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.

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.

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.

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.

Thursday, 7/21/22

Newsie

Good guys with guns

[A] common argument in favor of "high capacity" magazine bans is that defensive gun use never needs more than a few bullets. Here, the good samaritan used ten bullets, and he could have needed even more. In California, for example, magazines are limited to ten rounds. Had the good samaritan needed one more bullet to drop the assailant, he would have been out of luck in California.

Update 2: The Greenwood Police now report that the Good Samaritan acted quickly. In the span of 15 seconds (not 2 minutes), he fired 10 rounds, eight of which hit the assailant. And his first shot hit the assailant from 40 yards!

That is some top-level accuracy.

Josh Blackmun

I wasn’t going to say much about this until I saw that second update. That was the first time I heard that 8 of 10 shots hit the terrorist, one from 40 yards. It kind of boggles the mind.

Covid vaccination breakthrough?

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Tuesday recommended Novavax’s COVID-19 vaccine for use in people age 18 and older, clearing the last regulatory hurdle before the shot’s widespread distribution in the U.S. Novavax’s two-dose vaccine relies on well-established vaccine technology, providing an alternative for people reluctant to take the newer mRNA vaccines made by Pfizer and Moderna. The U.S. has purchased 3.2 million doses of the Novavax shot.

The Morning Dispatch makes a good point about the likely nexus between new mRNA technology and vaccine resistance. I thought mRNA, which I didn’t really understand, was a lesser evil than Covid, but some other opinions varied.

News you can abuse, ignore

In the parts of the world where monkeypox is newly spreading, like the United States and Europe, the people currently most at risk of getting the disease are gay and bisexual men. A recent update from the World Health Organization noted that cases in newly afflicted countries have mainly been among “men who have had recent sexual contact with a new or multiple male partners.” In Europe, just 0.2 percent of the men who have gotten the disease identify as heterosexual. Reports from the center of the U.S. outbreak—New York City—show that “the number of monkeypox cases has nearly tripled in the last week, nearly all of them among men who have sex with men.” The infectious-disease and LGBTQ-health journalist Benjamin Ryan notes that though the U.S. is, frustratingly, not collecting demographic details on monkeypox patients, Britain is, and the numbers there are clear: “Half of men screened for monkeypox tested positive; women, by contrast, tested positive only 0.6 percent of the time.”

Opening paragraph of U.S. Messaging on Monkeypox Is Deeply Flawed.

If AIDS was the first politically-protected disease, Monkeypox is the second. Most of our media and government simply cannot find the integrity to speak plain, helpful English about diseases that are sexually transmitted among gay men. They’re probably trying to protect them; as so often, they may accomplish the opposite of their intention.

Politics and Legal Wrangling

Contraception, Sodomy, Same-sex marriage

I agree that “[n]othing in [the Court’s] opinion should be understood to cast doubt on precedents that do not concern abortion.”

For that reason, in future cases, we should reconsider all of this Court’s substantive due process precedents, including Griswold, Lawrence, and Obergefell. Because any substantive due process decision is “demonstrably erroneous,” … we have a duty to “correct the error” established in those precedents. After overruling these demonstrably erroneous decisions, the question would remain whether other constitutional provisions guarantee the myriad rights that our substantive due process cases have generated. For example, we could consider whether any of the rights announced in this Court’s substantive due process cases are “privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States” protected by the Fourteenth Amendment.

Clarence Thomas’s concurrence in the Dobbs case (which overruled Roe v. Wade and Planned Parenthood v. Casey).

I looked this up because I doubted news stories that said Thomas had "called for" re-examination of these other "substantive due process" decisions. I publish what I found to acknowledge that he did call for that, and to provide context:

  • Justice Thomas’s dictum tacitly invites challenges to these other "substantive due process" decisions, but I’m not sure he’ll get any challenges unless some government in the U.S. tries to undermine the court-decreed rights to contraception, consensual adult sodomy or same-sex marriage. Unlike the situation with abortion, I’m just not sure there’s anywhere left in the U.S. where a legislative majority could mistake opposition to these for a winning political position. In other words, how would SCOTUS get a case challenging contraception, consensual adult sodomy or same-sex marriage? Am I missing something?
  • You can certainly accuse Thomas of pedantry in his criticism of "substantive due process" while explicitly leaving open a door to recognizing the selfsame rights as "privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States," but that strikes many as a better legal foundation. Liberal Yale Law School Professor Akhil Amar heartily respects, perhaps even embraces, that approach.

Where should America go legislatively on abortion?

I’ve said that any legislative resolution will have greater constitutional legitimacy than did Roe‘s bogus constitutional pretexts, and I meant and mean that.

But I now should add the qualifier that I’m not sure this is a fit subject for national legislation on the circumstances where abortion should or shouldn’t be lawful. Maybe there’s room for some Congressional legislation, like maybe protecting the right to travel (which already is judicially recognized, be it noted), but historically, abortion is a matter for the states. (I’d say the same, by the way, if Congress was weighing restriction rather than liberalization.)

I’ve always assumed that once Roe was out of the way, we’d eventually reach some ideologically-unsatisfying legislative compromise, as have western European nations. I don’t think my opinionating could change that.

A Bill with exceptions exceptions for rape, incest and life of the mother was introduced in Indiana’s Special Session Wednesday (a Session called to rebate some of our budget surplus, but expanded after Dobbs). Legislators who are fighting against those compassionate exceptions (and there are some) are likely to pay a political price.

Democracy and distrust

The Secret Service reportedly told the January 6 select committee on Tuesday that it cannot recover deleted text messages from the days surrounding the Capitol attack after all, and has no new messages to provide. The agency says the messages were lost as part of a technology upgrade. The National Archives has asked the Secret Service to report within 30 days on the “potential unauthorized deletion” of agency records, including what was lost and how.

The Morning Dispatch.

This story has me as frustrated as any recent story. I would have thought the Secret Service above such stuff. Everything Orange Man/Reverse Midas touches turns to merde.

Norms

We no longer honor norms; we weaponize them.

Jonah Goldberg on Bari Weiss’ Honestly podcast Election Denial: A Roundtable. Jonah had Bari laughing out loud so many times (e.g., Trump "Tweeting like a monkey escaped from a cocaine study") that I see one of two futures:

  1. Jonah becomes a frequent flyer with Bari; or
  2. Bari, fearing loss of gravitas, never invites him again.

For what it’s worth, I found her laughter delightful.

Why we need philosophers

Over forty years, Kant taught this lecture series forty-eight times. In his Physische Geographie, as the series was called, Kant insisted that knowledge was a systematic construct in which individual facts needed to fit into a larger framework in order to make sense. He used the image of a house to explain this: before constructing it brick by brick and piece by piece, it was necessary to have an idea of how the entire building would look. It was this concept of a system that became the linchpin of Humboldt’s later thinking.

Andrea Wulf, The Invention of Nature: Alexander Von Humboldt’s New World.

Note that Kant was referring to knowledge, not just scientific knowledge.

Why we don’t need end-times opinions

“We may have another year, maybe two years, to work for Jesus Christ, and [then] . . . it’s all going to be over,” he said in 1951. Two years later he said, “I sincerely believe, if I can study the Scriptures aright and read current events and keep with my current reading, that we are living in the latter days. I sincerely believe that the coming of the Lord draweth nigh.”

Frances Fitzgerald, The Evangelicals: The Struggle to Shape America

I admired Billy Graham. Now, I’d call him "consequential" rather than "great." Maybe that’s hair-splitting.

Self-sabotage

Many years ago I had a student who took several classes from me and never got anything better than a C. At the beginning of his senior year he came to my office and asked me why. I reminded him that I had always made detailed comments on his paper; he said, yeah, he knew that, but he had never read the comments and always just threw the papers away. So I explained what his problem was. He nodded, thanked me, went away, and in the two classes he had from me that year he got the highest grades in the class.

improving – Snakes and Ladders

Organic towns, functional cities

Town and city are no longer the organic growths they once were. They have begun to operate on a purely functional level that has little to do with what actually brings grace into our lives. You eviscerate a habitat of its culture and the species it supports will find it increasingly difficult to survive or else they’ll mutate into something else.

Marius Kociejowski, A Factotum in the Book Trade, via Prufrock

Why do we so mythologize the sixties?

So why do those that would lead us treat the sixties as though they were our Heroic Age?

My theory is very simple: it is the last time that any of them mattered.

Those on the left pretend that society can be guided with the right policies from powerful institutional centres. They flatter themselves otherwise, but so do those on the right, even if their versions of ‘right policies’ often involves slimming down some institutional centres. The seventies taught us a harsher lesson. They ended one of modernity’s founding political myths, the idea that the vast bureaucratic engines the modern state uses to intimately order the lives of millions could be understood as a variation on the Greek city-states. They cannot: a modern state is a different order of being. It cannot be controlled by institutional centres, and even those centres can no longer be controlled. Any attempt to limit them only renders them more powerful. Nowadays, even the Machine’s smaller cogs are too big for human hands. This is the truth that our ‘leaders’ cannot even whisper. For if social institutions have become invulnerable to meaningful control, then their entire caste – politicians, journalists, civil service managers, researchers, and all – serve no purpose. To admit their pointlessness would end them. So, liberal and conservative alike, they retreat to the sixties and pretend that it matters as they launch into another round of culture war. It doesn’t matter and they don’t matter. They cannot prevent the end that is coming.

FFatalism, The culture wars were irrelevant by 1976


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.

Wednesday, 7/20/22

You didn’t miss anything. I didn’t publish yesterday because I just didn’t have enough material. That’s likely to recur, as I’m gradually correcting my incorrigible habit of poring over news that seems especially shareable.

Polling

The survey also found that 32% of Latino Catholics said their religious faith dictates their views on abortion, compared to 73% of white evangelical Protestants.

A new survey found Latino Catholics overwhelmingly support abortion rights. Here’s why.

I would be a pollster’s nightmare, as I find so many polling questions unanswerable if not unintelligible.

Orthodox Christianity is opposed to abortion, but I was anti-abortion before I became Orthodox, and (heaven help me, for this may mean that I’m an American individualist) I would affirm that at no time in my life has my religious faith "dictated my views" on abortion.

I have difficulty getting into the mind of anyone who would listen to that polling question, note the import of "dictate," and then answer in the affirmative. Thus the question is a — what? litmus test? ink blot test? I certainly don’t see useful information coming from it.

I don’t consider myself a rebel against my Church. I don’t think it has ever said what an Orthodox political position on abortion should be, though in my parish we especially pray regularly for an end to abortion through changed hearts.

My religious faith does "dictate" some things — say, my rejection of monothelitism and monoenergism and suchlike — important Christological questions of import on which the Church’s position is longstanding and plausibly reasoned (e.g., those teachings effectively denied the full humanity of Christ by saying that He had no human will or energy). Countermanding what the Church says about such theological nuances is above my pay grade and, unlike David Bentley Hart, I’m not arrogant enough to "go there." (I was a Protestant for two-thirds of my life and don’t care to try it again.)

But abortion? Capital punishment? Euthanasia? Eugenics? I can’t help but form my own opinions on those, informed by the Church but not dictated to.

Notes from a roving raconteur

I beat myself up because I’m an old fundamentalist and self-mortification is our specialty. And I’ve been having too much fun lately, which confuses me, doing shows in red states to crowds that include a good many Republicans who voted for the landslide winner in 2020 but nonetheless were warm and receptive to me who voted for the thief. In blue states, audiences are listening to make sure you check the boxes of Inclusivity, Diversity, Equity, and Antiracism. These are people who don’t mind that many theaters refuse to do “Our Town” because the “Our” does not acknowledge that Grover’s Corners was stolen from indigenous people. I use the possessive pronoun in singing “My country, ’tis of thee,” which audiences in red states enjoy singing with me, and also our national anthem, ignoring the fact that Francis Scott Key did own slaves.

Back in the Sixties, when I was in my twenties, we sang “We Shall Overcome” and clearly we did not overcome, we only created new hairstyles. So we pass the torch to the young, some of whom feel the word “person” shows gender bias and want to change it to perself. To which I say, “Good luck with dat.”

Garrison Keillor, national treasure.

Vignettes

There’s no apparent common theme to this two vignettes, but I thought each of them was interesting in different ways:

  • A young Hungarian academic I dined with last evening told me how jarring it was to get his master’s degree at a western European university, and to be congratulated by fellow grad students on how lucky he was to have grown up in a country that had been blessed by Marxist government. His own family had had everything taken from them by the Communists, yet these privileged nitwits could only imagine that life had been glorious under Communism. This has something to do with the fact that he’s living back in Hungary now, though he could make a lot more money working in the West. He can’t bear to deal with such ignorant people.
  • [A correspondent was one of] a bunch of very conservative Catholics who wanted to live rurally, and went out and bought land in the same area. This reader said he has been mostly grateful for having had the chance to live there and raise his kids there, but he’s not sure he would do it again if he had the chance. The reason, he said, is that he was too optimistic about how life would be there. He says he had not counted on the fact that the kind of Catholics who would make such a radical choice — strong-willed Catholics like himself, as he conceded — would find it unusually hard to get along. The reader told me that there were frequent disputes within the community over purity — not strictly sexual purity, but over whether or not it was licit to do things like let your daughters wear pants, or keep them in skirts and dresses. He said it got to be exhausting, dealing with these communal neuroses.

Rod Dreher’s Diary, Sisi, Queen Of The Magyars

Indestructible lies

… There in Boston is a monument to the man who discovered anesthesia; many people are aware, in these latter days, that that man didn’t discover it at all, but stole the discovery from another man. Is this truth mighty, and will it prevail? Ah, no, my hearers, the monument is made of hardy material, but the lie it tells will outlast it a million years ….

Mark Twain via Alan Jacobs

When Wystan met Hannah

“I met Auden late in his life and mine—at an age when the easy, knowledgeable intimacy of friendships formed in one’s youth can no longer be attained, because not enough life is left, or expected to be left, to share with another. Thus, we were very good friends but not intimate friends.”

Hannah Arendt, explaining (it seems) her refusal of a marriage proposal by the poet and friend W. H. Auden (via L. M. Sacasas). I was unaware of that episode, which rather complicates my recollection that Auden eventually gave up trying to resist his homosexuality.

Sacasas continues on other topics:

The examples I have in mind of this receding of materiality arise, not surprisingly, from the most prosaic quarters of daily life. As a bookish person, for example, I think about how the distinct material shape of the book not only encodes a text but also becomes a reservoir of my personal history. I remember where I was when I read it. Or I recall who gave it to me or to whom I have lent it. In other words, the presence of the book on a shelf recalls its contents to mind at a glance and also intertwines an assortment of memories into the backdrop of my day-to-day life. At the very least, it becomes an always available potential portal into my past. I don’t mean to be romantic about any of this. In fact, I think this is all decidedly unromantic, having to do chiefly with the meaning and significance of the stuff that daily surrounds us.

The digitized book by contrast may have its own advantages, but by being the single undifferentiated interface for every book it loses its function as a mooring for the self. It’s not that the e-reader has no materiality of its own—of course it does. Perhaps the best way of conceptualizing this is to say that the device over-consolidates the materiality of reading in a way that smooths out the texture of our experience. Consider how this pattern of over-consolidation and subsequent smoothing of the texture of material culture recurs throughout digital society. The smartphone is a good example. An array of distinct physical objects—cash, maps, analog music players, cameras, calendars, etc.—become one thing. The texture of our experience is flattened out as a result.

He’s not wrong about this (insider joke to one of my readers). Yet, because of the Readwise service, I’m developing a preferential option for eBooks. That and my shelves having filled to overflowing with regular books several times.

It’s helpful to be reminded of what’s lost, though. I hope Warren Farha of the world’s greatest brick and mortar bookstore, Eighth Day Books in Wichita, will forgive my my opinion if he’s reading this.

Awkward

Barton and WallBuilders argue that Jefferson and the Founders, outside of some exceptions, meant for the “wall of protection” to operate in one direction. It also, the group and its founder suggested, applies mostly to the federal government, not the states.

Jack Jenkins, The activist behind opposition to the separation of church and state

Well! This is awkward! I have a bad impression of David Barton, who I’ve understood as a grifter, dining out on "America is a Christian Nation."

But Barton is almost completely correct in what I first quoted. What Thomas Jefferson called a "wall of separation" was meant to protect the churches (I’d prefer "religion," though both terms have shortcomings in this context) from the state; and it was, at the time the First Amendment was ratified, intended to apply only to the federal government ("Congress shall make no law …"). Heck, Massachusetts had an established Congregational Church for 30 more years after Jefferson’s letter to the Danbury Baptists, and that letter was well after the Bill of Rights!

Where Barton may be wrong is in in the report that he thinks that amendment "applies" rather than "applied" mostly to the Federal Government. The First Amendment has been incorporated in the post-Civil War Fourteenth Amendment and thereby made applicable to the states. Thus Saith the Courts.

Thus, it seems to me, Barton may be telling half-truths to embolden crypto-theocrats by whose concepts of Christianity I have no desire to be governed — unless the alternative is the Wokeworld religion. I would almost certainly pick the Bartonites in that contest.

Like I said: awkward.

Is the tide turning?

… there is something undeniably more powerful about reading critiques of contemporary sexual morality that arise not from traditional religious spaces, but from within secular feminism and and from elite media. That’s when you know the tide might be turning.

I bring this up because in every single argument and controversy under the sun, reality gets a vote. Culture wars are ultimately won or lost not by online arguments but through their real-world consequences, and the position that leads to greater human misery tends to lose.

To connect with the issues at the start of this piece, when speaking about the wave of intolerance that’s swept the academy, philanthropy, Hollywood, and much of mainstream media, I’ve told conservative friends that they have no idea how miserable it was making most of the people in those organizations. Something had to give, and the immiserated majority is going to be intimidated by the motivated minority for only so long.

When speaking of the reality of porn-influenced consent culture, there’s a similar dynamic in play. It’s immiserating people by the millions.

David French, in an encouraging column: we seem to have hit bottom and started back up in several ways. At least that’s what French thinks.

Imagine my arse

Comments such as these convince me that John Lennon captured a common liberal dream in his haunting song “Imagine.” Imagine if there were no countries, and no religion too. If we could just erase the borders and boundaries that divide us, then the world would “be as one.” It’s a vision of heaven for liberals, but conservatives believe it would quickly descend into hell. I think conservatives are on to something.

Jonathan Haidt, The Righteous Mind.

I absolutely hate that song, and I was glad to learn I’m not alone.


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.

Saturday, 7/16/22

Bankrupt

[Herschel] Walker’s personal flaws have made him an outlier: The Daily Beast last week reported that the former football great fathered several secret children and lied to his campaign staff about it — with the story quoting Walker’s own aides calling the candidate a "serious liability."

Axios (emphasis added).

Pardon me, but when the candidate himself is a "serious liability," what possible assets would suffice to make the campaign solvent?

Proof, I guess, that Campaign Aide is not a job requiring high levels of introspection or even basic love of country.

Axios lists four more states (Pennsylvania, Missouri, Ohio, Arizona) where the GOP nominated such bozos or scandal-magnets that regaining the Senate looks iffy. Imagine that: 5 very winnable Senate seats imperiled by extremist primary voters.

To win today, you should look relatively sane, and in a lot of races, only the Democrats are passing that test. That’s a real shame, because the Democrats are going to do some ugly things if they’re in control of Congress and the White House, and if SCOTUS rules even one of them ultra vires, let alone substantively unconstitutional, the slanders will intensify.

From Friday’s Morning Dispatch

Hate crime

The Department of Justice announced Thursday that a federal grand jury has indicted the man accused of murdering 10 black people in a Buffalo grocery store in May on hate crimes and firearms violations. If convicted, he could face life in prison or the death penalty. “The Justice Department fully recognizes the threat that white supremacist violence poses to the safety of the American people and American democracy,” Attorney General Merrick Garland said in a statement. The supermarket is set to reopen today.

If ever a crime was a "hate crime," it was this one. But after 30 or more years of intermittent reflection, I’m still not convinced that hate crime laws are an improvement in criminal justice.

A pox on both houses

Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton on Thursday sued to block enforcement of the Biden administration’s recent guidance telling health providers that life- or health-saving abortions are protected by the Emergency Medical Treatment and Active Labor Act, regardless of state abortion restrictions. The lawsuit alleges the guidance “flagrantly disregard[s] the legislative and democratic process,” and seeks to “transform every emergency room in the country into a walk-in abortion clinic.”

Ken Paxton is a cowboy, with very plausible allegations of corruption against him (See Timeline: 6 times Texas AG Ken Paxton faced allegations of malfeasance and pending criminal charges.

On abortion, Joe Biden has become a cowboy, who cares less about constitutional limits than about virtue-signaling. (He’s also more corrupt than I realized in the 2020 election, though I still didn’t vote for him — I threw my vote away for principles I care about, not for the lesser evil who inevitably was going to lose to the greater evil in my state).

So I’m glad Paxton is challenging some of Biden’s moves. I wish his Solicitor General well, while wishing total disgrace for him personally. (And I don’t predict 100% success for Texas.)

Internet delight

The internet can be a pretty mean and nasty place, but it still has the ability to delight you every once in a while. Enter the Northwoods Baseball Radio Network, a podcast feed produced by a mysterious “Mr. King” that features nothing other than two-hour-long fictional baseball broadcasts designed to help insomniacs get to sleep. “No yelling, no loud commercials, no weird volume spikes,” the tagline reads. “Fans call it ‘baseball radio ASMR.’” Katy Waldman was entranced. “Time—how it’s apportioned, and the inner experience of it—seems to be the show’s main character. The series could be a sendup of Americana, the aesthetic’s essential boringness, or a love note to memory, with the hazy, preserved glow of a scene unburied from childhood,” she writes in The New Yorker. “The show’s best feature remains the pure sonic contentment it delivers. Real or fantastical, baseball commentary unfolds as metered poetry: ‘IN there for a called STRIKE,’ goes the rising question. ‘It’s OH and ONE,’ goes the falling answer.”

Lost, Not Stolen

Eight prominent conservatives released a report on Thursday examining “every claim of fraud and miscount put forward by former President Trump and his advocates” following the 2020 presidential election and reached an “unequivocal” conclusion: “Joe Biden was the choice of a majority of the Electors, who themselves were the choice of the majority of voters in their states.”

“The idea is that it’s written by conservatives, for conservatives,” Griffith said. “We recognize the people who are watching [Morning Joe and CNN] are probably not the people we’re primarily interested in. I mean, we’re happy to tell our message to anyone, but it’s really the folks who are conservatives who think the election was stolen.”

In the report’s executive summary, the eight men take pains to emphasize their conservative bona fides. “Every member of this informal group has worked in Republican politics, been appointed to office by Republicans, or is otherwise associated with the Party,” they write. “None have shifted loyalties to the Democratic Party, and none bear any ill will toward Trump and especially not toward his sincere supporters.”

Price St. Clair, A 2020 Election Report ‘By Conservatives, For Conservatives’.

My only concern about these high-level investigators is why they don’t "none bear any ill will toward Trump" after he lied, denied his own Justice Department’s conclusions, and precipitated a constitutional crisis to try to steal the election.

Temporary truce

I’m declaring a 15-minute pause in my bitter Jihad against Sen. Josh Hawley (who seemed like the real deal until he decided the future was populist, not conservative):

Meanwhile, high profile pro-choice advocates remain unconvincing. If you haven’t seen it, here’s the viral video of UC Berkeley School of Law professor Khiara Bridges sparring with Senator Josh Hawley. She insisted on using the phrase “people with the capacity for pregnancy,” rather than the verboten word women. When Hawley said, well then, “this isn’t really a women’s rights issue,” the Berkeley professor balked.

Nellie Bowles

Actually, Hawley’s point was cute, but deflected without hesitation, so it wasn’t any kind of mike-drop moment. Speaking presumptuously for the normie community, I’d say Hawley won handily. The whole relevant exchange, via Conor Friedersdorf:

Senator Hawley: Professor Bridges, you said several times––you’ve used a phrase, I want to make sure I understand what you mean by it. You’ve referred to “people with a capacity for pregnancy.” Would that be women?

Professor Bridges: Many women, cis women, have the capacity for pregnancy. Many cis women do not have the capacity for pregnancy. There are also trans men who are capable of pregnancy, as well as nonbinary people who are capable of pregnancy.

Hawley: So this isn’t really a women’s-rights issue, it’s a––

Bridges: We can recognize that this impacts women while also recognizing that it impacts other groups. Those things are not mutually exclusive, Senator Hawley.

Hawley: Alright, so your view is that the core of this right, then, is about what?

Bridges: So, um, I want to recognize that your line of questioning is transphobic and it opens up trans people to violence by not recognizing them.

Hawley: Wow, you’re saying that I’m opening up people to violence by asking whether or not women are the folks who can have pregnancies?

Bridges: So I want to note that one out of five transgender persons have attempted sucide, so I think it’s important––

Hawley: Because of my line of questioning? So we can’t talk about it?

Bridges: Because denying that trans people exist and pretending not to know that they exist––

Hawley: I’m denying that trans people exist by asking you––

Bridges: Are you? Are you?

Hawley: ––if you’re talking about women having pregnancies?

Bridges: Do you believe that men can get pregnant?

Hawley: No, I don’t think men can get pregnant.

Bridges: So you’re denying that trans people exist!

Hawley: And that leads to violence? Is this how you run your classroom? Are students allowed to question you or are they also treated like this, where they’re told that they’re opening up people to violence––

Bridges: We have a good time in my class. You should join. You might learn a lot.

Hawley: I would learn a lot. I’ve learned a lot just in this exchange. Extraordinary.

(Pro-tip to the "men can get pregnant" set: if only you would phrase it as "trans men," I might play along. Lose the "trans men are men and trans women are women" dogma if you want any normie support whatever.)

Against aspiration

Wow!:

Let me try to illustrate what I mean. At one point, I was a commuter. It didn’t last, but I did find watching other rush-hour drivers fascinating. Like a rubbish modern version of a nineteenth century naturalist, I used to classify them based on observable features. One particular type of driver usually drove a German luxury car. They would drive fast and close, exhibit visible frustration if the car in front of them had a large gap in front of it; and would shift lanes frequently, jostling for position among the other commuters. …

I came to see their behaviour as reflecting a deep[] confusion. My theory is that they were not emotionally differentiating between getting to work faster and going faster than the people around them. In other words, they failed to distinguish between their longer-term goals and interpersonal competition, even when the interpersonal competition was more or less fruitless. In this, they helped me to understand another group that had puzzled me: the British upper-middle classes, who seemed to me to be similarly focused on markers of interpersonal status that were completely divorced from their own overall flourishing, even in contexts where they had a negligible degree of control over the outcome.

… Its measures are intrapersonal: how well the person is doing on a scale against the rest of society, not how well they are flourishing as an organic being.

… I am not arguing for better aspirations here. I am arguing against aspiration.

This might seem harsh, but that is because the language of aspiration has debased our political language. I am not arguing against individual success. I am arguing that a society whose only measure of success is doing better than other people has no true concept of success at all. …

I have no aspiration for Yorkshire because Yorkshire is older, bigger, and better than the language of aspiration and than our entire degenerate post-war political class. I have no aspiration for Yorkshire because I have hope for it, and hope is a different kind of thing. I do not want Yorkshire to do well in the race to the bottom that now passes for civilisation. I want Yorkshire to survive it.

Leaving behind aspiration – by FFatalism

The Machine speaks

‘The body is mine and the soul is mine’
says the machine. ‘I am at the dark source
where the good is indistinguishable
from evil. I fill my tanks up
and there is war. I empty them
and there is not peace. I am the sound,
not of the world breathing, but
of the catch rather in the world’s breath.’

Is there a contraceptive
for the machine, that we may enjoy
intercourse with it without being overrun
by vocabulary? We go up
into the temple of ourselves
and give thanks that we are not
as the machine is. But it waits
for us outside, knowing that when
we emerge it is into the noise
of its hand beating on the breast’s
iron as Pharisaically as ourselves.

R.S. Thomas, Collected Later Poems


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.


	

Wednesday, 7/13/22

Independent State Legislatures?

Members of the Supreme Court’s conservative supermajority just last week took the next step in a little-noticed, but extremely dangerous, project: attempting to jam into law a radical misinterpretation of the Constitution’s elections and electors clauses, which, if successful, would create electoral chaos across the country.

Thomas Wolf and Ethan Herenstein, How the Supreme Court Could Upend the Integrity of Our Elections.

It is very obnoxious to attribute a "project" to the Supreme Court or to individual justices. But if you can filter out such tendentious crap, this is a more accessible explanation of the "Independent State Legislature" idea than the law journal article from the brothers Amar.

I can only hope that this pernicious novelty got such favorable mention as it did from three justices because the issue was barely briefed and superficially plausible. That won’t happen again in the North Carolina case: the issue will have the hell briefed out of it and no superficial plausibility will be left.

For my tastes, the key is one of those things you might overlook, but once you’ve seen it, you cannot unsee it.

Why liberal democracy gets no purchase in Islamdom

The general failure of liberal democracy to take hold in Muslim societies is a continuing and repeated phenomenon for an entire century beginning in the late 1800s. This failure has its source at least in part in the inhospitable nature of Islamic culture and society to Western liberal concepts.

Samuel P. Huntington, The Clash of Civilizations and the Remaking of World Order. This inhospitality is shared by what Huntington labels "Orthodox civilization," centered in Russia, where it goes back at least 150 years.

Rationality and Taboo

In this context, the words of Leszek Kołakowski are sobering and akin to Philip Rieff’s own melancholy judgment on our third-world culture: “To the extent that rationality and rationalization threaten the very presence of taboos of our civilization, they corrode its ability to survive. But it is quite improbable that taboos, which are barriers erected by instinct and not by conscious planning, could be saved, or selectively saved, by rational technique; in this area we can only rely on the uncertain hope that the social self-preservation drive will prove strong enough to react to their evaporation, and that this reaction will not come in barbarous form.”

Rod Dreher and Carl Trueman, The Rise and Triumph of the Modern Self, quoting Modernity on Endless Trial (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1990), 13.

Steve Bannon

[Steve] Bannon’s “offer” to testify seemed clearly to be an attempt to muddy the increasingly clear waters of the committee’s hearings. In the first impeachment hearings, Representatives Jim Jordan (R-OH) and John Ratcliffe (R-TX) used their positions to shout and badger witnesses and to create sound bites for right-wing media that put forward a completely misleading narrative of what the hearings were actually showing. As Josh Kovensky of Talking Points Memo pointed out today, Trump has complained bitterly that his people are unable to get their own narrative out, even as evidence against the president and his allies coming from his own inner circle is painting a damning picture of an attempt to overturn our democracy.

Public “testimony” would enable loyalists like Bannon to “flood the zone with sh*t,” as he has called his method of disinformation. Not only Bannon, but also the leader of the Oath Keepers, Stewart Rhodes, has offered to “testify.” So, too, has Representative Mo Brooks (R-AL). In each case, though, the men have tried to put limits on what they will talk about and the conditions under which they will talk, revealing both an attempt to demonstrate that they still have power to make demands (they don’t) and that they are not making good faith offers. Rhodes’s lawyer told Politico: “He wants to confront them.”

Heather Cox Richardson, Letters from an American, July 11, 2022

Anyone who’s trying to put limits on what they will talk about and the conditions under which they will talk isn’t acting in good faith. It’s theater or even sabotage.

The crossroads of forest and village

The breakdown of initiation and the diminishment of mythic understanding are actually defences against encountering our own beauty. On a societal level, we appear to be working day and night at that defense. But the Great Self is hard-wired in us, and though the ritual mechanisms to approach it are wiped out, it won’t disappear but instead becomes mired in shadow. Therefore a King can only be seen as a tyrant, a Hag only as a bringer of misfortune. We tiptoe away from these beings, far too informed to take them seriously, and then we wonder why we don’t have the energy to vote. Myth proposes the paradoxical view that we are to dwell in the tension of a “crossroads” of Village and Forest, and that this very complexity provides the grounding of an authentic human life—a strange accord with ego and soul, rationality and vision. Ego gives a shape to these energies for living in the world that benefits others, but with no inner connection they lose their divine inflections and corrupt.

Fatuity of the Month, June 2022

Your freedom of expression of yourselves in drag is what America is all about.

Nancy Pelosi, pandering on Ru Paul’s Drag Race.

Martin Shaw, quoted by Rod Dreher (without a link)


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.

Saturday, 7/9/22

Dobbs

Digesting Dobbs‘ legal fallout

Most of my favorite podcasters have annoying mannerisms, but substance too good to get hung up on it. For a ConLaw geek, Akhil Amar’s Amarica’s Constitution fits that to a "T".

Amar glories in saying "I told you so" (not in those words) over and over and over, but as they say, "it ain’t bragging if you can do it." He definitely is one of our nation’s top Constitutional Law scholars.

Amar is a "pro-choice" liberal who recognized that Roe was a real dog’s breakfast. So I took seriously his July 6 ruminations on the rationale of Dobbs, which he considers justified if flawed (for context, note that finding little flaws in justified opinions is roughly half of what legal teaching is about).

If the court takes the Dobbs reasoning elsewhere, it portends more reversals of precedent, though not necessarily contraception, miscegenation, sodomy or same-sex marriage. (For instance, in what state in 2022 would laws against them pass to create a test case? And if such a law were passed, there’s more to stare decisis analysis than "was this wrong when decided?" or even "was this egregiously wrong when decided?")

But the originalist approaches of the conservative majority are going to be less deferential to precedent than to the original meaning of the constitutional provision in question. And that’s as it should be because the constitution, not precedent, is the supreme law of the land, and to it Justices take an oath. (It’s understood, though, that lower courts are bound by precedent from higher courts.)

I’m not sure what precedents will be at most risk, but I think we’re going to find out.

Dobbs cultural fallout

“Men, it’s on us now,” someone said on Twitter just hours after Roe v. Wade was overturned on June 24. “Either start wearing contraceptives or get a vasectomy.” In the two weeks since, the suggestion that men can or should express solidarity with women by getting vasectomies to prevent unwanted pregnancies has proliferated online. The tone varies from flirty (“getting a vasectomy is the new 6-foot-4”) to pointed (“i don’t want to hear a peep out of anyone with a dick until the vasectomy appointment is scheduled”), but the overarching message is the same: “If you create sperm and can get someone pregnant, go get a vasectomy,” one viral tweet read. “We are tired.”

… Google Trends shows a small increase in vasectomy searches during the first week of May, when the draft decision first leaked, followed by a second, larger one starting in late June. Doctors have also reported higher interest in the procedure. “We have never seen a vasectomy spike like this in response to a single political or social event,” the Florida-based urologist Doug Stein told me.

Doctors like Stein, who has been dubbed “The Vasectomy King” by local press, have spent years evangelizing for the procedure. Now their cause is suddenly ascendant. The nation’s vasectomy influencers are in the spotlight.

The Vasectomy Influencers.

Well, I certainly didn’t see that coming, though I suppose it was unrealistic to expect an outbreak of chastity.

Remember, young Lothario: vasectomy is forever. Maybe you should just keep it in your pants until you’re ready to start adulting. Not that adulting is always easy.

Adulting in America

If you’re an adult in America today, you’ve learned how to speak furtively of what is happening, how to deploy discretion in repeating what you’ve heard, this secret grammar of mass murder. Time was that a horror like the 2006 slaying of five Amish schoolgirls by a deranged gunman would hold up daily affairs for at least a few moments; even little ones could detect a disruption in the normal order of things. By now we know that if the kids are young enough to miss the news, you might as well let them, because there will—not might, but will—come a day when the reality of their situation finds them.

Elizabeth Bruenig, Living in an Age of Mass Shootings

Too much more about Orange Man and Kindred Spirits

Trumpian "coincidences"

Among tax lawyers, the most invasive type of random audit carried out by the I.R.S. is known, only partly jokingly, as “an autopsy without the benefit of death.”

The odds of being selected for that audit in any given year are tiny — out of nearly 153 million individual returns filed for 2017, for example, the I.R.S. targeted about 5,000, or roughly one out of 30,600.

One of the few who received a bureaucratic letter with the news that his 2017 return would be under intensive scrutiny was James B. Comey, who had been fired as F.B.I. director that year by President Donald J. Trump. …

Among those who were chosen to have their 2019 returns scrutinized was the man who had been Mr. Comey’s deputy at the bureau: Andrew G. McCabe, who served several months as acting F.B.I. director after Mr. Comey’s firing.

Mr. McCabe was later dismissed by the Trump Justice Department after its watchdog accused him of misleading internal F.B.I. investigators ….

Michael S. Schmidt, Comey and McCabe, Who Infuriated Trump, Both Faced Intensive I.R.S. Audits

Weaponizing the IRS is neither unprecedented nor the exlusive mark of one of the two corrupt and feckless major parties. But this is unusually blatant.

The IRS Commissioner appointed by Trump has ordered an Inspector General investigation, but it’s a stretch for me to believe that a hit-job like this didn’t come through his own office.

Roped, broke and branded

Mr Trump prizes no supporters more than those who once rejected him but then roped, broke and branded themselves. He has endorsed [Harriet] Hageman and appeared last month at a rally in Casper with her. Ms Hageman, a lawyer, stoked the crowd by itemising things to revile, from illegal immigration to Anthony Fauci. But one bit of elaboration popped out when she said Mr Trump knew she would represent “your fallacies”, quickly amending that to “families”.

High noon for Liz Cheney | The Economist

Shambolic boyo

I see nothing sad in his leaving but that he was very entertaining and had one of the best political acts—shambolic upper-class boyo, utterly lost in his personal sphere, just like you and no better than you—in modern British history.

Peggy Noonan on the downfall of Boris Johnson

Boris and Donald

The actual law-breaking and lies about law-breaking were cast in even worse light by the news today that the opposition leader, Keir Starmer, has been cleared by the police from the charge that he too had violated the lockdown rules. Starmer, to heighten the contrast, had publicly stated that he’d resign his position if he were found guilty. The difference between Keir and Boris (and I’ve known both for decades) is pretty obvious: Keir is a somewhat dull, decent bloke and Boris is an entitled, colorful charlatan.

But the glee of the elites and the mainstream media at this likable rogue’s political demise obscures something important. They were wrong to conflate him with Trump. Boris is a liar the way Bill Clinton was a liar: he lied to get himself out of trouble he’d gotten himself into. And, like Clinton, Boris had some relationship to reality — even as he tried to bluff and bluster his way through it.

Trump’s lies were far, far graver and bolder: that he’d won an election in a landslide (when he lost), and that our entire electoral system is rigged. And Trump, unlike Boris, is truly pathological and psychologically broken — incapable of distinguishing his own egomaniac fantasies from the real world.

Andrew Sullivan (emphasis added)

Not that the emphasized sentence is not how Oxford-educated pundits say "poopy-head" or "full of cooties." It’s an actual opinion — which I fully share — of psychological incapacity, which if true leads inexorably to the conclusion that Trump’s unfit to occupy the White House. That was essentially my objection to Trump from the beginning (probably 2016, when it became harder to write him off as a joke), though through a combination of luck and some adults in the room, we didn’t see the lunacy on full display until after he lost in 2020.

I thought in 2016 that his nomination, and then his election, were raised middle-fingers to America’s competent governing class. I slowly came to appreciate why a lot of American’s left-behind might want to do that, and I hope that both parties will pay attention to their legitimate grievances (i.e., the economic ones, not any racial resentments).

But God deliver us from any more Trump!

Anyway, Sullivan’s Substack this week is far more about Boris Johnson than about Trump, and gives Johnson credit for his many accomplishments. Then he pivots back:

Which brings me, of course, to the obvious analogy to the American right. The Tories were thrilled to ride Boris’ coat-tails into office — he did deliver Brexit and a smashing election victory — but they did not turn into a cult. He had to face a feisty press and weekly grillings in parliament, in which his relationship to reality was constantly tested. His own Conservative MPs — many of whom owed him their seats and careers — enabled him to a point, but they never lost their minds or, ultimately, their consciences.

Trump and the GOP? A sadder, darker, weirder story. Trump’s lies are far, far worse. Boris never questioned the results of a referendum or an election — and neither did his opponents. He didn’t marshal an armed mob to ransack parliament when his own MPs turned on him. The final straw for Boris was when he lied that he hadn’t been briefed about a minor Tory sex scandal, and apologized.

Trump, meanwhile, has unrelentingly sustained the biggest, most dangerous lie of all: that our entire democracy is rigged, that he won in a landslide in 2020, and that the GOP should seek to win the next election by any means, fair or foul. His lies are proactive and corrosive to democracy for the future. They have to be huge to work. And they are.

Why We Did It

I don’t know if this is David French’s original thought or Tim Miller’s original thought or the result of French reflecting on Miller, but darn, it’s good!

Ask any person to describe themselves, and they’ll likely respond with a mix of characteristics and virtues. They’ll describe their profession (lawyer, banker, plumber), their relationships (husband, father, grandfather), and their politics (Republican, Democrat), and if asked they might even describe their perceived virtues (honesty, fidelity, fortitude).

But what if the virtues conflict with other core parts of a person’s identity? …

[D]uring the Trump years, honesty and independence directly and starkly clashed with status. Time and again, men and women in America’s political class found that they couldn’t possess both virtue and power. They had to make a choice.

During the Trump years, the collision between status and virtue was constant and relentless. Trump never gave anyone a breather. He was never chagrined or mollified by scandal. He never apologized. He never turned over a new leaf. He just charged from one lie to another, and his demands for absolute loyalty left his defenders and followers with little ability to separate themselves from his worst moments while still remaining in the Republican tent.

As we’ve seen from days of courageous testimony before the January 6 House Select Committee, it is quite possible to say “I’m a Republican, and I’m honest.” But with each passing week—and with each new revelation—it grows more difficult to say “I’m a Trump Republican, and I’m honest.” Status conflicts with virtue, and status wins.

David French at his best, reviewing (and highly recommending) Tim Miller’s Why We Did It: A Travelogue From the Republican Road to Hell.

Thriving on toxicity

Somehow this seems to fit here, with the preceding two as preface:

There are species of bacteria that actually thrive in the toxic emissions from hydrothermal vents deep below the ocean. What would be killing sulphuric acid to most animals is food for them. We have created a similarly hostile climate in media and politics: high pressure, extreme temperature swings, and a toxic atmosphere. We should not be surprised, then, that unlovely creatures are the only ones who can thrive in this space.

Decent people with dignity are easy marks for outrage mobs, cancel culture, and the clickbait press. But fools with no shame are impervious to such a climate. Men and women of character tend to stay away, and if they don’t, are much more subject to the extortionate pressures of the political world. If your reputation is already poor, you can chase celebrity, frolicking among the deep-sea plumes, while your more delicate competitors are floating on the surface, poisoned.

Chris Stirewalt, H/T Alan Jacobs, commenting specifically on the improbable political victories of Donald Trump and Boris Johnson.

Miscellany

  • Public health officials in Oregon announced they would be delaying a meeting because to rush and get everything done for it was a white trait. Here’s what a high ranking Oregon Health Authority official wrote to postpone the upcoming confab: "We recognize that urgency is a white supremacy value that can get in the way of more intentional and thoughtful work, and we want to attend to this dynamic. Therefore, we will reach out at a later date to reschedule." The KKK would unironically love this explanation.
  • Tucker and conservative media have a hammer and keep looking for nails … Carlson is right that there is social breakdown that contributed to this shooting: After police took away the boy’s knives amid his various threats of violence, the Highland Park shooter’s dad helped buy him a gun.
  • “Joy too can be an act of resistance. I want to talk about personal acts of reclamation because sometimes people will say, ‘There’s nothing I can do. I feel so powerless.’ There is no act too small that you can engage in. Even today, I have a personal errand, I need to redo my nails. And I’ve decided that I’m going to use my new manicure as almost like a personal act of reclamation for me and my story.” — Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez

Nellie Bowles

Nellie had many more (including side-eyes at Elon Musk’s non-marital fertility), but I started feeling guilty about sharing so much paid content.


Penultimately, just a bit more, now from Andrew Sullivan’s miscellany:

  • “From an empirical, non-woke perspective, the ‘Kill TERFs’ movement is pretty astonishing. It’s a bunch of biological males, threatening to brutalize biological females, for saying that female sex is real,” – Wilfred Reilly.
  • “There is considerable overlap between the intelligence of the smartest bears and the dumbest tourists,” a Yosemite Park ranger when asked why it was so tough to design a bear-proof trash bin.

Happy

Happy as something unimportant
and free as a thing unimportant.
As something no one prizes
and which does not prize itself.
As something mocked by all
and which mocks at their mockery.
As laughter without serious reason.
As a yell able to outyell itself.
Happy as no matter what,
as any no matter what.

Happy
as a dog’s tail.

Anna Swir via Poetry Foundation


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.