Feast of St. Stephen

  1. Nothing succeeds like failure
  2. Judicial UnAmerican Activities Committee
  3. An Evangelical distinctive
  4. If Trump, then what?
  5. Culling and sorting
  6. Sprawl  does not compute
  7. 1st thing we do is not “kill all the lawyers”

If you’re all blissed out from Christmas and don’t want a downer, you might want to start at item 7, which is at least bracing, and finish from there. I understand.


The fault line in American politics is no longer Republican vs. Demorat nor conserative vs. liberal but establishment vs. anti-establishment. This is an inevitable result of serial failure in establishment policies …

Why has the establishment allowed itself to be trapped in serial failure? Once we understand how it works, the answer is plain: it cannot do otherwise. On Capitol Hill, the legalization o bribery — “campaign contributions” — means money rules … If a member of Congress basks, say, the F-35 fighter/bomber, he can count on contributions from its manufacturers and jobs for his state or district. (The Pentagon calls that “strategic contracting.”) If instead he calls for reforming our military so it can perform better in Fourth Generation wars, where fighter/bombers are useless, there’s no money.

My long-time colleague Paul Weyrich and I both began our careers as Senate staff [between the late 60s and 1973]. Shortly before his death in 2008, I said to him, “When we arrived on the Hill, at least half the members of the Senate thought their job had something to do with governing the country. Now that figure is at most 10 percent. All the rest think about is having a successful career as a professional politician and retiring very, very rich.” Paul agreed.

(William Lind, Trapped in FailureAmerican Conservative Jan-Feb 2016)

One of the most haunting aphorisms I’ve encountered of late went something like this: “We used to make weapons to fight wars; now we make wars to sell weapons.”


Justice Kennedy announced that he sought to “teach the nation that [rights to same-sex marriage] are in accord with our society’s most basic compact.” The message to losers is not merely are you churlish but you’re also non-American since the Bill of Rights is constitutive of our identity as Americans.

If one has problems with a judicial un-American Activities Committee, this argues for a thinner conception of legally enforceable rights, for a slimmer Bill of Rights …

What Kennedy ha done was to graft onto the Constitution an open-ended right to respect, derived from Hegel by way of Alexandre Kojève. We suffer a psychic wound when others faie to respect us, and for Kennedy this amounts to an unbounded cause of action …

Worse still is the way in which a right to respect gives the permanently aggrieved an incentive to seek out disrsepect. Robbie Blankenship and his partner Jesse Cruz sought to marry after the Obergefell decision and might have done so in Columbus, Ohio, where they lived. When they heard that court clerk Kim Davis was refusing to issue marriage licenses to gays, however, they got in their car and drove 151 miles to Morehead, Kentucky, to see her, in order to suffer the indignity of being turned down.

What shall we call people who go out of their way for a smack in the face? Today, they’re called social justice warriors. Not too long ago they were called jerks. They also are opportunists, for they seek to exploit the correlative duty that lies behind every enforceable right. If I have a right to respect, you have a duty to show it to me, and woe betide those who fail to do so. You must give it to me good and hard, and I’ll search you out to get it.

[T]here are virtuous people, and some of them are libertarians who supported same-sex marriages, on ideological grounds that elude me … What makes them virtuous is their conviction that gay rights should stop with same-sex marriage, that they shouldn’t be used as a battering ram against the wedding photographer who refuses to participate in a gay marriage or the baker who refuses to bake a gay wedding cake. Nothing is less magnanimous, less chivalrous than the gay-rights supporter who now wants to reenact la guerre franco-française in American by attacking every person and institution that adheres to traditional religious teachings about homosexuality.

(F.H. Buckley, The Virtue That Has No Name, American Conservative Jan-Feb 2016)

Sometimes I quote just because something is well-put. Not this. I agree with this whole-heartedly. I didn’t know that Robbie Blankenship and Jesse Cruz were jerks, but the couples who insist on suing baker A instead of just cussing and going next door to baker B are too numerous, and their accounts of psychic trauma to patternistic, to seem coincidental.

As Indiana Republicans gear up to confirm their total servility to corporate America and the NCAA in 2016 (Business’s motto: “Indiana should oughta have a law like this because people like us like laws like this, capiche?”), I’m starting to grok to case for “Libertarian” instead of “Independent,” as already have a number of Christian conservatives I respect. It’s not perfect, but it beats both major parties.


Two items — the obituary of Vonnette Bright and yet another reckless, slanderous and facially implausible même from an Evangelical friend on Facebook — remind me of a secondary reason I was pleased to shake Evangelical dust from my sandals on my way out 38 or so years ago.

The first, as I’ve said before, was the almost-universal adherence to an eschatology I choked on and battled not to regurgitate when assured that it was true, healthy and good for me. If, God help you, you devoured Tim LaHaye’s prophecy porn Left Behind series, you’re familiar with it.

But the secondary reason was a lack of sober truthfulness.

  • I vaguely recall a Campus Crusade for Christ (that’s the Vonnette Bright nexus) evangelistic program that involved knocking on dorm doors on the pretext of taking an opinion poll. The ruse was to use a “who do you think Jesus was?” question to launch a Four Spiritual Laws presentation. (I am vague on the details. Forgive me any inadvertent misrepresentation. But my charge is too serious not to support with evidence, and item 2 here echoes.)
  • I learned to recognize the demagogue’s tricks in Evangelical sermons: thunderous crescendo followed by intimate stage whisper, etc.
  • I didn’t know it until informed by a member of a proto-praise-band (that man is now very rich and openly apostate), but the Evangelical “Altar Call” (an ironic and itself dishonest label) was frequently larded with lies. “Every head bowed, every eye closed … I see that hand. Is there another?” Those of bowed head and closed eye, like me, didn’t know there was no first hand; the “evangelist” was just priming the pump with a lie.
  • There’s probably more. I don’t keep a score-card, but just get some flash-backs.

Now there’s the Facebook mêmes. Not plausible mistakes, but flat out malicious lies that should set off any sentient being’s crap detector.

These are not Christian attributes. They are Evangelical distinctives.

I don’t know whether my revulsion turned me into the introverted prig I am today (who cringes when extroverts use words like K-Y Jelly and who can barely tell a social fib — Quick!, “does this dress make me look fat?”) or whether the priggishness contributed to my departure. I suspect it was the former — that I keep my mouth shut, if not my fingers still (I seldom click “Send” immediately), to avoid recapitulating a long chapter in my life that I still, despite it all, credit for keeping alive in me an ember of Christian faith (even an occasional open flame) when it would have been easy to lose it.

Life is messy. O Lord our God be with us. We have no other help in time of trouble but Thee.


So fractious is American conservatism that what some of its putative supporters fear (or something like it), others see as a silver lining.

George Will fears that Donald Trump’s nomination will usher in the “end of the conservative party:”

In 2016, a Trump nomination would not just mean another Democratic presidency. It would also mean the loss of what Taft and then Goldwater made possible — a conservative party as a constant presence in U.S. politics.

But Bill Kauffman at the American Conservative muses, after comparing Trump to William Randolph Hearst:

Hearst, reviled by the ruling element of both parties, steered a populist course …

[I]f Trump succeeds in destroying the Republican Party of Karl Rove and Sheldon Adelson and whole coppice of Bushes — why, then he’ll merit a “Citizen Kane” of his own.”

(Bill Kauffman, Why They Love TrumpAmerican Conservative Jan-Feb 2016)

Catherine Rampell settles for a Google News survey.


Several items came off my Wish List as I opened presents on Christmas and found some wish or another fulfilled. So my main list was down to 157 items — mostly books, though I have a long waiting list of books already on hand to read.

Many of the books seem to fit a broad category: Things about which the country or the world is going profoundly wrong and about which I cannot do a darned thing, but which would make my bitching and moaning better-informed.

I’m wondering if I shouldn’t demote those to below-average priority?


Local planner Chuck Banas observes that while Buffalo’s regional population today is roughly the same as it was in 1950, the urbanized footprint of the region has tripled. “Same number of people, three times as much stuff to pay for” is the quip—and it’s true. Physical capital must either be maintained at great cost in perpetuity or ignored and allowed to become a drag on the city.

(Aaron M. Renn) I suspect that Buffalo is not alone. My Fair City has grown its footprint faster than its population as well. So far, we’ve avoided the fate of Buffalo, and it seems that our development mucky-mucks may have gotten the message of centripetus.


The first action to be taken is to pull ourselves together. If we are all going to be destroyed by an atomic bomb, let that bomb when it comes find us doing sensible and human things—praying, working, teaching, reading, listening to music, bathing the children, playing tennis, chatting to our friends over a pint and a game of darts—not huddled together like frightened sheep and thinking about bombs. They may break our bodies (a microbe can do that) but they need not dominate our minds. —

(C.S. Lewis, Present Concerns: On Living in the Atomic Age, quoted at The Imaginative Conservative) If you can’t translate that into 2015, you’re hopeless.

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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.