Late Sunday fare

Bad Tipy! Bad bad Tipsy! I should have posted this about 10 hours ago.

Faith versus Ideology

She came from rough people but she had a natural love for poetry, history, and politics. She wasn’t ideological—ardent Catholics don’t need an ideology, they’ve already got the essential facts.

Peggy Noonan’s Thanksgiving Day reminiscence.

The tainting of Christian (perhaps others, too) faith with ideology seems to be a persistent risk, even if Peggy Noonan’s great-aunt escaped it. The relationship between religion and ideology is one I’ve been pondering for around 25 years now, and I’m not certain I’m any closer to an answer I can articulate. If only I were a fiction writer, maybe I could put it in a story! (I’ll bet others have.)

Not even half-converted

There is no point in converting people to Christ if they do not convert their vision of the world and of life, since Christ then becomes merely a symbol for all that we love and want already –without Him. This kind of Christianity is more terrifying than agnosticism or hedonism.

The Journals of Father Alexander Schmemann (quoted elsewhere).

This is more or less what I always thought St. Paul had in mind in Romans 12:1-2.

Amuse-bouche

A couple years ago, my daughters and I found an online recipe for a raspberry swirl pound cake. Wishing to surprise my wife, we decided to bake one for her. We failed miserably. The inedible monstrosity that emerged from the oven bore no resemblance whatsoever to the cake photographed on the recipe’s webpage. What went wrong? After all, I found a recipe that was profitable for instruction on how to bake the cake in order that I would be complete and thoroughly prepared for this good work.

As sufficient as the recipe was, I had very little experience with baking, and no one with the necessary experience was around to guide me so that I would be able to apply these instructions correctly.

Dr. Amir Azarvan, How to Test the Protestant Doctrine of Sola Scriptura

Reading a different critique of sola scriptura was an eye-opener on my unexpected journey to Orthodox Christianity a quarter-century ago. But I found in this short piece several more very good points — beyond this appetite-whetter — points that make it worth reading even though it is not very well-written.

On my wish list

His Grace has taken theology … out of the[] hands of sterile systematic dogmaticians, and returned it to its proper artistic home. And as Mr. Gleason noted about the music of his day, this also “has begged to be done for generations”. This book is a work of theological art.

By “art” I mean the work of those who see a vision of beauty, truth, and insight, who are filled with wonder at what they have experienced, and who strive to communicate it to others.

Father Lawrence Farley, on Wonder as the Beginning of Faith by Bishop Maxim Vasiljevic.

You better believe it’s on my wish-list.

“Let me keep my distance, always, from those
who think they have the answers.

Let me keep company always with those who say
"Look!" and laugh in astonishment,
and bow their heads.”

Mary Oliver

Wordplay

Thought and speech I used
as weapons.  My words are now
judges at my trial

To teach us union
and separation: this is
what bodies are for

Joshua Alen Sturgill, Eighteen Death Haiku


“The Hubriscene Age.” Substacker Caroline Ross’s characterization of our times.


We must believe in free will—we have no choice.

Isaac Singer via the Economist


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

Jonathan Rauch, The Constitution of Knowledge

To believe that wealth is the only significant measure of the worth of an individual, a family, or a community is to reject the teaching of nearly every religion and wisdom tradition that ever was.

Mark Mitchell and Nathan Schlueter, The Humane Vision of Wendell Berry

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.

Election Day 2022

I’m going to post this Monday evening though some of it is Tuesday-oriented and some (I am included) have already voted, because much if it is relevant to the impending election.

Election 2022

Worrisome

I’m old enough to remember the Beatles appearing on “The Ed Sullivan Show” and I can’t remember an election in which so many political newcomers had a serious shot at taking out established politicians of the opposite party.

Here’s the short list among the Senate races: J.D. Vance in Ohio, Herschel Walker in Georgia, Mehmet Oz in Pennsylvania, Blake Masters in Arizona, Don Bolduc in New Hampshire, Joe O’Dea in Colorado and Tiffany Smiley in Washington. They are, respectively, a venture capitalist/author, an ex-football star, a doctor/television celebrity, another venture capitalist, a retired Army general, a construction company CEO and a nurse. They’re all complete outsiders with no political experience. Their Democratic opponents, except for Pennsylvania’s John Fetterman, on the other hand are all incumbent senators or representatives. Even so, Mr. Fetterman is no rookie, having served as a small-town mayor before becoming lieutenant governor.

Gregg Opelka, GOP Outsiders Dominate the 2022 Midterms

Not just difference, but menace.

Americans are sorting themselves out by education into two roughly equal camps. As people without a college degree have flocked to the G.O.P., people with one have flocked to the Democrats.

“If Democrats can’t win in Nevada,” one Democratic pollster told Politico, “we can complain about the white working class all you want, but we’re really confronting a much broader working-class problem.” Even Black voters without a college degree seem to be shifting away from the Democrats, to some degree.

Back in those days I didn’t find a lot of class-war consciousness in my trips through red America. I compared the country to a high school cafeteria. Jocks over here, nerds over there, punks somewhere else. Live and let live.

Now people don’t just see difference, they see menace. People have put up barricades and perceive the other class as a threat to what is beautiful, true and good. I don’t completely understand why this animosity has risen over the past couple of decades, but it makes it very hard to shift the ever more entrenched socio-economic-cultural-political coalitions.

Historians used to believe that while European societies were burdened by ferocious class antagonisms, Americans had relatively little class consciousness. That has changed.

David Brooks, Why Aren’t the Democrats Trouncing the Republicans?.

I find myself in the odd position of fitting the Democrat college-educated, sushi-eating, jazz-listening, foreign-traveling profile, but rejecting both major parties ideologically. This goes back to 2005, as I’ve said before.

What has changed for me since the 2016 election is that I think I’ve apprehended the new Republican zeitgeist, so that the 2016 election of Trump no longer baffles me nearly so much.

This doesn’t mean that all is normal, all is well. The press won’t let us forget that a great many 2022 Republican candidates are unqualified and/or conscious liars about the 2020 election, but the Democrats have a good share of odd-balls, too.

It’s a very unhealthy polarization, elimination of which I’m inclined to effectuate through ranked-choice voting until I hear a better idea.

Is Democracy on the Ballot?

Sure, Americans like to complain about democracy, but they don’t want to get rid of it. Indeed, besides a handful of fringe dorks and radical fantasists, there is literally no significant constituency on the American right or left for getting rid of democracy. There are significant constituencies for bending the rules, working the refs, even rigging the system, and these constituencies should be fought relentlessly. But while often in error, most of these people believe they are on the side of democracy. The people who wildly exaggerate both voter suppression and voter fraud believe what they’re saying. They’re just wrong.

I take a backseat to no one in my contempt for both the grifters and sincere hysterics on the right who take things like Dinesh D’Souza’s 2000 Mules seriously. But even Dinesh’s carefully crafted crackpottery works on the assumption that democracy is good. Even putsch-peddlers like Michael Flynn argued for rerunning the election, because in America we believe that elections confer legitimacy for elected positions.

For all of Donald Trump’s lies about the election being stolen, his mendacious vice pays tribute to the virtue of democracy. He wants people to believe he actually won. His whole bogus pitch is premised on the idea that democracy should be restored.

Now, I should be clear. I don’t think Donald Trump gives a damn about democracy, but he knows deep in his condo salesman brain that the American people do. His attitude toward democracy is indistinguishable from his attitude toward golf and business—he sees nothing wrong with cheating, but he also wants people to believe he won fair and square.

Cheating is terrible. But there’s a difference between stealing a couple bills from the bank when playing Monopoly and saying, “Screw this game, it’s corrupt. I choose Stratego!”

Jonah Goldberg

The GOP as hostage crisis

The conservative world is, right now, largely split between two camps: the Republican establishment and the MAGA populists. Traditional Republicans still understand the importance of character, at least to some extent. Indeed many of them were proud of a perceived contrast between the Bill Clinton–led Democratic Party and a Republican Party that (once) remembered when character was king.

But now, as my Dispatch colleague Nick Catoggio writes, “The modern Republican Party is essentially a hostage crisis in which each wing could kill the party by bolting the coalition but only one wing is willing to do it and both sides know it.” The MAGA wing will stay home if its demands aren’t met. The establishment, by contrast, dutifully marches to the polls, no matter who has the “R” by their name.

David French

Politics generally

Equivalencies can be true

I find that often the equivalence is not quite as false as individuals like to think that it is. For example, we hear claims that Republicans do not support democratic norms. If someone mentions Abrams as a counter-example then one would be hit with the false equivalency charge. But a recent poll shows that resistance to democratic norms among Democrats is not less common than it is for Republicans …

Many commenters on the left state that politically inspired violence is a problem on the right. Pointing out the attack on Scalise only gets you an accusation of false equivalency. Yet this same poll tells a different story. Democrats are more supportive of politically inspired protesting without a permit (36.6% to 31.6%), vandalism (8.1% to 3.6%), assault (3.5% to 1.1%) arson (2.1% to .9%), assault with a deadly weapon (2.1% to .8%) and murder (1.6% to .1%) than Republicans. It is easy to make the case that attitudes supportive of political violence are much more of a problem on the left than on the right.

But let’s admit that there are times when conservatives are more in the wrong than progressives. Is that still justification to run behind a false equivalency argument to ignore the sins on the left? It is not. A society where men are allowed to hit their wives is better than a society where men are allowed to kill their wives. However, they should not hide behind arguments of false equivalency to avoid the obvious problem that they should not be hitting their wives.

George Yancey, The Problem with False Equivalency Claims

The de-Baathification of the GOP

[H]ere’s the thing for Democrats: There will be no de-Baathification of the Republican Party.

The “reckoning” for which many Democrats and some Republicans have yearned for years—the one in which Trump is ruined and all of the toadies who drooled on his golf shoes will either also be ruined or forced to come begging for forgiveness—is not to be. That’s not to say that Trump might not one day be ruined or that many who once sported red hats with pride will quietly abjure their MAGA membership. It’s just that these things don’t happen all at once.

Almost half of the Republicans in the Senate voted against censuring Sen. Joe McCarthy in 1954 after the Wisconsin red baiter drove one of his fellow senators to suicide with blackmail over the senator’s son’s homosexuality. Out of 206 Democrats in the House in 1998, only five could bring themselves to vote to impeach Bill Clinton for lying and obstructing justice to conceal his assignations with a 21-year-old White House intern, offenses he had obviously committed. It took decades in both cases for the parties to come to terms with what partisanship had blinded them to.

If the GOP ever comes back to being interested in governing again, it will come a little bit at a time.

Chris Stirewalt, Dems Face a Test After Tuesday

The wrongness of Roe

If Dobbs has shown us anything, it is the limited usefulness of constitutional theory to the pro-life movement. The future of the cause will require sustained engagement with the questions of biology and metaphysics upon which the anti-abortion position has always depended, questions that lie outside politics in the conventional sense of the word. Legal thinking is by nature unsuited for such efforts — and perhaps even corrosive to them.

Matthew Walther in the New York Times

As an attorney (albeit retired), I will not apologize for long considering the reversal of Roe v. Wade a good to be sought in and of itself, regardless of what state legislatures subsequently would do on the topic of abortion. In this, I’m not so much arguing with Walther as pointing out that there is more than one perspective on the wrongness of Roe.

Claremont Institute’s diagnosis

I listened recently to an episode of the podcast Know Your Enemy, a couple of articulate young lefties putting American conservatism under the microscope, and I think they helped me figure out what the heck has gone wrong with the Claremont Institute.

The Claremont Institute is broadly “Straussian,” but its “West Coast Straussianism” differs from “East Coast Straussianism.” One way it differs is its valorization of Thumos. That may at least partially explain grotesqueries like Michael Anton’s 2016 Flight 93 Election and Claremont’s continuing favorable orientation toward Orange Man.

Twitter

This is Marx on Twitter. Any questions?

Twitter used to be owned by someone from a particular economic class, and should [Elon] Musk get tired of his new toy he’ll sell it to people from that same class. What I’m complaining about in the essay is not that Musk is being criticized but rather that the criticism leaves off the hook the rest of the ownership class that previously owned Twitter, such as the Saudis. (That is, an autocratic theocracy that beheads people for being gay.) The basic contention of the essay is that Marxist class analysis teaches us that the ownership class as a class is our enemy, and that moralizing about individual members of that ownership class is not a Marxist project. That he is the world’s wealthiest person does little to distinguish himself from the rest of the ownership class, and nothing to change the basic class analysis; he’s no better but not particularly any worse.

Freddie deBoer

On leaving Twitter

While a denizen of Twitter, I prided myself on never having retweeted that picture of the shark swimming down the street during a hurricane, or, for the most part, any of its text equivalents. I don’t think my own mind ever got poisoned, in other words, but I did see minds poisoned. (‘Who goes redpill?’ is an article I would like to read someday.) The thing is that on Twitter there’s always a hurricane, and a shark is always swimming toward you through its chum-filled waters. Repeatedly batting it on the nose takes effort, and is that how you want to spend your one and only life?

Caleb Crain via Alan Jacobs

Culture

How we think

[P]erceptual and pictorial shapes are not only translations of thought products but the very flesh and blood of thinking itself.

Rudolf Arnheim, Visual Thinking, via Iain McGilchrist, The Master and His Emissary

The delusions delivered by ideologies

[A]ll ideologies seek to do the impossible. Which is to contain the uncontainable cosmos in rational, propositional thought in order to fix it …

The theoretical models we create can never—will never— actually match the unspeakable and unsayable fullness of reality, no matter how powerful our computers become, or thorough our thinking. The map can never be the territory—it is as simple as that. This is even more true with those aspects of reality that actually matter, that actually means something to us, e.g., Love, Meaning, Beauty, God, etc. Instead, this impulse focuses on simple systems it can somewhat model and reduces everything to that. Yet this simple-minded approach is what humans have been trying to do for some 500 years or more. It has in some ways worked wonders, but in those wonders, it has created disasters—disasters both psychological, political, and ecological.

This habit of control is built into the way we have been taught to think, be and move into the institutions that are supposedly charged with our well-being. As this becomes clearer, however murky, we try to hide from it2. Since this reductive/abstracted way of relating to the world is what we know because it is what we have been taught, the more we seek to swerve from the catastrophe the more we steer into. We are trying to solve the problem by the same means that got us into it in the first place. Even those who see the problem most clearly are hardly immune from this blindness. To engage with reality differently is now a struggle against ourselves, given the current state of affairs. We need to start from a very different kind of beginning.

Jack Leahy, Where Two or Three are Gathered: On the 12-Steps and Forming Anarcho-Contemplative Community

Or more succinctly:

Let me keep my distance, always, from those
who think they have the answers.

Let me keep company always with those who say
“Look!” and laugh in astonishment,
and bow their heads.

Mary Oliver, Evidence: Poems


[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.

Elevation of the Holy Cross (a/k/a 9/14/22)

Culture

Building on vice

As Augustine of Hippo noticed, what the Romans called virtue was really a vicious craving for glory, for the approval of others who think well of one. This vice helped prop up the Roman republic, because the political class could win glory by performing deeds of conspicuous benefit to the commonwealth. In this way, the vice of glory protected against other vices that were even worse. The problem was twofold.  First, this strategy worked only because some little bit of real virtue remained; otherwise, one might pursue glory by foul means rather than fair. Second, indulging the itch for glory gradually undermined that little bit of real virtue, so that one did use foul means, for example buying votes. At that point the entire motivational structure begins to collapse, as the political class comes to lust not after simple glory, but after wealth and power. The curtain fell on the republic.

… Our society has a version of the Roman strategy too, but in our case the vice that protects against still worse vices is the lust for wealth itself. As Adam Smith noticed, the sheer desire for acquisition, as though by an invisible hand, can motivate people to benefit others, not because they love them but because that is how they earn a profit. Just as in the Roman case, this strategy works only if there a little bit of virtue remains; otherwise, one might pursue wealth by fraud and by governmental favors rather instead of by making a better and cheaper product. Just as in the Roman case, indulging the itch for wealth eventually undermines that little bit of virtue; today our corporations compete by gaming the system of regulations and subsidies. And just as in the Roman case, at this point the whole motivational structure begins to collapse, and the elite classes begin to scratch far baser itches than simple desire for honest profit.

J Budziszewski, Why Do We Always Hit a Wall?

This has haunted me since I read it, in part because it haunted me maybe 55 years before I read it.

No, I wasn’t conscious that Roman “virtue” was built on vice, but I did know that our system was built on the desire for wealth, and that a system like that seemed unlikely to come to a good end.

The longer I live, the closer I come to internalizing a key truth: there are no “good ends.” That’s what it means to live in a “fallen world.” But another part of what a “fallen world” means is that we are drawn, (almost?) irresistibly, to shuffle the deck chairs as it all goes down.

See also Jack Leahy, Cloud-Hidden.

The demand to be political first

Stop me if you’ve heard this one before! A piece of pop culture has been announced, one with a diverse cast of characters and themes of female empowerment. Some conservative idiots lose their minds because they’re conservative idiots. Liberals respond by taking to the ramparts to defend the honor of the piece of pop culture against MAGA or whatever. Meanwhile, the actual artistic value of the pop culture in question is completely lost. Aesthetic concerns are buried beneath the demand to be political first. If you aren’t actively singing the praises of worthless shlock that’s vaguely associated with progressive politics, you’re one of them. My god, that She-Hulk show is f***ing dreadful, and its feminist politics are warmed-over Sheryl Sandberg tripe, but people are like “actually the CGI is supposed to look like dogshit, it’s artistic” because they think defending Disney’s latest blast of entertainment Soylent Green is the same as storming the Bastille. Conservatives freak about diversity, liberals defend art without any reference to artist, rinse and repeat. I could be talking about 2016’s Ghostbusters, or I could be talking about the upcoming Little Mermaid remake. Nothing ever changes, and it is all so, so tiresome.

Freddie deBoer, Why Are Identitarians Such Cheap Dates? (bowdlerization gently added). That opening paragraph was terrific, and the title of the posting makes it even better.

The special costs of being poor

Early in Nickel and Dimed, the great Barbara Ehrenreich offered up a blunt observation. “There are no secret economies that nourish the poor; on the contrary, there are a host of special costs,” she wrote. “If you can’t put up the two months’ rent you need to secure an apartment, you end up paying through the nose for a room by the week,” she explained. “If you have only a room, with a hot plate at best, you can’t save by cooking up huge lentil stews that can be frozen for the week ahead. You eat fast food or the hot dogs and Styrofoam cups of soup that can be microwaved in a convenience store.” For the poor this is no revelation, merely a description of daily life. For many others, though, it was something else, a glimpse into a world that could feel distant. Yet it was not so far away, as she understood: The poor were all around. They worked, they loved, they tried to make do. The poor carried America on their backs and debunked its self-mythologies. So, too, did Ehrenreich, who showed no patience for pretense. She always looked for the truth of a thing, and for decades, she shared her search with all of us.

Sarah Jones, Barbara Ehrenreich Knew There Was a Fight

The platonic ideal of an NYT opinion piece

Maya Jasanoff’s idea that “The new king now has an opportunity to make a real historical impact by scaling back royal pomp and updating Britain’s monarchy to be more like those of Scandinavia” — because Colonialism! — is (a) the platonic ideal of an NYT opinion piece and (b) a perfect illustration of Clement Atlee’s comment that “the intelligentsia … can be trusted to take the wrong view on any subject.” The pomp of the British monarchy is the point; the ceremony is the substance — for good reasons and bad. When the ceremony is discarded the monarchy will be too. And rightly so. 

Alan Jacobs

Sheer drudgery, with a dose of despair

Teaching has its own rewards, to be sure. But you’re a lot more likely to wax eloquent about the privilege of shaping the minds, hearts, and souls of our youth when you aren’t grading their papers.

Peter C. Meilaender, I Don’t Care If My Students Get Jobs

Not a promising review

[T]o their credit, the characters managed to exchange an endless series of ponderous aphorisms without giggling. So it was that we learned how ‘the wine is sweetest for those in whose bitter trials it has fermented’; how ‘the same wind that seeks to blow out a fire may also cause it to spread’; and, more pithily, how ‘there can be no trust between hammer and rock’.

Will you be able to get through the ponderous aphorisms without giggling? The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power reviewed | The Spectator

Political (after a fashion)

The difference between Russian and Ukrainian soldiers

The fundamental difference between Ukrainian soldiers, who are fighting for their country’s existence, and Russian soldiers, who are fighting for their salary, has finally begun to matter.

Anne Applebaum

Dance with the one what brung ya

In the post-Roe era, Ramesh Ponnuru argues, the pro-life movement should remember the approach that got them to to where they are today: incrementalism. “Passionate pro-lifers, in their impatience at what they recognize to be a grave injustice, are forgetting the need for patient persuasion of the public,” he writes for Bloomberg. “Some pro-lifers have made a point of claiming that abortion is never medically necessary. That’s because they don’t consider ending an ectopic pregnancy, for example, as a ‘direct abortion’—an intentional taking of human life. That’s needlessly confusing, and pro-lifers should simply say they’re for an exception in such cases. They should also broaden their agenda to include measures to aid parents of small children—such as the proposals of various Republican senators to expand the child tax credit and to finance paid leave. Promoting a culture of life includes fostering the economic conditions that help it thrive.”

The Morning Dispatch

Wordplay

Taking leave of senses

[I]f you have paid much attention to the conservative movement and conservative media, you’ve seen a few formerly sober-minded men take off the bow tie, put on the red cap, and bark at the moon.

Kevin F. Williamson, Steve Bannon Charges: Gravy Train Derailed

Truth Social

Truth Social: The media penal colony to which Twitter and Facebook sentenced Donald Trump.

Frank Bruni

Words failed them

The families and former FBI agent William Aldenberg say they have been confronted and harassed in person by [Alex] Jones’ followers because of the hoax conspiracy.

Associated Press story on a second civil trial against Jones arising from his claim that the Sandy Hook school shooting was a hoax. (Emphasis added)


[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 into 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.

Friday, 7/15/22

Improving an old adage

I may not agree with you, but I will defend to the death your right to make an ass of yourself.

Oscar Wilde via Nadine Strossen, Who Really Benefits From the First Amendment?

I had never before enountered that delightful upgrade to an old saw.

We. Are. Doomed.

I learned Thursday of a newly-minted epithet for those of us who have no intention of uploading our brains to the cloud to attain immortality, and who oppose the whole project: "fleshists."

Errata

I referred recently to Herschel Walker as an in-kind contribution to Stacy Abrams’ race for Governor of Georgia. The problem is, Walker is running for Senate, not Governor. So he’s actually an in-kind contribution to Raphael Warnock. You can look that up.

Warnock, be it remembered, was elected in an early-2021 runoff partly courtesy of Orange Man petulantly implying that Georgia’s election apparatus was so corrupt that there was no point in voting. Many [brutal characterization of mental and moral capacity omitted] Georgia Republicans obliged Orange Man by staying home, so we now have an evenly-divided Senate instead of Republican control. And, God willing, liberal Raphael Warnock will not be relinquishing his seat to Orange-Man-endorsed Herschel Walker (who absolutely was a superb football player back when I watched the Cowboys religiously).

That’s from memory and opinion banks, and it’s too good to fact-check myself on it. "Orange Man bad" indeed, and bad in so many ways for the GOP that adores him.

Modern and Postmodern

Walter Pater’s aphorism that all art aspired to the condition of music alluded to the fact that music is the least explicit of all the arts (and the one most directly attuned to our embodied nature). In the twentieth century, by contrast, art has aspired to the condition of language, the most explicit and abstracted medium available to us.

Iain McGilchrist, The Modern and Postmodern Worlds in The Master and His Emissary

Abolition of biology

While some degree of ‘gender dysphoria’ is probably as old as the hills, and people who don’t conform to society’s expectations of what men and women ‘should’ be have always existed (many of us could probably comfortably fit into that category), what is happening now is something very different. Western society is engaged in a fundamental shift in its understanding not just of ‘gender roles’ – questioning them has been de rigeur for at least a century, after all – but in the nature of biological reality.

Paul Kingsnorth, The Abolition of Man (and Woman)

Last Resort

The important thing to understand about preventive attacks on other countries is that they can never be a “last resort.”

Daniel Larison, Biden’s ‘Last Resort’ – by Daniel Larison – Eunomia


If people have always said it, it is probably true; it is the distilled wisdom of the ages. If people have not always said it, but everybody is saying it now, it is probably a lie; it is the concentrated madness of the moment.

Anthony Esolen, Out of the Ashes

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, 7/5/22

There sure as heck was a crack in Leonard …

… yet, oddly, that seems to be how some of the light got in.

Even while living it all out, Cohen felt—and documented—the emptiness of the sexual revolution. His most apocalyptic, almost Ginsberg-like commentary on the world he and his fellow revolutionaries had created was the 1992 song and album, The Future, which ended with these verses:

Give me back the Berlin wall
Give me Stalin and St. Paul
Give me Christ or give me Hiroshima
Destroy another fetus now
We don’t like children anyhow
I’ve seen the future, baby
It is murder

Leonard Cohen lived long enough to see the freedom of the sixties turn into something else—something that, despite his enthusiastic personal participation, was poisonous, especially for the vulnerable.

Jonathon Van Maren, Leonard Cohen’s Lost Children.

I discovered Leonard Cohen quite late in my life (and his). I enjoyed his lyrics so much that I bought a volume of his poetry, only to find that volume full of adolescent sexual obsessions and hints (or more) of promiscuity. I won’t again make the mistake of straying beyond his music.

Punish the hated standards!

A lesbian law student in Idaho, offended by the sexual standards of the Christian Legal Society chapter and its sponsor, got the university to issue no-contact orders against them. The targets of those orders sued and, it should go without saying, won:

In a footnote, commenting on a faculty member’s statement that religious beliefs are not an excuse to deprive others of their rights, the court said:

Phrases such as this have taken root in recent years and paint an overtly negative picture of religious liberty. The assumption such phrases implicate is that people use their religion to mask discriminatory conduct and then try to “hide” from any legal consequences by invoking religious protection. The Court will not dissect why this assumption is a shallow look at religion, and fails to provide any substance to numerous individual constitutional rights. Suffice it to say, in a pluralistic society, people should honor differing viewpoints and build bridges of understanding instead of arguing that opposing viewpoints are inherently discriminatory and must be punished or excluded from the public square.

Religion Clause: University’s No-Contact Orders To 3 Christian Students Violate Free Speech Rights

The route to the Celestial City

If you could do it, I suppose, it would be a good idea to live your life in a straight line – starting, say, in the Dark Wood of Error, and proceeding by logical steps through Hell and Purgatory and into Heaven. Or you could take the King’s Highway past the appropriately named dangers, toils, and snares, and finally cross the River of Death and enter the Celestial City. But that is not the way I have done it, so far. I am a pilgrim, but my pilgrimage has been wandering and unmarked. Often what has looked like a straight line to me has been a circling or a doubling back. I have been in the Dark Wood of Error any number of times. I have known something of Hell, Purgatory, and Heaven, but not always in that order. The names of many snares and dangers have been made known to me, but I have seen them only in looking back. Often I have not known where I was going until I was already there. I have had my share of desires and goals, but my life has come to me or I have gone to it mainly by way of mistakes and surprises. Often I have received better than I deserved. Often my fairest hopes have rested on bad mistakes. I am an ignorant pilgrim, crossing a dark valley. And yet for a long time, looking back, I have been unable to shake off the feeling that I have been led — make of that what you will.

— Wendell Berry’s Jayber Crow

Via Alan Jacobs.

I’ve got to read about my doppelgänger, Jayber Crow, sooner rather than later.

Pax Anglo-Saxonica

For European officials and politicians, a great fear gnaws at the back of their minds when they look at the ongoing war in Ukraine: What happens if the United States loses interest?

Despite the war being in Europe, involving European powers, with largely European consequences, America remains the essential partner for Ukraine. For most of Eastern Europe, Scandinavia, and Britain, in particular, the reality that Ukraine would likely already be lost were it not for American military support has only proved the intrinsic value of living in an American world order. For others, including the French, such dependence is now a source not only of shame, but of long-term vulnerability. America might care enough to supply Ukraine today, but with Donald Trump limbering up for his second shot at the presidency, it doesn’t take a huge leap of imagination to picture a time when this is no longer the case.

And as French President Emmanuel Macron has warned, whichever American president is in office when this is finally all over, Russia will remain, its preoccupations, fears, interests, and myths the same as before.

Tom McTague, America’s Necessary Myth for the World.

I feel that I have one foot in in Orthodox civilization. (I don’t know a metaphor for less than the half implied by "one foot." If I did, I’d use it.) I have read enough about Russia that I was starting to think I understood it.

Then Putin ordered the attack on Ukraine, and my conceit went away.

But McTague is writing about us, not Russia, and this is clearly his central point:

The great paradox in the world today is that the “dumb simplicity” of America’s self-perception, as one senior European government adviser put it to me, is both obviously bogus and fundamentally true. The story that America tells about itself is both the source of many of its foreign-policy disasters and the necessary myth without which much of the world would be a more brutal place.

[As a] government adviser put it to me, “show me a foreign minister in the West who really wants less America.”

The dumb simplicity of America’s interventions is often infuriating and obtuse, or even disastrously naive and destructive. It exists in people like Neal and Holbrooke, Bush and Biden. And yet if America stops believing in its myth, if it scurries back into the safety of its continental bunker, having decided it is now just another normal nation, then a cold wind might start to blow in places that have become complacent in their security. When the dumb simplicity is removed, the complexities of the world start growing back.

This is what Ukraine fears and others in Europe expect. In the end, though, what really matters is which story America believes, and for how long.

I wish we had enough internal stability that our allies could feel confident that the next President wasn’t just going to repudiate all foreign alliances, and in fact would do nothing that was both substantial and abrupt.


If people have always said it, it is probably true; it is the distilled wisdom of the ages. If people have not always said it, but everybody is saying it now, it is probably a lie; it is the concentrated madness of the moment.

Anthony Esolen, Out of the Ashes

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, 6/28/22

Still more on Dobbs

As I know the lay of the land uncommonly well, I am trying to say some genuinely useful things, that are not being said very commonly, on the reversal of Roe and Casey. I’m also trying to avoid worsening tensions. I even exited social media for a few days (maybe more than necessary — I’ve been peeking) when a discussion started getting unproductively heated.

Face-saving failure

Confirmation hearing vignettes:

Here’s Justice Gorsuch: “Roe v. Wade, decided in 1973, is a precedent of the U.S. Supreme Court. It has been reaffirmed. . . . So a good judge will consider it as precedent of the U.S. Supreme Court worthy as treatment of precedent like any other.”

He added that “If I were to start telling you which are my favorite precedents or which are my least favorite precedents, or if I viewed precedent in that fashion, I would be tipping my hand and suggesting to litigants that I have already made up my mind about their cases.”

And here’s Justice Kavanaugh: “Roe v. Wade is an important precedent of the Supreme Court. It has been reaffirmed many times. It was reaffirmed in Planned Parenthood v. Casey in 1992. . . . So that precedent on precedent is quite important as you think about stare decisis in this context.” He made no specific pledge about either case that we have seen. Justice Amy Coney Barrett expressly rejected the idea that Roe was a super precedent.

Wall Street Journal Editorial Board, which also explains why a nominee cannot pledge to uphold a precedent or to strike it down:

Sens. Susan Collins and Joe Manchin said Friday they feel Justices Brett Kavanaugh and Neil Gorsuch deceived them on the precedent point in testimony and in their private meetings with the Justices. We weren’t in those meetings, but we’d be stunned if either Justice came close to making a pledge about Roe.

The reason is that the first rule of judging is that you can’t pre-judge a case. Judges are limited under Article III of the Constitution to hearing cases and controversies, and that means ruling on facts and law that are specific to those cases.

No judge can know what those facts might be in advance of a case, and judges owe it to the parties to consider those facts impartially. A judge who can’t be impartial, or who has already reached a conclusion or has a bias about a case, is obliged to recuse himself. This is judicial ethics 101.

An authority on this point is no less than the late progressive Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, as she explained in 1993. “It would be wrong for me to say or preview in this legislative chamber how I would cast my vote on questions the Supreme Court may be called upon to decide,” she said. “A judge sworn to decide impartially can offer no forecasts, no hints, for that would show not only disregard for the specifics of the particular case, it would display disdain for the entire judicial process.”

Frankly, no nominee should ever pledge their vote on any issue at confirmation hearings. That alone would be a disqualifier. Any Senator worth his or her seat should understand that, and since I respect them as senateworthy, I suggest that both Collins and Manchin do understand it. Their face-saving isn’t convincing.

Now flooding the zone shamelessly

As I scan the New York Times Opinion page since Friday morning, it’s apparent that "flooding the zone with sh*t" is not a MAGAworld exclusive.

Do not trust the Grey Lady for reliable interpretation of Dobbs overruling Roe or for prognostications about what a supposedly agenda-driven court is going to do next. (Exception: Ross Douthat wrote one of the wisest things I’ve read in the aftermath, and they did publish it.)

Is the court going to ban contraception? Ban sodomy? Ban same-sex marriage? Overrule the precedents that dogmatized rights to each into existence?

Just remember: courts decide cases. They don’t go out and make mischief on their own. So how would SCOTUS even get a chance to rescind these other "unenumerated rights"?

Damon Linker (After Roe: The Reversals to Come), who I respect enough to read when it’s obvious we disagree, imputes a nefarious agenda to the court but skips any suggestion of how it would get the opportunity to realize that agenda.

I can think of no obvious way other than some jurisdiction banning contraception, sodomy or same-sex marriage, resulting in a fresh round of litigation.

What do you think of the life expectancy of a legislator, even in Texas, who proposed to outlaw contraception? Outlawing sodomy would be a hard sell in 2021 even in red states. I could imagine a performative bill to define marriage as sexually binary, but have trouble imagining it getting very far.

If it did, the lower Federal courts would almost certainly strike such a law down under Griswold, Lawrence or Obergefell. Then SCOTUS could just decline to grant certiorari.

If it granted "cert," the stare decisis analysis on those precedents would include factoring in some very, very concrete reliance on Obergefell in the SSM context.

I’m no prophet, and I’m not close enough to the political poles to be incapably of suffering rude surprises, but I just don’t see those other precedents falling until there’s I’m long in the grave and there have been some major wake-up calls from realities we’ve had on call-blocking for a while.

Heartening

After weeks of incendiary rhetoric, attacks on crisis pregnancy centers, and a foiled attempt on Justice Brett Kavanaugh’s life, Planned Parenthood and other pro-abortion groups formally disavowed violence in the name of their cause. Those who use “destruction and violence” do not speak for them or the movement, the groups said in a statement.

TMD

On a related note, one of my favorite Substackers, Freddie deBoer, scared me by opening that it’s time for the Left to engage in extralegal resistance. Fortunately, it turned out that he meant things like helping abortion-minded women get to states where abortion is legal, or even to help them find clandestine abortions in their own states.

I don’t even think the former could be criminalized; the latter, perhaps.

Victor Rosenblum

As I was writing yesterday that I wish Nat Henthoff had lived to see Friday’s Dobbs decision, I was wracking my brain for the name of his "country cousin" (also a prolife liberal Jewish Democrat) at Northwestern University Law School. I finally gave up. Of course, it finally came to me this morning. So: I also wish Victor Rosenblum had lived to see this day.

Advice for the despondent

After stylishly signaling his pro-choice virtue, Garrison Keillor shows some sympathy for the 6 justices who are now pariahs, and then turns to some good advice for his own tribe:

Meanwhile, remind yourself that other people have thrived under wretched governors so don’t be discouraged. The Duke of Saxe-Weimar threw Bach in jail for daring to think he had individual rights. Dante was sent into exile and he wrote the Inferno so he could put the politician Argenti into the Fifth Circle of Hell. Dostoevsky joined a liberal study group for which, in 1849, he was thrown into prison and sentenced to death by firing squad, and was third in line to be executed when a pardon arrived. He lit out for Paris, London, Berlin, and figured out how to survive, writing Crime and Punishment in serial installments for magazines, avoiding politics. While cruelty is in power, do what Mozart did. Exercise your gifts. Create beautiful things. Wolfgang stayed clear of emperors and did his work and he lives on today and the emperors are just moldy names on marble slabs covered with pigeon droppings. If you can’t write The Marriage of Figaro, write your own marriage and make it a work of art.

That’s kind of what I’ve been trying to do, in my very limited way, for more than a decade. I like to think of myself as that proverbial butterfly in the Amazon, very subtly changing the weather in Indiana.

Not Dobbs

Still flooding the zone

The Donald reads conservatives out of MAGAworld

Bozos on the bus

What we need as a nation, more than anything else I can think of, is a recommitment to basic competence, and, especially, a refusal to accept ideological justifications for plain old ineptitude. Too often Americans give a free pass to bunglers and bozos who belong to their tribe.

Alan Jacobs, I think we’re all bozos on this bus – Snakes and Ladders

Inauguration Day 2017 in a Nutshell

Speaking of clowns:

When a clown moves into a palace, he doesn’t become a king. The palace becomes a circus.

Turkish Proverb (reportedly)

A little levity

I probably have given too short shrift to the January 6 Committee hearings because … well, I didn’t think anything they said would change my life or my vote. But I sure got a chuckle out of this:

H/T Yassine Meskhout


If people have always said it, it is probably true; it is the distilled wisdom of the ages. If people have not always said it, but everybody is saying it now, it is probably a lie; it is the concentrated madness of the moment.

Anthony Esolen, Out of the Ashes

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.

Curated just for you, whoever you are

Legalia

Why would a conservative want to serve on SCOTUS?

I can’t fathom why anyone would want to serve on the Supreme Court. To be more precise, I can’t fathom why any conservative would want to serve on the Supreme Court. Liberal jurists are feted with honors at every juncture. But conservative jurists are excoriated and personally attacked. I wonder, in hindsight, if Kavanaugh still would have pursued a position on the Supreme Court, knowing what we know now: the first confirmation hearing, baseball tickets, Spartacus, Christine Blasey Ford, Michael Avenatti, Ronan Farrow, the second confirmation hearing, yearbook, beer, Klobuchar, Saturday Night Live, Matt Damon, the Dobbs leak, and now an assassination attempt outside of his home. During this time, Kavanaugh and his family have been dragged through such painful experiences, one after the other. Was it all worth it? And to what end?

Eugene Volokh

303 Creative

Creative professionals routinely express their politics in their art—through the art they choose or refuse to create. Famously, for example, shortly after the election of Donald Trump, a number of fashion designers (artists, to be sure) declared that they would, under no circumstances, “dress” Melania or Ivanka Trump –this despite the fact that dresses themselves rarely (if ever) contain a political or cultural message as explicit as the words or image a web designer creates. Merely doing business with the Trumps was an intolerable notion to creative professionals who abhorred the Trump family’s political methods and messages.

In an open letter rejecting the idea of working with the Trumps, designer Sophie Theallet said, “We value our artistic freedom, and always humbly seek to contribute to a more humane, conscious, and ethical way to create in this world.” She said, “As an independent fashion brand, we consider our voice an expression of our artistic and philosophical ideas.” And another designer, Naeem Khan, asserted: “A designer is an artist, and should have the choice of who they want to dress or not.”

In reporting on the designer choices, the Washington Post’s Robin Givhan explained well how artists view their work:

Like other creative individuals, Theallet sees fashion as a way of expressing her views about beauty and the way women are perceived in society. Fashion is her tool for communicating her world vision. In the same way that a poet’s words or a musician’s lyrics are a deeply personal reflection of the person who wrote them, a fashion designer’s work can be equally as intimate. In many ways, it’s why we are drawn to them. We feel a one-to one connection.

A web designer’s work is similarly intimate ….

Brief of 15 Family Policy Organizations as Amici Curiae in Support of Petitioners in the 303 Creative case (internal citations omitted).

If you don’t know the case, you should get to know it.

Colorado, with the help of the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appealsl, has mounted the worst, and most explicit, attack on freedom from compelled speech since West Virginia v. Barnette in World War II (when West Virginia required recitation of the Pledge of Allegiance by schoolchildren on pain of expulsion).

Colorado claimed that even though 303 Creative was engaged in pure speech (a key legal category; Masterpiece Cakehop, in contrast, had a creative element but in the end produced not speech, but cake), it could be compelled to create a website for a same-sex wedding because none of the other wedding website creators had exactly the talents of 303 Creative, so 303 was effectively a monopoly and could be forced to create the desired site:

In its decision below, the 10th circuit noted that the petitioners’ artistry created something like a “monopoly,” a market where only the petitioners exist.

Id. Only madness-induced blindness could distinguish the relevant facts of this case from those in West Virginia v. Barnette to the detriment of 303 Creative. Read and enjoy the whole Amicus brief.

Understated

The problem is a reflection of a badly broken political culture and it won’t be easily fixed. But, in the meantime, the House should probably go ahead and pass that SCOTUS protection bill.

The Morning Dispatch on increasing political violence, prompted specifically by the plot against Justice Kavanaugh.

More generally, the Morning Dispatch’s coverage of the successful recall of San Francisco Prosecuting Attorney Chesa Boudin confirms its trustworthiness as a news source: It has more points in Boudin’s favor than I’ve noticed anywhere else, and they aren’t insubstantial.

Sexualia

Incoherent Pride

[I]t is interesting that the American Embassy to the Vatican is flying the rainbow flag for Pride month. Commentators have pointed out the obvious intent to cause offense to the Catholic Church. But the embassy’s decision also sends a message to the American people: Another flag has government endorsement. The message of “inclusion” that it represents signals to those Americans who might dissent from the LGBTQ+ movement that in these interesting times their membership in the republic for which the real national flag stands is more a matter of tolerance than full-blooded affirmation.

The problems with LGBTQ+ inclusion are, of course, manifold. First, there is the logical problem that any movement deploying the rhetoric of inclusion has to face: If everyone is included and nobody is excluded, then the movement is meaningless. Thus, the language of “inclusion” here is really a code word for precisely the opposite: It actually means exclusion and the delegitimizing of any person or group that dissents from what the movement’s movers and shakers deem to be acceptable opinion. Acceptable thought will typically tend toward a view of reality that regards such dissenters as mentally deficient, sub-human, or simply evil.

Carl R. Trueman

Succinct

There are masculine girls. There are feminine boys. What are we going to do? Carve them up?

Jordan Peterson on the Official Trailer for the Matt Walsh documentary (prank-a-thon?) What is a Woman?.

Politics

Relatively successful

Purdue University president Mitch Daniels is retiring at the end of the year. Consistent with his maverick ways over the last 10 years, his successor was announced concurrently with his retirement announcement. There was no public Presidential search, and we will doubtless be treated to days of complaints, petty and serious, about that.

His successor will be the professor and Dean, Dr. Mung Chiang, who served as his Executive Vice President for Strategic Initiatives, of which Purdue has formed a great many over the last 10 years, with some of the biggest corporate names in the world.

I’m very proud of Purdue, my neighbor just across the Wabash, but I would prefer that my loved ones not attend there.

First, like most major universities today, the streets of the campus flow with alcohol, which endangers students of both sexes with the ambiguities of sexual interactions between drunks.

Second, I prefer undergraduate liberal arts education to enlisting in the Technocracy fresh out of high school.

But it seems to me that Mitch Daniels has been a tremendously successful Ginormous Research University President, and I wish him well.

"A Crucial Element of Fascism"

The American militia movement is small, but in the early days of 2021, it nonetheless came to the aid of a lawless president seeking to use force to keep himself in power. It did so by attacking the national legislature and threatening to kill elected representatives of the American people. And when this happened, the president himself stood back and stood by, watching expectantly, refusing to call off the armed mob, hoping the violence might empower him to remain in the White House despite losing the election two months earlier. In doing so, Trump ended up injecting a crucial element of fascism into the country’s political system.

I don’t use the F-word lightly. Trump winning the presidency while losing the popular vote by three million isn’t fascism. Trump appointing a record number of judges and three Supreme Court justices who appear poised to overturn Roe v. Wade isn’t fascism. Trump attempting to close the southern border to immigrants and refugees isn’t fascism. Trump’s verbal attacks on the media aren’t fascism (though they could be said to lay the groundwork for it by stoking popular rage against a free press). Trump engaging in the politics of bullshit by lying constantly to the American people isn’t fascism (though it, too, can prepare the way for it by leading voters to despair of firmly distinguishing between fact and falsehood).

But groups of organized, armed thugs allied with the president acting at his request to prevent the peaceful and lawful transfer of power to his successor is absolutely a fascist act. We’ve seen nothing remotely like it elsewhere in the democratic world, no matter how bad the illiberal policies and rhetoric of newly emboldened right-wing populists in other countries have been.

Damon Linker

Holding up that hateful mirror

Republicans are the co-creators of Trump’s corrupt and unconstitutional enterprise. The great majority of them are still afraid to break fully with him. They consider those who have, like Liz Cheney, to be traitors to the party. They hate Cheney because she continues to hold up a mirror to them. They want to look away. She won’t let them.

Peter Wehner

Is racism a public health crisis?

My fair city has approved a resolution declaring racism a public health crisis.

The statistics on racial disparities are stark. But unless the reporting is botched — a very real possibility considering that our Gannett paper hovers near death — the response is one of those "OMG! WE’VE GOT TO DO SOMETHING!" responses, and implicitly accepts the dogma that all racial disparities are caused by racism.

My point would be mere pedantry were it not for the likelihood that a vague diagnosis of "racism" as the cause is likely to lead to errant treatment.

Stochastic Terrorism

I’m kind of a sucker for portentous names given to commonsense observations. My new one is "stochastic terrorism," introduced by David French with a link to Todd Morley.

As French puts the commonsensical translation:

The concept is both common-sense and controversial. The common-sense element is easy to explain. If you’re a normal person and five people hate you, what are the odds you’ll face targeted violence? Unless you’re engaged in criminal activity yourself (and the five people who hate you are other criminals), then the odds are almost impossibly low.

But what if 50,000 people hate you? Or five million? Then the odds change considerably, until they reach a virtual certainty that you’ll face a threat of some kind.

Why did the Californian last week go after Justice Kavanaugh instead of Justice Alito? How many million people hate Brett Kavanaugh? How did there come to be so many who hate him? D’ya think it might have something to do with the over-the-top attacks during his confirmation hearings?

That’s how you build a frenzy from which someone emerges to exact just retribution on some putative fiend. Todd Morely names a few names.

(FWIW: I cooled about 20 degrees on Kavanaugh as soon as it emerged that he has been a heavy recreational beer-drinker since years before he could drink legally. Call me extreme — and on this topic, I clearly am far out of the American mainstream — but I think a Supreme Court Justice should have a history of abiding even by annoying little laws like minimum drinking age, and of sobriety both literal and figurative. Drunken frat boys are a turnoff even when they don’t grope co-eds.)

Well, anyway, back to stochastic terrorism. French again:

Of course the ultimate recent example of hatred and fury spawning violence is the attack on the Capitol on January 6. It was perhaps the most predictable spasm of violence in recent American history. One cannot tell tens of millions of Americans that an election is stolen and that the very fate of the country hangs in the balance without some of those people actually acting like the election was stolen and the nation is at stake.

But if the concept of stochastic terrorism is so obviously connected to human experience, why is it controversial? In part because it aims responsibility upward, and it places at least some degree of moral responsibility for violent acts on passionate nonviolent people. While criminal responsibility may rest exclusively with the person who carries the gun (or his close conspirators), moral responsibility is not so easy to escape.

(Emphasis added).

Too long I have blithely and exclusively "blamed the person who carries the gun", discounting (if not ignoring) incitements that stop short of criminality. I remain a free speech advocate, and I detest the idea that any truth is too dangerous to be uttered lawfully. But it is becoming too, too obvious politicians and pundits who make careers of vilifying specific opponents, and internet jackasses who doxx the scapegoat du jour, are playing with fire, and at the very least should face political, social and commercial* sanctions.

And to the extent that I have dehumanizingly vilified Donald Trump over the last three years, mea culpa, mea culpa, mea maxima culpa!

(* I have in mind commercial sanctions like boycotting Tucker Carlson’s advertisers, but I don’t want to watch him to find out who they are.)

UPDATE: Jonah Goldberg alludes to who Tucker’s advertisers are:

Seb Gorka dron[ing] on about Relief Factor (a fish oil supplement that all super-patriots take before they put their heads on Mike Lindell’s pillows)

No chance for boycotting there.

Religion

Normally, I’d consider putting Religion in first position, but the following are not the kinds of dogma or dogma-adjacent things that cry out for that.

Here’s to you, Mrs. Robinson

In David & Bathsheba, we see a man in the act of either removing—or replacing—a jacket from a woman’s shoulders. Is this the moment before or after King David has committed adultery with the wife of his general? Mrs. Potiphar presents us not with a cartoonish harridan panting after the biblical Joseph, but an attractive, middle-aged woman staring pensively at her reflection in a mirror. McCleary treats the incident not in terms of mere lust, but in a larger psychological and spiritual context of loneliness and fear of death.

Gregory Wolfe, Beauty Will Save the World.

The "Mrs. Potiphar" Wolfe refers to is presumably this:

Mrs. Potiphar

If you don’t know the allusion, read Genesis 39. If you don’t know what Genesis 39 is, may God have mercy on your ignorant soul.

A Dangerous Inversion

To justify Christianity because it provides a foundation of morality, instead of showing the necessity of Christian morality from the truth of Christianity, is a very dangerous inversion; and we may reflect, that a good deal of the attention of totalitarian states has been devoted, with a steadiness of purpose not always found in democracies, to providing their national life with a foundation of morality — the wrong kind perhaps, but a good deal more of it. It is not enthusiasm, but dogma, that differentiates a Christian from a pagan society.

T.S. Eliot via Kevin D. Williamson, who continues:

Eliot’s “dangerous inversion” is very much the model for the intersection of religion with politics in our time: Religion is, and is almost universally assumed to be, the junior partner.

American Evangelicals as Cultural Christians

What has happened is that the Christian sense of collective identity has persisted even among those hollowed-out Christians who have abandoned Christian orthodoxy, reducing the Christian confession to a demographic box to check, one of many constituent parts of an American “national identity.” Never mind, for the moment, that one of the hallmarks of the authentic American identity is approaching Christian orthodoxy and Christian observance with a seriousness that brushes up against fanaticism: The story of the United States does not begin with the arrival of the first slave, as the 1619 Project would argue, but with the arrival of the first Separatist.

For a century or so, Americans have had friends and countrymen who are “culturally Jewish.” We know what that means: a Jewish sense of communal identity bound to that vague American religious sensibility that sits somewhere between Protestant and agnostic — not atheistic, but operatively secular. I have not heard many Catholics call themselves “culturally Catholic” — Catholics who have given up Catholicism mostly just continue to call themselves “Catholic,” with the “cultural” qualifier being understood. In the case of Catholics, the communal identity is not in the end religious at all but is instead only the detritus of immigrant ethnic identities that have been dissolved in the hot soup of modernity. Conservatives used to be the ones who preferred the “melting pot” model of communal life to ethnic and religious particularism, but the rightist element Hochman writes about has, to some considerable degree, abandoned that. And so we have that new thing, the “cultural Christian.” I believe the first time I ever heard the term used was by Richard Spencer, the white nationalist, who found his parents’ Episcopalianism insufficiently invigorating.

Evangelicals, particularly white Evangelicals, are an important part of the new coalition that was formed around the campaign and cult of Donald Trump, but Christian thinking per se plays almost no role in that cult. Indeed, it would be very difficult for these Christians if it were otherwise: Donald Trump is an idolator and a heretic, a blasphemer and a perpetrator of sacrilege, and much more ….

Kevin D. Williamson


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.

Compelled to write

The barbarians are at the gates (again), so this old man feels a compulsion to write.

Nuance on abortion law

It’s probably obvious to regular readers that I’m the kind of guy who would be highly sympathetic to the reasoning of Justice Alito in the leaked abortion opinion overturning Roe v. Wade. But I think my reasons are out of the pro-life mainstream.

Take Roe as shorthand for "the basic Supreme Court abortion framework constructed by Roe v. Wade and Planned Parenthood v. Casey." I want Roe reversed because it’s bad law.

It’s bad law, first, because it’s poorly reasoned. If you doubt that, read Alito’s draft (as I have not, though I’ve read and heard about it), where he cites liberal scholar after liberal scholar who admit that the original Roe is poorly reasoned. Side note: Many liberal scholars tried to remedy that deficiency in law journal articles, Laurence Tribe multiple times with different rationales. Then SCOTUS, concerned that overturning the original Roe would reflect poorly on the court, came up with it’s own alternative rationale, including the risible "mystery passage":

At the heart of liberty is the right to define one’s own concept of existence, of meaning, of the universe, and of the mystery of human life.

It’s bad law, second, because among the rights protected by the constitution is a democratic form of government, so when the court declares democratically-enacted laws out-of-bounds, it shrinks the realm of our right to govern ourselves through democratically-elected legislatures.

That’s the court’s duty when the constitution requires it. But it’s the court’s duty not to overrule the democratic outcome when the constitution does not require it, elite opinion be damned.

That has been my primary concern with Roe ever since, during law school, I got conservative-woke on the abortion issue. And I think it’s out of the pro-life mainstream, especially as it ramifies below.

As has been noted by sentient reports of this week’s kerfuffle (not all reports have been sentient), the result of Justice Alito’s draft, if it indeed becomes the court’s Opinion in the case, will be to return the abortion issue to the legislative processes, mostly within the states.

If and when that happens, I will support quite strict restrictions on abortion legislatively. But even if I lose, and my state (astonishingly) mirrors the abortion enthusiasm of California and some other blue states, those laws will have a constitutional legitimacy that that Roe lacks.

I’m confident that this concession will make me look monstrous to some pro-lifers. But I’m also confident that it’s right. (And I’m moderately confident that pro-choicers are whistling past the cemetery when they talk about Alito’s draft in terms of its defying popular opinion on abortion; they wouldn’t be so worked up if all that was happening was a move of permissive abortion law from SCOTUS to Bismark.)

I’m aware of the argument of (most recently) John Finnis that the 14th Amendment requires that abortion be banned. I wasn’t persuaded of that basic argument 30-40 years ago when it was first floated, though it was clever and thought-provoking, and Finnis’ resurrected version didn’t persuade me, either.

But if you give me 2-to-1 odds, I’ll bet a modest amount that Clarence Thomas is going to demur from any Alito-like opinion to argue that Finnis was right. (I owe that intriguing speculation to David French, who stunned and silenced Sarah Isgur with it.)

Singing Truth, Screaming Lies

I am an enthusiastic and fairly skilled chorister, in addition be being Cantor in my parish. My longest non-church choral relationship is with a pretty good community chorus, with admission by audition and some paid staff including the Artistic Director.

Not surprisingly, most of our concerts are from the canon of western sacred music, almost exclusively Christian — masses, oratorios, Lessons & Carols, and such. It’s far and away the largest body of first-rate choral music in Western Christendom. We’ve even sung Russian Orthodox masterpieces twice.

The audience for that kind of music is aging and dying, which you’d probably guess if you thought about it.

So we occasionally shake things up with a pop concert (e.g., Bernstein’s Candide), some in collaboration with the local professional symphony, or even show tunes á la "show choir" under a guest conductor.

We did one of the latter quite recently. Reflecting on it afterward, two things hit me.

First, the show was too heavy on loud band accompaniment and loud songs and it really took a toll on my vocal chords — and my nervous system.

More important, I’ve been reflecting on the themes of some of the songs we sang (excluding consideration of what our guest soloist from Broadway sang, most of the words of which I couldn’t even understand; not that she mumbled, but the amplification is directed toward the audience, not toward the stage).

The themes are, in my considered judgment from 70+ years on planet earth, lies:

Come alive, come alive! Go and light your light Let it burn so bright! Reachin’ up to the sky, And it’s open wide You’re electrified!

And the world becomes a fantasy ‘Cuz you’re more than you could ever be … And you know you can’t go back again to the world that you were livin’ in ‘Cuz you’re living with your eyes wide open.

I’m flying high! I’m defying gravity! … And soon I’ll pass them in renown. And nobody in all of Oz, No wizard that there is or was Is ever gonna bring me down!

There’s nothing wrong with positivity (though it’s not my thing), but those lyrics are delusional. The first one even contradicts itself by promising that coming alive will make the world a fantasy, but you can’t go back because your eyes are now wide open. Huh?!

I don’t think such songs of limitless options and rejection of authority are wholesome. They may get the adrenaline going and may become an ear worm, but they set people up for disappointment — even emotional and spiritual shipwreck.

The contrast with our general repertoire is stark. Most of the sacred canon we sing is fundamentally true. This stuff, though, is toxic once you get under the glittery surface. How that toxicity feeds current cultural toxicity is beyond my scope, at least today.

I don’t think I can do this pop stuff any more.

Mourning

Beyond the confines of party politics, the broader left is mourning a narrative: a story about the once and forever conquest of good over evil. It is most visible in the elite hysterics that are derided as ‘woke’. …

… A story about the inevitable triumph of socially liberal values has been deeply entrenched in the minds of the comfortable classes since at least the 1960’s, a simple story about the victory of good over evil. Everyone now knows it was only a story. It never was prophesy. It was, though, a story that helped to structure many middle-class lives, and its passing is genuinely felt, with all the attendant denial and rage. I don’t mourn it. It was never my story. But those that oppose ‘wokery’ without seeing it is a grief-reaction are making the same mistake as those they think are their enemies. They’re clinging on to the wrong story. We are not living through a cinematic battle between good and evil. We are living through a tragedy. Scene by scene, hubris takes from us the very things that we define ourselves by.

The political right at its best, the right of Oakeshott or Chesterton, understood mourning. It had a wistful reverence for what was lost. The right is no longer at its best, and has not been for a long time. The tragedy of our era takes from every player the very thing that they clutch closest to their heart. While it took from the left their faith in the future, it took from the right their faith in the past.

And so we have a Tory party that believes only in Thatcherism; but dare not say so, in case the voters hear. They do not remember that Thatcherism was a betrayal of their party and country. They dare not remember anything at all. They are the very epitome of mourning as denial; and so, amnesiac, they no longer know the land they rule. Their sense of England is no deeper than a photoshoot with a pint glass, and the rest of the Union seldom troubles what is left of their flickering consciousness at all.

Every era is a time of mourning, but this era is a time of senseless mourning. The political mourning I have been describing is not the same as the mourning that is quietly embedded in place names and dry stone walls. It is uprooted and lost ….

‌This is a time of senseless mourning, from my favorite new Substack.

The Boromir Fallacy

When people justify their voting choice by its outcome, I always think of The Lord of the Rings. Tolkien emphasizes repeatedly that we cannot make decisions based on the hoped-for result. We can only control the means. If we validate our choice of voting for someone that may not be a good person in the hopes that he or she will use his power to our advantage, we succumb to the fallacy of Boromir, who assumed he too would use the Ring of Power for good. Power cannot be controlled; it enslaves you. To act freely is to acknowledge your limits, to see the journey as a long road that includes dozens of future elections, and to fight against the temptation for power.

Jessica Hooten Wilson, What ‘The Lord of the Rings’ Can Teach Us About U.S. Politics, Christianity and Power

A little sympathy

I have little sympathy for Derek Chauvin, but it seems to me that his cumulative sentences (styling his murder as a federal civil rights offense, too, is likely to add years served) are much higher than would be expected in comparable cases.

Is he being punished more not because of his depravity, but because his murder of George Floyd provoked widespread rioting and exposed the hypocrisy of the government’s selective Covid policies (in effect "Church bad, Riots good", say government epidemiologists)?


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.

Midweek meanderings

Plain speaking

I commented the other day on Freddie deBoer not mincing words. Neither, here, does J Peters:

We’re Lesbians on the Autism Spectrum. Stop Telling Us to Become Men

I thought of her essay as I read Abigail Shrier’s latest, a take-down of Jen Psaki and the Biden Administration’s policies on supposedly transgender teens — maybe the wickedest and stupidest Biden policy yet.

But the wicked, stupid Biden policy fits a current brain-dead ideology. Andrew Sullivan goes after it at length, from his particular concern about what it does to homosexual kids. A taste:

[N]o one is LGBTQIA++. It’s literally impossible. And the difference between the gay and trans experience is vast, especially when it comes to biological sex.

Maybe the only unique contribution Sullivan makes on this is to embed some teacher training videos that give the lie to the establishment’s charge that concerns over subversive teaching is a made-up, astroturf matter.

Student Loan policy

In his latest Bloomberg column, Matthew Yglesias points out the inflationary effects of the Biden administration’s renewal of the student loan repayment moratorium—while noting it won’t even benefit that many people. “The economy no longer needs stimulus—in fact, it needs to restrain demand,” he writes, noting the non-collection of student loans has the “opposite” effect. “A majority of the public, meanwhile, has $0 in student debt. If you limit your analysis to people under 30, the median student loan balance is still $0. For African-Americans, it’s $0. Most people do not go to college and do not incur student loan debt, and those non-debtors have lower incomes on average than the people who do go to college and do have debt. Restarting student debt collections would restrain inflation at the expense of a disproportionately high-income minority of the population. Broad debt cancellation, by contrast, would boost inflation.”

The Morning Dispatch

(This topic is a pet peeve of mine.)

The spade and the keyboard

The spade and the keyboard are two very different tools, but one thing they have in common is their ability to break the human body.

… Both may give you sore arms, but there is a difference between a keyboard and a spade. A spade can still be made fairly simply. It doesn’t need constant energy to keep going. It can last a long time, if you treat it well, rather like your body. A keyboard and a spade are both products of an industrial economy, but not to the same extent, and they do not have the same purpose. One can exist independently, the other cannot. This might be a matter of degrees, but the degrees matter – and so does the intent.

There’s another point too, though, and perhaps it is a more important one: nobody ever got addicted to a spade ….

Paul Kingsnorth, Planting Trees in the Anthropocene

"News"

Every morning, there it is, waiting for me on my phone. The bullshit. It resembles, in its use of phrases such as “knowledgeable sources” and “experts differ,” what I used to think of as the news, but it isn’t the news and it hasn’t been for ages. It consists of its decomposed remains in a news-shaped coffin. It does impart information, strictly speaking, but not always information about our world. Or not good information, because it’s so often wrong, particularly on matters of great import and invariably to the advantage of the same interests, which suggests it should be presumed wrong as a rule.

I’m stipulating these points, I’m not debating them, so log off if you find them too extreme. Go read more bullshit. Immerse yourself in news of Russian plots to counterfeit presidential children’s laptops, viruses spawned in Wuhan market stalls, vast secret legions of domestic terrorists flashing one another the OK sign in shadowy parking lots behind Bass Pro Shops experiencing “temporary” inflation, and patriotic tech conglomerates purging the commons of untruths. Comfort yourself with the thoughts that the same fortunes engaged in the building of amusement parks, the production and distribution of TV comedies, and the provision of computing services to the defense and intelligence establishments, have allied to protect your family’s health, advance the causes of equity and justice, and safeguard our democratic institutions. Dismiss as cynical the notion that you, the reader, are not their client but their product. Your data for their bullshit, that’s the deal. And Build Back Better. That’s the sermon.

Pious bullshit, unceasing. But what to do?

One option, more popular each day, is to retreat to the anti-bullshit universe of alternative media sources. These are the podcasts, videos, Twitter threads, newsletters, and Facebook pages that regularly vanish from circulation for violating “community standards” and other ineffable codes of conduct, oft-times after failing “fact-checks” by the friendly people at Good Thoughtkeeping. Some of these rebel outfits are engrossing, some dull and churchy, many quite bizarre, and some, despite small staffs and tiny budgets, remarkably good and getting better. Some are Substack pages owned by writers who severed ties with established publications, drawing charges of being Russian agents, crypto-anarchists, or free-speech “absolutists.”

Walter Kirn, The Bullshit

Delights

New news models

This seems a good time for an uplifting word. Our local newspaper is pretty much what Kirn (preceding item) describes, but a recently-retired, not-yet-really-old, inkstained wretch has started a Substack that regular reports (5-6 days per week) local developments that actually matter. Like Purdue University planning 1200+ new dormitory beds because freshman enrollment topped 10,000 this year, and the total enrollment almost 50,000. There’s tons of off-campus housing, but maybe not enough, and President Mitch Daniels reports that students in dorms perform better than those off campus.

And he is recruiting some of his former colleagues as contributors. There’s high-class fairly unobtrusive advertisements, but that keeps the subscription cost a bit lower.

Now that is an Angel!

A cyber-friend of mine publishes a newsletter that introduced me to this wonderful painting and its author, Henry Osawa Tanner:

The subject (and title) is Annunciation. I much prefer that intense pillar of light to any anthropomorphic depiction of angels I’ve seen — if only because confronted by this, one might need to hear "fear not," while the anthropomorphic depictions elicit no fear at all.

Sundry observations

Attention is a limited resource, so pay attention to where you pay attention.

Michael Goldhaber, the Cassandra of the Internet Age


Cosmopolitans cannot escape the limits of Dunbar’s Number. Thus, cosmopolitanism is just a special case of parochialism — one with a curated, international parish.

And they’re not even nicer than the frankly parochial parochials; cosmopolitans microaggress parochials in flyover country nonstop from their high coastal thrones.

(H/T to Jonah Goldberg and Megan McArdle on Jonah’s The Remnant podcast.)


If we are wounded by an ugly idea, we must count it as part of the cost of freedom.

Kurt Vonnegut via the Economist Daily Briefing


If Christianity is the one, true religion, is it that much of a stretch to believe that there is one, true expression of Christianity?

Carlton, Clark, The Way, 1998 Edition

Disgraces

Tom Cotton

Ketanji Brown Jackson is confirmed, but we should remember who disgraced themselves in opposition:

To lambast [Supreme Court Justice] Jackson because she claimed that the accused terrorists she represented were ‘totally innocent’ — yes, even if she was simply copying and pasting objections — is to make a mockery of the rule of law. Perhaps aware of this, Cotton made sure to acknowledge that ‘it’s true that you shouldn’t judge a lawyer for being willing to take on an unpopular case.’ But that’s what he did, over and over and over again.

Charles C.W. Cooke, on lawyer Tom Cotton, via Andrew Sullivan

Groomer-talkers

I think if we call all of them groomers and pedophiles, we are no better than they are, and conservatives have a long-standing issue with the left using ‘racist’ for everything thereby devaluing what actual racism is. I don’t want the word ‘racism’ devalued and I don’t want to devalue what it means to actually groom a child for abuse.

Erick Erickson, via Andrew Sullivan

CRT Provocateurs

[C]onservative alarm wasn’t simply organic. Opportunistic activists like James Lindsay and Manhattan Institute senior fellow Christopher Rufo intentionally and explicitly redefined CRT. Here’s Rufo in a tweet thread with Lindsay:

We have successfully frozen their brand—“critical race theory—into the public conversation and are steadily driving up negative perceptions. We will eventually turn it toxic, as we put all of the various cultural insanities under that brand category. The goal is to have the public read something crazy in the newspaper and immediately think “critical race theory.” We have decodified the term and will recodify it to annex the entire range of cultural constructions that are unpopular with Americans.

He proceeded to be as good as his word, and now the right-wing conversation about CRT is all but useless.

David French. This was an uncommonly good post by French, responding to Astroturf alarmism over Critical Race Theory.

I would invite French to consider the possibility, however, that James Lindsay is not an opportunistic activist, but a critic of shoddy scholarship in several "critial theories".

Boston Athletic Association

Historical parallels often spring to mind when it comes to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

In the brutality and megalomania of Vladimir Putin, many are reminded of Adolf Hitler. In the soaring rhetoric and heroic defiance of Volodymyr Zelensky, others hear echoes of Winston Churchill. In the moral outrage but relatively cautious policies of Joe Biden, there’s a touch of George — Wouldn’t Be Prudent — H.W. Bush.

And in Wednesday’s decision by the Boston Athletic Association to prohibit runners from Russia and Belarus from competing in this year’s Boston Marathon, we recall the words of Otter, one of the frat house characters from “National Lampoon’s Animal House”: “I think this situation absolutely requires a really futile and stupid gesture be done on somebody’s part.”

Bret Stephens. Having reached that punchline, I didn’t finish the Op-Ed.

Menno Simons

Another Radical Reformation theologian set forth a Christology that said the Son of God became man not “of the womb” of Mary, but rather simply “in the womb” (Menno Simons), which means that Jesus’ humanity is a new creation, not an assumption of the humanity created in Adam. Mary becomes a kind of surrogate mother, and Jesus is not truly a member of our race. (See the painting of the Annunciation, above, too.)

Father Andrew Stephen Damick, Orthodoxy & Heterodoxy

I heard something like this on WMBI, the radio network of Evangelicalism’s Moody Bible Institute: a woman show host breathlessly sharing how Jesus came down to earth from heaven through Mary like water through a pipe. I’m inclined to think it was extemporaneous blather, but it was pernicious blather.

I’m not sure there is an agreed Evangelical account of Mary’s role in salvation history, but if there were, and if it were sound, they wouldn’t be giving her the short shrift they give her now.

Fundamentalists

The 1960s and early 1970s—the so-called Long Sixties—saw the election of the first Catholic president, the Supreme Court decision banning prayer and Bible reading in the schools, the civil rights movement, the protests against the Vietnam War, and the Roe v. Wade decision. Surprisingly, only the fundamentalists objected to all of them.

Frances FitzGerald, The Evangelicals

Close, but no banana. Few fundamentalists objected to Roe v. Wade initially. How they came to object, in my uninvestigated opinion (though I lived through those times), is bound up with the rise of the Religious Right and its need for wedge issues. (This does not imply that opposition was wrong. Of the crooked timber of humanity, nothing straight was ever made.)

Wordplay

We define ourselves now by what we are not. And what we are not is everything we used to be.

Paul Kingsnorth


The only time I ever feel ashamed of being gay is on Gay Pride Day.

Bruce Bawer via Jonathan Rausch


Le véritable voyage de découverte ne consiste pas à chercher de nouveaux paysages, mais à avoir de nouveaux yeux.
(The real journey of discovery is not in seeking new landscapes, but in having new eyes.)

Marcel Proust via Nicolas Crose on Micro.blog.

I almost feel as if Proust were dissing my wanderlust.


Denouncement: An ersatz "denunciation" from the Dispatch. Denouncement appears to be in the dictionary, but old men get to grouse about things anyway, and I hates it! The only excuse I can see for it is to make English easier for ESL folk, which also impoverishes it sometimes.


Périphérique: (or “La France périphérique”), a term to describe parts of France left behind by high-speed trains and breezy ambition—where voters are now being desperately courted by presidential candidates.

The Economist. I assume these are Marine LePen’s base, and that Macron ignores them at his peril.


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 Potpourri, 3/13/22

I’m publishing this a bit later than most Sundays because I don’t want you to lose my points in morning worship or, worse, lose morning worship because you’re agitated about something I said.

Russophobia

I may be living dangerously by saying or citing some of these things. I really don’t know because I don’t get some of what’s going on, but there are questions that need to be asked, challenges that need to be made.

"My favorite (Russian) things

[P]eople can be excused for reacting viscerally to a powerful nation attacking a smaller, weaker neighbor, with all the human misery that entails. Still, there’s something especially insipid about today’s social-media-led, H.R.-department-backed anti-Russian drive. Yesterday, it was anti-maskers and Black Lives Matter skeptics getting un-personed; today it’s anyone and anything associated with the Bad Country.

Sohrab Ahmari, These Are a Few of My Favorite (Russian) Things.

Note that title, and read the whole thing for a reminder of Russian contributions to our musical, literary, philosophical and cinematic cultures.

I’m increasingly convinced, however (as I jumped the gun on Ahmari’s advice to learn more about Russian culture), that Russia and the modern West are always going to be at least somewhat adversarial. There is a deep vein of Russian conservatism (in contrast to a shallow vein in the West) that spurns our commercialization and our other unacknowledged and unflattering novelty values. As Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn said in his epochal (I will not call it "notorious") Harvard Commencement address, "these worlds are not at all evolving toward each other and … neither one can be transformed into the other without violence. Besides, convergence inevitably means acceptance of the other side’s defects, too, and this can hardly suit anyone."

Russian teens

Ken Lima-Coelho is on the board of Canada’s Honens International Piano Competition, and he’s “proud” of the organization’s decision to ban Russian teenagers from the 2022 competition just for being Russian. Honens’s statement reads: “Honens abhors and condemns any form of violence and is deeply disturbed by the Russian government’s unprovoked attack on Ukraine. Such blatant acts of aggression and greed have no place in our world.” Are these bans of Russian artists motivated by principle or rather by anger at the fact that “aggression and greed” are inescapable parts of the world we live in, as Putin’s invasion shows, no matter how much we might like to deny it? I wonder.

Micah Mattix, Prufrock

Lima-Coelho explains and justifies nothing. I’m not sure he’s smart enough to suspect that acts of aggression and greed are inescapable, or whether he’s smart enough, but prefers that they remain concealed rather than "blatant."

Malicious and inconsistent, but the herd demands it

Boycott of all things Russian picks up pace: To paraphrase a joke, all the people who decried the lab leak theory as SO RACIST! are now doing something actually xenophobic: Boycotting anything and everything Russian they can find. They are boycotting Russian music and restaurants, never mind that these spots are often owned by Ukrainians, or that most of the musicians now banned from stage have decried the war. All Russians have to suffer for the sins of Putin. “Russian society is to blame” is an actual argument made quite often.

Some headlines for you:

Montreal Symphony Orchestra drops Russian piano prodigy from concerts amid backlash

Cardiff Philharmonic removes Tchaikovsky from programme in light of Russian invasion of Ukraine

War in Ukraine: Netflix shelves Tolstoy adaptation after criticism

Collective guilt is bad, un-American and it simply doesn’t help the cause of Ukraine to boycott Russian cats. Yes, the International Cat Federation actually did this.

Nellie Bowles

These are the signs that maybe, sometimes, "Democracy" needs to be unresponsive to the fickle and foolish will of the people.

Facebook’s supreme morality oligarch

Meanwhile, Facebook and Instagram have suspended their terms of service to allow calls for violence against Russian soldiers, though they claim this would not extend to prisoners of war. I’m no pacifist. I believe Ukrainian soldiers have a right to defend themselves violently. But I dislike this sort of elaborate tech puppetry. I dislike the implied presumption of control over which people groups we are allowed to hate. Since when did Mark Zuckerberg become our supreme morality oligarch? I missed that memo, just like I missed the memo that all things Russian have been suddenly and mysteriously tainted. Yet here we are, in a timeline where we will literally cancel Tchaikovsky before entertaining the possibility that perhaps all men are “tainted,” not just the ones who are part of the hated group du jour.

Bethel McGrew, Russians, who also links to (and quotes) a Wendell Berry poem from a time when writing sanely wouldn’t get you side-eyed by the neo-McCarthyites.

Declaring victory

Minute by minute the collapse of Russian capitalism is coming through in Telegram alerts. Apple leaves Russia, Netflix suspends operations, so has Louis Vuitton, brand after brand after brand pulling out until, even though my job is to analyse this stuff, I can barely make sense of the sanctions and capital controls that have cut Russia off from the world.

Ben Judah, ‌The Russia we have lost

This may sound cryptic, but it feels like an interesting hypothetical as I learn the Russian mind: With most of the American woke corporations pulling out of Russia, why doesn’t Putin could close the doors to their return, declare victory, withdraw from Ukraine, and win plaudits of tens of millions of a certain kind of Russian conservative?

(Don’t ask me the mechanics of how Putin could pull this off or even if he’d want to do it to his kleptocrat pals.)

If you want to get a taste of what I’m talking about, listen to this unusually riveting episode of the GetReligion podcast, where Terry Mattingly expatiates on ordinary Russians’ ambivalence about the West.

Conclusion

… canceling Russian culture only confirms Putin’s claim that the West despises not simply the Russian regime but Russia itself; targeted sanctions on Putin enablers could be more effective.

Gladden Pappin, ‌You Are Entering the American Sector

Other stuff

City Journal

The libertarian-leaning City Journal has lots of plaudits to its name, but its continued employment of Christopher Rufo, who wrote these brazen declarations of dishonest intent, made me skeptical:

I’m not a fan of cancel culture, but to my mind Rufo pissed away all credibility on CRT with those boasts, yet City Journal continues to publish his CRT stuff.

(Required disclaimer: I’ve got problems with what schools are doing with CRT-inspired concepts, probably overlapping with some of Rufo’s problems; misdirection only works if you’ve got a truthful core, after all.)

Now they published a hatchet-job on a New York Times deep dive into W.H. Auden’s poem ‌Musée des Beaux Arts.

It’s not that City Journal‘s Lee Siegel disagrees with New York Times‘ Elisa Gabbert about the poem; it’s that he blatantly misrepresents Gabbert’s wonderful (and wonderfully web-formatted) analysis.

In short, he lies, particularly when he makes claims like this:

Gabbert tells us that Auden’s poem is a straightforward exposure of people who let bad things happen …

I’ve given you the links should you want to check out my claim; just don’t be distracted by a few plausible but peripheral points Siegel makes toward the end.

Downsides

If I were still working, I think I’d love the opportunities for telecommuting that have been mainstreamed by Covidtide. But those opportunities can be used destructively:

North Georgia … was always something to behold. Small, narrow valleys defined by creeks and rich bottom land, low ridges rising a few hundred feet on either side. Old farms and barns dotting the tidy and loved landscape. …

The ridges filled in with outsized monstrosities for undersized households. Even then the farm valleys remained somehow inviolate, left in a hopeful time. Until inevitably, with land prices, property taxes, or death, and no ridges left to colonize, the valleys filled in with clusters of behemoths to accommodate the malignancy that is Atlanta.

… This economy at rising tide doesn’t lift communities; it washes over them, destroying countryside and culture in its wake. And when it ebbs, what remains is a fractured landscape instead of topsoil. A debris field of trash and eroded gullies where once flourished fields, crops, and a rural people.

The South Roane Agrarian, ‌Building on the Heights

"I know a guy …"

One of the problems with screaming “How could you be so stupid?” at people who behave stupidly is that we too often think of the question as rhetorical when it isn’t. Though vaccine hesitancy is often seen as purely political, that’s not necessarily the case. It also correlates to lack of health care, which means that when public-health officials urge the unvaccinated to consult their family doctors (on the assumption that they might be more persuasive than government agencies), they’re assuming facts not in evidence. If you can’t afford health insurance, you probably can’t afford a doctor either, and if this is how you’ve been living for the past decade, chances are good that surviving without sound medical advice has become part of your behavioral DNA. Your strategy will be much like my father’s: keep working, save what you can (not much) for the rainy day you know is coming, and hope for the best. Maybe you’ll get lucky and know a guy.

… He tells you where to go and what to do when you get there. He lets you in on the secret handshake. Knock three times. Tell them Jimmy sent you.

Richard Russo, ‌How I Found Sympathy for Covid Skeptics. Excellent, empathetic and humane.

Are we secularizing?

…if secularization is taken to refer to some kind of “decline of religion,” then we need to figure out what we mean by “religion.” “If one identifies this with the great historic faiths, or even with explicit belief in supernatural beings, then it seems to have declined. But if you include a wide range of spiritual and semi-spiritual beliefs; or if you cast your net even wider and think of someone’s religion as the shape of their ultimate concern, then indeed, one can make a case that religion is as present as ever”

James K.A. Smith, How (Not) to Be Secular

Material boy

What I needed was to touch the real world. I needed an antidote for the idiotic pixelated simulacrum we live in. We are not even materialists anymore. We are a post-materialistic society — whatever that means — where even materials are simulated and virtual. What I am going to do with this I do not know. What I do know is that it’s impossible for me to reenter the Machine.

Hephaestus. Ever wondered why a trade would have its own god? With blacksmithing I have come the closest to the Eye of Contemplation — or to what I think it is — I have ever been. Writing about it kills it, obviously. We, the Moderns and especially the Westerners write. We rationalize things by writing. We use words as sharp weapons that blind the Eye of Contemplation.

A friend of Rod Dreher, who lost his white collar job and took up apprenticeship with a blacksmith.

Algorithm failure

Readwise opined that "Based on your highlights, we think you’ll love this book recommendation …". Readwise is almost certainly wrong.

Heterodox Podcasts: the New NPR

William Deresiewicz apparently kept on listening to NPR long after I’d stopped, but ended up "hate-listening" to the new, cocksure and woke version. His ‌Escaping American tribalism tells the story, and how he discovered heterodox podcasts as an alternative to his unfaithful first love.

I was already listening to several of those podcasts; I’ll soon sample the others.

What I hadn’t done was to make the mental connection that podcasts like this were my unacknowledged substitute for an NPR that wasn’t yet even as bad as what Deresiewicz endured.

Wordplay

Ectopic: One kind of pregnancy the abortion of which would become a class A felony under a pending Bill in Missouri (see lines 14 & 15 on the first page).


Potlatch: a ceremonial feast of the American Indians of the northwest coast marked by the host’s lavish distribution of gifts or sometimes destruction of property to demonstrate wealth and generosity with the expectation of eventual reciprocation.

Use in a sentence: "Corporate cancellation culture has quickly become a type of potlatch." (Gladden Pappin)


Kinetic military action: The American-troops-over-Libya equivalent of Russian-troops-in-Ukraine’s "Special Military Operation."

Eternal stuff

Undue confidence

Only the Christian Church can offer any rational objection to a complete confidence in the rich. For she has maintained from the beginning that the danger was not in man’s environment, but in man.

G.K. Chesterton, Orthodoxy

It also can rationally object to confidence in the "diverse and far-ranging possibilities" of denying teleology.

Wisdom

The future in its entirety cannot give you so much as a kernel of good, unless it borrows it from Me.

The One born of the Virgin, speaking in Prayers by the Lake LVII


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.