Turning the heat down, but slowly

One of one or two semi-famous people I hang out with on micro.blog (Twitterish without the toxicity, largely non-political) is Alan Jacobs, formerly of Wheaton College, now in the Honors Program at Baylor (with perhaps a stop at Notre Dame in between, I seem vaguely to recall). He blogged this (on his pre-existing blog, not micro.blog) today, and it’s clarifying:

The United States of America has long had a two-party political system, but it now has a two-party social system also. The social system is not divided between Republicans and Democrats but rather between Manichaeans and Humanists. The Manichaean Party is headed by Donald Trump. He works in close concert with Ibram X. Kendi, Eric Metaxas, Xavier Becerra, and Rush Limbaugh, but really, the Party wouldn’t exist at all without him. The Humanist Party, by contrast, doesn’t have an obvious leadership structure and doesn’t make a lot of noise; its chief concern is less to enforce an agenda than to make it a little harder for the Manichaeans to enforce theirs.

The Manichaeans say, all together and in a very loud voice, You are wholly with us or wholly against us! Make your decision! I don’t know when I’ve had an easier choice.

the two parties – Snakes and Ladders

I’m not sure that the Manichean Party would disappear without Trump, but Trump makes a great many of us pretty crazy, inducing in me my first presidential “derangement syndrome.” I think the Manichean party would deflate, but not disappear without the Orange Toxin.

I, too, cast my lot with the Humanists.


I hope the the Trump effort to steal the 2020 Election will go away, and that I’ll soon have nothing further to say (or quote) about it. But today’s not that day.

Rudy Giuliani, who has been leading the Trump campaign’s legal challenge to Joe Biden’s election, says the vast criminal conspiracy that supposedly denied the president his rightful victory is “easily provable.” Yet he and other Trump supporters have not come close to proving it in court, where they have either failed to present credible evidence or failed even to allege the sort of massive fraud that could have changed the outcome of the election. Trump’s motion to intervene in Texas v. Pennsylvania, a last-ditch effort to prevent Biden from taking office, continues that pattern.

Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton is asking the Supreme Court to rule that Pennsylvania, Georgia, Michigan, and Wisconsin violated the Constitution by changing election procedures without authorization from their state legislatures. Seeking to join that lawsuit, Trump attorney John Eastman acknowledges the lack of evidence to support the president’s conspiracy theories.

“Despite the chaos of election night and the days which followed, the media has consistently proclaimed that no widespread voter fraud has been proven,” Eastman writes. “But this observation misses the point. The constitutional issue is not whether voters committed fraud but whether state officials violated the law by systematically loosening the measures for ballot integrity so that fraud becomes undetectable.”

According to this account, the scheme to fraudulently anoint Biden as the president-elect, far from being “easily provable,” was so clever that it was “undetectable.” That argument completely contradicts everything that Trump, Giuliani, and pro-Trump lawyers such as Sidney Powell have been saying for weeks.

Jacob Sullum, Trump’s Lawyers Claim the Conspiracy To Steal the Election Is Both ‘Easily Provable’ and Impossible to Prove – Reason.com

Jacob Sullum had fallen off my radar, but he always was pretty sharp.

In a less colorful mode, I note that all the public hand-waving about fraud is almost completely performative, whereas the actual court pleading filed on Trump’s behalf are unanimous, or nearly so, in not alleging fraud, probably because the Rules of Civil Procedure in most states require that fraud be pleaded “with particularity” and particularity is exactly what Team Trump is lacking.

There’s an old lawyer saying:

When the law is on your side, argue the law. When the facts are on your side, argue the facts. When neither the law nor the facts is on your side, bang loudly on the table.


Unlike all too many GOP politicians, the conservative justices showed tonight that they are neither Trump toadies nor partisan hacks, and reaffirmed the Court’s independence.

Thoughts on the Supreme Court’s Unanimous Rejection of the Texas Election Lawsuit – Reason.com

By the way: don’t buy Trump’s lie that Alito and Thomas sided with him.

Alito and Thomas have long held a minority opinion (not dumb, but not yet accepted by the other seven) that the court has no discretion to bar its hallowed doors to an Original Action. They believe that the court must let it in and then refuse the relief requested if that’s what they find appropriate. That was the entire gist of their separate statement, in my opinion, though Howard Bashman thinks Alito left a sliver of ambiguity that could have been eliminated with a tiny tweak.


… this wise, just, and unassailable decision by the Supreme Court will not stem the tide of power-hungry jackwads defiling the Constitution in the name of sycophancy to Donald Trump. It will only embolden them.

Releash the Kraken – The G-File

Jonah Goldberg’s whole column is both hilarious and infuriating. I am so glad I left the GOP almost 16 years ago, though I can by no means join today’s Democrats.


The modern house is not a response to its place, but rather to the affluence and social status of its owner.

Wendell Berry, The Unsettling of America


Optimism says that everything can only get better. But that’s not realistic. Hope, on the other hand, says that things might get better, but if they don’t, and we meet bad times in the right spirit, that God can use them, and us, for good.

Rod Dreher, Of Comets And Falling Men

First and Lesser Things

First Things

The invisible God painted his own portrait on the canvas of the incarnation.

Father Patrick Henry Reardon, The Visible Revelation of the Father


I’m on the Board of a classical Christian School that my grandchildren attend. I sometimes wonder whether parents substantially understand the ramifications of classical education. A classical educator has stated my concern well, starting with how the misunderstanding manifests in students:

Our students desire to learn the material, gain cursory knowledge, earn a high grade, get into an elite college, receive a lucrative job offer with a competitive salary, all in order to master themselves and the world around them. Classical educators desire for our students to love truth, goodness and beauty. We yearn for them to be men and women of virtue and moral character. We want them to love what God loves and to steward the world gifted to them by their Creator. Wendell Berry, American essayist, describes well the dilemma of modern education:

“Education is not properly an industry, and its proper use is not to serve industries, either by job-training or by industry-subsidized research. Its proper use is to enable citizens to live lives that are economically, politically, socially, and culturally responsible… A proper education enables young people to put their lives in order, which means knowing what things are more important than other things; it means putting first things first.”

… Ours is a counter-cultural revolution, which explains a tension often experienced between classical educators and parents. We not only need classical teachers and classically-minded students; we need classically-minded parents. The job of the educator is not to replace the parent but to partner with them. Partnerships do not thrive if the partners are unequally yoked.

The Formation of Classical Parents | Circe Institute

The essay has three steps for The Formation of Classical Parents.


Donald Trump didn’t invent misinformation and disinformation; they have been around for much of human history. But Trump—by virtue of his considerable skills in this area, aided by social media and capitalizing on “truth decay” and diminishing trust in sources of factual information—exploited them more effectively than anyone else has in American history.

Believing that the toxicity in our politics will quickly and easily be drained would be silly; in fact, in some quarters, things will get worse. (We see this in Trump supporters who are migrating from Fox News to Newsmax and One America News because Fox was deemed insufficiently pro-Trump, as startling as that seems.) But not having a president who wakes up every morning thinking of ways to divide Americans by race, region, and religion, by class and party, will be a move in the right direction.

“The party told you to reject the evidence of your eyes and ears. It was their final, most essential command,” George Orwell wrote in his masterpiece 1984.

“[Winston Smith’s] heart sank as he thought of the enormous power arrayed against him, the ease with which any Party intellectual would overthrow him in debate, the subtle arguments which he would not be able to understand, much less answer. And yet he was in the right! They were wrong and he was right. The obvious, the silly, and the true had got to be defended. Truisms are true, hold on to that! The solid world exists, its laws do not change. Stones are hard, water is wet, objects unsupported fall towards the earth’s center. With the feeling he was speaking to O’Brien, and also that he was setting forth an important axiom, he wrote: Freedom is the freedom to say that two plus two makes four. If that is granted, all else follows.”

For four long years, that important axiom was denied by the president of the United States and almost everyone in his party. But last month, more than 80 million Americans declared that enough was enough. What many of them were saying with their vote—what I was trying to say with my vote—was that it’s time to reaffirm that stones are indeed hard, that water is indeed wet, that objects unsupported do fall toward the Earth’s center. That two plus two does make four.

Maybe the road out of the epistemic crisis that Barack Obama correctly identified runs not simply, or even primarily, through the realm of politics or social-media reforms, as important as they are. Perhaps the path requires us to order our lives well, remind ourselves and others to love what is worthy of our love, and affirm that “one word of truth shall outweigh the whole world.” We won’t get there tomorrow. But each of us can begin to take steps on the journey tomorrow, a journey out of mist and shadows toward the sunlit uplands.

Peter Wehner, Trump’s Most Malicious Legacy – The Atlantic. I had it in the back of my mind that history had vindicated the vision of Brave New World over that of 1984, and I still think it does. But I re-read Brave New World a week or two ago and recognized that it, too, does not really fit the condition we’re in.

Walker Percy’s Prescient Dystopia, Love in the Ruins, fits all too well, though it’s a much different sort of dystopia than Huxley’s or Orwell’s.


Lesser Things

  • Fact of the day: “Of the 265 counties most dominated by blue-collar workers—areas where at least 40 percent of employed adults have jobs in construction, the service industry or other nonprofessional fields—Mr. Biden won just 15, according to data from researchers at the Economic Innovation Group, a bipartisan policy research group.” Lisa Lerer, New York Times.
  • Per David Catanese at McClatchy: “Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger has launched an investigation into a collection of groups, accusing the New Georgia Project launched by Stacey Abrams of sending registration forms to people in New York and citing evidence of other operations trying to convince college students to temporarily change their residency to Georgia.”

The Sweep: Georgia Heats Up – The Sweep


Natural law theory has received renewed attention among Protestants in recent years. The natural law tradition posits that a God-given, self-evident universal moral order exists that human reason can grasp. The natural law defines and identifies which actions are reasonable and worth pursuing—even apart from an immediate appeal to divine revelation.

The Gospel and the Natural Law | Andrew Walker | First Things


In 2017, the situation was different, but in its own way dire. I testified:

“I have sharply criticized President [Barack] Obama’s policies, but my concerns pale in comparison with the sense of alarm I feel about the judgment and dispositions of the incoming White House team. In such a setting, there is no question in my mind that a Secretary Mattis would be a stabilizing and moderating force, preventing wildly stupid, dangerous, or illegal things from happening, and over time, helping to steer American foreign and security policy in a sound and sensible direction.

Marshall did indeed reassure the American people, and Mattis did indeed block, or at least slow down, some of the wild fancies of Donald Trump.

Eliot Cohen, This Is No Job for a General – The Atlantic


Nothing is sadder than the question posed indignantly, “Do you know who I am?” I first heard it when I was 17, on a flight back from Europe (my mom had won a trip in a church raffle, and sent me). I was seated near the back row, and heard a man from Louisiana arguing with a flight attendant, who kept telling him not to hang out near the galley.

“Do you know who I am?” the man huffed. I thought, wow, a real celebrity, I wonder who he is? I learned from their touchy dialogue that the supposed dignitary was a friend of the Louisiana Agriculture Commissioner’s, who had been leading a tour of Europe with his political supporters, and was seated up in first class. Here was this guy telling a Delta Airlines attendant on a flight to Atlanta from Brussels that she’d better back down, because he’s a friend of a provincial minister of agriculture. It’s a thing of beauty, if you look at it from a certain angle.

Thoughts About Celebrity | The American Conservative


In 1908 G.K. Chesterton penned Orthodoxy to confront the idiocy of the motto “Believe in yourself”:

“Shall I tell you where the men are who believe most in themselves? For I can tell you. I know of men who believe in themselves more colossally than Napoleon or Caesar. I know where flames the fixed star of certainty and success. I can guide you to the thrones of the Supermen. The men who really believe in themselves are all in lunatic asylums.”

Through a Looking Glass Darkly | Comment Magazine


If, even as the price to be paid for a fifth vote, I ever joined an opinion for the Court that began: “The Constitution promises liberty to all within its reach, a liberty that includes certain specific rights that allow persons, within a lawful realm, to define and express their identity,” I would hide my head in a bag. The Supreme Court of the United States has descended from the disciplined legal reasoning of John Marshall and Joseph Story to the mystical aphorisms of the fortune cookie.

Justice Antonin Scalia via Josh Blackman, Why rewrite Brown, Roe, and Obergefell?


“Those of us in journalism have to come to terms with the fact that free speech, a principle that we hold sacred, is being weaponized against the principle of journalism and what do we do about that,. As reporters, we kind of march into this war with our facts nobly shouldered as if they were going to win the day and what we’re seeing that is because of the scale of this alternative reality that you’ve been talking about, our facts, our principles, our scientific method–it isn’t enough. So what do we do?”

Jonathan Turley, “Free Speech Is Being Weaponized”: Columbia Dean and New Yorker Writer Calls For More Censorship

The elite consensus is rapidly repudiating free speech, which bodes ill for the future.


The House of Representatives on Tuesday passed the $740 billion National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) 335-78, a wide enough margin to override the veto President Trump has telegraphed. The bill, which directs military spending for the upcoming year, includes pay raises for troops and is filled with bipartisan priorities, but Trump has demanded an unrelated provision—the repeal of tech platforms’ Section 230 liability protections—be included.

The Morning Dispatch: House Powers Through Veto Threat on NDAA


Seriously, the main use of Bitcoin is to allow people to smuggle money, buy illegal items like kiddie porn, and speculate on the price of Bitcoin. They had to create an entire new Stable coin class just to get around how slow Bitcoin is when actually used. The energy use to run the system is amazingly awful. The entire market is beset with crooked exchanges and a million different Ponzi schemes. But other than that, sending your cash to strangers on the internet for beanie baby equivalents is a great idea.

Poliorcetes, commenting on Bitcoin Is Back and Booming. Will the Rally Last? (The Dispatch)

I’m 90%+ sure that Bitcoin is an hysteria, a bubble inflating (though the bursting point is uncertain), because we’ve collectively lost touch with reality.


[T]o understand how social conservatives feel about [HHS nominee Xavier] Becerra, imagine if a Republican president elected on a promise to heal partisan wounds and deal with a pandemic nominated Rick Santorum as his first secretary of Health and Human Services.

Rod Dreher quoting Ross Douthat who’s quoting John McCormack of National Review in turn.

More:

there is a chasm between what Trump’s team is telling the public about the case, and what is actually in their legal filings. The court filings are pathetic, the lawyers said. Clown-car stuff. But see, this is the kind of thing that ordinary people — that is, people without legal training — can’t easily understand. One of the lawyers said that voter fraud might well have happened, but if you can’t show evidence in court, you’ve got nothing. That is the problem here, for Team Trump.

Unlike Eric Metaxas, I don’t believe that it is clear that God is on Trump’s side, I don’t believe that Trump will be inaugurated, and I certainly don’t believe that Trump is worth dying for.

Look, I believe that soft totalitarianism is coming, and though I believe Covid is a real crisis, I also believe that powerful people are going to take advantage of it to push for bad things. But the idea that Donald Trump is our only hope — really? Really? The idea that he has the mandate of heaven, and that Christians should be prepared to see the Constitutional order destroyed for the sake of Donald Trump — it’s just beyond crazy. I would never, ever submit to the dictatorial rule of Donald Trump, and it is utterly appalling that Christians would say that doing so is what God would have us do.

Yappy Catholic crazy person John Zmirak likens me and other Christians who don’t sign on to the Trump post-election crusade to Nazi collaborators. And Eric Metaxas, who has been a friend of mine for over 20 years, promoted that column to the skies. This is where the heads of a lot of Christians are these days: Donald or death.

I think the “Stop The Steal” movement is mistaken, but I would not be so alarmed by it were these leaders not tying it to fidelity to God. The progressive Left in this country is bonkers; that we know. Must we on the Right show ourselves to be every bit as shipwrecked on the reef of ideology? Every minute we spend on trying to salvage Trump’s pride is a minute we are not spending on building a meaningful, substantive resistance. And it is de facto helping people like Xavier Becerra by neutralizing conservatives and Christians who would be open to fighting against whatever the Biden administration attempts, but who don’t want to be associated with sedition and religious extremism.

I never thought that yappy Christianist right-wingers like Zmirak would be the first to loudly label sane, observant traditional Christians as traitors.


Kelly’s lawsuit raises an interesting question of Pennsylvania law: Were the commonwealth’s 2019 election reforms that expanded mail-in voting consistent with the Pennsylvania constitution? But note the date of the reforms. Kelly could have raised his challenge well before the election. He should have raised his challenge before the election. So it was no surprise that the Pennsylvania Supreme Court rejected his lawsuit as filed too late.

It was even less surprising that SCOTUS refused to engage. Why? Because the Pennsylvania Supreme Court is the final authority on the meaning and interpretation of Pennsylvania law and the Pennsylvania constitution, not SCOTUS.

Everything I’m telling you in this newsletter is elementary. It represents basic election law, basic constitutional law, and basic rules of evidence. So why does the GOP belief that the election was stolen persist even through repeated, decisive legal defeats?

There’s a complicated answer and a simple answer. Let’s ignore the complicated answer for the moment—it’s based in the enduring human vulnerability to conspiracies compounded by widespread and increasing distrust in institutions. In short, to greater and lesser degrees conspiracy theories will always be among us.

In this case, however, the challenge of human nature is compounded by the fact that multiple trusted conservative and Republican voices are making arguments they know—or should know—aren’t just wrong, but frivolous.

In normal circumstances, a legal personality like Mark Levin would shred the arguments in the Pennsylvania case. Instead, he promoted it. Ted Cruz has the legal skills to know the case has no hope. He offered to argue it at the Supreme Court. And I know the attorney general of Texas well enough to know that this lawsuit is far beneath his level of legal expertise.

In other words, lawyers who should know better are conning their own fans and constituents. Credentialed charlatans are telling frightened and sad Americans exactly what they want to hear about topics they have no reason to understand. Is it any wonder they believe?

The Kraken Is Lackin’ – The French Press


Texas’s stunningly stupid statistical proof that the election result can’t be right:

That, believe it or not, is it. (A) If the 2020 voting population had precisely the same party preferences as the 2016 voting population, Biden could not possibly have won; and (B) if the mail-in and in-person voters had precisely the same party preferences, Biden could not possibly have won.

Wow! Man bites dog!! Who would have believed it!! If the 2020 voting population had the same Repub/Dem split as it had in 2016, Trump must have won!! If mail-in voters had the same preferences as in-person voters, Trump must have won!! And if my aunt had four wheels, she’d be a motorcar!!

Dr. Cicchetti, in other words, has falsified two hypotheses that nobody in his/her right mind could possibly have believed might actually be true. Garbage in, garbage out.

I would remind Dr. Cicchetti—and, more importantly, Texas AG Paxton—that we periodically conduct “elections” precisely because voter preferences may change over time, and some people who voted for the Democratic candidate in one election might choose the Republican in the next, or vice versa. Were this not the case, I suppose we’d still have a Federalist as Chief Executive. [“Your Honor, the chance that Thomas Jefferson carried Maryland in 1800, as has been reported, is less than one in 8 million billion quadrillion!! (assuming that voter preferences haven’t changed since the 1796 election …)”]

David Post, More on Statistical Stupidity at SCOTUS


Eventually, her beliefs radicalized further: She became convinced that trans women are men ….

TERFs and The Donald: The Future of Reddit’s Banned Groups – The Atlantic

Oh: biological fact is now “radical”?


Perennial wisdom:

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

Immanuel Kant

You shall love your crooked neighbour
With your crooked heart.

W.H. Auden

The worst judge of all is the man now most ready with his judgements; the ill-educated Christian turning gradually into the ill-tempered agnostic, entangled in the end of a feud of which he never understood the beginning, blighted with a sort of hereditary boredom with he knows not what, and already weary of hearing what he has never heard.

G.K. Chesterton, The Everlasting Man

You can read most of my more impromptu stuff here or join me and others on micro.blog. You won’t find me on Facebook any more, and I don’t post on Twitter (though I do have an account for occasional gawking).

Explaining myself

I posted last night some clippings from commentary on the U.S. Presidential debate of September 29, after almost four weeks’ absence and talk of ending the blog.

Problem 1 is that Wordpess, my platform, has been making “improvements” again. I’ve generally used its native editor, and they’ve replaced it with a monstrosity called a “block editor,” which is perfectly indecipherable. It wasn’t worth the effort to learn it since it’s a patently absurd way of writing essay-like things for people to read. [UPDDATE: As I subsequently tried to find a lighter graphic theme than War Correspondence had affected, it appeared that WordPress, or bloggery in general, is focused on commerce, photomontage, and other non-essay activities.] 

Problem 2 is not really a problem at all: even at my advanced age (500 dog years), I’m learning new tricks far more rewarding that mastering a stupid editor, such as not wallowing so much in news and commentary. This was made possible by spiritual adjustments which are best summarized by the advice of Fr. Stephen Freeman (for years, and especially here) and the late Fr. Thomas Hopcko. I’ve said for years that my epitaph should be “Darn! Just when I almost had it figured all out!” — a pathetic joke for a Christian, but an accurate reflection of how I was living. This annus horribilus has been a good one for taking stock of things and changing them as needed, and I can finally consider a better epitaph because that old one doesn’t fit any more.

If you think that’s too much information or a digression, it’s not: It means I’ve had less to say because I’m less “well-informed” and less in need of “venting” about things.

There may be more, but the third factor, the one facilitating my return to blogging, is the realization that I need not use WordPress’s stupid editor. I’ve acquired MarsEdit, on which I composed last night’s blog and am composing this one. It’s worth learning for me.

So I have the blogging tools I need but less to vent about. For that reason, I’ll almost certainly not return to daily blogging, and the conceit of warring against the deathworks already is feeling stale. I may return to the Tipsy Teetotaler name and a brighter graphic theme.

Finally, I commend to you Rod Dreher’s new book, Live Not by Lies, which I got on the Tuesday release date and finished yesterday — a relatively ferocious pace for me (facilitated by not wasting time on ephemeral news — see, it all connects). I think Dreher is fundamentally right about the future for cultural conservatives, but I’m partial to a Christian (Lutheran) reviewer who suggested that we may be heading for more open and literal warfare between Social Justice Warriors on the Left and “Traditionalst” atavists on the Alt-Right, with sane Christians mostly suffering collateral damage rather than being the targets of the SJWs.

* * * * *

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

and

You shall love your crooked neighbour

“With your crooked heart.

W.H. Auden

* * * * *

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

A lot to contemplate

The Greeks – Aristotle no less than Plato – as well as the great medieval thinkers, held that not only the physical, sensuous perception, but equally man’s spiritual and intellectual knowledge, included an element of pure, receptive contemplation, or as Heraclitus says, “listening to the essence of things“.

The Middle Ages drew a distinction between the understanding as ratio and the understanding as intellectus. Ratio is the power of discursive, logical thought, of searching and of examination, of abstraction, of definition and drawing conclusions. Intellectus, on the other hand, is the name for the understanding in so far as it is the capacity of simplex intellectus, of that simple vision to which truth offers itself like a landscape to the eye. The faculty of mind, man’s knowledge, is both of these things in one, according to antiquity and the Middle Ages, simultaneously ratio and intellectus; and the process of knowing is the action of the two together.

There is no need to waste words showing that not everything is useless which cannot be brought under the definition of the useful …

In the Middle Ages, [this] view prevailed. “It is necessary for the perfection of human society“, Aquinas writes, “that there should be men who devote their lives to contemplation“ – nota bene, necessary not only for the good of the individual who so devotes himself, but for the good of human society. No one thinking in terms of “intellectual worker“ could have said that.

[L]eisure does not exist for the sake of work – however much strength it may give a man to work; the point of leisure is not to be a restorative, a pick-me-up, whether mental or physical, and though it gives new strength, mentally and physically, and spiritually to, that is not the point.

The point and the justification of leisure or not that the functionary should function faultlessly and without a breakdown, but that the functionary should continue to be a man – and that means that he should not be wholly absorbed in the clear-cut milieu of his strictly limited function; the point is also that he should retain the faculty of grasping the world as a whole and realizing his full potentialities as an entity meant to reach Wholeness.

Josef Pieper, Leisure: The Basis of Culture, pages 28, 40-41, 49-50.

Use your “social distancing” time to get the house spic’n’span, to watch some worthy movies, to read some worthy books. But it’s Lent: fast a little, pray more, give time and/or money to those in greater need — and don’t forget to take some time for sheer contemplation. There’s a lot to contemplate.

* * * * *

Secularism, I submit, is above all a negation of worship. I stress:—not of God’s existence, not of some kind of transcendence and therefore of some kind of religion. If secularism in theological terms is a heresy, it is primarily a heresy about man. It is the negation of man as a worshiping being, as homo adorans: the one for whom worship is the essential act which both “posits” his humanity and fulfills it.

Alexander Schmemann, For the Life of the World, Appendix 1

[O]nce you say you are ashamed,
reading the page they hold out to you,
then such light as you have made
in your history will leave you.
They will no longer need to pursue you.
You will pursue them, begging forgiveness,
And they will not forgive you.
There is no power against them.
It is only candor that is aloof from them,
only an inward clarity, unashamed,
that they cannot reach ….

Wendell Berry, Do Not Be Ashamed

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

Notable, quotable

Yes, the Wall Street Journal got “Notable & Quotable,” but they’re still regular English descriptive words.

[W]hat still escapes most of us who “opt out” of Facebook and the like: making a loud declaration of our deletion of social media is still letting the very norms we desire to disrupt set the terms of the debate.

Amanda Patchin, recommending Jenny Odell’s How to Do Nothing, which presents as a self-help, digital detox type book but, they say, turns subversively into much more.


Promoting his new podcast, Senator Ted Cruz of Texas tweeted, “Last week we had Lev Parnas on Maddow & ‘secret tapes’; this week, the ‘Bolton revelations.’ It’s the same approach Dems & media followed during the Kavanaugh hearing.”

Except it’s not at all. The only thing similar about the two controversies is that new allegations kept inconveniencing politicians who wanted to move on. By that standard, nearly every unfolding Washington scandal is like the Kavanaugh hearings.

Jonah Goldberg

Some things never really change. Ted Cruz’s creepy manipulativeness is just one of those things.


I did not expect to laugh out loud at Kyle Smith’s Inside the Hillary Bubble, but then he opened with a pitch-perfect simile:

Imagine a socially maladept but extremely wealthy friend of yours was told, “People like tap dancing. You should tap-dance more.” You would cringe when the person was telling you about a major career setback and suddenly lurched into a little tap-dancing interlude. “Did I ever tell you about the time the world turned to ashes for me?” Tap-tap, tappity-tap. You’d feel sorry for your friend but mainly you’d feel that this person is deeply weird.

At some point in recent years, one or more of Hillary Clinton’s many handlers, advisers, or consultants told her, “You should laugh more. People like laughter.” Except she is sour, dour, and without a humorous molecule in her body. Her laughter is always feigned, hence always a non sequitur. When she reminds herself it’s laughing time, it comes across as a tic. It’s as bizarre as sudden-onset tap dancing.

In historic footage going back many years in the new documentary Hillary, Clinton presents as an inveterate scold and crusader. In more than a quarter of a century as a public figure she has never, as far as I know, said anything funny that wasn’t written for her. Yet in a fresh new batch of interviews taken for Hillary, the title figure becomes the second major movie anti-hero of recent months to exhibit a problem with bursting into unexplained, mirthless, and (hence) deeply disquieting laughter.


[A]llowing Bolton to testify about what’s apparently in his forthcoming book … would force Republicans to clearly reveal where they stand on the most important issue dividing the party.

That issue is, of course, Donald Trump himself.

Senators may not be willing to convict and remove Trump from office, but that’s where the unanimity stops. There is a spectrum of relative Trumpification in the GOP — and Bolton’s testimony would compel Republican senators to make a definitive choice about where to place themselves on it, and then oblige them to defend it in public ….

Damon Linker


There are … great problems with shame as a means of governing. For one thing, opposition does not disappear but only becomes unspeakable, making the public even less knowable to its rulers. For another, shame as a government weapon works only on people capable of feeling shame. It thus purges high-minded people from the opposition and ensures that, when the now-mysterious public does throw up an opposition, it will be led by shameless people and take a shameless form.

Christopher Caldwell via Rod Dreher, with Rod rejoicing at this CNN clip (which the GOP is already exploiting).


The Pentagon announced Friday that 34 American service members suffered traumatic brain injuries as a result of Iranian airstrikes earlier this month. Prior to the Defense Department’s announcement, President Trump had described the injuries as “not very serious.”

Via The Morning Dispatch.

Am I the only one to notice that Donald Trump sometimes — how shall I put this? — lies? Will this lie prove his Benghazi? Nah! He’s a member of the right tribe.


Brian Burch’s CatholicVote.org has identified 199,241 Wisconsin Catholics “who’ve been to church at least 3 times in the last 90 days” but of whom “91,373 … are not even registered to vote!”

He’s not kidding. He’s not making up numbers like Joseph McCarthy did.

If you attend an evangelical or a Catholic Church, a women’s rights march or a political rally of any kind, especially in a seriously contested state, the odds are that your cellphone ID number, home address, partisan affiliation and the identifying information of the people around you will be provided by geofencing marketers to campaigns, lobbyists and other interest groups.

And Democrats are scared. Worth reading, though there’s a New York Times paywall, to get the skinny on how microtargeting does politics.


One really should read, if possible, Robert P. George’s fond remembrance of Roger Scruton, by way of summarizing key themes in his conservative philosophy.

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Trump didn’t do the thing he’s accused of doing, but if he did it was fine, and in fact that’s exactly what he did, get over it, because it’s not only fine, it’s precisely what we want from a president, and can you believe that Biden did the same thing, shame on him.

Peter Sunderman

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

Book Report 2019

My total book reading for 2019 was 39 books. Highlights include three “classics”:

The Abolition of Man and Abuse of Language, Abuse of Power are always highlights, and I re-read both regularly.

I just completed book 39, and it was another highlight: Charles L. Marohn, Jr., Strong Towns: A Bottom-Up Revolution to Rebuild American Prosperity. It might even merit re-reading, though its “timeless” wisdom is of a different timelessness than Lewis or Pieper.

Some excerpts from Marohn:

Let me summarize: in exchange for 26 years of tax relief, the community was able to get an out-of-town franchise restaurant to abandon their old building and move three blocks up the street where they tore down a block of buildings and replaced them with a development that is 44% less valuable than the development pattern of what was removed. By any financial measure, this is a bad investment, yet cities everywhere routinely do this exact kind of transaction.

(Page 134)

Middle-class housing subsidies and transportation spending are the bread and circuses of modern America. Americans express a preference for single-family homes on large lots along cul-de-sacs because that’s the lifestyle we subsidize. We’ve been willing to bankrupt our cities and draw down the wealth prior generations built, in order to provide that subsidy. It can’t go on forever.

(Page 145)

Planners like to describe neighborhoods with both homes and neighborhood-friendly businesses as “mixed use.” Our ancestors would simply have called them “neighborhoods.”

(Page 163)

[After noting that local governments not infrequently mistake insolvency for a mere cash flow problem.] A local government must be obsessively intentional, organized and disciplined to discern it true financial status.

I gave a presentation to a group of bond analyst from one of the large ratings agencies. I showed them how public balance sheet didn’t reflect the extent of municipal liability, that cities had under-reported amounts of maintenance obligations totaling many times the reported pension shortfalls. The analysts were stunned, professed this was new to them, and asked a lot of good questions. Then they informed for me that it wouldn’t change anything about how they rated bonds because cities don’t default on their debt – they have not defaulted en masse since the Great Depression – and that track record superseded all other considerations.

(Page 190-91)

At the national level, I tend to be libertarian. Let’s do a few things and do them very competently.

At the state level, I tend to be a Minnesota version of conservative Republican. Let’s devolve power, use market and feedback where it drives good outcomes, and let’s do limited state interventions when we have a broad consensus that things would be better by doing it. Let’s measure outcomes and hold ourselves to a high standard.

At the regional level, I tend to favor a more progressive approach. Let’s cooperate in ways that improve everyone’s lives. Let’s work together to make the world more just.

At the city level, I’m fairly progressive. What do we need to do to make this place work for everyone? Let’s raise our taxes, and put sensible regulations in place, to make that a reality.

At the neighborhood level, I’m pretty much a socialist. If there’s something I have that you need, it’s yours. All that I ask is that you do the same in return for me and my family.

At the family level, I’m completely communal. Without hesitation, I’ll give everything I have so my family has lives that are secure, happy, and prosperous. I expect nothing in return.

(Page 210)

We’re all Detroit, just a couple of decades behind. Then we’re back to living humanly — that is, making small bets, winning or losing small, learning from both wins and losses, and in general building antifragility, like we (other than Detroit) had until the postwar suburban sprawl was thrust upon us.

Next year I hope actually to hit 52 books, my unattained goal for this year. I think the news in 2020 will be so distressing, dominated as it will be by Presidential politics, that ignoring it more, in favor of books that might make me wise, will be relatively easy.

To that end I’ve recently discovered a podcast and an alternate view of the digital New York Times that expedite getting the necessary news, the latter by letting me focus on the real news of the day without digging through NYT’s “most viewed” and otherwise boosted stories day after day after day.

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Sailing on the sea of this present life, I think of the ocean of my many offenses; and not having a pilot for my thoughts, I call to Thee with the cry of Peter, save me, O Christ! Save me, O God! For Thou art the lover of mankind.

(From A Psalter for Prayer)

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

Make America Human (Again?)

[S]hould someone ask me whether I would indicate the West such as it is today as a model to my country, frankly I would have to answer negatively. No, I could not recommend your society in its present state as an ideal for the transformation of ours. Through intense suffering our country has now achieved a spiritual development of such intensity that the Western system in its present state of spiritual exhaustion does not look attractive. Even those characteristics of your life which I have just mentioned are extremely saddening.

A fact which cannot be disputed is the weakening of human beings in the West while in the East they are becoming firmer and stronger — 60 years for our people and 30 years for the people of Eastern Europe. During that time we have been through a spiritual training far in advance of Western experience. Life’s complexity and mortal weight have produced stronger, deeper, and more interesting characters than those generally [produced] by standardized Western well-being.

Therefore, if our society were to be transformed into yours, it would mean an improvement in certain aspects, but also a change for the worse on some particularly significant scores. It is true, no doubt, that a society cannot remain in an abyss of lawlessness, as is the case in our country. But it is also demeaning for it to elect such mechanical legalistic smoothness as you have. After the suffering of many years of violence and oppression, the human soul longs for things higher, warmer, and purer than those offered by today’s mass living habits, introduced by the revolting invasion of publicity, by TV stupor, and by intolerable music.

If the world has not come to its end, it has approached a major turn in history, equal in importance to the turn from the Middle Ages to the Renaissance. It will exact from us a spiritual upsurge: We shall have to rise to a new height of vision, to a new level of life where our physical nature will not be cursed as in the Middle Ages, but, even more importantly, our spiritual being will not be trampled upon as in the Modern era.

This ascension will be similar to climbing onto the next anthropologic stage. No one on earth has any other way left but — upward.

Aleksander Solzhenitsyn, Harvard University Commencement Address 1978.

Re-reading this (for the first time in more than a decade, I suspect) right after reading the latest blog from Fr. Stephen Freeman, was powerful, especially substituting “modernity” for “the West.” Especially were I to make it “the modern West,” I doubt that Solzhenitsyn would object.

I know that Solzhenitsyn is not alone, because I follow the (rather occasional) blog of an American expatriate who is quite happy in post-Soviet Russia, with another friend drawn back to Georgia, where he was living with his family last I knew.

Make America Human (Again?).

* * * * *

Sailing on the sea of this present life, I think of the ocean of my many offenses; and not having a pilot for my thoughts, I call to Thee with the cry of Peter, save me, O Christ! Save me, O God! For Thou art the lover of mankind.

(From A Psalter for Prayer)

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

New York adventures and thoughts

I’m visiting New York City for a few days, mostly to see Heroes of the Fourth Turning, but with other things thrown in for good measure.

I’m glad I allowed four full “ground days” (i.e., non-travel days) because I kept stumbling onto subway trains that took me further south when I needed to go north to get to the Met. Then I got off at 96th and Lexington because the Met is at 1000 5th Avenue, so I’d need to walk West to 5th Avenue, north 4 blocks to the Met.

5 blocks north, at 101st, no sign of the Met. Out come the phone and GPS.

Well, do tell! 1000 5th Avenue is roughly at 82nd Street, not 100th.

I think I’ll adopt a preferential option for busses, as I know north from south on the surface, but I don’t know what I need to do to realize that things like street addresses are not always logical here.

* * *

The Met may be facing an encounter with Cancel Culture. It not only has a Sackler (Purdue Pharma opioids) Gallery of Egyptian art but (oh the horror!) a David H. Koch plaza.
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* * *

There is literally nonstop background noise in my hotel just west of 9th Avenue on 42nd Street. I’m 12 floors up but can’t escape it.

I used to think I’d like living here if money were no object. But I’m quickly relenting. It would have to be enough money to let me live above the noise, and that would be kind of artificial, no?

God loves us all. God loves the city(ies). There’s even a St. Raphael of Brooklyn, canonized after I became Orthodox.

And God knows that small(er) towns have their distinctive constellations of temptations. But I think that for the duration, something a bit less urban than Manhattan is my sweet spot.

UPDATE: “Above the noise” might mean “above 59th Street and away from the major avenues.” I walked from 10th Avenue over to Central Park (86th Street, I think) on Saturday morning, and it was acceptably quiet. Nice brownstones, too.

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

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

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

A belated anniversary notice

My blog title change, and acknowledgement of the blog’s evolved focus, wasn’t timed this way, but this is, coincidentally, 9 years and 1 day after I began blogging here.

Some things remain the same: I’m still a big fan of Fr. Stephen Freeman.

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

Too darned much about Kentucky

1

The March for Life/Lincoln Memorial/Native American/Black Hebrew kerfuffle continues unabated. Here are the facts, or at least what some are reporting:

  1. Fact from “reputable” media: Tuesday or Wednesday or both, Covington Catholic High School was closed because of death threats. (Death threats. Let that sink in. In what alternate universe could that be an appropriate response even to the worst of which the Catholic lads have been accused?)
  2. Fact from “reputable” media: Native Americans showed up in Covington Kentucky to protest at Catholic Diocesan headquarters. (I can’t help but see this as a provocation and as pretty damned self-righteous. But see below.)
  3. Concurring reports: Nathan Phillips and others tried to enter the National Basilica to beat their drums (literally) Saturday night as Mass was under way. The reports seem true, though I’ve seen no evidence that they knew Mass was under way.
  4. Rumors stated confidently: Nathan Phillips never went to Vietnam, was a lousy Marine, and eventually got drummed out under less than honorable circumstances.
  5. Fact from “reputable” media: Nathan Phillips has taken newsworthy offense at “appropriation” of native American culture by white people on prior occasions.

I confess to feeling much hostility toward Nathan Phillips. I confess to an inability to think that the Catholic lads bear any substantial blame for what went down, and that Nathan Phillips picked the soft target — white, Catholic, male Trump supporters — rather than the black religious cultist-provocateurs, because he knew the soft targets were no real threat to him (and might make a good incident with him in the spotlight).

But those are feelings For now, just about the only proposition I’m willing to affirm is that “Viral videos should be reserved for cats and Jordan Peterson.” (Mercatornet.com)

 

2

Liberals Outpaced Conservatives in ‘Dark Money’ Midterm Spending. Elections of 2018 bucked yearslong trend of right-leaning nonprofits dominating in ad cash, report says.

3

The “nonpartisan” media took what felt like years to discover that some of the Women’s March organizers had an anti-Semitism problem, but some teenagers get rowdy at the March for Life — while they’re being yelled at by black nationalists, for God’s sake — and it gets covered like Kristallnacht. Pro-life activists get video of Planned Parenthood suits talking about chopping up unborn babies for their parts, and we have to hear claims about how they’re “selectively edited” repeated in the press forever — but a clip of an anonymous teenager smiling while someone drums in his face is a five-alarm “fascism in America” fire!

… So fine — keep being NeverTrump, be anti-Hannity, be a scold against your own side sometimes, whatever. Just don’t give me the both-sides piety when something like this happens — and what, just a week after the freakout over Karen Pence teaching art at an evangelical school with a traditional-Christian code of sexual behavior? Can’t you see that our opponents won’t be happy till every conservative religious school gets shamed or shuttered? Can’t you see that the supposed gatekeepers at “mainstream” institutions are happy to play along?

… [T]hey always get things wrong the same way. They’re always looking for some white preppy scapegoat. The Rolling Stone article about frat-boy rapists that turned out to be a hoax …

Ross Douthat‘s conscience arguing with him as he defends mainstream media in his column today.

I’m with Douthat—and his conscience—on this. Except my Twitter account is gone, and when I occasionally click on a Tweet embedded in someone’s blog, it generally confirms the wisdom of that decision.

4

Why, while we’re at it, is it important to get a definitive account of what happened among the Hebrew Israelites, Native American activists and Catholic preppy boys? It is, at best, a microcosm of some larger point. By itself, it is insignificant: People from different backgrounds interact during their respective public demonstrations; some tension ensues. Big freakin’ deal.

5

How a NeoCon-Backed “Fact Checker” Plans to Wage War on Independent Media is the take of one independent medium on NewsGuard. And now it’s reportedly baked into the new Microsoft Edge browser?!

Quis custodiet ipsos custodes?

I’m going to install the plug-in and see what happens.

6

The tech website Gizmodo reported this week that it found at least three retouched photographs on Trump’s social media pages since October, including two in the past few days, in which his body and face have been slimmed, his face and neck wrinkles tightened, his hair cleaned up — “and in one of the strangest alterations, Trump’s fingers have been made slightly longer.”

This falsification of digits is bigger than the boys from Covington, Kentucky. Can we talk about it instead?

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Follow me on Micro.blog Follow me on Micro.blog, too, where I blog tweet-like shorter items and … well, it’s evolving. Or, if you prefer, those micro.blog items also appear now at microblog.intellectualoid.com.