So prolific I categorized it

Legalia

Satire must rhyme, too

David Lat, author of the legal blog Original Jurisdiction, on Sunday named Ilya Shapiro his "Lawyer of the Week," with Michael Avennati and David Freydin as "lesser white men" Runners-Up.

If I have to explain it, it won’t be funny any more.

Thumb on the Scale

I know that Wikipedia isn’t perfect, but it’s disappointing that a partisan can slip in and edit the articles on his preferred candidate for SCOTUS and the articles on the two most prominent other contenders:

Meanwhile, on the SCOTUS nomination front, one top contender, Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson (D.C. Cir.), issued her first appellate opinion. It earned high scores from legal writing guru Ross Guberman and high scores from progressives, with Mark Joseph Stern of Slate declaring it “an unqualified win to union rights.” This will only strengthen Judge Jackson’s status as the favored pick of progressives, many of whom have raised concerns about her main competitors, Justice Leondra Kruger (California Supreme Court) and Judge J. Michelle Childs (D.S.C.).

What are those concerns? Maybe check out the Wikipedia pages for Justice Kruger and Judge Childs—which a former Jackson clerk helpfully edited to make the two sound less appealing to the left, while simultaneously editing Judge Jackson’s entry to make her appear more palatable to progressives.

David Lat, Original Jurisdiction

Maybe this can take the heat off Ilya Shapiro. Less logical things have happened.

Against collusive secrecy

A UCLA First Amendment Amicus Brief Clinic student and I were just appointed by a District Court as amicus to file a brief supporting the right of public access and opposing sealing of certain documents. The parties had both agreed to sealing, but "courts are duty-bound to protect public access to judicial proceedings and records," even as to "stipulated sealings … where the parties agree." And appointing an amicus curiae to represent the no-sealing position will help give the court an adversary presentation on the matter.

Eugene Volokh. I did not know, and am happy to learn, that courts are duty-bound to protect public access to judicial proceedings and records. If the parties want to keep everything under wraps, they should go to private arbitration. I don’t want my taxes paying for secret, possibly collusive court proceedings.

Mainstream Media

As close as they come to fresh Russia news

[A] substantial part of the added value I seek to bring to reporting and analysis is derived from my following the Russian-language electronic and print media closely, whereas the vast majority of commentators who populate Western television news and op-ed pages only offer up synthetic, rearranged factoids and unsubstantiated claims from the reports and analysis of their peers. Investigative reporting does not exist among mainstream. Reprinting handouts from anonymous sources in high places of the Pentagon and State Department is the closest they come to daily fresh “news.”

Gilbert Doctorow

When the "news" fails to inform

So Joe Rogan "used a racial slur," "the N-word," on his podcast. It is a shame that we can’t even talk about whether he was using it as a racial slur, or whether he was quoting some historic literature, or whether the word qua word was the being discussed (as I’m discussing it now).

Well, that was my reaction to the Wall Street Journal’s cryptic telling of the tale. The Morning Dispatch comes helpfully much closer:

Rogan apologized over the weekend for repeatedly saying the N-word in older podcasts—he said he used to think it was acceptable to use in context ….

It has been a long time since a white man could say [Voldemort] repeatedly, even in context, without giving offense. Rogan should have (and probably did) know better.

I hope I don’t need to write any more about Rogan, but the censors are still probing getting him kicked off Spotify.

Miscellany

What’s the goal here?

On that side, a professionally-dressed young woman introduced herself as a social worker to her client. On the other, a disheveled-looking white guy with dirty hair and open sores on his face sat down, and by any measure he presented as male. After introducing herself, the first question she asked was "What are your pronouns?". What followed was this excruciating attempt to explain the very concept of pronouns. I could only hear one side of the conversation, but here are some snippets:

"No, no, I don’t mean your name. I mean your pronouns."

"A pronoun is a way for someone else to refer to you"

"No, I already know your name, I’m asking about your pronouns"

"So for example, my pronouns are ‘sheehurr‘*, so yours would be….?"

"That’s your middle name, which I already know, I’m asking about what word someone else would refer to you, like if they were talking about you to someone else…"

*[I’m trying to be mindful of how "she/her" would sound spoken out loud to someone completely ignorant of the concept.]

And so forth. This went on for about five minutes until my own client showed up and I had to close the door. It’s fair to say that the other guy did not give a fuck about pronouns, nor would it be anywhere near the top 100 of his priorities given his circumstances at the time. And perhaps most maddening of all, pronouns are completely irrelevant in a conversation with only two parties. He’s in jail, and this is what state resources dedicated to indigent defendants were being diverted to accomplishing. Scott Greenfield had already written about this potential trend on perverted prioritization way back in 2017.

No matter what you discuss in Law and Critical Deviant Sexuality class at Yale Law School, you’re given a few minutes to gather the information necessary to save a client’s life, to get the client bail or know whether to take the plea offer. You can spend those few minutes on things that you feel deeply about or things that they feel deeply about, like beating the rap.

And here’s the kicker: most of the people you will represent will be minority, poor, male and, yes, guilty, to some greater or lesser extent. Like me, they too are not woke. Even if they are, they don’t give a damn about it at the moment, and want you to be a tough lawyer focused only on what they need rather than your feminist agenda or transsexual sensitivity.

Yassine Meskhout, ‌Three Little Pronouns Go To Court

Be it remembered that a fanatic is one who, having lost sight of the goal, redoubles xyrs efforts.

Living in the free world after the end of history

Once, I thought I lived in the free world. The liberal West was supposed to be the point on which the arc of history converged. But nobody talks like that any more. History has started up again, and we are all just holding tight.

… [W]hat happened when the [Berlin] wall fell was not the triumph of freedom over oppression so much as the defeat of one Western ideology by another. The one that came through was the oldest, subtlest and longest-lasting, one which disguised itself so well that we didn’t know it was an ideology at all: liberalism.

… Each … upheaval[], whether in Jacobin France, Marxist Russia or Nazi Germany, failed to create the promised utopias but did have the effect of clearing away the the traditional structures of the pre-modern era. Into the void created by this process rushed the Machine – the ‘monster that grows in deserts’ – with its sensibility of control, measurement, utility and profit.

In this new world, the three poles of culture would no longer be people, place and prayer, but individual, market and state.

Paul Kingsnorth, In This Free World

Unavoidably incomplete pictures

Heisenberg’s uncertainty principle teaches us that if you isolate a particle, you have to stop the flow of the wave. The key concept here is not that isolating the particle gives you a false picture of reality, but rather that isolating the particle gives you an unavoidably incomplete picture of reality. The mistake is to think that by isolating and pinning down the particle (so to speak), we have made it possible to know the full story.

Think of the famous line of Wordsworth: “We murder to dissect.” We have to remove a living creature from the flow of life in order to dismember it to study it. This is fine, but we must not be under the illusion that life is merely a combination of discrete parts. To think this way, though, is to see the world as a madman does.

Rod Dreher

Grotesque?

  • "Anything that comes out of the South is going to be called grotesque by the northern reader, unless it is grotesque, in which case it is going to be called realistic."
  • “When you have to assume that [your audience is not Christian], then you have to make your vision apparent by shock – to the hard of hearing you shout, and for the almost-blind you draw large and startling figures.” Her audience assumed, in its midcentury optimism, that everything was OK. But everything is not OK. There is something wrong with humanity. There is something unnatural in nature.

Flannery O’Connor, via Plough

A trigger-warned recommendation

I recommend Abigail Shrier’s ‌Child Custody’s Gender Gauntlet only if you have a strong stomach and have not been feeling despair over the culture’s direction. (It’s also available here.) It upset me about as much as anything I’ve read in the last month or so.

Consider that (a) a recommendation and (b) a trigger warning.

A creed for rogues

Man is the measure of all things, but man has no fixed nature. Man measures all things by his words, but words have no fixed meanings. Language is not an instrument for finding truth, but for changing it. Those who can master it, master all. It is a good creed for rogues, and commends itself to tyrants in every age.

J Budziszewski, What We Can’t Not Know

My pronouns

I’ve got a presumption against making nice with people who solemnly pronounce their pronouns, let alone people who waste precious time on the topic, but I’ve been dreaming of getting back to Paris, so I just updated one social medium profile to specify my pronouns as il/son/lui-même.

Covid

Safetyism on Parade

I probably could have put this under politics, but since I take a swipe at Dubya along with the quoted swipe at Buttigieg, I think it belongs here.

In a recent Department of Transportation report, Secretary Pete Buttigieg wrote that “zero is the only acceptable number of deaths and serious injuries on our roadways.” Although that sounds nice, it’s obviously not true, George Will argues in his latest Washington Post column, and it’s irresponsible to pretend it is. “The phrase ‘zero tolerance’ (of a virus, or violence, or something) is favored by people who are allergic to making judgments and distinctions: i.e., thinking,” he writes. “There must … be limits to prophylactic measures against even clear and present dangers. Otherwise, public health officials will meet no resistance to the primal urge of all government agencies: the urge to maximize their missions. … When Buttigieg identifies as ‘the only acceptable’ social outcome something that is unattainable, we see how government forfeits the public’s trust. Americans are hitting the mute button on government that calls life’s elemental realities and painful trade-offs unacceptable.”

The Morning Dispatch.

Be it remembered that I "hit the mute button" on the GOP in January 2005, when Dubya declared as national policy eradication of tyranny from the world.

That "There must … be limits to prophylactic measures against even clear and present dangers" is a message many progressive friends in the arts aren’t willing to hear yet when it comes to Covid. I’m ready to treat Covid like the flu unless another particularly deadly variant emerges, but if I want to make music outside of Church, I still must wear a mask, it seems.

Datapoint

Last week, despite daily COVID-19 cases at record highs, Denmark decided to do away with all its pandemic restrictions. No more mask mandates, no more vaccine obligations, no more isolation requirements. To better understand the rationale for the move—which Sweden, Norway, and Spain have since echoed—Derek Thompson spoke with Danish researcher Michael Bang Petersen. “Our hospitals are not being overwhelmed,” Petersen told The Atlantic. “We have a lot of people in hospitals with positive tests, but most of them are testing positive with COVID rather than being there because of COVID. They’re also in the hospital for a much shorter duration than previous waves. The number of people being treated for pneumonia is a critical indicator, and that’s going down as well. … It’s important to be clear that waiting to remove restrictions is not a cost-free decision. A pandemic is not just a public-health disaster. It affects all parts of society. It has consequences for economic activity, for people’s well-being, and for their sense of freedom. Pandemic restrictions put on pause fundamental democratic rights. If there’s a critical threat, that pause might be legitimate. But there is an obligation to remove those restrictions quickly when the threat is no longer critical.”

The Morning Dispatch

Politics

Sore, sore loser, loser, loser

Almost every public comment Trump makes these days is focused on the election … He also warned that he would incite unrest if prosecutors who are investigating him and his businesses took action against him.

Trump’s mind has no room to entertain any other thoughts, at least not for long. His defeat is his obsession; it has pulled him into a deep, dark place. He wants to pull the rest of us into it as well.

I discuss Trump in psychological terms because I have said for a half-dozen years—and previously in these pages—that the most important thing to understand about Trump is his disordered personality; it’s the only way to even begin to think about how to deal with him. (I’m not the only person to think that.)

A wise conservative friend of mine who is a critic of the left recently told me, “At the elite level, the Republican Party is much worse than the Democratic Party when it comes to the health of American democracy. It is led by, and defined by, Trump, who wants to attack our institutions at every level.”

So he does, and so he has. Trump was dangerous, his mind disordered, before; he’s more dangerous, his mind more disordered, now. He’s obsessed and enraged, consumed by vengeance, and moving us closer to political violence. His behavior needs attention not because of the past but because of the future. A second Trump term would make the first one look like a walk in the park.

Peter Wehner, ‌Trump Is Obsessed With Being a Loser

Indeed he is: obsessed; a loser; dominated by a narcissistic personality disorder. I, like Wehner, recognized the very dangerous narcissism well before he was elected.

In a June 2016 essay for The Atlantic, Northwestern University psychology professor Dan P. McAdams diagnosed (from a distance) the then-candidate similarly, writing in part:

"People with strong narcissistic needs want to love themselves, and they desperately want others to love them too—or at least admire them, see them as brilliant and powerful and beautiful, even just see them, period. The fundamental life goal is to promote the greatness of the self, for all to see."

And Jennifer Senior, writing in The New York Times in 2019, put it this way:

"A number of Donald Trump’s critics have reached a consensus: We are being governed by a man with a narcissistic personality disorder, almost certainly of the malignant variety, and it’s time to call it by name."

According to DSM-5, the seminal guide to mental disorders and illness, a person with narcissistic personality disorder demonstrates "a pervasive pattern of grandiosity (in fantasy or behavior), need for admiration, and lack of empathy."

Chris Cillizza, Paul Ryan was convinced Donald Trump had narcissistic personality disorder

Provocations have consequences

[A]s conservatives tub-thump for NATO expansion in Europe and hawkishness elsewhere, they seem clueless as to what these things entail: the integration of evermore geographic space into the same socioeconomic order they find so oppressive at home.

Sohrab Ahmari, Patrick Deneen and Gladden Pappin, ‌Hawks Are Standing in the Way of a New Republican Party

The authors characterize themselves and post-liberals, signifying that they think classical liberalism has failed (Deneen wrote a whole book on that premise) and they’re ready to move on.

I tend to agree with their assessment of liberalism, but I’m suffering from a preference for the devil I know over the one I don’t — and a conservative appreciation that revolutions generally make things worse.

Meanwhile, the three of them have enough heft to elicit several push-backs, like here and here.

RNC: Who needs friends when you and your fellow-combatants can have such fun?

As the old saying widely attributed to Ronald Reagan goes, “The person who agrees with you 80 percent of the time is a friend and an ally, not a 20 percent traitor.”

But the legitimacy of the democratic process is a heck of a 20 percent to disagree about …

“The Republican National Committee hereby formally censures Representatives Liz Cheney of Wyoming and Adam Kinzinger of Illinois and shall immediately cease any and all support of them as members of the Republican Party.”

… Cheney and Kinzinger’s transgressions? Supporting Democratic efforts to “destroy President Trump” more than they support “winning back a Republican majority in 2022,” and “participating in a Democrat-led persecution of ordinary citizens engaged in legitimate political discourse.”

After the language of the censure resolution was made public, GOP Chairwoman Ronna McDaniel quickly sought to clarify that the RNC viewed stolen election claims and efforts to overturn said election as “legitimate political discourse,” not the violence at the Capitol. But the message came through loud and clear: Any effort to draw attention to January 6 rather than sweep it under the rug is not welcome at the Republican National Committee.

The Morning Dispatch: Republicans Choose Their Corners in the January 6 Brawl

Ronna McDaniel’s clarification was patent bullshit: the January Sixers who were engaged in "legitimate political discourse" (the ones who didn’t smash their way into the Capital, some of them calling for hanging Mike Pence, in case you’re really dim-witted) are not being prosecuted, let alone persecuted (with the possible exception of the Orange God King in Exile, who incited the riot, and whose successful prosecution for something therefore has some allure).

MTG: Your 15 minutes of fame are up

"Now we have Nancy Pelosi’s Gazpacho Police, spying on members of Congress …." Congresscreature Marjorie Taylor Greene.


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

Relatively reflective

Today, I have deliberately avoided politics or focused commentary on particular current events — and that involved cutting maybe 60% of what I’d clipped. I may be old, but I haven’t given up doing better.

Wisdom from the Vietnam era:

For the Student Strikers
By Richard Wilbur

Go talk with those who are rumored to be unlike you,
And whom, it is said, you are so unlike.
Stand on the stoops of their houses and tell them why
You are out on strike.

It is not yet time for the rock, the bullet, the blunt
Slogan that fuddles the mind toward force.
Let the new sound in our streets be the patient sound
Of your discourse.

Doors will be shut in your faces, I do not doubt.
Yet here or there, it may be, there will start,
Much as the lights blink on in a block at evening,
Changes of heart.

They are your houses; the people are not unlike you;
Talk with them, then, and let it be done
Even for the grey wife of your nightmare sheriff
And the guardsman’s son.

Recommended by A.M. Juster, the pen name of Michael J. Astrue, a conservative who has served in high government roles in Washington, in a PBS interview. This poem, which I hadn’t read before, is a keeper.

That about sums it up, doesn’t it?

21st-century American political culture has become an ever-widening suckhole of cringe.

Matt Taibbi‌

Asking the right question

Alan Jacobs suggests an introspective question for Christians who aspire to political power:

How must I be formed as a Christian in such a way that I can be worthy of the power and influence I desire?

The question comes in a context that makes the next sentence apt:

That the integralists and Christian nationalists I read don’t seem to be asking that question is, I think, cause for concern.

It should concern us all.

Part of Dubya’s charm in the 2000 election was (a) he seemed to have a real (if fairly shallow) love of Christ and (b) his demeanor conveyed that he could take or leave political power. They don’t make many like that.

Serendipitous misreading

You see, the thing about movies is that they’re usually ninety minutes or so long.

Ted Lasso and the Temptation of “Aww, Shucks” Idealism – Front Porch Republic

I misread the quoted portion as “You see, the thing about movies is that they’re usually ninety minutes too long” and agreed heartily. I’m also noticing all the padding in even very good nonfiction books, like 4000 Weeks. It’s hard enough to identify key parts when skimming that I have little choice but to go ahead and read the padding, resenting it even while understanding that what I’m reading might fail as “a book” if 75% of the pages were edited out.

What we can do

[W]e cannot literally believe or disbelieve things at will, but for better or for worse, we can willfully place ourselves in situations or courses of action that may produce change in our beliefs …

[I]t’s true that we can’t shut off unwanted feelings like a switch.  It’s also true that the very effort of trying to suppress them can stir them up.  Even so, our control over our inward life is much greater than we like to admit, just like our control over our beliefs.

J. Budziszewskizi, ‌Can We Believe and Feel Things at Will?

I have taken this to heart yet again. The things I obsess about, the things I wallow in, require careful consideration.

Artistry

Bowls From an One Hundred Year Ash Tree – The School of the Transfer of Energy

News-adjacent

This commentary was encountered as I was reading about current events, but it has a long, or nonexistent, sell-by date:

Fox News boosters, inside and outside of the network’s offices, like to describe this business model as “respecting the audience.” Defenders of Rush Limbaugh’s talk radio program used to say much the same about it — that all it was doing was tapping into an underserved audience and taking its concerns seriously. But that account is almost comically one-sided. Just as the capitalist economy doesn’t simply give people what they already wanted but actively creates new desires and shapes consumer tastes, so right-wing media doesn’t just respect the pre-existing views of its audience. It also actively intensifies and radicalizes those views by flattering the prejudices that underlie them and providing an endless stream of provocations designed to confirm their validity.

That’s how the model works: Ratings rise and profits increase by giving viewers more red meat than they knew they wanted — a process that, over time, moves the Overton Window among American conservatives ever further to the right. Fox News is a machine for generating ideological extremism, in other words ….

Damon Linker, Fox News was toxic long before Tucker Carlson’s Jan. 6 movie


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.

Imagine there’s no sovereignty

To us moderns, the secular is fundamental. Even when religion is considered a universal sociological category, we almost always first translate it into something secular, such as its function: it synthesizes diverse perspectives and experiences, it knits people together, it makes the world coherent, it assuages the fear of death, it provides legitimacy for power, it constructs social roles, and so on. In this way, we are perhaps willing to accept that every society has a religion, but only if we first reduce religion to yet another aspect of the fundamental secular, to yet another ideology or worldview.

I contend that the Middle Ages were neither religious nor secular because the religious and the secular are two features of a single construction: the modern, Western social architecture of “Church” and “State,” “private” and “public,” “individual” and “market,” and so on. The societies of the Middle Ages had a different architecture based on different assumptions and different concepts, ultimately on a different vision of the cosmos.

One of the central arguments of this book is that we should abandon the use of “religion” and “secular” “Church” and “State” understood in their modern senses in our attempts to understand the Middle Ages, in this case the thirteenth century. This is not because the terms have no meaning—in our world they have a great deal of meaning. Rather, it is because one cannot get too far along in building a thick description of the thirteenth century before concluding that everything was religious or, if one is inclined to come at it from the other direction, before concluding that everything was secular.

Peter Berger has written, “By secularization we mean the process by which sectors of society and culture are removed from the domination of religious institutions and symbols.” The problem, however, is that institutions and symbols are recognizable as religious only from the vantage point of the secular. This means secularization might be just as legitimately understood as being the process by which sectors of society and culture were construed as religious institutions and symbols. In other words, secularization is the process through which the “religious” as we conceive of it was created. Along these lines, Brent Nongbri has accurately remarked that we call religious “anything that sufficiently resembles modern Protestant Christianity,” and when Charles Taylor states that the British were more religious in 1900 than ever before, we might consider him to be, in a sense, defining the term “religious.”

[T]hirteenth-century France was built as a “most Christian kingdom,” a term that the papacy frequently used in reference to it. I do not mean that the kingdom of France was a State with a Christian ideology. I mean that it was Christian, fundamentally. There was no State lurking beneath the kingdom’s religious trappings. There was no State at all, but a Christian kingdom. In this kingdom, neither the “secular” nor the “religious” existed. Neither did “sovereignty.” I do not mean that the religious was everywhere and that the secular had not yet emerged from under it. I mean they did not exist at all … The people of thirteenth-century France, however, were not trying to figure out how to build a “Sovereign State” and they were not trying to disentangle the “secular” from the “religious.” They had never heard of these things. Their world made sense, and it was a world that did not contain these concepts. This is the world that I am after.

Continue reading “Imagine there’s no sovereignty”

French scores a TKO

Sohrab Amari (Trumpist) picked a stupid fight with David French (Never Trumpist).

The gist of [Sohrab] Ahmari’s argument is this: [David] French is a classical liberal, who argues in terms suited to classical liberalism. But classical liberalism is a dead end for Christians, and is nothing more than a way of negotiating our complete surrender to those who hate us and what we stand for. Better to fight with all we’ve got, with the expectation of winning and re-establishing Christian standards in the public square, than to keep ceding ground to those who have no intention at all of tolerating us.

The Ahmari vs. French standoff is a version of what Patrick Deneen, in a 2014 TAC article, identified as “a Catholic showdown worth watching.” Deneen identifies the antagonists not as left vs. right, but a dispute between two kinds of conservatives within US Catholicism. On one side are classical liberals — the Neuhaus/Novak/Weigel folks — who believe that Christianity can be reconciled with liberalism, and enrich it. On the other are those — Alasdair MacIntyre, David Schindler — who believe that they are fundamentally incompatible.

Though Ahmari is Catholic and French is Evangelical, this is near the core of their argument …

Rod Dreher

Dreher is correct that this is the sort of show-down Deneen predicted. Oddly, my visceral sympathies are with MacIntyre, Schindler and, yes, Patrick “Why Liberalism Failed” Deneen, but my reasoning throws me into the uncomfortable neo-conservative company of Neuhaus/Novak/Weigel.

It’s also a fight between the primacy of politics and the primacy of culture. Dreher is, correctly I think, on the primacy of culture side, pretty much because we have no realistic alternative. His full analysis, too, is worth reading, not just my excerpt.

The 2014 Deneen article is worth your reading or re-reading especially now. I clipped it at the time and have revisited it repeatedly.

The Amari/French fight has gone several rounds now, but I think French won on a technical knock-out yesterday:

[M]eet [Sohrab Ahmari’s] fictional Donald Trump. See if you recognize this person as the 45th President of the United States:

With a kind of animal instinct, Trump understood what was missing from mainstream (more or less French-ian) conservatism. His instinct has been to shift the cultural and political mix, ever so slightly, away from autonomy-above-all toward order, continuity, and social cohesion. He believes that the political community — and not just the church, family, and individual — has its own legitimate scope for action. He believes it can help protect the citizen from transnational forces beyond his control.

Donald Trump wouldn’t even fully grasp what this paragraph means, much less recognize it as a governing philosophy. He is a man of prodigious personal appetites. A man who proudly hangs a Playboy cover on the wall of his office. A man who marries and then marries again and again, yet still feels compelled to find porn stars to bed. In his essay, Ahmari condemns the man who craves autonomy above all else. He is, without knowing it, condemning Trump.

So, there you have it. To Ahmari, the alignment of forces looks like this: In one corner is the nice milquetoast libertarian, David French. In the other corner is the strong instrument of social cohesion, Donald Trump.

If this were a real binary conflict and I had to choose, I’d go with Trump, too …

I firmly believe that the defense of … political and cultural values must be conducted in accordance with scriptural admonitions to love your enemies, to bless those who persecute you, with full knowledge that the “Lord’s servant” must be “kind to everyone, able to teach, and patiently endure evil.”

I’m a deeply flawed person in daily (or even hourly) need of God’s grace, so I don’t always live up to those ideals. But I see them for what they are: commands to God’s people, not tactics to try until they fail. Ahmari does not wrestle with these dictates in his essay. He should have.

David French

Ben Domenech at The Federalist supported Amari.

Amari and Domenech are raising adolescent hell, as befits their publications, while French is soberly assessing reality, which sometimes makes him odd man out at NRO, but look at the last two paragraphs I quoted and I think you’ll see why he plays it that way.

Maybe Christians will need to make a strategic alliance with alt-right barbarians some day, but for now I think the alt-right ways are to be shunned as deathworks, while “David French-ism” is a lifework.

UPDATE: I couldn’t imagine what more remained to be said about Amari’s folly, but Bret Stephens finds something to say that isn’t just bouncing the rubble:

There’s something to the point that the bullying moral spirit of modern progressivism isn’t going to be mollified by David French’s niceness alone. More likely, it will be deflated over time (and only partially) by South Park-style mockery and a natural impatience with the moral scolds of any political persuasion.

But [Sohrab] Ahmari is after something else. What’s needed, he writes, is “to fight the culture war with the aim of defeating the enemy and enjoying the spoils in the form of a public square re-ordered to the common good and ultimately the Highest Good.” That’s the voice of a would-be theocrat speaking, even if he hasn’t yet mustered the courage to acknowledge the conviction.

I wish Ahmari were speaking for himself alone. He isn’t. He’s just the latest conservative writer I know who has found his own way to Trumpism — proving, if nothing else, that the only things intellectuals find hard to see are the facts that stare them in the face.

Here’s what stares me in the face: Ahmari’s life story — a Muslim immigrant who wound up becoming a Trumpian moralist by way of Marxism and then free-market conservatism — is a tribute to the value-neutral liberalism he now claims to despise. Whatever hopes remain of a decent conservative movement rest in rejecting the illiberalism he now embraces — the one that would close the door to some future Ahmari, embarking on an experiment in living all his own.

(emphasis added)

* * * * *

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).

Social collapse (and more)

1

This reminded me of something a professor, himself a conservative Christian, I spoke with at Notre Dame said to me about The Benedict Option. He asked how it had sold, and I said pretty well, but probably not as well as he thinks, given the hype. He said that he believes the book has only gotten started. How come? I asked.

“Most conservative Christians don’t understand what’s going on in the culture,” he said. “It’s going to take Trump losing, and the Democrats taking over in Washington, for them to feel the full force of the post-Christian culture on their necks. Right now, they don’t grasp how precarious things are for us — but they will.”

It’s odd to have one’s professional success tied to the decline of one’s culture. I would rather sell no more books and be wrong about the future! But I don’t think I am wrong about the future.

… Some years ago, I interviewed Oxford historian Bryan Ward-Perkins about his book The Fall Of Rome. Ward-Perkins draws on archaeological data to understand late antiquity, and the period after the collapse of Rome in the West. In his book (and in our interview), he emphasized how massive the collapse of technical knowledge and skill was in the West. For example, he said that it took something like six centuries for Europeans to learn how to build roofs as well as the Romans could. It wasn’t only architecture. People forgot how to do a lot of things — the kind of things you assume are unforgettable.

I found this hard to wrap my mind around. How could such basic knowledge be just … lost? Not having books and mass literacy certainly creates an environment conducive to mass forgetting. But you’d think that basic life skills like how to cultivate crops, rudimentary metallurgy, and so forth, would not be so easily forgotten. It happened. Could that happen to us? Hard to see how, given that we do have mass literacy, and books.

Think about it, though: we have forgotten as a culture and civilization what marriage is for, and are well on the way to forgetting what men are, and are for, and women too. This is not a matter of knowledge being denied to us. This is a matter of will.

Rod Dreher.

2

Over the past few days, there’s been a lot of gossip over whether Acting Attorney General Matthew Whitaker will keep his job. But it almost doesn’t matter, because from here on out, it’s Whitakers all the way down.

If conservatism is ever to recover it has to achieve two large tasks. First, it has to find a moral purpose large enough to displace the lure of blood-and-soil nationalism. Second, it has to restore standards of professional competence and reassert the importance of experience, integrity and political craftsmanship. When you take away excellence and integrity, loyalty to the great leader is the only currency that remains.

David Brooks. Call that “point.” Call this (“What Republican ‘Excellence’?”) from Rod Dreher “counterpoint”:

It is hard to imagine a Republican A-team more stellar than President George W. Bush’s national security inner circle. These are the best and brightest who led the nation into the disastrous Iraq War. President Bush’s economic team presided over the worst economic crash since the Great Depression, a crash brought about in part because of the president’s own policies. …

3

The main Republican argument against Trump is this: He is a person of horrible character who corrupts everyone around him, undermines essential social standards and is branding his party with an image of bigotry that will last a generation.

Michael Gerson, Will a Republican candidate stand up against Trump in 2020?

4

I finally finished Leon Podles’ book “Sacrilege”, and I challenge anyone to read that book and then assert that the ruling powers ought to somehow be under or subservient to the Church.

Rod Dreher’s Reader Elijah

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Sunday Tidbits 8/26/18

1

Michael Brendan Dougherty at National Review takes seriously two kinds of critics of “liberalism”:

  • That political liberalism makes false promises, holding out the possibility of liberty and pluralism but ultimately demanding conformism.
  • That it’s past time to give up arguing for our claims under natural law. Instead, we should make our claims unabashedly for the social kingship of Christ.

(Paraphrased)

But he “gently suggest[s] that the integralist critics of liberalism may be focusing too much on the theory of liberalism and not enough on the condition of their Church.”

And what’s that condition?

See how the Reverend John I. Jenkins, the president of Notre Dame University, took several contradictory positions on the contraception mandate. His school became a plaintiff, arguing against it, as an infringement of religious liberty, in the highest courts in America. But, faced with dissension among professors, he reversed himself.

This level of dissension on matters of moral doctrine is everywhere in Catholic institutions, not just in universities but on the boards of Catholic health-care and charitable organizations and in diocesan secondary and primary schools. Such dissension characterizes the whole Church in America, a country where the second-largest reported religious affiliation is “ex-Catholic.” Catholic birth and divorce rates have, respectively, moved toward Protestant norms. In their catechisms, many Protestant denominations have accepted abortion and homosexuality as moral goods. And many prominent Catholic personalities — even those with imprimaturs of Catholic bishops — are urging Catholics to do likewise.

Dougherty, too, should be taken seriously.

2

Gallagher is implicitly rehashing here the old saw that “postmodernism brings a level playing field,” when in fact it relieves the rulers of the obligation to level that field. Under the ancien regime of liberalism people needed to come up with reasons for dismissing religious positions, and typically did so, even when the reasons were very badly formed indeed; now the reasons are unnecessary. “You’re a bigot” does the job just fine. As I once heard Richard Rorty say, “The theists can talk, but we don’t have to listen.” There may be, and indeed I think there are, good reasons to abandon fusionism, but the idea that in our current order integralist and other post-fusionism arguments will have greater purchase than fusionism did is, I fear, a fantasy.

There is no reason whatsoever to think that Catholic particularism will have any more “credibility” to the society at large than Catholic fusionism did. “The Catholic tradition must be prepared to speak in its own voice” not because that will be more credible or effective but because it is the Catholic tradition’s own voice. Calculations of political effectiveness are misplaced in a social environment where all substantive (and hence exclusive) religious stances are indistinguishable from the grossest bigotry. The dogma living loudly within you won’t win many friends or influence many people. But it ought to live loudly within you anyway.

Alan Jacobs, After Catholic Fusioisn, What? (hyperlink added).

3

In the gospels it was the devils who first recognized Christ and the evangelists didn’t censor this information. They apparently thought it was pretty good witness. It scandalizes us when we see the same thing in modern dress only because we have this defensive attitude toward the faith. (1963)

Flannery O’Connor via Eric Mador, Flannery O’Connor’s Christian Realism.

4

It is not homophobia in the least to point out that a heterosexual man will not have multiple sexual relationships with adult males and also pursue boys sexually when there are plenty of women around ….

Erin Manning

5

A new micro.blog acquaintance makes his own case, and cites another, for prayer using historic prayer books (in his case, the Episcopal Book of Common Prayer).

6

Hello [Tipsy],

You’ve now completed at least six hours each night on sleep therapy for 21 out of the last 30 days.

Well done. You’ve earned yourself the GOLD badge!

If you log in to myAir now you can see your progress, and you might want to share your accomplishment with family and friends on Facebook and Twitter.

Sleep well!

The myAir Team

Next to my Notary Certificate, this myAir “GOLD badge!” is one of my great accomplishments in life.

* * * * *

Our lives were meant to be written in code, indecipherable to onlookers except through the cipher of Jesus.

Greg Coles.

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Not just another warring Hobbesian voice

The press — especially the prestige press like the New York Times — has trouble seeing religion as anything real. They so thoroughly view everything through a political lens that they assume that religion is just politics in disguise.

Some Christians feed that perception, though — and insofar as they do, they are behaving somewhere between dubiously and very badly — closer to the latter than the former, in my opinion.

Consider:

In a conversation with a young friend, I was told that “politics is the only way to get anything done.” This is not true. Politics (the use of civil power) is a means to gain the upper hand in a Hobbesian struggle. It is war, fought by other means. It is for that reason that politics is a questionable activity for Christians. The victories achieved are often brief, and, depending on the opposition, only maintained by the continued use of force.

It is profoundly the case that civil (or military) force are not the tools of the Kingdom of God. It is among the many reasons why the Kingdom of God is not, and never can be a human project …

What Christ brought was not a set of ideas to be shared in the Hobbesian conflicts of this world. What He brought was the Kingdom itself and the means for our entrance into that Kingdom and for its life to be manifest in us. It has become commonplace for modern Christians to espouse some ideas based on Christian “moral principles” and to make them the guiding light for political projects, sometimes saying that they are “building up the Kingdom in this world” (or words to that effect).

When the Christian life is reduced to moral and political principles, it simply becomes one more warring voice within Hobbes’ nightmarish description of life. This is true regardless of how noble our intentions might be. This is also deeply frustrating for us. The Christian life as moral and political principle does not require anything more than new opinions. It masquerades as renewal and change when it is nothing more than the same war fought by unbelievers.

Fr. Stephen Freeman

In my perception, “building up the Kingdom in this world” is a characteristically progressive Christian trope.

The dread “Religious Right” tends so strongly toward dispensational premillennialism that it would be a feat of theological code-switching of epic proportions for them to say that with a straight face. That doesn’t mean the Religious Right doesn’t “espouse some ideas based on Christian ‘moral principles’ and to make them the guiding light for political projects,” however — which feeds the media bias first cited above.

On the precedent of the Apostle Paul, however, I think we may assert our legal rights defensively (and in most cases, Christians are legally aggressed against more than aggressors).

But we mustn’t kid ourselves that we’re building the Kingdom of God when we do. Whatever you label it, it’s something other than that.

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The waters are out and no human force can turn them back, but I do not see why as we go with the stream we need sing Hallelujah to the river god.

(Sir James Fitzjames Stephen)

Reality is that which, when you stop believing in it, doesn’t go away.

(Philip K. Dick)

Some succinct standing advice on recurring themes. Where I glean stuff.

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Impeccable (in a reptilian sort of way)

There’s been a run of commentary, mostly negative, about “Catholic Integralism.” Look it up if you don’t know, which isn’t unlikely. I had only the vaguest idea. Some younger Catholics in particular seem to be flirting with it.

It may thus be providential that Patrick Deneen, after detailing the failure of liberalism, insists that we can’t go back (toward Integralism) but must go forward (to something—sigh—unknown); and that Romanus Cessario has (apparently unwittingly) given a vivid and prominent reminder of how Integralism worked as recently as 19th Century Italy. Cessario seems completely earnest about how Pope Pius IX did the right and necessary thing in taking six-year-old Edgardo Montarra from his Jewish parents, to a raise him as a Catholic, because he had been secretly baptized when his parents and doctors agreed that he was going to die.

Indeed, “we can’t go back” is what my viscera agree, precisely because Cessario’s logic is so impeccable (in a reptilian sort of way).

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“No man hath a velvet cross.” (Samuel Rutherford, 17th century Scotland)

Some succinct standing advice on recurring themes.

Where I glean stuff.