Night of the Long Knives?

If the difference between science, and, indeed, logic, and everyday judgements had to be summed up in one phrase, I’d pick Confirmation Bias. Viewed from the place where we understand that we humans tend to believe what we want to believe, the whole rigmarole of theory => tests => data => conclusions can be seen as an attempt to short circuit our passion for leaping to conclusions. To get to the starting line, we need clear definitions, well-thought-out tests, careful collection of data, and rigorous reasoning. And even that’s not enough, as the history of science shows: we need, desperately, CRITICISM. We will miss something, guaranteed, unless we, the logician, the scientist, at least keep that Good Angel of Criticism in mind, that voice speaking for our opponents and reminding us to think how this is going to look to them. Then, and only then, would the prudent soul throw it out for public criticism.

And put it out there they must! The hallmark of anti-science, of Lysenkoism, is attacks on critics, claims of special esoteric knowledge that magically immunizes your theory from all attacks. Nobody needs to silence their critics if their evidence is strong. Nobody needs official government backing of their position if they’ve made a strong case.

All this came to mind as I read today’s post by Severian. I, in my dark little heart, really, really want there to be a Night of the Long Knives – far from me and mine, of course. This is not only profoundly uncharitable, but raises the issue of confirmation bias: every time I see any of the former golden boys or girls in trouble, such as Cuomo is facing now, I start thinking and – forgive me! – hoping that a whole bunch of people who deserve it are going to get it at the hands of their former ‘friends’. Then, as long as I’ve decided to go there anyway, that the tables then turn, French Revolution style, and that same Committee for Public Safety set for Step One falls into the hands of people who see that its only a matter of time until they’re next in line for the guillotine, and therefor decide that the Cult of Reason wasn’t such a hot idea after all, and anyone associate with that sent to the front of the line. A feeding frenzy results, in which, like the fall of Belbury in That Hideous Strength, Our Betters are murdering each other because they know if they don’t, they’re next. And then they’re next anyway.

Alas! Lewis pens an ending where the only thing left of Our Betters are two smoldering craters where the University and Government Institute used to stand. I’m not sure I can see things working out so neatly here in the real world. Perhaps the most real thing in that whole fairy tale is that Curry, the officious and manipulative don at Edgestow, whose machinations were instrumental in assembling the Progressive Element at the college and welcoming the N.I.C.E to the neighborhood, survives. He puts on a good face, mourning the loss of the College (and the many people there who died!) while imagining his statue standing the the new college quadrangle, as he, the lone survivor, rebuilds Edgestow and is remembered as its second founder. History is full of Richard Richs.

And we should pray for these people and ourselves! Lord, remember your promise of mercy! Do not judge us as our sins deserve. Rather, for Your Name’s sake, forgive us all, especially those most in need of Thy mercy! Send Michael and the Heavenly Host to cast Satan and his minions out of our country, and bind them and cast them into Hell. Grant us the strength to suffer what we must, to Your glory. Your will be done.

Amen.

Let’s Go There: Traditionis Custodes

More specifically, reactions to it. For my beloved non-Catholic readers, this is a little inside baseball. The pope just issued a letter – that’s what the Latin above refers to – that reverses the permissions and guidelines of the last 2 popes regarding the celebration of the Traditional Latin Mass (TLM). Pope St. John Paul had permitted the TLM with the permission of the local bishop, which he encouraged them to grant; Pope Benedict had essentially ruled that such permission is presumed granted, and encouraged the TLM as an important spiritual practice. There was great joy among many Catholics, and the TLM, while still a tiny fraction of the masses being celebrated world-wide, enjoyed a resurgence such that you could fairly easily find one in most dioceses in America, at least. Francis latest letter is trying to crush this movement in favor of the ‘Ordinary Form’, or the Mass in the vernacular according to the practices developed after Vatican II.

You’ve been warned!

Bunch of background, trying to keep it simple here.

To us Catholics, the mass is THE prayer, the source and summit of all Christian life. It is the closest thing to Heaven on earth, with the Body of Christ manifested in the gathered faithful, the proclamation of the Scripture, and most especially in the Eucharist. Over the course of 2,000 years, this prayer has taken on many forms. Today, within the Catholic Church, there are dozens of forms of the Mass, from different cultures and times – the Divine Liturgy of St. John Chrysostom is used in a variety of forms by some Eastern Rite Catholics; there is a Dominican rite from the 13th century Dominican order, a Syriac Rite from the earliest centuries in Syria, and so on.

The Roman part of the Catholic Church, as distinct from the Syriac, Eastern Rite, Coptic Catholics, and so on, is by far the largest. This Latin Church includes Catholics in areas that were once part of the Western Roman Empire, their descendants scattered around the globe, but most especially the peoples proselytized and converted over the centuries by missionaries who trace back to these areas – Latin America, the Philippines, much of Africa. Most people think the Catholic Church only refers to this collection of people, but in reality it includes many smaller groups who are, in the language of the Church, “in communion with Rome” – who accept the teachings of the Church and recognize the primacy of the Pope in matters of faith and morals. These groups each have their own forms of the mass, generally passed down for centuries and often tracing back to the Apostles themselves.

For the Latin Church, the dominant form over the last 1,000 years has been by far (with relatively minor variations) what is called the Latin Mass. For over 400 years, from the Council of Trent until Vatican II, what is called the Pius V Mass was the one canonically required form to be celebrated in all Roman Catholic parishes worldwide. This uniformity was instituted as part of the Church’s efforts to address the laxity and corruption that had greatly contributed to the Reformation and the resulting fragmentation of Christianity.

It is this Pius V Mass, again with relatively minor updates, that is now referred to as the TLM. If you grew up Catholic in America before 1970, the mass to you and almost all Catholics worldwide meant the Pius V Mass. Note that despite the numerical dominance of the Roman part of the Catholic Church, and despite the recognition of the primacy of the Pope by all Catholics, the Church has always allowed for various forms of the Mass to accommodate the ancient and varied traditions of Catholics with roots outside Western Europe.

One way I like to think about the Mass is by thinking about this:

The high altar in the cathedral in Rouen

Once Christianity was legalized by Constantine in 313, Catholics started building big, beautiful churches. In the West, the relative chaos of Late Antiquity slowed things down until Charlemagne kicked things back into gear, having built hundreds of churches, monasteries (each with a church) and palaces (each with a chapel) by the time he died in 814. Another relative low followed, until in 1137, Abbot Suger decided to remodel the great abbey church of St. Denis, kicking off the Gothic building boom.

Looking toward the main altar from high in the nave, the cathedral in Siena.

Why do Catholics build and love their churches so much? Because that is where the Mass is celebrated, where Heaven and earth meet, where we receive the Body of Christ. We all want to do the best we can, so we build the finest buildings, adorn them with the greatest art, and fill them with the most beautiful music.

This has much less to do with wealth than one might imagine, An emperor could get Hagia Sophia built in 5 years; an important city could get a major Gothic church built in 50; a lesser town might take 100 years or more. But no matter what the resources, Catholics have done whatever we can do to have as beautiful a church as possible. Consider:

This is the interior of St. Mary’s Church in Newport, RI, the third parish church built for and largely by the Irish laborers imported to do the work of building Fort Adams . The men of the parish volunteered 1 day’s labor to “dig the trenches”. When they decided to build this church in 1846, the parish had 586 people in it, almost all of them poor Irish immigrants. Or:

Saints Cyril and Methodius Church in Dubina, TX
St. Cyril & Methodius Catholic Church, Dubina, TX, 1912

My ancestors on my mother’s side were Czech immigrants to East Texas. Like the Irish laborers above, among the first things they wanted to do once they got settled was build suitable churches. The Czech rural tradition was to paint the inside of parish churches, something the locals could do without having to spend money they didn’t have. Thus, the exteriors of the these “painted churches” are built of the stone you can get from neighborhood, the interiors tend to be wood and plaster painted to look like heaven. These parishes had maybe 500 – 700 souls in total, yet they built these beauties.

Slide 4
Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary Catholic Church in Praha, TX. 1895

(While poking around for pictures, found this video on the Painted Churches of East Texas. In the Czech Republic, rural churches are often painted like this. It’s what you do to make your church as beautiful as possible when you can’t afford Carrara marble and carved stone statues.)

And over and over again, all around the world. The engine driving all this building and beautification is the Mass. To Catholics, a church is not just a gathering place, or even just a place of prayer. It is holy ground, made holy by God, who is especially present and with us and in us at Mass.

The TLM was not just a part of the efforts of typical Catholics to have a nice church. For 1,000 years, it was the reason we wanted a nice church.

The greatest work of art in history, the deepest, most moving, human creation, is a high mass celebrated in a great cathedral. Imagine: a long procession of gorgeously attired figures walks solemnly up the columned nave, candles and incense burning, choirs filling the air with the greatest music ever written. For the next hour and a half, a carefully choreographed ritual is performed, culminating in the dramatic proclamation: “this is My Body; this is My Blood” while bells ring a choirs sing. We respond in words inspired by the centurion: “Lord, I am not worthy that You should enter under my roof; only say the word, and my soul shall be healed.”

Even considered only as human art, it is magnificent; considered as God’s ultimate sacrament, His ultimate Presence among us, the mass is ineffable.

The TLM is one with that experience, as the liturgy, buildings, art, and music developed together for more than 1,000 years! Certainly, a typical parish mass over the last 2,000 years has rarely approached this sublime level artistically, but has approached it spiritually more often than one might imagine. Many Catholics have been to an Easter Vigil or Christmas Midnight Mass that was profoundly, spiritually moving, that shared in the nature of a great high mass in a great building even if falling short in material magnificence.

Now, I am not a hater of the New Mass. I have been blessed to attend many that were beautiful and spiritually fulfilling. I attend a TLM maybe 4-5 times a year, tops. But only a dedicated partisan could claim that the Ordinary Form is not extraordinarily prone to abuse. I go way out of my way to avoid particularly egregious parishes. Despite my efforts, I’ve been a part of way too many liturgies that make a mockery of the beauty and joy that is by nature present in the Mass.

Also, I was 12 in 1970, and saw first hand how brutally and arbitrarily the New Mass was imposed. The fantasy world where lovers of the TLM are just grouchy fuddy-duddies is an evil, evil lie. Anyone who dared question the sudden and dictatorial suppression of the old mass and imposition of the new were verbally abused, called names, ignored, humiliated, and mocked FOR DECADES. Sure, some were jerks – in a church with over a billion members, your going to get millions of jerks. But I knew some people, not all little old ladies or cranky old men, many were almost as young as I was, who were devastated. They read all the documents, to see if they could understand what was happening and why. When they discovered that virtually NOTHING in the documents required or even supported what they were told was required, they were abused some more, for not getting the ‘spirit of Vatican II’. All the sudden, some hippy ‘liturgist’ or goofball priest was the local pope. If they said rock band in the sanctuary, jackhammer out the communion rail, throw a cheap table up as an altar, no more kneeling, communion only in the hand, sing stupid, infantile, unsingable songs instead of the classic hymns everybody knows, and on and on – and you objected on the grounds that none of that was required, and much of it was diametrically opposed to the express wishes of the Council – well, YOU are the problem!

And those aren’t even the most appalling examples of things done in the Spirit of Vatican II. The final insult: defend Catholic teaching a bit too far, in the eyes of the hierarchy? Expect a ruthless and prompt smackdown. Deny the Real Presence while doing a little modern dance number during your clown mass (and this is a real thing, don’t be gaslighted about it!)? The hierarchy can’t be bothered by such minor problems. One sort of ‘abuse’ calls for prompt action; other kinds get a shrug, if they even get a reaction at all.

But even allowing for the bitterness of some of the older crowd, the TLM is taking off because *young people* love it! Anyone under 55 simply cannot have had the TLM experience in the regular parish growing up. They missed the worst part of the abuse, in fact, until this letter, they’d possibly only heard about the mistreatment of their older TLM loving friends. Now they know. Since my children and their friends are among the younger lovers of the TLM, I know that what they yearn for is beauty and reverence. They are not naturally trying to divide anyone from anything – they just want to worship worthily.

So, yes, there is a yearning for something beautiful, profound, and worthy – which the TLM provides in spades. Is the TLM perfect in practice? Of course not. Can it be abused? Here’s the funny part – not really. Every word and motion is constrained by the letter of the ritual in a way the Ordinary Form is not. You can only mess up the TLM by willfully or carelessly not doing what you are supposed to do, while the Ordinary Form invites improv.

So the pope thinks the problem is the divisiveness of people who love the TLM, so much so that the TLM needs to be suppressed? That simply does not fly.

Power and Glory

Trying hard to stay positive this Independence Day.

Happened to be reading Maccabees recently. 2 Maccabees especially emphasizes the divine nature and reality of come-from-behind upset victories. Good to remember. On a practical level, guys fighting on their home turf in defense of their wives, kids, and God fight a lot harder than mercenaries and bureaucrats.

Finally, after a lot of bloodshed, Simon, who saw his brothers Judas, Jonathan, Eleazar, and John all die for the cause:

He brought peace to the land,

and Israel was filled with great joy.

Every one sat under his vine and fig tree,

with no one to disturb them.

1 Maccabees 14: 11-12

So, you know, it can happen.

Then, if I’m not careful, I’ll think of all the prayers said by, for example, the people during the Black Death, the Christians besieged in Constantinople in 1453, the people on ships lost at sea, and so on, a million times – these people were certainly not less deserving or sincere than we Americans. Yet they died in the disasters they prayed to be spared from.

I guess the take-away for this July 4th: the Maccabees prayed, then fought like hell. No guarantees, but a sound plan.

Please Pray…

For the repose of the soul of Mike Flynn’s wife Marge, who died suddenly of kidney cancer two months shy of their 50th wedding anniversary, and for comfort for Mike and all who love them. He tells the story here on his blog.

Even though we ‘know’ each other only from commenting on each other’s blogs, and, in my case, reading a good many of Mike’s novels and stories, he seems like a friend to me. The internet can be a good thing, sometimes.

Eternal rest grant unto her, O Lord,
And let perpetual light shine upon her.
May her soul, and the souls of all the faithful departed,
through the mercy of God, rest in peace.

May Mother Mary and Good St. Joseph be a mother and a father to her and all who love her, and comfort and sustain Mike. Amen.

A Bouguereau Good Friday

A Happy, Holy, and Blessed Good Friday. I will be staying off the internet (mostly) through Easter Sunday. Here are some Bouguereau works appropriate to the Triduum:

The Flagellation
File:William-Adolphe Bouguereau (1825-1905) - Compassion (1897).jpg -  Wikimedia Commons
Compassion
Pieta
The Three Marys at the Tomb

He didn’t do a Resurrection that I could find, so here’s Piero della Francesca for a strong finish:

Resurrection

May God remember His promise of mercy!

(Let’s mix it up, OK?) Happy and Holy Lent

In my 8th Grade history and Lit class, we recently read selections from the Ramayana. (1) In it, the rishi get that way by performing tapas, which are not, in this case, tasty Spanish nosh-fodder, but rather, are disciplines and austerities one performs in order to rid one’s self from bad karma, and gain spiritual enlightenment and power. A maharishi – a highest rishi, or greatest sage – has performed so many (much? not clear on the usage convention here) tapas that he has reached the highest plain of enlightenment and power this side of godhood.

It is clear from the stories, however, that such enlightenment and power do not include surrender of one’s will or even of one’s vices. Sages perform tapas to get power, to satisfy their ambitions, to get revenge, in response to jealousy or envy. In one early story, a sage’s excessive tapas make him a threat to the gods themselves, who throw temptations in his way to slow him down.

Viswamitra was a king who attained sainthood through terrible austerities. He had long ago exhibited his spiritual powers by starting to create another Brahma and a rival universe. He had gone as far as the creation of new constellations, but was prevailed upon to stop by the entreaties of the alarmed gods.

Only at the very end, after thousands of years of tapas and many setbacks due to his temper and falling to temptations sent by the gods, does the sage attain to brahma-rishi-hood, which entails some control over his own desires.

I’ve heard that Hindu rituals are all about cutting deals with the gods. Certainly, in the Ramayana, that’s all tapas are about: you do the discipline, and the gods appear to recognize your achievements and grant you power. Want more power? Do more tapas. In addition to tapas, the Ramayana also describes elaborate rituals similarly designed to get something. These rituals call down the power of the gods to the ends of the person offering the ritual. Doing it right is critical – sages and other experts are recruited to guide the preparation and ritual. If the gods don’t do as you want, you must have failed somehow.

Gods are clearly compelled: when the sage performs tapas, they, it seems, must grant him powers. When the ritual is performed correctly, they must grant what the boon sought. Nowhere, it seems, is anything like a personal relationship with a personal god a goal. Hinduism does seem to have a strong sense of duty built into it, including duties to one’s fellow man.

But for us, no deals can be cut with God. We can only beg that He remembers His promise of mercy, and does not judge us as out sins deserve. This Lent, perhaps the most important Lent of our lifetimes, we say, with the king of Nineveh, “Who knows? God may yet relent and with compassion turn from his fierce anger so that we will not perish.” There are no deals to be cut, no amount of tapas or rituals can earn us a reprieve from justice. If Nineveh deserved to be overthrown, if Sodom and Gomorrah deserved to be consumed with fire, how much more do we, who have sinned greatly in the greatest land of plenty and peace the world has ever know, deserve anything we get?

Old Scratch will have his day – but just a day. Americans have, sometimes, been very brave and generous, very neighborly and compassionate. Not always, not maybe even often, but – still. God is like the mom who cries when her kid gives he her a dandelion. He is looking for any opening, any sign, any flaw in our defenses through which He can sneak in and lavish His grace and love on us.

  1. This is supposedly a popular retelling. The poem is very long and meandering; when wrestled into English poetry, I found it long and difficult. Hate to water things down for kids, but, just this once…

A Possibly Relevant Autobiographical Note

In general, brave people are simple souls. Not stupid, by any means, but simple. Such people will face up to outrageous evil because they cannot imagine doing otherwise. Many great saints suffered outrageous martyrdoms because they simply couldn’t be made to say what they knew was untrue.

With my back against a golden throne, I fought once again for Dejah Thoris.

A somewhat secular example is Captain Carter in Princess of Mars. He says himself several times in the course of the story that he took heroic action because he simply could not imagine doing otherwise. And that’s the trick – in saner times, honorable people saw it as their duty to raise up such people from the cradle, because that sort of simple heroism is what is needed to be honorable in everyday life, let alone at times of crisis.

And it is the right thing to do.

I am not that guy. At my roots lives a deep well of fear. From whence it comes, I can only speculate. It is not attached to anything I can confidently identify. Just as I cannot explain how it could be that I’m not an alcoholic – if I were, no one would be surprised, given my personality and weakness – I cannot explain why I do not spend my days rolled into a ball whimpering in the corner. God knows there are many days I would like to.

So, how comes it that I find myself, trembling, at least trying to stand up for the truth? Growing up, as we all have, amongst the People of the Lie, truth may appear a fragile thing, easily beaten down and ignored. Certainly, the idea that truth is a lion, that you just need to set it free and it will take care of itself, is not something one can often see over the number of years one is given to live. Defending truth, in other words, is generally expensive and fruitless, at least in the short run.

I would like to hear your stories of how you came to care about the truth, Dear Readers, if you care to share. If you put truth above tribe, you are a rare bird.

For me, the answer is 3-fold:

  1. I have always been an outcast, and usually didn’t care. I never remember once obsessing over being a part of some group or other. In fact, I’ve never quite understood the desperate energy with which so many people strive to be part of the Kool Kids Klub, the Inner Circle.
  2. I think the appeal of science, which I began reading compulsively at age 9 (in the form of Time/Life books, tbh, so not *that* precocious), was at least partly in that it provided some level of certainty, truth on some level. As I got older and realized science could not address any of the really important questions, I started reading philosophy.
  3. When, in 5th grade, I made a fool of myself trying to straighten out our poor teacher on some minor point of astronomy, and found nothing by eyerolls and exasperation, I tuned out. These people, least of all the teacher, didn’t WANT TO KNOW. This was a profound realization, even if, at the time, I was not at all clear about it. What I was clear about: school was going to get the absolute minimum effort needed from me to get by.

So, more or less accidentally, I was immunized against caring what the school thought of me. 5th grade was also the only time I ever won the ‘merit pin’, given to the student with the best GPA. Found out that didn’t make me any friends or get me anything positive, either. So, from then on, the head-patting and gold stars and brownie points meant nothing to me.

But none of this makes me brave. I still avoid conflict, and tremble inside when forced to speak out against evil. I’m trying to overcome the fear, and am greatly encouraged by the example of my wife and children, who are brave in the way described above.

In a 10 days, the annual Walk for Life takes place in San Francisco. There is, of course, no rally, probably no mass, but people are planning to walk, my wife and children among them. I tremble, but I will go. Then, the 40 Days for Life starts up over Lent in February.

Word is the SF police are aware and will maintain order for the Walk. Over the 40 days, police in one local city have clearly been told to stand down, so that the harassment, screaming of obscenities’ and physical threats are allowed against the people praying. Our city so far has been better, but who knows? This is where the rubber hits the road. I’m terrified. I need to stand up anyway.

We all need to pray for each other.

Updated Writing Update

A week ago, before the dawn of the Crazy Years and all his pomps and vanities, I posted an update wherein I recounted the gripping tale of having spent 20 hours going through all the fiction I’d written over the last roughly 5 years, finding, formatting, and organizing it. It’s now all tidy. Got everything in OpenDocs on my slightly more secure laptop and on a 2T backup drive.

Yay me.

In the past week, I have gotten more fiction written than in the previous year, for a gain of maybe 4-5K words net, with some fairly extensive rewrites.

I also grabbed some files for the education research projects I go on about here, but have not gone through them. Huge number of notes, drafts, and sources. I think I have more stuff on GoogleDocs, I need to do a thorough search. The amount of work needed to get all THAT stuff organized will be in the same ballpark as the fiction. Sigh.

The goal is to have everything organized, not in GoogleDocs, in a more or less consistent format, with local backup. So far, so good. Not to be a drama queen, but I want to be able to go full samizdat in the unlikely event that becomes necessary. I don’t want anymore stuff out there where our tech lizard overlords can look at them.

The big question: how soon and how well will our new Winston Smiths do their jobs? I often do download and format* the old books I find on the web – the internet is really cool, sometimes – but mostly I just have links. Part of me is going: oh, come on! Nobody is going to take down all that old boring, stuffy stuff with single-digit downloads, of interest to only the geekiest of geeks! But – could some pensive child, in an excess of zeal and caution, cause the Internet Achieves to cease to be? Or, like Herod, decide everything that might someday be a threat needs to die now?

But that is for another day.

Finished one old short story, about 5,000 words, and just have the denouement (if that idea even applies to a short story) to put in on another of about 8,000. Somehow, the first two I choose to finish are both about guys pining after their gals, more or less – in space! Alas, in neither does anything much blow up good. Spaceships and robots do get smashed – that’s got to count for something, right?

On the novel front: Yikes. On the one, got a ream of references, notes, outlines, characters names and arcs, and descriptions of planets, ships, and so on. But, reviewing this stuff, noticed what I don’t have is any clear outline. What I do have is more or less vague ideas for a story that might take place over 3-4 books, describing the goings-on on a generational starship and the planets the colonists settle. I’m torn between looking stuff up to get the science more or less plausible, and just ladling on the handwavium. The Heinlein vs. Bradbury approach. How does it work? Very well, thank you.

Ex: What’s important for the story is that the ship works, that it can get a 100,00 colonists to strange new worlds to colonize within a couple centuries. How it does so just needs not to take one out of the story. Buuuut: the design of the ship does figure into the story. A lightsail or magsail is appealing, but isn’t plausible for the kind of acceleration needed; having orbital lasers push it is kinda a fun idea – but also doesn’t work in the story for reasons. So I started with the sort of not-quite plausible set up used on the Sparrow – an asteroid hollowed out as a ship, that consumes itself in some sort of fancy ion drive.

Nuclear Salt Water Engine. Like the 50s vibe to this illustration.

Handwavium. But then, read up on nuclear salt-water rockets (NSWR), which I had somehow not heard of before. Very cool, and produce the level of thrust to at least within an order of magnitude or two that one would need to get up to the significant percentage of light speed – which is what you need. So: what I’ve done so far is create a sort of hybrid ship, a nickel-iron cigar a couple kilometers long, with nuclear reactors being used to ionize and accelerate the asteroid itself as fuel. But for near sun work and help braking when they get where they’re going, add a lightsail and maybe a magsail as well. Do I work NSWR drive into the story? So that I and the 1% of potential readers who might appreciate a little plausibility are a little more happy?

If so, this morning after a cup of coffee, I’d probably stick with the hybrid idea: inside the hollowed out ship are nuclear reactors, a million tons of water, tons of salts of enriched uranium and plutonium. Maybe they unfurl the solar sail and mag sail (one or the other? Do more research and decide? AHHHH!!!) while still in the inner system, then, once they have slowly spiraled their way out a bit, fire up the NSWR drive….

And, there you go: HOURS will be spent getting this right – and it doesn’t actually matter to the basis of the story. BUT IT’S COOL!!! Multiply this by some factor for other tech and science I don’t understand (I’m Rocket Maaaan!!) and, um, I could be tied up for a while. Meanwhile, the actual plot is laughable. Stuff happen. In space. To loveable and hateable characters. I think. Probably better figure it out pretty soon.

Anyway, something I didn’t expect: as the political scene spirals deeper into 1984-land to the applause of the bleating sheep, I find writing a great distraction and comfort. When the world gets to be too much, I can retreat (with an inner chuckle) to a world where a hapless engineer finds himself hanging from a wire a thousand meters above a canyon floor on an ice moon named Flee orbiting a gas giant called Tough Nut, because it seemed like a good idea to this woman art critic, who is falling for him but he’s clueless, as a means to help him get his music degree while rubbing the noses of some pompous artists in their own stupidity. Or a world where a beloved mother of 10, who happens to command an army of drones and bots called spiders helping to construct a spaceship, is hiding a dark secret with a deadline. Or where a fat man in his underwear, who happens to be heir to an empire, is exiled by the queen mother to a planet completely covered in a single life-form that tastes like mashed potatoes, and is awaiting his next shipment of butter.

You know, the usual.

To stay sane and not hate anyone, I try to keep in mind the helpful image of sheep without a shepherd. That’s us, me as much as them. I may have a clue or 2, but, still, I’m a dumb sheep like everybody else. Castigating people who have been terrified by their false shepherds for not thinking things through is like blaming panicked sheep for running the flock off a cliff. It’s horrible, but they are (mostly) not to blame. Those false shepherds have a millstone or two in their furfures, however. If they’re lucky to get off that easy.

The thoughts of many hearts are being revealed these days.

“And Simeon blessed them, and said to Mary his mother: Behold this child is set for the fall, and for the resurrection of many in Israel, and for a sign which shall be contradicted; 35And thy own soul a sword shall pierce, that, out of many hearts, thoughts may be revealed.” Luke 2:34-35

Holy Mother of Mercy, pray for us! Heavenly Father, remember your promise of mercy. For Your Name’s sake, for the glory of your Son, in the Power of Your Spirit, have mercy on us!

* I’ve grabbed key old books that have been scanned into electronic form from some library copy with all sorts of marks, smudges, and stamps on the pages, not mention hard line returns. They are messes. In very bad cases, I will have the pdf and the OCR versions open side by side, in order to better verify my guesses at the text. While trying to read them, I will often start correcting & formatting as I go, because the messiness drives me crazy. This only doubles, at least, the amount of time it takes me to read these books. Obsessive much? Me?

From Lincoln’s 2nd Inaugural Address, inscribed on the Lincoln Memorial:

(From a comment I left at John C. Wright’s blog.)

“If we shall suppose that American slavery is one of those offenses which in the providence of God must needs come but which having continued through His appointed time He now wills to remove and that He gives to both North and South this terrible war as the woe due to those by whom the offense came shall we discern therein any departure from those divine attributes which the believers in a living God always ascribe to Him. Fondly do we hope ~ fervently do we pray ~ that this mighty scourge of war may speedily pass away. Yet, if God wills that it continue until all the wealth piled by the bondsman’s two hundred and fifty years of unrequited toil shall be sunk and until every drop of blood drawn with the lash shall be paid by another drawn with the sword as was said three thousand years ago so still it must be said ‘the judgments of the Lord are true and righteous altogether.'”

We are the land of abortion, and of many other sins that cry out to Heaven for vengeance. Let us pray:

Heavenly Father, hallowed be Thy Name. Trembling, we today plead that You remember Your promise of mercy, a promise You made to Abraham and his children forever, a promise fulfilled in Your Son. Do not hold our sins against us, for, then, who could stand? Instead, for the sake of Thy Holy Name, for the glory of Thy Son, in the power of Thy Spirit, send Your heavenly host, lead by Holy Michael, commanded by their Holy Queen, flaming swords drawn, to cast Satan and his foul minions out of our fair and blessed nation, back into the pit. Strengthen us for battle, for whatever part Your Holy Will would have us do.

Thy Will be done. Amen.

November is Gone Update (plus some d*mn virus math)

A. The level of idiocy remains at critical levels. It’s looking likely that about 220,000 ‘excess’ deaths will take place in 2020, of which about 150-170K might be attributable to the damn virus. Back in April and May, I didn’t think 100k was likely; now, I don’t know if it’s possible to back out the deleterious effects of the lockdowns with any accuracy. It is clear that about 50,000 ‘excess’ deaths (and counting) are not directly caused by the virus, but it’s harder, conceptually, to show they are caused by the lockdowns. The anecdotal evidence is strong, as is my bias to believe it – therefore, I’m exercising caution.

What the CDC data shows is significant upticks in deaths attributed to stress and panic related causes, such as suicide and heart attacks. It would take a massive independent audit, however, to show how many such cases show up in the COVID numbers. We know that sickly old people do in fact have their deaths speeded up by stress and loneliness, which the lockdowns have ratcheted up to inhuman levels.

So, as of now, it’s pretty clear that there are not 250,000 COVID deaths, or whatever count is being bandied about at the moment. At most, there could be about 170,000 COVID deaths, max (the 220K ‘excess’ deaths minus the 50K non-COVID ‘excess’ deaths). Of course, one could cook up a theory that the lockdowns saved lives that would have been lost to non-COVID deaths, such that the net – 250,000 COVID deaths minus the ‘saved’ (from flu? Colds? Traffic accidents?) gives us the 220,000 ‘excess’ deaths the CDC’s data shows. Far-fetched doesn’t begin to describe such a theory. That won’t stop people from proposing it.

The plan is to take a detailed look at the final or near final numbers from the CDC in January, and back into some totals. Without that audit, there’s no good way to really sift out the effects of the lockdown versus the virus. I expect the excess deaths – which are merely the difference between the CDC’s estimated weekly deaths and actual deaths as counted by death certificated submitted to the CDC (with a lot of small, often pointless, and needlessly complex adjustments) – to stay right about 220K, or perhaps even drop some, as some of the sickly elderly who might have hung on until Christmas in a normal year are already dead.

The overall story remains the same: the original forecasts and model used to gin up the panic, put together by the non-scientist, non-medical finance guy and operative Ferguson, have proven wildly inaccurate. Real world experience has confirmed what I, and everybody else who took an intelligent look at the original numbers out of Wuhan, the Diamond Princess, Italy, etc., noted: the overall real-world fatality rate was nothing like the 2-4% Case Fatality Rate range typically reported. The real infection fatality rate – the number of interest – couldn’t be over about 0.25%, and is probably lower. This virus is no more deadly than a bad flu – the 1969 and 1958 flus were worse; 2018 was almost as bad. The 2017 pre-COVID planning literature, prepared by the same CDC that’s helped create the panic, did not propose lockdowns or mask for scenarios an order of magnitude worse than this – the theoretical benefits of lockdowns and masks do not offset real costs.

The CDC data, at least, the reporting of it, is already being monkeyed with. As William Briggs noted, the weekly fatality graph used to go back many years, but now only goes back a year. This is suspicious, as a glance at the longer-term pattern made it clear that, while 2020 was shaping up to be a bad year, it wasn’t significantly worse than many preceding years, and that the pattern of more deaths in the winter and fewer in the summer was playing out exactly in 2020 – that what one would expect to see, based on history, without lockdowns and masks is exactly what one did see with them. My confidence that any numbers that can be used to expose the fraud will remain available has thus decreased.

But we’ll see.

UPDATE: Seems someone has already done what I proposed above.

As seen on Clarissa’s blog

What this chart shows are the breakdowns between attributed COVID deaths and *excess* (as defined above) deaths from all other causes. You get this by looking at the details for each category the CDC tracks. They forecast, based on history, population growth & aging + some really minor adjustments, is of how many death there ought to be in each category. Here’s my comment from Clarissa’s blog post:

Last I checked, CDC shows 220K excess deaths total so far this year. If the attribution of every excess death shown here to the lockdown is roughly true – seems likely & reasonable – then there are fewer than 100K total deaths caused by COVID, rather than deaths where COVID appears anywhere on the death cert, which is the way you get that 240K number, as you noted. Even that 100K number is almost certainly high, as the bulk of COVID deaths – between 60-70% – were nursing home patients & other very sick elderly people, who had a median life expectancy of about 6 months even if they didn’t catch the virus. Over time, these slightly premature deaths would (if the lockdowns ended) show up as lower deaths in the corresponding age bands over the next year. But the lockdowns, and the deaths they cause, mask this effect.

Also, could you please post the source link? I know it’s on the picture, but tiny, I can’t quite make it out. Eyes are getting old. Thanks.

So, if these calculations are correct, and barring some unlikely and counterintuitive offsetting effects somewhere in here (somehow, many thousands of lives were saved from non-COVID death by COVID, lockdowns, and masks) the total death toll from COVID is under 100K; the total excluding very sick elderly people is maybe 30-40K. Most of that 30-40K seems to have had multiple pre-existing conditions.

Thus, as the CDC correctly believed right up until they stopped believing it around April, 2020, lockdowns do more harm than good. Lockdowns kill people, and, unlike routine airborne respiratory viruses like COVID, lockdowns are completely preventable and don’t run their course within a few months.

B. I want to do something, but I don’t know what. I’m praying harder than I ever have for God’s mercy on our country, because if we get what we deserve based on our sins, the Great Leap Forward will look like a picnic. I’d like to do something to put our little infant sociopath of a governor in his place. But I don’t even know how to fly a helicopter. (That’s hyperbole for your spy bots.)

Lord, remember your promise of mercy. For if you remember our sins, Lord, who could stand? For the sake of the Sorrowful Passion of your Son, have mercy on us and the whole world! Amen.

Lord, have mercy! Christ, have mercy! Lord, have mercy!

Holy Mother Mary, Queen of the Angels, pray for us!

St. Joseph, Terror of Demons, pray for us!

St. Michael, Prince of the Heavenly Host, defend us in battle!

C. About a week ago, started learning the 2nd movement of the Moonlight Sonata, the one everybody forgets is even there, as the 1st and 3rd movements are epic. Been working on a dozen or so pieces from the Well Tempered Clavier and on the Sonata Pathetique for years now, and have years to go at this rate, and I needed a break.

Almost got it down, as it’s very short and repetitive. Here’s someone who really can play it:

I find it very beautiful and fun.

D. Bunch of good stuff happening on the family side, but I’m sworn to silence for now.

E. I need to remind myself that I’m one of the most blessed and happy people I know, great marriage, wonderful kids, nice home in a beautiful state, lots of friends. Thank you, Almighty Father, giver of all good gifts.