Saturday, 3/11/23


What is it about “bad” they don’t understand?

Plato spoke of morality being eternally oriented toward the idea of the Good. Theologians and philosophers who followed in the Platonic tradition have typically insisted that evil has no positive power of its own and is merely the absence of goodness in a person, thing, or act. Many Christians have affirmed a version of this view, speaking instead of God’s infinite and intrinsic goodness anchoring the moral order underlying the world. But others have insisted that evil is its own independent force, tempting human beings to acts of sinful defiance, doing battle with God, challenging him, and even seeking his ruin and defeat.

In the Christian tradition, this force has many names: Satan, the Devil, Lucifer, Beelzebub, and others.

In the largely post-Christian public world of the United States, this force has come to be called fascism, Nazism, or Hitler. (At least among liberals and progressives. Among conservatives and others on the right, Communism plays an analogous role.)

Fascism, Nazism, Hitler—these may be our (only?) fixed moral absolutes, with our publicly affirmed positive standards of justice and progress often defined largely by negation of the totalitarian cruelty, prejudice, anti-Semitism, racism, and generalized bigotry that characterized the regime of Nazi Germany.

Damon Linker, When Bad Isn’t Good Enough

Gender news

In chaotic gender news: On the left this week: USA Powerlifting will allow trans women to compete in the women’s division. On the right: Daily Wire host Michael Knowles says at CPAC that “Transgenderism must be eradicated from public life entirely.” 

If you are someone empathetic and kind and reality-based, you have nowhere to go. Your two options are bleak. On one side is the argument that biological males who went through male puberty should be able to compete against biological females in the sport of . . . powerlifting. On the other side is the sort of panicked and vicious talk of “eradicating” whatever “transgenderism” might be to Michael Knowles, which, for all I know, might include me wearing pants. Basically, for the moderate, things remain bad.

Nellie Bowles

Monkey Business

HelloFresh, a German firm that delivers meal ingredients, said it would stop sourcing its coconut milk from Thailand, over fears that farmers there are using monkeys as forced labour. The firm has come under pressure from PETA, an animal-rights group, which says monkeys are often chained to trees and whipped, and forced to spend long hours picking the drupes.

The Economist, The world in brief for 11:00 or so, 3/8/23



Hackneyed phrase of the decade: “trying to erase our/my existence.”

This would be awkward locution even as applied to genocide; it’s incoherent as a complaint about policy differences.

Poetic Wordplay

Education is the refinement of evil.

R.S. Thomas

One of three

Emotionally incontinent fan-service

Kevin D. Williamson’s coinage for one of three competing needs or values in journalism. His specific reference was to the New York Times, but he clearly had others (Atlantic and Fox news, for specific instances) in mind

Virtue-signaling is alive and well

privileged people flagellating themselves with dental floss.

Garrison Keillor, The worst play I ever saw: a landmark

I miss not being able to miss out

Living in the Internet era means you can never not know what you’re missing out on.

Matt Dreher via his father.

Fox News

Public lies

A question this column has wrestled with more than once: When are the lies of a disreputable and widely discredited figure like Mr. Trump a bigger danger to the republic than lies that receive the near-universal endorsement of the establishment and its institutions?

Holman W. Jenkins, Jr.


Carlson will say what the Fox News audience truly doesn’t want to hear — not just that Donald Trump lost, but that he was also a bad president. He was bad for the country. On Jan. 4, 2021, Carlson texted this about Trump’s single term: “We’re all pretending we’ve got a lot to show for it, because admitting what a disaster it’s been is too tough to digest. But come on. There really isn’t an upside to Trump.”

Thank you, Tucker. As Trump runs again, this is the most important truth of all.

So why would Carlson say that Trump’s presidency was a “disaster?” We don’t yet know his specific case against Trump, and he seems to have no intention to tell the public what he really thinks. But the word certainly fits. Politically, Trump has hurt the G.O.P. He handed back control of every elected branch of the federal government to the Democratic Party in four short years. He was fiscally irresponsible. The budget deficit grew every year of his presidency. He passed only one truly meaningful piece of legislation in four years, a tax bill that was far more Paul Ryan’s than Donald Trump’s. He undermined America’s vital military alliances.

His corruption, his eagerness to put millions of dollars of taxpayer money into his resorts and properties and his willingness to let his family accept vast sums from foreign entities is profoundly troubling. We’ll likely be discovering further examples of his outright graft for years, if not decades. There’s considerable evidence that suggests he committed felonies in office.

And yet, that is still a somewhat superficial diagnosis. If you dig deeper, you’ll see that, for all the flaws just enumerated, the Trump years were most disastrous for the social and civic health of the United States of America. The increases in suffering and despair have been profound. Donald Trump’s presidency battered the American spirit.

David French

No consistency, hobgoblin or otherwise, at Fox

Tucker has spent just two hours so far unveiling what he’s found in the January 6 video archive but already his program has devolved into arguing in the alternative to encourage viewers to choose their own adventure. On Monday evening he sneered at the idea that the rioters were violent: “They were orderly and meek,” he claimed. “These were not insurrectionists; they were sightseers.” Then, on Tuesday, he complained that the Capitol Police weren’t prepared for what they would face that day.

Faulting D.C. cops for not anticipating the threat from meek sightseers makes no sense, but it doesn’t need to. Carlson isn’t sketching out a narrative of the insurrection, he’s offering viewers different paths to reach the conclusion that whatever happened that day shouldn’t be held against Trump, the Republican Party, or the broader right.

And amazingly, he’s doing so at a moment when America—save for those who watch only Fox News—is learning in gory detail how remote some of his private political views are from his audience’s. Shortly before Tuesday night’s show aired, the latest court documents from Dominion Voting Systems were revealed. From NBC News:

Carlson, one of Fox News’ top hosts, made it clear on Jan. 4, 2021, that he was getting fed up with Trump. In a text exchange with an unknown person, Carlson said: “We are very, very close to being able to ignore Trump most nights. I truly can’t wait.”

“I hate him passionately. I blew up at Peter Navarro today in frustration,” he added, referring to the former Trump administration official. “I actually like Peter. But I can’t handle much more of this.”

He wrote in another text message: “That’s the last four years. We’re all pretending we’ve got a lot to show for it, because admitting what a disaster it’s been is too tough to digest. But come on. There isn’t really an upside to Trump.”

Nicholas Grossman … identi[ed] a few other contradictory staples of the Trump era, such as Trump somehow being the ultimate tough guy and the ultimate victim and Trump being a supremely talented executive who’s constantly undermined by the people he chooses to hire. Those positions can’t be reconciled logically but they can be reconciled circumstantially, as political needs require. If you’ve spent years arguing that Trump is hypercompetent but that he’s also forever being blindsided and thwarted by those around him, believing that January 6 was at once justified, overblown, and a sinister ploy by political enemies is no sweat.

Nick Cattogio, Choose Your Own Adventure

Tucker clearly isn’t stupid. There’s no cure for stupid. But liars-for-hire can repent.



I endorsed in my last blog post the “theory that many grassroots Republicans don’t want to win elections anymore.”

If Garrison Keillor is right, that attitude is not a Republican exclusive:

An excellent story by William Finnegan in last week’s New Yorker opens a window on the Democratic incompetence and squalid corporate corruption that frustrates all attempts to replace Penn Station. Every Democrat should read it.

This hellhole sits in Midtown making millions of people miserable, and nobody in power holds out any prospect of success, meanwhile the Democratic Party is plagued with progressives out to prove their purity by winning defeat.

(Italics added)

Be it remembered …

But what if Donald Trump wins? I’m referring here to the widely circulated Washington Post essay by Robert Kagan, a neoconservative pundit associated with the Brookings Institution and the Council on Foreign Relations, warning that “we are already in a constitutional crisis” because of the certainty that Mr. Trump and his voters will reject his defeat in the upcoming 2024 election and trigger the worst crisis “since the Civil War.”

The alternative outcome goes unmentioned thanks to a giant lacuna that exists in half of America’s mental landscape, and in the mental landscape of 99% of the media. Mr. Kagan relies on some just-so oversimplification, but we’d be foolish not to see the risk of civil disorder and legal shenanigans as high no matter who loses in 2024. Downtowns were boarded up on the eve of the 2020 race not against angry and aggrieved Trump voters. Rural riots are hardly a thing. It was in deeply blue areas that local officials feared mass violence if the election didn’t turn out the way Democrats wanted.

Holman W. Jenkins, Jr., If Trump Wins in 2024, Then Who Threatens Democracy? (published in October 2021; emphasis added)

Jenkins engages in some genuinely helpful whataboutism, and engages it at a fairly high level with names and specifics that we’re not supposed to remember. It’s worth a read, and I assume the paywall is down.

Tradition is a bulwark against the power of commerce and the dissolving acid of money, and by removing these, all revolutions in the modern period have ended up accelerating the commercial and technological shift towards the Machine.

Paul Kingsnorth

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.

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