Saturday 6/13/15

  1. If you’re too weird for Asheville, you’re too weird
  2. My first Burqa siting
  3. Banning Ayn Rand from polite company
  4. Toppling Putin


I spent several days in Asheville, North Carolina this week. The city revels in its weirdness, and I have a pretty high weird tolerance in places I visit. Asheville pushed that tolerance to the limit:

  • Tattoos (hard to find a woman under 40 without one)
  • Piercings
  • Ear gauging
  • Hair colors unknown in nature
  • Dreadlocks on white guys
  • No-talent Buskers (some with large stocks of illicit drugs conveniently stashed away in their bloodstreams)
  • Tobacco (maybe I just saw them because their offices and stores banished them to the street)

On the other hand, it has an extraordinary literary culture, vibrant arts and crafts (i.e., artists and craftsmen with actual talent) and varied restaurant choices galore. Speaking of which, it has Laughing Seed, a happy discovery after the surprise that the Apostles Fast began the first day of vacation (it’s usually much shorter than three weeks).

It also has dogs – many dogs, including yappy little pseudo dogs, sitting on laps of women at vegetarian restaurant patios.

St. Lawrence Basilica we’d overlooked previously. The elliptical dome and church interior generally are beautiful. Tops, a destination shoe store, is really pretty amazing. And Mast General Store is still (I spent some quality time there 20 years or so ago) surprisingly delightful. Your mileage may vary.

Biltmore Village, a shopping district at the entrance to the Biltmore estate, is a mere shadow of its former self, and we found almost nothing enticing there.

We survived daily forecasts of rain with scarcely any actually happening, enjoyed comfortable temperatures, and had lots of down time even after slavishly honoring Fitbit’s default demand of 10,000 steps per day (on hills, to boot). Not a half bad vacation.


Back in my home town, I had what to my memory was my first Burqa siting.

Man, boy and woman (I assume) in Burqa were eating at an ethnic place I visited for the first time. I paused to wonder how food was getting into the woman’s mouth, but I didn’t want to stare any more than I’d stare at a woman discreetly breast-feeding in public. If she thinks her chin and mouth are for her husband’s eyes only, who am I to peek?

Later, I noticed the man, alone, at the check-out, settling the bill. Then moments later, I caught sight, through the restaurant window, of a dark figure dashing across the parking lot in a driving rain and high winds pursuing something that had blown away from the roof of the car apparently. It was the woman in the Burqa.

The man stood implacable on the sidewalk outside the restaurant, under shelter, watching his wife getting drenched. Straightaway, the fugitive item retrieved, the woman returned to the car, backed out, and almost drove onto the sidewalk to ease her husband’s very short trip through the rain to the shotgun seat.

Lest you judge unfavorably, note that she was allowed to drive.


Is [Randianism] an ideology in the same swamp as anti-Semitism and all the rest or is it one of those ideas one can respect while rejecting sharply, like (depending on one’s own beliefs) libertarianism or socialism? …

I think it’s the first. This is true, at least, for Catholics, who recognize the good, the law written on our hearts, and believe others can and should recognize it as well. Randianism’s view of the individual and all that flows from it, not least its social Darwinist hatred for the weak and the poor, is deeply, fundamentally inhumane. It is a settled dogma set against basic and public truths of human life. It is not mistaken about human dignity and human flourishing, it rejects them. The Randian is the man who brings dynamite to the barn-raising.

In practice this means two things. First, one should never speak or write as if Randianism were a respectable and creditable idea. It should always be spoken of in the way one speaks of white supremacism or Holocaust denial …

Second, it should not be given a place at the table, on the fortunately rare occasions when that might be considered. If you’re organizing a panel on Catholic Social Teaching, you might invite a libertarian and a socialist and everyone in between, but not a Randian …

Curiously, maybe, William F. Buckley came to a similar conclusion way back in the mid-fifties when he published Whitaker Chambers’ take down of Rand’s novel Atlas Shrugged, “Big Sister is Watching You.” The review effectively read Rand and Randianism out of the conservative movement—which purge proved to be one of the conditions of its later success. A similar refusal to legitimize Randianism will only help in the work of creating a society that advances human freedom and dignity. One part of that work is making clear where its enemies are found.

(David Mills) The Whittaker Chambers link is rich:

The question becomes chiefly: who is to run that world in whose interests, or perhaps, at best, who can run it more efficiently?

Something of this implication is fixed in the book’s dictatorial tone, which is much its most striking feature. Out of a lifetime of reading, I can recall no other book in which a tone of overriding arrogance was so implacably sustained. Its shrillness is without reprieve. Its dogmatism is without appeal. In addition, the mind which finds this tone natural to it shares other characteristics of its type. 1) It consistently mistakes raw force for strength, and the rawer the force, the more reverent the posture of the mind before it. 2) It supposes itself to be the bringer of a final revelation. Therefore, resistance to the Message cannot be tolerated because disagreement can never be merely honest, prudent, or just humanly fallible. Dissent from revelation so final (because, the author would say, so reasonable) can only be willfully wicked. There are ways of dealing with such wickedness, and, in fact, right reason itself enjoins them. From almost any page of Atlas Shrugged, a voice can be heard, from painful necessity, commanding: “To a gas chamber–go!”

I may need to find a better quote than my one-and-only Ayn Rand favorite to address the cui bono of the regulatory state.


Bret Stevens tells us at the Wall Street Journal How To Take Down Putin: Boycotting the World Cup would be one hard lesson for Russians of the consequences of being led by disreputable men.

Yeah. The kind of disreputable guy who knows normalcy and knows that the U.S. is promoting the abnormal in foreign policy, and who actually notices the slaughter of Christians in the Middle East.  I can see why the business interests would want to take down a threatening guy like that.

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“In learning as in traveling and, of course, in lovemaking, all the charm lies in not coming too quickly to the point, but in meandering around for a while.” (Eva Brann)

Some succinct standing advice on recurring themes.