What Annoys Jeff this Week?

1. Pope Francis. In a report this week, the Pope has said NATO is responsible for Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. I’m sure His Holiness is a wise and intelligent churchman, but I have to encourage him to get the fuck directly out of here with that line of thinking. The person directly responsible for the invasion of and subsequent destruction in Ukraine is Vladimir Putin. Period. Full stop. John Paul II took a courageous stand against Soviet repression across Eastern Europe. It seems his successor would rather stand with tyrants… and that heaps nothing but shame on him. 

2. Page views. My page views fell off a damn cliff this week and I have absolutely no idea why. As of this evening, views are down 68% from this time last week. Mercifully I’m not trying to sell anything here, because that’s just abysmal. Is it something I said? Was there a tweak to the algorithm? I’ve got loads of metrics about this page, but not one of them is giving me any particularly helpful insight. I’ll keep plugging away, of course, because more than anything else, this blog exists as a platform to vent my spleen before I get a chance to bottle it up. Past that, the added views are just kind of nice to have. I’d still be doing it even if no on were reading. Which at the rate these views are dropping could be sometime early next week.

3. Politicians. I’ve been looking, among other things, at the varied responses to the draft Supreme Court opinion on abortion, the continued agitation for free money handouts to those who took out student loans, the thus-far lackluster efforts of the January 6th committee, and clear disconnect between what Republican “leaders” said about Trump in private versus what they say for public consumption. The conclusion at which I’ve arrived is that it doesn’t appear that there is one single national-level politician anywhere in the country that I have any interest in voting for… for anything. Except maybe for expulsion to a desolate island in the South Pacific. They’re collectively just about the most uninspiring bunch I can imagine. I’d be hard pressed to think of anything they’ve done that makes me more likely to vote for a single one of them than I am to just throw my damned vote in the sea. They are, to a man and woman, about as useless a bunch as we’ve ever had the misfortune to seat at the highest levels of government.

What Annoys Jeff this Week?

1. The Pope. The leader of an organization that has carved out a nation-state enclave for itself in the center of Rome, extracts immense financial tribute from every nation on earth, and defends itself behind… wait for it… walls, has implied that building a wall between the US and Mexico wouldn’t be the act of a Christian. Now the last time I was in Rome, in order to get into St. Peter’s Square I had to pass through metal detectors under the watchful eyes of armed guards. To get into St. Peter’s itself there was another line, admission tickets, and established entry procedures. It was the same at the Vatican museum. Now unless Francis has thrown open all the doors and is letting people wander the halls of Vatican City at will, I’d respectfully suggest he sit down, shut up, and let the Americans worry about how best to defend our own country’s borders. If expecting people to line up and follow the rules is good enough to enter the Vatican, surely the Holy Father shouldn’t object to other nations expecting those who wish entry to line up and follow the rules of that location too.

2. Term Limits. In the last week I’ve seen articles calling for term limits everywhere. Term limits for the Congress. Term limits for the Court. Term limits for state legislatures. The thing is, though, we have term limits baked right into the system. The Constitution provides term limits at the federal level in the form of elections. Every two years we have the option to throw out every single member of the House of Representatives and 1/3 of the United States Senate. Every fourth year we have the option to turn out the president. We the people make the consistent choice to throw almost none of them out and reelect the incumbents we claim to despise. So instead of using our votes, we clamber for yet another law to allow us to do something that’s already well within the scope of our power as citizens. We have term limits already, but refuse to use them as described in America’s damned owner’s manual.

3. Putting Words in My Mouth. Here’s some advice: Don’t do it. I’m wordy enough as it is and I’m more than happy to provide commentary on whatever someone might want to hear. As demonstrated by this nearly ten year long adventure in blogging, letting people know what’s on my mind or what I think about any given topic isn’t something from which I shy away. Believe me when I say I don’t need your assistance in this matter. In fact your assistance is most unnecessary and unwelcome. It’s apt to be met by a highly energetic and thoroughly negative response.

Mixed emotions…

The Pope is coming to the District tomorrow. I saw the previous Pope in his natural habitat the last time I passed through ye olde Eternal City. It’s quite a spectacle. It’s hard to beat St. Peter’s as a backdrop and you can well imagine that a two thousand year old organization has mostly worked the kinks out of its pomp and protocol. Even for a mostly non-religious guy like me it’s something to see. My inner historian eats it up.

Seeing a Pope in Washington, though, strikes me as something akin to seeing a jelly doughnut in health food store. It’s still tasty and good, but it’s not quite right. Frankly I’m not sure I trust my countrymen, particularly the Members of Congress, to avoid making asses of themselves on the international stage. If there was ever a chance to ramp up your notoriety in the press, heckling the Pope from the 17th row of the House of Representatives would rank right up there.

As religious leaders go, I like Francis well enough. Clearly I don’t agree with all of his messaging and I find his political bent deeply suspect, but among world leaders he feels like a good man trying to do an insanely difficult job. I’ve got mixed emotions when it comes to this Pope. I’m probably more a John Paul II guy when it comes right down to it – Democracy good; Communism bad. Simple and to the point. I’m not so sure Francis would so much stand up to a Soviet Union as he would give them pointers on creating a more perfect socialist paradise.

Even if I disagree with the man on issues of faith and politics, I fervently hope we can at least manage to avoid embarrassing ourselves for 48 hours. It’s a big ask, so say a prayer, or cross your fingers, or do whatever it is your supposed to do to bring on a bit of good luck.

Conceding defeat…

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE —- OFFICIAL STATEMENT

I come before you this evening with a heavy heart. A few moments ago, I sent a tweet to Pope Francis, congratulating him on his election as your next Pope in Rome. Your support of my candidacy for these past few days has been a source of strength for me, but tonight we must come together behind the victor and accept that my dark horse candidacy was, at best, a long shot.

I have no intention of letting this sound electoral defeat drive me out of the arena… and if asked, I would happily serve as Vice Pope or in any other position that didn’t necessarily require poverty and chastity as conditions of employment. Unfortunately, tonight was simply not my time to step up to the big chair. It’s a fair bet that we’ll get another chance at the job since the Sacred College has once again chosen someone old enough to be my grandfather (and an actual Catholic) for the job. I do, however, find it suspicious that the ballots were all destroyed before they could be independently validated and the formal announcement was made before appeals could be filed with the court, but I digress.

So in conclusion: Congratulations, Your Holiness. We’ll see how things turn out next time around.

Lifetime appointment…

Aside from the celibacy thing, I’ve always thought being Pope would be a pretty good gig. You get to live in one of the world’s best and largest museums, you’re the absolute monarch of your own sovereign country, your personal bodyguard has those snappy uniforms, you’re head of the only organization I can think of that dates back to the time when a Caesar ruled the known world, and about a billion people go along (more or less) with whatever you tell them because you theoretically speak with the voice of God.Slide1 Let’s be real honest, even for a non-practicing Protestant like me, that sounds like a pretty sweet job. Plus, it’s a lifetime appointment, so it’s not like you’ve got some wackadoodle member of a House of Representatives running around trying to impeach you.

I’m not making light of Pope Benedict’s decision to resign. I think it shows a remarkable degree of self discipline to walk away from the kind of temporal authority that goes along with the fancy hats and armored thrones of his office. The guy was basically elected king at 78 – an age by which I plan to be either retired for over a decade, dead, or possibly both. By 85, I don’t think I can fault him for wanting a little down time before going off for a more personal and very final introduction to his maker.

Of course there’s more to the story than has come out in the media. Over two millennia the Catholic Church has gotten very skilled at guarding its secrets, so we may or may not ever really know what was going on inside the Vatican when the decision was made. I guess one of the perks of being the Bishop of Rome and Successor of Peter is you really don’t have to justify yourself to anyone.

If the princes of the church are looking for an unorthodox candidate, I’m happy to throw my hat, as it were, in the ring. My Latin is a little rusty, but pope-ing it seems like good work if you can get it.

Excommunication…

I think it is safe to say that most people don’t know, or particularly care, what it is exactly that I do on a daily basis. There are, from time to time, however, questions. In an effort to address some of these, I provide the following. This in no way reflects my actual job description, only what is taking up most of my time currently.

In the Church, canon law lays out the doctrine, regulations, and procedures that define what it means to be “in the faith.” While the Pope is the spiritual head of the faith and the Vicar of Christ, the Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith is charged with preserving and enforcing the central tenants of the faith. In this role, he functions a bit like the Supreme Court in its role as arbiter of the Constitution. Unlike court decisions, which cannot be appealed, the prefect’s decisions can be reversed by the Pope.

I am keeper of the business processes and standard operating procedures… Ensuring that our own dogma and doctrine are carried out and interpreted correctly by the faithful. It only sounds dull because it can be. It’s driven by a perverse attention to detail and a profoundly retentive belief that all of our people, everywhere on earth, should do everything exactly same way. Sadly, I lack the power of excommunication, a deficiency I should probably bring up at our next staff meeting.

After writing this out, I realize that using the internal organization of the Catholic Church in an effort to simplify the explanation of what I have been up to may not have exactly hit the mark. Sorry.