Saturday 12/21/13

    1. Words of the Year
    2. Cheap grace – now 50% off!
    3. Paybacks are hell
    4. Time to restore the republic
    5. Trickle-down (or is it up?) hubris
    6. What is wrong with Douglas Wilson?!
    7. What is wrong with Fred Clark?!


The sentence of the year is very famous. “If you like your health-care plan, you can keep it,” which President Obama promised from beginning of his health bill straight through to the time before its unveiling. It was a lie and has been called lie of the year.
… For all his much vaunted excellence as a speaker, Mr. Obama has never had a famous phrase that encapsulated his leadership—no “evil empire” or “Ask not,” or “We have nothing to fear.”
Now he does. And it encapsulates more than he would have wished.

(Peggy Noonan at the Wall Street Journal – paywall) Also this from her:

The most arresting words heard this year? A billionaire of New York, in conversation: “I hate it when the market goes up. Every time I hear the stock market went up I know the guillotines are coming closer.”

This year I came to understand, at meetings and symposia, that this has become an ongoing preoccupation of the wealthy. They are not oblivious, they are concerned. And though they give away hundreds of millions of dollars to charities, schools and scholarships, they don’t know what can be done to turn the overall economic picture around. Globalization isn’t leaving, industrial manufacturing isn’t coming back as it was, technology will continue to give jobs to the educated, and the ever-evolving mischief of men and markets won’t change.
They are worried. They are right to be. They are trying to think it through, trying to find any realistic solutions, and words.


Dietrich Bonhoeffer wrote about cheap grace in The Cost of Discipleship. Through the miracle of consumerism, grace has gotten even cheaper, with countless solicitations to “give back” – painlessly and randomly:

The peculiar way in which the “giving back” culture lends itself to petty sanctimony became real to me over Thanksgiving. I received a news release announcing a “Christmas Challenge” issued by my state’s governor. “I want to challenge each and every family to do one random act of kindness,” Gov. Nikki Haley wrote …
Leave aside, if you can, the nausea brought on by reading a pampered politician’s mawkish exhortation to the people who own her mansion and pay her salary to do more good deeds. Leave aside, too, the governor’s inability to come up with anything more imaginative than the already passé phrase “random act of kindness.”
What’s significant about Gov. Haley’s Christmas Challenge is that word “random.” A random act of kindness is a one-off. It requires minimal effort and no change of habit and disposition …
And that’s really the problem with the “giving back” phenomenon and the mentality it fosters. Nothing is required but minor, outwardly visible gestures, ones that produce in the giver a few fleeting warm fuzzies. There’s no harm in that—so long as we recognize that the giving-back fad is not morality itself but a fatuous imitation.

(Barton Swaim, Giving Back to Our Sanctimonious Selves, at the Wall Street Journal) It’s enough to leave a guy with kind thoughts for that ole rigorist, Tetzel. (Don’t even get me started on “reaching out.”)

On a related note (well, it relates in my mind anyway), Lamborghini has introduced its carbon-fiber and aluminum Huracan. Go ahead. You deserve it. Just give back by dropping a 5-spot in the Ball jar by the cash register: the proles are collecting to buy some guillotines.


A&E, like a parent spanking a child, is going to learn the meaning of “this hurts me more than it hurts you.”  Glen Beck may gain, but he’ll probably ruin it by putting in the contract that Phil Robertson must quack that way at least once every show. The family should tell him, too, to take a hike if he tries that.

If you have no idea what I’m talking about, blessings upon you. Will you be my spiritual guide?


I called myself out on my isolationist tendencies Wednesday by referring to my sense of “self-quarantine” to keep from spreading our contagion. Walter Lippmann beat me by 46 years, sort of:

Compared to people who thought they could run the universe, or at least the globe, I am neo-isolationist and proud of it.

(Quoted by Patrick J. Buchanan)

There’s a difference between leaving the world alone because we don’t care and leaving it alone because we know we’re as likely, if not likelier, to make things worse rather than better with our hubristic interventions.

Buchanan again:

The roots of the new isolationism are not difficult to discern. There is, first, the end of the Cold War, the liberation of the captive nations of Europe, the dissolution of our great adversary, the Soviet Empire, and the breakup of the Soviet Union. The Cold War, our war, was over. Time to come home.
The Bushes and Bill Clinton said no.
So we let the New World Order crowd have its run in the yard. We invaded Panama, intervened in Haiti and Mogadishu, launched Desert Storm to liberate Kuwait, bombed Serbia for 78 days to force it to surrender its cradle province of Kosovo.
Came then the blowback of 9/11, following which we had the Afghan war to overthrow the Taliban and create a new democracy in the Hindu Kush, the invasion and occupation of Iraq to strip Saddam Hussein of weapons of mass destruction he did not have, and the air war on Libya.
Others may celebrate the fruits of these wars but consider the costs:
A decade of bleeding with 8,000 U.S. dead, 40,000 wounded, $2 trillion sunk, Iraq and Libya disintegrating in tribal, civil and sectarian war, Afghanistan on the precipice, and al-Qaeda no longer confined to Tora Bora but active in Pakistan, Libya, Iraq, Yemen, and Syria.
While America was caught up in these wars, China swept past Britain, France, Germany, and Japan to emerge as the second largest economy on earth. Using her $250-$300 billion annual trade surpluses with the United States, she has been locking up resources across Africa, Latin America, Australia, and Asia….

I may have cut-and-pasted too much. Read the whole Buchanan piece, since we’re still doing the hubristic schtick.


The Imperial Presidency, by the way, is not alone in hubris. The judiciary is in the running, too, New Mexico being the latest example.

But we get the government we deserve. Though “we, the people” may not have realized all the legal consequences of it, wasn’t the die cast when we started acting as ifmarriage means special government recognition for close relationships“?

That’s its own form of hubris, telling God Mother Nature that we’ve finally arrived, we don’t need to make babies any more, that we’d like tax breaks and spousal Social Security benefits when they’re advantageous, but we’ll walk away from marriage, or avoid it, when (for instance) a widowed person doesn’t want to lose Social Security by re-marriage or when high-income spouses are going to pay a marriage penalty tax.

The Social Security Fairy can make all that happen despite rising geezer/worker ratios, right?


Doug Wilson is not a stupid man. He’s not a Godless man. I cannot fathom what would possess him to mount, and to ride for years, a stupid, uncharitable and unbiblical hobby-horse against Christians who try to avoid allergens and to eat healthily. As in here, here, here and here. And that’s not all, I’m told.

All I can figure is he’s got a brain disorder or is

  • self-deluded
  • an enemy of church unity
  • play-acting, engaging in fake argument for some yet-to-be-disclosed reason
  • manipulative and selfish
  • disrupting table fellowship
  • insulting to sanctification
  • irrational, unreasonable, deceived
  • allergic to charity
  • not loving God with all his mind
  • a radically cowardly husband
  • the cause of widespread divisiveness that threatens to split churches
  • experiencing severe marital breakdown
  • destructive to his own family
  • a rash on the Body of Christ

(see Valerie Jacobsen, who challenged him on his own blog, via Robin Phillips)

Really, I am baffled. My impression of him is unfavorable because he’s a Calvinist and I’ve left that tradition behind for one or more reasons. But Robin Phillips says, credibly:

Douglas Wilson’s writings are incredibly helpful, and on this blog I have often had occasion to quote him.

So I’ll let him continue past that appreciation to a very thorough, and richly deserved, take-down of Wilson, delivered with more charity than I could muster.


It has been a long day, and I’m tired and wired at the same time after a long musical rehearsal. So I’ll try to keep this short: Fred Clark, the Slacktivist, has shamed himself with a rant against Phil Robertson of Duck Dynasty and lies about Robertson’s defenders: ‘Duck Dynasty’: White evangelicals rallying for racism

If you hadn’t noticed that the Duck Dynasty kerfuffle was about race, you may be excused, because it wasn’t. It was about Robertson’s remarks about homosexuality:

“We are extremely disappointed to have read Phil Robertson’s comments in GQ, which are based on his own personal beliefs and are not reflected in the series Duck Dynasty,” A&E said in a statement to USA TODAY. “His personal views in no way reflect those of A+E Networks, who have always been strong supporters and champions of the LGBTcommunity. The network has placed Phil under hiatus from filming indefinitely.”

Among the people on the web offended by those remarks, some have made actual, trenchant criticisms, like Ron Belgau, for instance. I suspect Fred might be able to pull such a critique off, too.

But Fred, with his fixation on white Evangelicals turns Robertson’s defenders into defenders of his remarks about his personal experience (and I don’t see how Fred can gainsay that) of race relations in the south rather than defenders of his remarks about homosexuality:

A white evangelical Christian celebrity got up in public and spouted hateful racist bullshit. That celebrity, further, claimed that this hateful racist bullshit was based on Jesus and the Bible, and that it represented the views of all white evangelical Christians everywhere.
There could be one — and only one — appropriate response.
And white evangelical Christians struggled, and failed, to give that response.
Instead of denouncing the hateful racist bullshit, white evangelicals rose to defend the celebrity’s right to spout hateful racist bullshit without being criticized. And his right to be televised while doing so.

Let’s be very, very clear: Duck Dynasty cast-member Phil Robertson promotes unambiguously racist mythology. This is what white evangelicals have been defending, ….

That’s a lie, Fred – or I’m at least entitled to believe it’s a lie until you cite one or two instances of even semi-prominent Evangelicals defending the racial comments. I have seen none (though I don’t troll Evangelical sites, except Fred’s, for click bait).

“Let’s be very, very clear.” Fred misrepresented where A&E took umbrage, where people have been focusing their attention, where Robertson has (presumably) gotten support, and about his own clairvoyant ability to read Fred’s mind about his personal life experiences. (If you take your meds, maybe the voices will go away, Fred.)

That’s it. I hope I didn’t lie about Fred in my anger at his anger. Such is the stuff of blood feuds.

* * * * *

“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.