Saturday, 3/12/16

  1. Toasting the end of the Republic
  2. Forever 1980
  3. Berning Hillary
  4. Straw men and deep states
  5. Jeez! I believe. What more does He want?
  6. GayCon
  7. Academic jerks


Sardonic Ex Curia addresses Trump:

We are through with politics. We will not hold our nose. We will not look away. We will not vote. We will stay home, we will cook and drink wine and toast the end of the Republic. If you win the presidency, it is clearly a spot for sale even as the Roman Emperorship was sold. We cannot participate in this. So we will not.

Take heed Mr. Trump. Your political rise ends with your nomination. “Candidate” will be the last public slot you hold. You may think that we will vote for you because the other side is Hilary Clinton. You are mistaken. In the spot for the lesser of two evils, home and nonvoting is the only option.

Well, maybe a Libertarian or other protest vote is an option, too. But how do  you cast a protest vote when one of the two still-major party candidates is himself a walking, grunting bundle of protest?


Though a conservative, I have not considered myself a Republican for almost a decade, and have come to expect nothing from the Republican Party except more of the same stupid mistakes and policies that brought the country low under the Bush presidency (for which I voted twice). But I had come to think of myself as one of those TAC eccentrics, standing outside of institutional conservatism, throwing brickbats. There seemed to be no cracking the bubble. The GOP machine was going to keep churning out candidates for whom it was always 1980, and that was just how it was going to be.

Michael Cooper Jr. writes:

As productivity climbed, working-class Americans wanted their wages to rise also. Instead, Republicans gave them tax cuts for the rich while liberal Democrats called them racists and bigots.

Yep. And I would add that Republicans gave them needless foreign wars. Who needs a conservative party like that? A conservative activist chided me on Twitter yesterday for not getting behind Ted Cruz, who is “a Reagan conservative.” As if the Soviet Union were still a menace, and there was no economic problem that couldn’t be fixed by tax cuts and deregulation.

(Rod Dreher)

As Dreher himself might say, “Yes. This.” This is what bother me most about most of the conservatives I know personally. Forever 1980. Forever slavish imitation of Reagan, except for Reagan’s sunny optimism. Oblivious to the world we live in.

Their only argument that resonates with me is “do you want Hillary or Bernie appointing two or three justices?” (Note the pathetic premise: the main function of a POTUS is to shape our real rulers, SCOTUS.)

The question is rhetorical, of course, but I really have no confidence that any of the Republicans except Cruz would appoint vastly more suitable nominees. But Cruz has promised a berserk increase in “defense” spending (4%+ of GDP), has insulted Middle Eastern Christians who won’t slavishly cheer for all things Israel, and has murmured darkly about making Syrian sand glow in the dark. With all those new weapons, he’d just about have to attack someone to justify it all.

As a person who values all innocent human life, not just unborn American babies, how can I vote for Cruz?


The Democratic Party fight between Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders—one likely to extend through the very last primaries if not all the way to the convention—might be compared to the contest between Ronald Reagan and Gerald Ford in 1976. A beloved movement figure is taking on an exhausted yet entrenched establishment, running much better than anyone expected. But like Reagan, even in defeat, Sanders clearly represents the future of the party.

Sanders’s historic socialist identity is seen as anomalous and exotic by the media and worn as a badge of radical daring by supporters. But does his implicit critique of contemporary liberalism qualify as “socialist”? It seems the term has become as useless an ideological descriptor as “liberal” or “conservative.”

Yet one can say that Sanders’s critique fits in squarely with the older liberalism typified by the heyday of Americans for Democratic Action, a group that owed much to the historic American Socialist tradition and represented the best civil libertarian qualities of the Cold War era. Sanders is also squarely in the tradition of the Socialist Party politicians elected in the first half of the 20th century in places as far flung as Milwaukee, Schenectady, Butte, Minneapolis, Reading, and Bridgeport: these places saw candidates who succeeded through delivering on core constituency services and clean government. Like them, Sanders’s first election as mayor of Burlington in 1981 was due to a property tax revolt (and the opportunistic support of the police union). What later earned him up to 70 percent of the statewide vote in Vermont were historically favorable ratings from the NRA and zeal in securing veterans benefits.

Thus it would be a mistake to see Sanders as a mere throwback to the domestic agenda of FDR and Truman. In his unbowed emphasis on blasting away at the plutocratic class, Bernie has been much more like Louisiana populist Huey Long than socialists and progressives such as Norman Thomas or Henry Wallace. And it is equally mistaken to suppose that he would be in the mainstream center-left in Europe—his rise has clearly occurred in parallel with Jeremy Corbyn in Britain’s Labour Party and various anti-EU leftist parties on the continent.

(Jack Ross)


From the blog Crooked Timber:

Ultimately the problem is not with p-values but with null-hypothesis significance testing, that parody of falsificationism in which straw-man null hypothesis A is rejected and this is taken as evidence in favor of preferred alternative B.

Now I have no idea what a p-value or a null-hypothesis is, and it seems a little late in the game to drop soul work in favor of mastering those concepts. But I’ve certainly seen, and probably deployed, straw men in order to demolish them in the service of my preferred alternative.

The version of this that oftenest gets my attention these days is the idea that the collapse of communism vindicates capitalism, including our damned crony capitalism and the globalization that Big Capital so adores. Omitted from the discussion are third ways, including Democratic Socialism (think Bernie Sanders) and Distributism (think G.K. Chesteron, Hillaire Belloc, and numerous Catholic encyclicals of social teaching).

We seem to be in a bloodless revolution politically. The mood seems to be “we’ve got nothing to lose with Trump.” Well, we may have something to lose, but if we’re going to smash something on a “nothing to lose” theory, I’d nominate crony capitalism.

There are basically two philosophies of mind.

1) Aristotle: Man is the rational animal.
2) Puck: What fools these mortals be!

(Crooked Timber)

Here endeth the free association of your scribe.

No, there it endeth not, as Pat Buchanan gives me another example.

Buchanan, who has never officially endorsed Trump so far as I know, has been so relentless in his attacks on the “deep state” machinations against Trump that it almost feels like “the enemy of my enemy is my friend.” And then he has the audacity to make the medicine palatable to me in the last third of his article, by reminding me that we routinely work abroad as the Sea Island deep-staters are now working on us at home. Do read it, but read it carefully and critically.

To be sure, we’re at a very perilous moment in our history. If the Sea Island conspirators succeed in thwarting a democratic election of Trump, and the crypto-coup is too transparent, things could blow up worse than if Trump were elected.

Have I mentioned lately that I don’t want to live in a failed state?


While 88 percent of American evangelicals are “absolutely certain” they believe in God, only 58 percent say they attend weekly services.

(Who Are Trump’s Christians? in The National Interest) If you add “self-described” before the word “evangelical” in the block quote, you may illuminate the reason why (self-described) “evangelicals” can be so infuriating at times.

Russell Moore of the Southern Baptist Convention — arguably the Gold Standard of Evangelicalism — may be one of our age’s positive Black Swans a real godsend:

Russell Moore, the Southern Baptist Convention’s most influential political thinker, has distanced himself from the label “evangelical” itself, after years of seeing it “co-opted by heretics and lunatics.”


The Conservative Political Action Conference once again took up the subject of same-sex marriage last week …

Panelist Guy Benson, a political editor at and Fox News contributor … opened up about his sexual orientation in order to provide relative context to a chapter on the issue of gay rights, context which he “owed” readers. When Megyn Kelly asked how Benson reconciled gay rights and religious freedom, Benson argued that though he appreciates the fight led by many to allow him to speak openly about his sexual orientation, the left often “crosses a threshold into punishing and purging dissenters,” violating individual’s freedom to practice religion without attack.

Later on in the panel discussion, Benson spoke against individuals in favor of gay marriage who demand “mandatory celebration, or we are coming after you.” Instead, he emphasized the need for coexistence within American society. In terms of exercising religious freedoms, he argued that civil disagreements become impossible when advocates threaten to sue those with traditional values “out of business,” referencing a florist in Washington state and a photographer in New Mexico, both of whom were hammered with government fines and the media’s disgust after exercising their right to maintain their conscience. Again, Benson was met with considerable agreement among the panel as Hemingway argued against the court’s “favoritism” toward one group over another. Anderson reflected that“people in robes” should not impose their personal bias on an entire nation.

(Ashley Bloemhof)


A handful of times in my career at Wheaton College I had students who didn’t think that we should be reading literature at all. The protestors were always people who didn’t really grasp the distinction between a Bible college and a Christian liberal-arts college, and were deeply and genuinely grieved that in a school that formally upheld the authority of Holy Scripture students would be asked to read books written by atheists and pagans.

I think I was kind to these people, and would offer to meet with them in my office to talk about their concerns. But on two or three occasions a student wanted to use class time to conduct a debate about whether Christians were allowed to read non-Christian books — something that, beyond a fairly brief statement about why I think Christians are not just permitted to read such books but often should read such books, I was disinclined to do.

This was more of a pedagogical than a theological decision. There indeed could have been value, and not just for the protesting student, in going back to something like First Educational Principles and articulating a defense of a Christian liberal arts model, quoting Augustine (“All truth is God’s truth, wherever it is found”; “spoiling the Egyptians”) and all that. But in my judgment that class was, to quote a wise man, not the venue. The more time I spent making such arguments, the less time I could spend on the literature that I had been hired to teach. So, at the risk of frustrating people who had legitimate questions, I always made the call to cut that debate short.

(Alan Jacobs, How to Deal with Skeptical Students Without Being a Jerk) After this description, Jacobs shows how a UC Berkley prof from the liberal side blew it in brutally and sloppily setting boundaries in his first lecture of the class.

This approach is, coincidentally or not, substantially what public school biology teachers should say, and how they should behave, in districts where they know there will be Creationism or Intelligent Design proponents in their classes.

* * * * *

“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.