Explaining myself

I posted last night some clippings from commentary on the U.S. Presidential debate of September 29, after almost four weeks’ absence and talk of ending the blog.

Problem 1 is that Wordpess, my platform, has been making “improvements” again. I’ve generally used its native editor, and they’ve replaced it with a monstrosity called a “block editor,” which is perfectly indecipherable. It wasn’t worth the effort to learn it since it’s a patently absurd way of writing essay-like things for people to read. [UPDDATE: As I subsequently tried to find a lighter graphic theme than War Correspondence had affected, it appeared that WordPress, or bloggery in general, is focused on commerce, photomontage, and other non-essay activities.] 

Problem 2 is not really a problem at all: even at my advanced age (500 dog years), I’m learning new tricks far more rewarding that mastering a stupid editor, such as not wallowing so much in news and commentary. This was made possible by spiritual adjustments which are best summarized by the advice of Fr. Stephen Freeman (for years, and especially here) and the late Fr. Thomas Hopcko. I’ve said for years that my epitaph should be “Darn! Just when I almost had it figured all out!” — a pathetic joke for a Christian, but an accurate reflection of how I was living. This annus horribilus has been a good one for taking stock of things and changing them as needed, and I can finally consider a better epitaph because that old one doesn’t fit any more.

If you think that’s too much information or a digression, it’s not: It means I’ve had less to say because I’m less “well-informed” and less in need of “venting” about things.

There may be more, but the third factor, the one facilitating my return to blogging, is the realization that I need not use WordPress’s stupid editor. I’ve acquired MarsEdit, on which I composed last night’s blog and am composing this one. It’s worth learning for me.

So I have the blogging tools I need but less to vent about. For that reason, I’ll almost certainly not return to daily blogging, and the conceit of warring against the deathworks already is feeling stale. I may return to the Tipsy Teetotaler name and a brighter graphic theme.

Finally, I commend to you Rod Dreher’s new book, Live Not by Lies, which I got on the Tuesday release date and finished yesterday — a relatively ferocious pace for me (facilitated by not wasting time on ephemeral news — see, it all connects). I think Dreher is fundamentally right about the future for cultural conservatives, but I’m partial to a Christian (Lutheran) reviewer who suggested that we may be heading for more open and literal warfare between Social Justice Warriors on the Left and “Traditionalst” atavists on the Alt-Right, with sane Christians mostly suffering collateral damage rather than being the targets of the SJWs.

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Out of the crooked timber of humanity no straight thing was ever made.

and

You shall love your crooked neighbour

“With your crooked heart.

W.H. Auden

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You can read most of my more impromptu stuff at here. It should work in your RSS aggregator, like Feedly, should you want to make a habit of it.

Chickens coming home to roost

Every single goal the gay-rights movement set out to achieve in my lifetime has now been won. Gays can marry; we can serve our country openly with pride; we are categorically protected from discrimination in employment and public accommodations in every state. Many once thought it would happen in reverse order, with employment discrimination barred before civil marriage was extended to gays and lesbians, but history has its surprises. Nonetheless, it’s done. Finished. Accomplished.

The Equality Act, the key piece of Democratic legislation designed to update the 1964 Act to include gays and transgender people, is therefore moot. The core goals have been accomplished without Congress needing to pass any new laws. What Gorsuch has achieved is exactly what that bill purports to legislate — except for the Act’s attempt to gut religious freedom, by exempting its provisions from the Religious Freedom Restoration Act of 1993. And that, surely, will be the remaining business: a battle between religious freedom and gay and transgender equality.

Andrew Sullivan, When Is It Time to Claim Victory in the Gay Rights Struggle?

Thus does it become salient that Evangelical fealty to Donald Trump and the GOP, flavored with Christian Nationalism, has given religion and religious freedom a particularly bad odor, and not just to the secularists of the ascendant Left.

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Out of the crooked timber of humanity no straight thing was ever made.

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You can read most of my more impromptu stuff at here. It should work in your RSS aggregator, like Feedly, should you want to make a habit of it.

The times, they are a changin’

1

The history of greed, venality, stupidity, cruelty and violence is long because that part of human nature is ineradicable. As the 20th century demonstrated, it is better to bet on a liberal society’s capacity to temper these flaws and iniquities than on a utopia’s false promise to eradicate them. Those promises end being written in blood.

… [C]ycles of history run their course. By 2008 it was clear that the world economic system was seriously skewed. Bailed out, it staggered on until now, accompanied by growing anger in Western societies.

… All the grotesque needed, to be revealed as such, was for time to stop.

Roger Cohen, No Return to the ‘Old Dispensation’. The grotesque did stop, but has it been recognized sufficiently for us to actually change entrenched behavior when some kind of normalcy is again permitted?

I loved this whole column, by the way. So sorry if you can’t get to it — I don’t know how much, if anything, a non-subscriber can see.

2

Are we inherently gullible? Research says no: Most adults have well-functioning machinery for detecting baloney, but there’s a common bug in the machine. Faced with a novel idea or new circumstances, we gravitate to information that fits our already existing beliefs. As Sherlock Holmes put the problem: “Insensibly one begins to twist facts to suit theories, instead of theories to suit facts.” This bug has always been exploited by people seeking money, power — or both. But with the rise of social media, the world’s propagandists, con artists and grifters find their search for suckers easier than ever.

Witness the grubby exercise known as “#Plandemic.” [A conspiracy theory video now banned from social media — after infecting 8 million brains.] …

People believe in a “#Plandemic” because it fits into existing convictions. A lot of people already believe — not without reason — that pharmaceutical companies cash in on suffering. Many people have heard that government labs do research on biological weapons. All true. Government has hemorrhaged credibility in recent years — even with regard to veteran public servants such as Fauci. All of these mind-sets are potential vectors for the viral #plandemic.

Americans need to understand that they are being actively targeted for disinformation campaigns by people and forces pursuing their own agendas. Conspiracy-monger Alex Jones wants to sell them overpriced nutritional supplements. Anti-vaxxers are hawking books and miracle cures. Vladimir Putin and the mandarins of Beijing are pushing the decline of the United States and the death of the Western alliance.

Some want your money. Some want your mind. Citizenship in the Internet era demands a heightened commitment to mental hygiene and skepticism. We have to learn that the information that fits neatly into our preconceptions is precisely the information we must be wary of. And even in these wild times, we must heed the late Carl Sagan, who preached that“extraordinary claims” — like grand conspiracies and healing microbes — “require extraordinary proof.”

David Von Drehle, Why people believe in a ‘plandemic’.

Take a look at the next-to-last paragraph. Someone’s missing: Steve Bannon, who pledged to “flood the zone with shit” to neutralize truth-telling about Trump.

3

Fourteen years ago, Rod Dreher introduced us to Crunchy Cons. Now his friend Tara Isablla Burton, with a degree in theology but a fairly short history of personally “faithing,” thinks Christianity Gets Weird, and wants New York Times readers to know about it.

Because of her audience, or perhaps via her editors, I find a lot of her wording and characterizations weirdly “off” and off-putting. I’m familiar with the sort of phenomenon she’s talking about, and I’d have to say that although she’s in the right ballpark, she’s not just “way out in left field” but somewhere in the bleacher seats much of the time. For instance.

  1. I would not affirm either half of “old-school forms of worship as a way of escaping” anything. “Escaping” is an unduly negative spin on something fundamentally sane.
  2. Her characterization of “mainline Protestant denominations like Episcopalianism and Lutheranism” was painted with a mighty broad brush.
  3. What is “weekly membership” (emphasis added) in reference to Roman Catholic churches with Latin Mass?

But the teaser is great:

Modern life is ugly, brutal and barren. Maybe you should try a Latin Mass.

And near the conclusion, she gives a characterization I can endorse:

Like the hipster obsession with ‘authenticity’ that marked the mid-2010s, the rise of Weird Christianity reflects America’s unfulfilled desire for, well, something real.

That “something real” is, in the best cases (and I suspect they are many), God.

Flaws aside, I welcome anyone using a prominent platform like the New York Times Magazine to shout out that “the fusion of ethnonationalism, unfettered capitalism and Republican Party politics that has come to define the modern white evangelical movement” is not the whole of American Christianity. Not even close.

UPDATE:

Rod Dreher on Sunday published the full text of Tara Isabella Burton’s interview of him. She got in a couple of well-formed, open-ended questions, and he really ran with thim. For my money, that interview is better than TIB’s NYT story, but TIB was casting the net wider than Catholic and Orthodox converts.

This, for me, was Rod’s best point in the interview:

The phrase “Christian values” has been worn as smooth as an old penny by overuse, especially in the mouths of political preachers. Look, I’m a theological, cultural, and political conservative, but I admit that it has become hard, almost impossible, to find the language to talk meaningfully about what it means to believe and act as a Christian. This is not a Trump-era thing; Walker Percy was lamenting the same thing forty years ago, at least. I think the term “Christian values” has become meaningless. It is taken as shorthand for opposing the Sexual Revolution, and all it entails — abortion, sexual permissiveness, gay marriage, and so forth. Don’t get me wrong, I believe that to be a faithful Christian does require one to oppose the Sexual Revolution, primarily because the Sexual Revolution offers a radically anti-Christian anthropology. But then, so does modernity — and this is an anti-Christian anthropology that clashes with the historic faith in all kinds of ways. I’m thinking of the way we relate to technology and to the economy.

You want to clear a room of Christians, both liberal and conservative? Tell them that giving smartphones with Internet access to their kids is one of the worst things you can do from the standpoint of living by Christian values. Oh, nobody wants to hear that! But it’s true — and it’s not true because this or that verse in the Bible says so. It’s true because of the narrative that comes embedded in that particular technology. It’s not an easy thing to explain, which is why so many Christians, both of the left and the right, think that “Christian values” means whatever their preferred political party’s preferred program is.

[Philip Rieff wrote that] “Barbarism is not some primitive technology and naive cosmologies, but a sophisticated cutting off of the inhibiting authority of the past.” This is perfectly true. This is why the dominant form of religion today is, to use sociologist Christian Smith’s phrase, “Moralistic Therapeutic Deism.” It’s crap. It’s what people believe when they want the psychological comfort of believing in God, but without having to sacrifice anything. It’s the final step before total apostasy. In another generation, America is going to be like Europe in this way.

But something might change. The problem with the phrase “Christian values” is that it reinforces the belief that Christianity is nothing more than a moral code. If that’s all Christianity is, then to hell with it. The great thing about ancient, weird, traditional Christianity is that it is a lifeline to the premodern world. It reminds us of what really exists behind this veil of modern selfishness and banality and evil.

Weird Christianity: The Rod Dreher Interview.

That’s about as deep as I’ve ever read Rod going. Good stuff.

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You can read most of my more impromptu stuff at here. It should work in your RSS aggregator, like Feedly, should you want to make a habit of it.

I highly recommend blot.im as a crazy-easy alternative to Twitter (if you’re just looking to get your stuff “out there” and not pick fights).

Life goes on — and maybe gets better

I have been enjoying Jake Meador and the other young folks who write for Mere Orthodoxy for several years now, as it accelerates its publishing pace and the breadth of its author pool.

I can’t say for sure I’ve encountered Bart Gingerich more than once before, and that one encounter was at Mere Orthodoxy, too. Now I’m recommending another article from him, this time for orthodox Christians who are feeling anxious about their future in a world where the new civic religion, Pride, forces itself on one and all for the full month of June, and where woke capital guard against excessive virtue the remaining 11 months as well.

Young Gingerich’s message is twofold:

  1. We’ve lost on the sexual revolution, humanly speaking, for an indeterminate future. Get over it. We have plenty of rot in our own church environs to occupy us for the duration.
  2. We are not helpless economically against the predations of woke capital. There are things we can and should do.

Excerpts:

Be Holy

In a certain sense, our current “post-Obergefell moment” presents an opportunity to take stock of ourselves as American Christians. With such an important battle for sexual morality lost, now is a time to turn our focus and attention to things matters of holiness afflicting the Church. In being so focused on the homosexuality issue and the political fights that took place in legislatures and court rooms, I fear many Christians have ignored other pressing matters of holiness that are just as deleterious to the Church and to the nation at large.

Having a fulsome Christian sexual ethic that is enforced consistently across the board in our ecclesiastical contexts makes our teaching on LGBT issues credible to up-and-coming generations. But the main motivating factor for us to pursue sexual holiness corporately is because it pleases the Lord. So let us not waste our Obergefell; let us recommit ourselves to holiness.

Be Strong for Others

This is an old maxim from the days of chivalry: might for right. In this case, I have economic might in mind. I beseech those in the Church who are talented and enterprising: consider bulking up to provide shelter to the brethren …

This is not to say that enterprising Christians should not pursue old stand-bys: the trades, contracting, real estate, farming, and more. The goal, as Pastor Chris Wiley says in his excellent little book Man of the House, is to acquire productive property …

This is part of what it means to be strong for others … [W]ith ownership comes liberty. This is why political concerns still matter. Lawsuits against Christian bakers, photographers, and more will have a big effect on other Christian business owners. But many decisions on this front have been encouraging, making self-employment and ownership of productive property a desirable alternative to laboring for a progressive institution.

… [A]cross the board, this is likely going to involve making households productive again. No longer will households be simply centers of recreation, which is where we find ourselves today thanks to the Industrial Revolution and other shifts. The homeplace will once again be the workplace, and that will be a good thing …

Be Anxious for Nothing: Love One Another

At the heart of the previous section and this one is this: no one is going to starve. Plenty of vitriol in Christian reactions to the LGBT+ agenda has been fueled by disgust for homosexual and transsexual promiscuity and its effect on our families, communities, nation, and world. But there is also a desperation apparent in the rhetoric and activism that springs from a fear for survival, both materially in terms of livelihood and spiritually in terms of the Church’s continued existence in the United States. I would like to tackle the former fear first: no one is going to starve.

… If things continue on their current trajectory in the United States (and that is a big “if,” for history if full of surprises), the individualism and isolation that has become so typical of the American Church is going to come to an end due to necessity.

Bart Gingerich, Traditional Christians in America Post-Obergefell: Now What?

This is serious analysis. I’d paraphrase part of his “Be Strong for Others” as “stop thinking about jobs and start thinking about vocations.” And I’d also note that this vision for economic well-being at a more intimate scale than that of the progressive corporations is essentially Distributist.

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You can read most of my more impromptu stuff at here. It should work in your RSS aggregator, like Feedly, should you want to make a habit of it.

I highly recommend blot.im as a crazy-easy alternative to Twitter (if you’re just looking to get your stuff “out there” and not pick fights).

Omitted legacy

This is, though certainly not by premeditated design, a supplement to yesterday’s blog.

“The alt-right is a combination of ideology and tactics,” [David] French said Friday at the Aspen Ideas Festival, co-hosted by the Aspen Institute and The Atlantic. “Ideologically, the alt-right is white nationalist. It is post-constitutionalist. And it is often quite pagan … Nobody knows how big it is … if it numbers in the thousands or the tens of thousands … It’s not a huge number of people.”

But tactically, he continued, “they punch way above their weight. So how are they doing it? Well, in 2015 and 2016 … they did it as a wave of targeted harassment directed primarily against Trump critics.” …

As he sees it, the alt-right’s core tactic is inflicting pain for political ends, “often in the way that is the most personal.” Is the Republican Party influenced by the alt-right? “Yes,” French said. “Cruelty as a tactic is now a part of the playbook on the right.”

For anyone who doubts that Trump, the Republican Party’s leader, has a cruel streak, read up on his past. If you doubt that Trumpism has that same streak, read Adam Serwer’s “The Cruelty Is the Point” …

Conor Friedersdorf, The Alt-Right’s Tactical Cruelty. I did read up on it, and even read Adam Serwer (who’s not my cup of tea in most regards).

People disagree about the ideal traits to have in a leader. But almost no one wants a president who has proven himself an addict to being cruel, mean-spirited, and spiteful. For decades, Trump has been deliberately cruel to others, often in the most public ways. He behaves this way flagrantly, showing no sign of shame or reflection.

What kind of person still acts that way at 70? A bad person.

It is that simple.

Conor Friedersdorf, The Senseless Cruelty of Donald J. Trump. This concludes a long and convincing set of examples.

At a rally in Mississippi, a crowd of Trump supporters cheered as the president mocked Christine Blasey Ford, the psychology professor who has said that Brett Kavanaugh, whom Trump has nominated to a lifetime appointment on the Supreme Court, attempted to rape her when she was a teenager. “Lock her up!” they shouted.

Even those who believe that [Christine Blasey] Ford fabricated her account, or was mistaken in its details, can see that the president’s mocking of her testimony renders all sexual-assault survivors collateral damage. Anyone afraid of coming forward, afraid that she would not be believed, can now look to the president to see her fears realized. Once malice is embraced as a virtue, it is impossible to contain.

Adam Serwer, The Cruelty Is the Point. True to form, Adam Serwer frequently disappointed, but his introductory material about grinning lynch mobs was powerful and on point, and this block quote is true and revealing.

If you wonder about my agenda in writing these things, I’ll try to summarize as truthfully as I can:

  1. They are deathworks and I’m loathe to call out only deathworks from the left. Ephesians 5:11, if that helps.
  2. I’m anticipating another horrid Presidential electoral choice next year, and I “think out loud” about such things. Policy aside, the cultural legacy Trump is leaving is deeply, deeply evil.
  3. I’m calling to repentance professing fellow-Christians who not merely considered  Trump the lesser evil in 2016, but have become his enthusiasts. That is incomprehensible to me and legitimately scandalous to the sentient non-Christian world.

That’s what comes to mind.

Though I may belabor some topics, I haven’t repeated this often enough: The 2016 Presidential election foreshadows major partisan re-alignments I’m still having trouble projecting. My alienation from the Republican Party grows ever deeper, but the Democrats, for new reasons as well as the same old same-old, are not attracting me at all.

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You can read most of my more impromptu stuff at here. It should work in your RSS aggregator, like Feedly, should you want to make a habit of it.

I highly recommend blot.im as a crazy-easy alternative to Twitter (if you’re just looking to get your stuff “out there” and not pick fights).

Surprised by food for thought

… I was continuing to make my way through Shoshana Zuboff’s great new book The Age of Surveillance Capitalism. It’s not an easy book to read, in part because the things Zuboff, a former Harvard Business School professor, talks about can be somewhat arcane, but also because it’s damned depressing. This is a book about how a business model pioneered by Google has come in less than 20 years to dominate everything, with consequences we can scarcely comprehend. I’m not going to get into the book’s weeds here; there are lots of weeds, and I am not sure that Zuboff is going to be able to offer a plausible way out of this mess.

The gist of it is that nearly everything we do and say is monitored by multiple corporations, who are taking that data — usually without our knowledge or permission — and using it to figure out how to sell us things and, more crucially, to guide us toward behaving in particular ways without knowing that we are being manipulated. There is no real way to opt out of the system. It is overwhelming — and Zuboff shows how the tech companies have spent ungodly sums to manipulate politicians and regulators in order to maintain maximum access to the personal data of everyone. (The Obama administration was in Google’s pocket, for example.) Zuboff likens it to the Spanish conquistadores arriving in the New World.

I bring this up in light of Brooks’s column because if you want to talk about the foundations of society being attacked, believe me, we should all worry about Google, Facebook, Amazon, and Silicon Valley on the whole a lot more than we worry about our buffoonish president. What the surveillance capitalists have done, and are doing, matters far more to the future of our democracy and its legitimacy than does Trump.

I find Donald Trump — lying, unstable, barely competent Donald Trump — to be less of a threat than I find the kind of progressive elites who hate him. He has the presidency, which is a powerful thing to have. But they control Silicon Valley. They command the US economy. They control major American institutions, including higher education and the media. And they trust in their own goodness.

Rod Dreher (Emphasis in original)

I continued reading Dreher’s blog entry, despite my initially thinking “not one of his better ones,” because I thought I might have missed something in the David Brooks column he quotes (of which I also thought “not one of his better ones”).

I’m glad I continued because, although I cannot praise his prose or pace, there’s nevertheless some nourishing if un-tasty “food for thought” in it, including a different vantage point from which to ask — yes, even 32 scant hours after release of the Mueller Report — whether Trump might actually be the lesser evil in 2020, both as a matter of self-preservation (as one whose Social Credit Score, as viewed by those who trust in their own goodness, is pretty low) and for the interests of America more generally.

As Freddie put it:

I have had a standing rule not to read anything with the word “Trump” in the headline since mid-2017. I have not kept to it 100% of the time, but I have been pretty compliant. But here’s something I know.

The Trump-Russia collusion story became a national obsession because of two matters of psychic convenience: one, the belief that someone (even a Republican FBI agent cop like Robert Mueller) is going to ride in on a horse and save us; and two, that our problems are the problem of an outside force, some malevolent international entity working evil. Only a child could believe that either of those is true.

No one is coming to save you. This is what the world is now, and this is what the world will be long long after Trump is gone. And more: this is the world we deserve. We are not broken because of Russia, or Donald Trump. We are broken because of the evil this country has done and the evil this country is. You can work to change that. But if you try to hide from it behind the Mueller report you will only fail. Because no one is coming to save you.

The 2016 election had “God’s Judgment” written all over it. 2020 may come packaged the same way. Lesser evils rather than affirmative goods may be all we’ll get to choose. Democrats: This is mostly up to you as a practical matter: can you nominate someone less evil?)\

Anyway, I point you to Dreher’s blog on the chance that you’ll find food for thought as well.

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You can read most of my more impromptu stuff at here. It should work in your RSS aggregator, like Feedly, should you want to make a habit of it.

I highly recommend blot.im as a crazy-easy alternative to Twitter (if you’re just looking to get your stuff “out there” and not pick fights).

Forsaking lunacy, again and again

I have long thought that the best critique of Rod Dreher’s Benedict Option is that he’s just asking Christians to actually act like Christians, and asking the Church actually to do the work of the Church. (Long? Well, the book has barely been out for a year, hard as that is to believe, but I watched it gestate on his blog.)

I also have long thought that the best defense of the Benedict Option is that Dreher’s just asking Christians to actually act like Christians, and asking the Church actually to do the work of the Church.

Dreher’s seemingly anodyne requests are important in part because too damned many professing Christians are interested in God’s minimum requirements, when His minimum requirement is, and always has been, everything. Too many Churches (I didn’t use scare quotes. You’re welcome.) are interested only in institutional survival, and will pander to the basest fads to keep the coffers full and tushies in the pews.

Maybe just-enough-to-not-go-to-hell Christianity is nothing new. If not, that would explain the emergence in so many ages of prophetic voices. Alan Jacobs makes the same substantive prophetic point as Dreher in rather unprophetically winsome garb, coming at it from a much different direction, too. I cannot improve on Jacobs, so I’ll not try. Just go read it.

But I’m persuaded that to become an idiot rather than a lunatic (and I’ve demonstrated my lunacy today by spending too much time on the ramifications of Julian Assange’s indictment), I must read Jacobs’ beloved Black Lamb and Grey Falcon, toward which I have taken the necessary first step of getting it onto my Kindle.

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You can read most of my more impromptu stuff at here. It should work in your RSS aggregator, like Feedly, should you want to make a habit of it.

I highly recommend blot.im as a crazy-easy alternative to Twitter (if you’re just looking to get your stuff “out there” and not pick fights).

Clippings (and a little opinion) 11/30/18

In some ways the most important items are last, but they have to do with heroes like Robert Mueller and villains like Donald Trump, Paul Manafort, and Michael Cohen. Some of you therefore might experience serious cognitive dissonance.

1

It’s unusual to open with the insights of a pseudonymous (or at least obscure) monk, but here goes:

The promise from the Universe, the deal I was offered by 1990’s-2000’s liberalism, is aptly summarized by Anthony Kennedy’s baptism of Existentialism as The American Philosophy in his Casey opinion, which self-same authority he quotes in his Planned Parenthood vs. Casey opinion. “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.” The Universe had begun to offer unlimited pregnancy-free sex via the birth control pill, and we happily accepted this deal. But the Universe didn’t keep up its end of the bargain, and guys kept on knocking up the ladies when they were hoping not to. Anthony Kennedy stepped up and let us know that the Universe would be held to its promise, for we have trusted in it up to this point, and some unwanted fetuses will not stand in the way of the promise.

… In the name of freedom, we denied the Incarnation of the One Logos, unaware of that denial’s concomitant task: the unique re-logosification of each material being.

Brother Sean Finds The Key

2

I do not trust our mainstream news media. That distrust is not Trumpian, so let me explain.

I think the Wall Street Journal does the best job of straight news reporting and avoiding sensationalism, but there’s always the problem of bias in story selection (the judgment of what is “newsworthy”) and its Opinion page is predictably—well, it’s predictably what you’d expect from a very committed capitalist journal during a time of resurgent putative socialism.

So I check the New York Times daily to see what more might be newsworthy (and to read conservative and liberal-leaning opinion from columnists I’ll not enumerate). But even excluding excluding sexual deviance—a topic of endless fascination at NYT (and one on which it has semi-officially decreed that only one opinion is permissible: deviance is entirely immutable yet fluid, unchosen yet an important part of designing one’s own very best life, without moral implications and nobody else’s business except when media want to shove it at us)—the Times has become unreliable at straight-up reporting, mixing opinion into its news too often and systematically excluding some voices.

I got so disgusted with the click-baity headlines at “the Jeff Bezos Washington Post” that I now skip directly to the Opinion page and the articles categorized under “Acts of Faith.”

There are, of course, weeklies and thoughtful journals beyond that.

But all those are mainstream, and I find the entire US mainstream frequently non compos mentis. So I’ve aggregated some non-mainstream voices, no less insane at times, but insane in different ways and a helpful balance to the mainstream.

It would be untruthful to suggest Breitbart, as I very rarely go there, but it might provide some balance to my list, which leans progressive (because the mainstream is more conservative than most people appreciate). In some ways, my whole RSS feed qualifies as alternate voices, with a few exceptions like Dilbert and religious news and commentary.

This is an answer to anyone wondering “where does he come up with all this stuff?”

3

Speaking of Traditional Right, 4th Generation War (a/k/a 4GW) is one of its obsessions:

The recent mass shooting at a country music bar in California again raises an important question: are such shootings, at least some of them, an aspect of Fourth Generation war?

… so far we know no motive for the California shooter. So where, if anywhere, does it fit into Fourth Generation war?

The answer, I think, may be that this and similar cases are men’s reply to the war on men being waged by feminism. When women get seriously angry, they talk. When men get seriously angry, they kill. And feminism’s war on men, which is being carried to ever-greater extremes, is making more and more men, especially young men, very angry.

The so-called “#MeToo” campaign is only the latest absurdity. Of course most women have been subject of sexual advances from men. It is hard-wired into human nature, and into the nature of most of the animal kingdom, that the male takes the initiative in sexual encounters. Most women expect and want men to do so …

But feminism now decrees that any man taking the initiative risks being charged with that most heinous of all crimes, “sexual harassment”. Even if the woman welcomed his advances at the time, if she later changes her mind, he is guilty. He is presumed guilty until proven innocent and the woman’s word must be taken as true. The man who is convicted is thrown out of school, loses his job, and may find his whole career path closed to him–all on nothing more than a woman’s word. Of course men are getting angry ….

William S. Lind

4

I’m keeping an eye on Hungary because of my sympathy for some of what Viktor Orban has done and despite the drumbeat from our mainstream media labeling Orban or Hungary “far right.”

A NYT opinion piece Friday accuses Orban of “attacking civil society,” which, if true, would be a major black mark. But the link to prove that charge opens this piece, which opens:

Hungary’s parliament has voted to tighten control over non-governmental organisations that receive financing from abroad, as prime minister Viktor Orban continues to rail against alleged foreign interference in his rule.

(Emphasis added) It’s true that Orban’s vision of a good Hungarian society differs from that of, most notably, George Soros, King of the Meddlesome “Open Society” NGOs. But I don’t consider outside NGOs to be “civil society”, or at least consider the question so debatable that it’s tendentious to equate opposing foreign NGOs with “attacking civil society.” Hungary already has a very venerable civil society, thank you, even if Communism suppressed it.

Critics say the rules are intended to hinder the work of NGOs and portray them as suspicious and disloyal elements …

Yes. And just what is your point?

5

[T]his week the Senate Judiciary Committee had to halt progress on confirming talented judges thanks to GOP Senator Jeff Flake of Arizona.

… Mr. Flake has said he will block all judicial nominees until he receives a vote on a bill that would insulate Robert Mueller’s Russia investigation from normal political accountability …

Mr. Flake’s stunt will have zero effect on President Trump or Mr. Mueller, and he’s compromising a substantive principle to make a futile political gesture. Mr. Flake is hurting the cause of confirming conservative judges who would enforce the Constitution in the name of a bill that is unconstitutional.

The legislation violates the Constitution because it would prevent the special counsel from being fired except by a Senate-confirmed Justice Department official for “good cause.” But Article II allows the President to fire inferior officers of the executive branch at will.

Wall Street Journal editorial (emphasis added)

Tim Scott drove the final nail in the coffin on the nomination of Thomas Farr on grounds that his fingerprints were on an illegal effort to suppress black votes in South Carolina in 1990. I respect that, especially considering Sen. Scott’s skin tone and unique position.

But I’d have to agree with the Journal on Jeff Flake’s blanket obstruction, and for the reasons I’ve quoted. What good is an oath to uphold the Constitution if the urge to continue the pissing contest with Donald Trump can overcome it?

Jeff Flake’s Sad Exit” indeed.

6

The Benedict Option has now been translated and published in French, German, Spanish, Italian, Polish, Czech, Slovak, and Portuguese. It will soon be published in Croatian and Korean. The book has sold fewer raw copies in Europe than in the US, where it was a bestseller, but from my calculations, has done much better proportionally with European Christians than it has with American Christians. Why is that?

[Daniel] McCarthy’s [Spectator US] column explains it, pretty much. So many conservative American Christians have not yet come to terms with demographic reality. They still believe that because Donald Trump is president and the Republican Party is doing well politically, that they (we) have meaningful cultural power. European Christians don’t have the luxury of this illusion, and haven’t had for some time. They understand clearly that the future of the Christian faith depends on recognizing reality and acting on facts, not sentimentality.

Rod Dreher

7

[T]here were real problems facing the working class, a social crisis that had some link to stagnating incomes and the decline of industrial jobs, and the tax-cuts-as-panacea style of conservatism had passed its sell-by date. What was needed was not a repudiation of Reaganomics but an updating (and a recovery of some of Reagan’s own forgotten impulses), in which conservatism would seek to solidify the material basis of the working-class family and blue-collar communities — with child tax credits, wage subsidies, a more skills-based immigration system — even as it retained its basic commitment to free trade, light regulation and economic growth.

That was the story we wanted Republican politicians to tell. Instead Donald Trump came along and told a darker one. “Sadly the American dream is dead,” he announced after that escalator ride, and proceeded to campaign on a radically pessimistic message about the post-Reagan economic order, in which bad trade deals and mass immigration were held responsible for what he called “American carnage” in working-class communities.

During the campaign I called this message “reform conservatism’s evil twin,” since it started from a similar assumption (that the existing Republican policy agenda wasn’t offering enough to the American worker) and ended up in a more apocalyptic and xenophobic place.

Ross Douthat

8

Here is one fact beyond dispute. Look at the men whom Trump has traditionally surrounded himself with: Stone, Corsi, Paul Manafort, Cohen. These are some of the least reputable people in American politics. Trump’s inner circle has always been a cesspool.

And there is a reason for this — a reason Trump has traditionally employed unethical people to serve his purposes. It is because he has unethical jobs for them to do, involving schemes to remove political threats and gain electoral advantage. And there is every reason to believe that Trump has fully participated in such schemes.

Michael Gerson

9

When asked whether his party’s rout of Republicans on Nov. 6 indicated that many voters recoiled when they saw “R” next to a candidate’s name, [Colorado] Gov.-elect Jared Polis demurs, saying what they effectively saw was: “T.”

George Will

10

If you have any interest in what Special Counsel Robert Mueller is up to, Ken White lays it out in the Atlantic. This has been a very consequential week, with heavy foreshadowings.

I now fully expect the new House to impeach Trump, with well-supported and serious “high crimes and misdemeanors.” As usual, “it’s not the ‘crime,’ but the coverup.”

I cannot (yet?) predict what the craven Senate will do.

(Update: I tweaked a typos and an artifacts of rephrasing.)

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Monday 9/17/18

1

David French is much more sensible than Damon Linker on the current status of the Brett Kavanaugh nomination. Linker’s approach gives veto power to accusers whose lurid accusations are likelier false than true (by which I’m not pre-judging the current accusations — I’m talking about his rationale).

Neither would approve a Thursday vote, though.

2

I believe it was Ross Douthat who coined “if you don’t like the Religious Right, just wait ’till you see the irreligious right.” That’s panning out — though the “irreligion” is just one facet of communal breakdown:

[T]he different groups make about the same amount of money, which cuts against strict economic-anxiety explanations for Trumpism. But the churchgoers and nonchurchgoers differ more in social capital: The irreligious are less likely to have college degrees, less likely to be married and more likely to be divorced; they’re also less civically engaged, less satisfied with their neighborhoods and communities, and less trusting and optimistic in general.

This seems to support the argument, advanced by Tim Carney of the Washington Examiner among others, that support for populism correlates with a kind of communal breakdown, in which secularization is one variable among many leaving people feeling isolated and angry, and drawing them to the ersatz solidarity of white identity politics.

… only about a third of Trump’s 2016 voters are in church on a typical Sunday, and almost half attend seldom or not at all.

Ross Douthat

3

[T]he Deep State now feels confident enough to say … openly: the Deep State wants international conflict. The op-ed includes a bald-faced declaration to that effect:

Take foreign policy: in public and private, President Trump shows a preference for autocrats and dictators, such as President Vladimir Putin of Russia and North Korea’s leader, Kim Jong-Un . . .

Astute observers have noted, though, that the rest of the administration is operating on another track, one where countries like Russia are called out for meddling and punished accordingly. . .

The op-ed goes on to talk approvingly about how the Deep State has punished Russia against the President’s wishes, to the point of boasting about it:

He (President Trump) complained for weeks about senior staff members letting him get boxed into further confrontation with Russia, and he expressed frustration that the United States continued to impose sanctions on the country . . .

But his national security team knew better – such actions had to be taken, to hold Moscow accountable.

Here is the significance of the op-ed, not in what it reveals about President Trump but what it says about the Deep State itself, namely that it thrives on unnecessary and strategically counterproductive international conflicts. Those conflicts justify the trillion dollar “national security” budget off which the Deep State feeds, they provide the arenas in which the “national security team” builds its careers and power and they distract the public from our sorry military performance against the real threat, the threat of Fourth Generation war and the entities that wage it. They are, in short, bread for the Establishment and circuses for the citizens.

William S. Lind, The Deep State Speaks (emphasis added).

4

First, now that being censored on social media is a surefire way to win conservative clicks, it’s fair to assume that claims of censorship will proliferate, and not all of them will be true. Second, that doesn’t mean they’re all false, either. When it comes to the right, Silicon Valley almost certainly suffers from what the Valley used to call “epistemic closure” before the Valley embraced it. In that climate, “Sorry, mistake” isn’t likely to mollify anyone.

So the right has good reason for its suspicion, and no way to get good evidence that might rebut it. To see if Alex Jones had indeed been turned into Voldemort, I had to put my Facebook account — and a bit of my reputation — at risk. And even then, the fact that my account stayed up might simply show that the censors saw it as a trap that they were smart enough to avoid.

Bottom line: conservative concern about platform bias will continue to grow, and only radical transparency about platform standards and due process is likely to address that concern.

Stewart Baker (emphasis added), who tested reports that linking to Infowars from Facebook could get you suspended from the latter.

My personal “line I won’t cross” is somewhere between Breitbart and Infowars. I’ll occasionally visit the former, never knowingly visit the latter as if I might learn anything except how odious it is.

Where’s Facebook’s? Okay to link to Richard Spencer? Daily Stormer?

5

The McCarrick outcry is fading, it would appear, because his victims are adult men. Apparently sexual abuse of young men by an older man who is their ecclesiastical superior isn’t that big a deal.

Adult men make less instantly sympathetic victims than children, and the alleged incidents involving McCarrick are less headline-grabbingly horrifying than the episodes revealed by Pennsylvania’s recent grand jury report. But the church has more than a duty to ensure that minors aren’t victimized and should be sensitive to the fact that, where religious authority is exploited, the effects of sexual abuse can be especially devastating, as in Reading’s case.

Terry Mattingly, commenting on some fine reporting by Elizabeth Breunig under the Washington Post’s “Acts of Faith” rubric.

Yeah. Right. Winnowing out men who don’t want the priesthood so much that they’ll tolerate hanky-panky is a swell way of making sure you get lots of gay or sexually ambivalent priests who value the prestige of priesthood more than the truth of dogma and moral teaching.

6

Seriously, folks, if you are planning to withhold your regular tithe to your diocese for the time being, why not redirect it to the Norcia monks, who are the real deal? They are a light for the whole world. Please think about making a donation — or sign up for regular donations. You know how much I care about them, and esteem them. If you want to give confidently to help build a Catholic future you can believe in, the Monks of Norcia need your help.

Rod Dreher.

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Monday Mélange 9/3/18

 

1

The narrator provides us with one final parcel of information that he has learned about Bartleby, a rumor he has heard that before the young man entered his employ, he worked in the dead letter office in Washington, D.C.:

Conceive a man by nature and misfortune prone to a pallid hopelessness, can any business seem more fitted to heighten it than that of continually handling these dead letters, and assorting them for the flames? For by the cart-load they are annually burned. Sometimes from out the folded paper the pale clerk takes a ring:—the finger it was meant for, perhaps, moulders in the grave; a bank-note sent in swiftest charity:—he whom it would relieve, nor eats nor hungers any more; pardon for those who died despairing; hope for those who died unhoping; good tidings for those who died stifled by unrelieved calamities. On errands of life, these letters speed to death.

Ah Bartleby! Ah humanity!

James Gardner, in a “Masterpiece” review of Melville’s Bartleby, the Scrivener.

2

[E]ven a silent and secluded Benedict sends a message. Italian friends have told me that The Benedict Option has become for many in Italy a refuge from the Francis stuff. I find that discouraging, to be honest, because I did not write the book with an anti-Francis agenda in mind, and don’t want it to be taken as anti-Francis. Nevertheless, Father Antonio Spadaro, SJ, a major Francis mouthpiece, and Cardinal Blase Cupich of Chicago have both publicly denounced the book and the idea as counter to Pope Francis’s vision, so what can I say? My book is certainly infused with the spirit of Ratzinger, who I think of as the second Benedict of the Benedict Option.

An interesting blog of Rod Dreher, drawing parallels between the first Benedict’s retreat from a “dangerous and godless gulf” and the reported motivation behind Benedict XVI’s resignation — the loss of a Vatican battle over cracking down on the likes of Cardinal Theodore McCarrick.

However his resignation came about, there’s reason for hope in his continued relevance:

Years ago, when I was in college, I read Thomas Merton’s great autobiography The Seven Storey Mountain. In it, Merton, who wrote it as a new Trappist monk, talked about the World War II years, and said that maybe the entire world was held together by the prayers of monks hidden away in monasteries.

3

Since the authorities announced on Aug. 22 that Cristhian Bahena Rivera, a farmworker from Mexico, was charged with first-degree murder in her death, politicians and pundits have used the arrest to push for stronger immigration laws.

In a column in The Des Moines Register on Saturday, her father, Rob Tibbetts, encouraged the debate on immigration. “But,” he added, “do not appropriate Mollie’s soul in advancing views she believed were profoundly racist.”

The Register on Friday published a column by the president’s eldest son, Donald Trump Jr., in which he blamed Democrats for Ms. Tibbetts’s death and said claims that conservatives and Republicans were politicizing her death were “absurd.”

Melissa Gomez, New York Times.

You might as well ask bears not to shit in the woods, Mr. Tibbetts. And that steaming pile? “Fake news!” “Absurd.”

4

Oh, the horror!

Rolling Stone accuses the Education Secretary of ‘listening to the men’s rights groups she’s met with’.

Cockburn at Spectator USA.

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