Clippings, 11/25/18


[T]he liberal ambitions of the Warren Court and the expanded powers of the Cold War presidency made both branches considerably more imperial relative to both Congress and the states, and neither trend has been substantially reversed. Instead the political abdication of the Congress, the steady atrophy of legislative power and flight from legislative responsibility, means that America is increasingly governed by negotiations between the imperial presidency and whichever philosopher-king has the swing vote on the court.

Ross Douthat


Strutting isn’t just for turkeys anymore.

We’re reminded of this nearly every day, but Donald Trump outdid himself Thanksgiving Day when a reporter asked the president what he’s most grateful for. In a nutshell, with only a tiny bit of editing: himself. Okay, he mentioned his family first, but then he went on to extol his own virtues.

Of course he did. Thanksgiving, after all, is really about Trump, n’est-ce pas? One can hardly wait for Christmas, when we’ll learn, oh joy, that unto the world a Trump was born.

Kathleen Parker


If you have a tour with ‘Winterreise’ or ‘Songs of a Wayfarer,’ something like that, you can’t rebuild your personal grief every day. You would have to go to the filling station to buy some weltschmerz. It is impossible.”

Baritone Christian Gerhaher of his 30-year lieder collabortion with pianist Gerold Huber


One of the dinner speakers, Senator Orrin Hatch, Republican of Utah, acknowledged the obvious when he said to laughter and applause: “Some have accused President Trump of outsourcing his judicial selection process to the Federalist Society. I say, damn right!”

Linda Greenhouse, New York Times

That Trump has kept his promise on judicial nominations is the silver lining to that cloud hovering over us. Would we be better off if he was Tweeting nominations of cronies at 3:00 AM? Do even his progressive haters believe that?

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Peter Principle update

Do you know the Peter Principle?


Image Journal has a new editorial team, with James K. A. Smith taking the helm as the new editor in chief. That’s a bit of head-scratcher to be honest. Everything I’ve read by him on poetry and fiction is pretty much what you’d expect from a well-read theologian writing on poetry and fiction. That’s not a slight. Theologians and critics tend to approach texts in different ways, even if they might arrive at some of the same conclusions. For the critic, style is argument. For the Protestant theologian—and I’m generalizing here, so forgive me—style mostly contains argument. I can’t say this is always the case with Smith. He certainly has something like this view regarding form when it comes to liturgy, but I have never thought of him as being particularly interested in style in writing or in the forms of poetry or the novel. Anyway, he has a strong team under him, it seems, and I am sure he will bring in new readers. Good luck to the whole crew!

Micah Mattix’s Prufrock newsletter for October 18.


This item aggregates downers — I guess they’re “uppers” if you exult in Trump hatred instead of just shaking your head and saying “heaven help us.”

It is a sign of the times — the kind involving the seven-horned beast, and the rain of fire, and the end of days — that recent news has been dominated by Kanye, Stormy and the misogynist boor who is president of the United States. It would be a circus if it were not a crime scene, complete with credible accusations of financial corruption, obstruction of justice and campaign collusion with a hostile foreign power.

… I do think [the charge of fascism is] basically mere alarmism, yes. We have a president whose shallow malevolence is matched only by his bottomless incompetence. But that’s not fascism. It’s more weakness than strength.

And yet, it is impossible to listen closely to Trump without hearing echoes of fascist language and arguments. He describes a form of national unity based on deference to a single leader. He claims to lead a movement that speaks exclusively for American values. He defines this movement primarily through exclusion, by directing bigotry and contempt toward outsiders. He paints the picture of an idealized past, involving pride, ethnic solidarity and national greatness.

Fascism may not describe what Trump has done, as opposed to what he says. But what he says matters and can create its own dangerous dynamic. It is possible for a leader to be incompetent and still profoundly corrupt the people who follow him, undermining the virtues — tolerance, civility and compromise — that make democratic self-government work. It is possible for a foolish leader to leave the imprint of fascism on a portion of his followers ….

Michael Gerson (in part quoting an unnamed “conservative leader”).

Michael V. Hayden, a former C.I.A. director who served under Presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama, said that Mr. Trump could be coaxed into believing objective reality, but that it “is not the instinctive departure point for what Donald Trump does.”

“It’s something else — it’s feeling, emotion, preference, loyalty, convenience of the moment,” Mr. Hayden said. He quoted a former speechwriter for Mr. Bush, Michael Gerson, about Mr. Trump: “He lives in the eternal now — no history, no consequences.”

Maggie Haberman. I didn’t used to think of left liberals as defenders of objective truth, nor of Evangelicals as indifferent toward it, but times change.

In the first 18 months of his administration, those who pointed out that he’d made a good decision, or failed to castigate him enough, were sometimes accused of “normalizing” Mr. Trump. But normalizing him wasn’t within their power. Only Mr. Trump could normalize Mr. Trump, by enacting normality and self-possession. He could have opted for a certain stature—the presidential stage, with its flags and salutes, almost leads you by the hand to stature. But he hasn’t.

Peggy Noonan.


Our clamoring after Christian “rock stars” — paired with the sheer volume of content those in the spotlight are expected to produce — has created the perfect environment for slipshod attribution and theft of content from lesser-known authors.

Mary DeMuth at Religion News Service.

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Not just like worldly music

From my personal journal 4 – 1/2 years ago:

Should I ever be tempted to say that CCM is “just like worldly music,” I should resist. There’s a cheesy, oily sound to CCM vocals that marks it as “Christian” music within the first four vocal bars.

And then from 9/13/13:

Tough day. I looked at Syrian beheading photos and listened to CCM for 7 minutes. Ouch!

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Some succinct standing advice on recurring themes.

Where I glean stuff.

Nothing happened

Somehow, a day passed without anything notable happening.

Well, nothing notable and edifying came to my attention.

The sky continued to fall down around Baton Rouge (here endeth my cryptic allusion, which some of you will get), and some Polish Catholics, with the help of a Jesuit priest, did a profane rap nuptial mass (6:23 pm November 1) that sets back the possibility of Orthodox/Catholic ecumenism by about 25 years.

So I’m going to step back to yesterday’s Performance Today, which reminded me of an earlier encounter (via From the Top) with Gateways Music Festival, a concept surpassingly wonderful, which I’ll let you encounter for yourself, without further ado.

Be edified.

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“Liberal education is concerned with the souls of men, and therefore has little or no use for machines … [it] consists in learning to listen to still and small voices and therefore in becoming deaf to loudspeakers.” (Leo Strauss)

There is no epistemological Switzerland. (Via Mars Hill Audio Journal Volume 134)

Some succinct standing advice on recurring themes.


Ees Outrage!

The insanity we’re up against, part 1:

Protesters are demanding that the Institute of Contemporary Art in Boston remove an exhibit by a white female artist because she once painted a picture of Emmett Till — even though the exhibit does not even contain that Emmett Till painting.

Some background: The artist, Dana Schutz, initially came under fire for Open Casket after the painting appeared at the Whitney Biennial in June, according to an article in Art World. The painting depicted the open-casket funeral of Emmett Till, a black boy who was murdered after a white woman accused him of flirting with her, and critics said it was offensive because it amounted to a white woman’s profiting off of the tragedy of a black boy …

[So the Institute of Contemporary Art in Boston decided not to show that Emmett Till painting.]

The critics’ letter claims that the ICA’s showing any of Schutz’s work essentially amounts to both it and Schutz benefiting financially from the tragedy of Emmett Till. Now, of course, some people might suggest that the fact that the painting of Till will not even be in the exhibit means that neither the museum nor Schutz could possibly be making money from the tragedy that it depicts. You know, because it’s literally not even going to be there.

But the critics have a different view. They claim that it still amounts to the museum’s taking an opportunity to “capitalize on the notoriety of said painter, not only directly benefiting her access and future opportunities, but also the institution’s,” and that the museum did something very wrong by refusing to meet all of its demands.

(Katherine Timpf)

Read between the lines: If you once paint someone of a different race, you are guilty of an artistic capital crime and should never be allowed to exhibit anywhere again.

The insanity we’re up against, part 2:

By a margin of over two to one, Republicans support using the courts to shut down news media outlets for “biased or inaccurate” stories, according to a recent poll from The Economist and YouGov.

When asked if cracking down on the press in this manner would violate the First Amendment, a narrow majority of Republicans agreed that it does, seeming to create a contradiction. However, a further question gave them a chance to clear the air and reaffirm the primacy of principle over political expediency: “Which is more important to you?” it asked, “(A) Protecting freedom of the press, even if that means media outlets sometimes publish biased or inaccurate stories; (B) Punishing biased or inaccurate news media, even if that means limiting the freedom of the press; (C) Not sure.”

Shockingly, a full 47 percent of Republicans support “punishing biased or inaccurate news media, even if that means limiting the freedom of the press,” versus just 34 percent who support “protecting freedom of the press, even if that means media outlets sometimes publish biased or inaccurate stories.”

(Elliott Kaufman)

Because these Republicans are presumably fully adult, this is more obnoxious than the students of Madison, in my last episode, who at least hesitated about throwing principle under the bus.

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Fiat justitia ruat caelum

There is no epistemological Switzerland. (Via Mars Hill Audio Journal Volume 134)

Some succinct standing advice on recurring themes.