Posted by: readerjohn | September 24, 2016

Saturday 9/24/16

  1. Raise your hand if …
  2. Yahoo! NOT!
  3. The Unpollable Election
  4. Right to Try
  5. Michael “Peter Principle” Gerson

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Posted by: readerjohn | September 23, 2016

What is a man?

20+ year ago, some Religious Right ideologues in town weren’t getting enough limelight, I guess, so they started calling for a boycott of the local Gannett paper over the Canadian-based comic “For Better or Worse.” Before our nest went empty, my wife and I thought that was one of their very best comics.

So why should it be dropped? As best I can recall, it was because a middle-school boy character, a friend of the main family in the strip, concluded that he was gay. The problem with that, again as I recall, was that the comic’s author was accepting of the fact that gay people exist and are not (disproportionately) monsters.

The character didn’t contemptibly become the Good Time That Was Had By All the other characters. He didn’t become a stereotypical sissy. He didn’t get struck by lightning during Outfest or or get arrested for molesting younger children or get AIDS and die.

He just lived, while gay.

Apart from “features a gay character,” which was about all you could really say, the campaign against the Gannett paper was mounted with half-truths, which was par for the course for one particular Religious Right leader. In war, all’s fair, and nothing is more important than war against … a comic strip! A freakin’ comic strip!?

Editorial cartoons get the same treatment routinely, as does Doonesbury. People come totally unhinged.

Comic strips act like Kryptonite on the humorless Right. A comic is never just a comic if it gets under their skin.(“St. Thomas More writes, ‘The devil…that proud spirit…cannot endure to be mocked.‘” Now why did that pop into my head?)

The Left usually blows other things out of proportion.

A poem should not mean, but be,” he quoted, pivoting. That is, a poem is just a poem.

Except when it’s not. Clara: In the Post Office, not only is, but to me means something about the unreliability of my sex that have long been painfully obvious to me. (It clearly meant something to the poet, too.)

When I know nothing more than that a couple has divorced, I reflexively blame the man. If I know the couple, I still blame the husband unless he was uncommonly sober and his wife obviously a shrew or a flirt.

Nothing upsets me so much as a Christian man, baptized and church-going, leaving wife and children because he’s unhappy. (Oh! You poor dear!)

“O holy martyrs, who fought the good fight and have received your crowns, entreat the Lord, that He will have mercy on our souls.” (Hymn of the Byzantine Rite of Crowning, or Holy Matrimony)

This hymn is sung during a triple procession, around a table in the center of the church, at the “Crowning” or Marriage-Rite of my church. It is also sung at the Rite of Ordination (to ecclesiastical orders). It is sung in anticipation of the “martyrdom” or “witness” of self-offering and self-sacrifice inherent to the life of ministers of my church – including married people, who are called to minister to each other and to others in their “domestic church.”

Why am I reflecting on this today? Because one of my relatives, a banker, wrote me an email last night, in which he mentioned that he’s currently on “the night-shift” at his bank, because his bank “has to do some trades during Asian hours.” So – he now works nights, a married man and father of three, coming home “for a nap” during the day, and then working through the night. “It’s been tough,” he says humbly, “but it should only last two weeks.”

Let me take note today of the “unsung heroes” and martyrs of my church, the married ones. How many of these men and women labor today, sitting in front of computer-screens or elsewhere, to support their families, often at unfulfilling jobs in various businesses or odd enterprises, just to support others – their families. May they all be blessed on their cross-carrying journey, however little it is recognized, because they will, indeed, “receive their crowns.”

(Sister Vassa Lerin, who providentially had this meditation waiting for me to read as I was mulling over the unreliability of my sex.)

My son’s historically Protestant all-male college spent a fair amount of time reflecting on what it means to be a man and a gentleman. I forget the details of the discussions we had about it lo those many years ago, but it seems to have molded him into an admirable man, a man of areté, of which we have far too few.

They sang that martyrdom hymn at his wedding, too.

* * * * *

“The remarks made in this essay do not represent scholarly research. They are intended as topical stimulations for conversation among intelligent and informed people.” (Gerhart Niemeyer)

Some succinct standing advice on recurring themes.

Posted by: readerjohn | September 23, 2016

Friday 9/23/16

  1. Trump’s diverticulated tumor
  2. Wells Fargo: The Rest of the Story
  3. Why some are voting for Trump
  4. NYT editorial screwup
  5. How to subvert your credibility
  6. The Gay Distortion Factor
  7. It seemed like he knew me
  8. Naked Emperor

Read More…

Posted by: readerjohn | September 22, 2016

Thursday, 9/22/16

  1. If Trump wins …
  2. Jared Fogle’s white buddies
  3. Indy’s infrastructure hole
  4. Rule 6: Don’t make things worse
  5. The Whig narrative
  6. Pre-empting “Islamophobia”
  7. The universal music of holiness
  8. Naked Emperors

Read More…

Posted by: readerjohn | September 21, 2016

Johnny Rotten

  1. Johnny Rotten, President
  2. The conspiracy against Johnny Rotten
  3. Obama is Johnny Rotten’s father
  4. Johnny Rotten’s relative thrift

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Posted by: readerjohn | September 21, 2016

Wednesday, 9/21/16

  1. Lobbing softballs at power
  2. Obama hits a home run
  3. The coming debate
  4. So three ditzy mayors walk into the New York Times …

Read More…

Posted by: readerjohn | September 20, 2016

Tuesday 9/20/16

  1. The Cold War Is Over
  2. Three View of Putin
  3. Moderation (fora and debate)
  4. Pitching to The Unprotected
  5. Francis the Fabulist
  6. Who hacked up these human hairballs?
  7. Going to my Safe Place

Read More…

Posted by: readerjohn | September 19, 2016

One people, God, flag

We will be one people
under one God
saluting one American flag!

(Donald Trump, repeatedly, deliberately, emphatically)

Responses con:

  • it’s at odds with the American promise of religious freedom (Sarah McCammon of NPR)
  • one of the great strengths of this country is the diversity of nationalities, of origins – the differences of opinions about religion, and ideas about religion (Barry Lynn, Americans United for Separation of Church and State)
  • this makes it seem like he, as the President of the United States, could somehow bring us together by converting us all and making sure we salute the same flag (Barry Lynn)
  • it adds to this overall ominous tone that America is going to become about certain types of people first, and everybody else maybe not so much part of the American pie anymore (Corey Saylor, Council on American-Islamic Relations)
  • One God’ immediately excludes Hindus, atheists, Native Americans – whole swaths of people who have a right to be part of the American identity,” he said. “And under what we’ve established in this country — the notion that you can have multiple faiths and all still share the same ideal of being American — the campaign is once again just really lopping off support from minorities (Corey Saylor)

Responses pro:

  • I think what Donald Trump was getting at with that comment is this disrespect that people of faith — people who are patriotic Americans, who have served in the military, whose children serve in the military — are feeling right now from the elites in this country, and particularly from some of the institutions (Penny Nance, Concerned Women for America)
  • What we hear [from Trump] is a call for unity, a call for really understanding that we are a nation under God,” Nance said. “And although as Americans we maybe experience that differently, we see that as essential to our success — as individuals and as a people (Penny Nance)


Notice anything missing?

We can’t even say “First Amendment” or “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion or prohibiting the free exercise thereof” any more. We resort to dubious diversity clichés instead, or predictions of political fallout.

And I confess that when I heard Penny Nance of Concerned Women for America (“We are the nation’s largest public policy women’s organization with a rich history of over three decades of helping our members across the country bring Biblical principles into all levels of public policy.“) turn God into “essential to our success,” I said a very vulgar epithet, quite loudly, within hearing of the cabin of my car — which is of tender years, not yet even seven years old. (But it’s a Volkswagen Diesel, so it’s already sneaking out to smoke.)

Well: so much for any hope that The Donald would be the restorer of civil society in general and subsidiarity in particular. Sounds like Übernationalism to me.

* * * * *

“In learning as in traveling and, of course, in lovemaking, all the charm lies in not coming too quickly to the point, but in meandering around for a while.” (Eva Brann)

Some succinct standing advice on recurring themes.

Posted by: readerjohn | September 18, 2016

What is the essence of conservatism in America?

There is an outstanding “reprint” at the Imaginative Conservative, Mark C. Henrie’s The Conservative Reformation. You could do worse than chew on it for an hour or two.

Isn’t imaginative conservatism an oxymoron? Glad you asked!

Contrary to popular belief, conservatism always requires creativity, for it only arises when customs are already under attack and can thus no longer be maintained unself­consciously.

(All block quotes except as indicated are from Henrie)

Henrie begins with the need for reformation.

Two decades ago, George Nash, in his The Conservative Intellectual Movement in America Since 1945, told the story of how American conservatism was forged rather uneasily as a political movement from three intellectual groupings: traditionalists, lib­ertarians, and anti-communists. Today [apparently, the early 1990s] on the conventional “Right,” however, we find many libertarians who argue as vigorously against the opponents of abortion as they do against economic central planners while we also find some religious traditionalists who see no particularly compelling reason not to support fairly activist regulation of both economic and social life. These dis­agreements are nothing new, of course, and, as conservatives are nothing if they are not historically informed, it would be wise to return to Nash’s book to learn from the older disputes which took place on the way to political victory in the 1980s.

A re-reading of Nash’s book raises a more important question: Was there a logic to American conservatism, or was the move­ment merely a marriage of political conve­nience? My belief is that there was and is a general logic to conservatism, to which Ameri­can conservatism is no exception; but this conservative logic has heretofore often been misunderstood in America. Thus, our central theoretical question is: What is, and should be, the essence of conservatism in America? If we can determine the nature of authentic conser­vatism, then perhaps we can come to under­stand better the political and social challenges that confront us in our new historical circum­stances. What will conservatism have to say to America in the 1990s and beyond?

(Emphasis added)

With Communism out of the way as a common enemy, what counts as true conservatism’s common friend? (If we must unite against a common enemy again, I’m outta here.)

To answer this, we must try to understand what it was about communism that galvanized us against it. The Soviet communists claimed the mantle of the French Revolution of course, the first incar­nation of the conservatives’ perennially re­curring adversary. What is it then that con­servatives have repeatedly opposed for the past two centuries?

… [T]he only consistent theme in European conservative thought, both in England and on the continent, is opposition to … that claim by the centralized, “rationalized,” and liberal democratic political state to a monopoly on the “legitimate” use of coercion, a claim which expanded imperceptibly to a tacitly presumed monopoly of social authority … This presumptuous expansion of the sphere of the political sovereign acted to delegitimize other social authorities and inter­mediate institutions to which conservatives felt themselves bound, and which conser­vatives believed were integral to a good life.

(Emphasis added) Here enters civil society as a common denominator of conservatism. But how does the state threaten civil society?

What is centrally important about this rise of sovereignty is that it proceeded in large part through theories of natural rights and the social contract: Individual liberties, therefore, have only abetted the growth of Leviathan. Robert Nisbet highlights this hidden dynamic in the best short study of conservatism in English, Conservatism: Dream and Reality. Nisbet observes what would seem to Americans to be an historical paradox: The power of the state in our lives has risen hand in hand with the rise of the individual “rights” about which we are so proud … Nisbet argues that these two movements—increasing political power and increasing individual “freedom”—are directly related. For the rights that have been “recognized” by the modern liberal state are not so much rights against the state as they are rights against other social bodies that used to have some mea­sure of authority in the lives of men and women.

Nisbet traces the rise of the sovereign liberal state at the expense of the Church, the guilds, universities, social classes, the extended family, and now at long last, even the nuclear family—everything except “the individual.”

(Emphasis added)

The attack on the institutions of civil society is far more pernicious today than when Henrie wrote.

First, it seemingly has become a Democrat party cliché that “Government is simply the name we give to the things we choose to do together,” but the cliché is obviously a half-truth, for we do many other things together, too. Or maybe the Democrats have in mind Government being the only thing we do together, or homogenizing civil society to where it’s no more that the ladies’ auxiliary to government.

But we have far worse to fear that subversive cliché. The latest of which I’m aware doesn’t even come from government, but from neo-McCarthyite homophiles seeking to enlist the aid of big business to crush colleges and universities that resist (by asking for Title IX waivers or allowing free speech) homogeneously diversifying:

The business case for equality is clear. If companies take pride in “being inclusive and welcoming to all” and say that “discrimination is wrong,” these same corporations must consider their associations with these 102 anti-LGBTQ campuses. Discrimination under the guise of religion is still discrimination. It is the most oppressive and hurtful kind of bias and prejudice to LGBTQ people, who have been victimized by religion-based bigotry for many years.

… Don’t donate to these campuses. Don’t recruit or hire at these colleges. Simply choose not to do business with those who choose discrimination over inclusion and diversity.

Thus did Shane Windmeyer, M.S., ED., McCarthyite creep, call for discrimination over inclusion and diversity while accusing others of doing so. Seriously: what kind of idiotic LGBT jackbootery will it take before corporate America realizes qui cum canibus concumbunt cum pulicibus surgent?

Before that, it was Iowa and Massachusetts Civil Rights Commissions beginning the progressive campaign to refashion “deep-seated cultural codes, religious beliefs and structural biases” by making Churches into public accommodations subject to our new raft of gender-bending pseudo-laws, rooted in nothing more substantial than a “Dear Colleague” letter from Washington. The Iowa and Massachusetts bureaucrats won’t say exactly what they mean, but one possible example would be be refusing to call Trans Jack by his preferred name of “Suzy” at evangelistic spaghetti dinner.

When the state comes around offering you more rights, you can safely wager a large amount of money that it’s offering a zero-sum game at the expense of someone other than the state.

If con­servatives wish to remain true to their his­torical concerns, they should recognize as their adversary the Universal and Homoge­neous State.

Even the pretense that we’re free is tacitly abandoned:

The homogenizing power of liberal mar­ket logic is revealed in contemporary politi­cal arguments that speak of the necessity of “competitiveness” in international markets. While it is often claimed that modern tech­nological production has freed humanity from nature or necessity, the unrestrained market has itself become the realm of neces­sity that cannot be opposed.Here, it is con­tended that we are not free to resist the demands of market efficiency. We are not free to seek such social goods as higher environmental standards. We are not free to defend settled ways of life by protecting older domestic industries. Owing to lower real wage levels brought on by a competitive labor market, women are not free to remain at home as mothers, regardless of the non-quantifiable harm to children. In short, we are not free to organize any of our social relations in a manner that will lead to pro­duction inefficiencies. Indeed, the free trade agreements of the last decade which seek to eliminate “non-tariff barriers to trade” aim to establish supra-state mechanisms that will prevent nations from freely choosing for any reason any path for their society that conflicts with the demands of the market; all peoples will be subjected to the “necessi­ties” of efficient market competition. How ironic that the liberal partisans of individual “freedom” have led us to a situation where the demands of the market itself preempt or obscure free choice.

Henrie did not fully anticipate the totalizing role of American Corporate power when he wrote, not of giant corporations, but of “the market economy.”

Most controver­sially to American conservatives, we can begin to see here that what is at issue in our confrontation with modernity is not state authority, considered an evil, against the freedom of the market, considered a good. What Kojève understood, what the older and especially the Continental conserva­tives understood, and what American con­servatives in the 1990s must come to under­stand, is that the liberal state is a cooperative venture between a certain form of political association (democracy) and a certain form of economic association (the market economy)—both founded on an atomized and atomizing individualism. Together, these act to “rationalize” society and per­sons in society. In this analysis, the market is not experienced positively as a realm of unique freedom, but instead is experienced as a realm where uniform laws of rational efficiency act to the end of homogenization and therefore dehumanization. Human goods such as community, solidarity, and indeed, even eccentricity, which are threat­ened in the process of homogenization, are what conservatives ultimately must be about “conserving.”

As demonstrated by the bullying of Indiana during its RFRA adventures and now North Carolina for politically incorrect toilet laws, corporations are a huge enemy of freedom.

So what do we do about this?

Also at the formal level of political life, conservatives should continue their critical attention to rights-discourse. For as we have seen, this is the lever by which the sover­eignty of the liberal state has progressed at the expense of the various intermediate as­sociations. There are good arguments to be made for abandoning or at least severely curtailing our use of “rights-talk.” Still, if Americans must speak in this idiom, at least for the time being, conservatives should make it their primary aim to investigate and elaborate upon the one right that is most often neglected in American political thought: the freedom of association. In legal philosophy today, this subject largely remains terra incognita, yet it may provide the first key for conservatives to roll back the homogeneous state.

Henrie proposed a possible antidote to excessive corporate power, though he saw the problem of corporate power being somewhat different than what actually has shaped up:

… Southern Agrarians might suggest how a creative logic of resistance against homog­enization can be extended into the world of business. The Agrarians believed that pri­vate property was good because of the sense of independence and responsibility it elic­ited from persons who owned property. But corporate or “abstract” property-ownership does not seem to have this effect. Thus, one conservative reform might be a reconsid­eration of the legal status of the limited liability corporation, which systematically biases the economy in favor of large and impersonal corporate property over propri­etary business concerns. Such a scheme might well be less efficient at the production of material goods, but its effect would also be profoundly humanizing. Are we willing to pay such a price?

This last question is crucial, for seeking changes in public policy so that a humane associational life may flourish will come to naught if we do not ourselves seek in our own local contexts to “live well” together, to build a common life within our families and with our neighbors that might be strong enough to resist homogenization. This may require some sacrifices; it will require us to say “no” to some of the temptations of the market and the state. Yet only if our fami­lies, churches, and other associations mean something to us, indeed become part of us, will a defense of them in public policy be plausible. Living “conservatively”—living generously within our concrete contexts—always has priority over any political or ideological project.

* * * * *

“In learning as in traveling and, of course, in lovemaking, all the charm lies in not coming too quickly to the point, but in meandering around for a while.” (Eva Brann)

Some succinct standing advice on recurring themes.

Posted by: readerjohn | September 17, 2016

Saturday 9/17/16

  1. A More Perfect Absolutism
  2. Why nobody trusts Hillary
  3. Elitist fat-cat inversion
  4. Trump’s smartest unconstitutional proposal
  5. No tar, feathers, or quality control

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