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September 5, 2016 | 73 Comments

Why Trump? — Guest Post by the Blonde Bombshell

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As the election nears, some voters and pundits continue to be perplexed why Donald J. Trump is on the ballot.

Forget that the country underwent a political process, where the field of 17 was whittled down to Trump. And also forget that while the winnowing process underway, the media added up the numbers of the also-rans and declared triumphantly that Trump was losing, because the aggregated number of “against” votes outweighed the “for” votes. However, sad as it seems, the “for” votes were tabulated for what they were, leaving the “against” voters in the dust. Sorry, #NeverTrump-ers, but that is how math works: The one with the most votes wins (caveat: notwithstanding the special math employed by the electoral college).

Also conveniently forget that the real contenders for Mrs. Clinton were the fearsome Jeb Bush and equally formidable Marco Rubio.

The events of the past eight years have paved the way for Trump: the rise and disembowelment of Tea Party movement; the current attitude and actions of the sitting president; and the unwillingness of anyone in the GOP to not only to articulate but robustly support a coherent point of view (that, egads, may be opposition to the Democratic party line).

The Tea Party movement was born, almost accidentally, from the exercised remarks of CNBC commentator Rick Santelli as he reacted to President Obama’s American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (ARRA; aka Stimulus or Bailout). Since 1913, taxpayers have come to terms with persistent nature of the tax system, and grudgingly go along with having their tax dollars fund policies and practices they don’t necessarily agree with.

However, the ARRA unabashedly released taxpayer funds (provided by people who tried to make good decisions, but were still struggling) to people and businesses that made genuinely bad decisions (and would no longer be struggling, thanks to the harried taxpayer). This unfair allocation of funds stuck in the craw of a proportion of the voting population. To be fair, the ARRA passed without a single GOP Congressional vote, but it did manage to garner three Senate votes. Nevertheless, the complete disregard for the will of the people mobilized what became the Tea Party movement.

Adding fuel to the fire was the passage of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA), which was legislation that was so lousy that it was on life support from the beginning. Since motions involving expenditures have to originate in the house, Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi honed in on HR3590, which was a military housing bill that they stripped of content and dumped in the text created by Jonathan Gruber, John McDonough, and Ezekiel Emanuel (none of whom at the time were duly elected members of Congress). On Christmas Eve 2009, the Senate had 60 votes to pass the bill, and it did, without a single GOP yea.

Shortly after, Democrat Edward Kennedy died, which led to the election of Republican Scott Brown. This is important is because Congress was still engaged in a minutia of bill passing, and it was still possible that Scott Brown could cast a crucial vote.

There wasn’t a final version of the bill that both the House and Senate were happy with. The deal was made where the House would pass Reconciliation Act of 2010 that made changes to the original ACA. The Senate passed the Reconciliation Act on March 25, 2010.

But the vote in the Senate made use of the little-used “Reconciliation Rule” (not to be confused with named House bill) that permits budget items to pass with 51 votes rather than 60. Ultimately, it did not make one whit of difference that Scott Brown was elected. Although from the moment he was sworn in to the minute that the Senate voted on the Reconciliation Act, there was something in the air that felt like hope.

With the disappointments of the ARRA and the ACA, the Tea Party was poised to be force in the 2010 elections. Some of the same insider fighting that dogs Trump’s race for the White House was evident in the 2010 mid-term elections. Predictably, Tea Partiers were denounced as “racists” because they did not warmly endorse the policies of President Obama.

As a party, it was a bust. There weren’t great swells of new congressman darkening the halls of the Capitol. There were some, and a few at the state level. They could achieve some things, but because the way the system operates (or to employ a term used by one candidate, is “rigged”) there was no way that an eager first-termer can shake things up without the blessing of the party leaders. Evidently, no blessings were forthcoming.

When the Tea Party wasn’t being suffocated by the GOP establishment, it was being
deliberately swindled by the consultant class. And those efforts were largely successful.

Fast forward to the current moment. President Obama supplied the Iranians with $400 million in currency under mysterious and bewildering circumstances. There is also that little administrative loose end of turning over the oversight of the internet to the UN.

Over the Labor Day weekend, Obama pledged the US to the Agenda 21 goals. It is reassuring that he did not exactly sign a treaty, but only engaged in the pantomime of putting his name on an “executive agreement.” It is an open question if he will engage in similar statesmanship when it comes to the TPP. After all, precedent has been set.

As for the current GOP leadership, do they have a view? Where are the full-throated calls to investigate the Obama administration for the Iran cash-for-hostages deal? Why is there no interest in keeping the internet oversight under US control? Where is the opposition to Obama’s maneuvering with Agenda 21? Doesn’t the Senate have some duty to rubber-stamp treaties?

Where are the cries for health insurance reform? During the primaries it was a surprise to many that Ted Cruz led so many (failed) efforts to repeal the ACA. Where were the hearings? Where were the stories of working families who are shackled not only with five-figure premiums but also five-figure deductibles (sometimes per family member)? How did Cruz lead this fight? Was it a matter of filing a piece paper? Wow, that was effective.

Where was the pushback when Speaker of the House Paul Ryan proved to the nation that he inherited John Boehner’s “kick me” sign when he cheerfully ushered in a new budget deal in October 2015? Who needs enemies when your friends and allies treat you so poorly?

GOP legislators don’t do very much. They can muster “nay” votes when they have to, but they aren’t forging new legislation, they aren’t creating new directions that are going to signal a better future for the American public. In the last eight years, the GOP lost so many opportunities, and allowed the genius of Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi to outfox and hoodwink them, not once, but over and over again.

Not only for healthcare, but also for other issues—how hard is it to sit down and think through what legislative trickery is available, and to come up with a strategy to check it? Where did they put their “thinking caps”?

The GOP establishment can win primaries, but they can’t lead. They can’t make a stand. They can’t make a decision or have an opinion and stick with it. They don’t fight for what they believe in—in fact, what do they believe in? They are like leaves blowing on the breeze, without an intention or a set direction, and without a sense of unity or purpose.

There is no perfect presidential candidate, and to pretend there is such a thing is folly. Some of the enduring criticism of Trump is that he is a flawed individual. When harping on Trump’s imperfections, the suggestion hangs in midair that, in contrast, Mrs. Clinton’s virtues are legion and worthy.

It is the voters’ duty to elect someone that they will agree with more often than not. And it is the leader’s duty to look after the interests of the citizens—not just the ones who showed up in the polls on a November day, but also the ones who will become citizens, either by birth or by oath, in the coming years.

Trump is that candidate. Trump has a point of view. He has a direction. He can listen. He can modify. He will fight.

That’s why Trump.

| 19 Comments

Stream: President Obama Once Again Imagines He Will Save The World

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Today’s post is at The Stream: President Obama Once Again Imagines He Will Saves The World.

On his inauguration—perhaps apotheosis is a better word—President Obama said that the world would forever remember that “this was the moment when the rise of the oceans began to slow and our planet began to heal.”

Seven years later, adjusting or forgetting his earlier prophecy, Mr Obama declared that his signing of the Paris Agreement on global warming would be known throughout history as “the moment we finally decided to save our planet”.

Either way, if he is right then President Obama will have done what no man has ever done before; he will have accomplished a feat thought possible only of God Himself. Mr Obama will stop the earth’s climate from changing!

Joshua prayed that the sun would stand still. Something very like that will and must occur to stop the climate from changing, because it is the sun’s variability, and the ever-shifting of earth’s position in relation to the sun, which cause the vast bulk of changes in the atmosphere. Though mankind surely influences the climate, just as every species from aardvarks to zebra muscles also influence the climate, our contributions pale next to the powers of the sun.

Will the President’s Agreement command the sun?

Epictetus said, “Crows pick out the eyes of the dead, when the dead have no longer need of them; but flatterers mar the soul of the living, and her eyes they blind.” No man has been as saturated in flattery as President Obama, so it is easy to understand how the poor man could be fail to see to his limitations.

His blindness might also explain why Mr Obama…

Go there and read the mysterious rest!

September 4, 2016 | 34 Comments

Summary Against Modern Thought: Intellectual Substances Are Immaterial

This may be proved in three ways. The first...
This may be proved in three ways. The first…
See the first post in this series for an explanation and guide of our tour of Summa Contra Gentiles. All posts are under the category SAMT.

Previous post.

Some mop-up proofs about intellects being immaterial. The arguments are plain and there is really only one note of substance.

Chapter 50 That Intellectual Substances Are Immaterial (alternate translation)

1 IT follows from this that intellectual substances are immaterial. For everything composed of matter and form is a body: since matter cannot receive various forms except in respect of its various parts. And this diversity of parts cannot be in matter except inasmuch as common matter is divided into several by the dimensions existing in matter: for without quantity substance is indivisible. Now it has been proved that an intelligent substance is a body. It follows therefore that it is not composed of matter and form.

2 Moreover. Just as man does not exist apart from this man, so matter exists not apart from this matter. Accordingly, whatever subsistent thing is composed of matter and form, is composed of individual form and matter. Now the intellect cannot be composed of individual matter and form. For the species of things understood become actually intelligible through being abstracted from individual matter. And according as they are actually intelligible, they become one with the intellect. Therefore the intellect also must be without individual matter. Therefore the intelligent substance is not composed of matter and form.

Notes When you think of a stampeding herd of elephants (which you’re doing right now), a heard of stampeding elephants is not present materially in your intellect. This intelligible herd was abstracted from individual matter. This same example applies to the next paragraphs. When you think of fire, you do not produce fire. And it’s not just Empedocles who makes this error! All strict materialists are committed to the mistake. For if our intellects are strictly material, e.g. our brains, then a bit of fire must appear when we think of it.

3 Further. The action of anything composed of matter and form, belongs not to the form alone, nor to the matter alone, but to the composite: because to act belongs to that which has being, and being belongs to the composite through its form: wherefore the composite also acts through its form. Accordingly, if the intelligent substance be composed of matter and form, to understand will be the act of the composite. But action terminates in a thing like the agent, wherefore the composite in generating, produces not a form but a composite. If, therefore, to understand be an action of the composite, it would understand neither form nor matter, but only the composite. Therefore the intelligent substance is not composed of matter and form.

4 Again. The forms of sensible things have a more perfect being in the intellect than in sensible things; since they are more simple and extend to more objects: for by the one intelligible form of man, the intellect knows all men. Now a form existing perfectly in matter makes a thing to be actually such, for instance to be fire or to be coloured: and if it does not make a thing to be actually such, it is in that thing imperfectly, for instance the form of heat in the air that carries it, and the power of the first agent in its instrument. Consequently were the intellect composed of matter and form, the forms of the things understood would make the intellect to be actually of the same nature as that which is understood. And this leads to the error of Empedocles, who said that the soul knows fire by fire, and earth by earth, and so on. But this is clearly unreasonable. Therefore the intelligent substance is not composed of matter and form.

5 Further. Whatever is in something is therein according to the mode of the recipient. Wherefore if the intellect be composed of matter and form, the forms of things would be in the intellect materially, just as they are outside the mind. Consequently, just as outside the mind they are not actually intelligible, neither would they be when they are in the intellect.

6 Again. Forms of contraries, according to the being which they have in matter, are contrary: hence they exclude one another. But according as they are in the intellect they are not contrary: in fact one contrary is the intelligible ratio of the other, since one is understood through the other. Consequently they have not a material being in the intellect. Therefore the intellect is not composed of matter and form.

7 Further. Matter does not receive a fresh form except by movement or change. But the intellect is not moved through receiving forms; rather is it perfected, and is at rest, while understanding, whereas its understanding is hindered by movement. Consequently forms are not received by the intellect as by matter or a material thing. Wherefore it is clear that intelligent substances are immaterial as well as incorporeal.

Notes It is cheering, and obvious, to note that your intellect is perfected the more you learn of forms.

8 Hence Dionysius says (Div. Nom. iv.): On account of the rays of the divine goodness all intellectual substances are subsistent, and are known to be both incorporeal and immaterial.

September 3, 2016 | 15 Comments

Internet Guidelines From The Rule Of St Benedict — Guest Post by Bob Kurland

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The prophet shows that, for the sake of silence, we are to abstain even from good talk. If this be so, how much more needful is it that we refrain from evil words, on account of the penalty of the sin…

The fourth degree of humility is, that, if hard and distasteful things are commanded, nay, even though injuries are inflicted, he accept them with patience and even temper, and not grow weary or give up…

The eleventh degree of humility is, that, when a monk speaketh, he speak gently and without laughter, humbly and with gravity, with few and sensible words, and that he be not loud of voice, as it is written: “The wise man is known by the fewness of his words.”

—St. Benedict of Nursia, The Rule of St. Benedict, Chapters 6 and 7.

In 2005 I became an Oblate of the Order of St. Benedict. This is a “third order” composed of lay people; one of the requirements to be an oblate is that one studies and follows The Rule of St. Benedict, as it might apply to a non-monastic contemporary situation. Other requirements are laid out in more detail elsewhere. For this post, I’d like to focus on those aspects of The Rule that might apply to behavior on the internet.

A bit of biography and a mea culpa (said in all seriousness) is in order. In my younger days I had a temper and an inability to take criticism. Moreover, I did not suffer fools gladly, but used all the resources of native wit to embarrass them and show them as foolish. Along came the internet, and I served for a while as moderator for the Magis Faith and Reason Facebook webpage. The snarky and vicious comments of evangelical atheists disturbed me greatly. (I recall one comment made by a particularly vicious female on her web page, announcing the new Magis Facebook page: “fresh meat, guys. Let’s go kill them.”) My blood pressure and pulse rate would rise, my stomach would churn, when I read slanderous, nasty, irrational comments about the Church, the Magis Institute and my own articles. So I got out of that kitchen. (“If you can’t take the heat….”)

This was a few years after I had become a Benedictine Oblate, but although I had studied the rules, I had not really taken them to heart. It was only after mentoring prison inmates who were learning to be Benedictine Oblates and seeing how they use The Rule in reacting to unjust treatment, that I began to see that The Rule had to be a way of life, not just an object of study. When the next occasion came to apply The Rule I was, if not altogether ready, more prepared.

Several weeks ago Ben Butera was kind enough to review my third ebook Science versus the Church—Truth Cannot Contradict Truth, in a post, “Four Big Bangs?” A commentator, “Anonymous”, lambasted the book, or rather Chapter 4, in which I discussed the Church’s dogma of Creatio ex Nihilo, creation of the universe by God from nothing, and several cosmological theories about the beginning (or non-beginning) of the universe. In that chapter I tried to follow the proposition set forth in the preface of my book:

That is the theme of this book: nothing that we know about the world from empirically verified scientific theories conflicts with Catholic teaching. Where there does appear to be a conflict, it arises from theories that are not verified by observation and that, in most cases, can never be so tested. As in many cosmology theories, theories about how (and whether) the universe came to be are untestable and lie in the domain of what might be best termed “mathematical metaphysics.” In short, there is no war between science and the Church.

However, according to “Anonymous”, I failed miserably. In attempting (not altogether successfully) to understand his/her criticisms, I tried to see whether I was misunderstood and how I could clarify misunderstandings. When Anonymous insulted me by belittling my status as a Catholic physicist (I’m not sure whether as a physicist, or as a Catholic or as the conjoined entity), I attempted to make a joke of it. This infuriated Anonymous. I guess that reaction validates the point made in the quote above about the 11th degree of humility—that the Benedictine should speak without laughter, something which is very difficult for me to do.

At any rate, toward the end of this exchange it seemed, and I’ll let the reader judge for himself/herself, that the tone of Anonymous’s comments become less heated and more conciliatory, so perhaps acting by the Rules did have some effect. There seemed to be more of a dialogue.

A BENEDICTINE RULE FOR THE INTERNET

To give a general discussion of The Rule of St. Benedict would require much more space than a single post. Much of it pertains to how monks in a community might best behave to follow Christ and to maintain the well-being and order of the community, but even the direction on how the steward best maintains the pantry and how and what the monks should eat and drink has relevance for us. Web references and books are given below for those who would like to learn more.

I’m going to focus on those parts of The Rule that seem to me to be most important in our relations with those with whom we interact by comments on posts, our own and those of others.

1. Be mindful of the wounds of others. We should remember that even the most hateful and spiteful commentator has some reason to behave that way and we should be careful not to hurt them more. We should not try to belittle them, to shame them, or make them seem less, just to win an argument or make ourselves feel superior. To quote Fr. Donald Raila, Director of Oblates at St. Vincent Archabbey:

The Rule of St. Benedict is written for a community of wounded persons. At the end of a series of precepts for dealing with wounded brothers, the abbot is enjoined to ‘realize that he has undertaken care of the sick, not tyranny of the healthy.’ Therefore, ‘he is to imitate the example of The Good Shepherd.’

In my replies to “Anonymous” I did not follow this precept as I should have. In explaining that the physics of the “raisin loaf analogy” for the expanding universe was correct, I made a comment that this explanation followed from first year physics. That was snarky, meant (albeit subconsciously) to belittle “Anonymous” and should not have been made. And, as the first quote says “we are to refrain from evil words.”

2. I interpret the second quotation “on the fourth degree of humility” as telling us to listen to criticisms even though they seem to be not justified or based on false premises. We should learn from them, and if they seem unintelligible, ask the person making that criticism to explain what premises or line of reasoning he/she is following.

3. We should reflect carefully on criticisms, even when they’re worded in a belligerent or belittling way, to determine whether there’s substance to them and, if so, how we can use that criticism to make our points more clearly and correctly.

4. One of the comments made by St. Benedict in the chapter on obedience has to do with accepting orders, just or unjust, without grumbling. And that means both external and internal grumbling. This can be translated to accepting justified criticism without grumbling, either external or internal.

5. Finally, the last of the quotations above, “that he speak gently …with few and sensible words” applies to comments and rebuttals. There’s an implication here that what we say should be instructive, not just empty chatter. I’m not sure about the injunction to abstain from laughter–perhaps St. Benedict meant laughing at someone, rather than with, and I am very often tempted to use humor to defuse anger (not always successfully, as pointed out above).

The rules above are just a few general ones that can be drawn from The Rule. There may well be others, and if the reader can supply others, I’d be most grateful. Also, I must confess that I have just begun to follow these rules, even though I’ve been a Benedictine Oblate for more than 10 years. It takes conscious effort; it’s very tempting to react in kind when someone is particularly nasty. But following these rules and The Rule is an aid, a prosthesis, to help us live as a Christian.

REFERENCES

The Rule of St. Benedict
OSB: About the Rule of St. Benedict
Oblates of St. Benedict
Downtown Monks