Potpourri, 7/25/17 (evening)

  1. Yes, but then there’s this;
  2. Paralipsis + “no buck stops here”;
  3. Closing Camp Dash;
  4. O.J. as historic figure;
  5. Religion and rationality;
  6. Ranking our existential threats;
  7. Dear NPR;
  8. Charlie Gard.


I just don’t get tattoos.

You can take that literally (I have no tattoos and no desire to get one) or colloquially (I do not understand the appeal of them).

But then there’s this:


The backstory from Abbot Tryphon:

One of my spiritual sons, John (Shayne) Swenson, a convert to Orthodoxy, has supported his wonderful family in Spokane, WA, as a tattoo artist. Early on in his sojourn with Orthodoxy, he and his wife took their children to a town in another part of the state in order to visit a miraculous icon of the Holy Virgin that had been brought to that parish for veneration. As they stepped into the nave of the church, a number of people, upon seeing their tattoos, pulled their children away from the Swenson’s. Needless to say, the Swenson family left in embarrassment and tears.

I share this story as a reminder of how we should never judge anyone else, either by appearance, or assumption. John (his baptismal name), has been granted an incredible gift as an iconographer, and one well known Serbian fresco painter referred to John’s natural abilities as tantamount to being miraculous.

These icons are just some of his work, and I offer these examples for your edification. Should any of my readers desire to commission John, be assured by his spiritual father (me), that he has not only become an accomplished iconographer almost overnight, but he is a humble man, a wonderful husband to his wife, and a loving father to his dear children.

Visit Abbot Tryphon’s site to see some of John’s iconography.

Maybe we should think about it this way: some bad life choices about indelible ink pale in comparison with some of the stuff in my closet. How ’bout yours? And don’t forget Fr. Turbo Qualls and his artistry, which, yes, I still don’t get. What is it about “hospital for sinners” you don’t understand?


George Bernard Shaw, Winston Churchill, Groucho Marx, Mark Twain, W.C. Fields, Bertrand Russell, H.G. Wells, Woodrow Wilson, Lord Beaverbrook or someone once may or may not have said something I apparently need not repeat but which ends with “We have established what you are—we are simply haggling about the price.”

When you’ve got the big picture, the details may seem somewhat less urgent. I have concluded that nothing I’ve read over the last six months about the occupant of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue has added anything fundamental to what I understood of his unsuitability from the moment he first won a primary election.

And since I’ve also had my little epiphany on why reading such things reduced me to rants (my first personal case of [Presidential] Derangement Syndrome), I’ve lost the sense of urgency about sharing them.

Yup. I don’t even feel compelled to share something as perceptive as this. It’s only haggling about the price.

About one thing, though, I’ve not opined much, and it seems timely: Donald Trump’s accelerating attacks on members of his own cabinet suggest that he may know “the end is near” and he’s looking for scapegoats, since it is one of the unalterable laws of the universe that people with his types of personality disorders are not, and can never be, personally responsible for anything bad happening. No buck stops there.


Purdue University runs a summer program called “Camp Dash.” Dash is “Dietary Approaches to Stopping Hypertension.” Campers aged 11-15 are paid $750 to participate in a residential program involving them in experiments on the effect of salt on hypertension. It’s all on the up-and-up, funded by the National Institutes of Health and the Center for Disease Control and Prevention.

Both camps this summer were riddled with Police reports — attempted rape, voyeurism, distributing child pornography and assault. One camper threatened to shoot a counselor with gun he/she supposedly possessed (police turned up a knife).

Kids 11 though 15.

In a statement on Monday, the university said: “Following disciplinary issues that occurred as part of Camp Dash, a summer residential camp for boys and girls that is hosted on campus, Purdue University determined it to be in the best interest of the camp participants to close the camp for its final two weeks.

(Purdue boots adolescent campers early after allegations of criminal behavior, Lafayette Journal & Courier)


Whether we like it or not, O.J. Simpson is an important figure in American history. His life and murder trial exacerbated race relations, helped polarize the media, and established him as a reviled killer in mainstream popular culture—and a reviled martyr in black popular culture.

Before 1994, mainstream and black media alike celebrated Mr. Simpson as a shining example of the liberal ideals of integration and assimilation. But when he was accused of murdering his ex-wife and her friend, the media flipped the narrative into one of black betrayal. His second marriage, to a young, white waitress; his refusal to address racial issues; and his abandonment of black social circles now explained how and why a black man was able to rise from poverty to football star to broadcaster and pitchman: Orenthal James Simpson sold out.

Over the course of two decades, Mr. Simpson’s story became the most powerful African-American tale since Alex Haley chronicled the life of Malcolm X …

If you are a black athlete, celebrity or media personality living, socializing, working, studying or dating in the white community, the easiest way to stop Twitter trolls from spamming your social media with accusations of race betrayal is to celebrate BLM. If you’re an educated, nerdy, proper-speaking black person who has been chastised for “acting white” by your black peers, supporting BLM salvages your black image. Call it the O.J. Effect.

Black men used to measure ourselves by how we compared to Martin Luther King Jr. He was the good dad we modeled our behavior after. Now for two decades, we’ve learned from Mr. Simpson’s negative example. We’ve tried to do the opposite of our bad dad. This has crippled black public figures when it comes to discussing race.

So has black guilt—an individual or collective feeling among successful black people who recognize we’ve harmed poor blacks by abandoning them. We soothe our consciences with hashtag activism and feigned disdain for a country we’d never dream of leaving.

(Jason Whitlock, Wall Street Journal)


I remember an elite-educated secular friend in Philadelphia who scoffed at my wife’s Christian faith; this friend was also convinced that her child had an “indigo aura” that imbued him with special gifts. I recall conversations with Harvard Law School classmates who laughed at the New Testament but thought reincarnation was “cool.”

And how can I forget the strange sight of Harvard students walking in and out of the neighborhood witchcraft store?

Just today, I saw the news that much-beloved singer Lana Del Rey has admitted to asking her fans to join a “mass occult ritual against President Donald Trump.” Here’s Del Rey:

I’m in line with Yoko [Ono] and John [Lennon] and the belief that there’s a power to the vibration of a thought. Your thoughts are very powerful things and they become words, and words become actions, and actions lead to physical charges.

Ross Douthat has written powerfully about the political consequences of post-Christian conservatism. It turns out that when men and women shed their faith, they don’t necessarily get more liberal, but they do get more tribal and vicious. Many members of the alt-right, for example, famously shun Evangelical Christianity (calling its adherents “cuckstians”). Indeed, as we learn from the battle between social-justice warriors and their right-wing counterparts — the emerging class of godless, angry populists — when you remove from your moral code any obligation to love your enemies, politics hardly improves.

(David French)

I wasn’t finished with the first sentence of French’s column before I took issue with his Evangelical Protestant (perhaps Calvinist — i.e., somewhat equivocally Evangelical) spin on what constitutes “traditional Christianity.” It is not believing that the Bible is the Word of God, even if Christians do believe that.

I also take issue with his description of “the core problem.” From my Eastern perspective, doubling-down on Western “organized systematic theology” for fear of The Void would be far less than fully satisfactory.

But details notwithstanding, his overall arc seems right: the drift from Christianity — leftward or alt-rightward, has not been a drift toward rationality.


Frenemies Dennis Prager and Bret Stephens have been sparring verbally. Prager in a “Dear Bret” letter:

I am surprised that anyone — especially you — thinks that Putin’s Russia poses a greater threat to the survival of Western civilization than does the Western Left. No external force can destroy a civilization — especially one as powerful and wealthy as the West — as effectively as an internal one. The Western Left (not Western liberals) is such a force. Western liberals always adored the West: FDR, for example, repeatedly spoke about defending not only Western civilization but also “Christian civilization.”

You mentioned that you will be sending me a birthday gift, a book about Putin’s Russia: Nothing Is True and Everything Is Possible, by Peter Pomerantsev. I promise to read it. And I request a promise in return: Read the book I am sending you, The Strange Death of Europe, by the eminent British thinker, Douglas Murray. The book describes Europe’s suicide at the hands of its progressive elites — in particular, its multiculturalism-affirming political leaders and mendacious news media. (Regarding the mendacious media, read the report published this week in Germany about the dishonesty in the German media, which routinely substitutes left-wing opinion for facts in reporting the immigrant crisis in Germany.)

To the best of my recollection, in describing the death of European civilization, Murray doesn’t mention Putin once.

(National Review)

Stephens moved from the Wall Street Journal to the New York Times earlier this year, but he has been a consistent opponent of Trump and somewhat deranged about Putin before the Left took up Putin-bashing as a way to goad Trump.

I’m with Prager this far: Putin is far from the biggest threat we face, and there probably are areas where our interests and his/Russia’s coincide.

And by the way, Dear Bret: I double-dog-dare-you to make a persuasive case that Putin is not just a tough guy who does bad things, but a real and first-tier threat to the United States. “Everybody knows that” doesn’t count.


Dear NPR: Affording due process to an accused person does no injustice to the accuser.

Dear college students: Nothing good ever comes from getting blindingly drunk. Even if you don’t end up raping or being raped, you’re flirting dangerously with alcoholism.

Dear reader: Don’t give me any crap about “blaming the victim.” I’ve seen the recurring patterns and so have you.


Yes, I am aware of Charlie Gard. Yes, I am outraged. No, I have nothing to add (beyond Kyrie eleison!) because I couldn’t change things and I couldn’t bear to watch too closely under those less-than-morally-compelling circumstances.

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Fiat justitia ruat caelum

There is no epistemological Switzerland. (Via Mars Hill Audio Journal Volume 134)

Some succinct standing advice on recurring themes.