Grabbing a third rail

Lia Thomas

I might as well start off on the third rail. It can only get better from there.

The transgender swimmer Lia Thomas has been back in the news, and I have some things to say about transgender phenomena.

I don’t know what comes to mind when most people hear the word “transgender” or “transgenderism,” but I think of people who (1) experience gender dysphoria and (2) have taken steps to begin presenting as the opposite sex — socially, hormonally or surgically. My impression, though, is that ideologues are treating everyone with gender dysphoria as “trans,” probably because they think all of them should transition. I detest that position.

I also think of the social contagion (or “fad”) that is all of a sudden making a lot of adolescent girls all-of-a-sudden identify as trans, and a lot of ideologues and shady doctors who promote or profit from the fad (with radically inadequate screening, easily constituting malpractice, by the doctors).

On the ontology of gender dysphoria, I do not believe that there can be a boy in a girl’s body, a man in a woman’s body, a girl in a boy’s body, or a woman in a man’s body. Period, full stop. I don’t believe that such cases exist in the tween who has been spending too much time on Tumblr and decided she was a boy yesterday, or in the 50-year-old executive who’s felt female since before puberty. What’s going on is a psychological problem, about which more shortly.

(So I prefer to use the pronouns that align with biological fact, not subjective mental state.)

But I do believe that gender dysphoria exists — that there are boys who feel as if they are girls, etc. — even if at naturally far lower levels than has appeared lately because of the fad and the valorization of all things trans.

However, it’s my understanding that there are adults with intractable and severe gender dysphoria for which, after lengthy psychological counseling, we have found no better solution than transitioning in one form or another — and for some it has been a pretty good solution to reduce the distress. It’s a physical amelioration of a mental obsession. (See this transcript of an Andrew Sullivan podcast for two contrasting cases.)

Maybe Lia Thomas is one of those adults, though he’s awfully young to have undergone a lot a screening.

But although Lia Thomas is a post-adolescent biological male whose women’s swimming dominance is infuriatingly unfair, his transition to presenting as a woman does not appear to be a publicity stunt or a trolling of the sports world. I therefore presume that the gender dysphoria that led to transitioning is genuine — and that the issues raised for sport need to be kept impersonal — i.e., no villifying of Lia personally, even though his athletic exploits are Exhibit A in the case against allowing such a travesty to repeat.

Still, facts are facts. And here are two expressions of roughly how I would respond to “trans women in sports” (and note the title of the second):

Yelling TRANS WOMEN ARE WOMEN! will not persuade anyone, and it isn’t designed to. It would be wonderful if this were true in every respect, but it isn’t …

Maybe it’s worth trading off fairness for inclusion. I’m open to that idea. But activists need to understand that demanding people not believe what is in front of their ears and eyes is a mark not of a civil rights movement, but a form of authoritarianism.

Andrew Sullivan, The Hipness Of It All

[There is] a broader argument [than Lia Thomas]: should brute biological facts sometimes override people’s deeply held feelings about their identities?

This newspaper believes it is almost always unfair to allow transgender women to compete in women’s sports. The advantages bestowed by male puberty are so big that no amount of training or talent can enable female athletes to overcome them. Florence Griffith Joyner’s 100-metres world sprinting record has stood for three decades. A male matching it would not even make it to the Olympics, let alone the final. In 2016, at an American event for high-schoolers, four of the eight boys in the 100-metres final ran faster.



Sports must therefore choose between inclusion and fairness; and they should choose fair play ….

The Economist, ‌Sports should have two categories: “open” and “female”

Conundrum

It’s always been the case that a liberal society depends for unity and vigor on not entirely liberal forces — religious piety, nationalist pride, a sense of providential mission, a certain degree of ethnic solidarity and, of course, the fear of some external adversary. Liberalism at its best works to guide and channel these forces; liberalism at its worst veers between ignoring them and being overwhelmed by them.

But one of the key lessons of recent years is that the spirit of 1989 was itself as much a spirit of revived Eastern European nationalism as of liberalism alone. Which is one reason countries like Poland and Hungary have sorely disappointed liberals in their subsequent development … up until now, of course, when Polish nationalism is suddenly a crucial bulwark for the liberal democratic West.

Ross Douthat

Evangelical Muslims?!

The ink is dry on What’s Up With Born-Again Muslims? And What Does That Tells Us About American Religion?, but I ran across it again.

Ryan Burge’s conclusion is plausible enough for me to assume it’s correct until someone offers a better explanation for a facially incongruent label:

I’m left with this really interesting conclusion. The perception among non-Protestants is that evangelicalism is a badge of religious devotion for Americans of faith. They identify with it even though it’s not theologically congruent with many of their traditions. But for a lot of Protestants, it’s become more of a social and political designation and less of a religious one. For Muslims Republicans, this is a way to identify more completely with their partisan inclinations, while de-priotizing the fact that Islam doesn’t have a born-again component to its faith tradition.

Shall we do evil that good may come?

It is a distressing thought, on multiple levels, that if the American Clerisy had not falsely spiked the Hunter Biden laptop story (a story they now (very) quietly admit was not disinformation*) as Russian disinformation, we probably would have had a second Trump Electoral College victory.

* “Those emails were obtained by The New York Times from a cache of files that appears to have come from a laptop abandoned by Mr. Biden in a Delaware repair shop. The email and others in the cache were authenticated by people familiar with them and with the investigation.” (Hunter Biden Paid Tax Bill, but Federal Investigation Goes On, New York Times 3/16/22)

Cultural Marxism

I’ve struggled with the term “Cultural Marxism” for several years (I’ve lost track). It seemed to be used indiscriminately, and to end discussion rather than to inform it. “Frankfurt School” sounded to me as “Comet Ping Pong” came to sound later — the situs of nefarious deeds according to fevered conspiracy theorists. Then an academic I admire flatly declared that there was no such thing, so I tried to put it out of my mind once and for all.

Of late, though, I’ve read some very progressive people writing favorably about Theodore Adorno, Max Horkheimer and the Frankfurt School. And I no longer think Cultural Marxism is a figment of polemical imaginations.

I do still think, though, that injecting “Marx” into mainstream American discourse is a pretty cheap rhetorial stunt, so I plan to use it sparingly if at all.

Putin and his friends (American and Russian, lay and clerical)

From a Christian perspective, it’s no use being against the globohomo if you embrace murder of the innocents, deliberate lying and widespread theft. You might not go to Hell for buggery but you’re still going to go to Hell.

‌The Social Pathologist: Precision Guided Morality

Worth your time

If you are in the Evangelical world, you may enjoy this week’s Good Faith podcast, featuring the usual hosts plus David Brooks and Peter Wehner.

The best part, though, was where one or two of them said that Evangelicals have been trying to find the early Church. If they go to primary sources, and secondary sources outside the Evangelical hothouse, they’re in for a surprise: the early Church never went away, and is still available.

Mere memory

The memorialism of certain Reformation groups, in which the presence of Christ in the Eucharist is reduced to a simple remembrance on the part of believers, is among the most egregious examples of the triumph of linearity. Here, the Eucharist is celebrated, but the presence of Christ is reduced to historical memory, the weakest possible interpretation of His words and commandments and a deep distortion of the role of anamnesis (memory).

Fr. Stephen Freeman, Everywhere Present.

I don’t know how I, when Protestant, explained away the long discourse at the end of Chapter 6 of the Gospel According to John, but I did. So I can’t be too harsh on those who still do. Likely it was a matter of which verses we were encouraged to underline — i.e., failure to heed God’s whole counsel.


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.

Red and Blue America on Covid

Blue and Red America on Covid

[T]he reason the hyper-cautious approach to the pandemic has taken such a firm hold in Blue America in the first place is it’s an outgrowth of an aversion to risk common among highly educated, politically progressive urban professionals. Red America has its own pathological relation to risk. (What is vaccine refusal if not an expression of the conviction that getting the shot is more dangerous than taking one’s chances against the virus, combined with a generalized distrust of experts?) But it’s the risk aversion common to Blue America that is driving public and private presumption in favor of rules and restrictions designed to keep people safe. Not just the elderly and the immunocompromised, but everyone, including kids with very little danger of becoming seriously ill.

But there’s also a culture war dimension to where we find ourselves.

Those in Blue America who favor remaining on a COVID-hawk footing aren’t just trying to protect themselves. They’re sending a message about who they are. The masks, the willingness to hunker down at home, the insistence on constantly proving vaccination status and submitting to tests — all of it is a symbolic expression of the moral conviction that the common good must come first. It’s a statement that those who refuse to go along with such restrictions are behaving with selfish indifference to their communities and probably prolonging everyone’s misery in the bargain.

Damon Linker

Covid denoument?

[E]arlier this month, [CDC Director Rochelle] Walensky admitted to Fox News that she didn’t know how many of the 836,000 deaths in the United States linked to COVID were people who died with COVID versus people who died from it.

Since the beginning of the pandemic, many regular people without special degrees have been able to develop a clear, rational understanding of the COVID threat by using common sense or by simply looking at the data themselves. In May 2021, a group of MIT researchers studied some of these people, whom they called “anti-maskers.” The researchers found that, rather than being unfamiliar with the data around mask efficacy, the anti-maskers were highly data-literate and had created sophisticated visualizations to demonstrate that masks weren’t working. The MIT paper concluded that the anti-maskers “espouse a vision of science that is radically egalitarian and individualist” and “champion science as a personal practice that prizes rationality and autonomy.”

For the MIT researchers, this was a problem. For them, science does not consist of an observable and testable body of knowledge, but of institutional titles filled by people with the power to determine what is true.

Clayton Fox, ‌COVID Affects Your Memory

Harsh, but I’m beginning to think it’s warranted.

I haven’t said much about my own views on Covid, and I haven’t said it for good reason.

I was not one of the “regular people without special degrees [who were] able to develop a clear, rational understanding of the COVID threat by using common sense or by simply looking at the data themselves.” But I do not feel like a patsy for listening to the government, even if it’s turning out that they were repeatedly wrong and sometimes misleading.

My status as a retired introvert made staying in (most of the time) pretty easy for me, and my grandchildren’s school re-opened pretty promptly after the initial near-universal lockdowns.

So I did not take the time for a timely take on Covid, and instinctively recognized that the carrying (mainstream or dissenting) coals to Newcastle added nothing to anybody’s useful knowledge.

You gotta pick your battles, and this one wasn’t mine.

The only opinion I now care to share is that it’s foolish for anyone over, say, 55 or with comorbidities not to follow the current Covid vaccination recommendations (and yes, I’ve read some Alex Berenson).

Joining the billious geezers

I’m coming to understand why old men become crotchety. From National Review (emphasis added):

Last week, musician Neil Young issued an ultimatum: Spotify could either remove Joe Rogan’s immensely popular podcast or it could remove Young’s catalogue of music …

Young’s lonely lament might not have succeeded in silencing Rogan, but he did manage to win himself more attention than he’s had in decades. (I can say in all sincerity that I can’t remember having heard of him until this incident.) …Young also got a bit of support from fellow C-list celebrities Joni Mitchell and Brené Brown, who joined him in Spotify self-exile.

Alexandra DeSanctis, ‌Joe Rogan: The Real Reason They Want to Cancel Him

I’m sure DeSanctis is writing “in all sincerity” because nobody would say calculatedly something that damning.

UPDATE: Tyler Cowen casts a jaded eye, seemingly well-deserved, on Young and Mitchell, who have both been dissenters from the “scientific” consensus, Young on GMOs, Mitchell on DDT (and, noted in comments to Cowen, her self-diagnosis of “Morgellons“).

The Orange Demagogue Returns

[I]n his weekend outburst, the former president asserts that by “desperately trying to pass legislation” to amend the ECA, “the Democrats and RINO Republicans” are, in effect, admitting “that Mike Pence did have the right to change the outcome, and now they want to take that right away.” Trump thus concludes that “unfortunately, [Pence] didn’t exercise that power, he could have overturned the Election!”

This is sheer nonsense.

A well-settled doctrine of law instructs that “subsequent remedial measures” are not admissible to prove that the occurrence the remedial measures seek to avoid would otherwise have happened or have been permissible. One of the best known iterations of this doctrine was long ago codified in Rule 407 of the Federal Rules of Evidence.

It is a commonsense good governance rule, particularly for a litigious society: If there are beneficial actions that could be taken to avoid some potential wrong, or to prevent a recurrence of a wrong, we don’t want policy-makers to shrink from taking them. But they might demur if they feared that their proposal of a good-faith remedy would be distorted into an admission that the wrong was actually permissible at the time it happened. The idea is that one who proposes a suspenders requirement just to be on the safe side should not be taken to be admitting that having everyone wear a belt wasn’t good enough.

Proponents of amending the ECA to state more emphatically that the vice president has no authority to discount votes are not conceding that, absent such an amendment, the vice president has this authority. They are saying that, since a former president and his loyalists took this indefensible position in connection with what is now an infamous event, we should be as clear as we can be that this scheme is invalid — we should do things we are in a position to do, even if they are just gestures, to prevent a future January 6 debacle.

Andrew McCarthy

Wordplay

  • Illuminotion: the depiction of an idea as a light bulb over a person’s head. (Attributed to Spelling Bee puzzle in the New York Times.)
  • Extravagant upsucking, as in “I’m very doubtful about DeSantis’ ability to out-Trump Trump, despite the governor’s extravagant upsucking to the nationalist right.” (Chris Stirewalt)
  • Embuggerance: Any obstacle that gets in the way of progress. The person who passed that along to (Chris Stirewalt) referred to it as a “term of art” rather than as a neologism. Stirewalt responds with some etymology for this brit variant of snafu.
  • Workism: religious devotion to work for work’s sake, as a priority, imperative, strategy, solution, delight, governing philosophy. (Derek Thompson via Michael Toscano) [Tipsy: Its dehumanizing effects wax as genuine Christian faith wanes.]
  • “So ancient that it might actually mean something.” Peter Hitchens contrasting Queen Elizabeth II’s coronation with modern democracy.

Special bonus Speech-Police supplement:

A new inclusive language guide from the University of Washington IT Department:

  • Housekeeping: “It carries a fraught history and connotation of women’s traditional domestic role as housekeepers.” Replace with: Maintenance. Cleanup. 
  • Blind spot: “This phrase is ableist, connoting that ‘blind’ is equivalent to ignorant.” Replace with: Unaware. 
  • Jerry-rigged: “‘Jerry’ is a derogatory term used by soldiers and civilians of the Allied nations for Germans in WW2.” Replace with: Poorly designed.
  • Also on the verboten list: Grandfathered; blackbox; brown bag lunch. It goes on. Some poor kid who didn’t learn about the evil of “blind spots” at Brearley will be sent to HR for the phrase.

Nellie Bowles

TGIFS

Today, I’m thankful for Freudian Slips, and call out this paragraph already mentioned:

[I]n his weekend outburst, the former president asserts that by “desperately trying to pass legislation” to amend the ECA, “the Democrats and RINO Republicans” are, in effect, admitting “that Mike Pence did have the right to change the outcome, and now they want to take that right away.” Trump thus concludes that “unfortunately, [Pence] didn’t exercise that power, he could have overturned the Election!”

Trump’s Absurd Attack on Pence | National Review (emphasis added).

Looks like we actually did “stop the steal.”


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 political

David Shor

I do hope the Democrats listen to [David Shor] even if it means they do better in elections. Why? Well, for several reasons. First, because if they listened to him, the Democratic Party would move rightward. Second, I think the actual policies associated with “defund the police,” “birthing persons,” “Latinx,” etc. are profoundly bad for America. And third, because if the Democrats stopped talking about ridiculous things, it would deny many Republicans the psychological permission to behave like idiots or support demagogic buffoons.

Jonah Goldberg, That Shor Sounds Good

So what’s Shor saying that the Dems should listen to?

At its most basic, Shor’s theory goes something like this: Although young people as a whole turn out to vote at a lower rate than the general population, the aforementioned type of young person is actually overrepresented within the core of the Democratic Party’s infrastructure. According to Shor, the problem with this permanent class of young staffers is that they tend to hold views that are both more liberal and more ideologically motivated than the views of the coveted median voter, and yet they yield a significant amount of influence over the party’s messaging and policy decisions. As a result, Democrats end up spending a lot of time talking about issues that matter to college-educated liberals but not to the multiracial bloc of moderate voters that the party needs to win over to secure governing majorities in Washington.

Ian Ward, ‌The Democrats’ Privileged College-Kid Problem

David Brock

(David Brock left the GOP long before Donald Trump:)

Issues like racial justice, the environment and immigration are already resonating online with audiences Democrats need to win over, such as young people, women and people of color. Democratic donors have long overlooked efforts to fund the media, but with so much of our politics playing out on that battlefield, they can no longer afford to.

David Brock

It would be interesting to hear the two Davids, Shor and Brock, debate Democratic Party messenging.

Full disclosure for invitees

Alan Jacobs has a modest proposal:

This is related, in a way, to my previous post: After reading yet another invitation-disinvitation story, I think every university should – in the interests of full disclosure, honesty, and charity – prepare a list of Topics On Which Dissent Is Not Permitted and send that list to everyone who is invited to speak. That way prospective lecturers will know in advance whether they hold views that are not tolerated at those universities and can decline the invitation immediately rather than having to be canceled later on.

When Pandemic becomes Endemic, can we take off our masks?

I didn’t have much hope for ‌How Will Blue America Live With Covid? but it raises good questions.

As we saw after Sept. 11, certain forms of security theater, once established, become extremely difficult to dislodge as long as there is still any arguable threat. So as long as Covid stays in the news, it’s not hard to envision masking requirements for airplanes and trains persisting far into the future, much as we still try to foil Al Qaeda by taking off our shoes for airport security lines. It’s also possible to imagine a future in which the weird emergent norm of “masks for the help but not the V.I.P.s” — visible everywhere from the Met Gala to political fund-raisers to posh hotels — becomes an expected feature of life among the blue-state upper class (as well as a potent symbol for its critics).

Then there are blue-state elementary schools, where some of the constituencies that support mask requirements may not be assuaged even after vaccines are available for younger kids. At that point, according to both polls and personal experience, there will still be lots of vaccine hesitancy among even liberal parents — and you could imagine a coalition of more Covid-fearing parents and teachers’ unions demanding masking requirements until a school hits a vaccination threshold that remains perpetually out of reach.

Endemic Covid ensures that this dynamic will never simply vanish … deep-blue America will have to decide, in a world that’s postpandemic but not post-Covid, whether it wants to become the safety-above-all caricature that deep-red America has made of it — or if it can settle instead on masking a little more every December and January, a reasonable adaptation to the coronavirus experience, while otherwise leaving the age of emergency behind.

Ross Douthat

I’m seeing signs of this division among my acquaintances. And I suspect that public schools that veer into safetyism will find that a straw that breaks the camel’s back and sends more students off to private schools.

… boring me to death

Roughly a half decade or so ago, I started noticing that everyone began to believe that their political opinions were the most interesting thing about them.  When it’s usually exactly the opposite.  As a journalist, I always found that talking to people about their actual lives – their hurts, ambitions, failures, families, amusing asides – produced infinite and pleasant surprises. Only when they started talking politics could I finish all their sentences.  As a right-leaning person throughout my life, I became unwittingly involved in more and more conversations, feeling like a trapped rat all the while, in which my conversational companions gave me their harangues on how biased the liberal media was.  In fairness, the mainstream media does lean liberal, and often is biased.  (Who isn’t, these days?)  But if every other sentence you utter ends in the refrain “liberal media bias,” it doesn’t necessarily mean you’re lying or wrong, just that you’re boring me to death over dinner. I get it. But that’s been settled law for decades. Try to be more interesting.

Besides, achieving equanimity isn’t just a natural state, but a choice.  These days, it very much involves swimming against the tide. You nearly have to choose not  to get riled by all the manufactured outrages, Kabuki-theater conflagrations, and faux-Twitter fights that are conducted by catty people, for catty people.  The rage merchants abound, and are all too willing to make a buck from stoking your anger and wet-nursing your resentments  over  “issues” you’d never even heard of five minutes prior.  Don’t be such an easy mark.

Matt Labash

No senses

I’ve long known that ultra-progressives have no sense of humor. Now it appears that perhaps they have no sense of chronology, either:

When I appeared on Megyn Kelly’s podcast, she shared an anecdote (at 46:00 minute mark) about a friend of hers who worked as an editor at a major publishing house. The editor had received a manuscript of a historical novel, based on a true story, of a woman who had to pose as a man in order to receive a medical education and become a surgeon in the 1920’s1. The editor admired the novel and circulated it for feedback from some junior editors.

Perhaps you can anticipate what happened next. The book was attacked by other staffers for its failure to portray the woman who posed as a man in order to practice medicine as transgendered. The author had failed to frame her story through an anachronistic projection of today’s gender ideology onto a past in which the ideology did not yet exist. This meant her work was therefore “transphobic.” The editor was reported to HR for forcing them to read the book and subject to a disciplinary process. He was unable to move forward with the acquisition he had intended.

J.K. Rowling, Joe Rogan, Dave Chappelle. They exist in a strange form of cossetted duress. They are still beloved by millions, wealthier and more widely exposed than ever before. But they are pariahs from the official pseudo-consensus that the Successor Ideology has captured and that a growing body of the gullible and the opportunistic alike have signed on to join with the forces that they anticipate will be in the ascendancy soon.

Wesley Yang, Cancellation, or Cultural Change

How do you marginalize normalcy?

No amount of effort at revising my attitudes (not that I’m especially inclined to try, sorry) would do much to change the fact that however effete and aloof and sensitive I may be, (and I am surely in the 95th percentile among men along both of these dimensions), I am nonetheless, for better or worse, unambiguously a cisgendered, (a term that the late comedian Norm MacDonald characterized “a way of marginalizing a normal person), heterosexual man, and all that entails.

Wesley Yang, ‌Preface to a 20-volume Dave Chappelle Review

Pregnant women at SCOTUS

SCOTUS is going to hear the Texas abortion law case on its "rocket docket;" briefing next week, argument November 1:

Justice Sotomayor wrote a six-page dissent. She repeatedly referred to pregnant "women," without a footnote about gender identity. Call the cancellation squad.


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.

Sunday Potpourri, 10/3/21

Religion

A voice crying in the wilderness?

I am not asking Christians to stop seeing superhero movies or listening to pop music, but we need to be mindful of how we use our time. Many of the popular stories in our culture leave us worse off. Instead of haunting us, they glorify vice, distract us from ourselves, lift our mood without lifting our spirits, and make us envious and covetous of fame, sexual conquests, and material possessions.

Alan Noble, Disruptive Witness

Rawls’ secular convolution

[I]t took [John] Rawls several hundred pages of Harvard-level disquisition and ‘veils of ignorance’ analogies to restate Kant’s Categorical Imperative and Mathew 7:12.

‌Antonio García Martínez, in the course of an essay on why he is embracing Judaism.

First, I almost laughed out loud at Martínez’s summary of Rawls’ best-known, laboriously-constructed, moral (?) principle.

Second, Martínez makes a good case for fleeing secular modernity to a religion of some sort, and makes a good-enough case for Judaism — pretty movingly, actually. I could gladly have quoted much more.

But he makes no case for why he needed to leave Roman Catholicism, to which all of the Old Testament is likewise available, to secure the Old Testament for his children, nor did he even acknowledge that he’s leaving Catholicism, not secularism.

Is Roman Catholicism indistinguishable from secularism to him? Was he living as secular within the Latin Church?

PRE-PUBLICATION "UPDATE": Rod Dreher, who apparently is friends with Martínez, says he "was baptized Catholic [but] lost his faith in adulthood … AGM does not make a theological argument for Judaism, explaining why he chose it over returning to the Catholicism of his youth, or over any other religious option. It sounds like he’s taking a leap of faith that God really did reveal Himself to the Hebrews, and that unique revelation was not improved on by Jesus of Nazareth or Mohammed."

I had not heard of his loss of faith.

Good news, fake news

Nobody escapes suffering. Trite words, but true ones. I think the main reason I get so mad at happy-clappy forms of Christianity is because they seem to function to deny suffering, rather than help us to let it refine us. A Christianity that minimizes suffering is fraudulent; its gospel is fake news. Mustapha Mond’s phrase “Christianity without tears” applies here. Suffering is a sign of grave disorder in the cosmos — a disorder rooted in sin, and ending in death. These are heavy mysteries.

Rod Dreher, ‌Into The Darkness

Politics

For your prayerful consideration

barring a serious health issue, the odds are good that [Donald Trump] will be the [Republican] nominee for president in 2024

New York Times Editorial Board (italics added).

Consider adapting that italicized clause for your daily prayers.

I personally cannot presume to pray "Please, Lord, smite Donald Trump." But I can prayerfully share my concern about his toxicity, and that I like the USA well enough to lament it, and that our future worries me half sick when my faith is weak.

Chutpah

However the legislative gamesmanship playing out on Capitol Hill is resolved over the coming days, one thing is certain: The Democrats got themselves into this mess. They tried to enact an agenda as sweeping as the New Deal or Great Society though they enjoy margins of support vastly smaller than FDR or LBJ — and though their razor-thin majorities in both houses of Congress are themselves deeply divided between progressive and moderate factions.

The Greeks would have called it hubris. A Borscht Belt comedian would have talked of chutzpah. Either way, it’s hard to deny the Democrats have fallen prey to delusions of grandeur.

Damon Linker, ‌Why do progressive Democrats expect their agenda to pass with such a small majority?

Mutually-profitable kayfabe

Did you know that Russians hacked our electrical grid? Did you know that Trump was connected to a server communicating with Russians? Did you know that Russians were paying bounties for dead American soldiers in Afghanistan? Get his taxes—the answers are there. When The New York Times eventually got ahold of them and parenthetically noted, amidst a cloud of dire innuendo concerning profits and losses of his real estate business, that no evidence existed in them pointing to any ties to Russia, the narrative was already too well entrenched to dislodge.

The Russia hysteria served a psychological function for those at a loss as to how the country they led had slipped from their grasp. It allowed them to offload the blame for the serial failures through which they rendered themselves beatable by a carnival barker onto the machinations of a foreign power. It allowed them to indulge fantasies of the president’s imminent replacement. It helped media companies reverse a downward spiral and restore themselves to profitability as they turned all of public life into a mutually profitable kayfabe with the object of their obsession.

Wesley Yang (Hyperlink added because I had no idea what "kayfabe" was. Once you know, "mutually-profitable kayfabe" becomes an elegant distillation of much of our public-life-as-reported — though I get the feeling that a lot of the true political animosity between parties is all-too-real now.)

My remaining concern is: Isn’t "mutually-profitable kayfabe" at least semi-redundandant? What kayfabe is zero-sum?

Perspective

As far back as Leviticus, priests were given the power of quarantine (13:46), masking (13:45), and even the destruction of property (14:43-47) in the interest of managing and containing disease. Throughout history, political authorities have exercised all sorts of powers for the sake of protecting the health of those God has given them authority over. The interdependent nature of the created order means that there is hardly a law that can be passed which does not have some effect on health. The health of our bodies is not a penultimate summum bonum requiring slavish insistence on removing all potential hazards, but our existence as embodied creatures means that whatever other endeavors are going on, health is always somewhere nearby either as a constitutive process or an important outcome.

‌Biopolitics Are Unavoidable

Just a little quibble over whether one human can own another

Even during the Civil War—I think we’re more divided now than we were then. As Lincoln said, we all prayed to the same God. We all believed in the same Constitution. We just differed over the question of slavery.

Ryan Williams, President of the Claremont Institute, explaining to Emma Green how America is more divided now than in the Civil War.

"Just differed over the question of slavery." This man is too tone-deaf to be President of the Dog Pound, but he’s atop a big Trumpist-Right "think" tank.

What if there’s no omelet?

There’s a famous French Revolution-era maxim that declares that one does not make an omelet without breaking eggs. That maxim has served as a shorthand warning against Utopianism ever since.**

But what if there’s not even an omelet? What if the movement is simply about breaking eggs? What if “fighting” isn’t a means to an end, but rather the end itself?

David French, ‌A Whiff of Civil War in the Air

Culture and Culture War

Some limits of liberalism

The American Political Science Association was faced with the Claremont Institute wanting two panels that included John Eastman — he of the notorious memo on how Mike Pence could legally steal the election for Trump. It offered a sort of Covid-era compromise: those panels would be virtual (thus lessening the likelihood of vigorous protests of the live portion of the meeting).

I have not read what Claremont said upon withdrawing from the meeting, but I’d wager it invoked classically liberal values:

Liberalism stands for the free and open society. But does that mean it must make space for those who would destroy the free and open society? If the answer is yes, liberalism would seem to have a death wish. If the answer is no, liberalism looks hypocritical: Oh, so you’re for open debate, but only if everyone debating is a liberal! There really is no way to resolve this tension except to say that liberalism favors a free and open society, but not without limits. It can tolerate disagreement and dissent, but not infinitely. And writing a memo to the president explaining precisely how he could mount a coup that would overturn liberal democratic government in the United States crosses that line.

Damon Linker, ‌An academic scuffle tests the limits of free debate

Tacit misogyny?

It is striking that there is no … zealous campaign to abandon the word “men” in favour of “prostate-havers”, “ejaculators” or “bodies with testicles”.

The Economist, ‌Why the word “woman” is tying people in knots

Uprooted

Even if you are living where your forefathers have lived for generations, you can bet that the smartphone you gave your child will unmoor them more effectively than any bulldozer.

In all the time I have spent with people who live in genuinely rooted cultures — rooted in time, place and spirit — whether in the west of Ireland or West Papua, I’ve generally been struck by two things. One is that rooted people are harder to control. The industrial revolution could not have happened without the enclosure of land, and the destruction of the peasantry and the artisan class. People with their feet on the ground are less easily swayed by the currents of politics, or by the fashions of urban ideologues or academic theorists.

The second observation is that people don’t tend to talk much about their “identity” — or even think about it — unless it is under threat. The louder you have to talk about it, it seems, the more you have probably lost. The range of freewheeling, self-curated “identities” thrown up by the current “culture war” shows that we are already a long way down the road that leads away from genuine culture.

Paul Kingsnorth

Plus ça change …

We must find new lands from which we can easily obtain raw materials and at the same time exploit the cheap slave labour that is available from the natives of the colonies. The colonies would also provide a dumping ground for the surplus goods produced in our factories

Cecil Rhodes, quoted by Edward Goldsmith, Development As Colonialism.

More:

Throughout the non-industrial world, it was only if such conditions could no longer be enforced, (usually when a new nationalist or populist government came to power), that formal annexation was resorted to. As Fieldhouse puts it, “Colonialism was not a preference but a last resort”.

Slowly as traditional society disintegrated under the impact of colonialism and the spread of Western values, and as the subsistence economy was replaced by the market economy on which the exploding urban population grew increasingly dependent – the task of maintaining the optimum conditions for Western trade and penetration became correspondingly easier. As a result, by the middle of the twentieth century as Fieldhouse notes: “European merchants and investors could operate satisfactorily within the political framework provided by most reconstructed indigenous states as their predecessors would have preferred to operate a century earlier but without facing those problems which had once made formal empire a necessary expedient”.

What could possibly go wrong?

Back in 1991, I saw the late Professor Derrick Bell, a well-known Critical Race Theorist from Harvard Law School, talk about how proud he was that he got his students, including a specific Jewish woman, who did not think of themselves as white, to recognize and become much more conscious of their whiteness.

What strikes me about this literature is how it ignores what seems to me to be the obvious dangers of encouraging a majority of the population to emphasize and internalize a racial identity, and, moreover, to think of themselves as having racial interests opposed to those of the non-white population. I mean, what could go wrong? It would be one thing to note the obvious dangers of increased ethnonationalism, racial conflict, and so on, and explain why the author believes the risk-reward ratio is favorable. But the literature I came across (which admittedly is not comprehensive), the possibility that this could backfire is simply ignored.

David Bernstein, “White Racial Consciousness” as a Dangerous Progressive Project – Reason.com

A relatively harmless polarity

Some parents react to a child being a National Merit Scholar by saying "Woohoo! A shot at Harvard, or Yale, or Princeton!" Others say "Woohoo! Full scholarship to State U!"

[I]n 2018-2019, more National Merit Scholars joined the Crimson Tide than enrolled in Harvard, Stanford, Yale, Michigan the University of Chicago, and virtually every other top university in the land.

David French, ‌American Higher Education, Ideologically Separate and Unequal

Miscellany

I’ll have to take a pass

I want small businesses to succeed, but having just heard about a local Bourbon & Cigar lounge, I’ll have to take a pass.

I have no problem with the bourbon, but it took me about 16 years to kick tobacco, with pipe and cigar being my favored poisons. I haven’t touched tobacco during the subsequent more-than-half of my life, and I’m not starting again.


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.

Magic Mushrooms

Wednesday evening I watched a Netflix documentary titled Fantastic Fungi. The first voice in the documentary turned out to be the voice of Fungi, who returns for further narration (largely in the form of self-adulation) repeatedly over the 80 minutes of the show.

The last 15 minutes or so built to a crescendo which can only be described as religious in its fervor, leading me almost to expect an altar call. And fairly early in the program, I commented to my wife that there was a little bit "too much of the spirit of Carl Sagan" in the production — a foreshadowing, it proved.

However, there came a point when people described experimental treatment with magic-mushroom type stuff during terminal illness as the most profound religious experience of their lives. 
 At that point, my (Calvinist) wife expressed scorn. At that point, I (Orthodox, having read a lot in popular treatments of neuropsychology lately) thought I perceived an additional "data point" in my case against living life as if it was all made up of data points.

I’m influenced:

  • heavily and recently by Iain McGilchrist, The Master and His Emissary.
  • Michael Polanyi’s coinage of "tacit knowledge"
  • the Saints of my Church, not one of whom was canonized for analytical rigor
  • the monastics of my Church, canonized or not
  • a lifetime of singing sacred choral music, mostly in Western Christian tradition.

There probably are other influences, too.

So I’m now going to advance a hypothesis, which has been taking vague shape in my mind over several months (or longer, as in Polanyi).

My hypothesis is that psychedelics, particularly including magic mushrooms or other fungi, subvert the dominance of the analytical left cerebral hemisphere — a dominance that has arisen in part from our adulation of science and its susceptibility of objective proof. Concurrently, our use of the right hemisphere has atrophied.

If I had to refine my hypothesis, it would be that psychedelics give a boost particularly to the more intuitive or emotional right hemisphere, with which we have become so unfamiliar as late modern or early postmodern humans, that the experience of meta-perception via the right hemisphere is overwhelming and perceived as a religious experience. Many people have never experienced such a thing at all and I hypothesize that vanishingly few of us have experienced it as intensely as occurs during a "good trip."

I find corroboration for this hypothesis in the long-lasting effects of a single trip, without a need to repeat the experience frequently because the sense of well-being persists, and in the evidence that mushrooms were almost sacramental in ancient practices we now would call “religious.”

I further hypothesize that the rebalancing of the two hemispheres is part of what can happen in a modern or early postmodern monastic life. And I confess (no longer hypothesizing) that an ascetic life is the approved Orthodox Christian manner of rebalancing the hemispheres (not referred to in those terms, though, and not the ultimate goal) and, particularly, activating that portion of the right hemisphere that our God-bearing fathers have identified as the nous — a capacity much disabled in our times.

I find a slight analogy to this in my increase appreciation of much poetry after a generous pour of whiskey.

If we do not regain a balance of the hemispheres through changes in our collective life, and if research on magic mushrooms continues (which research I support), I could imagine a day when the church would approve tripping to overcome the disability life has inflicted on us — to jump-start the ascetic life, in essence.

But my hypothesis is pretty far out there, and this is not that day. As a faithful Orthodox Christian, let alone a tonsured Reader, I’m not at liberty to take a stab at chemical or fungal shortcuts to theosis, especially when they’re marketed (for thinly-veiled marketing is what Fantastic Fungi was) as an alternative religion.


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.

Potpourri 9/4/21

Opening insights

  • The Bitter Truth: There’s Still No Rhyme or Reason to COVID-19.” Charles C. W. Cooke has a refreshingly sane analysis of which policies help mitigate COVID-19: “There’s no rhyme or reason to this pandemic. Vaccines help a great deal. That much we know. Beyond that, though, the coverage of the virus has mostly been partisanship and witchcraft.”
  • Don’t Quit Twitter Yet. You Might Have a Moral Duty to Stay.” Tish Harrison Warren names a real and intractable problem: “Our implicit requirement of emerging leaders for copious social media engagement is like requiring all of America’s young cardiologists to take up smoking. The means necessary to have a public voice in our culture is precisely that which undoes the kind of deep thinking, nuance, creativity, humility, and compassion we desperately need from leaders of any sort.”

Front Porch Republic

Faire de la merde

[R]ead Noah Feldman’s new column. He writes that the Court "made a point that is incorrect in my view, but that is legally plausible." Why was it incorrect? Feldman explains, "The better view is that the court should have been creative and found a way to block the law anyway." And why should the Court have gotten creative? Feldman writes, "if the underlying law is unconstitutional and injures basic rights, the courts must have the power to block its operation." If there is a really bad law, the usual rules of jurisdiction can be ignored, because the court "must" be able to do something about it. I always appreciate Feldman’s candor. He says aloud what others are thinking. Unfortunately, telling courts to be "creative" is to tell courts to–pardon my French–"make shit up."

Joshua Blackman, New Op-Ed in Newsweek: The Supreme Court Could Not “Block” Texas’s Fetal Heartbeat Law – Reason.com (The heading of this item is from Google translate, and my colloquial French is too poor to know whether the French have any such colloquialism.)

Priorities today

  • Classical liberals conceded that your freedom to swing your fist stops where my nose begins. Today’s progressives argue that your freedom to express your opinions stops where my feelings begin.
  • Scotland, a cradle of the Enlightenment, abolished the crime of blasphemy in March. At the same time, however, it reintroduced it by creating new offences such as “stirring up hatred” and “abusive speech”—punishable by up to seven years in prison.

‌Left-wing activists are using old tactics in a new assault on liberalism (The Economist)

Then, contrary to script, it turned really bad …

So far, I remain grateful that Joe Biden rather than Donald Trump is our President. I voted for "neither of the above" because neither of them is really suitable and my fair state was not "in play"; it was going for Trump. Having gotten the lesser evil, I’m not going to spend four years berating him.

But his inept handling of Afghanistan led to his grandfatherly, compassionate mask coming off briefly.

The enlisted men and women of the U.S. military are the most respected professionals in America. They can break your heart with their greatness, as they did at Hamid Karzai International Airport when 13 of them gave their lives to help desperate people escape. But the top brass? Something’s wrong there, something that August revealed. They are all so media-savvy, so smooth and sound-bitey after a generation at war, and in some new way they too seem obsessed with perceptions and how things play, as opposed to reality and how things are.

A longtime friend of his once told me Mr. Biden’s weakness is that he always thinks he’s the smartest guy in the room. I asked if the rooms are usually small, and the friend didn’t bristle, he laughed. I suspect Mr. Biden was thinking he was going to be the guy who finally cut through, who stopped the nonsense, admitted reality, who wasn’t like the others driven by fear of looking weak or incompetent. He was going to look with eyes made cool by experience and do what needed doing—cut this cord, end this thing, not another American dead.

History would see what he’d done. It would be his legacy. And for once he’d get his due—he’s not some ice-cream-eating mediocrity, not a mere palate-cleanser after the heavy meal of Trump, not a placeholder while America got its act together. He would finally be seen as what he is—a serious man. Un homme sérieux, as diplomats used to say.

And then, when it turned so bad so quick, his pride and anger shifted in, and the defiant, defensive, self-referential speeches. Do they not see my wisdom?

When you want it bad you get it bad.

Peggy Noonan (emphasis added)

More united than they’d prefer

European decision makers have never lacked the ambition for [ambitious pan-European military] projects. (In 1998, Prime Minister Tony Blair of Britain and President Jacques Chirac of France issued a portentous “Saint-Malo declaration” calling for an autonomous European strike force.) What they have lacked is a popular consensus for them. Creating an army befitting a superpower is a colossal expense. It makes sense to use the American one as long as it is on offer, rather than bankrupting Europe on a (perhaps quixotic) quest to duplicate it.

… Over the past 20 years, Europeans have watched as the United States first led Europe into wars Europe did not want to fight, and then succumbed to a passionate anti-elite politics that culminated in the election of Donald Trump. Frustration is to be expected. The Afghanistan collapse will surely sharpen it.

But the European Union is going to find it difficult to place itself at the center of Western defense arrangements, largely because it, too, has generated among its citizenry a distrust for elites as intense as the one that put the United States on its present path. In this respect, at least, Western countries are united, more united perhaps than they would wish to be.

Christopher Caldwell, ‌What the Afghanistan Withdrawal Means for Europe’s Future

A cure for despair

I found myself gape-mouthed that humanity was ever capable of producing urban spaces like this. We are far richer than the Veronese were at the height of their powers, but we can only produce mediocrity, or worse, ugliness. Verona is a palimpsest of Roman, medieval, Renaissance, and early modern architecture, all of it harmonizing in a gorgeous polyphony that ravishes the senses and elevates the spirit. If you despair of humanity, go to Verona, and see what we can be.

Rod Dreher, My Verona

Corporate "virtue"

Lyft wants me to know that it is "Defending drivers and women’s access to healthcare" by setting up a defense fund in case any of its drivers get sued for aiding and abetting an abortion under the now-famous Texas law. The tell is the domain from which they notified me: @marketing.lyftmail.com›. (Also they invited me to contribute to their defense fund.)

I’m unimpressed. I’m also unoffended by the substance of the action. But were I offended, Uber and Lyft are still the only ride-share services I know, and Uber is mostly smoke and mirrors.

Why people come to church for the wrong reasons

Undoubtedly, people come to church for a host of wrong reasons. But the pastor is able to help them find the words to acknowledge, sometimes to their own surprise, that they are here because God has willed them to be here, despite all their wrong reasons.

Stanley Hauerwas, Resident Aliens


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.

Potpourri 11/11/20

Audacious Plaintiff gets aptly smacked down.

If you want privacy, folks, you don’t go to court. You especially don’t go to court with a lurid complaint and then ask for privacy because the defense might be lurid, too.


Against fierce cultural and social pressures, you strive—with the help of grace, your pastors, and each other—to live the Catholic ethic of human love even as you experience same-sex attractions. Your efforts at fidelity bespeak deep faith, a powerful hope, and authentic love.

Living chastely—living what John Paul II called “the integrity of love”—is not easy for anyone in our licentious culture …

… unlike some others, you do not demand that truth bend to desire. With Flannery O’Connor, you know that “the truth does not change according to our ability to stomach it emotionally.” …

Just as importantly, you do not treat chastity as an ecclesiastical “policy issue” and you do not lobby within the Church for a change in “policy,” because you know that what is at stake here is truth: a truth that makes for happiness, genuine friendship, and, ultimately, beatitude ….

George Weigel, An Open Letter to the People of “Courage”.

I generally am not a fan of George Weigel, but to patronize First Things is to run into him constantly, and he does occasionally say something I agree with, as he does here. I do not endorse, though, some other parts of the same little piece; specifically, I’m not prepared to exonerate Pope Francis from charges of mischief.


My favorite “spy podcast” is Intelligence Matters. Today’s weekly was probably the best I’ve heard, not about spying so much as strategic intelligence about relations with China.

As Great Britain had to gingerly make room for the United States a century ago, so we may need gingerly to make some room for emergent China. New superpower, old analogies.


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.

The sharpness of the observation isn’t immediately obvious to a lazy read. It fits today’s abandonment of churches by social climbers quite well.


The Centers for Disease Control updated its guidance on masks to indicate that masks protect the individuals wearing them, not just those around them. “Experimental and epidemiological data support community masking to reduce the spread of SARS-CoV-2,” the CDC’s website reads. “The prevention benefit of masking is derived from the combination of source control and personal protection for the mask wearer.” The number of people currently hospitalized with COVID-19 hit an all-time high yesterday, according to the COVID Tracking Project.

The Morning Dispatch

The disparity between the science on face masks and the political posturing about them frustrates me a lot. My common sense tells me they should help. The science seems to say they help, but a lot less than I’d have guessed. One of my scientifically smartest friends is not convinced that they help at all (and, scientist or not, is almost mystical about “face-to-face” encounter. No reductionist he.).

I wear one in many situations that make me look like a liberal (how weird to correlate things so!). I leave it off, even when singing as cantor at Church, if nobody’s within ten feet or so of me and I can sing away from the congregation (except for mask-mandatory liturgies, which we’ve added twice mosthly for the elderly or extra-cautious).

But the pandemic locally is the worst ever. Yesterday’s new-infection rate would have meant almost a third of the county getting Covid within a year if it continued unabated.


Here beginneth political punditry. If you are “soooo done with that”, or “just can’t even”, you may stop reading.

If you’re wondering why so many prominent elected Republicans are standing by TrumpWorld’s increasingly untethered to reality conspiracies about widespread voter fraud and election theft, Burgess Everett offers one explanation in Politico. “The party needs President Donald Trump’s help to clinch two runoff elections in Georgia on Jan. 5 that will determine the fate of the Senate GOP’s majority,” Everett writes. “And accepting the presidential results ahead of Trump, a politician driven by loyalty, could put Republicans at odds with the president and his core supporters amid the must-win elections down South.”

The Morning Dispatch

I’m sorry, but that’s not good enough. “Some things,” as Antonin Scalia said of his friendship with Notorious RBG, “are more important than votes.”


The day after the firing of the secretary of defense who resisted the use of troops against peaceful American protesters is probably not a great time for the secretary of state to joke about a transition to a “second Trump administration.” If he was in fact joking. Welcome to what the Republican party is in 2020—a threat to democratic order.

Mona Charen, There Is No Return to Normalcy – Ethics & Public Policy Center She delivers the goods, too.


[I]t’s … possible to make use of the [Devil] as a metaphor, an idea, treating it as the fanciful creation of culture as it tries to make sense of something real in human experience.

What is this something? It’s more precisely a someone — the kind of person who delights in wreaking havoc, who acts entirely from his own interests, and whose interests are incompatible with received norms, standards, restraints, and laws. Someone who actively seeks to inspire anger and animus, who likes nothing more than provoking conflict all around him, both to create advantages for himself and because pulling everyone around him down to his own ignoble level soothes his nagging worry that someone, somewhere might be more widely admired. This is a person who lives for adulation without regard for whether the glory is earned. The louder the cheers, the better. That’s all that counts. And so the only thing that’s a threat is the prospect of the cheers going silent — of someone else rightfully winning the contest for public approval.

Donald Trump is the demon in American democracy.

What makes Trump demonic? One thing above all: His willingness, even eagerness, to do serious, potentially fatal, damage to something beautiful, noble, fragile, and rare, purely to satisfy his own emotional needs. That something is American self-government. Trump can’t accept losing, can’t accept rejection, and savors provoking division. He wants to be a maestro conducting a cacophony of animosities at the center of our national stage because it feeds his insatiable craving for attention and power — and because, I suspect, he delights in pulling everybody else down to his own level.

That is a satanic impulse …

… He’s asserted that the Democrats stole the election without providing a shred of proof in even a single state to back up the incendiary accusation. The result? Seventy percent of Republicans are already prepared to say that the election wasn’t free and fair. Which means they are inclined to believe that the Biden administration is illegitimate even before it starts — because, as Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina put it on Monday night on Fox News, the Democrats are only able win power by cheating.

Damon Linker has been on a roll. I agree with Trump is a demonic force in American politics completely (except that I am a believing Christian, as Linker used to be, and so believe an an actual Satan).

It bothers me less that 70-some million voted for Trump than that some bitter-ender Christian-adjacent folks (i.e., heretics) believe “stolen election” and the prosperity gospelers’ maniacal insistence that this demonic man is God’s choice for America.


President-elect Joe Biden projected calm on Tuesday despite President Trump’s continued refusal to concede the election. “The fact that they’re not willing to acknowledge we won at this point is not of much consequence for our planning and what we’re able to do between now and January 20,” Biden said. He called Trump’s post-election behavior an “embarrassment,” adding that it “will not help the president’s legacy.”

The Morning Dispatch

That kind of heated rhetoric has just got to stop. I’ll give Biden 50 months to cut it out.


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

You shall love your crooked neighbour
With your crooked heart.

W.H. Auden


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).

Fraud on the courts?

Notre Dame’s president, the Rev. John Jenkins, … justified the birth-control decision by saying, in part, that Catholic tradition requires respect for “the conscientious decisions of members of our community.” Of course, Notre Dame community members can exercise their consciences without receiving university-provided contraception. And there is also the serious possibility that Notre Dame abused the legal process when it sued the Obama administration for relief. If the university had standing on religious-freedom grounds, how can it now explain its decision to facilitate coverage of birth control?

Notre Dame’s leadership has embarked on a campaign to put the university on ​the same footing as the nation’s other elite schools. In so doing, it often has renounced its obligation to shape the moral landscape of the society it inhabits, and, more importantly, to form its own community properly.
The Catholic Church is never more effective than when it when it acts as a countercultural force. It offers the modern world a radically different vision of human sexuality from the one most young people are taught. With the decision to provide birth control, Notre Dame has forfeited its chance to stand in moral opposition to a utilitarian sexual culture. It has chosen to stop speaking to the kind of life that makes people whole.

When the administration recently announced that undergraduates would be required to live on campus for at least six semesters, Father Jenkins defended the rule by saying the university makes no apologies about being a place of faith. “If that’s what they want, they should come here, but if that’s not what they want, there are many other places—great places—to go to,” he said.​The connection between Notre Dame’s Catholic identity and its campus-residency rules is tenuous. But Father Jenkins still imposed this rationale on students who dislike the new policy. Why, then, does he refuse to assert Catholic identity as grounds for refusing to cover contraception?

(Alexandra DeSanctis in the Wall Street Journal, emphasis added)

Let me unpack the “possibility that Notre Dame abused the legal process.” I assume that Ms. DeSanctis is alluding to some sort of claim that Notre Dame could not, without violating its religious convictions, provide insurance coverage for contraceptives. Now it’s saying, in effect, “Oh. Never mind. Catholic tradition requires respect for ‘the conscientious decisions of members of our community,’ and that requires us to cover contraceptives.”

I sure as heck can see her point.

* * * * *

It is not bigotry to be certain we are right; but it is bigotry to be unable to imagine how we might possibly have gone wrong.

Bigotry is an incapacity to conceive seriously the alternative to a proposition.

A man … is only a bigot if he cannot understand that his dogma is a dogma, even if it is true.

(G.K. Chesterton) Be of good courage, you who are called “bigots” by those who are unable to conceive seriously the alternatives to their dogmas.

Some succinct standing advice on recurring themes.

Where I glean stuff.

Thursday, 10/26/17

  1. Thou shalt kill or be fined
  2. The other side of the coin
  3. The bad fascist’s more competent cabinet
  4. A weird amicus brief in the cake case
  5. Flake on Trump
  6. Conservatives on Flake
  7. Obliterating distinctions
  8. Retweetables

Continue reading “Thursday, 10/26/17”

Saturday, 8/5/17

  1. Malodorous and Malarial
  2. Modern, internet-fuelled Gnosticism
  3. Call me when you’ve got your dogmas straight
  4. The limits of universal-rational scrutiny
  5. Bo, Mike, and the real possibility of change
  6. Buried in my Journal six years ago

Continue reading “Saturday, 8/5/17”