Martinet pronouns (and much more)

Best thing I read Monday: Are We Still Thinking?.

There’s a lot more to it than this, one of my favorite quotes of an American Founder:

In the 1780’s, John Adams wrote:

I must study politics and war that my sons may have liberty to study mathematics and philosophy. My sons ought to study mathematics and philosophy, geography, natural history, naval architecture, navigation, commerce, and agriculture, in order to give their children a right to study painting, poetry, music, architecture, statuary, tapestry, and porcelain.

I have a reminder set to re-read the article. It’s that good.


Bari Weiss turned most of her column over to the lament of a Romanian-born mathematician:

Sergiu wrote me in an email that the situation in his field reminds him of this line from Thomas Sowell: “Ours may become the first civilization destroyed, not by the power of enemies, but by the ignorance of our teachers and the dangerous nonsense they are teaching our children. In an age of artificial intelligence, they are creating artificial stupidity.”

Bari Weiss, introducing There Is No Such Thing as "White" Math – Common Sense with Bari Weiss

The centerpiece of Sergiu’s complaint is an 83-page piece of idiocy that proves, if nothing else, that its funding source, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, does not have perfect pitch.


Legal writing guru Bryan Garner puts a pin in the "what are your pronouns?" bullshit:

What’s new isn’t the generic pronoun but the referential pronoun: the one that refers to a known person (Bill, John, Krys, or Emily). People are deciding for themselves how they want to be referred to behind their backs — in the third person. If you were addressing them directly, of course, you’d simply use you and your. A social movement is behind the idea that people get to decide how references to them should sound when they’re absent.

Bryan Garner, Pronominal Strife – Los Angeles Review of Books (emphasis added)


"Legislating by letterhead" belongs in our lexicon, though I think I recall conservatives doing the same sort of thing as this:

The precursor to the hearing was a revealing letter sent Monday by two California Democrats, Reps. Anna Eshoo and Jerry McNerney. The duo demanded the CEOs of a dozen cable, satellite and broadband providers explain what “response” they intended to take to the “right-wing media ecosystem” that is spreading “lies” and “disinformation” that enable “insurrection” and provokes “non-compliance with public health guidelines.” Specifically they asked each CEO: “Are you planning to continue carrying Fox News, Newsmax and OANN . . .? If so, why?”

When Republican members of the committee and outside groups shouted censorship, Ms. Eshoo shrugged. “The First Amendment, my friends, starts with four words: Congress shall make no laws,” and she, Anna Eshoo, had no intention of enacting a law to shut down conservatives. She was merely asking “strong, important questions”—i.e., whether private regulated companies understand that (if they know what’s good for them) they’ll do the dirty work for her, thereby saving her the hassle of complying with the Constitution. She was just asking.

“Right now, the greatest threat to free speech in this country is not any law passed by the government—the First Amendment stands as a bulwark,” says Federal Communications Commissioner Brendan Carr. “The threat comes in the form of legislating by letterhead.

Kim Strassel, ‘Just Asking’ for Censorship – WSJ


After a long absence, Garrison Keillor assaulted my RSS aggregator yesterday with multiple postings. I have no explanation for this delightful onslaught or for the preceding absence.

I’ll be selective, minimizing politics.

I married a pro-vaxxer, which is good to know after all these years — we never discussed vaccines during courtship — and in addition to her respect for science, she has the patience to track down clinics online and spend time on Hold and so now I am vaccinated …

I was not asked for a credit card at any point, or a Medicare card, so evidently the country is slipping into socialism, as Republicans predicted, but I am too old to argue, I obey. Young people wearing badges told me which line to get in and I did. A young woman who said she was a nurse gave the shot and I didn’t ask to see her license. Nor did I ask for assurance that the vaccine did not contain a hallucinogen that would make me accept the Fake News: I already accept that Joe Biden was elected president and that Trump supporters invaded the Capitol on January 6. It’s too laborious to believe otherwise. This is Occam’s Razor, the principle they taught in high school science: the simpler theory tends to be true. You’d have to devote weeks to working up a new theory of massive electoral fraud by Venezuelans and Antifans buying thousands of MAGA hats to storm the Capitol, and at 78 I don’t have the time for that. The vaccine may extend my lifetime but there are no guarantees.

The old scout stands in line at the clinic | Garrison Keillor

The joy at the heart of the lockdown in the pandemic is the daily reassurance that you married the right person. A funny person with her own life who is never at a loss for words and so is good company and who reads the news for me and passes along the good stuff.

She read me a story in the Times last week about the hellish life in the skinny skinny new skyscrapers of Manhattan. Developers have taken tiny lots and thrown up a 90-story needle and sold apartments for vast amounts to people who want to look down on the rest of us but meanwhile high winds cause the needle to sway dramatically, which often snaps water pipes and causes major leaks and brings elevators to a stop and causes eerie whining sounds. It gave us joy, to think that architects and developers have found a way to earn big profits from torturing oligarchs from authoritarian countries who have way too much money.

The pandemic: one man’s appreciation | Garrison Keillor

In the Fifties, they tore down sixteen acres of tenements in Hell’s Kitchen and under the sponsorship of the Rockefeller brothers they built a symphony hall, an opera house, a theater, and a dance theater around a plaza with a fountain. Republicans were behind it and Lincoln’s name is on it and when you attend events here, you brush elbows with a good many moguls and grande dames who probably miss Ronald Reagan keenly and you go in to watch performers, 95 percent of them Democrats, some to the left of Bernie Sanders, but the conflicting views between the stage and the box seats are forgotten in the glory of “Der Rosenkavalier” or Beethoven or “Les Sylphides.” If your heart is open to the gifts of genius, you will walk across the plaza afterward, past the fountain, and feel transformed.

I first saw the U.S. Capitol in 1962, heading for Baltimore to attend a wedding, got lost, saw a lighted dome and realized I was in Washington. I parked and walked up the steps and in the door, past one policeman sitting on a folding chair in the foyer, and walked in under the great dome and looked at the statues and murals, and saw only a couple of cops relaxing in a hallway, not paying much attention to anybody.

When I tell people about that night, it feels like ancient history. Those days will never return. Even at the opera, security men wand you as you come through the turnstile. After the Capitol insurrection of January 6, security will be iron-tight forever to come, metal detectors will beep at every steel zipper, uniformed men with assault weapons will watch your every move. Walking into the Capitol of 1962, the openness of it told you that we are a civilized society with a high level of mutual trust. I don’t care to ever visit Washington again and see our government on wartime alert for attacks by our fellow Americans. Too painful.

A night outside, eating with friends | Garrison Keillor

Will Hollywood rise from the dead when the pandemic ends? It must. Truly. I decided it was my duty to sit down and write a screenplay for a movie to hold a theater of young people transfixed for a hundred and ten minutes, but it’s no use, I’m too old and comfortable, too well-married. I live with a woman who sits across from me at the breakfast table and reads the paper and tells me what I need to know from it, which takes her five minutes, and leaves me free to think my own thoughts. I spend less time worrying about our democracy than I do trying to remember Natalie Wood’s costar in “Splendor In The Grass.” (Warren Beatty.) William Inge wrote that movie and he felt entitled to torture beautiful Natalie and throw her into a loony bin because he was an alcoholic gay male suffering from depression. I don’t have that privilege, having had a happy childhood. I write a scene and it’s two people remembering their childhoods. No drama. Dishes need to be thrown, tables overturned.

The end of the worst, bring on the better | Garrison Keillor


Micah Mattix respects Christopher Lasch, but thinks Robert Penn Warren is needed as a corrective. He starts showing where Lasch over-sold his case:

For Lasch, the unbounded pursuit of capital has led to the commodification of nearly all of life. The decline in American manufacturing has made it difficult for working-class families to live on a single salary. The result, often, is both parents work full-time and outsource child-rearing to “professionals.” Small stores and local hangouts, where people of different classes might interact, have been replaced by big box stores and impersonal chain restaurants in pursuit of greater margins. The result is that informal conversations between groups has ceased. The wealthy go to private cocktail parties and exclusive clubs while the plebs stare at TV screens in Chili’s. The “decline of participatory democracy,” Lasch writes, may be directly related to the disappearance of these “third places.” Education has abandoned moral formation in favor of creating efficient workers while, at the same time, nourishing a sense of entitlement though victimhood narratives that postpone adulthood. Math and science—the golden tools of the market—are funded while history and English are either cut or repurposed to teach “soft skills.” Doing right is replaced with feeling good in homes and churches. The list goes on.

But this has been going on for much longer than 25 years. I am reminded of Flannery O’Connor’s Wise Blood, which was first published in 1952 and which can be read as a commentary on post-WW II life in the South. It’s set in the fictional Taulkinham—a town of shops and movie theaters. “No one was paying any attention to the sky,” O’Connor writes. “The stores . . . stayed open on Thursday nights so that people could have an extra opportunity to see what was for sale.” In one scene, a man sets up “an altar” to sell a new kind of potato peeler. All everyone does in Taulkinham is shop and go to the movies. There are no two-parent families in the novel. Young men are either unemployed or work menial jobs. And the only religion that anyone shows any interest in is Hoover Shoat’s prosperity gospel, where, he tells the townsfolk “You don’t have to believe nothing you don’t understand and approve of.”

Warren’s corrective, distilled:

Warren’s argument for role of poetry in a democracy reminds us not only of the importance of taking the long view but also of the centrality of excellence for a good society. This is Lasch’s concern, too, but it cannot be recovered through economic reforms alone.

Micah Mattix, Saving the American Experiment – Law & Liberty


Of the Golden Trump at CPAC 2021:

“It’s definitely not an idol,” Mr. Zegan insisted. (“I was a youth pastor for 18 years,” he noted.) “An idol is something somebody worships and bows down to. This is a sculpture. It’s two different things.”

At CPAC, a Reverence for Trump – The New York Times

"Trust me; I’m a former youth pastor" is a nonsequitur right out of the gate, but "an idol is something somebody worships and bows down to" is a particularly risible affirmation coming from within a Christianish tradition whose dumbed-down "worship" of God almost certainly includes no bowing.


CPAC was full of Trumpists saying they’re conservative, not Republican. I have no taste to vote for saving the Republican Party from their ilk, but I hate to see the term "conservative" debased.


Beloved, now we are children of God; and it has not yet been revealed what we shall be, but we know that when He is revealed, we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is.

I John 3:2


You can read most of my more impromptu stuff at here. It should work in your RSS aggregator, like Feedly, should you want to make a habit of it.

Priorities and more

I heard the other day that most American Christians consider themselves Americans first, Christians second (or lower, I speculate). And they are hostile toward people who are Christians first.

This confirms to me that most American Christianity is nominal only. It also make me wish for a T-shirt or Sweatshirt (if only I weren’t too old to wear messagewear) inscribed "Other."


Lawrence Ferlinghetti, Poet Who Nurtured the Beats, Dies at 101


CPAC (a big annual gathering of "conservatives") isn’t what it used to be. Then again, maybe it never was.


> Somewhere along the line, when the pandemic was raging and Trump was blithely going on TV and telling us not to worry, that the virus was going to suddenly disappear, and not to let fear rule our lives, the response on the left was to insist on the opposite. To my eye, what started among myself and my peers as a genuine concern about the unfolding pandemic — concern for ourselves, our vulnerable loved ones, our vulnerable neighbors and community members — started morphing and hardening into something else, or something additional: a tribal totem. Harboring and expressing extreme anxiety, fear, and outrage about the virus became a crucial component of identifying as a virtuous progressive. > > The feelings were (and are) real, and not unwarranted. But when, in another time and place, we might have received steadying messages of individual and communal resilience (Keep calm and carry on, etc.), instead we on the left found our most despairing, fearful, and angry feelings flamed — by a media industry that’s figured out how to trade fear and rage for clicks, and by a desire to cast ourselves as a compassionate, humanitarian foil to the callous, capital-focused response on the right. (Never mind that it turns out we had plenty of blind spots of our own.)

Mo Perry in her Mailchimp mailing of 2/25/21.

It’s nice to see an acknowledgement of progressive Covid tribalism, since there was no mistaking right-wing Covid tribalism


So far, it feels to me as if the Senate is confirming nominees who ought to be confirmed and questioning those that truly are questionable. I hope they refuse confirmation to Xavier Becerra:

> Republicans have both partisan and nonpartisan reasons to bristle at the Becerra nomination. The nonpartisan gripe is based on experience: While Becerra has served in government for decades—he was a member of the House of Representatives from 1993 to 2017—he has never served in an executive health policy role. If there’s one nominee you’d like to be able to hit the ground running in a new administration during a global pandemic, Republicans have argued, it’s the head of Health and Human Services. > > But the more visceral opposition to Becerra stems from what Republicans describe as his radical views on the role of government in health care, his intense opposition to any government limitations on abortion, and his track record in California of wielding state power against groups from crisis pregnancy centers to orders of nuns that didn’t comply with state and federal laws later deemed unconstitutional by the Supreme Court. > > David summed up the Republican case against Becerra in the French Press back in December: > >> Becerra zealously defended a California law that forced pro-life pregnancy centers to advertise for free and low-cost abortions. He defied the current HHS Office of Civil Rights to attempt to force churches to provide abortion coverage. He selectively and aggressively prosecuted an undercover pro-life activist, and he litigated against the Little Sisters of the Poor as part of a continuing effort to coerce religious institutions into violating their consciences to facilitate contraceptive coverage. > > In a letter to Biden this week spearheaded by Sen. Tom Cotton, dozens of House and Senate Republicans accused Becerra of “contempt for anyone who doesn’t agree with his radical leftist agenda,” which they said ran afoul of Biden’s pledge to govern on a unity platform.

The Morning Dispatch: Security Officials Blame Intelligence Failures for January 6 – The Morning Dispatch.

Like preachers calling Playboy "hard-core pornography" and then having no stronger words left for Hustler, the GOP has so debased "radical leftist agenda" that it has no sting when it’s really needed. It’s also too broad to be useful even as shorthand in any cases I can think of.

They must think we’re stupid. We keep re-electing them so they must be right.

I’m thinking especially of social conservatives (especially Evangelicals and Catholics) who have clung to the GOP like — well, like black Americans clinging to the Democrat party. In both cases, there’s a feeling that the other major party has nothing to offer, and that’s (in me estimation) true. But we can start to change things by looking for third parties close to our key concerns (mine is the American Solidarity Party) and deprive both unworthy major parties of our votes.


You can read most of my more impromptu stuff at here. It should work in your RSS aggregator, like Feedly, should you want to make a habit of it.

The Equality Act

When I listen to news, I listen to NPR. I’m aware of its liberal bias, which manifests in how it covers news but also — and this is too rarely appreciated — what it considers "newsworthy" in the first place.

But NPR really dropped the ball on the Equality Act, which comes up for vote in the U.S. House today. Its story doesn’t even mention opposition based on the certain (not speculative) effect of requiring that male-to-female transgender persons be permitted to compete in athletic events against biological women.

A guest opinion piece in the Wall Street Journal identifies other problems besides the Act’s adverse effect on religious and conscience rights:

The Equality Act would threaten the existence of women’s prisons, public-school girls’ locker rooms, and women’s and girls’ sports teams. It would limit freedom of speech, freedom of association, accurate data collection, and scientific inquiry. It would threaten the rights of physicians who doubt the wisdom of performing life-changing, reproduction-limiting procedures, and parents who seek to protect their minor children from such treatment.

This isn’t hyperbole. Similar state laws have already resulted in such harm. In California, Catholic hospitals have faced lawsuits for declining to perform life-altering “gender affirmation” surgery in September 2016. In Connecticut, two biologically male athletes won a combined 15 girls state championship races, allegedly taking opportunities for further competition and scholarships from female runners in June 2019. Alaska’s Equal Rights Commission opened an investigation into a women’s shelter after it turned away a biological male in September 2019. H.R. 5 would impose the most extreme form of these laws on the whole country.

The bill is so broad that even some who support the measure in principle have called for Congress to carve out exceptions. Writing in the Washington Post in 2019, tennis legend and activist Martina Navratilova asked Congress to exempt athletic competitions. “The reality,” Ms. Navratilova wrote, “is that putting male- and female-bodied athletes together is co-ed or open sport. And in open sport, females lose.”

Women forced to compete against male athletes risk not only losing competitions, but also serious injury. Ask Tamikka Brents, whose orbital bone was fractured by transgender MMA fighter Fallon Fox in the latter’s first professional fight as a woman. Ms. Brents said she felt “overwhelmed” by the fight.

The reason that some contexts require separation of the sexes is obvious: Women have unique physical vulnerabilities. Female inmates are kept separate from male inmates for just this reason. How can we possibly reduce the number of sex crimes against women if the law refuses to recognize such basic differences?

Under the guise of fairness, the Equality Act would forbid policy makers from ever taking into consideration the differences between men and women that are necessary in order to guarantee safety and equality of the sexes.

The Equality Act isn’t about protecting people from discrimination; it’s about compelling adherence to gender ideology. Don’t let its name fool you.

The Equality Act Makes Women Unequal – WSJ

Religious freedom was once held in such high esteem that Congress was almost unanimous on the Religious Freedom Restoration Act less than 30 years ago, and Bill Clinton supported it and signed it. Today, it generally appears in scare quotes, often with intensifiers (e.g., "so-called ‘religious freedom’"), and is to the cultural left a bugaboo like saying "George Soros" to the cultural right.

NPR mis-reported the primary objections to The Equality Act, a bit of liberal groin piety analogous to tax cuts on the right, and I can’t help but suspect that they did so to "poison the well." Selma envy is alive and well as a prime motivation of today’s progressivism.

Smatterings

The greatest threat to free speech in America today is not any law passed by the government—the First Amendment stands as a strong bulwark against that form of censorship by state action. The threat comes in the form of legislating by letterhead. Politicians have realized that they can silence the speech of those with different political viewpoints by public bullying.

FCC Commissioner Brendan Carr via Glenn Greenwald

See also: Congress Escalates Pressure on Tech Giants to Censor More, Threatening the First Amendment – Glenn Greenwald and I Can’t Stand Fox News, But Censoring It Might Be The Dumbest Idea Ever – TK News by Matt Taibbi


As Shakespeare told us, a coward dies a thousand deaths, while the brave man dies but one. The GOP has chosen to die a thousand deaths. Rather than standing up to the Trumpist mob and risking political destruction once, they will die bit by bit, over and over, acquiescing to one indignity after another and destroying the party slowly.

The Trump mobs are working to take over the Republican Party at the state organization level.

There have been a series of votes by state organizations to censure any Republican who supported impeachment, with a Pennsylvania official declaring that when they sent Pat Toomey to the Senate, “We did not send him there to vote his conscience. We did not send him there to do the right thing, or whatever.” They sent him there to reflect their personal loyalty to Donald Trump.

The GOP’s Cowardice Means They Will Live in Fear Forever – The Bulwark


Classic virtues like modesty can’t be ignored; they must be recast as abnormal.

Charles Chaput, Strangers in a Strange Land


There is a good adjective to describe Rush Limbaugh: consequential. We should be able to agree on that.

After that, though, assessments vary. I’m with the side who thinks he was a substantial net negative for conservatism, as opposed to right-populism and the GOP. And be it noted that stylistically, he and Trump were very much the same, though Trump’s cruelty was more relentless and tactical.

God talk

From the secular point of view, to admit that secular nationalism is just as religious as Islam, for example, would question the whole foundation upon which the secular nation-state claims its legitimacy. From the religious point of view, it would also invite charges of idolatry. Despite the similarities between what is called religion and nationalism, then, we must deny that nationalism is really a religion. We acknowledge verbally that the nation and the flag are not really gods. The crucial test, however, is what people do with their bodies. It is clear that, among those who identify themselves as Christians in the United States, there are very few who would be willing to kill in the name of the Christian God, whereas the willingness, under certain circumstances, to kill and die for the nation in war is generally taken for granted.

William T. Cavanaugh, The Myth of Religious Violence


I have seen men, proud of their ability to lie, and exciting laughter by their clowning and joking, who have miserably destroyed in their hearers the habit of mourning.

Vassilios Papavassiliou, Thirty Steps to Heaven


I recently picked up a tract on The Way to God from "World Missionary Press," left in a restroom at a restaurant. I was curious about how the kinds of people who leave tracts in bathrooms viewed the question.

Well, it wasn’t as bad as I feared — nowhere near as bad.

  • It didn’t describe the Fall as tainting humanity with hell worthy sin from the moment of birth, but rather as bringing sin and death into the world. ("Romans 5:12", they cited.)
  • It didn’t do any of the Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God scaremongering.
  • It didn’t remotely suggest that one "sinner’s prayer" magically saves you forever, no matter what you do later.
  • It didn’t have even a whiff of the detestable "rapture crap." But …
  • It didn’t mention that Christ’s second coming is for judgment.
  • It didn’t mention baptism, let alone chrismation.
  • It didn’t mention eucharist, let alone its necessity if we want life in us, or indeed Christ in us (though they emphasized somehow-or-other having Jesus in your heart).
  • Actually, it only vaguely hinted at Church in any form. (It printed the Lord’s Prayer, recommended memorization, and noted that "Believers often pray this prayer out loud together.")

In the New York Review of Books, Anne Enright writes about Stanford anthropologist T.M. Luhrmann’s continuing research among people of faith. Luhrmann has a new book out titled How God Becomes Real: Kindling The Presence of Invisible Others. Enright says:

American evangelicals speak to God about their feelings, and they do this because they assume their feelings matter. In the Western tradition, according to Luhrmann, the mind is imagined “as a private place, walled off from the world, a citadel in which thoughts are one’s own and no one else has access to them.” Nor can these thoughts leak out to act directly on the world; they cannot, for example, make another person ill or better. For American evangelicals, God is mostly about them. He is a friend, and, like a friend, he helps solve everyday problems—dilemmas about relationships, personal happiness, and the choices people make in life: “You can ask him what shirt you should wear and what shampoo to buy.”

Evangelicals in other cultures experience God differently, though the practice of their imported Pentecostalism is very much the same. In Chennai, India, where personal feelings are not privileged over family values, people are more likely to experience God “in their human father and through other people.” In Accra, Ghana, where prayers against demons are commonplace, God’s voice is experienced viscerally, often as an exhortation, and he is also expected to enact revenges and punishments in the world. Both Indians and Ghanaians are happy to discuss things that might be felt in some “spirit sense” that is hard to name. Most Ghanaian evangelicals hear God’s voice audibly, which is to say, in the room.

For Americans, the mind is separate from the world. In order to make it available to supernatural experience, they must occupy a mental space these other cultures take for granted, which Luhrmann calls “the in-between.” Believers cultivate a talent for “absorption,” an immersive focus that blurs the boundary between inner and outer experience. This is “the mental capacity common to trance, hypnosis, dissociation, and perhaps imagination itself.”

Rod Dreher, Reaching The Realness Of God


Epitaph for Modernity: I came, I shopped, I died.

Fr.Stephen Freeman

More Trump perspective (and more)

More indictments of Oath Keepers in the January 6 insurrection:

The new case describes the alleged Oath Keepers as being motivated in large part by former President Donald Trump, and an apocalyptic fear of a Biden presidency. One defendant, who was among those earlier indicted, Jessica Watkins, wrote in the weeks before Jan. 6 that if Mr. Biden became president, “our way of life as we know it is over,” the indictment said.

Ms. Watkins, 38, who served as an infantryman in the U.S. Army from 2001-2003 under her previous name, Jeremy David Watkins, was deployed to Afghanistan, and received an “other than honorable discharge” after “the Army determined that my presenting as a female was unacceptable for a soldier,” she wrote in a name-change filing in New York state. Ms. Watkins said she left her six-year tour of duty early because of her gender dysphoria, adding “I was not otherwise disciplined or prosecuted because of the extenuating circumstances of my medical condition.” She changed her name in 2005, court records show.

Kelly Meggs, one of the new defendants, wrote in a Facebook message in late December to another individual, “Trump said It’s gonna be wild!!!!!!! It’s gonna be wild!!!!!!! He wants us to make it WILD that’s what he’s saying. He called us all to the Capitol and wants us to make it wild!!! SirYesSir!!! Gentlemen we are heading to DC pack your shit!!”

Mr. Trump was impeached in the House last month for inciting the violent riot. The Senate voted Saturday to acquit him, with Mr. Trump’s attorneys arguing that he was using typical political rhetoric and didn’t act to foment a mob.

Six More Alleged Members of Oath Keepers Militia Indicted – WSJ

Violent MTF transexual Trump fanatic blindsided me. The "wild" stuff is, I think, exactly what Trump hoped for and got. They should have convicted him.


Having seen that 70% of Republicans reportedly believe something tantamount to "Biden stole the election," along with more other depressing poll results than I can remember, I’m more inclined to put "Period. Full stop." after endorsing the consensus of credentialed opinion.

I won’t always be right, but I’ll be wrong less often than if I say "Well a lot of people believe X, so we can’t be sure, so we really shouldn’t act on the opinions of those who believably say non-X."

Having said that, I quote for your consideration the opinion of one Hal Freeman, whose "credential" for writing about Russia is that he’s an Expat there with his younger Russian wife. Judge for yourself how that stacks up against journalists who don’t live there and may have their own biases against Russia and Putin:

I wrote a blog about [Alex] Navalny in September of 2020. His claim was that Putin’s hit men had tried to kill him by slipping him the nerve agent “Novichok.” …

I will set forth the basic reasons I don’t believe Navalny, but I don’t hide the fact that I don’t like him. He is a racist. I don’t use that term lightly, as folks commonly do in America now. I posted a video of him in my earlier blog referring to Muslims living in Russia whose ancestors were from the Caucasus Mountains as “cockroaches,” who need to be eliminated with a pistol. Before Trump and the whole Russia hoax on the elections, the New York Times used to report facts about Russia. Here is an excerpt from the Times, back before they were blinded by Trump Derangement Syndrome:

"He (Navalny) has appeared as a speaker alongside neo-Nazis and skinheads, and once starred in a video that compares dark-skinned Caucasus militants to cockroaches. While cockroaches can be killed with a slipper, he says that in the case of humans, ‘I recommend a pistol.’” Ellen Barry, NY Times 2011.

The U.S. media “narrative” has certainly changed over time. Now they tout Navalny as an honored leader of “the opposition.” Again, I will state as succinctly as possible why I think Navalny is lying when he says Kremlin messengers tried to kill him back in August, 2020.

The main reason is he changed his story too many times. When I wrote on him in September I mentioned that the first explanation his team gave was that Putin’s men put Novichok in his tea, which he drank at an airport restaurant. No one at that restaurant even remembered him being there. When his handlers were questioned how someone knew what establishment inside the airport he would stop at to drink tea, there was no answer. Was there a waiter there waiting with the Novichok in case he came in?

They not-so-deftly moved to a second explanation: Novichok was put in the water bottle from which he drank in his hotel room before departure. But then reporters discovered that there were at least 5 people in the room with him when the water was delivered. How did they know which bottle Navalny would drink from? Was it hotel staff who delivered it? Again, no real answers from the Navalny team.

So Navalny, now healthy, moved to a third explanation. He made a video that supposedly recorded a phone conversation he had with someone from the FSB (Federal Services of Security). In the call Navalny pretended to be an important person in the FSB, and wanted to know how they had tried to kill him and why it did not work.

The alleged security person Navalny was talking to claimed that they had put the Novichok in his clothes. They concentrated on packing it into the inner seam of the crotch of his underwear. All the Novichok absorbed into his system. He said Navalny survived because of the quick work of the medical team at the hospital when he landed.

Hal Freeman, Biden, Navalny, Protests and Propaganda


Does Limbaugh explain Trump?

There’s a tension between being a bomb-thrower and a leader, and the fact that so few people understand that today is emblematic of how dysfunctional our politics have become. Newt Gingrich, a creature of the Limbaugh era if ever there was one, never really figured out how to resolve that tension. But at least he tried when he was speaker (occasionally). Donald Trump, whom Limbaugh once said wasn’t a conservative, dismissed this tension altogether by simply redefining leadership as bomb-throwing. Trump was a piss-poor commander in chief, but he was the ultimate commentator in chief, hurling brickbats at the very government he ran.

Rich says Rush had an “absolutely unbreakable bond” with his listeners. Obviously, in the context of eulogizing Rush, that’s a fair comment. But it’s not entirely true. If that bond were unbreakable, Limbaugh would not have so often moved to stay on the good side of his audience. Like so much of the right Limbaugh helped create, when the people (or customers) moved, the “leaders” followed.

Of course, people change their views over time for all sorts of intellectually honest reasons, and I have no doubt many of Limbaugh’s evolutions can be explained in that light. But I also have no doubt that many can’t be. At the end of his career, Limbaugh was defending—or allowing himself to be understood as defending—political violence, conspiracy theories, and even secessionism.

If you want to defend that by saying, “We’ll that’s what a lot of right-wingers believe today,” I won’t argue with you. I’m just not sure it’s the defense you think it is.

Jonah Goldberg, Rush Limbaugh, RIP – The G-File


For five years, I tried to figure out the appeal of Donald Trump to an electoral majority of the country. I made essentially no progress.

Now, reading retrospectives on the late Rush Limbaugh, I’m starting to apprehend it, I think. Rush made the world in which owning the libs was its own summum bonum.

But that doesn’t mean I can see how to avoid a repeat. For instance, do I really want the Fairness Doctrine reinstated?


A proposal for reporters covering Republican candidates and officeholders over the next four years:

Every interview should begin with two questions.

Sir/Ma’am, I need one-word answers from you:

  • Who won the 2020 U.S. presidential election?
  • Was this the legitimate result of a free and fair election?

This shouldn’t take long. The questions can be asked in less than 5 seconds. The answers are one word each: “Biden” and “yes.”

Ask Every Republican These Two Questions


What if sometimes you have to choose between two goods? What if you actually can’t have both? Wow, that would really suck. Therefore it cannot be true.

Alan Jacobs, writing trade-offs from frigid Waco.


You can read most of my more impromptu stuff here. It should work in your RSS aggregator, like Feedly, should you want to make a habit of it.

A few thoughts

I’ve had major, major computer woes over the past eight days and blogging went on the back burner, but I have read a bit a clipped a bit and, well, I have thoughts.


First, an interesting bit of tonic contrariness:

> Frankly, a big problem in our society is that many of our institutions are still too trusted relative to the amount of trust they deserve. Think about blue chip brands like GE or Boeing that were once synonymous with American can-do business, but are now joke companies. The response to the coronavirus should have revealed to everyone the institutional incompetence of much of our public sector. And I’ve been on record for years as writing that most communities would be better off if half of their non-profits disappeared. > > I plan to write an entire future Masculinist on why we should in many cases cease to identify the public good with the continuation and propping up of our failed institutions. As Alasdair Macintyre put it in After Virtue, “A crucial turning point in that earlier history occurred when men and women of good will turned aside from the task of shoring up the Roman imperium and ceased to identify the continuation of civility and moral community with the maintenance of that imperium.” > > Care for your neighbor or the American people does not necessarily have to equate to maintenance of the American “imperium.”

Aaron Renn, The Masculinist


Second, an introduction that’s better, in my opinion, than the overall article that follows:

> People complain about QAnon, but truly lasting, impactful lunacy is always exclusive to intellectuals. Everyone else is constrained. You can’t fish on land for long. Same with using a chainsaw for headache relief. An intellectual may freely mistake bullshit for Lincoln logs and spend a lifetime building palaces.

Matt Taibbi, Marcuse-Anon: Cult of the Pseudo-Intellectual


On sitting out the new culture wars:

> An actress who rose to prominence in a sport I loathe had been fired from a television program I have no plans of ever watching on an online streaming platform that I would never subscribe to for employing a tired but once-popular Holocaust-derived analogy in an argument about — well, I really don’t know, but I was supposed to be thrilled that she is now engaged in an unnamed new film venture with another journalist whose work I despise. Sandwiched between these two incidents was at least one other pseudo-controversy involving the inconsistent application of privacy rules at the aforementioned paper. It led to a once-pseudonymous blogger, who was supposed to be the subject of an abandoned profile, outing himself and then being written about in a somewhat nastier manner by the same publication. This in turn gave rise to dozens of impassioned defenses of the unlucky scribe by countless other 40-something male bloggers, including one prominent defender of polygamy.

Matthew Walther

I’m about 80% sitting them out, too. The remaining 20% is a weak presumption that any conservative who got cancelled is ipso facto a pretty good ole boy or gal.


Beam me up, Lord:

> An Israeli startup that is developing 3D printers for meat undertook a successful fundraising round that will allow it to distribute its products to restaurants this year. Redefine Meat combines 3D meat modelling, food formulations and food printing to build complex-matrix “meat” on its machines, made from proteins found in legumes and grains and fat from plants. The steaks resemble the texture and taste of choice cuts of beef, but with no cholesterol. Bill Gates this week called on rich countries to switch to “100% synthetic beef” in order to lower greenhouse-gas emissions from the cattle industry.

Business this week | The world this week | The Economist

The "meat" photo with the article looked very good, but I’m really not keen on faux meat. When fasting from meat, I avoid fake meat 99% of the time, especially now that the fakes are so like the real thing.

And seriously, Bill Gates: Is it really all that obvious that synthetic beef is better for the environment (and/or cows) than pastured beef?

As Michael Pollan says, if it’s made of plants, it’s food; if it’s made in a plant, it’s not food.

Eat food.


You can read most of my more impromptu stuff here. It should work in your RSS aggregator, like Feedly, should you want to make a habit of it.

Valentines Hodge-Podge

Trigger Alert: This blog says nothing about any current front page political news. If you’re looking for a fix, you’re not going to get it here today.

What it does say is a hodge-podge of stuff collected since I last blogged here.


Rod Dreher, on a new Andrei Konchalovsky film Dear Comrades!:

At one point, after the evidence of the Party’s monstrousness nearly consumes her, she admits to the kindly KGB agent helping her search for her daughter that if Communism is false, then she has nothing to believe in. This is a universally human moment: so many of us are committed to a religion, a politics, an organization, a tribe, etc., that give us a sense of meaning and purpose. We dismiss evidence that discredits the thing we worship because we would not know what to do with ourselves if the thing is false … Lyuda is a diehard believer. Earlier in the film, we hear her chastising ordinary people, including her daughter, who complain about shortages and injustice in the system. For Lyuda, this is a kind of blasphemy.

What kept me awake for hours after finishing Dear Comrades! was reflecting on how damned difficult it is to live in truth — not only to have the courage to act on truth, but even more basically, to have the ability to see with clear eyes. What am I blind to? What injustices do I tolerate because to recognize them would mean slaying some sacred cows? How much evil and suffering continue in the world because people would rather live with a lie that comforts than with a truth that shatters?


Alasdair MacIntyre once called the New York Times “the parish magazine of self-congratulatory liberal Enlightenment.” Now, despite having some of the best columnists in America, the paper’s reporting side is just the Fox News of the semi-literate left.

Alan Jacobs


The only reason this kind of food mileage and disconnection can occur is because cheap energy masks the costs. If the true cost of fuel, including the cost of maintaining Middle Eastern stability, were actually added to transportation costs, food-miles would not look efficient. If energy were as dear as it was before the petroleum age, refrigerated warehouses, climate control, and shipping mesclun mix from California to Boston would be prohibitively expensive.

Joel Salatin, Folks, This Ain’t Normal: A Farmer’s Advice for Happier Hens, Healthier People, and a Better World


Fusionism, properly understood, is not a marriage of two groups. It’s a marriage of two value sets. A fusionist is someone who sees both liberty (in the classical sense of freedom from aggression, coercion, and fraud) and virtue (in the Judeo-Christian sense of submission to God’s commands) as important. Fusionism is therefore a distinct philosophical orientation unto itself. What’s more, it has historically been the dominant orientation on the American right.

Today’s post-liberal conservatives appear to think they’re distinguished by the belief that virtue matters. They behave as if their core disagreement with fusionists is about whether human beings have moral obligations that go beyond leaving others alone to do as they please. This could hardly be more wrong. Anyone who holds to the Judeo-Christian tradition—as fusionists by definition do—accepts that we have manifold duties to one another. The disagreement is about whether it’s the state’s job to enforce those moral obligations.

Stephanie Slade, Is There a Future for Fusionism? – Reason.com


Manent recognizes that face coverings are not neutral symbols. Their use is an “ongoing aggression against human sociability.” Like self-isolation and other methods of minimizing social contact, masks impede the face-to-face encounters that renew sociability and restore the baseline of trust that every civic order needs in order to sustain itself during times of stress and conflict.

R. R. Reno


Reparations politics is the humble-brag mirror image of white supremacy.

R. R. Reno


I urge readers to purchase print subscriptions. The censorship of recent months indicates that we could at any time be shut down on the internet and kicked off Amazon’s Kindle or Apple’s iPad. At this juncture, print journalism still has the protection of the United States Constitution. Unlike Big Tech, the U.S. Postal Service is not allowed to choose whose ideas and opinions it will deliver.

R. R. Reno, speaking of First Things

That seems a bit overwrought, but if I were running a orthodox Catholic neocon journal, and said snarky things about reparations like the preceding item, I’d probably be obliged to think about such things, too.


On Andrea Mitchell, Jennifer Rubin — the only two people in the world currently who can make Ted Cruz look good:

If you really were a person who reads and understands literature, you would know that — in the world of novels — a character who corrects other people curtly in that pedantic “No, that’s Faulkner” manner is an icky prig. I’ve read a lot of novels, and characters who talk like that are up to no good. That snootiness, even when there’s no mistake, marks a character toward whom you know instinctively you are not supposed to feel sympathetic. And let me just add that when the novelist makes a character utter words like “it says volumes about his lack of soul,” the competent reader knows immediately that it is the speaker of those words who lacks soul.

Ann Althouse, Andrea, Jennifer, and The 2 Williams


The Word of the LORD came unto me, saying:
O miserable cities of designing men,
O wretched generation of enlightened men,
Betrayed in the mazes of your ingenuities,
Sold by the proceeds of your proper inventions:
I have given you hands which you turn from worship,
I have given you speech, for endless palaver,
I have given you my Law, and you set up commissions,
I have given you lips, to express friendly sentiments,
I have given you hearts, for reciprocal distrust.
I have given you power of choice, and you only alternate
Between futile speculation and unconsidered action.
Many are engaged in writing books and printing them,
Many desire to see their names in print,
Many read nothing but the race reports.
Much is your reading, but not the Word of GOD,
Much is your building, but not the House of GOD.
Will you build me a house of plaster, with corrugated roofing,
To be filled with a litter of Sunday newspapers?

Poem: Choruses from ” The Rock ” by T. S. Eliot

I don’t know that I’d ever read this poem before. I’ve got to get more systematic.


“We are more sure to arise out of our graves than out of our beds. “ —Thomas Watson via Christopher P. Chelka on micro.blog.


You can read most of my more impromptu stuff at this little liteweight blog that’s sort of like Twitter without the toxicity from anyone other than me, or join me and others on micro.blog. You won’t find me on Facebook any more, and I don’t post on Twitter (though I do have an account for occasional gawking).

Yesterday, no politics; today, all politics

The rhetoric was dishonest and inflammatory, but it does not rise to the level of criminal solicitation of the violent rioting that occurred at the Capitol.

Andrew C. McCarthy, Trump Impeachment Trial — The President Is Not ‘Our Commander in Chief’ | National Review.

Sorry Andy. You’re argument about ‘Our Commander in Chief’ is true but beside the point. Some of the rioters expressed that view of him.

But it is enough, and more than enough, that he sent them to the Capitol to intimidate Congress, to imply threat of violence, to disrupt counting the Electoral College votes. It is frosting on the cake that he Tweeted inflammatory Tweets about the Vice President as the riot was under way, and ultimately gave the rioters his benediction (“We love you. You’re very special”) as he asked them, belately, to go in peace.


When Trump finally spoke to tell his mob to go home, he added “We love you. You’re very special,” and at 6:01 p.m., tweeted that his people should “Remember this day forever!” Remember what, Raskin asked? The trauma, the death, the bludgeoning, the blood? For weeks, Trump told his devotees to come to Washington, D.C. on Jan. 6—a date chosen because it was the date of the joint session in which Congress would count the certified electoral votes for Joe Biden’s victory by 306-232, the same “landslide” win that Trump trumpeted in his favor four years prior.

When Jan. 6 erupted in a violent attempt to stop the orderly counting of ballots and overturn the election results, Trump tweeted that it all happened as he expected: “These are the things and events that happen when a sacred landslide election victory is so unceremoniously & viciously stripped away from great patriots who have been badly & unfairly treated for so long.”

If you have a beating heart in your chest, there’s no way today’s narrative could not have moved you. The question is whether it will move enough voters from Trump’s column so as to cause cowardly Republicans to do what’s right for the country and the Constitution—not to mention the maimed and injured and the families of the dead. If Republicans instead vote not to convict Trump, they will be agreeing with him that his words and deeds were “totally appropriate.”

In doing so, they will not only be acquitting Trump, but revealing how we should judge them: as too craven to defend our Constitution, and as willing to let the same thing happen again.

Kimberly Wehle, Damning Evidence in Impeachment Trial Clarifies Trump’s Guilt – The Bulwark


Unlike so many of his fellow senators, Rubio has no double face. He has no guile and no game. His face displays his feelings. And he is feeling this.

Those feelings are not leading Rubio to do the right thing. He has already committed to do the wrong thing, as will so many other Senate Republicans. But he’s not happy about it. He’s angry about it. He knows he’s being inscribed as one of the villains of American history, one of the saps and weaklings of the American present. Trapped, helpless, and embarrassed, he seethes with resentment about a predicament he cannot see a way to escape.

And he is not finding it.

David Frum, There Is No Defense—Only Complicity

Memo to Little Marco:

There is a way out. You stand up straight. You look the camera in the eye. And you say “this issue is more important than my Senate tenure. I’m going to do what my conscience tell me to do about the man who sent a mob to disrupt the peaceful transfer of power with a show of intimidating force (at a minimum). And if it costs me my Senate seat because friends of that man mount a primary challenge, so be it. My conscience will be at peace.”

More from Frum:

Over almost eight hours, the House managers presented a detailed timeline of Trump’s culpability for the January 6 attack. They showed how Trump started arguing in mid-summer 2020 that any result other than his own reelection should be treated as a “fraud” and a “steal.” They showed the intensifying violence of his rhetoric on TV and Twitter through November and December. And they itemized how Trump repeatedly and forcefully summoned supporters to Washington on January 6 to stop the final certification of the vote in Congress.

Then they played a minute-by-minute juxtaposition of Trump’s words of incitement on the day of the attack with videos of the violence of supporters who told cameras again and again that they acted on Trump’s orders, at Trump’s wishes. They showed how Trump went silent as the assault unfolded, how he ignored supporters who pleaded with him to call off the attack or call out the National Guard. They quoted Trump praising and thanking the insurrectionists even after he knew they had wounded police officers, and repeating the big lie that had set the insurrection in motion, the big lie that he had somehow won an election that he had actually lost by 7 million votes.

The remorseless, crushing power of the House managers’ evidence, all backed by horrifying real-time audio and video recordings, shuttered any good-faith defense of Trump on the merits of the case. The constitutional defense—that it’s impossible to convict a president if he leaves office between his impeachment and his trial—was rejected by 56 senators yesterday, not least because it defies a quarter millennium of federal and state precedents.

There is no defense. There is only complicity, whether motivated by weakness and fear or by shared guilt. And the House managers forced every Republican senator to feel that complicity from the inside out.

That feeling of complicity will not change the final outcome of this Senate trial. The weak will be no less weak for being shamed by their weakness; those who share Trump’s guilt will not cease to share it, because that guilt has been blazed to the world. But at least the House case can restrict the personal and political options of the weak and the guilty. If a senator like Marco Rubio did not feel his world tightening around him, he would not look so haunted. The Republican senators are shrinking before the eyes of the whole country. They are all becoming “liddle.” They know it. They feel it. They hate it. But they cannot stop it.


Here is a truth: Facts make people feel. People are so unused to being given them. They’re grateful for the respect shown in an invitation to think.

Congress was riveted; journalists were riveted. Was America? Did it watch? We’ll find out the ratings and in time get a sense of what people felt was worth absorbing. Did the proceedings have the power to break through as anything other than a partisan effort? I don’t know, but I suspect so. In the pandemic people are glued to their screens. Nothing they saw—nothing—would make them admire Mr. Trump more.

I do not see how Republican senators could hear and fairly judge the accumulated evidence and vote to acquit the former president. If we want to keep it from happening again, all involved must pay the stiffest possible price. That would include banning Mr. Trump from future office.

Everyone has a moment that most upset them in the videos of the rioters milling around, unstopped and unresisted, on the floors of both houses. Mine is when the vandals strolled through the abandoned Senate chamber and rifled through the desks of senators. Those are literally, the desks of Mike Mansfield, Robert M. La Follette, Arthur Vandenberg, John F. Kennedy and Barry Goldwater. They each had, in accordance with tradition, carved or otherwise inscribed their names in them. It looked to me like history itself being violated. It isn’t “loving government” to feel protective of that place; it is loving history and those who’ve distinguished themselves within it.

History will see 1/6 for what it was. Those who acquit are voting for a lie. Conviction would be an act of self-respect and of reverence for the place where fortune has placed them.

Peggy Noonan, A Vote to Acquit Trump Is a Vote for a Lie – WSJ


Reparations politics is the humble- brag mirror image of white supremacy.

R. R. Reno


A few personal comments:

  • I’m relieved at the lack of evidence that any Evangelicals were ringleaders in the riots. As sheep, some predictably went along; as demagogues, some ringleader spouted Christianese; but when even Alex Jones is spouting Christianese, you start noticing the tone-deafness of it.
  • It has been brought to my attention that the Democrats, by focusing somewhat on things Trump did and/or said before the election, almost deliberately make it harder for Republicans to vote to convict since they were still supporting him. If you want to convict, you’ve got to give them the excuse that after the election, Trump showed a side they’d never seen or suspected. On the other hand, if you just want to bludgeon Republicans with acquittal, focusing on things Trump did and/or said before the election is ideal.

You can read most of my more impromptu stuff here or join me and others on micro.blog. You won’t find me on Facebook any more, and I don’t post on Twitter (though I do have an account for occasional gawking).

Short and sw… – no, actually kind of bitter

One year ago today, 45 — he whose name I hope never to hear again — riled up a crowd demanding that Barack Obama should be impeached for his lie that “if you like your plan, you can keep your plan.”

Be it noted that Obama was a former President.


The New York Times is the greatest newspaper in the world and a hot steaming mess run by a young mob of wokesters who veto management decisions.

The rules shift, and morph, and don’t apply at all to Empress Nikole Hanna-Jones-Sauron.

Details:


You can read most of my more impromptu stuff here or join me and others on micro.blog. You won’t find me on Facebook any more, and I don’t post on Twitter (though I do have an account for occasional gawking).