Archive for the 'Uncategorized' Category

Per Capita Reality about Covid-19

[I wrote the following message to a good friend of mine, who is so depressed about the current crisis, and so obsessed with our president, that he says he will emigrate to some other country as soon as a vaccine is developed.]

I am glad to hear you will not be emigrating any time soon.  I hope you reconsider when this present crisis passes (as it will).

It is all too easy to see this as a failure of our political system, especially if one particularly dislikes our present leader.  The “Orange Man” is certainly dislikable; but that doesn’t lay this at his door.  To the extent that this is a political crisis, it is a widespread one, being felt throughout the western world (and perhaps far beyond.)

My wife has found us a good source of reliable statistics on the Covid-19/Coronavirus mess, at Worldometers.info.  It is revealing.  For instance:

Inadequate as our testing seems to have been, the US has done more testing than Sweden, France, the UK, or the Netherlands (per capita). Yet we have had way fewer deaths than those countries (per capita). And we have had fewer deaths than Italy, Spain, Belgium or Switzerland, even though those countries have done a lot more testing than we have.

Asia (except China, and who can trust their reports?), Africa and South America seem to have escaped the worst of it, for reasons that are unclear and probably varied; but some of them may simply be late starters.

As for the US, we must consider that right now we have a very lopsided epidemic: New York on one hand, the rest of the country on the other.  NY state is 6% of the US population but 45% of Covid deaths.

And Iceland, the nation that has done the most testing (12% of their population), has had more cases and more deaths than Montana. IC is one third the population of MT, but has 4 times the cases and almost 3 times the death rate.

So, whatever is driving the dimensions of this crisis, it doesn’t seem to be politics. And the solution will not be political either.  It will probably be scientific (treatment and vaccines) and behavioral (social distancing and hygiene, like learning to wash hands and cough/sneeze carefully). Mundane stuff.

And on the non-mundane level, I also think prayer will help.

Meanwhile, our task is not only staying healthy but also staying sane.  In that regard I recommend avoiding people that infuriate you, especially on TV (you know who I mean).  And keeping a sense of perspective.

I look forward to seeing you guys once the all-clear is sounded.

More Stuff from Ben

I see my friend Ben Finiti has posted something about prayer, calculus, and chemistry.  I don’t know where he gets this stuff.  (My inspiration is easier to identify: old Simpsons’ reruns.)

Anyway, go take a look here.

Serendipity and Ben

My pious friend Mr. Ben Finiti (must be Italian) has posted another thought-provoking item on his eponymous  (a fancy word for self-named; just a reminder that I have been to college) website benfiniti.com, this one entitled “God Is Not Serendipitous”.  The basic idea is that you can’t find God if you don’t look for him. And since most of us have convinced ourselves that we are just fine the way we are, why bother looking?

As H. I. McDonnough once put it, “You know, honey, I’m OK, you’re OK, that there’s just the way it is.”*

Anyway, it is worth a look.

++++++++++

*McDonnough was the lead character in Raising Arizona, Nicolas Cage’s only intentionally funny movie (1987).  It’s worth a look, too.

Prole Models: Charles Murray’s Brilliant Forecast From 2001

[This essay by Charles Murray is more relevant today than when it first appeared in the 2/6/2001 Wall Street Journal. It is still around thanks to OrthodoxyToday.org. (So, thank you, Orthodoxy Today!) 

I was reminded of it while reading “In the Image of Slob”, an essay in today’s Crisis Magazine lamenting the sloppy dress often seen at church these days. Murray puts the issue in the larger framework of societal collapse.]


Prole Models: America’s elites take their cues from the underclass

by Charles Murray

Scholar Charles Murray writes that a major reason for the coarsening of American life is that the creative minority has devolved into competing cultural elites. Instead of guarding the moral, intellectual, and artistic heritage of society, they follow baser artists.

That American life has coarsened over the past several decades is not much argued, but the nature of the beast is still in question. Gertrude Himmelfarb sees it as a struggle between competing elites, in which the left originated a counterculture that the right failed to hold back. Daniel Patrick Moynihan has given us the phrase “defining deviancy down,” to describe a process in which we change the meaning of moral to fit what we are doing anyway. I wish to add a third voice to the mix, that of the late historian Arnold Toynbee, who would find our recent history no mystery at all: We are witnessing the proletarianization of the dominant minority.

The language and thought are drawn from a chapter of “A Study of History,” entitled “Schism in the Soul,” in which Toynbee discusses the disintegration of civilizations. He observes that one of the consistent symptoms of disintegration is that the elites–Toynbee’s “dominant minority”–begin to imitate those at the bottom of society. His argument goes like this: Continue reading ‘Prole Models: Charles Murray’s Brilliant Forecast From 2001′

Truman’s Cheek

[Now here is something to see.  My Catholic friend Ben Finiti (at benfiniti.com) has written a historical essay in rebuttal to a Catholic cleric’s historical interview. Don’t these guys have enough theology to talk about?  Hasn’t the Pope said something outrageous in an airplane press conference? Shouldn’t they be fighting over that?

Anyway, here are BF’s thoughts on a monsignor’s thoughts on Hiroshima and dear Harry.  Enjoy. (I wrote most of it myself, if truth be known.)]

 

Hindsight from the High Ground

by Ben Finiti

On August 6, the terrible anniversary of the bombing of Hiroshima, I was listening to the indispensable Catholic media outlet Relevant Radio, and I heard a curious interview with Msgr. Stuart Swetland on the subject of the day.

It made me think of Calvin Coolidge who is credited with many laconic (and probably apocryphal) anecdotes; my favorite is his supposed comment on returning from church one Sunday. Asked what the preacher spoke on, he answered: “Sin.” Further asked: “What did he say about it?”, Cal responded: “He was against it.”

It would be unjust and uncharitable to summarize the monsignor’s take on Hiroshima in so many words. He acknowledged the difficult situation and the tough decisions that faced those engaged in what was unquestionably a just war. But his conclusion was as straightforward as Coolidge’s: It was a sin, and Truman should not have done it.

The monsignor argued from Catholic doctrine, which appears to have recently reached the same conclusion. And he offered some historical “facts” in support. But the facts are questionable, and the arguments seem confused.

I am certainly not qualified to argue theology with any monsignor (though I will try, later.) But facts are facts, and assumptions are not.

There are many points to consider. Monsignor Swetland stated, with varying degrees of certitude, the following “facts”. The Japanese government was about to surrender anyway. The Russians were about to tell Truman about a Japanese peace proposal. Invasion of the Japanese homeland would not have been necessary. The invasion’s half-million US casualties anticipated by US military planners would not have occurred.

These things are nice to know. I bet Truman would have liked to know them with the certainty that his posthumous critics know them.

Now, some of these facts fall into the category of 20/20 hindsight (the Japanese/Russian peace proposal.) Others are in the realm of counterfactuals, the history that never happened (the invasion was unnecessary, since the Japanese already knew they were beaten.)

But my main objection to such thinking is that it side-steps the one all-important question, the only question that matters, from a moral standpoint. What should Truman have done?

The moral high ground is the position which allows those far from the decision to boldly affirm what should NOT have been done. But the moral high ground does not allow consideration of the real question facing the real decision-maker. The only way the moral-high-grounder can address the real question is with hindsight and counterfactuals.

Well, here are some counter-counterfactuals.

1. The Japanese government probably knew they were beaten by 1943; they fought on. From their early offensive high-water, they were steadily pushed back on every front. After Midway, they never again struck in the eastern Pacific. After Guadalcanal, they were in constant retreat throughout the Pacific. And yet, as the tides of war rolled against them, the death tolls rapidly accelerated. The bloodiest battles, on land and sea, occurred in the last 6 months of the war – long after the Japanese government knew what the outcome would be. The death toll on Okinawa, the closest island to the Japanese homeland, was 12,520 US soldiers, 110,000 Japanese soldiers, and over 100,000 Japanese civilians, many by suicide. Continue reading ‘Truman’s Cheek’

More from Ben

My friend Ben Finiti has a new post up on his excellent blog benfiniti.com.  It is about the reality of divorce in our society, and the inadequate (and now getting even worse) position of the Roman Catholic Church on the issue.

He quotes Thomas Aquinas (where does he find this stuff?), and finds that not all marriages (and therefore divorces) are equally weighty.  He says divorce of a childless couple can be anything from trivial (Nicolas Cage?) to tragic. But divorce with children is a species of child abuse.

Whistling in the wind, I suppose. But still good reading.

Update on Me

Sorry I haven’t been writing much lately.  I keep getting distracted.  The guy next door got wind chimes.  (Credit Stephen Wright for that joke.)

At any rate, my friend Ben Finiti has re-surfaced, and seems to be on a roll.  His latest, My Sin of Snobbery, just went up.  It’s about what he calls his “first-world problems at church.”

I can confirm that he is indeed a snob, though mostly in good ways.

Anyway, check him out over at benfiniti.com.


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