Hobbit Day 2022

I have it on reasonably good authority that today is Hobbit Day, and it turns out that Peter Jackson isn’t the only one to cash in on Hobbits.

Culture

How the Bobos Broke America — key excerpt

I tend to quote a lot of things without comment, but I’m going to say that the following strikes me as true, and so contrary to the recent history of the Democrat and Republican parties that it’s core to why I believe a major realignment is underway. Today’s Republican party is not the same Republican party I left in January 2005. For my taste, it’s worse, but that taste almost certainly is tainted by Orange Man. But I gradually came to see his appeal:

What causes psychic crisis are the whiffs of “smarter than” and “more enlightened than” and “more tolerant than” that the creative class gives off. People who feel that they have been rendered invisible will do anything to make themselves visible; people who feel humiliated will avenge their humiliation. Donald Trump didn’t win in 2016 because he had a fantastic health-care plan. He won because he made the white working class feel heard.

How the Bobos Broke America.

There’s no need to hold a pity party for me, but I’ve spent most of my life too Christian and too socially awkward to be comfortable with social elites, too elite to feel instinctively empathetic or entirely comfortable with the working class.

How unreality spreads

Wrong beliefs and wrong perceptions are contagious whether or not they are sincere, because dissidents tend to self-censor and act like believers. That is how entire societies, such as the Soviet Union, can be built on everyone’s publicly pretending to believe what many privately know to be false.

Jonathan Rauch, Echo Chambers and Confirmation Loops in The Constitution of Knowledge.

I think this has some contemporary relevance. I’ll say no more.

National Conservatism could be a boon for religious liberty lawyers

Here’s the national conservatism “Statement of Principles” on God and public religion, signed by dozens of leaders of the national conservatism movement:

No nation can long endure without humility and gratitude before God and fear of his judgment that are found in authentic religious tradition. For millennia, the Bible has been our surest guide, nourishing a fitting orientation toward God, to the political traditions of the nation, to public morals, to the defense of the weak, and to the recognition of things rightly regarded as sacred. The Bible should be read as the first among the sources of a shared Western civilization in schools and universities, and as the rightful inheritance of believers and non-believers alike. Where a Christian majority exists, public life should be rooted in Christianity and its moral vision, which should be honored by the state and other institutions both public and private. At the same time, Jews and other religious minorities are to be protected in the observance of their own traditions, in the free governance of their communal institutions, and in all matters pertaining to the rearing and education of their children. Adult individuals should be protected from religious or ideological coercion in their private lives and in their homes. (Emphasis added.)

This paragraph describes a form of religious supremacy that relegates dissenting religious believers to the “private” sphere, while granting Christianity a position of powerful public privilege.

But we shouldn’t fool ourselves into believing that the “moral vision” of the signatories broadly reflects the diversity of Christian belief and practice in the United States. After all, there are churches that host drag queen events, as well as churches that condemn drag queens. Both the Democratic and Republican parties are completely dependent on their Bible-believing, church-going base constituencies (white Evangelicals for Republicans and Black Protestants for Democrats).

Are national conservatives thus satisfied when either party wins, so long as a Christian (Joe Biden, for example) is at the helm?

Of course not. For the term “moral vision” to mean anything, it has to mean a particular version of professed Christian belief and practice.

David French

A polity that "relegates dissenting religious believers to the “private” sphere, while granting [a form of putative] Christianity a position of powerful public privilege" is inconsistent with current Supreme Court thinking, and I don’t think Trump’s nominees change that.

When did modernity begin?

For us, the real Middle Ages extend from the reign of Charlemagne to the opening of the fourteenth century, at which date a new decadence set in that has continued, through various phases and with gathering impetus, up to the present time. This date is the real starting-point of the modern crisis: it is the beginning of the disruption of Christendom, with which the Western civilization of the Middle Ages was essentially identified: at the same time, it marks the origin of the formation of ‘nations’ and the end of the feudal system, which was very closely linked with the existence of Christendom. The origin of the modern period must therefore be placed almost two centuries further back than is usual with historians…

René Guénon Guénon, The Crisis of the Modern World.

What Putin lacks

[T]he death of Queen Elizabeth II and the wave of antique pageantry help illuminate one of the Russian president’s important weaknesses. He has been hobbled in his fight because his regime lacks the mystical quality we call legitimacy.

Ross Douthat, Why Queen Elizabeth’s Strength Is Putin’s Weakness

This takes “self-deprecating” too far

We sat and watched the committal service, we who threw all this away in the 18th century, all the costumery, ribbonry, and titlery and iconic disciplines and endless dignity, in favor of the mess we know all too well …

[A]fter a couple hours of admiring tradition and ceremony and everyone knowing which foot to put where, it dawns on me that this elevation of bureaucracy to an art form is what America fortunately escaped and thus was better able to give the world the phenomenal techno advances of my lifetime, the laptop, cellphone, GPS, AI, drones, radical reductions in the cost of solar panels and wind energy, new vaccines. These things were not created by platoons of people marching in place but by brilliant gamblers and entrepreneurs, nerds of many stripes. (We also gave the world the blues and rock ’n’ roll, but that’s another story.)

An English major in college, I looked down on IT students because they all dressed alike and carried plastic pocket protectors for their ballpoint pens. I saw them as dullards. As it turns out they were at work on data technology that led to the internet, which changed my life and yours too. Meanwhile, the English department and other humanities march along beside the hearse and the horsemen.

I wanted to be eccentric and got my wish but the engineers in my family are more engaged with the real world.

Garrison Keillor.

Once again, I’ll opine.

I like technology entirely too well, but “the laptop, cellphone, GPS, AI, drones, radical reductions in the cost of solar panels and wind energy, new vaccines” do nothing to fill the void in the human soul, and I deny that they are the “real world” in a meaningful sense. Maybe monarchy doesn’t fill the soul-void, either; I don’t know (at least in part) because I’ve never lived in a monarchy. But I think monarchy says something true about reality that all the tech in the world misses.

So maybe we and Great Britain are still joined symbiotically at the hip; they provide the meaning, we provide the toys and the parties.

Correlation

This sort of thing is why I’ll probably renew Jesse Singal’s Substack:

Missed it when it was fresh

[I]t is absolutely ridiculous that people should choose to go around looking like letter boxes.

Boris Johnson, mid-2018, on Burqas.

Shorts

Journalism

Two formerly solid journals seem to have picked their tribes, and now assiduously pitch to the worst tribal instincts.

The Decline of First Things

There are many occasions for exposing hypocrisy these days. In the aftermath of the FBI raid on Donald Trump’s Florida home, we can point to Hillary Clinton’s private server. Asked to denounce Trump’s refusal to accept the results of the 2020 election, we can cite Stacey Abrams, who never accepted her defeat in the 2018 gubernatorial race in Georgia.

R.R. Reno opening his big monthly Editorial in First Things.

That is Whataboutism at 190 proof. I have no idea what he thinks the FBI (or someone) ought to have done about Hillary’s server 6-7 years ago, and he certainly doesn’t tell us. He just insinuates that what they didn’t do was hypocritical because of what they later did. As for Stacy Abrams, so far as I know she has dropped “they done me wrong” from her stump speeches, unlike Orange Man (who is dining out on it), even if she has never formally conceded defeat.

That was just the opener. Considering how the column continued, I’m inclined to think that Reno had a bad case of writer’s block, and so resorted to tendentious bullshit.

I am thus reminded why I still (barely, and decreasingly) consider First Things essential reading but have ceased giving its publishing corporation anything beyond the cost of my subscription.

Conservative Radicals

It’s interesting to see a tribe close ranks.

Ron DeSantis’ sending two planefuls of refugees to Martha’s Vineyard is morally indefensible trolling.

So how does his tribe defend it? By focusing on “why the Left went so bat-guano crazy” over it, and implying that DeSantis had effectively taken a chapter from Saul Alinsky:

Ridicule is man’s most potent weapon. There is no defense. It is almost impossible to counterattack ridicule. Also it infuriates the opposition, who then react to your advantage.

Ridicule Is Man’s Most Potent Weapon

Apparently “ridicule” is now National Review’s term for instrumentalizing humans who are unpopular with the GOP.

With Kevin Williamson defecting to The Dispatch, I’m almost out of reasons (I can think of just two remaining) to glance at the National Review homepage any more.

Politics

Wrong kind of diversity

Liz Truss, Great Britain’s new Prime Minister, has completed her cabinet. There are no white men. None. But that’s not good enough for Britain’s Left:

“It’s a meritocratic advance for people who have done well in education, law and business,” Sunder Katwala, the director of British Future, a think tank that focuses on issues of immigration, integration and national identity, told CNN. “It’s not an advance on social class terms.”

This is an interesting criticism. “Meritocratic,” used here in a pejorative sense, means based on ability and achievement, earned through a combination of talent and hard work. Traditionally, merit served as the primary consideration in hiring, but some people today see the very systems that confer merit as rigged, especially against minorities. In an effort to rectify that imbalance and to diversify the work force, particularly for leadership positions, it has become common practice in hiring — in the business and nonprofit worlds, as in government — to make racial or ethnic diversity a more significant factor.

The trouble is that for many of the same people, ethnic and racial diversity count only when combined with a particular point of view …

The implication is that there’s only one way to authentically represent one’s race, ethnicity or sex — otherwise you’re a phony or a pawn.

Pamela Paul, When Diversity Isn’t the Right Kind of Diversity

War? Really?

“Even the people who are responsible for disseminating the laptop admit that, on a human level, what happened to Hunter is horrifying. ‘A lot of stuff I do, I don’t feel great about,’ says one of them, Steve Bannon. ‘But we’re in a war.’”

The Morning Dispatch, recommending a New York Magazine article on the Hunter Biden laptop saga.

Steve Bannon is a very intelligent but quite unprincipled. “War”? Baloney!

J.D. Vance ❤️ Donald J. Trump

Trump went off on a tangent about a New York Times story that said Vance’s campaign didn’t ask Trump to come here. “JD wants my support so bad. He’s kissing my ass.”

Andrew Tobias on Twitter

Is this why we’re to take Trump “seriously if not literally”? He certainly captured the essence of Vance’s metamorphosis.

A Moment of Pleasure

Seldom has a Democrat made me as happy as Letitia James made me on Wednesday.


[S]ubordinating truth to politics is a game which tyrants and bullies always win.

Jonathan Rauch, The Constitution of Knowledge

The Orthodox "phronema" [roughly, mind-set] cannot be programmitized or reduced into shibboleths.

Fr. Jonathan Tobias

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

Monday, 8/28/22

Student Loan Forgiveness

Student Loan Forgiveness 1

The bigger problem with student debt cancellation, however, is that it’s an ad-hoc, one-off move that does absolutely nothing to fix the deep pathologies in the way America financed undergraduate education. Matt Yglesias was exactly right to ask [on Twitter] what happens on the morning after the debt cancellation:

What is the plan for the day after universal debt cancellation when masters programs raise tuition and tell prospective students not to worry about it because the debt will be cancelled down the road?

But this perverse incentive, which economists call moral hazard, will only exacerbate an underlying problem. For decades, our strategy has been to limit the supply of available college seats while using subsidized loans to pump up the demand for those limited spots.

So we need to ask ourselves why we’re merely applying an expensive band-aid instead of addressing the deeper issue — and why we’re still so enamored of the idea of hurling big wads of cash at already-overpriced service industries.

Noah Smith, America is not fixing its college financing system (H/T The Morning Dispatch)

Student Loan Forgiveness 2

We were propagandized my entire high school simply to go to college, and we were promised if we did we would make more money and have a better life (“College graduates make 1 million dollars more than those who only graduate from high school!”). We received no guidance about which colleges to go to, how much money to take out, what to major in if we wanted return-on-investment, etc. Every guidance counselor told us this; every hallway had a poster proclaiming this; every teacher drilled it into us; from ages 13-18.

And we listened to them. And then we (as a generation) found out we’d have the equivalent of mortgages to pay off before we could get a real house and also that Boomers were not retiring so we couldn’t get jobs.

To put the question simply: In sussing out responsibility for the choice to take on debt, I don’t think “was someone holding a gun to your head when you took out the loan?” is the right question. I think something closer to “when you took out this loan—almost certainly while still a teenager or in your extremely early 20s—did anyone help you understand what you were doing and what the real ramifications of this choice would be?” In most cases, I think the answer is “not really.” Does it follow, therefore, that all the loan must be forgiven? Perhaps not. But at the very least we need to reckon with agency in a serious, thoughtful way and not in the simplistic terms being put forward by many commentators.

Jake Meador, Two Bad Reasons to Oppose Loan Debt Forgiveness and Two Better Ones

No comment

Harvard Law School professor Laurence Tribe made the economic realities inadvertently stark when he tweeted on the day of Biden’s [student loan forgiveness] announcement, “Good news for thousands of my former students. I’m grateful on their behalf, Mr. President.”

David French, Is There a Christian Case for Biden’s Debt Relief Plan?.

Yes, I relented on my intention to pay no more heed to French on the intersection of politics and religion. And, yes, the wisdom of that resolve was confirmed; IMHO, French shed no real religious light on his stated topic.

Rank politics

The Rarest Thing in Politics

Like my friend, I disagree with Liz Cheney’s political positions.

But there is something about her.

As much as I disagree with her, I trust her.

Why? Because she has demonstrated a quality that is so rare in American politics today — perhaps, also, in American life — that we cannot help but find that quality to be attractive.

Liz Cheney has integrity.

When I see Liz Cheney, I feel that I am in the presence of an American patriot. True, I disagree with her. But I know we would have a respectful conversation. Like I said, I trust her.

Liz Cheney makes me think of one of the later verses of “America the Beautiful” — the ones that we rarely sing, but which I think are among the finest lyrics to ever appear in a patriotic song.

O beautiful for heroes proved
In liberating strife,
Who more than self their country loved
And mercy more than life

The verse might have been referring to American heroes who proved themselves in military battle. They loved their country more than they loved their own lives. That is the meaning of sacrifice.

Liz Cheney exemplifies those words as well. When she led a principled fight against Donald Trump, she knew she was sacrificing her run for reelection. “Nevertheless, she persisted.”

Jeffrey Salkin, It’s Cheney-mania!

Whatever happened to the Emerging Democratic Majority?

We didn’t anticipate the extent to which cultural liberalism might segue into cultural radicalism and the extent to which that view, particularly as driven by younger cohorts, would wind up imprinting itself on the entire infrastructure in and around the Democratic Party—the advocacy groups, the foundations, academia of course, certainly the lower and middle levels of the Democratic Party infrastructure itself.

Ruy Teixara, interviewed by the Wall Street Journal, on why his Emerging Democratic Majority hasn’t emerged.

A Real Problem for Republicans

The main thing holding the GOP back from a complete takeover? The Daily Beast’s Matt Lewis is surely onto something when he notes that the Party of Lincoln, in its Trumpified version, has a fondness for nominating “idiots” to run for office.

Indeed, as Nellie [Bowles] noted only last week, there isn’t enough cocaine in the world to keep Mitch McConnell and voters everywhere from recognizing that “candidate quality” is a real problem for Republicans. They tend to nominate people with absolutely zero experience even running for office, much less holding it. The results aren’t just Dr. Oz alienating Pennsylvania voters by suggesting that John Fetterman brought about his own stroke, but Georgia’s favorite son, Herschel Walker, yammering on about too many trees while being unable to accurately count his own children. 

Hillbilly Elegy author J.D. Vance managed to win his primary in Ohio with just 32 percent of the vote but rarely goes a week without some sort of gaffe, such as suggesting that women should stay in violent marriages.

Nick Gillespie

Democrats nominate an occasional loose cannon, but I wouldn’t be all that keen on eliminating party primaries were I a Democrat: the Republican base keeps delivering candidates that a relatively easy to beat.

Russia 2016, USA 2022

A report published this week by Graphika and the Stanford Internet Observatory indicated that Twitter and Meta, for the first time, recently removed a set of fake accounts from their respective platforms for “using deceptive tactics to promote pro-Western narratives in the Middle East and Central Asia.” The influence campaign had reportedly been active for years, promoting the interests of the United States and its allies, spreading anti-extremism messaging, and opposing countries like Russia, China, and Iran. Neither tech platform directly attributed the activity to the U.S. government, but the U.S. and United Kingdom were listed as the “presumptive” countries of origin.

The Morning Dispatch.

Could you remind me again how evil Russia is for trying surreptitiously to influence things like our 2016 election?

Just because it’s a fun simile

We remember Bill Clinton’s sex scandals and not Hillary Clinton’s almost-certainly criminal cattle-futures shenanigans because most people know what sex is and understand that you’re not supposed to cheat on your spouse, but trying to explain futures trading to the typical voter is like trying to get a dachshund to bark in terza rima — they just aren’t equipped. But people naturally get hypocrisy, or at least a dumbed-down version of it.

Kevin D. Williamson, Hypocrisy for Dummies

Culture

Whence cancel culture?

I had to drive a couple of hours yesterday, and I heard on a podcast a sober but startling theory I really need to pass along.

Roughly one-third (I believe he said) of college graduates are supporting themselves through jobs that require no more than a high-school education because there are not enough jobs in “the managerial class” for which they’ve been groomed. We are college-educating more people than the market requires. So the competition for managerial class jobs is fierce.

Whence cancel culture. If you can pick off a superior with a grainy home movie of him in blackface decades ago, you might just move up the ladder — assuming you’re on the ladder. If you’re not on the ladder but want on, picking off a peer by exposing a tasteless Tweet just might eliminate her from consideration.

The dynamics of the New York Times staff as described by escapees seems to fit this theory “to a T.” Restless youngsters have knocked off a number of their bosses, older colleagues and peers.

So cancel culture is (just?) the war of all against all in modern garb.

Do the math

It’s not difficult to see what’s going on here: oil companies haven’t invested in new and better domestic refineries because they know that, even in this hour of essentially free money, their profit margins are shrinking and there aren’t 30 years of crude in the ground to pay off 30-year mortgages on new refineries. The oil companies are in a “sunset industry” and they know it.

James Howard Kunstler, Adapt or Die: Kunstler’s Guide to Living in the Long Emergency.

I like the epigram to this article, too:

It is broadly true that political writing is bad writing. Where it is not true, it will generally be found that a writer is some kind of rebel, expressing his private opinions and not a “party line.”

—George Orwell, “Politics and the English Language”

Maggots doing what comes naturally

A sprawling campus, part of the University …, covers their eastern reaches. The waters are channelled into generic, forgettable pools fringed with generic, forgettable buildings. It is, of course, the modern kind of forgettable architecture. Every chunk of grey and glass has its own unique variation on the shape of a shoebox. The innovations are of the type that everyone in the world has seen so much of that only those paid to do so can even pretend to care anymore.

In this, the University … is no better or worse than every other university. They have all spread their aggressively mediocre buildings across the cities and towns: shiny lumps of architectural conformity that advertise the shallowness, greed, and transience of the institutions to the whole world. We should be thankful for them. They physically represent the death of the modern university’s soul, and so make it obvious. Now a university is just a machine for uprooting humanity. It takes the young from home but gives then no adult responsibilities, drops them into a society of other uprooted youth, habituates them to the mentality of the virtual class, and leaves them drifting in debt and doubt.

At this point, some readers may hope I will criticise the ‘woke’. I will not. A worm digesting a living human being is a problem. A worm digesting a corpse is just the natural order of things. The universities are corpses and fashionable ideologies are maggots.

A terrible decision killed the universities. History, always Sphinx-like, showed them three good things, but only let them keep two. The one that they left on the table was the one that they should have treasured. Without it, their wyrd was written. The three gifts history offered were called ‘important’, ‘new’, and ‘true’.

FFatalism, Academic landscapes.

More: An earnest young postgraduate once told me that texts have no meaning. I said I didn’t know what he meant. He tried to explain it to me again. I’m not sure why. He must have thought that he was saying something.

Quintessentially Legal and Quite Mad

Arkansas banned healthcare professionals providing gender transition procedures to anyone under 18. A Federal District (trial) Court and Circuit (appellate) court have both now held that the law violates the Equal Protection Clause:

[U]nder the Act, medical procedures that are permitted for a minor of one sex are prohibited for a minor of another sex. A minor born as a male may be prescribed testosterone or have breast tissue surgically removed, for example, but a minor born as a female is not permitted to seek the same medical treatment. Because the minor’s sex at birth determines whether or not the minor can receive certain types of medical care under the law, Act 626 discriminates on the basis of sex.

H/T Religion Clause.

I have seen this kind of reasoning over and over as the courts impose on us, and on legislators who beg to differ, their view of “discrimination on the basis of sex.” For instance, if John can marry Suzy then Sally should be allowed to “marry” Suzy.

I’m not alone:

As the [Franciscan Alliance] argues in its brief, in 2016 the government interpreted ObamaCare’s nondiscrimination provisions “to require doctors and hospitals nationwide to perform and insure gender-transition procedures and abortions or else be liable for ‘sex’ discrimination.”

Specifically, the feds read the law to require that services be offered on an equal basis. “If a gynecologist performs a hysterectomy for a woman with uterine cancer,” the alliance’s brief says, “she must do the same for a woman who wants to remove a healthy uterus to live as a man.”

This cultural clash isn’t going away, and the country is in for more trouble if progressives can’t rediscover the principle of pluralism. The government’s appeal shows a bloody-mindedness that is difficult to fathom.

Transgender Patients vs. Religious Doctors – WSJ

However often I’ve seen it, I’ve never been able to get used to such reasoning as being sane. It strikes me as sophistry, though when we set out to outlaw sex discrimination, we implicitly set out to eradicate invidious sexual stereotypes. If we leave it to individual judges to determine what’s invidious, won’t decisions be all over the map? Isn’t a stupid, sophistical woodenness better than that?

Nah!

A Child’s Purpose

“Because children grow up, we think a child’s purpose is to grow up,” Herzen says. “But a child’s purpose is to be a child. Nature doesn’t disdain what only lives for a day. It pours the whole of itself into each moment … Life’s bounty is in its flow. Later is too late.”

Oliver Burkeman, Four Thousand Weeks


[S]ubordinating truth to politics is a game which tyrants and bullies always win.

Jonathan Rauch, The Constitution of Knowledge

The Orthodox “phronema” [roughly, mind-set] cannot be programmitized or reduced into shibboleths.

Fr. Jonathan Tobias

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

Wednesday, 8/24/22

Are all the laws but one to go unexecuted, and the Government itself go to pieces …?

On January 6, 2021, from a parking garage under the Capitol Visitor Center, then–Vice President Mike Pence ordered the military to defend the Capitol against a violent insurrection. According to a taped deposition of General Mark Milley, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Pence “issued very explicit, very direct, unambiguous orders” to him and Secretary of Defense Christopher Miller: “Get the military down here. Get the Guard here. Put down this situation.”

In ordinary circumstances, Pence’s actions would be unconstitutional. Indeed, a vice president who usurped the president’s constitutional authority, and the Cabinet and military officers who followed his orders, could be committing an impeachable offense. …

Jefferson also insisted, the officer who exercises emergency power must justify his actions to “his fellow citizens generally.” For Jefferson, “the good officer” must throw “himself on the justice of his country and the rectitude of his motives.”

From his title (Mike Pence Owes the Country an Explanation) and the first paragraph, I easily figured out where George Thomas was headed and why: he wants Pence to say he perceived an emergency if only because Donald Trump was failing to put down the rump insurrection.

What I didn’t expect was that he would bring Jefferson and Lincoln into it and would persuade me of his case — and by inference to repent of my former judgment on Lincoln for his ultra vires acts.

Yup, the world is messy sometimes. This once was one of my favorite quotes, in part because it challenged my purity fetish:

Purity … is not the one thing needful; and it is better that a life should contract many a dirt-mark, than forfeit usefulness in its efforts to remain unspotted.

William James, Varieties of Religious Experience Lectures 14 and 15, via here.

Sorting out a jumble

[W]e have no ideal path forward. We’re damned if Attorney General Merrick Garland goes forward with a Trump prosecution and damned if Garland holds off. But the latter path should nonetheless be treated as a viable Plan B because it permits the Democrats to continue beating Trump in the political arena by the widest possible margin. That involves all kinds of risks as well, but it’s less risky than the legal option.

Damon Linker, summarizing the case against prosecution that he’s been trying to make.

More:

  • To use the full powers of federal law enforcement during a Democratic administration to indict, try, convict, and punish this man would drive large numbers of Republicans even further into Trump’s arms …
  • The goal should be his political defeat—turning him into a loser in the court of public opinion—not using an extra-political workaround to try and exile him from political competition. If you think making Hitler and Chamberlain analogies clarifies these issues, good for you. I think it’s pretty idiotic.
  • For the sake of argument, I’ve been happy to concede the point and assume Trump is guilty of … something. But is it true? [] After reading a highly illuminating exchange between widely respected legal scholar Jack Goldsmith and journalist Josh Marshall, I’m honestly not sure.
  • Could it be that all of the sound and fury I’ve seen online from the left about the imperative of punishing Trump’s self-evident criminality is based on nothing more than a feeling, a conviction, a moral certainty that he simply must be guilty of something? If so, that would be a further sign that loathing for the former president is a fundamentally political impulse, not a legal one.

Maybe I’ll take a position on “prosecute or nolle prosequi” when someone convincingly shows that Trump committed an actual crime, and that prosecution will be a slam-dunk. Considering the proportion of Trumpists in the land, I’m not sure you’ll ever impanel a jury without one or with one that will vote to convict.

Why colleges are failing

The present model of colleges and universities is failing, for in the first place they have forgotten or even turned against their original mission; in the second, they have picked up a whole lot of unrelated sidelines, none of which they do very well, such as universal job certification; and in the third, the public is beginning to catch on that they cost far too much, and that other institutions can usually do each of these sidelines better.  Barring root and branch reform – for which we must never give up hope — it’s entirely possible that in the not-so-distant future, serious humanities teaching will have to migrate to other settings than colleges and universities.

J Budziszewski

Detritus

In a nutshell

Democracy disconnected from liberalism will not protect diversity, because majorities will use their power to repress minorities.

Francis Fukuyama, Liberalism and Its Discontents

Be careful what you ask for …

History is a prankster. You order a Gray Champion, and cosmic room service sends up a casino developer and New York real estate mogul with a laughable hairdo…

James Howard Kunstler, Living in the Long Emergency

How low can we go?

Hillary Clinton versus Donald Trump seemed like some kind of nadir, but the Florida panhandle is showing that we can go even lower: Matt Gaetz versus Rebekah Jones

Institutions trumping instinct

But it is in fact individualism and not sociability that developed over the course of human history. That individualism seems today like a solid core of our economic and political behavior is only because we have developed institutions that override our more naturally communal instincts.

Francis Fukuyama, The Origins of Political Order

One thing leads to another …

I was good at menial jobs like parking cars but went into radio because it was Minnesota and vacuum tubes give off heat. It was public radio where all the announcers sound like Methodist ministers except not as friendly and there is no Jesus, and I distinguished myself by telling jokes and stem-winding stories about a small town. People liked it; go figure.

Garrison Keillor

American exceptionalism plus

It’s American exceptionalism but goes beyond that. It says that we are the next version of Israel from the Old Testament, that we are God’s chosen nation, and that is a special covenant — a two-way agreement with God. We can’t break it, and if we do, what happened to Israel will happen to us: We will be overrun by whatever the next Babylon is, taken into captivity, and He will remove His blessing from us.

Zack Stanton, It’s Time to Talk About Violent Christian Extremism – POLITICO

Maybe a bit harsh

I would rather have gonorrhea than a record of passionate and convinced #MAGA tweeting.

Graeme Wood, What to Do With Trumpists – The Atlantic.

Maybe a bit harsh, but then it’s dated 1/19/21, the day before Joe Biden officially became President despite Trump’s lawless efforts to retain the Presidency.


[S]ubordinating truth to politics is a game which tyrants and bullies always win.

Jonathan Rauch, The Constitution of Knowledge

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

Saturday, 8/20/22 (no politics)

Following up my last post, the non-political portion of the stuff I’d collected.

RIP

More on Beuchner

Again, with the caveat that I never read any Beuchner:

His first novel was a great success. After his second, he came to faith. He was attending a church service in New York where the pastor was talking about how Jesus is crowned amid confession, tears and great laughter. “At the phrase great laughter, for reasons that I have never satisfactorily understood, the great wall of China crumbled and Atlantis rose up out of the sea, and on Madison Avenue, at 73rd Street, tears leapt from my eyes as though I had been struck across the face.”

He spent the rest of his life as a border-stalker, too literary for many Christians and too Christian for the literary set. His faith was personal, unpretentious and accessible. “Faith is homesickness. Faith is a lump in the throat. Faith is less a position on than a movement toward.” It is sensing a presence, not buying an argument.

David Brooks, The Man Who Found His Inner Depths

“Too literary for many Christians” means “not sufficiently neat, tidy and pious.”

Norah Vincent

Another author I’ve heard of but not read. (You can learn a fair amount by reading New York Times obituaries.)

In her year and a half living as Ned, Ms. Vincent put him in a number of stereotypical, hypermasculine situations. He joined a blue-collar bowling league, though he was a terrible bowler. (His teammates were kind and cheered him on; they thought he was gay, Ms. Vincent learned later, because they thought he bowled like a girl.)

He spent weeks in a monastery with cloistered monks. He went to strip clubs and dated women, though he was rebuffed more often than not in singles bars. He worked in sales, hustling coupon books and other low-margin products door-to-door with fellow salesmen who, with their cartoon bravado, seemed drawn from the 1983 David Mamet play “Glengarry Glen Ross.”

Finally, at an Iron John retreat, a therapeutic masculinity workshop — think drum circles and hero archetypes — modeled on the work of the men’s movement author Robert Bly, Ned began to lose it. Being Ned had worn Ms. Vincent down; she felt alienated and disassociated, and after the retreat she checked herself into a hospital for depression.

She was suffering, she wrote, for the same reason that many of the men she met were suffering: Their assigned gender roles, she found, were suffocating them and alienating them from themselves.

“Manhood is a leaden mythology riding on the shoulders of every man,” she wrote, and they needed help: “If men are still really in power, then it benefits us all considerably to heal the dyspeptic at the wheel.”

Norah Vincent, Who Chronicled Passing as a Man, Is Dead at 53 – The New York Times. The book alluded to is Self-Made Man.

Science and sciencey

Big Bang?

Another one bites the dust.

Science is tentative, reformable. And so it’s too early conclusively to bid adieu to the Big Bang hypothesis. But stay tuned.

Total dudes, or at least dude-adjacent

I’m glad the hospital produced these videos. They ought to be open about what they’re doing to children. And I’m glad these doctors are talking about their diagnoses of toddlers who dare to play with the wrong color toys or teen girls who hate their bodies. It’s then extremely fair to simply disagree and say, hey this isn’t good. As a former toddler who played with trucks, I’m glad I’ve managed to keep my uterus as long as I have.

Nellie Bowles, Last Hurrah Before the Baby!.

Nellie played with trucks. She’s lesbian, not male, not trans. And she’s having a baby (from her womb, not from her “wife” or a surrogate). I firmly believe that some girls who play with trucks are straight.

The most infuriating part of the trans mania to me is that it takes the most simplistic stereotypes of gender-appropriate behavior and turns deviation from them as evidence of transgender identity. Far likelier that it’s non-conclusive evidence (i.e., a hint) of homosexuality.

The second most infuriating part is of pseudo-science like trans medicine (also from Nellie):

In the new gender belief system, female-ness and male-ness are feelings, removed from the physical body. So what is femaleness, then? It is a sense of weakness, receptivity, softness, and submission. Duh.

And so it makes sense that a powerful, dominant uterus-haver in, say, 15th-century France, could not possibly have identified as a woman, not if she (they?) knew what we know now. Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre is putting on a play about the life of Joan of Arc, and in it she is not a she at all. How could she be? Joan is strong and independent! So Joan is recast as a nonbinary hero and goes by they/them. From the Globe’s website announcing the show:  “Joan finds their power and their belief spreads like fire.” (Spreads like fire . . . you see Joan was burned at the stake, so they’re doing a metaphor with that.)

You know who else was nonbinary, according to the new academic experts? Elizabeth I! Yes, all through history powerful people who thought they were women were, in fact, total dudes or at least dude-adjacent. All of them, from Cleopatra to Sojourner Truth—they were never women. That was just us imposing the gender-binary on all these super awesome people of indeterminate identity.

The way to know that this is sexism is to imagine something similar being done to a historical man. Like: this historical man was really submissive and quiet, so our play now re-imagines him as a woman, which we think he was.

Legalia

Now that you’ve joined our sleeper cell …

here are some guidelines for staying below the enemy’s radar.

Creepy posts like this will certainly not do anything to attract emotionally healthy people who are reticent about integralism or other postliberal legal approaches.

1000 words

Unusually good KAL cartoon this week in the Economist:

Originalism

Originalism has become, as Richard Primus of the University of Michigan Law School says, a “surname of a family of approaches to constitutional law” that might not recognise one another around the dinner table.

America tussles over a newly fashionable constitutional theory (The Economist)

I’m growing increasingly convinced that originalism is the correct way to analyze constitutional questions, but Professor Primus isn’t totally wrong, either. Inter-originalism tussles will, I hope, resolve to a shared method.

How could there be multiple members of the “originalism” family that don’t recognize one another? Well, for instance, an originalism that reflexively looks only to first founding and averts its eyes from the post-Civil War amendments is missing the mark:

Elizabeth Wydra, president of the Constitutional Accountability Centre, a law firm and advocacy organisation, is not waiting for liberals to take hold of the court. She finds powerful originalist sources for progressive causes—especially in the Reconstruction Amendments. These provisions, which ended slavery and guaranteed equal rights for formerly enslaved people, “reflect broad conceptions of equality, inclusion and liberty”. For true originalists, Ms Wydra says, “the 14th Amendment should matter just as much to you as the Second Amendment.”

This doesn’t mean I’ll agree with Ms. Wydra’s conclusions on cases, but she’s right that the nation had a “second founding” 160 years ago, and that, too, affects “original meaning.”


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

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

Wednesday, 8/17/22

What fools we mortals be

Proof that he knows better

I once ran into an old acquaintance at a Middletown bar who told me that he had recently quit his job because he was sick of waking up early. I later saw him complaining on Facebook about the “Obama economy” and how it had affected his life. I don’t doubt that the Obama economy has affected many, but this man is assuredly not among them. His status in life is directly attributable to the choices he’s made, and his life will improve only through better decisions. But for him to make better choices, he needs to live in an environment that forces him to ask tough questions about himself. There is a cultural movement in the white working class to blame problems on society or the government, and that movement gains adherents by the day.

J.D. Vance, Hillbilly Elegy. The movement to blame someone else now seems to have Vance as one of its leaders.

The great paradox of “queer” ideology

The great paradox of “queer” ideology is that it both seeks the margins and then complains about being marginalized! It wants both the frisson of outsiderdom and total acceptance by insiderdom. It’s the kind of reasoning you expect from a toddler not a grownup. The “centering” of the “marginalized” is how critical queer theory always eventually disappears up its own backhole.

Norm McDonald once said of the term “cisgender” that “it’s a way of marginalizing a normal person.” And he’s right. When “queer theorists” insist they are about diversity, they mean the opposite. The point is not to live and let live; it is to impose their queerness on everyone — to make themselves feel more secure.

Andrew Sullivan

Strategic Name-choosing

“I figured if I called myself Dykewomon,” she joked in an interview with J: The Jewish News of Northern California this year, “I would never get reviewed in The New York Times. Which has been true.”

Obituary of Lesbian “author, poet and activist” Elana Dykewomon (neé Nachman) in the New York Times

Solomon Asch’s corollary

In a famous 1951 experiment, the psychologist Solomon Asch showed how easily humans can be manipulated by social pressure to conform. If everyone else in the room affirms even the most blatant falsehood, we will very often affirm it ourselves, even denying the clear evidence of our own eyes.

But a variation of the Asch experiment gives hope. If only one other person in the room—a single reality ally—tells the truth, the pressure to conform drops sharply and we become much more willing to buck the lie. That is why authoritarian regimes work so furiously to stifle opposition voices, even seemingly weak ones. It is what the Soviet dissident Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn was getting at when he said, “The simple act of an ordinary brave man is not to participate in lies, not to support false actions! His rule: Let that [lie] come into the world, let it even reign supreme—only not through me.”

Jonathan Rauch, The Reality Ally (Persuasion)

So, I’ll join the alliance: Joe Biden won the 2020 Presidential Election. He did not steal it.

Does everyone have a narrative?

Yes, the legacy media, like the New York Times, have a narrative. But so do (some? most?) upstart media, like Quillette.

Ken White (Popehat) demolishes an absurd Quillette story, twisted and jammed into the narrative “kids today are intolerant snowflakes.”

What the story actually shows, stripped of handwaving and unwarranted characterizations, is some private school students protesting perfectly appropriately when a powerful lawyer and Harvard Professor subjected them to repeated use of the word “nigger,” part of the title of a book by another powerful professor. And, ironically, the professor who claims to have been cancelled by kids silently walking out on his lecture, is famously, even performatively, in favor of free speech and expression — for himself, apparently, but not for those who would protest his ideas.

People disagreeing with you or protesting you without trying to silence or deplatform you is not what generally is meant by “cancellation.”

But the Quillette article fits my worldview, so I might have bought it had Popehat not intervened.

‘Murica

Sclerosis plus ideological capture

America’s response to Covid-19 went badly not just for Trump-related reasons, but because of problems inherent to our public health edifice, from bureaucratic sclerosis to the ideological capture of putatively neutral institutions …

And then along with these failures came an absurd ideological spectacle, in which health officials agonized about how to state the obvious — that monkeypox at present is primarily a threat to men who have sex with men — and whether to do anything to publicly discourage certain Dionysian festivities associated with Pride Month. As the suffer-no-fools writer Josh Barro has exhaustively chronicled, public-health communication around monkeypox has been an orgy of euphemism and wokespeak, misleading and baffling if you don’t understand what isn’t being said.

This, too, has repeated Covidian failures. The political anxiety about saying or doing anything that might appear to stigmatize homosexuality mirrors the great public-health abdication to the George Floyd protests — in which a great many members of an expert community that had championed closures and lockdowns decided to torch their credibility by endorsing mass protests because the cause seemed too progressive to critique.

In each case what’s been thrown over is neutrality — the idea that public health treats risky behaviors equally, regardless of what form of expression they represent …

[S]peaking for myself, as a citizen with a personal interest in medical controversy, when I read the kind of blathering, newspeak-infused monkeypox advisories that Barro highlights, all I can think is: I can never trust anything these people say again.

Ross Douthat, The C.D.C. Continues to Lead From Behind – The New York Times

Priceless Americana

6-7 years back, I asked my eldest’s scout leader if he was a Christian. He said, “Of course, it’s the most important thing in my life.” I asked where he went to church and he replied, “I’ve never been, but my wife was raised Catholic.” For him, it was just another part of his … American identity.

One response to a social medium thread on churchless Christianity (that began with the thrown-down gauntlet “Being reliably right-wing doesn’t confer upon you the status of being an “orthodox Christian,” even if it is with a small ‘o.’”)

Is this how tribalism begins?

Protection of freedom of thought requires that no group should be permitted by law to express an opinion. For when a group starts having opinions, it inevitably tends to impose them on its members.

Simone Weil, The Need for Roots. I cannot concur with her literal sense, but today’s tribalism makes me think that she was directionally correct.

There are a number of tribalists who think me a traitor because I unexpectedly and publicly bucked the tribe — a tribe of which I was never a member, but only a co-belligerent.

Prophetic

Christian concern about popular culture should be as much about the sensibilities it encourages as about its content.

Ken Myers, All God’s Children and Blue Suede Shoes.

Just so you don’t miss the prophetic gravamen, not that the book predates social media and the ubiquitous smartphone. (And blogs, too, frankly.)

Hit list

The American Conservative has a list of cases it wants to see reversed now that Roe is reversed:

If you know all those cases without looking them up, you’re a better man than I am.

I’m sympathetic to overturning at least one of them. One other, On birthright citizenship, my reflex is that if Michael Anton or John Eastman is agin it, I’m fer it.

Did I mention that I’ve dropped my American Conservative subscription? So many sites I used to enjoy reading that I now avoid. Maybe I’m the one that’s changing (though I’m confident that the Trump-Sluagh has gotten to some of them).

It’s hard to admit that I really don’t fit anywhere other than an Orthodox Church (and that’s because the Church is mercifully broad in accommodating quirks).

George Soros is not off-limits

Democratic billionaire George Soros has, by his own admission, had an outsized influence on our politics over the years with his political donations—just as GOP mega-donors Sheldon Adelson, Paul Singer, and Charles and David Koch had on the right. “All well and good. America is a free country, and Soros has every right to spend his vast fortune however he wants within the boundaries of the law, as well as to justify that spending in the public square,” James Kirchick writes in Tablet Magazine. “[But] the same applies to those of us inhabiting lower tax brackets, who have no less a right to criticize Soros for how he’s trying to influence American public life.” Because Soros is Jewish, however, many progressives have adopted the tactic of dismissing any criticism of his political advocacy as anti-Semitic—a charge Kirchick, himself Jewish, believes is unfair. “The argument that the mere mention of the name ‘Soros’ is tantamount to antisemitism, which is effectively the position of the progressive political, media, and activist elite, is made entirely in bad faith,” he writes. “If the mind of a Soros supporter, upon hearing his name, races immediately to an image of a ‘Jew,’ and one who serves as a stand-in for ‘the Jews,’ it’s probably not the motives of the critic that need questioning.”

The Morning Dispatch, August 16, 2022

Isms

When I was young, there was a conservative book titled “Today’s Isms.” I was trying to figure out what ISMS stood for. It turns out, it stands for ideologies — communism, socialism, fascism. We could add a few today.

Islamism

There’s nothing freakish about the attack on Salman Rushdie:

And yet as shocking as this attack was, it was also 33 years in the making: The Satanic Verses is a book with a very bloody trail

In July 1991, the Japanese translator of the condemned book, Hitoshi Igarashi, 44-years-old, was stabbed to death outside his office at the University of Tsukuba, northeast of Tokyo. The same month, the book’s Italian translator, Ettore Capriolo, was also stabbed—this time, in his own home in Milan. Two years later, in July 1993, the book’s Turkish translator, the prolific author Aziz Nesin, was the target of an arson attack on a hotel in the city of Sivas. He escaped, but 37 others were killed. A few months later, Islamists came for William Nygaard, the book’s Norwegian publisher. Nygaard was shot three times outside his home in Oslo and was critically injured.

And those are stories we remember. In 1989, 12 people were killed at an anti-Rushdie riot in Mumbai, the author’s birthplace, where the book was also banned. Five Pakistanis died in Islamabad under similar circumstances.

Bari Weiss, We Ignored Salman Rushdie’s Warning

But would we back Rushdie were Satanic Verses being published today?

When Rushdie made those comments to L’Express it was in the fallout of PEN, the country’s premiere literary group, deciding to honor the satirical French magazine Charlie Hebdo with an award. Months before, a dozen staff members of Charlie Hebdo were murdered by two terrorists in their offices. It was impossible to think of a publication that deserved to be recognized and elevated more.

And yet the response from more than 200 of the world’s most celebrated authors was to protest the award. Famous writers—Joyce Carol Oates, Lorrie Moore, Michael Cunningham, Rachel Kushner, Michael Ondaatje, Teju Cole, Peter Carey, Junot Díaz—suggested that maybe the people who had just seen their friends murdered for publishing a satirical magazine were a little bit at fault, too. That if something offends a minority group, that perhaps it shouldn’t be printed. And those cartoonists were certainly offensive, even the dead ones. These writers accused PEN of “valorizing selectively offensive material: material that intensifies the anti-Islamic, anti-Maghreb, anti-Arab sentiments already prevalent in the Western world.”

Bari Weiss, We Ignored Salman Rushdie’s Warning

Trumpism

When I left Above the Law in 2019 for my two-year detour into legal recruiting, it was partly because of Donald Trump. Writing about the law in 2019 meant writing about Trump, and writing about Trump meant unpleasantness.

I returned to writing by launching Original Jurisdiction in December 2020, after Trump lost the presidential election, and I turned it into my full-time job in May 2021, after he left office. I thought it was safe to go back in the water.

Alas, here we are, more than 18 months after his administration’s end, and Trump still dominates the headlines. Almost every category in today’s Judicial Notice relates to the controversial ex-president.

David Lat, We Just Can’t Quit Him

Miscellany

A back-handed recommendation

I’m not generally given to wretched excess, but when I get into a six-episode Shetland on Britbox, I’m apt to binge-watch.

Breaking the Sabbath

The princess—I mean the Shiek’s daughter—was only thirteen or fourteen years old, and had a very sweet face and a pretty one. She was the only Syrian female we have seen yet who was not so sinfully ugly that she couldn’t smile after ten o’clock Saturday night without breaking the Sabbath.

Mark Twain, Innocents Abroad.

I’m not sure the princess would worry about breaking the Christian Sabbath. Twain should have made it “sundown Friday.”

Frederick Beuchner

[Frederick Beuchner] did not hold orthodox religious views.

“Contrary to widespread religious belief,” he wrote in a 1994 essay for The Times, “I don’t think God goes around changing things in the sense of making bad things happen to bad people and good things happen to good people, or of giving one side victory over the other in wars, or of pushing a bill through Congress to make school prayer constitutional.”

Robert D. McFadden’s obituary of Beuchner in the New York Times.

What an odd illustration of un-“orthodox religious views”!

Frederick Buechner has met Christians who remind him of American tourists in Europe: Not knowing the language of their listeners, they speak the language of Zion loudly and forcefully, hoping the natives will somehow comprehend. They seem cocky with faith, voluble with their theology, and content with a God who resembles a cosmic Good Buddy. Their certitude both fascinates and alarms him.

Phillip Yancey, ‌Frederick Buechner, the Reverend of Oz

With the caveat that I, oddly enough, cannot recall reading anything from “the most quoted living writer among Christians of influence” (though I’ve known the name for decades and decades), I recommend the Yancey piece, from Christianity Today, as far more perceptive than the Times obituary.


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

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

Saturday, 8/13/22

Ya gotta work with what ya got

I once had a law partner who many considered gorgeous and who certainly presented herself well. One day, haggling outside a divorce courtoom with a lawyer who was particularly good at getting under opposing counsel’s skin, he told her he might as well give in, because she would get it anyway by [description of sexy behavior before the male judge omitted]. “Ya gotta work with whatcha got, Lou,” she shot back.

Just so in politics, too:

[Ron] DeSantis’s action-figure approach to his role as governor of Florida is in part about the fact that [Ted] Cruz, [Josh] Hawley and others don’t have the executive authority that he does and can’t make things happen as unilaterally or as quickly. They’re would-be MAGA superheroes bereft of their red capes.

Cruz and Hawley were such hams during the confirmation hearings for Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson because, as members of the Senate Judiciary Committee, they had a stage that DeSantis, Pence, Pompeo and others didn’t. Might as well pig out on the opportunity.

Frank Bruni, Josh Hawley’s manhood, Mike Pompeo’s midriff and other 2024 teases. Bruni has takes on Nikki Haley, Mike Pence and Mike Pompeo, too.

Nellie’s Nuggets

  • Good progressives in England have removed Colson Whitehead’s “The Underground Railroad” from university reading lists. The book won the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction in 2017, which doesn’t say that much necessarily but I add my vote that it’s phenomenal. Why remove it? It has graphic depictions of slavery. Those depictions might upset people. It’s unclear how people are supposed to learn about something terrible like slavery without being upset, but perhaps Mr. Whitehead should consider a gentler sort of Goodnight Moon rendition for the delicate souls in ivory towers.
  • In Sunni v. Shiite violence, which one is the white supremacist? When four Muslim men were murdered in Albuquerque by an alleged serial killer who drove a dark grey sedan, everyone assumed the killer was some white supremacist. Biden came out to say: “My administration stands strongly with the Muslim community. … These hateful attacks have no place in America.” Turns out, the guy arrested and charged with so far two of the killings is a Sunni Muslim, and he may have been partly motivated by anger that his daughter married a Shiite Muslim. Yes, it’s true: Violence also exists outside of Western culture.
  • A lot of liberals basically won’t be happy until Trump is in Shawshank. [At least one conservative, too. (Tipsy)]

Nellie Bowles

Nellie, herself well and truly pregnant, notes this, too:

An abortion case: A hideous story in Nebraska became national news this week as an ominous sign about “post-Roe America.” Here’s what happened: a 17-year-old took pills to induce a a miscarriage, and she planned it in part on Facebook Messenger with her mom. The abortion was exposed in part after Facebook’s parent company handed over her chat history. This is the thing we are supposed to be upset about.

Maybe it’s just me, but it seems the real outrage here is that the aborted baby was around 23 weeks old and, with modern medicine, could have a 55% chance of survival. (Nebraska outlaws abortions after 20 weeks unless there is danger to the mother’s life). This family allegedly induced an abortion on a viable baby, attempted to burn the body to get rid of evidence, and then buried it. I’m not sure this is the abortion privacy case to hinge the movement on right now.

All Things Trump

Trump’s effective schtick

Why is Donald Trump so powerful? How did he come to dominate one of the two major parties and get himself elected president? Is it his hair? His waistline? No, it’s his narratives. Trump tells powerful stories that ring true to tens of millions of Americans.

The main one is that America is being ruined by corrupt coastal elites. According to this narrative, there is an interlocking network of highly educated Americans who make up what the Trumpians have come to call the Regime: Washington power players, liberal media, big foundations, elite universities, woke corporations. These people are corrupt, condescending and immoral and are looking out only for themselves. They are out to get Trump because Trump is the person who stands up to them. They are not only out to get Trump; they are out to get you.

This narrative has a core of truth to it. Highly educated metropolitan elites have become something of a self-enclosed Brahmin class. But the Trumpian propaganda turns what is an unfortunate social chasm into venomous conspiracy theory. It simply assumes, against a lot of evidence, that the leading institutions of society are inherently corrupt, malevolent and partisan and are acting in bad faith.

It simply assumes that the proof of people’s virtue is that they’re getting attacked by the Regime …

America absolutely needs to punish those who commit crimes. On the other hand, America absolutely needs to make sure that Trump does not get another term as president. What do we do if the former makes the latter more likely? I have no clue how to get out of this potential conflict between our legal and political realities.

David Brooks, Did the F.B.I. Just Re-Elect Donald Trump?

Messy, absurd, uncathartic

When I first heard about the FBI’s raid on Mar-A-Lago, I merely hoped that there was a very, very good reason for it, and that the feds found what they were looking for. Days later, none of us knows the answer to either of those questions.

Donald J. Trump knows, of course. But he won’t tell us — because appropriate official silence allows him to flood the zone with his own bullshit, gin up his fevered base, and burnish his case for returning to power as a triumphant victim of the Deep State (aka the rule of law). All I know is that he is a grotesque liar and will say anything if it wins him a few minutes of news-cycle attention.

… A few more rabid Twitter cycles and every minuscule facet of this story will be pored over, and, in all likelihood, the conclusion, if it ever emerges, will be what it has consistently been: messy, absurd, and without that cathartic “We got him!” moment every Resistance groupie has been dreaming of since 2016.

Andrew Sullivan, Don’t Take The Trump Bait

Be it remembered …

“As he rails against Weaponized Law Enforcement, it’s worth recalling Trump’s chants of ‘Lock Her Up!’” – Charlie Sykes.

The Search Warrant

We’ve now seen the warrant under which Mar a Lago (is that how it’s spelled?) was searched Monday. Having not practiced criminal law, I have no particular comment on it.

But the issuance and execution of the warrant tells us something we hadn’t known and that I missed until Josh Barro and Ken White mentioned it (paywall): the Merrick Garland Justice Department does have the political will to proceed with criminal charges against Donald Trump.

Prosecuting a former President of the United States (FPOTUS, as the warrant has it) is a big deal, and Trump has done his best to make it an even bigger deal. There were (and are) legitimate questions about whether the game is worth the candle. (See David Brooks, above.) But Merrick Garland, with or without (preferably the latter) input from the White House, certainly appears to have decided that it is.

Here’s why I’m glad he did: we can’t let a bunch of domestic terrorists dictate what the government may and may not do. That’s true of the 2020 summer mobs and it’s true of the Proud Boys, playing IRA to the Trumpified GOP’s Sinn Fein. An epidemic of death threats has flipped votes in Congress, and we can’t let that sort of thing go on and, emboldened by success, grow.


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

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

Tuesday, 8/09/22

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

Insight

The Meaning of Home

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

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

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

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

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

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

Paul Kingsnorth, Keep The Home Fires Burning

Counter-intuitive consequences

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

Carl R. Trueman, Prohibiting Prayer in Australia

The Arsenios Option

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

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

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

FFatalism, Joy and laughter

Uppers

Sam the Man

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

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

(Lindsay Whitehurst, Associated Press)

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

How dare they be more careful!!!!

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

Andrew Sullivan.

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

Downers

Inchoate Rage

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

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

All the green shoots have died

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

Is this America’s future?

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

Via Andrew Sullivan

A bad, bad week for “follow the science”

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

(Nellie Bowles)

Low-Down Liars

Your BLM Virtue-Signaling Money at Work

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

Nellie Bowles (emphasis and hyperlinks omitted)

Monkeypox incoherence

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

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

New York City Health Department

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

Nellie Bowles


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

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

Friday, 7/29/22

R.I.P. William Jon Gray

William Jon Gray, undoubtedly the best Choral Conductor I ever sang under, has died at his home in New York state at age 66. I have the impression (from someone saying “You sung under him?!”) that he was widely known in American choral music circles.

That’s all I know about his death at this point, the news having just come to me Thursday through the (reliable) grapevine.

Bill was Artistic Director of the Bach Chorale Singers from 1994 to 2010. I re-joined the Chorale, after a very brief prior experience in the 1980s, in 1997. In addition to his formal education, Bill learned from the Master, Robert Shaw, having sung with him for some period of time. He forever followed what I understand was “Mr. Shaw’s” practice of meticulously marking scores before distributing them to his singers and, heaven help us, count-singing. His other accomplishments can be seen at the first link, above.

The pinnacles of my experience with Bill were, in no particular order:

  • performance of Rachmaninoff’s Vespers,
  • a professional recording of the Latin Organ and Choral Music of Zoltan Kodaly, with Organist Marilyn Keiser, on the Pro Organo label. One track unfailingly brings tears to my eyes, and
  • in retrospect, sitting a couple of feet from our Guest Tenor Soloist, Lawrence Brownlee, days after he had won the Metropolitan Opera Auditions. (Bill said “Enjoy him. We’ll never be able to afford him again.”)

Signs of the Times

  • A handful of former Democratic and Republican officials announced Wednesday they are forming a new national political party—Forward—that they believe will appeal to voters frustrated with the United States’ current two-party system. The centrist party will be chaired by former Democratic presidential candidate Andrew Yang and former Republican New Jersey Gov. Christine Todd Whitman, and plans to gain ballot access in all 50 states in time for the 2024 presidential and congressional elections.
  • A new FBI search warrant claims the man who allegedly attempted to assassinate Justice Brett Kavanaugh last month was also planning to kill two other Supreme Court justices. The FBI alleges the man searched “assassin skills,” “most effective place to stab someone,” and “quietest semi auto rifle” online before he was arrested, and that he messaged unnamed users on Discord that he was going to “stop Roe v. Wade from being overturned” and that he would “remove some people from the Supreme Court.”

The Morning Dispatch, July 28.

Turning Point, USA?

I conducted dozens of focus groups of Trump 2020 voters in the 17 months between the storming of the Capitol on January 6 and when the hearings began in June. One measure was consistent: At least half of the respondents in each group wanted Trump to run again in 2024. The prevailing belief was that the 2020 election was stolen—or at least unfair in some way—and Trump should get another shot.

But since June, I’ve observed a shift. I’ve conducted nine focus groups during this period, and found that only 14 percent of Trump 2020 voters wanted him to run in 2024, with a few others on the fence. In four of the groups, zero people wanted Trump to run again. Their reasoning is clear: They’re now uncertain that Trump can win again.

[U]nlike the impeachment hearings, which in some ways made GOP voters more defensive of Trump, the accumulating drama of the January 6 hearings—which they can’t avoid in social-media feeds—seems to be facilitating not a wholesale collapse of support, but a soft permission to move on.

Sarah Longwell, The January 6 Hearings Are Changing Republicans’ Minds

In [Peter Thiel’s] view, much of what passes for “progress” is in truth more like “distraction”. As he puts it, “the iPhone that distracts us from our environment also distracts us from the ways our environment is unchanging and static.” And in this culture, economy and politics of chronic self-deception, as Thiel sees it, we tell ourselves that we’re advancing because “grandma gets an iPhone with a smooth surface,” but meanwhile she “gets to eat cat food because food prices have gone up.”

Mary Harrington, Peter Thiel on the dangers of progress.

One of many provocative observations in this long piece.

And yes, I’ve read accusations that he’s a fascist. I’m just saying he’s smart, not that he’s good.

Nothing pointless

Speaking of fascists …

Himmler quite aptly defined the SS member as the new type of man who under no circumstances will ever do “a thing for its own sake.”

Hannah Arendt, The Origins of Totalitarianism

Church/State

Lifeway research suggests that as many as 2/3 of American churches incorporate patriotic music into their liturgy for public worship during the time around the 4th of July holiday.

So this is one piece of the problem: For many of our nation’s white evangelicals, their patriotic commitments as Americans are so intertwined with their Christian faith that it is very hard for them to imagine a scenario where Christian fidelity actually requires them to reject standard American ideas about identity, wealth, success, and so on.

Jake Meador, Defining “White Evangelical Crap”.

Was MLK antiracist? Barack Obama?

Martin Luther King Jr.’s most famous speech would not meet Kendi’s definition of anti-racism, nor would the one Barack Obama made about there being too many fatherless Black families. Indeed, nearly everything that Americans have been taught about how to be anti-racist for the past several decades is, according to Kendi’s explicit definition, racist.

Bari Weiss, Stop Being Shocked

Flash!

This just in: With Russia at war in Ukraine, and Putin’s stench in American nostrils increasing, our 45th POTUS has declared himself an acolyte of Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr now. al-Sadr’s followers are very special people.

(Pass it on.)

Note to Readers

I will be traveling for more than a week. I may or may not get a post scheduled for tomorrow or intermittently during travel, but I should be back sometime the week of August 7.

And I just realized that today is the 57th anniversary of my most serious accident, on a motorcycle at age 16.


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

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

Tuesday, 7/26/22

Prognostic myopia

We humans are besotted by intelligence, especially our own. And yet “intelligence is not the miracle of evolution we like to think it is. We love our little accomplishments—our moon landings and megacities—like parents love their newborn baby. But nobody loves a baby as much as the parents. The planet does not love us as much as we love our intellect.” In fact, “our many intellectual accomplishments are currently on track to produce our own extinction, which is exactly how evolution gets rid of adaptations that suck.”

David P. Barash, ‘If Nietzsche Were a Narwhal’ Review: Big Brains, Big Problems, quoting Justin Gregg.

That leads readily to dark humor from the Review:

  • After a worldwide nuclear holocaust, the few surviving amoeba-like creatures hold a meeting at which they decide to try evolving again. But before they do so, they together make a solemn vow: “This time, no brains!
  • Mr. Gregg concludes, glumly but effectively, that “there’s good reason to tone down our smugness. Because, depending on where we go from here, human intelligence may just be the stupidest thing that has ever happened.”

One of the genre

I registered my contrary opinion yesterday, but here’s a fairly eloquent specimen case for prosecuting our former President.

Should his re-election bid prove successful, Trump’s second term will likely be far worse than the first.

He would tighten his grip on all those near him. Mike Pence was a loyalist but in the end wouldn’t fully kowtow to him. The same can be said of Bill Barr. Trump will not again make the mistake of surrounding himself with people who would question his authority.

Some of the people who demonstrated more loyalty to the country than they did to Trump during these investigations were lower-level staff members. For the former president, they, too, present an obstacle. But he might have a fix for that as well.

Axios reported on Friday that “Trump’s top allies are preparing to radically reshape the federal government if he is re-elected, purging potentially thousands of civil servants and filling career posts with loyalists to him and his ‘America First’ ideology.”

According to Axios, this strategy appears to revolve around his reimposing an executive order that would reassign tens of thousands of federal employees with “some influence over policy” to Schedule F, which would strip them of their employee protections so that Trump could fire them without recourse to appeal.

Charles Blow, We Can’t Afford Not to Prosecute Trump

I thought this was a "Flight 93 Indictment" argument, and then the closing paragraph cinched it:

Some could argue that prosecuting a former president would forever alter presidential politics. But I would counter that not prosecuting him threatens the collapse of the entire political ecosystem and therefore the country.

From the Morning Dispatch

  • Sauce for the gander. California Gov. Gavin Newsom signed a bill into law on Friday that will allow private citizens in California to sue people involved in the manufacturing, sale, transport, or distribution of ghost guns, assault weapons, or .50 BMG rifles—or in the sale or transfer of any firearm to an individual under the age of 21. The legislation—which Newsom hinted at back in December—is modeled after Texas’ Heartbeat Act, which made use of an innovative enforcement mechanism to evade judicial review.
  • Mild-mannered Hogan raises his voice. Maryland’s outgoing Republican governor, Larry Hogan, said yesterday he will not support his party’s nominee to replace him, Dan Cox, whom Hogan has labeled a “QAnon whack job.”
  • Inscrutable. Why did the Chinese government offer five years ago to build a $100 million garden at the National Arboretum in Washington, D.C.? You guessed it: espionage. “The canceled garden is part of a frenzy of counterintelligence activity  by the FBI and other federal agencies focused on what career US security officials say has been a dramatic escalation of Chinese espionage on US soil over the past decade,” Katie Bo Lillis reports for CNN. “Since at least 2017, federal officials have investigated Chinese land purchases near critical infrastructure, shut down a high-profile regional consulate believed by the US government to be a hotbed of Chinese spies and stonewalled what they saw as clear efforts to plant listening devices near sensitive military and government facilities. Among the most alarming things the FBI uncovered pertains to Chinese-made Huawei equipment atop cell towers near US military bases in the rural Midwest. According to multiple sources familiar with the matter, the FBI determined the equipment was capable of capturing and disrupting highly restricted Defense Department communications, including those used by US Strategic Command, which oversees the country’s nuclear weapons.”

The Morning Dispatch, Monday, July 25, 2022.

The Webb

Dr. Jane Rigby, an astrophysicist and operations director for the new James Webb Space Telescope recently shared during NASA’s live press conference that she had an “ugly cry” when she saw the first images taken by the Webb:

“Earlier than this, the first focused images that we took where they were razor-sharp…that for me had the very emotional reaction like oh my goodness, it works. And it works better than we thought…personally, I went and had an ugly cry. What the engineers have done to build this thing is amazing.”

Note her ugly cry was about the telescope, not the heavens themselves. As the late social critic Neil Postman put it: “To a man with a camera, everything looks like an image.”

Never mind the stars, weep because the telescope works …

But the universe is beautiful and NASA doesn’t know why. That ought to be reason enough for weeping ….

Daniel Ray, Dr. Rigby’s Ugly Cry.

I fear Mr. Ray was a bit too hard on Dr. Rigby. She was, after all, operations director for the telescope. The waiting to see that it worked presumably was a bit nerve-wracking.

Still, and perhaps because of what I thought a harsh tone, this was rewarding to wrestle with.

The System is Rigged!

My former 9-term Congressman, Steve Buyer (Boo-yer), is charged with insider trading. It sounds like they’ve nailed him pretty solidly.

I’ve had a sleazy Congressman since Buyer, and then a cipher (the incumbent). But although I thought Buyer was barely-qualified when he ran his first campaign, a grueling door-to-door affair (with combat boots around his neck lest anyone forget he’d been a soldier), I did not think he was sleazy, and I’m disappointed to learn that he may be, or may have become, so.

By the way: does anything say "The System is rigged!" as loudly and eloquently as insider trading by a current or former National high officeholder?

Awkward

"You call this an awkward silence, but this silence is less awkward than anything I might say." (Encountered by Mrs. Tipsy on Pinterest)

This institution isn’t what you think it is

If it seems that America’s colleges and universities are poorly suited to the average American eighteen-year-old, perhaps that’s because they were never designed to serve him.

Oren Cass, The Once and Future Worker

Chestertonia

  • The Frenchman works until he can play. The American works until he can’t play; and then thanks the devil, his master, that he is donkey enough to die in harness. But the Englishman, as he has since become, works until he can pretend that he never worked at all. He becomes as far as possible another person—a country gentleman who has never heard of his shop; one whose left hand holding a gun knows not what his right hand doeth in a ledger. (Source not noted)
  • When the realist of the sex novel writes, ‘Red sparks danced in Dagmar Doubledick’s brain; he felt the spirit of the cave-man rising within him,’ the novelist’s readers would be very much disappointed if Dagmar only went off and drew large pictures of cows on the drawing-room wall. (The Everlasting Man)

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

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

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

Monday, 7/25/22

Trump, Trump, Trump

If you’ve already heard enough, I’ll take no offense if you skip this section. But the first three of these Trump-related items all involve a bit of my own thinking and analogizing, not just quotes without comment.

Flight 93 Indictments

People continue to make the case that what Donald Trump did — here, there, everywhere — was criminal and that he should be charged. I’ll stipulate for sake of argument that every one of those arguments, even the weakest of them, is correct.

Some convictions, I believe (don’t bet anything you can’t afford to lose), would disqualify him from running in 2024.

But can we get convictions? When did Trump’s lawyers ever allow any case against him to go forward expeditiously? When did they not throw up every conceivable preliminary motion to put a spanner in the works?

And with his astonishing continued levels of support (at least as reported to pollsters; I can’t rule out mischievous responses), can we really expect unanimous jury verdicts of "guilty" anywhere in this country?

An acquittal, even if the jury voted 11-1 for conviction, might well strengthen him and his narrative of "all the poopy-heads hate me."

Michael Anton infamously argued in the 2016 Election cycle that it was either Donald Trump or the end of America as we know it. It was like flight 93: storm the cockpit and we just might live.

Let’s not repeat Anton’s mistake in reverse: "if we indict him, we just might get a conviction that will disqualify him from running again; whereas if we don’t, he’ll run again, win, and it will be the end of America as we know it."

I do think that Trump 2024 could be the end of America as we know it, and the January 6 Committee hearings have put at least slightly reinforced that in my mind (I was very anti-Trump before January 6 and before the hearings). They may even have had a net-positive effect on the electorate, swaying more against Trump than toward him in false sympathy for him as victim. But I think that beating him at the polls with a reformed Electoral Count Act to thwart shenanigans is a sounder strategy than trying to disqualify him with a felony conviction.

(David French’s argument in Friday’s Atlantic tends toward indictment despite unnamed risks — because (as I interpret it) we must show that nobody is above the law.)

I confess to TDS

I laughed at Democrats suffering Bush Derangement Syndrome. I laughed at Republicans suffering Obama Derangement Syndrome, but also shook my head at their frequent racist dog-whistles. I was above all that.

Then Donald Trump actually got the Republican nomination, and if someone wanted to call my reaction Trump Derangement Syndrome, I’d understand. My main defense is that I was right: his narcissism eventually so distorted his reality field that he put the nation at grave and unnecessary risk beginning Election Day 2020.

Conspiracy or Tragedy?

It is a sign of the committee Democrats’ love of country that they have allowed the hearings to proceed this way. They are crafting a story about Jan. 6 as a battle between Republican heroism and Republican villainy. It seems intended to create a permission structure for Trump supporters to move on without having to disavow everything they loved about his presidency, or to admit that Jan. 6 was the logical culmination of his sadistic politics.

If you believe, as I do, that Trump’s sociopathy makes him a unique threat to this country’s future, it makes sense to try to lure Republicans away from him rather than damn them for their complicity. There is a difference, however, between a smart narrative and an accurate one. In truth, you can’t cleave Trump and his most shameless antidemocratic enablers off from the rest of the Republican Party, because the party has been remade in his image. Plenty of ex-Trump officials have come off well in the hearings, including the former deputy national security adviser Matthew Pottinger, the former acting attorney general Jeffrey Rosen and, in video testimony, the former White House counsel Pat Cipollone. That shouldn’t erase the ignominy of having served Trump in the first place.

Michelle Goldberg, The Myth of the Good Trump Official.

Goldberg had me in the first paragraph but substantially lost me in the second. My TDS doesn’t make me condemn everyone who served in the Trump administration. For many of them, their service was a sign of their love of country, for which they willingly put their reputations and political futures permanently at risk to be among the adults in the room.

I know, I know: Many of them ended up as infantilized sycophants, but I don’t think that’s how they, or at least most of them, went in.

The difference between Goldberg and me on this topic is that she seemingly views the Trump years mostly as a conspiracy of bad actors against the country whereas I see it more as a tragedy, whereby a malign leader seduced a lot of benign-to-neutral followers — my paradigm being Mark Studdock in C.S. Lewis’ That Hideous Strength.

If you insist on Mephistopheles and a bunch of Fausts, I’d insist back at you that they didn’t think they were Fausts when they initially said "yes." They thought of themselves as the alternative to cronies and crazies who ended up being named Steve Bannon, Rudy Giuliani, Roger Stone, Sydney Powell, Michael Eastman, Mike Lindell and such.

And although I recognized grave danger in Trump’s narcissism, I did not foresee his seductiveness — though his ability to seduce an electoral majority of voters should have warned me.

Why I still read the New York Times

By insisting that he was cheated out of victory, Trump fashioned himself into a king-in-exile rather than a loser — an Arthur betrayed by the Mordreds of his own party, waiting in the Avalon of Mar-a-Lago to make his prophesied return.

As with many forms of dark Trumpian brilliance, though, the former president is not exactly in conscious control of this strategy. He intuited rather than calculated his way to its effectiveness, and he seems too invested in its central conceit — the absolute righteousness of his “Stop the Steal” campaign — to modulate when it begins to reap diminishing returns.

While Ron DeSantis, his strongest potential rival, has been throwing himself in front of almost every issue that Republican primary voters care about, Trump has marinated in grievance, narrowed his inner circle, and continued to badger Republican officials about undoing the last election. While DeSantis has been selling himself as the scourge of liberalism, the former president has been selling himself mostly as the scourge of Brian Kemp, Liz Cheney and Mike Pence.

A counterargument, raised on Friday by New York Magazine’s Jonathan Chait, is that so long as those lukewarm supporters still believe the 2020 election was unfair, Trump will have a trump card over any rival — because if you believe a steal happened, “you are perfectly rational to select a candidate who will acknowledge the crime and do everything to prevent it from reoccurring.”

But it seems just as possible for the lukewarm supporter to decide that if Trump’s response to being robbed was to first just let it happen and then ask his vice president to wave a magic wand on his behalf, then maybe he’s not the right guy to take on the Democratic machine next time.

There is more than one way, in other words, for Republican voters to decide that the former president is a loser ….

Ross Douthat in the New York Times.

Once again, it’s Trump’s narcissism: it’s all about him and to hell with everything else.

Not Trump

The Great EV Scam

Regulators everywhere are structuring their electric-vehicle industries on the Norway model, based on subsidies from less-affluent people who continue to buy gas-powered cars. A zombie business or industry, in today’s parlance, is one sustained less by creative destruction than by a combination of government bailout, regulation and hidden subsidies. This is what the global auto sector is becoming. Germany, having saddled its domestic makers with mandates for diesel and then electric vehicles, has repeatedly had to scarf together hidden rescues when the mandated investments didn’t pay off. Don’t think it can’t happen here. In fact, the history of the U.S. auto sector since the Chrysler bailout of 1980 has been of more or less continuous open and crypto-bailouts.

Holman W. Jenkins, Jr., The Upside-Down Logic of Electric SUVs

America, Abortionmonger to the World

A foreign policy pushing for abortion abroad is also a strategic blunder with long-term consequences. Many countries in Africa, Asia and Latin America have strict limits on abortion, and even most of the free world is closer to Dobbs than to Roe.

Some Western politicians, such as French President Emmanuel Macron, and the European Parliament have joined Mr. Biden in denouncing Dobbs. But their statements reflect more the global solidarity of pro-abortion politicians than diplomatic prudence or even their own nations’ laws and practices.

Jakub Grygiel and Rebeccah Heinrichs, Biden’s Abortion Politics Will Undermine America’s World Standing.

Note that the characterization of the free world in the first paragraph is true only in the sense that Western Europe largely leaves abortion to political processes, as does Dobbs not constitutionalizing it s did Roe. It’s false insofar as it implies that Dobbs sets a national policy of, say, legal abortion in the first trimester, which is roughly where Western Europe tends to be, as compared to Roe‘s much more radically permissive regime.

SCOTUS legitimacy: two views

For three decades, Casey was precedent on precedent. But that is not the only conception of legitimacy.

On Thursday, Justice Kagan spoke to the Ninth Circuit Judicial Conference. She was careful to avoid talking about Dobbs directly, but she clearly alluded to the case. And, according to the Washington Post–I’ve not yet found video of the event–she invoked the concept of "legitimacy" as defined by Casey. That is, the Court’s "legitimacy" is linked to public perception …

The Dobbs Court emphatically repealed and replaced that notion of legitimacy. Now, legitimacy is defined by following written law, without regard to public perception. Linda Greenhouse’s column laments that shift:

. . .  Justice Alito actually had the gall to write that "we do not pretend to know how our political system or society will respond to today’s decision." Polls conducted before the opinion’s release showing that upward of two-thirds of Americans wanted to retain a right to abortion offered a hint and were perhaps what led to Justice Alito’s self-righteous declaration: "We cannot allow our decisions to be affected by any extraneous influences such as concern about the public’s reaction to our work."

Dobbs overruled Casey‘s undue burden framework, but also overruled the precedent on precedent. Justice Scalia would often joke that the Constitution is dead, dead, dead. We should say the same for Casey‘s precedent on precedent. It’s dead, dead, dead.

Josh Blackman at the Volokh Conspiracy.

Medical miracles

What they’re doing with vagus nerve stimulation is fascinating. I got tipped off by the Wall Street Journal, but here’s a solid link sans paywall

The other book-banners

We hear constantly about conservative efforts to "ban books," which accusation sometimes amounts to nothing more than taking a book out of a curriculum while leaving it readily available in the school library. But that’s not the whole story:

Last year, when the American Booksellers Association included Abigail Shrier’s book, “Irreversible Damage: The Transgender Craze Seducing Our Daughters,” in a mailing to member booksellers, a number of booksellers publicly castigated the group for promoting a book they considered transphobic. The association issued a lengthy apology and subsequently promised to revise its practices. The group’s board then backed away from its traditional support of free expression, emphasizing the importance of avoiding “harmful speech.”

A recent overview in Publishers Weekly about the state of free expression in the industry noted, “Many longtime book people have said what makes the present unprecedented is a new impetus to censor — and self-censor — coming from the left.” When the reporter asked a half dozen influential figures at the largest publishing houses to comment, only one would talk — and only on condition of anonymity. “This is the censorship that, as the phrase goes, dare not speak its name,” the reporter wrote.

Pamela Paul, There’s More Than One Way to Ban a Book


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

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

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