‘The Patriarch,’ – A Review by Christopher Buckley

I may have my political disagreements with Mr. Buckley, but it is a real pleasure to read whatever he sets down on paper.  He give The Patriarch by David Nasaw a very good review, but just reading the review is entertaining in itself.  

I used to read the Review of Books because it was entertaining and informative.  I don't find it so much anymore, and I don't know whether I have changed or the Review has changed.  In any event, I'm sure there's something subliminal in the turn of my affections: I really can't stand the NYT, so I find less enjoyment in its pages.  A front page review by Chris Buckley does go a long way to redeem this week's edition, though.  As an added fillip, The Patriarch is about Joseph P. Kennedy, and you really need a Buckley to review a work about anything Kennedy if you want your publication to avoid insulin-dependent hagiographosis.  A choice bit:

On the positive side of the ledger, he was an utterly devoted father. He adored his children and, when he was there — which wasn’t often — was a touchy-feely, hands-on daddy. When he wasn’t there, he regularly wrote them all copious letters. He superintended every aspect of their lives. And in his own highly idiosyncratic way, he was a devoted husband to his wife, Rose, a priggish, pious, humorless and deeply boring woman, while conducting conspicuous affairs with Gloria Swanson, Clare Boothe Luce and “hundreds” of other women.

And don't we want to know what constitutes "idiosyncratic"!  Apparently, you won't come away from this book (and certainly not this review) rethinking all you ever thought you knew about Joe Kennedy, and you may even be surprised at all the stuff you didn't know that makes you despise him even more.  But, let the revisionism begin: apparently he wasn't a bootlegger.  

More Transitions

[I wrote this last February, when my mother had her stroke.  She passed away last August without regaining much of her former ability.  I continued to visit her almost daily but she stopped recognizing me in June after I took a short trip out of town.  Nevertheless, about two weeks before she died, she gave me one last wave good-bye.  I have left this unfinished: I can't remember how I was going to end that sentence.]

It is a fact of life and one of the great and unexpected pleasures of my middle age that I am able to take care of my mother.  I don't physically care for her, but I'm the sibling on call, with help from a brother who lives in the same town.  In the years since we moved her to Austin, the contours of the relationships between the three of us have shifted as the resposibility for her in her decline has moved my brother and me to work more closely together, to adapt to her needs, to take over more and more of the decision-making.  It has been, as I said, an unexpected pleasure all in all.  Early on, it was tedious and  burdensome: she was contentious and her needs surprised us as we sort of groped around for solutions to problems involving level of care, hygiene, mobility, etc.  There were times, I'm sorry to say, that I was terribly ungracious and ungenerous in my thoughts, if not in my actions.

For some time now, she's been stable in her needs.  She hasn't been able to walk or lift herself, so falling isn't a problem any more.  The cognitive decline has been gradual, but about a year and a half ago I noticed a "step down" that had a sad impact on our interaction.  Nevertheless, she always welcomed me, could feed herself, and always waved good-bye when I left.  In a brilliant stroke, I cancelled our cable subscription to give me added incentive to visit her: if I was going to watch my beloved "Special Report", I had to watch it with Mom.  It was a family tradition: one of the great boons to my father's life was, at the last, he was able to watch the evening news (which he did every evening, without fail) on Roger Ailes' network.  

As one would expect, however, things will change.  About two weeks ago my mother had one of her "spells".  I guess the technical term is transient ischemic attack, but "spell" is also good.  She has had these about two times a year for some time, and she has always recovered to about 95% of capacity in a day or two, after a period of weakness.  Not this time, however.  She now can no longer feed herself, and her apetite (always robust) is now minimal.  

So, she's in hospice care.  We are proceding on the off-chance that some underlying infection may be impeding her recovery, so she's on some antibiotics.  We fervently hope that this is the case, but at 86, it is expected that one of these spells was going to have more permanent consequences, and now she's having difficulty swallowing, and fades in and out of responsiveness.

It's funny: a couple of weeks ago, I was agonizing over how I would make this Lent a fruitful one.  God, in his mercy, has given me my task.  As the old feelings of being burdened by my mother's situation recede into memory, new feelings of deep compassion and pity have taken their place.  I ask God for a share in the generosity of spirit and kindness that I see in the people who care for the aged (fortunately, I've only seen kindness and generosity– I understand there is a dark side, but I and my mother remain blessedly ignorant of it).  And, as a sort of spiritual prophylaxis, I plead for 


There's Something about Susan

Well, there are a few things about Susan Rice, and Dear Leader's [paternalistic] gallantry notwithstanding, she's in for a rough ride if she wants to be SecState.  Dana Millbank sees trouble ahead.  Apart from her penchant for resorting to sign language, she's none to popular with our enemies, which normally would be a recommendation.  In the world of "Reset!" and smart power, her diplomatic style is found wanting.  Money quote:

Rice’s pugilism provoked the Russians to weigh in this week in opposition to her nomination as secretary of state. The Russian business daily Kommersant quoted an anonymous Russian foreign ministry official as saying that Rice, who quarreled with Russia over Syria, is “too ambitious and aggressive,” and her appointment would make it “more difficult for Moscow to work with Washington.”

Millbank also notes that Rice's list of enemies includes John McCain, John Kerry, and Hillary Clinton.  Finally, Obama has stumbled on a way to transcend partisan and even national differences.  

The Mystery of Formula 1

I don't get it, but we have here in Austin beaucoup de people coming to watch a bunch of low-slung cars go round and round.  These people may even spend a bunch of money locally, which I think is the point.  

A word about the new blog…

My platform, Squarespace, has completely revamped itself and has given all of its users a chance to switch to the new platform.  After initially fiddling with it in July, I decided that at my age (ancient) I wasn't up to another extensive learning curve rollercoaster like I had when I first started blogging after the Great Tsunami of 2005. But now I realize that, in the words of an Episcopal priestess who once homilized me, it's the Age of Obama and I've just got to move with the times.  Also, I'm learning Greek, so I just say to the whole web-platform-domain-cname-pointing-migrating-embedding-schizznickle, "If I can decline everything four ways, I can pack my hope and make a change YES I CAN."

Also, while I was cleaning out the closet over at Quid, I found a number of draft posts that I had never published, I think because for a time the folks at Squarespace decided that "Draft" not "Publish" would be the default setting (yeah, I didn't notice.  I'm always in admin, not in "view mode", and it was hard to tell on the old platform which posts were unpublished.)

I hope you enjoy.  Your thoughts, comments, likes, feeble objections are welcome, as always.

I [heart] Benedict

And I heart my philosophy professor for helping me understand this speech.  5 years ago, I read it and knew I had to understand it but didn't.  The year I started my conversion to Catholicism I re-read it and only understood it slightly better.  Now I understand it, I would say more or less completely (OK, maybe 87%.  Kant is still a problem) and I understand why I couldn't get it without several philosophy courses under my belt.  

Billed as one of the most important speeches of the last 100 years, the Regensberg speech by Pope Benedict XVI is a tour de force that wraps the whole Western Civ-Reason-God thing up in a bow. It's really important.  Here's a very nice intro from Samuel Gregg of the Acton Institute (via NRO).

The Brouhaha over the Vatican's Statement On World Financial Systems

Do you have a sibling or an uncle whose opinions and view of the world are very different from everyone else in the family?  In my own family of five siblings, four are conservative and then there's the one, true aging-hippie-boomer that he is, who likes to think of himself as an "independent."  Loveable and aggravating, sometime has a point, often witty, always eccentric and a bit too fixated on the JFK assassination.

Well, the Vatican is like my family, or anyone's family.  There are a lot of parts to it (often called Pontifical Councils of Such-and-Such) And some of those parts are more orthodox and some are less so.  That's because tenure in certain positions tends to be long, for continuity, and the culture of the Catholic Church favors continuity and slow change. The Pontifical Council of Peace and Justice, as you have guessed, is a product of the '60's mentality that has done so much to the Church.  This article gives a good backgrounder to its activities and pronouncements over the years (you'll have to white knuckle it through the litany of idiocy).  But folks see this and say, "Oh, the Pope says thus!"  No: he doesn't.  And even when a Pontifical Council says it, it isn't a dogmatic teaching, something that all faithfull Catholics must believe to be good Catholics.

Most people (and many Catholics), believe the Vatican is "run by the Pope" who is (we believe) infallible.  I recently had the pleasure of being asked to explain this.  I was very wordy, but I finally got around to the point that is hard for most, including Catholics, to understand: the Pope doesn't wake up one day and say, "I decided today that we should all believe in this." No: when the Pope speaks about a particular belief or dogma, it's for the purpose of defending that belief against challenges.  So, the encyclical Humanae Vitae was written by His Holiness Paul VI in response to the recommendation of the council of Bishops that the Church allow faithful Catholics to practice birth control.  The Pope is a bishop, but he is the Vicar of Rome, Peter's successor, and as such, is the final authority.  When all of the other bishops say one thing, but the Pope says no (and it is always the case that this negative is an affirmation of traditional doctrine and teaching), then the Pope's no is the final word.

And that word, infallible: nearly everyone thinks that that means we Catholics are supposed to think that the Pope is always right just because he's the Pope.  Infallibility doesn't work that way.  We understand the Pope to be the final arbiter of faith and morals, and we are bound to understand as a matter of faith that what he says about faith and morals is correct. He is our authority on those matters.  On other things, he is not. His Holiness is a huge soccer fan, but his opinions and teachings on soccer are not binding on Catholics.

Today I find that someone else has explained this very succinctly, citing a personal fave, Bl. John Henry Newman, 

...argued that the highest teaching office of the Church, cathedrated in Rome, is by paradox negative in the most positive sense.  The Pope does not invent truths: he defines them against challenges.  This is the essence of conservatism, not in a political sense, but in a pastoral ecology.  To preserve the Gospel from artificial pollution makes the papacy the “greenest” institution in civilization.

What I do in my spare time...

These days I've been getting up at about 6 a.m. to do an hour of Hebrew translation for independent study credit.  Did I mention I'm in a master's degree program in Biblical Theology?  Yes? Sorry: one of the pleasures of middle age is a crappy memory for names, stuff you've told and whom you've told it to, and something else, which I've forgotten.

So I'm working my way through this workbook, which is the Biblical equivalent of some albums my parents had when I was a kid which had tracks of the really well known passages of classical music.  Not the whole piece, just two or three minutes of the singable bits.  Which, when you think about it, kinda sums up the opera Carmen (when my husband saw Carmen for the first time, he kept turning to me and whispering, "Wait- I thought this was from Looney Tunes...")

Back on topic.  So there are twenty-odd passages of varying length with verb parsing charts that I'm supposed to fill out and lengthy grammar comments that are very helpful for navigating the tricky bits.  Did I say "very helpful"?  I meant indispensible.  I'd love to say that they are a "crutch" but in my case, they are a ventilator and feeding tube for this effort.  Think about it this way: let's say,  in the year 4050, English is basically a dead language but there are some hardy souls who want to read stuff in the original, so they set out to learn "Ancient English."  They have Beowulf, Chaucer, and Shakespeare to read and translate.  It's kinda tricky.  Weirdly, in Ancient Hebrew, it's the opposite range of difficulty, in my opinion, because the Pentateuch is easier than the Prophets and the Psalms, but maybe our future people will find Beowulf easier than Shakespeare because of the limited vocabulary and range of genre, too.  Let's just say that when I look at what I've translated, I don't get any feeling that I'm actually getting good at this.  And when my husband asks if this will help with our hypothetical trip to Israel, I say, "Sure.  I'll be able to pronounce all the street signs without knowing what they say and if the restaurants serve manna and water, we'll have it made.  Oh, and goat: I think I can order goat."

In spite of it all, I'm really enjoying this.

Stuff My Son Says, 3

"Last night we [friends on an internet forum, some of whom he actually knows in the traditional sense] watched old Magnum, P.I. episodes."  

"Last night we only conversed in Hank Hill's voice."

"Last night FistofAllah** said that Obama was worse than Reagan."

** Username of a forum member who is in real life a union electrician who works on the Lakota reservation in North Dakota who entertains/infuriates the group by going on classic communist rants– the kind you just don't hear anymore since our education system has even dumbed down Marxist indoctrination– whom my son finds really funny, but who deeply discomfits the lefty members of the forum, who are the majority.

I'm afraid to go to sleep…

… Every time I go to sleep I have nightmares about army generals and bimbo eruptions.


On the bright side, everyone knows that marital infidelity has no impact whatsoever on job performance.  Cases in point: Benghazi and Afghanistan.  

And the FBI has certified that there was no breach of security at all, I mean everyone knows that the intelligence agencies over-classify stuff constantly so come on, folks, get a grip, stop being such a bunch of puritans: that bit about the Benghazi annex being a prison is stuff and nonsense and ignorant to boot.

Why did Petraeus stay and why did he leave?  If the affair didn't impact security, why tell the director of national security at all, rather than just after the election?  Here's a handy timeline that helpfully elides some inconvenient details.  Terribly helpful, the timing on this, from the Administration's point of view.  We note that Eric Holder was told "sometime in late summer" (that's 2 months ago) about the FBI investigation.  I'm sure he didn't communicate his desire that the investigation not be concluded before the election.

One Cabinet, Please, Shaken Not Stirred

You know, I was just thinking yesterday when Eric Holder wondered aloud whether he had enough solar panels wind turbines unicorn farts gas to keep going in his job, how will they ever replace him with someone so gloriously oblivious to the very reason for his job?  If he used the Constitution to wipe himself he'd be treating it better than he does on a daily basis professionally- at least he would then be putting it to use.  On Team Hacktastic, they will retire his number, I thought.  Eric Holder is to Corrupt Politics what Knute Rockne was to Notre Dame football, second only to the Goal Post Jesus, a.k.a, The One.  He is truly irreplaceable, having demonstrated an ability to think so far outside the box that we no longer think the Attorney General's job has anything to do with the Law (ew: I hate even writing that word now.  Dog germs.)  What will they do when he's gone?

And then, out of nowhere, in a cloud of dust and on a big white horse, came…


I feel safer knowing that Valerie Jarrett has been negotiating with the Iranians on our behalf.

Diplomacy is always best after during a nap: John Kerry for Secretary of State.

And Benghazi will be all solved because David Petraeus will find a congressional hearing to be a pleasant break from the home front.  He's in the mood to come clean and take responsibility.  I wonder if he copped to an affair that someone else had just for warm ups?

Obama's first trip: to Turkey! To wrap up all the shady arms deals to al-Qaeda in the Syrian Desert that were inconveniently interrupted by al-Qaeda in the Mahgreb.  I can just see it now: John Kerry testifying to the atrocities that Chris Stephens committed, in a manner reminiscent of Ghengis Khan. 


Get the Winch

I need to be upright to post.

I guess technically one can post from the horizontal. I don't but one cannot think correctly while immitating Sunny von Bulow.  "Barkeep, I'll have what she's having."

You wanted to know how I feel about the election.  There you have it.  

I'm keeping my "Ted Cruz for Senate" widget up as a reminder of one of the sole bright spots.

First, let me register a complaint about the Fox News coverage: whose [bad word-ing] bright idea was it to lock the lusciously geeky and traditional Michael Barone in the back tabulation room while the, uh, compromised Karl Rove rubbed elbows with the talent up front?  Bad call, guys.

Second, these are the two definitive articles about what we're looking at, if you buy the idea that Hispanics need to be courted (here, and here).  I do. I think the American way is the best way for everyone.  I think that poor people who come here want a chance but they need to learn to think differently and operate differently to flourish.  That's true for everyone: this isn't about the Democrats winning, it's about them having a vested interest in people staying poor.  Yeah, education and changing the culture takes time, but this lurching from one election to the next is ridiculous.  I'd much rather live among brown, black, and green people who have a similar worldview. This stuff doesn't sell itself, folks: we need to intrude on young people's lives, Univision, and BET.  Whatever it takes.

Third, please, let's all take a good hard look at the Tea Party and what it means.  It doesn't mean split your effing votes and end up with Todd Akin.  It doesn't mean Christine "I'm Completely Crazy But I'll Vote the Right Way Every Time" O'Donnell should get the nod.  You don't want crazy people from Delaware in Congress: they become Vice President.  If the "Tea Party" is going to do anything but snatch defeat from the jaws of victory, it had better start playing very smart and stop nixing candidates who are electable just because of an unrealistically high standard of purity.  This is a diverse country, folks: please let the Buckley Rule rule.

Call me silly, but I found Mitt Romney a more attractive and better candidate as he went along, but, according to my sources the Bain attack ads really, really hurt him.  It wasn't not mentioning Benghazi, it wasn't not mentioning Fast and Furious, it wasn't not talking about China, it wasn't anything beyond the immediate scope of the economic circumstances of places like Ohio.  You have one guy who tells you for 3 months straight on every TV spot imaginable that the other guy enjoys shoving people out into the cold with no counterarguments, then you blow in and say, "Look! 2,000 jobs at Jeep! And that other guy wanted GM to fail!"  And there you go- Oiho gone, gone, gone.

UPDATE: ORCA and other organization problems left the GOP seriously uncompetitive in the ground game.  ORCA is the fault of the Romney campaign, and gives a big fat lie to his vaunted managerial reputation.  But hey, if Obama's real expertise is running a campaign and that doesn't translate to running a country (except soil-ward), maybe Romney's truly shøtty, arrogant, echo-chamber campaign wouldn't have been a predictor of how he would run the country.

When everyone's finished parsing the numbers, we'll see that the emphasis on small biz was effective- on small biz.  The people who could be working in small businesses but aren't because SB's are being squeezed don't see it that way: they are unemployed and they depend on a safety net.  You could call it free stuff, but that doesn't get you any votes.  People making over $50k per year voted for Romney, but the people they could be hiring didn't.  Again, the Democrat Party has a vested interest in keeping people on the edge, economically speaking (please see Marriage and the Decline Thereof, for example.)

Also, and this is just my flea-bitten opinion, but the nipping at the heels stuff that the Breitbartless Breitbart-dot-com is doing doesn't change votes or attitudes, it just provides a nice little cocoon for the people who are already true believers.  They serve a purpose, but when I tuned in to Twitter late Tuesday, Dana Loesch's rah rah rah we keep fighting stuff was completely stupid.  She had shilled and shilled and shilled for Todd Akin after is [bad word-ing] stupid comments and it didn't make a dime's worth of difference except to keep him in the race.  And she villified John Cornyn to boot.  Sorry: she should have been somewhere when McCaskill was buying all those ads against Akin's qualified opponents, or maybe she should have used her influence to get one of the opponents to drop (hey, Dana: use a hidden camera to dig up some sealed divorce records:it's a proven method for getting rid of inconvenient candidates.) My mother, God rest her soul, vamped a guy who threatened to run against the decent candidate and thereby guaranteeing a Dem victory: she kept him busy at a bar until past the filing deadline.  Are we above even that?  I bet James O'Keefe would be more than happy to wander on the wild side for the cause. It's a win-win: call it pre-gaming the oppo tactics.

OK, rant over.  Go see Argo- most excellent movie.  Me, I'm a Bond Girl this weekend.  There is nothing like a good Bond movie to drive away the End of Civilization blues.  And WurstFest!  Bond 'n Brats, oh yeah.

That's Swell

Oh, great: I'm reduced to water-related punnery for my first post in who knows when.  Yesterday I got the notice from Squarespace that they were down, and I thought, I wonder if I can use that as an excuse for not blogging for, you know, weeks.


Let's knock this out: 

Ted Cruz/John Cornyn event today was conveniently located très close to moi, so I went and hugged my main man, and spoke cordially to Senator Cornyn (I almost wrote Corzine: my fingers would voluntarily secede from the handy union for that mistake!) about BenghaziBenghaziBenghaziBenghazi.  

Are any of you married to someone who wants to go to Indiana for his/her birthday?  I know at least one of my readers (Rachel!) is in Indiana, but really, even if you live there, do you want to go there for your birthday?  BTW, I've had a lovely jaunt into Indiana, around Goshen, so it is very nice but we're going for a day, from Texas. OK.  As long as we go on AA and I get my Gold Status, I'm fine with this.

Meg Ryan votes for Paul Ryan (no relation, we hope)Lena Dunham and Her First Time: I bet she hasn't been tossed from the polling place for screaming "YES!" while highlighting Paul Ryan's name.  Not that there's anything wrong with that.

Guilty Pleasure: getting pleading, pathetic emails from the Obama Campaign for more money.  Yes, let me stipulate that I am not sure we're going to win, I just have that happy feeling, and until I'm officially informed otherwise, I'm going to enjoy it.  I especially like the stuff from the Chief Operating Officer at Camp O, "I'm not going to sugarcoat this: the other side has $45 million more than we do right now!"  I love that.  And then there's Michelle, thanking me for all my hard work, but it's time to "dig a little deeper."  OK: I'm writing a check to Josh Mandel right now! 

Speaking of Michelle, I felt validated when I heard Laura Ingraham refer to one of her (MO's) fashion choices as "The Empire Waist Strikes Back".  I'm not a fan of the EW look, but one's choices are limited if one is very short-waisted and "shaped like a fine guitar" as my mother so delicately put it.  I feel as though I have to get my fashion comments in quickly as First Lady Fashion Fodder will soon leave us… what a pleasant thought.

Last Debate, Snooze Button Edition

I have to agree with the folks who thought this debate was rather less entertaining than the other two.  But and however, the resident skeptic/moderate who by the way was debate champeen in high school, gave it hands down to Governor Romney.  He thought Barry's attitude was in need of adjustment, let's say.  "Petty", "condescending", "adolescent", etc.  He also gave Romney points for actually having something resembling a foreign policy.

I suppose the strategy for this debate was to come across as a non-threatening, peace-through-strength moderate, and to look "presidential." Romney did that.  I was, as a conservative, not pleased with certain aspects of what he articulated.  For example, I think Pocky-ston is a failed state and incorrigiably corrupt and we should be looking at India for our strategic interestes in South Asia.  I think that Benghazi needed more of an airing out.  I think that somewhere in all of this, when we talk about foreign aid, Romney should have promised that he wouldn't sell arms to foreign drug cartels.  I'm personally rather tired of the "Afghans will be able to defend themselves" crap with no one having the political courage to state something obvious: the Afghans are showing exactly zero talent for taking care of their own business, and while they are not taking care of it, there are more and more "green on blue" killings.  Note to Bill Kristol: it isn't just independents who are war weary.

I was distracted for a minute and came back into focus when I hears Obama say, "…people want a better education for their children and more opportunities, that's why we've funded a conference to promote entrepreneurship" and I thought, wait a minute, isn't this the foreign policy debate?  And BO has never been interested in encouraging entrepreneurship here.  Of course: it turns out he was talking about Egypt.  Maybe he'll have better luck with their economy. And by the way: the Pew Report says that the U.S. is viewed less favorably now in the ME than it was four years ago.  More conferences- make that with a side of cowbell, please!

Best tweet of the night goes to Nathan Wurtzel, after BO goes on at length about how the sanctions are crippling Iran's economy: "So Obama has ruined two economies, Iran's and ours."

On that subject, where is the incessant bleating about sanctions hurting innocent people- what, the Left likes the ayatollahs less than Saddam?  Why doesn't everyone take a big huff of Uncle Joe's Fixodent and deny that Iran can do anything with their weaponized uranium.  So much easier.

Best comment from the resident moderate, when BO was talking about intervening in Libya so that they could overthrow, uh, uhhhh... (yeah, presidential brain fade) and hubby screams at the TV, "Qaddafi, you idiot!"

Last Debate Tomorrow!



In other news: Hey, what about those one-on-one talks with Iran?  This administration needs the organizational equivalent to this.  I'm calling it "Reset Flexibility Preview", or "Barry's No-good, Very Bad, Terrible Foreign Policy On Steroids with Added Flexibility Enhancers and Kaboom!® Finish."

In still other news, the Going Out of Business Sale:

I sent this to a "friend" (Aelf, you know who you are) and rec'd this reply:"Maybe they're eligible for TARP funds?"  BWAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!

Get your collectible loser gear NOW!  I'd actually get a Bobble Head if they had any, but I think they don't stock them because they're a bit undignified.  Oh, wait: this is the administration that has Joe Biden as Vice-President, one atrial defib away from the presidency.  Never mind.

Next post: Keeping up with the Benghazi Affair.