Tasty Tidbits 9/30/11

  1. The Question Lives!
  2. “Extreme naturalism.”
  3. The Protestant Deformation (NOT another Tipsy rant).
  4. Did 9-11 “change everything”?
  5. Elizabeth Warren has The Right scrambling.
  6. Humility and National Greatness.
  7. Another little peek at peak oil.
  8. Classified.


The question seems to have died down a bit, but Federal Reserve Governor Dan Tarullo asked it again last week, and I’m going to fan the flame:

Why do banks need to be “too big to fail”?

Keep the flame alive!


[W]hy should we be confident that physics will do better than history at getting right what happened at Gettysburg? …

How could physics show that reality contains only the kinds of things that physics recognizes? It sounds embarrassingly like physics acting as judge and jury in its own case. That physics does not show that there is such a thing as a debt crisis does not mean that physics shows that there is no such thing as a debt crisis: physics simply does not address the question …

If it is true that all truths are discoverable by hard science, then it is discoverable by hard science that all truths are discoverable by hard science. But it is not discoverable by hard science that all truths are discoverable by hard science. “Are all truths discoverable by hard science?” is not a question of hard science. Therefore the extreme naturalist claim is not true.

Timothy Williamson, “On Ducking Challenges to Naturalism,” The Stone (New York Times)


Before he returns to live back home in Louisiana, Rod Dreher says, he wants to have lunch with a conservative Swarthmore political scientist named James Kurth. Kurth’s speech The Protestant Deformation didn’t go where I thought it might, which makes it all the more interesting and challenging.

I recommend it, but that doesn’t seem like enough. Here’s his introduction:

We will argue that American foreign policy has been, and continues to be, shaped by the Protestant origins of the United States.  But the Protestantism that has shaped American foreign policy over two centuries has not been the original religion but a series of successive departures from it down the scale of what might be called the Protestant declension.  We are now at the end point of this declension, and the Protestantism that shapes American foreign policy today is a peculiar heresy of the original religion, not the Protestant Reformation but what might be called the Protestant Deformation.  With the United States left as the sole superpower, this Protestant Deformation is at its greatest, even global influence.  But because it is such a peculiar religion, and indeed is correctly seen as a fundamental and fatal threat by all the other religions, its pervasive sway is generating intense resistance and international conflict.

Why should Protestantism decline so? Does it carry the seeds of its own destruction?

Well, not simplistically. Protestantism in Europe has declined much differently than Protestantism in the United States – as Kurth notes. And the end point of the declension in America is not (as I thought a conservative, self-consciously Reformed Presbyterian might say) Evangelicalism.

Lots to think about, if it weren’t for this darned IADD (Internet Attention Deficit Disorder)


The attacks of September 11, 2001, were supposed to change everything, too, but we are still a nation of happy motorists tooling down the highway with our iced beverages and savory snack food products, with Rush Limbaugh cheering us along on the radio.

James Howard Kunstler in The Long Emergency.


Elizabeth Warren, firebrand Harvard Law Professor who aspires to take back a Bay State Senate seat from Cosmopolitan centerfold (and incumbent) Scott Brown, seems to have the Right rattled with her money line:

 You built a factory out there—good for you. But I want to be clear. You moved your goods to market on the roads the rest of us paid for. You hired workers the rest of us paid to educate. You were safe in your factory because of police forces and fire forces that the rest of us paid for. . . . You built a factory and it turned into something terrific or a great idea—God bless, keep a big hunk of it. But part of the underlying social contract is you take a hunk of that and pay it forward for the next kid who comes along.

The American Spectator carried a piece of deconstruction by a suitably anonymous hatchet man boy writing as “Green Lantern.” It was borderline-hilarious, by inadvertence, no doubt, and titled The Moocher’s Credo.

Maybe I’m being unfair to deconstructionists – whose theories blossomed after I was an adult and not studying such things systematically. Maybe Green Lanternboy was committing sheer free association. It certainly misses Warren’s point as I read it: No man is an island, entire to himself.

Russ Roberts at the Wall Street Journal Thursday does a more plausible job, even admitting that “There’s much truth in Ms. Warren’s statement.” But I still think he misses the point as I read it.

The point as I read it runs smack dab into the face of America’s tendency, writ large in the GOP, to idolize business genius while simultaneously fearing that the money muse will pack its bag and leave if the poor darlin’s have to pay more taxes. I’m not convinced.

I’ve seen people playing with the numbers:

  • Right: the top 1% pays 38% of the taxes.
  • Left: Yeah, but the top 1% controls 42% of the wealth, so they’re 4% short.


The exact numbers aren’t what bothers me. What bothers me is my feeling that the GOP will never, ever, see a climate where rich Republicans aren’t paying their fair share. No, that’s wrong: they will never, until reality jumps up and smacks them even harder in their stupid faces, figure out that the solutions that worked for Reagan are not magic incantations that will produce the desired results at all times and in all places.

Think I’m exaggerating? Michelle Bachman seems to like reducing taxes to zero.


NYT Columnist David Brooks recently spoke at Georgetown University, and moderator Patrick Deneen, having announced “this will be the last question,” found he’d painted himself into a corner, from which he could not pose one very penetrating followup question.

So, your mission David, should you decide to accept it, is to explain how you reconcile your call to humility with your recommendation of national greatness.

The context, and Deneen’s question, are here. I’ll post Brooks’ response it it comes and I notice it.


(HT Bridget Baker)


* * * * *

Bon appetit!

(To save time on preparing this blog, which some days consumes way too much time, I’ve asked some guy named @RogerWmBennett to Tweet a lot of links about which I have little or nothing to add. Check the “Latest Tweets” in the upper right pane or follow him on Twitter.)

About readerjohn

I am a retired lawyer and an Orthodox Christian, living in a collapsing civilization, the modern West. There are things I'll miss when it's gone. There are others I won't. That it is collapsing is partly due to calculated subversion, summarized by the moniker "deathworks." This blog is now dedicated to exposing and warring against those deathwork - without ceasing to spread a little light.
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2 Responses to Tasty Tidbits 9/30/11

  1. Pingback: Tasty Tidbits 10/1/11 « Tipsy Teetotaler

  2. John says:

    This post is why this is my new favorite blog–the Protestant Deformation, Elizabeth Warren, Deenan on Brooks, and the spoon and “cat” posters. Instead of hopping around online, I should just check in here every day (and of course with Daniel Larison.)

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