Sunday, 8/23/15

  1. Better than their follies?
  2. The $75 tipping point
  3. Unctuous must be a tipping point, too
  4. It’s all process
  5. Westboro Baptist: not exactly “kiss-and-tell”


The newest Planned Parenthood video is out and, from the descriptions, it’s the most horrifying yet.

Yes, I have found it unbearable to watch any of them. If you want to know the central horror of the new one, you can read the comments to the YouTube video. I won’t slime you with it.

Anthony Esolen:

I live in a country that gave birth to an organization conceived in lies and dedicated for the purpose of murder. It is called, with a wry irony that escapes us, “Planned Parenthood.” If you are a young woman and you go to “Planned Parenthood” and say, “I am with child, and I need help to bear it and to care for it, because its father and I are not married, and I am poor,” the people at “Planned Parenthood” will not assist you one bit. They will not give you food or clothing for the baby. They will not put you in touch with people who open their homes to unwed mothers. They at “Planned Parenthood” will do nothing for your parenthood at all.

They will kill the baby in your womb, that they will, and make a nifty living from it …

Most of the media, that vast windowless Ministry of Truth, ignore the lies …

I live in a nation conceived in liberty, raised high in empire, and fallen into moral lassitude, impotence, and automatism. God help me, but I still believe that my countrymen are better than the follies they believe. But no puddle in the alley behind the fire escapes is so muddy, so rank, and so shallow as are their souls of my countrymen ….

Sociologist Jonathan B. Imber is more hopeful:

[T]hinking about how to react to the sale and uses of “baby parts” requires much less in the way of sophistication and rationalization. Several decades ago, the venerable Leon Kass wrote in an article about the disgust that most of us would imagine experiencing if we were informed that the delicious caviar that we thought we were eating was in fact human “products of conception.” That was then the disgust of a common sense that remains, I would wager, pretty much in place in our culture, despite the strange contortions required to defy it. Thank goodness.

This concludes, however, a discussion that features the verbal gymnastics of a non-abortionist physician who defends Planned Parenthood with anodyne evasions such as that what they’ve been caught at “is not illegal” and that it’s not “baby parts” but “products of conception.” Imber is more charitable toward her than I’m inclined to be.


As long as I’m in a depressive mood:

We will look back on the shale oil frenzy of 2005 to 2015 as a very interesting industrial stunt borne of desperation. It gave a floundering industry something to do with all its equipment and its trained personnel, and it gave wishful hucksters something to wish for, but it never penciled-out economically. Shale oil production turned down in 2015 and the money will not be there to get the production back to where it was before the price crash. Ever.

Industrial economies face a fatal predicament: Oil above $75/barrel crushes economies; under $75/barrel it crushes oil companies. We’ve oscillated back and forth between those conditions since 2005. The net effect in the USA is that the middle class is rapidly going broke. All the financial shenanigans aimed at propping up Wall Street and Potemkin stock markets was carried out at the expense of the middle class, now deprived of jobs, incomes, vocations, stability, and prospects. They may already be at the point where they can’t afford oil at any price. That “energy deflation” dynamic, in the words of Steve Ludlum at the Economic Undertow blog, is a self-reinforcing feedback loop that beats a path straight to epochal paradigm shift: get smaller, get local, get real, or get out.


The Republican establishment is facing revolts from both the populist right and the centrist, working-class segment of the Republican center.

The Party’s establishment has forfeited the trust of so many kinds of Republicans because of choices it made in the aftermath of the GOP’s defeat in the 2012 election. The Republican establishment could have acted as a broker within the party. The leaders could have sought common ground within the factions of their coalition, while trying to reach persuadable votes. That would have been statesmanship. Instead, the Republican establishment chose to act as a faction that advanced the interests and priorities of the donor and lobbyist classes.

Why are so many social conservatives, tea partiers, and working-class moderates supporting Trump? How is it that so many Republican-leaners are willing to say that they support someone who plays a belligerent monster on television? Maybe it is because the RNC, and the Republican congressional leadership (among others), have convinced much of the public that the Republican establishment is composed of slimy, unctuous weasels. Perhaps the Republican establishment should try statesmanship for a change.

(Pete Spiliakos) Why are GOP voters so hard on guys who add “unctuous” to Trump’s “slimy weasel”?


Others have quoted, with good reason, from the end of the GQ story on Stephen Colbert, but I kind of liked this from the middle:

And then he talked about the Food Network show Chopped. The reason he loves Chopped is that it’s a show that is wholly about process, about creation within a limited range of possibilities. “This show,” he said, meaning The Late Show, “is Chopped. Late-night shows are Chopped. Who are your guests tonight? Your guests tonight are veal tongue, coffee grounds, and gummy bears. There, make a show.… Make an appetizer that appeals to millions of people. That’s what I like. How could you possibly do it? Oh, you bring in your own flavors. Your own house band is another flavor. You have your own flavor. The audience itself is a base dish, like a rice pilaf or something. And then together it’s ‘Oh shit, that’s an actual meal.’ And that’s what every day is like at one of these shows. Something is one thing in the morning, and then by the end of the day it’s a totally different thing. It’s all process.”

The guy is amazing, but I’m too young to stay up that late.


New Atheist Sam Harris interviews Megan Phelps Roper, who left her grandfather’s Westboro Baptist Church about two years ago.

Harris was much, much less obnoxious than I feared he would be. Megan’s story of how Fred Phelps’ became such an offensive provocateur, focused on protest of homosexuality, was also told much more sympathetically than I expected. If you have 70 or so spare minutes, it’s worth a listen.

I didn’t know how deep Megan’s antipathy toward Westboro was. The answer is “indiscernible,” but that’s not symmetrical with how Westboro feels about anyone who has seen, then forsaken, their “light.”

The lesson I take from this is not “see how dangerous religion is?” but “see how dangerous private interpretation of Scripture is?” Once Fred Phelps got alarmed by two pedophile gay men trying to lure his son, and got no satisfaction from the Topeka City Council, he started finding all kinds of irrefutable and crystal-clear scriptural proof – which he remarkably had overlooked until then – for God’s unique hatred of gays (as contrasted with His continued love and tender care for Fred’s fornicating daughter and her love child) and the necessity of America making gay sodomy a capital offense (in the highly improbable event that it should repent of it’s homophile ways and want to prove the bona fides of its repentance).

Yup: irrefutable and crystal clear. That’s why Megan is now anathema. It seems to me sometimes that there’s direct correlation between the extremity of a sect’s deviation from historic Church consensus and the ferocity with which they proclaim it “irrefutable and clear.”

Interesting side-light: the Phelps clan reportedly investigated the parents of fallen soldiers before picketing the funeral, just to be sure they were detestable people and thus worthy of hateful posturing over their child’s corpse. I wondered what dirt they managed to dig up on the wonderful couple of my acquaintance whose fallen son’s funeral they picketed — until I learned from Megan that a news story about the family’s observance Halloween or even Christmas would suffice.

* * * * *

“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.