Saturday, December 25, 2021
Here’s a Christmas story for the quietly faithful. From the WSJ, December, 1998: Quiet, Please.
"An acre of woods or seashore is not necessary to meet God." So notes the Jesuit writer William Barry, pointing out that it was in the cosmopolitan tumult of 16th-century Paris, and not in some pastoral setting, that St. Ignatius of Loyola gave spiritual instruction to the men who helped him found the Society of Jesus.
But standing on the grounds of the Linwood Spiritual Center in Rhinebeck, N.Y., I can't help thinking that, for the average spiritually challenged person, a little solitary contact with nature might be a good thing. Located 90 miles north of New York City, the center sits on a promontory at one of the Hudson River's most majestic points. By day, the river sparkles with late autumn sunlight. At night the landscape is wrapped in absolute darkness.
Apparently mine isn't the only soul that finds such a setting propitious. Around the country, men and women who hope to feel "the present possibility of God," as the theologians put it, are seeking out places like Linwood, drawn as much by the relief from urban stress as by the regimens of silence that are often imposed. "Sanctuaries: A Guide to Lodgings in Monasteries, Abbeys and Retreats" lists more than 1,200 retreat centers in the U.S.
Although most religious traditions value contemplation, it is generally the Roman Catholic religious orders that run such retreats. Linwood -- once a home of Jacob Rupert Schalk, a brewery magnate -- became the property of the Sisters of Ursula in 1963. Founded in France in 1606, the Sisters of Ursula, like their Jesuit brethren, try to fuse contemplative withdrawal with worldly engagement.
The nuns at Linwood have not taken lifelong vows of silence, but they do follow the precepts of Ignatian Spirituality, which commend periods of silence as a means of achieving the mystical recognition that God is in all things. Some of the nuns function as "spiritual directors" to visitors. In the course of a year, more than a 1,000 retreaters from all walks of life come to stay at Linwood, many spending their vacation time there.
According to the Christian mystical tradition, silence is not just a pause between words but a medium that allows one to feel God "principally stirring and working," as the great Jesuit scholar William Johnston has written. There is a common misconception that silence is the means through which the contemplative achieves a oneness with God. In fact, the point of silence is to allow one to recognize that the oneness already exists, and that feelings of loneliness and despair are unfounded.
As I made my own plans for Linwood, I thought that -- at the simplest level -- four or five days in retreat would be a break from the stress of a turbulent period in my life. But I also hoped for the kind of transformative experience that would reassure me that there was in fact A Plan and that God had included me in it. Abstractly, I believed in God, but it had been a long time since I could say I had felt his Presence.
On the train I fretted over whether I'd find the experience of silence liberating or oppressive. I had read stories about people who had sought out the quiet of a monastic retreat only to flee, unnerved by the intensity of the introspection.
Once I settled into the routine, however -- hours of solitary walking, reading and exercising punctuated by basic meals and an hour a day in conference with my spiritual director -- silence seemed like the most natural thing in the world. Although there were plenty of people around, I found myself not really interested in conversation, except (once) to find out who won the D'Amato-Schumer Senate race. Hardly a hair shirt, the verbal deprivation and solitude seemed almost luxurious.
Sitting alone in the library one night, I seemed to sense the point "where something in the silence takes over and becomes active on its own," to borrow a phrase from the cleric Morton Kelsey. Touched by a feeling of surpassing contentment, I came about as close to a "still point" as I have ever come. The silence made the air lighter, more oxygenated -- clearer, even as it had become more richly textured. Silence really wasn't the absence of media, I began to sense. It was a medium unto itself, flooded with messages of subtle power.
Not that the regime of silence was all sweetness and light. The bliss of night-time library visits competed with alternating states of anger and frustration on my daily walks. Anger, in part, at living in a media culture that so readily marginalized anything to do with the sacred, a culture ready to drown authentic spiritual striving in an ocean of irony. (I could just hear my friends groaning as I talked to them about this piece.) Frustration over the fact that, no matter how hard I tried to convert the feeling of contentment into a transfiguring spiritual dividend, I couldn't. Listening to the honkings of the geese in the bogs below, I began to wonder whether I was being mocked.
Gradually, though, a new insight took hold, arriving from where I do not know. Although the Bible often presents spiritual transformation in dramatic terms -- the burning bush, the blinding light -- in fact for most people it does not come in blows. Spiritual apprehension is rather a subtle and incremental thing, in which an awareness of God develops slowly and deepens over time.
I had entered the retreat with the hope of being bowled over. It was only after I realized how unrealistic this expectation was that I began to feel the nonepiphany epiphany that made the trip worthwhile. Although the "present possibility of God" remained for me only that -- a possibility -- there was nevertheless a fortifying certainty of heart. No blinding light but a foundation to build on.
After five days, breaking the silence was a bit of a let-down, although it did offer me a chance to explore another kind of mystery. On my first night at Linwood, one of the groundskeepers had urged me to try to get a look at an albino deer that they had started seeing a few months before, around the time that Sister Rosemary McNamara, an albino herself, had arrived from North Carolina. I thought the story was just a hazing ritual, but this didn't stop me from patrolling the grounds after dinner, squinting into the dark, looking for the unicorn, so to speak.
Ending my silence, I couldn't help asking Sister Rosemary about the deer. "That would be my cousin, Belva," she said, smiling. "The name is Russian -- for white." As elating as it was to confirm the existence of this creature, the words that followed left a deeper impression.
I confided to her that I was worried that everything I had sensed that week was going to fade as soon as I left. She sat across the lunch table, the afternoon sun turning her into a pillar of blazing light. "You can either let this experience change your life, or you can say it was all a delusion," she said quite directly. "It's up to you."
Monday, November 1, 2021
Joe Biden campaigned on restoring the Soul of America, borrowing the title of a book by his friend & presidential historian Jon Meacham. The slogan, dripping in virtue and moral righteousness, implicitly promised he and his administration would be guided by the transparency and honesty that Donald Trump, often referred to as the nation’s “Liar in Chief,” so egregiously lacked.
But as we have seen all too vividly recently, the president and his enablers are spectacular liars. They attempted to spin the debacle in Afghanizatan into “an extradordinary success,” to declare that the southern border with Mexico is “closed” even though 2 million migrants have poured over it this year and snipped that the supply chain crisis merely means that the well-to-do will have to be a little more patient about when their Stairmasters will arrive. In this administration White House press spokeswoman Jen Psaki is the penultimate gaslighter; she raises falsehood, obfuscation and concealment to an art form that is practically occult.
As WSJ columnist Dan Henninger noted two weeks back we may have reached a tipping point in the way Americans conceive reality, citing the ways in which Team Biden has propelled us to this pass. “Ms. Psaki's skill at reordering reality for Mr. Biden is mesmerizing," Henninger wrote, "and I say without irony that she will be seen as an important figure in the transformation from believing what is real to believing what we're told is real .”
A few days later the National Review’s Charlie Cooke satirized the Psaki style in exactly the right literary idiom, placing her “in dialogue,” as the post modernists would have it, with the hallucinogenic fiction created by Lewis Carroll. “Rumor has it that Alice (from Through the Looking Glass and Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland) is preparing to apply for a job in the White House press office,” Cooke noted. “If I had a world of my own,” Cooke quotes Alice as saying, perhaps lifting a line from the job interview notes she had prepared, “everything would be nonsense. Nothing would be what it is because everything would be what it isn’t. And contrariwise, what it is, it wouldn’t be, and what it wouldn’t be, it would. You see?”
Cooke explained that Alice was certainly in the right place at the right time to apply for the “For having offered himself up as the savior of the American way, President Biden now finds himself in something of a pickle.”
The . The border is a mess. are sky high. Our supply chains are broken. Inflation, which was supposed to be “transitory,” looks more persistent by the day. Americans remain stranded in Afghanistan. . COVID is not only still with us; it’s making its way into the Good States. And, despite its having been given a jolly, catchy name — the “Build Back Better agenda” — all the public seems to know about the president’s gargantuan spending plan is that it will cost trillions upon trillions of dollars.
Down the rabbit hole, though, everything is still peachy.
Indeed, insofar as America has any problems to speak of, they’re held to be either nonexistent, inconsequential, or somehow your fault. You may think you watched in horror a few months ago as a , but what you actually saw was “the largest US airlift in history.” Hurrah!
You may believe that the from the moment Biden took office, but this is merely the sort of quotidian “circumstance” that could have happened under any president and is only happening now due to the inexplicable vagaries of climate change. How unfair!
On first glance, you might think it more than a little startling that the Chinese Communist Party has managed to contrive a cache of that, if deployed correctly, would zip right past our defenses, but what you’re for some reason missing is that when it comes to the prospect of a nuclear apocalypse, Natch.
That ? It’s not going to happen, says the president. Or, at least, if it does happen, it’ll be because the government wasn’t permitted to spend enough of your cash. And anyhow, when you really think about it, inflation is a pretty to have, isn’t it? In that sense, it’s a little like supply-chain disruptions, which you might well believe have the potential to seriously inconvenience you, but which, Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg confirms, are really just the positive byproducts of Biden’s having “successfully guided this economy out of the teeth of a terrifying recession.”
Asked today about the potential impact that this successful economic guidance might have on the delivery of consumer products going forward, that we don’t really need a functioning market anyhow. No one, she sniffed, should shed any tears at “the tragedy of the treadmill that’s delayed.”
Bothered by this approach? There’s no need to be. Instead, relax into what the Washington Post’s Micheline Maynard submits should be your “new, more realistic expectations” for the future. “American consumers,” Maynard points out, have been “pampered and catered to for decades,” to such an extent that their first reaction to deteriorating economic conditions may well be to engage in an unacceptable and “spoiled” “whine” rather than to simply “make adjustments” so that the president’s feelings might be spared.
Oh, and while you’re at it, you might take a moment to appreciate the sheer ingenuity of the alchemy by which this administration has managed to through good intentions alone. Previous generations — the ones that sat around worrying about treadmills delayed in transit, no doubt — had to face hard questions, such as how best to raise the money they wanted to spend on public services. Our generation, by a striking piece of luck, can just insist those choices away with incantations. What a trick!
It’s so devilishly clever, in fact — and so terribly simple to boot — that one can’t help but wonder why it hadn’t been thought of until now.
All one must do to achieve the effect is respond to any criticisms whatsoever with an emphatic, “No, you absolute rotter, that isn’t happening at all; and if it is happening, it’s not too bad, really; and if it is bad, it won’t be bad for long; and if it is bad for long, well, that’ll be your fault.”
Then, having handily dispatched one’s enemies, one can simply move on to the next objection, which, yes, might be based on things that people are actually seeing, but which is equally ill-founded, for reasons that will be decided upon by Twitter within the next few days.
Alice, she says, is able to believe “six impossible things before breakfast.” Looks as if she’ll get the job.
Sunday, October 31, 2021
From Breitbart News: ADL Warns: Avoid Culturally Insensitive, Gender-conforming Halloween Costumes
The increasingly partisan Anti-Defamation League (ADL) interjected itself into the annual Halloween debate this week when the organization advised parents to avoid Halloween costumes that are culturally insensitive and perpetuate gender norms.
“Halloween is a week away and you and your family might be brainstorming costume ideas,” the ADL tweeted on Sunday. “Check out our resource for reminders about how and why to avoid cultural appropriation, cultural stereotypes, and costumes that perpetuate gender norms.”
According to the ADL, parents should not let their children indulge in their desired costume if it appropriates from any culture, most especially Native American. If the child asks to dress up as Pocahontas, the ADL advised that parents use it as a teaching opportunity to enlighten their child’s mind to the rich cultural heritage of Native Americans.
Before Halloween, be proactive by addressing these issues in advance and use it as an educational opportunity to discuss stereotypes, bias and cultural appropriation. Many children and families don’t realize that their costume choices are potentially hurtful or offensive. For example, a child who may be interested in Native American stories and history wants to dress up as a Native American person. Consider it an opportunity to talk with them about how Native American dress is not a costume. Instead, it is an essential part of identity, unique to each different tribe with their own customs and ways of dress.
Help children understand that Halloween costumes are only fun or funny when they don’t hurt or make fun of other people or spread stereotypes.
Beyond mere costumes that incorporate sombreros, hachimakis, or dashikis, the ADL also cautioned against costumes that offend people of lower economic status, such as “hobos,” “bums” or “rednecks.”
Of course, none of those offenses compare to the horrific social crime of perpetuating “restrictive social norms around gender and sexual orientation.”
While costumes targeted to boys place heavy emphasis on superheroes and action figures, choices like these convey the message that boys should be scary and gruesome. Many children are attracted to traditional gendered costumes, think girls who love princesses or boys who are obsessed with action heroes. When that is the case, it is best not to reinforce that these are the only appropriate options available. Engage in conversations with young people about gender stereotypes and discuss messages that companies send through marketing and advertising.
Many Halloween costumes perpetuate gender stereotypes and exclude those who don’t conform to traditional gender norms, especially those who are transgender, non-binary or gender non-conforming. Be mindful that you may have students who feel excluded and marginalized by the overly gendered way Halloween costumes are marketed.
Addressing teachers whose gender non-conforming students might feel ashamed in the presence of such gender-specific costumes, the ADL suggested schools tell the students that “there aren’t boy’s and girl’s costumes.”
Saturday, September 11, 2021
Sunday, August 29, 2021
Wow! What a difference a year-and-a-half can make! Biden To Nominate Antony Blinken For Secretary Of State, NPR November 23, 2020. Blinken was going to “repair relationships between Washington and foreign governments and allies that have been strained under President Trump's 'America First" policy?! And serve as a confirmable alternative to Susan Rice, she of the Benghazi disaster in 2012?! And boost morale at the State Department that had been left "beleaguered" by the prior administration!?
Considered while the biggest foreign policy debacle in American history continues to unfold in Afghanistan, the advance notices Blinken received from Beltway insiders and the media are as breathtakingly naïve as Blinken himself has proven himself to be. The fact that Blinken has not resigned yet is a tribute both to his own personal cluelessness--- and to the arrogance borne of the blind credentialism that put him in a place to do so much ruinous damage to the country---especially our international partners. Blinken needs to go.
President-elect Joe Biden will nominate Antony Blinken for the coveted secretary of state post.
Blinken,58, has extensive foreign policy experience, serving as deputy secretary of state and deputy national security adviser under President Barack Obama.
…If confirmed, Blinken's early work, , would be focused heavily on repairing relationships between Washington and foreign governments and allies that have been strained under President Trump's "America First" policy, in which long-held alliances have frequently been challenged.
Blinken will also be tasked with boosting the beleaguered State Department, an agency that has experienced substantial turnover under Trump, with many longtime diplomats and career staffers leaving.
Saturday, August 28, 2021
Tony Blinken was practically Joe Biden’s “alter ego,” wrote the Financial Times in early 2020, describing his central role in what has come to be known as America’s “return” to the world stage. The FT profile was as revelatory of Blinken’s cosmopolitan mindset, which would come a cropper in Kabul, as it was just dead wrong in its assessments of Blinken’s alleged strengths as a diplomat and leader. “The foreign affairs veteran is son and nephew of US ambassadors to European capitals,” the FT writes, “and his return to the corridors of power comes as the US tries to recover from the battering it has taken on the world stage during 4 years of Donald Trump.”
Biden’s ‘alter ego’ Antony Blinken will try to rebuild alliances, by Demetri Sevastopulo, November 23, 2020:
When Joe Biden enters office in January, his closest foreign policy adviser will be a guitar- playing Beatles fanatic who first started promoting American values as a high school student in Paris during the cold war.
On Monday, the president-elect said he had chosen Antony Blinken as secretary of state, elevating a three-decade fixture in Democratic foreign policy circles, who first worked with Mr Biden in the Senate.
A former speech writer for President Bill Clinton, Mr Blinken was national security adviser to Mr Biden when he was vice-president, before becoming deputy national security adviser to Barack Obama and deputy secretary of state.
Mr Blinken’s return to the corridors of power will come as the US tries to recover from the battering it has taken on the world stage during four years of Donald Trump’s international isolationism.
Although some of the challenges will be familiar to Mr Blinken, he will also face new dilemmas such as dealing with an even more assertive China.
Robert Malley, the head of International Crisis Group who was Mr Blinken’s high-school classmate, said the Washington veteran had the perfect background to restore American credibility.
In addition to coming from a family with foreign policy pedigree — his father served as ambassador to Hungary and his uncle to Belgium — allies say he can put himself in the shoes of others because of his experience overseas.
“Tony was an American in Paris — and both terms are key. He was very conscious of being an American and he believed in US values. But he also understood how US policy affects the rest of the world because he lived overseas and witnessed how others view America,” Mr Malley said.
“At that time, the US was not particularly popular in Europe, and in France in particular. Tony navigated those two universes.”
In a recent Intelligence Matters podcast, Mr Blinken said the US had to rebuild alliances to tackle the “democratic recession” enabled by Mr Trump that let “autocracies from Russia to China . . . exploit our difficulties”.
Mr Blinken is a pragmatic realist who believes in US power but understands its limits. He will also have the most valuable currency in Washington — the ear of the president. He is so close to Mr Biden that some see him as his “alter ego”.
Nick Burns, the former number three state department official who has known Mr Blinken since the Clinton administration, said his network of friends around the world is coupled with an incredible range of experience from his time in the Senate, state department, and White House.
“He was at the table for all of the important meetings in the Obama administration for eight years and has unique insight into the full range of national security issues,” said Mr Burns.
A soccer-playing 58-year-old, who has uploaded two of his songs on Spotify and sometimes has a guitar in the background during video calls, is widely liked for his unassuming manner and inclusive approach.
In his high-school yearbook, the page with his photograph is inscribed with the Pink Floyd lyrics, “just another brick in the wall”, hinting at his willingness to eschew the traditional rigid hierarchy of Washington.
A former top state department official said he was popular because he valued opinions regardless of how junior or senior the person was, and was confident enough to credit others. “It’s never about him or his ego.”
But some say his inclusive style meant his core beliefs were sometimes hard to ascertain. “I don’t have a good read on his foreign policy thinking because he did not impose himself,” says a former Biden Senate aide.
One former Obama administration official said he also had a tendency to hold too many meetings and punt decisions. “As the big dog, will he drive towards decisions or needle issues to death?” they asked.
Defenders said he simply wanted to avoid rushing into bad decisions. The former Senate aide added that he was good at ending meetings on time. “When someone tried to extend a meeting with extraneous comments, he would give them a yellow card. If you did it again . . . it was a red card.”
While some found his views opaque, others stress that he has long been clear about the importance of promoting democracy and human rights in American foreign policy.
He advocated military action against Syria after the Assad regime used chemical weapons in 2013 — a path that Mr Obama did not follow — and applauded Mr Trump for striking Syria after the regime used sarin gas on citizens in 2017.
Michael McFaul, a former US ambassador to Russia, said Mr Blinken and other Democrats created a group called the “Phoenix Initiative” to debate whether the party needed a more robust national security approach after John Kerry lost to George W Bush in the 2004 election.
He said that when the group held debates, Mr Blinken was also a strong proponent of using US power for good and advocating for human rights. “I was very struck that he was passionate about that,” he said.
Philip Gordon, a former Obama administration official, said that view was informed by his family history. His Polish-born stepfather Samuel Pisar survived Auschwitz and eventually wound up in the US, where he became a successful international lawyer, while other relatives entered the US as refugees.
“That has left him believing that the US can and should do good in the world,” said Mr Gordon. “But I would pair that with the notion that he is a real pragmatist who also understands the limits of American power. He is anything but an ideologue.”
The other former Obama official said Mr Blinken would probably take a tougher stance on human rights than the Obama White House. “Tony would be visibly tougher on Russia and more receptive to the idea of ideological competition with China, cranking up a few notches the democracy promotion and human rights dimension of foreign policy.”
Mr McFaul said Mr Blinken was also more decisive than some believe. When he argued that Mr Biden should meet Russian opposition figures after a meeting with President Vladimir Putin in Moscow in 2011, “it took Tony about three seconds to say that is a really good idea”, in contrast to a much harder sell with the Obama team in 2009.
Mr Blinken’s views on alliances and promoting democratic values fit with a growing view in Washington that the US needs to work more closely with allies to gain greater leverage to tackle China.
One former European official, who has worked with Mr Blinken, said the fluent French speaker would be well received in Europe and would help repair the damage done over the past four years. But he said he would do so in a more low-key and more collegiate way than some predecessors.
“He’s not a man to make the front page,” he said. “He’s not Henry Kissinger, in a good and bad way.”
Friday, August 27, 2021
Kabul Catastrophe Is What Happens When Dems Rig An Election and The Media Pretends Not To Notice That Its Candidate Is Senile
At yesterday’s White House press conference, Biden buried his head in his hands, looked close to tears and was completely unable to make whatever his point was, writes David Marcus in the Canadian Post-Millennial. “There has never been an image of an American president that projects such abject weakness,” Marcus notes. "We do not have a president. We have a crumbling old man. OK. Now what?”
After wrapping up his rambling remarks about a terrorist attack that killed US Marines on Thursday, President Biden moved on to questions. He informed the American people, whom he was addressing, that he had been "instructed" as to who should get the first question.
Who exactly was instructing the President of the United States? What other instructions does he obey? Did the American people elect a president? Or is Joe Biden just an old, sleepy eyed talking head? On Thursday, Americans got our answer.
The last question taken by Biden, we can only assume as a result of instruction, was granted to Fox News' Peter Doocy. Doocy asked Biden if he bears responsibility for the American lives lost in the terror attack. The President proceeded to engage in a bizarre back and forth with the reporter.
Then Biden buried his head in his hands, he looked close to tears, completely unable to make whatever his point was. There has never been an image of an American president that projects such abject weakness.
The United States effectively has no president. That must be distinctly understood at this point. He admitted this. Asked by Phillip Wegmann, White House correspondent for Real Clear Politics, if he had made the call to close American airbases before evacuation occurred, Biden said that it was what his military advisers told him to do.
The only decision Biden makes these days is what flavor ice cream he wants. Maybe.
Sen. Josh Hawley has called on Biden to resign in the wake of his administration's Afghan withdrawal disaster. It's a reasonable call, but also pointless. Joe Biden no more leads the nation than George Washington or Abe Lincoln do. He's a presidential portrait painted before its time. Nothing more.
But the country does need resignations. Not Biden's but resignations of cabinet secretaries, the well-credentialed fools who truly authored the administration's idiocy. Secretary of State Anthony Blinken must resign. Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin must resign. National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan must resign. But that's not enough.
Once they resign, moderate, serious minded Democrat senators must join Republicans in only confirming replacements that will reverse the horrendous foreign and national defense policies that have humiliated America on the world stage. Biden is president for three more years, Congress must act to ensure that the people instructing him are competent.
This is an emergency, and it is one we have never experienced before. The image of Joe Biden bowing his head in quiet, sad frustration is alarming. If there is a silver lining to this sad display it is that maybe Congress will act to take back control of our foreign policy. House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy has called for the House to come back in session to get control of this situation. Of course, he is correct.
The Biden presidency is over, but it never really began. Clearly his cabinet is in control. Clearly they have been in control since day one. That cabinet decided to trust the Taliban to protect Americans. They are relying on terrorists who blow themselves up to act in their own self-interest. It is a macabre comedy. Those who hold Biden's strings must go, and they must go now.
All of this is much bigger than Afghanistan, as big as this humiliation is. This is the national security apparatus that is responsible for policies on Iran, North Korea, China, Ukraine, Yemen, everywhere. They blatantly cannot be trusted to protect American interests. That's not a hypothetical anymore. It's a tragedy.
Joe Biden, the 46th president, elected to bring back norms is irrelevant. Utterly, completely irrelevant. But we have him for three more years anyway. With loud, piercing, clarion calls we must demand the removal of his handlers, let congress replace them, and let us do better in the election of 2024. We do not have a president. We have a crumbling old man. OK. Now what?