Going dark for a while.

This blog likely will be silent for two weeks or more as I travel abroad in a guided tour, returning to an intense week of catching up in various ways.

I know that chronicling travels has its appeal, but I doubt I’ll have the flexibility to do that, and I’m not even taking my laptop computer, which is my usual blogging device.

Harking back to my comments about CGM eight days ago, I expect this trip to be a metabolic dream; the Standard American Diet (SAD) is not served where I’m going, and I’ve eaten very well while losing weight traveling in such places before.

If I blog anything, it likely will be short items here OR here.

Be well! Meanwhile, I’ll clear the queue.

Stuff in General

Update (if not repentance)

I’ve shared writings of Hal Freeman, an American expatriate living in Russia, several times. I still think Hal’s honest in what he writes, but I now have reason to think that he’s misled by Russian propaganda to a greater degree than I realized.

My source strikes me as reliable, but I’ll not identify him beyond saying that he lived and worked in Donetsk for an extended period and still keeps up with affairs there and with many Ukrainians. Also, he’s a friend-of-a-friend, not known to me directly.

Freeman’s points that most swayed me involved claims that fall under two rubrics:

  1. Ukraine freely elected a pro-Russian President, but America engineered his ouster in 2014.
  2. Ukraine has cruelly oppressed Russian-leaning people in the Donbas region.

Variously paraphrasing and quoting my source, I pass along his responses to these two rubrics:

  1. “Democratically elected” is debatable. Both his ultimate success and a prior election involving the pro-Russian candidate were highly suspicious (the first was reversed by the Ukrainian Supreme Court), and after the apparent victory in 2014, the president arrested and imprisoned his opponent. [Side note: Anyone who imprisons Yulia Tymoshenko, the world’s most beautiful former head of state, is presumptively a brute.] “The Ukrainian people considered [him] too Russian, not the Americans. There is little truth behind the idea that Americans were behind the Maidan protests. If you tell the Ukrainians that, they will laugh at you.”
  2. Most of the mischief in Donbas is the work of Russian-leaning separatists. They began conscripting promiscuously, and they, not Ukraine, are responsible for the shellings that plague the Donbas. Lay the deaths of children at their feet. As for the supposed edict against speaking Russian, it either never happened or was totally disregarded and went unenforced. It is difficult to find anyone in the Donbas conversing in Ukrainian, and any implication that “Russian-speaking” equates to “Russian-leaning” is ridiculous.

I have no reason to doubt that the United States was happy to see Viktor Yanukovych go in 2014, and may have even worked to make that happen. But it does smack of credulity to speak as if Ukrainians were servile and did nothing except by our engineering.

Thanks to my source and to the unnamed intermediary who brought me his response to my quotes and commentary on Hal Freeman blog.

Speaking of Russia …

While it is true that Putin’s nationalism is in someways more "wholesome" than Western Liberalism in some ways it’s far more rotten. Putin’s anti-sexual-deviancy needs to be balanced by his disregard for the loss of innocent life. His appeal to family values has to be balanced by his blind eye to civic vices. What surprises me is just how many of the right are blind to them, or even worse, how many of them see as justifiable. From my perspective Putin’s "badness" is a different "badness" to the "badness" of the West: But it is still bad.

The Social Pathologist

Sean Hannity misreads the house

Sean Hannity aired a voicemail message from Joe Biden to Hunter Biden when the latter was in the throes of addiction. Hannity’s intent was to hurt the president by airing dirty family laundry but, as Ben Dreyfuss points out, the effect is the opposite. You’d have to have a heart of stone not to be moved by Biden’s message.

Nick Gillespie, filling in for Nellie Bowles

Old amiable America elects a Dementia Caucus

I look at the upcoming midterm election and I see candidates running for Congress who believe that gravity is a hoax and Caesar salad dressing causes strokes and the CIA caused Ian using Infrared Atmospheric Nuclei and the polls show them ahead and come January we may have a House with a large Dementia Caucus, but I am not dismayed. Call me a fool but I believe the old amiable America I’ve known is still functioning.

I believe that if you want to see America clearly, don’t read the paper, go to a state fair ….

Garrison Keillor

The invisible Machine

  • [I]f you walk on concrete all day, and you’re under electric light all day, even at night outside, and you don’t know any of that, and you see nothing that’s real, you can’t even see the stars, then you’ve already become part of this Machine that surrounds us. As more and more of the world gets urban — most of the world is urban now — more of us are living like that.
  • It’s really interesting to me that we talk about climate change as if it were somehow disconnected from all the other things that are happening to the planet. The industrial economy’s assault on the earth, which has been going on for a couple hundred years, has basically wrecked the health of the planet in all sorts of different ways. And there are a lot of things happening — large rates of extinction, soil erosion, ocean pollution, a changing climate, all sorts of smaller, subtler things as well — but it’s climate change that’s just a one-off, almost self-contained phenomenon that has somehow grabbed the headlines and has become this enormous thing that we somehow have to stop. That’s the problem, so what’s the solution? And the solution inevitably is always technological, because nobody can think about anything else. That’s the way we think in our culture: we’ve created the problem with technology, so we must have to solve it with technology. So the issue has boiled down to, the wrong kind of gas is going up into the atmosphere, so we need a fuel technology that doesn’t put it up there, as if that were the problem, rather than the way we’re living our lives, the entirety of the economy, the value system that it’s based on … Is our disconnection okay as long as it doesn’t pollute the atmosphere?
  • [S]ome people when they see a holy man will just be furious. He just has to be walking past, he doesn’t have to be evangelizing them, but the notion of seeing somebody holy, who is living the way we actually know we ought to be living — it just triggers something in a lot of people …

Paul Kingsnorth

Biden Confabulations

“I worry about the corrosive effects on democracy, of making ‘more honest than Donald Trump’ the standard for politicians,” said Michael Blake, a professor of philosophy, public policy and governance at the University of Washington.

[A]s he campaigned for the presidency in 2019, Mr. Biden described how he had traveled to Afghanistan to pin a Silver Star on a Navy captain for retrieving the body of a fellow American from a 60-foot ravine.

“This is the God’s truth,” he said, repeating a story he had told many times, “my word as a Biden.”

But as The Washington Post pointed out, it was an Army specialist, not a Navy captain, who had rescued his comrade. Former President Barack Obama, not Mr. Biden, awarded that soldier the Presidential Medal of Honor, not the Silver Star. And the ceremony took place at the White House, not in Afghanistan.

Michael D. Shear, Linda Qiu, Biden’s Folksiness Can Veer Into Folklore, or Falsehoods

Political extremes

Q: If the press labels someone “far right,” can you trust them?

A: No. The press does that regularly to move the Overton Window leftward, consciously or unconsciously.

Q: If the press labels someone “far left,” can you trust them?

A: I think so, because …

Q: Ha! Ha! Ha! Ha! Ha! Trick question. The press never calls anyone “far left.”

(H/T Mary Harrington, How far-Right are you?, for the inspiration)

Rom-Com is dead. Romance, too.

Setting aside the fact that Bros is a gay entry in the genre, the question of whether romantic comedies can be commercially successful today is one worth asking. The promiscuous lifestyles that the sexual revolution has promoted, particularly as manifested among gay men, surely militate against romance. Indeed, the very idea of sex as a lifestyle, rather than as a seal on a unique relationship, the establishment of which has taken time, effort, and self-sacrifice, seems to preclude any notion of romance.

Romance depends upon sex being costly. It was the difficulty of obtaining sex, the need for that delicate, complicated, and unpredictable interpersonal dance between two people, that was the very essence of what it was to be romantic. In a world where sex is not simply casual but remarkably cheap, the notion of romance is dead.

Carl Trueman, Why Bros Failed at the Box Office

Worse than hypocrisy

[P]art of the problem with our obsession with hypocrisy and “authenticity” is that it encourages people to make peace with their sins to avoid the charge of hypocrisy. There are worse things than being a hypocritical ass or racist, namely being a proud ass or racist. I’d rather live in a world where Dick Morris is pelted from the public stage for sucking on hooker toes than a society where we celebrate toe-sucking in order to rationalize keeping the guy around. As Ramesh Ponnuru once put it, “When Hugh Hefner moved out of the Playboy mansion the better to bring up his two young sons, nobody accused him of not living down to his principles.”

Jonah Goldberg

Accountability Culture?

[P]eople disagree about what constitutes accountability! They disagree about what people should be held accountable for, and what an appropriate punishment might be for it. There are profound differences between what different people mean when they speak about accountability. Therefore to call cancel culture “accountability culture” is simply to beg the question, to assume the conclusion that you’re arguing. It’s just a dodge.

I’m sorry to state the obvious, but this is a common maneuver among people who prefer a more vituperative, less forgiving social culture, to simply change the nomenclature in a way that suggests that the very issues of debate are already settled. You might as well call it Good Goodies Culture by People Doing Good. In both cases you’re simply assuming away the actual debatable content and then suggesting that your opponents adopt your frame.

Freddie deBoer, People Disagree About What Constitutes Accountability

An hypothesis

Once again, I’ve committed blog with nothing in it about 45. I note, too, that fine columnists are resorting to columns on truly petty stuff (not to say that every Tweet or “Truth” from 45 was consequential).

Could it be that 45 is laying low for once in the last 7 years?

[I wrote this before Friday, when he who shall not be named promised a response to the January 6 Commission’s subpoena.]


Introverts are social, too. We just need a nap afterward.

Anna Havron, an acquaintance at micro.blog, who also blogs here.

Sunday Fare


Marriage isn’t a fairytale. It’s a martyrdom.

Stanley Haurwas, paraphrased by Fr. Stephen Freeman, paraphrased by me.

This isn’t just a gimmicky phrase. The Orthodox wedding service uses crowns that bespeak martyrdom, and explicitly mentions St. Procopius:

One day twelve women appeared before his prison window and said to him: “We too are servants of Christ.” Accused of this, they were thrown into that same prison. St. Prokopios taught them the Faith of Christ, and prepared them to receive their “martyr’s crowns.” (This is why St. Procopius, along with the God-crowned Emperor Constantine and Empress Helen, is mentioned in the order of crowning during the wedding ceremony.)

Father Stephen makes the further points:

  • there’s no traditional marriage left to defend (in the West)
  • traditional marriage probably won’t be rebuilt (in the West) for generations
  • modern no-fault divorce was created in 1917 Russia with the explicit purpose of destroying marriage *
  • the “Benedict Option” is the parish and marriage

As if by magic, I soon stumbled across this: Marriage is Increasingly an Institution of the Highly Religious: Why That Might Be a Problem | Institute for Family Studies

(* Not only is war the friend of statism, but no-fault divorce is, too.)

How should we live?

Every ten days, my computer pops up a reminder to read one of three lists of maxims on the Christian life that I’ve picked up over the last quarter-century. This list, which I excerpted from Fr. Stephen Freeman, really got to me today for its brevity and profundity:

  1. First, live as though in the coming of Jesus Christ, the Kingdom of God has been inaugurated into the world and the outcome of history has already been determined. (Quit worrying)
  2. Second, love people as the very image of God and resist the temptation to improve them.
  3. Third, refuse to make economics the basis of your life. Your job is not even of secondary importance.
  4. Fourth, quit arguing about politics as though the political realm were the answer to the world’s problems. It gives it power that is not legitimate and enables a project that is anti-God.
  5. Fifth, learn to love your enemies. God did not place them in the world for us to fix or eliminate. If possible, refrain from violence.
  6. Sixth, raise the taking of human life to a matter of prime importance and refuse to accept violence as a means to peace. Every single life is a vast and irreplaceable treasure.
  7. Seventh, cultivate contentment rather than pleasure. It will help you consume less and free you from slavery to your economic masters.
  8. Eighth, as much as possible, think small. You are not in charge of the world. Love what is local, at hand, personal, intimate, unique, and natural. It’s a preference that matters.
  9. Ninth, learn another language. Very few things are better at teaching you about who you are not.
  10. Tenth, be thankful for everything, remembering that the world we live in and everything in it belongs to God.

Source: The Violence of Modernity

Without Comment

Living counterculturally

I must admit I greatly prefer to live in my current semi-blackout of the news. I might even like to try a full blackout at some point, truth be told. After all my efforts at news gathering, what did being so well-informed actually gain me? Ignorance, while perhaps not always blissful, is certainly far less stressful than the alternative. But that isn’t quite right either.

I can’t say for all my former obsession with keeping up with events—via books, news reports, commentary, youtube videos, commentary on commentary…upon commentary, on and on and on—that I ever actually did poke my head above the deep waters of ignorance. The ignorance of being wellinformed by the news was perhaps an even greater ignorance than of not paying it any attention at all. And in not paying attention I am far less likely to be manipulated, which is not nothing.

… [T]here is a very good way to live other than the way we’ve been sold. The alternative is actually a fairly well-laid-out path. This problem isn’t new, and people have been thinking about how to escape toxic civilization since about five minutes after the founding of the first ancient city. It turns out that it is far more achievable than I, for one, have told myself. The real question—the only question—is whether we actually want to live differently. Not whether we want to talk about living differently, or hope someday to live differently, but will we actually choose to so live right here and now? For a very long time, and even as the status quo quickly drained me of the will-to-live, I wasn’t so sure that I did. Funny that.

Jack Leahy, Stillness in the West (footnotes omitted)

A sense of control, safety, certainty

Converts to Orthodoxy are particularly vulnerable to the need to create a sense of control, safety, and certainty. A tendency to define, delineate, and create specific structures and rules is inherent in the Western mentality. This goes hand in hand with the desire to rationally explain and understand. But that attitude distorts the Orthodox phronema ….

Dr. Eugenia Scarvelis Constantinou, Thinking Orthodox.

This was my experience 25 years ago and for some time thereafter.

Mixed messages

The pastors at Thomas Road talked about creating a society apart from the world. But by the “world” they clearly meant the evils of the world as they saw them, not American life in general. In Falwell’s sermons scriptural lessons on how to become a better Christian often segued into practical advice on how to gain the respect of others and achieve success. Material wealth, Falwell once said, “is God’s way of blessing those who put him first.”

Frances Fitzgerald, The Evangelicals.

What (not quite) all evangelicals believe

[E]ven the American diplomats [at a conference in Qatar in the 1980s] assumed that all evangelicals believed that Israel had a biblical right to the Palestinian territories ….

Frances Fitzgerald, The Evangelicals.

What the diplomats assumed turned out not to be true, but the Evangelical dissenters were not the “big names.”


She could never be a saint, but she thought she could be a martyr if they killed her quick.

Flannery O’Connor of one of her characters.

Douthat on Vatican II

[I]n the years of Pope Francis, the liberal interpretation [of Vatican II] has returned — not just in the reopening of moral and theological debates, the establishment of a permanent listening-session style of church governance, but also in the attempt to once again suppress the older Catholic rites, the traditional Latin liturgy as it existed before Vatican II.

The work of the French historian Guillaume Cuchet, who has studied Vatican II’s impact on his once deeply Catholic nation, suggests that it was the scale and speed of the council’s reforms, as much as any particular substance, that shattered Catholic loyalty and hastened the church’s decline. Even if the council’s changes did not officially alter doctrine, to rewrite and renovate so many prayers and practices inevitably made ordinary Catholics wonder why an authority that suddenly declared itself to have been misguided across so many different fronts could still be trusted to speak on behalf of Jesus Christ himself.

After such a shock, what kind of synthesis or restoration is possible? Today all Catholics find themselves living with this question, because every one of the church’s factions is in tension with some version of church authority. Traditionalists are in tension with the Vatican’s official policies, progressives with its traditional teachings, conservatives with the liberalizing style of Pope Francis, the pope himself with the conservative emphasis of his immediate predecessors. In this sense all of us are the children of Vatican II, even if we critique or lament the council — or perhaps never more so than when we do.

Ross Douthat, How Catholics Became Prisoners of Vatican II


Because from the belief that nothing is nothing it follows that there must be something, Gloria.

From R.S. Thomas, Collected Poems

Competing liberties

To be honest, my husband and I wouldn’t have hired a web designer or a baker who didn’t want to celebrate with us. But that’s not the point. If the law allows same-sex couples to be treated differently from other couples, then our religious freedom to be married is not complete.

Steven Paulikas, Same-Sex Marriage Is a Religious Freedom.

I find unconvincing this insistence that gay couples’ “freedom to be married” outweighs others’ freedom not to “speak” what they consider lies. If that’s how the law shakes out, it’s a betrayal of the Supreme Court’s promises of pluralism in Obergefel.

[S]ubordinating truth to politics is a game which tyrants and bullies always win.

Jonathan Rauch, The Constitution of Knowledge

The Orthodox "phronema" [roughly, mind-set] cannot be programmitized or reduced to shibboleths.

Fr. Jonathan Tobias

You can read most of my more impromptu stuff here (cathartic venting) and here (the only social medium I frequent, because people there are quirky, pleasant and real). Both should work in your RSS aggregator, like Feedly or Reeder, should you want to make a habit of it.

Tuesday, 10/11/22

Come out from among them and be ye separate

Between two worlds

The people here were heart-broken over the shelling going on in the Donbass. I saw a video posted by an American in Ukraine showing a march of parents in Donetsk carrying photos of their children who had been killed as a result of the shelling. I had tears in my eyes watching. We all knew it was the U.S. that blocked efforts to implement the Minsk Accords set forth by France and Germany which called for the cessation of the shelling. The people in the Donbass are essentially Russians living in Ukraine. I’ve stated several times that Ukraine refused them independence after the coup removing the democratically elected president of Ukraine. The residents were not allowed to speak Russian, their native language, or, in some cases, even to worship in the Russian Orthodox church. Yet it is still a practical requirement that journalists refer to Russian troops going into Ukraine as an “unprovoked invasion.”

Hal Freeman, an Orthodox American expatriate living in Russia. He is probably too credulous about Russian news of the war, as are most Americans about the American-flavored version, but I consider his blog that of an honest Christian living between two worlds. He’s especially valuable for things like reminding Americans that the U.S., through proxies, subverted and overthrew a democratically-elected Ukrainian government we considered too pro-Russia — things our press will rarely remember.

His final paragraph, as he updates his personal status (his younger Russian wife died leaving him an aging widower with young children) is worth chewing on:

I have had some family members in America encourage me to come back there. But I still think it would be too disruptive to the children. And, furthermore, the U.S. does not look like an attractive place to live anymore. It continues on a trajectory that I do not want to move my children back to. I wish it were not so. I would love to see my family there and have not given up the dream that my toes will be in the South Carolina sand when we hopefully can visit next summer.

(emphasis added)

Why Conservatism failed

The modern conservative project failed because it didn’t take into account the revolutionary principle of technology, and its intrinsic connection to the telos of sheer profit. Decrying left-wing revolutionary politics and postmodern anarchy, conservatives missed that the real moral relativism was to believe that one could change the material form of society without directly affecting its substance or its ends.

In between great-books seminars, conservatives have decried any interference in what technologies the all-knowing market chooses to build, while taking no stance on what technologies we ought to build and accepting with equanimity massive research investment from the private economy and military-industrial complex, at most wringing their hands about the speed and direction of social change (while accepting its inevitability). Not for nothing did the Canadian philosopher George Grant, in an essay on “the impossibility of conservatism as a theoretical stance in the technological society,” describe them as “those who accept the orientation to the future in the modern but who want to stop the movement of modernity at points which touch their special interests.”

Geoff Shullenberger, Why Conservatism Failed.

Shullenberger adds more weight to the argument that to live conservatively is deeply counter-cultural and might even require substantial withdrawal from society — maybe as Hal Freeman has. But even Hal has American Social Security.

We’re all complicit even when we’re not guilty.


Of the Georgia Senate race:

We don’t know if Reverend Warnock himself has ever personally facilitated an abortion, but we do know he will do everything in his power to keep facilitating them for countless women he will never know. And this is supposed to give him the moral high ground? An old Norm Macdonald line comes to mind, from the scene in Comedians With Cars Getting Coffee where he’s discussing Bill Cosby with Jerry Seinfeld. “The worst part is the hypocrisy,” Seinfeld says earnestly. “Huh,” Norm goes, poker-faced. “I kinda thought it was the rape.”

So, in the end, neither candidate can hide behind a veneer of moral respectability here. This is a choice between two evils. And yet, many voters who share my convictions remain convinced that they must choose …

… My concern is those earnest voters who have still constructed such a consequentialist frame around their vote that there truly seems to be nothing that would cause them to withhold it from a Republican, provided the Democrat was always worse.

I hate to bring him up, but Trump obviously hovers behind all this. Cards on the table, I didn’t vote for him in 2016 or 2020. Many people didn’t vote for him in 2016 but decided to do so in 2020. Now, in the wake of Dobbs, they feel vindicated …

I have seen this presented as a “conundrum” for the conservative voter, something that has to be reckoned and wrestled with. This might have an effect on some people, but I’ve always been singularly immune to this sort of challenge once my mind is firmly made up. I cheered the fall of Roe as loudly as any Trump voter. Yet, in my own mind, I remain quite happy not to have cast a vote for Trump in either year. Because a vote, to me, is more than a utilitarian ticking of a box. It’s more than getting the right warm body in the right seat so that he can vote the right way. To me, a vote is a statement: This candidate is worthy.

When the game is this cynical, we are under no obligation to keep playing. What happens next, whatever happens, is not on us. It is on the people who forgot what it means to be worthy.

Bethel McGrew, Notes from a Christian Humanist (emphasis added)

The mystic among us

Community life loves to flog mystic.

Martin Shaw, commenting on the Inuit story The Moon Palace.

This is my favorite Martin Shaw podcast yet.

Working with What We’ve Got

In stark contrast to the impulse to withdraw for Christian or conservative integrity is the impulse to seize control. There are Christian people who aren’t stupid or notably power-hungry who advocate that option.

Return of the Strong Gods

The way we do education in America results in the “overproduction of elites,” [Patrick] Deneen declared. “There need to be fewer people like me, with jobs like mine.” When I laughed at this, he smiled and said: “I mean, gosh! Just try getting someone to do brick work on your house.”

“So instead of stripping society down to atomized individuals in a ‘state of nature’ and then building up Lockean rights,” I asked Deneen clumsily, “you’re starting with the family, and then society grows out of that?”

“That’s exactly right,” Deneen told me. “It’s conceptually and anthropologically different from liberal assumptions. If you begin by building from that point and you think about the ways that those institutions are under threat from a variety of sources in modern society… to the extent that you can strengthen those institutions, you do the things that someone like David French wants, which is to track a lot of the attention away from the role of central government. One of the reasons liberalism has failed in the thing it claims to do—which is limiting central government—is precisely because it is so fundamentally individualistic that radically individuated selves end up needing and turning to central governments for support and assistance.”

[C]itizens, [R.R.] Reno argues, will not tolerate a society of “pure negation” for long. The strong gods always return. Public life requires a shared mythos and a higher vision of the common good—what Richard Weaver called a “metaphysical dream.” Human beings long to coalesce around shared loves and loyalties.

Jordan Alexander Hill, Return of the Strong Gods: Understanding the New Right. I apparently read this before it was paywalled.

We must pass a law — many laws!

J Budziszewski replies to an anguished postliberal, who’s ready to take some real action against the perceived existential threat of secularism and bad religion. This strikes me, with my long interest in religious freedom law, as a key part of the reply:

It is one thing to say that moralistic monotheism should enjoy some special recognition or privilege over and above the protections that all systems of belief receive through the Free Speech and Assembly Clauses.  It is quite another to say that systems of belief outside of it should be denied freedom of speech and assembly, or that we should round up their adherents and put them in jail.

I would add that I always thought “we must pass a law!” was an anti-conservative impulse.

Five proposed Constitutional Amendments

National Constitution Center Project Offers Constitutional Amendment Proposals with Broad Cross-Ideological Support



Anarchy is in the water here, like fluoride, and toilet alligators.

Jason Gay, ‘Anarchy’ Is Not a New York City Crisis. It’s a Lifestyle.

Pandemic apocalypse

The pandemic has illustrated all too vividly the meaning of terms like systemic racism and structural inequality in a way anyone can grasp: “Oh, you mean black people are at greater risk from Covid-19 because they’re more likely to be working in supermarkets or other essential jobs, and to use public transportation, and to live in housing that doesn’t allow for social distancing? And their mortality rate is higher because they’re more likely to have pre-existing health conditions?”

Black Lives Matter and the Church: An Interview with Eugene F. Rivers III and Jacqueline Rivers


It isn’t only Hart’s view of the world that has been consistent. It’s also his style. Clause follows clause like the folds in a voluminous garment, every noun set off by beguiling and unusual modifiers (plus some of his old favorites, like “beguiling”). In one way, at least, he is the least American of writers, in that adjectives and adverbs do not give him that twinge of guilt that so many of us have picked up from Hemingway and Twain, the suspicion that we are using them to distract the reader from our failure to describe some particular action or detail—some verb or noun—precisely enough.

Written of David Bentley Hart by Phil Christman, via Front Porch Republic.

I feel that twinge of guilt, but so far as I know, I picked it up by precept from Strunk & White, not by example from Twain and Hemingway.

[S]ubordinating truth to politics is a game which tyrants and bullies always win.

Jonathan Rauch, The Constitution of Knowledge

The Orthodox "phronema" [roughly, mind-set] cannot be programmitized or reduced to shibboleths.

Fr. Jonathan Tobias

You can read most of my more impromptu stuff here (cathartic venting) and here (the only social medium I frequent, because people there are quirky, pleasant and real). Both should work in your RSS aggregator, like Feedly or Reeder, should you want to make a habit of it.

Saturday 10/8/22


On a personal note, I am excited and optimistic about something, and that doesn’t happen very often.

Late Monday afternoon, a package arrived in the mail. I opened it, watched a YouTube video on getting started one more time, and attached a Continuous Glucose Monitor (CGM) to my upper left arm. Two hours later, after warming up, the monitor began sending information to my smart phone — and my life may have changed.

What I discovered starting with a snack Monday evening was that what I considered a fairly healthy snack or meal could produce alarming blood sugar spikes — spikes that had never shown up on a fasting blood panel and were much higher than the blood sugar levels reflected in my A1C. Such spikes promote responsive insulin spikes, fat storage, and more, in a vicious circle.

Tuesday and Wednesday were eye-openers, too.

Until recently, CGM has been associated mostly with controlling blood sugar levels for Type 1 diabetics and for Type 2 diabetics who have had unusually great difficulty controlling their blood sugar. But I’m neither of those. I am wearing CGM as part of a metabolic study.

But being part of that study is not what motivated me. I’m not altruistic enough for that. What motivated me is the knowledge that I have had metabolic syndrome for more than 30 years, I have been as much is 100 pounds overweight, and my septuagenarian body is starting to feel very vulnerable. My participation in the study, at my own not inconsiderable expense, is motivated by the desire to lose maybe 55 pounds (I’ll settle for 90 pounds!) from my current weight and otherwise to heal my metabolic system so as to slow the aging process.

Essentially every credible thing I have read about metabolic syndrome over the past 30 years has convinced me that uncontrolled spikes of serum glucose (blood sugar) is a root cause of many if not most of America’s chronic health problems, and that the medical profession’s ability to medicate my blood pressure, lipids, and blood sugar “successfully,” grateful as I am for it, is no assurance of true metabolic health. Much of what I have read also has convinced me that metabolism varies quite a bit between individuals, and that what my wife may eat safely may be quite bad for my health.

30 years ago, I lost 35 pounds on a very low carbohydrate diet, but that’s not a diet for a lifetime, and I gradually put it all back on — plus a 30 pound bonus.

But for the last 48 hours or so, I’ve kept my blood sugar in control — no big spikes — without elimination of carbs. Indeed, a favorite bread (Great Harvest’s Dakota Seed bread) is not a real disrupter. Blood sugar’s still too high, but at least it’s stable at “a little too high.” And a few pounds seem to have come off.

Seeing in real time what that food 30 minutes ago is doing to me now now is very empowering. Getting context-sensitive feedback on the app from the study sponsor (which knows my personal goals) multiplies that. I’m pumped!

Now onto the customary kvetching.


Not the ideology you think

People who think that leftist agitators for gender fluidity are driven by ideology are correct, but it’s probably not the ideology they think it is: it’s good old capitalism — capitalism extended into the deepest recesses of personal identity. We can create that for you wholesale.

Alan Jacobs.

Metaphysical capitalism at work.

Success looks like kin to slavery

Wendell Berry has a new book, The Need to Be Whole: Patriotism and the History of Prejudice. My copy is on the way, but reviews precede it.

[Wendell] Berry reports on an 1820 exchange between the Southern apologist and politician John C. Calhoun and future President John Quincy Adams … During a walk together, Calhoun praised Adams’s principles regarding free labor as “just and noble.” However, he added, in “the Southern Country…they were always understood as applying only to white men.” Hard domestic and manual labor was reserved to black slaves, an approach that was actually “the best guarantee to equality among the whites.” Adams denounced “this confounding of the ideas of servitude and labor,” this “perverted sentiment…mistaking labor for slavery and dominion for Freedom,” as a terrible consequence of slavery.

Adams indirectly affirmed here the immense value to American democracy of the simple freemen who toiled for subsistence on their own family farms or in their own shops. Berry argues, though, that “Calhoun’s values” have in fact won out in America. Success today means to go to the university and so be lifted above the “mind numbing” work of the body and the hands, no matter who gets hurt by the individual’s climb upward. Bluntly put: “We all, black and white together, [now] want to be John C. Calhoun,” leaving the hard and essential work to lesser men and women.

Allan Carlson (emphasis added)

And as lesser the untermenschen do the hard and essential work, we can wank away at bullshit jobs.

Truths that dare not speak their names

An excerpt from Berry’s new book via Katherine Dalton’s review:

I have received a number of warnings of the retribution that will surely follow. But I wonder if they have considered well enough what they have asked of me, which amounts to a radical revision of my calling. They are not asking me for my most careful thoughts about what I have learned or experienced. They are asking me to lay aside my old effort to tell the truth, as it is given to me by my own knowledge and judgment, in order to take up another art, which is that of public relations.

How common such warnings are, and how priceless is Berry’s refusal to abandon the effort to tell the truth!

[T]he courage to ask for historical understanding, charity, and free political speech from a position that will very possibly be labeled “racist” is rare at the moment.

What will we do without Wendell Berry when the day comes? But I wonder, probably not often enough, whether reading and praising Wendell Berry is some kind of cheap grace for over-educated rich people who sense that all is not well but who act as if it’s good enough. People like me.

Superlatively poor medical performance

America’s superlatively poor performance cannot solely be blamed on either the Trump or Biden administrations, although both have made egregious errors. Rather, the new coronavirus exploited the country’s many failing systems: its overstuffed prisons and understaffed nursing homes; its chronically underfunded public-health system; its reliance on convoluted supply chains and a just-in-time economy; its for-profit health-care system, whose workers were already burned out; its decades-long project of unweaving social safety nets; and its legacy of racism and segregation that had already left Black and Indigenous communities and other communities of color disproportionately burdened with health problems. Even in the pre-COVID years, the U.S. was still losing about 626,000 people more than expected for a nation of its size and resources. COVID simply toppled an edifice whose foundations were already rotten.

It would be nice to say that the pandemic revealed deep-seated problems that we had managed to avoid facing — but now we must face them! Nah. We mustn’t, and we probably won’t. It turns out that reality has limited power over an infinitely distractible and distracted society.

Alan Jacobs, block-quoting Ed Yong

First, they cheated at chess …

A cheating scandal has rocked the professional fishing world after two men competing in a tournament Friday were caught stuffing their fish with golf ball-sized weights and fish fillets to, er, tip the scales in their favor.

The Morning Dispatch

The world of Irish step dancing convulsed with cheating allegations after evidence surfaced this week that teachers have been fixing competitions for their students.

The Morning Dispatch

News and not

[T]he third openly transgender actor isn’t news.

Kevin D. Williamson

Award-Winning photo

I always enjoy Atlantic’s photo collections:

“On either side of a highway, gullies formed by rainwater erosion span out like a tree, in Tibet, an autonomous region in southwest China. To capture this image, photographer Li Ping slept alone in a roadside parking lot overnight before using a drone in the early morning hours.”


Involuntarily moderate

Last month The Atlantic’s Jeffrey Goldberg published a fascinating interview with Israeli prime minister Yair Lapid. … “Everybody is stuck in this left-versus-right traditional dynamic,” he said. “But today, all over the world, it’s centrist versus extremist.”

I wanted to stand up and cheer. Now, to be clear, this is a strange position for me. I’ve always been conservative. In the left versus right context, I’ve always considered myself a man of the right—the Reagan right. But when the extremes grow more extreme, and the classical liberal structure of the American republic is under intellectual and legal attack, suddenly I’m an involuntary moderate.

… [O]utside of criminal law, it’s difficult to think of an exercise of state power more raw, immediate, and devastating than the use of state power to sever the bond between parent and child [as both California and Texas do on adolescents with gender identity issues].

David French.

“Involuntary moderates” indeed. Parents care more about their own kids than do California or Texas, to whom the kids are mere political pawns.

Hecklers, trying to veto SCOTUS

Justice Elena Kagan has warned repeatedly about the risk of courts becoming politicized, but others seem less concerned. “The court has always decided controversial cases, and decisions always have been subject to intense criticism, and that is entirely appropriate,” Chief Justice John Roberts said in September. “I don’t understand the connection between opinions that people disagree with and the legitimacy of the court.”

“A lot of the criticism of the court’s legitimacy is basically a heckler’s veto,” [Adam White of AEI] said. “You now have waves of Democrats and progressive activists denouncing the court as illegitimate and then pointing to complaints about the court’s legitimacy as proof of their own accusations.”

The Morning Dispatch

Nobody today is heckling louder than the New York Times:

Re-Christianizing America

You would think that the most controversial claim made at the recent National Conservatism Conference—that the re-Christianization of American culture is the greatest hope for preserving the republic for future generations—would have been made by a Christian.

It wasn’t. It came from Yoram Hazony, chairman of the Edmund Burke Foundation, who argued that, despite being an Orthodox Jew, he believes Christianity to be the only force strong enough to defeat leftist authoritarianism in America.

Delano Squires, Drag Queen Conservatism Is the Real Threat to Religious Freedom.

Did you catch the meaning of that consequentialist opening: we should re-Christianize American not because Christianity is true but because it’s anti-woke. I do not wish to be governed by consequentialist pseudo-Christians, so I’m still in center-right classical liberal camp.

Why should we support the GOP?

Nobody on the right seems able to stop and ask: “Why? Why do we want a party whose leading lights are such figures as Donald Trump and Herschel Walker to control the Senate? Why would we want such figures as Lindsey Graham or Josh Hawley to control anything?”

Maybe there is a case for that. But I spend a lot of time around politicians, especially Republican politicians, taking copious notes on their emissions, and I have not heard a case for Republicans worth repeating in years—only a case against Democrats.

Democrats, for their part, are in essentially the same rhetorical position.

… Mitch McConnell, shrewd carnivore that he is, has tried to dissuade Republicans from producing any kind of legislative to-do list at all, and his argument for that—Why give the Democrats something to run against?—gives away the game: McConnell knows that Republicans are, at this curious political moment, entirely incapable of producing a positive agenda that is anything other than a net loss for them politically. …

The argument ends up being ridiculous for Republicans: Vote for Donald Trump so that he can snog with Kim Jong-un because Joe Biden is a … socialist? Communist? Fascist? Stalinist? Whatever. Trump was buddies with pretty much every extant Stalinist wielding real political power today, while Biden spends his days mumbling into his tapioca about the glories of the WPA.

Kevin D. Williamson

The tiresomeness of it all

There are times, I confess, when I decide to pass on writing another column on how degenerate the Republican Party is. What else is there to say? It’s not as if the entire media class isn’t saying it every hour of every day.

Andrew Sullivan

This was not a day when Sullivan or I could pass on that topic.

Georgia Senate


[V]oters don’t expect much. They’ve had their own imperfect lives, and they long ago lost any assumption that political leaders were more upstanding than they. We are in the postheroic era of American politics. What voters want is someone who sees the major issues as they do. Conservatives especially see America’s deep cultural sickness and wonder if the country is cratering before our eyes. In such circumstances personal histories don’t count as once they did.

But I see the [Herschel] Walker story differently and expect a different outcome.

“The question going forward is how transactional is the average voter going to be?” If you’re sincerely pro-life, how does the Walker story reflect on the pro-life movement?

Peggy Noonan, quoting former DeKalb County GOP Chairman Lane Flynn. Noonan’s focus is not on Walker paying for an abortion, but for his failure to father any of his four (or more) children.

Power, with or without virtue

Conservative radio host Dana Loesch: “I am concerned about one thing, and one thing only, at this point. So I don’t care if Herschel Walker paid to abort endangered baby eagles — I want control of the Senate.”

Sahil Kapur on Twitter (H/T The Morning Dispatch)

Well! That settles that! (What were we talking about again?)

At one time, science said that man came from apes, did it not? But if that’s true, why are there still apes? Think about it.

Herschel Walker, Republican Candidate for the Unites States Senate, via Andrew Sullivan

All Things 45

Writing for the Ages

Kevin D. Williamson’s Bye, Donald Trump — Witless Ape Rides Helicopter is writing for the ages, even if it is going on two years old:

Let me refresh your memory: On the day Donald Trump was sworn in as president, Republicans controlled not only the White House but both houses of Congress. They were in a historically strong position elsewhere as well, controlling both legislative chambers in 32 states. They pissed that away like they were midnight drunks karaoke-warbling that old Chumbawumba song: In 2021, they control approximately squat. The House is run by Nancy Pelosi. The Senate is run, as a practical matter, by Kamala Harris. And Joe Biden won the presidency, notwithstanding whatever the nut-cutlet guest-hosting for Dennis Prager this week has to say about it.

Donald Trump is, in fact, the first president since Herbert Hoover to lead his party to losing the presidency, the House, and the Senate all in a single term …

“But the judges!” you protest. Fair point: Trump’s absurd attempts to overturn the election through specious legal challenges were laughed out of court by the very men and women he appointed to the bench. Even his judges think he’s a joke.

Everybody has figured that out. Except you.

Seemingly a new point about Trump

Ms Haberman makes a particular contribution with this book by describing how the annealing interplay of politics and commerce in the New York of the 1970s and 1980s equipped Mr Trump with the low expectations and cynical convictions that would carry him so far: that racial politics is a zero-sum contest among tribes; that allies as well as enemies must be dominated; that everything in life can be treated as a transaction; that rapidly topping one lie or controversy with the next will tie the media in knots; that celebrity confers power; that not only politicians but even prosecutors are malleable.

Yet these same convictions would also carry Mr Trump only so far. They doomed his presidency. After Mr Trump was elected, James Comey, the FBI director, warned him that a dossier was circulating that alleged Mr Trump had compromised himself in Russia. New York had taught Mr Trump that damaging information was a means of leverage, and so he assumed Mr Comey was threatening him. “Comey was blind to the depths of Trump’s paranoia and to his long history of gamesmanship with government officials,” Ms Haberman writes. Mr Trump would later fire Mr Comey, with disastrous repercussions for himself. The first exchange “set the terms” for Mr Trump’s subsequent interactions with intelligence and law-enforcement officials, according to Ms Haberman.

What Donald Trump Understands, a review of Maggie Haberman’s new book The Confidence Man (emphasis added).

Eating crow

Hunter Baker voted for Trump in 2016.

A binary system dictates binary choices. The Democrats were out for me. Donald Trump was the alternative.

He privately despised the never-Trumpers:

My judgment of colleagues and of various conservatives who opposed Trump was privately severe. On the surface, I fully granted the strength of their concerns. But in the confines of my mind, I concluded that they were moral free riders.

He eventually came to his senses:

I don’t apologize for the votes I cast after careful (indeed, searching) consideration. However, I do have to apologize for my view of the never Trumpers whom I found to be histrionic and unrealistic. They saw further that there were significant risks involved with Donald Trump that could very well outweigh the policy outcomes. They were right about that, and they deserve an apology from me (and perhaps others who saw it the way I did) for not perceiving that their concerns were grounded in reality, not merely some idealistic moral fragility. They perceived a legitimate threat, which did come to significant fruition.

When Pragmatic Politics Goes Bad: An Apology to the Never-Trumpers

I probably haven’t said this in months, so consider this a reminder. I could, given time, come up with thousands of reasons why I can never vote for Donald Trump (if nothing else, I’d chronicle some of his tens of thousands of lies). But the bottom line for me, from the very beginning, was his narcissism along with his sociopathic abuse of people who crossed him. That narcissism sooner or later was going to lead him to dangerously misjudge reality, which does not revolve around him as the planets around the sun. Either he’s lying (again) or it did lead him to his inability to admit losing the 2020 Election.

[S]ubordinating truth to politics is a game which tyrants and bullies always win.

Jonathan Rauch, The Constitution of Knowledge

The Orthodox "phronema" [roughly, mind-set] cannot be programmitized or reduced to shibboleths.

Fr. Jonathan Tobias

You can read most of my more impromptu stuff here (cathartic venting) and here (the only social medium I frequent, because people there are quirky, pleasant and real). Both should work in your RSS aggregator, like Feedly or Reeder, should you want to make a habit of it.

Sunday, 10/2/22


Well, do tell! I had no idea that anyone had put the popular Christian idea of “worldview” under a microscope and dissected it. What’s So Bad About “Worldview”? – The Davenant Institute.

What he says rings true about the people I know who’ve been through Christian “worldview camps.”

The author commends wisdom over worldview, but that would only fly if wisdom were as easy to get as an off-the-rack “worldview.”

Getting what you want or wanting what you need?

I think still, in sort of a modernist worldview, people look at this conversation and think, “This will help me get what I want,” instead of understanding that this will change what you want.

Paul VanderKlay

Banning politicians from Communion

[A] direct attempt at a communion ban [of President Biden] will inevitably be interpreted as a partisan intervention, at a time when the partisan captivity of conservative Christianity, Protestant and Catholic alike, is a serious problem for the witness of the church.

By this I mean that however reasonable the bishops’ focus on abortion as a pre-eminent issue, in a polarized nation it’s created a situation where Republicans can seemingly get away with a vast accumulation of un-Catholic acts and policies and simple lies — many of them on display in Donald Trump’s administration, which was amply staffed with Catholics — and be perpetually forgiven because the Democrats support Roe. v. Wade.

Ross Douthat, The Bishops, Biden and the Brave New World

A stain

Russian soldiers who die in the line of duty in Ukraine have all of their sins forgiven, the patriarch of the Russian Orthodox Church proclaimed in a sermon ….

Religion News Service

Remembering not only lurid versions of what Islamic Jihadists are promised if they die in jihad, but that Popes also said such things to Crusaders, always appalls me. That Patriarch Kirill says it now to Russia’s rag-tag conscripts is a stain on my Church, but let my readers be aware that he stands alone, and is widely criticized by Orthodox laity and leaders outside Russia.

Judging from the Loyalty/Betrayal axis of Jonathan Haidt’s Moral Foundations test, I likely suffer from a deficit of patriotism, at least in comparison to a typical conservative. So statements like the patriarch’s particularly grate on me.

I would feel the same if a Bishop of the Ukrainian Church promised forgiveness of all sins to soldiers dying in defense of the homeland.

It’s a fearful thing to be a clergyman. Orthodoxy holds that Priests, Bishops and Patriarchs will be judged by God for misleading the faithful. Does Patriarch Kirill really believe that?

Paul vs. James

Martin Luther had “issues” with Saint James’ Epistle, and reportedly wanted to kick it out of the Bible. Calvinists aren’t too crazy about it, either. The response isn’t that complicated once you see it:

Saint James’s Epistle is unique on several levels. While the Pauline Epistles speak of Christ primarily theologically, explaining the significance of who Christ is and what Christ has accomplished in the Cross and the Resurrection, St. James teaches in a way that is redolent with the teachings of Christ in His earthly ministry.

Fr. Stephen De Young, Religion of the Apostles

Mind and body

Over the course of his long book, Haidt builds up a case file of evidence from neuroscience, psychology and other fields to demonstrate that the objective, rational mind, magically divorced from the clumsy, emotional physical body, is a fiction. One of the founding myths of modernity has no basis in reality. Haidt compares the relationship between intuition and reason to the relationship between the US president and his press spokesman. The spokesman’s job is to explain to the world what the president has already decided to do; to rationalise it and to justify it, however unjustifiable it may sometimes be.

Paul Kingsnorth, In the Black Chamber

Toxic Shame

I have noted through the years, that some people (including some priests) are convinced that a soul can only be saved with disciplinary slaps and corrections from time to time. If there are such corrections needed in a human life, then it is likely only God who has the wisdom to know when and how such correction should take place. My experience as a priest and confessor is that I simply need to be consistent in sharing God’s love and be patient with what might be a process of healing that takes years. I would add that, in my experience, spiritual abuse is almost always a case of manipulating toxic shame against someone. If that happens, we are not asked to tolerate it.

Fr. Stephen Freeman, When Shame Becomes Toxic

Liberation theology for white people

For the social-gospel-oriented left wing, Christianity exists to build a social order in step with the upward progress of humanity. For the Christian nationalist right wing, Christianity exists to build a social order in step with national or ethnic identity. The gospel is the means for a forward-looking utopianism in the one case and a backward-looking nostalgia in the other. Christian nationalism is a liberation theology for white people.

Russell Moore (H/T John Brady)

Compel yourself to love

When you accuse someone of being judgmental, you’re doing the same thing.

Practice at all times compassion for those you disagree with. Try to understand their reasoning, which is different from yours. Perhaps they have had life experiences that you have not had.

Never distort what they are saying in order to make it sound more outrageous. That’s a form of lying. Deal with what they are actually saying, not a parody of it.

With a contentious issue, the goal is to persuade those on the other side. Judging and denouncing does not persuade. No one was ever humiliated into changing their opinion.

We live in a paradoxical time when condemning and judging is severely condemned and judged. It seems like an effective way to stay on the right side of correct opinion is to identify people saying the wrong things, and denounce them. This is not love.

For your own sake, compel yourself to love your opponents (they are not your enemies; we have only one Enemy). Compel yourself to love, for your soul’s sake.

Frederica Mathewes-Green (emphasis in original)

[S]ubordinating truth to politics is a game which tyrants and bullies always win.

Jonathan Rauch, The Constitution of Knowledge

The Orthodox "phronema" [roughly, mind-set] cannot be programmitized or reduced to shibboleths.

Fr. Jonathan Tobias

You can read most of my more impromptu stuff here (cathartic venting) and here (the only social medium I frequent, because people there are quirky, pleasant and real). Both should work in your RSS aggregator, like Feedly or Reeder, should you want to make a habit of it.

Saturday, 10/1/22

Cursing Darkness

Drink ‘till he’s cute

Purdue University recently was found liable for retaliation against a co-ed for her 2017 complaint that a fraternity member had sex with her without her consent because she was too intoxicated to give real consent. The two female administrators involved remain in their offices with Purdue’s backing (Purdue thinks the jury blew it), and, of course, protests ensued.

Here’s what Purdue had to say about it:

We appreciate our students and their passion on this truly important issue. But we believe, because of the evidence presented, that this is not the correct case to use in advocating for it. This was a very rare case of discipline for making false statements in a sexual assault report. The undisputed facts overwhelmingly established that Roe chose the sexual encounter she later labeled a sexual assault. …

The jury, which in part exonerated university administrators, ruled on the narrow issue of whether Purdue, having conducted a thorough investigation, appropriately disciplined Roe based on its finding of false charges.

Purdue’s position in these matters has long been clear: we will not tolerate sexual harassment in any form, including and especially sexual violence. But neither will we tolerate lying or making false accusations that can have lifelong consequences.

As for our two outstanding administrators, Dr. Katie Sermersheim and Alysa Rollock, we absolutely stand behind them, and any suggestion that they resign is out of the question.

Based in Lafayette.

Here’s a representative protester:

“When you listen to campus tour guides walk by, what do you hear parents ask: ‘Is this campus safe? Can my daughter walk home at night?’” Grace Gochnauer, a Purdue junior, said. “If I was the tour guide, my answer would be no.”

Purdue isn’t Mayberry RFD, but it has no particular problem with stranger rape of co-eds walking home at night. You know what you don’t hear parents ask? “Can my daughter get willingly get blackout drunk at a party, have sex with her apparently enthusiastic consent, and then get a pound of flesh when she regrets it later?”

I once stayed in a girl’s dormitory when on campus for a summer recording session. When I turned out the lights at bedtime, I saw a glowing message on the wall, painted cunningly so it only showed up in the dark: “Drink ‘till he’s cute.” Read between those lines. A frat boy’s equivalent could be “Drink ‘till you’re irresistible.”

I wish Purdue hadn’t found it necessary to ignore the elephant in the room. Call me santimonious, but if campuses could stop binge-drinking, they’d stop maybe 95% of problematic sexual intercourse. Justice Brett Kavanaugh’s unrepentant history of binge-drinking, even when under legal age, was a big reason that I thought the first allegation against him might be true — and why I remain agnostic about it still.

David French never said that!

Jake Meador, one of the good guys, writes about Alternatives to Culture War, but credulously alludes to a slander leveled against David French by tribalist culture warriors.

The slander, widely spread (and here and here ad infinitum), is that French thinks Drag Queen Story Hours are a “blessing of liberty.” Here’s Meador:

It was easier to be anti-culture war when our country still knew what marriage was and what men and women are. But as the SOGI landscape has shifted, culture war has started to look like a viable strategy, especially if the alternative is talking about drag queen story hour as a “blessing of liberty.”

The slander is so prevalent that searching “David French drag queen blessing of liberty” returned, for me at least, six or eight of the lies before it gave one link to the truth. What David French called a blessing of liberty was the absence of viewpoint discrimination in public spaces:

My position was simple — I don’t like drag queen reading hours, but I also want to preserve for all Americans the First Amendment-protected right of viewpoint-neutral access to public facilities when those facilities are opened up for public use. I don’t want the government dispensing access on the basis of its preferred messages or its preferred speakers. Handle bad speech with better speech. Counter bad speakers in the marketplace of ideas, not through the heavy hand of government censorship.

… Our present regime that broadly protects viewpoint neutrality in access to public facilities is the hard-won result of decades of litigation from free speech and religious liberty advocates, and it represents both a public good in its own right and a practical blessing for millions of American Christians. As our government continues to grow — including by creating an immense number of public facilities — it is quite simply just that taxpayers are able to have equal access to the facilities they paid to create.

Viewpoint Neutrality Protects Both Drag Queens and Millions of American Christians | National Review.

Anyone who won’t pause their Jihad long enough to notice the difference between “Drag Queen Story Hour is a blessing of liberty” and “viewpoint-neutral access to public facilities” is a blessing of liberty should stay home and shut up.

And if that’s culture war, so be it.

I’ve certainly flirted with the idea that liberalism has failed, and it’s therefore (almost by definition) time for some kind of post-liberalism. But I’ve yet to find any strange post-liberal devil I prefer to the liberal devils I already know. For that reason, I’m particularly keen to defend right-liberal David French from tendentious slanders by any and all far-right liars.


If these populist, corporatist, nationalist, ultramontane, oh-so-European ideas succeed in replacing conservatism as we once knew it, they will be called conservatism. But as Friedrich Hayek argued, this conservatism will be “Old World conservatism,” because the conservative in America is necessarily a defender of the liberal tradition of the founding.

[T]he Heritage Foundation is, by any sane reckoning, an elite institution and it admits as much to donors. Second, this us-vs.-them framing implies that the “everyday people” of Italy have more in common with the “everyday people” of America, which is 31 flavors of nonsense for all sorts of reasons, not least that Italians aren’t Americans. Conservatives used to understand that the old Marxist idea that members of the working class were united against the ruling class regardless of nationality—“Workers of the world unite!”—was folly. But now, “Everyday people of the world unite!” is the rallying cry of a leading conservative think tank?

Now, I can’t put “conservative” in scare quotes the way I’d like to, because I think Heritage can still claim to be conservative. But let’s have no illusions: It’s not the same kind of conservative it used to be. Heritage used to champion American exceptionalism with gusto. As Heritage co-founder and longtime president Ed Feulner put it, “And while, in the heat of political battle, we naturally focus on the differences between liberals and conservatives, and their contrasting visions of our country’s future, it is important to remember that regardless of party or political philosophy, we are Americans, we love our country — and we are patriots.” In 2019, Heritage even founded the Feulner Institute for American Exceptionalism, which seems to have had as much impact as the Goldberg Institute for Healthy Living—neither organization even has a website.

Jonah Goldberg, Slouching Towards the Old World

Gotta stay in the limelight, no matter what

[P]erhaps the most revealing aspect of the book, to be published next week, is that Trump gave Maggie [Haberman], a Times reporter since 2015, three interviews for it. This is the same Trump who vilified her on Twitter, called her names and cast her as the personification of “fake news.” Maggie just pressed on, asking the right questions, getting the right people to answer them and seemingly trusting on some level that Trump would never wholly cut her off. She can recognize a performance when she sees one. And she can hear in a narcissist’s self-regarding soliloquies the aching need to babble on.

… Maggie (a friend of mine) and the other journalists whom he publicly insulted but privately indulged were, to him, reserves of precious attention, their discerning gazes trained on him, their busy thoughts dedicated to the puzzle of him, their notepads and audio recordings and television cameras a conduit to ever greater fame. There was danger in letting them in, peril in having them around, but the alternative was worse. They might give prime real estate on the evening’s newscast to some other circus act. They might write books about a lesser clown.

Frank Bruni, Donald can’t quit Maggie.

Lighting Candles

Journalistic bias, journalistic power

[T]he classic critique from the Right about [news] bias and the new critique from the Left about false equivalency often strike me as frivolous. They can often make sense on some particular item — Ouch, gotta admit, that’s a pretty good point — but cumulatively seem to miss the important point.

That point, in my view, is that the power of journalism does not principally flow from word choice. (Don’t call it a “misstatement” when it’s really a “lie.”) It does not flow from tonal presentation. (More than a half-century ago Richard Nixon’s vice president, Spiro Agnew, said network commentators revealed their bias “by the expressions on their faces, the tone of their questions, the sarcasm of their responses.”) The point is that the power of journalism comes from the primacy of reporting — from telling their audiences things that people in power would prefer they not know.

John F. Harris, The Reporters Who Proved That Journalism Is More Powerful Than Trump

Emotional Safetyism

By the mid-1990s, the doctrine was being used to sue an employer who printed a Bible verse on paychecks (which a court found to be religious harassment of non-Christians). A university forced a graduate student to remove a photo of his bikini-clad wife from his desk, because someone filed a harassment complaint. A library worker was forced to remove a New Yorker cartoon from his work area after coworkers said it harassed them. The town of Murfreesboro, Tennessee, removed a painting from a public exhibit in City Hall after a city employee filed a hostile-environment complaint about it. Those incidents and others like them should have been seen as flashing red lights, but weren’t.

Jonathan Rauch, The Constitution of Knowledge, on “emotional safetyism.”

Gestalt switch

[A]s we have already seen, normal science ultimately leads only to the recognition of anomalies and to crises. And these are terminated, not by deliberation and interpretation, but by a relatively sudden and unstructured event like the gestalt switch.

Thomas S. Kuhn, The Structure of Scientific Revolutons

Counting one’s privilege

I highly recommend this Outliers, Revisited episode of Malcolm Gladwell’s Revisionist History podcast. I won’t ruin it for you except that it involves a 40-30-20-10 “rule” that holds true in way too many fields.

Election Prep

Now might be a good time to refresh your memory on whether your congressperson, on January 6, 2021, voted for the United States of America or voted for the “Oathkeepers” and other insurrectionists. My congressman, normally a cipher, voted with the insurrectionists.

Gathering flowers

Bloggers and writers

I’m a blogger. Bloggers have different talents than writers.

We value writers for their prose and their insight. We value bloggers for their speed, their efficiency at curating news, and their ability to formulate strong political opinions—“takes,” we might more aptly call them—about literally anything that might turn up on the Drudge Report or in the average news junkie’s Twitter timeline.

Nick Catoggio at the Dispatch.

Quoted with approval.

The production of “childhood”

If there were no age-specific and obligatory learning institution, “childhood” would go out of production. The youth of rich nations would be liberated from its destructiveness, and poor nations would cease attempting to rival the childishness of the rich.

Ivan Illich, Deschooling Society

[S]ubordinating truth to politics is a game which tyrants and bullies always win.

Jonathan Rauch, The Constitution of Knowledge

The Orthodox “phronema” [roughly, mind-set] cannot be programmitized or reduced to shibboleths.

Fr. Jonathan Tobias

You can read most of my more impromptu stuff here (cathartic venting) and here (the only social medium I frequent, because people there are quirky, pleasant and real). Both should work in your RSS aggregator, like Feedly or Reeder, should you want to make a habit of it.