I continue, with surprisingly little effort, to cease wallowing my mornings away with doomscrolling the news. It makes for less frequent blogging, but I hope it’s a bit more interesting.
Did your November fly past as quickly as mine?
Maybe you should sit down to read this and then mark your calendar in anticipation: on Sunday, I’m posting something nice about the Evangelicalism of my youth.
It may have boogered-up formatting, as WordPress seems incompetent at handling markdown other than paste-it-and-publish; save it and go back for edits and it incorrigibly inserts literal > before every blockquote.
People who discuss lowering the voting age – not only those for it but also those against – assume that it would mean a transfer of political influence to the young.
That is absurd. It would mean no such thing.
… It would only mean increasing the political clout of those who have influence through the young.
Pop stars. Sports coaches. Schoolteachers. Writers and editors of media aimed at teens. Especially people in such groups who have no children of their own to take up their time and attention.
… So one could expect further politicization of entertainment, primary and secondary education, youth athletics, children’s and “young adults” books, and teen magazines and media.
Sondheim’s work was at its strongest when it lingered in the pain of the dawning realization that no ever after ever lasted long. His music and lyrics looked squarely at life and insisted, gently and eloquently, that of course it was never going to be exactly how we wanted it to be, that messiness and ambiguity were to be expected, and could even be part of the beauty.
Amy Weiss-Meyer, What Stephen Sondheim Knew About Endings
I’ve pretty much stopped reading about Sondheim — though every new article is a temptation. An especially lovely surprise was John McWhorter’s heartfelt tribute.
“Should the emancipation and secularization of the modern age,” [Hanna] Arendt wondered, “which began with a turning-away, not necessarily from God, but from a god who was the Father of men in heaven, end with an even more fateful repudiation of an Earth who was the Mother of all living creatures under the sky?”
I thought about Arendt as I listened to Jeff Bezos talk about space exploration at a recent event held at the National Cathedral, a setting that will strike those of you familiar with the late David Noble’s work in The Religion of Technology as altogether apropos. The thesis of Noble’s book was that “modern technology and religion have evolved together and that, as a result, the technological enterprise has been and remains suffused with religious belief.” In this light, a cathedral is an altogether appropriate setting for the annunciation of a not-so-novel message of technologically mediated salvation and transcendence.
To be sure, Bezos makes a number of statements about how special and unique the earth is and about how we must preserve it at all costs. Indeed, this is central to Bezos’s pitch. In his view, humanity must colonize space, in part, so that resource extraction, heavy industry, and a sizable percentage of future humans can be moved off the planet. It is sustainability turned on its head: a plan to sustain the present trajectories of production and consumption.
L. M. Sacasas, Earth Alienation As A Service
This merits full reading, as the infatuation with space travel and colonization is not the only way in which our technological advances correlate to alienation from our actual situation.
In a related vein:
I kept thinking about Jesus’s admonition that it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter heaven. The point is not that rich people are wicked. The point is that if you have money, it is much easier to believe that you can control things, that your money and the technology it can afford (as well as living in a relatively wealthy society) buffers you from contingencies. We forget our dependence on God, but more to the point, we forget to cultivate awareness of Him.
Experience of the natural world does not generate faith. (Christianity is not a so-called Nature religion.) But surely it can encourage a certain psychological orientation favorable to some brands of religious faith; and this suggests the correlative possibility that reduced experience of the natural world might do just the opposite.
It is probable that no one has yet created a cataphatic theology grounded in technological analogies because it cannot be done. Technological artifacts point us to the wrong creator — to the human race, not God; so they seem bereft of real signals of transcendence. Further, as they become our environment, they imprint in the collective subconscious the message that things exist in order to serve us. That is the very last thing we need to intuit.
despite its undeniable defects, asceticism was "positive, not negative" because it "fundamentally aspired to liberate the highest powers of personality from obstruction by the automatism of the lower drives."
Rod Dreher, ‘The Luminous Dusk’
Call me a bigot, but everyone who expresses enthusiasm about space colonization (or Zuckerberg’s Metaverse) as a solution to some problem sinks in my estimation (unless they were alread rock-bottom).
RSVP Hall of Fame
Late in life, during the Second Vatican Council’s alleged golden dawn, Waugh received an invitation to a book launch by self-consciously “progressive” Catholics. He shot back by postcard his unforgettable RSVP: while he would not attend a social meal in the progressives’ company, “I would gladly attend an auto da fé at which your guests were incinerated.”
Bacevich et. al., The Essence of Conservatism
As humor writer Dave Barry put it, “Critics allege that [Amy Coney] Barrett belongs to a harmful non-secular cult that subjugates ladies by forcing them to turn into Supreme Court justices.”
We need to broaden the tent of feminism. If, in order to be a feminist, one cannot simply be against the oppression of women but also must affirm abortion or other left-of-center causes, then feminism does not actually exist as a movement. It is merely pro-choice progressivism marketed for ladies.
And that ultimately weakens the cause of feminism because it excludes a lot of women, especially young women ….
Tish Harrison Warren, Why the Feminist Movement Needs Pro-Life People
Fox broadcasts Seth Rich conspiracies? Memory-holed. Fox gave airtime to Kraken lawyers? Well, they were just asking questions. Its streaming platform airs a deranged Patriot Purge documentary that re-imagines the reality of January 6? Nobody watches Fox Nation anyway.
The cultural and political consequences in the right-wing grassroots are considerable. Politically engaged citizens can cite to you chapter and verse of (very real!) mainstream media scandals, yet they’re often completely shocked at the idea that the alternative institutions they follow are often substantially less reliable than the MSM they despise.
But honestly, how would they know? They’re inoculated against criticism of the right by the left, and how many voices on the right are reliably independent and free of Fox’s influence?
Mainstream media is still often plagued with groupthink and intolerance. Unfortunately, the right surveyed years of problems with legacy outlets and then built a media industry that was somehow even worse.
Despite Fox’s dominance, The Dispatch’s Jonah Goldberg and Steve Hayes resigned as contributors after Tucker Carlson’s Patriot Purge insanity,
Consider supporting The Dispatch. And getting off Fox News. All network news stultifies, but some stultifies more than others.
I don’t know why we don’t think more deeply and consistently of consequences of public policies and programs:
[T]he intentions behind a given policy tell us little about its likely effects ….
Tyler Cowen, commenting on a paper by Boaz Abramson in When Lawyers Make Things Worse.
Policies that make it harder to evict delinquent tenants, for example by providing tax-funded legal counsel in eviction cases ("Right-to-Counsel") or by instating eviction moratoria, protect renters from eviction in bad times. However, higher default costs to landlords lead to higher equilibrium rents and lower housing supply, implying homelessness might increase.
Early to bed, early to rise
My early jobs as a dishwasher and parking lot attendant began at 6 a.m. and I remember this dimness well. It changed my life. I stayed home at night and went to bed early and postponed debauchery to my mid-twenties and then, at the age of 27, I got a job on the 5 a.m. shift and postponed it again. A dear friend of mine, whose parents subsidized her fully, went out late one night and fell in with some fascinating strangers who introduced her to hashish and some other substance and she fell into a psychotic state and had to be hospitalized and spent some time in a drug program where she met more fascinating troubled people and it changed her life. She never found a vocation. Instead, she became fascinated by her own disability and made a career of being troubled, married a troubled man who abused her, and today she’s in a nursing home somewhere, a faint replica of the witty woman she once was, and I am waiting for the coffee to brew so I can get back to work on a novel. Early to bed and early to rise makes for a life that, if not wealthy and wise, is at least pleasant and sensible.
Lies the Atlantic told me
Ending legal abortion in America, though, has long been the main goal of the conservative legal movement.
Serwer is wrong if he means that literally, sloppy if he doesn’t.
Ending the pretext that the Constitution mandates legal abortion has been the goal. It remains after that to persuade legislatures of the appropriate restrictions on abortion.
I will be surprised if more than 5 states fly their progressive flags by legislating abortion on demand throughout pregnancy; if more than 10 states ban all abortions initially; if more than 5 states that initially banned all abortions continue to do so 5 years after Supreme Court success; if a majority of states don’t allow abortions in the first trimester.
A lot of politicians have gotten by with feigning pro- or anti-abortion purity on the cheap for almost 50 years now. We’ll see how much dross the legislative crucible throws off.
(There was another Atlantic item even worse than Serwer’s.)
Why I don’t rush to give 5 stars to new podcasts
Can anything good come out of the now-Trumpified Claremont Institute?
I’ll leave it for you to judge, but my hopes for Spencer Klaven’s Young Heretics podcast (held out as classical education for adults who weren’t classically educated) turned, for my tastes, into propaganda as the young, bright podcaster would "apply" the lessons of antiquity to modern U.S.A.
Sad. But at least it’s one less podcast I feel obliged to audit.
And it confirms the wisdom of ignoring pleas of new podcasts to "visit Apple podcasts and give us a 5-Star rating." Give me a dozen or so episodes, folks; I’m not your Junior Marketing Assistant.
I would be remiss if I failed to ask — How ’bout them Boilermakers?!
The Purdue Men’s basketball team bodes well to get a number 1 ranking if it can win its next road game. It’s 7-0, averaging over 90 points per game, and (if you hadn’t heard) 10-men deep. A lot of good teams will drop to Purdue, as Villanova did, simple because Purdue wears them out by rotating in fresh legs all game long, and getting solid production off the bench.
I hope the NBA knows how to reward team play — but that they don’t get Jaden Ivy to bolt after just two years. His mom, a WNBA veteran and Notre Dame coach may be able to steel him against the blandishments.