Tuesday, 11/29/22

Sam Bankman-Fried

I stopped reading Sam Bankman-Fried (“SBF” — hereafter, “the guy”) stories a week or two ago, and I really didn’t read many before that.

But I did listen to a somewhat penitent podcast, one of Malcolm Gladwell’s Pushkin podcast offerings, revisiting an insufficiently critical and probing prior podcast interview with the guy.

What struck me in the initial interview was how insouciantly reckless the guy was as a business strategy. Essentially, if a business takes $20 million to launch, has a 99% chance of failure, but has a 1% chance of becoming worth $2 billion or more, it’s an okay business plan.

If it might hit $20 billion, it’s a great business plan because the guy will get stinkin’ rich and can pour some of his riches into transformative (i.e. hubristic) charitable projects. And because he promises transformative charitable donations, we’re supposed to admire him. The initial podcast was pretty admiring. And because he was a top-tier Democrat Party donor, he’s got substantial political cover.

If he was playing entirely with his own money, I could ignore him, but because he gets investors, and may even go public, I consider his gambling, as most or all gambling-as-livelihood, contemptible. His investors surely are not told they’re buying into a 100-to-1 shot, where the guy keeps most of the loot if the long-shot bet pays off.

I do not think he is alone. If I understand his thinking, it sounds to me pretty close to some of Nassim Nicholas Taleb’s musings about unlikely but huge payoffs — only I don’t think Taleb has sucked investors into his risky, big-payoff plays.

That the guy’s plays are in crypto only raises my concerns exponentially, though it also tends to make me think of his investors as marks who were hoping to get something for nothing in an investment they don’t remotely understand.

“David Frenchism” Redux

It apparently is part of David French’s lot in life to become a walking, talking, breathing, living litmus test among “orthodox” Protestants: “What think ye of David French? Hath he sold out to secular elites?”

The latest entry (as of this writing and to the best of my knowledge) from a respectable source is Carl R. Trueman’s avid French and the Future of Orthodox Protestantism on the First Things website.

Trueman’s argument assumes, without discussing, the wrongness of French’s endorsement of the Senate version of the Respect for Marriage Act. As I have previously noted, French “showed his work,” walking any halfway attentive reader through the logic that led him to support the Act. Trueman, not a lawyer, does no such thing, but just assumes that French’s position is toxic because the Act accepts same-sex civil marriages, at least in the limited sense that he does not want to see existing same-sex headed families broken up should Obergefell be reversed.

Why would Trueman do such a thing? I have my suspicions, but do not want to add my ad hominem speculations to a discussion already too full of them. I invite you to critically read his piece and assess for yourself what it does, overall, besides slinging innuendo at French.

Related:

  • Matt Staver of Liberty Counsel pulls out all the stops, except for the “Thou Shalt Not Bear False Witness” stop, in his opposition to the Act. Staver was an instructor at the ADF National Litigation Academy I attended 20 years ago, and he’s a journeyman religious freedom litigator. That makes the misleading hyperbole more lamentable.
  • My current take on RFMA: proponents of Religious Freedom give up almost nothing but also get very little in exchange. I think we get more than we give up, but this Bill is not a hill I’m willing to die on. And it’s mostly moot as long as SCOTUS says same-sex marriage and fairly robust religious liberty are both the law of the land.

Encounters with unlikeness

I believe that any significant increase in personal density is largely achieved through encounters with un-likeness.

Alan Jacobs, Breaking Bread with the Dead

Localism, f/k/a Distributism

In 1910, G. K. Chesterton wrote a book called What’s Wrong with the World. In it is found one of his most famous lines: “The Christian ideal has not been tried and found wanting. It has been found difficult; and left untried.”

But what did he say was wrong with the world? Four things: big government, big business, feminism, and public education. The first two, which he nicknamed Hudge and Gudge, were in cahoots with each other, and largely drove the other two. The feminists, while imagining themselves to be achieving freedom and independence, had merely abandoned their positions of power and influence in the most fundamental unit of society – the family – and become wage slaves in factories and offices. As Chesterton quipped, “Ten thousand women marched through the streets shouting ‘We will not be dictated to!’ and went off and became stenographers.” Gudge was only too happy to grant them their “liberation” from the home and use them for cheap labor.

… [T]]he state had less power over a man when it could send him to be burned at the stake than it does now when it sends him to public school.

While flirting with socialism as a young man (as so many young men do, being aghast at the inequity of wealth and the crassness of a commercially driven culture), Chesterton soon realized that capitalism and socialism were remarkably similar. Both involve the majority of people working as wage-earners and not owning their own land or source of living. There is little difference between a clerk sitting at a desk in a tall corporate building and a bureaucrat sitting at a desk in a tall government building.

The opposite of employment,” argues Chesterton, “is not unemployment. It is independence.

… Localism faces two major hurdles at present. First, people are not always allowed to do things for themselves. And second, people are not accustomed to doing things for themselves.

Dale Ahlquist, Distributism Needs a New Name

D.L. Schindler, RIP

  • [T]he judgments embedded in liberalism are lies about the human person—primarily because liberalism does not conceive of humans first as persons who receive their being from God but as individuals who are separated from the various relationships that are constitutive of the person.
  • [C]ontemplation and silence are not matters of inactivity. It is not as though contemplation signals a contrast with creative action, such that these are at root two different kinds of acts meant at best to alternate with one another. On the contrary, contemplative letting be is the inmost form of creaturely activity as such. Patience is not the absence of activity but, in the words of T.S. Eliot, the still point of the turning world, where the dance begins, and is.

D.L. Schindler, who died November 16, quoted by Conor B. Dugan.

Better late than never: I confirmed that there is a relationship between D.L. and D.C. Schindler, that of father and son. The legacy, or at least a part of it, lives on.

Pronouns

Displaying pronouns signals: I am part of the tribe and I know the rules.

Luke Burgis, Why Everyone Wants the Same Things.

This is a good reason for me to never display “my pronouns.” If people thought I was a member of the tribe, they’d be all the more furious when I expressed non-tribal thoughts.


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

Jonathan Rauch, The Constitution of Knowledge

To believe that wealth is the only significant measure of the worth of an individual, a family, or a community is to reject the teaching of nearly every religion and wisdom tradition that ever was.

Mark Mitchell and Nathan Schlueter, The Humane Vision of Wendell Berry

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

Fr. Jonathan Tobias

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

We’ve Been Lucky Day

We’ve Been Lucky Day

What we are experiencing isn’t truly thankfulness, but only something like delight over good fortune. In this case, I wonder why we even call it thankfulness. Perhaps we should be celebrating a Gee We’ve Been Lucky Day, or, if times have been hard, maybe an It Could Have Been Worse Day. If a shorter name is needed, we could call it Okayness Day. I guess it would be something like Happy Hour.

J Budziszewski, wrested from context (i.e., this is not his position)

Eulogy — Mike Gerson

It’s nice to read Peter Wehner writing a eulogy instead of invective, however deserved.

Excerpts:

Mike [Gerson] was appalled at those who disfigured Jesus and used their faith for the purposes of dehumanization. It is one of the reasons why he was so thankful to publish an extraordinary essay in the Post before his death, lamenting Christians whose view of politics “is closer to ‘Game of Thrones’ than to the Beatitudes.”

Very few people knew the full scope of the health challenges Mike faced. He suffered a heart attack in 2004, when he was 40. Kidney cancer in 2013. Debilitating leg pain, probably the result of surgical nerve damage. The kidney cancer spread to his lungs. Then Parkinson’s disease and metastatic adrenal cancer. And finally, metastatic bone cancer in multiple locations, intensely painful. At one point he told me he was on 20 different medications. Mike and I joked that of all the figures in the Bible he could model himself after, he chose Job.

I am among those who had no idea of Gerson’s health problems. I admired his opinion pieces, but not quite enough to keep my Washington Post digital subscription.

Buying off the bloodhounds

[Y]ou don’t have to have a granular understanding of blockchain to understand [Sam Bankman-Fried] was a fraud. I think there are a lot of reasons he got away with it for as long as he did. Buying political cover from politicians with donations (Bankman-Fried was the Dems’ second biggest donor in the last cycle) and purchasing political cover from the media with woke gobbledygook about philanthropy is not a bad strategy. Also, hiding your malfeasance in the squid ink of technical jargon few people understand is pretty savvy as well.

But I think he had something else going for him. Democrats and the left love having billionaires in their corner. It’s a great way to blunt charges of “Marxism” and whatnot, and it’s also a fun way to advance the argument that there’s no real tension between progressive policies and profit. Having token billionaires is even better when those billionaires seem like they’ve broken the old paradigms of heavy industry and are on the cutting edge of innovation. Having dinosaurs who made their money the old-fashioned way—especially the ones who made their money from liquified dinosaurs—can trigger psychological or ideological second thoughts. Peddling ones-and-zeros just sounds so cutting edge.

One lesson from this is that new ideas and new technologies—not to mention getting rich off them—can blind you to the importance of due diligence. Say what you will about old-fashioned accountants and lawyers from prestigious firms—they at least have a vested interest in protecting their reputations and brands. Thinking that the rules of the past don’t apply to you is a great way to give yourself permission to break rules that definitely do apply to you.

Jonah Goldberg

I’d rather drink muddy water

My least-favorite series in the New York Times travel section is “36 Hours in [major city].” I would not enjoy dashing around and bar-hopping at night as they invariably describe.

Let me settle into a city for a bit, and give me time to catch my breath without liquor.

Is Orbán a Cosplayer?

There has always been a whiff of the fake about Mr. Orbán’s war on Brussels. That he never proposed the obvious solution to this impasse—Hungary’s exit from the European Union—exposed the limit of his gamesmanship. More fool the American conservatives who didn’t notice this sooner.

Joseph C. Sternberg, Orbán and the Collapse of the Trump Intellectuals

I don’t fully agree with Sternberg, but I welcome his pushback against Orbán if only because it doesn’t follow the usual script of name-calling and “everybody knows.”

Epistemic humility

Appealing to a higher, theological standard of judgment above politics can, in theory, act as a moderating influence that inspires humility, restraint, and even wisdom. But it often does the opposite—inspiring imprudent acts and judgments …

Of course, the religiously devout aren’t the only people who are prone to act in a way that fails to exemplify the spirit of liberality or civic generosity …

Liberalism is better off when these tendencies are tamed. The best way to accomplish that goal is to rely on civic education that instills lessons in epistemic humility and mutual respect for fellow citizens. But of course, such education will only receive political support if our fellow Americans already want to produce humble and respectful citizens in the first place.

Damon Linker, The Endless Skirmish Between Liberalism and Religion

I have a nit-picky disagreement with Linker. I doubt that we can maintain liberalism at all without the epistemic humility he commends, not just that “liberalism is better off when these tendencies are tamed.” Indeed, liberalism almost seems definitionally a polity of epistemic humility, a recognition that the other guy just might be right, and therefore can be worth close attention.

Florida Man and the Pro-life cause

The ethos of the Trumpist-dominated G.O.P. is fundamentally incompatible with the ethos of a healthy pro-life movement. The reason is simple: Trumpism is centered around animosity. The pro-life movement has to be centered around love, including love for its most bitter political opponents.

David French, The Pro-Life Movement Has to Break With Trumpism

An honest, full-cost accounting

[W]e need to replace fanciful dreams of endless energy from renewables with full-cost accounting, which an increasing number of experts are taking seriously. There are destructive environmental and social consequences to constructing the infrastructure for that energy production.

Wes Jackson and Robert Jensen, No Easy Answers: Facing Ecological Crises Honestly

I often post controversial or negative things with no comment. Not this time. I believe that Jackson and Jensen are right.

If wishes were horses …

[M]y friends at National Review plead[] with Republican hopefuls to clear the field for a Trump-DeSantis showdown.

That’s the right strategy if you’re a conservative whose goal is to maximize the GOP’s chances of nominating a superior candidate, but it’s eye-roll material if you’re an ambitious Republican politician who looks in the mirror and sees a president staring back.

That’s a great irony of the next cycle, incidentally. As selfish as Trump is in routinely placing his own interests above the GOP’s, the Chris Christies and Nikki Haleys who’ll end up piling into the 2024 field and splintering the anti-Trump vote will be guilty of having done the same.

Nick Cattogio, Trump Is About to Wreck His Legacy

Respect for Marriage Act

Yet the gains here are not negligible, either, and what is lost is—well, the answer to that depends on how realistic it is to think that Obergefell will be overturned within the next 10 years.

Matthew Lee Anderson, regarding the Respect for Marriage Act, quoted at The Dispatch (italics added)

I don’t think there’s a significant chance that Obergefell gets overruled for a long time. (Eventually, it probably will be overruled because it’s contrary to the nature of marriage and came about through an ideological mania. We’ll come to our senses eventually.) So, we (those concerned to preserve religious liberty) are getting something for essentially nothing.

Sounds like a presumptively good deal. Tell me how I’m wrong.

David French endorses RFMA, and has caught a lot of crap for it. Even Kristen Waggoner has misrepresented RFMA, but she’s now head of ADF, which may explain her factual flexibility.

Have I mentioned lately that my pen always totally dries up if I think of writing a check to ADF, but always works just fine for checks to Becket Fund?


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

Jonathan Rauch, The Constitution of Knowledge

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

Fr. Jonathan Tobias

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

November 1, 2022

Pilgrimage

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

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

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

Oh yeah: everybody seems to smoke almost everywhere.

And I’m ready to eat me more pig.

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

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


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

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

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

Sensible change

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

The Morning Dispatch

Attacking with whatever’s handy at the moment

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

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

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

Hal Freeman, lightly reformatted.

A marriage that cannot last

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

Carl Trueman

Affirmative action

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

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

J Budziszewski

Marriage in America

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

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

R.R. Reno

Intelligence, thoughtfulness, and the career they foreclose

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

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


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

Jonathan Rauch, The Constitution of Knowledge

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

Fr. Jonathan Tobias

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

At last, after 49 years …

Dobbs

The case and my feelings

After some 40 years as consciously pro-life, most of those years being actively pro-life as well, I feel a strange let-down and foreboding:

  • Dobbs means pro-abortion terrorism for a while;
  • Dobbs means prolonged political debate in many of the 50 states, some of which will swerve performatively too far left or right;
  • Dobbs is messier procedurally than I remembered; and
  • I have friends who are beside themselves with grief and rage (I hope they appreciate that I was constitutionally outraged by Roe for 40 years).
  • UPDATE: Of course! Duh! The leak made this anticlimactic all by itself! (H/T Advisory Opinions podcast)

Yes, I’m satisfied with the outcome: Roe was wrongly decided, and Casey may have been even worse. It’s important for the structural integrity of our constitutional system that political issues not be hijacked by the courts under constitutional pretexts.

On what becomes of birth control, inter-racial marriage, same-sex marriage, anti-sodomy laws, and any remaining liberal groin pieties, I suggest that the most important observation in Alito’s opinion is this:

… even putting aside that these cases are distinguishable, there is a further point that the dissent ignores: Each precedent is subject to its own stare decisis analysis, and the factors that our doctrine instructs us to consider like reliance and workability are different for these cases than for our abortion jurisprudence.

(Opinion at 71-72)

Homework: using the factors for upholding or overruling precedent outlined by Alito, do your own stare decisis analysis on each. I’ll get you started: not one of the four is deeply rooted in our history and traditions, but that’s only the beginning of the analysis. From there, it gets more interesting.

Night of Rage

In a recent video essay, my friend James Wood has suggested that in this day and age, thinking Christians should work to recover a theology of the demonic. I don’t assume this suggestion will be equally meaningful to all my readers. But I submit that you can’t contemplate what drives men to organize a “Night of Rage” against Christian charities whose sole purpose is aiding pregnant women, and not wonder if there is a dark something or other lurking back of it all.

Bethel McGrew, Morning in America. I quote it because I was thinking exactly the same thing. There is no logic to vandalizing or even firebombing pro-life pregnancy centers unless the motivation is consciously pro-abortion, not pro-choice, or else one is demonically confused.

Other Legalia

Principled

We could not abandon ongoing representations just because a client’s position is unpopular in some circles.

Former Solicitor General Paul Clement on leaving Chicago’s Kirkland & Ellis when they decided to abandon second amendment litigation. He is forming his own firm with another Kirkland partner.

Best wishes. Even though I’m at best lukewarm about guns, this stand is principled, and nobody’s going to have to pass the hat so Paul Clement can pay for his lunch.

Correct facts, dubious conclusion

One of the reasons I think the Supreme Court got it right in Carson v. Makin is the poor quality of the dissents. Justice Sotomayor actually invoked the "wall of separation," an extraconstitutional metaphor that probably has never actually fit our nation’s polity (starting with the little-known fact that we had state-established churches into the 1830s).

But an odder one is Justice Breyer’s:

This potential for religious strife is still with us. We are today a Nation with well over 100 different religious groups, from Free Will Baptist to African Methodist, Buddhist to Humanist. See Pew Research Center, America’s Changing Religious Landscape 21 (May 12, 2015). People in our country adhere to a vast array of beliefs, ideals, and philosophies. And with greater religious diversity comes greater risk of religiously based strife, conflict, and social division. The Religion Clauses were written in part to help avoid that disunion. As Thomas Jefferson, one of the leading drafters and proponents of those Clauses, wrote, “ ‘to compel a man to furnish contributions of money for the propagation of opinions which he disbelieves, is sinful and tyrannical.’ ” Everson, 330 U. S., at 13. And as James Madison, another drafter and proponent, said, compelled taxpayer sponsorship of religion “is itself a signal of persecution,” which “will destroy that moderation and harmony which the forbearance of our laws to intermeddle with Religion, has produced amongst its several sects.” Id., at 68–69 (appendix to dissenting opinion of Rutledge, J.). To interpret the Clauses with these concerns in mind may help to further their original purpose of avoiding religious-based division.

Is there any evidence whatever that increased religious diversity leads to greater strife? Doesn’t Western history’s putatively religious strife generally involve Protestants versus Catholics in a society where almost everyone was one or the other? Doesn’t our present reality belie Breyer’s logic, i.e., doesn’t our lack of strife despite "well over 100 different religious groups" tend all by itself to disprove Breyer’s prophecy?

Let’s end the end-runs now

Anticipating this week’s school funding decision, Maine lawmakers enacted a crucial amendment to the state’s anti-discrimination law last year in order to counteract the expected ruling. The revised law forbids discrimination based on gender identity and sexual orientation, and it applies to every private school that chooses to accept public funds, without regard to religious affiliation.

Aaron Tang in the New York Times

It would be interesting to learn whether the debate over S.P. 544 (the Bill in question) included any invidiously discriminatory snark about religion.

But the legislature avoided one other potential infirmity.

Previously, Maine law allowed sexual discrimination in education (some of the private schools receiving aid while religious schools did not were either all-male or all-female) while forbidding sexual orientation discrimination (with an exception for religious schools). That seems exceedingly odd, as bans on sexual discrimination are generally older than those based on sexual orientation.

The revision adds a prohibition on sex discrimination as well as sexual orientation discrimination, and thus will put those other private schools to the choice of going co-ed or forfeiting aid.

I can’t think of a legal theory I’d want to see recognized by courts that would allow Maine private schools to do an end-run around the legislature’s end-run. It’s always been the case that state money comes with strings attached.

The challenge for private schools now is the get parents to care enough about their children’s longterm wellbeing to reject the economic values society promotes, notably including consumerism, and to redirect some dollars to tuition in schools that won’t perpetuate those ultimately-immiserating values. Sad to say, most "Christian" schools are consumerist with a religious veneer.

January 6

Liz Cheney, kamikaze pilot

[Florida Governor Ron] DeSantis … is capturing the Republican imagination as tough and committed but not unstable or criminal.

Peggy Noonan.

"Not unstable or criminal" is an improvement for the post-2015 GOP.

But I, a former Republican and still reflexively concerned about that party, am not enthusiastic about DeSantis for more than maybe 30 seconds at a time. His appearance, unfortunately, is kind of Mafia. He is quite smart but too often "politically savvy" in crudely manipulative way.

More Noonan:

Mr. Trump’s national polling numbers continue underwater, but the real test will be to see those numbers after the Jan. 6 hearings are over. I believe we’ll see Rep. Liz Cheney’s kamikaze mission hit its target, and the SS Trump will list.

This is one of the great stories. Mr. Trump won’t recover from it.

I think Republicans, including plenty of Trump people, are slowly but surely solving their party’s Trump problem.

Liz Cheney, or Providence through her, has turned the January 6 Committee into a nothingburger for the Democrats and a boost for sane, non-criminal Republicans. Some day, maybe, a renewed GOP will issue her a posthumous pardon and even lionize her as a self-sacrificial heroine in our nation’s hour of need — no less than Mike Pence’s steadfastness on January 6 itself, and equally "kamikaze."

Still, I’ll be voting American Solidarity Party again in 2024, I think, and don’t expect ever to declare myself Republican again. And I don’t expect politics from any perspective, to really accomplish much of lasting importance.

The January 6 Committee, a liberal view

The decision by the House minority leader, Kevin McCarthy, to keep pro-Trump Republicans off the Jan. 6 committee has eliminated the back-and-forth bloviating that typically plague congressional inquiries, allowing investigators to present their findings with the narrative cohesion of a good true-crime series. Trump, who understands television, appears to be aware of how bad the hearings are for him; The Washington Post reported that he’s watching all of them and is furious at McCarthy for not putting anyone on the dais to defend him.

Dustin Stockton helped organize the pro-Trump bus tour that culminated in the Jan. 6 rally at the Ellipse in front of the White House. Politico once called him and his fiancée, Jennifer Lawrence, the “Bonnie and Clyde of MAGA world.” On Tuesday, after a hearing that included testimony by Rusty Bowers, the speaker of the Arizona House, and the Georgia election workers Ruby Freeman and Shaye Moss, Stockton tweeted, “This has been the most impactful of the January 6th Committee hearings. Embarrassed that I was fooled by the Fulton County ‘suitcases of ballots’ hoax.”

He was referring to the conspiracy theory, pushed by Trump and his allies, that election workers smuggled fraudulent ballots into the State Farm Arena in Atlanta and ran them through the voting machines multiple times. Tuesday, he said, was the first time he realized the tale was a complete fabrication.

… The hearing on Tuesday … got to him, especially the testimony from Freeman and Moss about how their lives were upended by the lie Stockton helped spread.

“To see the just absolute turmoil it caused in her life, and the human impact of that accusation, especially, was incredibly jarring,” Stockton said of Freeman.

… Elite conservatives mostly understood that Trump’s stories about a stolen election were absurd; as one senior Republican official asked The Washington Post, “What is the downside for humoring him for this little bit of time?” But his rank-and-file devotees weren’t all in on the con. Instead, they were the marks.

Michelle Goldberg.

I think we know now what the downside was of humoring Trump.

Politics Generally

Biden’s incoherence on LGBT

In no area has the Biden administration been more appallingly misled by extremists than in "LGBT" issues. His ignorance of what constitutes "conversion therapy" has led to a particularly perverse result — as shown in the last sentence below:

Some therapists who work with children with gender dysphoria worry that [a June 15 Biden executive order “advancing equality for lgbtqi+ Individuals”] could be interpreted to mean therapists should not investigate why someone feels distressed about their biological sex. … It has long been held that people with gender dysphoria should have therapy before drugs.

Increasingly, however, such talking therapy has clashed with “gender-affirmative” care, which accepts patients’ self-diagnosis that they are trans. That is now considered best practice in America’s booming trans health-care field. Therapy has been dismissed as “gatekeeping”, even when applied to trans-identifying minors for whom gender-affirming drugs can be particularly harmful. … Finland and Sweden have mostly stopped prescribing blockers to under-18s in favour of talking therapy, because the evidence base for them is thin. Mr Biden’s order, by contrast, asks federal departments to expand access to “gender-affirming care”.

The order does not impose an outright ban on therapy for gender-dysphoric youth. But it will have a “chilling effect”, says Lisa Marchiano, a Jungian therapist and a co-founder of the Gender Exploratory Therapy Association. Most decent therapists should be able to help people with gender dysphoria, she says. Yet America’s focus on affirmation means many are wary of doing so. Instead, they refer children to gender therapists, who are likely to affirm a trans identity and suggest drugs. Some gay adults who struggled with gender nonconformity in adolescence say they believe that encouraging children with gender dysphoria to consider themselves trans is in effect conversion therapy.

The Economist (emphasis added)

If there is any grain of truth in the conservative charge of "grooming" or "recruitment," it’s that foreclosing or chilling pre-transition psychological assessment delivers gender-dysphoric kids to the tender mercies of people who don’t make real money unless the kid transitions.

What liberals can learn from conservatives

By and large, I’ve been underwhelmed by Damon Linker’s new Substack. It’s a big commitment to write and some length many times per week, and Linker seems, ummmm, out of the habit.

But Friday he hit a home run, especially for anyone who has read and pondered Jonathan Haidt’s The Righteous Mind..

  • He tacitly challenges Haidt to "do better" on measuring the moral values of liberals;
  • He explains why he thinks liberals profess disinterest in the values of sanctity, authority and loyalty;
  • He suggests that liberals are missing out on a full appreciation of moral pluralism by discounting sanctity, authority and loyalty; and
  • Bonus for me who wasn’t familiar at all with Isaiah Berlin (beyond knowing that he was an important intellectual of some sort), he summarizes Isaiah Berlin’s thoughts on moral pluralism along the way.

I have reason to think that this link will get you Linker’s full piece even if you’re not a subscriber.

Face-plant

Lauren Boebert apparently thinks that if Jesus and da boyz had them some AR-15s, He wouldn’t have had to die that yucky ole death.

She made this remark to a gathering at some "Christian Center."

To be fair, the response to her was tepid at best.

They never should have invited her, but it’s weird what some "Christians" will do to raise money.

I attended a Christian college once (not Wheaton) that honored archaeologist and oil multi-millionaire Wendell Phillips (back when "millionaire" meant something) with an honorary doctorate. After he used his acceptance speech to contradict things the university considered part of the faith, they barred faculty from later rebutting him from that same pulpit.

I do not name it because I have some reason to think it’s doing better now.

Unclassifiable (unless the class is "Bless Their Hearts")

This NYT item would have me tearing my hair out if I had any hair.

In short, it’s about some Christianish or Christianist business that are hawking guns for Jesus, and they wear their faith (such as it is) on their sleeves, or gunstocks, or anywhere else they can put it to be noticed.

I’m a fallible interpreter of scripture, but doesn’t "put not your trust in princes, in sons of men in whom there is no salvation" include putting trust in the arms you keep and bear, as in declarations like the "Second Amendment to our Constitution is the cornerstone of the freedom we enjoy as American citizens"?

(Reminds me, by the way, of an actual quote from an Oklahoma legislator in the mid-70s: "The first thing the communists do when they take over is outlaw cockfighting." Bet you thought it was going to be "take away all the guns," didn’t you.)


If people have always said it, it is probably true; it is the distilled wisdom of the ages. If people have not always said it, but everybody is saying it now, it is probably a lie; it is the concentrated madness of the moment.

Anthony Esolen, Out of the Ashes

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 collation

Politics

The Irreligious Right

I used to say "If you don’t like the Religious Right, just wait till you see the nonreligious Right." The nonreligious Right is here, and now dominates the grassroots GOP.

Frankly, it’s not (yet) as bad as we feared for varying reasons (but it’s trending worse, I think).

A fantastically good overview, ‌Republicans Are Now the Party of the Nonreligious Right appeared Thursday in, of all places, the New York Times, written by one Nate Hochman of National Review. It is long and deep, and I’m going to need to read it again to sort out what this means for me personally; Hochman already brilliantly identified why the GOP now gives me the willies (as do the Democrats, but then they always have).

I don’t know if I picked up the moniker in the Hochman article, but it appears to me that what he describes may be closely related to what others have calle "Barstool conservatism":

What could unite free-market libertarians, revanchist Catholics, Southern evangelicals, and working-class Reagan Democrats but their shared hatred of… actual Democrats?

Derek Robertson, How Republicans Became the ‘Barstool’ Party.

Drain those brains

In the Washington Post, Josh Rogin argues some congressional Republicans are forgetting one of the key takeaways from the Cold War: that exploiting brain drain from autocratic societies is a “smart and righteous” strategy. “The whole world is competing for the talents of those who are fleeing from Hong Kong and Putin’s Russia,” Rogin writes, noting Republicans have blocked efforts to ease visa restrictions for high-skilled workers from those regions. “Cruz claimed that accepting Hong Kongers was the first step to opening our borders and that the Chinese Communist Party could exploit the program to send spies to the United States. This ignores the fact that China has much easier ways to get spies into our country and that the CCP is trying to stop Hong Kongers from leaving because Beijing knows the brain-drain risk for China is real. … Republicans’ excessive fear of immigration should not waste a strategic opportunity for the United States to strengthen itself and weaken its rivals at the same time. Congress should work to ensure that China’s and Russia’s losses are America’s gains.”

The Morning Dispatch.

Surely Rogin is right, right?

Justin Trudeau

One of the oddities of Canadian politics is that its Liberal Party politicians so often sound like they’re running for office in the U.S. And, right on time this week, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has announced that he wants to ban the sale of handguns and confiscate so-called assault weapons via a mandatory buyback.

The timing is no coincidence, as Mr. Trudeau is responding to the U.S. debate over guns and mass shootings. Apparently Canadian politics is too boring, or parochial, or something, because he also vowed to defend abortion rights after the draft Supreme Court opinion overturning Roe v. Wade was leaked. He even made a show of kneeling at a Black Lives Matter rally in June 2020.

Wall Street Journal Editorial Board. I generally avoid Editorial Board offerings on the basis that the King James Bible is the only work of art ever created by a committee, but the title "Justin Trudeau Runs for Congress" was powerful bait.

Answer me this …

This battle has been lost, and I see no hope of reversal. I even suspect, as do others, that reversal would be worse than letting it be. But I don’t think questions like this were ever answered:

Assuming a general policy of recognizing committed dyads, should the benefits that Oscar and Alfred [applicants for a hypothetical marriage license] receive depend on whether their relationship is or can be presumed to be sexual?

Sherif Girgis, Ryan T. Anderson and Robert P. George, What Is Marriage?, Kindle Location 295.

If the benefits received depend on whether the relationship is presumed sexual, then aren’t we leaving a lot of lifelong friends out of the more Platonic benefits that were thrust front and center in rationalizing same-sex marriage?

Damon Linker

Another bright light moves to Substack from legacy media: Damon Linker leaving The Week. His focus, reflected in the Substack title, is the Right.

I’m a Linker fan, but his first three postings seemed a bit underwhelming.

Legalia

Yes, I’m going to (gag!) say something (retch!) about THAT case

The jury in The Case That Kept Gossipy Television Gossiping has decide that she defamed him $15 millionsworth while he only defamed her $2 millionsworth.

It kind of has the feel of a suicide pact from what I could tell in the glimpses I got on TV.

Apparently, the jury verdict identified the three Heard statements they considered defamatory:

The jury was forced to examine three separate statements from the editorial, starting with the headline: “I spoke up against sexual violence—and faced our culture’s wrath. That has to change.”

The second involved Heard’s description of herself as a public figure representing domestic abuse, and the last statement at issue involved the public’s response: “I had the rare vantage point of seeing, in real time, how institutions protect men accused of abuse.”

(Johnny Depp Wins U.S. Defamation Lawsuit Against Amber Heard)

I could easily imagine an appeals court ruling as a matter of law that the second and third were not defamatory. Note, too, that the first technically doesn’t say that she was herself a victim of sexual violence, only that she spoke up against it.

Stay tuned. I don’t think this is over yet, though appeals won’t be blanket-covered like the trial was.

An open letter to SCOTUS Clerks

Very smart blogger David Lat has an open letter to the current Supreme Court clerks — the guilty and the innocent. I think it’s of interest even if you’re not a retired lawyer who still follows Indiana and Federal Courts.

So who’s stupid now?

Man pleads guilty to felony charge in riot at US Capitol

PHILADELPHIA – A suburban Philadelphia man charged in the January 2021 riot at the U.S. Capitol after he was turned in by an ex-girlfriend after reportedly insulting her intelligence for not believing the election had been stolen has pleaded guilty to a felony count. Richard Michetti, 29, of Ridley Park pleaded guilty Tuesday in federal court in Washington to a charge of aiding and abetting obstruction of an official proceeding. Officials said photos showed him inside the Capitol Rotunda. He is to be sentenced Sept. 1.

Wire Service Reports (emphasis added)

Sexual fad du jour

The author provides a high-point estimate of an 11-point increase in LGBT identity between 2008 and 2021 among Americans under 30. Of that, around 4 points can be explained by an increase in same-sex behavior. The majority of the increase in LGBT identity can be traced to how those who only engage in heterosexual behavior describe themselves.

Born This Way? The Rise of LGBT as a Social and Political Identity – CSPI Center (H/T Nellie Bowles)

Meanwhile, it’s hard to overestimate the goofiness and downright offensiveness of U.S. efforts to promote Pride Month.

Abortion

An odd, but telling, tid-bit: When the draft Dobbs opinion leaked, the Washington Post opined that reversing Roe would put us out of step with Western Europe. This myopic bit of mythology was so patently wrong that they had to retract or amend: reversing Roe almost certainly would bring us into better alignment with Europe, where legal abortion is more limited than in the U.S. under our juristocracy.

(Sorry I can’t give a link:

  • I heard it on a reliable podcast, but …
  • I’m persona non grata at WaPo; I suspect that never-subscribers can see more free stuff than former-subscribers.)

Guns

For the Record: 10 Cases in Past Year Where Law-Abiding Defenders "Have Stopped Likely Mass Public Shootings" With Guns

Wordplay

the rainforests of the ocean

The Economist’s poetic description of coral reefs.


When you skip the news, life is a lot more like Anne of Green Gables or The House at Pooh Corner.

Garrison Keillor


They were powerful until they were powerless. They lived on probation their entire lives.

Andrew Sullivan on gay life in Washington, DC for about 2/3 of the last century.

I sometimes second-guess my support (Caution: Ancient history ahead! Youngsters may be shocked!) for decriminalizing consensual adult sodomy in the late 60s and thereafter, since the ensuing 50+ years have brought more dubious demands. It’s good to be reminded of why a decision was right, even if it may have, in some sense, "set a bad precedent."


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.

Contrariness

Correcting the Record

Over the weekend, I had coffee with a Hungarian friend who spent a lot of time in America as a kid and teenager, because his father is an academic. He has a critical view of the US system because of its tolerance for economic precarity for so many. He supports the Orban government, and agrees with me about how totally biased and distorting the news media are, based on the kinds of things that middle and upper middle class reporters care about. For example, said my friend, in the long wake of the 2008 global economic crash, Viktor Orban’s government passed a law forbidding banks from expelling people who had defaulted on their mortgages from their homes. “Barack Obama didn’t do that,” said my friend. And then we talked about how with the US left, as long as you fly the rainbow flag and say “Black Lives Matter,” you can do whatever you want with the economy, and you won’t hear a word of protest from the supposed champions of the little guy versus Capital.

Rod Dreher, Who Is Viktor Orban, Really? (emphasis added)

Assaulting Hades

[A] liturgical practice … in Orthodoxy … is a frontal assault on Hades.

The traditional name for these celebrations is “Soul Saturdays.” They are celebrations of the Divine Liturgy on Saturday mornings offered for the souls of the departed … They make a fitting prelude for Holy Week and Pascha. At Pascha, Christ Himself “tramples down death by death and upon those in the tombs bestows life.” This is the Great and Holy Sabbath – the true and Great Soul Saturday. This is the great theme of Pascha itself. Christ’s Resurrection is, strangely, not so much about Christ as it is about Christ’s action. Many modern Christians treat Pascha (Easter) as though it were a celebration of Jesus’ personal return after a tragic death. Orthodoxy views Christ’s Holy Week, Crucifixion, Descent into Hades and Resurrection as one unending, uninterrupted assault on Hades. This is the great mystery of Pascha – the destruction of death and Hades. Death is the “last enemy.” Those who forget this are like soldiers who have forgotten the purpose of the war in which they fight.

And so the battle forms a significant part of the liturgical effort of the Church. The boldness of the third prayer is quite striking …

I can recall the first time I offered this prayer in my priesthood. I had a copy in front of me, but had not read it before the service, nor had I ever heard it. I trembled as I offered the words … astounded by their boldness. I had never heard such boldness before the Throne of God within the walls of the Church itself. It is also a reminder of the weakness and infirmity of the legal imagery of salvation. The legal view requires of God that He be the enforcer of Hades. To such a prayer He could only reply: “I cannot grant such things because of my Justice!”

Fr. Stephen Freeman, Pentecost and the Liturgy of Hades (emphasis added).

Bait-and-Switch

If there are alternative solutions, like finding another baker, why force the point? Why take up arms to coerce someone when you can easily let him be—and still celebrate your wedding? That is particularly the case when much of the argument for marriage equality was that it would not force anyone outside that marriage to approve or disapprove of it …

One reason we won that debate is because many straight people simply said to themselves, "How does someone else’s marriage affect me?" and decided on those grounds to support or acquiesce to such a deep social change …

It seems grotesquely disingenuous now for the marriage-equality movement to bait and switch on that core "live and let live" argument. And it seems deeply insensitive and intolerant to force the clear losers in a culture war into not just defeat but personal humiliation.

Andrew Sullivan, quoted by William McGurn

CRT

An old friend we visited Saturday en route to our favorite vacation spot asked my thoughts on Critical Race Theory, and I think I shocked him with my mild dismissiveness, which I couldn’t explain all that well on the spot. "Well, the reported excesses, like telling white school kids that their skin tone makes them irredeemable oppressors, already constitute racial harassment or a racially hostile environment under Title VII, so why do we need new laws?" was the gist of my answer. Very lawyerly.

The incompleteness of that answer has bothered me, and I’ve surfaced two more reasons:

  • Laws banning ideas are a bad idea, especially when the ideas sought to be banned are ill-defined or mis-defined, which is the case with most or all of the anti-CRT laws. Similarly, the inability to define CRT suggests that much of the murmuring about it is mostly Shibboleth.
  • The reported excesses of CRT exemplify progressive overreach, which generates its own cultural backlash. I don’t need to enter that fray.

Reading Between the Lines

There were three kinds of evangelical leaders. The dumb or idealistic ones who really believed. The out-and-out charlatans. And the smart ones who still believed—sort of—but knew that the evangelical world was shit, but who couldn’t figure out any way to earn as good a living anywhere else. I was turning into one of those, having started out in the idealistic category.

Frank Schaeffer, Crazy for God. I don’t really recommend Schaeffer, but it doesn’t take a whole lot of reading between the lines here to explain how Schaeffer became the equivocally-Christian author of kiss-and-tell Exvangelical books and Huffington Post columns.


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

Catching up …

I’ve been, as previously mentioned, focusing on a fun personal project, which entails lots of rabbit-trails and techie learning. But I’ve noticed a few things that seem worth sharing.


The longer Trump is out of office, and the more the press treatment of Biden so starkly contrasts to that of Trump when they take identical substantive positions (e.g., no action against Saudi Arabia for the killing of Jamal Khashogi), the more I understand (not to say “agree with”) the Trump revolution. I don’t expect to be backtracking after reading Christopher Lasch’s Revolt of the Elites and Martin Gurri’s Revolt of the Public, both on my bookshelf awaiting me.


We are a sick country when Netflix has a show top 10 show, Marriage or Mortgage, featuring couples agonizing over whether to have a vulgarly lavish wedding or whether to buy a vulgarly lavish house and postpone any wedding.

Does nobody ever think of a modest wedding and a modest starter home?


America has gone through four Great Awakenings. The first (1730–1755) and second (1790–1840) were rooted in the conviction that Christ reigns victorious over the invisible economy, that the debts incurred by human transgression have been offset by divine innocence. Christ the Scapegoat, through his unmerited death on the Cross, did what we could not: He paid our debts. He took on the stain of sin in order to wipe it clean. These awakenings had a political significance. By preaching the universality of sin and the wideness of God’s mercy, they helped shape the disparate colonies, and later states, into a nation. One could say something similar about America’s third awakening (1855–1930), which was fired by the social gospel. It sought to employ the universality of divine solicitude to unify the country beyond the divisions of economic class.

We are now undergoing a fourth awakening, and matters are very different. The previous awakenings took place under the firm hand of American Protestantism. But today, Mitchell observes, “we are living in the midst of an American Awakening, without God and without forgiveness.” In the century that separates us from the outburst of the social gospel, our society lost its hope in the Cross but not its sense of guilt. The panic over righting wrongs remains, but gone is the promise of redemption. Without the Cross of Christ, the transactions of the invisible realm must be set to balance wholly within the power dynamics of the visible world.

Mitchell sees the rise of identity politics as a crisis of the invisible economy erupting into the visible. No longer guided by the Christian insight that the universality of sin means its resolution must be a divine act, identity politics apportions guilt and innocence according to a person’s race, ethnicity, gender, and sexual orientation, each weighed according to intersectional theory. Guilt and innocence no longer attach to one’s freely chosen actions over the course of a life but are imputed on the basis of one’s inherited and immutable characteristics, skin color above all. The idea of original sin abides but is tragically twisted. It is still something one is born with, but it is no longer universal. Rather, like the Angel of Death, it passes over some and lands upon others.

James F. Keating, Woke Religion, reviewing Joshua Mitchell, American Awakening: Identity Politics and Other Afflictions of Our Time.


I grew up fundamentalist and we avoided rhythm for fear it would lead to dancing and copulation so we praised God in slow mournful voices, like a fishing village whose men had been lost in a storm. We never learned to play a musical instrument for fear we might have talent and this would lead to employment in places where people drink liquor.

What it’s like to be old, if you want to know | Garrison Keillor


When I hear descendants of the Magisterial Reformation saying that sola scriptura isn’t what I think it is, I’m reminded of the perennial excuse of die-hard Communists that “real Communism hasn’t been tried.”

Protestantism was fissiparous (schism-prone) even during Luther’s lifetime. And if one glosses sola scriptura to require heedfulness to the interpretations of one’s clergy, then what you’re left with is simply scriptura, with no the sola. And adherence to scriptura is not at all uniquely Protestant if one insists on proper and not private interpretation.


The coverage of the Atlanta massage parlor murders this week may have destroyed any vestige of respect for media and elite opinion. I was thinking along those lines, but Andrew Sullivan says it better:

Here’s the truth: We don’t yet know why this man did these horrible things. It’s probably complicated, or, as my therapist used to say, “multi-determined.” That’s why we have thorough investigations and trials in America. We only have one solid piece of information as to motive, which is the confession by the mass killer to law enforcement: that he was a religious fundamentalist who was determined to live up to chastity and repeatedly failed, as is often the case. Like the 9/11 bombers or the mass murderer at the Pulse nightclub, he took out his angst on the source of what he saw as his temptation, and committed mass murder. This is evil in the classic fundamentalist sense: a perversion of religion and sexual repression into violence.

We should not take the killer’s confession as definitive, of course. But we can probe it — and indeed, his story is backed up by acquaintances and friends and family. The New York Times originally ran one piece reporting this out. The Washington Post also followed up, with one piece citing contemporaneous evidence of the man’s “religious mania” and sexual compulsion. It appears that the man frequented at least two of the spas he attacked. He chose the spas, his ex roommates said, because he thought they were safer than other ways to get easy sex. Just this morning, the NYT ran a second piece which confirms that the killer had indeed been in rehab for sexual impulses, was a religious fanatic, and his next target was going to be “a business tied to the pornography industry.”

We have yet to find any credible evidence of anti-Asian hatred or bigotry in this man’s history. Maybe we will. We can’t rule it out. But we do know that his roommates say they once asked him if he picked the spas for sex because the women were Asian. And they say he denied it, saying he thought those spas were just the safest way to have quick sex. That needs to be checked out more. But the only piece of evidence about possible anti-Asian bias points away, not toward it.

And yet. Well, you know what’s coming. Accompanying one original piece on the known facts, the NYT ran ninenine! — separate stories about the incident as part of the narrative that this was an anti-Asian hate crime, fueled by white supremacy and/or misogyny. Not to be outdone, the WaPo ran sixteen separate stories on the incident as an antiAsian white supremacist hate crime. Sixteen! One story for the facts; sixteen stories on how critical race theory would interpret the event regardless of the facts. For good measure, one of their columnists denounced reporting of law enforcement’s version of events in the newspaper, because it distracted attention from the “real” motives. Today, the NYT ran yet another full-on critical theory piece disguised as news on how these murders are proof of structural racism and sexism — because some activists say they are.

When The Narrative Replaces The News – The Weekly Dish. There’s more than that:

  • Harvard sent out a note to students premised on this being an anti-Asian crime.
  • Nikole Hannah-Jones wove it into her narrative of “racism and White Supremacist domestic terror.”
  • The Root ominously prophesied that “White supremacy is a virus that, like other viruses, will not die until there are no bodies left for it to infect ….”
  • Trevor Noah insisted that the killer’s confession was self-evidently false (direct quote from Sullivan).

All of that, on the currently-available evidence, is false and absurd. Sullivan again:

But notice how CRT operates. The only evidence it needs it already has. Check out the identity of the victim or victims, check out the identity of the culprit, and it’s all you need to know. If the victims are white, they don’t really count. Everything in America is driven by white supremacist hate of some sort or other. You can jam any fact, any phenomenon, into this rubric in order to explain it. 

The only complexity the CRT crowd will admit is multiple, “intersectional” forms of oppression: so this case is about misogyny and white supremacy. The one thing they cannot see are unique individual human beings, driven by a vast range of human emotions, committing crimes with distinctive psychological profiles, from a variety of motives, including prejudices, but far, far more complicated than that.

The longer Trump is out of office, and the more the press treatment of Biden so starkly contrasts to that of Trump when they take identical substantive positions (e.g., no action against Saudi Arabia for the killing of Jamal Khashogi), the more I understand (not to say “agree with”) the Trump revolution. I don’t expect to be backtracking after reading Christopher Lasch’s Revolt of the Elites and Martin Gurri’s Revolt of the Public, both on my bookshelf awaiting me.


We are a sick country when Netflix has a show top 10 show, Marriage or Mortgage, featuring couples agonizing over whether to have a vulgarly lavish wedding or whether to buy a vulgarly lavish house and postpone any wedding.

Does nobody ever think of a modest wedding and a modest starter home?


America has gone through four Great Awakenings. The first (1730–1755) and second (1790–1840) were rooted in the conviction that Christ reigns victorious over the invisible economy, that the debts incurred by human transgression have been offset by divine innocence. Christ the Scapegoat, through his unmerited death on the Cross, did what we could not: He paid our debts. He took on the stain of sin in order to wipe it clean. These awakenings had a political significance. By preaching the universality of sin and the wideness of God’s mercy, they helped shape the disparate colonies, and later states, into a nation. One could say something similar about America’s third awakening (1855–1930), which was fired by the social gospel. It sought to employ the universality of divine solicitude to unify the country beyond the divisions of economic class.

We are now undergoing a fourth awakening, and matters are very different. The previous awakenings took place under the firm hand of American Protestantism. But today, Mitchell observes, “we are living in the midst of an American Awakening, without God and without forgiveness.” In the century that separates us from the outburst of the social gospel, our society lost its hope in the Cross but not its sense of guilt. The panic over righting wrongs remains, but gone is the promise of redemption. Without the Cross of Christ, the transactions of the invisible realm must be set to balance wholly within the power dynamics of the visible world.

Mitchell sees the rise of identity politics as a crisis of the invisible economy erupting into the visible. No longer guided by the Christian insight that the universality of sin means its resolution must be a divine act, identity politics apportions guilt and innocence according to a person’s race, ethnicity, gender, and sexual orientation, each weighed according to intersectional theory. Guilt and innocence no longer attach to one’s freely chosen actions over the course of a life but are imputed on the basis of one’s inherited and immutable characteristics, skin color above all. The idea of original sin abides but is tragically twisted. It is still something one is born with, but it is no longer universal. Rather, like the Angel of Death, it passes over some and lands upon others.

James F. Keating, Woke Religion, reviewing Joshua Mitchell, American Awakening: Identity Politics and Other Afflictions of Our Time.


I grew up fundamentalist and we avoided rhythm for fear it would lead to dancing and copulation so we praised God in slow mournful voices, like a fishing village whose men had been lost in a storm. We never learned to play a musical instrument for fear we might have talent and this would lead to employment in places where people drink liquor.

What it’s like to be old, if you want to know | Garrison Keillor


When I hear descendants of the Magisterial Reformation saying that sola scriptura isn’t what I think it is, I’m reminded of the perennial excuse of die-hard Communists that “real Communism hasn’t been tried.”

Protestantism was fissiparous (schism-prone) even during Luther’s lifetime. And if one glosses sola scriptura to require heedfulness to the interpretations of one’s clergy, then what you’re left with is simply scriptura, with no the sola. And adherence to scriptura is not at all uniquely Protestant if one insists on proper and not private interpretation.


The coverage of the Atlanta massage parlor murders this week may have destroyed any vestige of respect for media and elite opinion. I was thinking along those lines, but Andrew Sullivan says it better:

Here’s the truth: We don’t yet know why this man did these horrible things. It’s probably complicated, or, as my therapist used to say, “multi-determined.” That’s why we have thorough investigations and trials in America. We only have one solid piece of information as to motive, which is the confession by the mass killer to law enforcement: that he was a religious fundamentalist who was determined to live up to chastity and repeatedly failed, as is often the case. Like the 9/11 bombers or the mass murderer at the Pulse nightclub, he took out his angst on the source of what he saw as his temptation, and committed mass murder. This is evil in the classic fundamentalist sense: a perversion of religion and sexual repression into violence.

We should not take the killer’s confession as definitive, of course. But we can probe it — and indeed, his story is backed up by acquaintances and friends and family. The New York Times originally ran one piece reporting this out. The Washington Post also followed up, with one piece citing contemporaneous evidence of the man’s “religious mania” and sexual compulsion. It appears that the man frequented at least two of the spas he attacked. He chose the spas, his ex roommates said, because he thought they were safer than other ways to get easy sex. Just this morning, the NYT ran a second piece which confirms that the killer had indeed been in rehab for sexual impulses, was a religious fanatic, and his next target was going to be “a business tied to the pornography industry.”

We have yet to find any credible evidence of anti-Asian hatred or bigotry in this man’s history. Maybe we will. We can’t rule it out. But we do know that his roommates say they once asked him if he picked the spas for sex because the women were Asian. And they say he denied it, saying he thought those spas were just the safest way to have quick sex. That needs to be checked out more. But the only piece of evidence about possible anti-Asian bias points away, not toward it.

And yet. Well, you know what’s coming. Accompanying one original piece on the known facts, the NYT ran ninenine! — separate stories about the incident as part of the narrative that this was an anti-Asian hate crime, fueled by white supremacy and/or misogyny. Not to be outdone, the WaPo ran sixteen separate stories on the incident as an antiAsian white supremacist hate crime. Sixteen! One story for the facts; sixteen stories on how critical race theory would interpret the event regardless of the facts. For good measure, one of their columnists denounced reporting of law enforcement’s version of events in the newspaper, because it distracted attention from the “real” motives. Today, the NYT ran yet another full-on critical theory piece disguised as news on how these murders are proof of structural racism and sexism — because some activists say they are.

When The Narrative Replaces The News – The Weekly Dish. There’s more than that:

  • Harvard sent out a note to students premised on this being an anti-Asian crime.
  • Nikole Hannah-Jones wove it into her narrative of “racism and White Supremacist domestic terror.”
  • The Root ominously prophesied that “White supremacy is a virus that, like other viruses, will not die until there are no bodies left for it to infect ….”
  • Trevor Noah insisted that the killer’s confession was self-evidently false (direct quote from Sullivan).

All of that, on the currently-available evidence, is false and absurd. Sullivan again:

But notice how CRT operates. The only evidence it needs it already has. Check out the identity of the victim or victims, check out the identity of the culprit, and it’s all you need to know. If the victims are white, they don’t really count. Everything in America is driven by white supremacist hate of some sort or other. You can jam any fact, any phenomenon, into this rubric in order to explain it. 

The only complexity the CRT crowd will admit is multiple, “intersectional” forms of oppression: so this case is about misogyny and white supremacy. The one thing they cannot see are unique individual human beings, driven by a vast range of human emotions, committing crimes with distinctive psychological profiles, from a variety of motives, including prejudices, but far, far more complicated than that.

The media is supposed to subject easy, convenient rush-to-judgment narratives to ruthless empirical testing. Now, for purely ideological reasons, they are rushing to promote ready-made narratives, which actually point away from the empirical facts. To run sixteen separate pieces on anti-Asian white supremacist misogynist hate based on one possibly completely unrelated incident is not journalism. It’s fanning irrational fear in the cause of ideological indoctrination. And it appears to be where all elite media is headed.

Others reached that conclusion about media and elite opinion ahead of me. Just because they jumped the gun doesn’t mean they were wrong.

That’s it for now.


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

Tragedy and Triumph

Beto O’Rourke says, in the special Thursday Democrat Pander-O-Thon for LGBT votes, that churches, colleges and charities should lose their tax-exempt status if they oppose same-sex marriage.

That’s the succinct version. But I wouldn’t blog if that’s all I had to say.

Liberals will say, “Don’t worry about it. Beto is scraping the bottom of the polls. What he says doesn’t really matter.”…

This conservative said that, too, but

… Huh. Don’t you believe it. If this belief isn’t already held by all the Democratic candidates now, it will be. As Brandon McGinley says, there really is no principled reason to resist it, given what the Democrats already believe about the sanctity of homosexuality and transgenderism. Haven’t we all lived long enough now to recognize that the Law of Merited Impossibility — “It will never happen, and when it does, you bigots will deserve it” — is as irrefutable as the Second Law of Thermodynamics?

Even at this late date, we hear from many liberals that orthodox Christians are “obsessed” with homosexuality. They can’t grasp why, aside from bigotry, that we are so concerned about the issue. It’s largely because the march of LGBT ideology to conquer our culture tramples over the rights of orthodox/traditionalist religious people, and indeed of anybody who objects to whatever claim LGBTs make.

What Beto O’Rourke said last night is a perfect example of why many orthodox Christians who despise Donald Trump will vote for him anyway. The survival of our institutions depends on keeping the Democrats out of the White House (and Congress) for as long as we can ….

Rod Dreher (emphasis added).

Insofar as Dreher is describing why many Christians will hold their noses and vote for Trump, he is surely right.

Insofar as he is saying that the survival of our Christian institutions hinges on Donald Trump’s reelection, he is selling God short.

But this is admittedly a situation with high stakes, where the horrible terribleness of Donald Trump has emboldened the Democrats to veer sharply to their left and to promise their base the heads of orthodox Christians on a platter.

Trust in God comes hard in these circumstances, and the trusting ones need to abandon any illusion that Romans 8:28 means only good things happen to those who love and are called by God.

I’m still strongly inclined never to vote for Trump, come whatever may.

It’s not just “all things considered and on balance.” It’s a question of my ingrained, pre-theoretical ethical orientation. I just couldn’t vote for Richard Nixon, in my first Presidential election, once I’d concluded he was a crook. 47 years later, with a bit more ethical theory under my belt and a lot less starry eyes in my residual optimism, I still cannot begin to articulate a convincing deontological or virtue ethics argument for voting for Trump, and I reject Dreher’s implicit consequentialism.

I’d encourage any Christian readers inclined to vote for Trump to grapple with articulating at ethical case for voting for Trump, aware that consequentialism squares pretty badly with Christianity.

On the other hand, my scriptures (the Christian scriptures before the Reformers bowdlerized them — see this, for instance) do include this bit of consequentialism:

A large force of soldiers pursued them, caught up with them, set up camp opposite them, and prepared to attack them on the Sabbath.

There is still time, they shouted out to the Jews. Come out and obey the king’s command, and we will spare your lives.

We will not come out, they answered. We will not obey the king’s command, and we will not profane the Sabbath.

The soldiers attacked them immediately, but the Jews did nothing to resist; they did not even throw stones or block the entrances to the caves where they were hiding. They said,

We will all die with a clear conscience. Let heaven and earth bear witness that you are slaughtering us unjustly.

So the enemy attacked them on the Sabbath and killed the men, their wives, their children, and their livestock. A thousand people died.

When Mattathias and his friends heard the news about this, they were greatly saddened and said to one another,

If all of us do as these other Jews have done and refuse to fight the Gentiles to defend our lives and our religion, we will soon be wiped off the face of the earth.

On that day they decided that if anyone attacked them on the Sabbath, they would defend themselves, so that they would not all die as other Jews had died in the caves.

(Emphasis added)

Make of that passage what you will. It does seem a pretty consequentialist, and Judas Maccabeus remains a mythical hero.

Maybe the polls in your state will say, in 13 months, that your state’s a toss-up, so that choosing between evils feels compulsory.

What I make of the passage from I Macabees is that I at least must be gentle with fellow-Christians who vote for Trump or (because of his horrible terribleness) his Democrat opponent — and that I should hope and pray that they will recognize such a vote as at best a tragic, not triumphant.

* * * * *

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

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

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

Single standards

I commented just a bit earlier about the good news for religious freedom out of Michigan, courtesy of Masterpiece Cake Shop.

But now, I must quibble about my second encounter of the story:

For those who don’t recall, the Supreme Court ruled for Phillips [proprietor of Masterpiece Cakes] in large part because a commissioner of the Colorado Civil Rights Commission called Phillips’s claim that he enjoyed a religious-freedom right not to be forced to design a custom cake for a gay wedding a “despicable piece of rhetoric.” The commissioner also denigrated religious-liberty arguments as being used to justify slavery and the Holocaust.

While all agreed that it would have been preferable had the court simply ruled that creative professionals could not be required to produce art that conflicted with their sincerely held beliefs, the question was whether Justice Anthony Kennedy’s strong condemnation of anti-religious bigotry would resonate beyond the specific facts of the case.

David A. French (italics added)

David French is a very good lawyer and a steadfast friend of both free speech and the free exercise of religion, but he blew this one (I suspect a bit of cerebral flatulence; I doubt that he would disagree with me if he caught wind of my existence).

I, too, know something about the law in this area and I do not agree that it would have been preferable to carve out special immunity for creative professionals with sincerely held beliefs. I wanted the court to rule “that creative professionals could not be required to produce art.” Period. Full stop.

Carving out a exemption only for sincere religious belief is a retreat from the sound principle of artistic freedom and would, I believe, perversely feed into the designer narrative that “religious freedom is just an excuse for bigotry.”

Yes: because nobody should be able to coerce an artist to produce something he doesn’t want to produce for whatever reason, spoken or unspoken, I want a creative professional to be able to say to me “I’m an ardent atheist, hater of all things and all peoples religious, and I won’t create art for Christians. If you don’t like it, put it where the sun don’t shine.”

He’d be smarter to “just say no, thank you,” but polite bigots don’t deserve special exemption from legal coercion.

I do not mean to imply that bigoted utterances are completely harmless. Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words can bruise feelings. But as a general rule I think the harm of disrespecting someone, even openly, is lesser than the harm of coercing artistic expression — and we need to make laws for general cases, not rare exceptions. Coerced expression, after all, profoundly disrespects the artist.

A fortiori, I’d support the atheist if, for instance, he was a florist and we wanted him to deliver flowers to our Church early every Sunday morning, designed to complement our liturgical calendar or the sermon themes the pastor phoned in. Or a baker, and we wanted a “Jesus Loves Me” inscribed sheet cake.

I wouldn’t even call him a bigot for that: How is an artist supposed to artistically express something he thinks is at best hocus pocus, likelier an opiate of the people?

No doubt some can do it (I suspect impiety in some composers of great 20th Century English language religious choral works, the art form I know best, for instance), and I’ll leave it to them to deal with qualms of conscience. But I don’t expect, let alone want the law to compel, artists to prostitute their art.

This hypothetical atheist florist is very, very close to a reverse mirror-image of Jack Phillips, Barronelle Stutzman and other artisans who have been punished (in Stutzman’s case, obsessively pursued by an evil elected official) for refusing orders to adorn same-sex weddings — the lightning-rod du jour.

Phillips and Stutzman both served gays gladly, but drew a line at celebrating by tangible proxy a “wedding” they considered something on the lines of wicked, or impious mummery.

For what it’s worth, I doubt that the law would punish the atheist florist for declining weekly expressive bouquets to a church. There has been a double-standard that could well be dubbed “the LGBT distortion factor,” to go along with the “abortion distortion factor” (normal legal rules suspended in the presence of abortion) and the lesser know “creationist distortion factor” (any science teacher who both attends church and exposes evolution to critical examination loses and gets branded with a scarlet “C”).

I don’t like legal double-standards, which is precisely why I don’t like David French’s presumably inadvertent expression of what Jack Phillips’ partisans were hoping for in Masterpiece Cake Shop. I don’t doubt that there are some protections that free exercise of religion affords where free speech falls short, but compelled artistic expression surely isn’t one of them.

* * * * *

I sought to understand, but it was too hard for me, until I went into the sanctuary of God; then understood I their end.

(Psalm 72:15-17, Adapted from the Miles Coverdale Translation, from A Psalter for Prayer)

* * * * *

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

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

Twiblings

As if on cue, an example of today’s version of satanic banality. I’m really sticking my neck out on this, but here goes.

But first, remember the conclusion to my latest blog when you parse “satanic”:

The man who approaches Paradise Lost expecting to find the same Satan venerated by Scandinavian black metal bands and Anton LaVey will turn the final page of the poem and suffer sore disappointment. Milton’s Satan never kills anyone, neither does he rape, steal, or utter vulgarities. He does not kidnap children, establish cults, teach magic, participate in Halloween, or teach teenagers to play Led Zeppelin records backwards. He is not even terribly interested in conning others into such foul activities. Rather, one could triangulate the personality of Milton’s Satan using just three figures from popular culture: singer Katy Perry, fictional boss Michael Scott, and motivational speaker Tony Robbins.

* * *

I have no reason to think that Dr. Robert Luo or George Arison rape, steal, utter vulgarities, kidnap children, establish cults, teach magic, participate in Halloween, or teach teenagers to play Led Zeppelin records backwards. They’re just in love, and love is love, and they’re living the American dream. They’re just so gosh-durn normal (in a way that only gay couples with $300,000 to spare can be) that “‘We got pregnant before we were married …,’ Dr. Luo said.”

Scratching your head about that? Wondering if one of these men might be suspected of being a woman?

Nay, nay! It’s just that before they enjoyed their first-world destination wedding in Bora Bora and their legal-positivist union at San Francisco City Hall, they enjoyed the WEIRD perk of “engineering” a family.

Yes, there are two buns in hired ovens.

Their story is a veritable rats-nest of ARTsy deathworks, howsoever winsome and seductive.

Yes, I’ll admit it’s winsome and seductive (maybe I should be viscerally repulsed, but I’m not). Still:

  • They’re not really married. (I say that as someone who thinks he knows what marriage is, and this isn’t it.)
  • Their pseudo-marriage is inherently infertile.
  • They’re “commodifying” wombs to bear children that would be the product of high-tech, white-smock adultery (There! I said it!) if only they were really married.
  • They revel in all this and engineer their way into the fawning New York Times Weddings section.
  • Society apparently has already coined a term for children like the boy and the girl currently being gestated by the women they’ve commodified: “twiblings.”

So am I saying these two guys are evil all the way down?

Not at all — if only because then I’d have to think the same sort of thing about personal friends of mine who are, variously, gay, or who are in “same-sex marriages,” or who have resorted to questionable reproductive technologies in the face of infertility.

Indeed, I’d like to think that, even if I didn’t have such friends, I could (1) remember that I’m not the ultimate judge and (2) take an empathetic trip along the imaginative path from a prototypical fecund conjugal marriage to the surrogacy simulacrum thereof in a rich gay couple “getting pregnant.”

For instance, their respective desires for the quasi-normalcy of children made them pariahs in the gay dating scene until they found each other. There’s the seed of something good there.

The Church has been too reticent about addressing these issues. The ethical principles are not right there on the surface, in the classical forms of decalogue sins.

And it wouldn’t necessarily dissuade anyone if the church did address them, as the sexual revolution is a juggernaut, and there’s nobody here but “consenting adults. Mr. Arison is ethnically Georgian, yet dismisses the Georgian (Orthodox) Church as “espous[ing] homophobia.” He’s living according to his own principles, and we have fashioned a world to “enable” him and his boyfriend — or we’d call if “enabling” if this wasn’t all so fashionable.

As it is, I’m oddly grateful for the obscurity of this blog, and understandably grateful that I have no job anyone can take from me. I doubtless have unpersoned some certified victim groups by this paroxysm of phobias.

* * * * *

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