The Best, 1/27/23

Culture

Transhumanism

I find transhumanism repugnant, and I believe in the wisdom of repugnance because I believe that some truths are not susceptible of distillation to catchy slogans for the ADHD World we live in, and perhaps not possible to articulate directly at all.

But I was unaware that there was more to it than billionaire nerds asking “wouldn’t it be cool if we could upload our brains and live forever?” No, there’s another case, superficially more plausible:

If humanity’s technological progress can be compared to climbing a mountain, then the Anthropocene finds us perched on a crumbling ledge, uncertain how long we have until it collapses. The most obvious way out is to turn back and retrace our steps to an earlier stage of civilization, with fewer people using fewer resources. This would mean acknowledging that humanity is unequal to the task of shaping the world, that we can thrive only by living within the limits set by nature.

But this kind of voluntary turning back might be so contrary to our nature that it can never happen. It is far more plausible that the human journey was fated to end up in this dangerous spot ever since we first began to change the ecosystem with farming and fire. Such a view forms the basis of antihumanism, a system of thought that removes humans from their pedestal and contends that, given our penchant for destruction—not only of ourselves but also all other species—we are less deserving of existence than are animals, plants, rocks, water, or air. For antihumanists, the only way off the precipice is a fall, with the survivors left to pick up the pieces. And if there are no survivors, that wouldn’t be a tragedy; there will always be beings in the world, even if there are no human beings.

Australian philosopher Toby Ord uses the image of the crumbling ledge in his book The Precipice: Existential Risk and the Future of Humanity (2020). “Fueled by technological progress, our power has grown so great that for the first time in humanity’s long history, we have the capacity to destroy ourselves,” Ord writes. He believes that the odds of this happening in the next 100 years are about one in six, the same as in a game of Russian roulette. “Humanity lacks the maturity, coordination and foresight necessary to avoid making mistakes from which we could never recover,” he concludes.

Ord is not an antihumanist but rather a transhumanist, a research fellow at the world’s leading center for transhumanist thought, Oxford University’s Future of Humanity Institute, which looks to scientific and technological advances as the only path forward. Transhumanists agree with antihumanists that human nature is morally and physically circumscribed in ways that make it impossible for us to get past the precipice. They likewise agree that Homo sapiens is doomed to disappear. But for transhumanists, this is a wonderful prospect because we will disappear by climbing instead of falling. As Ord writes, “Rising to our full potential for flourishing would likely involve us being transformed into something beyond the humanity of today.” That something will no longer be “us” in the strictest sense, but our posthuman successors will preserve what is best and most important about us. “I love humanity, not because we are Homo sapiens, but because of our capacity to flourish,” Ord writes.

Adam Kirsch, The End Is Only the Beginning (The American Scholar)

The appeal of that comes from its familiarity: We’ve been making problems with technology, then solving them with more technology, for a fairly long time now. Unless you stop to think about it, that seems normal.

(H/T Alan Jacobs)

Humanity without limits seems at best inhumane to me. Nonetheless, I recommend the American Scholar article, which pairs well with C.S. Lewis, That Hideous Strength

White nationalism

The constant accusations of “white nationalism” remind me of preachers and other polemicists calling Playboy “hard-core pornography” 50 years or so ago. People are going to catch on fairly quickly when they see something white nationalist/hard-core and there’s no term left on the rhetorical spectrum to describe it.

Haute Couture

I don’t recall ever seeing a piece of haute couture that so vividly captures the intersection of aburdity and misogyny:

(H/T the Atlantic)Legal

Legalia – Brett Kavanaugh

Perhaps because of some new movie or something, Justice Brett Kavanaugh seems to be back in the news, and it set me thinking about his confirmation hearings again.

When I was becoming a lawyer, I had to sit for a personal interview with another lawyer (or two). One of the questions was “Have you ever broken the law?” My answer was that, starting around age 19, I had two alcoholic beverages, one on each of two occasions, contrary to law. He/They were amused at my candor.

Back to Justice Kavanaugh: the thing that bothered me most about his nomination was his long history of drinking to drunkenness, beginning in high school and continuing, apparently, nonstop to present. I supported him before I knew of this, waffling afterward (I’m a bad member of any tribe).

I expect greater respect for the law from highly-placed Judges. I am obviously not squeaky-clean in the underage drinking department, but I’m close, I admit that I broke the law, and I admit that I was wrong. Kavanaugh lied and tap-danced about his drinking.

“But are you serious that ‘the thing that bothered me most about his nomination was his long history of drinking to drunkenness’? Two women accused him of sexual assaults!”

Yes, I am serious. I was not convinced by those two female accusers. But the history of drinking made both charges more plausible than they would have been without that history. Drunken sexual encounters, voluntary, involuntary and borderline, are the bane of every major university, and both accusations fit fairly well into the “drunken frat boy/drink until you’re irresistible” pattern.

Had I been a Senator, I think I’d have voted to reject the nomination, not because I found those accusations likelier true than not, but because I don’t want an unrepentant, somewhat sanctimonious, drunk on the Supreme Court — a man against whom the accusations had some sting.

Politics

Red-pilling for power

Damon Linker does a pretty good job in The Red-Pill Pusher of explaining and rebutting Curtis Yarvin, a “neo-reactionary” (Linker’s term, but I doubt Yarvin would reject it), of whom I had heard, and probably could have placed as Right rather than Left figure. Beyond that, I was essentially ignorant of Yarvin’s particular spin on things — or how much influence it has built in formerly-reputable conservative circles like Ohio Senator J.D. Vance, whose Hillbilly Elegy marked him as someone with a background and a mind possibly suited to high office.

Yarvin gets a lot of facts right, a few more plausible. Yet my reaction against his conclusions is different than what Linker articulated (which probably was less than what he could have articulated).

Here’s my problem with Yarvin. He is hungry for power, and his obsession with power has already corrupted him. He has made it clear that among his first exercises of power would be sweeping, radical firings that would cripple government (and cause much misery to the newly-unemployed). Then he and his mostly-unnamed pals would amateurishly assume most or all of the vacated offices and try to impose their will on a country that’s about 50% of a different mind. It would make the Trump years a model of decorum and competence in comparison. I think it highly likely that there would be much bloodshed.

I have no reason to trust that their program would make the country better or make its citizens freer.

No thanks.

Signs of hope

I recently (like within the past half hour as I type) heard a preacher say that he has only seen one encouraging sign in public so far this year: a bunch of NFL players kneeling and praying around a teammate felled on the field by a heart attack.

It’s a tempting narrative: world; hell; handbasket. You can fill in the blanks.

Yet I see other signs — contemporaneous if not distinctly 2023.

  1. I found it encouraging that a high proportion of the worst emerging Republican jackasses were handed their heads by voters last November.
  2. I find it encouraging that honest liberals, and even one Marxist, keep saying things that get them labeled — oh, I don’t know; “white nationalists,” probably. Examples here and here.
  3. I find it almost as encouraging that most honest conservatives have no use for Donald Trump and say to in terms that gives aid and comfort to liberals. (A bold claim I know, but I can always fall back on the No True Scotsman fallacy if you find a counter-example.)
  4. Indeed, I find it encouraging to be reminded that center-left and center-right have an awful lot in common when compared to the alternatives.

The Quaker’s Mule Who Wouldn’t Plow

One of my favorite stories is about the Quaker whose mule refused to plow.

The Quaker tried to coax him every way he knew. Finally, he stepped around in front of the mule, took him gently by the ears, and stared into his eyes.

“Brother mule, thou knowest that I am a Quaker. Thou knowest I cannot beat thee. Thou knowest I cannot curse thee.

“With thou knowest not is is that I can sell thee to the Baptist down the road, and he can beat the living daylights out of thee.” 

Mitch Daniels, though Presbyterian rather than Quaker, ran no negative ads in his two successful runs for governor of Indiana, yet he won re-election in a year when Barack Obama memorably took Indiana’s electors in the presidential race. As President of Purdue (recently retired), he froze tuition for ten years.

It does my soul good cheers my sinful heart, then, to see that Mitch has supporters who are willing to respond to barbarians who are trying to keep him from running for the Senate seat Mike Braun will vacate next year to run for governor:

Then with a toxic blast of political rectal gas, [Representative Jim] Banks signaled he would enter the brewing 2024 U.S. Senate race. Teaming up with Club for Growth President David McIntosh, the pair did something we’ve never seen before: Running a preemptive TV ad designed to keep a rival — Mitch Daniels — out of the race.

… [I]n the eyes of Club for Growth, a PAC of billionaires, it said in the TV ad, “After 50 years in big government, big pharma and big academia, Mitch Daniels forgot how to fight. An old guard Republican clinging to the old ways of the bad old days.”

Long-time GOP operative Mark Lubbers responded to the Club for Growth TV ad, telling me, “These are the same people who cost us Republican control of the Senate. Sad to see that Banks has thrown in with them.”

… 

Donald J. Trump Jr. then tweeted on Jan. 13: “The establishment is trying to recruit weak RINO Mitch Daniels to run for U.S. Senate in Indiana. The same Mitch Daniels who agreed with Joe Biden that millions of MAGA Republicans are supposedly a danger to the country & trying to ‘subvert democracy.’ He would be Mitt Romney 2.0.”

This was the first time anyone had described Daniels as a “weak RINO.”

Lubbers responded to Trump the younger: “You think the progressive left needs to be fought; we think it needs to be BEATEN. That requires optimistic positive conservatism that builds majorities, wins elections & makes policy. Not just foaming at the mouth, counting tweets, and grifting contributions. Hit the road.”

(Brian Howey)

Thank you, Mark Lubbers. And I’m very disappointed with David McIntosh — though it’s possible that he’s who he always was but I’ve changed.

Freddie clears the bases

Freddie deBoer hits a grand-slam homerun. Excerpts:

When you think politically, … think of the most privileged person you have ever seen, and ask if your next act will be of any threat to him. I call this the Rich Uncle Pennybags test, after the guy from Monopoly. The question is, does your next proposed political action hurt Rich Uncle Pennybags? … I am saying that a left-wing movement that devotes most of its time, effort, and attention to actions that fail the test risks no longer being a left-wing movement at all. I’m saying that a left wing that constantly fails the Rich Uncle Pennybags test is precisely the kind of left-wing movement that establishment power would prefer to face – a movement about symbolism over substance, about the individual rather than the masses, about elevating minorities in the ranks of a corrupt system rather than ending that corruption, about personal antipathy rather than structural reality.

[P]olitics is about mass action at scale, and the ability of politics properly understood to address interpersonal bigotries is limited. What’s not limited is our ability to reduce economic and social inequalities between identity groups, if we engage in politics in the right spirit and with a healthy understanding of the need to achieve structural change instead of personal critique – the kind of structural change that Rich Uncle Pennybags can’t ignore.

That’s a really good understanding of politics, even if you’re on Uncle Pennybag’s side. But the best parts were (1) examples of pseudo-progressive obsessions that fail the test and may even strengthen Uncle Moneybags, and (2) things I read between the lines.

F’rinstance, Uncle Moneybags doesn’t mind DEI training. It may even help him. He probably doesn’t mind the rich kids of Antifa.

And just as the Right is full of people whose whole purpose in public life seems to be trolling and triggering the Left, so the Left is full of people whose whole purpose in public life, objectively, seems to be trolling and triggering the Right. They fail the Uncle Moneybags test and, along with their equally self-indulgent Right-wing co-conspirators, debase our visible political discourse and waste time that could be spent on consequential, not clickworthy, things.

A Pleasant Surprise

The Justice Department announced Tuesday two Florida residents had been indicted for allegedly vandalizing at least three pro-life pregnancy centers in Florida, spray-painting threats like “if abortions aren’t safe than niether [sic] are you,” “WE’RE COMING for U,” and “YOUR TIME IS UP!!” on the sides of the buildings. If convicted of the charges—which also included violations of the Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances (FACE) Act—each defendant could face a maximum of 12 years in prison and fines up to $350,000. A number of crisis pregnancy centers around the country faced threats or violent attacks in the months leading up to and following last year’s Dobbs decision.

The Morning Dispatch

If forced to wager, I’d have wagered that Biden’s DOJ would never ferret out and prosecute the perpetrators of any attacks on pro-life pregnancy centers. Since I didn’t wager, I’m pleased to have my mild bias disproven.

Nonconformists

Transgender woman with Mike Tyson face tattoo GUILTY of raping two vulnerable mums with “her penis”

Most of the press went along with the defendant’s post-arrest change from man to woman, as did the judge, calling him “she” throughout the trial.” The Sun, god bless ‘em, did not.


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.

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, 11/10/22

Election 2022

With a little help from their foes

[M]uch of the conversation about the modern Republican Party assumes … that Republican politicians are impossibly bound to the needs and desires of their coalition and unable to resist its demands. Many — too many — political observers speak as if Republican leaders and officials had no choice but to accept Donald Trump into the fold, no choice but to apologize for his every transgression, no choice but to humor his attempt to overturn the result of the 2020 presidential election and now no choice but to embrace election-denying candidates around the country.

But that’s nonsense. For all the pressures of the base, for all the fear of Trump and his gift for ridicule, for all the demands of the donor class, it is also true that at every turn, Republicans in Washington and elsewhere have made an active and affirmative choice to embrace the worst elements of their party — and jettison the norms and values that make democracy work.

Jamelle Bouie, No One Forced Republicans to Do Any of These Things

Nobody forced them, but a sleazy and dangerous Democrat tactic worked:

Democrats’ cynical decisions to boost more extreme Republican primary candidates seem to have paid off last night, as Price reports, with all six of the boosted primary winners losing to Democratic candidates. That’s likely to encourage future Democratic meddling—but operatives say it should also be a wake up call for Republicans supporting extreme candidates.

The Morning Dispatch

Some of these MAGA candidates were so thinly-funded — apart from the boost the Dems cynically gave them — that they were unlikely to win. And in the end (the general election), they didn’t.

For more, see Price St. Clair, Primary Meddling Pays Off for Democrats. Excerpt:

The Democrats meddling in Michigan’s 3rd District generated the most controversy. Incumbent Peter Meijer was one of only 10 Republican House members to vote to impeach Trump in the aftermath of January 6—but he lost his primary to Trump-aligned candidate John Gibbs after the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee spent $425,000 boosting Gibbs. Pre-election forecasts suggested that the race was likely to end up being the closest of the six “MAGA meddling” races. On Tuesday, Gibbs lost by 8 points to his Democratic opponent Hillary Scholten, who had run an explicitly moderate campaign.

Lashed to the Orange mast as the ship overturns

Mastriano and Lake, meanwhile, successfully navigated their respective primaries by lashing themselves to the former president in essentially every respect. That meant throwing themselves behind stolen-election conspiracy theories, but it also meant disdaining the notion that they had to care about uniting the party. It was their job to wave the MAGA flag, and everyone else’s job to get in line.

This produced bizarre spectacles, like when Lake went out of her way to attack, not just the late Sen. John McCain, but any of her own potential voters who might have liked him. “We don’t have any McCain Republicans in here, do we?” Lake said at a campaign event. “Get the hell out!”

In a wave election, that sort of behavior might pay off as a triumphal assertion of who is in charge around here. With a loss, it ends up as a remarkable display of political hubris.

Andrew Egger, The End of ‘Stop the Steal’?

Voldemorting 45

“What every Republican leader knows, but few dare say out loud, is that 2022 would mark the third consecutive year that Republicans not named or tainted by Trump had a good election,” Jonathan Martin writes for Politico. “For all the affection Trump enjoys from his base, there’s a reason why it’s Democrats who are the most eager to make him the face of the GOP.”

The Morning Dispatch

Dissent

While others suggest this election was a defeat for Trump, Trumpism, and the Big Steal bullshit, the New York Times narrative makes it about America’s love of abortion together with a defense of democracy against its enemies.

I know I’m nowhere near the mainstream in many ways, and I was sufficiently inattentive to the campaign that I unwittingly early-voted for an Indiana candidate who, I learned on Election Day, is under a dark cloud. But despite the success of a few abortion-permissive post-Dobbs referenda, I’m not buying the Times narrative. It’s not absurd, but I don’t find it persuasive, either.

Politics more broadly

The GOP’s Urban failures

Young, educated urbanites in Texas are a lot like their counterparts anywhere else in the country. Imagine yourself as a high-achieving young Texan who wants to attend an elite university, graduate, move to Austin, and work at Apple. What does the Republican Party stand for that makes you feel that you belong there? Parker, the Fort Worth mayor, looks like precisely the kind of voter Republicans have an increasingly hard time reaching: a millennial woman with an elite university education, a graduate degree, and an address in a major city in what will soon be the nation’s third-largest metropolitan area.

There is good evidence that conservatives can get good things done in big cities. But, for the most part, big-city voters are not interested in Republicans.

“We’re the old man saying, ‘Get off my lawn!’” says Kevin Robnett of Fort Worth, a businessman, veteran, and longtime Republican activist. “We as a party have become anti-intellectual, and we have become anti-institution,” he continues. This has made it more difficult to connect with college-educated professionals in the cities and suburbs. “Our message is: ‘Something has been broken and you have been robbed, and things were better in the past.’ That’s our mantra now, and it is a losing vision for the entire millennial generation. They want to suck the marrow out of life. That’s why you don’t see them in offices, and they’re hard to employ. But one of the things about that generation that I really like—that we are not appealing to—is the sense that we can fix our problems, that our best days are ahead. I have an optimistic view of that generation, but our party does not.”

Worse than merely failing to sympathize with the values and aspirations of these voters, Republicans often sneer at them, denouncing the cities and the mode of life lived there as corrupt, dismissing the colleges and universities that prepare students for professional life as dens of inequity, and, increasingly, treating those at the commanding heights of business as cultural traitors. “You don’t tell a woman she’s ugly and should have made better choices and then try to get her to go out with you,” Robnett says.

Kevin D. Williamson

It can’t happen here

I didn’t read past this, but I’m inclined to agree with the top-level summary:

A MAGA America Would Be Ugly
Forget Orban’s Hungary. We’d be worse. By Paul Krugman

I’m still on the fence about whether Viktor Orban’s “illiberal democracy” is per se anathema (currently reading Karl Popper’s Open Society and Its Enemies), but I don’t think that today’s dramatis personnae on the American Right could pull it off here — with the possible exception of Ron DeSantis, who is far smarter and more thoughtful than his street-brawler looks suggest.

Culture

Good science not (necessarily) welcome here

Students are often happy to hear that there are genes for sexual orientation, but if you teach that most human personality traits, and even school achievement, have a heritable component, they start to squirm …

[I]t has become taboo in the classroom to note any disparities between groups that are not explained as the result of systemic bias.

Some grants focus almost exclusively on identity, as federal agencies, such as the National Science Foundation, now offer a surplus of grants with the purpose of “broadening the participation of members of groups that are . . . currently underrepresented”—instead of funding research to answer scientific questions.

But the field that is most directly affected is research related to humans, especially those dealing with evolution of populations.

As an example: The NIH now puts barriers to access to the important database of “Genotypes and Phenotypes (dbGaP).” The database is an amazing tool that combines genomes (the unique genetic makeup of each individual) and phenotypes (the observable characteristics of each individual) of millions of people. These phenotypes include education, occupation, health and income and, because the dataset connects genetics with phenotype at an individual level, it is essential for scientists who want to understand genes and genetic pathways that are behind those phenotypes.

The NIH now denies scientists access to this data and other related datasets. Researchers report getting permits denied on the grounds that studying their genetic basis is “stigmatizing.” According to one researcher, this happens even if the research has nothing to do with race or sex, but focuses on genetics and education.

Luana Maroja, An Existential Threat to Doing Good Science

Not with a bang but a whimper

Jeffrey Epstein accuser Virginia Giuffre, her lawyer David Boies and the disgraced financier’s former attorney Alan Dershowitz said Tuesday that they have dropped their defamation lawsuits against one another, ending a yearslong feud involving two of the nation’s best-known attorneys.

In announcing the resolution of the lawsuits, Ms. Giuffre said in a statement that she now recognizes that she might have made a mistake in identifying Mr. Dershowitz as one of her alleged abusers.

Mr. Dershowitz said in a statement Tuesday that he never had sex with Ms. Giuffre.

“I have nevertheless come to believe that at the time she accused me she believed what she said,” Mr. Dershowitz said. He added that he now believed that he was mistaken in accusing Mr. Boies of engaging in misconduct and extortion.

Defamation Lawsuits Dropped in Jeffrey Epstein Saga

Well, I’m glad that’s all — well, “cleared up” seems a bit strong.

Pro tip from someone who practiced law for 37 years and heard many jury verdicts announced: very seldom does either side feel fully vindicated and satisfied after the jury comes back.

Too typical

This is a humiliating moment. Or at least it should have been. The Daily Wire’s Matt Walsh went on Joe Rogan’s podcast and asserted that “millions” of kids have been on hormone blockers. That’s laughably absurd. There has been a spike in students identifying as genderqueer or non-binary, but millions of kids on puberty blockers?

Rogan’s team fact-checked Walsh in real time, and found that the true number of children placed on puberty blockers was less than 1,000 kids per year, out of the more than 70 million children in the United States.

[Embedded Tweet omitted]

I want to be crystal clear on where I stand. I don’t believe minor children should receive “gender-affirming” surgery or be placed on puberty blockers. States have the constitutional authority to block such treatments, and they should.

At the same time, one of the reasons why our politics has become so hysterical is constant exaggeration. Critical race theory is everywhere! Drag queens are overrunning our schools! Millions of kids are on puberty blockers!

Take something that’s bad (there are, in fact, harmful anti-racist training modules, drag shows for children are absurd, and no child should be given life-altering “gender-affirming” medical treatment) and then hype the threat. Make it pervasive. Frighten people. It’s a formula for ratings and clicks, but it’s also a formula for reactionary politics and constitutional violations. It’s a formula that heightens American polarization and contributes to pervasive anger and despair.

Walsh has cast himself as an expert on these matters. He created a documentary attacking radical gender ideology. He should know better.

David French

I am sick to death of implausible, if not outright innumerate, hyperbole from people I basically agree with.

(For what it’s worth, contra French, I’m uneasy with outright bans on “gender-affirming care” of adolescents because, even if “trans” is a social contagion, and there has been profiteering and ideological blinders at gender clinics, I’m not prepared to say that no adolescent needs such a band-aid, if only to cover the deep wound of genuine, persistent and extreme gender dysphoria.)


[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.

November 1, 2022

Pilgrimage

I’m almost fully readjusted to my home time zone after almost two weeks 7 hours to the East.

My overall “secular” impression of my past two weeks in the Holy Land: if you really want to see a lot of authentic sites, important to the historic (i.e., pre-Reformation) Church, bring good shoes, socks (a pair of Ecco walkers and a second of Mephistos, worn with Wright Socks, kept me blister-free, but didn’t prevent mildly turned ankles), walking stick, and be prepared to walk over a lot of very uneven rubble and pavers that have heaved over 1500-2000 years. Even the Church of Anastasis (a/k/a Holy Sepulchre) isn’t entirely safe for those, like me, of unsteady gait and poor balance.

Also, don’t miss the sacred sites in current Jordan, which astonished me in how successful it has been chasing Mammon. (It feels surprisingly like the U.S., especially in Amman.)

Oh yeah: everybody seems to smoke almost everywhere.

And I’m ready to eat me more pig.

As for the religious impression, words fail me. I got on this trip a strenuous Christian pilgrimage. “Pilgrimage” sadly was not my experience on a prior trip, which had a much different emphasis than vereration of holy places. In contrast, we had an appropriate Gospel reading at site after site. We attended a very early-morning Orthodox Christian liturgy a few feet away from the birthplace of Christ in the crypt of the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem and a Sunday liturgy at the Tomb of the Theotokos. I venerated the place where Christ’s body lay for three days before He rose from the dead at the Church of the Resurrection (a/k/a Church of the Holy Sepulchre).

An unexpected stunner was an exhibition on the Shroud of Turin. I followed the Shroud just enough to have come around to a presumption that it was authentic. But someone took all the marks on the shroud, showing the multiple flogging/flaying wounds on He whom it had wrapped, and created a bronze figure:


If someone can find words adequate to that, they are better wordsmiths than I am.

I’m glad I went, but I fear that age has caught up with me to the point that I’ll not go again.

I’ll probably post more pictures when I get them sorted out.

Sensible change

England’s National Health Service outlined a new clinical approach earlier this month, issuing an interim service specification that says most pre-pubescent children experiencing gender incongruence—feeling their gender identity doesn’t match their biological sex—are experiencing a phase that “does not persist into adolescence.” The NHS announced plans to close the United Kingdom’s only gender-identity clinic dedicated to children this summer after an independent review found problems including insufficient record-keeping and an “unquestioning affirmative approach.” It will stand up regional centers instead, but reportedly will take a more cautious tack when treating minors’ gender dysphoria and ban the use of puberty blockers in minors outside of clinical trials.

The Morning Dispatch

Attacking with whatever’s handy at the moment

I will first go back to before the Ukrainian crisis to the election of Donald Trump in 2016 as an example of what I mean. Many people recall John McCain saying, “Russia is a gas station masquerading as a country.” President Barack Obama, in his last press conference as President, said Russia could not “change or significantly weaken the U.S..” He said compared to the U.S., “Russia is a smaller and weaker country.” He continued that Russia doesn’t produce anything anyone wants except gas, oil, and arms.

These kinds of statements were what one typically heard about Russia in those days. Russia’s economy was said to be no bigger than that of the state of Texas, and its GDP was miniscule.

Yet, after Donald Trump was elected President, we were told, “Russia did it.” It was as if Putin directed the election of the president of the United States from his Kremlin office. How does a man whom they had said runs a small, weak, “gas station” kind of country control the results of the election of someone to the highest office in the country that claims to be the most powerful on earth? Now, the Mueller Report indicated there was no proof that Russia interfered, but my point is that we had been hearing how weak, small, and economically insignificant Russia was, and then almost all of the mainstream press quickly turned and joined the politicians who said Russia had covertly changed the course of American history. If one holds to both those understandings of Russia some explanation is definitely needed. Otherwise, this is cognitive dissonance on a national level.

Hal Freeman, lightly reformatted.

A marriage that cannot last

[T]here is a fundamental incoherence in an alliance that requires affirmation of the gender binary in the L, the G, and the B whilst emphatically denying it in the T and Q.

Carl Trueman

Affirmative action

The old-style defenders of racial double standards still say they aren’t racist.  Since racial double standards are by definition racist, that’s been a hard line to peddle.  The new line is that they are racist, but in a good way:  Because only racism against whites can remedy the effects of past racism against blacks.

Since this view is relentlessly drummed into the ears of the young – and since few of them have ever been taught the ancient doctrine that justice is giving to each person what is due to him, or the sacred principle that we may never do evil for the sake of good results — perhaps it is not surprising that many of my students find the theory of good racism plausible.

J Budziszewski

Marriage in America

Gay marriage is a luxury good in our society, largely the province of professional men and women. Meanwhile, among Americans without college degrees, marriage is collapsing.

Public health officials scratch their heads, trying to explain the extraordinary decline in life expectancy in the United States, a shocking trend for a country so rich. Their captivity to progressive ideology makes them invincibly ignorant. They cannot acknowledge the obvious truth, which is that isolated, disoriented individuals deprived of the norms that would guide them toward marriage and family have dim prospects. They are more likely to stumble through life and engage in self-destructive behavior.

R.R. Reno

Intelligence, thoughtfulness, and the career they foreclose

The woke takeover of the establishment is so complete that “if you are an intelligent and thoughtful young American, you cannot be a progressive public intellectual today, any more than you can be a cavalry officer or silent movie star.” Every thought on the left is scripted, monitored, and policed. As Lyons observes, “In contrast with this oppressive decadence . . . the dialectic of the countercultural Right crackles with irreverence and intellectual possibility.”

N.S. Lyons Lyons citing Michael Lind and quoted by R.R. Reno


[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, 9/3/22

Culture

Tolerance or acceptance?

One of the often repeated but seldom considered ethical maxims of our shallow age is the idea that tolerance is a good start but that acceptance is what we really need …

The idea that tolerance is a good start but that acceptance is better is bullshit.

… Acceptance is not a virtue. It is a cowardice that refuses to even acknowledge the importance of morality.

Tolerance is better. It does not deny the existence of objective reality. It is quite happy admit that a person might be wrong about something important to them; but does not assume that just because another person is wrong, you should have the right or ability to correct them. It knows that assuming unlimited power to correct the errors of others leads only to atrocities. Tolerance is not some easy first step. Real tolerance, the type that consists of more than just repeating whatever beige pieties the clerical caste are churning out this week, requires discipline and a willingness to sacrifice part of your own power over the world.

Flat Caps and Fatalism, Through a glass

Royal, not “famous for being famous”

It occurs to me that my soft spot for the British Royal Family may be rooted it its refusal — for most members, almost always — to act like celebrities.

Thence also my contempt for Harry and Meghan.

Nothing to see here. Move along now.

[T]he discovery that the healthy body parts of even a tiny handful of children were being intentionally removed by world class medical institutions [should] be non-stop national news. But the forcefield of denial and magical thinking around trans issues makes it so the removal of healthy organs is actually life-saving surgery performed by doctors carrying the banner of the next civil-rights movement. The media, of course, plays along or pretends there’s nothing to report here. 

After the Children’s National Hospital story blew up last weekend, NPR was more interested in anti-trans threats against hospitals than in looking into what was actually going on. A since-deleted statement on CNH’s website indicating that gender affirming hysterectomy was available to patients “between the ages of 0-21” was charitably waved off by The Washington Post as “an error that has been corrected.” Yes, well, mistakes happen.

Meghan Daum

Homicide or Suicide?

I spent a little time with a very cynical friend and realized, debriefing myself afterward, that he’s probably no more pessimistic than I am about our future, but he thinks there are malefactors actors doing this to us, whereas I think we’re almost entirely doing it to ourselves.

The difference probably ramifies politically, but I don’t want to attribute political views to him that I have calculatedly not asked about.

Mitch Daniels on student loan forgiveness

A very interesting guy lives a few miles away, across the Wabash River. His name is Mitch Daniels and he runs an operation called “Purdue University.”

He has thoughts about student-loan debt forgiveness. Student-Loan Forgiveness and the National Debt

I put this last in this section because, alas, there’s a paywall.

Wordplay

Fun

I heard some time back that other languages have no equivalent of the English word “fun.” I’ve puzzled over that claim, and over the meaning of the English word.

Today, a clue:

Fun (n.)

“A cheat, trick” (c. 1700), from verb fun (1680s) “to cheat, hoax,”… probably a variant of Middle English fonnen “befool”: (c. 1400s)…funny money “counterfeit bills.”

– Online Etymology Dictionary

Via Mark Botts

I’m not sure I can even consider this a clue, but it popped up and might (I’m far from sure: tl;dr, as they say) help triangulate “fun”: Here’s How to Have Fun. Also, What Is Fun? – The New York Times

Certainty vs. Certitude

Too often when I get a whiff of something, I find that someone else has already gone there and posted something about it. Thus, Certainty vs. Certitude.

Business-dude lorem ipsum:

… filler language that is used to roleplay “thought leadership” among those who have nothing to say: the MBA version of a grade-school book report that starts with a Webster’s Dictionary definition. Advanced business-dude lorem ipsum will convey action (“We need to design value in stages”) but only in the least tangible way possible. It will employ industry terms of art (“We’re first to market or a fast follower”) that indicate the business dude has been in many meetings where similar ideas were hatched. Business-dude lorem ipsum will often hold one or two platitudes that sound like they might also be Zen koans (“That value is in the eye of the beholder”) but actually are so broad that they say nothing at all. In fact, in a previous draft of this newsletter, I had initially gone through the blog post almost line-by-line to point out shining examples of corporate gibberish in action, only to realize that the negative information quality of the writing actually bogged down and leeched clarity out of my own writing like an idea vacuum.

Charlie Wartzel, Business Dudes Need to Stop Talking Like This

Iatrogenic

Pertaining to disease or disorder caused by doctors. But it has popped up under my nose as metaphor at least twice this week:

Like so much of what government does, it’s iatrogenic, inflating college costs as schools continue to pocket the subsidies Uncle Sam showers on them.

Mitch Daniels, Student-Loan Forgiveness and the National Debt

Politics

A Slam-Dunk Case Against Trump2024

Trump told the Wendy Bell show that if re-elected he would issue full pardons and a government apology to rioters who stormed Capitol on Jan. 6: “I mean full pardons with an apology to many.”

Meredith McGraw via The Morning Dispatch

Thank God, the man just can’t help himself. That promise should be in heavy rotation in Democrat ads if Trump is the Republican nominee.

A crude statement of the populist essence

I’m using the term “populist” in a very specific way, drawing on part of the definition offered by author Jan-Werner Müller in his book What Is Populism? (which I had a hand in publishing during my time working at Penn Press). A populist is someone, according to Müller, who declares that only some of the people (namely, his supporters) are the people. Everyone else is either a traitor to the true people or in some other way not fully of the true people.

So, for example, at a campaign rally in May 2016, Trump declared that “the only important thing is the unification of the people—because the other people don’t mean anything.” That is a crude statement of the populist essence.

Damon Linker

(I generally keep mum on populism, as opposed to keeping mum on today’s odd Orange populist avatar, because the populists have legitimate grievances that neither party has convincingly addressed.)

More Linker, from the same post:

Liberals and progressives think history moves in a certain direction (toward justice understood as ever-greater equality) and that politics should contribute to this forward movement. Conservatives believe in slowing and managing change without necessarily presuming history moves with any underlying logic or direction. And reactionaries think things were better in the past, that there’s been a fall from that Golden Age, and that it’s possible to return to that prior state through an act of political will.

How polarization gets worse — and worse, and worse …

37 of the 50 states, where three-quarters of Americans live, are ruled by a single party. The number where one side controls both legislative chambers and the governor’s mansion has nearly doubled in the past 30 years. These one-party states are self-perpetuating, as the winners redraw electoral maps to their own advantage. And politicians with ultra-safe seats have perverse incentives. They do not worry about losing a general election, only a primary, in which avid partisans call the shots because they are more motivated to vote. The way to woo such partisans is to eschew compromise.

Hence the proliferation of extremism. Most Texans think their new abortion laws are too draconian, for example, even though most also think the old national rules were too lenient. If Texas were not a one-party state, its legislators might have found a compromise.

The Economist, American states are now Petri dishes of polarisation

Can democracy survive?

Democracy cannot survive when one side believes there are only two outcomes to an election: Either they win or they were cheated.

Joe Biden

My main quibble with this was the convenient assumption that there are only two political sides. That’s why it’s good to keep reading:

If Biden truly believes that, he should let his political team know. PACs, committees, and nonprofits aligned with the Democratic Party have spent tens of millions of dollars this election cycle propping up those “MAGA Republicans” in GOP primaries, boosting their name recognition in the hopes they’ll be easier to defeat in a general election. Several of the more “mainstream” Republicans Biden lauded—Rep. Peter Meijer in Michigan, Aurora, Illinois, Mayor Richard Irvin, former Maryland Commerce Secretary Kelly Schulz, and many more—have fallen victim to the scheme.

The Morning Dispatch: Biden vs. ‘MAGA Republicans’


[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.

Indiction 2022

Culture

A “culture of disrespect” and its primary vector

“We now have very good research comparing American kids who speak English at home to immigrant kids who don’t speak English at home,” he said. “American kids who speak English at home are much more likely to be anxious, depressed, disengaged, and experienced non-suicidal self-injury compared to kids who don’t speak English at home, using speaking English at home as a proxy for engagement with American culture.” When he advises immigrant families in the United States, he tells them not to speak English at home.

“Being American-born and raised to American parents is now a major risk factor for bad outcomes,” Dr. Sax said. “Being American-born and raised to American parents is a major risk factor for anxiety, depression, disengagement from school non-suicidal self-injury and many other bad outcomes, being children of immigrants and not speaking English at home now predicts good outcomes.”

America has become a “culture of disrespect” and English, a primary vector. Every cultural medium—your kid’s favorite webisodes on YouTube or Disney Plus—promotes to children the notion that parents are foolish and inept and that it’s admirable, cool, or smart for kids to dismiss, deride or countermand them.

I liked what Dr. Sax had to say, in part because he seems to wrestle with his own conclusions. He clearly dislikes telling Americans our culture is “toxic” for families; the very idea seems to pain him. The problem is, he believes it is true.

Abigail Shrier, ”I Don’t Want American Kids”, quoting Dr. Leonard Sax.

Why do we want a liberal education? …

… Because everyone in the modern university is living in its opposite, and it sucks.

Zero-tolerance as amulet

“Zero-tolerance” is a phrase that people use in a vain attempt to ward off evil. Whenever any institution makes an official statement declaring that they have a “zero-tolerance approach” to anything, everyone knows what it means: We have been infinitely tolerant to this kind of behavior in the past, and we just got caught, so we have to make a statement. It’s like calling yourself a “patriot” or an “anti-fascist” — it means precisely the opposite of what it says.

Alan Jacobs, let’s be clear

Is this coherent and meaningful?

The origins of this book lie in my curiosity about how and why a particular statement has come to be regarded as coherent and meaningful: “I am a woman trapped in a man’s body.”

Carl Trueman, The Rise and Triumph of the Modern Self

The Phantoms in our lives

Remember Phantom limb syndrome? Then there was Phantom Phone. Now, in a similar vein, I think I have Phantom haptic syndrome from my Apple Watch.

I really haven’t fully decided whether my Apple Watch makes my life any better, especially if you net out things like that.

Economia

The scourge of income equality

I fully expected, from the title, to find sheer sophistry here. I misunderestimated Phil Gramm:

In 2017, among working-age households, the bottom 20% earned only $6,941 on average, and only 36% were employed. But after transfer payments and taxes, those households had an average income of $48,806. The average working-age household in the second quintile earned $31,811 and 85% of them were employed. But after transfers and taxes, they had income of $50,492, a mere 3.5% more than the bottom quintile. The middle quintile earned $66,453 and 92% were employed. But after taxes and transfers, they kept only $61,350—just 26% more than the bottom quintile.

… Despite Democratic politicians’ efforts to provoke resentment against the rich, when was the last time you heard working people complain that some people in America are rich? The hostility of working people is increasingly focused on a system where those who don’t break a sweat are about as well off as they are.

This justifiable resentment is the economic source of today’s American populism ….

Phil Gramm and John Early, Income Equality, Not Inequality, Is the Problem

This makes me a bit more hostile to Universal Basic Income, too.

Will collapse necessarily end “the good life”?

There’s a YouTube wherein:

Peter Zeihan explains why he thinks everything is about to come crashing down. Amongst his predictions, delivered with an excitable zeal which belies their context, are the coming disintegration of the economies of Germany and China, global demographic collapse, a rise in famines and a collapse in global supply chains, and the ongoing disappearance of the workforce across all industries.

What’s interesting to me about this kind of presentation is often what is missing. In this case I heard nothing at all, for example, about the future of Africa and nothing of any seriousness about climate change or ecological degradation. More to the point, it’s very much an economist’s worldview, which means it is hemmed in by the usual limitations. It’s possible that what constitutes a good human life may amount to more than growth in material wealth, but you won’t come across that notion here. It’s a machinist’s analysis of the failures of the Machine.

Paul Kingsnorth

Politics

Ends and Means

If we are willing to grant, at the outset, that the people we’re debating agree about ends—that they want a healthy and prosperous society in which all people can flourish—then we can converse with them, we can see ourselves as genuine members of a community. And even if at the end of the day we have to conclude that we all do not want the same goods (which can, alas, happen), it is better that we learn it at the end of the day than decide it before sunrise.

Alan Jacobs, How to Think

What the politically-disengaged do know

He loves to be loved. He even loves to be hated. He cannot bear to be ignored. So in a sense, I’m playing into his hands.

So be it.

So be it.

I’ve been stunned at how many people I’ve encountered who fit this description. They’re establishing careers, starting families, buying first homes—building a life—and don’t really have the time or inclination to get engaged politically. They don’t know a ton about either party’s policy platform or legislative record. What they do know is Trump irritates them to no end. He reminds them of the lightweight underclassmen at a college kegger; his raucousness was entertaining at first, but the act has worn awfully thin. They just want to get rid of him and get on with the party.

Tim Alberta, 4 Funny Feelings about 2020

One terrible reason to support a candidate

Trump has benefited, as usual, from his being the center of attention, as well as from a defensive reflex among Republicans who may have misgivings to rally around him anyway, figuring that if he is so hated and abused by the other side they owe it to him — and themselves.

This may be an understandable sentiment, especially with memories still fresh of the abuses and hysteria that attended the Russia-gate probe. At the end of the day, though, that a potential presidential candidate was raided by the FBI is a terrible reason to support him.

Rich Lowry


[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.

Friday, 8/19/22, political

I’ve collected so much that I’m breaking it in two. Herewith, the political, writ large and smaller. The rest will come in the morniing.

Politics Writ Large

The point of these items is not partisan, but rather a view of the political field “from 30,000 feet.”

Conservatism

Three outstanding paragraphs:

I shuddered when, within a matter of months following the Obergefell decision, I began to hear activists from (otherwise obsolete?) gay-rights organizations talking about the need to push transgender issues as the next front on the leftward side of the culture war. These activists weren’t just calling for legal protections from discrimination, which wouldn’t have been especially controversial. They were demanding that the country at large give up on “the gender binary” and reject belief in any kind of biological component of sexual identity.

In its place, people were now expected to embrace an ideology of absolute gender fluidity. Boys could be girls, girls could be boys, requests on the part of children to physically change from one to the other using a range of sometimes quite radical medical interventions needed to be respected and heeded, and any and all resistance to this agenda was henceforth declared to be an expression of rank bigotry. The change even extended to pronoun usage, which went in the matter of a couple of years from something perfectly obvious and unworthy of thought for native speakers of American English to a highly fraught matter of social propriety and potential insult.

Can anyone really be surprised that this push for dramatic sociocultural change, with much of it focused on minors, coincided with a surge of support for right-wing populism, which promised to fight the left with greater ferocity than ever before?

Damon Linker, On Being a Conservative Liberal

One of my favorite sayings used to be Cet animal est très méchant. Quand on l’attaque, il se défend. It was my (conservative) response to progressive aggressors who found conservatives très méchant.

“Back in the day”, 20-30 years ago, it was invariably the progressives who aggressed, the conservatives who defended. I cannot say that categorically any more. Death threats and death plots against progressive-to-center-right public figures, by the far right, caution me against that. But Linker reminds me that the Left remains an aggressor.

Dave Hopkins, a political scientist at Boston College, told The Dispatch last month that “the definition of conservatism has changed a bit in the Trump years.”

“What counts as being a true conservative has become more about cultural issues and more about fidelity to Trump himself than it’s been about size of government,” he said.

Price St. Clair, Wyoming Voters Deal Lopsided Loss to Cheney

Another of my favorite sayings (very loosely paraphrased from memory) comes from the late William F. Buckley: "The problem with most liberals is that they cannot begin to describe the world in which they’d say ‘enough!’ and become conservatives." That certainly is the case with those who, having totally triumphed on homosexuality, thought they could put one over on us with gender theory, thus keeping their little sinecures intact.

No American Oakeshottians

Back to Damon Linker’s rewarding essay of Friday, On Being a Conservative Liberal:

The great British conservative Michael Oakeshott has a lovely essay titled “On Being Conservative” that does a fabulous job of summarizing the impulse to resist change. Here is that essay’s most famous passage: “To be conservative … is to prefer the familiar to the unknown, … the tried to the untried, fact to mystery, the actual to the possible, the limited to the unbounded, the near to the distant, the sufficient to the superabundant, the convenient to the perfect, present laughter to utopian bliss.”

Those sentiments speak to me on a very personal level … Deep into adulthood, the announcement of an unanticipated change in plans would provoke intense anxiety that manifested itself in anger, as my brain short-circuited and I did everything I could to repress an instinct to panic.

No wonder I ended up a conservative—though of a peculiar kind … I had no real attraction to the surging, striving form of American conservatism that leads some to lament decadence and stagnation or to propose schemes that might inspire greater economic and cultural dynamism. It placed me miles away from Ronald Reagan’s endorsement of Thomas Paine’s line about how it’s possible and desirable to “begin the world over again.” (That quintessentially American sentiment has always struck me as delusional and potentially dangerous.)

There are, it seems, no American Oakeshottians.

Except, perhaps, in a certain underpopulated corner of the Democratic Party—the corner in which I’ve found a de facto political home for the past two decades.

This is probably the best argument I’ve read on why a conservative “of a peculiar kind” might end up voting Democrat.

Epistemic humility

As the leader of a country that within living memory had wiped out six million Jews, she was understandably anxious not to appear prescriptive about what might constitute European identity.

Tom Holland, Dominion, distilling a lot of history and shame to 190-proof.

Religion and Politics

“I was thinking about that Marx quote that religion is the opium of the people,” Elizabeth Oldfield, the former director of the Christian think tank Theos, told me. “I think what we’ve got now is [that] politics is the amphetamines of the people.”

Helen Lewis, How Social Justice Became a New Religion

Politics Writ Smaller

New policies, maybe; barbarian behavior, no

Cheney and Romney (and Adam Kinzinger and Peter Meijer and other dissenting Republicans) are defending the party. They’re upholding its ideals. And to understand why, we have to understand the core argument of the Trump right. If I’ve heard it once, I’ve heard it a thousand times. It has two parts:

First, it’s time to end the old ways. As a policy matter, Reagan Republicanism is dead. We need more government intervention in the market, fewer military entanglements abroad, and the greater use of state power to enforce conservative moral norms. A new “workers’ party” or “parents’ party” is going to be more progressive economically and more conservative socially than Reagan’s party. We appreciate The Gipper, but he was a man of his time, and that time has passed.

Second, it’s not just the old policies we reject. We reject the old rules of behavior. The left punches hard. We’ll punch harder. We tried nominating “good” people—like Mitt—and the left painted them as racist and misogynist. We didn’t make the new rules, but we’ll play by those rules, and the new rules tell us to fight fire with fire. Never back down. Never apologize. If cruelty works, be cruel. If lies work, then lie. Support for classical liberalism and the rule of law are luxury beliefs for a protected elite that doesn’t understand the present emergency. The existence of the nation is at stake. Act like it.

As times change, policies will change. The Republican Party wasn’t going to remain the anti-slavery party when slavery ended, just as it wasn’t going to remain the Cold War party when the Soviet Union fell. Ideological fights and ideological change are normal and healthy. Not every economic problem can be fixed with a tax cut, and not every foreign challenge can be met with military power.

And so the first paragraph of the case for the new Trump right isn’t particularly alarming …

It’s the second paragraph that represents the threat. It’s the second paragraph that triggers the crisis. It’s the abandonment of truth, character, and respect for the institutions of our pluralistic republic that places our entire democratic experiment at risk ….

David French, Who Is a True ‘Turncoat’?

A rant against “normal” Republicans

Oh, my! Too much good stuff for me to quote in good conscience (since it’s copyrighted and the author makes his living writing). Excerpts to whet your appetite:

What the “Team Normal” Republicans would like is the arrangement they had before 2015 — they would like Trump to help stir up their own voters and generate “energy,” but they don’t want to have to defend his unpopular actions and characteristics to swing voters who have a negative view of him and they also don’t want to have intraparty fights with the candidates he supports.

That your party is led by an inept, impulsive, criminally inclined man, who is viewed negatively by most voters, who cares very little about whether your party wins elections or achieves policy goals, and who keeps causing the party to nominate his unappealing weirdo personal friends in otherwise-winnable Senate races, is your problem — one largely of your own making. No self-respecting set of political opponents would respond to this in any other way than by putting the screws to you as hard as is possible.

Josh Barro, A Rant: ‘Team Normal’ Republicans, Stop Whining That Democrats Won’t Help You

How to irk Trump and live to win again

Not all those who have irked Mr Trump have been purged from the party’s ranks. Georgia’s governor, Brian Kemp, and its secretary of state (chief elections officer), Brad Raffensperger, both helped thwart Mr Trump’s attempts at post-election cheating. Despite efforts to unseat them, Georgia’s primary voters made them the party’s nominees in May. But the price of self-preservation was silence. “I’ve never said a bad word about [Mr Trump’s] administration and I don’t plan on doing that,” Mr Kemp said.

The election of the Trump-appointed slate means that the “rule of law is teetering” in Arizona, according to Bill Gates (not that one), a Republican member of the Maricopa County Board of Supervisors. In other times a man like Mr Gates, a Harvard-educated lawyer and businessman who supports tighter voter-identification laws and low rates of taxation, might have aspired to statewide office, too. But with openness to electoral nullification a new litmus test for such candidates he counts himself out. He says his party has a tumour which is metastasising, and that its nature has changed fundamentally. “We’ve become a European far-right party.”

Donald Trump’s hold on the Republican Party is unquestionable (The Economist)

Trump as Ransomware must might have legs

Republicans weren’t able to uninstall the Trump ransomware this year, Chris argues in this week’s Stirewaltisms (🔒). “In a midterm election that party leaders had hoped would unite the right and focus on an unpopular sitting president and grinding inflation, Republicans in their primaries showed almost no ability to set aside their own civil war,” he writes. “Nor is there any question about which side came out ahead.”

The Morning Dispatch, 8/19/22

Trump loves to be loved. He loves to be hated. He hates to be ignored.

The press loves looks and clicks.

The Trumpist Right loves trolling and demolition.

Ain’t a chance in hell that we’re going to get relief from all the Trump-related news any time soon, Nellie. They’ll cover him even if it means his notoriety gets him elected again.

Epiphenomenon

The term “post-truth” was declared the Oxford Dictionaries’ “Word of the Year” in 2016. Post-truth is an adjective defined as “relating to or denoting circumstances in which objective facts are less influential in shaping public opinion than appeals to emotion and personal belief.”

Michael Ward, After Humanity.

Liz Cheney’s 2024

“Of course she doesn’t win,” Bill Kristol, the longtime strategist who has become one of Trump’s fiercest conservative critics, told me. But, he added, if Cheney “makes the point over and over again” that Trump represents a unique threat to American democracy and “forces the other candidates to come to grips” with that argument, she “could have a pretty significant effect” on Trump’s chances.

Ronald Brownstein, Liz Cheney Already Has a 2024 Strategy

Creepy is not the same as illegal

I still have no use for Alabama’s cornpone former Chief Justice Roy Moore, but let the record reflect that certain of his detractors have gotten an $8.2 million slapdown.


"The Frenchman works until he can play. The American works until he can’t play; and then thanks the devil, his master, that he is donkey enough to die in harness …." (G.K. Chesterton)

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, 8/09/22

I’m back from 5.5 pounds worth of Alaska Cruising. Alaska, even just in little towns along the southeast coast, was awesome. Next time I cruise, though (if there is a next time), I’ll avoid the buffet; I think I actually could have lost weight if I’d stuck with the main dining room.

Insight

The Meaning of Home

Ireland’s government is sabre-rattling about people burning wood or peat to heat their homes, as many are preparing to do in the face of possible rationing or cutoff of natural gas from Russia:

Something else is happening here, though. The campaign against warming your own house with your own fire is not quite what it claims to be. Sometimes it looks more like a displacement activity; as if a government and a nation which has no interest in actually cutting its consumerist lust down to size is going for an easy target. But it is also something with more symbolism, more mythic meat, than any discussion about ‘carbon emissions’ would suggest. The fireplace, whether our dessicated urban authorities know it or not, has a primal meaning, even in a world as divorced as ours from its roots and from the land.

Take the potential firewood ban. When you can no longer grow your own wood or cut your own turf to heat your own parlour, you are made that little bit more dependent on the matrix of government, technology and commerce that has sought to transmute self-sufficiency into bondage since the time of the Luddites. The justification for this attack on family and community sufficiency changes with the times – in seventeenth century England, the enclosures were justified by the need for agricultural efficiency; today they are justified by the need for energy efficiency – but the attack is always of the same nature. Each blow struck against local self-sufficiency, pride and love of place weaves another thread into the pattern which has been developing for centuries, and which is almost compete now in most ‘developed’ (sic) countries.

Like so much of Berry’s work, it locates the centrepoint of human society in the home, and explains many of the failures of contemporary Western – specifically American – society as a neglect of that truth. The home, to Wendell Berry, is the place where the real stuff of life happens, or should: the coming-together of man and woman in partnership; the passing-down of skills and stories from elders; the raising and educating of children; the growing, cooking, storing and eating of food; the learning of practical skills, from construction to repair, tool-making to sewing; the conjuration of story and song around the fire.

Universally, across the world and across cultures, the family and the home, however they were quite constituted, have always been the heart and root of culture. It follows, therefore, that the Machine must uproot both in order that culture may be destroyed and replaced with a marketplace in which we can buy and sell products, identities and ideologies while our ground source heat pumps maintain a constant and inoffensive temperature around us. Self-sufficient people, skilled people, independent people, thinking people: these are anathema; these are a threat. The home must go, so that the Machine might live.

In my lifetime, in my part of the world, the notion and meaning of ‘home’ has steadily crumbled under this external pressure until it is little more than a word. In a Machine anticulture, the ideal (post) modern home is a dormitory, probably owned by a landlord or a bank, in which two or more people of varying ages and degrees of biological relationship sleep when they’re not out being employed by a corporation, or educated by the state in preparation for being employed by a corporation.

Paul Kingsnorth, Keep The Home Fires Burning

Counter-intuitive consequences

The legislation also demonstrates one of the oddest results of the modern emphasis on the radical freedom of the individual. In such a world, all must theoretically be allowed to have their own narratives of identity. But because some narratives of identity inevitably stand in opposition to others, some identities must therefore be privileged with legitimate status and others treated as cultural cancers. And that means that, in an ironic twist, the individual ceases to be sovereign and the government has to step in as enforcer. The lobby group of the day then decides who is in and who is out, with the result that, in this instance, the gay or trans person who wants to become straight or “cis” (to use the pretentious jargon), cannot be tolerated. His narrative calls into question that of others. We might say that his very existence is a threat. To grant any degree of legitimacy to his desire is to challenge the normative status of the desires of others.

Carl R. Trueman, Prohibiting Prayer in Australia

The Arsenios Option

Jack Leahy has recently written about the Arsenios Option, a response to the times that he summarises as ‘flee, be silent, and dwell in stillness’. He draws on long traditions of asceticism; and I think these traditions, and people like him, are more important than is generally understood. When lives organised around the pursuit of luxury stop being possible, masses of people will need new sources of significance. At that point, ascetics can provide dramatic counter-examples that help society to refocus. It happened after Rome’s collapse. It may happen again.

A mind that takes no joy in the wonders of this age is as guilty of waging war on nature as the fools who cannot tell the difference between a factory and a farm. Some wonders do great harm, some should be renounced, and most are only here for a short season anyway. They are, nevertheless, wonders.

Those who would resist or avoid the Machine, the monster of coercion that slowly incorporates the whole world into itself, need this expansive joy that includes humans and the things we make. Joy helps us to see the enemy better.

FFatalism, Joy and laughter

Uppers

Sam the Man

Justice Alito, speaking in Rome, reportedly had some sharp words for Prince Harry, Boris Johnson, Emmanuel Macron and Justin Trudeau for their virtue-signaling criticism of the Supreme Court un-inventing the invented constitutional right to abortion.

[T]here is no prohibition on justices discussing cases publicly once they are decided, said Akhil Reed Amar, professor of constitutional law at Yale Law School. Alito’s comments weren’t about the underlying issue of abortion, but rather about foreign dignitaries weighing in on American law without necessarily being well versed in the subject, he said.

(Lindsay Whitehurst, Associated Press)

Precisely so, Professor Amar. If they won’t stay in their lanes, it’s appropriate to throw a few elbows when the get into ours.

How dare they be more careful!!!!

What’s being recommended now is a slower and more careful psychological assessment of each child to ensure that other factors — family stress, autism, depression, peer pressure, trauma — are fully explored, before a diagnosis is made.

Andrew Sullivan.

Who could object to careful consideration of other factors in diagnosing a problem? American transgender activists, that’s who. If a middle-school girl says she’s a boy, that should end the inquiry, say they.

Downers

Inchoate Rage

I left [CPAC in] Dallas with a deep sense of unrest about the future of America. People aren’t wrong to be angry! I don’t think I heard a single story in which the people who had been radicalized had no right to be angry over some very real injustice they had lived through, or watched happen to people they love. It’s that they saw no hope of justice coming via corrupted institutions, and apparently had no idea how to deal with the rage they felt.

Rod Dreher, Meeting ‘Father Maximos’ (emphasis in original)

All the green shoots have died

Previously, [Jonathan Haidt] explored the rise of adolescent depression, anxiety, and suicide in The Coddling of the American Mind (2018), written with free speech lawyer Greg Lukianoff. At the end of that book, the authors identified several “green shoots”—encouraging developments in politics and culture that could reverse these trends. But four years later, as America reels from COVID-19 and the final months of Donald Trump’s presidency, things have only gotten worse. “Massively worse,” in fact, Haidt tells me as we prepare to order our food. “We saw these green shoots and none of them have grown. All the green shoots are dead.”

Is this America’s future?

“Someone has been caused anxiety based on your social media post. And that is why you’re being arrested,” – a British policeman.

Via Andrew Sullivan

A bad, bad week for “follow the science”

Fake science: In one week, three major debunkings are a good reminder that “trust the science” is silly. Science is always a work in progress.

(Nellie Bowles)

Low-Down Liars

Your BLM Virtue-Signaling Money at Work

Shaun King used donor funds to buy a $40k dog: As the biological mother of two deranged shelter dogs, I actually didn’t know that you could spend $40,000 on a dog. But the Black Lives Matter activist Shaun King reportedly did just that, buying a very well-bred mastiff using donated money. Apparently rattled by the coverage, King defended the purchase and then took to social media to call for his followers to help him stalk two reporters who have covered his finances: “This is Kevin Sheehan of the @NYPost. ⁣He has been attacking me and my family. Send me photos of his home. Send me photos of him. ⁣And his family.”  And of Isabel Vincent, he wrote: “The amount of pain this woman caused my family is incalculable. Send me details and photos. Of her. And her home.” The key for King and others in the movement who’ve used money in sketchy ways is to terrify reporters away from covering it. Many are already too scared of their colleagues’ rage to look into BLM finances. But for anyone willing to get past that, King adds a little extra risk: He’ll make sure you’re physically unsafe that night.

Nellie Bowles (emphasis and hyperlinks omitted)

Monkeypox incoherence

People who meet all of the following conditions can now be vaccinated:

Gay, bisexual, or other man who has sex with men, and/or transgender, gender non-conforming, or gender non-binary Age 18 or older Have had multiple or anonymous sex partners in the last 14 days

New York City Health Department

There’s a notion that health officials need to lie a little to protect everyone’s feelings; it’s somehow hurtful to say guys there’s a bad virus, let’s slow down the summer parties. First, I really don’t think gay men are that sensitive. Also, you know what’s worse than hurt feelings? Getting freaking monkeypox! Oh sorry, I forgot that term is illegal now. Here’s New York City’s Department of Health and Mental Hygiene Commissioner: “We have a growing concern for the potentially devastating and stigmatizing effects that the messaging around the ‘monkeypox virus’ can have on these already vulnerable communities. Therefore, I write to urge you to act immediately on renaming the ‘monkeypox’ virus.” It’s a virus that manifests as horrible boils all over your body and health officials are freaking out about the name!

Nellie Bowles


"The Frenchman works until he can play. The American works until he can’t play; and then thanks the devil, his master, that he is donkey enough to die in harness …." (G.K. Chesterton)

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.

Monday, 8/1/22

Against the (Mono)Culture

The aim of a healthy farm will be to produce as many kinds of plants and animals as it sensibly can.

Wendell Berry, The Unsettling of America

Feelingsball

If legitimate critiques of, say, Josh Hawley’s specific claims about wage stagnation or the WTO are met with emotional responses—“Okay, fine, but The People don’t feel that way, and oh by the way you’re basically a lobbyist for China”—there’s little point in engaging again. (The New York Times’ Jane Coaston recently called this vague and ever-changing use of the emotional trump card “Feelingsball,” after the Calvin and Hobbes schtick, which is pretty much just perfect.)

Scott Lincicome, Populist Indulgence Thwarts Serious Governing

Haunted by Tradition

The best movies, songs, musicals, and popular fiction of the period through the 1950s were created by people who were, like the early Modernists, haunted by tradition. The lyrics of a Cole Porter, the sense of drama of an Orson Welles, the rhetorical sensibility of an Edward R. Murrow were all sustained by the lingering presence of the tradition of high culture. Reminded of that tradition by such institutions as universities and museums, the proponents of popular culture paid certain, if modest, homage to the past.

Ken Meyers, All God’s Children and Blue Suede Shoes

The West and The Rest

The non-Wests see as Western what the West sees as universal. What Westerners herald as benign global integration, such as the proliferation of worldwide media, non-Westerners denounce as nefarious Western imperialism. To the extent that non-Westerners see the world as one, they see it as a threat. The arguments that some sort of universal civilization is emerging rest on one or more of three assumptions as to why this should be the case.

Samuel P. Huntington, The Clash of Civilizations and the Remaking of World Order

(mumble-mumble) maybe I oversold this complaint

Okay, since I may have said something snarky about media and government tap-dancing around Monkeypox, a partial retreat is in order: Should Monkeypox Be Considered an STD? Experts Debate. (H/T The Morning Dispatch).

Staying inland

Now that I know about shark-infested beaches, I have one more reason to stay inland. I don’t want some poor reporter to have to write the second paragraph of my obituary, “Mr. Keillor was eaten by a shark off Jones Beach on Tuesday while wading in a raspberry-colored swimsuit and wearing a broad-brimmed straw hat fringed with straw fronds. A memorial service will be held at a time to be announced later.”

“Memorial service” suggests that there was not enough of me left to put into a burial plot. The shark took the meaty parts and other sharks got some and turtles finished the job. What was left could be put in a tunafish can. I was a productive author for fifty years but in the future, if my name comes up in conversation, someone will say, “Wasn’t he the guy who was eaten by sharks?” So I renew my vow to avoid beaches.

Garrison Keillor

Dreher and Orbán

Damon Linker, as preface to interrogating Rod Dreher’s defense of Viktor Orbán, traces Rod’s public progression over the 20 years of their friendly acquaintance. Excerpt:

Rod’s timing ended up being slightly off. Though he had been making versions of this argument on his blog for years, the book-length statement of his position—The Benedict Option—was published in March 2017, two months into the Trump administration, at a moment when the religious right was in no mood at all to entertain stepping back from the political fray. Demoralized just a few years earlier, its hopes had been raised by the new president’s promise, despite his lack of personal piety or virtue, to fight ruthlessly for social conservatives and to push back just as ruthlessly against the left.

While consistently withholding support from Trump himself, Rod spent the next few years adjusting his political stance to a new political reality. Instead of practicing what he preached and turning inward, he focused more resolutely than ever on outrages committed by the left. Rod became convinced, not only that the Social Justice Warriors were wrong, as I often thought they were as well, but that they were hell bent on building a comprehensive political-legal-cultural-technological system in which they would actively persecute Christians and anyone else who resisted The Official Woke Teaching on Gender and Sexuality.

That vignette strikes me as true, and useful, as is (in a more humorous way), his characterization of Rod going to

Budapest, where Viktor Orbán was enacting an austere and intellectually rigorous style of right-wing populism—one that Rod found far more appealing than the trashy, downmarket version Trump was haplessly pursuing at home.

My own position on Orbán is somewhat different than the standard liberal-progressive line, which portrays him as having directly targeted and largely succeeded in destroying Hungarian democracy. I’m more inclined to see him as what he claims to be: a scourge of liberalism in the name of majoritarian democracy.

Yes, he’s been pretty heavy-handed with the media, giving his party somewhat of an edge in elections. But his constitutional adjustments and other reforms haven’t imposed electoral changes out of line with other democracies, and his party today wins roughly the same portion of the vote and from the same largely rural constituency as it did when it first gained power in 2010. In the country’s most recent election, this past April, election monitors didn’t take note of any systematic fraud. Hungarians are simply voting in favor of making Hungary an illiberal democracy.

Linker cites some recent Orbán remarks to conclude that he’s beyond the pale and that Rod should back away, rather trying repeadly the “What he meant to say was [insert some bowdlerized version].”

America lags more sensible countries again

Britain’s only gender-reassignment unit is to close following a damning report into its operations. The Tavistock clinic was accused of being too quick to rush children onto puberty blockers and of failing to explore its patients’ mental-health problems. Kids with gender dysphoria are to be sent to new regional centres, which will be required to have stronger links with mental-health services.

(The Economist) Lisa Selin Davis has more at Bari Weiss’s Substack.

Go thou and do likewise, America.


“The Frenchman works until he can play. The American works until he can’t play; and then thanks the devil, his master, that he is donkey enough to die in harness ….” (G.K. Chesterton)

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, 7/23/22

Jordan Peterson

Beloved or reviled, there seems to be little in between when it comes to the Canadian psychologist.

Sage Showers, A Christian Woman’s Remarks on Jordan Peterson – Juicy Ecumenism

Well, that makes me special: I’m an occupant of the "little in between." I pray for Peterson because he is so consequential (as I characterized Billy Graham a day or two ago), and seemingly for good, but I’m not certain he is great or good.

Why am I not certain? Partly because I’ve seen too many heroes knocked forever off their pedestals when some secret came out or some latent flaw was made manifest.

Such guardedness may come from being (1) sentient and (2) 73 years old.

Life in six words

… the joke about the man who walks into the house with his hands full of dog turds and tells his wife, “Look what I almost stepped in,” which sums up much of life in one sentence.

Garrison Keillor

Monster education endowments

Harvard is very upset about paying any taxes: Those no-good Republicans in 2017 passed a tax on universities with mega-high endowments—those whose investment assets are more than $500,000 in assets per student. It impacts about 100 schools. Harvard, which as a nonprofit pays no federal taxes, has an endowment of more than $53 billion. Under the tax, Harvard has to pay a 1.4% tax on net investment income. The school is apparently lobbying Democrats in Congress hard right now.

Nellie Bowles. I did the math, and Harvard’s $53 billion would subject it to tax unless its enrollment climbed above 106,000!

I knew that taxing monster endowments was a desiderata of a few on the Right, but I hadn’t known that it passed.

I love immigration; it’s immigrants I can’t stand!

Wait, New Yorkers, I thought you wanted an open border? After asylum seekers from Arizona and Texas started showing up on buses in Washington, D.C., and New York City, our very welcoming friends on the east coast began freaking out. Here I thought we all agreed on an open border! And I’m pretty sure the consensus was that all complaints from southern states about a strained social safety net and the need for federal help were just that old Texas racism. Now, NYC mayor Eric Adams, citing the strain on the social safety net, has this to say: “We urgently need federal support.” The D.C. mayor’s Muriel Bowser also wants the federal government involved. “We have called on the federal government to work across state lines to prevent people from really being tricked into getting on buses.”

Nellie Bowles

Sully Synopsis

Andrew Sullivan leads Friday with a convincing, and thus depressing, account of how Putin stands to win in Ukraine. Then he moves on to other things.

Backlash to gay civil rights?

One more thing. We are not living through a huge, belated backlash to gay civil rights. The polling and the politics show a majority consensus on the established civil rights of gay and trans people. What we are living through is a potent reaction, laced, alas, with resurgent homophobia and transphobia, to a new and utterly different campaign to abolish the sex binary in biology, law, education and society. That campaign has nothing to do with civil rights for gays or for trans people.

It is about the indoctrination of children and the abolition of women, rooted in an illiberal ideology that rejects the entire concept of civil rights as a mere mask for white, cis-hetero oppression. It rejects the very premise of a same-sex marriage, because it denies the reality of binary sex. And it is led by those who strongly opposed the goal of marriage equality — the queer left — in the past.

How dare she leave the reservation!

“So far this summer the far left has referred to me as: Far Right Latina, Not The Real Deal, Breakfast Taco, Unqualified opponent for being born in Mexico, Miss Frijoles. This is what happens when you stray from their narrative and start to think for yourself!” – Mayra Flores, the first congresswoman born in Mexico.

A case for proofreading before posting

“This is misinformation about monkeypox. The outbreak is occurring almost entirely among men who have sex with me,” – Benjamin Ryan, typo-wounded science reporter.

WordGunplay

Performative insecurity

A high-level-of-generality description of today’s gun culture — open carry and such.

It feels a bit Freudian to me, but we are living in a war of slogans (along with other wars), so that’s fair.

(H/T @rcrackley on micro.blog)

Vice signaling

An alternative description of today’s gun culture, care of Mennonite @toddgrotenhuis on micro.blog.

I think I prefer it. It’s less specific than performative insecurity, being applicable to vices other than preening gun displays, but it loses the Freudian snark.

Brandishing culture

@JMaxB’s refinement on the offerings of @toddgrotenhuis and @rcrackley. I intend to keep "vice signaling" and "brandishing culture," "performative insecurity" falling away as a spent catalyst. (Now if I can only remember the verb "brandish" more reliably.)


It’s a long way to Heaven dear Lord,
it’s a hard row to hoe
And I don’t know if I’ll make it dear Lord
but I sure won’t make it alone.

SmallTown Heroes, Long Road, from their one-and-so-far-only "byzantine bluegrass" album Lo, the Hard Times.

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.