Sunday, March 17, 2013

Homo Americanus vs. Homo Affodilus

The American Man, homo americanus, used to be characterized by risk-taking behavior. He was a man who wanted better for himself and his progeny and he understood that he was capable of obtaining it. He knew that hard work and dilligence might pay off and even it if didn't, he knew that he was entitled to the fruit of his labors and entitled to the fruits of the fruits of his labors. He knew that he might be able to make his own life better. Failing that, he might be able to leave his children the means to have a slightly better life than he did. Certainly, with the cooperation of his children united in a common goal, his grandchildren would find themselves better still.

Homo americanus was an immigrant, or the child of immigrants, even if his direct ancestors had been here since the nation's founding. He did not lose his immigrant's fervor or flavor in terms of how he might act. He was willing to gain a new tongue and to put that above his desire to hold onto his mother one. This willingness often meant children who couldn't communicate with relatives who were only one or two generations removed from them. In some cases it meant a language lost in a single generation. The Homo americanus subverted his festivals, his tastes, and his manner of dress to the watered down version he found here. Barring that, he slowly convinced his neighbors to join him in those practices, after a fashion. It wasn't about loss as much as it was about gain. It wasn't about selling out, so much as buying in. Even if it was undertaken with regret, it was a salutary experience and one that showed results in short order.

Homo americanus knew he could escape a caste or the fixed class of people he had come from, even if his family had been trapped in that status for centuries. Yes, there has always been a psuedo aristocracy in this country, attempting to assert itself. It has never been successful. Some parts of the country might have drawn some distinction from having folks on the Mayflower. Others, sought to make their aristocracy artificially by the purchase of slaves. Still others, considered the idea of "old money," over new wealth. I would argue that the advent of the television saw the creation of the Celebrity as the latest claimant to special citizenship. But it is safe to say that for homo americanus the notion of aristocracy has been held to be contemptible one at best, and also a humorous one, at least.

Homo americanus was patriotic. He loved his nation fiercely enough to fight for it, or failing that, to be a fierce pacifist in defense of it -- driving a battlefield ambulance, for example. He has always been reluctant to go to war, by in large, but once summoned went and went motivated by gratitude. He had a form of isolationism from world events which was largely dismissed as the trouble over there, and however much he would like to see that rectified, was more often trepidatious about seeing his new neighbors have to do anything about it. He was the man that had to be whipped into frenzy to act militarily, and it was normative to have tried everything else first.

Homo americanus was concerned with big ideas and first things. He was motivated by a hunger for justice and once having tasted "fairness" never forgot its flavor and never failed to pass it on to his children. More importantly, he had come from the old world and so he still knew what that word meant. It didn't mean that all men ended up the same way, or that all men always had every chance that every other man did. It merely meant that in his own eyes, and in the eyes of his neighbors he shouldn't be restricted unnecessarily from taking his shot -- IF it presented itself. It also meant that if he took his shot and failed, he would always and forever be free enough to take his shot again.

Homo americanus wasn't perfect. He was collectively imperious and a bit arrogant. He hurt others, at times, it is true. He was also the sort of fellow that believed himself to be the king of his own castle. He was the assurance of his own safety. He was the keeper of his own peace. He was the sort of fellow who was free to speak his mind, worship his God, find his own happiness, shun or salute his fellows, and to laud or denigrate the scoundrels that he himself elected. On some level, even if nothing else, he felt his neighbor had the right to the same thing. His track record wasn't perfect, but he was continually redrawing the circle around those whom he might consider included in the word, "neighbor" even going to war, killing his own brother, and laying down his life, if necessary to do so.

I fear we are farther and farther from homo americanus today. I fear that we are seeing the rise of a new breed of man, I will call homo affodilus -- the daffodil man. He is largely concerned with ornamentation, not merely in his own life, as if adorning himself with beauty, but as a marker for his life itself. He is concerned with the superficial in ALL things.

Homo affodilus is greatly concerned with exercise, not because it is something that makes him more capable, or stronger or hardier, or more able to survive or to do work; but because it looks nicer and makes himself more attractive in his own eyes. He likes his arms in a certain shirt or his buttocks in certain jeans.

Homo affodilus could care less about the results of his labor, and is rather content with keeping whatever fruits the State decides to parcel out to him from it -- just so long as he is still able to afford the temporary delights he is also accustomed to having.

Homo affodilus is willing to practice theft from public property for personal use and profit, primarily because he sees the inefficiency in public ownership and believes on some level that he is owed more than he has been able to thus far collect.

Homo affodilus still practices international isolation, but not as a reluctance to intrude in the rights and responsibilities of others, but only as a reluctance to mar his own visage or to depreciate his estimation in the eyes of the rest of the world.

Homo affodilus is passive and obedient in the face of authoritarianism and even naked aggression because he believes that the security he is afforded is well worth the sacrifices that (chiefly) others must endure.

Homo affodilus is not only risk-averse, but avoids responsibility for himself and even for his neighbor, while arguing most vocally that he is chiefly concerned with his neighbor -- so much so that he is willing to trust that neighbors welfare to anonymous others without any real oversight.

Homo affodilus is an addict either to the numbing power of television, personal aggrandizement, narcissitic entitlement, or the illusion of his own power.

Thursday, March 14, 2013

This is how you get a good invitation to my funeral gala!

Two women. Neither are my friends because such a thing isn't possible -- men and women and friends, I mean. Don't argue with me. I've deliberated this idea at length and won't rehash it, plus the science is on my side.

Nevertheless, I happen to be socially acquainted with two different women and have made this record of their reactions to the same set of stimulus. This post is a prime example of how to get to sit in the good seats at my eventual funeral, and perhaps even be memorialized in the epic that will bear my name. To contrast this excellent exchange, you may go here to see how to get a seat in the grumpy section of the same event. Maybe even be relegated to a footnote in the poem of my life as something as mundane as, "and many other women."

Notice how she feels no need to denigrate my man-headache nor my entire gender?

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Annuntio vobis gaudium magnum... habemus papam!

I announce to you a great joy... we have a pope!

The next several days will see miles upon miles of text written about every facet of Pope Francis' life and his papacy. Most of it will be speculative and most of it will be woefully under- if not un- informed. That's okay. It all shakes out in the end. In some sense, the Pope is a gift to the world, but he primarily the shepherd of our Church. Its a Catholic thing for Catholic people. So, at the end of the day I don't give two hoots what anyone else (and most especially the media) thinks.

When the non-Catholics and Catholic dissidents stop hoping for the church to reverse itself on the irreversible, when they stop calling for things that can't ever happen, when his bulls and his letters begin to come forth on a variety of subjects, then we will have the mark of the man that God has called out from among us, and seated in this Apostolic seat of Peter. In the mean time, I shall dedicate a portion of my days to do exactly what he asked us to do... pray for him.


Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Sede Vacante

The chair is still empty.

I'm not anxious yet, but like a billion or so other Catholics, I am waiting to hear who our new shepherd will be. Like maybe only a few million of us, I am hoping for a man in the mold of John Paul II with the academic credentials of Benedict XVI, but I will settle for a firebrand. I haven't entered the speculative phase my brothers and sisters in Christ often seem to. I don't know any of these Catholic luminaries and I rather suppose that any man who will be pope, ought also to be the sort of man who might not want the job in the first place.

By firebrand, I mean a man who will ultimately oversee a much smaller church because his stridency or militancy in thought, word and deed. I say smaller, because I think that is the inevitable result of a church which seeks truth over inclusion. In what may be seen as a paradox, I most certainly would like to see the church invest itself in evangelism in a much greater degree, but I would also like to see it continue its inwardly directed catechesis, as well. Those are both areas that the laity has finally emerged to do its part.

Let us continue reaching our friends, neighbors and country(wo)men, and let the clerics among us see to the sacraments and to the pulpit. Let us be faithful to present the most powerful witness of love. Let them be faithful to the Holy Spirit, the Holy Scriptures, Sacred Tradition, Holy Mother Church, the Catechism and their own well-informed consciences as to the sorts of things they ought to be doing personally, and the things they ought to be saying to their flocks. Most of all, let it begin with the little father in Rome.

Which isn't to say that we haven't seen that in John Paul or Benedict, as I believe both men had a great commitment to personal holiness. I just would like to see more of it. In the last five years, I have seen a good deal of it from the pulpit, too. I just would like to see more of it.

I was just relating to my cousin the other day the mass I attended on Ash Wednesday. Before the imposition, father was imploring his flock to return to the confessional. He was talking about all of the things that people do to mortify themselves during lent and all the questions he gets about what practices are appropriate and necessary, and said, very frankly I thought, that none of it mattered if they weren't availing themselves of the reconciliation that Christ offers. When is the last time, he bemoaned, that you darkened the door of your confessional? When is the last time you came to him with your sins?

I think he is right. I don't see lines at the confessional at my church either. Father only hears them for an hour a week. Now my congregation has undergone a serious downsizing but we still have plenty of people for a single pastor to minister to. There have been many times in the last twelve months that I have been the only person at confession on a particular Saturday. That may mean that everyone else is going on the Saturdays I don't, and it may mean that my concupisence has a much greater hold on me than it does anyone else. I allow that both might be true. I rather suspect, however, that it really means that many of my brothers and sisters are compounding their sins by celebrating communion without discerning the body of Christ and are eating and drinking judgement upon themselves.

That is why we need a firebrand in Rome, and firebrands in the episcopacy, and a firebrand or two in the pulpits. In my humble opinion, too often they are guilty of playing good cop/good cop instead of bad cop in the pulpit and good cop in the confessional. Hammer us from the pulpit. Denounce our sins (don't worry, we will always return the favor) and then wait with the mercy of Christ when repentence has come.

That's my take, anyway. But, what do I know? No one asked me to be pope. One thing I do know... the chair is still empty. Sede vacante.

Friday, March 8, 2013

Rand Paul the Freebooter

A freebooter is a pillager, pirate, brigand, or robber. He operates according to his own interests and he hijacks the ordinary system of commerce in order to turn it to his own ends. These are not normally qualities that are lauded here on Partisans, but they are today.

The spanish word for a freebooter, pillager, pirate, brigand or robber is fillibustero, from which we get the word filibuster, and to which we apply a more civilized connotation. Fillibustero Rand Paul hijacked the ordinary system of commerce in the Senate, the old fashioned way, by employing a time-honored tactic of talking a matter to death in order to end a days work for his colleagues.

It wasn't so much that he prevented the vote on President Obama's nomination of John Brennan for CIA director, it was the subject matter he chose to speak about. The question is an important one Constitutionally, and at the very least he has got ordinary people talking about whatever the hell he was talking about. The question he wanted resolved and the reason he held up the Senate's ordinary business was the matter of the US military operating on US soil in contravention of the posse comitatus act.

Some of us have been railing about the use of drone strikes overseas for some time and the President has repeatedly asserted, with the backing of Congress and only slight oversight by the courts, that he has the right to target anyone he likes outside of the US as the commander in chief of a country at war. Now on at least part of that he has my support. The use of drones against active enemy combatants is a no brainer. Using them against innactive combatants and those who provide material support for combatants is still a legitimate function of war and one we have mulled over for a long time. Yes, it is ugly, but no more so than a cruise missle and quite possibly the only way to conduct asymmetrical warfare against a dedicated enemy like AQ.

We start to enter gray areas when we talk about targeting individuals who offer non-material support for AQ, especially when we are talking about cheerleaders for terrorism or Islamism. Propogandists and people who operate as de facto fund-raisers, morale officers and etc are part of a continuum of those against whom violence may be necessary in the defense of human lives. This is the sloppy part about being commander in chief that also has my conditional support -- to the same extent that I offered it to former President Bush. I am glad I don't have to call those shots and to the extent that he can articulate the need, I will hold up his arms.

I thought I was going to have to do far less of that under President Obama than under President Bush. I mean, here was a guy who was so articulate and so passionate about American ideals and the rule of law and talking to people so forthrightly about "who we are," in terms of what he called "torture" and the conduct of our military. He was talking about implied Constitutional protections for non-citizens, and yes, I thought him spectacularly virginal when it came to those issues. Yes, I expected to hear him reverse himself as soon as he started receiving intelligence information and bearing the weight of American lives on his soul, but I still felt refreshed after a fashion -- holding Moses' arms up can get tiring.

Then, instead of just reversing himself he began an aggressive program of asserting his executive authority to undertake a drone program without oversight, and even won the backing of the court to say he doesn't have to have oversight, more than the oversight he himself deems that he needs. And then, he targeted not one, but 2 US citizens in the drone program. That is, he assassinated two US citizens for their involvement, physical, material or ideological, with AQ. No warrant. No courts. No burden of proof.

He fought for and won some provisions of the NDAA which allows him to suspend habeas corpus for indefinite detention, not in Guantanamo Bay, but in places like New York and Detroit and Albuquerqe. Like all of his newfound executive powers he has argued most strongly that he hasn't had to use these new powers and doesn't foresee a time when he will have to use them, but if he does use them it will be with the permission of his conscience. This argument mollifies me not one bit. Not least because his conscience seems on so many issues to be informed differently than my own, but mostly because we give power to institutions in this Republic, and not to men.

Which means that even if, as I have said before, that Barack Obama were the most noble, most virtuous man to ever enter the office, giving him the power he has only means that we have assured that only lesser men will wield it. So now here is Rand Paul making the same point. He is standing up and obstructing the ordinary business of the Senate for his own ends -- which happen to coincide nicely with the US Constitution. He is asking the President to rescind his earlier assertion made through a memo to Mr. Paul from Attorney General Holder that, yes, there may come a time when the drone program as he uses it overseas may have to be utilized in the United States outside of any immediate threat a la' 9/11. And that, simply put, is unacceptable in a free society. The US is not free to treat its own citizens the way we treat the citizens of other nations.

If that sounds hypocritical to your ears its because you don't recognize the form of our government. We are the sovereigns here. Our army can no sooner strip us of our right to live than the lower Najirastan army can do so to their King, not lightly and not without overcoming serious impediment and not without leading a coup against the very form of government itself.

So what of it, Mr. Obama? Do you really have as much authority as all that? Can't you simply make your latest "fiat" more in line with our Constitution? Can't you find it within yourself to simply say, as quickly and forthrightly as you used to say things, "No, the drone program will not be used on US soil!"  Can't you? It isn't that hard.

So Partisans offers kudos to Mr. Paul for showing us the sausage getting made. Kudos for emulating Cato so wonderfully. Kudos for being a statesman at a time when we have so few of those remaining.

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Lazy Blogger

Boy oh boy, I have been a lazy blogger. So, I will bring this up to date. Not by mentioning the mandatory sequester of increased federal funding, not by discussing world affairs, and certainly not by detailing the current national attempts of immoral special interests to curtail the rights of free men.

No, I mean to do it by talking about myself.

Yesterday, I was given a little pill of I-123 iodine which is mostly harmless. It is supposed to bond itself to the cells that carry my cancer and emit a low grade sparkle that would become visible when I was placed in a tube-with-a-computer-attached to record, collate and magnify the results. The Computerized Tube Guy (that IS his technical title) told me that they found exactly what they expected there would be -- which is that after the surgeon took out my thyroid, and cast it far from me, there were still very tiny pieces of thyroid left behind.

It is those very tiny pieces that must be destroyed, for they offend me and I will not suffer open rebellion in my body -- not in any quantity. Hear that and tremble, oh heart of mine!

So I drank the mixture of I-131 and water. While I-131 is another sort of Radioactive Iodine, it is the sort which is not mostly harmless. Its like the evil twin of I-123.

The job of I-131 is to get picked up in my remaining thyroid pieces so that they are destroyed utterly and with no take backs. I will then evacuate the I-131 into the nearest toilet and drain over a period of five to six days. Because this I-131 has a goatee and thinner eyebrows, it will try to kill anything it finds in there. Good luck, I say, because my dog regularly examines my toilet and if there were a thyroid in there it would have been eaten already.

Which brings me to another point.

Quarentine -- I am a hermit for the five or six days because the I-131 would try to destroy anyone who also eats out of my toilet, or touches my perspiration, or saliva. I am also not supposed to have more than a few minutes exposure to other people within a radius of six feet. So son and grandson have gone to live elsewhere. Only dog remains because she is brave and loyal.

See, I got my dog when I washed up on shore and was challenged to a knife fight by a crew of brigands. It was me or the dog and only one of us was allowed to live. I won the knife fight, but I could not bring myself to kill her and challenged the captain of the brigands to keep us both. In gratitude, my dog has been with me until this day, swearing an oath saying, "I am your bitch, for life." We have had many adventures, but even after I have released her from her oath many times, she always returns.

She also remains because she can be locked into a seperate room to do what she does naturally for 23 hours of every day (sleep, lick herself to sleep, or stretch and yawn before going back to sleep). And while she prefers to drink out of my toilet every day, the SPCA consultant has determined that she can suffer the hardship of drinking fresh water from a stainless steel bowl crafted for that purpose.

Two things that the two Radioactive Iodines have in common is that they both love thyroids and they both make my cancer as sparkly as a modern teen age girl's vampire in the sunlight -- to the Computerized Tube Guy mentioned in paragraph three, anyway. That means that I will have another scan in a week, and that will give us all an idea of whether the evil Iodine did its job.

I do know what everyone reading is waiting for me to answer.

I asked every qualified person I could find -- 4 doctors, each the same thing. I finally wised up and asked the guy who gave me the I-131 cocktail, produced from a lead sleeve. They were all unanimous. I asked if there was any chance of me becoming a super hero after the treatment. Their so-called medical and scientific opinion, was an emphatic denial. I am not so sure. I am no doctor, but I have read an awful lot of comic books in my day. So, I am pretty sure that I will be a superhero.

The only question that can remain is, What my powers will be? Suggestions?

Monday, March 4, 2013


This video is not only a catchy tune, but a timely one, as well.  I haven't been posting much, though as you might imagine its not because there isn't anything to talk about, but just too damn much.

As for me, I picked up a touch of cancer. I will be having a radiation treatment this week, blood test permitting. It should be one and done. The cancer is almost insignificant as my prognosis is very, very good.

Enjoy the song.

Monday, February 25, 2013

100 Days of Laughter (pain)

Today I challenged a small group of people to participate in something I am calling 100 Days of Laughter (pain). The response has been overwhelming. Not only didn't a single person I ask, refuse to participate, but some did rather enthusiastically, and some others recruited still more.

More to Follow in the coming days.

Added later...

Basically, this day is Day 1.  On this day we all did 1 push up, 1 jumping jack, and 1 sit-up -- Exercises that one beautiful woman is calling her pjs. Which I just love, because it makes it seem like a pair of soft comfortable things that you put on before bed.

Every day for the next 100 Days all of us so challenged will add one additional repetition to the pjs, subject to the rules following:
  • No advance payments can be made.
  • Exercises can be done in any sets, spread across the whole day.
  • All debts must be paid by 11:59p on Day 100.
 That's it. That's the challenge. Want to join?

Friday, February 1, 2013

Remember This?

I didn't have a TV growing up. My Dad was unmoved by our pleas. So with no TV and no daily exposure to commercials, I still somehow managed to remember this theme song through limited exposure at my friends' houses. Much to my co-workers' chagrin, I remember it well enough to sing it at work from time to time.

After catching myself singing a song from nearly forty years ago, I went looking on Youtubes and found it.

Oh, what memories this dredges up of wants unrealized. Oh, how I wanted a Snoopy Sno Cone machine. Look at those kids. Go on, look at 'em. Have you ever seen any children having as much fun as this doing anything, ever?

Thursday, January 31, 2013

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

John Kerry has seen the Light*

Now that Senator John Kerry is taking his hiatus from elective politics, he has no problem standing up and giving a farewell speech that decries the role of money in politics. This tear-jerker of a speech doesn't address any of the outstanding questions I still have about Mr. Kerry and his financial dealings from his time in the Senate.
What strange whim got Mr. Kerry to buy Citigroup and Bank of America stock before the public learned that those companies were going to receive TARP funds and other loan guarentees?

What sixth sense told him to buy shares in pharmaceutical companies before the public learned that such companies were going to be a major beneficiary of health care reform? And a related query, how did he know to sell off shares in insurance providers -- the major losers?

A question more closely related to his speech, however, is Where was his outrage when he invested millions of his own dollars in companies that give him campaign donations? Oh and one more, Why did he help steer public dollars to some of his campaign donors?
Well, we can be grateful at least that he has finally seen the Light* -- just in time not to have to worry about another election.

I have asterisked the word "light" because the speech Mr. Kerry gives, sure makes it seem as if he is saying that politicians have no choice other than to to make choices to behave unethically, in order to participate in politics. In this, they imagine that their ethical dilemmas are some how more profound than the man who digs a ditch for a living, or bakes a loaf and bread, and in this they deceive themselves (and often the viewing world along with them) most unjustly. A politician should get elected to serve a single term of office and not to create a career of pursuing office. If he acted ethically with regard to that pursuit, he would wear his best and truest self, vote his conscience and nothing else and be prepared to return to the private sector, perhaps permanently, after his single term of office was over.

Now, I am not just picking on John Kerry or democrats, he is merely the most recent example of the hypocrisy of politicians. The other day I mentioned the ability and willingness of others to tell a lie with Costanza-like devotion to untruth ("Remember, Elaine, its not a lie if you really believe it."). That is half of what it takes to be a Senator, Congressman or President these days. The other half is the ability to delude yourself that your unethical behavior is forced upon you by circumstances.

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Recovering Nicely, Thank you.

The Great Flu of 2013 will be long remembered by me as the one that kicked my ass. I was down for about four days of fever, headache, sore throat and coughing that wracked my entire body. At one point I coughed so hard that I felt a muscle tweak in my back and couldn't lay comfortably for some time. I use "some time" because I was cycling in and out of fever and had no real mark for the passage of time.

My son and grandson have been suffering mildly during this time. They, of course, received the flu shot and I did not -- pooh poohing as I am wont to do, the very idea that a flu could do more than give me momentary pause.

Well, no longer. I am a flu shot candidate from here on out. Faithful, they'll call me. Regular even. Hell, give me two, I don't want to go through that again.