Essays in Idleness


From Saginasty to Saginawesome

“If you’ve got rats, you call the guy to come in.”

I picked up this little gem of political analysis from this morning’s news-cruise on the Internet. It was on the Beeb website, of all unlikely places. Their correspondent was visiting Saginaw, Michigan, which he correctly identified as a proper noun in the lyrics of a pop song from fifty-two years ago. (BBC like to remind us how hip they are.)

Perhaps gentle reader already understands this analysis, uttered by a retired nurse, who was not the only Saginawian who helped deliver the “blue wall” state of Michigan to Mr Trump, two Novembers ago.

“You don’t care if his crack is showing, you don’t care if he swears, you don’t care if he got tobacco-stain teeth. You want the rats took out.”

I’m quoting from memory, I hope I’ve got it right.

The oddest thing about this story, which wanders off the Beeb’s anti-Trump narrative for a few paragraphs before returning to it, is that it tells us exactly why Mr Trump now has the Republican Party in his wee hands, and is beloved in “Middle America” — including Saginaw, a failed rustbelt town, once heavily unionized and in the fief of the Democratic Party. Under their management, the population of Saginaw shrank to about half.

But it don’t belong to them any more; and what is worse (if you’re a Democrat), it is coming back to life.

This is a mystery, to the media, although not to me. Even a prominent local patch of graffiti has been altered from “Saginasty” to “Saginawesome” — and little businesses are springing through the asphalt splits, including boutique shops, boutique breweries, boutique housebuilding, and boutique industrial workshops.

Let me explain the mystery. A very large part of human enterprise is founded on morale. One might call it a confidence game; but some of these games are better than others. The parties of managed decline, and political correctness, in America and across Europe, cannot understand this. To them, an economy is based on economic factors, and the government’s job is to control them. But morale is not an economic factor. It is a spiritual factor. Winning does not start with getting the right assistance; it starts with wanting to win.

And it depends on the most inscrutable enthusiasms, such as that for putting the rats out.

As their correspondent discovered, in Tony’s Original Restaurant, the town contains many “anti-abortion, low-tax” people — black as well as white. These are the sort of “deplorables” upon whom progressive Democrats (and Liberals and Labourites and Social Democrats) heap their anathemas and slurs. What he perhaps missed is that pro-life extends beyond unborn babies, to all kinds of deplorable activities, such as earning a living and supporting a family and building a community. It is very likely to include involvement in a church.

Mr Trump is rather vulgar, as I have previously noted, but I have myself migrated from the “never Trump” to something like the “MAGA” position. (Though I’d prefer, “Make America Christian Again,” with its more aggressive trigger term.) I did not watch his presidential address last night, because I didn’t have to. I still find his boastfulness and tweetersnipes rather taxing. I still won’t invite Donald up to the High Doganate (and it would be scandalous to invite Melania alone).

But he has fixed the morale button his predecessors busted — the one that is wired to the mysterious siren that drives the rats crazy.


Now that the consensus of media dieticians is shifting from carbohydrates to fats and proteins, I should like to put in a contrary word for chestnuts. They are very starchy indeed, contain little fat, and just a trace of protein. They are admirable roasted or boiled, and can be eaten au naturel once elegantly stripped of their casings. (Whereas, raw potatoes or yams are no fun at all.) They contain vitamins that other foods omit, better apportioned through a delicious nut than by chewing on manganese or copper. Moreover, they are real nuts, not fake ones like almonds and cashews, or peas passing themselves off as “groundnuts.” Those are all fats and useless calories. Chestnuts will make you fat, thus cutting out the middleman.

Which is why they have been fed to pigs, these last few hundred years; that, and the appalling propaganda mounted against chestnuts by our culinary elites. The European poor once ate them in quantity, as their filler; made bread from chestnut flour. Italians, harder to intimidate by fashion than most others, still adore their subtle flavours.

These thoughts were occasioned by a sealed bag of peeled chestnuts, casually purchased the other day as a snack while walking. They were candied in a rather disagreeable way. But worse, I unfortunately failed to read the label attentively, or would have noticed that the contents were “organic.” No intelligent consumer will buy anything on which this warning is prominently displayed. Quite apart from the doubling or tripling of the price, the product itself may be missing some important ingredient.

Children raised on “organic” food become weak and sickly. Those raised “vegan” as well are likely to die. If you find a child perishing in this way, be merciful and fill him with meat and chestnuts.

Or if no meat-bearing animal is in sight, the chestnuts alone will make a fine ragoût. Fill a saucepan with them (skinned and peeled), add salt and loaf sugar and a sprig of thyme, and more than you thought necessary of butter. Then drown all this in a good seasoned broth. Put lid on saucepan, and simmer for an hour. All the liquid will be absorbed in the chestnuts; and while hot they are fabulous.

Chestnuts make excellent stuffings, and creamed soups; compôtes with apples or oranges; soufflés with eggs either chicken or quail; sublime cake mixtures. In Heaven, they serve hot chestnuts with prunes in a sherry syrup touched with cinnamon and lemon. Always on silver, as Mrs Leyel prophesied.

French tinned and tubed preparations with chestnuts are not to be despised, though unavailable in the groceries of Parkdale. To some tastes (mine for instance) they may be “too too”; the integrity of the chestnut is lost in the confection. For the antecedent texture of the chestnut should be somehow preserved, if only in an allusion.

Roasted, they can be “just so.” There used to be chestnut vendors outside the Royal Ontario Museum; I should think they were also by the Museum at Alexandria. Since these splendid men with their charcoal trays were replaced by the vendors of hot dogs, no visit to the museum has been the same. My most beloved Sung-dynasty pots only make me think of chestnuts.

The four word chronicles

The causes of wealth are two: work, and thrift. The causes of poverty are two: idleness, and waste. Four words to the wise. This Scottish philosophy, with supplementary details such as the division of labour and open competition, is correctly attributed to Adam Smith. It was controversial in his own day (all my favourite Tories satirized it), and remains controversial to this, not because it doesn’t work, but because it is amoral. If wealth, however, is to be accepted as the ultimate good, it becomes morally charged, or “weaponized” for moralizing. An equal and opposite force is then summoned, from the partisans of “equality,” and our ideological wars ensue.

Let me drop no hint to the identity of an auld acquaintance, who by the world’s measure is quite rich, and by my own, fabulously so. His wife is given to candour, however, and once mentioned that he is not worth a cent. She loves him dearly, but explained, that what lies behind his reputation as a captain of industry, and her own spectacular domestic arrangements, is a great heap of debt. She, who is spiritually if not racially Scotch, lives in the expectation that some day the bankers will call it all in.

Add another wee dram (the eighth part of a fluid ounce), and she may add that it would be a good thing.

Doctor Johnson, a man of much sense and little nonsense (and that little mostly joyful) loved to correct people who had confused the concepts of “wealth” and “money.” The distinction can be over-complicated or over-simplified by the observation that there are some cash rich and land poor, others land rich and cash poor, and others still with both or neither. But by their confusion Lord Keynes, in our world a century ago, exhaled an acrid fog of plausible assertions, which fail whenever they are put into practice. That other man of four words, Samuel Johnson, would have confuted him, thus: “Money is not wealth.”

To the older economists, perhaps money was more valuable. This is because it was denominated in weights of silver and gold, and the miser had more options than him tied down to properties, and all the bother that goes with. But in itself this cash was only glister, until put to use. You can’t take it with you, of course, but then, you can’t take anything into that dark night.

There is a fly in the ointment of the Glasgow professor, which I will put in four words: poverty is a blessing. This has naught to do with how it’s brought about.

I could tolerate socialism if its advocates were honest, and said that their purpose was to make us poor, by restricting our freedom, in order to enhance their own power. As things stand, I think they are very devils, and that their efforts to pose as anything but socialists are the devil’s work. But good often comes of evil, and the impoverished and yet ordered decay of a Rangoon or an Havana is something pretty to see. Well, I have yet to walk Havana, but the photographs are attractive.

The challenge, to my mind, is how to achieve poverty, without any help from the socialists. And I think, once again, Adam Smith points the way. It is that the great majority of our fellows are, by disposition, neither industrious nor frugal. Left to their own devices, they will live in blackhouses and crofts. But they don’t want to die, so will plant their potatoes. Perhaps it should be the purpose of our political economy to let them do this, and find their happiness in music and dance. (And single-malt whiskies, which came before the tritely homogenized, blended kinds.)

For the rest, let us simply create obstacles to the accumulation of capital, by the withdrawal of “limited liability,” and the reinstatement of the usury laws.

On onus

Sunday is coming, and up here in the frostbitten and hypothermic North, it will be the thirtieth anniversary of a Supreme Court decision that made all abortions legal. The Crown versus the abortionist Henry Morgentaler was an odd decision in multiple respects. I often hear that it was not understood; that the court merely demanded that our Parliament rewrite the Pierre-Trudeau abortion law in a way more consistent with our later Pierre-Trudeau Charter of Rights. But the politicians of that day and since (both Conservative and Liberal) have not found the courage. They will not revisit an issue that is, shall we say, divisive.

It was like taking the roof off one’s house and then, to avoid a family squabble over the design of a new one, not replacing it.

The analogy is not exact, however. It was less rational than that. To start, the majority decision (a 5–2 ruling) was Hydra-headed. Three unrelated sets of “reasoning” were published, each batty but unique. One could not be satisfied, without ignoring the other two; so that whatever Parliament did, it would be right back in court.

(In such circumstances I’m inclined to recall the old adage, “As well be hanged for a sheep as a lamb.”)

For instance, the 1988 ruling acknowledged that the State has “some” responsibility to defend the “potential life” of the “foetus,” by restricting abortion “in some way.” The assumption of Justice Bertha Wilson was that it would do this by retricting abortions to early term, the way various European jurisdictions were doing. But she was just one of the progressive voices. You can’t negotiate with the Lernaean Hydra.

My own view, back then, was that Parliament should agree to toss out the Pierre-Trudeau law, with its strangely arbitrary cosmetic restrictions (such as a requirement that three doctors rubberstamp each abortion on fanciful health grounds). Then, restore the status quo ante, in which all abortions were illegal, and declare that it would remain in force until there was consensus on how it should be changed; blaming the Supreme Court for forcing your hand.

In other words, turn the tables on them. And to the howls of progressive execration that would follow, the then-prime minister (one Brian Mulroney) could have responded with a Trudeau-like shrug. Mulroney had a huge majority in the Commons at the time, with plenty of reliable upcountry backbenchers. He could surely have powered this restoration through, on a three-line whip.

Granted, this might have cost him the Dominion election, later that year. But so what? Who could wish to win an election at the cost of his own soul? Mr Mulroney was a Catholic, after all. I’d like to think he was a serious one.

Today, we live in the alternative world where this did not happen. Thirty years have passed, and there is no foreseeable way to “overturn” laws that no longer exist.

But there ought to be laws, against any form of murder. And the onus ought to be the reverse of what it has become. An argument should be needed to justify the killing of what remains — no matter what euphemism is attempted — a human baby. No argument should be needed for not killing it.

The scandal of interiors

Asked by a visitor what is the best way to see Greater Parkdale, I replied, on your back in an ambulance. I was serious, of course. At street level, transient franchise shopfronts bear no architectural relation to the older buildings they have been stuck on. But from a reclining position, only the unmodified upper storeys can be seen, yet nothing above the second or third (thus deleting most of the appalling highrises). The city thus retains something of its fine and fusty Edwardian provincial order. Prone in this way, one might drive for miles through repulsively glitzy shopping districts, without seeing what’s been added since the Great War.

I suppose this was a comfort to a dear old-Toronto friend I accompanied on his last ride to a hospital, a few years ago. He was a little hard of speaking, as well as hearing, on that last leg, but managed to communicate something droll, about how lovely the city was in late January. By the time we were in Emergency he apologized for being sentimental, explaining that his only regret in dying was that, at his age, all friends and loves had predeceased him. Therefore he was the only earthly being who could remember their voices and faces. With his passing, even their faint echo would be forever gone.

Dear “Mbob,” as he would sign himself. (A certain Robert Olson, inclined to nicknames in Greek, or Icelandic) — very kindly as well as Christian and I should think, gone to a better City.

I think of him today in relation to the Scandal of Interiors. I use the word strictly as a conventional term in domestic architecture. We both loved old houses, and old shops, too, and old low-life taverns, so regretted that none were left.

All things are a flowing, sage Heraclitus says,
But a tawdry cheapness shall outlast our days.

Real brick-and-plaster substance is, perversely enough, often smooshed then overlain with a plastic parody of some “olde” style. We live today in urban environments which are comprehensively fake — a contributing factor to the fakeness in ourselves. The tactic of developers is to append “poetic” associations from a happier past, to their ghastly provisional installations. This odonymical abuse has been going on for some time: “mountain-view” where there is no mountain, “river-side” where there is no river, “park-dale” with neither park nor dale. “Old-world charm” that consists of ticky-tack boxes, with stacks of brutalist concrete poking through.

The “downtowns” of cities in the eastern half of this American continent were built before the automobile, with pedestrian compactness. So prosperous did we become, so quickly, and so extensive was the building towards the latter end of the nineteenth century, that plentiful evidence remains. The ground-cover is still mostly older buildings, paradoxically thanks to rocketing property values: new buildings must accommodate phenomenal densities, upon tiny footprints. But ten-thousands of apparently “old houses” remain, going on and off market at a million apiece. The principles of money-management have “evolved” over the years, and the idea of “home” as a fungible investment has been universalized. All one needs to acquire one is a small saving and a large credit line. Then one is cut in for all subsequent rounds of poker.

You move in and “re-decorate,” less from personal taste than in anticipation of re-sale. After this process has been repeated a few times, nothing remains of the older building except its “historical” façade, itself somewhat tarted. Travelling about by foot and trolley, I have watched a likely majority of the city’s more attractive “landmark” buildings reduced to fronts only. These are propped by girders, while entirely new (and disproportionately larger) new constructions are bunged in behind.

Thus, nothing remains that is “authentic.” All continuities are destroyed, beyond this tip of the hat — the aesthetic equivalent of that homage which vice pays to virtue.

Slip-sliding away

One hears much about the diminishing ice caps on Greenland. At least this one does. Too, though less often, about calving ice sheets in Antarctica, though seldom with the qualification that the overall ice-cover on and around that continent is increasing. All very well, I enjoy science, and will read the report if there is any prospect of science in it, as distinct from more lipstick being wasted on the same old pig. I despise scientism, warmly — the pretence of science, dressed in high-priestly labcoat robes, in pursuit of an essentially theocratic power; or, “settled science,” as its adepts call it.

Here is an example of science. It is about those ice caps on Greenland which, I believe short of “faith,” are actually receding — especially along the north-east coast, where glaciers most copiously slide into the ocean. The plausible assumption of those whose livings depend on climate alarmism, is that “global warming” has been melting them down, from above, on the broiler principle. But as overall global and regional atmospheric temperatures have been remarkably stable, and there is no evidence of melting from the top, might one guess that they are melting from below?

Researchers from Aarhus University in Denmark, working from this hunch, and a knowledge of geomorphology, took it upon themselves to measure water temperatures at the bottom of fjords in north-east Greenland, where hot springs like those in Iceland have been discerned. Sure enough, they found, over a ten-year study, that waters more than a hundred fathoms down were consistently and significantly warmer than what conventional calculations would expect. The explanation is obvious. It’s that hot spot thing. Heat from the interior of the Earth is rising.

Put a chunk of ice in a pan on your stovetop. Turn up the heat and notice what happens. The ice melts, from below. This will happen no matter how cold your kitchen is.

It is good sometimes to do actual experiments, to test a hunch. It was in the twelfth century, in the West, that we first tried acting on this hunch of hunches. Even Aristotle got some things wrong, as we discovered, over the next five centuries. We celebrate the “scientific revolution” of the seventeenth century, which was quite impressive, but as Pierre Duhem and others established, the fruit sprang from a tree with historical roots much deeper. Modern science was not a rejection of, or departure from, mediaeval science. It was rather the natural outgrowth from it.

There could of course be other contributing causes, but what struck me and others about the ice cap reports is that they were geographically concentrated, in fairly remote places. One would expect, if “global warming” were true, that the melting would be quickest in the south, slower northward. And as the south of Greenland is rather more accessible, one would anyway expect the anecdotal evidence to be richest there. But no.

Marvellous things can be discovered, through empirical science, when researchers are looking for some particular thing. I will not say it rewards the open-minded. The hunch precedes the demonstration. An “open” mind is an empty mind: it has nothing to look for. An honest mind is more to the point.

Notes & topics

Another busy day. I wanted to write an Idlepost on the word “houselling,” inspired by an item sent by a good friend in Washington. (See here.) “Living in Parkdale or DC is either an example of or an obstacle to houselling,” he comments. But after considering the matter from several angles, I realized that I had nothing to say. Often I come to some like conclusion. There is no difficulty finding topics that bark, only in taking them for a walk, as it were. Why, here in a sheaf of papers on my table I find a list of them (topics), fairly recently scratched down. I stare. Darn’d if I can remember what I was intending to add to any of them. I transcribe it below, so gentle reader may pick any item that pleases her, and write her own Idlepost today.


The crowd is only interested in the product. But the producer is more interested in the work. And the connoisseur is on the side of the producer.

You can read anything into Shakespeare, if you’re stupid enough.

To express my insolidarity with the partakers of mild North American food.

Vauxhall. In the 1970s they got into the competition to produce the most boring car the world had ever seen. I think they won. But no one can remember which model it was.

Trumpestuous. … If he’d only had a little more discretion, the world would never have heard of him.

Progressives in this age of mass media focus on “controlling the narrative.” There is a competition between “narratives,” after all. The winners must make their narrative heard, but just as important, they must suppress any alternative narrative. This is what all the “outrage” is for: to make a big noise whenever a rival storyteller is speaking. It doesn’t matter if people think the progressives are gauche, so long as they are unable to follow what Homer (the first Tory) is singing.

Google, Amazon, Tencent, Baidu, IBM, Alibaba, Facebook, Apple, Microsoft. Kill them all, God will know his own.

There is no such a thing as free lunch, and no such a thing as free speech, either. Someone must pay.

Curre ut vincas. (“Run that you may conquer.” I Cor ix.24) … Sublimiora spectemus. (“Let us regard loftier things.”) These are mottoes of the Clan of Warren, it says here. Someone should have told me.

“There are opinions and there is faith.” (Lustiger)

But we ARE Jews, for gawdsake — spiritual Semites to a man from the start — and to a woman, and unto the childers. That is what it is to be Catholic, or Orthodox Greekish for that matter, in our liturgies descending from the Sanctuary, beneath the Temple Mount. We lay claim to ALL of the Scriptures, or rather they lay claim to us, and if you will read your Summa of Rabbi Saint Thomas (the forgotten sections on the Old Law, 1a2ae, questions 98 to 105), we take our Tanakh whole, noting the hardest passages in Deuteronomy and Leviticus — all 46 books and not just the 39 that Mr Luther and Mr Stuart happened to like — and as with Rabbi Saint Augustine (passim) we read the New Testament concealed within the Old, and the Old unveiled in the New. …

“Jews don’t forget!”

Saint Paul: “But even if we ourselves or an angel from heaven should preach to you a Gospel other than the one that we preached to you, let him be anathema.” (Galatians i, 8)

“A prince void of prudence shall oppress many by calumny.” (Proverbs xxviii, 16)

“If fitting into this culture and society constitutes sanity, then please God, let me never be sane.” — Ann Barnhardt


Oh look, there’s more!

On learned ignorance

The piece I wrote in Catholic Thing today (here), which had to be held over from my usual Friday (I had forgotten that yesterday would be Right to Life March in Washington), has already proved incomprehensible to more than one reader. Indeed, an editor described it as, “nosebleed high.” I was just rereading it, up here in my ivory tower, with my guest for morning coffee, who was Nicolaus Cusanus (1401–64).

It was he who wrote the treatise, De Docta Ignorantia (“On Learned Ignorance”), which says something similar but in at least 50,000 more words. The thesis, over-simply, is that our inquiries into nature and supernature must be girded about with real humility. We should pursue reason with every instrument in our toolbox, but we should also remain constantly aware of their, and our limitations. The truly learned man will be, because he must be, a learned ignoramus.

(There is more to it than this, for Nicolaus has built a system from his ignorance, but to go further I should have to fling about terms like theologia negativa, and coincidentia oppositorum, and names like Pseudo-Dionysus and Eriugena, and take more flak from aggressive lowbrows.)

Though a figure of the late Middle Ages, when scholasticism had deteriorated into verbal gamesmanship, he is generally counted as a Renaissance thinker, aspiring to wrap some flesh back around the driest philosophical bones. He personally enjoyed much preferment in the Church (becoming bishop and cardinal and a grand canon lawyer), which these days is a reason to suspect anybody. Worse, his works seem not even to have been very controversial, another bad sign.

But as he was saying to me this morning (between the lines) that is because his contemporaries were fools, and some of the brightest among them were emotional (warmed-over Meister Eckhart) “mystics,” straying into the genuinely irrational. They didn’t really care what he said, or what anyone said, who lacked the populist, “New Age” flavour (that led to the Reformation). We forget that the latter-day gnosticism that our own more sober heads decry, will always need thorough denunciation; that it offers an easy way out to any serious thinking, and is implicitly false.

That does not change the hard fact that in thinking through high theological questions (or “modern scientific” ones for that matter), we are boxed into our finitude. The most important things we can’t know, by our own efforts, whether we might ourselves be Thomists, Scotists, Post-Structuralists, whatever.

When it comes to something off every possible chart — God, specifically — we can only know what we are told. This is the point I was making; the point shared, I think, even by such encompassing thinkers as Origen, or Augustine, or Thomas Aquinas, or every other Catholic Christian great. (Notice how I slighted that know-it-all, Luther.)

One may, of course, reject Revelation (and go to Hell for it). Or one may accept the Revelation of Our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, on His own (“catholic”) terms, and act accordingly. But any way you look at it, the choice is finally between this Revelation, and the Total Cosmic Blank. Christian faith goes beyond — far beyond — the rational arguments of any philosophers. It is not on the level of an intellectual conclusion, but that of an all-encompassing premiss. Faith even precedes reason!

Ideas may have consequences, for all I know. (I don’t see many examples.) But this premiss has a consequence, that is life or death. It is not only on the question of abortion, but on every conceivable question, that we must Choose Life.

Pineapples or elephants?

Here is a question I don’t understand, although I do know the answer. It is, elephants.

The question came up in some interview I was watching, with a certain Julie Fowlis, the Scottish Gaelic singer (and piper, and tin-whistler) on whom I have a huge crush. She was fielding questions from an audience of Gaelic music enthusiasts, and the last question was, in its entirety, “Pineapples or elephants?”

The lady needed no time to consider. “Elephants,” she replied.

Perhaps some reader will explain the matter to me. I hope not. I’d rather be kept in the dark, although I shall confess some secret curiosity about the intention of the question.

The singer comes from North Uist, from where my own mother’s people came, to the New World, and specifically to Cape Breton, thanks to the Highland Clearances — when the question was, “People or sheep?” Or let me be pretentious and call it Uihbst a Tuath, which from my extremely ignorant knowledge of Gaelic might be translated, “North Womb.” She was raised in a home where Gaelic was still spoken, as by a miracle it still is in those parts.

One could see Uihbst a Tuath from Cape Breton, were it not for the curvature of the Earth. It is just across the water. My Grandmother Annie (“Nana” for short) could see it, could see through anything like that, as she bounced me on her knee, whenas I was little, and she sang Gaelic songs. (Ascended, 1962.) She could see dead people, but what is more she could see live people, too: I shouldn’t doubt that she is watching now. (Indeed, my other grandmother could do this, even though she was English from Devonshire.)

Now, Nana would also reply to questions, without overmuch burdening her answers. I have mentioned before once asking her, “Nana, how many languages do you speak?” She replied, as a good Canadian, “I speak both of our national languages, Latin and Gaelic.” (Then when I observed that she spoke English, too, she fulsomely denied it.)

This is an attitude that is wrongly called, Celtic. It cannot be right because there is no such thing as Celtic, and there never was such a thing. It is an entirely imaginary race, invented by academics a few generations ago, who obviously did not have Gaelic grandmothers. Moreover, it was the opposite of a whimsical, Gaelic idea. Rather, it was deadly, like all race cults. The victims of this grave imposture still stalk our Celtic Studies departments, which are like Women’s Studies, only worse.

The truth is that the folk of Brythony in Gaul, of Dumnonia, of Cambria beyond the coal fields, and Hibernia beyond the Pháil, of the Islands and Highlands above Caledonia, all came from faeries.

But returning to Julie Fowlis, I love the way she refers not to her people, but to persons in the inabstract. How she steps aboard nobody’s sleigh. I love the way she refers to her husband, and to her childers, and though a megastar in that “Celtic” infirmament, has a babe in her arms through an audio recording, who would not sleep otherwise. She held the wee thing carefully away from the microphone, lest it pick up the snoring.

There are still some women in this world, I reflect.

She is not spoilt, she is not puffed and “pleated” — I mean pucker’d and crimp’d — as some other stars. She is just herself. This is a quality I have come to admire, the more as it has become rarer, especially among those who deal with “the masses,” as we all must do in modern city life. A human is a Being and not a Becoming: somehow we have forgotten this.

We are elephants, and not pineapples, in that sense.

Amazon flooding

As I was just writing to my Chief Texas Correspondent: “Damn. Greater Parkdale has made the shortlist for the new five-billion-dollar Amazon HQ. We will have to do something to stop this. Or we’ll have another 50,000 aliens moving in, and no [impious expression] way to deport them.”

Imagine, having one’s city overrun by what are colloquially called [another impious expression]. Or having to move to, say, Ottawa, to get away from the Lefties.

Verily, we are the only remaining candidate not in the Natted States Merica. Perhaps we could send a delegation to Seattle, in case they have overlooked this fact. Recommend they build it in Atlanta, or some other city we utterly despise, such as Austin, or Chicago. We could point to the death-trap of Canadian taxes. Or the prejudice against bald people up here. I could include pictures of Inner Parkdale. Maybe organize a million-man commentariat of Greater Parkdalians to trash the company on Twitter. “We don’t want yer durty stinken jobs. We’re happy with our own single-payer system.”

Or why don’t they put it in the middle of any American city that has been governed by the Democrats for at least thirty years? You know, some real dive, like Baltimore, or Detroit. There’ll be lots of empty space, downtown, and they can buy off the councillors cheaply. (Unfortunately, those cities were among the first to drop off the Amazon list.)

Bring back FIRA! … (This was the “Foreign Investment Review Agency” that the elder Trudeau created, to stop foreigners from investing in Canada. I never realized how necessary it was.)

This is a serious environmental concern. Amazon is, after all, the major cause of climate change. Everything they sell exudes carbon dioxide, and as we now know, all this excess exhalation is bringing back the Ice Age. Which is all very well if you want to ice over Los Angeles, or New York, but please:

Not In My Back Yard!

Did you know?

There is a way to test your conscience, to see if it is working properly. Ask it repeatedly for judgements on such as, what you want to do tonight. If it decides, consistently, that what you want can be justified, it is not working. You must get it fixed — and soon, before it gives a dead reading on something important. Unless, tonight is important. Check local churches for availability of priests; but don’t wait till it is fixed to go to Confession.

I think my own conscience was working fairly well when I left home, decades ago; but it was a cheap post-Protestant model, which soon fritzed. Within a few years I was getting almost no charge from it whatever. I got it fixed, eventually — entirely overhauled with new parts — but it still gives me trouble. The alarm only sounds at audible volume in the most extreme cases. On many little daily challenges, it is nearly mute. I need the spiritual equivalent of a hearing aid to pick up the soft siren.

To the lasting regret of the more serious Catholics — however many are left — Rome Central has been telling us to follow our consciences, on one issue after another, using ripe old terms of art, such as “discernment” and “the  internal forum,” as opposed to e.g. the old hippie phrase, “If it feels good, do it.” Having worked ourselves into the inescapable corner, tied ourselves in the Gordian knot, we are invited to trust our heart for a way out of the mess we have created. But that is how we got into the mess in the first place. “For the heart is deceitful above all things,  and desperately wicked.”

“Who can know it?”

And what if you do know that your conscience isn’t working, but don’t want it fixed? Just want the setting moved from “No” to “Yes” with the help of a priest, so you can have things both ways, as you are used to having them. So you will not even have to queue for an annulment, which is so embarrassing. (Something might come up, that no one needs to know!)

Why can’t we just cut to the chase? Lots of other people do! And they, after all, aren’t nearly so holy as we know that we are, thanks to our “discernment.” We actually want to take Communion! Surely that should jump us to the front of the line.

But we have drifted to a place where no priest can help us, because none has authority any more. The priests themselves are instructed to “go along to get along,” and are more likely to be reprimanded for doing their job, than for neglecting it. Refusing Communion to unrepentant public sinners would be a good example of what that job once included, or in Canon Law, still includes.

The path of least resistance leads to no resistance. The unaided, uncalibrated conscience will, pretty much invariably, find you an excuse. Or more precisely, you find the excuse yourself; the conscience merely lets it pass.

For twenty centuries it has been, or was, the position of the Church, that only a conscience correctly formed in the received teaching, from Christ through his Apostles, could be counted as reliable. We had (still have) catechisms and canons to spell those teachings out. They were manuals which could be used to test if your conscience were working; or in an emergency, to fix it yourself.

Yes, we are in a mess. But it was quite foreseeable. Verily, it was foreseen.

The replacement of generative married sex with childless mutual masturbation had been an issue for some time. This was the controversy over contraception. If even married “heterosexuals” are doing it, then what of the others? Fornication within marriage is what contraception sets up. This was nailed bravely in Humanae Vitae, yet even as it was published, it was being laughed off. If the door of “conscience” could be opened to fornication thus, it could be opened to fornication of every other kind, as the document itself anticipated. It is no surprise that, for instance, the “gay mafia” in the Vatican are so determined to displace Pope Paul’s one gem: for the “gay revolution” proceeds through the same doctrinal hole. Everything becomes “a matter of conscience.” And instead of “grace everywhere,” we have the laughter of hyenas.

But did you know? That mocking laughter, which echoes down the corridors from 1968, proves that conscience isn’t working, and hasn’t been working for a long time.

Minimizing wages

There is a silly controversy going on in the Province of Ontario, as in many other jurisdictions, about the “minimum wage.” I would explain the controversy, as it plays around Greater Parkdale, but the risk of boring gentle reader is too great.

I wrote “silly,” because governments (like the one we have in the Province of Ontario), raise the minimum wage by legislation, knowing full well that this will sabotage the interests of the poor. Their more intelligent propagandists also know this. They price the poor out of the low and entry-level jobs, thus hurrying their replacement by robots. They push other wages down, towards the lowest common denominator. They dump people into welfare dependency (culling their numbers through subsidized abortions). Those who keep their jobs lose sundry benefits including working conditions as their employers try to soften the fiscal hit. Whatever costs cannot be recovered from the employees directly, are passed along to consumers. The inflationary pressure is thus focused upon just those cheap goods the poor buy. And so forth. Innumerable economic studies have demonstrated the effects, which are almost entirely negative for people, though closer to a wash for faceless corporations.

But you cannot be a successful politician without realizing that most of your electoral clients are slow in reasoning, and poorly informed; that they can be suckered with plausible-sounding speeches. “The peeple” are also morally degenerate, thanks to the collapse of family and religion, and thus easy marks for appeals to low motives, such as envy and spite.

Take, for first example, the millions who buy lottery tickets. They cannot afford it, and are betting against incredible odds. But the idea of getting rich, without effort, and thumbing their noses at their imagined oppressors, goads them on. It is an extremely effective way to tax the poor, and with their full cooperation.

A great deal of supposed “health” and “environmental” legislation is in the same category. It increases costs-of-living disproportionately for the poor, while subsidizing the smug who buy the “organic” and “sustainable” high-end items. The whole fraudulent business of “global warming” involves strapping down the poorest, while creating economic opportunities for investors in Big.

Every progressive income tax is shot through with loopholes, that benefit the richest, at the expense of the poorly-lawyered. A flat-rate tax, without gimmicks, would actually shift the burden upwards, as credible economists have repeatedly demonstrated.

Which is why every advocate for a position that would actually benefit the lesser-incomed, or widen their freedom actually to choose (goods, services, schools, medical, everything), gets smeared. And why fashion, not only in clothing but ideology — the “cool” factor animating each progressive generation — consistently assists the wealthy and secure, in their exploitation and diminution of their inferiors. (It is no accident that Wall Street and Silicon Valley vote overwhelmingly Democrat.)

The big negotiate with each other; the small seek scraps. This has been the way of the world, and will be. Large corporations do not lobby for the interests of small family-business competitors. Neither do big unions. Small companies cannot afford to lobby at all. Which is why the tax departments treat them like oatmeal.

Which is not to say little people are good, and big people bad. They are all bad, I am only saying that the small are smaller.

Contemporary life is made the more poisonous, however, by the standardization and professionalization of hypocrisy. Through advertising of many kinds at every media level, we are bombarded by something worse than “fake news.” It is fake empathy, dolloped by the self-serving.

Against which genuine, personalized charity is the only effective weapon. Use it.

Crypt currencies

It is often said that, in the event of total economic collapse, gold will be useless because you can’t eat it. Horde beans instead. I must have taken this to heart because, up here in the High Doganate, I keep a good supply of yellow split peas, lentils, dried egg noodles, rice, and most important, tea. Should the electricity still be running, I’d be able to last for weeks until help arrived from an unexpected source, that had been hiding behind the planet Neptune.

Notwithstanding, gold has a fine glitter, and even if I were feeling quite hungry, I might still idly stoop to collect some stray gold eagle or krugerrand that had fallen in the street; some little scattering of gold sovereigns; any old ducats or florins, mohurs or nomismata that some despairing coin collector had tossed; even malformed lumps of gold bullion. You never know, someone might want it.

Let it also be said that you can eat it. Visit a Bengali sweet shop and observe, that gold and silver can be beaten so thin, they makes edible wraps for candy. The Magic Oven in East Parkdale does a pizza with gold flakes for customers of a certain temperament; and I’ve read of a Manhattan truck that offers a “Douche Burger” for $666. This is Kobe beef with foie-gras stuffing, under gruyere melted in champagne steam, topped with caviar, truffles, lobster, and a kopi luwak barbecue sauce (made from the coffee-berry excrement of Indonesian palm civets). But where’s the gold, gentle reader is asking? It comes wrapped in a (gluten-free) gold foil.

Too much fuss and bother, I judge. Me, I will stick with ground lamb under oka, in a buttermilk bun. Condiments would ruin it.

Now, I’ve drifted from this morning’s topic, which is crypt currencies. These may be distinguished from crypto-currencies by their density. Gold is the chief one, to the point of being a satchel-carriage problem, at more than half an Imperial tonne per cubic foot. Even silver, at around seven hundred pounds, makes it hard to run when the cops arrive. And you’ll need lots of friends for a platinum heist.

Diamonds I leave out of this account, for although much lighter (at a half cubic foot, one could almost lift the bag), they are individuals. I want something that can be melted down.

It is true that the price-value of precious metals can be volatile. This became much truer when they were formally demonetized, and I could no longer exchange my small banknote earnings for real silver dollars. (You could do that dollar-for-dollar at any Canadian bank, when I was a kid.) But when monetized on a large scale (as gold, internationally, at the height of the gold standard) they become remarkably stable.

I am of the old school in several ways (more every day), and of course, people like me demand a return to that very gold standard, which did not survive the Keynesian circus after World War One. We think the ideal rate of inflation is 0.0 percent. We are extremely naïve.

In theory, I could accept a currency backed by some mixed basket of commodities, that honest bankers could adjust to maintain constant transaction values. This could be done over a long period, were men always honest, and their motives always pure. In practice, I don’t trust the creatures. The difficulty with any fancy proposal, is that it is fancy. Whereas, gold is so simple. You have it or you don’t.

Now, crypto-currencies are intentionally complicated, so that if you want to “mine bitcoin” on computers in your basement, you can also heat your house. They are ridiculously volatile, so that lottery tickets might be the better bet. Or Dutch tulip bulbs, now that the market for them has settled.

The Swiss Federal Council has ruled, that bitcoin cannot rightly be called a pyramid or ponzi scheme, because there is no promise of profit. They called it instead a “collective delusion.” Many of these work, while the delusion lasts. But all end in tears.

Whereas, crypt currencies could be exhumed from the grave, and go right back to work, status-quo-ante.