Tuesday, 7/28/15

  1. Kunstler on his “Potemkin Party”
  2. Something profoundly unnatural
  3. They’re dying for our sins
  4. Don’t give them an inch
  5. Atheist/Creationist symbiosis
  6. Not my little corner of the world


James Howard Kunstler, a lifelong registered Democrat (am I a “registered Republican”? I don’t remember doing more than asking for Republican ballots …), calls his party a “Potemkin Party.” It’s entertaining, of course:

Readers are surely also chafing to insert that there is Bernie Sanders, climbing in the opinion polls, disdaining Wall Street money, denouncing the current disposition of things with the old union hall surliness we’ve grown to know and love. I’m grateful that Bernie is in the race, that he’s framing an argument against Ms. It’s My Turn. I just don’t happen to think that Bernie gets what the country — indeed what all of techno-industrial society — is really up against, namely a long emergency of economic contraction and collapse.

These circumstances require a very different agenda than just an I Dreamed I Saw Joe Hill redistributionist scheme. Lively as Bernie is, I don’t think he offers much beyond that, as if cadging a little more tax money out of WalMart, General Mills, and Exxon-Mobil will fix what is ailing this sad-ass polity. The heart of the matter is that our way of life has shot its wad and now we have to live very differently. Almost nobody wants to even try to think about this.

I hugely resent the fact that the Democratic Party puts its time and energy into the stupid sexual politics of the day when it should be working on issues such as re-localizing commercial economies (rebuilding Main Streets), reforming agriculture to avoid the total collapse of corporate-industrial farming, and fixing the passenger rail system so people will have some way to get around the country when happy Motoring dies (along with commercial aviation).

So, you fellow disaffected Democrats — those of you who can’t go over to the other side, but feel you have no place in your country’s politics — look around and tell me who you see casting a shadow on the Democratic landscape. Nobody. Just tired, corrupt, devious old Hillary and her nemesis Bernie the Union Hall Champion out of a Pete Seeger marching song.

Oh, by the way, notice that the lead editorial in Monday’s New York Times is a plea for transgender bathrooms in schools. What could be more important? For Transgender Americans, Legal Battles Over Restrooms

I especially appreciate the third and last paragraphs. Kunstler has taken many a swipe at the sexual, homosexual (e.g., Vladimir Putin “doesn’t subscribe to the current American notion that being homosexual is a major life achievement. That truly offends!”) and transexual nuttiness, but I wasn’t sure where he was coming from on it.

Welcome to the proud community of the politically homeless, Jim.


Bruce Frohnen points out the Emperor’s wardrobe malfunction:

The state of New York has enacted legislation aimed at making certain that, where sexual intimacy is concerned, only “yes means yes,” and that this standard will apply to activities at private colleges and universities. “Yes means yes,” for those fortunate enough not to have their minds invaded by the latest pseudo-intellectual doublespeak, refers to laws according to which romantic involvements are legal only to the extent that there is among both (or however many) parties “affirmative, conscious, and voluntary understanding to engage in sexual activity.”…

My purpose, here, is not principally to criticize or even mock this latest advancement of the nanny state. The sheer creepiness of this intrusion into intimate relations speaks for itself. My concern, actually, is to point out how natural and even inevitable it is that the state should impose rules of contract onto the anarchic “free market” in sex that has come to dominate our campuses. Academic institutions have rejected their traditional role in maintaining civilized behavior on their campuses. They have opted instead to further encourage the breakdown of sexual along with other mores and seek to train young people to see themselves and others as mere bundles of physical and emotional drives seeking outlets with and through others …

Without going into too much detail for a family-oriented online journal, I would simply point out that there is something profoundly unnatural about strangers engaging in the most intimate of physical acts …

The results of “yes means yes” will be truly nightmarish as people continue to engage in semi-anonymous sex, then find “the deal” is called off after the fact. The question of evidence is insoluble, unless written documents are involved or, as seems increasingly to be the case in any event, every engagement is recorded electronically. The law is a Hobbesian solution to a Hobbesian problem: The government is seizing total control over a very private aspect of life because it must—because relations between the sexes have degenerated into a kind of war of all against all, lacking any coherent rules or conventions. As with all things Hobbesian, we all are losers for having surrendered (or torn down) the customs and institutions that once allowed us to deal with one another in a civil fashion, rendering enslavement to the state preferable to the chaos we have created.

The real answer to this dilemma is, of course, a return to a civilized understanding of relations between the sexes ….

I can’t tell you how much I miss the regulative half of in loco parentis (colleges and universities have, it seems to me, largely kept the protective side, whereby the newly-liberated barbarians are institutionally protected from the legal consequences their misdeeds deserve), which collapsed right as I was coming of age, and which collapse I even then recognized as a big, big mistake.


Eliza Griswold’s major piece on Mideast Christians in the New York Times Magazine this past weekend is getting lots of well-deserved attention. The Times, more than almost any other media publication, can place items on the national agenda, and both it and Griswold deserve credit for covering the crisis facing Christianity in Syria and Iraq …

As an American, I was particularly struck by Griswold’s description of how the United States has abandoned Mideast Christians. Really, we are doing next to nothing to help these poor people. “Wait a minute,” someone might object. “How has the US abandoned them? And why do we have to do anything? We’re not responsible for righting every wrong that occurs in the world, and anyway we were in Iraq, trying to help, for years. It didn’t work. Let Iraqis and other local populations settle this for themselves. It’s not worth more American lives.”

I understand the appeal of this objection, but it depends on not a little willful amnesia. Of course, the parties who bear principal responsibility for the persecution of Christians are local Islamists like ISIS. But the US itself bears indirect responsibility. The US invasion in 2003 led to this situation by creating anarchy and unleashing long-repressed sectarian resentments. And by abruptly leaving Iraq, we have allowed the crisis to intensify. A Catholic bishop Griswold quotes says it well. “Americans and the West were telling us they came to bring democracy, freedom and prosperity. What we are living is anarchy, war, death and the plight of three million refugees.’’ Having helped to create this crisis, the US has a moral obligation to do something to help. We can’t simply abandon these people—and Griswold makes clear that both the Bush and Obama Administrations deserve blame in this—as though we had nothing to do with exposing them to danger in the first place.

(Mark Movesian) Some of the most chilling words to me were these: “For more than a decade, extremists have targeted Christians and other minorities, who often serve as stand-ins for the West.” (Griswold, emphasis added)They’re killing them as proxies for killing us, this supposedly Christian part of the world. Yup: they’re dying for our sins.

So why have we abandoned them?

Conservatives don’t feel much affinity for Mideast Christians, who often favor Palestine in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and liberals have a hard time seeing any Christians as sympathetic victims.

(Movesian) Think “Ted Cruz” and “The NYT Editorial Board 99% of the time” as the poster children of this slaughter.


You don’t need to teach the Catholic Catechism to instruct non-Catholic children not to bully Catholic kids. Nor do you need to teach school children about techniques of gay sex, including oral-anal contact (yes, this reportedly happened in Iowa), to tell them not to mistreat gay kids.

(Rod Dreher, on how “anti-bullying” programs often sneak in a much-expanded liberationist agenda.)


If you skip these last two, written first but then edited to the bottom of the barrel, you won’t miss much.

Here goes:

C.S. Lewis said that a benefit of reading old books is to see how much vehement disagreement shared a common, unacknowledged premise. How obsolete is that?

Let us be clear that the Bible is unambiguous about creation: the earth is the center of the universe, only humans were made in the image of god, and all life was created in six days. All life in all the heavens. In six days. So when we discover that life exists or existed elsewhere in our solar system or on a planet orbiting another star in the Milky Way, or in a planetary system in another galaxy, we will see a huge effort to square that circle with amazing twists of logic and contorted justifications. But do not buy the inevitable historical edits: life on another planet is completely incompatible with religious tradition.

(Jeff Schweitzer, who really should stick to marine biology)

Benjamin Corey, writing as Formerly Fundie, puts Schweitzer’s error thusly:

The irony of the argument brings up an important point that I’ve seen not infrequently: some atheists and fundamentalists often insist on reading the Bible the same way, yet both sides think the other is stupid for doing so. And this is precisely what Schweitzer is doing: he’s taking a fundamentalist view of Genesis and arguing that it would all fall apart with the scientific discovery of extraterrestrial life. (In fact, he’s actually going one step beyond fundamentalism and arguing that if the creation account omits any information, it is wrong.)

In praxis it looks like this:

Fundamentalist: This is what the text says. If it did not happen exactly the way it is recorded, it is not true. Therefore, it must be true.

Atheist: This is what the text says. If it did not happen exactly the way it is recorded, it is not true. Therefore, you’d have to be closed-minded to believe it.

It’s the same hermeneutical approach on both sides. It imports the same modern assumptions on how we tell history versus how ancients told stories, and assumes being “inspired by God” means the text must answer modern questions instead of ancient ones. Whether approaching it from the atheist side or that of the fundamentalist, it’s a rather unenlightening way to approach these ancient stories.

I have no particular reason to trust Formerly Fundie, but that’s pretty good. Still, I would put the fundamentalist and atheist versions differently:

Fundie: This is what the text says. Woohoo! It’s unambiguous, and since it’s inspired, it’s unambiguously true! God has made me (and mine) omniscient about the origins of the cosmos!

Atheist: This is what the text says. It’s an unambiguous cosmology, and since it’s mistaken, Christianity (and Judaism) are ugly and their God dresses them funny!

Back to C.S. Lewis on old books. This atheist/fundamentalist kerfuffle (more like codependency, actually) is modern, and you just need to be kind of, well, sane to recognize a shared fundamentalism about the Bible that would come as a surprise to the premodern Fathers of the Church:

The account of creation in the first chapter of Genesis is known as the Hexaemeron (Greek for ‘six days’), on which a number of Greek and Latin Church fathers wrote commentaries. Some of them interpreted the six days of creation quite literally, like St Basil the Great who was much influenced by Aristotle’s natural philosophy. Yet the same Cappadocian father insisted that the scriptural account of creation is not about science, and that there is no need to discuss the essence (ousias) of creation in its scientific sense. Others followed a more allegorical approach, such as St Gregory of Nyssa who saw the Hexaemeron as a philosophy of the soul, with the perfected creature as the final goal of evolution. Or in the words of the Greek Orthodox writer Alexander Kalomiros, the Hexaemeron is like an immense mystical vision that Moses experienced when he encountered Christ on Mount Sinai. It is therefore wrong to treat Genesis as an astronomical or zoological manual. Alas, this is precisely what generations of Christians have done, often leading to a loss of religious faith among those who take the natural sciences seriously.

Of course, the Holy Fathers were just engaging in amazing twists of logic and contorted justifications in anticipation of what some ignorant atheist with inflated credentials might say 17 centuries later.


In my little corner of the world, there are some semi-racial stereotypes (speak standard English and “dress white” and they go away), but so far as I can tell, no (what I would call) frank racism toward African Americans.

It’s becoming apparent that that some – many? – corners of the world aren’t like mine.

And heaven help you if you’re Muslim in Farmersville, Texas, where burial in the same way Christians traditionally buried their dead can give much of the town a case of the vapors.

Beam me up, Lord.

* * * * *

“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.

One thought on “Tuesday, 7/28/15

  1. “Welcome to the proud community of the politically homeless, Jim.”

    Well, I don’t know about “proud”, but I’m sure about “homeless.” I’ve been a homeless ex-Republican for a while now. (I used to keep a weblog and I remembered writing a post about it (here), but I didn’t realize that it’s close to ten years ago — that’s how long I have been homeless.)

    I’ve been surprised and pleased to see how much common ground there is between homeless ex-Democrats and homeless ex-Republicans. This Kunstler piece is an example of that. One wonders, wistfully and not too hopefully, whether a new political home could be cobbled together for them and for us.

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