Fragmentary oppositions

Forty years ago, a group of Situationists, building on their original 1968 manifesto, wrote of the progress of the ‘spectacle’, the name that Guy Debord had given to the bread-and-circuses face of modern Machine capitalism. They maintained that ongoing, surface-level conflict – what we would today call a culture war – was not a manifestation of rebellion against the Machine, but an necessary part of its functioning:

Fragmentary oppositions are like the teeth on cogwheels: they mesh with each other and make the machine go round — the machine of the spectacle, the machine of power.

Unlike many of their fellow travellers on the left, the Situationists had identified the true tenor of the times: no longer a clarifying class war over the means of production, but a fog of constructed and managed lies, consumer images, competing media narratives and fomented cultural divisions, all of it serving the interests of those who run the show. Fragmentary oppositions, the machine of the spectacle, the machine of power: it’s a description of our time. There are a lot of people out there who benefit daily from us all being at each others’ throats: arguing furiously over surface trivia while the money and the power funnel upwards, as they ever did.

Paul Kingsnorth, Under the spreading walnut tree, the introduction to his new Substack, The Abbey of Misrule.


Based on the conversations I hear these days among the New Urbanists, there is a division now in the movement between those on-board with a techno-utopian vision of an alt-energy economy that allows us to maintain the current standard of living, with all its comforts and conveniences, and another faction who recognize that something quite different and rather ominous is underway—a combination of economic de-growth, vanishing capital resources, political disorder, and environmental crises. The first group tends to get the most attention, because “green optimism” has such palliative appeal, just as the purity of modernism was so appealing after the gigantic mess of World War II. But the second faction, the adaptationists, have a better grip on reality.

I’m for the adaptationists because they are more in tune with the way circumstances actually roll out, that is, emergently. Societies are organisms that respond to the forces that reality brings to bear at a particular time. They self-organize and reorganize as reality compels them to. The signals now say: get smaller, get simpler, get less technocratic, get finer, and get more local. Despite all the portentous chatter about a “great reset” or a coming global government, centralized authority (in the U.S., anyway) only becomes increasingly impotent and ineffectual. Don’t make the mistake of thinking they will “solve” the problems at hand. The real trend is not to greater concentrations of power but dispersed autarky, or local self-reliance. We’re on our own.

James Howard Kunstler, The Next New Urbanism


For our reading group, we decided to go through N.T. Wright’s 2008 publication Surprised by Hope: Rethinking Heaven, the Resurrection, and the Mission of the Church. This work expanded on many of the concerns Wright had raised when I heard him speak in 2006. He shared a body of evidence which suggested that there has been widespread compromise with the heresy of Gnosticism. “A good many Christian hymns and poems,” he warned, “wander off unthinkingly in the direction of Gnosticism.” Wright used the doctrine of physical resurrection as the linchpin to refute this implicit Gnosticism, as well as to undermine a type of evangelical pietism that is so heavenly minded that it ceases to be of any earthly good. Using scriptural exegesis, Wright showed that although going to heaven is important, it is only one part of the Christian hope. The early Christians, he pointed out, actually believed that heaven is more like a waiting room where we will anticipate the final resurrection. In the final resurrection, the faithful will be given new bodies to enjoy in the renewed heaven and earth. This scriptural hope, Wright suggested, has implications in the here-and-now, transforming how we view the earth and the mission of the church …

I did not expect Surprised by Hope to be particularly controversial, as it simply articulates the historic Christian hope. Nevertheless, much of the public reaction to Wright’s book treated his teaching as something of a novelty. In February 26, 2008, ABC news ran a story claiming that Wright’s idea that “God will literally remake our physical bodies” was “a radical departure from traditional belief.” Although the Nicene Creed contains the statement “We look for the resurrection of the dead and the life of the world to come”, and although the Apostles’ Creed professed belief in “the resurrection of the body”, the wider public appeared to assume that this is no longer part of traditional Christian belief. The widespread assumption seemed to be that eternal disembodiment is the orthodox Christian hope. For example, in his compendium of information about what happens after death, Biochemical researcher Brian Innes observed that “current orthodox Christianity no longer holds to the belief in physical resurrection, preferring the concept of the eternal existence of the soul, although some creeds still cling to the old ideas.”

The fact that the media treated Bishop Wright as a novelty for simply articulating the doctrine of physical resurrection, convinced me that I needed to take another look at the phenomenon of implicit Gnosticism ….

Robin Mark Phillips, Confessions of a Recovering Gnostic.

It is astonishing that orthodox, historic, credal Christianity should be flagged by media as a novelty, but I think Robin Phillips was onto something when he proposed that the West’s implicit theology is gnostic.


I just (as I’m writing, undecided when to publish) finished listening to a Vox Conversations podcast about George Soros (Who is the real George Soros?), of whom I have an unfashionably neutral-tending-positive opinion.

There came a point in the podcast, though, where I yelled bad words at the participants. They had just set up a trick bag to the effect that one cannot criticize the "open society" idea because it’s antisemitic to do so because the open society idea is associated with Jews and criticism of it is always, and by definition, implicitly antisemitic.

If that sounds confusing and circular, it’s because it was. And I have enough sympathy for the case against the open society (and especially some of what have become its corollaries, like open borders) that it infuriates me to hear it insouciantly dismissed out of hand as tainted.


Speaking of open societies:

Because [Karl] Popper did not anticipate threats to open societies outside of grand historical narratives, he did not imagine that the source of fanatical certitude would one day be individuals, who would fashion it out of a veritable flood of discordant facts and suspicions … Americans have increasingly come to see themselves as capable of sifting through all the available evidence to discover unerring truths that their political opponents are too biased, ignorant, or corrupt to see.

The Danger of Fact-ist Politics


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

Miscellany

Surveillance capitalism creeps me out.

I don’t control my lights, door locks, or anything else by speaking commands to my 1st-generation Amazon Echo. Indeed, I shut the microphone off about a year ago and I only use it like a table radio — direct streaming or bluetooth from my phone — and controlled from the Alexa app on my phone, not by voice.

When Echo dies, it will either not be replaced or will be replaced with a streaming radio with better sound quality (though Echo isn’t too bad). And no voice control.

There is no way I’m going to wear a pair of Alexa-powered Bose earphones, wandering around in “public” but in my own little world inside my head, isolated from the world except for asking it “how do I get shiny hair?” when I see a slick Afghan Hound.

Nor Echo frames.

* * *

I’m partial to the hypothesis that living in unreality (in which I’d include virtual reality) creates ennui.

I noticed recently, though, that most articles of the “digital detox” genre are focused on productivity, not on humanity let alone holiness. I’m told that Cal Newport’s Digital Minimalism is different. I hope so, because after I catch up on a little backlog of magazines, it’s my next book (on Kindle, of course — so sue me).

Indeed, much of my reading lately seems to evoke gentle regrets: “Gosh, I could have lived this better way if only I’d been wiser.” There’s a reason for the saying “Too soon old, too late smart.”

Notice I said “gentle,” not “bitter.”

A magazine that frequently gives me gentle regrets is Plough, from the Bruderhof community. I think Mother Jones and my secular “alternate lifestyle” magazines will be going unrenewed, Plough renewed.

* * *

Meanwhile, I’ve taken a deep breath, installed Freedom, and instructed it to help my self-control by cutting me off from the internet and from various apps at times of day when I am resolving to do something other than sitting on my arse with a computer on my lap.

* * *

I had an Impossible Burger once. It was surprisingly burgerlike.

But Michael Pollan says “if it comes from a plant, it’s food; if it’s made in a plant, it’s not food.” Heck, you don’t even save calories and fat grams with Impossible Burger. If I want burger taste, I’ll buy a burger.

Except maybe when I’m dying for meat in Lent. Once or twice, tops. I think it was Lent 2019 when I tried one.

* * *

Did I mention that I came of age in the 60s? And was an Audio-Visual Dept. geek?

* * *

I just saw San Francisco 49er defender #2 helping a Green Bay Packer runner to land on his back rather than the top of his helmet when undercut by San Francisco 49er defender #1.

There is magnanimity in the world. Especially from teams that are up 20-0 in the first half.

 

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All Christian readers could benefit from listening to the podcast The Struggle Against the Normal Life. It’s a short (11:05) detox for our toxic faux Christian environment.

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

God bless the socialists

Something extraordinary has happened.

On August 19, the New York Times published its “1619 Project” — a conscious re-writing of the arc of American history so radical that they had to completely ignore the top experts on American history to come up with something so tendentious.

They’re printing hundreds of thousands of reprints for school use, and some school districts are going to use it.

Consservatives responded with “stupid liberals, promoting identity politics again” and left it at that. No conservative publication seemed to think of actually talking to the top experts on American history that the Times ignored.

So far, dog bites man.

But now the Times is coming under attack from its left, as the World Socialist Web Site objects that by falsifying history to create a purely racial narrative, the Times is consciously trying to help the Democrat party and is suppressing the importance of class, so as to make almost impossible the formation of a multi-racial coalition of proletariat victims of capitalism.

That’s the ax they have to grind, but they ground it by interviewing the top experts on American history that everyone else had overlooked (as well as writing some pointed critiques of their own):

I’m indebted to Rod Dreher for calling this extraordinary set of articles to my attention, but we’re all more deeply in debt to the cantakerous socialists for doing the work nobody else thought, or cared, to do.

* * * * *

Sailing on the sea of this present life, I think of the ocean of my many offenses; and not having a pilot for my thoughts, I call to Thee with the cry of Peter, save me, O Christ! Save me, O God! For Thou art the lover of mankind.

(From A Psalter for Prayer)

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

Reaping what we’ve sown

The universal brotherhood of man is a real thing, but human beings are limited in their capacity to love and understand one another; we need a hierarchy of loves based on mutual understanding and presence (inseparable from history and culture) that we might best love one another …

We live in a world where various powers have callously disregarded the values of blood or soil. The history of colonialism is mostly one of displacement and stolen land, followed by the imposition of a political imaginary that interpolated blood into foreign political categories, creating the “tribalism” that sickens governments around the world. The recent history of economic development has provided many benefits to people at the cost that they displace themselves from their families or their land for the sake of a “good job.” Various wars have created our current refugee crisis, where people often have no hope of returning to their land or reuniting with their family members whose bones are sinking into that land. Extractive economies — most tragically, the drug economy — allow people in power to enjoy the fruits of the land while those who work that land suffer various kinds of violence.

Because the Gospel must be preached to all nations, because we as Christians have a trans-national identity that ultimately trumps any other identity, and because no man who wants to feed his family should be denied the opportunity to seek the employment necessary to do so, movement around the world should be free.

The fact that any man should be forced to travel halfway across the world to do so, disrupting his relationship with blood and soil, is a travesty of the natural order. The reality that Western nations fear men doing so only demonstrates that we have built our political order on a house of cards. We quake at the possibility that the conditions we have sown in other places through our economic practices and warmongering might come to us through migration. We are hysterical at the possibility of reaping what we have sown.

Matthew Loftus, Pro-Blood, Pro-Soil, Pro-Nation, Pro-Christianity, at Mere Orthodoxy.

I’m glad I’m not the only one who sees cause-and-effect between our economic and foreign policies and the migrants coming to our shores (Europe’s, too).

* * * * *

The Lord is King, be the peoples never so impatient; He that sitteth upon the Cherubim, be the earth never so unquiet.

(Psalm 98:1, Adapted from the Miles Coverdale Translation, from A Psalter for Prayer)

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

The Left Coasts’ answer to the Electoral College

Because of the forces first unleashed by [the] liberal project vested in the nation, we can’t simply rely on laissez-faire as a secret recipe for strengthening our families and communities.

I mean, do we really think today that leaving the field more open to Google and Facebook and Amazon and Pornhub is going to lead to a revival of the homely virtues portrayed in a Normal Rockwell painting?

I live in the state of Indiana, and I can tell you: our government tried to protect our religious liberty, and it was the corporations that came in and threatened our economic destruction. And that should be fought ….

Patrick Deneen at the National Conservatism Conference (starting at 15:34).

It occurred to me  few days ago, before I listened to Deneen’s talk, that preening progressive corporate bullies are the Left Coasts’ answer to the Electoral College.

Granted: flyover country has, by the Founders’ design, disproportionate political power, via the Electoral College and the United States Senate.

But the coasts have disproportionate economic power by draining young brains from the rest of the country.

And what sorts of things do they do with their disproportionate economic power, including the opinion-molding power of Hollywood?

They build single-party states like California (with the nation’s highest poverty rate despite huge economic output) and cities like San Francisco, “‘entertainment machines’ for the young, rich, and mostly childless,” designed (in effect) by Richard Florida, where normal families can’t afford to live (“the median home value is at least six times the national average”), procreation has largely ceased, and homeless addicts litter the sidewalks with their paraphernalia, their bodily wastes, and themselves — collateral damage of our economic hubris.

Not that there’s no collateral damage elsewhere, of course. A lesson of 2016, I think, is that there’s lots of it, and it’s electorally consequential. If Donald Trump is the answer, we’re asking the wrong question, but he’s at least partly a consequence of collateral damage in the economy, which almost no other candidate in either party even noticed.

They also sell cultural fads that, to borrow a tired liberal trope, are “on the wrong side of history” because they’re the fruits of insane ideologies that humanity will not long endure.

For instance, transexual “girls” shattering athletic records, walking away with gold medals, and at least in microcosm making mockery of the goals of Title IX.

Or take “from ‘Bake my cake! to ‘Wax my balls!‘” Yeah, it’s British Columbia, but the legal regime down here is all ready to accommodate a monster like “Jessica,” thanks to creative re-purposing of laws against sex discrimination, sold to courts and regulators by the best lawyers and lobbyists money can buy.

In this light, I’m particularly disinclined to apologize for the Electoral College and Senate to progressives who want all the power, economic and electoral.

Indeed, I’m flat-out grateful that we prole breeders can keep the progressives from undue dominion, forcing the nation to think a bit longer before rushing over a cliff, by going to the polls.

I can even, for a moment, understand the “paybacks are hell” thrill of “owning the libs.”

Somebody, though, really, really needs to come up with a better approach than tit-for-tat.

* * * * *

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

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

Cultural Marxism?

When I was a conservative Protestant 20+ years ago, I and others developed the bad rhetorical habit of labeling any liberalizing trend we disliked as “Secular Humanism” at work. That term was used every bit as imprecisely as the journalistic “fundamentalist” so often applied to us.

Today, many conservatives, both religious and secular, have developed a verbal tic of calling everything they dislike “cultural Marxism.” I rise to my own defense to note that (a) “cultural Marxism” has no home in my mental framework and (b) at least secular humanism was something that actually existed (and still exists, as does religious humanism of which I’m an adherent), whereas I’m not sure that there exists anything corresponding to the epithet “Cultural Marxism.”

My skepticism was reinforced last evening as I listened to an Orthodox Christian giving a talk at a symposium held at a Russian Orthodox monastery recently. His overall thesis (don’t essentialize the sexual passions) was attractive, and probably could have been stated in just a few minutes. But he was allocated 20 minutes, so he recounted his version of how sexual passions came to be essentialized, and Cultural Marxism kept popping up.

At one point, he said this:

The idea of individual customized sexual identities and rights to the same paradoxically grew from western legalistic tendencies, originating in the emphasis on Original Sin in the west, and the desire to replace in the Church the laws of the fallen western empire.

The type of disembodiment we see in current secular sexual ideology, based on a twisted version of that earlier western sense of natural law, oddly reflects the materialism of both Cultural Marxism and capitalism. Their common ethos encourages us to be what we will, what we conceptualize, to break down boundaries of organic physical form and mortal limitation by technology.

In this lies a utopianism ….

Immediately, the coin dropped. There’s nothing “odd” about materialism producing similar idiocy in Marxist bogeymen and our beloved-but-straying capitalist bretheren and sisteren: Indeed, one could as well describe all the baneful developments attributed to a conspiratorial-sounding “cultural Marxism” to the late-stage eventuality of consumer capitalism — with neither so much as one tin hat nor one hypothesis about smoke-filled rooms (in the Frankfurt School, presumably).

I’m going to be reading and listening critically hereafter to see if my new hypothesis fits the facts, as I don’t think the Cultural Marxism trope has fully run its course yet.

* * * * *

You can read my more impromptu stuff at Micro.blog (mirrored at microblog.intellectualoid.com) and, as of February 20, 2019, at blot.im. Both should work in your RSS aggregator, like Feedly, should you want to make a habit of it.

Clippings & Comments 2/17/19

1

One thing we must not allow ourselves to forget: Our “rising tide” did not “lift all boats.”

That’s a major reason we got Donald “Wake Up Call” Trump as President of the United States. He got that, and at least pretended to care.

2

Joshua Gibbs, a classical educator, has taken to a sort of Socratic Dialogue form of late in his blogging:

[Gibbs:] Children have common sense and knowing that Jackson Pollock’s art is no good is simply a matter of common sense. It’s just a lot of painted scribbles. The same kind of common sense informs little children that two women cannot marry each other and that eating an entire birthday cake will lead to a stomach ache. On the other hand, children have terrible taste, which means they think Thomas Kinkade and Bratz dolls are interesting. You have got to train them out of that kind of delusion by showing them things of real beauty, and a thing of real beauty can be appreciated by bishop and child alike. If I want to tell my children that Bratz dolls are ugly, I cannot, in good faith, tell them that Jackson Pollock is good.

McLaren: How can you decide whether an idea should be taken seriously until you’ve heard it out? Until you’ve engaged with it?

Gibbs: Here’s what I want you to do, McLaren. I want you to drop this argument, abandon your position, accept my position, and never mention it again.

McLaren: (laughing) Absolutely not. Why should I? That kind of power move is typical of—

Gibbs: See? You also believe some ideas are so absurd they can be blithely dismissed with a laugh. You rejected my idea without hearing my explanation, then moved into an accusation.

McLaren: That’s because your request was absurd!

Gibbs: No more absurd that treating a lot of splattered paint as legitimate art.

[Gibbs:] An idea is taken seriously when time and space are given for the careful explanation of that idea, and when those hearing the idea ask probative questions to make sure they have rightly understood the idea. An idea is taken seriously when those listening to the idea hear with sympathy, interest, and attempt to discern both the discreet inner-logic of the idea, but also the way in which the idea rhymes with the world and underwrites the harmony of created things. A idea is taken seriously when it warrants a patient and reasonable response … An idea which has lasted deserves to be taken seriously, as do ideas which are held by many kinds of people. Ideas which have prompted great acts of charity, ideas which have proven rallying points for the pursuit of truth, beauty, and goodness deserve to be taken seriously. Ideas which are staked in common sense, reason, and intuition deserve to be taken seriously.

Must We Treat Every Bad Idea With Respect And Patience?


Student: I meant that so far as the spirit goes, everyone is different. No two souls are the same.

Gibbs: Classical educators are not terribly interested in the ways that everyone is different. That is a mantra of public school educators. Classical education is interested in virtue, in the human things, in transcendent things, in divine things. All people need to love God, love what is good, and hate what is evil

Student: Is it not insulting to claim that all people are the same?

Gibbs: I didn’t say that all people are the same. I simply claimed that classical educators are far more interested in what human beings have in common than in what makes each human being distinct. Every one of my students is unique, but the uniqueness of each student has very little influence over how I govern my classroom or deliver my lectures.

Student: Why not?

Gibbs: Because a classical education is about growing in virtue, not self-fulfillment or self-discovery. “Don’t be yourself. Be good.” You’ve heard me say it a hundred times before.

Why Do We Have To Wear Uniforms? (emphasis added because I’m in love with classical education)


If your faith is strong, it doesn’t need a challenge. If your faith is weak, it cannot stand a challenge. I simply don’t see why anyone should seek out a challenge to their faith.

Should I Go To Public School To Challenge My Faith?


I believe Rousseau was often wrong, but he was gloriously wrong. Classical schools borrow one of their great rallying cries from Renaissance schools, and that is, “Ad fontes,” which means, “Back to the sources.” To understand what things are, we must know where they come from. Rousseau is one of the great architects of modern thought; encountering the modern spirit in its nascent form allows us to see the philosophy and theology which underwrites our own world. A classical education assumes students want to know the hidden causes of the world, and to discern those causes, we must dig. So Rousseau was wrong, but he was wrong with style, with clarity, with poetry, and he persuaded millions.

Should We Replace Rousseau And Augustine With John Piper?

I left the Protestant world so long ago that I don’t know who John Piper is, but apparently he’s widely considered a pretty solid guy — no Jimmy Swaggart, Jim Bakker or Benny Hinn.

3

Words are a president’s strongest weapon. Trump is terrible at words.

I saw this yesterday and thought it was a pretty succinct summary. Now I’m wondering of just what it’s a summary.

The author seems to think Trump will turn to will and force, failing persuasion.

I now wonder whether Trump supporters mean something like this when they tell us to watch what he does, not listen to how he describes it (tacitly admitting how inarticulate he is).

4

Freddie has a few pointed thoughts about Amazon pulling out of the New York City deal. He uses some naughty words.

5

Clarissa, an immigrant, publishes occasionally on her Merited Impossibility blog, the title of which is obviously inspired by Rod Dreher’s Law of Merited Impossibility: “It’s a complete absurdity to believe that Christians will suffer a single thing from the expansion of gay rights, and boy, do they deserve what they’re going to get.

Sunday, she muses about parents who move heaven and earth to conceive children and then abandon them to the electronic Nanny.

6

When it comes to hate crime hoaxes, the Reichstag fire is eternal.

Rod Dreher, noting that no apologies have come forth yet from those who swallowed Jussie Smollet’s hate crime (likely) hoax hook, line and sinker.

For such counter-hegemonic thinking, Dreher’s blog was banned from Facebook at least for a while.

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

Ephemera, 2/12/19

1

Apropos of gazing on the Jeff Bezos crotch selfies and suchlike, past and future:

[H]aving a gander at the daily catch of ill-gotten erotica seems hard to fit into any preexisting category of wrongdoing. After all, looking at it doesn’t make you responsible for the initial invasion involved in stealing it. Not looking at it won’t put it back where it was, so to speak: What’s public is relentlessly public. Looking also doesn’t mean you have to participate in any kind of public shaming or pile-on. So what’s the harm in simply knowing what somebody texted to somebody else?

When it comes to viewing leaked sexual ephemera, the knowing is its own harm. This doesn’t necessarily count for every kind of secret; being aware of somebody’s private dislike of a mutual friend, for instance, doesn’t represent the same kind of violation as having ungranted sexual knowledge of them, because sex is different from other things. The exclusivity, the secrecy, that’s all part of the point — they’re the essential ingredients of intimacy. And simply knowing the details without invitation jeopardizes that.

Elizabeth Breunig. This principle can be extended to pornography generally, but I won’t go there just in case some reader believes in “ethically-sourced porn.”

2

For over 50 years, the Democratic Party has carried the banner of racial and gender equality, and all the more so during the Trump era. In contrast to an increasingly dystopian Republican Party, Democrats from the left and the center have united behind an idealistic image of their party as a rainbow coalition of resistance against racism and sexism.

The last 10 days in Virginia have thrown all of that into disarray — and demonstrated that political power will always trump political idealism.

For the Democratic Party, the recent series of blackface and sexual assault scandals at the top of the state’s leadership at first seemed like a moment for a thorough house cleaning. By the standards of an institution that has recently redefined itself in part by what Donald Trump and the Republicans are not, we would expect Democratic politicians to call for everyone’s resignation. Racism should have no quarter in the Democratic Party. Neither should sexual assault.

But reality, as the party is once again learning, is never that simple, especially where power is involved.

Leah Wright Rigueur

Note the tacit admission: It was never about purity. It was always about political posturing (and, thus, pursuing power).

I’m especially amused that “an assistant professor of public policy at the Harvard Kennedy School of Government” should find herself bereft of enough insights to populate a guest column without repeating the same points in very thin disguise.

3

Identity politics is the key to understanding the ACLU’s apparent change of heart. The antiboycott laws the ACLU has defended are meant to protect gays and lesbians, an identity group they favor. The ACLU acknowledges that in many states it is “legal to fire or refuse to hire someone based on their sexual orientation,” but argues that companies that do so “must not be allowed to do so with taxpayer dollars.” It inexplicably ignores that the logic of those antiboycott laws applies equally to Israel.

The ACLU may think that refusing to do business with people because of their sexuality is immoral while refusing to do business with people connected with Israel is a blow for justice. That’s an intelligible political position, but it’s lousy First Amendment jurisprudence. First Amendment protections are the same regardless of what one thinks of the underlying conduct.

I played a role in developing the state anti-BDS laws, submitting testimony to legislatures and advising private groups that supported the measures. To avoid any constitutional doubts, I stuck to the model of antiboycott laws that the ACLU supports, comfortable in the knowledge that their constitutionality was unquestioned. I underestimated how much changes when sexual identity is replaced with Israeli identity.

There is more at stake here than hypocrisy. The ACLU’s enthusiasm for Israel boycotts has led it to take legal positions that threaten to undermine the antidiscrimination norms it has worked for decades to achieve. Now it is prepared to risk legal protections for sexual minorities for the sake of creating a constitutional right to boycott Jews. The ACLU probably hopes to have it both ways, arguing that boycotts of Israelis are “political” and boycotts of gays and lesbians are just mean. But courts won’t maintain one standard for boycotts of progressives’ favored targets and another standard for everyone else.

Eugene Kontorovich. A very interesting point I hadn’t seen made before. I consider vindicated my opposition to anti-BDS law and my opposition to indiscriminate extension of anti-discrimination laws.

4

Mr. Cuomo is blaming the state’s $2.3 billion budget shortfall on a political party that doesn’t run the place. He says the state is suffering from declining tax receipts because the GOP Congress as part of tax reform in 2017 limited the state-and-local tax deduction to $10,000.

“What it does is it has created two different tax structures in this country,” Mr. Cuomo said Monday. “And it has created a preferential tax structure in Republican states. It has redistributed wealth in this nation from Democratic states” to “red states.” In reality, the once unlimited deduction allowed those in high tax climes to mitigate the pain of state taxes. It amounted to a subsidy for progressive policies.

… The Tax Foundation reported last month that repealing the cap would “almost exclusively provide tax relief to the top 20 percent of income earners, the largest tax cut going to the top 1 percent of earners.” The government would lose $600 billion over 10 years. This must be the first time in years that a Democrat has said the government needs less money, or that the rich need a tax cut.

The real problem is New York’s punitive tax rates, which Mr. Cuomo and his party could fix. “People are mobile,” Mr. Cuomo said this week. “And they will go to a better tax environment. That is not a hypothesis. That is a fact.” Maybe Mr. Cuomo should stay in Albany and do something about that reality.

Wall Street Journal Editorial Board. Cuomo’s complaint about people leaving the state now vindicates the Editorial Board’s characterization that the unlimited deduction amounted to a subsidy for [big-spending] progressive policies.

5

Meghan Murphy, a gender-politics blogger, alleges that Twitter violated unfair-competition law when it changed its hateful-conduct policy late last year. Under Twitter’s new policy, users can be banned for calling a transgender individual by their pre-transition names or referring to them with the wrong pronouns

Ms. Murphy says that Twitter locked her account on Nov. 15, telling her that to regain control of her account, she would need to remove two tweets she posted the prior month. One tweet stated: “How are transwomen not men? What is the difference between a man and a transwoman?” The other said: “Men aren’t women.”

Ms. Murphy deleted the tweets, and posted a response to Twitter, saying, “I’m not allowed to say that men aren’t women or ask questions about the notion of transgenderism at all anymore?” The post went viral, according to her suit, receiving 20,000 likes. Days later, Twitter informed Ms. Murphy that she needed to delete this tweet as well ….

I’m glad I left Twitter. Any platform that hostile to reality is nowhere I want to be.

But a coin just dropped: trans women are nominalist women but realist men. An awful lot of what ails us in Nominalism in one drag or another.

6

Parent: Are you worried that students will be suckered by the seductiveness of figures like Rousseau?

Dean: Yes.

Parent: Does it not seem dangerous to expose students to figures like Rousseau?

Dean: Yes, it seems dangerous.

Parent: Then why do it?

Dean: Because I am far more worried that students who never encounter Rousseau will get suckered by the delicious mediocrity of the world and be mindlessly swept along with the spirit of our age …  Classical schools tend to teach books which require a tutor or a guide. Rousseau requires a guide, as does St. Augustine, say.

Parent: So you’re not opposed to new things?

Dean: Heavens, no. I want to be patient, though, and I want to second guess myself. A great many “life-changing” bestsellers are read once, then shelved, never picked up a second time, and summarily forgotten by the time the next life-changing bestseller comes out.

Parent: So what books would you advise someone like myself to read?

Dean: I would advise you to read books which are good for your soul, and to force yourself to read classics as often as possible.

Joshua Gibbs

7

Rod Dreher’s test kitchen is starting to get feedback on his newest recipes.

8

My Church doesn’t use name tags, but if it did, one could do worse than this.

One also could do better, like “I once was dead but now I live.” (As Fr. Stephen Freeman truly says, “Christ did not come to make bad men good, but to make dead men live.”)

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Potpourri, 12/11/18

1

The most common explanation for France’s gilets jaunes protests against fuel-tax hikes is that they arise from too little democracy … The opposite is true. The protests are happening because France has too much democracy. What it’s lacking is politics.

Mr. Macron’s political movement was born of the notion that France needed to become more democratic …

As Economist correspondent Sophie Pedder notes in her illuminating biography of the president, the premise is that as a numerical matter there are enough actual or potential winners from economic reform and globalization that a leader could cull those voters from the old parties and unite them under a new banner. It would then be possible to steamroll minority opposition.

[T]he widespread rioting in France shows the dangers of allowing a healthy dose of democracy to transmogrify into a brutal majoritarianism. Majority rule has its place, but it’s no way to knit together a diverse society

… A center-right Republican Party under its failed 2017 candidate, François Fillon, would have effected some labor-law and civil-service reforms for which there is now broad support, but that party’s rural base would have precluded the green-energy follies that are sinking Mr. Macron.

The other word for this is “politics,” whose practitioners delicately trade interests and strike compromises to make majority rule more palatable to the minority.

Joseph Sternberg, Macron’s Warning to America’s Ascendant Left (WSJ, hyperlink and emphasis added)

This does, however, cut both ways. Trump and his supporters are playing a very dangerous game trying to force their kind of (invidious adjectives omitted) change with less than a “democratic” majority in 2016 and even a smaller minority now. (GOP offenses against good civic manners appear to have enough “legs” that I’m adding the category “democracy” today.)

Those coastal elites could punish the heartland, too, and not just politically. The heartland is lucky they haven’t figured out how to live without the food the breadbasket provides. (The GOP is misbehaving even worse in the states.)

It’s time for our incoming divided Congress to stop sheer pissing on each other and engage in frustrating, productive politics. (But I don’t know of a magic bullet for all the states except to hope for some constitutional theory to void the worst of the high-handedness.)

2

Cognate commentary:

Let us stipulate it’s foolish to pretend the market is without its costs. A 57-year-old General Motors worker in Ohio who will be laid off as his company expands production in Mexico may understandably balk at the argument that, in the larger scheme of things, it’s all for the best.

Yet the recent protests across France ought to remind us that market decisions aren’t the only ones that can make life difficult for those trying to get by on their paychecks …

Today, however, the crisis of good intentions is manifested most dramatically in the green movement, particularly in California … California now has the highest overall poverty rate in the nation … and suffers from a level of inequality “closer to that of Central American banana republics.”

… [T]he upward mobility of any family that isn’t part of Hollywood or Silicon Valley or doesn’t already own their own home is being killed by the state’s climate regime.

So maybe what’s going on in France isn’t as foreign as it may seem. When a once-thriving manufacturing town loses jobs to China, we hear all about the crisis of capitalism. But when progressives squeeze the American worker with high taxes, green agendas and failed government programs, where are the headlines about the crisis of good intentions?

William McGurn, The Crisis of Good Intentions (WSJ)

3

[T]he elite globalist consensus [is] that China can be China and India can be India but Europe can be turned into a repository for anyone in the world who can get there ….

Scott McConnell.

The elite consensus is personified by George Soros and his Open Society Foundations, with “open society” including open borders. It is against this vision that elite media’s villain du jour, Hungary’s Viktor Orban, pushes back. My sympathies, guardedly (I have no crystal ball, after all), are with Orban, though I do not see Soros as consciously evil, as some seem to.

I’m actually more sympathetic with the anti-immigration right in Europe than I am with the anti-immigration American right.

The common factor is wealthy destinations who need (some) immigrants to replace the children they’re not bearing, in order to maintain a simulacrum of normalcy as their traditional populations die off.

But while the people coming north to North America are mostly Christians of some sort, those coming north to Europe include many Muslims, who will be harder to assimilate than Christian refugees.

Plus, our idiotic American subversion of (or warfare against) middle east “strong men” leaders has contributed mightily to the breakdown of public order that facilitates persecution of Christians by their Muslim neighbors, driving them northward.

Will Europe die for our sins?

4

After agreeing that religious arguments should not be front and center in debates about transgenderism, a caution for those who think science is unequivocally on the side of the sexual binary:

There are solid scientific reasons to resist the claim that biological males and females who consider themselves to be of the other gender, and who demand that everyone else recognize that, should be accommodated. Unfortunately, science itself is being coopted by the cultural revolution. The authoritative science magazine Nature published an editorial in October strongly denouncing a reported initiative by the Department of HHS to define male and female by biological characteristics. The editorial takes the line that people ought to be defined by the gender they choose. Nature is a very big deal.

We should by no means assume that science is immune from politicization. In the Soviet Union, as in our own materialist order, Science is considered to be the greatest authority. Science was corrupted by the communists as a matter of course, made to serve the revolution’s ends. The same thing is happening here.

Rod Dreher.

5

[T]here are good Catholics and bad Catholics and … the [New York] Times team gets to decide who is who.

Terry Mattingly, Tale of two New York Times stories: Seeking links in ultimate anti-Pope Francis conspiracy (Get Religion)

6

Now, a story you may not want to know about. I’ll introduce it elliptically, since this is a family blog (or something):

“My dad asked me if I were allowed to wear pants, if I would do it. I said, ‘I don’t know’ — as a kid you’re terrified — I don’t know. He said, ‘Because you can’t tell me right now, that means you are not a Christian. You are not going to heaven because a Christian would never hesitate at that question.’ ”

— Leah Elliott, Indiana

“I was nursing, but the pastor outlawed nursing. No women were allowed to nurse because it kept them from church. I went to the bathroom to cry, and I’m getting engorged — you have to nurse, you get in a lot of pain if you don’t. I’m in the bathroom, and the nursery worker came into the stall with me. I think I was just grabbing toilet paper to blow my nose, she barged in and said, ‘The devil wants you to miss this sermon that’s happening right now. You get back in there.’ ”

— Kara Blocker, Oregon

“I have so few memories of my cousins and grandparents and aunts and uncles that it scares me. We were allowed to see them about once a year, until the church decided that the ‘good church members’ shouldn’t fellowship with their non-believing relatives. We were pretty much cut off after that. My grandparents still don’t understand why we were withheld from them.”

— Anonymous, Ohio

Former independent fundamental Baptists share their stories, part of a Fort Worth Star-Telegram series on clergy sexual (mostly) abuse in “Independent Fundamental Baptist” churches.

As I was growing up, some fundamentalist (who probably knew my father from the Gideons) made sure that our family always had a subscription to Sword of the Lord, a very explicitly and unapologetically fundamentalist tabloid out of Murfreesboro, Tennessee. My parents were unenthusiastic about it, but didn’t seem to think it fit only for the bottom of the bird cage. As a teenager and college student, I generally read each issue for entertainment.

Pastor Jack Hybels of Hammond, Indiana was one of Publisher John R. Rice‘s favorites, and he fits prominently in this hot-off-the-presses series both as the father of one of the chief IFB perverts, Dave Hybels, and as proprietor of a reliable refuge (his Hammond Church) for IFB pastors who needed to be—ahem!—rotated out of their current role due to—ahem! again—accusations by some of the many brazen 14-year-old tarts that kept seducing defenseless IFB pastors.

When I was a young Evangelical, I was quite obsessed with cults — you know, Christian Science, Jehovah’s Witnesses, Mormons, (Herbert W. Armstrong’s) Worldwide Church of God, maybe even the Seventh Day Adventists. Though I knew from the Sword of the Lord that these IFB-types were fundamentalists and thus disreputable (they thought we were to be shunned, too; it was reciprocal), I never would have though of Independent Fundamental Baptists as a cult that would shelter perverts in the pulpit.

My bad. The problem is too widespread in this denomination-in-disguise to pretend that “Independent” is more than a legal fiction, that the unthinkability of police reports isn’t symptomatic of a sick system, or that the pastoral reassignments are not all too familiar.

I must henceforth think of IFB churches as cults.

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Potpourri 2, 8/22/18

Second potpourri of the day. We live in interesting times and some tendinitis in my ankle leaves me with extra time to think and write about it.

1

I’ve reluctantly come to acknowledge that I’ve lost touch with my country. I don’t understand at any visceral level, for the most conspicuous example, how Donald Trump attracted enough votes in key places to become President.

Articles like Jonathan Rausch’s Why Prosperity Has Increased but Happiness Has Not provide a just-so framework for “understanding,” but ultimately leave me frustrated that the Real Question remains, transposed to a different key:

… all happiness is relative. Although moral philosophers may wish Homo sapiens were wired more rationally, we humans are walking, talking status meters, constantly judging our worth and social standing by comparing ourselves with others today and with our own prior selves.
… the witticism (frequently attributed to Gore Vidal) that “it is not enough for me to succeed; others must fail” is uncomfortably accurate …
Inequality, in short, is immiserating …

Yes, but why —other than The Fall, which is its own “Just So Story” in the sense that it cannot predict just how cussedness will break out next — are we irrational, status-metering mutterers?

Other countries, including some culturally similar to ours (think Scandinavia), experience much higher reported levels of happiness. As we see another economic downturn (if not outright collapse), we may find ourselves choosing between spitefully settling for the second half of Vidal’s witticism (“well, at least we’re making others fail worse”) or something like a Distributist or Social Democrat modus vivendi at lower absolute wealth levels.

2

When Jove Meyer, a wedding and event planner in Brooklyn, is working with a same-sex couple, he sometimes finds himself cringing when he hears a guest use the term “gay wedding.”

“It’s not with bad intention, but people like to label things because it’s easier to discuss,” said Mr. Meyer, who runs Jove Meyer Events. “But the couple is not getting ‘gay’ married. They are getting married. They’re not having a ‘gay wedding.’ They’re having a wedding. You don’t go to a straight wedding and say, ‘I’m so happy to be at this straight wedding.’”

Mr. Meyer, who also advocates for the L.G.B.T.Q. community and identifies as a gay man, explained that labeling same-sex couples as different from any other wedding is the root of the cause …

Stephanie Cain, New York Times.

Yes, that’s the theory, isn’t it? The institution of marriage is as howsoever malleable we want it to be.

I will not be surprised, though, if the language we use continues for a good long time to reflect the correct instinct that it’s not really true — and that phrases like “labeling same-sex couples as different from any other wedding is the root of the cause” are gibberish on an obfuscatory mission.

3

The medieval Jewish sage Maimonides counted 613 commandments, or mitzvot, in the Law that God gave his people, Israel. The 20th-century Jewish philosopher Emil Fackenheim, who escaped the Nazis’ genocidal clutches and devoted part of his scholarly life to pondering the moral meaning of the Holocaust, formulated what he called the 614th commandment: Give Hitler no posthumous victories. And how would Jews violate that “commandment?” By religious Jews denying the providential role of Israel’s God in Jewish life; by secular Jews abandoning the notion of Israel as a unique people with a distinctive historical destiny; by Jews acting toward other Jews in ways that tore at the spiritual and moral bonds that bound the people of Israel together.

George Weigel, whose concern is not with the Jews but with his Roman Catholic Church. Count me a skeptic, as I usually am toward Weigel these days.

UPDATE: Rod Dreher gives Weigel’s argument the derision it deserves, and gives it good and hard (while nodding toward the importance of “institutionalists” like Weigel and the late Richard John Neuhaus, who I respected more than I would have had I known of his fecklessness on “the long lent” about which he wrote so plausibly).

4

If neo-Nazis didn’t exist, the left would have to invent them. And to some extent have.

Holman Jenkins

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