Holiday Ingathering

You can’t patent, trademark, or copyright routine

Yesterday morning we were reading around the fire and started chatting about pastors and the emphasis in the Protestant church on feelings and niche theology. It is sometimes held that if one feels a certain way or espouses certain esoteric ideas, then one is a “mature” Christian. This, of course, is great for Christian publishers and pastors, who produce books and create experiences that promise to lead people to the holy land of Christian maturity, where a select few live with a sense of satisfying superiority. Gnosticism is alive and well.

But isn’t action essential for holiness—especially repetitive action, like regularly taking the sacraments and doing a daily office? It’s harder (though not impossible) to build a marketable brand on these things, which is perhaps why there are so few celebrity pastors in churches that emphasize routine.

Micah Mattix, Prufrock for December 23 (emphasis added)


Donald Jr.

Emissary to MAGA world

Donald Trump Jr. is both intensely unappealing and uninteresting. He combines in his person corruption, ineptitude, and banality. He is perpetually aggrieved; obsessed with trolling the left; a crude, one-dimensional figure who has done a remarkably good job of keeping from public view any redeeming qualities he might have.

There’s a case to be made that he’s worth ignoring, except for this: Don Jr. has been his father’s chief emissary to MAGA world; he’s one of the most popular figures in the Republican Party; and he’s influential with Republicans in positions of power …

And the former president’s son has a message for the tens of millions of evangelicals who form the energized base of the GOP: the scriptures are essentially a manual for suckers. The teachings of Jesus have “gotten us nothing.” It’s worse than that, really; the ethic of Jesus has gotten in the way of successfully prosecuting the culture wars against the left. If the ethic of Jesus encourages sensibilities that might cause people in politics to act a little less brutally, a bit more civilly, with a touch more grace? Then it needs to go.

Decency is for suckers.

He believes, as his father does, that politics should be practiced ruthlessly, mercilessly, and vengefully. The ends justify the means. Norms and guardrails need to be smashed. Morality and lawfulness must always be subordinated to the pursuit of power and self-interest. That is the Trumpian ethic.

Peter Wehner, ‌The Gospel of Donald Trump Jr.

And the assembled hoards at Turning Point USA ate it up.

If the GOP wants to be the party of normals

The Republican visage of the Janus-faced Hulk is investing in stupid as if it were Bitcoin … I’m enjoying the political beclowning of wokeness on the left, but the right’s embrace of jackassery is legitimately bumming me out, because it’s driven by people trying to claim the conservative label.

Consider AmericaFest. For several days now, I’ve been subjected to clips from Charlie Kirk’s confab. If stupid were chocolate, he’d be Willy Wonka, albeit with a revival tent vibe.  Whether it’s his comparison of Kyle Rittenhouse to Jesus or his claim that their election “audit updates” come from a “biblical framework,” he’s peddling snake-oil-flavored everlasting gobstoppers of idiocy.

Before you get offended at me mocking people for declaring their Christian faith, consider that what I’m really mocking is their understanding of Christianity. Here’s Donald Trump Jr.:

““We’ve turned the other cheek and I understand sort of the biblical reference,  I understand the mentality, but it’s gotten us nothing, … It’s gotten us nothing while we’ve ceded ground in every major institution.”

My favorite part is the “sort of.” “Turn the other cheek” is “sort of” a biblical reference? What other kind of reference could it be other than some obscure instruction from a photographer to some butt model or what a tattooist says when he’s done with the left side?

… Donnie thinks a core tenet of Christianity needs to go if it doesn’t yield political power (for him). It should not fall to a guy named Goldberg to point this out, but from what I know about Christianity, this is pretty frick’n Roman.

But it’s not just the religion stuff. Sarah Palin, without a hint of irony, says she’ll get vaccinated “over my dead body.” (“Your terms are acceptable”—COVID.) … Madison Cawthorn, who makes Watters seems like Aristotle, told a group of mostly college students (at an event that makes its living feeding off of college students) that most of them should drop out of college. And, of course, Tucker Carlson doled out the usual boob-bait about the Capitol riot.

… I could go on. But the point is that if the GOP wants to be the party of normals, it can’t just take advantage of Democratic abnormalcy. It actually has to be, well, normal.

Jonah Goldberg


Dysfunction-making habits

Famous experiments on animals demonstrate that artificial isolation from their own kind produces dysfunction. We need to understand that humanity is running an analogous experiment on itself. The revolution ushered in facts of life that had never before existed on the scale seen today. Abortion, fatherlessness, divorce, single parenthood, childlessness, the imploding nuclear family, the shrinking extended family: All these phenomena are acts of human subtraction. Every one of them has the effect of reducing the number of people to whom we belong, and whom we can call our own.

Mary Eberstadt, Men Are at War with God


Suffering for the common good

[I]t does strike me as odd that many American liberals seem ideologically committed to being miserable all the time. But this is also understandable in light of prevailing moods. Feeling like you’re a victim even if you’re not is the dominant cultural sensibility of the day.

Anthropologically, the need for an “anchor” or “pivot” (to use the Calvinist theologian Abraham Kuyper’s term) is something that all humans appear to need across space and time …

This innate disposition can cause problems when denied its natural outlets. If a particular segment of the population, on average, is less likely to believe in God, belong to an organized religion, have children, or be married, then they will, on average, need to look elsewhere for anchors and pivots. And we know that meaning can be derived from panic, fear, and even illness, particularly if you believe your suffering is in the service of the common good.

Shadi Hamid, Omicron Panic and Liberal Hysteria


Is the essence of conspiracy theorizing denial of Occam’s Razor?

A group of unvaccinated people who attended a huge conspiracy conference in Dallas earlier this month all became sick in the days after the event with symptoms like coughing, shortness of breath, and fever. Instead of blaming the global COVID pandemic, however, the conspiracy theorists think they were attacked with anthrax.

This far-right conspiracy claim began after a dozen people spent time together in a confined space at the ReAwaken America tour event in Dallas over the weekend of Dec. 10. And the fact that this was likely a COVID outbreak and superspreader event has been almost entirely ignored.

David Gilbert, People Got Sick at a Conspiracy Conference. They’re Sure It’s Anthrax..


… rituals of ideological one-upmanship

The forces at work in healthy party politics are centripetal; they encourage factions and interests to come together to work out common goals and strategies. They oblige everyone to think, or at least speak, about the common good. In movement politics, the forces are all centrifugal, encouraging splits into smaller and smaller factions obsessed with single issues and practicing rituals of ideological one-upmanship.

Mark Lilla, The Once and Future Liberal


Frolicking in 2022

A Facebook name change? A colossal global chip shortage? Digital art selling for millions? No crystal ball could have shown us what 2021 in tech would look like.

Opening paragraph to Tech That Will Change Your Life in 2022 – WSJ

To give them credit, the authors’ very next thought was that their annual prognostications are very much a lark.


Ambivalence

I couldn’t bear much more than the first five minutes of Netflix’s Emily in Paris (which I set out to watch because … Paris, of course), but maybe I had it all wrong:

[M]any of the haters were also fans. A tweet by the comedian Phillip Henry summed up the dynamic: “1) Emily In Paris is one of the worst shows I’ve ever seen. 2) I finished it in one sitting.”

Netflix’s ‘Emily in Paris’ Is the Last Guilty Pleasure – The Atlantic

I went back and endured 15 minutes. I guess I’m not a very masochistic personality, because that’s enough and more than enough.


Long on emotion, short on facts

I predict mass communication technology and theory will be further weaponized to the point where increasing numbers of people suffer from a Matrix-like existence; “fake news” leading the way, long on emotion, short on facts.

James Howard Kunstler, Living in the Long Emergency.

"Long on emotion, short on facts" describes a lot of what I find frustrating about even the more balanced, non-ideological news these days. For just one instance, I think we all now know that hospitalizations has become a better Covid metric than new cases, but you’ll be lucky to find hospitalization numbers in most daily Covid updates. It’s mostly "new cases up; feel bad" or "new cases down; chill a little — until we whipsaw you again."


People who changed their minds in 2021

Because the personal has become political, and because politics has swallowed everything, to change is to risk betrayal: of your people, your culture, your tribe. It is to make yourself suspicious. If you change your mind on something, can you still sit with those friends in the endless high school cafeteria that is modern life? Often, the answer is no.

A year ago, I still believed very much that the best use of my energy was to try to work to shore up the old institutions from the inside. I was wrong. My readers know: This newsletter would not exist if I hadn’t changed my mind.

And once I changed my mind, once I stopped trying to repair a decayed thing from within and set out to build something new, I was suddenly waking up peppy at 5 a.m., no alarm needed. I think that’s because changing your mind is a hopeful act. It means you think there’s a better path forward. It means you’re not done becoming.

Bari Weiss, who proceeds to share some very short essays from people who’ve changed or changed their minds recently.


Shorts

Everyone hopes to reach old age, but when it comes, most of us complain about it.

Marcus Tullius Cicero


A sentence that would have been gibberish twenty years ago (and isn’t much better today):

Tesla has agreed to modify software in its cars to prevent drivers and passengers from playing video games on the dashboard screens while vehicle are in motion, a federal safety regulator said on Thursday.


None of the Civil War amendments established a right to be free from private-sector discrimination.

David Bernstein, You Can’t Say That!


A cynic is a man who knows the price of everything and the value of nothing.

Oscar Wilde

The Price is Right, on the tube for 60+ years now, must be the most cynical show on television.


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.

Mostly from news and commentary

Chickens coming home to roost

U.S. District Judge Linda Parker on Thursday ordered nine attorneys—including Sidney Powell and Lin Wood—to pay $175,250 to the state of Michigan and city of Detroit in response to their participation in the frivolous “Kraken” lawsuits seeking to overturn the results of the 2020 election.

The Morning Dispatch

U.S. Sportsball vs. Chinese Communist Party

In an interview on The Lead With Jake Tapper yesterday,  veteran sports broadcaster Bob Costas offered a measured, but forceful, condemnation of the coddling of China by some international institutions and prominent athletes. Tapper asked about the Peng Shuai situation and why the Women’s Tennis Association and International Olympic Committee have taken such different approaches to it. “The IOC is in bed with China,” Costas said. “It’s very troubling, their affinity for authoritarian regimes. … Meanwhile, you’ve got not just the IOC, you’ve got the NBA, and you’ve got Nike, and various individual sports stars in the United States who have significant investments in China, where the sports market is huge. And some of those people are very outspoken—as they have a right to be, and maybe in general you and I would agree with their viewpoints—very outspoken and sometimes offer sweeping condemnations of their own admittedly imperfect country, the United States. But when it comes to China—perhaps the world’s leading human rights abuser given its size and its wherewithal—they’re mum. Very, very few have anything to say.”

The Morning Dispatch

The Families Roe

We can’t shake the picture of the wholesome 1950s and ’60s as a time of American innocence. But no country is “innocent,” and so many of the central players in the [American abortion] drama came from some kind of deep dysfunction—sadness, family chaos, sirens in the night. Norma McCorvey, the Roe in the case, was a remorseless, compulsive liar who variously claimed to have been raped, gang-raped, beaten, shot at, preyed on by lesbian nuns. As I read her she was a sometimes charming, often funny sociopath, always uninterested in the effect on others of her decisions.

There is the brilliant lawyer who brought the first case and wound up destitute in a heatless house in East Texas; the prickly, eloquent pro-life leader who wound up unappreciated, alone and a hoarder. There is the writing of the Roe decision itself. And there is the idealism of many on both sides who were actually trying to make life more just.

Peggy Noonan, source from Joshua Prager’s book The Families Roe

Getting and spending

It is something of a cliché to suggest that the world outside is preoccupied with getting and spending. We have to put a lot of time and energy into those activities here on the island. I think the difference is that it would not occur to us to think of such activities as the main, let alone the sole, reason for our existence.

Peter France, A Place of Healing for the Soul: Patmos

Without comment

What a fast swimmer: A University of Pennsylvania swimmer who competed for three seasons at the college level as a man is now absolutely dominating the sport as a woman, breaking record after record in women’s swimming. “Being trans has not affected my ability to do this sport and being able to continue is very rewarding,” Lia Thomas said.

Nellie Bowles via the Bari Weiss Substack

Ray Bradbury, prophet

Give the people contests they win by remembering the words to more popular songs or the names of state capitals or how much corn Iowa grew last year. Cram them full of noncombustible data, chock them so damned full of ‘facts’ they feel stuffed, but absolutely ‘brilliant’ with information.

Ray Bradbury, Farenheit 451

Projection

We always have to remember that how we see the world about us is but a reflection of the state of our own inner world. Ultimately, it is because we see ourselves as existing apart from God that we also see nature as existing apart from God.

Philip Sherrard, The Rape of Man and Nature


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.

Gleanings

From Deschooling Society

  • Hope, in its strong sense, means trusting faith in the goodness of nature, while expectation, as I will use it here, means reliance on results which are planned and controlled by man. Hope centers desire on a person from whom we await a gift. Expectation looks forward to satisfaction from a predictable process which will produce what we have the right to claim. The Promethean ethos has now eclipsed hope. Survival of the human race depends on its rediscovery as a social force.
  • Classical man framed a civilized context for human perspective. He was aware that he could defy fate-nature-environment, but only at his own risk. Contemporary man goes further; he attempts to create the world in his image, to build a totally man-made environment, and then discovers that he can do so only on the condition of constantly remaking himself to fit it. We now must face the fact that man himself is at stake.
  • I know a Mexican village through which not more than a dozen cars drive each day. A Mexican was playing dominoes on the new hard-surface road in front of his house – where he had probably played and sat since his youth. A car sped through and killed him. The tourist who reported the event to me was deeply upset, and yet he said: “The man had it coming to him”. … At first sight, the tourist’s remark is no different from the statement of some primitive bushman reporting the death of a fellow who had collided with a taboo and had therefore died. But the two statements carry opposite meanings. The primitive can blame some tremendous and dumb transcendence, while the tourist is in awe of the inexorable logic of the machine.

Ivan Illich, Deschooling Society.

This is the first Ivan Illich I’ve read. It’s mind-expanding, but my mind is not yet capacious enough to find many of his proposals for alternatives to "schooling" realistic.

Perhaps that means that my mind is captive to the schooling mentality, but I can’t help but note that the suggestion is both ad hominem and circular.

On at least one thing do Illich and I agree: As one who identifies as auto-didact (one much provide one’s identity these days, right?), I agree that most of what I know I learned outside of school. And that goes double for important things (beyond basic learning skills).

That should disabuse us of any servility to schooling.

A Counterworld

The Church’s function is not to adapt Christianity to the world, or even to adapt the world to Christianity; Her function is to maintain a counterworld in the world.

Nicolas Gomez Davila, Escolios a un Texto Implicito, via John Brady’s Rags of Light e-newsletter.

And if you understand that, you should understand:

  • The case for The Benedict Option; and
  • That The Benedict Option is, as many have said, "just the Church being the Church."

How badly must Trump botch this notion to disenthrall his acolytes?

DWAC, the Trump Social-Media SPAC, Soars in GameStop-Like Frenzy
Shares of Digital World Acquisition more than doubled to $94.20 Friday after trading as high as $175; have risen nearly tenfold in two days

Maybe losing beaucoups bucks will disenthrall Trump’s sycophants. Something needs to.

Decadent Jazz & Journalism

Jazz has been compared to “an indecent story syncopated and counterpointed.” There can be no question that, like journalism in literature, it has helped to destroy the concept of obscenity.

Richard M. Weaver, Ideas Have Consequences.

Even the greats can be wrong sometimes — about jazz, not journalism, of course.


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.

Riding the emotional roller-coaster

It pains me to see the wave of puritanism in the arts, arts organizations competing to see who can write the most militant mission statements declaring their dedication to Equality and Inclusivity and Anti-Elitism, which tells me clearly that the end is near. Art is elitist because some people are better singers than almost anyone else and some plays astonish and others only fill the time, and if equality is now the goal, then where do we go to experience the extraordinary? Art then becomes ideology, and for astonishment we must wait for the next blizzard or thunderstorm. A Manhattan thunderstorm is worth waiting for, but still.

We have a long haul ahead of us, people. Children dressed up as malevolent beings for Halloween: is this a good thing? I doubt it. November is a miserable month, with elections at which old people will outvote the young and timid school boards will be elected who’ll cut out any remaining art or music education and require history teachers to offer opposing points of view as to the legitimacy of the 2020 election ….

Garrison Keillor

That an aging lefty can call bullshit on the illiberal left and the trendier-than-thou institutions is a sign of hope. That "requiring history teachers to offer opposing points of view as to the legitimacy of the 2020 election" doesn’t sound too far-fetched is the antidote to that hope.

I read a Damon Linker column yesterday that instantly reminded me of Micael Anton’s then-pseudonymous Flight 93 Election of 2016. The form of both was "if you really believe that [the other party] is an existential threat, you’d be [doing more]." In Anton’s case, doing more was voting for a debauched, orange, and questionably sane poseur (since we certainly would die if Hillary got into the cockpit). In Linker’s case, doing more is "prioritizing election reform" by things like, "at the very least, overhauling the poorly drafted and dangerously ambiguous Electoral Count Act of 1887" or keeping Republicans from "rig[ging] the system so that Democrats can never win power again."

I don’t mean to suggest a simple "to hell with both parties." The Republicans were lying or hysterical when they said HRC was an existential threat. She was a crook and the bearer of bad policy, and not much more. The Democrats are stone-cold right about the Republicans threatening liberal democracy, which is why it truly is baffling that they’re farting around with progressivist megaspending proposals instead of protecting democracy.

Have I mentioned lately that if the center-left and center-right cannot find a way to win elections (and retention), I don’t see how this country isn’t doomed.


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.

More scrapbooking

Larry Kudlow

Now that Donald Trump’s former economic adviser Larry Kudlow has taken his words of wisdom from the White House to Fox News, he wants the nation to know that President Joe Biden is plotting to force Americans to drink “plant-based beer.”(Befuddled Larry Kudlow Rails That Biden Will Force Americans To Guzzle ‘Plant-Based Beer’)

Now to be fair to Kudlow (who, be it remembered, was supposed to be one of the super-smart guys on Team [45]) also said "this kind of thinking is stupid." Since he’s super-smart, I assume he was referring to his own thinking.

Or something.

Liz Cheney

I assume you have heard by now that Liz Cheney is in imminent danger of being ousted from GOP leadership because of her keen bullshit detector and the loud sirens attached to it:

If Cheney is ousted, McCarthy will be the feckless House Republican leader who acted as the toady enforcer of [45]’s dangerous election lies. Every Democrat can say, with a straight face, that in Kevin’s House, lying is a litmus test for leadership.

Amanda Carpenter, Kevin McCarthy: Master of Strategery

I’m in danger of getting back in and wallowing too much in politics, but I found Jonah Goldberg’s analysis of what Cheney’s up to pretty persuasive:

The media and the Democrats understandably want to make this all about her brave truth-telling about “the Big Lie” and the “insurrection.” But the real issue for Cheney—I believe—is only incidentally about all of that. Again, I’m not saying she doesn’t believe what she’s saying, but her real goal is to free the GOP from the Trumpian captivity and the ideological and political corruptions that stem from it. And she’s losing that effort, at least in the short run.

It says a lot, and none of it good, that Liz Cheney and Mitt Romney are unwelcome in today’s GOP while Marjorie Taylor Greene and Matt Gaetz are in good standing.

Education versus Job Skills

Whole universities are now devoted to churning out skilled laborers—even if that means cutting entire humanity departments. Job skills and upward mobility seem to be more important than profound people, able to feel and think well about the mysteries of life.

A major problem, though, is that the liberal arts themselves have been instrumentalized toward the market. They are pitched primarily as leading to employment. Why the liberal arts? For more effective communication. Writing skills for memos. Teamwork and collaboration. Critical thinking, etc. The liberal arts are good because they make students marketable to industry.

Alex Sosler, The Liberal Arts for Loss and Lament

I’m on the Board of a very small Classical Christian School, which really should be bigger. I’d like to attribute our struggles to a spirit (among potential patrons) akin to the instrumentalizing of liberal arts in colleges and universities: "It’s not enough to produce great souls, who love truth, beauty and virtue. No. You’ve got to show us how greatness of soul, and loving truth, beauty and virtue ‘cash out’."

And as a product of postwar 20th-Century America, I cannot deny that I’m tempted to tell them how I think it cashes out, though you shouldn’t justify primary goods by how they facilitate secondary goods.

Twitter-Truth

Twitter Truth is now an actual criterion for newsworthiness that many journalists live by. If they didn’t, how do you explain an article like this? Or all the other instances of Twitter nonsense getting written up as though it means anything or has inherent value, without any fact-checking? If something is Twitter True, it now warrants coverage and credulous amplification. And this from a tribe — my tribe — that endlessly, and rightfully, mocked Donald Trump for his “people are saying” innuendo.

Jesse Singal. I love the coinage Twitter-Truth.

Kevin McCarthy’s Big Reveal

I couldn’t figure out how to embed a tweet in Markdown, which is what I use to write my blogs until the last phases. Here is the link. It is visual.

The Point of Life

I remain baffled at how many adults seem to think that the point of life is to enjoy the meaningless mild approval of armies of strangers rather than to build a tight little network of friends and family who are passionately invested in you. But even if you don’t share my values, perhaps you can admit that treating personal animus like it’s politically meaningful is unhelpful. If you think I’m an a**hole, just say I’m an a**hole. If you don’t like someone, just say so. That doesn’t mean you don’t write about politics. You just drop the phony f**king holier-than-thou routine and acknowledge that you’re motivated by animal spirits more than anything else, like everyone else. For years I have played a simple game: when I meet someone in person who says they don’t like my writing, I challenge them to name an issue on which we disagree. They fail over and over again. Like literally they can’t name anything. The truth is they don’t like me, who I am, as a person, but for whatever reason they feel compelled to pretend that it’s deeper than that. It isn’t and that’s fine. If we can’t actually grow up, maybe we can be mature enough to admit that we are immature, and that all of this is a child’s game.

Freddie deBoer (lightly expurgated).

I disagree with Freddie on the point of life, but prefer his version to the alternative that baffles him.

Learned Helplessness

To donors, business leaders, trade association heads, operatives, commentators, and other powers-that-be in GOP circles:

Don’t just call me to commiserate and lament.

Call them. Call the Republican members of Congress you’ve supported. Call the National Republican Congressional Committee. Call your fellow donors.

And tell them: “No. No more support. If you’re going to purge Liz, we’re gone. Really. For this entire cycle. A party that purges a truth-teller isn’t one I will support. And I’ll say this publicly and I’ll rally my fellow donors to follow my lead.”

And I’d add, to GOP-supporting conservative writers: No more angst.

Say the truth loudly and clearly. Say that the behavior of Republicans is a danger and a disgrace. If all you can muster is concern about how purging Cheney for telling the truth might “diminish” the GOP and hurt its chances with swing voters—if you lack the fortitude to do anything other than play for triple bank shots with an eye toward preserving your place—well, better not to write anything at all.

So, to GOP donors and conservative elites: Enough with the comfortable posture of learned helplessness. Enough with the ineffectual finger wagging. Just Say No.

Alas, the Republican donors and the conservative elites are unlikely to say No. Learned helplessness is a balm for people who would rather avoid taking an uncomfortable stance.

And so they stand athwart history, clucking their tongues and wringing their hands.

William Kristol, The Learned Helplessness of Republican Elites

The refrigerator-magnet-poetry word-jumble method of inquiry

Abigail Shrier, author of Irreversible Damage, continues defending her book against hysteria. She asks "Has Censorship Become Our Baseline Expectation?" and recites several incidents of news stories implying that Amazon is an intransigent bad-actor for not banning her book as it earlier banned Ryan Anderson’s provocatively-titled When Harry Became Sally.

“Amazon won’t stop selling book questioning transgender youth” noted a surprised New York Daily News on Tuesday. “Amazon overrules employees’ calls to stop selling book questioning mainstream treatment for transgender youth,” declared The Seattle Times. “Amazon Refuses to Stop Selling Anti-Trans Book,” reported an apparently disappointed Edge Media. And yesterday’s NBCNews.com: “Amazon will not remove book advocates say endangers transgender youth.

For every one of these publications, the baseline assumption is censorship. It is Amazon that “won’t stop selling,” or “overrules employees” or “refuses to stop selling” or “will not remove”—Amazon whose actions strike today’s journalists as significant and surprising.  Amazon the intransigent bookseller, stubbornly insisting on continuing to sell books. Standing up to the calls for censorship is now what surprises us. The numberless calls for book banning no longer do.

I told Ms. Long that the book contains not a word of hate—almost verbatim what the Economist wrote when it named mine a Best Book of 2020:  “Predictably controversial—yet there is not a drop of animosity in the book.” Though the book discusses “gender dysphoria,” a diagnosis recognized in the DSM-5, it never equates transgender status with a mental illness because, put simply, I don’t believe that it is.

Well, she replied, I see ‘contagion,’ ‘epidemic,’ don’t you think that tends to diagnose?

“Are you seriously going to pull out random words from my book?” I asked her.

“They aren’t random,” she said. “They’re from chapter headings.”

I explained that the words “contagion” and “epidemic” often refer to social phenomena, like peer-to-peer fads or trends, as the dictionary bears out and is obviously the case in Irreversible Damage. But in all of this explaining, I was the witness in the hot seat, under cross-examination. I was the one who had to explain myself before this refrigerator-magnet-poetry word-jumble method of inquiry.

I would oppose banning this book (and almost all others) even if it did ineffably "endanger transgender youth" because it does far, far more to protect them from ill-considered irreversible bodily mutilation at the hands of ideologues or medical profiteers.

I would point out, however, that there is not really a baseline expectation of censorship — except in the case of books that in some sense take a conservative or traditional stance on matters of sexuality and gender, especially the transgender social contagion.


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.


What a normal human being looks like

The monasticism of the desert fathers is a major influence in Orthodoxy, and the Apophthegmata Patrum—the sayings of the fathers (and mothers) of the desert—range from remarkably practical advice to a startling sense of participation in the divine. Take these two selections, from Benedicta Ward’s translation in The Sayings of the Desert Fathers (Cistercian Publications):

Abba Pambo asked Abba Anthony, “What ought I to do?” and the old man said to him, “Do not trust in your own righteousness, do not worry about the past, but control your tongue and your stomach.”

Abba Lot went to Abba Joseph and said to him, “Abba, as far as I can I say my little office, I fast a little, I pray and meditate, I live in peace as far as I can, I purify my thoughts. What else can I do?” Then the old man stood up and stretched his hands toward heaven. His fingers became like ten lamps of fire and he said to him, “If you will, you can become all flame.”

Note the words, “the old man.” The idea is preserved in the Greek word for “an elder”—geron—still used of wise monks and spiritual directors, the idea being that it takes time and patience to get there.

At one moment, my friend pointed to where a group of young converts were sitting — all men and women in their twenties — and said to me, “Do you know why they are all here?”

“No,” I said, mindful that he had spent a lot more time talking to them than I had.

“They’re here because they came and found something deep, and real. They all came from Protestantism, which is falling apart. They were looking for something that they could stand firm on, that wasn’t going to collapse. They found it here.

“Look at me,” he went on. “Why do you think I’m here? Well, my wife and I came because you invited us, but we kept coming because we saw the same thing that they saw. That’s why we’re Orthodox. It’s real, more real than anything we had ever seen before.”

Rod Dreher, Abba Joseph’s Fingers (paywall likely)

Note: Abba Joseph is extraordinary only by the low standards fallen humanity has set. Sub specie aeternitatis, he’s normal — what God intended humans to be. It’s just that the rest of us are severely disabled.


The real irony of this past century of innovation is that the modern innovators are perplexed by the outcome which they themselves conditioned. The global pandemic has exposed the irony. COVID is surging and the conditioners cannot understand why people will not simply listen to the experts. Of course, they have ignored the simple question: which experts ought we to listen and why ought we to listen? You cannot derive an ought from an is. The entire foundation of their worldview is instinct, and they have built an entire ethic upon it. However, instincts are the “is” and they desperately want for us to derive from instinct their desired “ought.” Their answer to the question, why, is the paternalistic response, “because I said so.”

We decry the rise of QAnon and wonder aloud why people can no longer think critically. The conditioners built a system which rendered useless the very critical thinking for which they now plead. If there is no universal objective value, then by what measure do we think critically? We have access to endless facts and no mind with which to critique them. How can a student solve a math problem if conditioned to believe that 2+2 has no solution which is transcendent of and objectively discoverable by the pupil’s mind? Universal subjectivity of all truth has no limiting principle. In Lewis’ day, the conditioners came for language. The deconstructionists finished in the 70’s the work begun by Lewis’ contemporaries decades before. Now, the conditioners have come for everything. Subjectivity in biology. Subjectivity in mathematics. Each man is to follow his instincts. Each man has become his own epistemological center. Perception is reality.

Lewis foresaw this inevitability nearly 80 years ago. Now, in the midst of political polarization, rampant conspiracy theorizing, a global pandemic, racial injustice, and economic uncertainty, our conditioners make demands of the polis which they themselves have made impossible. “Follow the science!” “Trust the election officials!” “Do not fall prey to conspiracy theories circulating on social media!” C.S. Lewis provides the response to such demands, “In a sort of ghastly simplicity, we remove the organ and demand the function. We make men without chests and expect of them virtue and enterprise. We laugh at honour and are shocked to find traitors in our midst. We castrate and bid the geldings be fruitful.”

James Ranieri, The Restoration of a Thinking Polis Has but One Solution: Classical Education, Part One


Similar agencies of deceit, militarism and imperialism now robustly use this same branding tactic. The CIA — in between military coups, domestic disinformation campaigns, planting false stories with their journalist-partners, and drone-assassinating U.S. citizens without due process — joyously celebrates Women’s Day, promotes what it calls The Agency Network of Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, and Transgender Officers (ANGLE), hosts activities for Pride Month, and organizes events to commemorate Black History Month. The FBI does the same.

It’s so sweet that one is tempted to forget about, or at least be more understanding of, all the bombing campaigns and all the dictatorships they install and prop up that repress and kill the very people that they purport to honor and cherish. Like the GCHQ, how menacing can an intelligence agency be when it is so deeply and sincerely supportive of the rights of the people they routinely spy on, repress and kill?

Again, this does not make the CIA perfect — sure, they make some mistakes and engage in some actions that are worthy of criticism — but to combat real evil, you do not go protest at Langley. They are engaged in important work combating homophobia, racism and misogyny. Thus, real warriors against evil look not to them but instead go searching online for the Boogaloo Boys and boomers on Facebook who post Q-Anon and other problematic memes. That is where your focus should remain if you want to root out the real threats.

Large corporations have obviously witnessed the success of this tactic — to prettify the face of militarism and imperialism with the costumes of social justice — and are now weaponizing it for themselves.

Glenn Greenwald has quickly become one of my indispensible Substack subscriptions. He’s got a fabulous crap detector (sometimes it almost seems like a death wish), and you can’t even distract him by playing “woke” on liberal groin pieties.

Greenwald puts all the big-name media to shame with their lazy facilitation of diversionary tactics by woke capital and governmental power centers. They’re too busy chasing stick figures and, increasingly, simply making stuff up, to really speak truth to power.


What a piece or work Andrew Cuomo is! Revisiting Governor Cuomo’s Hostility Towards Orthodox Jews In Light of His “Fucking Tree Houses” Comment – Reason.com.

I wish the difference between him and me was one of kind rather than of degree. That’s all I’m going to say about that.


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.

Fragmentary oppositions

Forty years ago, a group of Situationists, building on their original 1968 manifesto, wrote of the progress of the ‘spectacle’, the name that Guy Debord had given to the bread-and-circuses face of modern Machine capitalism. They maintained that ongoing, surface-level conflict – what we would today call a culture war – was not a manifestation of rebellion against the Machine, but an necessary part of its functioning:

Fragmentary oppositions are like the teeth on cogwheels: they mesh with each other and make the machine go round — the machine of the spectacle, the machine of power.

Unlike many of their fellow travellers on the left, the Situationists had identified the true tenor of the times: no longer a clarifying class war over the means of production, but a fog of constructed and managed lies, consumer images, competing media narratives and fomented cultural divisions, all of it serving the interests of those who run the show. Fragmentary oppositions, the machine of the spectacle, the machine of power: it’s a description of our time. There are a lot of people out there who benefit daily from us all being at each others’ throats: arguing furiously over surface trivia while the money and the power funnel upwards, as they ever did.

Paul Kingsnorth, Under the spreading walnut tree, the introduction to his new Substack, The Abbey of Misrule.


Based on the conversations I hear these days among the New Urbanists, there is a division now in the movement between those on-board with a techno-utopian vision of an alt-energy economy that allows us to maintain the current standard of living, with all its comforts and conveniences, and another faction who recognize that something quite different and rather ominous is underway—a combination of economic de-growth, vanishing capital resources, political disorder, and environmental crises. The first group tends to get the most attention, because “green optimism” has such palliative appeal, just as the purity of modernism was so appealing after the gigantic mess of World War II. But the second faction, the adaptationists, have a better grip on reality.

I’m for the adaptationists because they are more in tune with the way circumstances actually roll out, that is, emergently. Societies are organisms that respond to the forces that reality brings to bear at a particular time. They self-organize and reorganize as reality compels them to. The signals now say: get smaller, get simpler, get less technocratic, get finer, and get more local. Despite all the portentous chatter about a “great reset” or a coming global government, centralized authority (in the U.S., anyway) only becomes increasingly impotent and ineffectual. Don’t make the mistake of thinking they will “solve” the problems at hand. The real trend is not to greater concentrations of power but dispersed autarky, or local self-reliance. We’re on our own.

James Howard Kunstler, The Next New Urbanism


For our reading group, we decided to go through N.T. Wright’s 2008 publication Surprised by Hope: Rethinking Heaven, the Resurrection, and the Mission of the Church. This work expanded on many of the concerns Wright had raised when I heard him speak in 2006. He shared a body of evidence which suggested that there has been widespread compromise with the heresy of Gnosticism. “A good many Christian hymns and poems,” he warned, “wander off unthinkingly in the direction of Gnosticism.” Wright used the doctrine of physical resurrection as the linchpin to refute this implicit Gnosticism, as well as to undermine a type of evangelical pietism that is so heavenly minded that it ceases to be of any earthly good. Using scriptural exegesis, Wright showed that although going to heaven is important, it is only one part of the Christian hope. The early Christians, he pointed out, actually believed that heaven is more like a waiting room where we will anticipate the final resurrection. In the final resurrection, the faithful will be given new bodies to enjoy in the renewed heaven and earth. This scriptural hope, Wright suggested, has implications in the here-and-now, transforming how we view the earth and the mission of the church …

I did not expect Surprised by Hope to be particularly controversial, as it simply articulates the historic Christian hope. Nevertheless, much of the public reaction to Wright’s book treated his teaching as something of a novelty. In February 26, 2008, ABC news ran a story claiming that Wright’s idea that “God will literally remake our physical bodies” was “a radical departure from traditional belief.” Although the Nicene Creed contains the statement “We look for the resurrection of the dead and the life of the world to come”, and although the Apostles’ Creed professed belief in “the resurrection of the body”, the wider public appeared to assume that this is no longer part of traditional Christian belief. The widespread assumption seemed to be that eternal disembodiment is the orthodox Christian hope. For example, in his compendium of information about what happens after death, Biochemical researcher Brian Innes observed that “current orthodox Christianity no longer holds to the belief in physical resurrection, preferring the concept of the eternal existence of the soul, although some creeds still cling to the old ideas.”

The fact that the media treated Bishop Wright as a novelty for simply articulating the doctrine of physical resurrection, convinced me that I needed to take another look at the phenomenon of implicit Gnosticism ….

Robin Mark Phillips, Confessions of a Recovering Gnostic.

It is astonishing that orthodox, historic, credal Christianity should be flagged by media as a novelty, but I think Robin Phillips was onto something when he proposed that the West’s implicit theology is gnostic.


I just (as I’m writing, undecided when to publish) finished listening to a Vox Conversations podcast about George Soros (Who is the real George Soros?), of whom I have an unfashionably neutral-tending-positive opinion.

There came a point in the podcast, though, where I yelled bad words at the participants. They had just set up a trick bag to the effect that one cannot criticize the "open society" idea because it’s antisemitic to do so because the open society idea is associated with Jews and criticism of it is always, and by definition, implicitly antisemitic.

If that sounds confusing and circular, it’s because it was. And I have enough sympathy for the case against the open society (and especially some of what have become its corollaries, like open borders) that it infuriates me to hear it insouciantly dismissed out of hand as tainted.


Speaking of open societies:

Because [Karl] Popper did not anticipate threats to open societies outside of grand historical narratives, he did not imagine that the source of fanatical certitude would one day be individuals, who would fashion it out of a veritable flood of discordant facts and suspicions … Americans have increasingly come to see themselves as capable of sifting through all the available evidence to discover unerring truths that their political opponents are too biased, ignorant, or corrupt to see.

The Danger of Fact-ist Politics


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.

Attention Economy (and more)

Michael Goldhaber, the Cassandra of the Internet Age is one of the more thought-provoking things I’ve read in the past few weeks, and I’ve been reading a lot of thought-provoking things. It’s your introduction to “the attention economy” and it’s worth burning a freebie at the New York Times’ metered paywall.

  • Attention is a limited resource, so pay attention to where you pay attention.
  • “We struggle to attune ourselves to groups of people who feel they’re not getting the attention they deserve, and we ought to get better at sensing that feeling earlier,” he said. “Because it’s a powerful, dangerous feeling.”

Yesterday, in an interview with Fox News’s Chris Wallace, [Liz Cheney] went further. Trump “does not have a role as the leader of our party going forward,” she asserted, making a public case—to viewers of Trump’s onetime favorite network—that expanded on the one she delivered in the House GOP Conference meeting on Wednesday.

Cheney isn’t alone. Late last week, it became clear that Sen. Ben Sasse was headed toward another censure from the Nebraska Republican Party. Among his supposed offenses: accusing Trump of “pouring gasoline on these fires of division” that led to a riot at the U.S. Capitol and “persistently engag[ing] in public acts of ridicule and calumny” against the former president.

Sasse—who was just elected to a second six-year term—did not shy away from the confrontation, instead cutting a five-minute video response to the Nebraska GOP’s State Central Committee. “You are welcome to censure me again,” he said, “but let’s be clear about why: It’s because I still believe (as you used to) that politics is not about the weird worship of one dude.”

At the end of the message, Sasse, like Cheney, pointed to the future. “We’re gonna have to choose between conservatism and madness,” he said, “between just railing about who we’re mad at, versus actually trying to persuade rising generations of Americans again. That’s where I’m focused. And I sincerely hope that many of you will join in celebrating these big, worthy causes for freedom.”

[Shout-outs to Sen. Pat Toomey, Rep. Anthony Gonzalez and Rep. Peter Meijer omitted.]

… Only 21 percent of Republicans in a recent Echelon Insights poll strongly or somewhat supported impeaching and convicting President Trump.

But the same poll also found Trump’s stranglehold on the party’s voters loosening. In December, according to the survey, 61 percent of GOP voters said they hoped Trump would continue to be “the leading voice” for Republicans going forward. By January, that number had dropped to just 41 percent. After the events of January 6, only 45 percent of Republican voters said they wanted Trump to run for president again in 2024, down from 65 percent the month prior.

The Morning Dispatch

How these sane people live in the same party with Matt Gaetz, MTG and other contemptible clowns is an open question, but I can understand them not wanting to cede the party of Lincoln to limelight-loving loons.


I was shocked that OAN would run Mike Lindell’s 3-hour Absolute Proof conspiracy video, considering reports that it repeats defamatory claims OAN already had retracted under threat of lawsuit. But this extraordinary disclaimer helps me understand.

I won’t watch the video because:

  1. People I trust and respect have already debunked the major “stolen election” evidence — some of which is fabricated, some of which is third-hand hearsay, and some of which may be honest misunderstandings of the significance of first-hand observation (e.g., “when I went to bed, Trump was ahead but when I woke up Biden was pulling away” — a red crest/blue wave that was long predicted and easily understood, but that Trump consciously exploited with his premature victory announcement).
  2. I’m not so sophisticated about election mechanics that I can, on my own and in real time, dismiss all the claims that might be made in a 3-hour video. So watching it would only produce confusion — probably unwarranted (see my appeal to authority in the preceding point) — or require hours and hours more to regain a working clarity.
  3. I do not apologize for trusting analyses of people I’ve found trustworthy. Everyone does it. Everybody budgets how much time to spend on various things, and most people budget little time for seemingly-quixotic quests, If others find a cocaine-addled domestic abuser, conspiracy theorist and TV pitchman more plausible than seasoned political observers, all I can say is “bless their hearts.”

Timothy Wilks, 20, is shot and killed outside of Nashville’s Urban Air Trampoline and Adventure Park. Police told reporters that Wilks was trying to create a viral video of himself staging a fake robbery prank for his YouTube channel. Apparently unaware of the hilarity of having a stranger run at you and your friends with butcher knives, one of Wilks’ intended foils drew a pistol and shot him dead.

The Dangers of the Derp State – The Dispatch

Well, bless his heart, he was just trying to gain the attention to which he’s entitled.


The state of Victoria in Australia … just passed a bill that will considerably intensify the conflict between religious freedom, individual choice, and identity politics. And it might well become a model for laws elsewhere in the democratic world.

The legislation that just passed is the Change or Suppression (Conversion) Practices Prohibition Bill 2020 …

The law defines a change or suppression practice as follows:

“a practice or conduct directed towards a person, whether with or without the person’s consent on the basis of the person’s sexual orientation or gender identity; and for the purpose of changing or suppressing the sexual orientation or gender identity of the person; or inducing the person to change or suppress their sexual orientation or gender identity.”

But the really important part of the bill from a religious perspective is its list of “change or suppression practices.” This includes: “carrying out a religious practice, including but not limited to, a prayer-based practice, a deliverance practice or an exorcism.”

In short, if someone asks a pastor, a priest, or a Christian friend to pray for them that their sexual desires or gender dysphoria might be changed, that pastor, priest, or friend runs the risk of committing a criminal offense. Presumably this also applies to parents praying for their children—or perhaps even parents teaching their children that untrammeled expressions of sexual desire (at least within the canons of contemporary bourgeois taste) are inappropriate.

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.

And so prayer for such heretics must be prohibited, even if they specifically ask for it. This is not so much because it harms the people for whom it is being offered, but simply because it witnesses to the fact that not all people—not even all gay and trans people—buy into the current confections of the politics of sexual identity.

Perhaps that is encouraging. Perhaps at long last Western societies are beginning to wake up to the fact that Christianity at its very core witnesses to the fact that the world is not as it should be ….

Prohibiting Prayer in Australia | Carl R. Trueman | First Things


A Los Angeles Times opinion column is firing up the Internet after Virginia Heffernan wrote about her anguish in not knowing how to respond to neighbors cleared the snow on her driveway. They problem is that they also voted for former President Donald Trump. The column entitled “What can you do about the Trumpites next door?” explores her struggle with how to respond while comparing all Trump supporters to Nazis and Hezbollah. It is unfortunately hardly surprising to see such unhinged hateful comparisons in today’s age of rage. What was surprising is need to publish such a column containing gratuitous attacks on over 70 million voters as compared to genocidal murders or terrorists.

Thank You For Shoveling My Driveway . . . You Nazi? LA Times Runs Bizarre Column Revealing Liberal Angst And Anger – JONATHAN TURLEY


I never thought the end of the world would be so funny.

Jonathan Pageau, Q&A at Seattle Conference – Oct. 2017 – The Symbolic World

Things to think about after exhaling

Things to think about after exhaling

[Wendell] Berry often quotes Wes Jackson’s book Becoming Native to This Place in this regard. “The universities now offer only one serious major: upward mobility,” Jackson writes. “Little attention is paid to educating the young to return home, or to go some other place, and dig in. There is no such thing as a ‘homecoming’ major.

Mark T. Mitchell and Nathan Schlueter, The Human Vision of Wendell Berry


The tomb of Ignatius

Here I am not that Cleon celebrated
in Alexandria (where it is hard to astonish them)
for my magnificent houses, for the gardens,
for my horses and for my chariot,
for the jewels and silk that I wore.
God forbid; here I am not that Cleon;
let his 28 years be erased.
I am Ignatius, a reader, who came to my self
quite late; but I lived so for 10 months
happy in the serenity and security of Christ.

(C.P.) Cavafy


Over the years, I’ve bounced around the political spectrum. I was liberal in Texas, more conservative in college, and now I’m somewhere in the middle. Through it all, I saw politics as a fight between left and right. I don’t see it that way anymore. Donald Trump’s presidency has exposed a bigger threat: an all-out attack on the principle that facts must be respected. We used to take that principle for granted; now we must defend it. Politics has become a fight between those who are willing to respect evidence and those who aren’t.

Progressives and conservatives have always quarreled about what’s true. But to make those debates productive, and to correct our country’s mistakes—failed projects, naïve policies, bad wars—we need a common standard for judging truth. That standard can’t be the Bible or identity politics. It has to be the standard we apply in daily life: evidence. If you say the election was stolen, you have to prove it in court. If you accuse a police officer of murder, your story has to withstand investigation.

… Science has a culture of falsification.

Politics doesn’t. When political promises don’t pan out—wars turn into quagmires, public schools underperform, or tax cuts fail to pay for themselves—politicians invent excuses. This has always been a problem, but it’s getting worse. Trump and his acolytes don’t just spin facts; they completely disregard them. They repeat fantastic lies about election fraud, and when they’re confronted with contrary evidence, they’re not even embarrassed.
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If we don’t get control of this—if we don’t reestablish an ethic of respect for facts—nothing else will be solved. We can’t extinguish the virus if tens of millions of Americans insist it’s a hoax and refuse to be vaccinated or wear masks. We can’t restore public faith in election results and put down insurrectionism if half the population refuses to believe anything the media report. Repairing the consensus that facts must be respected won’t settle our debates on spending, education, or criminal justice. But without that consensus, the crisis we’re in will get much worse.

Will Saletan, The Enemy Isn’t Republicans


Nevertheless, behind its variegated forms, each attuned to different challenges, are the timeless truths and principles at the heart of conservative ideology: (1) Humans are flawed creatures; (2) Reason is powerful but limited and prone to error; (3) Utopian thinking is dangerous, especially when combined with ideologies that promote concentrated political power; (4) Humans should respect tradition and custom; and (5) Intuition is an important guide to social policy. Modern Republicans, standing among the ruins of the Trump presidency, should turn to these principles, elaborated below, to rebuild a robust and unified coalition that can appeal to all ages and ethnicities.

Bo Wingard, A Return to Tradition: Creating a Post-Trump Conservatism – Quillette. It’s good to be reminded what conservatism is after four years of the term’s gross misuse.


Robby [George] pulled out his phone, then, and asked what I knew about Heinrich Heine. I knew the Nazis had burned his books, that he was a Jew who had converted to Christianity. That was about it.

In 1834, Robby told me, Heine wrote a prose poem that prophesied the evil that would swallow Europe a century later. He read it to the table:

> “Christianity — and that is its greatest merit — has somewhat mitigated that brutal Germanic love of war, but it could not destroy it. Should that subduing talisman, the cross, be shattered, the frenzied madness of the ancient warriors, that insane Berserk rage of which Nordic bards have spoken and sung so often, will once more burst into flame. This talisman is fragile, and the day will come when it will collapse miserably. Then the ancient stony gods will rise from the forgotten debris and rub the dust of a thousand years from their eyes, and finally Thor with his giant hammer will jump up and smash the Gothic cathedrals.”

Tears rolled down my face as he spoke these lines, as they do now as I re-read them:

> “Do not smile at the visionary who anticipates the same revolution in the realm of the visible as has taken place in the spiritual. Thought precedes action as lightning precedes thunder. German thunder is of true Germanic character; it is not very nimble, but rumbles along ponderously. Yet, it will come and when you hear a crashing such as never before has been heard in the world’s history, then you know that the German thunderbolt has fallen at last. At that uproar the eagles of the air will drop dead, and lions in the remotest deserts of Africa will hide in their royal dens. A play will be performed in Germany which will make the French Revolution look like an innocent idyll.”

The Great Unraveling – Common Sense with Bari Weiss.

Yes, Bari Weiss has started a Substack blog (how soon until we just call them “substacks”? Maybe it’s here already?)

Did you eat popcorn?

(I want to stop thinking about 45. I also want nothing like him ever to happen to my country again, so I do “go on a bit.”)

“You have to show strength,” you said,
“and you have to be strong.”
You promised to go with them
but chose instead to view the destruction on TV.
I wondered if you understood
that the violence that unfolded was real,
and not something made for television.
Did you order Cokes as you watched?
Did you eat popcorn?

Michael D’Antonio, A Goodbye Letter for the Anti-President, reformatted by Tipsy as poetry.


I’m not a big fan of Nina Totenberg (she is incapable of balanced coverage on some issues), but her Biden’s Solicitor General Faces Tough Choices On Trump Supreme Court Positions was a genuinely interesting account of what happens to a successor when a POTUS shatters norms and suborns frivolous arguments from his Justice Department.


For Trump supporters, I would recommend reading the entire post-January 6 debriefing of four Trump biographers by Michael Kruse in Politico, and internalizing that Trump is a con man who conned you big time:

Kruse: … I’m curious: Do you think November 8, 2016, will in the end be the best thing that ever happen to Donald Trump, or the worst?

Tim O’Brien: Both. It’s both the best and the worst. He’s such an egomaniac and so needy for the spotlight that he got the biggest platform in the world in the presidency to fill his need for attention, constant attention, and the media spotlight. And because he’s that damaged and needy he courts these things but then he gets exposed for who he is. And I think he’s permanently sullied his family’s name with at least half the population of the United States, if not more, and it’s historically dark things that they’re going to be associated with—an insurrection, programmatic racism, thuggery, and a real, I think, defaming of the presidency, unlike any other president. And I don’t think he foresaw that … He’s just Mr. Id. And he’s constantly trying to get gratification. He doesn’t care about the consequences. And then they blow up all around him. And so his election as president was both, I think, the best and the worst thing that ever happened to him.

Kruse: Is he capable of some sort of honest personal reckoning …?

[Harry] Hurt: No.

[Gwenda] Blair: No.

[Michael] D’Antonio: No.

[Tim] O’Brien: No way.

Kruse: So there is no …

Hurt: No.

O’Brien: No.

Blair: No.

Hurt: Next question.

‘He Was the Ringmaster in the Demise of His Own Circus’ – POLITICO Subtitle: On the eve of Donald Trump’s exit from power, four biographers who studied him up close reflect on what he wrought on the country. And what he’ll do next.


Phil Vischer, creator of the Christian cartoon series “VeggieTales,” once employed Metaxas as a writer and has known him for years.

“At some point,” he told Religion News Service in an email, “Eric went from idolizing people like Os Guinness to idolizing Ann Coulter and Tucker Carlson — right wing political firebrands who live to ‘own the libs.’ I think there’s an adrenaline rush or dopamine hit from engaging in full-fledged culture wars that otherwise thoughtful souls on both sides of the political spectrum can find intoxicating. For some, life is worth living only when ‘the soul of America’ is at stake. So the soul of America is ALWAYS at stake.”

Belmont University professor David Dark, who has appeared on Metaxas’ radio show in the past, said that Metaxas may be influenced by the financial opportunity of the Trump cause. You can make a living appealing to an evangelical Christian audience, Dark said, but only if you give them what they want — in this case, support for Trump.

“I think that the market he has appealed to has gotten narrower and narrower,” he said.

A Greek Orthodox in his youth, he became an evangelical in his 20s and has since believed in personal revelation and signs from God. In a conversion story he recounted in Christianity Today magazine and in “Fish Out of Water,” an autobiography about faith due out in February, he tells of seeing a golden Jesus fish in a dream.

In the autobiography, Metaxas also lists a whole series of miracles and messages from God — including one from a turtle in Central Park — on topics from 9/11 to his rise from obscurity to fame.

How Eric Metaxas went from Trump despiser to true believer (emphasis added)

So did the “golden Jesus fish” tell apostate Metaxas that Trump was his man?

Welcoming 46 with open — ummmm — adulation

Spin is ubiquitous in modern politics. There is nothing new or shocking about it. Yet it is both noteworthy and troubling just how quickly CNN flipped from treating the previous president like a hostile occupying power to uncritically publicizing the brand-new administration’s efforts to cut itself maximal slack. If the media has any hope at all of improving on its image and reversing the collapsing trust of readers and viewers, it will have to do better than this.

The point is not to try and convince the most hostile Republicans to tune back into mainstream media outlets. Many of them are unreachable by this point, showing less interest in doing or seeking out better reporting than in using accusations of double standards and hypocrisy to help build support for the right and attempt to tear down liberal institutions. Some go even further, to use the failings of professional journalism as a justification for pedaling deliberate distortions on alternative platforms. Those who take this position view all so-called news as a form of propaganda or information warfare and defend the deliberate promulgation of lies as a tit-for-tat response to the actions of their enemies: “If the left does it, then so should we, and with even less restraint.”

But there are plenty of Americans situated between the burn-it-all-down hyper-cynical right and the journalists and Democratic Party politicos who naively or enthusiastically passed around the CNN story last week. Whether the right succeeds in persuading more and more people to join them in tuning out mainstream journalism will depend in large part on whether its accusations of dishonesty and bad faith look accurate to observers. Does the media seem fair-minded and scrupulous in what it labels news? Or does it seem highly invested in enhancing the power of one side in our country’s deep political divide?

Damon Linker, The media has to do better than this


Kamala Harris literally swore on a stack of Bibles to uphold the Constitution. I think that means it will be doubleplusbad when she discards the Constitution for partisan purposes, as every administration seems to do eventually.

The usual postscript

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

Immanuel Kant, Idea for a Universal History with a Cosmopolitan Purpose

You shall love your crooked neighbour
With your crooked heart.

W.H. Auden, As I Walked Out One Evening

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 (PDF)

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).

Inauguration, antecedents, accoutrements and sequelae

Out with the old

For a person who pledged to “drain the swamp,” [Trump’s] pardons show an unprecedented sense of sympathy (and clemency) for those who profiteered in public office. Yet, those pardons pales in comparison to the contradiction in one of Trump’s last acts as President: rescinding his bar on current and former members of his administration from lobbying their respective agencies for five years.

Jonathan Turley, Refilling the Swamp? Trump Rescinded The Ethical Lobbying Bar For Aides As He Was Leaving Office (emphasis added)

Indeed, some QAnon zombies realized at 12:01 pm Wednesday that they’d been punked, and they responded by feeling sick to their stomachs because their bodies weren’t accustomed to truth.

But far more — infinitely more — anyone who thought Trump had any intention of draining the swamp should be writhing in agony at allowing members of his administration to begin lobbying and otherwise cashing in immediately — a major if not defining marker of swampiness. It makes utter mockery of his ostentatious imposition of the bar in the first place.


Of all the figures around Trump, including Trump himself, Giuliani’s descent into villainy is the most tragic, because tragedy is about the downfall of heroes. Like all good villains, Giuliani is at peace with what he’s become. When warned by friends he’s setting fire to his legacy, Giuliani said, “My attitude about my legacy is f— it.”

Mission accomplished, Mr. Mayor.

Jonah Goldberg, The Remarkable Descent of Rudy Giuliani – The Dispatch

Because “tragedy is about the downfall of heroes,” Trump’s downfall will never qualify as tragic.


[V]ast swaths of the right still don’t see that they were wrong about anything.

Nearly all the usual suspects are like little kids who like to play with matches, despite constant warnings not to, standing in front of the smoldering ashes of their own home. When you say, “Do you understand now?” They’re like, “What? What’s the big deal?”

Worse, they’re constantly whining about how everything is so unfair. Newt Gingrich is blathering about how Democrats want to “exterminate” Republicans. Josh Hawley and Ted Cruz are pretending they were right all along, and Jim Jordan is spewing nonsense about how impeachment is the apotheosis of unjust cancel culture. Hell, Bill Bennett is demanding that Biden “apologize” for Trump’s first impeachment (and stop the unjust and divisive second one). I am unaware of Bill saying that Trump has anything to apologize for in the events that got him impeached either time—or for anything else. My friend Bill Bennett—The author of The Death of Outrage, The Book of Virtues, The Moral Compass, The Book of Man: Readings on the Path to Manhood, et al.—looks upon Donald Trump, consults his clipboard of virtue, and says, “Yep. This checks out.”

My point is that while there’s plenty to gloat about, I don’t feel like gloating (much), because these people are taking all the fun out of it by doubling down on many of the worst aspects of Trumpism, starting with an utter denial that they did—or are doing—anything wrong. It’s one thing to dance in the end zone and celebrate a win. But when the losing team and its fans call the scoreboard “fake news” and just keep bleating about how they didn’t really lose, or that the game was rigged, or that they did nothing wrong when they told their fans to storm the field and wreck the place, gloating is robbed of some of its luster. And when good sportsmanship is redefined as pretending the losers were in fact cheated, anger is hard to keep at bay.

Jonah Goldberg, I’m Not Going To Say I Told You So … But – The G-File


“But the judges!” you protest. Fair point: Trump’s absurd attempts to overturn the election through specious legal challenges were laughed out of court by the very men and women he appointed to the bench. Even his judges think he’s a joke.

Everybody has figured that out. Except you.

And so, goodbye, Donald J. Trump, the man who wanted to be Conrad Hilton but turned out to be Paris Hilton. Au revoir, Ivanka and Jared, Uday and Qusay — there’s a table for four reserved for you at Dorsia. So long, Melania — it’s still not entirely clear what you got out of this, but I hope it was worth it. A fond farewell to Ted Cruz’s reputation and Mike Pence’s self-respect, Lindsey Graham’s manhood and Fox News’s business model. In with “Dr.” Jill Biden, out with “Dr.” Sebastian Gorka.

Good night, ladies, good night, sweet ladies, good night, good night.

I’m sure we’ll all meet again. But I’d really rather we didn’t.

Kevin D. Williamson, Witless Ape Rides Helicopter


The great theme of the Trump years, the one historians will note a century from now, was the failure of America’s expert class. The people who were supposed to know what they were talking about, didn’t.

Barton Swaim, Trump and the Failure of the Expert Class – WSJ.

There is more than a little irony in Swaim speculating about future historians’ verdict on the Trump era. At least the experts he derides speculated about things that were testable over the short term, whereas Swaim speculates about something a century in the future.

That experts don’t know what they’re talking about, of course, correct, though they’re not demostrably worse than the WSJ guy at the end of the bar after his seventh shot.

This is why I will be reducing my consumption of news and punditry again now that we have survived Trump’s assault on Democracy (during which assault I just couldn’t help myself). I prefer my own delusional predictions to others’.

In with the new

In May 2016, the federal government issued a mandate that would require a doctor to perform gender transition procedures on any patient, including a child, even if the doctor believed the procedure could harm the patient. The mandate required virtually all private insurance companies and many employers to cover gender reassignment therapy or face severe penalties and legal action.

But there were two major insurance plans exempted from HHS’s mandate—the plans run by HHS itself: Medicare and Medicaid. Why? Research shows that not only are there significant risks with gender reassignment therapy – especially in childhood – such as heart conditions, increased cancer risk, and loss of bone density, but studies show that children with gender dysphoria found that fewer than 1-in-4 children referred for gender dysphoria continued to experience that condition into adulthood. Some grew out of it, but many of the children ended up realizing that they were not transgender but instead gay. The government’s own panel of medical experts concluded that these therapies can be harmful and advised against requiring coverage of these medical and surgical procedures under Medicare and Medicaid.

Sisters of Mercy v. Azar – Becket.

This is the sort of liberal groin piety I fear will be institutionalized in the Biden administration. It is quite mad, but it appears to be every bit as much Democrat orthodoxy as tax cuts are now Republican orthodoxy.


The late novelist Michael Crichton once wrote:

> Briefly stated, the Gell-Mann Amnesia effect is as follows. You open the newspaper to an article on some subject you know well. In Murray’s case, physics. In mine, show business. You read the article and see the journalist has absolutely no understanding of either the facts or the issues. Often, the article is so wrong it actually presents the story backward—reversing cause and effect. I call these the “wet streets cause rain” stories. Paper’s full of them.
>
> In any case, you read with exasperation or amusement the multiple errors in a story, and then turn the page to national or international affairs, and read as if the rest of the newspaper was somehow more accurate about Palestine than the baloney you just read. You turn the page, and forget what you know.
>
> That is the Gell-Mann Amnesia effect. I’d point out it does not operate in other arenas of life. In ordinary life, if somebody consistently exaggerates or lies to you, you soon discount everything they say. In court, there is the legal doctrine of falsus in uno, falsus in omnibus, which means untruthful in one part, untruthful in all. But when it comes to the media, we believe against evidence that it is probably worth our time to read other parts of the paper. When, in fact, it almost certainly isn’t. The only possible explanation for our behavior is amnesia.

True, true. It’s not just journalists, though, but all of us, about something. We don’t know what we don’t know.

Rod Dreher’s “Daily Dreher” Substack blog

So what is the purpose of the press? Is it merely to shape a consensus narrative, however removed from reality, that we can all live with?


Without doubt, there are non-Western groups that resist Western colonialism violently. But given that, in Selengut’s own account, the West is the aggressor, why is this not framed as an account of the violence of secularism? Or, if we take Selengut’s words about the proselytizing approach and religious conviction with which secularism is imposed on the rest of the world, why doesn’t Western secularism count as a type of religion? Either way, there is no basis for using this account of colonial violence and anticolonial reaction as evidence that the religious is peculiarly prone to violence in ways that the secular is not.

William T. Cavanaugh, The Myth of Religious Violence

[T]here is something in man that hungers for the exaltation of his own will, that thirsts after his own glory, something that longs for violence, for conquest and power — something that refuses to be civilized.

Treason: A Catholic Novel of Elizabethan England

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