Thursday, 11/9/17

  1. The voice of the Mother of God
  2. What’s “conservative”?
  3. Remedial Civics for The Donald
  4. I’ll believe in Trumpism when …
  5. Being the better Trump
  6. Is diversity overrated?
  7. Soft Targets
  8. My Opioid Adventure
  9. Excess of Enthusiasm
  10. How very American: Ketosis without ascesis


Abbot Tryphon continues to recount the founding of his Monastery, in which founding his trip to Mt. Athos and the Great Lavra played a part:

Along with ourselves, we were in the company of many Germans who had come to the Holy Mountain, not as Orthodox pilgrims, but as tourists seeking the world class hiking trails, free lodging and the hospitality offered by the monks. Some of these men crowded around the relics of saints, not to venerate, but to gaze as though looking at museum displays. I was angered, and commented to Father Basil my wish that these non-believers would just stay off the Holy Mountain. This “was a place of holy pilgrimage, not a tourist destination”.

After attending Liturgy the following morning, I left the monastery to explore the outside walls, and happened upon the charnel house, where the bones of thousands of monks are piled upon one another, awaiting the Day of the General Resurrection. Returning to the entrance of the monastery I found Father Basil looking for me. It seemed the monks were just about to begin a service of supplication to the Panagia (the All Holy) Koukouzelissa, in the beautiful chapel dedicated to her. This small Byzantine church was just inside the entrance to the monastery. Upon entering the church we all approached the miraculous icon, prostrated, and venerated her with a kiss. Father Basil lead the way, prostrating twice, kissing the icon, stepping back, and once more offering a prostration in humble veneration.

As I approached the miraculous icon I heard the voice of the Mother of God, clearly familiar and recognizable to me, speaking in the loving tone of a caring mother who was correcting her child. “You were once a tourist.” Stunned, I felt shame permeate my whole body and soul. Although I had never heard of an icon speaking to anyone, I knew the voice. This voice was as familiar to me as my own mother’s voice, and I knew the Panagia was speaking directly to me, reminding me that I had judged those German men, and that I had once entered an Orthodox church as a tourist. I felt as though I was a little boy being told by my grandmother that she was disappointed in me, and I stepped back, unable to look upon the icon. Unworthy to even venerate her, I kissed the bottom of the frame, turned, ignored the monk who was directing me to a monastic stall, and walked to the very back of the church. There, prostrated behind a large pillar, I remained for the entire service, muffling the sound of my tears. I will never forget her voice, and never forget the shame I felt, having judge these Germans.

With love in Christ,
Abbot Tryphon


[A]s I watch anarchist conservatives battling nostalgic progressives, it all seems unreal …

I’m conservative. I feel that what is inherited — family, community, culture and language — is more crucial than what is acquired — tattoos, an Armani suit, a taste for artisan beers, a cat who loves you — and there are as many conservatives on the left as on the right, maybe even more. I want my daughter’s school bus driver to be conservative, obsessively checking his rearview mirrors, and not resenting the rules of the road as an infringement of his liberties. I’d like her English teacher to correct grammar and usage rather than urging the kids to write about their upbringings and never mind if they misspell “abysmal” or “horrendous.” I could go on.

… I miss the card games I played long ago with my Republican in-laws. We disagreed about Nixon and trade unions, but we ignored that over games of gin rummy and Four Hundred and Hearts. The gentle small talk, the kidding — where did that go to? …

I miss the sight of people reading newspapers, holding the big broadsheet up and poring over the contents. Radio and TV are amusements: The big page of gray type is where you connect to the world through real journalism …

I come from a family of six children raised by parents who absorbed the lessons of the Depression — make do, hold on, tend the garden — and we became an engineer, teacher, writer, lawyer, historian and development director. We all made homes, raised children, enjoyed our lives and our work, and have arrived at old age just in time to benefit from remarkable medical advances. We’re lucky.

I flew to Des Moines on Monday and my airport shuttle driver told me she works five jobs: driving, child care, janitorial, food prep and home health care. None of those offers health benefits. Her life is unpredictable from month to month. She is 31 and lives with her mother … I am feeling that having been born 75 years ago was the best option.

(Garrison Keillor, I’m a conservative, emphasis added)

“[T]here are as many conservatives on the left as on the right, maybe even more.” I have come to appreciate the truth of that. You can see it in Red State/Blue State statistics on marriage and divorce, for instance, where the Red States fare poorly.

That doesn’t mean the denizens of the Red States are hypocrites or zombies for the GOP. Life’s more complex than that, as Robert Putnam’s critics might tell you.


President Trump has gradually discovered the meaning of the oath he swore on Jan. 20, and he doesn’t seem to like it. In the course of an interview on “The Larry O’Connor Show” last week, he said, “The saddest thing is that because I’m the president of the United States, I am not supposed to be involved with the Justice Department. I am not supposed to be involved with the FBI. I’m not supposed to be doing the kinds of things that I would love to be doing. And I’m very frustrated by it.”

Meet James Madison’s Constitution, Mr. President. It is nothing like a family business. It is designed to frustrate you.

… In our system, public officials must not only do the right thing; they must do it in the right way. Good intentions that run roughshod over institutional limits are abuses of power.

… The attorney general’s first duty is to the law, not to the president. The chief executive may require the attorney general to render an opinion, but he cannot tell the attorney general what the content of the opinion should be. Nor can the president tell the attorney general whom to investigate or prosecute. These are supposed to be legal, not political, judgments.

Mr. Trump does not seem to understand this. He has made public statements intended to pressure Attorney General Jeff Sessions to open politically driven investigations with an eye toward eventual prosecutions.

… Throwing political opponents in jail undermines the rule of law and erases the line between law and politics. This is not what constitutional democrats do. This is what autocrats do—in Turkey, in Venezuela, and wherever leaders backed by mobs and majorities are emboldened to push for total power.

(William A. Galston, Donald Trump’s Belated Civics Lesson)


The Democrats captured two governorships Tuesday, sweeping other statewide races in Virginia as well, though “Trump and his followers … lit up social media and tried to define the contests in terms of Confederate statues and Hispanic street gangs.” (A Hispanic PAC responded in kind; their lurid ad backfired and news of it got to me before the Gillespie supporters’ misdeeds did.) In races too close to call and/or headed for recount, there lies the serious possibility of the Virginia House going from 66-34 Republican to majority Democrat (they’ve clearly got 48 as of Wednesday morning).

I’m less sanguine than French is. But with conservatives on the left and anarchists on the right, we’re in for some big changes, I’d bet.


What’s actually going on here is that most Republican voters are well aware of most of Trump’s flaws — they just think the alternatives on offer are worse.

They think what the Republican Party has to offer to them is either oleaginous holier-than-thou Southern moralists (who don’t appeal to anyone outside the South), or big business sellouts, or, maybe worse, sellouts to a cultural elite that despises the voters, their interests, and their way of life.

The only way a challenger will beat Trump is by not being any of those things.

Usually, the way campaigns work is that candidates try to differentiate themselves from one another. Here, the only way to beat Trump is actually to out-Trump him.

That doesn’t mean trying to match him for rhetorical excess. It means attacking him for everything he was supposed to do but didn’t …

Don’t talk about things that only elite people care about, like process issues and abstract “values” (whether progressive or conservative). Be more disappointed than angry that Trump simply isn’t living up to the hype …

Go guerilla. Ignore Washington, ignore the media, mainstream or right-wing, ignore the GOP activist and consultant class. Meet as many voters as possible and run a heck of a good Facebook page. Use a book (or better: a documentary!) to promote yourself. And whatever you do, do not respond to a New York Times or CNN reporter. (Although if you could yell at one for being bad at their job and have it conveniently captured by someone’s smartphone camera, that would be a definite plus.)

In short, don’t be the anti-Trump. Be the better Trump.

Are you guaranteed to win this way? No. But you certainly won’t win any other way.

(Pascal-Emmanuel Gobry) I’m less sanguine than Gobry, too, though perhaps this approach, followed with consummate discipline, would monkey-wrench Trump’s unique mastery of sucking all of the air out of every room he enters.


Interesting analysis of “The alt-right’s favorite academic,”

“Diversity is overrated.”

That argument against immigration — once confined to the alt-right gutter— has climbed its way into respectable right-wing circles in the Trump era. The idea is apparently that people have a natural desire to be around their own, so there is nothing wrong with limiting “mass” immigration, especially from non-European countries that are too dissimilar from America.

And who does the right invoke when making its case? … [T]hey are increasingly dusting off the work of liberal Harvard political scientist Robert Putnam, whose research purports to show the pitfalls of diversity.

The trouble is that Putnam oversold his own research — and conservatives are overselling Putnam.

Since Putnam is a sociologist, relying on and interpreting data, critique of his methods and interpretations is pretty standard scientific fare, even in the relatively lame “social sciences.”

[E]ven though Putnam’s study is among the more thorough of its kind, his way of measuring trust — basically by asking people to rate on a three-point scale whether they would “say that most people can be trusted” — is arguably quite crude. Furthermore, George Mason University’s Bryan Caplan notes, Putnam conveniently forgot to highlight that part of his research that showed that many other factors, particularly homeownership, correlate far more strongly with social trust than homogeneity. So why did Putnam bury them and highlight a less important factor instead? Essentially because it’s more in line with his thesis in Bowling Alone. It’s a classic case of “confirmation bias.”

Furthermore, as Putnam forthrightly acknowledges — but his right-wing appropriators ignore — the loss of trust due to increasing diversity is a short-term phenomenon. Over the long run, people reconstitute new identities and bonds based on other shared characteristics. Yesterday’s “them” become tomorrow’s “us.” For example, Putnam notes, in the 1920s, Americans were acutely conscious of divisions among European sub-groups — the Irish, Italians, Germans, Eastern Europeans — and in the 1950s of various Protestant denominations — Methodists, Lutherans, Baptists. None of these distinctions matter anymore.

Right-wing diversity critics argue that race is different. Unlike religion and nationality, it is an immutable fact of life and given the inherently tribal nature of humans, ignoring it to build a racially eclectic society means inviting conflict (which Putnam’s study did not find, incidentally) ….

I’ll let you evaluate the response to the alt-right “race is different” argument on your own.


I’m very glad that I feel no burden this morning to defend the adequacy of our national databases for gun-purchase background-checks. The Trace had to walk back an early (and stunning) misimpression, but there are still real problems.

But I care about my state of mind, too, and it still strikes me as near-paranoid to start fretting about how to survive in an active-shooter situation, let alone how to arm myself to fight back. That stuff messes with your mind. It reminds me of the 50s atom bomb shelters and the drills (in some schools, at least by legend) on how to duck and tuck under your desk if the Russkies dropped the Big One.

I’d rather refresh something practical, like what to do to avoid lightning strike.

But I wouldn’t mind one bit if the current or retired police officers in my parish packed heat on Sundays (assuming that any mind-messing they underwent to become professional police—God bless ’em—is indelible and won’t be exacerbated). I know there’s at least one other member with a concealed-carry permit, too.

We’re not the softest of targets. Just sayin’.


I had some pretty bad pain take me to Urgent Care the other day. I really liked the mature, no-nonsense doctor, who has been around town for 30 years, I guess, though I hadn’t met her.

But one concern: a prescription for 20 opioids, b.i.d., PRN, for pain.

I’m a member of the “clean plate club,” and especially with a warning to avoid other pain meds if I’m taking any of the opioids, I’m tempted to just take ’em b.i.d. until they’re gone.

But I’m a bit paranoid about that, a more real and imminent threat than active shooters, so I’m actually inviting a bit more discomfort during the day so I can take one of the opioids toward bedtime. And it looks like I’ll turn in about 15 of them next time they recycle unused drugs.


Lying liars who lie will often claim that the Soviet Union was religious (apparently bad atheists are religious!)  even though to the end the one thing you could not be was a theist to reach the top levels of power. Question Karl Marx? Lenin did and so could you. Experiment with a new economic program that would allow some free market ideas? Lenin again. Be a nun that wanted to help the poor? She must be thrown down a mineshaft and grenaded. When Hitler had Stalin against a wall, ready to shoot, one bloody tyrant against another, Stalin did relax controls on religion, but as soon as the War was won, the gulags came back and the monstrous atheists were back at work.

Meanwhile, American atheists worry about Christian kids clubs in American public schools! Any atrocity committed in the name of Christ, in any century, is shown to us and we are asked to denounce it, but continued murder for one hundred years and counting is often argued to be religious.


“They are not like us,” we are told by our own American atheists, though they use the same agitprop down to the words to advance the demonization of religious people …

Today marks the anniversary of a bloody debacle in human history that may have made a good many tractors, but at the cost of millions of lives. Because the perpetrators of this infamy talked of good intentions, waved about their rationality, and claimed to love science, they often get a pass in our faux-intellectual establishment.

Let’s be plain: if a writer defends the Bolshevik revolution, or soft soaps the nightmare of the Gulag (concentration camps) or cannot condemn the atheist Red Terror, he is defending the murder of at least sixty-five million innocents. Nothing the Nazis did that was “postitive” is worth mentioning, because the regime was so vile. Lenin, Stalin, and every leader of the Soviet Union was a mass murderer and an atheist.

If a person cannot say this plainly, do not trust that writer.

And of course, “not all atheists,” just the atheists who have gained power in a nation.

Nothing much is worse than our inability to say the murderous combination of atheism and power was and is evil.

(John Mark Reynolds, We Meant Well: The Millions Dead Were an Excess of Enthusiasm)


The latest diet fad has spun off its first fad diet supplement. Yes, now you can stuff donuts down your face and still induce ketosis. “It tasted like cough syrup that had been poured into a garbage bag and left in the sun.

The American way: better living through chemistry, not ascesis.

* * * * *

“Liberal education is concerned with the souls of men, and therefore has little or no use for machines … [it] consists in learning to listen to still and small voices and therefore in becoming deaf to loudspeakers.” (Leo Strauss)

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

Some succinct standing advice on recurring themes.