I commented the other day on Freddie deBoer not mincing words. Neither, here, does J Peters:
I thought of her essay as I read Abigail Shrier’s latest, a take-down of Jen Psaki and the Biden Administration’s policies on supposedly transgender teens — maybe the wickedest and stupidest Biden policy yet.
But the wicked, stupid Biden policy fits a current brain-dead ideology. Andrew Sullivan goes after it at length, from his particular concern about what it does to homosexual kids. A taste:
[N]o one is LGBTQIA++. It’s literally impossible. And the difference between the gay and trans experience is vast, especially when it comes to biological sex.
Maybe the only unique contribution Sullivan makes on this is to embed some teacher training videos that give the lie to the establishment’s charge that concerns over subversive teaching is a made-up, astroturf matter.
Student Loan policy
In his latest Bloomberg column, Matthew Yglesias points out the inflationary effects of the Biden administration’s renewal of the student loan repayment moratorium—while noting it won’t even benefit that many people. “The economy no longer needs stimulus—in fact, it needs to restrain demand,” he writes, noting the non-collection of student loans has the “opposite” effect. “A majority of the public, meanwhile, has $0 in student debt. If you limit your analysis to people under 30, the median student loan balance is still $0. For African-Americans, it’s $0. Most people do not go to college and do not incur student loan debt, and those non-debtors have lower incomes on average than the people who do go to college and do have debt. Restarting student debt collections would restrain inflation at the expense of a disproportionately high-income minority of the population. Broad debt cancellation, by contrast, would boost inflation.”
(This topic is a pet peeve of mine.)
The spade and the keyboard
The spade and the keyboard are two very different tools, but one thing they have in common is their ability to break the human body.
… Both may give you sore arms, but there is a difference between a keyboard and a spade. A spade can still be made fairly simply. It doesn’t need constant energy to keep going. It can last a long time, if you treat it well, rather like your body. A keyboard and a spade are both products of an industrial economy, but not to the same extent, and they do not have the same purpose. One can exist independently, the other cannot. This might be a matter of degrees, but the degrees matter – and so does the intent.
There’s another point too, though, and perhaps it is a more important one: nobody ever got addicted to a spade ….
Paul Kingsnorth, Planting Trees in the Anthropocene
Every morning, there it is, waiting for me on my phone. The bullshit. It resembles, in its use of phrases such as “knowledgeable sources” and “experts differ,” what I used to think of as the news, but it isn’t the news and it hasn’t been for ages. It consists of its decomposed remains in a news-shaped coffin. It does impart information, strictly speaking, but not always information about our world. Or not good information, because it’s so often wrong, particularly on matters of great import and invariably to the advantage of the same interests, which suggests it should be presumed wrong as a rule.
I’m stipulating these points, I’m not debating them, so log off if you find them too extreme. Go read more bullshit. Immerse yourself in news of Russian plots to counterfeit presidential children’s laptops, viruses spawned in Wuhan market stalls, vast secret legions of domestic terrorists flashing one another the OK sign in shadowy parking lots behind Bass Pro Shops experiencing “temporary” inflation, and patriotic tech conglomerates purging the commons of untruths. Comfort yourself with the thoughts that the same fortunes engaged in the building of amusement parks, the production and distribution of TV comedies, and the provision of computing services to the defense and intelligence establishments, have allied to protect your family’s health, advance the causes of equity and justice, and safeguard our democratic institutions. Dismiss as cynical the notion that you, the reader, are not their client but their product. Your data for their bullshit, that’s the deal. And Build Back Better. That’s the sermon.
Pious bullshit, unceasing. But what to do?
One option, more popular each day, is to retreat to the anti-bullshit universe of alternative media sources. These are the podcasts, videos, Twitter threads, newsletters, and Facebook pages that regularly vanish from circulation for violating “community standards” and other ineffable codes of conduct, oft-times after failing “fact-checks” by the friendly people at Good Thoughtkeeping. Some of these rebel outfits are engrossing, some dull and churchy, many quite bizarre, and some, despite small staffs and tiny budgets, remarkably good and getting better. Some are Substack pages owned by writers who severed ties with established publications, drawing charges of being Russian agents, crypto-anarchists, or free-speech “absolutists.”
Walter Kirn, The Bullshit
New news models
This seems a good time for an uplifting word. Our local newspaper is pretty much what Kirn (preceding item) describes, but a recently-retired, not-yet-really-old, inkstained wretch has started a Substack that regular reports (5-6 days per week) local developments that actually matter. Like Purdue University planning 1200+ new dormitory beds because freshman enrollment topped 10,000 this year, and the total enrollment almost 50,000. There’s tons of off-campus housing, but maybe not enough, and President Mitch Daniels reports that students in dorms perform better than those off campus.
And he is recruiting some of his former colleagues as contributors. There’s high-class fairly unobtrusive advertisements, but that keeps the subscription cost a bit lower.
Now that is an Angel!
A cyber-friend of mine publishes a newsletter that introduced me to this wonderful painting and its author, Henry Osawa Tanner:
The subject (and title) is Annunciation. I much prefer that intense pillar of light to any anthropomorphic depiction of angels I’ve seen — if only because confronted by this, one might need to hear "fear not," while the anthropomorphic depictions elicit no fear at all.
Attention is a limited resource, so pay attention to where you pay attention.
Michael Goldhaber, the Cassandra of the Internet Age
Cosmopolitans cannot escape the limits of Dunbar’s Number. Thus, cosmopolitanism is just a special case of parochialism — one with a curated, international parish.
And they’re not even nicer than the frankly parochial parochials; cosmopolitans microaggress parochials in flyover country nonstop from their high coastal thrones.
(H/T to Jonah Goldberg and Megan McArdle on Jonah’s The Remnant podcast.)
If we are wounded by an ugly idea, we must count it as part of the cost of freedom.
Kurt Vonnegut via the Economist Daily Briefing
If Christianity is the one, true religion, is it that much of a stretch to believe that there is one, true expression of Christianity?
Carlton, Clark, The Way, 1998 Edition
Ketanji Brown Jackson is confirmed, but we should remember who disgraced themselves in opposition:
To lambast [Supreme Court Justice] Jackson because she claimed that the accused terrorists she represented were ‘totally innocent’ — yes, even if she was simply copying and pasting objections — is to make a mockery of the rule of law. Perhaps aware of this, Cotton made sure to acknowledge that ‘it’s true that you shouldn’t judge a lawyer for being willing to take on an unpopular case.’ But that’s what he did, over and over and over again.
I think if we call all of them groomers and pedophiles, we are no better than they are, and conservatives have a long-standing issue with the left using ‘racist’ for everything thereby devaluing what actual racism is. I don’t want the word ‘racism’ devalued and I don’t want to devalue what it means to actually groom a child for abuse.
[C]onservative alarm wasn’t simply organic. Opportunistic activists like James Lindsay and Manhattan Institute senior fellow Christopher Rufo intentionally and explicitly redefined CRT. Here’s Rufo in a tweet thread with Lindsay:
We have successfully frozen their brand—“critical race theory—into the public conversation and are steadily driving up negative perceptions. We will eventually turn it toxic, as we put all of the various cultural insanities under that brand category. The goal is to have the public read something crazy in the newspaper and immediately think “critical race theory.” We have decodified the term and will recodify it to annex the entire range of cultural constructions that are unpopular with Americans.
He proceeded to be as good as his word, and now the right-wing conversation about CRT is all but useless.
David French. This was an uncommonly good post by French, responding to Astroturf alarmism over Critical Race Theory.
I would invite French to consider the possibility, however, that James Lindsay is not an opportunistic activist, but a critic of shoddy scholarship in several "critial theories".
Boston Athletic Association
Historical parallels often spring to mind when it comes to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
In the brutality and megalomania of Vladimir Putin, many are reminded of Adolf Hitler. In the soaring rhetoric and heroic defiance of Volodymyr Zelensky, others hear echoes of Winston Churchill. In the moral outrage but relatively cautious policies of Joe Biden, there’s a touch of George — Wouldn’t Be Prudent — H.W. Bush.
And in Wednesday’s decision by the Boston Athletic Association to prohibit runners from Russia and Belarus from competing in this year’s Boston Marathon, we recall the words of Otter, one of the frat house characters from “National Lampoon’s Animal House”: “I think this situation absolutely requires a really futile and stupid gesture be done on somebody’s part.”
Bret Stephens. Having reached that punchline, I didn’t finish the Op-Ed.
Another Radical Reformation theologian set forth a Christology that said the Son of God became man not “of the womb” of Mary, but rather simply “in the womb” (Menno Simons), which means that Jesus’ humanity is a new creation, not an assumption of the humanity created in Adam. Mary becomes a kind of surrogate mother, and Jesus is not truly a member of our race. (See the painting of the Annunciation, above, too.)
Father Andrew Stephen Damick, Orthodoxy & Heterodoxy
I heard something like this on WMBI, the radio network of Evangelicalism’s Moody Bible Institute: a woman show host breathlessly sharing how Jesus came down to earth from heaven through Mary like water through a pipe. I’m inclined to think it was extemporaneous blather, but it was pernicious blather.
I’m not sure there is an agreed Evangelical account of Mary’s role in salvation history, but if there were, and if it were sound, they wouldn’t be giving her the short shrift they give her now.
The 1960s and early 1970s—the so-called Long Sixties—saw the election of the first Catholic president, the Supreme Court decision banning prayer and Bible reading in the schools, the civil rights movement, the protests against the Vietnam War, and the Roe v. Wade decision. Surprisingly, only the fundamentalists objected to all of them.
Frances FitzGerald, The Evangelicals
Close, but no banana. Few fundamentalists objected to Roe v. Wade initially. How they came to object, in my uninvestigated opinion (though I lived through those times), is bound up with the rise of the Religious Right and its need for wedge issues. (This does not imply that opposition was wrong. Of the crooked timber of humanity, nothing straight was ever made.)
We define ourselves now by what we are not. And what we are not is everything we used to be.
The only time I ever feel ashamed of being gay is on Gay Pride Day.
Bruce Bawer via Jonathan Rausch
Le véritable voyage de découverte ne consiste pas à chercher de nouveaux paysages, mais à avoir de nouveaux yeux.
(The real journey of discovery is not in seeking new landscapes, but in having new eyes.)
Marcel Proust via Nicolas Crose on Micro.blog.
I almost feel as if Proust were dissing my wanderlust.
Denouncement: An ersatz "denunciation" from the Dispatch. Denouncement appears to be in the dictionary, but old men get to grouse about things anyway, and I hates it! The only excuse I can see for it is to make English easier for ESL folk, which also impoverishes it sometimes.
Périphérique: (or “La France périphérique”), a term to describe parts of France left behind by high-speed trains and breezy ambition—where voters are now being desperately courted by presidential candidates.
The Economist. I assume these are Marine LePen’s base, and that Macron ignores them at his peril.
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.