.
    4. Face mask machine dispensaries scattered throughout communities, especially in front of big box stores. It colleges can give out free condoms, surely we can make it cheap and easy to get face masks. I’d propose tax credits to the companies that make and distribute the machines. If the government does it, each machine will cost ten million dollars.
    5. Permanently modify the Open Meeting Acts to permit remote meetings. I’m guessing those laws were passed in an era when Americans seemed obsessed with meetings: more meetings, all the time. The more people in attendance, the better, so they last longer. Now that we have Netflix and Hulu, people value their time more.
    6. Implement the COVID warning system I proposed last week.
    7. Huge federal grants and tax credits to small food growers who sell in small open-air farmers markets (my own form of rent-seeking . . . snicker).
    8. PSAs: “Friends don’t let friends eat bats.” “Friends don’t let friends support a repressive top-down government that is built on lies and deceit, no matter what the NBA says.” “If you’re standing within six feet of me, you’re, um, sexually imbalanced.” You know, stuff like that.

    Trust me, none of these proposals sit well with my libertarian leanings, but frick, they’re downright anarchical compared to the government over-reach we’ve been witnessing over the past six weeks. Many of the proposals are mere expansions of the assault laws that are already on the books that might, on their own (with court interpretation) expand to include such things as Biden talking. The others exert limited government control.

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    Miscellany
    May 6, 2020

    Pervs to Paintings

    Best line from my morning surfing: “Those who live in eternal fear are only replacing the Orange Man with the Gray Man.” It’s an odd article, though. After that line in the tagline, the article talks about the hypocrisy of the Left when it comes to the Weinstein-Biden-Kavanaugh continuum, which is astounding. I mean, it’s one thing to modify your position (“believe all women”) as time goes on, but here, Harvey just got convicted on February 24th. And we aren’t dealing with a modification, but rather, a full reversal of attitude.

    I know there were 29 days in February this year, but that’s still a stunningly-fast reversal in position by the feminists.

    I’ve been touting the benefits of compromise on the lock-downs: freedom with masks. If universal masks will allow me to go out safely, but will at least allow me to go out, let’s do it. This picture from a Georgia Tech football game in 1918 (Spanish Flu time) shows people wearing masks. It seems like a pretty small inconvenience.

    In a related vein, maybe restaurants could start using individualized booths with glass around them, kind of like this restaurant and its individual greenhouses.

    It would have the added benefit of preventing people from crashing your table for small talk when you’re trying to have a discussion. That is, hands-down, the worst part of eating out: the constant interruptions. Between the waitress, the hostess, and acquaintances stopping by the table, it’s virtually impossible to have a decent conversation in a restaurant. Maybe Coronabeer will mitigate that problem if there are any restaurants left.

    The picture in this post is Grant Wood’s “Young Corn.” I’ve decided I really like Grant Woods’ paintings. I don’t like “American Gothic” and his portraits, but for pastoral scenes? I really like them. I just can’t figure out what art school it is. All the Google searches simply call it “Regionalism,” “American Scene,” “Social Realism,” and other terms that tell me what Grant Wood was painting, but don’t tell me the style. Maybe it’s simply “realism.”

    My 3-credit American art survey course in college is letting me down.

    In the course of my “surfing research” (though I actually cracked open my American Art textbook from 1986 as well), I ran across the “folk realism” paintings of Robin Moline that I greatly enjoyed (the pastoral paintings, anyway). I might actually buy a print. I’ve only bought one original piece of painting in my life, which was an impressionism painting by William F. Buckley’s nephew who is a monk in France. It hangs in a spot in my living room where it doesn’t get much light and hopefully won’t fade. Just in case, you know, it becomes valuable some day.

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    Commie Symps

    The Establishment and the Left

    Another prominent voice says it’s probable that Corona came out of a Chinese lab.

    Despite growing evidence, we know that the Establishment, from the NBA to Boeing, will resist the evidence so they can continue to tap the billion-plus consumers over there.

    But why is the Left so resistant to the evidence? Biden is way too cozy with Beijing. Leftward politicians up to March were encouraging Chinese travel, decrying travel bans, and even encouraging people to hug Chinese individuals. Just simple political correctness? More Levi-Strauss cultural relativism that can’t distinguish between a brutal Communist regime and a democratic society? Good old Commie sympathy?

    Or is the Establish and the Left largely the same now?

    And is Trump, being neither, particularly hated just for that reason? At least with Romney and Bush, the Left knew they had a fellow Establishment fellow who understood and played the game. That’s often not the case with Trump.

    I don’t know, but I think it’s the case. The Left and the Establishment have become one.

    It’s a far cry from the halcyon peace and love Woodstock days. So far a cry, in fact, that you now realize those Woodstock days were just the earliest manifestation of a selfish generation of individuals that wanted everything they could get every second of the day their entire lives. Once that generation realized they could grab the reigns of power and money, they abandoned Woodstock and embraced Beijing.

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    Episode 74
    May 4, 2020

    New Episode Released

    Wicked Pope, Moors, Siege of Vienna

    1492. A threefer:

    1. Muslims tossed out of Spain
    2. Columbus
    3. Alexander VI starts pontificate

    Okay, first the conquest of Grenada. This had been a Muslim stronghold for years, the southern part of Spain. Since 1300, the Catholic Spaniards and Portuguese had controlled the entire Iberian Peninsula . . . Except Granada. Ferdinand and Isabella decided it was time to finish this thing off, even though it meant an enormous effort. The Moors were ensconced down there. They launched this “crusade” in 1486. A little over five years later, in January 1492, the last of the Moors were killed or gone.

    This then left Isabella free to honor her commitment to Columbus. She told him she would finance his expedition to reach China from Europe once she got the Moors out of Grenada.

    So, Columbus. Hero or genocidal madman? Both? Needless to say, we aren’t going to resolve this here, but a few general comments.

    First, I think the unequivocal praise of Columbus over the years helped cause the huge politically-correct backlash that we’ve seen over the past 30 years. Columbus did a lot of bad things. When you consider the times and the relative moral conditions that existed then, they’re a bit more understandable, but they were still bad by any standard. The unequivocal praise heaped on him for hundreds of years was a bit disturbing, but let’s face it, that’s not the real reason he has become the whipping boy of the postmodern left.

    The real reason goes back to the structuralist arguments of de Saussure and Claude Levi-Strauss, who believe language creates culture, including a culture’s morality and ethics, and there is no set of moral norms, that all cultures, therefore, are equally arbitrary and, therefore, of equal merit. The problem with this theory is, Christianity was embraced by native populations, who immediately recognized it as a superior intellectual and moral development over their wicked gods who demanded human sacrifice. The problem with this theory is, people in the new worlds embraced market systems, preferring them to working as slaves for the king and ruling classes. The problem with this theory is, the new worlds liked European culture, recognizing the greatness of, say, Shakespeare. The problem with this theory is, the Europeans developed science and technology, and that development was made possible by modes of thought and systems put in place by the Judeo-Greek-Catholic culture.. There’s a reason Hindus, who looked at wading into the Ganges to be eaten by crocodiles as among the highest modes of consciousness, didn’t. The same goes for every other quote system unquote out there, whether it was Shogun Japan, aborigines in Australia, or the American Indian.
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    BYCU
    May 1, 2020

    IMG_3150On Needing a Drink

    Yesterday afternoon, the “currently-negative” Coronabeer headlines were back. Right-wing Michigan militia types stormed the Capitol (each side has their embarrassments; the left’s hold professorships and Hollywood contracts). Swaths of my truck-worn backyard are a mud pit from all the rain. They’re dumping thousands of gallons of beer down the drains.

    I needed a drink.

    So I had seven. Lucky Seven. I would’ve had eight, but that could’ve pushed me to the brink of grave drunkenness, and I have no access to a priest.

    Though I guess priests are still doing Last Rites. Maybe I could do the Fred Sanford, but I read Aesop’s Fables as a lad, so I know that ploy might come back to bite me when it really matters.

    But I suppose things are looking up. For starters, my hangover this morning is far milder than I feared it would be when I woke up at 2:30 to eat a half bottle of ibuprofen, then went to the couch because I had Sunday Morning Coming Down Syndrome. The strategy worked. I was able to hold my head in a way that didn’t hurt and was able to get back to sleep, listening to St. Josemaria Institute Podcasts on Redemptive Suffering to take my mind off my Self-Inflicted Suffering. I slept in a bit and woke up to bright sun and a great forecast, with only a half day at the office in front me, and only a small remnant of the 2:30 headache.

    Of course, I think I burned my weekend drinking capacity before the weekend even started, but that’s alright. It’s early May and it’s Michigan. I’ve said for decades: no place is prettier than Michigan in May. I don’t need a drink to appreciate it.

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    A Modest Proposal
    April 30, 2020

    Warning System

    The news headlines are veering more and more to future Coronabeer outbreaks. This tells me: the current crisis is passing. If there’s not enough current bad news to keep readers engaged (scared), the media needs to focus on future bad news.

    The thing they’re focusing on: the virus will probably come back in the fall and winter.

    I don’t believe them.

    I think it might; I think it might not. The only thing I know for sure is that the experts have swung and missed way too many times with this thing.

    A few samples:

    We need legally-enforced lockdowns. But Sweden didn’t and the results haven’t been bad.

    Michael Osterholm, an internationally recognized expert in infectious disease epidemiology, went on the Joe Rogan Experience and said warmer months probably wouldn’t reduce the spread of Corona. Now everyone seems to be saying it will.

    We were told that, once you have it, you’re safe. That now doesn’t appear to be true.

    We were told to social distance by three feet, then six. Now we’re told the infectious particles can travel 20+ feet.

    The list of wrong information from the experts goes on and on and on.

    So what do we do?

    I honestly don’t know, but I would suggest that drastic measures like mandatory shutdowns aren’t the answer. Let’s face it: the experts don’t know when this thing will return or how it will return or what it will look like when it returns. If the experts don’t know, on what grounds does the government shut down the economy and our rights?

    And on top of that, even if the infectious disease experts understood Corona, the shutdowns have an impact on many other areas in which they have zero expertise: the economic effects; the psychological effects; the social effects; the education effects; the financial, physical, emotional, and spiritual effects on LeBron.

    So here’s my modest proposal: Implement a warning system like Homeland Security uses for terrorist threats.

    Green: Virtually no risk of Corona.
    Yellow: Some risk of Corona.
    Orange: Higher risk and/or escalating risk of Corona.
    Red: High risk.

    Within each category, the experts would propose the proper responses by the populace. The government could use PSAs to encourage social distancing. If the alert is red, maybe they could throw chicken manure around to deter gatherings like a city in Sweden recently did.

    In short, I can accept such measures, but the measures need to stop short of legal coercion. Now, I would like the government to stop short of legal coercion at all times, but with this thing, let’s face it: the government has no idea what it’s doing because the experts it relies on have no idea what’s going on. Public policy these days requires experts to interpret specialized data. If the data or experts are incorrect, the public policy will be incorrect or, at best, a wild hunch that might prove correct.

    Junk-in-junk-out.

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    Miscellany
    April 29, 2020

    Maris and Money

    The MLB is looking to a 100-game season, using a three-division, 10-team plan in which teams play only within their division. Crazy times call for crazy solutions, but this doesn’t strike me as crazy. The MLB changes its format so often, I long ago stopped trying to keep up, even before they completely apostasicized and put the Astros in the American League in 2013.

    But I gotta believe there would be little interest. I mean, if your team wins it all, the record books will forever put an asterisk next to it (which translates to, “100-game season, so not a legitimate World Series winner”). The same for the guy who hits .400. They say the asterisk next to Roger Maris’ 61-home run season plagued him to his early grave.

    Nearly everyone in American fears economic collapse. 89% of us.

    Well, yeah.

    What else should we be expecting? If we aren’t producing anything but instead merely printing money, of course a huge depression is coming.

    That’s only common sense.

    But I’m increasingly thinking we can print money to create wealth. No effort needed. Just print. How does it work? That, I’m afraid, is a shadowy thing, but it basically boils down to the other countries accepting our dollars as if they have real value. Because they think the dollar has value, they sell us the products of their sweat and toil in exchange for these trillions of dollars It’s a psychological game.

    Cynics say it’s a thuggish game: If a country starts to decline to take our dollars, there’s suddenly a reason to send troops there. I honestly have no firm position on the matter (terrorist base, genocide, for the sake of the children, etc). But why does Russia and China keep taking them? I mean, we could trounce them in a war, but it’d be a bloody mess for everyone involved.

    There must be some “higher powers” game afoot that I don’t understand.

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    Iowa
    April 28, 2020

    Regionalism Redux

    It might be a good time to revisit Grant Wood’s “Revolt Against the City” (PDF can be found here). The American Gothic artist wrote the essay in 1935, in the throes of the Great Depression. The gist of the essay: The Great Depression has been good for the United States. It has helped free its arts from European influence and, in particular, compelled the eastern coastal cities to appreciate regional, rural art more.

    If you substitute “COVID crisis” for “Great Depression,” “China” for “Europe,” and “commercial interests” for “art,” parts of the essay become contemporary:

    Economic and political causes have contributed in these days to turn us away from Europe [CHINA] . . . The Great Depression [COVID] has taught us many things, and not the least of them is self-reliance. It has thrown down the Tower of Babel erected in the years of false prosperity; it has sent men and women back to the land; it has caused us to rediscover some of the old frontier virtues.

    The essay focuses on the arts, so it doesn’t work, grammatically, to substitute “commercial interests” for “art” throughout the entire essay, but the theme of the essay applies.

    Every region of our country is different, Wood says, so each region gives rise to different art. In the “Middle West,” where Wood lived, the art doesn’t jump out at you, like it does in the perfect scenes of New Mexico, California, or parts of New England, but rather must be “hunted for.” It requires more analysis and reflection, plus an intimate acquaintance with the region, which gives such art more depth.

    I think Wood was saying, “Any slob can paint the beautiful cliffs of Highway One in California. It takes a philosopher-artist to paint the rolling fields of rural farms in Iowa.”

    Shift to commercial interests. A parallel truth is at work: “Any slob can make money from a New York Stock Exchange index fund in a bull stock market that is reaping rewards from the huge market that is China. It takes a philosopher-investor to make money in Iowa.”

    Just as art can be created anywhere, money can be made anywhere.

    But you need to produce something. You need to provide a service or product people want.

    You don’t do that when you’re merely plopping your money in a mutual fund. If everyone merely plopped their money into a mutual fund that invests in big corporations with ties to China and then waited for the money to roll in, we’d have a barren economy, much like Grant Wood said of the art scene prior to the Great Depression: All they did was adopt art from France, which dominated Boston and New York galleries, resulting in a vapid art scene.

    In the regions like the Middle West, though, art continued to flourish, albeit without a national interest . . . until the Great Depression.

    Likewise, business opportunities have continued to flourish in the “Middle West,” albeit without national interest due to everyone’s infatuation with China. Anyone, anywhere can make a dollar, if he has muscle, brains, or energy. And if he has all three, he can make a lot of money. The man who makes money in the Middle West doesn’t need China. Yes, it’s not as easy as merely plopping money into a mutual fund.

    But neither does the man who merely plops money in a mutual fund create anything or provide anything of value, like the entrepreneur in the Middle West does.

    If COVID turns our attention from China to start appreciating what we can produce on our own, like Grant Wood said the Great Depression turned our attention from Europe to start appreciating what our artists produce on their own, this whole thing will have been worth it.

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    An Evergreen Piece
    April 27, 2020

    Humble Men

    Socrates was an ugly, poor man with no pretensions. In the eyes of the world, he was a misfit and fool, a constant butt of jokes around sophisticated Athens, but he didn’t mind. He was very humble, thinking little of himself and caring little for his earthly affairs.

    His humility was combined with intense wisdom, as evidenced by the spontaneous school of promising young men (like Plato) gathered about him to learn about the higher issues of existence. Socrates became known for his ability to stump Athens’ “important” men through what became known as the “Socratic method,” which is popularly assumed to be a browbeating device of intellectuals against students. But Socrates in reality stumped them because his questions permeated the depths of important issues, depths he had plumbed in his quiet and simple life of contemplation.

    This combination—intense humility and deep wisdom—is not exclusive to Socrates. It has happened many times. Most significantly, it occurred four hundred years after Socrates’ execution, when Jesus Christ was born into an intensely humble life, remained a poor and humble man all His life, but possessed unparalleled wisdom. It is also a consistent feature of Christ’s best followers, like St. Thomas, one of the most-learned and wise men in history, but a man who always remained humble, and St. Therese of Lisieux, a simple girl who, notwithstanding her lack of higher education, became a doctor of the Church. It is perhaps the most-stunning characteristic of St. John Vianney, the Cure d’Ars.

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    Uncovering Orthodoxy
    Victor Lams
    Video Meliora
    Vita Mea
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    What's Wrong with the World
    With Both Hands
    Within the Garden
    Without Having Seen
    World Wide Words

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