Monday 11/7/16

  1. Relatively absolute
  2. The aspirin of our era
  3. Assessing a candidate with no government track record
  4. America First?

Secondary Things


We are, in MacIntyre’s improvement on Aristotle’s classic definition, “tradition-dependent rational animals,” or as Paul Griffiths puts it, “confessional”:

To be confessional is simply to be open about one’s historical and religious locatedness, one’s specificity, an openness that is essential for serious theological work and indeed for any serious intellectual work that is not in thrall to the myth of the disembodied and unlocated scholarly intellect.

If MacIntyre is right, the particular beliefs we hold to be true, as well as the ideas we consider indisputable, the facts we deem self-evident, the allegiances to which we are committed, the traditions we revere, the authorities we recognize, the customs we cherish, the attitudes we adopt, in short, the overall picture we embrace of God, man, and the world, although perhaps quite true in an absolute and universal objective sense, is, nevertheless, relative and particular in a subjective sense. Our beliefs, even though perhaps universally true beliefs, are still bound to a particular historical and cultural tradition in their genealogy and intelligibility. We do not discover the truth of our beliefs on our own as much as we inherit and receive them from and through others. We do not obtain knowledge autonomously, as mere individuals, and in abstraction from that which is relative and particular in our lives, but in solidarity withothers, as members of a community, and in virtue of our relative and particular histories and cultures, that is, our traditions. Contra the Enlightenment, there is no “view-from-nowhere” to which we can climb, no “tradition-independent” rationality we can exercise, no “universal reason” we can access to enable us fully to escape the relative and particular character of human knowledge.

(Thaddeus Kozinski, Becoming Children of Modernity, emphasis added)

Tertiary Things


40 years or so ago, DMSO (Dimethyl sulfoxide) was all the rage — at least on CBS’s 60 Minutes. For some reason, it popped into my head, and I wondered what had become of it.

[I]n the United States, DMSO has Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approval only for use as a preservative of organs for transplant and for interstitial cystitis, a bladder disease. It has fallen out of the limelight and out of the mainstream of medical discourse, leading some to believe that it was discredited. The truth is more complicated.

Why, if DMSO possesses half the capabilities claimed by Dr. Jacob and others, is it still on the sidelines of medicine in the United States today?

“It’s a square peg being pushed into a round hole,” says Dr. Jacob. “It doesn’t follow the rifle approach of one agent against one disease entity. It’s the aspirin of our era. If aspirin were to come along today, it would have the same problem. If someone gave you a little white pill and said take this and your headache will go away, your body temperature will go down, it will help prevent strokes and major heart problems–what would you think?”

Others cite DMSO’s principal side effect: an odd odor, akin to that of garlic, that emanates from the mouth shortly after use, even if use is through the skin. Certainly, this odor has made double-blinded studies difficult. Such studies are based on the premise that no one, neither doctor nor patient, knows which patient receives the drug and which the placebo, but this drug announces its presence within minutes.

Others, such as Terry Bristol, a Ph.D. candidate from the University of London and president of the Institute for Science, Engineering and Public Policy in Portland, Oregon, who assisted Dr. Jacob with his research in the 1960s and 1970s, believe that the smell of DMSO may also have put off the drug companies, that feared it would be hard to market. Worse, however, for the pharmaceutical companies was the fact that no company could acquire an exclusive patent for DMSO, a major consideration when the clinical testing required to win FDA approval for a drug routinely runs into millions of dollars. In addition, says Mr. Bristol, DMSO, with its wide range of attributes, would compete with many drugs these companies already have on the market or in development.

(Maya Muir, DMSO: Many Uses, Much Controversy, at

So the moral of the story is … well, that pretty complicated, too, isn’t it? It’s hard to test and nobody’s got an incentive to test it to FDA standards. I’m gratified at least that the government has not outlawed it, but I haven’t taken the time to remind myself what all it’s supposed to cure or ameliorate.

Imagine that! A substance the ingestion or topic application of which is neither government sanctioned nor forbidden! Our Founders would be — briefly, until they saw our Presidential campaign ads — proud of us.


In trying to judge a candidate who has never been in office before, but has instead been in business, you might reasonably ask questions about his character to make good guesses about how he would be in elected office. Possible questions might include: Is he an honest businessman? Does he pay his bills? Does he treat people with respect? Does he keep his personal promises? Does he hire honest advisers? Does he make business decisions carefully based on a review of the relevant evidence? Can he take criticism? Has he paid his taxes properly?

Orin Kerr has some unexpurgated answers, with hyperlink support, to his questions as applied to Donald Trump. I’ll let those of you who might yet be undecided click the link for a look.

Kerr has some theories on why Trump took hold, too:

It’s also worth marveling at how Trump is the Teflon presidential candidate …

Why is that?

Here’s my pet theory. I think the reason is that Trump has a deeply ingrained public persona that is tremendously likable. To be clear, I’m not saying that persona is accurate. To the contrary, the truth appears to be the opposite. Trump is, as he might put it, a “nasty man.”

But if you want to know why Trump gets away with everything, remember that Trump has been a U.S. icon for three decades. Trump is a symbol of success to a lot of people. He’s brash, he’s confident and he has made a ton of money in business. He’s so charming that he has all the models chasing after him. The name “Trump” means wealth, success, money and power. And it has meant that for decades in a uniquely accessible way. Trump isn’t snooty or out-of-touch. Instead, he’s seen as a down-to-earth guy who took risks and won big. The Acela crowd can laugh at how there is (or was) Trump vodka, Trump steaks, Trump shirts, and Trump everything. But there’s Trump everything because “Donald Trump” is a genuine brand to a lot of people. To a lot of people, Trump is gold.

I suspect that the Trump brand offers at least part of the explanation for why Trump gets away with things no one else could.

For whatever reason, to the very slight extent to which I’ve noticed Trump over the decades, I have never found his “deeply ingrained public persona … tremendously likable.” nor have I considered his name synonymous with “success.” Maybe that’s why I could never drink his Kool-Aid.


As I pulled the Republican lever [in 1992], only a little reluctantly (“New World Order,” George H.W. had said; as scary then as now), I felt like an oozing oil spill had just been dumped on my head—you know, slime that will not rub or wash off.  The spill was not the New World Order; it was the Clintons. They had not yet formed the firm of Soros, Saudi and Saul (Alinsky) that became the Clinton Foundation, the millstone hanging around the collective necks of the Baby-Boomers, just as Watergate seemed to weigh down the No-Namers.  But the slime was palpable.  They were a 60s couple who had used Ivy League connections, a certain soulless intelligence, and a failed governorship in a failed small state to ooze their way to the edges of the Ruling Elite.  Nobody who had watched their arrogant exercise in self-definition on television, on 60 Minutes, trying to paper over charges of marital and sexual improprieties and rumors of corruption, could fail to feel at least a little dirty when it came time to vote. I remember thinking, please God, let there be just enough of that good old American common sense and republican virtue left to turn these grifters down. Alas.

The Clintons are the corrupt remnants of a regime that in its Wilsonian world view long ago ceased to represent the promise of progress, equality and democracy to ordinary Americans. Insofar as they have an idea for their country it is a half-hearted egalitarian globalist imperialism, dominated implicitly by the old “dominant dogma of the age” (as Walter Lippmann long ago called it), that government has the ability to make us happy. They lack the imagination and the will to get any farther than to make a lot of money off the decay of the ruling elite, the coattails on which they have barely been able to cling. Hillary at her best would be no good for what America needs.

America First was originally a loose coalition of farmers, patricians, cantankerous individualists, old-fashioned Christians, small businessmen, states-righters, socialists, novelists and others, “pacifically tinged” and “antonymic to Wilsonian busybodyism” (Bill Kauffman’s words), who were convinced that plutocrats and imperialists were hell-bent on converting the United States from a republic into a social democratic militarist state. Which they did, in little more than a generation.  Republicans like Robert Taft of Ohio and the ubiquitous Pat Buchanan have been the best spokesmen for a latter-day America First, but it is still a big and (truly) diverse common sensical mass movement. Despite baseless charges of “racism” and “isolationism,” it is both backward (conservative) looking and optimistic.

What does it stand for now? A strong country, which nevertheless refrains from going off around the world to slay dragons or impose a fanciful system of “democratic capitalism.” A country with borders, which imports people under the rule of law who wish to assimilate into a constitutional republic. A prosperous country, which works out trade according to its own interests first and under the abstraction of completely free exchange second. A country of opportunity, attentive particularly to the truth that a very large middle class is the backbone of freedom. A country where the liberty of family and local community is balanced with the widest possible freedom for the discreet individual, and where the order of the commonwealth is predicated upon the order of the soul. Translated into current issues this can be stated as better control of immigration chaos, economic policy that favors American jobs and less taxes and regulation on productive business, a much more modest foreign policy, especially in regard to war in the middle east and mindless hostility toward Russia, the end of oppressive government controls over health and education, and common sense applied to an increasingly divisive and heavy-handed culture of political correctness. And much greater attention to religious liberty than has been the case for the past fifty years.

(John Wilson)

Tell the truth now: didn’t at least some of that feel pretty good?

* * * * *

“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 “Monday 11/7/16

  1. didn’t at least some of that feel pretty good?

    All of it felt pretty good; some of it felt really good.

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