Monday, Monday, so good to me

Steven Hayward over at PowerLine has some TV recommendations for us, at least if we have Amazon Prime. I do but I haven’t watched it yet, but think I will.

Looks pretty funny to me, and Steve says this, “It is a brilliant piece of work, supposedly “found footage” of a Romanian buddy-cop show from the 1980s dubbed into English. It is a wonderful satire of the way a podunk Eastern European nation saw the world in the late stages of the Cold War. ” Certainly better than most of the dreck out there.

He also says this movie looks good to him, and from the trailer, it does, indeed.

What could be funnier than the death of one of the two worst mass murderers of the twentieth century? That sort of thing is why the movies are (or used to be) so much fun. May this sort of thing increase.


On a less welcome note, I assume you saw the impertinence at Wembley stadium yesterday. Personally, I’ve given up on pro football, not so much a boycott as tired of grown men thinking that sports is the be all and end all of life, not to mention that they actually earn those multi-million dollar salaries. I just got tired of the whingeing. But that’s me, not anything that I proselytise about. I don’t really give a dame if they stand, sit, kneel or stay home for the National Anthem. If they are too stupid to realize how good this country has been to them, then nothing they can say or do is worth my time or interest. And it’s not. Nor is it helped, when I do end up watching a bit of a game, to have politics inserted between every play, and so the sports networks and the league itself are just as culpable.

But others care more. Toni Williams over at Victory Girls for one.

The spoiled brats that comprise the players of the NFL participated in the death of American football, as we know it, in England today. At Wembley Stadium in London, the players knelt and locked arms during the National Anthem. The National Anthem of the United States of America. And, then showing how galactically ignorant of history they are, the fools stood for the British National Anthem “God Save The Queen”. Today, the NFL committed “Suicide by Kaepernick”

The title of the article in the United Kingdom news outlet The Sun.comis entitled “TRUMPED NFL players take the knee during national anthem as Jacksonville Jaguars take on Baltimore Ravens at Wembley”. The Sun reported that Shad Khan, an owner of the Jaguars was proud as can be of his gridiron ignoramuses:

Shad Khan said: “It was a privilege to stand on the sidelines with the Jacksonville Jaguars today for the playing of the U.S. national anthem at Wembley Stadium.

“I met our team captains prior to the game to express my support for them, all NFL players and the league following the divisive and contentious remarks by President Trump, and was honoured to be arm in arm with them, their team-mates and our coaches during our anthem.
“Our team and the National Football League reflects our nation, with diversity coming in many forms – race, faith, our views and our goals.

“We have a lot of work to do and we can do it, but the comments of the President make it harder.

“That’s why it’s important for us, and personally for me, to show the world that even if we may differ at times, we can and shoudl be united in the effort to become batter people and a nation.”

Sorry, Shad. May I call you Shad? Good. I have to call bovine manure on that one. There is no diversity in the NFL. They are men who, at a young age, showed certain talents. They were nurtured and coddled and given opportunities that 99.999% of the Universe never get. There are no girls on the team, no super short people, no untalented people. If Colin Kaepernick were truly talented, and not a brainless twit, he would be playing somewhere.

And, you know, that’s the breaking point for me. We have our squabbles here in America, as we should. That’s fine, and it’s always been so. But when we go abroad, we should behave ourselves so as to bring credit on the United States, instead of this new form of ‘The Ugly American’. But overall, I’ll listen to my Boilermakers, which school actually does believe in free speech, and is actually playing fairly decent ball this fall. The NFL can go and choke on its arrogant condescending arrogance and its billions of dollars. I just don’t care, anymore. There are better ways to use my time. (No, not cricket!)

I just don’t pay spoiled children to entertain me, not least because they aren’t

 

 

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Week in Picture, German Election Edition

The Germans vote today, so we’ll see if they’ve had enough of the Reichskanzler, who has been in office longer than anybody since you know who. The media says yes, but if you haven’t noticed they’ve occasionally been wrong,  but were right in France, so we’ll see.

mm

This could be true in Germany, too

Headline of the week. Ach, if only it were so!

Mostly from Bookworm and PowerLine.

Have a good week. And remember

Bare Ruined Choirs

In Sonnet LXXIII Shakespeare wrote

That time of year thou mayst in me behold
When yellow leaves, or none, or few, do hang
Upon those boughs which shake against the cold,
Bare ruined choirs, where late the sweet birds sang.
In me thou see’st the twilight of such day
As after sunset fadeth in the west;
Which by and by black night doth take away,
Death’s second self, that seals up all in rest.
In me thou see’st the glowing of such fire,
That on the ashes of his youth doth lie,
As the death-bed, whereon it must expire,
Consumed with that which it was nourish’d by.
This thou perceiv’st, which makes thy love more strong,
To love that well, which thou must leave ere long

Not one of his happiest, but it accords well with my feelings, this fall. It hasn’t been a year I would wish on anybody, but this is the season when I understand why All Hollow’s is sometimes called Totenfest by those of German heritage. Tomorrow is the Feast day of Our Lady of Walsingham, and for me, that has significance as well. Six years ago, I had never heard of Walsingham, let alone this representation of Mary, but One summer day in 2012, Jessica became my dearest friend at almost the moment she lit a candle for me at the shrine. The main part of the story begins here. I have ever since found Mary a worthwhile conduit for my prayers. But for me, it’s specifically the Walsingham representation. Earlier this year,  Fr Matthew Pittam wrote in the Catholic Herald about his feeling for the Shrine.

 

Whilst visiting this year I met some other pilgrims who were unfavourably comparing Walsingham to other well-known European Shrines that they had visited. It is true Walsingham is no Lourdes or Fatima but for me that is part of the appeal of the place. It seems right that the English National Shrine is understated, reflecting the character of the English themselves.

The story of Our Lady’s Shrine and the meaning of its message demand a much tenderer charism than Walsingham’s more flamboyant European cousins. Above all Walsingham is a memorial to the Annunciation. The whole place speaks softly of Our Lady’s ‘Yes’ to God. Mary’s encounter with the Angel Gabriel was abundantly full of humility, generosity and peace. The quieter pace and rhythm of our National Shrine really can take us to the heart of this life changing and life-giving moment.

The location of Walsingham is also understated. It is not set amidst mountain grandeur but nestles within the pleasant rolling meadows of the Stiffkey Valley, echoing the gentleness of the shrine’s own spirituality and Our Lady. The whole place seems to be set apart for peaceful encounter.

He nails it for me. Without the slightest intention to be offensive, much of Roman Catholicism is too ornate, too baroque, and the decoration, like some of the verbiage, is over extravagant for me. That’s not a knock on it, it simply doesn’t fit with this working guy of Lutheran Scandinavian heritage. I’m no iconoclast, but enough is enough. Both the Roman Catholic and the Anglo-Catholic shrines at Walsingham have a northern European feel about them, which I find comforting. I’m still of my roots, I have found it comforting to talk with Our Lady, as Jessica once said, it feels rather like talking to Mom, which in a sense it is.

And then there is the relief, that I have felt on several occasions, after talking with Her, usually not the formal Rosary, although I do that sometimes as well, mostly sitting here, meditating silently directed towards Her. The old man’s knees aren’t really up to kneeling much anymore, anyway. 🙂

Strangely, it is only 3 years, nearly to the day, since the Abbess from Walsingham came to Jessica’s hospital bed to pray over her and sprinkle her with Walsingham water, giving her some ease, and then again a mere two weeks later, just after she received the last rites, she again prayed over her and sprinkled her. Two days later she was out of her coma, without pain and cancer free. A remarkable testimony to the power of prayer.

A year after that Mary Katherine Ham lost her husband,  Jake in a bicycle accident while pregnant with their second child. It was one of those things that shocked many of us, this young vibrant couple, and him suddenly gone. She wrote about it this week at The Federalist.

I love the idea of the divine spark. It crosses a lot of cultures and religions, the idea that you carry a bit of the Creator inside you, that it animates your life.

Jake’s life always brings to mind a spark and then some. Jake’s soul, to me, was a bonfire. He was here and he was in your face and he was warm and bright. He roared with enthusiasm at the beginning, even the hope of something new, sometimes a little too much. His glow was infectious, throwing sparks into the night air, silhouetted against a dark sky before they landed on everyone in his vicinity. He mellowed to embers as the night wore on, usually over a glass of bourbon or a beer.

I lived seven years of my life looking into a bonfire. I warmed my hands and found comfort in its flame. There were times when I damn near burnt myself or got a giant waft of smoke at exactly the wrong time.  Because that’s life. And that’s fire. It’s not all s’mores and sweetness.

Everyone who’s loved someone knows that light and warmth. Everyone who’s lost someone knows the feeling when it goes dark and cold one day.

When that happens at any time, it’s jarring. When it happens without warning, even more.

The light went out. This fire I’d stood next to for seven years just went out, like a flood light on a switch. Boom. Imagine staring into a fire, and then suddenly turning 180 degrees to survey the woods behind you. I couldn’t see. I was standing in what otherwise was my life, and I knew all the other parts of it were there, but I couldn’t understand its contours anymore. I was standing in my own life, blinded, blinking away those disorienting shimmery green spots.

Brilliant, simply brilliant. But you know when we lose someone we love, not even always to death, it’s like that as well. It was for me when my marriage broke up, and even though my sisters, parents and brothers-in-law lived full lives, in truth as much as could be expected, they have left a hole, that cannot be filled.

And so it was for me, a year ago today, when I received the last email from  Jessica, who as far as I know is healthy, happy, and busy. Too busy or some other unexplained reason, to maintain the friendship that turned to love on my part, more than I ever felt for another human being. And get your mind out of the gutter, yes she is beautiful, but I loved her before I knew that, far more a case of Agape than Eros. She was my friend, the best one I’ll ever have. And even Our Lady of Walsingham has found no way to comfort me. I’m reconciled that I must go on more alone than I have ever been, but have little appetite for it. Which is why that sonnet speaks loudly to me.

Walsingham, and Our Lady are her legacy to me, and I thank God for them everyday. But it does make me think of another poem.

Weepe, weepe O Walsingham,
Whose dayes are nightes,
Blessings turned to blasphemies,
Holy deeds to dispites.

Sinne is where our Ladie sate,
Heaven turned is to hell,
Sathan sittes where our Lord did swaye,
Walsingham oh farewell.

But it is true that while Eliot was writing of Little Gidding, I’ve always thought that this applied as well to Walsingham

           If you came this way,
Taking any route, starting from anywhere,
At any time or at any season,
It would always be the same: you would have to put off
Sense and notion. You are not here to verify,
Instruct yourself, or inform curiosity
Or carry report. You are here to kneel
Where prayer has been valid. And prayer is more
Than an order of words, the conscious occupation
Of the praying mind, or the sound of the voice praying.
And what the dead had no speech for, when living,
They can tell you, being dead: the communication
Of the dead is tongued with fire beyond the language of the living.
Here, the intersection of the timeless moment
Is England and nowhere. Never and always.

We merely have to trust God that Dame Julian of Norwich was correct.

‘It was necessary that there should be sin; but all shall be well, and all shall be well, and all manner of thing shall be well.’

The Corps huh, What is it good for?

In large measure, this post is for Fr. Robert our resident RM, but I too have a soft spot for the Royal Marines, and have ever since I played at a band camp in High School under their famous conductor Sir Vivian Dunn,  KCVO OBE FRSA. And so, it becomes important, at least to us. From A Thin Pinstriped Line.

Given the lack of willingness to find extra funds, the only other option open to the Department to meet its financial challenges is to make real and painful cuts. This is currently being wrapped up in the auspices of a mini national security review, sneaked out under the radar on the last day of the Parliamentary session. It seems inevitable that cuts will follow from this, but likely packaged under a series of headline grabbing announcements of ‘cash for X’ with much smaller footnotes describing how A,B,C and D are all being scrapped, delayed, deferred or descoped too.

The news that the RN is considering offering up the Royal Marines indicates several things. Firstly, it’s a sign that the traditional battles in MOD during spending rounds have reached the point of leaking the ‘sacred cow’ options (such as scrapping the Red Arrows, disband the Parachute Regiment etc), in order to try and fight a rearguard action. All the Services have these options, it was a bit of a running joke with some of the authors friends that the ‘Close BRNC Dartmouth’ option paper seemed to have been staffed about 50 years ago and was just dusted off as required. There is also the possibly urban myth that the reason the Upholder class were scrapped was due to a planning round where the diesel submarine capability was offered up as a sacred cow, with the submarine force planners assuming no one would be foolish enough to take it…

 The usual form is to leak or brief selected options  which are hugely emotional and tap into the psyche of MPs and commentators, and then get them to fight a campaign to save X at all costs. This usually leads to lobbying, letters and pressure on Ministers, and if lucky direction that the Option won’t be taken forward after all. The problem is that this doesn’t make the financial pressure go away – and its usually only by taking tough calls like scrapping a capability outright that you can save the chunks of money required.

Why Royal, Why Now?

The challenge for the Royal Marines right now is that they look particularly vulnerable targets, with a highly specialised core role that is increasingly unlikely to be used in anger. The RM and the RN have long had a slightly odd, and at times, uneasy relationship. It is often forgotten these days that the role of amphibious warfare isn’t something that really took off until WW2, and that the RM have only been leading on it for about 70 years. Until that point they were arguably merely light infantry embarked on ships and the odd landing party.

Sort of makes sense, doesn’t it? In fact, the USMC fought this battle between the world wars, and the expertise they developed, although without the materiél, proved invaluable in the fracas against Japan. But the USMC is one of the best of our publicists for the traditional America. The Few, the Proud, the Loud, the Marines. God love ’em, who else can claim with a straight face to be the street guards in heaven itself.

And yet, and yet. Neptunis Lex, the greatest of milbloggers wrote this, back in 2011. How much is he missed? About as much as George Washington, that’s how much.

‘If you’re constantly trying to make war more precise and predictable, you’ll promote people who thrive in squeezing out the marginal drop of uncertainty. If you recognize war’s essential messiness and the enemy’s adaptability, you’ll reward mavericks, risk-takers, and people who thrive in uncertainty.’

Finally, I’d like to leave you with an image of Corporal Mike Stevenson. He is a 24 year old Royal Marines Commando serving in 40 Commando. It is the 20th of March 2003, a pitch black night and he is a few miles off the coast of Iraq’s Al Faw Peninsular. On the horizon, he can see fires erupting and above, the after burners of salvos of Patriot and Tomahawk missiles. He leads his 7 man section across the deck of HMS ARK ROYAL, towards the clattering helicopter, They are all encumbered with massive rucksacks – the equivalent of their body weight in kit, ammunition, and weapon systems. Their sweat has already begun to smudge their black maquillage.

This is the moment he has rehearsed repeatedly for the past 2 months – since he was first briefed, in outline, on his mission. He knows every building on his target intimately – has drawn them, modeled them, metaphorically inhabited them. He knows the ranges between buildings and the emergency escape plan if it all goes wrong. Just as the Sea King door is about to slid shut, his Company Commander appears. “There’s been a change of plan ‘Stevie’”“ he bellows – “you have to attack a totally different target, about 10 ‘klicks’ from the original location.” Stevenson looks at his Boss, a big toothy smile lighting up his face “No worries, Sir – I knew it was too good to be true!” and pulls out a pen to write down the new Grid Reference.

As Napoleon said of the Royal Marines – ‘What could be done with 100,000 men such as these.’

We need, and we will always need heroes like this, whether they eat the Queen’s  biscuit or have the  Eagle,  Globe and Anchor on their buttons.

The Unobama

In writing about the speech at the UN that is what Scott Johnson at PowerLine calls President Trump. I think he’s correct. There is as we all said, much to like in the speech, but other than ‘Rocketman’, there is little new. Most of the themes are classic American policy, and therefore not what Obama was selling. Obama was an aberration, a creation, mostly, I think, of our troubled race history, or rather how our race history is perceived by many, mostly to their benefit.

There is nothing revolutionary, or even unusual about this, for example:

In America, we do not seek to impose our way of life on anyone, but rather to let it shine as an example for everyone to watch. This week gives our country a special reason to take pride in that example. We are celebrating the 230th anniversary of our beloved Constitution — the oldest constitution still in use in the world today.

This timeless document has been the foundation of peace, prosperity, and freedom for the Americans and for countless millions around the globe whose own countries have found inspiration in its respect for human nature, human dignity, and the rule of law.

The greatest in the United States Constitution is its first three beautiful words. They are: “We the people.”

Generations of Americans have sacrificed to maintain the promise of those words, the promise of our country, and of our great history. In America, the people govern, the people rule, and the people are sovereign. I was elected not to take power, but to give power to the American people, where it belongs.

That’s simple ground truth, although a lot of politicians likely would wish it otherwise. But its not, it’s who we are and who we have always been. So is this:

We cannot let a murderous regime continue these destabilizing activities while building dangerous missiles, and we cannot abide by an agreement if it provides cover for the eventual construction of a nuclear program. (Applause.) The Iran Deal was one of the worst and most one-sided transactions the United States has ever entered into. Frankly, that deal is an embarrassment to the United States, and I don’t think you’ve heard the last of it — believe me.

Or this

We will stop radical Islamic terrorism because we cannot allow it to tear up our nation, and indeed to tear up the entire world.

Or especially this

One of the greatest American patriots, John Adams, wrote that the American Revolution was “effected before the war commenced. The Revolution was in the minds and hearts of the people.”

That was the moment when America awoke, when we looked around and understood that we were a nation. We realized who we were, what we valued, and what we would give our lives to defend. From its very first moments, the American story is the story of what is possible when people take ownership of their future.

The United States of America has been among the greatest forces for good in the history of the world, and the greatest defenders of sovereignty, security, and prosperity for all.

Now we are calling for a great reawakening of nations, for the revival of their spirits, their pride, their people, and their patriotism.

There’s not much in any of that to gladden a Neo-con’s heart. I don’t see him going out into the world looking for a fight. But neither is he going to hide in the basement and wait for the UN. The image we all use so often is correct, “There is a new sheriff in town”. And his job is the restoration of the rule of law, and that is what he was elected to do. America is lucky (although we made that luck, with hard work), we don’t really need the world, we could get on pretty good all by ourselves. That’s not true for almost anybody else in the world, and that too is why America leads.

But in the final analysis (for now), John Wayne, as J.B. Books in The Shootist outlined proper American foreign policy as well as anyone.

I won’t be wronged, I won’t be insulted, and I won’t be laid a hand on. I don’t do these things to other people, and I require the same from them

I think President Trump understands that quite well.

In the Belly of the Beast

So President Trump spoke to UN General Assembly yesterday. It was very good to watch the world as they saw once again what an American president looks and sounds like. One of my favorites along this line, roughly quoting from memory, “I will do what is right and proper for America, first, and the rest of the world second, and I expect all leaders of countries to do the same.” In any case, here’s the speech.

There’s a lot to like here if you’re an American patriot or a friend of America, and I found almost nothing to dislike. From “Welcome to New York” to “Rocketman” and all the way through it was pretty much a speech that should make us proud that “We, the People” chose this man, against the advice of those who would mislead us to lead us. Do I agree with everything? In this speech, pretty much. Day to day, not so much, but that’s life. Like St. Peter, I’m sometimes a bit quick with the sword, sometimes a helping hand is more appropriate, but the sword must be kept at hand.

You’ll note that there is some bleating from the purveyors of fake news sometimes called ABC at the end. The main point I’ll make about it is this. Yes, war in Korea would be a horrible, expensive, bloody mess, and we should try very hard to avoid it. But a nuclear attack on the United States, Japan, and South Korea, would be far worse. Yes, our military would take, perhaps, many casualties, and you’ll find no stronger champion of the US soldier, sailor, marine, and airman than I am, but in the last analysis, that is their job, to protect the United States and our allies. They knew that when they signed up, almost all of them, by now, when the United States was already at war. That is a price that many of our men and women have been willing to pay, from Crispus Attucks on down. And that willingness is also why we admire them so, often calling them the best of us, because they are.

But we cannot allow ourselves to be paralyzed because some people might die, all people die, someday. And any cause worth living for is also worth dying for. It’s wrong to throw away their lives for little reason, but it’s also wrong to be paralyzed by the fear of taking casualties.

Too often we (especially cossetted civilians) forget:

First: The Mission

Second: The People

In fact, sometimes the military itself forgets, especially in the press of events, and dealing with not enough people to do what needs doing. That is not to say our people (and their families) are not important. They are, critically so, but we cannot consider them more important than the mission, for without succeeding in the mission, their lives (and ours) are forfeit.

But for me, at least this speech marks the return of a recognizably American leadership, after an interregnum that was quite worrying on many levels, one of them well stated by General MacArthur, back in 1933, when he was Chief of Staff of the Army.

“The unfailing formula for production of morale is patriotism, selfrespect, discipline, and self–confidence within a military unit, joined with fair treatment and merited appreciation from without. It cannot be produced by pampering or coddling an army, and is not necessarily destroyed by hardship, danger, or even calamity. Though it can survive and develop in adversity that comes as an inescapable incident to service, it will quickly wither and die if soldiers come to believe themselves the victims of indifference or injustice on the part of their government, or of ignorance, personal ambition, or ineptitude on the part of their military leaders.”

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