Thursday 2/9/17

  1. The greatest pleasure
  2. Closing your audience’s eyes and ears
  3. L’affaire Milo
  4. The defense spending red herring
  5. Yes, the web is seamless, but …
  6. Islamic chastity
  7. L’affaire DeVos
  8. Trump at the Prayer Breakfast (Dream Version)


Humility was largely meant as a restraint upon the arrogance and infinity of the appetite of man. He was always outstripping his mercies with his own newly invented needs. His very power of enjoyment destroyed half his joys. By asking for pleasure, he lost the chief pleasure; for the chief pleasure is surprise.

(G.K. Chesterton via Sister Vassa, Humility Makes My World Bigger)


Profanity and obscenity entitle people who don’t want unpleasant information to close their ears and eyes to you.

(Kurt Vonnegut via James Poulos)


The Setup: Robert Reich “wouldn’t bet against” a false flag operation at Berkley, with Milo Whassisname hiring his own anarchists to bust up his speech.

A response:

So let’s see: Yiannopoulos, who is an outsider to Berkeley and generally unwelcome there, succeeds in secretly arranging for more than 100 thugs to assemble in this city and then invade the Berkeley campus and cause more than $100,000 in damage, all to create a pretextual motive for Trump to alter federal funding for the UC system. And Yiannopoulos manages to do this without a single one of the thugs spilling the beans and tipping off the fact that this violent criminal conspiracy is organized by Yiannopoulos, not his opponents.

To even describe the plot is to make clear how phantasmagorical the whole idea is. Occam’s razor applies here. Or, as medical students are taught, when you hear hoofbeats, think horses not zebras. There is no way Yiannopoulos organized these protests, subjecting himself to serious criminal liability and placing the fate of his career on the sealed lips of more than 100 conspirators. Instead, the simplest explanation is the correct one: The persons responsible are left-wing anarchists, as the New York Times (among others) has described in this recent article.

The only thing that remains strange about the events last week is the fact that Berkeley police have proved so inept. While the police were praised for their “restraint” during the riots (and perhaps that praise was justified — I venture no opinion on riot-control tactics), they have been unable to now identify even a single one of these criminals. (Campus police arrested one person, from outside campus, for failing to disperse when ordered and two other persons, again outsiders to the campus, in an unrelated incident.)

The issue that demands attention is: How is it that after more than 100 thugs organized, well in advance, to invade the campus, and police were alerted to the risk of violence, again well in advance, no arrests were made the night of the attack? Indeed, in the days afterward, police following up (are they following up?) are unable to find any digital fingerprints or other pieces of evidence to begin prosecuting those responsible. To be sure, it is possible the attack was organized via the dark Web (i.e., Tor) or some similar sophisticated means of anonymous communication. But why are police so completely incapable of responding to such organized criminality? I’m not convinced we need new laws to address the violence. But if we want to find something “worrying” going on here, the utter inability of the authorities to hold anyone accountable for this dangerous assault — not only on campus facilities but also on free speech (discussed by Eugene here) — should be the focus of our concern.

(Paul Cassell at the Volokh Conspiracy blog, mocking Robert Reich — don’t miss the video on the Reich story where idiotic progressives talk about “hate speech” and “Christian fascists.”)


[D]ebates about how much money the Pentagon should spend are inevitably used to obscure much more important debates about how, exactly, to spend it.

Once you accept this observation, you will be stunned by how often you see it in action. Politicians and even so-called experts bloviate for hours on end about the size of the Pentagon budget without even mentioning what we should spend all that money on. This is maddeningly backwards. After all, a military is not a sum of money, it is something a government uses to serve a national security objective. The budget is the means, not the end.

(Pascal-Emmanuel Gobry)


In response to carping that “if you were really ‘pro-life,’ you’d [support/oppose] [this other thing].”

[E]nding abortion is not only the one policy everyone agrees upon. For pro-lifers, it is also a paradigmatic form of wrong that reveals and shapes how those of us who are walking about treat each other. Emphasis is not an exclusion, but it is not a leveling, either. There is nothing inconsistent about recognizing that some injustices and the laws that allow them are peculiar, and responding accordingly.

Within the pro-life outlook, the hiddenness of the fetus is a microcosm of our social relations. As Gracy Olmstead observed, the Women’s March on Washington’s proclamation that “defending the most marginalized among us is defending all of us” perfectly distills the pro-lifer’s beliefs. “Defending the voiceless, the vulnerable, the marginalized, is priority number one,” Olmstead suggests. After all, “voiceless,” “marginalized,” and “invisible” aptly describe life within the womb.

In the same way, the embryo’s radical dependence upon its mother crystallizes the appropriate moral response to humans in need. The radical dependency the embryo manifests changes form, but never totally dissolves. If our adult lives are no longer at the mercy of only one other person for our nourishment and health, they are yet entangled with political and natural forces that far exceed our control.

The autonomy of our lives is an illusion that our origins within the womb dispels. Such a dependency is compatible with dignity. We might even say, with some philosophers, that the dignity of the human is in part constituted by our dependency, for it allows others the glory of coming to our aid. The embryo thus invokes the strange fusion of joy and obligations that mark the best parts of our world. There is no delight like that of doing good to one another, of meeting a need that no one else can fulfill.

(Matthew Lee Anderson)


[In Islam,] chastity in women consists in conjugal fidelity and in avoiding that which could  incite the husband’s jealousy.  Chastity in men consists in not dealing with wives or slaves that do not belong to him.  Four wives are permitted beyond slaves….In general, in everything which pertains to women, Islam is at a lower level of degradation than paganism; on the other hand, wine and alcoholic drinks are prohibited.

In moral relations, the Koran obliges only external practices, giving little thought to internal dispositions and true justification.

(Fr. Dr. Giovanni Alzog, 1851)


I’m aware that many of my friends opposed Betsy DeVos. In contrast to his pick of Neil Gorsuch for the Supreme Court, I would not list her appointment by Trump as one of his finest moments, my enthusiasm for charter schools and vouchers having waned without my enthusiasm for public schools rising concurrently.

My position is that an observant Christian who sends his or her child to public school in 2017 will be lucky if that child, as an adult, professes even Moralistic Therapeutic Deism under cover of Christianity. It’s not entirely, and perhaps not even mostly, the teachers’ fault; it’s the Gay-Straight Alliances, the virtual necessity now of teaching an aberrant, unnatural, unhistoric and un-Christian view of marriage (with the implication that resistance is bigotry), the decrees from on high regarding potty policy, [even more incendiary examples omitted] and such. You’d have to spend so much time un-indoctrinating that you might as well pull them out and send them to a (carefully selected) Christian school right now – preferably one that doesn’t accept vouchers. Even then, you’d better monitor, and beware sleepovers, because chances are that you kid’s classmates are watching soft-porn “R” movies with their parents and some of the rawer TV offerings. (Benedict Option, anyone? But I digress.)

That said, the fight over the DeVos confirmation was odd.

Why would the entire party apparatus devote weeks of phone calls, emails and advocacy to defeating an education secretary? This isn’t Treasury or Defense. It’s not even a federal department that controls all that much education money, most of which is spent by states and local school districts. Why is Betsy DeVos the one nominee Democrats go all out to defeat?

The answer is the cold-blooded reality of union power and money. The National Education Association and the American Federation of Teachers are, along with environmentalists, the most powerful forces in today’s Democratic Party. They elect Democrats, who provide them more jobs and money, which they spend to elect more Democrats, and so on. To keep this political machine going, they need to maintain their monopoly control over public education.

Mrs. DeVos isn’t a product of that monopoly system. Instead she looked at this system’s results—its student failures and lives doomed to underachievement—and has tried to change it by offering all parents the choice of charter schools and vouchers. Above all, she has exposed that unions and Democrats don’t really believe in their high-minded rhetoric about equal opportunity. They believe in lifetime tenure and getting paid.

(Wall Street Journal, Review & Outlook) That’s half of the nutshell: charter schools and vouchers threaten teacher union power. Democrats hate that — and Republicans love it.

The other half may be that even teachers who aren’t especially enamored of their unions may think public school experience is necessary for heading a Department whose power they overestimate.

And then the other other half of this three-halved nutshell may be the imminent withdrawal of a bunch of “Dear Colleague” letters beloved of ideologues who think sex and gender are entirely independent of each other.

For whatever reason, the Democrats on this one even whipped Cory Booker into line — he who has said some heretical things about educational opportunity.

More on l’affaire DeVos:

[N]one of the things that liberals profess to fear the most about a Trump era revolve around education policy. If Trump is planning to surrender Eastern Europe to the Russians or start a world war with the Chinese, perhaps his secretary of state nominee deserved an all-night talkathon of opposition. If he’s bent on domestic authoritarianism with a racist tinge, then it’s Jeff Sessions, his attorney general, who presents the natural target for Democratic protest. If the biggest problem is that Trump will nominate allies who are unqualified for their responsibilities, then the choice of Ben Carson to run the Department of Housing and Urban Development seems like an obvious place to draw a line.

But somehow it was DeVos who became, in the parlance of cable-news crawls, Trump’s “most controversial nominee.” Never mind that Trump’s logorrheic nationalism barely has time for education. Never mind that local control of schools makes the Education Department a pretty weak player. Never mind that Republican views on education policy are much closer to the expert consensus than they are on, say, climate change. Never mind that the bulk of DeVos’s school-choice work places her only somewhat to the right of the Obama administration’s pro-charter-school positioning, close to centrist Democrats like Senator Cory Booker. None of that mattered: Against her and (so far) only her, Democrats went to the barricades, and even dragged a couple of wavering Republicans along with them.

… [I]n DeVos, we have an education secretary who perhaps errs a little too much on the side of choice-as-panacea, overseeing (with limited powers) an American education bureaucracy that pretty obviously errs the other way. And wherever you come down on striking the right balance, it’s hard to see this situation as empirically deserving the level of political controversy that’s attached

(Ross Douthat) Douthat agrees that teacher union power is the primary reason for the DeVos opposition, but identifies an interesting runner-up:

Second, even in the age of surging blue-collar populism, upper-middle-class suburbanites haven’t lost their influence, and they generally like their public schools and regard school choice as a threat rather than a promise … It’s the same dynamic that made it easy to defeat a modest expansion of charter schools in Massachusetts last November: Not only teachers-union-loving Democrats but also lots of Republican-leaning suburbanites, having bought (literally) into the existing system, tend to sympathize with liberal warnings that too much choice could leave their own kids worse off.


I would’ve been moved if he had said a prayer at the Prayer Breakfast. A classic Christian prayer, such as “Lord God, You know that I am unworthy to be here as president … You know that I am not capable of executing my duties as the American people deserve. Lord, I come to You in my unworthiness and shame and I ask You to take this cup from me. I wish to go to Iowa and join the Trappist monastery there and take vows of silence and poverty and learn carpentry or some other useful trade and draw nearer to You in poverty and prayer. This I pray in Your Name. Amen and Amen.”

(Garrison Keillor)

* * * * *

“The truth is that the thing most present to the mind of man is not the economic machinery necessary to his existence; but rather that existence itself; the world which he sees when he wakes every morning and the nature of his general position in it. There is something that is nearer to him than livelihood, and that is life.” (G.K. Chesterton)

Some succinct standing advice on recurring themes.