Sunday 4/10/16

  1. The members-only clubs that obsess us
  2. A painful simile
  3. An Urgent Message to New Orthodoxen
  4. Woohoo! “Discernment!” Party time!


As the odds rise of a contested Republican presidential convention,Donald Trump’s and Ted Cruz’s camps are insisting that one of them must be the nominee. The Trump argument is that even if he falls short of the 1,237 delegates needed to secure the nomination, denying it to him at the convention would amount to antidemocratic theft. Mr. Cruz appears to think that finishing second means finishing first if the guy who beat him can’t win on the initial convention ballot.

Eric O’Keefe is here to say: whoa. The veteran Republican grass-roots activist sees a contested convention as a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for the delegates of a private political party to assert their power. The results of the GOP primaries are hardly representative of the party’s will, Mr. O’Keefe says, because state parties have been wrecked by domineering state legislatures. Why should Republicans bow down, for instance, to the results of state-mandated open primaries that allow liberal and independent voters to bum-rush what is supposed to be a private poll?

Mr. O’Keefe has been researching the history of conventions and collecting material for meetings with GOP convention delegates to present his case. He will tell them that they have an obligation to nominate a better general-election candidate than Mr. Trump—not merely to spare the country from Mr. Trump’s policies, but to reassert the party’s constitutional right to operate as a wholly private, autonomous political actor.

(Kimberly A. Strassel at the Wall Street Journal: The Case for a Really Open GOP Convention)

There’s a lot to like here, but I couldn’t get away from asking “why should ‘a private political party,’ ‘a wholly private, autonomous political actor,’ have privileged access to our ballots?”

I suspect that Mr. O’Keefe would have a very interesting answer to that, with his libertarian background a political background that includes “[finding] himself in government crosshairs and ordered not to talk about it.” (He talked anyway and won.)

But the question of privileged ballot access is one that apparently didn’t interest the WSJ but did interest the New York Times:

If supporters of Mr. Trump and Mr. Sanders feel stymied by the delegate process, that is because it was designed years ago precisely to make it difficult for candidates like them to become their nominee — candidates who party leaders believe, rightly or wrongly, could never win in November.

Like with any private members-only club — political parties are not official government entities — the party leaders exercise considerable control over which candidate gets their endorsement and the attendant privilege of using their political infrastructure, financial support and loyal voter base, without which winning in November is all but impossible.

(Emphasis added)


[T]he latest meme spreading across the web wires is how deeply the voters divide by sex: men flocking around Trump (or Machine Gun Ted Cruz), and the ladies standing at each mighty column of Hillary’s azure pant-suit. Yes, a national war of the sexes. Just what we need with all our shit falling apart. This sorry diversion results not from the triumph of feminism, as widely believed, but actually from the failure of American manhood. Proof of that, of course, is the ascendance of Trump, this punch-line of a political leader with all the gravitas of a hood ornament …

Trump and Hillary are like two giant fistulas obstructing the national bowel. Of course, a lot of sentient Americans do not want their nation dying on the toilet like Elvis. The indignity of it! In the name of the founding fathers, please, someone, fetch the enema bag ….

(James Howard Kunstler, 3/28/16) Kunstler should be more widely known. I’m doing my part.


One of the most urgent messages American converts [to Orthodoxy] need to hear is this: American culture is not Christian. If we are to become Christ-like, allowing the Holy Spirit to regenerate us, we will have to reject familiar and beloved things. Most converts to Orthodox Christianity know this. Still, conversion is not as simple as rejecting one’s old church. We must reject our old anti-Christian thoughts, attitudes, philosophies, and ways of life, especially those which are nearly unconscious, ingrained into our daily lives, and sometimes even labelled “Christian.”

(Susan Anderson, The Benefit of Russian History for American Converts)


I am pleased to see in Sunday’s New York Times some appropriate use of scare-quotes:

Pope Francis issued a proclamation on family life that avoided laying out rules in favor of empowering priests to use their own “discernment.” The document urged local pastors to offer “wounded families” more mercy than judgment, seemingly opening the way for divorced and remarried Catholics to receive sacraments. But the pope held the church’s line against gay unions.

Ross Douthat elsewhere in the Times talks about the Pope’s apostolic exhortation, in the context of the uneasy truce-on-the-ground that has allowed Rome to endure the sexual revolution without formal schism, as “a new papal teaching … in favor of the truce itself.

I sense among the Orthodox clergy of my acquaintance an appreciation of the gravity of using discernment for the cure of wounded souls (i.e., all of us). I have never been Roman Catholic, but I sense (perhaps my reading has been skewed) that far too many of its clergy may be more inclined to treat “discernment” as a declaration of “Party Time! I’m okay; you’re okay. And I’m a fun guy to be around!” Whence cometh my commendation of the scare quotes.

At the same time, I can see the Pope’s logic as a matter of survival in hard times. The Church has an uneasy truce with incorrigible economic sins in faux-Christian America in order to survive and to save some; now sexual sins get their turn.

* * * * *

“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.