Thursday, 3/30/23


Alarming if true

Over a third of our college seniors couldn’t show any significant cognitive gain for their college years.

Michael Poliakoff, president of the American Council of Trustees and Alumni via William McGurn.

Saucing geese and ganders

[T]he wrongs wrought by [university DEI policies] are three: First, by folding socio-political goals into the process for tenure and promotion the policy conflates those ends with professional qualifications. This conflation infringes academic freedom. Further, were it to become acceptable for a university to commandeer its faculty toward socio-political ends, made part of the faculty’s professorial obligations, there would be no principled reason why those who fund the institution—the legislatures—should not impose those socio-political ends that they hold dear.

Prof. Matthew Finkin, Diversity! Mandating Adherence to a Secular Creed.

Note well that last sentence, particularly if you commend DEI and contemn Ron DeSantis’s dealings with New College Florida.

What happens on campus doesn’t stay on campus

For a long time we tolerated campus behavior much as we used to tolerate the behavior of toddlers. They’ll grow out of it, we thought, when they enter the real world. But the joke was on us. They graduated into the real world and started to impose their views on it. Weak-kneed managers, eager to protect their privileges and preserve a quiet life, couldn’t face the hostility they’d get from their employees and a media of the same ideological mindset always willing to air the grievances.

We see the implications—occasionally bursting into the open—as when the New York Times forced its opinion editor to resign for publishing an article the radicals didn’t like, or Google dropping a Pentagon contract because employees objected to helping the U.S. defend itself. Most of the time it advances without publicity, as steadily, day by day, the former campus totalitarians make their way in the “real world.”

It’s time employers started to resist, and began to educate their employees—the hard way if necessary—why free speech is so important.

Gerrard Baker, Employers Need to Put the Squeeze on Woke Intolerance.


AR-15s and Whole Foods

If the Red Ryder BB gun is an artifact of an America in which little boys dreamed of growing up to be cowboys, then the omnipresent AR-pattern rifle testifies to a world in which the great masculine ideals are SEALs and snipers. SOCOM stands for “Special Operations Command,” but you’ll see that acronym deployed at least as often in firearms-related marketing material as you will in actual military reports.

(Incidentally, I was going to link to a “SOCOM” example above, but I am at the moment working from the cafe of a Whole Foods Market, which apparently employs a digital nanny that blocks U.S. gun-manufacturer websites. The link to the Communist Party of China works just fine. It’s a funny old world.)

Kevin D. Williamson

When polling reveals nothing useful

I am not particularly worried about a new poll everyone keeps talking about that shows collapse of civic virtues.

It’s not just that a knowledgeable pollster counsels caution about this particular due to a change in the pollster’s methodology (internet polling verses phone interview). It’s that I’ve already noted, polling aside, collapse of much about America and I don’t find quantification of it worth my time.

Progress in the 21st century

In the 21st century, Progress means the unbounded forward march of commerce and technology. And any effort at all to set any limits on that forward march, by calling for limits on the free global movement of low-skilled labour, for example, makes you far-Right by definition. As for asserting a sexed limit to self-identification, this also amounts to standing athwart the march of commerce and technology, yelling “Stop!”.

Mary Harrington, What Posie Parker learnt from Brexit

An arresting phrase

… the difference between what [J.K.] Rowling says she believes and what her critics claim she does.

J.K. Rowling Addresses Her Critics

Is Rowling a notorious liar? Are her critics clairvoyant? Are they grievance-pickers?


Hence the old parable about a vacationing New York businessman who gets talking to a Mexican fisherman, who tells him that he works only a few hours per day and spends most of his time drinking wine in the sun and playing music with his friends. Appalled at the fisherman’s approach to time management, the businessman offers him an unsolicited piece of advice: if the fisherman worked harder, he explains, he could invest the profits in a bigger fleet of boats, pay others to do the fishing, make millions, then retire early. “And what would I do then?” the fisherman asks. “Ah, well, then,” the businessman replies, “you could spend your days drinking wine in the sun and playing music with your friends.”

Oliver Burkeman, Four Thousand Weeks


Radical reformers

the Ukraine episode showed how Trump and DeSantis, each lionized by their admirers as men of conviction, are opposites in a sense. Trump has extreme instincts but was deterred repeatedly from following them by his advisers while in office. DeSantis, by contrast, works his will routinely in governing Florida but retreated toward a mainstream position on Ukraine when his initial reaction proved too extreme for some of his fans.

Who is the candidate of disruption between the two? The radical who doesn’t know how to govern effectively or the effective governor whose radicalism is shallow?

Nick Cattogio

The “Christians” of Coeur d’Alene

On Wednesday, as the frenzied mob of Trump enthusiasts desecrated the US Capitol, I had to go into Coeur d’Alene to run a few errands. On the street I saw a group of men and women gathered together, glued to their phones in ecstatic glee. I went into a store, where two men approached me to check if I’d heard the wonderful news about the invasion of the Capitol. They announced that the people are taking power, and this is just the beginning of a new revolution.

“And when the revolution arrives in this town,” they told me, “we’ll be driving all the liberals and BLM people into the hills.”

…[W]hen these men announced that they hoped the storming of the Capitol would culminate in the violent expulsion of their political rivals from town, I replied, “In a free society, people have the right to be jerks if they want to.” I was shouted down by everyone in the store. “Not anymore!” they yelled. “Things are different now.”

Robin Mark Phillips, 1/11/21

For all its piety and fervor, today’s United States needs to be recognized for what it really is: not a Christian country, but a nation of heretics.

Ross Douthat, Bad Religion

You can read most of my more impromptu stuff here (cathartic venting) and here (the only social medium I frequent, because people there are quirky, pleasant and real). Both should work in your RSS aggregator, like Feedly or Reeder, should you want to make a habit of it.

Tuesday, 3/28/23


Helen Lewis, Brit, visits Ron DeSantis’ Florida

This one goes out to a certain gun-lover in my life:

When I first arrived in Orlando, in late October, I rented what to me was a comically large Ford SUV and drove to McDonald’s for hash browns and a cup of breakfast tea (zombie-gray, error). Then I went to a gun range, where I began by firing two pistols. The very serious man behind the desk had clocked my teeth (British), accent (Hermione Granger), and sex (female), and expressed skepticism that I would want to fire an AR‑15 assault rifle too. But I did. In the past decade, semiautomatic rifles like the AR-15 have become the weapon of choice for young killers, and I needed to see what America was willing to put into the hands of teenagers in the name of freedom.

With the pistols, my shots pulled down from the recoil or the weight. But the AR‑15 nestled into my shoulder pad, and the shots skipped out of it and into the center of the target. I felt like I was in Call of Duty, with the same confidence that there would be no consequences for my actions; that if anything went wrong, I could just respawn.

Later, a friend texted to ask how firing the rifle had been. I loved it, I said. No one should be allowed to have one_._ This is not a sentiment to be expressed openly in DeSantis’s Florida. When the Tampa Bay Rays tweeted in support of gun control after the Uvalde, Texas, massacre last year, the governor vetoed state funding for a new training facility, saying that it was “inappropriate to subsidize political activism of a private corporation.” You might think: How petty. Or maybe: How effective.

Helen Lewis, How Freedom-Loving Florida Fell for Ron DeSantis

Florida as educational microcosm

[Florida] is a textbook example of academic bloat. The State University System of Florida consists of 12 public universities, with 341,000 enrolled students, of which only four are engaged in what the Carnegie Classification of Institutions of Higher Education refers to as “very high research activity”. The rest of these institutions, such as the enormous Florida Atlantic University, are vast and shabby post-secondary “student warehouses”, similar to UT-Arlington.

It is these universities, not the tiny New College of Florida, that constitute the real threat to public education — and not because they are “woke”, but because their retention and graduation rates are horrific. They are enrolling students, taking their federally-subsidised student loans, and barely graduating around 50% of them.

Oliver Bateman, America is fighting the wrong university wars


AI Status Report

All signs that I’ve registered counsel me that I’d been wasting my time trying to decide if Artificial Intelligence is boon, bane, or something even further out on the spectrum than those markers. I haven’t chatted with ChatGPT or immersed myself in a single longform essay on how “transformative” (grammatically neutral but functionally adulatory) or “apocalyptic” (mirror-image opposite) the technology is.

They’re all surely speculations by people who don’t really know because nobody knows the future, and I’d be astonished if I found a smoking-gun argument on either side.

I have spent a few minute, though, chuckling at AI screwups.

Routine corporate behavior

Fox News pandering to what its viewers wanted to hear after the last Presidential election is not really out of the mainstream of corporate behavior:

Sycophancy toward those who hold power is a fact in every regime, and especially in a democracy, where, unlike tyranny, there is an accepted principle of legitimacy that breaks the inner will to resist…. Flattery of the people and incapacity to resist public opinion are the democratic vices, particularly among writers, artists, journalists and anyone else who is dependent on an audience.

Allan Bloom, The Closing of the American Mind

Education more generally

The New York Times’ Frank Bruni opines on The Problem With College Rankings, and How We Fix It. The problem revolves around choosing for prestige.

The “fix” he alludes to is an interactive college selector of the Times’ own devising.

Here are the Times’ selection criteria:

Here’s the closest I thought I could come to what I value in a college or university (though “Academic Profile” seems a belamed version of “will they try to make me an educated person?”):

And here’s where I should go based on those criteria:

It was kind of interesting. If I actually were looking for a college, I’d definitely put this in the mix of tools.


Eric Metaxas and his kin

Eric Metaxas appeared to be a pretty solid guy until he sold his soul to a politician who remains too much in the news. His over-the-top comments between Election 2020 and the cool-down period after January 6 (see this) destroyed any trust I might have felt.

But I recently listened to a podcast discussion of his presumptuous newish book Letter to the American Church. I discerned very little thought, but a lot of rhetorical cunning: staccato riffs salted with endless straw men. I assume that sort of thing persuades some people. His resort to straw men in support of his inexplicably pre-ordained conclusions is of longstanding (see the Emma Green Atlantic story, the first link above).

Specifically, Mr. Metaxas,

  • I did not vote for Hillary Clinton just because I didn’t vote for Trump (have you heard of the “Electoral College” and “Red States”? A protest vote in a Red State need not be a Blue vote); and
  • I didn’t withhold my vote from Trump because I thought his supporters were yucky, tacky or whatever that straw man was. I refused to vote for him (twice now, and the second time the alternative was not Hillary, Trump’s biggest 2016 advantage) because he is a toxic narcissist and because sooner or later his pathological self-regard was going to make him misapprehend reality. (As we see his current deranged output on Truth Social, it’s obvious that I was right.)

I’ve thought about what would make someone like Metaxas lose his mind over this. There are people closer to me than him who’ve done much the same thing, such as the friend who recently faulted “SJW” jackboots at Purdue for disrupting a “conservative speaker.” That version has a few problems:

  1. Purdue has a strong free speech policy.
  2. So the SJWs did not disrupt, but rather counter-protested and acted up nearby.
  3. The dramtis personnae were not a benign conservative and malign SJWs, but rather a Right provocateur (“we must eradicate transgenderism from America”) eager to give offense and Leftish provocatees eager to take it.

What happened was that my friend had taken his Right narrative and applied it to facts that he assumed fit. He hadn’t bothered to ascertain what actually went on.

This suggests to me a possible causal sequence:

  1. My friend (and Metaxas?) assume that, this being America, if there’s a bad American guy or group, there must be a countervailing good American guy or group. It’s unthinkable that God would forsake America, His special darling, leaving its people with only miserably bad political choices (my strong suspicion of what happened).
  2. Having identified the Democrats as bad, the Republicans must be good (because only they are big enough to countervail; a vote for a third party candidate is “wasted”).
  3. Having identified the Republicans as good, their nominees and elected officials must be good — not just “less bad most of the time” but “good,” or “very good” or (as spoke another evangelical friend in 2016) “the best candidate I’ve had the privilege to vote for in my entire life.”
  4. Thus do we get Christian folk who have syncretized the faith with Manicheanism. Pas d’ennemies áu droit.

I suggest that narrative, which I shall for a while be tempted to use to structure what I observe and what I hear vague rumors about.

Where’s the beef? Maybe Georgia

In April 2020, businesses in Georgia were shuttered by government decree as in most of the rest of the country. Mr. Kemp was hearing from desperate entrepreneurs: “ ‘Look man, we’re losing everything we’ve got. We can’t keep doing this.’ And I really felt like there was a lot of people fixin’ to revolt against the government.”

The Trump administration “had that damn graph or matrix or whatever that you had to fit into to be able to do certain things,” Mr. Kemp recalls. “Your cases had to be going down and whatever. Well, we felt like we met the matrix, and so I decided to move forward and open up.” He alerted Vice President Mike Pence, who headed the White House’s coronavirus task force, before publicly announcing his intentions on April 20.

That afternoon Mr. Trump called Mr. Kemp, “and he was furious.” Mr. Kemp recounts the conversation as follows:

“Look, the national media’s all over me about letting you do this,” Mr. Trump said. “And they’re saying you don’t meet whatever.”

Mr. Kemp replied: “Well, Mr. President, we sent your team everything, and they knew what we were doing. You’ve been saying the whole pandemic you trust the governors because we’re closest to the people. Just tell them you may not like what I’m doing, but you’re trusting me because I’m the governor of Georgia and leave it at that. I’ll take the heat.”

“Well, see what you can do,” the president said. “Hair salons aren’t essential and bowling alleys, tattoo parlors aren’t essential.”

“With all due respect, those are our people,” Mr. Kemp said. “They’re the people that elected us. They’re the people that are wondering who’s fighting for them. We’re fixin’ to lose them over this, because they’re about to lose everything. They are not going to sit in their basement and lose everything they got over a virus.”

Mr. Trump publicly attacked Mr. Kemp: “He went on the news at 5 o’clock and just absolutely trashed me …

At that point, Florida was still shut down. Mr. DeSantis issued his first reopening order on April 29, nine days after Mr. Kemp’s. On April 28, the Florida governor had visited the White House, where, as CNN reported, “he made sure to compliment the President and his handling of the crisis, praise Trump returned in spades.”

Three years later, here’s the thanks Mr. DeSantis gets: This Wednesday Mr. Trump issued a statement excoriating “Ron DeSanctimonious” as “a big Lockdown Governor on the China Virus.” As Mr. Trump now tells the tale, “other Republican Governors did MUCH BETTER than Ron and, because I allowed them this ‘freedom,’ never closed their States. Remember, I left that decision up to the Governors!”

James Taranto, Brian Kemp, Georgia’s Affable Culture Warrior.

Res ipsa loquitur.

Ron DeSantis, George Soros and Peter Thiel

Governor Ron DeSantis should be ashamed.

In contemplating the possible criminal indictment of former President Donald Trump, the Florida governor tweeted: “The Manhattan District Attorney is a Soros-funded prosecutor.”

Let us review.

George Soros, the wealthy Hungarian-American financier and philanthropist, is the bogey man of the American right wing. They trace whatever they don’t like about liberalism or progressive politics back to Soros’ imaginary machinations. Soros is the puppet-master.

George Soros is a Jew.

These are antisemitic conspiracy theories. That is what makes antisemitism so potent, and unique among hatred — it has always existed as a network of conspiracy theories. You just have to say the name “Soros,” and you wind up with an antisemitic dog whistle — in much the same way as “Rothschild” has been, and continues to be.

Jeffrey Salkin, Call it Soros-phobia.

I completely agree that George Soros “is the bogey man of the American right wing.” I do not share that feeling about him.

I have no reason to doubt that Soros is a Jew.

I consider DeSantis’s comment about Alvin Bragg a combination of craven servility to Trumpist voters and hackneyed demagoguery about a bogey man.

But it does not follow that criticism of Soros is antisemitic, unless one absurdly considers any criticism of a Jew, at least if coupled with some dark hint that “he’s up to something,” antisemitic. And both Salkin and the ADL seem to have little more than that. (James Kirchik makes a similar point.)

They may nevertheless be right (I’ve been wrong about my “conservative” countrymen before). Let’s try a thought-experiment: Is Left criticism of Peter Thiel’s influence anti-gay?

Trump’s “Retribution Tour”

The accompanying article wasn’t revelatory, but I love Elaine Godfrey’s title: Trump Begins the ‘Retribution’ Tour

For all its piety and fervor, today’s United States needs to be recognized for what it really is: not a Christian country, but a nation of heretics.

Ross Douthat, Bad Religion

You can read most of my more impromptu stuff here (cathartic venting) and here (the only social medium I frequent, because people there are quirky, pleasant and real). Both should work in your RSS aggregator, like Feedly or Reeder, should you want to make a habit of it.

Sunday, 3/26/23


I very recently discovered that Paul Kingsnorth equivocates about whether he is a convert to Christianity. “In a sense, I was always Christian but didn’t know it.”

I suppose the same could be said of my “conversion” to Orthodox Christianity from (seriatim) Evangelicalism and Calvinism. I always intended to belong to this historic, most original Church.

As an Evangelical, I thought the historic, most original Church was that which lived most faithfully by the New Testament pattern. I now see that as a very naïve view, starting with the fact that “the New Testament Church™” did not and could not live by the New Testament (because it did not yet exist).

As a Calvinist, I thought the historic, most original Church was that which believed as the early church believed, and since I saw the progenitor of predestination in Augustine, and Augustine was about as early a Christian figure as I knew, then Calvinism (a/k/a the Reformed faith) was it. I now see that as fairly naïve because Augustine was an outlier in Christendom, who looms large in the post-Christian West because the other profound figures were all in the Greek-Speaking Christian East.

As an Orthodox, I don’t deny the validity of my prior concerns, but have added unity, holiness, catholicity and apostolicity.

Sacred rite or admission to political and social privileges?

On the indignant litigants who sue bakers, florists, photographers and such for declining services to same-sex weddings:

Maybe the prospective customers, like many Americans, do not see transcendent meaning in the ceremonial commencement of matrimony, because they associate a wedding as admittance to an institutional legal fiction that allows one access to nothing more than a cluster of political and social privileges not available to other friendships. So, given this understanding, it is not surprising that the customers see the provider’s refusal as a negative judgment on the public legitimacy of their union. Thus, it’s easy to see why the customers would be offended by the provider’s refusal and subsequently seek legal redress. But what the customers fail to see is that their demand that the courts force the providers to rescind their denial and be punished for it is really a demand that the state force the providers not to exercise their freedom of worship, the liberty not to participate in, or not provide assistance to, ceremonies that one believes have sacramental significance.

Francis Beckwith, Taking Rites Seriously

I’m aware that this war is over and my side lost. Considering how poorly Christian people have realized the sacrament of marriage, the loss probably was deserved. But I want the truth remembered. History’s arc does not bend toward falsehoods.

Marriage, terrestrial and celestial

Dreher also alluded to a bit of controversy in the Evangelical World.

A flamboyant pastor/author, Josh Butler (whose credentials are unknown to me), has written a book sort of on the topic of Christ’s relationship with the Church being recapitulated in a husband’s relationship with his wife (a thoroughly biblical comparison, but he had to spice it up with “How God’s vision for sex points us to the good, unlocks the true, and (sort of) explains everything.”)

Butler has caught a lot of flak for that, the gist being some mixture of objections to the extent to which he took the simile awfully literally if not graphically and that he was contributing to the patriarchy. See here, here and here.

Four points:

  1. I’m not going to try any deep investigation into this story, which I would need to do before opining on the substance or taking sides. (Why should I take sides in a battle within an alien tribe?)
  2. I presume (and see some circumstantial evidence) that Butler’s a bit of a provocateur and that he dropped some provocations into his book. Otherwise, I don’t think he’d have gotten so much pushback.
  3. I’ll credit Butler’s critics with tacitly (maybe explicitly — see point 1) trying to nip another Mark Driscoll/Mars Hill Church scandal in the bud.
  4. Point 3 does not negate mixed motives including jealousy.

Capturing the ineffable

I’m sure I’ve mentioned before that Rod Dreher is laboring mightily on a book about re-enchanting our imaginations. (I’d be more skeptical about the chance of the book achieving its objective had not another writer captured amazingly well something that I thought was ineffable.)

I have other concerns about this project, especially as it touches theology.

Nevertheless, I did appreciate this, which almost perfectly echoes my (much longer) experience in Orthodox Christianity:

I didn’t set out to write an “Orthodox” book, but all the research I’ve done has drawn me out, like a riptide, deeper into Orthodoxy. I have learned what Iain McGilchrist meant when he said that Eastern Christianity is the form of the faith that best corresponds to what he has learned about the way the mind relates to the world.

Being Orthodox has meant a long, slow letting go of the Western way of seeing reality. When I first became Orthodox in 2006, I assumed, as many converts do, that I had taken on a version of Christianity that was more mystical and more liturgical, but basically the same thing. A woman at our church told us that it would take us at least ten years to start thinking like an Orthodox Christian. That made no sense to me then. It does now. I couldn’t have known this at the beginning of the journey, because I did not know what I did not know.

Beauty And The Sacred

Martin Shaw (who I have no reason to think follows Dreher’s musings) is still quite a novice Orthodoxen, but like the hedgehog, he seems to have understood one big thing:

For years I was looking for a bigger form of shamanism, never thinking for a moment that could be Christianity. But it’s turned out to be a Christianity I’ve never seen before, strange as that sounds.

Better late than never

I let two parts of a (so far) three-part series, over more than a year, slip by until my attention was arrested by the third this week.

What’s most striking is that this Catholic Deacon author draws his most penetrating insights into the disease of “religion” from Orthodox sources.

Christian discipleship

If our churches have behaved as if “Christian discipleship” largely consists of “holding the right ideas in your head” and “consuming the right content,” then it isn’t terribly surprising that many Christians would encounter the difficulties of life and feel radically unprepared for them. Their churches didn’t teach them to expect suffering, didn’t give them models for resilience and dependence on God, and didn’t provide practical guidance in mortifying sin and offering oneself up to God. So of course we now have many Christian people who are a bit at sea, particularly given how chaotic, angry, and uncertain this cultural moment has become.

… [W]hile I understand that the failures of the attractional model created a vacuum that therapeutic technique has rushed in to fill, I also know that the cost of allowing therapeutic technique to persist in this work is far too high.

Jake Meador, who I suspect will one day recognize the incorrigibility of Evangelicalism and become Orthodox — where, ironically, he will discover a well-developed, non-faddish therapeutic approach, as in the phrase from the Orthodox Trisagion Prayer “Holy One, visit and heal our infirmities” (following “Lord cleanse us of our sins; Master pardon our transgressions”).


I have a few books I try to revisit regularly. One is C.S. Lewis, The Abolition of Man. I’m now adding Christ the Eternal Tao, which I finished not quite a year ago. Lewis’s use of the Tao was a sort of preparation for taking the second book as other than a syncretistic novelty.

Anyway, off to China:

Other creatures follow their natures without creating chaos or disaster. They change by themselves without seeking change. People, meanwhile, race through the realm of existence and never know a quiet moment. They abandon their original innocence and don’t practice the true Tao of doing nothing. They don’t care about their lives, until one day they offend and retribution arrives.

Sung Ch’ang-Hsing via Jack Leahy, Caffeine and Repentance.

More Leahy:

Not coincidentally, perhaps, during my morning reading of Christ the Eternal Tao I was pointed to Chapter 37 of the Tao Te Ching. Which goes:

The Tao does nothing yet there is nothing it doesn’t do if a ruler could uphold it the people by themselves would change and changing if their desires stirred he could make them still with simplicity that has no name stilled by nameless simplicity they would not desire and not desiring be at peace the world would fix itself

—Red Pine translation.

As it turns out I have thought about that passage for a long time now. It is a passage that has long resonated with me to my core. And yet, it is a bit disappointing how little of its message has affected the way I have chosen to live over the years. Despite my decades-long attempt of trying to put this into practice something deeper in me more strenuously seeks the opposite. The world can dole out great rewards for those who will achieve its goals. This is no small thing. To truly put this seeking aside is to become, in many ways, a non-person.

(Emphasis added)

Futility to the Nth power

As I continue to read the works of liberal theologians with their many and varied alternatives in which the cardinal points of our faith are denied I cannot help thinking how ultimately insignificant their works all, for all their ingenuity and prolixity.  That is, millions of Christians who believe the Faith, Orthodox, Roman Catholic, and Protestant alike, have no time for them, write them off as unbelievers, and leave their books unread.  Millions of secular people who share their unbelief never read their books, since the books profess to be works of theology, and such people who disbelieve the Christian faith have (not unnaturally) no interest in theology.  They are, it seems, writing their books for the select liberal academics who inhabit the same liberal echo chamber.  Their works have no real significance in the minds of the overwhelming majority of men who live and work in the real world, despite the fact that their books continue to multiply like mushrooms sprouting after the rain.  For all their labour, their work deserves to be forgotten.

Fr. Lawrence Farley

Apophatic Ecclesiology

Orthodoxy cannot be simply reduced to the Orthodox doctrine of apostolic succession, seven sacraments, three degrees of hierarchy, and it is even doubtful whether such doctrines exist in a clearly defined form …

Dr. Eugenia Scarvelis Constantinou, Thinking Orthodox

ECUSA celebration of Annunciation?

Is this how Episcopalians now celebrate the Feast of Annunciation?: a “solemn Service of Apology [note: not “Repentance”; and “solemn Service of Apology” makes it sound like there’s an established service for such purposes] for the participation and complicity of the diocese and its members in the Transatlantic Slave Trade and in that trade’s continuing aftermath and consequences.”

(I am not condoning slavery, of course.)


Where no oxen are, the trough is clean; but much increase comes by the strength of an ox.

Proverbs 14:4

Nothing is more responsible for the good old days than a bad memory.

Franklin P. Adams (via The Economist, The World in Brief for March 23)

Never wrestle with pigs. You both get dirty and the pig likes it.

Nothing new here except the possibility that the coinage is George Bernard Shaw, which I didn’t know.

I enjoy a climate with four seasons. Just not all in the same week.

@dwalbert on

In consequence of inventing machines, men will be devoured by them.

Jules Verne

  • Persiflage: Frivolity or mockery in discussing a subject.

There are related definitions, too. Try as I might, this one just doesn’t seem likely to enter my working vocabulary. I encountered it in Arthur Machen’s The Hidden Glory

Candor is the public posture of a person whose inner life is well ordered and who is grounded in their sure confidence in the love of God.

Jake Meador

‘Anthropocene’, an age in which humans have replaced nature as the big influence on Earth.

I didn’t know that was the definition of the term I’ve heard on-and-off.

We live in a culture where one of the most embarrassing things you can do is blush at the embarrassing behavior of others.

Jonah Goldberg

For all its piety and fervor, today’s United States needs to be recognized for what it really is: not a Christian country, but a nation of heretics.

Ross Douthat, Bad Religion

You can read most of my more impromptu stuff here (cathartic venting) and here (the only social medium I frequent, because people there are quirky, pleasant and real). Both should work in your RSS aggregator, like Feedly or Reeder, should you want to make a habit of it.

Sundry Crump Trap

I found that I had collected a lot of items touching on Florida Man, our recently-ousted President. That’s not too surprising considering the media frenzy over impending indictments.

I’m going to collect them all that Crump trap here, so if you want to read no ill of the man, you can skip this post entirely.

On that indictment matter, by the way, I hope Alvin Bragg does not indict. From outside-looking-in, it looks as if Bragg has set himself an almost impossible case to win, due to statutes of limitation, the implied effort to try a federal crime within a state criminal case, and the questionable factual inferences he’d ask the jury to draw. Inasmuch as Trump supporters will be indignant, if not “death & destruction” violent, at any indictment, let’s make the game worth the candle, like his effort to induce vote fraud in his conversation with the Georgia Secretary of State.

Of January 6

Are you still not convinced that it’s fair to call this a Christian insurrection? I would bet that most of my readers would instantly label the exact same event Islamic terrorism if Islamic symbols filled the crowd, if Islamic music played in the loudspeakers, and if members of the crowd shouted “Allahu Akbar” as they charged the Capitol.

David French, Only the Church Can Truly Defeat a Christian Insurrection (1/10/21)


In my experience, if Trump supporters are asked to turn their gaze away from their perceived opponents, and instead to focus and reflect on him and on his failures, they respond in a couple of consistent ways. Many shift the topic immediately back to Democrats, because offering a vigorous moral defense of Donald Trump isn’t an easy task. It’s like asking people to stare directly into the sun; they might do it for an instant, but then they look away. But if you do succeed in keeping the topic on Trump, they often twist themselves into knots in order to defend him, and in some cases they simply deny reality.

“Motivation conditions cognition,” Jonathan Rauch, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution and a contributing writer at The Atlantic, wisely told me. Very few Trump supporters I know are able to offer an honest appraisal of the man. To do so creates too much cognitive dissonance.

Peter Wehner, ‌The Predicate Is Fear (Sept. 4, 2020)

Well overdue

I’m not sure why a bit of “old news” just popped into mind so as to irritate me as I read Tim Alberta’s Evangelical Leaders Are Losing Faith in Trump (from The Atlantic).

It cites the familiar statistic that 81% of Evangelicals voted for Trump in 2016, and says he enjoyed a similar margin in 2020. But now he’s losing support.

Okay, now. Be it remembered that in 2016, Donald Trump’s biggest boost came from people’s intense hatred of Hillary Clinton. That’s the old news.

But then something happened. Trump, who might plausibly have been viewed as the lesser evil, came to be held up, including if not especially among Evangelicals, as a positive good.

I. Just. Don’t. Get. That. Is it that Evangelicals can’t get it through their heads that the USA may not be God’s special favorite, and that he might thus have left us with a crappy choice? I can imagine the Almighty saying “You made your bed. Now lay in it.”

Then came Election 2022,

[a]nd … Trump sabotaged himself. Desperate to dodge culpability for the Republican Party’s poor performance in the November midterm elections, Trump blamed the “abortion issue.” He suggested that moderate voters had been spooked by some of the party’s restrictive proposals, while pro-lifers, after half a century of intense political engagement, had grown complacent following the Dobbs ruling. This scapegoating didn’t go over well with social-conservative leaders. For many of them, the transaction they had entered into with Trump in 2016—their support in exchange for his policies—was validated by the fall of Roe. Yet now the former president was distancing himself from the anti-abortion movement while refusing to accept responsibility for promoting bad candidates who lost winnable races. (Trump’s campaign declined to comment for this story.)

Thus, if Evangelicals are finally souring on Trump, the walking embodiment of the seven deadly sins, it’s well overdue.

Hallucinators and Grifters

“Patriotism is when love of your own people comes first,” Charles de Gaulle said, “nationalism is when hate for people other than your own comes first.”

Jonah Goldberg, who I really should read more often if he’s always as sharp is Hallucinators and Grifters:

Team Trump needs another “Flight 93” argument to get people to overlook all of the obvious reasons he should never be anywhere near the White House again. They’re still working through some options, but the leading contender right now is global thermonuclear war … With stakes like that, who cares about a few criminal indictments for trying to steal an election or keep a porn star quiet?

Even the use of the phrase “Western civilization” instead of “our interests” or “national security” is rhetorical sleight of hand. Is Trump for America First or Western civilization First? Because Western civilization can be nibbled away at the margins for a very long time without America herself being meaningfully imperiled.

One of the things I’ve detested about Trump’s … approach to politics from the beginning is the way he wants to be a wartime leader, but in a war against domestic enemies. A lot of people who hear Trump’s blather about “America First” don’t ever catch on that he’s actually just talking about some Americans first (with him at the top of the list). The “only important thing,” Trump said at a rally in the spring of 2016, “is the unification of the people—because the other people don’t mean anything.” Those “other people” are Americans, too. After all, Trump promised his fans to be “your retribution” at CPAC a couple weeks ago. Retribution against whom? Fellow U.S. citizens.

The best defense is a good offense …

… but I’m not sure this defense qualifies:


Florida Man on his (reportedly) impending indictment.

Context & Consequence

[New York Prosecutor] Bragg’s case isn’t playing out in isolation. Trump might soon face charges in Georgia for trying to overturn his 2020 defeat there or federal charges for having removed, then concealed, sensitive state documents upon leaving office. Either one of those cases would have much greater moral force than Stormygate since they involve his abuse of public power. The Georgia case in particular zeroes in on what makes him a singularly deplorable threat to American democracy.

In short, it’s hard to find something encouraging to say about a case that will further complicate the already delicate matter of holding a former president accountable to the law and almost certainly will do more to shake Americans’ faith in the justice system than to restore it.

[M]ost Americans might not grasp—yet—the extent to which the former guy has grown nuttier than squirrel turds.

It’s become a cliche among Trump skeptics lately to point out how he’s decompensated, to borrow a term from psychology. Charles Cooke at National Review marveled in January that Trump seemed to be losing his grip on reality, comparing him to a “deranged hobo.” In his newsletter this morning Kevin described him as being as “crazy as a sack of ferrets.” In one of my own columns this month, I noted that his obsessive fantasy about why he lost in 2020 qualifies him as delusional, quite literally.

Nick Cattogio

One can only hope that the public will pick up on his having become crazy as a sack of ferrets, nuttier than squirrel turds before an electoral majority votes him back into the Oval Office.

Wherefore do I despair of ever getting reliable news

Really, Economist?! Trump "can let Mr Cohen try to enforce the agreement with Ms Clifford, which might look like an admission of guilt and would risk her aggressive lawyer, Michael Avenatti, airing further revelations in court." Have you not noticed that Avenatti is disbarred and jailed? Wowzers!

Where can I get reliably accurate news and analysis?

Death & Destruction

Donald Trump is back in his presidential—or at least modern-day-presidential—form, posting unhinged threats on social media in the middle of the night. Early today, he posted on his Truth Social site:

What kind of person can charge another person, in this case a former President of the United States, who got more votes than any sitting President in history, and leading candidate (by far!) for the Republican Party nomination, with a Crime, when it is known by all that NO Crime has been committed, & also known that potential death & destruction in such a false charge could be catastrophic for our Country? Why & who would do such a thing? Only a degenerate psychopath that truely hates the USA!

Nearly every phrase in this message is disturbing, but the most rattling part is his threat of “death & destruction.” This is classic Trumpian mob-boss talk: He doesn’t make a specific threat against anyone, and he doesn’t specifically incite any acts. He might even note in his defense that some of his own critics have fretted that arresting him might produce a violent backlash. And yet the intent is unmistakably to intimidate Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg and anyone else who might try to charge him with crimes. It’s a threat against the American justice system as a whole.

David A. Graham

For all its piety and fervor, today’s United States needs to be recognized for what it really is: not a Christian country, but a nation of heretics.

Ross Douthat, Bad Religion

You can read most of my more impromptu stuff here (cathartic venting) and here (the only social medium I frequent, because people there are quirky, pleasant and real). Both should work in your RSS aggregator, like Feedly or Reeder, should you want to make a habit of it.

Annunciation 2023

Do the math. If we observe the birth of Christ on December 25, what prerequisite of birth might a Church want to observe, and when should they observe it?

I will post separately today on accumulated stuff about a certain notoriously toxic narcissist who’s been in the news. None of that here, save this paragraph.

Civil War

As recently as 40 years ago, and probably more like 30 years, I flirted with (and probably played devil’s advocate for) the idea that the Civil War was about states’ rights.

History had not been a strong academic interest, but even if it had, I was wrestling around then with the realization that in some very important ways, we are no longer living under that Constitution of 1787; that’s just how radical (in a neutral, not pejorative, sense) the Civil War Amendments were, both initially and as they ramified over the next century or more.

But I was clearly mistaken — and I say that not as a dog who’s tired of being whipped, but as someone who just today (March 21) encountered Alexander H. Stevens’ “Cornerstone Speech.”

Stephens was a high-ranking Confederate figure:

The new [Confederate] constitution has put at rest, forever, all the agitating questions relating to our peculiar institution, African slavery as it exists amongst us – the proper status of the negro in our form of civilization. This was the immediate cause of the late rupture and present revolution. Jefferson in his forecast, had anticipated this, as the “rock upon which the old Union would split.” He was right. What was conjecture with him, is now a realized fact. But whether he fully comprehended the great truth upon which that rock stood and stands, may be doubted. The prevailing ideas entertained by him and most of the leading statesmen at the time of the formation of the old constitution, were that the enslavement of the African was in violation of the laws of nature; that it was wrong in principle, socially, morally, and politically. It was an evil they knew not well how to deal with, but the general opinion of the men of that day was that, somehow or other in the order of Providence, the institution would be evanescent and pass away. This idea, though not incorporated in the constitution, was the prevailing idea at that time. The constitution, it is true, secured every essential guarantee to the institution while it should last, and hence no argument can be justly urged against the constitutional guarantees thus secured, because of the common sentiment of the day. Those ideas, however, were fundamentally wrong. They rested upon the assumption of the equality of races. This was an error. It was a sandy foundation, and the government built upon it fell when the “storm came and the wind blew.”

Our new government is founded upon exactly the opposite idea; its foundations are laid, its corner-stone rests, upon the great truth that the negro is not equal to the white man; that slavery subordination to the superior race is his natural and normal condition. This, our new government, is the first, in the history of the world, based upon this great physical, philosophical, and moral truth. This truth has been slow in the process of its development, like all other truths in the various departments of science. It has been so even amongst us. Many who hear me, perhaps, can recollect well, that this truth was not generally admitted, even within their day. The errors of the past generation still clung to many as late as twenty years ago. Those at the North, who still cling to these errors, with a zeal above knowledge, we justly denominate fanatics. All fanaticism springs from an aberration of the mind from a defect in reasoning. It is a species of insanity. One of the most striking characteristics of insanity, in many instances, is forming correct conclusions from fancied or erroneous premises; so with the anti-slavery fanatics. Their conclusions are right if their premises were. They assume that the negro is equal, and hence conclude that he is entitled to equal privileges and rights with the white man. If their premises were correct, their conclusions would be logical and just but their premise being wrong, their whole argument fails. . . .

As I have stated, the truth of this principle may be slow in development, as all truths are and ever have been, in the various branches of science. . . . May we not, therefore, look with confidence to the ultimate universal acknowledgment of the truths upon which our system rests? It is the first government ever instituted upon the principles in strict conformity to nature, and the ordination of Providence, in furnishing the materials of human society. Many governments have been founded upon the principle of the subordination and serfdom of certain classes of the same race; such were and are in violation of the laws of nature. Our system commits no such violation of nature’s laws. With us, all of the white race, however high or low, rich or poor, are equal in the eye of the law. Not so with the negro. Subordination is his place. He, by nature, or by the curse against Canaan, is fitted for that condition which he occupies in our system. The architect, in the construction of buildings, lays the foundation with the proper material – the granite; then comes the brick or the marble. The substratum of our society is made of the material fitted by nature for it, and by experience we know that it is best, not only for the superior, but for the inferior race, that it should be so. It is, indeed, in conformity with the ordinance of the Creator. It is not for us to inquire into the wisdom of His ordinances, or to question them. For His own purposes, He has made one race to differ from another, as He has made “one star to differ from another star in glory.” The great objects of humanity are best attained when there is conformity to His laws and decrees, in the formation of governments as well as in all things else. Our confederacy is founded upon principles in strict conformity with these laws. This stone which was rejected by the first builders “is become the chief of the corner” – the real “corner-stone” in our new edifice.

(Emphasis added, footnotes omitted. Source.)

As we face talk of “civil war” or “national divorce” again today, what ugly realities lie behind that talk?

Big, meddlesome, micro-managing government at its best

The Federal Trade Commission proposed a rule on Thursday that would make it easier for consumers to cancel recurring subscriptions. The so-called “click-to-cancel” provision would require companies to allow customers to cancel a subscription in the same mode they originally signed up—online, rather than on the phone or in person, for instance. The proposal is now subject to public comment.

The Morning Dispatch. My public comment: Huzzah!

Circular criticism

It is certainly possible that my pessimistic outlook on Christianity in the West [in The Benedict Option] may be wrong. But most of the criticism I’ve seen has been based on the idea that Dreher cannot be right. What is so frustrating to me about this is not that I might be wrong — I hope I am wrong! — but that most of the opposition to my thesis has been in bad faith. I mean, it has been based not on an objective analysis of my claims and my logic, but on the general idea that Dreher must be wrong because he’s defeatist, or guilty of some other moral fault.

Rod Dreher


“Weird to have a Twitter debate about the definition of ‘wokeness,’ when everyone knows it just means treating everybody with kindness and decency and respect, except of course for liberals one standard deviation to your right, who must be burned,” – Ross Douthat.

H/T Andrew Sullivan

Orwellian obfuscation from our government

How corrosive our undeclared wars are to our language!

It was during the war in Iraq that Orwell’s insistence on clear language first came roaring back. This time, the newspeak was coming from the neocon right. We heard the term “enhanced interrogation techniques” to describe what any sane person would instantly call “torture.” Or “extraordinary rendition” — which meant kidnapping in order to torture. There was “environmental manipulation” — freezing naked human beings to near-death and back again. All the terms followed Orwell’s rules for new words “needed if one wants to name things without calling up mental pictures of them.” All the new terms were opaque and longer than the original.

“[Gitmo detainees] would wage jihad any way they can. … [T]hey would do hunger strikes. And you actually had three detainees that committed suicide with hunger strikes,” – Ron DeSantis. There is a deep kind of sickness in believing that human beings completely under your control are still some kind of threat — and that suicide is an act of aggression.

Andrew Sullivan

Incorrigible Nature

Political Science

Shock study: endorsing a political candidate seems political: The stately science and health journal Nature endorsed Joe Biden in 2020. That must have swayed a lot of Trump voters, right? Nature looked into that this week: “A survey finds that viewing the endorsement did not change people’s views of the candidates, but caused some to lose confidence in Nature and in US scientists generally.” And: “Viewing Nature’s political endorsement reduced Trump supporters’ willingness to obtain information about COVID-19 from Nature by 38%.” 

Okay, so it had the opposite intended effect. Now, of course Nature is going to learn from this very smart survey it did? They considered that—and decided on a hard no. Here’s Nature doubling down on taking sides in elections, despite the evidence: “Political endorsements might not always win hearts and minds, but when candidates threaten a retreat from reason, science must speak out.”

Nellie Bowles. Gosh, suddenly I feel some hesitancy to “follow the science.” D’ya think?\

Follow the scientists? Nah!

Ahead of the 2020 presidential election, several top scientific publications backed Joe Biden for president. In Politico, media writer Jack Shafer questions the value of such endorsements, which a recent study concluded not only failed to shape the election’s outcome but also undermined trust in the publications. “If Nature’s Biden endorsement had little or no effect on readers except to make some Trump supporters disdain Nature in specific and the scientific establishment in general, why did the publication endorse any candidate?” Shafer asks. “The question is there for the taking by all publications, not just Nature. In many cases, editorials—especially editorials of endorsement—exist not to persuade readers of a viewpoint or a candidate’s soundness, but to feather the nest of the editorialist (or his publisher) for a moment or two with the illusion that he has struck a blow for all that is right. Why bother editorializing? Doesn’t seem very scientific.”

The Morning Dispatch

Food, Inc.

Night cereal: It’s hard that food corporations have only three meals a day to shovel corn and vegetable oil down our gullets. To solve for this, they have invented a new meal: bedtime cereal. “Post Consumer Brands is looking to help make your sleep dreams come true with Sweet Dreams—the first ready-to-eat cereal designed to be part of a healthy sleep routine,” the marketing copy reads. At 10 p.m., when you are watching YouTube, slack-jawed and looking like the peak of sleep hygiene, you might as well complete the scene with some Sweet Dreams Honey Moonglow

In what can only be described as a hate crime against millennial women, they call the night cereal “self-care.” From that same press release: “ ‘More than ever, consumers are looking to embrace acts of self-care, particularly as it relates to bedtime routines and we believe a relaxing bedtime routine is key to a good night’s sleep,’ said Logan Sohn, Senior Brand Manager.” The worst part is that I ordered some.

Nellie Bowles aga

Lockdown Consequences

[I]f I’d have stayed closed, I had a 95% chance of losing everything I’ve ever worked for. But if I open, I only had a 5% chance of getting Covid.

A Georgia barber, expressing appreciation for Gov. Kemp allowing businesses to reopen in April, 2020.

Destroying the Family

It cannot be too often repeated that what destroyed Family in the modern world was Capitalism. No doubt it might have been Communism, if Communism had ever had a chance, outside the semi-Mongolian wilderness where it actually flourishes. But, so far as we are concerned, what has broken up households, and encourages divorces, and treated the old domestic virtues with more and more open contempt, is the epoch and power of Capitalism. It is Capitalism that has forced a moral feud and a commercial competition between the sexes; that has destroyed the influence of the parent in favor of the influence of the employer; that has driven men from their homes to look for jobs; that has forced them to live near their factories or their firms instead of near their families; and, above all, that has encouraged, for commercial reasons, a parade of publicity and garish novelty, which is in its nature the death of all that was called dignity and modesty by our mothers and fathers.

G.K. Chesterton

J.K. Rowling

I am glad that I decided to listen to The Witch Trials of J.K. Rowling.

The main thing I’ve gained is from “Chapter 6,” Natalie and Noah. Natalie and Noah are, respectively, a “trans woman” and a young “trans man,” both of whom were able to critique Rowling without resorting to thoughtless insults and threats.

I did not find either critique persuasive; I do not think the things for which she is condemned are contemptible. But the critiques were the first attempts at reasonable and temperate critiques I had heard or read, and I think it is almost always a good idea to hear an adversary’s best case (and to keep very low-key about an issue if it’s not important enough to you to take that step).

Noah was particularly interesting because he was an example of Sudden-Onset Gender Dysphoria (SOGD), having passed childhood fairly happily as a girl, looking forward to becoming a woman. Butshe developed dysphoria pretty rapidly with her changing body at puberty around age 12. She was not rushed into sex-change surgery; she didn’t even start using a new name (“social transitioning”) for two years and didn’t get her breasts removed until shortly before her 17th birthday.

I instinctively used different pronouns for Noah in the prior paragraph. Having noticed that, I’m going to leave it. His voice was the voice of a thoughtful, not-very-masculine boy. But sex is real; he’s really a she. You can look it up in her chromosomes — and in countless rhetorical tell-tales.

But there are cases of gender dysphoria severe and persistent enough to warrant sex-change surgery, and we must respect the humanity of the people who have undergone it, even as we reject grand categorical pronouncements about the ontology of GD and the evil of those who won’t mouth lies about it.

For all its piety and fervor, today’s United States needs to be recognized for what it really is: not a Christian country, but a nation of heretics.

Ross Douthat, Bad Religion

You can read most of my more impromptu stuff here (cathartic venting) and here (the only social medium I frequent, because people there are quirky, pleasant and real). Both should work in your RSS aggregator, like Feedly or Reeder, should you want to make a habit of it.

Wordplay, 3/22/23

“Import substitution” — the heinous crime of a wretched, ungrateful colony producing goods the colonizers wanted to sell it. (H/T Edward Goldsmith, Development As Colonialism)

As a gold ring in a pig’s snout is a beautiful woman who lacks sense.

Proverbs 11:22

An author’s first duty is to let down his country.

Brendan Behan in The Economist The world in brief for March 20, 2023

When people talk about “the kind of worship I like” (or similar sentiments, whatever the words), what in the world do they mean? Do they think that worship is primarily to please themselves? What kind of god, then, do they “worship”?

Why is “you’re not photogenic” an insult while “your pictures don’t do you justice” is a compliment? (H/T Kevin D. Williamson)

For all its piety and fervor, today’s United States needs to be recognized for what it really is: not a Christian country, but a nation of heretics.

Ross Douthat, Bad Religion

You can read most of my more impromptu stuff here (cathartic venting) and here (the only social medium I frequent, because people there are quirky, pleasant and real). Both should work in your RSS aggregator, like Feedly or Reeder, should you want to make a habit of it.

Traditional Vernal Equinox 2023

Some gaslighters are claiming that Spring began yesterday, but I distinctly remember that it starts March 21. That’s my story and I’m stickin’ to it.


The World Beyond Your Head

Matthew Crawford, who does not know me nor I him, nonetheless describes a very strong tendency in my life:

I can take a virtual tour of the Forbidden City in Beijing, or of the deepest underwater caverns, nearly as easily as I glance across the room. Every foreign wonder, hidden place, and obscure subculture is immediately available to my idle curiosity; they are lumped together into a uniform distancelessness that revolves around me. But where am I? There doesn’t seem to be any nonarbitrary basis on which I can draw a horizon around myself—a zone of relevance—by which I might take my bearings and get oriented. When the axis of closer-to-me and farther-from-me is collapsed, I can be anywhere, and find that I am rarely in any place in particular.

The World Beyond Your Head: On Becoming an Individual in an Age of Distraction

I suspect that this is why I like to travel: it forces on me that particularity of places.

My Man Mitch

Mitch Daniels, former Purdue president, didn’t hold back about the state of today’s athlete in his latest Washington Post column. The headline was about women’s sports, but Daniels really laid into what he considered “sports figures who embody self-absorption over collective commitment, who cultivate their personal ‘brands’ at the expense of collective success.” An example: “A top athlete can consort with criminals, brandish guns in public and litter the landscape with illegitimate children in whose lives he has no intention of playing a father’s role, seldom with career consequences.” Read the rest here: “In a me-first era, my appreciation of women’s sports just keeps growing.”

Dave Bangert

Shame on the Met

The Metropolitan Opera has been ordered by an arbitrator to pay the Russian soprano Anna Netrebko more than $200,000 for performances it canceled last year after she declined to denounce President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia following the invasion of Ukraine.

New York Times

I wish the Met had been hit harder than that, but as a private company, it has some latitude to indulge its oppressive impulses. (Netrebko lost claims for performances where she and the Met had not yet inked the deal.)


  • “We must find new lands from which we can easily obtain raw materials and at the same time exploit the cheap slave labour that is available from the natives of the colonies. The colonies would also provide a dumping ground for the surplus goods produced in our factories.” (Cecil Rhodes)
  • In general terms aid cannot be of use to the poor of the Third World for the critical reason that they necessarily depend on the local economy for their sustenance, and the local economy does not require the extensive highways, big dams, or for that matter hybrid seeds, fertilisers and pesticides of the Green Revolution, any more than it does the fleet of helicopters that the British government imposed on India. These are only of use to the global economy, which can only expand at the expense of the local economy, whose environment it degrades, whose communities it destroys and whose resources (land, forest, water and labour) it systematically appropriates for its own use.

Edward Goldsmith, Development As Colonialism

March Madness

[D]espite having NCAA eligibility remaining, the Ivy League hasn’t budged from its position to limit its athletes a four-year window to compete. It’s something that Princeton, as an institution, also believes in, according to coach Mitch Henderson.

"We have [two] other seniors that have eligibility. Each one of these guys has an extra year," Henderson said. "It doesn’t change anything for us. We’re very much about the four-year process.

"Princeton, we’re about the growth of the student-athlete over the four-year process. I hope that’s not saying we’re a stick in the mud. It’s very much who we are. We expect them after senior year to be able to kind of go out and make pretty serious contributions in their communities."

ESPN story on Princeton men making the Sweet 16.

Princeton just became my emotional favorite in the tournament. Much as I like college basketball, I love colleges and universities that are about education.

Academic theology (and apologetics)

It has been roughly 25 years since it dawned on me that a secular person can never do truly Christian theology, which is more than an academic pursuit.

There’s no one more dangerous than the man who knows the steps but hasn’t walked them.

Steven Christoforou, Why Christian Apologetics Miss the Mark

Despite that epigram, Christoforou was not writing about Ravi Zacharias. He wrote something better than that would have been.

The pornified campus

1-in-3 collegiate women report being choked during most recent sex.

Brad Wilcox on Twitter via Aaron Renn

My presumption — rebuttable but strong — is that their sexual partners learned this frightening twist on love-making from watching hardcore porn (of a sort I never encountered).

Men are not guarding their imaginations. Women, too, are setting themselves up for divorce, with all its ramifications:

Calling a spade a spade

“Conversion therapy” bans pressure therapists to never help any patient try to feel comfortable in her body. That’s not some unintended consequence; it’s the essence of these bans. As Jack Turban has put it, it’s "unethical" to try to make a child "cisgender."

Leor Sapir on the 20 states and DC with such bans, via Andrew Sullivan

On Wokeness

Diversity and inclusion today

The thinking class, meanwhile, squanders its waking hours on a quixotic campaign to destroy every remnant of an American common culture and, by extension, a reviled Western civilization they blame for the failure to establish a heaven on earth of rainbows and unicorns. By the logic of the day, “inclusion” and “diversity” are achieved by forbidding the transmission of ideas, shutting down debate, and creating new racially segregated college dorms.

James Howard Kunstler, Living in the Long Emergency

The vice that dare not assume a name

Damon Linker again weighs in on wokeness:

The activists … appear deliberately to avoid giving their efforts a name, and they will likely object to anything that might be more descriptively accurate—like my preferred “antiliberal progressivism”—on the grounds that it carries negative connotations … I do think there’s a good reason to opt for “antiliberal progressivism” instead of “woke” or “wokeness”: doing so connects current trends to historical antecedents that, it’s now possible to see, were earlier chapters in a single, episodic story of intrafactional conflict on the left.

[T]here’s [a] reason [besides fearful capitulation] why liberals, especially over the last few years, have been so quick to fold in the face of antiliberal demands by militant progressives. It’s because liberals get caught in the either/or dynamics of polarized politics, thinking that any expression of criticism about their ostensible allies on the left invariably amounts to an in-kind contribution to advancing the political aims of their enemies on the right. This thinking runs something like this:

Yes, some of what the left-wing activists want is bad, defies liberal norms, and pushes pretty far into radical territory when it comes to race and gender. But the right is responding to this stuff by doing even worse things (including banning books, gutting academic freedom, and restricting free speech and other liberties). For that reason, it’s important we not criticize the left—because doing so empowers the right. Just look at what’s happened to Freddie deBoer this past week: He wrote a powerful Substack post criticizing the activists in the name of the left, and now he’s being quoted by right-wingers. We need to choose sides, and it’s not a hard call. We must stand with our somewhat wayward allies on the left for fear of empowering the fascism that’s making inroads all the time in the Republican Party.

I think the truth is pretty close to the opposite of this view: If the liberal center-left doesn’t stand up to antiliberal progressivism and refuse to capitulate to its demands within institutions, then those who disdain its influence will have nowhere to turn besides the right. That’s why liberals ought to do more to defend liberal ideals and norms where they hold power in civil society—because it will demonstrate that one needn’t embrace the right’s own antiliberalism in order to combat antiliberalism on the left.

I find this heartening, and I see Linker as an ally. I think “antiliberal progressivism” perfectly captures what is objectionable about wokeism. I reflexively recoil from progressive excesses, but have been unable to make peace with opportunistic and heavy-handed “conservative” responses — a sort of reverse mirror-image of what Linker is advocating for his side.

I can’t omit a bit more Linker, though:

Liberalism itself is more than capable of defending itself from opponents in either direction, as long as liberals summon the courage and rise to the challenge of doing so. It can do this most effectively by drawing crucial distinctions that comport more fully with the complex truth of things than the edifying homilies preferred by the right or the furious craving for moral purity that so often prevails on the left.

  • Yes, transgender adults should enjoy the same legal protections as other vulnerable minorities. But that doesn’t mean “gender-affirming care” (which can include radical pharmaceutical and surgical interventions) is the proper path forward for the rapidly growing numbers of teenagers who express discomfort with their sexuality and gender identity. Neither does it imply that the rest of us need to embrace the philosophically and biologically dubious assertions of many transgender activists about the thoroughgoing fluidity of sex and gender.

Linker is very much on the same wavelength as leftist philosopher Susan Neiman, (The true Left is not woke):

[T]he fact that politicians ranging from Ron DeSantis to Rishi Sunak deploy “woke” as a battle cry should not prevent us from examining its assumptions. For not only liberals, but many Leftists and socialists like me are increasingly uneasy with the form it has taken.

What concerns me most here are the ways in which contemporary voices considered to be progressive have abandoned the philosophical ideas that are central to any liberal or Left-wing standpoint: a commitment to universalism over tribalism, a firm distinction between justice and power, and a belief in the possibility of progress.

A preemptive barrier to productive disagreement

Before you can attempt to define what “wokeness” is, you should acknowledge this basic fact. Going further, you should acknowledge that as with cancel culture, critical race theory, and even structural racism, the contested nature of the term imposes a preemptive barrier to productive disagreement.

The constellation of social-justice concerns and discursive lenses that have powerfully influenced institutional decision making does work to sort individuals into abstract identity groups arranged on spectrums of privilege and marginalization. To paraphrase James Baldwin, it proceeds from the insistence that one’s categorization alone is real and cannot be transcended. The idea that patriarchy, white supremacy, transphobia, homophobia, Islamophobia, and other ills inexorably saturate our lived realities and that the highest good is to uncover and oppose them is, I think, a central component of “wokeness” as both its proponents and critics understand it.

[P]erhaps we can all agree, at bare minimum, to set ourselves the task of limiting our reliance on in-group shorthand, and embracing clear, honest, precise, and original thought and communication. If we want to persuade anyone not already convinced of what we believe, we are going to have to figure out how to say what we really mean.

Thomas Chatterton Williams

I try to avoid “you should have written about X instead of about Y” critiques, but how in heaven’s name could Williams note the wokesters’ obsessive use of “patriarchy, white supremacy, transphobia, homophobia, [and] Islamophobia” without commenting on how ill-defined those slurs are? His only hint at “both sides” is his last paragraph.

To the list of ill-defined or undefined put-downs of people not on the Left, I would certainly add “white Christian nationalism.”

A substitute religion?

[M]embership in houses of worship sank to 47% – below the 50% mark for the first time. In 1999, that number was 70%.

It’s possible, said [former Congressman Daniel] Lipinski, that many citizens are now searching for "for meaning, or a mission, or truth, somewhere else," which only raises the stakes in public life.

"Partisanship has become not just a social identity, but a primary identity considered to be more important than any other," he said. "We all identify ourselves as belonging to different groups – our families, our religions, our favorite sports teams, our professions. But more and more Americans are defining who they are by the political parties that they choose."

At this point, said Lipinksi, political dogmas have become so powerful that they now appear to be shaping the religious, class and sexual identities of many Americans – instead of the other way around. The teachings of competing politicos. preachers and pundits define the boundary lines in this war zone.

The bottom line: The "partisan virtue-signaling" that became so obvious in the Donald Trump era now dominates political discourse and news coverage about America’s most divisive religious and moral issues.


Reality candidates

In case you were wondering: He’s in.

I mean, of course, newly announced 2024 presidential contender Joseph Allen Maldonado, a.k.a. Joe Exotic, a.k.a. the Tiger King, a.k.a. the reality-television grotesque who actually had the No. 1 show in the nation, with truly unbelievable ratings: Tiger King had more than 34 million viewers in its first 10 days, nearly five times the average viewership of Celebrity Apprentice in its 2014-15 season. If ratings are what matters, then Joe Exotic is surely the best-qualified presidential candidate since Dwight Eisenhower: D-Day got great ratings.

No? Okay, then.

Why not Joe Exotic?

Isn’t being a reality-television star a presidential qualification? There are enough Americans who believe that to elect a president, are there not? Are we doing the democracy thing or aren’t we?

Let’s not be snobs about it. Sure, he looks like a guy you’d see walking south alongside the northbound lanes of I-35 just past the Lake Murray State Park exit in skull-print hoodie pushing a baby stroller with a missing wheel—but we are done, done, done with those fancy elites condescending to Real Americans™ from behind the safety of their Audi windshields as they speed down the road to the Harvard Club or Trader Joe’s or a job or wherever. If having a ridiculous mullet means you can’t be president, then the current guy is disqualified; if a ridiculous bleach-and-dye job means you can’t be president, then somebody explain the last guy.

(Really. Somebody explain the last guy. I tried my best.)

Kevin D. Williamson

Just can’t shake these DTs.

On the supposed impending arrest of Florida Man:

There are two things we know for certain about Donald Trump: The first is that he is the sort of irritating New York neurotic who believes that he ceases to exist when attention is not being paid to him, and the second is that he is constitutionally incapable of producing three consecutive sentences without a lie in one of them. A lie that brings him attention must be as irresistible as a well-seasoned hunk of porn-star jerky who pays him postcoital hush money rather than his usual arrangement, which goes the other way around. If you cannot see the hand of divine judgment at work in the prospect of this ailing republic being convulsed over an episode that, by the account of one of the intimately involved parties, had all of the impact of a Vienna sausage landing in a catcher’s mitt, then you have no religious imagination at all.

A federal prison is not the only kind of facility one can imagine Donald Trump locked up in. I don’t know whether he is mentally ill in a medical sense any more than I know whether Joe Biden is cognitively impaired in a medical sense, but I do know that, in the colloquial sense of the word crazy, he is as crazy as a sack of ferrets.

What is remarkable to me is that, all these years after the fact, the Trump admirers are still complaining that Hillary Rodham Clinton called them “deplorables.” The Clintons are awful and embarrassing and gross—Roger Stone has been known to plagiarize my line about the Clintons’ being “the penicillin-resistant syphilis of American politics”—but, if all this isn’t deplorable, what is?

Kevin D. Williamson. Williamson closes with delicious irony:

If you really want entitlement reform, don’t send an American conservative to do the job—what you want is a slightly rehabilitated French socialist.

For all its piety and fervor, today’s United States needs to be recognized for what it really is: not a Christian country, but a nation of heretics.

Ross Douthat, Bad Religion

You can read most of my more impromptu stuff here (cathartic venting) and here (the only social medium I frequent, because people there are quirky, pleasant and real). Both should work in your RSS aggregator, like Feedly or Reeder, should you want to make a habit of it.

Veneration of the Cross, 3/19/23

The sacking of Troy

A scene from Wendell Berry’s Jayber Crow, narrated by the titular character, in which a man gets angry about the then-current protests against the Vietnam War:

One Saturday evening, while Troy was waiting his turn in the chair, the subject was started and Troy said — it was about the third thing said — “They ought to round up every one of them sons of bitches and put them right in front of the damned communists, and then whoever killed who, it would be all to the good.” […]

It was hard to do, but I quit cutting hair and looked at Troy. I said, “Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you.”

Troy jerked his head up and widened his eyes at me. “Where did you get that crap?”

I said, “Jesus Christ.”

And Troy said, “Oh.”

It would have been a great moment in the history of Christianity, except that I did not love Troy.

Via Alan Jacobs

Not a bad reminder during Lent. It almost certainly has salience in the political realm of American 2023 as well.

I’ve heard several real-life variations on this anecdote. American Christianity is a mile wide and an inch deep.

Desperate Christians?

My antennae were up at the headline: Five charts that explain the desperate turn to MAGA among conservative white Christians. Any variation on “desperate Christians” tells me I’m reading something sensational or that the “Christians” are adherents of some Christianish ideology rather than sound Christian faith.

… [U]nless I’ve been gravely misinformed, if it throws in for nothing else, surely Christianity is bullish on hope. Americans should take note. Stateside, hope is in short supply.

Liel Leibovitz

Reading the Five Charts article, I was inclined to think the headline was sensationalist more than substantive — a religious variation on “The GOP is all White Christian Nationalists now.”

Rigor, whether you like it or not

Rod Dreher watched The Paper Chase and was smitten by The Majesty Of Professor Kingsfield, whose approach to matters once was spiritually helpful for Rod:

Back in the summer of 1991, when at age 24 I had made a decision to enter the Catholic Church, I went to the university Catholic chapel, thinking — oh, sweet summer child that I was — that a college ministry would offer a more intellectually serious approach to Catholicism. After months of therapeutic, sentimental navel-gazing in which I had been invited over and over to get in touch with my okayness, I left in disgust.

I was sent to an inner-city parish, and there met with old Father Dermot Moloney, an Irishman who dyed his hair shoe-polish black, and who had a Kingsfieldian crust to him. He heard my story, and agreed to instruct me in the faith. He said, in his porridge-thick accent, “By da time I get troo with ye, ye might not want to be a Catlick, but ye’ll know what a Catlick is.” I was so grateful that Father Moloney, gruff though he was, respected the faith, the tradition, and me enough to present it that way.

German Catholicism

Germany already has a Protestant church [and] we don’t need two.

Pope Francis’ remark to Bishop George Bätzing, president of the German Bishops’ Conference, via George Weigel, Apostasy in Germany’s Catholic Church. More from Weigel:

As the Synodal Way, which some in Rome call the “Suicidal Way,” drew the attention of Catholics world-wide, many said that German Catholicism was heading into “schism”—an institutional rupture with Rome. That isn’t quite right. Schisms typically are caused by issues of church order. Thus the Catholic Church believes the Orthodox churches of the Christian East are “schismatic” because they don’t accept the pope’s primacy and universal authority. What is unfolding in Germany is different—akin to the 16th-century Lutheran Reformation: apostasy.

Rome jumps the shark on war and killing

Bernard [of Clairveaux] did not stop with the [Knights] Templar Rule. He went as far as writing a treatise entitled In Praise of the New Knighthood. In it he declared without hesitation that “the knights of Christ may safely do battle in the battles of their Lord, fearing neither the sin of smiting the enemy nor the danger of their own downfall, inasmuch as death for Christ, inflicted or endured, bears no taint of sin, but deserves abundant glory.” Perfectly aligned with the new papal doctrine of indulgences, such a claim encouraged Christians to do what traditional Christianity had always taught them never to do: to kill their enemies, with an assurance that doing so would open to them the kingdom of heaven.

Fr. John Strickland, The Age of Division

For all its piety and fervor, today’s United States needs to be recognized for what it really is: not a Christian country, but a nation of heretics.

Ross Douthat, Bad Religion

You can read most of my more impromptu stuff here (cathartic venting) and here (the only social medium I frequent, because people there are quirky, pleasant and real). Both should work in your RSS aggregator, like Feedly or Reeder, should you want to make a habit of it.

St. Patrick’s Day 2023

I have nothing to say about St. Patrick beyond (a) he lived and ministered before Rome went into schism, and is therefore recognized by the Orthodox; (b) though Ireland is rich with spirituality that echoes the pre-schism church, we Orthodox don’t view him as a very major Saint, nor do we get drunk and rowdy on green beer to honor him.

Prissy Dissenter

I have long known that it’s important to guard my imagination. I have, for slightly less long, actually guarded my imagination — most of the time and more or less.

It’s not my place to boss others around, but some of the recommendations I get from fellow Christians for movies or (more importantly) TV shows and streaming clearly have not been run through a very fine “guard your imagination” filter.

For instance, David French raved about Ted Lasso, but I didn’t finish the first season because of all the f-bombs and sexual themes. I’m not opposed to sexual themes — or any other themes I can think of — in the abstract. That’s why I was never even tempted, let alone persuaded, by the earlyish evangelical and fundamentalist objections that Harry Potter books were “about witchcraft.”

But when non-marital sex is portrayed as perfectly wholesome, and when f-bombs are so ordinary that a major character keeps dropping them as a sports commentator, my prissy conscience says “no!” I could give more detailed examples of what was objectionable in Ted Lasso, but it wouldn’t be good for either of us.

I’m even beginning to wonder about British Mysteries. We subscribe to BritBox and watch on average nearly one British mystery per day. But I’ve noticed that not a single admirable character (other than Brother Cadfael) professes any form of Christian faith (and Cadfael is, probably realistically, surrounded by monastic brothers who fall far short of exemplary). Indeed, when religion comes up, the good guys basically say “Well, I was raised religious but I don’t believe it any more.”

The Overton Window, to put it differently, is open only from indifference to hostility.

I don’t think I’m in any danger of losing my faith over British Mysteries, but there may be subtler effects. I’m on guard.

UPDATE: I failed to mention Father Brown — probably because, as portrayed in the longest-running series of Father Brown mysteries — he was basically a detective who told the guilty party that they should repent — only this and nothing more.


Wandering as the birds of the air, then snared

[T]he key driver of Machine modernity, and the chief enemy of human freedom, has always been the state. It follows from this that escaping the reach of the state, and attempting to rebuild a moral economy, is the work – or the beginning of the work – of the reactionary radical.

British imperialist Sir Stamford Raffles spoke not only for his Empress, but for the mind of the colonial state across history, which is also the mind of the Machine, when he wrote:**

Here [Sumatra] I am the advocate of despotism. The strong arm of power is necessary to bring men together, and to concentrate them into societies … Sumatra is, in great measure, peopled by innumerable petty tribes, subject to no general government … At present people are wandering in their habits as the birds of the air, and until they are congregated and organised under something like authority, nothing can be done with them.

To read [James C.] Scott’s book is to be made to think hard about the conditions that a state needs to thrive, and thus the conditions that its cultural refuseniks might need to create in return. Based on Scott’s studies of Southeast Asia, we can begin to compile a basic list of necessities for state flourishing:

A reliable staple crop (in Asia, wet rice; in Europe, wheat; in South America, maize, etc)
An effective transportation system for people and goods
A settled population
Enforcement of law and order
An effective central government
A system of taxation and classification of population
A system of communication/propaganda
Slavery or forced labour

All of this applies today to the state in which I live, including the last one. The slavery and forced labour now takes place far from the core of modern Western states, in places like central Africa or China, where the poor mine our smartphone components or sew our cheap clothes in regimented workhouses, but that doesn’t make them any less necessary for the system to function.

Paul Kingsnorth, The Jellyfish Tribe, another of his essays that I’ve marked to revisit. It’s excellent. He’s a Substacker I’ll unequivocally recommend.

Kingsnorth’s very valuable essay also has a list of attributes that help make a people ungovernable. They’ll probably appear another day because I can’t get this essay off my mind.

Not the usual b*llsh*t about wokeness

Nick Cattogio almost instantly became a favorite pundit after he moved to the Dispatch and I began reaing him. He recently turned his critical eye on “wokeness”:

Trying to define “wokeness” is like trying to define “hardcore pornography.” You can do it, more or less, but you’re mostly just trying to articulate a gut feeling of transgression.

Damon Linker, a centrist, has written often lately about “wokeness” and offers another definition.

This is what I mean when I use the term “woke”: the effort by progressives to take ideological control of institutions within civil society and use those positions to mandate that their moral outlook (and accompanying empirical claims about race, American history, and human sexuality and gender) be adopted throughout the broader culture.

That’s how I think of “wokeness.” It’s not just a belief system, it’s a tactic.

Progressives have some very particular and controversial ideas about race, gender, oppression, and victimization that aren’t shared by much of the country, including members of the Democratic Party. But rather than concede that those subjects are matters of public controversy, in some cases they resort to social and professional sanctions to try to compel dissenters to accept their orthodoxy. (Adult dissenters, I mean. Schoolchildren can and will be indoctrinated into that orthodoxy.) Thomas Chatterton Williams cut to the heart of it when he made this point recently about the enforcement arm of “wokeness”: “Cancel culture is really about when someone is called out by a mob for transgressing a not-yet-agreed upon norm.”

The further you go toward the right-wing fringe, the more likely you are to find people who’ll insist … that lots of norms most of us take for granted haven’t truly been “agreed upon.”

I don’t think that’s fundamentally the game being played here, though. (Maybe a few people are playing it.) New York Times columnist Michelle Goldberg is closer to the mark in believing that anti-wokeness has simply become a placeholder ideology for a party that can’t agree on what it believes.

Not only is Michelle Goldberg close to the truth, but such manias as anti-CRT and anti-Woke are consciously manufactured placeholder ideologies for a party that has, literally, no platform:

It should elicit some sighs that I’m even bringing this up. [Christopher] Rufo has been open about his plan to play intentionally fast and loose with this term. Last year he gloated to James Lindsay: “We have successfully frozen their brand—‘critical race theory’—into the public conversation and are steadily driving up negative perceptions. We will eventually turn it toxic, as we put all of the various cultural insanities under that brand category.” It seems pretty clear that Rufo doesn’t care what is and isn’t critical race theory. He sees it as a usefully “toxic” brand under which he can lump “various cultural insanities,” whether or not they have anything to do with CRT per se.

Jesse Singal


The building up of practices of care, patience, humility, reverence, respect, and modesty is also evident among people of no particular religious belief, homesteaders and “radical homemakers” who—like their religious counterparts—are seeking within households and local communities and marketplaces to rediscover old practices, and create new ones, that foster new forms of culture that liberalism otherwise seeks to eviscerate. Often called a counterculture, such efforts should better understand themselves as a counter-anticulture.

Patrick Deneen, Why Liberalism Failed


Close but more tenuous relations exist between Russia and Georgia (overwhelmingly Orthodox) and Ukraine (in large part Orthodox); but both of which also have strong senses of national identity and past independence.

Samuel P. Huntington, The Clash of Civilizations and the Remaking of World Order


New class war

The influence of big donors in both parties further skews politics from the pragmatic concerns of America’s working-class majority. Wealthy donors, like primary voters, tend to be socially liberal and support free trade, immigration and cuts in government social spending more than the average voter. It’s not hyperbole to conclude that the United States is a nation of communitarians ruled by an oligarchy of libertarians.

Michael Lind, America’s new class war

Poor Mike Pence

Mike Pence has really been letting loose on Trump and January 6. Here’s Pence speaking to the white-tie Gridiron Dinner attendees this week: “President Trump was wrong. I had no right to overturn the election. And his reckless words endangered my family and everyone at the Capitol that day. And I know that history will hold Donald Trump accountable.”

Poor Mike Pence. He’s really in a bind. All he wanted was to be a good, happy evangelical conservative, closing down drag brunches and getting upset about Disney princesses showing their shoulders. But he had to ride to power on Trump, who never saw a Disney princess he didn’t want to see a little more shoulder from. So maybe Pence could find comfort on the left, along with the other Trump defectors? Maybe he can please the Gridiron Club folks? The trouble is, Mike Pence is a true believer. He can never pretend that, actually, he wants transgender turtles in the next Pixar movie. Now he’s teasing a presidential run, and we must all watch him suffer more. God, can you just take him to wherever you are storing Tim Kaine?

Nellie Bowles

Viva la difference!

The French battle against transgender activism has created some strange bedfellows:

Such is the extremity of transactivism, however, almost everyone who isn’t chronically underinformed or under 25 ends up on the other side of it eventually.

Kathleen Stock, Is France too sexy for the trans wars?



“My kingdom for a moratorium on describing single individuals as ‘diverse,’” – Jill Filipovic, via Andrew Sullivan

Thinking outside the box

Sometimes I just love the irony that “think outside the box” has become a cliche.

ChrisJWilson on


“Silence is golden.” (Tradition)
“Silence is violence.” (Today’s progressives)

Other wordplay

The secret of life

The whole secret of life is to be interested in one thing profoundly and a thousand other things well. (Hugh Walpole)

Via The Economist, The world in brief, 3/13/23

The Past

Except in the area of dental care, the Past is almost always better.

Terry Cowan, Spare Me

For all its piety and fervor, today’s United States needs to be recognized for what it really is: not a Christian country, but a nation of heretics.

Ross Douthat, Bad Religion

You can read most of my more impromptu stuff here (cathartic venting) and here (the only social medium I frequent, because people there are quirky, pleasant and real). Both should work in your RSS aggregator, like Feedly or Reeder, should you want to make a habit of it.

Ides of March 2023


Obituary — Traute Lafrenz

As the German Army faced crushing losses at Stalingrad in 1942 and 1943, the White Rose sensed mistakenly that military reverses would turn Germans against Hitler. The group’s fliers, quoting from Goethe, Schiller, Aristotle, Lao Tzu and the Bible, urged passive resistance and sabotage of the Nazi project.

“Isn’t it true that every honest German is ashamed of his government these days?” the first leaflet asked. “Who among us can imagine the degree of shame that will come upon us and upon our children when the veils fall from our faces and the awful crimes that infinitely exceed any human measure are exposed to the light of day?”

From the New York Times obituary for Traute Lafrenz, the last survivor of the German Resistance group White Rose.

Note particularly the first sentence, which strikes me as relevant to the current political popularity of certain creeps and losers.

Picking the lesser evil

As much as I object to the sloppy practices of some gender clinics and to their widely-reported unseemly haste to “transition” (i.e., mutilate) adolescents, there is a case for balancing harms, and for giving great weight to the question “who decides?”

That comes forcefully to mind as I watch ham-handed limelight-seekers in legislatures trying to solve the trans social contagion with something close to outright bans on any approach to adolescent gender dysphoria other than “watchful waiting.” I think doctors should do a lot more watchful waiting than they have been, but when I saw the legislative response, I realized it may be best for legislators to stay out of it if they can’t do any better than that — and it may be that they legitimately cannot.

If “patient, parents and physician decide” prevails, it will mean (in the current, white-hot mania) many lives ruined with the only recourse being a malpractice action, not restoration of full health. But that imperfect outcome may just be the best we can do.

(I wrote this before reading Andrew Sullivan’s Substack, which made an analogous point.)

How to treat critics of democracy

It would be wholly unworthy of us as thinking beings not to listen to the critics of democracy—even if they are enemies of democracy—provided they are thinking men (and especially great thinkers) and not blustering fools.

Leo Strauss via Michael Millerman at First Things

Go thou and do likewise, HRC

When the Berlin Wall fell, the Committee for the Free World, a neoconservative think tank, closed its doors. Its director, Midge Decter, concluded that it had served its purpose and so should dissolve. Gay-rights organizations [e.g., Human Rights Campaign] chose a different path after Obergefell. Rather than declare victory and go home, they moved on to the “next frontier”: transgender rights. Religious conservatives had already been largely eliminated from important American institutions, and so posed no internal obstacle to the pursuit of this goal. Feminists, who remained, mostly went along with the idea that men could become women. Those who chose to speak were labeled “TERFs” and targeted with the same arsenal of social, professional, and financial threats that had once been deployed against opponents of same-sex marriage.

Matthew Schmitz, How Gay Marriage Changed America by Matthew Schmitz

Ginger Prince welcomes “dialog”

The ginger Prince is “open” to talking with the family, “to help them understand their unconscious bias.” We all know what this type of “dialogue” means coming from one who feels victimized. It means that you talk and talk until you agree with them. It is pointless to disagree with those who carefully nurture their sense of victimhood, the perpetually aggrieved, whether it be your crazy cousin or the former President.

Terry Cowan, Spare Me

Learning from Armenians

I asked every person I met if they felt any hate—toward the Turks, or the Azeris, or anyone else who imperiled Armenia or turned a blind eye to their fate. The question struck them all as strange. “Why would I feel hate?” a former senior government official responded over espressos and biscotti. “There are so many other, more productive things to feel and do.”

… [U]nless I’ve been gravely misinformed, if it throws in for nothing else, surely Christianity is bullish on hope. Americans should take note. Stateside, hope is in short supply.

Liel Leibovitz


Bothsidesism failure

Here I would remind you that Chris Cuomo had his entire media career destroyed because he gave a politician (his brother) back-channel advice concerning a specific incident without disclosing it.

Which is proper: What Cuomo did was 100 percent out of bounds. CNN was right to fire him. It’s good that no other mainstream outlet has hired him.

My point is that in the “liberal mainstream media,” Chris Cuomo got the professional equivalent of the death penalty for an offense that was a tiny fraction of the size of what happens up and down the line at Fox every forking day. And the Fox people will face zero consequences for their infinitely greater sins.

But, hey, the liberal mainstream media got the Covington kids story wrong for 24 hours, so, what are you gonna do, right? Both sides?

Jonathan V. Last, Spoiler: Fox Wins

I almost added emphasis, but surely you can read or re-read four short paragraphs and get the point.

With what judgment ye judge, ye shall be judged

I think there’s a deep phoniness at the center of [Bill O’Reilly’s] schtick. The schtick is built on this perception that he is the character he plays. He is Everyman … fighting for you against the powers that be. And that’s great as a schtick. But the moment that it’s revealed not to be true, it’s over.

Tucker Carlson in 2003, via Andrew Sullivan.


What is “woke”?

This is what I mean when I use the term “woke”: the effort by progressives to take ideological control of institutions within civil society and use those positions to mandate that their moral outlook (and accompanying empirical claims about race, American history, and human sexuality and gender) be adopted throughout the broader culture. Note that for the most part this is about society and not politics as normally defined. Democrats (at least outside of the very bluest districts) aren’t running for office on a woke agenda. Plenty of people tried to in the 2020 Democratic presidential primaries, but the least woke candidate among them (Joe Biden) prevailed, showing that America’s left-leaning party keeps one foot firmly planted in the unwoke liberal center-left, where I make my ideological home.

Yet Republicans haven’t responded at the level of civil society. Instead, prodded by rabblerousing right-wing digital activists like Christopher Rufo, they have sought to combat wokeness using the blunt force of government power—by banning books, curtailing what can be taught in schools, imposing penalties on private companies for taking progressive stands on social and cultural issues, and seizing control of public universities to prevent them from teaching the “wrong” things and following DEI mandates in their hiring decisions.

Republicans justify these aggressive moves by claiming that wokeness isn’t just a problem but a huge problem, a massive problem, maybe even the biggest problem facing the country. In this respect, wokeness has become a successor in their minds to communism—a totalitarian ideology of the left that threatens to destroy all that’s good and great about America and that therefore needs to be rooted out by any means necessary. (Some on the right make the connection to communism explicit by describing wokeness as a form of “cultural Marxism.” Since I see the phenomenon primarily as a form of post-Protestant Christianity, I avoid using the term.)

[N]othing would do more to empower wokeness as a grassroots phenomenon than sending DeSantis to the White House, where he would fight moral illiberalism with political illiberalism, in the process turning left-wing activists into martyrs for freedom and democracy.

We can’t fight wokeness by smashing it politically. We can only fight it by convincing liberal-minded people in powerful positions within private and public institutions that they should stand up to and resist it. Which may be just another way of saying that the key to stopping wokeism is a reaffirmation of liberalism.

Damon Linker

Making your adversaries second-class citizens

I think David French succeeded today in identifying why I find our polarized politics so worrisome:

The Constitution of the United States, properly interpreted, provides a marvelous method for handling social conflict. It empowers an elected government to enact even contentious new rules while protecting the most fundamental human rights of dissenting citizens. Political defeat is never total defeat. Losers of a given election still possess their basic civil liberties, and the combination of the right to speak and the right to vote provides them concrete hope for their preferred political outcomes.

But if a government both enacts contentious policies and diminishes the civil liberties of its current ideological opponents, then it sharply increases the stakes of political conflict. It breaks the social compact by rendering political losers, in effect, second-class citizens. A culture war waged against the civil liberties of your political opponents inflicts a double injury on dissenters: They don’t merely lose a vote; they also lose a share of their freedom.

That’s exactly what’s happening now. The culture war is coming for American liberty — in red states and blue alike. The examples are legion ….

I think the link will get you through the NYT paywall.

The kinds of laws French identifies offend me in another way: they reflect the contempt of legislators and governors for their oaths to uphold the Constitution, inasmuch as many of these laws are unconstitutional substantively or because they’re so vague that a reasonable person cannot discern where the lien is between lawful and unlawful. And it’s a black mark against Ron DeSantis that he supports several of them.

And don’t get me started on the smarmy governor of California, who … no, I don’t want to get started.

Heuristics to counteract gaslighting

In reality, a consensus can be wrong, and a conspiracy theory can sometimes point toward an overlooked or hidden truth — and the approach that Caulfield proposes, to say nothing of the idea of a centralized Office of Reality, seem likely to founder on these rocks. If you tell people not to listen to some prominent crank because that person doesn’t represent the establishment view or the consensus position, you’re setting yourself up to be written off as a dupe or deceiver whenever the consensus position fails or falls apart.

Ross Douthat, A Better Way to Think About Conspiracies This bubbled up among Readwise clips recently.

It seems to me that as we enter the age of AI-generated fake news, the heuristics Douthat commends for conspiracy theories will be doing double-duty.

Election 2024 storm clouds

Ross Douthat, Trump Knows How to Make Promises. Do His Rivals? is well worth reading if you don’t mind the gist: that Trump will win the GOP nomination.

Smart takes, dumb takes

There will be two populist right-wing critiques of SVB, I suspect, more complementary than contradictory.

The smart one, laid out by Ramaswamy in his detailed analysis of SVB’s mismanagement, is that a bailout will create more problems for the country long-term than would letting the bank fail and leaving its depositors in temporary financial limbo. Customers with millions or billions of dollars in assets suddenly have no great incentive to ensure that they’re banking with a responsible institution now that the feds have agreed to backstop irresponsible ones. Better to let SVB’s clients suffer and thereby incentivize other American businesses to do greater diligence in deciding where to park their money. The best-run banks will get the lion’s share of the deposits. Free-market competition, in all its glory.

That’s impressively logical but too pat, I think, at a moment of panic. Panic is the enemy of logic; once bank runs begin, even banks that did things the right way might be overrun and broken as customers rush to move their money. And that money won’t be moved to better-run midsize banks, it’ll be moved to Wall Street giants for maximum safety.

Still, Ramaswamy’s basic point, that markets will reward and punish the right people more fairly and efficiently than the government can, is well taken. Smart critique.

Then there’s the not-so-smart one.

They were one of the most woke banks

(Republican Congressman James Comer, via Aaron Rupar on Twitter via Nick Cattogio)

To borrow Joe Biden’s line about Rudy Giuliani, many Trump-era Republicans are so invested in culture war that they can’t get through a sentence without a noun, a verb, and “woke,” or some variation thereof.

Close encounters


For the first time ever, I set aside my annual vehicle registration papers and forgot to send them in. So I appeared at the BMV in person to remedy the problem.

O felix culpa! I got my first up close look at 7’4″ 305 pound Zach Edey, likely NCAA Men’s player of the year. (Eventually, my number was called and I was seated to his immediate left.)

Yes, he has to duck for every doorway. Duck quite a lot, actually.

Another close encounter

As long as we’re doing photos and stories of close encounters (well, I am anyway), I’ll reminisce about a choral experience.

Singing under the late William Jon Gray, our serious amateur chorus usually hired soloists for our major works, generally sacred classics like masses and oratorios. One Spring as we were warming up for the concert, Mr. Gray introduced us to our tenor soloist, brought in from the Jacobs School at Indiana University, mingled in with the tenor section for warmups, but who had not even joined us in dress rehearsal (unusual).

Ladies and gentleman, I’d like to introduce you to our tenor soloist today, Lawrence Brownlee. Enjoy him, because we’ll never be able to afford him again: he won the Metropolitan Opera Auditions this week.

I promised a picture, but it’s not of our concert. You may recognize the famous lady Lawrence accompanied in this Met production:

Tradition is a bulwark against the power of commerce and the dissolving acid of money, and by removing these, all revolutions in the modern period have ended up accelerating the commercial and technological shift towards the Machine.

Paul Kingsnorth

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