The Palin Tragedy

There just isn’t any doubt at this point: Governor Palin is in way over her head. And Senator McCain had to have known this would be the case. His luring a good but unqualified woman – a woman, moreover, with serious responsibilities at home – into a bruising and cynical national campaign is inexcusable. Even more disturbing is the way she has been coached to bluff her way through interviews, pretending to have answers to questions she doesn’t begin to understand. It is impossible to watch this CBS interview without feeling acute embarrassment for her:

Perhaps a slight improvement over Miss South Carolina, but not much. For future interviews, Daniel Larison suggests the following “all purpose Palin interview answer” (courtesy of Rod Dreher):

“You don’t just walk into Washington, unless you’re a maverick like John McCain, who walks the walk and has been reforming Washington all along, which is why it’s so desperately in need of reform. Its Beltway is guarded by more than lobbyists, which is why we must have that reform and that process of reforming also. There is corruption there that doesn’t sleep much, it’s kind of wide awake; the Unblinking Eye is, you know, watching constantly and it’s very watchful. It is an elitist wasteland, just full of earmarks and taxes and inefficiencies, and special interests also.”

Seriously, her dishonesty in this interview is systematic – not incidental to a particular question – and is evidence of personal corruption right out of the gate. She is not only corruptible, but she’s already internalizing the corruption of her handlers.

Now then, it seems that most politicians do this routinely. McCain, Obama, and Biden are experts at pretending to have answers they don’t have. Obama is so smooth he can make a journalist forget what the question was. So why pick on Palin?

I’ll tell you why. Sarah Palin is still an essentially honest person who isn’t good at telling lies. She averts her eyes. You can see the conflict in her face, you can hear the doubt in her voice, and it all betrays her words. You know her conscience bothers her and she’s going to feel terrible about this interview when it’s over.  Dishonesty doesn’t come easy to her … yet.  Perhaps a few more interviews like this one and she’ll get better at it.

But no! I don’t want this for Sarah Palin. I want Sarah Palin to go home, protect and re-build her integrity, and take care of her family and her state.

On a related note, someday I want to see an interview that goes like this:

Interviewer: So, Mr. Candidate, what is your solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict?

Candidate: To be honest, I just don’t know.

Interviewer: But you want to be president. How can you just shrug and say “I don’t know” to an issue of such global importance?

Candidate: Because it’s the truth. I just don’t know. If I’m elected, I will consult the best experts available on this question.

Interviewer: But your opponent says he has studied the question thoroughly and has drafted a multi-faceted proposal that is sure to bring peace to the region. He’s going to send Jimmy Carter and Jesse Jackson to Tel Aviv in the first week of his presidency.

Candidate: Gosh, my opponent is an expert on everything, isn’t he? That should save the taxpayers millions of dollars in cabinet salaries and consultation fees. I do like the idea of sending Carter and Jackson to Tel Aviv, though. Probably not for the same reasons.

Interviewer: What is your position on global warming?

Candidate: I don’t have a position on global warming.

Interviewer: Don’t you think it’s a problem?

Candidate: It certainly could be, but I don’t know enough about it to say. Do you know something I don’t?

Interviewer: Experts say that if we don’t reduce greenhouse emissions, we’re doomed.

Candidate: If those experts are right, then my position is that we need to reduce greenhouse emissions. But other experts say it’s a bunch of hooey. I’ve got a lot more studying to do and haven’t made up my mind about it.

St. Isidore Ranch Update

Two years ago, I made the trek to Oregon to pick up a Dexter cow and her calf.  The price was right, but there was a condition: I had to take another mean, wild, unmanageable one-eyed cow with me. I mentioned this to a friend of mine and asked him if he wanted to start his own Dexter herd. He agreed, so I brought the cow home and she’s been on our pasture with the others ever since. My friend named her Blackberry Blossom.

Well, Blackberry Blossom turned out to be made of gold. Several months after bringing her home, she dropped a calf! She had not been purposely bred, and no one had any idea that she was pregnant. As a result of this mystery calf my friend now has a fat steer almost ready for the freezer.

A year ago last June, we had Blackberry Blossom and two others artificially inseminated. We don’t keep a bull on the property. The oldest of the three became crippled and had to be slaughtered before she was ready to calve. Another cow, Camelia, gave birth to a heifer without complications. Blackberry Blossom did not get pregnant, apparently. Her baby steer (now bigger than she is) had not yet weaned itself, so that might have been part of the problem.  We just figured we’d try again next year.

Last week, Kelly – the young cowboy who rents our pasture – pulled up in his dusty old truck and asked to speak with me. Did I know that one of my cows just had a calf? he asked.  I said that was impossible, there must be some mistake. No mistake, he insisted. He had been treating the calf for pneumonia for a couple of days, and it looks like she’s going to make it. I was incredulous. How can that be? We don’t keep a bull, and her AI treatment was 15 months ago. So far, despite the advances of technology, they still haven’t come up with a self-fertilizing breed of cattle!

Nevertheless, there it was: a calf. Facts are facts.

Kelly asked me if I had seen any of the neighbor’s cattle in my pasture lately. I assured him that I had not. Does the neighbor keep a bull? he asked. I wasn’t sure. I’d seen just one bull across the fence in the past, but that was more than a year ago. Well, the only explanation he could think of is that Blackberry Blossom was impregnated by a neighbor bull. And the calf, he said, appeared to be much bigger than an ordinary Dexter calf and was probably half-Angus.

So my fortunate friend, who decided on a whim to accept a wild one-eyed Dexter whom nobody wanted, ended up with two “freebies” from nowhere! Some people have all the luck.


Last Saturday we rose at 5:00am, loaded the kids and their instruments in the van, and headed for the historic gold-mining town of Weaverville, California for its third annual Old Time Fiddle Contest.  We went with another family whose children also fiddle – that’s right, Blackberry Blossom’s family – and between our two families we had six children in the contest. They all played marvellously well. It’s heartwarming to see so many young people keeping the “old time fiddle” tradition alive in California. I am also proud to say that our Amy Rachel won 2nd place in her division – quite an accomplishment for someone who has only been playing for a couple of years! Toward the end of the day we were treated to some bluegrass gospel music by the Winton Family of Redding. Let me tell you, there is nothing quite like live, acoustic bluegrass right up close.

These contests have been organized by the California State Old Time Fiddler’s Association since the 1950s, beginning in Butte County. The contestants are mostly from little towns in Northern California, but some come from out of state to participate. There are always a dozen or more RVs and trailers set up in the parking lot. Next month we’ll be going to another contest in Red Bluff, which lasts three days and is considered the Granddaddy of them all.

These events are delightful for their wholesomeness and homely political incorrectness. From the natural religiosity of the organizers, to the corny jokes of the MCs, to the earthy titles of the songs played, it’s everything the uppity PC world despises. Here’s a place where simple, small-town people can just be themselves without having to walk on eggshells. And this in California – the real California, the California that few people know exists.

The Times of Antichrist

A timely reminder by Ven. John Henry Cardinal Newman:

Is the enemy of Christ, and His Church, to arise out of a certain special falling away from God? And is there no reason to fear that some such Apostasy is gradually preparing, gathering, hastening on in this very day? For is there not at this very time a special effort made almost all over the world, that is, every here and there, more or less in sight or out of sight, in this or that place, but most visibly or formidably in its most civilized and powerful parts, an effort to do without Religion? Is there not an opinion avowed and growing, that a nation has nothing to do with Religion; that it is merely a matter for each man’s own conscience? Is there not a vigorous and united movement in all countries to cast down the Church of Christ from power and place?

Is there not a feverish and ever-busy endeavor to get rid of the necessity of Religion in public transactions? for example, an attempt to get rid of oaths, under a pretence that they are too sacred for affairs of common life, instead of providing that they be taken more reverently and more suitably? An attempt to educate without Religion?—that is, by putting all forms of Religion together, which comes to the same thing? An attempt to enforce temperance, and the virtues which flow from it, without Religion, by means of Societies which are built on mere principles of utility? An attempt to make expedience, and not truth, the end and the rule of measures of State and the enactments of Law? An attempt to make numbers, and not the Truth, the ground of maintaining, or not maintaining, this or that creed, as if we had any reason whatever in Scripture for thinking that the many will be in the right, and the few in the wrong? An attempt to deprive the Bible of its one meaning to the exclusion of all other, to make people think that it may have an hundred meanings all equally good, or, in other words, that it has no meaning at all, is a dead letter, and may be put aside? An attempt to supersede Religion altogether, as far as it is external or objective, as far as it is displayed in ordinances, or can be expressed by written words,—to confine it to our inward feelings, and thus, considering how variable, how evanescent our feelings are, an attempt, in fact, to destroy Religion?

Surely, there is at this day a confederacy of evil, marshalling its hosts from all parts of the world, organizing itself, taking its measures, enclosing the Church of Christ as in a net, and preparing the way for a general Apostasy from it. Whether this very Apostasy is to give birth to Antichrist, or whether he is still to be delayed, as he has already been delayed so long, we cannot know; but at any rate this Apostasy, and all its tokens and instruments, are of the Evil One, and savour of death. Far be it from any of us to be of those simple ones who are taken in that snare which is circling around us! Far be it from us to be seduced with the fair promises in which Satan is sure to hide his poison!

Do you think he is so unskillful in his craft, as to ask you openly and plainly to join him in his warfare against the Truth? No; he offers you baits to tempt you. He promises you civil liberty; he promises you equality; he promises you trade and wealth; he promises you a remission of taxes; he promises you reform. This is the way in which he conceals from you the kind of work to which he is putting you; he tempts you to rail against your rulers and superiors; he does so himself, and induces you to imitate him; or he promises you illumination, —he offers you knowledge, science, philosophy, enlargement of mind. He scoffs at times gone by; he scoffs at every institution which reveres them. He prompts you what to say, and then listens to you, and praises you, and encourages you. He bids you mount aloft. He shows you how to become as gods. Then he laughs and jokes with you, and gets intimate with you; he takes your hand, and gets his fingers between yours, and grasps them, and then you are his.

To summarize …

Glenn County budget crisis: cuts looming.

California budget crisis intensifies.

California unemployment climbs to 7.3%, highest in 12 years.

California’s out-migration problem.

Worst financial crisis since 1930s with no end in sight.

America’s Financial Apocalypse Heralds Decade Long Depression.

U.S. economy is unsustainable, says GAO chief.

California marriage amendment loses ground, now trails by 17 points.

Florida marriage amendment in trouble.

Use of Plan B abortifacient surges.

U.S. birth rate hits all time low.

Demographic Winter is upon us.

Voting for liars, thieves, traitors and backstabbers

Can it really be true that we are obligated to vote for a scoundrel in order to prevent a bigger scoundrel from taking office?

I agree, in principle if not in every detail, with Zippy and Lydia: lines must be drawn somewhere. At some point, it becomes wrong to vote for a candidate no matter how bad the other guy is. But I’m unsure as to where that line is supposed to be drawn exactly. It is virtually impossible to find a candidate who does not support policies that are intrinsically immoral. Even the best pro-life politicians support contraception, for example. Contraception is not small potatoes. In the temporal order, it’s a grievous evil and the very foundation of our culture of death. In the spiritual order, it ruins more lives and sends more souls to hell than does abortion. But if we draw the line at voting for contraception-supporting politicians, then we can’t vote for 99% of the candidates in any given election.

I’m not sold on the argument that it is always wrong to vote for a candidate who supports policies that are intrinsically and grievously immoral. That would essentially mean dropping out of the political process altogether. It seems obvious to me, as well, that this attitude is at odds with the prudential teaching of the Church about participation in a democratic system.

It is theoretically possible that the prudential teaching of the hierarchy on this point is mistaken – a misapplication of Catholic moral principles. I’m open to the idea, but it doesn’t seem likely.

Back to drawing lines again. I can’t put my finger on the reason, but I think John McCain has crossed the line for me. A vote – among other things – is a reward. It is not exclusively a reward, but it is a reward nonetheless, and will be perceived by most as an endorsement of the candidate and his policies. A vote sends a message to the candidate, to his party, to the government, and to the electorate. I don’t want to reward John McCain with anything but permanent political exile. Most importantly, I don’t want to send the message that Republican candidates can expect my vote no matter how much they trash or ignore the pro-life principles of the GOP platform. If pro-lifers and social conservatives DON’T withhold their votes, they cannot expect the GOP – or any political party – to care enough to court them. 

As it stands now, McCain and the GOP have called our bluff. We talk tough, but when it comes down to the wire most pro-lifers, it seems, are Republicans first.

A vote is also a choice to affect the outcome of an election. A vote for McCain-Plain could, if sufficiently aggregated, enable John McCain to enact grievously immoral policies. Granted, that same vote could also prevent the ascendance of a monster who is arguably a forerunner of the antichrist. The concrete outcome of an election is therefore a consideration, but not the only consideration.

Does the good of stopping Obama, therefore, justify the evil of rewarding and enabling a lesser scoundrel? What would Newman say?

“The Catholic Church holds that it is better for the sun and moon to drop from heaven, for the earth to fail, and for all the many millions on it to die of starvation in the extremest agony, as far as temporal affliction goes, than that one soul, I will not say, should be lost, but should commit one single venial sin, should tell one wilful untruth, or should steal one poor farthing without excuse.”

– Ven. John Henry Cardinal Newman