Saturday, 1/21/23

Culture

Journalism

If you think the decline in local newspapers is only an abstract story, or that Facebook posts can make up for local investigations, ladies and gentlemen, we give you New York’s Third Congressional District.

Peggy Noonan

(New York’s Third Congressional District is represented by a fellow who may be named George Santos.)

Enneagrams

I have heard or read many mentions of enneagrams, but only very recently did I look up the topic in the most authoritative source in the history of the cosmos.

It’s clear to me that my “characteristic role” is “reformer, perfectionist.” I also have a pretty good dose of “investigator, observer.” These tendencies correspond to particular besetting sins, of which I was well aware without the enneagram framework.

Beyond that, I’d feel as uncomfortable getting deeply into enneagrams as I would getting into QAnon. Maybe that’s unfair, but I’m not interested in wading into either enneagrams or QAnon to find out for myself.

David Crosby

If you care about such things, you’re probably aware that David Crosby died Wednesday night at age 81. It’s a gift to the rest of us that he lived so long despite the antics of his younger self.

I have a very soft spot for him, and I can identify three reasons without even breaking a sweat:

  1. The music. He was a great and creative folk-pop artist, and his music generally features great jazz-influenced harmonizations.
  2. The candor. Crosby appeared to be utterly candid about his self-inflicted injuries. Better that he’d not inflicted them in the first place, but afterward he certainly didn’t glamorize them.
  3. The sense of purpose. Marveling that he’d lived so long (see item 2), Crosby felt duty-bound to realize all the good music he had in him in his remaining days.

It’s my understanding that not all will be saved, but that I’m permitted to hope for the salvation of all. Requiescat in pacem; et lux perpetua dona eis domine. I’m not even going to spell-check that.

Why the Machine won’t win

I don’t think that the Machine will win … I don’t think it can. The drive to control is like the old lady who swallowed a fly. The solutions only exacerbate the problem. For the Machine, the problem is contingency: the sheer unpredictability of the world. To kill that fly, it swallowed the spider of hierarchy, the top-down view; but that was not enough. Centuries later, under mechanical influence, we cram down a T-Rex of lies just to convince ourselves that our social world makes sense. It doesn’t.

What do I mean by contingency? The living world is like a tree. Structures and shapes reappear at different scales. Look at a tree and it has pattern, form, wholeness. Look at a single leaf and, though only a tiny part of the tree, it too has pattern, form, wholeness. If your only interest in the tree is firewood, then the wholeness of the leaf doesn’t matter. If, though, you wish to understand a living tree, you get nowhere until you see the wholeness of the leaf. This is the source of contingency. What happens at leaf-level is almost infinitely variable, but reverberates up all the scales to the biggest. And this is the Machine’s great weakness. If its eyes were allowed to see the fractal subtlety of the leaf, then its mind could not devise a system for controlling the tree. It would be lost in contemplation. So it abstracts out the life. Leaves becomes Lego pieces and people become numbers. Rather than measure the world, the Machine always measures a proxy. This is how it will fail.

How do I know this? The Machine itself is an organism, although it does not know it, and organisms die.

It doesn’t matter whether you tear your empire to pieces in a frenzy of revolutions or allow it to slowly collapse under its own bureaucratic weight. Either way, it dies. It would be better to learn acceptance. The end of a civilisation is not the end of the world. It is not even the end of the human world. It is merely the end of the the culture of the cities: a passing phase that encloses even the most remote countryside now, but which is not all we have been or can be.

FFatalism, Against cyberpunk. For barbarism.

Law

Forensic lawyering

I don’t know that I’ve coined many phrases in my life, but I claim credit (after watching hired-gun “forensic witnesses”) for labeling the proverbial “world’s oldest profession” as “forensic dating.”

In that sense, our former President has long kept a stable of forensic lawyers — hired guns ready to file any damnfool nonsense to punish his critics.

But every lawyer is ethically obliged not knowingly to file lawsuits based on false facts or lacking any plausible legal theory in support. In other words, many of Trump’s lawsuits were unethical. But he and his lawyers never (or virtually never) got called on it. In my experience, a high proportion of lawsuits are unethical and should get sanctioned, but Trump is not alone; Judges tend be pretty lax on idiotic lawsuits from people who don’t pretend to be billionaires, too.

I was once a defendant in one of those idiotic lawsuits. The facts were roughly thus: Zoning ordinances forbade sexually-oriented businesses within X feet of residential neighborhoods (I think). Anyhow, someone set up a porn shop <X feet from whatever it was. I signed a petition asking My Fair City to enforce the zoning law.

So the city sued me, and everyone else who signed the petition, and the filthmonger, saying essentially “we don’t know what the ordinance requires us to do; let the people who annoy us fight it out with the filthmongers.

I knew the odds were against sanctions, so I just fought my way out of the suit and then glared even more than usual at the corrupt City Attorney who filed it.

So nobody could be happier than I that a judge has finally called Trump’s lawyers on an unethical lawsuit, and imposed big-dollar sanctions ($900,000+) on his lawyer and on him personally for a frivolous lawsuit against Hillary Clinton (every silver lining must have a cloud) and others:

“This case should never have been brought,” U.S. District Judge Donald M. Middlebrooks wrote in a 46-page ruling. “Its inadequacy as a legal claim was evident from the start. No reasonable lawyer would have filed it. Intended for a political purpose, none of the counts of the amended complaint stated a cognizable legal claim.”

“Mr. Trump is a prolific and sophisticated litigant who is repeatedly using the courts to seek revenge on political adversaries,” Judge Middlebrooks wrote. “He is the mastermind of strategic abuse of the judicial process, and he cannot be seen as a litigant blindly following the advice of a lawyer. He knew full well the impact of his actions.”

Mr. Trump’s claims were “a hodgepodge of disconnected, often immaterial events, followed by an implausible conclusion,” the judge wrote, adding, “This is a deliberate attempt to harass; to tell a story without regard to facts.”

Michael S. Schmidt, Maggie Haberman, Judge Orders Trump and Lawyer to Pay Nearly $1 Million for Bogus Suit; see also Jonathan H. Adler, Trump Lawyers Sanctioned AGAIN for Frivolous Suit Against Political Opponents

Universal Principles

“NHL player Ivan Provorov shouldn’t have to wear a pride jersey for the same reason Colin Kaepernick shouldn’t have to stand for the anthem. … [T]he universal principle is free expression over compelled speech,” – Nicholas Grossman via Andrew Sullivan.

Complicating Grossman’s attractive categorical statement is that this is the NHL, not the government. But I like free speech culture, not just free speech law.

Politics

Manichean fanaticism, left and right

The right is not unique in conspiratorial delusion, of course. The refusal of many on the left to accept Tump’s legitimate victory in 2016 was real and widespread. Both Hillary Clinton and John Lewis declared Trump an illegitimate president. Remember the Diebold machines of 2004? Not far from the Dominion stuff today. And the intensity of the belief on the left in an unfalsifiable “white supremacist” America has a pseudo-religious fervor to it. The refusal of [Eric] Metaxas to allow any Republican to remain neutral or skeptical is mirrored by Ibram X. Kendi’s Manichean fanaticism on the far left.

But the long-established network of evangelical churches and pastors, and the unique power of an actual religion to overwhelm reason, gives the right an edge when it comes to total suspension of disbelief.

Andrew Sullivan, Christianism and Our Democracy

Cet animal est tres mechant; quand on l’attaque, il se defend

The far right thus fixates on whatever controversy is dominating politics at the time.

How America’s far right flits from issue to issue | The Economist

The Economist is generally sane and smart. But that block-quote amounts, doesn’t it, to “the far right engages whatever cause progressives have thrust onto center stage”?

Cet animal est tres mechant; quand on l’attaque, il se defend.

Davos

“It was, and is, a corrupt circle-jerk,” – Jill Abramson on Davos via Andrew Sullivan.

Wordplay

Economist’s Words of the week:

  • Reichsbürger, a German far-right extremist group that rejects the legitimacy of the federal republic in favour of the German Reich of 1871. Read the full story here.
  • Friendshoring, a kind of reverse offshoring in which supply chains are redirected to stable, ideally allied countries. Read the full story.

Economists’ Words of the Year:

Aridification: the long-term drying of a region; a term applied when “drought,” or even “megadrought,” are no longer sufficient.

Productivity paranoia: an affliction of home workers afraid of being seen as shirkers, and bosses afraid that home-workers are indeed shirking.

TWaT city: one where many commuters travel to the office only on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays.

Battery belt: a green-friendly revitalised form of America’s “Rust Belt” through investment in industries such as electric-car manufacturing and “gigafactories” that make batteries for electric cars.

Vertiport: where multirotor drones that are large enough to carry people, also known as flying cars, take off and land.

At war with decadent dictionaries

I will never relent! “Literally” means literally, not “virtually” or “damn straight!” If we let them get away with changing that meaning, 55 years of my life are in vain!


Tradition is a bulwark against the power of commerce and the dissolving acid of money, and by removing these, all revolutions in the modern period have ended up accelerating the commercial and technological shift towards the Machine.

Paul Kingsnorth

You can read most of my more impromptu stuff here (cathartic venting) and here (the only social medium I frequent, because people there are quirky, pleasant and real). Both should work in your RSS aggregator, like Feedly or Reeder, should you want to make a habit of it.

Saturday, 1/7/23

Culture

Jordan Peterson

The Campaign to Re-Educate Jordan Peterson” reminds me of how little written about Peterson. That isn’t likely to change because I just can’t take the time to get more than a smattering of the Jordan Peterson content available, and I don’t want to write in ignorance.

I like what I’ve heard and read and seen, but I was making my bed before Jordan Peterson was out of diapers, and I don’t personally need his coaching on how to do life. If a lot of younger (mostly-)men find it beneficial, I’m sure they could do far worse than taking advice from him.

In recognition of his influence, though, I pray for him daily.

AI’s limits

I have been an AI skeptic, which extended to Chat GPT. Ezra Klein has a fantastic podcast on the topic, which I haven’t even finished yet.

My fundamental instinct was right: AI is closely akin to bullshit in the Harry G. Frankfurt sense that it bears no relationship to truth. What AI does — so far at least if not ever and always — is basically pastiche of things that it has read and stored in its memory banks.

But my skepticism overlooked the harm AI can do. To make a long story short, I don’t think I can ever trust the internet again for important research; it’s too easy for a single AI “clickfarms” to create a web of websites all pointing in the wrong direction, or pointing aimlessly, with alluring headlines and reciprocal hyperlinks to reinforce the bullshit.

And of course our enemies will be using AI in elections to make any Russian interference in the 2016 election negligible in comparison.

Conservatism and Woke Capital

When I see stories about how Indiana’s conservatism makes it hard to recruit and retain tech workers, I detect a PR campaign at work.

Big Business has been a solvent dissolving families and communities for at least a century, and the press increasingly is a lazy accomplice.

Launch credentials

Aaron Renn has moved to Substack, and The Masculinist is no more. I’m not shedding many tears over that, but I endorse this from #48:

I have a three-year-old, and my ambition for him is that he will not have to go to college. I hope that by the time he turns 18, there will be alternative paths for him to launch himself into life without having to spend the time and money that were previously expended to obtain these “launch” credentials.

Let’s be honest, for 95% of people, college is purely about vocational credentialing. They go to college so they can get a good job coming out of it. For most high paying positions today, a college degree is still the price of entry. In some professions, the amount of formal education required to practice is still going up.

But in others it’s changing in the opposite direction. And that change is a good thing, though we need a lot more of it.

Nellie Bowles excerpts

Red-letter day

I almost never agree with Josh Hawley since he re-invented himself as a populist pugilist, but he hit a right note here:

Standing with me is Josh Hawley, who this month encouraged young men to “log off the porn and go ask a real woman on a date.”

Nellie Bowles, TGIF. All subsequent Nellie Bowles excerpts from the same January 6 post.

Enforcing a dubious orthodoxy

A new law in California paves the way for doctors to lose their license for “dissemination of misinformation or disinformation related to the SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus.” That sort of behavior is now considered “unprofessional conduct.” 

Longtime TGIF readers know my stance, but for all the newcomers: Misinformation and disinformation are real phenomena. But most of the time these days the words are political terms applied to any information a ruling clique doesn’t like. Often, it’s used by progressive journalists who want to see various voices censored on social media. 

In the case of Covid, many, many very real facts were considered mis-and-disinfo. Like: The vaccine does not prevent transmission of Covid. That was considered fake news, verboten. Had this law been in place you would have lost your medical license for saying it. In that case, people saw with their own bodies that, although vaccinated, they were very much coughing. But thanks to this new law that muffles doctors, who knows what we won’t know going forward.

Pretendians

Another fantastically insane fake Native American: I’m beginning to think that any high profile Native American influencer should be assumed to be a white girl with a spray tan. The latest Pretendian, who is quite literally a white girl with a spray tan: Kay LeClaire. A major leader in the Indigenous movement, LeClaire has claimed Métis, Oneida, Anishinaabe, Haudenosaunee, Cuban and Jewish heritage. She was a co-owner of giige, a “Queer and Native American-owned tattoo shop and artist collective in Madison, WI.” She was a community leader-in-Residence at UW-Madison’s School of Human Ecology and was part of the Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women Task Force. She has had copious speaking engagements, and she even led a name-change-mob, forcing the local music venue Winnebego to change its name for Indigenous sensitivity (it was named after its street). She sold crafts and clothes, all while pretending to be a Native American (that’s a federal crime, by the way). Obviously she also claims to be Two-Spirit, a sort of nonbinary identification long-practiced in Native cultures. 

She is in fact German, Swedish and French Canadian. An anonymous blogger identified the fraud.

On a related note, it’s a good time to read this article about how the official “Native American” population in the U.S. between the years 2010 and 2020 . . . doubled. Pretty soon every high school senior will be Native American. Little Harrison and Haisley will be touring the Princeton campus like, “why, yes, this is my ancestral feathered headdress, thanks for asking.”

Governors putting immigrants on buses to NYC

Wait . . . now Democrats are busing migrants to New York? Gov. Jared Polis, the governor of Colorado, is busing migrants to New York City. And New York mayor Eric Adams is not happy about it, saying: “This is just unfair for local governments to have to take on this national obligation.”

Recall not three months ago, when busing migrants to New York was considered outrageous, potentially human trafficking, worthy of huge splashy headlines and endless features about the suffering these trips were causing. When the buses come from Colorado, surely the response will be the same? Of course not.

I just checked, and there is not a single story on The New York Times homepage right now. Polis describes his busing program to NYC versus the essentially identical Republican busing program to NYC as “night and day.” Because, Polis says: “We are respecting the agency and the desires of migrants who are passing through Colorado. We want to help them reach their final destination, wherever that is.”

You really should subscribe to the Free Press on Substack.

Politics

From earlier in the week:

Wise words

In 1992 [David Letterman] was famously passed over to succeed Johnny Carson as host of “The Tonight Show” in favor of Jay Leno. Months passed, Mr. Leno’s ratings wobbled, NBC offered Mr. Letterman a second chance. And even though he was now fielding better offers from other networks and syndicators, he still had to have Carson—it was his dream from childhood to succeed that brilliant performer, have that show. He couldn’t give it up.

His advisers, in the crunch, told him a truth that is said to have released him from his idée fixe. There is no Johnny Carson show anymore, they said, it’s gone. It’s the Jay Leno show now, and you never wanted to inherit that.

Soon after, Mr. Letterman accepted the CBS show where he finally became what he wanted to be, No. 1 in late night.

Sometimes you have to realize a dream is a fixation, its object no longer achievable because it doesn’t exist.

Some of the [House Speaker election] spectacle connects in my mind to the fact that Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy had a longtime idea that he must be speaker, and would do anything for it, and left his colleagues thinking eh, he just wants to be speaker—he’s two-faced, believes in little, blows with the wind. So they enjoyed torturing him. And in the end he made the kind of concessions that make a speakership hardly worth having.

This introduced an unusually white-hot Peggy Noonan column, and her no-holds barred take-down of the Freedom Caucus (“stupid,” “highly emotional,” “nihilis[ts],” no “historical depth”) is spot-on.

Remembering January 6

At 6:01 p.m. on January 6, with the day’s carnage behind him, Trump issued his last tweet of that day.

“These are the things and events that happen when a sacred landslide election victory is so unceremoniously & viciously stripped away from great patriots who have been badly & unfairly treated for so long,” he wrote. “Go home with love & in peace.” Trump ended with this admonition: “Remember this day forever!”

We will, just not in the way Trump and his party want us to.

Peter Wehner

Hunter Biden

… The House inquiry into Hunter Biden damages him but not his father ….

One of Karl Rove’s predictions for 2023. I have no opinion on most of them, but this one’s spot on, and the obsession of the GOP Congress-in-Waiting (there is no Congress until a Speaker is elected, which hasn’t happened as I write) is contemptible.

Speaker Pelosi

I know Nancy Pelosi was (is?) almost as hated by Republicans as Hillary Clinton. In reaction, I was inclined to praise her effectiveness as Speaker of the House.

But I must admit that her effectiveness was purchased at the cost if further infantilizing our feckless Congress. Pelosi was effective at advancing Democratic goals not purely by management and persuasion. She tended to formulate massive omnibus bills in secret and then introduce them at the last minute before something dreadful like a government shutdown would arrive. Last year’s $1.7 trillion year-end bill was a classic example.

Her sobriquet probably should be “Take It or Leave It Nancy.”

And Kevin McCarthy’s complicity is why at least one House GOP member opposed him.


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

Jonathan Rauch, The Constitution of Knowledge

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

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

The Orthodox “phronema” [roughly, mind-set] cannot be programmitized or reduced to shibboleths.

Fr. Jonathan Tobias

You can read most of my more impromptu stuff here (cathartic venting) and here (the only social medium I frequent, because people there are quirky, pleasant and real). Both should work in your RSS aggregator, like Feedly or Reeder, should you want to make a habit of it.

Thursday, 1/5/23

Culture

Words to live by

The larger point is that a rich and satisfying life involves checking a lot of boxes, not checking the same box over and over again until the combination of the ink and the pressure punches through the paper of your checklist. Moreover, some of these boxes require subordinating yourself to something greater than yourself. Virtually all meaningful institutions demand some sacrifice of yourself and your immediate wants to the greater good of the institution. The family is the first and most obvious example of this. You can’t be a good father or husband, mother or wife, if you expect your family to always put your needs first.

Jonah Goldberg, Something Short of Tragic

Why not wait and see if the odds are with you?

The best estimate, from studies starting in the 1970s, is that around 80% of gender-dysphoric children who are allowed to express themselves as they wish, but who do not socially transition—change their clothes, pronouns and the like to present as members of the opposite sex—will, as they grow up, become reconciled to their biological sex. Yet puberty blockers seem to prevent that reconciliation. In European clinics that report numbers, it happens with just 2-4% of children given the drugs. American clinics rarely publish figures, but anecdotally the picture is similar.

The Economist, Gender Medicine — Little Is Known About the Effects of Puberty Blockers. So far as I know, this is still true almost two years later, but the U.S. was charting its own ideologically-mad pursuit of a standard of care that said “block puberty at a minimum, no questions asked,” unlike any of our peer nations.

Self-own extraordinnaire.

I had no idea who Andrew Tate was, that he had a stable of cars, that he trolls Greta Thunberg, and that he now holds the world record for a self-own. But then someone shared this: Andrew Tate’s Arrested for Human Trafficking After Trolling Greta Thunberg.

What Purdue did in the Daniels Decade

We stood for excellence at scale. We did not accept that there’s a tradeoff when bringing education to more people – the original assignment of land grant universities like ours, to open the doors, widen the aperture to higher education. Many people, with some cause, said, Well, the bigger you grow, the lower the quality of the students you’ll have. Many of them will not succeed. We’ve challenged that. And in fact, we have grown 30%. The quality of our students, their performance, the graduation rates, everything has gone up, not down. As my successor will be happy to tell you, we’ve grown to one of the biggest engineering colleges anywhere. And at No. 4 in the national rankings, we are bigger than the top three put together. So you don’t have to trade that off, and I think we’re demonstrating that.

We said that in a world where outcomes are more and more determined by technology and science and the advance of those disciplines that we had an unusual opportunity, and very much a duty, to deliver to the nation more graduates skilled in those areas and more research that contributed the advanced knowledge in those areas. Ten years ago, 41% of the students at this university were in a STEM discipline – a high percentage. Today, it’s 68%, of a student body that is 30% bigger. We are producing for this nation, the kind of talents on which our future success so heavily depends.

Now former Purdue University President Mitch Daniels, via Based in Lafayette, a Substack that’s indispensible for local news as the local Gannett newspaper struggles.

I have my reservations about big research universities, but Purdue, and land-grant University, is a pretty good neighbor.

An Englishman on American Football

I see American Football as the sport that’s the obvious creation of a society based around hyperconsumption. It’s only about a dozen minutes of actual stuttering play stuffed into this capitalist packaging of hype and image, coming with hundreds of adverts for products you weren’t interested in and drowning in a wealth of the packing chips of instant replays and shots of players and officials loitering. I just can’t see the appeal.

Alastair Roberts He said that almost seven years ago. It wasn’t a prophecy of injuries or fatalities, but the appeal of the American spectacle should, but probably won’t, diminish after the Damar Hamlin cardiac arrest on field, triggered by the kind of hits fans pay to see. I’m skeptical that technology can make safe a game based on large people crashing into each other at high speed.

American Football eclipsed by World Football/Soccer is one of my hopes for progress.

David French to wed the grey lady

All things considered, I’m content.

David French will become a regular columnist for the New York Times on January 30 and will cease being a regular columnist for The Dispatch, which he helped to found. But (whew!) he’ll continue doing the Advisory Opinions podcast with Sara Isgur. That’s what mattered most to me.

And I subscribe to NYT, so I’ll read his relocated columns, too.

Maybe The Dispatch should try to wrest Michael Brendan Dougherty or Daniel McCarthy away from National Review now.

The Alzheimer’s Streetlight Effect

There’s an old joke about a drunk who lost his keys. It even has given a name to a cognitive error: The Streetlight effect.

I’m reminded again that it’s not always funny, as when scientists pursue theories that have been pretty well disproven, such as amaloid plaques as the cause of Alzheimer’s, simply because that’s where the grant money is.

On the other hand, that does tend to prove that scientists and humans, not gods, and as prone to venality as any preacher who tells his people what they want to hear instead of what they need to hear.

British Mysteries

The Missus and I have been enjoying British mysteries on the BritBox streaming service, but we’ve reached the point where we agree that the writers riffing on G.K. Chesterton’s Father Brown, likely British secularists if not neo-pagans, have no idea what makes the protagonist Father Brown (beyond routinely telling the murderer to repent and confess to the police). The stock characters are no longer enough to sustain our interest.

They also have become less imaginative, more graphic (e.g., profuse blood flying in a knockout punch), and more sexual, the sort of pattern that turned us off other mysteries with attractive protagonists (like the Midsomer Murders).

Then, of course, there’s The Hidden Cost of Cheap TVs, too, but that’s been fairly obvious for a long time.

Stage Manager

My latest Mac OS update brought with it an annoying intruder named "Stage Manager," who keeps getting in the way of my own stage management.

I learned how to shut him off today, and now I find that I occasionally want him back on. In other words, he’s not all bad.

This is probably just me being a grumpy old man.

Politics (but smarter and less bitter than in the past)

GOP New Years Resolution: Live Not By Lies

I doubt that serial liar and fabulist George Santo deserves as much attention as he’s gotten, but at least it’s all been negative. He seems to be his only apologist.

Yet nobody with power to do anything is proposing to do it. Here’s an idea for them:

Kicking George Santos out of Congress is a job for the people of Long Island, one that they can do for themselves if they should happen to discover some particle of communal self-respect. But there are things that Republicans in Congress could and should do to set an example here: They could and should refuse to give him committee assignments; they could and should vote to censure him; they could and should expel him from the Republican Party. …

If the Republican Party would like to make a desperately needed New Year’s resolution, it should be this: that the GOP will cease being an organization dedicated to lies, based on lies, trafficking in lies, cultivating lies, and strategically reliant on lies. The Republicans should embark on a very modest course of self-improvement that begins with telling the truth. Of course, such a specimen as George Santos would have no place in such a party.

Neither would Donald Trump, Kevin McCarthy, Newt Gingrich, Sean Hannity, Ted Cruz, Marco Rubio, Marjorie Taylor Greene, Lauren Boebert, Mike Pence ….

Rachael Larimore

Is Trump now a moderate?

For the first time as a candidate, Trump might not be “the craziest son of a b-tch in the race.” That phrase comes from a memorable interview Rep. Thomas Massie gave in 2017 explaining why so many Ron Paul voters in the 2012 primaries ended up becoming Donald Trump supporters in 2016. An authoritarian candidate should struggle to attract libertarians, but Trump didn’t. Massie knew why.

“I went to Iowa twice and came back with [Ron Paul]. I was with him at every event for the last three days in Iowa,” Massie said. “From what I observed, not just in Iowa but also in Kentucky, up close with individuals, was that the people that voted for me in Kentucky, and the people who had voted for Rand Paul in Iowa several years before, were now voting for Trump. In fact, the people that voted for Rand in a primary in Kentucky were preferring Trump.”

“All this time,” Massie explained, “I thought they were voting for libertarian Republicans. But after some soul searching I realized when they voted for Rand and Ron and me in these primaries, they weren’t voting for libertarian ideas — they were voting for the craziest son of a b-tch in the race. And Donald Trump won best in class, as we had up until he came along.”

Nick Cattogio

What Everybody Knows

[E]ven if American institutions and rules make the U.S. system more unstable (under certain conditions) than those in other democracies, the events of January 6 depended on the introduction of an additional variable as a catalyst—and that is Donald Trump’s narcissism and malevolence. Trump simply couldn’t face his own loss—or rather, he couldn’t face admitting his own loss in public—and avoiding that humiliation was more important to him even than the fate of American self-government. If getting himself declared the winner required overturning the rule of law and liberal democracy in the United States, that was fine with him.

[A] number of prominent GOP candidates were extreme, badly informed, personally unappealing, and wildly inarticulate, and so performed poorly in the midterm’s general election contests. But how did these bum candidates end up competing in general elections in the first place? The answer, obviously, is that Republican voters chose them (often at Trump’s urging).

And that means it isn’t just Trump who’s responsible for January 6. It’s also all the voters who ended up doubting the trustworthiness of America’s electoral institutions across the board while simultaneously placing the entirety of their faith in the hands of a verified con artist out to protect his delicate ego from the painful truth of his failure to win an election.

It’s this consideration, among others, that keeps me from joining The Bulwark’s Jonathan Last in reversing position on the question of whether Trump should be prosecuted. Where Last has come around to the view that prosecution may well be the least-bad option, I continue to believe it would be less bad to allow Trump to continue fading in stature than to risk reviving his reputation among the mob of dittoheads who once revered him by turning him into an outlaw/folk-hero locked in a fight to the figurative death with the “Democrat Justice Department.”

Damon Linker, What Everybody Knows

Blaming the victim without regret

Even on issues where I am nominally on his side, I think he deserves all of the trouble he has invited upon himself …

I do not think Congress should make his tax returns public because I think punitively releasing tax returns is a bad practice, even when done against people I think have it coming.

Donald Trump lied over and over again about his tax returns. He said he’d release them, then didn’t, claiming he couldn’t because he was being audited. He probably lied about the audit; he certainly lied that being audited prevented him from releasing them. He broke all sorts of rules—admittedly informal rules, but rules nonetheless—and as we’ve seen over and over again, when one “side” breaks the rules, it gives the other “side” psychological permission to break other rules in response. Trump invited the predicament he’s in. He wants the rules to benefit him, never to bind him.

Jonah Goldberg, Something Short of Tragic

Congress and Trump’s Tax Returns

The actual point of the release is to embarrass Mr. Trump for refusing to release his returns. We criticized him for this, but it isn’t a legal requirement. Democrats needed a legislative purpose to pry private records from the IRS, and the best excuse they could manage was a desire to strengthen the agency’s presidential-audit policy. The weakness of that rationale was laid bare at the Dec. 20 meeting when Ways and Means approved the release.

Karen McAfee, Democrats’ top oversight staffer, couldn’t explain how releasing the returns would affect legislation. Pressed by GOP Rep. Kevin Brady, she sputtered that Democrats want a bill “to make sure that the audits start on time.” No word on how speeding up audits requires broadcasting Mr. Trump’s finances to the world.

The Trump Tax Return Precedent

Here’s another instance where someone did something unjust to Trump, but at the same time it’s true that he brought it on himself.

I doubt we’re heard the last of this. Trumpist Republicans will want payback, and they’ll not have trouble finding allies.

Just Desserts

McCarthy is getting exactly what he deserves. After January 6, he failed to lead. Instead, he swallowed what was left of his pride and traveled down to Mar-a-Lago to make amends with Donald Trump.

Yet he’s not being punished for that grotesque capitulation. Instead he’s facing yet another act of “burn it down” disruption from many of the same figures—including Matt Gaetz, Paul Gosar, and Lauren Boebert—who’ve built their entire brands around trolling, rage, and rebellion.

It’s possible that GOP obstruction will yield a better speaker. One can hope. But a hope is not a plan, and it seems that the “plan” is to simply block McCarthy and see what happens.

While I don’t want to intrude too much on Nick’s populism beat, one of the tragedies of our time is that populists can often diagnose real maladies (elites have failed in many respects, and America faces real problems), yet they often decide to “solve” the problem with something  worse ….

David French

To hell with that

Wren: To hell with what?

Meijer: With the idea of running at this moment [against other Trumpist candidates]. What is required from a purity test standpoint — folks know they need his endorsement, and then what they end up doing to get that endorsement ends up being disqualifying.

Wren: This dynamic played out with your Republican primary opponent, John Gibbs, the far-right conspiracy theorist who criticized women’s right to vote and propagated the idea that Hillary Clinton campaign chairman John Podesta participated in satanic rituals. Yet you went to a unity rally with him. That surprised me.

Meijer: I was surprised at the media reaction to that. In my mind, not going to something like that is a sore loser move. The least I can do is wish him congratulations and best of luck. It’s funny there were a lot of kind of anti-Trump and Never Trump folks who trashed me for that. I was like, “Oh, do you want me to act the same way [Trump] did? Do you want me to deny that I lost? Do you want me to be a sore loser? Come on.”

Former Congressman Pete Meijer

Senator Sinema’s Independent prattling

… we are united in our … independence.

Kyrsten Sinema, putative Independent, via Lee Drutman, Kyrsten Sinema and the Myth of Political Independence

I fear that her personal declaration of independence will be the electoral kiss of death, as it was with another interesting political figure, Justin Amash.

Closing thought

Life doesn’t come with a trigger warning.

Poet/Activist Pádraig Ó Tuama, Interview with Krista Tippett


You can read most of my more impromptu stuff here (cathartic venting) and here (the only social medium I frequent, because people there are quirky, pleasant and real). Both should work in your RSS aggregator, like Feedly or Reeder, should you want to make a habit of it.

Thursday, 12/29/22

The $1.7 Trillion Electoral Count Act Reform

Then there’s the fortifying fact that Congress passed greatly needed reforms of the Electoral Count Act as part of the omnibus bill that currently awaits Biden’s signature. Those changes clarify the procedures Congress and the Vice President must follow in the event that a future president and/or state legislatures attempt to overturn the will of the voters in the way that President Trump encouraged them to do as part of his self-coup attempt in the days and weeks leading up to January 6, 2021.

Damon Linker.

We knew for 2 years that reforming that poorly-written law was extremely important. Was paying a $1.7 trillion boondoggle-enriched ransom the only way to get it done?

Seeing what we expect to see

Since what we select to attend to is guided by our expectations of what it is we are going to see, there is a circularity involved which means we experience more and more only what we already know.

Iain McGilchrist, The Master and His Emissary

Hope breaks through

The Atlantic’s Franklin Foer stops doom-scrolling Twitter and locking his eyes on cable news, and now sees some hopeful signs:

Back in March, Francis Fukuyama, a prophet of optimism, suggested that Ukraine’s example of resistance might help spiritually rally liberal democracies to defend themselves against internal threats. He called it a revival of the “spirit of 1989.”

That prediction, which I doubted when he issued it, has come to pass. Even if I can’t prove that the causation tracks with Fukuyama’s argument, the results are palpable. Since the start of the Ukraine war, Western democracies have voted to cast aside populist goons. Emmanuel Macron held off Marine Le Pen. In October, Brazilians disposed of Jair Bolsonaro. In the midterm elections, the United States roundly repudiated election-denying Republicans, evidence of Donald Trump’s waning influence.

Franklin Foer, The Cynic’s Dilemma

Is their increasing marginalization by saner spirits why paladins of the new Right raged so absurdly against Zelensky’s visit?

Another sign of hope: Is 2022 the Year We All Finally Got Over Narcissists?.

Popehat pontificates on fires in crowded theaters

Ken White, a/k/a Popehat, pontificates on the exceptions to first amendment free speech rights.

I’ve been interested in this sort of thing for maybe 55 years. In law school, I got the top grade, in a class of 100-or-so, on Introductory Constitutional Law.

Yet I still found Ken’s post illuminating and a wonderful distillation of why “the first amendment isn’t absolute” is analytically useless. I hope it’s one of his Substack posts that you can read in full even if you’re not a subscriber.

A reliable contrarian

I have affirmation from a pretty good source that Bari Weiss’s Substack publication, recently rebranded as The Free Press, is a reliable way to get news that mainstream press aren’t covering, such as the poor science behind government Covid policy (or science that even contradicts it), problems in the world of gender transitioning, and such.

Yeah, you can get contrarian stuff lots of other places, but is it journalism or is it lazy-ass opinionating? Bari has a business plan and some actual, serious journalists writing for her, and that’s consistent with her plan to be a real journal with real news.

Election2026 and Election2028

I can’t believe I’ve already created tags Election2026 and Election2028 for my Obsidian database!

Here’s what prompted it:

Republicans face a favorable Senate map in 2024, when Democrats will defend seats in Montana, Ohio and West Virginia. Neither party appears to have any comparably strong pickup opportunities in 2026 or 2028, so the odds favor a Republican majority in each of the three Congresses starting in 2025.

The source, James Taranto of the Wall Street Journal, was analyzing the partisan merits of a call in Vox for SCOTUS Justices Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan to retire now so Joe Biden can fill their seats: “Sotomayor and Kagan are only in their 60s, but the actuaries at Vox say it’s time for them to go” the subheadline summarizes.

I will be surprised if either of the Justices heeds the call, and I’ll be particularly disappointed if Kagan does, since she has an especially powerful combination of intelligence and personability that reportedly moderates the tendencies of her conservative colleagues.

(Sigh!) George Santos

Is there anything worse than worrying about future elections? Probably.

I tried to avoid even reading beneath the surface of the George Santos story, but it is such a parable that I finally relented:

At this point you might be thinking, “Are we sure he’s even gay?” A man willing to lie about anything and everything to spruce up his political appeal might reasonably conclude that identifying as gay is more of an asset than a liability in a state like New York, especially for a party that’s keen to be seen as more diverse. As chance would have it, it turns out that George Santos was married to a woman as recently as 2019

Trump proved that the modern right is willing to vest power in someone who’s comprehensively obnoxious. The defense of Santos is apt to prove that the right is willing to vest power in a total cipher. Who he really is, what’s true and what’s false, may be unclear even to him at this point. He’s barely discernible as a persona, just a series of lies stitched together. And so he’s a test case in how little character matters so long as one mouths the right talking points about being a fighter rather than a sucker. Can sheer pugnacity excuse anything? Will hardcore partisan right-wingers shill for a grotesque Tom-Ripley-style scam artist just to spite the left, because his seat is important and because he confounds Democrats’ expectations of identity politics?

I’m thinking yes.

I hope the House expels him anyway …

But they won’t do it. And if they don’t, I won’t complain. So much of this party’s elected leadership since 2015 has stooped to pretending to be things they’re not in order to gain power that it seems unjust to hold George Santos singularly culpable. By what right do reptiles like McCarthy and Elise Stefanik, who traded traditional Republicanism for Trumpism because that’s what it took to get ahead, sit in judgment of Santos for constructing his own identity to move up in the world? They’re all grifters. They deserve each other.

Nick Cattogio

Bah! Humbug!

The wishful public has been fed a diet of misinformation from a wishful news media that won’t tolerate anything but positive thinking about maintaining our current arrangements because imagining a different outcome is too depressing. This is not a malicious conspiracy by evil authorities so much as a neurotic defense mechanism in the face of the disturbing reality that the comforts and conveniences of recent decades may be drawing to a close.

James Howard Kunstler, Living in the Long Emergency


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

Jonathan Rauch, The Constitution of Knowledge

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

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

The Orthodox "phronema" [roughly, mind-set] cannot be programmitized or reduced to shibboleths.

Fr. Jonathan Tobias

You can read most of my more impromptu stuff here (cathartic venting) and here (the only social medium I frequent, because people there are quirky, pleasant and real). Both should work in your RSS aggregator, like Feedly or Reeder, should you want to make a habit of it.

Christmas Eve

I have nothing Christmas-Evish to say, but I wanted to get these out.

Culture

Welcome to Dystopia

Welcome to Dystopia. Enjoy your ejection.

Crypto: Money without a purpose

Hip, hip, hooray! Finally, someone with credentials call out crypto for what it is:

When you have a hammer, everything looks like a nail. That’s why everyone in Washington seems to think that federal financial-services regulators are the natural overseers of crypto trading. This is wrong. Crypto trading should be regulated for what it is—a form of gambling that emulates finance—and not what its advocates tell you it is.

Todd H. Baker, Crypto Is Money Without a Purpose

My view is even more cynical than his. He thinks it’s risky like gambling. I think it’s oftener a Ponzi-like scheme that will inevitably collapse after the promoter has spent it most of it in riotous living. That’s worse than “a gamble.” Its opacity merely buys the crooks extra time.

Return of the face-palm

I heard a young reporter on local TV Tuesday Night reporting on the Respect for Marriage Act because a local couple was invited to the White House for the signing ceremony. It wasn’t going too badly until:

This ensures that the Supreme Court cannot overturn the same-sex marriage laws placed by the Obama Administration in 2015.

That is soooo wrong on multiple levels!

  1. The Supreme Court, not the Obama Administration, mandated recognition of same-sex marriage under constitutional pretexts.
  2. What the Supreme Court giveth, the Supreme Court can taketh away (though I’d wager a health amount at fairly long odds that it will not do so in my lifetime or, probably, the lifetime of the next generation).
  3. The Respect for Marriage Act assures, more or less, that if SCOTUS decides that the Constitution doesn’t require allowance of of SSM, such “marriages” already contracted will be recognized throughout the country. In exchange for that concession from SSM opponents, it assures against the most egregious infringements of their religious freedom.
  4. Had the Obama Administration done it, in no case would its action be referred to as “placing” SSM laws.

With that kind of misinformation in responsible legacy media, it’s no wonder that people are tempted to seek their news elsewhere and that the Supreme Court is viewed as a profoundly political branch, just like the legislative and the executive branches, of the national government.

Follow the incentives

[W]ithin the community of people who claim to speak on Black America’s behalf – professors, writers, think tankers, diversity consultants, etc – most of the incentives point towards more extreme stances. You will be tempted to think that I am speaking only about Black public intellectuals, but of course America’s most-read racism expert is a very wealthy white woman with a lucrative business taking white people’s money to tell white people they’re racist so that white companies can limit their liability if they should ever be sued by a non-white employee.

Freddie deBoer, The Synecdoche Problem

Racial Ridicule and Hate Speech generally

If you want to know why hate-speech laws are perverse, read FIRE’s and My Amicus Brief on Connecticut’s “Racial Ridicule” Law

The Four Dimensions of Military Power

When I read this again, it occurred to me that Russia is struggling (failing, one hopes) in Ukraine because of failing on the third dimension. Not for lack of perverse effort:

(The Economist)

Cradle of Ponzi Schemes?

Purdue University likes to call its football program “the cradle of quarterbacks,” the University overall “cradle of astronauts.”

Leaders of such educational institutions readily take credit for Rhodes and Fulbright scholars. What of those graduates who helped foster an environment of avarice and schemes of the get-rich-quick? Are we so assured that they did not learn exceedingly well the lessons that they learned in college?

Patrick Deneen, Why Liberalism Failed

Politics

Diversionary tactics

The January 6th Select Committee released its 845-page final report last night, days before Republicans are set to take back the House and almost assuredly dissolve the panel. The report includes 11 recommendations to prevent a similar event from happening again, including reforms to the Electoral Count Act, additional oversight for Capitol Police, and harsher punishments for attempting to impede the transfer of power. House Republicans released a 141-page counter-report of their own earlier this week, focused primarily on security failures at the U.S. Capitol on January 6 rather than the reasons the U.S. Capitol required additional security in the first place.

TMD (emphasis added)

An unfamiliar pathogen

Some populists were up in arms that Ukraine’s President Zelensky didn’t wear a suit to the White House:

[T]he interest in Zelensky’s garb is curious, particularly since it’s plain as day that he would have been attacked by this same crowd of chuds if he had dressed finely for the occasion. Populists would have demanded to know how much of their hard-earned taxpayer money had gone toward buying natty new duds for “this grifting leech,” in Matt Walsh’s words, or for Zelensky’s better half. “We want nothing to do with you,” Candace Owens tweeted at Zelensky. “Stop stealing from our people while your wife drops tens of thousands of dollars shopping in Paris.” The claim that Mrs. Zelensky is living high on the hog in Paris is an inch thin, it turns out, but no matter.

It’s what Zelensky represents that irks them—competence, sacrifice, bravery, honor. … He could have whimpered. He could have fled. He fought.

And people whose political immune systems have been exposed to nothing but Trumpism since 2015 simply cannot handle it. Their reaction to an honorable figure at this point is almost immunological, inducing a sort of fever as they struggle to fight off an unfamiliar pathogen. That’s how they end up having a group conniption about someone not wearing a three-piece in the White House.

Nick Cattogio, Fashion Statement

Vacillating Rhythm

American policy has oscillated between a hubristic interventionism and a callous non-interventionism. “We overdo our foreign crusades, and then we overdo our retrenchments, never pausing in between, where an ordinary country would try to reach a fine balance,” George Packer wrote in The Atlantic recently. The result has been a crisis of national self-doubt: Can the world trust America to do what’s right? Can we believe in ourselves?

David Brooks.

One of the things that bothers me most about our political polarization is that the world cannot count on a new President keeping the commitments of a former President.

Spare Us

It is certain that Donald Trump will never again be president. The American people won’t have it …

He’s on the kind of losing strain that shows we’re at the ending of the story. Next summer it will be eight years since he went down the escalator. Time moves—what was crisp and new becomes frayed and soft. His polls continue their downward drift. He is under intense legal pressures. This week the Jan. 6 committee put more daggers in: Only the willfully blind see him as guiltless in the Capitol riot. He will be 78 in 2024 and is surrounded by naïfs, suck-ups, grifters and operators. That was always true but now they are fourth-rate, not second- or third-rate.

He has lost his touch. Remember when you couldn’t not watch him in 2015 and 2016? Now you hear his voice and give it a second before lowering the volume …

The party he’s left on the ground seems to be trying to regain its equipoise. November’s results will speed the process. The GOP in Congress is a mixed bag. There are more than a handful in the House who try to out-Trump Mr. Trump, and they will no doubt continue to batter the party’s reputation. In the Senate only two members really try to out-Trump Mr. Trump, Josh Hawley and Ted Cruz.

Peggy Noonan, Spare Us a Trump-Biden Rematch (emphasis added just because I think we all need to remember those things).

Natural Selection at work

The fates of Republicans and Democrats began to diverge markedly after the introduction of vaccines in April of 2021. Between March 2020 and March 2021, excess death rates for Republicans were 1.6 percentage points higher than for Democrats. After April 2021, the gap widened to 10.6 percentage points.

David French

It hadn’t occurred to me that stupidity about Covid vaccines could have measurable effects on mortality. And bear in mind that vaccine resistance is not universal among Republicans, so a relative handful of dummies is really paying a price for their mantra of “do your own research.”

A bright spot in Tampa Bay

After losing his wife to illness and later rediscovering joy, Frantz Laroche—an Uber driver in St. Petersburg, Florida—is on a mission to bring off-the-charts levels of holiday cheer to each ride, Gabrielle Calise reports for the Tampa Bay Times. “He wears a festive headband and a glowing string of Christmas lights around his neck,” Calise writes. “His sleigh is a black Honda Odyssey complete with glossy leather seats. Each person who enters it during the holiday season will be quizzed on classic Christmas music as they zip through the streets of St. Pete.” Laroche plans to keep driving for the rest of his life. “Because of politics, because people hurt each other for no reason, somebody’s got to drive his butt all over Florida to spread the positivity to others,” Laroche told Calise. “You are among 30,000 passengers I’ve entertained just to put a smile on their face. And I intend to entertain 30,000 more.”

TMD


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

Jonathan Rauch, The Constitution of Knowledge

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

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

The Orthodox “phronema” [roughly, mind-set] cannot be programmitized or reduced to shibboleths.

Fr. Jonathan Tobias

You can read most of my more impromptu stuff here (cathartic venting) and here (the only social medium I frequent, because people there are quirky, pleasant and real). Both should work in your RSS aggregator, like Feedly or Reeder, should you want to make a habit of it.

Tuesday, 10/11/22

Come out from among them and be ye separate

Between two worlds

The people here were heart-broken over the shelling going on in the Donbass. I saw a video posted by an American in Ukraine showing a march of parents in Donetsk carrying photos of their children who had been killed as a result of the shelling. I had tears in my eyes watching. We all knew it was the U.S. that blocked efforts to implement the Minsk Accords set forth by France and Germany which called for the cessation of the shelling. The people in the Donbass are essentially Russians living in Ukraine. I’ve stated several times that Ukraine refused them independence after the coup removing the democratically elected president of Ukraine. The residents were not allowed to speak Russian, their native language, or, in some cases, even to worship in the Russian Orthodox church. Yet it is still a practical requirement that journalists refer to Russian troops going into Ukraine as an “unprovoked invasion.”

Hal Freeman, an Orthodox American expatriate living in Russia. He is probably too credulous about Russian news of the war, as are most Americans about the American-flavored version, but I consider his blog that of an honest Christian living between two worlds. He’s especially valuable for things like reminding Americans that the U.S., through proxies, subverted and overthrew a democratically-elected Ukrainian government we considered too pro-Russia — things our press will rarely remember.

His final paragraph, as he updates his personal status (his younger Russian wife died leaving him an aging widower with young children) is worth chewing on:

I have had some family members in America encourage me to come back there. But I still think it would be too disruptive to the children. And, furthermore, the U.S. does not look like an attractive place to live anymore. It continues on a trajectory that I do not want to move my children back to. I wish it were not so. I would love to see my family there and have not given up the dream that my toes will be in the South Carolina sand when we hopefully can visit next summer.

(emphasis added)

Why Conservatism failed

The modern conservative project failed because it didn’t take into account the revolutionary principle of technology, and its intrinsic connection to the telos of sheer profit. Decrying left-wing revolutionary politics and postmodern anarchy, conservatives missed that the real moral relativism was to believe that one could change the material form of society without directly affecting its substance or its ends.

In between great-books seminars, conservatives have decried any interference in what technologies the all-knowing market chooses to build, while taking no stance on what technologies we ought to build and accepting with equanimity massive research investment from the private economy and military-industrial complex, at most wringing their hands about the speed and direction of social change (while accepting its inevitability). Not for nothing did the Canadian philosopher George Grant, in an essay on “the impossibility of conservatism as a theoretical stance in the technological society,” describe them as “those who accept the orientation to the future in the modern but who want to stop the movement of modernity at points which touch their special interests.”

Geoff Shullenberger, Why Conservatism Failed.

Shullenberger adds more weight to the argument that to live conservatively is deeply counter-cultural and might even require substantial withdrawal from society — maybe as Hal Freeman has. But even Hal has American Social Security.

We’re all complicit even when we’re not guilty.

Anaxios!

Of the Georgia Senate race:

We don’t know if Reverend Warnock himself has ever personally facilitated an abortion, but we do know he will do everything in his power to keep facilitating them for countless women he will never know. And this is supposed to give him the moral high ground? An old Norm Macdonald line comes to mind, from the scene in Comedians With Cars Getting Coffee where he’s discussing Bill Cosby with Jerry Seinfeld. “The worst part is the hypocrisy,” Seinfeld says earnestly. “Huh,” Norm goes, poker-faced. “I kinda thought it was the rape.”

So, in the end, neither candidate can hide behind a veneer of moral respectability here. This is a choice between two evils. And yet, many voters who share my convictions remain convinced that they must choose …

… My concern is those earnest voters who have still constructed such a consequentialist frame around their vote that there truly seems to be nothing that would cause them to withhold it from a Republican, provided the Democrat was always worse.

I hate to bring him up, but Trump obviously hovers behind all this. Cards on the table, I didn’t vote for him in 2016 or 2020. Many people didn’t vote for him in 2016 but decided to do so in 2020. Now, in the wake of Dobbs, they feel vindicated …

I have seen this presented as a “conundrum” for the conservative voter, something that has to be reckoned and wrestled with. This might have an effect on some people, but I’ve always been singularly immune to this sort of challenge once my mind is firmly made up. I cheered the fall of Roe as loudly as any Trump voter. Yet, in my own mind, I remain quite happy not to have cast a vote for Trump in either year. Because a vote, to me, is more than a utilitarian ticking of a box. It’s more than getting the right warm body in the right seat so that he can vote the right way. To me, a vote is a statement: This candidate is worthy.

When the game is this cynical, we are under no obligation to keep playing. What happens next, whatever happens, is not on us. It is on the people who forgot what it means to be worthy.

Bethel McGrew, Notes from a Christian Humanist (emphasis added)

The mystic among us

Community life loves to flog mystic.

Martin Shaw, commenting on the Inuit story The Moon Palace.

This is my favorite Martin Shaw podcast yet.

Working with What We’ve Got

In stark contrast to the impulse to withdraw for Christian or conservative integrity is the impulse to seize control. There are Christian people who aren’t stupid or notably power-hungry who advocate that option.

Return of the Strong Gods

The way we do education in America results in the “overproduction of elites,” [Patrick] Deneen declared. “There need to be fewer people like me, with jobs like mine.” When I laughed at this, he smiled and said: “I mean, gosh! Just try getting someone to do brick work on your house.”

“So instead of stripping society down to atomized individuals in a ‘state of nature’ and then building up Lockean rights,” I asked Deneen clumsily, “you’re starting with the family, and then society grows out of that?”

“That’s exactly right,” Deneen told me. “It’s conceptually and anthropologically different from liberal assumptions. If you begin by building from that point and you think about the ways that those institutions are under threat from a variety of sources in modern society… to the extent that you can strengthen those institutions, you do the things that someone like David French wants, which is to track a lot of the attention away from the role of central government. One of the reasons liberalism has failed in the thing it claims to do—which is limiting central government—is precisely because it is so fundamentally individualistic that radically individuated selves end up needing and turning to central governments for support and assistance.”

[C]itizens, [R.R.] Reno argues, will not tolerate a society of “pure negation” for long. The strong gods always return. Public life requires a shared mythos and a higher vision of the common good—what Richard Weaver called a “metaphysical dream.” Human beings long to coalesce around shared loves and loyalties.

Jordan Alexander Hill, Return of the Strong Gods: Understanding the New Right. I apparently read this before it was paywalled.

We must pass a law — many laws!

J Budziszewski replies to an anguished postliberal, who’s ready to take some real action against the perceived existential threat of secularism and bad religion. This strikes me, with my long interest in religious freedom law, as a key part of the reply:

It is one thing to say that moralistic monotheism should enjoy some special recognition or privilege over and above the protections that all systems of belief receive through the Free Speech and Assembly Clauses.  It is quite another to say that systems of belief outside of it should be denied freedom of speech and assembly, or that we should round up their adherents and put them in jail.

I would add that I always thought “we must pass a law!” was an anti-conservative impulse.

Five proposed Constitutional Amendments

National Constitution Center Project Offers Constitutional Amendment Proposals with Broad Cross-Ideological Support

Miscellany

NYC

Anarchy is in the water here, like fluoride, and toilet alligators.

Jason Gay, ‘Anarchy’ Is Not a New York City Crisis. It’s a Lifestyle.

Pandemic apocalypse

The pandemic has illustrated all too vividly the meaning of terms like systemic racism and structural inequality in a way anyone can grasp: “Oh, you mean black people are at greater risk from Covid-19 because they’re more likely to be working in supermarkets or other essential jobs, and to use public transportation, and to live in housing that doesn’t allow for social distancing? And their mortality rate is higher because they’re more likely to have pre-existing health conditions?”

Black Lives Matter and the Church: An Interview with Eugene F. Rivers III and Jacqueline Rivers

Wordplay

It isn’t only Hart’s view of the world that has been consistent. It’s also his style. Clause follows clause like the folds in a voluminous garment, every noun set off by beguiling and unusual modifiers (plus some of his old favorites, like “beguiling”). In one way, at least, he is the least American of writers, in that adjectives and adverbs do not give him that twinge of guilt that so many of us have picked up from Hemingway and Twain, the suspicion that we are using them to distract the reader from our failure to describe some particular action or detail—some verb or noun—precisely enough.

Written of David Bentley Hart by Phil Christman, via Front Porch Republic.

I feel that twinge of guilt, but so far as I know, I picked it up by precept from Strunk & White, not by example from Twain and Hemingway.


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

Jonathan Rauch, The Constitution of Knowledge

The Orthodox "phronema" [roughly, mind-set] cannot be programmitized or reduced to shibboleths.

Fr. Jonathan Tobias

You can read most of my more impromptu stuff here (cathartic venting) and here (the only social medium I frequent, because people there are quirky, pleasant and real). Both should work in your RSS aggregator, like Feedly or Reeder, should you want to make a habit of it.

Saturday, 10/1/22

Cursing Darkness

Drink ‘till he’s cute

Purdue University recently was found liable for retaliation against a co-ed for her 2017 complaint that a fraternity member had sex with her without her consent because she was too intoxicated to give real consent. The two female administrators involved remain in their offices with Purdue’s backing (Purdue thinks the jury blew it), and, of course, protests ensued.

Here’s what Purdue had to say about it:

We appreciate our students and their passion on this truly important issue. But we believe, because of the evidence presented, that this is not the correct case to use in advocating for it. This was a very rare case of discipline for making false statements in a sexual assault report. The undisputed facts overwhelmingly established that Roe chose the sexual encounter she later labeled a sexual assault. …

The jury, which in part exonerated university administrators, ruled on the narrow issue of whether Purdue, having conducted a thorough investigation, appropriately disciplined Roe based on its finding of false charges.

Purdue’s position in these matters has long been clear: we will not tolerate sexual harassment in any form, including and especially sexual violence. But neither will we tolerate lying or making false accusations that can have lifelong consequences.

As for our two outstanding administrators, Dr. Katie Sermersheim and Alysa Rollock, we absolutely stand behind them, and any suggestion that they resign is out of the question.

Based in Lafayette.

Here’s a representative protester:

“When you listen to campus tour guides walk by, what do you hear parents ask: ‘Is this campus safe? Can my daughter walk home at night?’” Grace Gochnauer, a Purdue junior, said. “If I was the tour guide, my answer would be no.”

Purdue isn’t Mayberry RFD, but it has no particular problem with stranger rape of co-eds walking home at night. You know what you don’t hear parents ask? “Can my daughter get willingly get blackout drunk at a party, have sex with her apparently enthusiastic consent, and then get a pound of flesh when she regrets it later?”

I once stayed in a girl’s dormitory when on campus for a summer recording session. When I turned out the lights at bedtime, I saw a glowing message on the wall, painted cunningly so it only showed up in the dark: “Drink ‘till he’s cute.” Read between those lines. A frat boy’s equivalent could be “Drink ‘till you’re irresistible.”

I wish Purdue hadn’t found it necessary to ignore the elephant in the room. Call me santimonious, but if campuses could stop binge-drinking, they’d stop maybe 95% of problematic sexual intercourse. Justice Brett Kavanaugh’s unrepentant history of binge-drinking, even when under legal age, was a big reason that I thought the first allegation against him might be true — and why I remain agnostic about it still.

David French never said that!

Jake Meador, one of the good guys, writes about Alternatives to Culture War, but credulously alludes to a slander leveled against David French by tribalist culture warriors.

The slander, widely spread (and here and here ad infinitum), is that French thinks Drag Queen Story Hours are a “blessing of liberty.” Here’s Meador:

It was easier to be anti-culture war when our country still knew what marriage was and what men and women are. But as the SOGI landscape has shifted, culture war has started to look like a viable strategy, especially if the alternative is talking about drag queen story hour as a “blessing of liberty.”

The slander is so prevalent that searching “David French drag queen blessing of liberty” returned, for me at least, six or eight of the lies before it gave one link to the truth. What David French called a blessing of liberty was the absence of viewpoint discrimination in public spaces:

My position was simple — I don’t like drag queen reading hours, but I also want to preserve for all Americans the First Amendment-protected right of viewpoint-neutral access to public facilities when those facilities are opened up for public use. I don’t want the government dispensing access on the basis of its preferred messages or its preferred speakers. Handle bad speech with better speech. Counter bad speakers in the marketplace of ideas, not through the heavy hand of government censorship.

… Our present regime that broadly protects viewpoint neutrality in access to public facilities is the hard-won result of decades of litigation from free speech and religious liberty advocates, and it represents both a public good in its own right and a practical blessing for millions of American Christians. As our government continues to grow — including by creating an immense number of public facilities — it is quite simply just that taxpayers are able to have equal access to the facilities they paid to create.

Viewpoint Neutrality Protects Both Drag Queens and Millions of American Christians | National Review.

Anyone who won’t pause their Jihad long enough to notice the difference between “Drag Queen Story Hour is a blessing of liberty” and “viewpoint-neutral access to public facilities” is a blessing of liberty should stay home and shut up.

And if that’s culture war, so be it.

I’ve certainly flirted with the idea that liberalism has failed, and it’s therefore (almost by definition) time for some kind of post-liberalism. But I’ve yet to find any strange post-liberal devil I prefer to the liberal devils I already know. For that reason, I’m particularly keen to defend right-liberal David French from tendentious slanders by any and all far-right liars.

Conservatisms

If these populist, corporatist, nationalist, ultramontane, oh-so-European ideas succeed in replacing conservatism as we once knew it, they will be called conservatism. But as Friedrich Hayek argued, this conservatism will be “Old World conservatism,” because the conservative in America is necessarily a defender of the liberal tradition of the founding.

[T]he Heritage Foundation is, by any sane reckoning, an elite institution and it admits as much to donors. Second, this us-vs.-them framing implies that the “everyday people” of Italy have more in common with the “everyday people” of America, which is 31 flavors of nonsense for all sorts of reasons, not least that Italians aren’t Americans. Conservatives used to understand that the old Marxist idea that members of the working class were united against the ruling class regardless of nationality—“Workers of the world unite!”—was folly. But now, “Everyday people of the world unite!” is the rallying cry of a leading conservative think tank?

Now, I can’t put “conservative” in scare quotes the way I’d like to, because I think Heritage can still claim to be conservative. But let’s have no illusions: It’s not the same kind of conservative it used to be. Heritage used to champion American exceptionalism with gusto. As Heritage co-founder and longtime president Ed Feulner put it, “And while, in the heat of political battle, we naturally focus on the differences between liberals and conservatives, and their contrasting visions of our country’s future, it is important to remember that regardless of party or political philosophy, we are Americans, we love our country — and we are patriots.” In 2019, Heritage even founded the Feulner Institute for American Exceptionalism, which seems to have had as much impact as the Goldberg Institute for Healthy Living—neither organization even has a website.

Jonah Goldberg, Slouching Towards the Old World

Gotta stay in the limelight, no matter what

[P]erhaps the most revealing aspect of the book, to be published next week, is that Trump gave Maggie [Haberman], a Times reporter since 2015, three interviews for it. This is the same Trump who vilified her on Twitter, called her names and cast her as the personification of “fake news.” Maggie just pressed on, asking the right questions, getting the right people to answer them and seemingly trusting on some level that Trump would never wholly cut her off. She can recognize a performance when she sees one. And she can hear in a narcissist’s self-regarding soliloquies the aching need to babble on.

… Maggie (a friend of mine) and the other journalists whom he publicly insulted but privately indulged were, to him, reserves of precious attention, their discerning gazes trained on him, their busy thoughts dedicated to the puzzle of him, their notepads and audio recordings and television cameras a conduit to ever greater fame. There was danger in letting them in, peril in having them around, but the alternative was worse. They might give prime real estate on the evening’s newscast to some other circus act. They might write books about a lesser clown.

Frank Bruni, Donald can’t quit Maggie.

Lighting Candles

Journalistic bias, journalistic power

[T]he classic critique from the Right about [news] bias and the new critique from the Left about false equivalency often strike me as frivolous. They can often make sense on some particular item — Ouch, gotta admit, that’s a pretty good point — but cumulatively seem to miss the important point.

That point, in my view, is that the power of journalism does not principally flow from word choice. (Don’t call it a “misstatement” when it’s really a “lie.”) It does not flow from tonal presentation. (More than a half-century ago Richard Nixon’s vice president, Spiro Agnew, said network commentators revealed their bias “by the expressions on their faces, the tone of their questions, the sarcasm of their responses.”) The point is that the power of journalism comes from the primacy of reporting — from telling their audiences things that people in power would prefer they not know.

John F. Harris, The Reporters Who Proved That Journalism Is More Powerful Than Trump

Emotional Safetyism

By the mid-1990s, the doctrine was being used to sue an employer who printed a Bible verse on paychecks (which a court found to be religious harassment of non-Christians). A university forced a graduate student to remove a photo of his bikini-clad wife from his desk, because someone filed a harassment complaint. A library worker was forced to remove a New Yorker cartoon from his work area after coworkers said it harassed them. The town of Murfreesboro, Tennessee, removed a painting from a public exhibit in City Hall after a city employee filed a hostile-environment complaint about it. Those incidents and others like them should have been seen as flashing red lights, but weren’t.

Jonathan Rauch, The Constitution of Knowledge, on “emotional safetyism.”

Gestalt switch

[A]s we have already seen, normal science ultimately leads only to the recognition of anomalies and to crises. And these are terminated, not by deliberation and interpretation, but by a relatively sudden and unstructured event like the gestalt switch.

Thomas S. Kuhn, The Structure of Scientific Revolutons

Counting one’s privilege

I highly recommend this Outliers, Revisited episode of Malcolm Gladwell’s Revisionist History podcast. I won’t ruin it for you except that it involves a 40-30-20-10 “rule” that holds true in way too many fields.

Election Prep

Now might be a good time to refresh your memory on whether your congressperson, on January 6, 2021, voted for the United States of America or voted for the “Oathkeepers” and other insurrectionists. My congressman, normally a cipher, voted with the insurrectionists.

Gathering flowers

Bloggers and writers

I’m a blogger. Bloggers have different talents than writers.

We value writers for their prose and their insight. We value bloggers for their speed, their efficiency at curating news, and their ability to formulate strong political opinions—“takes,” we might more aptly call them—about literally anything that might turn up on the Drudge Report or in the average news junkie’s Twitter timeline.

Nick Catoggio at the Dispatch.

Quoted with approval.

The production of “childhood”

If there were no age-specific and obligatory learning institution, “childhood” would go out of production. The youth of rich nations would be liberated from its destructiveness, and poor nations would cease attempting to rival the childishness of the rich.

Ivan Illich, Deschooling Society


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

Jonathan Rauch, The Constitution of Knowledge

The Orthodox “phronema” [roughly, mind-set] cannot be programmitized or reduced to shibboleths.

Fr. Jonathan Tobias

You can read most of my more impromptu stuff here (cathartic venting) and here (the only social medium I frequent, because people there are quirky, pleasant and real). Both should work in your RSS aggregator, like Feedly or Reeder, should you want to make a habit of it.

Thursday, 9/29/22

Today marks the 24th anniversary of my father’s death and 40 days since the death of Metropolitan Kallistos Ware, a titan in Anglophone Eastern Orthodoxy.

I’m surprised at how much I’ve aggregated. It definitely was time to get it out of draft and onto the internet.

Rightward swings in the Western World

When Liberals Won’t Enforce Borders

Rapid mass migration, we now know, is arsenic to egalitarian social democracy.

But why turn to the former neo-Nazis? You won’t find an answer to that in woke-captured media either. The answer is similar to the reason Americans turned to Trump: for a very long time, no one in the mainstream parties or media would acknowledge the reality of the migrant crisis or do anything about it, except call those asking questions racists and fascists.

… In the immortal words of David Frum: if liberals won’t enforce borders, fascists will.

Andrew Sullivan on the roots of Sweden’s political swing to the hard right.

Italy’s rightward swing

We’re left with a picture of a country in which the center-left is supported mainly by the educated, secular, and professional classes, while the right appeals to a cross-section of the rest of the country—the working class as well as the middle and upper-middle classes, along with the religiously pious and the large numbers of Italians who treat religion as a symbol or identity-marker without actually believing in or practicing it.

If that sounds familiar, that’s because similar things have been happening in many places over the past decade. The precise political results of these shifts have varied from country to country as they’ve interacted with different electoral systems, but the underlying trends in public opinion can be seen to a greater or lesser extent in France, Great Britain, the U.S., and other countries. In each case, the center-left has gone into decline with the center-right and anti-liberal populist right rising to take its place.

Until the center-left figures out a way to win back the working- and middle-class, as well as the nominally religious, it will continue to lose precious political ground to the populist and nationalist right.

Damon Linker

I’m quite impressed with Linker’s still-newish Substack. He’s been writing almost daily, but I don’t recall any total duds yet, and that’s a bit of a rarity even with writers whose schedules are more relaxed.

Angry Incoherence from the 5th Circuit

“I think passing this law was so much fun for these [Texas] legislators, and I think they might have expected it would get struck down, so the theater was the point.” But she also believes that there is likely some lack of understanding among those responsible for the law about just how extreme the First Amendment is in practice. “Most people don’t realize how much horrible speech is legal,” she said, arguing that historically, the constitutional right has confounded logic on both the political left and right. “These legislators think that they’re opening the door to some stuff that might offend liberals. But I don’t know if they realize they are also opening the door to barely legal child porn or pro-anorexia content and beheading videos. I don’t think they’ve understood how bad the bad is.

Daphne Keller, director of the Program on Platform Regulation at Stanford’s Cyber Policy Center, via Charlie Warzel on NetChoice v. Paxton, a bizarre 5th Circuit opinion upholding a Texas law that, motivated by a perception of liberal bias in moderation, essentially forbade big internet platforms to moderate content — and forbade them from ceasing to do business in Texas to boot! Is This the Beginning of the End of the Internet?.

Domestic Politics

Proxy or Leader?

The flow-with-the-go model of politics is baked into representative democracy. Or, rather, representative democracy invariably is shaped by the tension between the conception of representative-as-proxy—“I’m just here to represent the Will of the People!”—and representative-as-leader, a  role in which a representative will, from time to time, be obliged to ignore or overrule popular sentiment in service to prudence and justice. This is Edmund Burke 101: “Your representative owes you not his industry only but his judgement; and he betrays you instead of serving you if he sacrifices it to your opinion.”

Kevin D. Williamson, Grift 2.0

Burke’s has been my view of representative democracy for longer than I can remember. And his examples of "Grift 2.0" ring true.

Comparative hate

I don’t know a statement more indicative of the character of our moment than this by J. D. Vance: “I think our people hate the right people.”

Alan Jacobs. Sadly, Vance is quite public about his Christian faith. That he should consider hate-promotion a feature, not a bug, is jarring.

Powered by Pure Spite

The cardinal virtue of modern conservative populism is spite. Whatever gambit a populist is pursuing, whatever agenda he or she might be advancing, the more it offends the enemy the more likely it is to be received by the right adoringly. Ron DeSantis’ Martha’s Vineyard stunt is an efficient example. It accomplished nothing meaningful yet observers on both sides agree that he helped his 2024 chances by pulling it off. He made the right people mad. That’s more important than thoughtful policy solutions.

Why spite has become so important to the right-wing populist ethic is hard to say, as it’s not symmetrical between the parties. The most prominent left-wing populist in Congress is probably Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, a politician who, despite her many faults, doesn’t want for policy ideas. Ask AOC what her top priority as a legislator is and she might say the Green New Deal or Medicare For All. The most prominent right-wing populist in Congress is likely Marjorie Taylor Greene. Ask Greene what she wants to do with her power as a legislator and she’s apt to say, “Impeach Joe Biden.”

“Impeach Joe Biden for what?” you might ask, as if that matters. …

Spite doesn’t need a reason.

Nick Catoggio (f/k/a Allahpundit), The Wild Ones

True Movements or Mostly Hype?

It is perfectly clear that there is a movement in America of people who call themselves evangelicals but have no properly theological commitments at all. But what’s not clear, to me anyway, is how many of them there are. Donald Trump can draw some big crowds, and those crowds often have a quasi-religious focus on him or anyway on what they believe he stands for — but those crowds are not large in the context of the entire American population. They’re very visible, because both Left and Right have reasons for wanting them to be visible, but how demographically significant are they really?

I have similar questions about, for instance, the “national conservatism” movement. Is this actually a movement? Or is it just a few guys who follow one another on Twitter and subscribe to one another’s Substacks?

Alan Jacobs

Culture

I dread our being too much dreaded

I must fairly say I dread our own power, and our own ambition; I dread our being too much dreaded. . . . We may say that we shall not abuse this astonishing, and hitherto unheard-of power. But every other nation will think we shall abuse it. It is impossible but that, sooner or later, this state of things must produce a combination against us which may end in our ruin.

Edmund Burke via Michael Brendan Dougherty, defending himself and Christopher Hitchens against charges of being Putin apologists for long opposing our policies in Ukraine, almost none of which charges are made in good faith.

Dougherty continues:

To [Peter] Hitchens, whom I have admired greatly for some time, I say now is the time to apply realism to the trolls and demagogues and even to many of the think-tankers and mandarins on the other side. Our case is that they are mishandling grave matters, that they are hubristic and deluded about their own nations and about grand strategy. We think they are casting themselves, absurdly, as great statesmen like Churchill. You and I, having read just a little more history than can fit into a two-hour movie, don’t even belong to that cult in the same way they do. Why, then, should we ever have expected them to treat their powerless critics fairly?

Realism means admitting that our leadership is unworthy, deluded, and stupid. Really they are unprepared, or unfit for their roles. They have led us from one disaster to the next for over two decades. But we may avoid the worst calamity in spite of their failures. We may be saved the miscalculation of others. Or our salvation may be that the huge treasury of power and advantage bequeathed to our nations by previous generations cannot be wasted entirely, even by foolish heirs like these. Or it may be by pure dumb luck, or the grace of God.

White Liberals

I love WL’s [White Liberals], love ’em to death. They’re on our side. But WL’s think all the world’s problems can be fixed without any cost to themselves. We don’t believe that. There’s a lot to be said for sacrifice, remorse, even pity. It’s what separates us from roaches.

Paul Farmer via Alan Jacobs

Invisible infrastructure

Our immigration system is broken, and relies on the invisible infrastructure maintained by non-profits and religious groups.

Leah Libresco Sargeant (italics added).

I think everyone knows the system is broken, but I had not been award of the invisible infrastructure. Maybe Paul Farmer wasn’t completely right about white liberals.

Because I say so. That’s why.

Over two decades ago, when I was getting to know Eric [Metaxas], we had a friendly argument over something theological, as we walked around Manhattan. When I challenged something Eric said, he replied that God had told him it was the thing to do. “How do you know that?” I asked. Because he did. The argument went nowhere. I remember it so clearly because that was the first time I had ever had a conversation with someone who asserted that something was true not because God said it — all Christians must believe that, or throw out Scripture — but because God had said it to them personally.

Rod Dreher, What I Saw at the Jericho March (MAGA at prayer event a shocking display of apocalyptic faith and politics — and religious decadence)

Apple pulls back from China

Apple announced Monday it has already begun manufacturing its new iPhone 14 in India, just weeks after the updated product launched and months earlier than previously expected. Production of the company’s newest line of phones typically begins in Chinese factories because of existing supply-chain efficiencies, with some of it shifting to India after six to nine months. The move is likely indicative of Western companies’ newfound desire to limit reliance on China amid economic uncertainty and geopolitical tensions.

The Morning Dispatch for Tuesday, 9/27/22

Battling Amazon in France

France introduces a delivery charge for books: The “minimum charge of €3 will help small independent booksellers struggling to compete with Amazon and other giant online retailers.”

Micah Mattix

The New Economy

Financialization itself, at the grand scale, was a racket—substituting swindles and frauds for the old economy of industrial production.

James Howard Kunstler, Living in the Long Emergency

Journalism, traditional and new

Toxic News Swamp

[H]ow could MSNBC and CBS News have both purported to “independently confirm” a CNN bombshell that was completely false?

Glenn Greenwald, How Do Big Media Outlets So Often "Independently Confirm" Each Other’s Falsehoods?

Oases of Sanity

If you’re tired of tearing your hair out over political writing, Alan Jacobs has the cure: an array of sane writers who are not carrying water for anyone or any cause:

  • Leah Libresco Sargeant
  • Noah Millman
  • Damon Linker
  • Zeynep Tufecki
  • Yair Rosenberg
  • John McWhorter
  • Freddie deBoer
  • Jonathan Rauch
  • Jonathan Haidt
  • Jesse Singal
  • David French
  • Andrew Sullivan

Wordplay

Shameware

Software voluntarily installed on a smartphone to allow someone else to monitor, and challenge, one’s internet browsing. One group of Churches in particular is using it.

Similar to surveillance software like Bark or NetNanny, which is used to monitor children at home and school, “shameware” apps are lesser-known tools that are used to keep track of behaviors parents or religious organizations deem unhealthy or immoral. Fortify, for instance, was developed by the founder of an anti-pornography nonprofit called Fight the New Drug and tracks how often an individual masturbates in order to help them overcome “sexual compulsivity.” The app has been downloaded over 100,000 times and has thousands of reviews on the Google Play store.

Wired

My first reaction was “maybe some people really need this to straighten out.” But the security holes it creates are technically worrisome apart from spiritual or psychological concerns.

Mechanical Jacobins

Automobiles, in the lexicon of Russell Kirk

Fractally wrong

Techdirt founder Mike Masnick’s summary of the 5th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals upholding Texas’ ban on big sites moderating content (see above). In greater detail…

made up of so many layers of wrongness that, in order to fully comprehend its significance, “you must understand the historical wrongness before the legal wrongness, before you can get to the technical wrongness.”

Via Charlie Warzel, Is This the Beginning of the End of the Internet?.


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

Jonathan Rauch, The Constitution of Knowledge

The Orthodox "phronema" [roughly, mind-set] cannot be programmitized or reduced to shibboleths.

Fr. Jonathan Tobias

You can read most of my more impromptu stuff here (cathartic venting) and here (the only social medium I frequent, because people there are quirky, pleasant and real). Both should work in your RSS aggregator, like Feedly or Reeder, should you want to make a habit of it.

Hobbit Day 2022

I have it on reasonably good authority that today is Hobbit Day, and it turns out that Peter Jackson isn’t the only one to cash in on Hobbits.

Culture

How the Bobos Broke America — key excerpt

I tend to quote a lot of things without comment, but I’m going to say that the following strikes me as true, and so contrary to the recent history of the Democrat and Republican parties that it’s core to why I believe a major realignment is underway. Today’s Republican party is not the same Republican party I left in January 2005. For my taste, it’s worse, but that taste almost certainly is tainted by Orange Man. But I gradually came to see his appeal:

What causes psychic crisis are the whiffs of “smarter than” and “more enlightened than” and “more tolerant than” that the creative class gives off. People who feel that they have been rendered invisible will do anything to make themselves visible; people who feel humiliated will avenge their humiliation. Donald Trump didn’t win in 2016 because he had a fantastic health-care plan. He won because he made the white working class feel heard.

How the Bobos Broke America.

There’s no need to hold a pity party for me, but I’ve spent most of my life too Christian and too socially awkward to be comfortable with social elites, too elite to feel instinctively empathetic or entirely comfortable with the working class.

How unreality spreads

Wrong beliefs and wrong perceptions are contagious whether or not they are sincere, because dissidents tend to self-censor and act like believers. That is how entire societies, such as the Soviet Union, can be built on everyone’s publicly pretending to believe what many privately know to be false.

Jonathan Rauch, Echo Chambers and Confirmation Loops in The Constitution of Knowledge.

I think this has some contemporary relevance. I’ll say no more.

National Conservatism could be a boon for religious liberty lawyers

Here’s the national conservatism “Statement of Principles” on God and public religion, signed by dozens of leaders of the national conservatism movement:

No nation can long endure without humility and gratitude before God and fear of his judgment that are found in authentic religious tradition. For millennia, the Bible has been our surest guide, nourishing a fitting orientation toward God, to the political traditions of the nation, to public morals, to the defense of the weak, and to the recognition of things rightly regarded as sacred. The Bible should be read as the first among the sources of a shared Western civilization in schools and universities, and as the rightful inheritance of believers and non-believers alike. Where a Christian majority exists, public life should be rooted in Christianity and its moral vision, which should be honored by the state and other institutions both public and private. At the same time, Jews and other religious minorities are to be protected in the observance of their own traditions, in the free governance of their communal institutions, and in all matters pertaining to the rearing and education of their children. Adult individuals should be protected from religious or ideological coercion in their private lives and in their homes. (Emphasis added.)

This paragraph describes a form of religious supremacy that relegates dissenting religious believers to the “private” sphere, while granting Christianity a position of powerful public privilege.

But we shouldn’t fool ourselves into believing that the “moral vision” of the signatories broadly reflects the diversity of Christian belief and practice in the United States. After all, there are churches that host drag queen events, as well as churches that condemn drag queens. Both the Democratic and Republican parties are completely dependent on their Bible-believing, church-going base constituencies (white Evangelicals for Republicans and Black Protestants for Democrats).

Are national conservatives thus satisfied when either party wins, so long as a Christian (Joe Biden, for example) is at the helm?

Of course not. For the term “moral vision” to mean anything, it has to mean a particular version of professed Christian belief and practice.

David French

A polity that "relegates dissenting religious believers to the “private” sphere, while granting [a form of putative] Christianity a position of powerful public privilege" is inconsistent with current Supreme Court thinking, and I don’t think Trump’s nominees change that.

When did modernity begin?

For us, the real Middle Ages extend from the reign of Charlemagne to the opening of the fourteenth century, at which date a new decadence set in that has continued, through various phases and with gathering impetus, up to the present time. This date is the real starting-point of the modern crisis: it is the beginning of the disruption of Christendom, with which the Western civilization of the Middle Ages was essentially identified: at the same time, it marks the origin of the formation of ‘nations’ and the end of the feudal system, which was very closely linked with the existence of Christendom. The origin of the modern period must therefore be placed almost two centuries further back than is usual with historians…

René Guénon Guénon, The Crisis of the Modern World.

What Putin lacks

[T]he death of Queen Elizabeth II and the wave of antique pageantry help illuminate one of the Russian president’s important weaknesses. He has been hobbled in his fight because his regime lacks the mystical quality we call legitimacy.

Ross Douthat, Why Queen Elizabeth’s Strength Is Putin’s Weakness

This takes “self-deprecating” too far

We sat and watched the committal service, we who threw all this away in the 18th century, all the costumery, ribbonry, and titlery and iconic disciplines and endless dignity, in favor of the mess we know all too well …

[A]fter a couple hours of admiring tradition and ceremony and everyone knowing which foot to put where, it dawns on me that this elevation of bureaucracy to an art form is what America fortunately escaped and thus was better able to give the world the phenomenal techno advances of my lifetime, the laptop, cellphone, GPS, AI, drones, radical reductions in the cost of solar panels and wind energy, new vaccines. These things were not created by platoons of people marching in place but by brilliant gamblers and entrepreneurs, nerds of many stripes. (We also gave the world the blues and rock ’n’ roll, but that’s another story.)

An English major in college, I looked down on IT students because they all dressed alike and carried plastic pocket protectors for their ballpoint pens. I saw them as dullards. As it turns out they were at work on data technology that led to the internet, which changed my life and yours too. Meanwhile, the English department and other humanities march along beside the hearse and the horsemen.

I wanted to be eccentric and got my wish but the engineers in my family are more engaged with the real world.

Garrison Keillor.

Once again, I’ll opine.

I like technology entirely too well, but “the laptop, cellphone, GPS, AI, drones, radical reductions in the cost of solar panels and wind energy, new vaccines” do nothing to fill the void in the human soul, and I deny that they are the “real world” in a meaningful sense. Maybe monarchy doesn’t fill the soul-void, either; I don’t know (at least in part) because I’ve never lived in a monarchy. But I think monarchy says something true about reality that all the tech in the world misses.

So maybe we and Great Britain are still joined symbiotically at the hip; they provide the meaning, we provide the toys and the parties.

Correlation

This sort of thing is why I’ll probably renew Jesse Singal’s Substack:

Missed it when it was fresh

[I]t is absolutely ridiculous that people should choose to go around looking like letter boxes.

Boris Johnson, mid-2018, on Burqas.

Shorts

Journalism

Two formerly solid journals seem to have picked their tribes, and now assiduously pitch to the worst tribal instincts.

The Decline of First Things

There are many occasions for exposing hypocrisy these days. In the aftermath of the FBI raid on Donald Trump’s Florida home, we can point to Hillary Clinton’s private server. Asked to denounce Trump’s refusal to accept the results of the 2020 election, we can cite Stacey Abrams, who never accepted her defeat in the 2018 gubernatorial race in Georgia.

R.R. Reno opening his big monthly Editorial in First Things.

That is Whataboutism at 190 proof. I have no idea what he thinks the FBI (or someone) ought to have done about Hillary’s server 6-7 years ago, and he certainly doesn’t tell us. He just insinuates that what they didn’t do was hypocritical because of what they later did. As for Stacy Abrams, so far as I know she has dropped “they done me wrong” from her stump speeches, unlike Orange Man (who is dining out on it), even if she has never formally conceded defeat.

That was just the opener. Considering how the column continued, I’m inclined to think that Reno had a bad case of writer’s block, and so resorted to tendentious bullshit.

I am thus reminded why I still (barely, and decreasingly) consider First Things essential reading but have ceased giving its publishing corporation anything beyond the cost of my subscription.

Conservative Radicals

It’s interesting to see a tribe close ranks.

Ron DeSantis’ sending two planefuls of refugees to Martha’s Vineyard is morally indefensible trolling.

So how does his tribe defend it? By focusing on “why the Left went so bat-guano crazy” over it, and implying that DeSantis had effectively taken a chapter from Saul Alinsky:

Ridicule is man’s most potent weapon. There is no defense. It is almost impossible to counterattack ridicule. Also it infuriates the opposition, who then react to your advantage.

Ridicule Is Man’s Most Potent Weapon

Apparently “ridicule” is now National Review’s term for instrumentalizing humans who are unpopular with the GOP.

With Kevin Williamson defecting to The Dispatch, I’m almost out of reasons (I can think of just two remaining) to glance at the National Review homepage any more.

Politics

Wrong kind of diversity

Liz Truss, Great Britain’s new Prime Minister, has completed her cabinet. There are no white men. None. But that’s not good enough for Britain’s Left:

“It’s a meritocratic advance for people who have done well in education, law and business,” Sunder Katwala, the director of British Future, a think tank that focuses on issues of immigration, integration and national identity, told CNN. “It’s not an advance on social class terms.”

This is an interesting criticism. “Meritocratic,” used here in a pejorative sense, means based on ability and achievement, earned through a combination of talent and hard work. Traditionally, merit served as the primary consideration in hiring, but some people today see the very systems that confer merit as rigged, especially against minorities. In an effort to rectify that imbalance and to diversify the work force, particularly for leadership positions, it has become common practice in hiring — in the business and nonprofit worlds, as in government — to make racial or ethnic diversity a more significant factor.

The trouble is that for many of the same people, ethnic and racial diversity count only when combined with a particular point of view …

The implication is that there’s only one way to authentically represent one’s race, ethnicity or sex — otherwise you’re a phony or a pawn.

Pamela Paul, When Diversity Isn’t the Right Kind of Diversity

War? Really?

“Even the people who are responsible for disseminating the laptop admit that, on a human level, what happened to Hunter is horrifying. ‘A lot of stuff I do, I don’t feel great about,’ says one of them, Steve Bannon. ‘But we’re in a war.’”

The Morning Dispatch, recommending a New York Magazine article on the Hunter Biden laptop saga.

Steve Bannon is a very intelligent but quite unprincipled. “War”? Baloney!

J.D. Vance ❤️ Donald J. Trump

Trump went off on a tangent about a New York Times story that said Vance’s campaign didn’t ask Trump to come here. “JD wants my support so bad. He’s kissing my ass.”

Andrew Tobias on Twitter

Is this why we’re to take Trump “seriously if not literally”? He certainly captured the essence of Vance’s metamorphosis.

A Moment of Pleasure

Seldom has a Democrat made me as happy as Letitia James made me on Wednesday.


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

Jonathan Rauch, The Constitution of Knowledge

The Orthodox "phronema" [roughly, mind-set] cannot be programmitized or reduced into shibboleths.

Fr. Jonathan Tobias

You can read most of my more impromptu stuff here (cathartic venting) and here (the only social medium I frequent, because people there are quirky, pleasant and real). Both should work in your RSS aggregator, like Feedly or Reeder, should you want to make a habit of it.

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

Culture

Building on vice

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

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

J Budziszewski, Why Do We Always Hit a Wall?

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

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

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

See also Jack Leahy, Cloud-Hidden.

The demand to be political first

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

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

The special costs of being poor

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

Sarah Jones, Barbara Ehrenreich Knew There Was a Fight

The platonic ideal of an NYT opinion piece

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

Alan Jacobs

Sheer drudgery, with a dose of despair

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

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

Not a promising review

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

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

Political (after a fashion)

The difference between Russian and Ukrainian soldiers

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

Anne Applebaum

Dance with the one what brung ya

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

The Morning Dispatch

Wordplay

Taking leave of senses

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

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

Truth Social

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

Frank Bruni

Words failed them

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

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


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

Jonathan Rauch, The Constitution of Knowledge

The Orthodox “phronema” [roughly, mind-set] cannot be programmitized or reduced into shibboleths.

Fr. Jonathan Tobias

You can read most of my more impromptu stuff here (cathartic venting) and here (the only social medium I frequent, because people there are quirky, pleasant and real). Both should work in your RSS aggregator, like Feedly or Reeder, should you want to make a habit of it.