Obituary — Traute Lafrenz
As the German Army faced crushing losses at Stalingrad in 1942 and 1943, the White Rose sensed mistakenly that military reverses would turn Germans against Hitler. The group’s fliers, quoting from Goethe, Schiller, Aristotle, Lao Tzu and the Bible, urged passive resistance and sabotage of the Nazi project.
“Isn’t it true that every honest German is ashamed of his government these days?” the first leaflet asked. “Who among us can imagine the degree of shame that will come upon us and upon our children when the veils fall from our faces and the awful crimes that infinitely exceed any human measure are exposed to the light of day?”
From the New York Times obituary for Traute Lafrenz, the last survivor of the German Resistance group White Rose.
Note particularly the first sentence, which strikes me as relevant to the current political popularity of certain creeps and losers.
Picking the lesser evil
As much as I object to the sloppy practices of some gender clinics and to their widely-reported unseemly haste to “transition” (i.e., mutilate) adolescents, there is a case for balancing harms, and for giving great weight to the question “who decides?”
That comes forcefully to mind as I watch ham-handed limelight-seekers in legislatures trying to solve the trans social contagion with something close to outright bans on any approach to adolescent gender dysphoria other than “watchful waiting.” I think doctors should do a lot more watchful waiting than they have been, but when I saw the legislative response, I realized it may be best for legislators to stay out of it if they can’t do any better than that — and it may be that they legitimately cannot.
If “patient, parents and physician decide” prevails, it will mean (in the current, white-hot mania) many lives ruined with the only recourse being a malpractice action, not restoration of full health. But that imperfect outcome may just be the best we can do.
(I wrote this before reading Andrew Sullivan’s Substack, which made an analogous point.)
How to treat critics of democracy
It would be wholly unworthy of us as thinking beings not to listen to the critics of democracy—even if they are enemies of democracy—provided they are thinking men (and especially great thinkers) and not blustering fools.
Leo Strauss via Michael Millerman at First Things
Go thou and do likewise, HRC
When the Berlin Wall fell, the Committee for the Free World, a neoconservative think tank, closed its doors. Its director, Midge Decter, concluded that it had served its purpose and so should dissolve. Gay-rights organizations [e.g., Human Rights Campaign] chose a different path after Obergefell. Rather than declare victory and go home, they moved on to the “next frontier”: transgender rights. Religious conservatives had already been largely eliminated from important American institutions, and so posed no internal obstacle to the pursuit of this goal. Feminists, who remained, mostly went along with the idea that men could become women. Those who chose to speak were labeled “TERFs” and targeted with the same arsenal of social, professional, and financial threats that had once been deployed against opponents of same-sex marriage.
Matthew Schmitz, How Gay Marriage Changed America by Matthew Schmitz
Ginger Prince welcomes “dialog”
The ginger Prince is “open” to talking with the family, “to help them understand their unconscious bias.” We all know what this type of “dialogue” means coming from one who feels victimized. It means that you talk and talk until you agree with them. It is pointless to disagree with those who carefully nurture their sense of victimhood, the perpetually aggrieved, whether it be your crazy cousin or the former President.
Terry Cowan, Spare Me
Learning from Armenians
I asked every person I met if they felt any hate—toward the Turks, or the Azeris, or anyone else who imperiled Armenia or turned a blind eye to their fate. The question struck them all as strange. “Why would I feel hate?” a former senior government official responded over espressos and biscotti. “There are so many other, more productive things to feel and do.”
… [U]nless I’ve been gravely misinformed, if it throws in for nothing else, surely Christianity is bullish on hope. Americans should take note. Stateside, hope is in short supply.
Here I would remind you that Chris Cuomo had his entire media career destroyed because he gave a politician (his brother) back-channel advice concerning a specific incident without disclosing it.
Which is proper: What Cuomo did was 100 percent out of bounds. CNN was right to fire him. It’s good that no other mainstream outlet has hired him.
My point is that in the “liberal mainstream media,” Chris Cuomo got the professional equivalent of the death penalty for an offense that was a tiny fraction of the size of what happens up and down the line at Fox every forking day. And the Fox people will face zero consequences for their infinitely greater sins.
But, hey, the liberal mainstream media got the Covington kids story wrong for 24 hours, so, what are you gonna do, right? Both sides?
Jonathan V. Last, Spoiler: Fox Wins
I almost added emphasis, but surely you can read or re-read four short paragraphs and get the point.
With what judgment ye judge, ye shall be judged
I think there’s a deep phoniness at the center of [Bill O’Reilly’s] schtick. The schtick is built on this perception that he is the character he plays. He is Everyman … fighting for you against the powers that be. And that’s great as a schtick. But the moment that it’s revealed not to be true, it’s over.
Tucker Carlson in 2003, via Andrew Sullivan.
What is “woke”?
This is what I mean when I use the term “woke”: the effort by progressives to take ideological control of institutions within civil society and use those positions to mandate that their moral outlook (and accompanying empirical claims about race, American history, and human sexuality and gender) be adopted throughout the broader culture. Note that for the most part this is about society and not politics as normally defined. Democrats (at least outside of the very bluest districts) aren’t running for office on a woke agenda. Plenty of people tried to in the 2020 Democratic presidential primaries, but the least woke candidate among them (Joe Biden) prevailed, showing that America’s left-leaning party keeps one foot firmly planted in the unwoke liberal center-left, where I make my ideological home.
Yet Republicans haven’t responded at the level of civil society. Instead, prodded by rabblerousing right-wing digital activists like Christopher Rufo, they have sought to combat wokeness using the blunt force of government power—by banning books, curtailing what can be taught in schools, imposing penalties on private companies for taking progressive stands on social and cultural issues, and seizing control of public universities to prevent them from teaching the “wrong” things and following DEI mandates in their hiring decisions.
Republicans justify these aggressive moves by claiming that wokeness isn’t just a problem but a huge problem, a massive problem, maybe even the biggest problem facing the country. In this respect, wokeness has become a successor in their minds to communism—a totalitarian ideology of the left that threatens to destroy all that’s good and great about America and that therefore needs to be rooted out by any means necessary. (Some on the right make the connection to communism explicit by describing wokeness as a form of “cultural Marxism.” Since I see the phenomenon primarily as a form of post-Protestant Christianity, I avoid using the term.)
[N]othing would do more to empower wokeness as a grassroots phenomenon than sending DeSantis to the White House, where he would fight moral illiberalism with political illiberalism, in the process turning left-wing activists into martyrs for freedom and democracy.
We can’t fight wokeness by smashing it politically. We can only fight it by convincing liberal-minded people in powerful positions within private and public institutions that they should stand up to and resist it. Which may be just another way of saying that the key to stopping wokeism is a reaffirmation of liberalism.
Making your adversaries second-class citizens
I think David French succeeded today in identifying why I find our polarized politics so worrisome:
The Constitution of the United States, properly interpreted, provides a marvelous method for handling social conflict. It empowers an elected government to enact even contentious new rules while protecting the most fundamental human rights of dissenting citizens. Political defeat is never total defeat. Losers of a given election still possess their basic civil liberties, and the combination of the right to speak and the right to vote provides them concrete hope for their preferred political outcomes.
But if a government both enacts contentious policies and diminishes the civil liberties of its current ideological opponents, then it sharply increases the stakes of political conflict. It breaks the social compact by rendering political losers, in effect, second-class citizens. A culture war waged against the civil liberties of your political opponents inflicts a double injury on dissenters: They don’t merely lose a vote; they also lose a share of their freedom.
That’s exactly what’s happening now. The culture war is coming for American liberty — in red states and blue alike. The examples are legion ….
I think the link will get you through the NYT paywall.
The kinds of laws French identifies offend me in another way: they reflect the contempt of legislators and governors for their oaths to uphold the Constitution, inasmuch as many of these laws are unconstitutional substantively or because they’re so vague that a reasonable person cannot discern where the lien is between lawful and unlawful. And it’s a black mark against Ron DeSantis that he supports several of them.
And don’t get me started on the smarmy governor of California, who … no, I don’t want to get started.
Heuristics to counteract gaslighting
In reality, a consensus can be wrong, and a conspiracy theory can sometimes point toward an overlooked or hidden truth — and the approach that Caulfield proposes, to say nothing of the idea of a centralized Office of Reality, seem likely to founder on these rocks. If you tell people not to listen to some prominent crank because that person doesn’t represent the establishment view or the consensus position, you’re setting yourself up to be written off as a dupe or deceiver whenever the consensus position fails or falls apart.
Ross Douthat, A Better Way to Think About Conspiracies This bubbled up among Readwise clips recently.
It seems to me that as we enter the age of AI-generated fake news, the heuristics Douthat commends for conspiracy theories will be doing double-duty.
Election 2024 storm clouds
Ross Douthat, Trump Knows How to Make Promises. Do His Rivals? is well worth reading if you don’t mind the gist: that Trump will win the GOP nomination.
Smart takes, dumb takes
There will be two populist right-wing critiques of SVB, I suspect, more complementary than contradictory.
The smart one, laid out by Ramaswamy in his detailed analysis of SVB’s mismanagement, is that a bailout will create more problems for the country long-term than would letting the bank fail and leaving its depositors in temporary financial limbo. Customers with millions or billions of dollars in assets suddenly have no great incentive to ensure that they’re banking with a responsible institution now that the feds have agreed to backstop irresponsible ones. Better to let SVB’s clients suffer and thereby incentivize other American businesses to do greater diligence in deciding where to park their money. The best-run banks will get the lion’s share of the deposits. Free-market competition, in all its glory.
That’s impressively logical but too pat, I think, at a moment of panic. Panic is the enemy of logic; once bank runs begin, even banks that did things the right way might be overrun and broken as customers rush to move their money. And that money won’t be moved to better-run midsize banks, it’ll be moved to Wall Street giants for maximum safety.
Still, Ramaswamy’s basic point, that markets will reward and punish the right people more fairly and efficiently than the government can, is well taken. Smart critique.
Then there’s the not-so-smart one.
They were one of the most woke banks
(Republican Congressman James Comer, via Aaron Rupar on Twitter via Nick Cattogio)
To borrow Joe Biden’s line about Rudy Giuliani, many Trump-era Republicans are so invested in culture war that they can’t get through a sentence without a noun, a verb, and “woke,” or some variation thereof.
For the first time ever, I set aside my annual vehicle registration papers and forgot to send them in. So I appeared at the BMV in person to remedy the problem.
O felix culpa! I got my first up close look at 7’4″ 305 pound Zach Edey, likely NCAA Men’s player of the year. (Eventually, my number was called and I was seated to his immediate left.)
Yes, he has to duck for every doorway. Duck quite a lot, actually.
Another close encounter
As long as we’re doing photos and stories of close encounters (well, I am anyway), I’ll reminisce about a choral experience.
Singing under the late William Jon Gray, our serious amateur chorus usually hired soloists for our major works, generally sacred classics like masses and oratorios. One Spring as we were warming up for the concert, Mr. Gray introduced us to our tenor soloist, brought in from the Jacobs School at Indiana University, mingled in with the tenor section for warmups, but who had not even joined us in dress rehearsal (unusual).
Ladies and gentleman, I’d like to introduce you to our tenor soloist today, Lawrence Brownlee. Enjoy him, because we’ll never be able to afford him again: he won the Metropolitan Opera Auditions this week.
I promised a picture, but it’s not of our concert. You may recognize the famous lady Lawrence accompanied in this Met production:
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.
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