We loves us some next big thing

America: scrambling for the Next Big Ephemeral Thing

George Bush reputedly confided in Tony Blair that ‘The problem with the French is they have no word for “entrepreneur.”’ Musing on the success of this farm, I would counter: the problem with the US and the UK is that we idolise entrepreneurship, with all the associated impatient capital, innovation and marketing, at the cost of just getting on with doing what you do well. One reason why the farm is flourishing is because I have not been around making ‘innovative’ suggestions about new crops and radical ways of growing them.

No doubt it is important to embrace the opportunities that come with change in the rapidly evolving world of tech start-ups, but when it come to growing veg there is more to gained from progressive, incremental improvement and patient investment. The same is true across the UK more broadly: there is a nobility in doing something well, that lasts, which is lacking from the restless and undignified scramble to identify the ‘next big thing’ and turn it into money.”

Gracy Olmstead (emphasis in original), quoting a little newsletter that comes with each delivery of fruits and vegetables from Riverford Organic Farmers.

Corrupt Hillary

Whatever you hear on Twitter, this [Attorney Sussman Russiagate indictment] is a different kettle of fish from the after-the-fact lies charged by the Mueller task force against certain Trump campaign associates that, if they were lies at all, were incidental to the special counsel’s search for collusion crimes. Mr. Sussmann’s alleged lie, a charge he has now formally denied, would have been intended to spark an FBI investigation so the investigation’s existence could be leaked to the press on behalf of the Clinton campaign to influence a presidential election. If media reporters can’t see this, they aren’t trying very hard. The first sentence of the indictment filed by the Justice Department’s John Durham refers not to Mr. Sussmann or his allegations but to their appearance in the New York Times a week before Election Day.

By now, the pattern is familiar thanks to the Steele dossier, which Mr. Sussmann’s firm also promoted. Unsupported allegations aren’t reportable; the existence of a federal investigation is. The FBI and the Justice Department have strong institutional interests in not being manipulated in this way and it’s tempting to interpret Mr. Durham’s indictment partly as a reminder to them of this.

Let’s be realistic: Mr. Sussmann also likely knew the FBI knew he was not being forthright if, as alleged, he claimed he wasn’t working for a client; he may have assumed the FBI wouldn’t care about a small cosmetic lie if the purpose was the popular one of tainting Mr. Trump. Again, Mr. Durham may be sending a message here to the FBI and Justice Department as much as to any outside witnesses whose cooperation his broadly and deliberately informative indictment is meant to encourage.

Mr. Durham obviously still faces an uphill battle to be allowed to proceed. Washington’s institutional establishment is hardly keen on the truth coming out. Neither are many in the media. Our world is truly turned on its Woodstein head when the press is part of the coverup, but here we are.

Let’s understand about the media: Anybody can say anything. When a reporter is confronted with astonishing but unsupported accusations, 99% of the time the story stops then and there because a reporter asks himself a simple question: If these claims are true, would I be hearing about them now, in this way, from this source, with this total absence of documentary evidence?

Holman W. Jenkins, Jr., ‌Durham Delivers on Russiagate.

I confess that I thought this indictment was a bit of a yawner. I’m obliged to Holman Jenkins for reminding me of the insidious purpose of the lie — and for rubbing other media’s noses in their "coverup."

I said in 2016 that "Donald Trump versus Hillary Clinton has God’s judgment written all over it." But time has past, and reading now Holman Jenkins and also Glenn Greenwald’s analysis of the indictment tempts me toward the fallacy that Clinton was so very "Corrupt Hillary" that ipso facto Trump was the better candidate.

I repeat: fallacy.

Some people in the Trump campaign were playing footsie with Russians for their own profit, and Donald Jr. was keen to get dirt on Hillary when a Russian offered to meet and deliver. That’s not what team Clinton was manufacturing, but it’s not nothing.

Still, the sleaze in Clinton’s camp was at the top, to the core, and the press was deeply complicit.

How the disciplinary society manufactures consensus

Take a deep breath and set aside all distractions. This is dense:

What remained to be done was to ensure that the rest of the country, much of which still believed ("clung to the belief" — the sole way the benighted relate to the beliefs deemed to belong to the past by those who have arrogated to themselves the authority to decide which direction the arc of history bends) that the ability to discriminate between and assign differential rights to citizens and non-citizens was constitutive of the nation-state itself and therefore a fundamental aspect of sovereignty that the people have a right to enforce by virtue of their existence as as a nation, would be brought on board. At minimum, those continuing to cling would be made to understand that resistance is presumptively out of bounds, and would therefore not be represented within the political system, existing outside the bounds of the respectable and thus the sayable and thinkable.

"No human being is illegal" portrayed itself as merely etiquette and sensitivity while subtly smuggling in other implications: documentation was a mere formality, a matter of positive law that did not and could not speak to the underlying moral right. What remained to do was to complete the circuit taking us from "rights conferred on on us by virtue of our being human" to "rights conferred on us by virtue of being a citizen of the United States of the America."

A few years prior, the University of Berkeley office of student life issued a series of racial micro-aggressions that professors should avoid. They included "America is a melting pot," and "I think the best person should get the job." Under the guise of protecting student health and safety, the student life office resolved an ongoing debate about whether we should be a "salad bowl" that preserves cultural differences of sub-national units or a "melting pot" where a process of amalgamation in pursuit of a single unified national identity and declared one of the two competing propositions presumptively illegitimate — an act of harm, if not hate and harassment to be policed out of existence. Under the guise of protecting student health and safety it declared meritocracy as presumptively illegitimate as an institution. And though it did not formally declare these "racial micro-aggressions" to be subject to disciplinary action, it was a formal pronouncement that taking certain positions on contested debates was not merely wrong substantively, (the purpose of open debate and free speech being thus to discover what is wrong or right through an exchange of ideas) but an offense against the community itself existing beyond the bounds of decency and subject to disciplinary action by the entity (student life bureaucracy) with the authority to protect the community from harm.

We can therefore see here what the Successor Regime aims for and how it goes about obtaining its ends, which in turn tells us about the sociology of the movement of which it is a part: the manufacture of consensus around a range of issues through the capture of disciplinary power by adherents sharing a common set of values and goals that seeks to rule out various aspects of political action as presumptively illegitimate (border control, policing, prisons, standardized testing) by policing any debate out of them out of existence. It is a vision of a radically less disciplinary society of the street obtained through a radically more disciplinary society of the seminar room, workplace, board room, and bedroom — an ongoing distributed process of moral revolution without central direction but converging relentlessly around the same handful of goals — a politics of persuasion without persuasion, abjuring persuasion for coercion.

Wesley Yang, ‌"Undocumented Citizens" and the new Newspeak.

Yang, who coined my preferred alternative to "wokeness" (his coinage is "the Successor Ideology"), can write some tortuous sentences, but read carefully he’s landing solid punches.

Big philanthropy

[B]ig philanthropy today flatters itself that monster donations can enable “systemic change.” A better approach may be to endow cities with amenities available to everyone. Why not make people’s lives better in the here and now?

Howard Husock, ‌Tech Billionaires Ignore the Philanthropy of Things.

In contrast, Barry Diller and Diane von Furstenberg build stuff like parks (High Line, Little Island). So boring! I’ll bet they’re so boring that they’re not even planning to have their brains frozen or uploaded so they can "live" forever and benefit from all the "systemic change" their dollars bought.

By and large, our billionaires are moral cretins and narcissists of Trumpian dimension.

Ruling out everything

Skewing too far toward a left-hemisphere view of the world

is ruling out so much. I can’t begin to tell you, but you can imagine, all the things that this very reduced, abstract, schematic, bureaucratic — essentially, it’s bureaucratic, you know, push something, it has an action on something else and we can predict the outcome, we can organize it — that’s the left hemisphere’s vision of the world: inanimate stuff that we can move about. Very much, the industrial revolution was a kind of acting out in the outer world of the world picture of the left hemisphere … It’s ruling out everything, really. It’s ruling out our ability to understand, to see, to see at all.

Iain McGilquist, interviewed by Jordan Peterson, shortly after 1 hour 19 minutes.

Diversity, schmersity!

When you don’t have the time to research something for yourself, what you should do is trust those who have good intellectual habits.

The upshot is intellectual diversity is a red herring, usually a thinly-veiled plea for more conservatives. Nobody is arguing for more Islamists, Nazis, or flat earthers in academia, and for good reason. People should just be honest about the ways in which liberals are wrong and leave it at that.

[W]e should not care about diversity at all. In fact, on certain dimensions we should seek intellectual homogeneity. If selecting for those with healthy intellectual habits gets us an elite without racial, gender, geographic, or socioeconomic diversity, so be it. Same with diversity across academic disciplines, given that many or most of them are fake.

Richard Hanania, Tetlock and the Taliban

Alan Jacobs admired this posting and distilled it:

The academic enterprise is not a Weberian “iron cage,” it’s a cage made from a bundle of thin sticks of perverse incentives held together with a putty of bullshit. We instinctively known how fragile it is, and so stay well inside its boundaries.

Unintelligent, uncharitable, dishonest. R.I.P.

John Shelby Spong, a celebrity (someone who’s famous for being famous) Episcopal Bishop is gone. I remember the controversies, but Alan Jacobs, an evangelical Anglican, remembers him better:

John Shelby Spong is dead. If he had been an intelligent man, he would have developed more coherent and logical arguments against the Christian faith; if he had been a charitable man, he would have refrained from attempting to destroy the faith of Christians; if he had been an honest man, he would have resigned his orders fifty years or more ago. May God have mercy on his soul.

See also the New York Times’ adoring obituary, John Shelby Spong, 90, Dies; Sought to Open Up the Episcopal Church

So hard to poll

The short version is that fewer than 50% of Evangelicals attend Church at least weekly. 8.4% don’t attend at all. The longer version is that a lot of people with no theology and no real religion started calling themselves "Evangelical" after 2016. Religious polling ain’t easy. (H/T David French)


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

Aging (and other stuff)

Aging is a cultural treasure

Looking around at the tables around ours, I didn’t see anybody over the age of thirty-five, and sitting there, half-deaf, I enjoyed being alien, just as in Paris I make no attempt to appear French. I seemed to be the only guy on the block who had owned an Underwood typewriter, used carbon paper, had cut the head off a chicken with an axe, been baptized total-immersion, and seen Rod Carew steal home. I felt like a cultural treasure.

Irrelevance is a great blessing. You realize we are not in control. Maybe $88 billion cannot buy a functional democratic government in a tribal country up against forces that espouse cruel misogyny and bribery, and I’m not referring to Texas. So I skip reading the newspaper, preferring not to waste the day in hopeless anger, and instead drink my coffee and write a wedding sonnet for a couple in California and joke with my daughter who is starting a new life in a new city and sit with my wife and enjoy the breeze and smell the hydrangeas.

Garrison Keillor

I appreciate such gentle wisdom from a close-enough age cohort.

But in some ways, I’ve been an old soul for a long, long time.

One of my favorite songs of all time, which nobody seems to sing any more (and none of my Pandora stations have in rotation) is This Is All I Ask, and Tony Bennett’s 1963 rendition may have been what hooked me (I can’t think of a single song where I prefer Old Blue Eyes to Tony).

Lyrics:

As I approach the prime of my life
I find I have the time of my life
Learning to enjoy at my leisure
All the simple pleasures and so I happily concede

That this is all I ask
This is all I need

Beautiful girls
Walk a little slower when you walk by me
Lingering sunsets
Stay a little longer with the lonely sea

Children everywhere
When you shoot at bad men, shoot at me
Take me to that strange
Enchanted land, grown-ups seldom understand

Wandering rainbows
Leave a bit of color for my heart to own
Stars in the sky
Make my wish come true before the night has flown

And let the music play
As long as there’s a song to sing
And I will stay younger than Spring

On the other hand …

Notwithstanding the individual pleasures of getting old, it’s pretty clearly not good for a whole culture.

The age data is straightforward. We already had a sense from April’s data that U.S. fertility had continued to slow over the last decade; the overall population growth of just north of 7 percent over 10 years was the slowest on record. But the latest age data shone a glaring spotlight on that phenomenon: Over the last 10 years, the total number of children living in America actually decreased, from 74.2 million in 2010 to 73.1 million in 2020. By comparison, the U.S. has 258.3 million adults, up from 234.6 million a year ago.

The Morning Dispatch.

This does not bode well. People who think we should, and can without economic disruption, stop allowing immigration, or replace it with greater fertility by Real ‘Muricans, are living in a fantasy.

On the third hand …

… it is worrisome that our young future elite leaders are systematically being shielded from stuff that might make them uncomfortable.

This is not going to get any better. I want you to recall something I’ve written about in this space before. It’s what a European friend told me was the upshot of his time doing graduate studies a couple of years ago at Harvard. He said it was shocking to him to see how so many students asked professors not to talk about issues and topics that triggered their anxiety — and how professors yielded to these crazy requests. My friend said this happened in class after class. It scandalized him. He said that not one of his fellow students doubted that they were destined to enter into the elite class of leadership. It shook him up. He said that his country depends on a strong USA, but he could tell that the next generation of leadership elites are going to be even more fragile and wrongheaded than the current one.

Rod Dreher (emphasis added).

Steel-manning as reflex

The term "steel-manning" has come into vogue of late as a polar opposite of straw-manning.

Barack Obama was a master of it. He could state the conservative case for policies better than their conservative supporters. (Then without even poking holes in the conservative argument, he invariably rejected it. Sigh.)

A relaxed conversation with my brothers over the weekend (first time we’ve all been together for almost seven years) reminded me that "steel-manning" is substantially what my older brother’s high school’s debate team did every debate season because they never knew before a debate which side of the year’s resolution they would be assigned. Yes, it might be easier to argue both sides on a debate topic on which you had no strong opinion, but the practice still built up skills and, perhaps, habits.

Outside of the context of formal debate competitions, steel-manning, it seems to me, gives your ideological adversary the dignity of knowing he’s been heard. That all by itself lowers the temperature of differences — as I’ve noticed ever since I first observed Small Claims Court (where the quality of legal reasoning was sometimes shaky but where the parties both got to state their cases before the judge decided for one of them or, not infrequently, "split the baby").

We could really use a lot more people reflexively steel-manning instead of straw-manning, couldn’t we?


Why don’t we build infrastructure to last a thousand years? Others have.

Interesting article.


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

Poke them in the axioms

I seem to recall ProPublica doing some worthwhile muck-raking, but it wasn’t this week. But I guess if you’re in possession of stolen income tax returns of very, very rich men, you’ve got to say something even if it’s breathtakingly stupid.


Is the tide turning?

Last month the Spanish parliament voted against a bill that would allow people to determine their own gender. A day later Germany’s voted down two such bills. Few newspapers took any notice.

In May the Karolinska University hospital in Stockholm, which contains Sweden’s largest adolescent gender clinic, released new guidelines saying it would no longer prescribe blockers and hormones to children under 18 …

Research has had an impact. In a paper in 2015, a Finnish psychiatrist, Riittakerttu Kaltiala-Heino, found that more than 75% of adolescents applying for sex-reassignment surgery needed help for psychiatric problems other than gender dysphoria. (Another paper, published this year, found 88% needed such help.) Finland last year adopted strict guidelines prioritising therapy over hormones and surgery.

The Economist

The story also refers in the same paragraph to the "LGBT community" and to "LGB Alliance Deutschland." While I can no longer claim to understand the world’s increasing madness, it seems to me that "T" has distinct interests so diverging from, and sometimes contradicting, "LGB" interests that it’s a stretch to lump them into a notional "community."

Only the unwillingness of groups like Human Rights Campaign (inventors of the yellow-on-blue equal-sign logo) to declare victory (same-sex marriage surely was the end-game for LGB, right?) and go home (i.e., disband) keeps the four letters together. It’s not an uncommon story for an entity to think that it is what it’s about, and to expand the mission or pretend then war is continuing after they’ve decisively won.


Every time the culture decides through popular vote to ask for government penetration into the marketplace, it creates a climate that pushes the biggest players to curry concessionary privileges with the regulators. The little players don’t have the clout, manpower, or capital to arm-twist. The big players do. And that is why every time, every time, every time—should I say it once more?—every time the public asks for government oversight, it eventuates in the bigger players getting more power and the smaller players being kicked in the teeth.

Joel Salatin, Folks, This Ain’t Normal.

Salatin, a small, innovative farmer, knows whereof he writes.


[S]in goes underground when it’s not socially acceptable. No one watches porn in the pews at church or beats their wife at the grocery store. Why would we expect post-1965 racism to remain out in the open?

Bob Stevenson and Josh Fenska, Thin Discipleship


I have noted, through the years, that the patriotism that inhabits the thoughts of many is a deeply protected notion, treated as a virtue in many circles. This often gives it an unexamined character, a set of feelings that do not come under scrutiny …

Asking questions of these things quickly sends some heads spinning. They wonder, “Are we not supposed to love our country?” As an abstraction, no. We love people; we love the land. We owe honor to honorable things and persons. The Church prays for persons: the President, civil authorities, the armed forces. We are commanded to pray and to obey the laws as we are able in good conscience. Nothing more. St. Paul goes so far as to say that our “citizenship [politeia] is in heaven.” The assumption of many is that so long as the citizenship of earth does not conflict with the citizenship of heaven, all is fine. I would suggest that the two are always in conflict for the simple reason that one is “from above” while the other is “from below,” in the sense captured in Christ’s “my kingdom is not of this world.”

Fr. Stephen Freeman, Overcome Evil By Doing Good

But maybe he shouldn’t say that:

People get unbelievably upset when you poke them in the axioms.

Jordan Peterson, Biblical Series I: Introduction to the Idea of God (Transcript)


[T]here is a widely-shared impression that the kind of regional or mid-major papers that were once so essential have not had anything like the same success in transitioning to subscription-dominant financial models. The internet was already disproportionately concentrating power into the hands of a few major newspapers before digital subscriptions deepened, and of course three or four of them already enjoyed national influence even before we entered the online era. Concentrating greater power and influence into a few publications is detrimental to my basic philosophy for media, which is that you want a diversity of voices not so much for diversity itself but so that many different viewpoints can, perhaps, triangulate on something like the truth. What you get now is that, despite the vast number of competing shops and options compared to the past, the NYT in some ways is perversely even more the Official Voice than it once was.

Which means that the Official Voice is a haughty bloodless affluent educated socially liberal voice. Many have suggested that its increasing reliance on subscription sales makes the NYT even more dependent on an explicitly liberal Democratic audience.

If newsgathering becomes too expensive for almost every publication, then the few papers that can continue to do it will control the narrative of truth …

Freddie deBoer, Can News Survive Being Unbundled? (paywall).

Wondering how to decide what to read? Here’s a simple but effective heuristic to cut down the choices significantly. Ask yourself one question: Does this writer make bank when we hate one another? And if the answer is yes, don’t read that writer.

Alan Jacobs, Snakes and Ladders

The same heuristic could be applied to whole news sources.


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

Mostly political

The Sorry state of the GOP

[D]espite the happy talk in front of the cameras, some members of the conference say behind closed doors that [45]’s chokehold over the conference is poisoning the GOP from within. “[45] talked a big game about unifying the party so we can win the majority back, and all he’s done is divide the party,” said one House GOP member who did not vote to impeach the former president, and who spoke to The Dispatch anonymously in fear of retribution from House leadership. “And what he’s doing by attacking Republicans who don’t think and act like him is going to ensure that we lose the majority. … The fight is not in here—should not be in here within our conference—it’s out there with people that want to reshape our nation into socialist countries. In order to get the majority back, we have to win blue districts, we have to win purple seats.”

The Morning Dispatch: House GOP, Live from Orlando

That the GOP is badly divided as Congressman Anonymous says seems more accurate than the smiley-face picture Liz Cheney, bless her, is painting.

As I’ve said many times before, I left the GOP in January of 2005. After the Presidency of 45 (who shall not be named), I’m not even sure I "lean Republican" any more.

Nevertheless, I’m incredulous at the repeated claim that 70% of Republicans believe Joe Biden was not legitimately elected. If true, my former party is in frighteningly bad shape, but I think the truth is more like "lying trolls".


Speaking of which:

I served in Congress with Kevin McCarthy. He’s a very weak, unprincipled person. He’s perfect for today’s Republican Party.

Joe Walsh via Charlie Sykes


Of Biden’s speech and the GOP response:

[I]f I were a Republican, I’d be terrified by the incoherence of the response. Yes, Tim Scott is appealing and effectively disarms the white supremacist image the GOP has become associated with (as well it might). But there was no real theme in his speech, no discernible strategy, no credible opposition to massive new spending. You could see what happens when a party becomes a vehicle for a personality cult, provided no platform in its recent convention, and lives off the fumes of cable television’s clown car.

Andrew Sullivan, The Strange Fate Of Joe Biden

Bucking our Betters

Montana’s economy must be independent of the Megacorp Overlords, who told Indiana there’d be hell to pay if it passed RFRA. Or maybe its legislators and governor have guts. (It recently became a "sanctuary state" for gun owners, too.)

(Unintended?) Consequences

“Any prohibition on menthol and flavored tobacco products promises continued over-criminalization and mass incarceration of people of color,” the American Civil Liberties Union warned last year. “Banning menthol is now pitched as a social justice issue,” Jacob Grier argues in Reason. “But if we take the stated preferences of menthol smokers seriously, the racial politics cut the other way. White smokers would remain free to purchase the unflavored cigarettes that most of them currently consume, while black smokers would be paternalistically forbidden from exercising their own desires and subjected to policing of illicit markets if they try to fulfill them.”

The Morning Dispatch.

Laws being turned on black people from their intended targets? Nah! Never happened here, never will.

Chameleons

I’ve taken to working on computer mostly in Markdown, including a plugin that downloads web pages as Markdown — which plugin showed me a bit of how to use metadata in Markdown files.

Some publications, I discover, tags their own web pages in metadata. The Wall Street Journal‘s tags are voluminous and essentially useless to me; The Atlantic is a little bit better. But the amusing thing to me is that The Week tags the same commentator, Damon Linker, as conservative or liberal according, I guess, to how the guy (or gal) doing the tagging feels about the treatment of the column’s topic, or even the topic itself.

Another curiosity: nobody tags in a way I can use in Obsidian (no spaces within a tag but only as delimiters) without first editing.

Easy Virtue

The pandemic provided the perfect opportunity for the Amazon Prime elite. It allowed people to feel virtuous for staying home. Watching Netflix was noble. Being anti-social was virtuous. Ordering DoorDash was saving the world. The pandemic ending takes away that easy virtue.

And people like being able to shame others. Catching people unmasked at the beach, spreading their photos, and talking about how bad that is — well that was a satisfying hobby for many this year. This group doesn’t want to go back to offices. They don’t seem to care if synagogue and church come back. That’s fine — they prefer to live mediated by screens, and they can live that life. But don’t let them force it on you.

There is no virtue in being permanently masked. There is no virtue in demanding zero risk. If there is, we wouldn’t never jump in a swimming pool or get into a car. Get vaccinated, and then get used to wearing hard pants, brushing your hair (and teeth) and meeting friends outside of Zoom.

Bari Weiss, ‌Believe Science: Get Vaccinated. Then Relax

[M]any millions of Americans spent the [45] era deeply loyal to [45] not because of policy arguments or political debate, but in large part because “prophets” told them he was specifically and specially anointed by God for this moment. These Americans were resistant to the election outcome because they were told—again and again—by voices they trusted that God promised [45] would win.

David French, ‌Making Prophecy Great Again. Unfortunately, French seems to think that "prophetic standards" promulgated by a couple of guys will rein in the "prophetic" charlatans and grifters.

Good luck with that, David. You’ve got roughly the odds placekicker Charlie Brown has of Lucy VanPelt holding the ball properly.


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

Meritocracy & Sanity

When parents on the fortunate ledge of this chasm gaze down, vertigo stuns them. Far below they see a dim world of processed food, obesity, divorce, addiction, online-education scams, stagnant wages, outsourcing, rising morbidity rates—and they pledge to do whatever they can to keep their children from falling. They’ll stay married, cook organic family meals, read aloud at bedtime every night, take out a crushing mortgage on a house in a highly rated school district, pay for music teachers and test-prep tutors, and donate repeatedly to overendowed alumni funds. The battle to get their children a place near the front of the line begins before conception and continues well into their kids’ adult lives. At the root of all this is inequality—and inequality produces a host of morbid symptoms, including a frantic scramble for status among members of a professional class whose most prized acquisition is not a Mercedes plug-in hybrid SUV or a family safari to Maasai Mara but an acceptance letter from a university with a top‑10 U.S. News & World Report ranking.

George Packer, New York City Public Schools Have Embraced the New Left

Whether it’s the resort town you vacation in or the private school you send your kids to, exclusivity is the pervasive ethos. The more the exclusivity, the thicker will be the coating of P.C. progressivism to show that we’re all good people.

David Brooks, The Meritocracy Is Ripping America Apart

I sought to understand, but it was too hard for me, until I went into the sanctuary of God; then understood I their end.

(Psalm 72:15-17, Adapted from the Miles Coverdale Translation, from A Psalter for Prayer)

Be an ordinary person.

Maxim 18, 55 Maxims by Fr. Thomas Hopko

That is all.

* * * * *

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

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

Surprised by food for thought

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

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

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

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

Rod Dreher (Emphasis in original)

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

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

As Freddie put it:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Clippings & Comment, 2/9/19

1

Coincidentally, I came across this Dilbert strip minutes later.

2

Adidas made two mistakes:

  1. Making a Black History Month sneaker.
  2. Making it white.

The sneaker has been pulled from the market.

[C]an we all snort derisively at a global corporation for making a Black History Month sneaker? Did George Washington Carver and Frederick Douglass live and die so Adidas could sell more shoes?

Rod Dreher

3

Anti-Catholicism now exists to a great degree as Catholic self-loathing. Like the Italians and Irish who have made their way into country clubs and now resent talk of gangsters such as Tony Soprano or Whitey Bulger, polite Catholics dislike the reminder that, despite all, they still profess an unfashionable faith. For these upwardly mobile souls, professing Christian sexual teaching is just shy of running an extortion racket or putting out a hit. They not only seek to dissociate themselves from such Catholics, they do what they can to silence and suppress them.

Matthew Schmitz

4

Went on FB, scrolled down my feed, wanted to like a bunch of jokes, make a couple of comments, and repost a funny picture but was too terrified of a prospective employer seeing it and thinking I’m not woke enough to be employed.

Quickly left FB and switched off the phone, shaking with fear. And if you don’t know what I’m on about, you probably don’t work in academia. But don’t worry. It’s soon coming to a workplace near you.

Clarissa at Merited Impossibility.

In case you hadn’t gotten the memo yet, we’ve passed a tipping point and the greatest threat to free thought and speech is now corporate power, including colleges and universities vis à vis staff and students — not government.

Take Clarissa seriously. I may start boning up on what the Church Fathers have to say about “666.”

5

By stretching the boundaries of normal conversation, [trolls] shift the “Overton window” — widening the range of ideas and policy considered acceptable in public discourse.

Ocasio-Cortez has done exactly that …

The thing is, trolling works. Consider that Trump is the first troll president, having risen to prominence on the strength of birther conspiracies and Russian memes (all aboard the Trump Train!).

… And though Ocasio-Cortez often seems to be at the extremes of our discourse, she’s also speeding the movement toward change.

Whether we like it or not, provocation is how we conduct business today. Maybe we should be happy that someone is finally trolling for good.

Christine Emba.

Kimberly Strassel has a different take on AOC, “the secret Republican weapon for 2020.”

I was so wrong about the electoral prospects of the clownish Trump that I’m not taking sides, though I lean toward Emba and suspect that Strassel is “whistling in the dark.”

6

May the flawed prevail over the wicked.

Kathleen Parker on the “21st-century battle royal between good and evil, represented by” Jeff Bezos and David Pecker.

Through divine providence, the evil guy’s last name eventuated in one of the all-time great New York Post screamers: “Bezos Exposes Pecker.”

7

I’ve pretty much concluded, subject to dissuasion, that “cultural Marxism” is a meaningless epithet most of the time, and may not even be a real thing at all. It’s sort of a successor to “secular humanism,” “fellow traveler” and the like.

You may say terrible things about me if I ever use it without previously having repented of my skepticism and explained what the hell it is, because right now I haven’t got a clue — despite some writers I follow having used it and even having tried to explain it: “Frankfurt School blah blah blah blah ….”

8

People who are well-informed tend to say that North Korea will never denuclearize, mainly because its government has no meaningful incentive to do so in a world where Muammar Gaddafi was murdered in the streets as a direct result of US regime change interventionism shortly after relinquishing Libya’s nuclear program. As bad as western sanctions are, they’re nothing compared to what happened to Libya.

Caitlyn Johnstone, one of my favorite “Alternative News & Commentary” RSS feeds. I’ve picked up The Intercept, too.

They require more skepticism than even the rest of the media require, but if you haven’t got some truly dissident voices in you news mix, I think your missing something potentially important.

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Follow me on Micro.blog Follow me on Micro.blog, too, where I blog tweet-like shorter items. Frankly, it’s kind of becoming my main blog. If you prefer, those micro.blog items also appear now at microblog.intellectualoid.com. Both should work in your RSS aggregator, like Feedly.

Thoroughly modern misogyny and plutocracy

Have you heard about the “Flipping Out” lawsuit? Ross Douthat sticks his neck out so I don’t have to. (I’m sure that’s what he had in mind.)

The “Flipping Out” lawsuit, sad and sordid, falls 31 years after a far more consequential surrogacy debate: The “Baby M” case, in which a surrogate mother, Mary Beth Whitehead, changed her mind after the birth and sued — ultimately unsuccessfully — for the right to keep her child. I was 7 during the case but I remember it vividly, mostly because my mother was obsessed with it. We were not Catholics then, or any kind of conservative, but opposing commercial surrogacy seemed like a natural extension of her feminist and liberal principles, which would of course oppose a system in which the rich paid poorer women to bear their children.

[T]he simplest way to describe what happened with the surrogacy debate is that American feminists gradually went along with the logic of capitalism rather than resisting it. This is a particularly useful description because it’s happened so consistently across the last few decades: Whenever there’s a dispute within feminism about a particular social change or technological possibility, you should bet on the side that takes a more consumerist view of human flourishing, a more market-oriented view of what it means to defend the rights and happiness of women.

… Feminists were divided over surrogacy and commercialized fertility, but the opposition to both practices gradually dissolved, and now only eccentric conservatives notice the weird resemblances between California-style surrogacy practices and the handmaids and econowives of Gilead.

I know that coming from a conservative columnist much of this reads like a long exercising in trolling. (Did you know, feminists, that you’re all just slaves of capital? That you need less cultural Marxism and more of the genuine economistic article?) But the most serious form of cultural conservatism has always offered at most two cheers for capitalism, recognizing that its great material beneficence can coexist with dehumanizing cruelty, that its individualist logic can encourage a ruthless materialism unless curbed and checked and challenged by a moralistic vision.

Ross Douthat

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I also blog short items at Micro.blog.

Some succinct standing advice on recurring themes.

Where I glean stuff.