Wednesday, 8/6/14

  1. Fall-back positions
  2. Economic microcosm
  3. Two guilty pleasures
  4. Happy birthday, Wendell Berry
  5. Traditions have reasons
  6. A cold slap in the face
  7. Another cold slap in the face


From the catalogue of a fictitious second-tier university:

Look, we know you didn’t get into your first choice school (that is after all why you are reading our brochure). We know you are vulnerable and feeling sorry for yourself. But we feel like we ought to mention that a lot of young people in your situation choose not to go to college at all. Despite the happy smiling pictures we’ve been showing you, a lot of first year college students get very depressed. Ever heard of the Freshman 15? Well, it’s a thing. Also, you could get an STD if you came here. Or someone could accuse you of rape. Or you could get so drunk that you fall off the back of a frat house porch and end up paralyzed. Even if you decide to come here, our degree probably won’t do much to help you get a job afterward. And you’ll have a boatload of debt to pay off. For all these reasons—and others—a lot of people in your situation just choose to skip college. Consider it.

Just to be clear: We’re not telling you what to do. We just want you to have this information.

(Matthew Hennessey)

Weird, huh?

Then why, pray tell, would two major Down Syndrome groups distribute a booklet to expectant mothers whith a Down Syndrome prenatal diagnosis suggesting that they just might want to abort? Go back to the Matthew Hennessey piece for more of the story.


 “Why porn and condoms don’t mix.” This op-ed got Monday’s opinion page top billing at the LA Times.

The op-ed argued against adopting a statewide measure that requires use of condoms in any pornography filmed in the state. There currently is such a measure only in Los Angeles County.

I risked getting slimed (you’re welcome) to confirm that one of the arguments was that the law would just drive production of pornography off to places where condoms aren’t mandatory, just as LA County has already seen a drop in permits issued.

I’d think of that as a feature rather than a bug, but what do I know? The expression “microcosm of our whole economy” comes to mind. So do others, but it’s well not to dwell on such things for too long …


… and I wanted to leave time for two more.

I’ll conceal the name to protect the guilty, but a sermon I heard recently noted that Washington State in a single year had legalized both same-sex marriage and recreational pot use, quipping (with credit to whoever it was that came up with it) that it gave new meaning to the Old Testament command that sodomites should be stoned.

While I’m at it, another one comes to me through 4 degrees or so of separation. A fairly strident atheist with a theater background, including improv, apparently is passing the skill along, as his son quipped (over breakfast?) that they should become Jemima’s Witnesses, going door to door distributing pancakes.


I’ve known writers — I think it’s true also of other artists — who thought that you had to put your art before everything. But if you have a marriage and a family and a farm, you’re just going to find that you can’t always put your art first, and moreover that you shouldn’t. There are a number of things more important than your art. It’s wrong to favor it over your family, or over your place, or over your animals.

(Wendell Berry, whose 80th birthday was Tuesday) Other links on the occasion here and here.


There are reasons for traditions and arrangements. Sometimes they are good and sometimes not, but they are reasons, explanations grounded in some sort of experience. I had a conversation about this a few years ago with a young senior at Harvard who on graduation would go to work for a great consulting firm that studies the internal systems of business clients to see if they can be bettered. He asked if I had any advice, which I did not. Then I popped out, with an amount of feeling that surprised me because I didn’t know I had been thinking about it, that he should probably approach clients with the knowledge that systems and ways of operating almost always exist for a reason. Maybe the reason is antiquated or not applicable to current circumstances, but there are reasons for structures, and if you can tease them out they will help you better construct variations or new approaches. I can’t remember why but this opened up a nice conversation about how consultants walk into new jobs with a bias toward change—the recommendation of change proves their worth and justifies their fees—but one should be aware of that bias and replace it with a bias for improvement, which is different.

(Peggy Noonan, emphasis added)


Rod Dreher posts on the Gaza fighting.

  1. The Charter of Hamas. (If anyone knows this to be spurious, please let me know.)
  2. Interview excerpts with Israeli dove Amos Oz, who turns the tables on the interviewer:

Question 1: What would you do if your neighbor across the street sits down on the balcony, puts his little boy on his lap and starts shooting machine gun fire into your nursery?

Question 2: What would you do if your neighbor across the street digs a tunnel from his nursery to your nursery in order to blow up your home or in order to kidnap your family?

Remember the Gillette Skin Bracer ads (“Thanks, I needed that!”)?


Whether or not the death penalty is just, as an abstract matter, there are serious problems with the way it is administered in much of the country.

(Jonathan Adler)

This is an example of what Ralph Nader calls “going down the abstraction ladder,” from the airily general to the painfully concrete. Adler is not arguing to that it’s dumb to “kill people who kill people – to prove that killing people is wrong,” he’s arguing that we too often kill people who haven’t killed people to prove that prosecutors are tough.

I happen to agree. As C.S. Lewis noted, if deterrence is the only point of punishment, that purpose can be accomplished by grabbing the first guy police see walking down the street, provided only that he can be framed convincingly enough. If that notion horrifies you, then your gut’s telling you that justice factors into it as well as deterrence.

* * * * *

“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.