Tofu Tidbits* 1/23/11

  1. A pox on both houses.
  2. This is “Job #1”?
  3. All lashed up and nowhere to go.
  4. 4 Guidelines for modesty.
  5. Incarnational poetry.

* Temporarily renamed in honor of the Nativity Fast, about which Mystagogy has some more information.


Both The Browser and Rod Dreher juxtapose essays by David Frum and Jonathan Chait on what’s wrong with their respective parties, the Republicans and the Democrats. It’s hardly a coincidence: both articles appeared in New York Magazine.

For my money, Frum’s is the more powerful article, but that’s because I’ve been a Republican, and had vain hopes for them, and feel keen disappointment. It’s tempting to pull short or long quotes, but then you might not read the original, the premise of which is that the party has gone, if only temporarily, nutso.

But Chait takes no prisoners, either. “Liberals are dissatisfied because they are incapable of feeling satisfied” is one of his pull quotes, which echoes a venerable conservative trope: “the problem with liberals is they can’t imagine a world in which they’d be conservative.” It’s a mindset, a cult, of “progress.” You can sell anything to a liberal if you can get him to think it’s “progressive.” (Like trampling on fundamental human rights if the right in question is religious freedom and the desiderata in opposition is unlimited, consequence-free orgasms with other consenting, for the time being, adults. Exhibit A: “Catholic” Nancy Pelosi.)

Then he launches into a hilarious reminder with a serious point:

Monty Python’s Life of Brian has a classic bit depicting the followers of “Brian,” a thinly disguised satire of Jesus, as left-wing activists. The movement contains bitterly feuding splinter groups with such names as the People’s Front of Judea, the Judean People’s Front, the Judean Popular People’s Front, the Campaign for a Free Galilee, and the Popular Front of Judea—the last consisting of one man—all of which hate each other more than the Romans. The joke was that left-wing politics has always taken the same form: that lefties in Palestine 2,000 years ago would act pretty much like their counterparts in seventies Britain. Political psychologists have found for decades that the joke is pretty much true. Conservatives, compared with liberals, have higher levels of respect for and obedience to authority and prefer order over chaos and continuity over change. They are more likely than liberals to agree with statements like “It is more important to be a team player than to express yourself.” (Interestingly, libertarians tend to resemble liberals on these measures, which may explain why libertarian politics also so frequently resemble a Life of Brian–esque farce.) The 1968 Democratic convention—“which consisted of spokespersons for about 253 major ideological factions giving each other the finger through clouds of tear gas,” as Dave Barry put it—is the sort of scene that could not occur within the Republican Party. Or consider the contrast in style between the tea party and Occupy Wall Street. These two movements, allegedly mirror images of each other, perfectly display the differences between the right and the left. The Occupy activists abhor anything that would force any member to subsume his or her individual autonomy to the greater good. Did the drum circles drive everybody else to distraction? Too bad—you can’t tell the drummers what to do, man. There are no leaders, no organized speakers, no attempts at organizing anything except addressing the protesters’ elemental need for food and shelter. The tea party was mostly able to suppress the racist signs that popped up in the early stages of the movement. Occupy Wall Street has been unable to silence a handful of anti-­Semites because it can’t silence anybody.

Eugene Robinson and Michael Gerson, reflecting on the failure of the Supercommittee, do their own “who’s to blame” counterpoint at the Washington Post. Gerson tries to blame Obama for not using his bully pulpit, but it rings hollow when the GOP at present has little agenda beyond opposing everything Obama proposes.


The Indiana General Assembly held its Organization Day Tuesday. The Democrats didn’t walk out – yet – even though the Republicans are making Right to Work legislation its top priority in the upcoming “short session.”

The first time I recall hearing the word “union” was as an adjective modifying “goon.” Such a person had in the 1950s assaulted my father, an attorney, because of his work for an employer. To his death, Dad supported the National Right to Work Committee which, along with some other conservative causes, sent fundraising letter for at least 5 years after he was gone despite my returning several with notations of his death. Readers Digest carried frequent exposés of union corruption.

But times change. Big business has pretty well busted big labor. I’m sympathetic to the idea that Right to Work is just another sop to big business, pretexts about worker freedom be damned.

In any event, I can scarcely imagine that Right to Work legislation – even if it would produce lots and lots of crappy jobs – is GOP priority #1. It’s even hard for me to believe it’s a political winner. Who mixed this KoolAid?

Do we really want to join the race to the bottom of the wage barrel? Can’t someone think outside the win-lose box on economic development?


The idea of the committee was, in part, to save Congress from itself: let a dozen members forge a compromise to cut the deficit, and then put it to the whole Congress for an up-or-down vote. It was Congress lashing itself to the mast, like Odysseus, to resist the siren calls of lobbyists and special interest groups. But in the end, the ship went nowhere.

(Rod Dreher)


  1. If you have trouble getting into it or out of it, it is probably not modest.
  2. If you have to be careful when you sit down or bend over, it is probably not modest.
  3. If people look at any part of your body before looking at your face, it is probably not modest.
  4. If you can see your most private body parts or an outline of those parts under the fabric, it is probably not modest.

(Michael Hyatt. Note that this is re-posted from 2008.)

The social expectation that young women will violate these guidelines is, it seems to me, a powerful incitement for serious young women to embrace a countercultural religious identity where modesty is officially encouraged. I suspect that’s part of the draw of both Islam and Orthodox Christianity. In my brief pilgrimage to St. Anthony in the Desert Monastery, for instance, I found that men and women alike were to cover up modestly.


Could I behold those hands which span the Poles,
And turn all spheres at once, pierced with those holes?

John Donne, Good Friday, 1613, Riding Westward.

* * * * *

Bon appetit!

Having become tedious even to myself, I’m Tweeting more, blogging less. View this in a browser instead of an RSS feeder to see Tweets at upper right.

I also have some succinct standing advice on recurring themes. Maybe if I link to it, I’ll blog less obsessively about it.