Potpourri 9/3/20

Kyrie
Because we cannot be clever and honest
and are inventors of things more intricate
than the snowflake—Lord have mercy. 

Because we are full of pride
in our humility, and because we believe
in our disbelief—Lord have mercy. 

Because we will protect ourselves
from ourselves to the point
of destroying ourselves—Lord have mercy. 

And because on the slope to perfection,
when we should be half-way up,
we are half-way down—Lord have mercy. 

R.S. Thomas, Mass for Hard Times

Thomas has not been on my radar as a poet. This one blew me away (there’s a great deal more to it), as did Tell Us.

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The shift from church power to state power is not the victory of peaceable reason over irrational religious violence. The more we tell ourselves it is, the more we are capable of ignoring the violence we do in the name of reason and freedom.

William T. Cavanaugh, The Myth of Religious Violence

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“The universities now offer only one serious major: upward mobility,” Jackson writes. “Little attention is paid to educating the young to return home, or to go some other place, and dig in. There is no such thing as a ‘homecoming’ major.

Wes Jackson via Wendell Berry via Mark Mitchell and Nathan Schlueter, The Humane Vision of Wendell Berry.

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In Pittsburgh on Monday, the Democratic presidential nominee responded forcefully to President Trump’s charge that “no one will be safe in Biden’s America.” … “Does anyone believe there will be less violence in America if Donald Trump is re-elected?” Mr. Biden asked. “He can’t stop the violence—because for years he has fomented it.”

Trump’s 1980 Strategy for 2020 – WSJ

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… Christopher Lasch is someone you cite a lot in this book, and in his work there’s a real sensitivity to the importance of these cultural issues. For educated people, the conflicts over busing or religion or sexuality or whatever reinforce the sense that working people are not really worthy of our concern because they’re authoritarian, behind the times. And then for the working class, it really drives home this perception that they are held in contempt. And Lasch seemed to believe that this tension was baked in because the values of the managerial elite were precisely the values of liberal-capitalist meritocracy: individual autonomy, self-development, personal liberation, etc., the flip side of which is a suspicion of working-class values like solidarity and thick ties like family and religion and neighborhood. The working-class view is more conservative, in a sense, but it’s also a product of a real class difference in how people see their place in the world.

Well, yes, I totally agree with that. I thought you said you were pushing back.

What I’m trying to get at is: There’s a sense in which this is a very real dividing line between more affluent, college-educated Democrats and members of the white working class and even sections of the non-white working class, where the former are often socially liberal and economically conservative/centrist and the latter are often economically liberal but more conservative on issues like abortion, immigration, crime, etc. How do you think Democrats or the left more broadly should try to navigate this divide? Do you think that open conflict over these issues can be avoided if you just focus on economics? Or does something eventually have to give — working-class whites moving left on culture or educated liberals deciding that they need to accept people with more conservative social views — say, a pro-life, gun-owning Catholic — as a part of the coalition?

This is a problem, of course, but I also think it is possible for people to come together on a common cause without agreeing on everything. The problem is getting the Democrats to acknowledge that common cause. Up until now, the Democrats have spent all their resources reaching out to those affluent white-collar people in rich suburbs. Those are the only “swing voters” they’re interested in. This bunch gets everything. It’s all crafted to please this group — economic policies, culture-war stances, everything. I happen to think a really robust program for reclaiming middle-class America from the forces that have wrecked so many people’s cities and lives and health would be immensely popular. It would be so popular that lots of people would be willing to overlook, say, one’s views on gun control in order to get behind it.

What’s the Matter With Populism? Nothing. (metered paywall – New York Magazine)

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Baron Trump looks like the world’s most miserable child.

* * *


[A]nother narrow Trump victory, especially one in which the popular vote goes for Biden, is going to kick off civil unrest that will make this summer look tame. Trump’s opponents will ping-pong even harder between the two fever dreams of the first term. The first, that Trump is a foreign pawn and opposed to everything that makes American great. This charge comes with a complimentary retweet of James Comey standing near the Liberty Bell. The second, that Trump is the final, rotten fruit of a rotten American tree that must be uprooted altogether. This one comes with a retweet of 1619 Project impresario Nikole Hannah Jones explaining that arson isn’t violence.

My assumption, however, is that Trump’s second term may prove to be more difficult than the first for him. While some progressives are trying to moralize themselves for the November election by predicting a second term flowing with dictatorial power aimed at undermining democracy forever, I predict more slapstick incompetence.

Instead of hiring the best people, Trump has relied on whoever is nearby. This cast of characters has included people with their own firm agendas (such as John Bolton) or people who just seemed to have the Trump vibe (such as Anthony Scaramucci). Many of these people have had short careers in Trumpville — and leave it quickly to write scathing memoirs of their time within. About a dozen former White House officials or other flunkies have left Team Trump to write hair-raising tell-alls.

Trump already had problems with hiring enough people to fully staff the Executive Branch. His inability to do so is part of what allows the “deep state” to undermine, dodge, or contravene his authority as president. His reputation for administrative neglect, sudden reversals, and micromanaging has dissuaded qualified people from joining the administration. It leaves the presidency weakened.

Michael Brendan Dougherty, Donald Trump Second Term: What to Expect | National Review

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Reporters standing in front of scenes of arson, flames billowing behind them, not very far from scenes of shooting and murder, insist that the protests are “mostly peaceful.” National Public Radio and a multi-billion-dollar global media conglomerate team up to bring you an illiterate “defense of looting.” The president comes to the defense of a dangerously stupid teenager who went looking for trouble illegally armed with a rifle in his hands and, to no one’s great surprise, found the trouble he was looking for.

But if there is a case to be made for looting, how about we start with NPR and its affiliates? The NPR Foundation reported holding $342 million in assets in 2018, and NPR’s management and on-air talent are splendidly compensated, many of them in excess of a half-million dollars a year. You can commission a shipload of lectures on income inequality and the salubrious effects of looting for that kind of “just property.” NPR’s headquarters on North Capitol Street in Washington, D.C., is “just property,” too — property NPR isn’t even much using at the moment, because of the epidemic. Would NPR object to someone burning it down to make a political point? Would looting NPR’s property be defensible? Yes? No? Why or why not?

… The same people burning down grocery stores today will be complaining about “food deserts” in 18 months.

… the petulant children in Portland want only to play-act at being Jacobins, and the petulant child in the White House requires a full-time culture war lest he be forced to run for reelection on his record of spotless administrative excellence and confidence-inspiring leadership. If ever two clutches of fools deserved one another, these are they.

Michael Brendan Dougherty, A Clutch of Fools | National Review

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Peter Viereck: American Conservatism’s Road Not Traveled | Front Porch Republic was very good.

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Out of the crooked timber of humanity no straight thing was ever made.

You shall love your crooked neighbour with your crooked heart.

W.H. Auden

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

Perverse rejoicing

With a provenance like the Wall Street Journal’s “Houses of Worship” opinion series and a title like Thank God, American Churches Are Dying, you’d be justified in expecting a mix of self-conscious perversity and unhealthy, un-reflective antecedent bias.

You’d be right.

It’s true that denomination-based churches—Methodist, Baptist, Episcopal, Catholic—have been on a downward slope for years. But nondenominational evangelical churches are growing in number, from 54,000 in 1998 to 84,000 in 2012 …

Fresh churches replacing and created from old ones, armed with modern ideas to attract and tend to a new generation of believers …

… The leaders … generally focus on creating churches that cater to specific needs. There is a church exclusively for employees of Disney World. Spanish-language services are more popular than ever. “House churches,” composed of neighbors meeting for informal services—usually in living rooms—are on the rise as well. Popular Christian leaders like Francis Chan, a former megachurch pastor who now advocates house churches, offer free training for this model.

Those with denominational affinity will be sad to see a certain kind of church fall away. But the success of new models shows significant groups of people looking for ways to live faithfully, albeit in a less structured way. Could this really signify a religious awakening?

Ericka Andersen.

Wow:

  • “Nondenominational evangelical[s]” (but she repeat herself)
  • “armed with modern ideas” and
  • “cater[ing] to specific needs;”even
  • a church that excludes you based on who employs you.

Yet the cockles of my heart remain ice-cold. I must be some kind of monster. All I can think of is the one holy catholic and apostolic church, and the faith which was once for all delivered to the saints without any license to pander, negotiate over it, or erect barriers around it.

I will not deny a certain je ne sais pas, a certain frisson, at the closure of some churches. And God works in mysterious ways, about which circuitousness I can be awfully dense.

But if this is truly God’s work, it surely is to use these curated, Disneyfied simulacra to prepare postmoderns for the real thing.*

I fear, though, that it’s not God’s work at all. There’s another who sometimes appears as an angel of light, and who does his best work these days with counterfeits more than with frank apostasy.

(* The article’s reference to “House Churches” doesn’t trigger quite so strong a gag reflex. Those might prove to be Benedict-Option necessity in coming darkness here, as they have elsewhere in the world.)

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Beloved, while I was very diligent to write to you concerning our common salvation, I found it necessary to write to you exhorting you to contend earnestly for the faith which was once for all delivered to the saints.

(Jude 3)

I appreciate Donald Trump’s judicial appointments and a few other things he has done, but I’m utterly opposed to allowing that hateful, unstable and completely self-serving man to serve as President. Maybe by saying it here, I’ll feel less compelled to fault his multiple daily outrages — mere corroboration of his dark soul and tormented mind — in the body of the blog.

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.

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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.

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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.

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

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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.

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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.

Mission Creeps

I got a thickish mailing today from the Victims of Communism Memorial Foundation. The envelope trumpeted that “You won’t believe what younger Americans think about socialism.”

To my surprise and delight, the return envelope was postage prepaid. I just live for moments like that!

But before giving them an eyeful/earful, I went online. To my surprise, this Foundation was “authorized by a unanimous Congressional Act (not created with dark money from [rhymes with Broke Mothers]) , which was signed as Public Law 103-199 by President William J. Clinton on December 17, 1993.” (Hyperlink added)

I was incredulous that Congress had unanimously authorized, and President Clinton signed, authorization for a group to “educate” against the risk of some 2020 Democrat Presidential hopefuls. I was right.

Here appears to be the “authorization” Congress gave:

The National Captive Nations Committee, Inc., Is encouraged to create an independent entity for the purpose of constructing, maintaining, and operating the memorial [to honor victims of communism].

Public Law 103-199 Section 905(b)(1)(B). That’s it. You can read it yourself at the link above.

My late, honorable father objected strenuously when an “ad hoc” group he had joined continued operating for purposes beyond it’s original ad hoc purpose, and he was right to do so. The Victims of Communism Memorial Foundation should:

  1. be ashamed of itself; and
  2. be censured (or something) by the U.S. House (you know the Senate won’t do it).

The Foundation’s propaganda will be returned to them, at their expense, in their kind envelope.

I’ll bet lefties get equivalent missives, but mine come from the right. I brought that on myself. The blatant trafficking on a good name and a Congressional mandate that has been stretched beyond the breaking point was just too much for me.

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

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

“Now what?” How about National Conservatism?

This morning, I sincerely suggested that there’s no sense in my (or anyone’s) mere rehearsing and re-rehearsing the core evils regularly reflected in our President’s rhetoric, even on the pretext of a new Presidential utterance confirming that he does, indeed, spout racism, xenophobia and misogyny.

This is not more of that.

I read later today a sort of answer to Damon Linker’s question “now what?”, via Bradford Littlejohn, who I admire, but who was a mere auditor, then reporter, of the answer.

[A]lthough I have poured myself into the project of retrieving resources for bold and faithful Christian citizenship for the past ten years, although I have outwardly pooh-poohed counsels of despair and helmed an organization committed to renewing Christian public witness, rather than retreating behind ecclesiastical strongholds, when I’ve been honest with myself, I’ve always said with Boromir, “It is long since we had any hope.”

I suspected that we were entering the twilight years of the American republic, that my children would grow up into a world much darker, more solitary, nastier, and more brutish than I had, and my task was simply to (to quote another favorite Tolkienism) “fight the long defeat” with as much boldness and faithfulness as possible—and build, if perhaps, networks of knowledge and friendship that could survive the dark days ahead.

This pessimism was only in part due to the aggressive crusade against nature and reason that has infected progressivism in the West, and the weakness, corruption, and amnesia in the church. It was also because it seemed clear to me that America lacked—and perhaps had long lacked—a genuine conservative movement in any historically meaningful sense.

But at the National Conservatism Conference this week, I realized for the first time that whatever the virtues and vices of Trumpism, the election of Trump in 2016 had had the effect of a violent earthquake—reducing the previous political categories and expectations to rubble and leaving the field incredibly open to build and think something new. Of course, in such a landscape, gangs are prone to roam and loot, extremism is apt to breed, and our worst impulses can be given free rein. There is no guarantee that anything genuinely constructive can come out of such rubble. But this week at least gave me hope in the possibility.

Based on my reading in preparation for my May trip to the Republic of Georgia, the comment about gangs, looting, and extremism made me think “My gosh! He just described the Republic of Georgia, 1990-2003! And, yeah, it does kind of fit what’s going on in America right now.”

But in 2003, Georgia had its “Rose Revolution” and order was restored in what has become a stable Christian democracy, despite some economic problems. So there really may be some hope.

I’ll let you read Wilcox for a fairly detailed account of what seemed to transpire at the Conference, but one anecdote stood out to me as pretty solid proof that this is Not Your Father’s Conservatism (nor mine).

One hallmark of the conservative “fusionism” of the last 60 years or so has been economic libertarianism, a/k/a “laissez-faire.” A realist might well say (I have no doubt that they do) that “laissez-faire” is a myth, and the reality is an economy designed to serve certain interests, and to disserve others.

The National Conservatism Conference seemingly is ready to drop the pretext, to expel the Libertarians (or at least put them on a short leash), and to entertain (gasp!) explicitly outome-oriented, non-neutral stuff like, for instance, a national Industrial Policy:

[T]he most memorable session of the conference was probably the Monday night public debate between Oren Cass (author of The Once and Future Worker) and Richard Reinsch on the resolution “America Should Adopt an Industrial Policy.” Although excellent arguments were put forward on both sides, Cass’s affirmative ultimately carried the day, 99 to 51—this was not your father’s conservatism. The crucial moment in the debate came in during the section for speeches from the floor, when J.D. Vance [author of Hillbilly Elegy and a growing presence in conservative circles] came up to the microphone and said:

“Near where I live in Silicon Valley, there are neuroscientists paid by Facebook who are hard at work developing horrible apps to addict your children’s brains. Just down the road, there are neuroscientists paid by the National Institutes of Health who are working just as hard on finding cures for dementia. The first group earns about twice as much as the second group. In my mind, this debate is over the question, ’Are we OK with that? And if we’re not, is this a political problem that demands a political solution?”

mic drop

(Emphasis in original) Sohrab Amari should be pleased.

Note that there likely is no shortage of progressives who likewise “are not OK with that,” at least so far as brainwashing children goes. So the political realignment which I’ve been predicting (it’s hardly rocket science to predict realignment at my high and vague level of generality, folks) could become very interesting and barrier-shattering. (Can you say “strange bedfellows”?)

Littlejohn’s account of the Conference is far and away the most positive I’ve seen yet, and if he were wet behind the ears I’d discount it pretty deeply. But he’s not.

Still, one criticism is captured in the “optics”: “Elite Insurgents at the Ritz” (read the articles linked there, too).

Another was that “(Sniff!) They didn’t invite me and I’m more expert than who they did invite so it’s all a set-up funded by the Usual Shadowy Opinion-molders.

Still another is that Josh Hawley was the only headliner who was an officeholder, the rest being authors, academics, pundits and such. (Can you say “Václav Havel”?)

Points taken.

I think we’re still fairly far from seeing a proof of concept, but with “the field incredibly open to build and think something new,” and with this “something new” fitting America better than the policies of the Robespierre “Squad” of zealous Democrat freshmen, we might see it as soon as Donald Trump finally stands down.

One can hope.

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

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

Meritocracy or virtue?

I’ve noticed something odd about the (still relatively early but) angry commentary over the college admissions scandal, whereby celebrities, “ethical fund” managers, parenting book authors and others crossed legal lines to get their slacker children into elite colleges (or at least more elite than they could get into on true merit). The odd thing is the trope that these parents are arranging for their children to “get ahead” unfairly.

But what is this “getting ahead” in the first place? What virtue is there in it? So far as I can tell, there is none whatsoever.

“Getting ahead” means superficially looking like a meritocratic success. And America is all about superfice.

What is the reality for these slackers? So far as I can tell, it’s going to hell in a delusional cocoon — or whatever sad fate awaits those lacking virtue.

So it seems to me that the most fruitful discussions that can arise out of this chapter in the annals of American superficiality are, as has always been the case, what it means to be human, and more particularly what it means to be a person of virtue — a prize infinitely more valuable than glitz and glamor.

And if you happen to favor deontological or consequentialist ethics, as the commentariat appears to, what these parents did will still fail your ethical tests. It’s unethical all the way down.

But it’s all these parents know in their bones, whatever platitudes pass their lips or gets printed in a child-raising book or fund prospectus.

So why would any sane person want their child to join their ranks?

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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.

Clippings & Comment, 2/9/19

1

Coincidentally, I came across this Dilbert strip minutes later.

2

Adidas made two mistakes:

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

The sneaker has been pulled from the market.

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

Rod Dreher

3

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

Matthew Schmitz

4

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

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

Clarissa at Merited Impossibility.

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

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

5

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

Ocasio-Cortez has done exactly that …

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

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

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

Christine Emba.

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

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

6

May the flawed prevail over the wicked.

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

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

7

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

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

8

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

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

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

* * * * *

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Clippings and Comment, 2/6/19

1

Ms. Devi publicly defended Mr. Fryer. Since then, she says she’s struggled to find research collaborators and has lost nearly every female friend at Harvard: “Suddenly, I would find that my emails were going unanswered. People would avert their gaze from me walking down the hall. There was this culture of guilty until proven innocent and, if you’re defending him, guilt by association.”

Ms. Devi adds that every one of her remaining friends has advised her not to defend Mr. Fryer. One told her that “at a place like this, which is extremely progressive, it will only have a cost—it will have no benefit.” Ms. Devi says she knows of others who also wanted to defend Mr. Fryer but “don’t want to go against the social-media mob.”

An immigrant from India, Ms. Devi fears her outspokenness will limit her job prospects in the U.S. “It’s very, very high-risk to identify myself and defend an accused person,” Ms. Devi says. “Everyone protects the identity of the accuser. She gets to hide under the mask of anonymity, and we have to destroy our futures.”

Jillian Kay Melchior, Title IX’s Witness Intimidation, Wall Street Journal.

This is the kind of toxic culture against which Betsy DeVos’s regulatory legal changes are powerless.

2

It’s nice to be Trump. His bragging is unencumbered by his past. His self-satisfaction crowds out any self-examination. What he needs isn’t a fact check. It’s a reality check, because his worst fictions aren’t statistical. They’re spiritual.

The State of the Union address was a herky-jerky testament to that. I say herky-jerky because it was six or eight or maybe 10 speeches in one, caroming without warning from a plea for unity to a tirade about the border; from some boast about American glory under Trump to some reverie about American glory before Trump (yes, it existed!); from a hurried legislative wish list to a final stretch of ersatz poetry that read like lines from a batch of defective or remaindered Hallmark cards. As much as Trump needed modesty, his paragraphs needed transitions.

“Don’t sit yet,” he told them when he feared that they would end their celebration too soon, before his next great pronouncement. “You’re going to like this.”

Even the newly, briefly, falsely sensitive version of Trump couldn’t lose his bossy streak — or stop hungering for, and predicting, the next round of applause.

Frank Bruni.

3

I’m tempted to write “Democrats are reduced to pointless obstructionism,” but “obstructionism” implies the ability to obstruct. Senate Democrats lack that ability, having done away with the filibuster for lower-court judicial nominations when they were in control. Thus they are reduced even further, to “pointless mudslinging.”

Yet “pointless” doesn’t mean “harmless.” The Democratic senators’ juvenile tactics will not stop Rao’s confirmation, but they are lowering the already debased national discourse.

Rao is now 45 years old, solidly middle-aged. To reach middle age, one must first pass through an earlier stage of simultaneously knowing very little about the world while believing oneself to understand it completely. Youthful folly is particularly unfortunate in budding writers, who inevitably commit their stupidity to the page. If they write for publication — rather than privately composing the worst novel ever written in the English language, as I did at that age — their silliness will linger for posterity to sample.

… [F]rankly, Rao’s college writing wasn’t nearly as bad as it could have been. It wasn’t even as bad as I expected from early media coverage.

Megan McArdle

4

[F]rom the moment he announced his run for the presidency, I believed that Trump was intellectually, temperamentally, and psychologically unfit to be president. Indeed, I warned the GOP about Trump back in 2011, when I wrote an op-ed in The Wall Street Journal decrying his claim that Barack Obama was not born in America. From time to time, people emerge who are peddlers of paranoia and who violate unwritten codes that are vital to a self-governing society, I wrote, adding, “They delight in making our public discourse more childish and freakish, focusing attention on absurdities rather than substantive issues, and stirring up mistrust among citizens. When they do, those they claim to represent should speak out forcefully against them.”

Today I see the Republican Party through the clarifying prism of Donald Trump, who consistently appealed to the ugliest instincts and attitudes of the GOP base—in 2011, when he entered the political stage by promoting a racist conspiracy theory, and in 2016, when he won the GOP nomination. He’s done the same time and time again during his presidency—his attacks on the intelligence of black politicians, black journalists, and black athletes; his response to the deadly violence in Charlottesville, Virginia; and his closing argument during the midterm elections, when he retweeted a racist ad that even Fox News would not run.

Peter Wehner, on why he left the GOP and what he has gained thereby.

Apart from my having left the party earlier than Wehner, he captures my feelings very well.

5

What is the statute of limitations for being a jerk-goofball-hellraiser? asks Kathleen Parker of Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam:

In 1983, just before winning a third term as Louisiana’s governor, Edwin Edwards famously said that the only way he could lose the race was “if I’m caught in bed with either a dead girl or a live boy.”

Presumably, no one checked his yearbook.

Parker must have tenure, a large 401k, and a looming retirement, because it is now forbidden, on pain of professional death, to forgive youth and foolishness.

6

Had you heard about Liam Neeson making terrible, racist comments? Did your source bother quoting what he actually said, in context, or was your source someone like the preening Peacock Piers Morgan (“so full of shit his breath makes acid rain,” as Bruce Cockburn sang of someone else), who tells you what to think before he tells you what Neeson said?

We have created a culture that despises repentance, and condemns grace.

If you can’t multiply examples of that during the past week, you weren’t paying attention.

7

Of late, I’ve found a term for my political temperament: “trimmer” (second listed meaning). So I am today declaring myself a centrist non-candidate for POTUS. The toxicity of Left and Right, sampled above, have become intolerable.

8

My Church is the best Church because it never interferes with a man’s politics or his religion.

Uncle Toby in Tristram Shandy, via John Senior, The Death of Christian Culture, page 136.

Uncle Toby is Andrew Cuomo’s patron saint.

9

Because I find his droning, vulgar cadences intolerable, I did not listen to even to that portion of the President’s State of the Union address that may have been continuing as I left a musical rehearsal.

But it sounds as if I may have missed something even worse than the usual vulgarity: I may have missed a scripted approximation of normalcy, which would make the return to vulgar reality even more agonizing.

I’m too old for roller coasters, even if they’re just emotional.

10

A Canadian cryptocurrency exchange says about $140 million worth of customers’ holdings are stuck in an electronic vault because the company’s founder, and sole employee, died without sharing the password.

But two independent researchers say publicly available transaction records associated with QuadrigaCX suggest the money may be gone, not trapped.

They say it appears Quadriga transferred customer funds to other cryptocurrency exchanges, although it isn’t clear what might have happened to the money from there.

Paul Vigna, Wall Street Journal.

My avoidance of cryptocurrencies is vindicated.

11

In a reflection on the Nashville Statement written a few years ago, I wrote:

Like me, Justin grew up Southern Baptist. Sometimes, someone will ask me why I think Justin “changed his theology” to support gay marriage, while I stuck with conservative theology. However, the question actually rests on a misunderstanding. I did not “hold onto” the theology of marriage I learned in Southern Baptist Churches growing up. If I had, I would support same-sex marriage.

When I listen to Justin’s presentations, what I hear in his arguments for same-sex marriage is simply the logical outworking of the theology of marriage we both grew up with. Many of his arguments are modified versions of the arguments which I heard to rationalize divorce and contraception in the Southern Baptist congregation I grew up in.

And because of the obvious prejudice of so many conservative Christians toward gay people, it’s easy for him to dismiss conservative exegesis as Pharisaical legalism.

You might say that I “backed” my way into the Catholic Church,first by recognizing the link between accepting contraception and accepting same-sex marriage, and only later recognizing the flaws of the “slow motion sexual revolutionaries” I grew up with in the Southern Baptist Church.

Ron Belgau. This “alternate universe” argument, where one says “If I believed X, I would eventually come to believe Y,” is one that I have made, if only when arguing with myself about what I would believe today had I remained in the Christian Reformed Church.

12

Oh, how we miss the trolley problem .

There’s a runaway trolley plunging toward a widow and five orphans, but if you pull the lever to divert it, you’ll hit Elon Musk. Which do you choose?

This is a problem?!. Quick! Where’s that lever?!

* * * * *

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.