Wednesday, 1/7/15

  1. Papal humility
  2. Looking for hope in all the odd places
  3. Words to write by
  4. Weaponizing Leelah Alcorn
  5. Left-Right Liberal Symbiosis
  6. NYPD Blue hostile for good reason
  7. Are we pining for Weimar Russia?


David G Bonagura, Jr. sees a même emerging that deserves to be nipped in the bud (though it’s probably too late, the interests the même serves being so powerful).

The même is that Pope Francis is humble, unlike his predecessors. The bud after the comma is the one that needs nipped.

Leaving aside immediate counter examples – such as John Paul’s ease with people of every type of background, or Benedict’s gracious and freewheeling question sessions with young children and clergy alike – and before addressing the specific opinion of the writer, it is important to understand, first, what humility is; and, second, how exactly the holder of the world’s oldest and most prominent throne can be considered humble.

Humility, and its adjective humble, derive from the Latin humus, meaning earth, land, or soil. The one who is “humi” is “on the ground,” that is, lowly in his estimation of himself and in his relationships with others. For Aquinas humility, “regards chiefly the subjection of man to God, for whose sake he humbles himself by subjecting himself to others.” …

Given his unbridled authority that is thoroughly bridled by very specific expectations, how can a pope be humble? True to the definition, he must submit himself, in freedom and with docility, to the demands of God and of his office. He may not be personally comfortable with some or all of these – from being the face of Catholicism to issuing disciplinary decrees – yet he accepts them willingly and carries them out to the best of his abilities. If he were to refuse the essential tasks of the papacy, he would not be acting humbly.

A non-Catholic who thinks the modern dogmas about the papacy are false, I nevertheless agree with Bonagura on the essential humility of the current Pope’s two immediate predecessors.

Where we may differ is on whether Francis will humbly “submit himself to the demands of the office.” Those who cheer his “humility” sometimes seem to be cheering his refusal to do so.

It’s still kind of early in his papacy, and I can hope that his deviations from some papal expectations will serve to help heal the Great Schism, a most vexed and complex problem given that the modern dogmas of the papacy are dogmas, and abandoning any one them does collateral damage to some others.


Dmitry Orlov finds grounds for optimism in odd places. This one’s a light-hearted tension-reliever:

Of course, the national media still has an important role to play. For instance, I have no idea how big Kim Kardashian’s derrière is—but I hear it’s big in the media. Can it sing? And so if you are looking for authoritative information on that important subject, then American national media is your friend. But for most non-ass-related things, it seems to me that the Americans who run the nation’s political and media circuses broke a fundamental rule, which they apparently forgot, because it was first expressed by an American by the name of Abe Lincoln: “You can fool all the people some of the time, and some of the people all the time, but you cannot fool all the people all the time.”

Apart from its sheer triviality, I was reminded again last night about how unreliable mainstream media are on those topics that I actually know about and invest some time in understanding. Much of it is random goofiness, but as much or more is agenda-driven, even if the agenda comes from newsroom culture and the economic need to generate controversy to draw viewers/readers/listeners.

Anyway, Orlov’s derrière digression relieves the tension from several other sources of hope, which I believe are tragically true:

To my mind, the really interesting development of 2014 is that the world as a whole (with a few minor exceptions) has become quite lucid on the topic of what the United States, as a global empire, is and stands for. It is now very commonly and completely understood that:

1. The United States is an evil empire, attempting not so much to rule the world as to disrupt it to its short-term advantage.

2. The United States is failing, as an empire and as a country, and no amount of fraud, mayhem, torture and murder is going to save it.

3. The United States is still quite powerful and can cause massive damage on its way down. This damage must be contained, while plans are drawn up for an international arrangement that will arise upon its demise.

Looking back on 2013 and before, such sentiments were already being expressed, but on the fringes and quietly. The difference is that in 2014 they became commonplace knowledge, and their expressions thundered from presidential podiums. What’s more, there just isn’t that much of a counterargument being voiced. I don’t hear a single voice out there arguing that the US is a benevolent force that is on the up-and-up, would never hurt a fly and is the permanent center of the universe.

And no, Barack Obama, Dubya and Clinton didn’t cause it, though none arrested it, either, as far as I can tell.


The Christian should be asking: What specific and concrete good does this do? Who does it help? If it helps anyone, how does it help them? Does it edify the reader or tempt him to uncharity? Does it correct the target or hurt him? Will it make reader and target better men? The writer has to be a kind of virtuoso of kindness.

(David Mills) That’s a good enough summary that I’ve put it where I should see and heed it when blogging.


I’ve got a pretty good crap detector, but I didn’t slow down to agonize/analyze the Leelah Alcorn suicide story. Carl R. Trueman did:

There are many people convinced that they are somebody or something which their bodies are not. There was the extreme case of Cat Man. For him, his humanity was something to be overcome by surgery. That society found him weird and egregious no doubt contributed to his sense of alienation, despair, and eventual suicide. Then there are people who have xenomelia and want perfectly healthy limbs amputated. Are parents who impose on their offspring the normativity of the species assigned to them at birth to be dismissed as unsupportive, unloving, and cruel? Are those who deny a child with xenomelia the right to have his arm amputated unfit to be parents? If my neighbor sincerely believes he is Napoleon trapped in the wrong body, does kindness and love mean that I have to affirm him in this belief? And if not, why not? And if bodies are out of bounds as evidence, what else can I use to make my case? I think these are legitimate questions to ask of the advocates pressing the transgender issue.

… [F]or all of its present practical power, the transgender lobby is built upon an arbitrary, eclectic, and ultimately incoherent approach to identity. Sadly, that is one of its strengths, for when it comes to identity politics, this is an arbitrary, eclectic, and increasingly incoherent age, ruled by sit-com story-lines, soundbites, and the media-savvy. Thus, this lobby is already establishing cultural norms and, perhaps more importantly, it now desires to set legal precedents which will have much wider significance for society as a whole. Indeed, that is why it already appears bigoted, hateful, and laughably insane to regard physical bodies as having any real significance for our gender identity. It is also why it appears to be rational to call for the prosecution of, or even the denial of parenthood to, those parents who happen to disagree.


[W]hat seems opposed on the political field is, at this philosophical level, in profound and explicit agreement. Simply put, the right extols economic liberalism while the left eulogizes social liberalism, and each compounds the other. Strange as it may initially seem, both left and right in their modern form are profoundly liberal (in the first order sense) as they pursue autonomy as if that was their true foundation and the proper ideological goal of their philosophy. As peculiar as it sounds I do not believe that capitalism would have attained the particular destructive form it currently has (destroying prosperity and stability for the many) without the social and sexual liberalism long advocated and championed by the left. Similarly, the ruination of the working class family, which the social autonomy eulogized by the left has as its main unacknowledged legacy, would not be as advanced as it is without the complicity of the liberal economic right.

[T]he most consequent legacy of the feminism of the 1960s has been a patriarchal feminism that sees men and women as essentially the same and so favours abortion and denies pregnancy and childbirth as the real locale for the social liberation of women. This tradition has now metastazed into some dreadful ideology for upper class women who are already doing very well to advance even further. Those left behind by this neo-liberal capture of feminism are, of course, poor working class women and the children who depend on them, as well as all women (and men) who abandon autonomy for the sake of having and loving their children. In this regard, feminism, like rights-based discourse and the other nasty little separatisms of the left, all conspire against the wider principle of human solidarity and affection.

I criticize the neo-liberal right for delivering the absolute opposite of what they argue for—economic freedom. Under the watch of market liberalism, markets have become ever more concentrated and ever more monopolized. Wealth has not been distributed to the many, it has become the province of the well-leveraged few who, with the aid of the state, have effectively captured assets and established everybody else as wholly wage-dependent. The liberal economy, if it is to truly work, must distribute property to all and ensure mass-market access to trade and exchange. Instead, working class people (and the middle classes are shortly to join them) have been deprived of any meaningful property—except for the sole avenue of debt-fuelled residential housing.

(Phillip Blond, in Comment via ResPublica)


I would imagine that the police are likely to be pretty cool toward a Mayor who campaigned on themes like “the evils, the racial bias, in the stop-and-frisk tactic practiced by the police.” But wait! It gets better (that is, worse):

Once in office, Bill de Blasio made clear his view of the police as a power that required watching and re-education. To which end he summoned Al Sharpton , the longtime race hustler whose lifetime career pressing fraudulent bias claims, inciting racial conflagrations, was apparently no deterrent to Mayor de Blasio, who described Mr. Sharpton as the nation’s foremost civil-rights leader. The general attitudes emanating from the de Blasio administration were, the police concluded, distinctly unsupportive.

(Dorothy Rabinowitz) If I wore NYPD Blue, I’d turn my back on a mayor who thinks Al Sharpton is a bona fide civil rights leader who can beneficially tutor me. If anyone knows that Sharpton has apologized for any of the frauds he invented or advanced, remind me, please.


American hostility to Russia is based on two things: 1) Putin’s scathing and largely accurate critique of U.S. intervention in the Middle East and Eastern Europe and his refusal to countenance NATO expansion, and 2) Putin’s offer of sanctuary to America’s number one political dissident, Edward Snowden. Of course, the neocons were ready for regime change when Putin denounced the U.S. assault on Iraq, but it wasn’t until Snowden’s hegira that the U.S. government got fully on board the regime-change train.

The current wave of Russophobia is the most dangerous phenomenon since the wave of war hysteria that greeted the 9/11 terrorist attacks. We are in danger of creating a “Weimar Russia”—wracked by economic ruination, resentful of the West, and seething with ancient ethnic hatreds. So you think Putin is bad? You haven’t seen anything yet—just wait until you see his successors. The ultra-nationalists waiting in the wings are truly scary: the irony is that the scenario of a “revanchist, revisionist” Russia will turn out to have been a self-fulfilling prophecy.

(Justin Raimondo)

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“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.