Wednesday, 7/30/14

  1. You touch our nonviolence and we blow your heads off!
  2. New Urbs
  3. Short Stories
  4. GOP to POTUS: We’ll see your passivity and raise you a compulsive interentionism
  5. UCSB Feminazi Cops a Plea
  6. A Religious Freedom Claim that Deserved to Lose
  7. The (Spiritual/Cosmic) Butterfly Effect


History is messy:

One of the important lessons I learned as a participant in the southern freedom movement of the 1960s shocks many of my liberal friends: Guns don’t kill people; people kill people. I am neither a member nor supporter of the NRA, but both sides in today’s convoluted arguments about gun control and the second amendment need to pay attention to this lesson. To begin, here is an excerpt from the introduction of my latest book: This Nonviolent Stuff’ll Get You Killed: How Guns Made the Civil Rights Movement Possible.

Simply put: because nonviolence worked so well as a tactic for effecting change and was demonstrably improving their lives, some black people chose to use weapons to defend the nonviolent Freedom Movement. Although it is counterintuitive, any discussion of guns in the movement must therefore also include substantial discussion of nonviolence, and vice versa.

(Charles E. Cobb Jr.)


Considering the nature of this particular blog, I think I’m making fair use by quoting the whole “Welcome!”:

Welcome to New Urbs. Over the course of the next year, The American Conservative will be opening a discussion on how to rebuild America’s communities and sense of place by fostering humane, sustainable, and walkable built environments, made possible by a grant from the Richard H. Driehaus Foundation. For while the breakdown of community and the family is a consistent theme in conservative circles, the conversation very rarely gets beyond some mix of exhortation towards traditional values and demands for rollback or reform of the welfare state. That’s where a school of urban design called “New Urbanism” comes into play.

Just as an individual is embedded in a family, and a family is embedded in a community, so too a community is embedded in its neighborhood. The patterns we live in can bring us into the sort of constant, casual, incidental contact that builds bonds between neighbors, or they can silo each of our families away, leaving civil society to wither as the “place between” is filled with asphalt and strip malls. As Paul Weyrich, William S. Lind, and Andres Duany wrote in“Conservatives and the New Urbanism” in 2006, “Edmund Burke told us more than two hundred years ago that traditional societies are organic wholes. If you (literally) disintegrate a society’s physical setting, as sprawl has done, you tend to disintegrate its culture as well.” New Urbanists aim to reinvigorate those traditional structures, like the classic Main Street with living space above the storefronts, and other homes right around the corner.

Suburban sprawl has, through an accident of history, often been defended by conservative Americans, especially those who mistakenly consider suburban living to be the pure product of free choices and free markets. Yet traditional building of the sort encouraged by New Urbanism is very amenable to conservative sensibilities. Traditional neighborhoods where a family can live within walking distance of their church, or send their child to the grocery store to pick up an ingredient for dinner, are often illegal to build today. Even the supposed free-market success of the automobile over mass transit has itself been heavily subsidized. These issues are of a kind with arguments and concerns that conservatives of all stripes should be very familiar with.

After decades of exploding sprawl, humane environments are making a comeback, and that will be the focus of conversation here at New Urbs. We will be bringing attention to efforts currently under way to rescue and rehabilitate legacy environments, as well as looking at promising new projects. We will be discussing and exploring the ways the federal government has undermined sustainable environments and encouraged sprawl, and the ways local regulations and laws have followed its lead. Transit strategies will be debated, bringing a conservative perspective to a crucial place-building discussion. We will also be taking a hard look at some of the toughest questions facing New Urbanism, such as family-friendliness, affordability, and the balance to be struck between effective design and overzealous mandates.

While many details will be fleshed out and explored at greater length over the next year, there are a couple common misconceptions worth dispelling at the outset. First, as Matt Lewis wrote recently at The Week, “Nobody I know is suggesting that big government — or the U.N.! — ought to mandate or impose these sorts of development policies.” As conservatives should know better than anyone, one can support something without believing that the state should mandate it, and one can oppose something without believing the state should ban it. The problem now is that so many places do ban New Urbanist development, often requiring developers to request dozens if not hundreds of variances and exceptions to local rules, at significant cost.

And second, “New Urbanism” does not equal big cities, or small towns for that matter. The rural-to-urban Transect developed by New Urbanist Andres Duany provides for high-density urban downtowns, medium-density suburbs, and even nearly no-density rural and natural environments, all within a proper understanding of place. There is plenty of room for debate about how to best put sound principles into built practice, but we should begin the discussion with clarity.

So please bookmark this page, add the RSS feed, and follow “New Urbs” on Twitter. I’ll be running things, writing on the issues described above, and flagging some of the most interesting on-topic material from around the web. I’ll also be bringing in a variety of other writers, conservatives and urbanists, to carry the conversation forward. On that note, if you are intrigued by any of what you’ve read above and would like to discuss it or write about it, my e-mail address is jcoppage (at), and I would love to hear from you.

I hope this space can become a community of its own, and I look forward to rigorous, good-faith discussions in the comment threads. Keep coming back.

This post was supported by a grant from the Richard H. Driehaus Foundation.

I’m looking forward to this!


Recently, a friend said to me, “Hey, George, if a space alien beamed you up to his ship and demanded that you explain what being human is like, what would you say?”

“Well,” I said, “I’d advise the alien to spend a few days reading short stories.” Short stories are the deep, encoded crystallizations of all human knowledge. They are rarefied, dense meaning machines, shedding light on the most pressing of life’s dilemmas. By reading a thoughtfully selected set of them, our alien could, in a few hours, learn everything he needs to know about the way we live.

(George Saunders, Short Stories to Read)

This is, I believe, the first time I’ve linked to “O” magazine, and it may be the last. In addition to Lady O’s pernicious role as a sort of spiritual guru to millions, the website seems to have some novel and annoying features, doubtless calculated to maximize the flow of money into Lady O’s pockets.

But a good article’s a good article. (H/T The Browser)


If the Republican counteroffer to Obama’s is a return to the compulsive interventionism of Bush II, this is where some of us will be getting off.

(Pat Buchanan, reacting to S. 2277, the “Russian Aggression Prevention Act of 2014,” introduced by Sen. Bob Corker on May 1, and endorsed by half of the Senate’s GOP caucus)


A UCSB Feminist Studies professor accused of stealing and destroying an anti-abortion activist’s poster — and pushing and scratching the activist in the process — pleaded no contest Thursday morning to three misdemeanor charges….

Miller-Young will be sentenced on August 14 and will likely be ordered by Judge Brian Hill to pay a fine and restitution, perform community service, and attend anger management counseling. While her charges do carry the possibility of jail time, prosecutor Ron Zonen said he “would be surprised if [Hill] sentenced her to jail.” Miller-Young remains employed by UCSB….

(Santa Barbara Independent via the Volokh Conspiracy)


Just in case you think I always, reflexively, support a Christian claim for religious freedom, here’s a case the Christian richly deserved to lose. The last sentence of the story ices it for me, kinda like when Churchill reportedly “haggled over the price” of a meretricious roll in the hay.


The Fathers knew that even the secret sins committed by people had an effect on the whole of the cosmos.

(Abbot Tryphon, All-Merciful Saviour Orthodox Christian Monastery)

* * * * *

“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.

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