Monday meanderings

(No, I didn’t collect all these today, but my queue was getting pretty full.)

Sex, sport, and hard truths

Scientists are generally "uncomfortable with black-and-white statements, because science is all about nuance." But in the case of sex and sport, "there are some hard truths that deserve to be trumpeted." There is a significant performance difference between males and females from puberty onward. Testosterone is the primary driver of that difference. There is a wide gap, no overlap, between the male and female T ranges. Sex may not be binary for all people or for all purposes. But for sport, what most of us mean when we say "sex" is actually what matters, and that sex is undeniably binary: you either have testes and functional androgen receptors, or you don’t. "Full stop."

On average, even in the elite athlete population, males have 30 times more T than females. This includes both transgender women and girls starting from the onset of puberty, and 46-XY males with the two differences of sex development (DSDs) that are most relevant for sport: 5ARD (alpha-reductase deficiency) and PAIS (partial androgen insensitivity). The Gold, Silver, and Bronze medalists in the women’s 800 meters in Rio—Caster Semenya, Francine Nyonsaba, and Margaret Wambui—are all suspected of having the former condition. They are not "hyperandrogenic females." The latter are represented on the figure as 46-XX females with PCOS (polycystic ovaries) and CAH (congenital adrenal hyperplasia).

… Pick your body part, your geography, and your socioeconomic status and do your comparative homework. Starting in puberty there will always be boys who can beat the best girls and men who can beat the best women.

Doriane Coleman, ‌On the Biology of Sex, Sex Differentiation, and the Performance Gap.

This is the first substantive article in a very recent guest series at Volokh Conspiracy.


Brace yourself for more rainbow flags and diversity trainings

A tornado outbreak tore through the midwest on December 10, killing more than 80 people. Many are still missing. Some factory and warehouse workers in the region say their bosses threatened to fire them if they left their posts to go home. In the last decade, corporations have been able to placate the American left with rainbow flags and diversity trainings. It would be interesting if this tornado—and the reports from inside a candle factory and Amazon warehouse—reignites something of the old, real labor movement. We hope so. The candle factory workers have filed suit.

Nellie Bowles‌.

Amazon’s Triangle Shirtwaist Fire is also good.


Hygiene theater

So why are our authorities catering to neurosis and fear rather than explaining the truth: that the virus is never going away, and the way to protect yourself and others is to get vaccinated and boosted. Why isn’t that the only message?

I am a naturally pro-social person. I wear a mask when required. I get tested when required. I try to accommodate and respect people’s differing risk preferences. But I’m very privileged when it comes to COVID; doing these things is easy for me. I don’t have little kids in school. I work from home. None of the extant restrictions materially impact my life.

Yet even I feel myself being radicalized, starting to think: maybe it’s not enough to make reasoned arguments against rules that are little more than hygiene theater. Maybe it’s time to break them.

And if I’m feeling that way, how on earth must normal people feel?

Noah Millman, ‌The radicalization of a COVID moderate

I’ve read one fairly powerful series on why vaccine hesitancy might be warranted even if the vaccines are safe. I won’t try to summarize except to say that the storyline goes "so if most of us get vaccinated, what happens then, and then even later — and cui bono?" It’s here, here and here, though there’s a likely paywall.

Again, I’m vaccinated and boosted, preferring the possibly false assurances of my government to the dark hints of resisters. I’ve not been persuaded that I made a bad call, even if eventualities may eventuate. They always do, and it’s shocking how much I instinctively avoid reckoning with that most of the time.


Too old

We need also to be frank about Biden. He’s too old to be president, and most people sense this. He was elected because he was someone clearly not as toxic to the electorate as most of the other more radical Dems. But in office, this has been shown to be a chimera. There is nothing to distinguish him in policy from the far left.

His administration has embraced race and sex discrimination in every part of the federal government; he has endorsed the subordination of biological sex to gender identity in the law; his goal in immigration policy is to enable mass migration, not stop it. His administration routinely deploys the hideous acronyms of woke language — “equity,” “Latinx,” “BIPOC,” “LGBTQIA+” — and any return to plain English and common sense violates their commitment to “social justice.” Just watch Biden repeat the nonsense word “LatinX” in public. It’s pitiable.

Just yesterday it was reported that his administration will offer bonuses to Medicare doctors who “create and implement an anti-racism plan.” An “anti-racism plan” means doctors must now view “systemic racism” as a health issue, and deny any biological differences in health between human genetic sub-populations. This is ideology, not science. Biden views people as groups first, individuals second. That’s why he decided on the racial and gender identity of his vice-president and his top Supreme Court nominee before he even considered the individual pick.

Andrew Sullivan.


Red-pilled

Harvard College Suspends Standardized Testing Requirement for Next Four Years | News | The Harvard Crimson

Freddie deBoer summarizes what this boils down to in the real world: "[G]etting rid of the SATs is just another way for them to consolidate total and unfettered privilege to choose whoever is going to make their pockets even heavier, and that they are and will always be in the business of nominating an aristocracy that will deepen inequality and intensify exploitation …."

More:

You can’t make college admissions fair by getting rid of the SAT because colleges admissions can’t be “fair.” College admissions exist to serve the schools. Period. End of story. They always have, they always will. College admissions departments functioned as one big anti-Semitic conspiracy for decades because that was in the best interest of the institution. Guys who the schools know will never graduate but who run a 4.5 40 jump the line because admissions serves the institution. Absolute … dullards whose parents can pay – and listen, guys, it’s cute that you think legacies are somehow the extent of that dynamic, like they won’t let in the idiot son of a wealthy guy who didn’t go there – get in because admissions serves the institution. Some cornfed doofus from Wyoming with a so-so application gets in over a far more qualified kid from Connecticut because the marketing department gets to say they have students from 44 states in the incoming class instead of 43 that way, because admissions serves the institution. How do you people look at this world and conclude that the problem is the SAT?

And what just drives me crazy, what I find so bizarre, is that all these PMC liberals in media and academia think they’re so endlessly disillusioned and over it and jaded, but they imagine that it was the SAT standing in the way of these schools admitting a bunch of poor Black kids. What … do you think has been happening, exactly? They’re standing around, looking at all these brilliant kids from Harlem and saying “oh God, if only we could let in these kids. We need to save them from the streets! But we can’t get past that dastardly SAT.” They decide who to let in, and they always have! They can let in whoever they want! Why on earth would you put the onus on the test instead of the schools? You think, what, they would prefer to admit kids whose parents can’t possibly donate? The whole selection process for elite schools is to skim a band of truly gifted students from the top, then admit a bunch of kids with identical resumes whose parents will collectively buy the crew team a new boathouse, and then you find a kid whose parents moved to the states from Nigeria two years before he was born and whose family owns a mining company and you call that affirmative action. And if you look at all this, and you take to Twitter to complain about the SAT instead of identifying the root corruption at the schools themselves, you’re a … mark, a patsy. You’ve been worked, you’ve been took. You’re doing the bidding of some of the wealthiest, most elitist, most despicable institutions on earth. You think Harvard [cares] about poor Black teenagers? Are you out of your … minds?

It was in their best interest to use the SAT before, so they used it. Now it’s in their best interest to have even more leeway to select the bumbling doofus children of the affluent, and you’re applauding them for it in the name of “equity.” Brilliant.

It’s all corrupt. All of it. From the top to the bottom. It is so insane that all of these people who are ostensibly so cynical about institutions, who will tell you that capitalism is inherently a rigged game, who think meritocracy is a joke, who say that they think these hierarchies are all just privilege, will then turn around and say “ah yes, the SAT is gone, now fairness and egalitarianism will reign.”

(Expletives deleted (that’s what most of the ellipses are) — and they were numerous).


My missing moral foundation

I suppose I shouldn’t be surprised at today’s political tribalism, having experienced something similar.

I was a conservative "culture warrior" for decades. My reasons for ceasing aren’t entirely clear even to me, because most of my convictions remain much the same today. Part of it probably has to do with getting over the conceit that people with opposite convictions are necessarily moral monsters who must be publicly anathematized and sent into exile.

But I was never advise of the tacit requirement that I support just about any tomfoolery that any fellow-warrior might come up with. I apparently was, as I learned when a conservative fellow-warrier decided to call for a newspaper boycott over it running Lynn Johnston’s For Better or Worse comic strip even after (gasp!) it introduce a gay middle-school boy character.

For my money, that strip, gay character or not, was one of the loveliest on the whole comic page — and I said so, loudly, probably in a letter to the editor (remember those? Good times!).

At the time, I was the newspaper’s lawyer, but that didn’t influence me (it just wasn’t all that lucrative). Nevertheless, my fellow-warrior’s mother called me and lambasted me about "30 pieces of silver" and yadda, yadda, yadda. I was reminded of this little chapter when I recently saw the mother’s obituary. She had apologized in the meantime.

I don’t recall other specific incidents when I broke from some tribe I’d never consciously joined, but I have the impression that the For Better or Worse chapter was not the only one, even if it was particularly vivid.

Another time, I returned from vacation to find my firm fairly far into litigation against a quirky acquaintance with whom I’d shared some lunches over a mutual interest. When I heard the allegations, I thought "I hate to say it, but that sounds like something he’d do," so I joined the team working on it.

I later took Jonathan Haidt’s Moral Foundations Questionnaire, discovering that my score on "Loyalty/betrayal" was shockingly low for a conservative. All I can say in defense is that I try to be faithful to principle. And I still suffer qualms about that second incident.

Maybe this was why my Evangelical/Fundamentalist schools forbade membership in "oath-bound secret societies" like fraternities, lodges and such: don’t take an oath that might require you to betray principle for the sake of the tribe. If so, it’s not entirely bogus.


Christopher Hitchens

Christopher Hitchens died ten years ago, and there’s been a little burst of "Boy! We could sure use Hitch now!" articles. The most recent thought we could use him because he was fearless and the rest of us (including the author) are scared to death of getting cancelled.

I enjoyed much that Hitch wrote, the best of which has aged well. But I think that God, in his great mercy, gave us all the Hitch we really needed, and I wish for no more.


Pro-tip

Ignorance has been an excellent strategy for me. I could listen to Fox and it’d make me furious, but I don’t and I save a lot of time that I’d spend chewing the carpet.

Garrison Keillor


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.

Monday potpourri, 12/13/21

Wrongful convictions

“Sprinkle some junk science onto a faulty identification, and it’s the perfect recipe for a wrongful conviction,” Hammond said.

40-year-old Syracuse rape conviction at the heart of author Alice Sebold’s memoir is thrown out

It appears that Alice Seybold was honestly mistaken in her identification of the defendant. I’m surprised, though, that the conviction was overturned decades later without DNA evidence.

Collapse of the West

Who would believe that the whole Western world, in whose image, for better or for worse, all nations seemed to hurry to refashion themselves, would collapse, not battered from without, but sagging into lethargy and indifference and stupor from within?

Anthony M. Esolen, Out of the Ashes.

Inventing existential foes

Because Trumpians live in a state of perpetual war, they need to continually invent existential foes ….

David Brooks, who gives what I consider the best explanation to date on how American conservatism produced President Donald Trump. (The explanation is not hopeful for the GOP.)

Ignoring the Classics

Of course, the classics are neither progressive nor conservative—to argue that they are one or the other is to superimpose a useless framework on them, though Featherstone is right that conservative students are the ones usually defending them. This makes sense because conservatism has a coherent theory for why the past is valuable; progressivism less so, which is why contemporary progressivism has so thoroughly abandoned the classics, even if your old-school Marxist knew his Euripides as well as anyone.

But conservatives have turned from the classics, too. Your average attender of the Conservative Political Action Conference likely couldn’t hold a candle to a mid-century Burkean in terms of reading. Policy has become king on both sides of the aisle. A few notable exceptions aside, most conservative donors are more likely to give money to political campaigns, think tanks, and partisan publications than to programs in classical education or the humanities.

Micah Mattix, Prufrock (part of Spectator World) commenting on The Left Should Defend Classical Education

Kamala “Mindless Ramble” Harris

I trace [Vice President Kamala Harris’s] decline to when she went to Guatemala and Mexico in June for meetings on immigration. Near the end in what should have been a highly prepared meeting with the press, she launched into a sort of mindless ramble in which she kept saying we have to find out the “root causes” of illegal immigration. She said it over and over. “My trip . . . was about addressing the root causes. The stories that I heard and the interactions we had today reinforce the nature of these root causes. . . . So the work that we have to do is the work of addressing the cause—the root causes.”

There is no one in America, including immigrants, who doesn’t know the root causes of illegal immigration. They’re coming for a better life. America has jobs, a social safety net, public sympathy for the underdog. Something good might happen to you here. Nothing good was going to happen at home.

That’s why immigrants have always come. Studying “root causes” is a way of saying you want to look busy while you do nothing.

She seemed unprepared, unfocused—unserious.

Peggy Noonan, Kamala Harris Needs to Get Serious.

The paradox of diversity

It can be hard to know where to go on that if diversity is a key component of a well-rounded education but an indefensible burden on the very people representing the diversity.

The idea, again, is that there’s something offensive about a Black person being asked to arbitrate the Black view on a given issue — but what if white writers don’t ask? Isn’t their asking what we were hoping for?

John McWhorter, How Can Something Be Racist but Not Racist at the Same Time?

Higher Education

I was enthused by the announcement of the University of Austin, with President Pano Kanelos coming from St. Johns. But I’m also a bit burnt out on downright enthusiasm for universities and liberal arts colleges.

I had very high regard for Hillsdale College, for instance, only to watch it go Trumpist (Michael “Flight 93 Election” Anton on faculty) and now demagogic in its fundraising letters (most recently, surveying recipients on the socialist menace).

I think I’ll watch carefully before I dig into my wallet for UofA.

Loudon County Culture War

Since Trump came on the scene, Democrats have dominated the most affluent communities in America, winning all 13 of the richest congressional districts (mostly by wide margins) in 2018 and 41 of the top 50. Republicans as recently as 1992 regularly won over half of these districts. Lately, though, in places where voters have money and college educations, Republicanism has become a stigma on the order of bestiality or syphilis …

The Loudoun mess had a lot to do with race, but it was no simple sequel to old civil rights battles. This was a brand-new tale about multidimensional racial tensions, beginning perhaps with the impatience of affluent intellectuals toward a quiet immigrant community whose chief crime, as ham-handed as this sounds, was believing the American dream. For that offense, they were sentenced to the rudest of awakenings. Loudoun doubled as the ultimate media malpractice story, in which the public across years of salacious controversies was told everything but the most important bits.

Matt Taibbi, ‌Loudoun County, Virginia: A Culture War in Four Acts

First-world problems

Normally, an internet-connected feeding machine dispenses kibble for them at noon, but the felines’ bowls were empty and clean. The gadget hadn’t worked because of an outage at Amazon[]’s … cloud-computing unit.

“We had to manually give them food like in ancient times,” said Mr. Lerner, a 29-year-old small-business owner who lives in Marina del Rey, Calif.

Amazon Outage Disrupts Lives, Surprising People About Their Cloud Dependency – WSJ

So obvious (now that he points it out)


[H]ypocrisy is too universal to be interesting …

Liel Leibovitz, ‌Treason of the Intellectuals


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.

December already?

I continue, with surprisingly little effort, to cease wallowing my mornings away with doomscrolling the news. It makes for less frequent blogging, but I hope it’s a bit more interesting.

Did your November fly past as quickly as mine?

Foretaste

Maybe you should sit down to read this and then mark your calendar in anticipation: on Sunday, I’m posting something nice about the Evangelicalism of my youth.

It may have boogered-up formatting, as WordPress seems incompetent at handling markdown other than paste-it-and-publish; save it and go back for edits and it incorrigibly inserts literal > before every blockquote.

Realism

People who discuss lowering the voting age – not only those for it but also those against – assume that it would mean a transfer of political influence to the young.

That is absurd. It would mean no such thing.

… It would only mean increasing the political clout of those who have influence through the young.

Pop stars. Sports coaches. Schoolteachers. Writers and editors of media aimed at teens. Especially people in such groups who have no children of their own to take up their time and attention.

… So one could expect further politicization of entertainment, primary and secondary education, youth athletics, children’s and “young adults” books, and teen magazines and media.

J Budziszewski

Ascetic abstention

Sondheim’s work was at its strongest when it lingered in the pain of the dawning realization that no ever after ever lasted long. His music and lyrics looked squarely at life and insisted, gently and eloquently, that of course it was never going to be exactly how we wanted it to be, that messiness and ambiguity were to be expected, and could even be part of the beauty.

Amy Weiss-Meyer, ‌What Stephen Sondheim Knew About Endings

I’ve pretty much stopped reading about Sondheim — though every new article is a temptation. An especially lovely surprise was John McWhorter’s heartfelt tribute.

"Earth Alienation"

“Should the emancipation and secularization of the modern age,” [Hanna] Arendt wondered, “which began with a turning-away, not necessarily from God, but from a god who was the Father of men in heaven, end with an even more fateful repudiation of an Earth who was the Mother of all living creatures under the sky?”

I thought about Arendt as I listened to Jeff Bezos talk about space exploration at a recent event held at the National Cathedral, a setting that will strike those of you familiar with the late David Noble’s work in The Religion of Technology as altogether apropos. The thesis of Noble’s book was that “modern technology and religion have evolved together and that, as a result, the technological enterprise has been and remains suffused with religious belief.” In this light, a cathedral is an altogether appropriate setting for the annunciation of a not-so-novel message of technologically mediated salvation and transcendence.

To be sure, Bezos makes a number of statements about how special and unique the earth is and about how we must preserve it at all costs. Indeed, this is central to Bezos’s pitch. In his view, humanity must colonize space, in part, so that resource extraction, heavy industry, and a sizable percentage of future humans can be moved off the planet. It is sustainability turned on its head: a plan to sustain the present trajectories of production and consumption.

L. M. Sacasas, Earth Alienation As A Service

This merits full reading, as the infatuation with space travel and colonization is not the only way in which our technological advances correlate to alienation from our actual situation.

In a related vein:

I kept thinking about Jesus’s admonition that it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter heaven. The point is not that rich people are wicked. The point is that if you have money, it is much easier to believe that you can control things, that your money and the technology it can afford (as well as living in a relatively wealthy society) buffers you from contingencies. We forget our dependence on God, but more to the point, we forget to cultivate awareness of Him.

Experience of the natural world does not generate faith. (Christianity is not a so-called Nature religion.) But surely it can encourage a certain psychological orientation favorable to some brands of religious faith; and this suggests the correlative possibility that reduced experience of the natural world might do just the opposite.

It is probable that no one has yet created a cataphatic theology grounded in technological analogies because it cannot be done. Technological artifacts point us to the wrong creator — to the human race, not God; so they seem bereft of real signals of transcendence. Further, as they become our environment, they imprint in the collective subconscious the message that things exist in order to serve us. That is the very last thing we need to intuit.

despite its undeniable defects, asceticism was "positive, not negative" because it "fundamentally aspired to liberate the highest powers of personality from obstruction by the automatism of the lower drives."

Rod Dreher, ‌‘The Luminous Dusk’

Call me a bigot, but everyone who expresses enthusiasm about space colonization (or Zuckerberg’s Metaverse) as a solution to some problem sinks in my estimation (unless they were alread rock-bottom).

RSVP Hall of Fame

Late in life, during the Second Vatican Council’s alleged golden dawn, Waugh received an invitation to a book launch by self-consciously “progressive” Catholics. He shot back by postcard his unforgettable RSVP: while he would not attend a social meal in the progressives’ company, “I would gladly attend an auto da fé at which your guests were incinerated.”

Bacevich et. al., The Essence of Conservatism

Pro-life feminism

As humor writer Dave Barry put it, “Critics allege that [Amy Coney] Barrett belongs to a harmful non-secular cult that subjugates ladies by forcing them to turn into Supreme Court justices.”

We need to broaden the tent of feminism. If, in order to be a feminist, one cannot simply be against the oppression of women but also must affirm abortion or other left-of-center causes, then feminism does not actually exist as a movement. It is merely pro-choice progressivism marketed for ladies.

And that ultimately weakens the cause of feminism because it excludes a lot of women, especially young women ….

Tish Harrison Warren, ‌Why the Feminist Movement Needs Pro-Life People

Fox-No-More

Fox broadcasts Seth Rich conspiracies? Memory-holed. Fox gave airtime to Kraken lawyers? Well, they were just asking questions. Its streaming platform airs a deranged Patriot Purge documentary that re-imagines the reality of January 6? Nobody watches Fox Nation anyway.

The cultural and political consequences in the right-wing grassroots are considerable. Politically engaged citizens can cite to you chapter and verse of (very real!) mainstream media scandals, yet they’re often completely shocked at the idea that the alternative institutions they follow are often substantially less reliable than the MSM they despise.

But honestly, how would they know? They’re inoculated against criticism of the right by the left, and how many voices on the right are reliably independent and free of Fox’s influence?

Mainstream media is still often plagued with groupthink and intolerance. Unfortunately, the right surveyed years of problems with legacy outlets and then built a media industry that was somehow even worse.

David French.

Despite Fox’s dominance, The Dispatch’s Jonah Goldberg and Steve Hayes resigned as contributors after Tucker Carlson’s Patriot Purge insanity,

Consider supporting The Dispatch. And getting off Fox News. All network news stultifies, but some stultifies more than others.

Unintended consequences

I don’t know why we don’t think more deeply and consistently of consequences of public policies and programs:

[T]he intentions behind a given policy tell us little about its likely effects ….

Tyler Cowen, commenting on a paper by Boaz Abramson in When Lawyers Make Things Worse.

Some meat:

Policies that make it harder to evict delinquent tenants, for example by providing tax-funded legal counsel in eviction cases ("Right-to-Counsel") or by instating eviction moratoria, protect renters from eviction in bad times. However, higher default costs to landlords lead to higher equilibrium rents and lower housing supply, implying homelessness might increase.

Early to bed, early to rise

My early jobs as a dishwasher and parking lot attendant began at 6 a.m. and I remember this dimness well. It changed my life. I stayed home at night and went to bed early and postponed debauchery to my mid-twenties and then, at the age of 27, I got a job on the 5 a.m. shift and postponed it again. A dear friend of mine, whose parents subsidized her fully, went out late one night and fell in with some fascinating strangers who introduced her to hashish and some other substance and she fell into a psychotic state and had to be hospitalized and spent some time in a drug program where she met more fascinating troubled people and it changed her life. She never found a vocation. Instead, she became fascinated by her own disability and made a career of being troubled, married a troubled man who abused her, and today she’s in a nursing home somewhere, a faint replica of the witty woman she once was, and I am waiting for the coffee to brew so I can get back to work on a novel. Early to bed and early to rise makes for a life that, if not wealthy and wise, is at least pleasant and sensible.

Garrison Keillor

Lies the Atlantic told me

Ending legal abortion in America, though, has long been the main goal of the conservative legal movement.

Adam Serwer.

Serwer is wrong if he means that literally, sloppy if he doesn’t.

Ending the pretext that the Constitution mandates legal abortion has been the goal. It remains after that to persuade legislatures of the appropriate restrictions on abortion.

I will be surprised if more than 5 states fly their progressive flags by legislating abortion on demand throughout pregnancy; if more than 10 states ban all abortions initially; if more than 5 states that initially banned all abortions continue to do so 5 years after Supreme Court success; if a majority of states don’t allow abortions in the first trimester.

A lot of politicians have gotten by with feigning pro- or anti-abortion purity on the cheap for almost 50 years now. We’ll see how much dross the legislative crucible throws off.

(There was another Atlantic item even worse than Serwer’s.)

Why I don’t rush to give 5 stars to new podcasts

Can anything good come out of the now-Trumpified Claremont Institute?

I’ll leave it for you to judge, but my hopes for Spencer Klaven’s Young Heretics podcast (held out as classical education for adults who weren’t classically educated) turned, for my tastes, into propaganda as the young, bright podcaster would "apply" the lessons of antiquity to modern U.S.A.

Sad. But at least it’s one less podcast I feel obliged to audit.

And it confirms the wisdom of ignoring pleas of new podcasts to "visit Apple podcasts and give us a 5-Star rating." Give me a dozen or so episodes, folks; I’m not your Junior Marketing Assistant.

Afterthought

I would be remiss if I failed to ask — How ’bout them Boilermakers?!

The Purdue Men’s basketball team bodes well to get a number 1 ranking if it can win its next road game. It’s 7-0, averaging over 90 points per game, and (if you hadn’t heard) 10-men deep. A lot of good teams will drop to Purdue, as Villanova did, simple because Purdue wears them out by rotating in fresh legs all game long, and getting solid production off the bench.

I hope the NBA knows how to reward team play — but that they don’t get Jaden Ivy to bolt after just two years. His mom, a WNBA veteran and Notre Dame coach may be able to steel him against the blandishments.


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.

Gleanings, 11/9/21

Todays posting has zero politics (I resolutely deny that the judiciary is political). That’s not to say no draft item was political, but that I felt sullied by their presence and deleted them.

Forgetting what it means to be fully human

Of course, there are hands somewhere in the chain of events that produce the stuff of our lives. In a globalized economy, the hands may be a world away. Many items, such as clothing and electronics are rarely made in America anymore. My home county in South Carolina once boasted the highest concentration of textile mills in the world. Today, there are none.

We are a people who eat without farming and are clothed without weaving. Our lives are abstracted from the activities that sustain them. We are alienated from human existence, though we rarely notice.

I have an instinct that this alienation creates a “thinness” to our existence. We lose connection and communion and wander amid ideas and not realities. Economists describe all of this as a “service economy,” meaning that what we do is abstracted from growing and making.

I am not a Luddite who believes that a world with mechanical devices is inherently bad. I do believe, however, that it is possible to forget much of what it is to be human. There are always hands somewhere in the chain of events that give us what we need and use. However, when it is never our own hands, something is lost.

Fr. Stephen Freeman, ‌The Distraction Delusion


Biggest Supreme Court debut

In law school, I got the best score in a class of 100 or so on Introductory Constitutional Law. Maybe that’s because I was very interested in what government could not lawfully do, whereas my progressive classmates didn’t much care about annoying words like "cannot lawfully" when it came to pursuing their goals. I literally cannot remember any other student voicing moral objection, for instance, to academics lying, in their Amicus brief opposing capital punishment, about what the social science data showed.

So although I’ve soured (again) on general news and on politics, I follow several smart legal blogs and podcasts. I’m not even opposed to gossipy items like this:

In the years that I’ve been following SCOTUS, who has had the biggest high-court debut? I’d probably say then-SG Elena Kagan, whose first oral argument before the Court was in a little case called Citizens United in 2009.

But Texas’s solicitor general, Judd E. Stone II, is not far behind. On Monday, he presented his first arguments to the Supreme Court in two matters you might have heard of: Whole Woman’s Health v. Jackson and United States v. Texas, aka the challenges to S.B. 8, Texas’s controversial new abortion law.

I’ll discuss those cases more below. For now, I’ll just observe that Stone seemed to get the most buzz of the four advocates, who included two former Lawyers of the Week—U.S. Solicitor General Elizabeth Prelogar and former Texas SG Jonathan Mitchell, the mastermind behind S.B. 8’s clever design—and Marc Hearron, senior counsel at the Center for Reproductive Rights.

How did Stone do? Not surprisingly, assessments on Twitter reflected observers’ views on the merits of the controversial cases, with a self-described liberal calling Stone an “idiot” and a self-described conservative calling him “incredible.”

Speaking for myself, I thought that Stone acquitted himself very well, especially for a first-time advocate handling two extremely difficult, high-stakes cases. He fielded a flurry of challenging questions, not just from the three liberals—especially Justice Kagan, who along with Justice Alito might be the Court’s best questioner—but even from the conservatives.

And whether or not you liked the substance of Stone’s responses, there’s no disputing that he kept his cool throughout the proceedings (when many of us might have wet ourselves or fainted). I agree with Steven Mazie of the Economist, who tweeted that “given the totally bonkers law he’s been assigned to defend, Judd Stone is pretty unflappable.”

David Lat’s Original Jurisdiction blog

Seriously: Defending a deliberate, brazen and byzantine hack of the legal system one’s very first time at SCOTUS would be about as (ahem!) interesting as a day could ever be.

Struggling for the right rationale

My favorite legal blog is Volokh Conspiracy, a very active multi-author collaboration. Much fat being chewed there on Texas S.B. 8:

The principle at stake is that state governments cannot gut judicial protection for a constitutional right.

if Texas prevails in this case, it and other states could use similar tools to undermine a wide range of other constitutional rights, including gun rights, property rights, free speech rights, and others.

If a state enacts a statute that blocks meaningful federal judicial review of laws that might violate constitutional rights, courts should not permit such a subterfuge to succeed. If doing so requires overruling or limiting previous precedents on issues like sovereign immunity and limitations on the plaintiffs’ ability to sue to enjoin judges (as opposed to other types of state officials), then that is what should be done. These latter principles are far less important than ensuring judicial protection for constitutional rights, and therefore should give way in cases where there is an unavoidable conflict between the two.

The Supreme Court need only rule that sovereign immunity must give way in a case where the only alternative is to shield from challenge a state law that could create a serious "chilling effect" on a constitutional right. Such "chilling effects" already justify preenforcement lawsuits in a number of other contexts, such as freedom of speech. The case for such prioritization is especially strong when we are dealing with rights protected against states by the Fourteenth Amendment.

Ilya Somin, joining the chorus that "you can’t let Texas get away with this."

Stephen E. Sachs, whose ideas Somin is critiquing, files a rejoinder, of course, and for those who like getting into the legal weeds, it helps show just how rich a discussion topic Texas’s [expletive deleted] law is.

NFL

The coin just dropped Sunday on how different NFL helmets look now that they’re trying, through both officiating changes and technology, to reduce brain injuries. They’ve all got some kind of inset plates on the "forehead" of the helmet likeliest to be involved in dangerous hits. Oddly, I noticed the tighter officiating before I noticed the helmet changes (that’s odd because I have only recently begun watching football again, and I don’t read about it).

Now that I’ve given my amateur impression, I offer you a link to NFL talk about the subject. There are other links if you search "nfl helmet technology improvement."

UATX

One of the very best things about freedom and entrepreneurship is that when things get bad, innovators can create better alternatives.

[M]any universities no longer have an incentive to create an environment where intellectual dissent is protected and fashionable opinions are scrutinized. At our most prestigious schools, the primary incentive is to function as finishing school for the national and global elite. Amidst the brick and ivy, these students entertain ever-more-inaccessible theories while often just blocks away their neighbors figure out how to scratch out a living.

Pano Kanelos, ‌We Can’t Wait for Universities to Fix Themselves. So We’re Starting a New One..

Kanelos’s new university is getting a lot of buzz on the Right, though not all the dissidents affiliating with it are by any means conservative.

Columbia Core Curriculum

Neither coldly academic nor hotly confessional, “Rescuing Socrates” is a warm, appealing narrative of how it feels to be “thrust into a conversation” with fellow students about life’s most “serious and unsettling questions.” Because it is a narrative, the book does not impose what Mr. Montás calls “an artificial compression” on the subtle and cumulative workings of this type of education. Instead he gradually reveals how the process worked. “Many of the conversations . . . went over my head,” the author writes, “but like a recurring tide that leaves behind a thin layer of sediment each time it comes, eventually forming recognizable structures, the intensive reading and twice-weekly discussions were coalescing into an altogether new sense of who I was.”

Martha Bayles, ‌‘Rescuing Socrates’ Review: Great Books, Greatly Missed

Our position is ineffable, hence undebatable

You know personally I’ve been achingly specific about my critiques of social justice politics, but fine – no woke, it’s a “dogwhistle” for racism. (The term “dogwhistle” is a way for people to simply impute attitudes you don’t hold onto you, to make it easier to dismiss criticism, for the record.) But the same people say there’s no such thing as political correctness, and they also say identity politics is a bigoted term. So I’m kind of at a loss. Also, they propose sweeping changes to K-12 curricula, but you can’t call it CRT, even though the curricular documents specifically reference CRT, and if you do you’re an idiot and also you’re a racist cryptofascist. Also nobody (nobody!) ever advocated for defunding the police, and if they did it didn’t actually mean defunding the police. Seems to be a real resistance to simple, comprehensible terms around here … right now it sure looks like you don’t want to be named because you don’t want to be criticized.

Freddie deBoer, ‌Please Just Fucking Tell Me What Term I Am Allowed to Use for the Sweeping Social and Political Changes You Demand

On a related note:

Funny thing about culture wars: No one ever seems to think the left launches them. Take the “1619 Project,” an effort by the New York Times to recast America’s true founding from 1776 to 1619, when a privateer ship brought 20 kidnapped African slaves to Virginia. The project has also been adapted for American classrooms.

“Yet when parents object to it, as they did in Virginia, the Times accuses the GOP of stoking a culture war,” columnist Michael Goodwin noted in Sunday’s New York Post. Never mind that the “1619 Project” is itself a culture war salvo.

Implicit in accusations of Republican culture wars is that some uncouth person, probably motivated by hate, is raising an issue that American liberals have deemed beyond discussion in polite society, whether it’s abortion, public-school curriculums, guns, crime or something else. So instead of honest political debate, we get what we saw in Virginia—Mr. McAuliffe’s claim about Mr. Youngkin’s “racist dog whistles,” the Lincoln Project’s sending phony white supremacists to smear Mr. Youngkin, or an MSNBC commentator explaining that the election of Winsome Sears, an African-American woman, as lieutenant governor is somehow a victory for white supremacy.

William McGurn, Wall Street Journal

Read what labels?

While health pundits tell us to “read the labels,” I tell my cardiology patients to eat food that requires no label. An apple looks like an apple and Oreos don’t grow on trees.

John Miller, M.D., letter to the Wall Street Journal

For what it’s worth — and I think it may be worth a lot

Rolls-Royce will begin to develop small modular nuclear reactors after securing £455m ($617m) from Britain’s government and a small group of private investors. Such reactors are considered a cheaper and quicker way to harness nuclear energy. Kwasi Kwarteng, the business and energy secretary, said they presented, “a once in a lifetime opportunity to deploy more low carbon energy than ever before”.

The Economist Daily Briefing for November 9.

Brazening it out

Meinecke interprets the ideological conflict between Germany and her opponents in these terms. He thinks that Germany was accused of immorality only because she frankly declared that Might was Right, while the Anglo-Saxon powers, who acted no less unscrupulously, continued to pay lip-service to morality.

Michael Polanyi, Personal Knowledge

Newsworthiness

The Justice Department announced Monday it has indicted a 22-year-old Ukrainian national and a 28-year-old Russian national for their involvement in a series of ransomware attacks on businesses and government entities—including this summer’s Kaseya attack—and is seeking to extradite the 22-year-old from Poland where he was arrested. The Justice Department also said it seized more than $6 million in ransom payments, and the Treasury Department on Monday sanctioned Russian cryptocurrency exchange Chatex for allegedly facilitating those payments.

The Morning Dispatch for November 9. I didn’t see this item in the Wall Street Journal or the New York Times. But then I didn’t see this there, either.

"Newsworthiness" is an interesting concept, and varying interpretations of it is where a lot of "media bias" lies — not how they cover stuff, but what stuff they cover in the first place.

A folder for the unclassifiable

I’m going to need a new Obsidian folder captioned something like "Just Because It’s So Good." I’m not sure what all will go in beyond Garrison Keillor’s semi-weekly reveries.

21st-Century Primatology

[O]ne feels as though they have a professional obligation [to be on social media]. When Jane Goodall became a primatologist, studying chimpanzees, she didn’t stay in posh Hampstead, the place of her birth. No, she went to Tanzania where the chimps lived and bred and flung monkey-dung at each other when agitated. Similarly, if you’re in the a-hole observation business, you have to go where they live and breed and fling dung at each other. Meaning, you have to at least occasionally read Twitter.

Matt Labash

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.

Burnout

Not Politics

Measuring human worth

MacIntyre acknowledges that such a society would not make the kind of material progress that our society has. But then again, 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.

Mitchell & Schlueter, The Humane Vision of Wendell Berry

Only those who decline to scramble up the career ladder are interesting as human beings. Nothing is more boring than a man with a career.

Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, The Gulag Archipelago (H/T @ChrisJWilson on micro.blog)

Is there an app for that?

The West has forgotten how to do wisdom, and it doesn’t really care. There’s probably an app for it anyway.

Paul Kingsnorth

Advice du jour

Tell someone you love them today, because life is short. But shout it at them in German, because life is also confusing and terrifying. (Unearthed by the Missus on Pinterest)

Politics

Neutral public square

There is no such thing as a perfectly neutral public square … Tuck that away with the Easter bunny and tooth fairy—it does not exist.

Michael Knowles at the National Conservatism Conference, quoted by Joseph Keegin, ‌Up From Despair

I can’t disagree, but I reject the implication that anyone should take over with an illiberal ideology and consciously dominate the square because of their confidence that they’re right.

"Education" is not a proxy for racism

Of Glenn Youngkin’s victory in the Virginia Gubernatorial race:

Those saying ‘education’ is simply a proxy for racism, and that this result is proof that white or conservative parents really don’t want schools to teach about topics like slavery or give a complete picture of American history, have misread the full picture of parents’ anxieties.

Kristen Soltis Anderson, quoted by Peggy Noonan. Noonan continues:

Were voters, Tuesday, saying, “Gee, we’re all Republicans now!” No, and it would be foolish for Republicans to think so. It means more voters than usual saw Republicans as an alternative, and took it. It means what a crusty political operative told me decades ago. He had no patience for high-class analyses featuring trends and contexts. When voters moved sharply against a party he’d say, “The dogs don’t like the dog food.” Tuesday they vomited it up.

We’d rather whine in white nationalist hell than rule in our progressive heaven

Tom Scocca is going for the “[CRT is] just a ginned-up controversy that no liberals have been pushing for.” Scocca obviously knows that thousands of liberals have in fact gone to war for CRT in that span, arguing that CRT is good actually and every student should be taught it. But that’s not rhetorically convenient, so let’s pretend nobody, not a single Democrat, has been playing into the frame. That will be constructive.

Of course if Scocca is right it means that liberals got rolled by Christopher Rufo, in which case they deserve to lose and should never speak in public again.

“Republicans only won because of racism.” Yes, it’s impossible to imagine voters rejecting the party of Andrew Cuomo and Kyrsten Sinema and Gavin Newsome for any reason other than racism, agreed. So what? Who do you think is going to come and correct that injustice for you? The only opinion that matters is that of the voters, and they think your whining about unfairness makes you look weak.

Freddie DeBoer, There Are No Refs — nobody cares, work harder

There are many wise people, some of them in unexpected places, who do not wish the current GOP well. Too few Democrats are listening.

Trusting princes

Friend-of-the-blog John Brady admonishes against putting "trust in princes, in sons of men in whom there is no salvation" (Psalm 145, sung weekly as the first Antiphon in the Russian Orthodox liturgy — and the Orthodox Church in America, influenced by the Russians). It’s getting easier to heed that.

At the same time, something there is in my American breast that says it’s time for a massive third-party outmigration from the corruptions of the two major parties today. If that’s its own kind of trust in princes, I nevertheless can’t help myself.


I note that this is my blog post #3001. I used to post almost daily.


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.

A.D.D., but organized after the fact

There’s no single theme today, just as there usually isn’t. But I took the scattered stuff and sorted it.

Politics

Josh Hawley’s voodoo

Republican Sen. Josh Hawley unveiled a proposal last week that he believes will “solve” the current supply chain crisis by requiring companies manufacture “over 50 percent of the value” of certain goods in the United States, but Eric Boehm of Reason argues it would make today’s shortfalls permanent. “One must assume that if the lights in his home went out due to a storm, Hawley would respond by declaring electricity to be a mistake and demanding that the government require homes to be lit with candles and gas lamps,” Boehm jests in response to Hawley’s plan. “After all, what is the electrical grid but a complicated supply chain that leaves Americans woefully dependent on production and distribution systems (power plants, substations, and lines) that they do not fully control? Better to produce your own lighting, right? If that means you have to live without television or the internet, well, those are just the trade-offs required to achieve self-sufficiency.”

The Morning Dispatch 11/1/21.

I commented on this column very briefly already, as well as separately registering my opinion on Josh Hawley (“braying populist(ish) ass”), its author.

S.B. 8

For anti-abortion activists, Texas’s recent law, Senate Bill 8, must have seemed like magic—a way to stop abortion immediately, without the grind of constitutional litigation and its attendant legal fees.

Mary Ziegler, ‌The Anti-abortion Movement Will Win Even If It Loses

You should actually ask a few anti-abortion activists outside of Texas, Professor Ziegler, instead of speculating.

Whistling (an amusing little ditty) in the dark

White and suburban kids in Virginia are now saved from CRT and Sharia and Bigfoot and Unicorns.

Daily Beast columnist Wajahat Ali, Tweeting about Glenn Youngkin’s election win. Yascha Mounk, more open to reality, says “It is impossible to win elections by telling voters that their concerns are imaginary”.

I was irritated when Christopher Rufo started agitpropping that anything he didn’t like was Critical Race Theory:

“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,” [Rufo] wrote.

Jelani Cobb, ‌The Man Behind Critical Race Theory

But I’m becoming equally irritated at Democrats’ insouciant and sometime dishonest Motte and Bailey denial that there’s anything there at all. There is, as Mounk outlines:

[A]cross the nation, many teachers have, over the past years, begun to adopt a pedagogical program that owes its inspiration to ideas that are very fashionable on the academic left, and that go well beyond telling students about America’s copious historical sins.

In some elementary and middle schools, students are now being asked to place themselves on a scale of privilege based on such attributes as their skin color. History lessons in some high schools teach that racism is not just a persistent reality but the defining feature of America. And some school systems have even embraced ideas that spread pernicious prejudices about nonwhite people, as when a presentation to principals of New York City public schools denounced virtues such as “perfectionism” or the “worship of the written word” as elements of “white-supremacy culture.”

Maybe that’s nut-picking, but I’m irritated at the Democrats because my former party, the GOP, still kisses Donald Trump’s a**, and is not fit to govern in its present state. (Youngkin has pledged to ban CRT, a pledge he’ll either ignore or botch in the execution — see next item, for instance.) But “govern” the GOP will, starting in January 2023, if Democrats don’t wise up — and the Left end of its base resists all wisdom.

Opposing perspectives on the Holocaust?!

The most notorious example of this came two weeks ago in Southlake, Texas, when a school administrator told teachers that, if they include a “book on the Holocaust” in their syllabi, then they also have to include one with “opposing perspectives.”

David French

This is what happens when populist bulls decide to visit the Left-illiberal china shop, passing vague laws against divisive and hateful ideologies in public schools.

Counting all the chickens in one medium egg

Is it a “done deal” that the GOP regains control of House and Senate in 2022? Not so fast, buddy!

Candidates matter. Youngkin became the candidate after a nominating convention for state party diehards used ranked-choice balloting to pick among seven contenders. And they did it this way on purpose to ensure that “a crazy” didn’t tank their chances of winning the race. Jonah is more in favor of cigar smoke-filled back rooms with party bosses than I am—the big difference, I think, being how many times our butts would be touched if we were ever invited into such a room. But clearly picking an electable candidate is important. And a political party willing to give serious thought to what process is most likely to yield the most electable candidate is going to have an advantage in midterm elections. 

Which is all to say, no, I don’t think Virginia is proof that the Senate and House will flip. It’s quite likely that the House does, in my view. But I think the primaries for these Senate seats are going to dictate a lot about what it means to have a winnable race for either party.

Sarah Isgur (emphasis added).

The folks on the Dispatch podcast the day after the elections were even more explicit: had the GOP not used a ranked-choice vote at its convention, its nominee would have been State Sen. Amanda Chase, “Trump in heels,” and it’s much less likely they’d have won.

I’m with Jonah on returning to smoke-filled rooms — both parties — and if the voters don’t like it they can abandon the parties or start new, more “democratic” ones. Well, maybe I’m being impetuous, but it’s not the first time I’ve thought of how different things would be if candidates were chosen for electability rather than for how violently they’ll trigger the other guys. Both parties, I think, are likelier to elect extremists in primaries than to select them with party professionals.

(I sort of miss the military draft, too, but that’s for another day’s installment of “Times When Young Tipsy Was Naïve.”)

Of court the Grey Lady says “Republicans pounce.” What else would she say?

There it was, just as media critics parody:

Republicans Pounce …

More specifically, “Republicans Pounce on Schools as a Wedge Issue to Unite the Party.” (Caveat: The Times tends to change its headlines to create the impression of fresh content, but that was the headline at 6:30 am EDT November 4.)

In the Times thinking, I guess, there’s never a fair issue that simply works to the advantage of Republicans because Democrats are firmly tied to an unpopular approach.

The subheadline was

Rallying around what it calls “parental rights,” the party is pushing to build on its victories this week by stoking white resentment and tapping into broader anger at the education system.

On “parental rights,” the Democrats have it right legally. If you send your kids to public school, you don’t get to reach in and custom-tailor their education. Your key parental right is to not send them to public schools in the first place.

On “white resentment,” that’s right up there with “Republicans pounce.” But “along with Glenn Youngkin, Virginians elected Winsome Sears, a black woman, as lieutenant governor and Jason Miyares, a Cuban American, as attorney general.

Not politics (or not really politics, anyway)

The Second American Republic

[E]ven before the passage of [the] Reconstruction amendments — indeed, as a kind of precondition for them — Lincoln fatally injured the Constitution of 1787. He consciously and repeatedly violated core elements of that Constitution as they had been understood by nearly all Americans of the time, himself included.

Through those acts of destruction, Lincoln effectively broke the Constitution of 1787, paving the way for something very different to replace it. What began as a messy, pragmatic compromise necessary to hold the young country together was reborn as an aspirational blueprint for a nation based on the principle of equal liberty for all.

Noah Feldman, Lincoln Broke Our Constitution. Then He Remade It.

Some whip-smart conservative decades ago noted that Lincoln ushered in our Second Republic. He also claimed that FDR brought our Third Republic.

His main point, I think, was that we should stop flattering ourselves about being the world’s longest-lived stable democracy. We’re really just uncommonly good at putting liptick onto, and keeping blood out of, some of our revolutions.

“Higher” education

They have built colleges on an equal scale, only to see them turned into playgrounds for grown-up children or centers of vocationalism and professionalism. Finally, they have seen pragmatists, as if in peculiar spite against the very idea of hierarchy, endeavoring to turn classes into democratic forums, where the teacher is only a moderator, and no one offends by presuming to speak with superior knowledge.

Richard Weaver, Ideas Have Consequences

Sending everyone to college hasn’t given everyone a college education. That can’t be done. It’s given everyone what used to be a high school education. A very, very expensive high school education.

J Budziszewski

Reaching a political dead end

Only an open semiotic system can clear space for us to affirm life. Only open trade will bring peace. Only open borders will bring saving diversity. Only open minds can stop the return of Auschwitz. There is simply no other way. When intelligent, educated, and responsible people talk this way, we know that we’ve reached a dead end.

R.R. Reno, Return of the Strong Gods. I have come to distrust Reno because of his Trumpist and populist conversion, but I try to read across a wide spectrum of opinion, and this hyperbole is provocative.

Genocide of the Tomboys

One mom spoke about how having to fight the culture at her middle-school daughter’s school, on behalf of her daughter. Her daughter is a tomboy, and the culture at school is aggressively pro-trans. She thanks God that her daughter is a solid and committed Christian, and wants nothing to do with that. The mom said that she has worked hard to help her daughter understand that there’s nothing wrong with being a tomboy, and that it doesn’t mean she is a transgendered male.

Rod Dreher

More about his weekend with an unusual Evangelical group — one that “gets” the Benedict Option and Live Not By Lies:

“This isn’t a typical Evangelical service,” the guy sitting next to me said. I repeated that to someone else at the church, who said, “Yeah, if you went to a megachurch, you’d hate it. It’s basically 45 minutes of concert followed by a TED talk about how God wants you to be happy.”

Our Father, Who Art in the White House …

National governments are widely assumed to be responsible for and capable of providing those things which former generations thought only God could provide—freedom from fear, hunger, disease and want—in a word: “happiness.

Stanley Hauerwas, Resident Aliens. (Gosh I quote him a lot!)

Catechesis failure

Though my identity as unequivocally Evangelical is more than 40 years in my past, I still watch, and am aghast at my credulity for ever accepting unquestioningly that we Evangelicals were true and countercultural Christians.

That Donald Trump with his crudities and cruelties could ever be a mad crowd favorite of evangelicals is just mind-boggling. How could that happen?

The best monocausal explanation I’ve seen is catechesis failure:

“What we’re seeing is massive discipleship failure caused by massive catechesis failure,” James Ernest, the vice president and editor in chief at Eerdmans, a publisher of religious books, told me. Ernest was one of several figures I spoke with who pointed to catechism, the process of instructing and informing people through teaching, as the source of the problem. “The evangelical Church in the U.S. over the last five decades has failed to form its adherents into disciples. So there is a great hollowness. All that was needed to cause the implosion that we have seen was a sufficiently provocative stimulus. And that stimulus came.”

“Culture catechizes,” Alan Jacobs, a distinguished professor of humanities in the honors program at Baylor University, told me. Culture teaches us what matters and what views we should take about what matters. Our current political culture, Jacobs argued, has multiple technologies and platforms for catechizing—television, radio, Facebook, Twitter, and podcasts among them. People who want to be connected to their political tribe—the people they think are like them, the people they think are on their side—subject themselves to its catechesis all day long, every single day, hour after hour after hour.

On the flip side, many churches aren’t interested in catechesis at all. They focus instead on entertainment, because entertainment is what keeps people in their seats and coins in the offering plate. But as Jacobs points out, even those pastors who really are committed to catechesis get to spend, on average, less than an hour a week teaching their people. Sermons are short. Only some churchgoers attend adult-education classes, and even fewer attend Bible study and small groups. Cable news, however, is always on. “So if people are getting one kind of catechesis for half an hour per week,” Jacobs asked, “and another for dozens of hours per week, which one do you think will win out?”

Peter Wehner, ‌The Schism in the Evangelical Church

That’s not perfectly satisfying since I don’t know whether or why Evangelicals watch more television (or more FOX and OAN) than other religious groups, but it feels like it’s on the right track.

(And I’ve become fairly sure that Evangelicals would be in the vanguard of falling for Antichrist.)

Republican Justices revive a cottage industry

A cottage industry has revived in the law schools: re-writing Roe v. Wade to prove how the Constitution really does require abortion essentially on demand. ‘Roe’ Was an Originalist Reading of the Constitution – The Atlantic. If you’re interested in wagering that the upcoming Dobbs case out of Mississippi (abortion banned after 15 weeks) has nothing to do with it, let me know. I’m not opposed to easy money.

(I acknowledge that Planned Parenthood v. Casey has replaced Roe as our controlling abortion precedent — but it’s no better-reasoned.)

New atheists

The new atheists’ texts are manifestoes, buoyantly coarse and intentionally simplistic, meant to fortify true unbelievers in their unbelief…

David Bently Hart, The Experience of God


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.

Potpourri 10/28/21

Misguided, yes, but not criminals

Insofar as Attorney General Merrick Garland has sicced the FBI on parent-protesters at school board meetings, I’m glad Mitch McConnell stonewalled his Supreme Court nomination.

On the other hand, see the first item here. I have thoughts, too, about how parents are in some instances shooting themselves in the foot (feet?) by extremely weird efforts to style teaching of our racial history as "CRT."

Dying for the state?

On the one hand, the democratic state modestly claims to be a mere means toward an end. On the other hand, the same state needs to convince its citizens that it can give them a meaningful identity because the state is the only means of achieving the common good. Dying for this state, as Alasdair MacIntyre has said, is “like being asked to die for the telephone company”

Stanley Hauerwas, Resident Aliens

Conservative low and high "churches"

[L]ow church conservatism retains the anti-clericalism of its religious counterpart. This entails a pervasive anti-elitism. For the low church conservative, a popular broadcaster such as Rush Limbaugh possesses greater authority than a scholar such as Russell Kirk. The former derives his position from (or has it affirmed by) the congregation—his listeners. A Kirk, on the other hand, appears all too priestly.

Becevich, Hoeveler, Kurth, Quinn, Weyrich and Lind, The Essence of Conservatism

Democracy’s currently degraded form

[I]t is hardly clear that American democracy even in its currently degraded form will survive much longer. It thus seems unduly optimistic to make calculations about the second- or third-order side effects of a judicial ruling on future electoral outcomes, when those elections may well be decided by the fiat of conspiracy-theory-believing Trumparatchiks ….

Michael C. Dorf

I disagree strenuously with Dorf on the supposed constitutional right to abortion, but other than that, these musings on ‌Will the SB8 Case Allow SCOTUS to Appear Moderate? If So, What Follows? are interesting, and the pull-quote above is not really wrong.

But as of this writing, I’m worried, too, about the frivolity of our democracy: two items in this morning’s news involve (a) bestowing a Congressional Medal of Honor posthumously on a fine young Marine from not far from my home who got killed in the botched Afghan air lift, and (b) some sort of honor for Prince.


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.

Curated for 10/27/21

The cure for out-of-parental-control public schools

Terry McAuliffe may have been too candid for his own good, and Republicans may have "pounced" on his statement (“I don’t think parents should be telling schools what they should teach.”), but his statement parallels the state of the law:

[T]he state does not have the power to “standardize its children” or “foster a homogenous people” by completely foreclosing the opportunity of individuals and groups to choose a different path of education. We do not think, however, that this freedom encompasses a fundamental constitutional right to dictate the curriculum at the public school to which they have chosen to send their children.

1st U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Brown v. Hot, Sexy, and Safer Productions, Inc., via David French.

Since public school parents are not a homogenous bunch, how could any other rule work?

National Review’s Andy McCarthy addresses a bolder claim than a parental constitutional right to dictate public school curriculum, namely that public schools are unconstitutional:

Professor [Philip] Hamburger is right to highlight this project’s offensiveness to the parents of schoolchildren as among its worst features. That said, parental dissent, which is widespread but not unanimous, is just one reason why the project should be resisted. And Hamburger strains mightily not only to portray this dissent as the dispositive objection to progressive curricula, but to portray such curricula as a violation of the constitutional right to free speech.

It is an ill-conceived theory, and reliance on it will only disserve a critical cause by giving progressives an easy target to shoot at.

Hamburger asserts:

Education is mostly speech, and parents have a constitutional right to choose the speech with which their children will be educated. They therefore cannot constitutionally be compelled, or even pressured, to make their children a captive audience for government indoctrination.

It would be generous to describe these propositions as dubious. Let’s assume for argument’s sake that most pedagogy, like most human interaction, takes the form of speech, and therefore that the whole of education is, as Hamburger maintains, covered by the First Amendment. Even if all that were true, what he is arguing for here would not be freedom of speech, but freedom from speech.

Essentially, he posits that the First Amendment gives one party to a protected communication a veto over the other. By this logic, if parents wanted their children to be taught that two plus two equals five, teachers would be expected to comply. Ironically, moreover, Hamburger’s suggestion that public schools are compelling parents to “make their children a captive audience for government indoctrination,” or at least pressuring them to do so, is belied by the very legal authority that he offers in support of his specious First Amendment claim.

The best solution for parents who don’t like what’s going on in public schools is to get their kids out of public schools.

Two final, somewhat tangential, observations:

  1. I sympathize with public school board members. They are almost always (so far as my experience goes) well-meaning volunteers, dependent on educational professionals for their information, and, realistically, serving these days mostly as lightning rods for those educrats.
  2. Phillip Hamburger’s piece was so flawed that I’ve got to suspect the Wall Street Journal of high-class clickbaiting.

Time to descend from the pulpit

Elections are not prayer meetings, and no one is interested in your personal testimony. They are not therapy sessions or occasions to obtain recognition. They are not seminars or “teaching moments.” They are not about exposing degenerates and running them out of town. If you want to save America’s soul, consider becoming a minister. If you want to force people to confess their sins and convert, don a white robe and head to the River Jordan. If you are determined to bring the Last Judgment down on the United States of America, become a god. But if you want to win the country back from the right, and bring about lasting change for the people you care about, it’s time to descend from the pulpit.

Mark Lilla, The Once and Future Liberal

As if on cue, Damon Linker on wokeness:

Then why does wokeness nonetheless drive me crazy?

The beginning of an answer can be found in the fact that wokeness makes me feel like I’m attending Sunday school in a denomination and parish I never chose to join. I just turn on the radio or open the paper or scroll through Twitter — and the next thing I know, a finger-wagging do-gooder with institutional power behind him is delivering a sermon, showing me The Way, calling on me to repent, encouraging me to be born again in the moral light.

Do not underestimate Russians

Napoleon at last occupied Moscow as he had occupied the capitals of Austria and Prussia, but instead of surrendering, as those countries did, the Russians retreated and fought on. Suddenly Moscow burned down and Napoleon, facing the Russian winter in a destroyed city, was forced to make a rapid retreat. Assuming that history is made by decisive actions, historians asked whose idea it was to incinerate Moscow. Some credited the city’s furiously patriotic mayor, Rostopchin; others picked other Muscovites. Nonsense, Tolstoy replies. No one decided to burn the city down. No one had to, since a city made of wood, where scarcely a day passes without a fire, “cannot fail to burn when its inhabitants have left it and it is occupied by soldiers who smoke pipes, make campfires . . . and cook themselves meals twice a day.” Likewise, no one ordered the inhabitants to leave—Rostopchin in fact tried to stop them—but the civilian equivalent of “the spirit of the army” led them to feel that they simply could not remain under French rule. By leaving, they unintentionally made the city burn and, without intending it, saved Russia. Tolstoy concludes: “Moscow was burned by its inhabitants, it is true, but by those who abandoned her, not by those who stayed behind.”

Gary Saul Morson, ‌Tolstoy’s Wisdom and Folly

An organized vehicle for neurotic progressivism

But even accounting for their courage, Martin Luther King Jr., who began his career in ministry as a staunch liberal inspired by Unitarian Pastor Theodore Parker, felt compelled to renounce the flimsiness of unitarian liberal theology in a 1960 essay: “liberalism’s superficial optimism concerning human nature caused it to overlook the fact that reason is darkened by sin. … Liberalism failed to see that reason by itself is little more than an instrument to justify man’s defensive ways of thinking.” The delusional optimism of liberal theology, according to King, could not stand up against the hard, grim reality of human chauvinism and cruelty.

From its inception in 1825, the American Unitarian Association—formed from a schism within the Congregationalist church, with the Unitarian contingent leaving behind those committed to Calvinism—was as much an institution for social reform as a religion. Theologically, however, it could never really get its act together.

… in lieu of having commitments to theology or anything identifiable as the divine, the Unitarian Universalist church has functioned for decades as primarily an organized vehicle for … neurotic progressivism ….

‌The High Church of Wokeism

Seeking status and significance?

[I]n the United States, a record nearly 4.3 million people quit their jobs in August, according to the Labor Department, and more than 10 million positions were vacant — slightly down from July, when about 11 million jobs needed filling …

… [T]here might also be something deeper afoot. In its sudden rearrangement of daily life, the pandemic might have prompted many people to entertain a wonderfully un-American new possibility — that our society is entirely too obsessed with work, that employment is not the only avenue through which to derive meaning in life and that sometimes no job is better than a bad job.

… They’re questioning some of the bedrock ideas in modern life, especially life in America: What if paid work is not the only worthwhile use of one’s time? What if crushing it in your career is not the only way to attain status and significance in society? …

Farhad Manjoo, ‌Even With a Dream Job, You Can Be Antiwork.

So the goal is "status" and "significance"?

I don’t think so:

if a man lived in obscurity making his friends in that obscurity, obscurity is not uninteresting.

Ivan Illich, Deschooling Society

And don’t forget that leisure is the basis of culture.

Beta male smackdown

I’m old enough to remember when John Zmirak was bragging to his friends about hanging a picture of Generalissimo Francisco Franco in his Manhattan office. He had much better taste in right-wing strongmen then. They were actually, you know, strong.

Rod Dreher, responding to Trumpkin "failed writer and professional ankle-biter" John Zmirak who called Rod (and others outside the asylum) "beta males." Rod’s response is pretty devastating — especially if one’s familiar with Zmirak.

Empathy failure

Came across this from last year, as I was still reading anything from any plausible source to explain why my fellow-American Trump supporters weren’t patently wrong, but had reasons I could apprehend with enough effort:

…as preposterous as it may sound given Trump’s penchant for exaggeration and sarcasm, a vote for Donald Trump is a vote for truth against the overt political propaganda of the corporate media.

Robert Hutchinson, Why so many voters support Donald Trump: a letter to baffled non-Americans

For the record, I highlighted this for the outlandishness, not that it helped me understand. It is not logical to vote for a terrible President because the media lie about him, and Trump’s lies and cruelties were not mere "exaggeration and sarcasm."

I just cannot get into the mind of Trump voters, and their own explanations have more drollery and trolling than plausibility. I only hope that the madness somehow — ummmmm — dies down before 2024, and the only obvious way for that to happen is something that I, not having rightful power over life and death, dare not pray for.

Shithole University

“The Liberty Way”: How Liberty University Discourages and Dismisses Students’ Reports of Sexual Assaults — ProPublica

Is anyone really surprised? My only surprises are:

  • that Liberty hung on to a handful of very good people, like Karen Swallow Prior, as long as it did; and
  • at Liberty, as elsewhere, almost all of the young women who got sexually assaulted were partying and drinking, as were the louts who assaulted them.

But we’re not supposed to notice the nexus between getting blasted and getting sexually assaulted, because that would be blaming the victim. So the only effective preventive — sobriety in comportment and drinking — is off-limits for discussion.


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.

Mostly political

David Shor

I do hope the Democrats listen to [David Shor] even if it means they do better in elections. Why? Well, for several reasons. First, because if they listened to him, the Democratic Party would move rightward. Second, I think the actual policies associated with “defund the police,” “birthing persons,” “Latinx,” etc. are profoundly bad for America. And third, because if the Democrats stopped talking about ridiculous things, it would deny many Republicans the psychological permission to behave like idiots or support demagogic buffoons.

Jonah Goldberg, That Shor Sounds Good

So what’s Shor saying that the Dems should listen to?

At its most basic, Shor’s theory goes something like this: Although young people as a whole turn out to vote at a lower rate than the general population, the aforementioned type of young person is actually overrepresented within the core of the Democratic Party’s infrastructure. According to Shor, the problem with this permanent class of young staffers is that they tend to hold views that are both more liberal and more ideologically motivated than the views of the coveted median voter, and yet they yield a significant amount of influence over the party’s messaging and policy decisions. As a result, Democrats end up spending a lot of time talking about issues that matter to college-educated liberals but not to the multiracial bloc of moderate voters that the party needs to win over to secure governing majorities in Washington.

Ian Ward, ‌The Democrats’ Privileged College-Kid Problem

David Brock

(David Brock left the GOP long before Donald Trump:)

Issues like racial justice, the environment and immigration are already resonating online with audiences Democrats need to win over, such as young people, women and people of color. Democratic donors have long overlooked efforts to fund the media, but with so much of our politics playing out on that battlefield, they can no longer afford to.

David Brock

It would be interesting to hear the two Davids, Shor and Brock, debate Democratic Party messenging.

Full disclosure for invitees

Alan Jacobs has a modest proposal:

This is related, in a way, to my previous post: After reading yet another invitation-disinvitation story, I think every university should – in the interests of full disclosure, honesty, and charity – prepare a list of Topics On Which Dissent Is Not Permitted and send that list to everyone who is invited to speak. That way prospective lecturers will know in advance whether they hold views that are not tolerated at those universities and can decline the invitation immediately rather than having to be canceled later on.

When Pandemic becomes Endemic, can we take off our masks?

I didn’t have much hope for ‌How Will Blue America Live With Covid? but it raises good questions.

As we saw after Sept. 11, certain forms of security theater, once established, become extremely difficult to dislodge as long as there is still any arguable threat. So as long as Covid stays in the news, it’s not hard to envision masking requirements for airplanes and trains persisting far into the future, much as we still try to foil Al Qaeda by taking off our shoes for airport security lines. It’s also possible to imagine a future in which the weird emergent norm of “masks for the help but not the V.I.P.s” — visible everywhere from the Met Gala to political fund-raisers to posh hotels — becomes an expected feature of life among the blue-state upper class (as well as a potent symbol for its critics).

Then there are blue-state elementary schools, where some of the constituencies that support mask requirements may not be assuaged even after vaccines are available for younger kids. At that point, according to both polls and personal experience, there will still be lots of vaccine hesitancy among even liberal parents — and you could imagine a coalition of more Covid-fearing parents and teachers’ unions demanding masking requirements until a school hits a vaccination threshold that remains perpetually out of reach.

Endemic Covid ensures that this dynamic will never simply vanish … deep-blue America will have to decide, in a world that’s postpandemic but not post-Covid, whether it wants to become the safety-above-all caricature that deep-red America has made of it — or if it can settle instead on masking a little more every December and January, a reasonable adaptation to the coronavirus experience, while otherwise leaving the age of emergency behind.

Ross Douthat

I’m seeing signs of this division among my acquaintances. And I suspect that public schools that veer into safetyism will find that a straw that breaks the camel’s back and sends more students off to private schools.

… boring me to death

Roughly a half decade or so ago, I started noticing that everyone began to believe that their political opinions were the most interesting thing about them.  When it’s usually exactly the opposite.  As a journalist, I always found that talking to people about their actual lives – their hurts, ambitions, failures, families, amusing asides – produced infinite and pleasant surprises. Only when they started talking politics could I finish all their sentences.  As a right-leaning person throughout my life, I became unwittingly involved in more and more conversations, feeling like a trapped rat all the while, in which my conversational companions gave me their harangues on how biased the liberal media was.  In fairness, the mainstream media does lean liberal, and often is biased.  (Who isn’t, these days?)  But if every other sentence you utter ends in the refrain “liberal media bias,” it doesn’t necessarily mean you’re lying or wrong, just that you’re boring me to death over dinner. I get it. But that’s been settled law for decades. Try to be more interesting.

Besides, achieving equanimity isn’t just a natural state, but a choice.  These days, it very much involves swimming against the tide. You nearly have to choose not  to get riled by all the manufactured outrages, Kabuki-theater conflagrations, and faux-Twitter fights that are conducted by catty people, for catty people.  The rage merchants abound, and are all too willing to make a buck from stoking your anger and wet-nursing your resentments  over  “issues” you’d never even heard of five minutes prior.  Don’t be such an easy mark.

Matt Labash

No senses

I’ve long known that ultra-progressives have no sense of humor. Now it appears that perhaps they have no sense of chronology, either:

When I appeared on Megyn Kelly’s podcast, she shared an anecdote (at 46:00 minute mark) about a friend of hers who worked as an editor at a major publishing house. The editor had received a manuscript of a historical novel, based on a true story, of a woman who had to pose as a man in order to receive a medical education and become a surgeon in the 1920’s1. The editor admired the novel and circulated it for feedback from some junior editors.

Perhaps you can anticipate what happened next. The book was attacked by other staffers for its failure to portray the woman who posed as a man in order to practice medicine as transgendered. The author had failed to frame her story through an anachronistic projection of today’s gender ideology onto a past in which the ideology did not yet exist. This meant her work was therefore “transphobic.” The editor was reported to HR for forcing them to read the book and subject to a disciplinary process. He was unable to move forward with the acquisition he had intended.

J.K. Rowling, Joe Rogan, Dave Chappelle. They exist in a strange form of cossetted duress. They are still beloved by millions, wealthier and more widely exposed than ever before. But they are pariahs from the official pseudo-consensus that the Successor Ideology has captured and that a growing body of the gullible and the opportunistic alike have signed on to join with the forces that they anticipate will be in the ascendancy soon.

Wesley Yang, Cancellation, or Cultural Change

How do you marginalize normalcy?

No amount of effort at revising my attitudes (not that I’m especially inclined to try, sorry) would do much to change the fact that however effete and aloof and sensitive I may be, (and I am surely in the 95th percentile among men along both of these dimensions), I am nonetheless, for better or worse, unambiguously a cisgendered, (a term that the late comedian Norm MacDonald characterized “a way of marginalizing a normal person), heterosexual man, and all that entails.

Wesley Yang, ‌Preface to a 20-volume Dave Chappelle Review

Pregnant women at SCOTUS

SCOTUS is going to hear the Texas abortion law case on its "rocket docket;" briefing next week, argument November 1:

Justice Sotomayor wrote a six-page dissent. She repeatedly referred to pregnant "women," without a footnote about gender identity. Call the cancellation squad.


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Seeking truth, creatively defying lies

“What Plato taught me is that much more important than the instrumental value of education is its intrinsic value. And that’s what Gorgias puts on the table. Why do we debate? Why do we engage in discussion? Why do we seek the truth? Well, knowledge and understanding can have many instrumental benefits, but those are secondary to the intrinsic value of knowledge, its inherent enrichments of the human spirit. We should want knowledge more fundamentally for its own sake than for any instrumental purpose.”

When I raised the subject [of cancellation] with George, he observed that, curiously, students on campus have abandoned moral relativism and an excessive concern for toleration of diverse viewpoints with a fundamentalist desire to silence those who oppose certain absolutes. “The problem is not that they think there is no moral truth,” he told me, “it’s that they think the moral truth is obvious, they know it, they don’t have to defend it, and anyone who disagrees with them is a fool or a bigot. If you don’t agree, it’s your job to fall in line with our groupthink. It’s a militant fundamentalist kind of pseudo-religion; an unwillingness to consider the possibility that you might be wrong in your moral beliefs.”

… Wokeism works by intimidation; it’s the one and only method it’s got for whipping people into line. There’s no shortcut here, there’s no formula: You have to stand up. It’s going to take people setting an example of courageous defiance; standing up for their rights and the rights of everyone to think for themselves, to challenge these sacred dogmas, to refuse to get in line with the groupthink.”

Robert P. George, mostly, quoted in a profile of him.


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.