At last, after 49 years …

Dobbs

The case and my feelings

After some 40 years as consciously pro-life, most of those years being actively pro-life as well, I feel a strange let-down and foreboding:

  • Dobbs means pro-abortion terrorism for a while;
  • Dobbs means prolonged political debate in many of the 50 states, some of which will swerve performatively too far left or right;
  • Dobbs is messier procedurally than I remembered; and
  • I have friends who are beside themselves with grief and rage (I hope they appreciate that I was constitutionally outraged by Roe for 40 years).
  • UPDATE: Of course! Duh! The leak made this anticlimactic all by itself! (H/T Advisory Opinions podcast)

Yes, I’m satisfied with the outcome: Roe was wrongly decided, and Casey may have been even worse. It’s important for the structural integrity of our constitutional system that political issues not be hijacked by the courts under constitutional pretexts.

On what becomes of birth control, inter-racial marriage, same-sex marriage, anti-sodomy laws, and any remaining liberal groin pieties, I suggest that the most important observation in Alito’s opinion is this:

… even putting aside that these cases are distinguishable, there is a further point that the dissent ignores: Each precedent is subject to its own stare decisis analysis, and the factors that our doctrine instructs us to consider like reliance and workability are different for these cases than for our abortion jurisprudence.

(Opinion at 71-72)

Homework: using the factors for upholding or overruling precedent outlined by Alito, do your own stare decisis analysis on each. I’ll get you started: not one of the four is deeply rooted in our history and traditions, but that’s only the beginning of the analysis. From there, it gets more interesting.

Night of Rage

In a recent video essay, my friend James Wood has suggested that in this day and age, thinking Christians should work to recover a theology of the demonic. I don’t assume this suggestion will be equally meaningful to all my readers. But I submit that you can’t contemplate what drives men to organize a “Night of Rage” against Christian charities whose sole purpose is aiding pregnant women, and not wonder if there is a dark something or other lurking back of it all.

Bethel McGrew, Morning in America. I quote it because I was thinking exactly the same thing. There is no logic to vandalizing or even firebombing pro-life pregnancy centers unless the motivation is consciously pro-abortion, not pro-choice, or else one is demonically confused.

Other Legalia

Principled

We could not abandon ongoing representations just because a client’s position is unpopular in some circles.

Former Solicitor General Paul Clement on leaving Chicago’s Kirkland & Ellis when they decided to abandon second amendment litigation. He is forming his own firm with another Kirkland partner.

Best wishes. Even though I’m at best lukewarm about guns, this stand is principled, and nobody’s going to have to pass the hat so Paul Clement can pay for his lunch.

Correct facts, dubious conclusion

One of the reasons I think the Supreme Court got it right in Carson v. Makin is the poor quality of the dissents. Justice Sotomayor actually invoked the "wall of separation," an extraconstitutional metaphor that probably has never actually fit our nation’s polity (starting with the little-known fact that we had state-established churches into the 1830s).

But an odder one is Justice Breyer’s:

This potential for religious strife is still with us. We are today a Nation with well over 100 different religious groups, from Free Will Baptist to African Methodist, Buddhist to Humanist. See Pew Research Center, America’s Changing Religious Landscape 21 (May 12, 2015). People in our country adhere to a vast array of beliefs, ideals, and philosophies. And with greater religious diversity comes greater risk of religiously based strife, conflict, and social division. The Religion Clauses were written in part to help avoid that disunion. As Thomas Jefferson, one of the leading drafters and proponents of those Clauses, wrote, “ ‘to compel a man to furnish contributions of money for the propagation of opinions which he disbelieves, is sinful and tyrannical.’ ” Everson, 330 U. S., at 13. And as James Madison, another drafter and proponent, said, compelled taxpayer sponsorship of religion “is itself a signal of persecution,” which “will destroy that moderation and harmony which the forbearance of our laws to intermeddle with Religion, has produced amongst its several sects.” Id., at 68–69 (appendix to dissenting opinion of Rutledge, J.). To interpret the Clauses with these concerns in mind may help to further their original purpose of avoiding religious-based division.

Is there any evidence whatever that increased religious diversity leads to greater strife? Doesn’t Western history’s putatively religious strife generally involve Protestants versus Catholics in a society where almost everyone was one or the other? Doesn’t our present reality belie Breyer’s logic, i.e., doesn’t our lack of strife despite "well over 100 different religious groups" tend all by itself to disprove Breyer’s prophecy?

Let’s end the end-runs now

Anticipating this week’s school funding decision, Maine lawmakers enacted a crucial amendment to the state’s anti-discrimination law last year in order to counteract the expected ruling. The revised law forbids discrimination based on gender identity and sexual orientation, and it applies to every private school that chooses to accept public funds, without regard to religious affiliation.

Aaron Tang in the New York Times

It would be interesting to learn whether the debate over S.P. 544 (the Bill in question) included any invidiously discriminatory snark about religion.

But the legislature avoided one other potential infirmity.

Previously, Maine law allowed sexual discrimination in education (some of the private schools receiving aid while religious schools did not were either all-male or all-female) while forbidding sexual orientation discrimination (with an exception for religious schools). That seems exceedingly odd, as bans on sexual discrimination are generally older than those based on sexual orientation.

The revision adds a prohibition on sex discrimination as well as sexual orientation discrimination, and thus will put those other private schools to the choice of going co-ed or forfeiting aid.

I can’t think of a legal theory I’d want to see recognized by courts that would allow Maine private schools to do an end-run around the legislature’s end-run. It’s always been the case that state money comes with strings attached.

The challenge for private schools now is the get parents to care enough about their children’s longterm wellbeing to reject the economic values society promotes, notably including consumerism, and to redirect some dollars to tuition in schools that won’t perpetuate those ultimately-immiserating values. Sad to say, most "Christian" schools are consumerist with a religious veneer.

January 6

Liz Cheney, kamikaze pilot

[Florida Governor Ron] DeSantis … is capturing the Republican imagination as tough and committed but not unstable or criminal.

Peggy Noonan.

"Not unstable or criminal" is an improvement for the post-2015 GOP.

But I, a former Republican and still reflexively concerned about that party, am not enthusiastic about DeSantis for more than maybe 30 seconds at a time. His appearance, unfortunately, is kind of Mafia. He is quite smart but too often "politically savvy" in crudely manipulative way.

More Noonan:

Mr. Trump’s national polling numbers continue underwater, but the real test will be to see those numbers after the Jan. 6 hearings are over. I believe we’ll see Rep. Liz Cheney’s kamikaze mission hit its target, and the SS Trump will list.

This is one of the great stories. Mr. Trump won’t recover from it.

I think Republicans, including plenty of Trump people, are slowly but surely solving their party’s Trump problem.

Liz Cheney, or Providence through her, has turned the January 6 Committee into a nothingburger for the Democrats and a boost for sane, non-criminal Republicans. Some day, maybe, a renewed GOP will issue her a posthumous pardon and even lionize her as a self-sacrificial heroine in our nation’s hour of need — no less than Mike Pence’s steadfastness on January 6 itself, and equally "kamikaze."

Still, I’ll be voting American Solidarity Party again in 2024, I think, and don’t expect ever to declare myself Republican again. And I don’t expect politics from any perspective, to really accomplish much of lasting importance.

The January 6 Committee, a liberal view

The decision by the House minority leader, Kevin McCarthy, to keep pro-Trump Republicans off the Jan. 6 committee has eliminated the back-and-forth bloviating that typically plague congressional inquiries, allowing investigators to present their findings with the narrative cohesion of a good true-crime series. Trump, who understands television, appears to be aware of how bad the hearings are for him; The Washington Post reported that he’s watching all of them and is furious at McCarthy for not putting anyone on the dais to defend him.

Dustin Stockton helped organize the pro-Trump bus tour that culminated in the Jan. 6 rally at the Ellipse in front of the White House. Politico once called him and his fiancée, Jennifer Lawrence, the “Bonnie and Clyde of MAGA world.” On Tuesday, after a hearing that included testimony by Rusty Bowers, the speaker of the Arizona House, and the Georgia election workers Ruby Freeman and Shaye Moss, Stockton tweeted, “This has been the most impactful of the January 6th Committee hearings. Embarrassed that I was fooled by the Fulton County ‘suitcases of ballots’ hoax.”

He was referring to the conspiracy theory, pushed by Trump and his allies, that election workers smuggled fraudulent ballots into the State Farm Arena in Atlanta and ran them through the voting machines multiple times. Tuesday, he said, was the first time he realized the tale was a complete fabrication.

… The hearing on Tuesday … got to him, especially the testimony from Freeman and Moss about how their lives were upended by the lie Stockton helped spread.

“To see the just absolute turmoil it caused in her life, and the human impact of that accusation, especially, was incredibly jarring,” Stockton said of Freeman.

… Elite conservatives mostly understood that Trump’s stories about a stolen election were absurd; as one senior Republican official asked The Washington Post, “What is the downside for humoring him for this little bit of time?” But his rank-and-file devotees weren’t all in on the con. Instead, they were the marks.

Michelle Goldberg.

I think we know now what the downside was of humoring Trump.

Politics Generally

Biden’s incoherence on LGBT

In no area has the Biden administration been more appallingly misled by extremists than in "LGBT" issues. His ignorance of what constitutes "conversion therapy" has led to a particularly perverse result — as shown in the last sentence below:

Some therapists who work with children with gender dysphoria worry that [a June 15 Biden executive order “advancing equality for lgbtqi+ Individuals”] could be interpreted to mean therapists should not investigate why someone feels distressed about their biological sex. … It has long been held that people with gender dysphoria should have therapy before drugs.

Increasingly, however, such talking therapy has clashed with “gender-affirmative” care, which accepts patients’ self-diagnosis that they are trans. That is now considered best practice in America’s booming trans health-care field. Therapy has been dismissed as “gatekeeping”, even when applied to trans-identifying minors for whom gender-affirming drugs can be particularly harmful. … Finland and Sweden have mostly stopped prescribing blockers to under-18s in favour of talking therapy, because the evidence base for them is thin. Mr Biden’s order, by contrast, asks federal departments to expand access to “gender-affirming care”.

The order does not impose an outright ban on therapy for gender-dysphoric youth. But it will have a “chilling effect”, says Lisa Marchiano, a Jungian therapist and a co-founder of the Gender Exploratory Therapy Association. Most decent therapists should be able to help people with gender dysphoria, she says. Yet America’s focus on affirmation means many are wary of doing so. Instead, they refer children to gender therapists, who are likely to affirm a trans identity and suggest drugs. Some gay adults who struggled with gender nonconformity in adolescence say they believe that encouraging children with gender dysphoria to consider themselves trans is in effect conversion therapy.

The Economist (emphasis added)

If there is any grain of truth in the conservative charge of "grooming" or "recruitment," it’s that foreclosing or chilling pre-transition psychological assessment delivers gender-dysphoric kids to the tender mercies of people who don’t make real money unless the kid transitions.

What liberals can learn from conservatives

By and large, I’ve been underwhelmed by Damon Linker’s new Substack. It’s a big commitment to write and some length many times per week, and Linker seems, ummmm, out of the habit.

But Friday he hit a home run, especially for anyone who has read and pondered Jonathan Haidt’s The Righteous Mind..

  • He tacitly challenges Haidt to "do better" on measuring the moral values of liberals;
  • He explains why he thinks liberals profess disinterest in the values of sanctity, authority and loyalty;
  • He suggests that liberals are missing out on a full appreciation of moral pluralism by discounting sanctity, authority and loyalty; and
  • Bonus for me who wasn’t familiar at all with Isaiah Berlin (beyond knowing that he was an important intellectual of some sort), he summarizes Isaiah Berlin’s thoughts on moral pluralism along the way.

I have reason to think that this link will get you Linker’s full piece even if you’re not a subscriber.

Face-plant

Lauren Boebert apparently thinks that if Jesus and da boyz had them some AR-15s, He wouldn’t have had to die that yucky ole death.

She made this remark to a gathering at some "Christian Center."

To be fair, the response to her was tepid at best.

They never should have invited her, but it’s weird what some "Christians" will do to raise money.

I attended a Christian college once (not Wheaton) that honored archaeologist and oil multi-millionaire Wendell Phillips (back when "millionaire" meant something) with an honorary doctorate. After he used his acceptance speech to contradict things the university considered part of the faith, they barred faculty from later rebutting him from that same pulpit.

I do not name it because I have some reason to think it’s doing better now.

Unclassifiable (unless the class is "Bless Their Hearts")

This NYT item would have me tearing my hair out if I had any hair.

In short, it’s about some Christianish or Christianist business that are hawking guns for Jesus, and they wear their faith (such as it is) on their sleeves, or gunstocks, or anywhere else they can put it to be noticed.

I’m a fallible interpreter of scripture, but doesn’t "put not your trust in princes, in sons of men in whom there is no salvation" include putting trust in the arms you keep and bear, as in declarations like the "Second Amendment to our Constitution is the cornerstone of the freedom we enjoy as American citizens"?

(Reminds me, by the way, of an actual quote from an Oklahoma legislator in the mid-70s: "The first thing the communists do when they take over is outlaw cockfighting." Bet you thought it was going to be "take away all the guns," didn’t you.)


If people have always said it, it is probably true; it is the distilled wisdom of the ages. If people have not always said it, but everybody is saying it now, it is probably a lie; it is the concentrated madness of the moment.

Anthony Esolen, Out of the Ashes

You can read most of my more impromptu stuff here (cathartic venting) and here (the only social medium I frequent, because people there are quirky, pleasant and real). Both should work in your RSS aggregator, like Feedly or Reeder, should you want to make a habit of it.

A wee bit

The last-of-its-kind abides

[A]fter a runoff and a recount, Rep. Henry Cuellar—the last pro-life Democrat in the House—narrowly edged out progressive attorney Jessica Cisneros to win the Democratic primary in Texas’ 28th District.

TMD

What’s the January 5 Committee up to?

Four hearings in, the overall purpose of the public hearings of the House January 6 Committee is clear: to remind you how much more outrageous and unforgivable former President Donald Trump’s brazen attempt to steal the 2020 election was than how you remember it. In that respect, Tuesday’s hearing, featuring the testimony of state and local officials the president’s team tried to malign or manipulate, might have been the most successful one yet.

TMD

Here are the texts the Jan 6 Cmte just showed of @RonJohnsonWI’s chief of staff asking how he can give VP Pence alternate slates of electors for WI and MI on Jan 6th —>

Frank Thorp V via TMD

What are they afraid of?

As the January 6 hearings restarted today after the long weekend, I was thinking about the weird, psychotic fear that has overtaken millions of Americans. I include in those millions people who are near and dear to me, friends I have known for years who now seem to speak a different language …

Arizona House Speaker Rusty Bowers and others, describ[ed] the threats and harassment they have received for doing their duty to the Constitution.

And the threats don’t stop with political figures; families are now in the crosshairs. Representative Adam Kinzinger, for example, tweeted Monday about a letter he received in which the writer threatened not only to kill him, but to kill his wife and infant son.

I think the Trump superfans are terrified of being wrong. I suspect they know that for many years they’ve made a terrible mistake—that Trump and his coterie took them to the cleaners and the cognitive dissonance is now rising to ear-splitting, chest-constricting levels. And so they will literally threaten to kill people like Kinzinger (among others) if that’s what it takes to silence the last feeble voice of reason inside themselves.

We know from studies (and from experience as human beings) that being wrong makes us feel uncomfortable. It’s an actual physiological sensation, and when compounded by humiliation, it becomes intolerable. The ego cries out for either silence or assent. In the modern media environment, this fear expresses itself as a demand for the comfort of massive doses of self-justifying rage delivered through the Fox or Newsmax or OAN electronic EpiPen that stills the allergic reaction to truth and reason.

These outlets are eager to oblige. It’s not you, the hosts assure the viewers. It’s them. You made the right decisions years ago and no matter how much it now seems that you were fooled and conned, you are on the side of right and justice.

Tom Nichols, What Are Trump Supporters So Afraid Of?

R.I.P.

Former Purdue basketball star Caleb Swanigan has died at age 25. May he rest in peace; he didn’t have much of that as he lived.


If people have always said it, it is probably true; it is the distilled wisdom of the ages. If people have not always said it, but everybody is saying it now, it is probably a lie; it is the concentrated madness of the moment.

Anthony Esolen, Out of the Ashes

You can read most of my more impromptu stuff here (cathartic venting) and here (the only social medium I frequent, because people there are quirky, pleasant and real). Both should work in your RSS aggregator, like Feedly or Reeder, should you want to make a habit of it.

“This demonic murder lottery of schoolchildren”

I didn’t have anything to say yet about Uvalde, TX in my last blog. I have a (very) little to say now.

First, a timeless bur under our saddles: ‘No Way To Prevent This,’ Says Only Nation Where This Regularly Happens.

Second, a caution: "We must do something!" is true. But we mustn’t do performative (dare I say "masturbatory"?) things — things that we already know or should know won’t bear any fruit beyond giving supporters momentary catharsis.

Third, two proposals that might actually improve things:

  • David French, Pass and Enforce Red Flag Laws. Now. (I am reliably informed that French is incorrect about only one red state having such a law; my fair state, Indiana, also has one. Surely we’re not considered "purple" because we went for Obama in 2008!) But Red Flag Laws won’t do any good until people hate slaughter of the innocents enough to risk destroying a friendship with someone who is taking leave of reality while stockpiling weapons.
  • Nicholas Kristof, These Gun Reforms Could Save 15,000 Lives. We Can Achieve Them

The nature of the problem, as best I can tell, is that American life isn’t about what is good but is rather about nothing at all (which is, at least, broadly inoffensive and inclusive of most tastes and creeds) or about violence itself. The scope of the problem includes every facet of life that culture touches, which means most every element of daily life.

… [A] culture of death is like a prophecy, or a sickness: It bespeaks itself in worsening phases. Right now, we find ourselves foreclosing upon our own shared future both recklessly and deliberately—and perhaps, gradually, beginning to behave as if there is no future for us at all; soon, I sometimes worry, we may find ourselves faced with a darkening present, no faith in our future, and a doomed tendency to chase violence with violence.

… this demonic murder lottery of schoolchildren …

When we say, in despair, that “these men are byproducts of a society we’ve created; how could we possibly stop them?,” we could be referring to almost anyone in the great chain of diffuse responsibility for our outrageous, inexcusable gun-violence epidemic—the lobbyists who argued for these guns to be sold like sporting equipment, the politicians who are too happy to oblige them, the shooters themselves.

Elizabeth Bruenig, as dark as I’ve ever seen her. I can’t unequivocally agree with every word of that ("these guns," as I understand it, are "sporting equipment" even if they’re tricked out to look military) but I surely agree with “these men are byproducts of a society we’ve created.”


I am not a liberal.

At least, not in the way that some people think.

Having grown up in the evangelical community, someone who was “liberal” meant that he did not believe that Jesus is God, or that He was born of a virgin by the Holy Spirit, or that He rose from the dead, or that His crucifixion saved humanity from sin, or that the Bible stories of miracles are true, or that Scripture is authoritative and communicates God’s Word.

I believe all these things.

In this sense, when I became Orthodox, I became even “less liberal.” In addition to the above, I also believe things that are even older than the evangelical community. I believe in the necessity of baptism for the remission of sins. I believe that the Eucharist is the bread and wine transmuted into the Body and Blood of Christ. I believe in the continuing presence of the saints, led by the greatest worshiper, pray-er, and worker of all, the Virgin Mary.

But there has been something of a “confusion of categories.” In the aftermath of the mass shooting of 19 children and 2 teachers on Tuesday (May 24th), I was called “liberal.” Why? Because I called for the minimum age for gun purchase to be raised to 21, nationwide. Because I called for universal background checks at every gun purchase – including gun shows and private sales. Because I called for the ban of the sale of military weaponry – including assault rifles – to civilians.

Fr. Jonathan Tobias. There’s more there.

His positions are not a good proxy for political liberalism in the modern American sense and they’re absurd as a proxy for deviation from Christian orthodoxy.


Sarah Isgur, Harvard-trained lawyer, central advisor to a Republican Presidential campaign, wife of one of the nation’s top SCOTUS advocates, and mother of a Texas toddler, broke down over Uvalde on the Advisory Opinions podcast when she thought about her shopping quest for a backpack for her son to start preschool. (She recovered nicely.)


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.

“Pro-Abortion” is now official (more)

Blogging the ineffable

It occurred to me recently that my blog is an odd project because, increasingly, the things that matter most to me are ineffable.

I’ve read at least one book that “effed the ineffable” by going on and on, shifting to reflect from varying angles. I actually thought it was pretty effective, but you had to be keenly interested in the topic to wade through so much overlapping, kaleidescopic quasi-repetition. (I did find that 24 years of immersing myself in Orthodox Christian worship, as my Parish’s cantor — and not just the Sunday Liturgy — had “communicated” the same things.)

I’ve taken a stab at poetry occasionally, but rarely have thought it remotely successful. Anyway, I once heard it said that the person who becomes a poet to say something is less poetic than someone who becomes a poet because he/she likes messing around with words.

I guess the reason I keep blogging may be that I, too, am going on and on, in prose, shifting to reflect from varying angles — just not between the covers of a single book and without an explicit Master Goal. But in a lot of ways, my blog is a very large commonplace book, but an online friend (we’ve narrowly missed meeting IRL) already took that in his blog (now Substack) title.

Anyway, I actually looked briefly at what WordPress says about my blog (something I rarely do since I’m not writing to be popular), and apparently it’s emailed to 350 addresses, and I assume that some others get the RSS feed. I’m pretty sure that some of the emails are bogus, created for god-knows-what purpose. But a heartening number probably are real people, and to them I say thank you for your indulgence.

A partisan scold as arbiter of “Disinformation”

The preoccupation with “misinformation” and “disinformation” on the part of America’s enlightened influencers last month reached the level of comedy. The Department of Homeland Security chose a partisan scold, Nina Jankowicz, to head its new Disinformation Governance Board despite her history of promoting false stories and repudiating valid ones—the sort of scenario only a team of bumblers or a gifted satirist could produce.

Barton Swaim, How Disagreement Became ‘Disinformation’ (Wall Street Journal)

Janus-faces

There is something so disingenuous about critical theorists both arguing that they are revealing the real truth about the world in order to change it, and then claiming that they’re just offering an alternative take of history within a liberal context. You can see this intellectually dishonest bait-and-switch in the 1619 Project. It claims something truly radical — that the real founding of America was in 1619 because the core meaning of America is white supremacy, not liberal democracy — and then, when called on it, turns around and says no, silly, we’re just engaging in a thought-experiment to explain how racism has affected all of us, and to provoke debate. Well: which is it? In theory, they tell you it is all compatible with liberalism; in practice, they prove and believe the opposite.

Andrew Sullivan, Don’t Fight CRT. Expose It.

Dobbsian thoughts

Well, then: I’ll be glad to say “pro-abortion”

From an official Planned Parenthood website, an about-face that reveals a lot:

Well-meaning folks often contrast “pro-choice” with “pro-abortion,” as in, I’m pro-choice, not pro-abortion. But that’s hurtful to people who’ve had abortions. It implies that abortion isn’t a good thing, that legal abortion is important but somehow bad, undesirable. That’s deeply stigmatizing, and contributes to the shame and silence around abortion, making people who’ve had abortions feel isolated and ashamed. At least one in four people who can get pregnant will have an abortion during their lives, and they should be supported and celebrated. It’s time to retire the phrase “pro-choice, not pro-abortion” for good.

Maia Baker, What’s wrong with choice?: Why we need to go beyond choice language when we’re talking about abortion.

I heard a youngish woman recently describe her long-ago long bus trip to a D.C. “pro-choice” rally. Older women were talking of abortion as if it were good, not a lesser evil. One even bragged that she’d had 6 abortions, and it was her primary birth control.

The youngish woman emerged from the bus pro-life.

Amnesiac même advocacy

From a supplemental Andrew Sullivan substack May 13:

[Sullivan’s critic1]: You’re conveniently forgetting that five of the nine justices (Roberts, Alito, Gorsuch, Kavanaugh, Barrett) were nominated by presidents who lost the popular vote.
[Sullivan’s rejoinder]: That is completely irrelevant. But even it it weren’t, both of Bush’s appointees were picked during his second term, after he won the popular vote against Kerry.

[Sullivan’s critic2]: Currently, several state legislatures have big GOP majorities that in no way reflect the number of votes each party received in the preceding election. My guess is that one or more of these legislatures will act quickly this summer, after Roe is overturned, to outlaw abortion. Will that be an instance of democracy working well?
[Sullivan’s rejoinder]: Yes, it absolutely will. And voters can vote again in November. Again: is it the pro-choice position that no states be allowed to legislate on abortion because gerrymandering exists? What else are they barred from voting on?

[Sullivan’s critic3]: While I am certain there are women who would never have an abortion — and they cannot imagine allowing any other woman to have an abortion — the majority you refer to as “pro-life” is deeply affected by another condition: religion. The majority of the pro-life women you speak of, through their faith, surrendered any sense of having power that isn’t subjected to the approval of the church or their husbands! They have no distinct awareness or appreciation of the fullness of their own free will — their liberty — or their innate freedom to make decisions on their own, entirely independent of their faith. 
[Sullivan’s rejoinder]: I’m afraid this completely misunderstands Catholic teaching on this. Women are not supposed to submit their moral views to their husbands’ approval. And the thinly veiled contempt for religious people — they don’t have any autonomy or agency — is a form of bigotry, in my view.

On that last point, see Eugene Volokh’s contemptuous response to that kind of motivated reasoning, which he no doubt hears a couple of times each week if not each day.

Talk less, Smile more.

Now when Chief Justice Roberts speaks of the Court as an “institution,” he approaches that concept from a PR perspective–5-4 decisions are bad, incoherent 9-0 decisions are good. Thomas could not care what final votes are. Rather, he worries about attacks on the Court by the political branches, and more recently, from within.

Unlike Justice Ginsburg, no one knows where Chief Justice Roberts is. To quote Aaron Burr, “Talk less, Smile more, Don’t let them know what you’re against or what you’re for.” NFIB v. Sebelius may have saved the ACA, but the controlling opinion destroyed the Supreme Court as we know it. The anonymous conservative told Politico:

“There is a price to be paid for what he did. Everybody remembers it,”

Roberts won the battle, but lost the war. Now Thomas is making this point explicitly.

Josh Blackman (emphasis added)

Selective non-enforcement

Of the laxity of law enforcement in protests at Justices’ homes:

When it comes to the contrast to Jan. 6, what stands out to me is actually a similarity: a large protest gathered on Capitol Hill and authorities responded with much too little force to disperse it — including after it got way out of hand. Where things differ has been the aftermath, with federal prosecutors now aggressively prosecuting people who merely wandered into the building after the most violent and aggressive perpetrators had pushed their way inside. That seems like overreach in the opposite direction — discretion erring on the side of undue harshness. We should absolutely be throwing the book at everyone who ransacked the building and sought to commit acts of violence against members of Congress or the vice president in order to overturn the election. But that likely doesn’t describe everyone, or even most of the people, present at the protests that day.

Damon Linker (who, should it not be clear, favors discretionary non-prosecution of smallish, non-menacing demonstrations at the Justices’ homes).

I’m acquainted with someone who “merely wandered into the building after the most violent and aggressive perpetrators had pushed their way inside” the capitol on 1/6/21, but is being prosecuted nonetheless. The Feds have lost at least one such case at trial, and I’m hoping they’ll now relent on the others.

Point is: I’m willing to extend the same grace I want for him to wrong-headed people who peacefully protest at justices’ homes – even if there’s a federal law that facially makes that illegal.

Overturning nature

[T]he lawn signs in university towns announce, “Hate has no home here.” This sentiment amounts to reversing the fall of man and proclaiming the kingdom of God. And as I have argued, today’s progressive cultural politics seeks to overturn the authority of nature. Thus we have at once widespread resignation—and God-like ambition.

It’s really very strange. One hundred thousand people die of opioid overdoses in a single year, and elites throw up their hands and do nothing. Meanwhile, they put untold millions into transgender activism and insist that the fullest resources of the medical-industrial complex must be employed to attain its goals.

R.R. Reno.

I generally don’t like arguments in the form of “Why are you writing/worrying about X?! You should be writing/worrying about Y!” But I can’t help but suspect that elites have noticed that the people dying of opioid overdoses are mostly deplorables, not real people.

Oh: And that the trans cause is stylishly pseudo-transgressive.

Words to live by

We must always tell what we see. Above all, and this is more difficult, we must always see what we see.

French writer Charles Péguy via R.R. Reno. I’m not sure that Reno is seeing what he’s seeing, but he’s seeing one of the right problems.


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.

Faith Issues, Roe (and more)

Faith matters

Theology vs. Academic Theology

Theologians, like all academics, have to keep coming up with original things to say. If you just kept repeating the words you received from your old professors, it would get you nowhere. What you need is fresh, even daring, new material. And that means theology will always be in flux.

A venerable Catholic theologian once told me, with great irritation, “Lay people don’t understand what theology is!” They think it’s set in stone, he said, but it’s always evolving and progressing. He seemed to think that theology was something lay people could never hope to keep up with. Their meddling was annoying. They should get out of the way, and wait for the professionals to tell them what the new thinking is.

Theology has a completely different basis in Orthodoxy. It doesn’t change, because it is the faith taught by the Apostles themselves; Orthodoxy is the unbroken continuation of the Church founded by Christ, and carried by the Apostles into the world. We do keep repeating the words we received from our teachers and elders in Christ. Orthodoxy doesn’t need updating, because it provides everything a person needs to be saturated with the presence of God (a process called “theosis”). It fits the needs of every human being like water and air do, no matter what culture or time.

Frederica Matthewes-Green in a letter to Rod Dreher.

Do take note of that first paragraph. Heresy is baked right into the cake of academic theology as presently structured. And that’s an insight that is baked pretty deeply into my bones now. Calling a theological writing “novel” is generally a powerful insult in Orthodoxy.

Not following which faith?

People often talk to me about their adult children who are not following the Lord. I think they want to introduce them to me, as if my brand of wacky Miss Frizzle theologian would inspire them to follow Jesus (reader, I am not that compelling). I have started to ask these folks, which faith do you think your children are longer following? Tell me about it. Was it perhaps one that promised that Jesus would be primarily a place where they got their psychological needs met? Did you raise them to believe that middle-class respectability and good religious feelings were the goal of following Christ? Did you teach them how to suffer?

To the Shire

Classical Liberalism or Postliberalism?

Over a busy weekend (my final choral concert of the Spring), I almost forgot to share two very civil and worthwhile (opening?) arguments on how conservative Christians should behave in 2022:

Apart from the response’s resonance with my lifelong habits of thought, I think the response convincingly shows that the opening volley’s premise that we’ve recently entered “negative world” (cultural hostility to Christianity, which the coiner of the term thinks follows a long stretch of American approbation of Christianity and a few decades of neutrality) is dubious if not mythical. The folks who are more openly hostile now were just subtler before. I fear I greeted the original “negative world” theory with a lot of confirmation bias.

And of course, this debate, nominally about Tim Keller’s approach to politics, is a microcosm of the much larger argument, widely contested among self-identified Christians, about classical liberalism (French) versus some manner of postliberalism (Wood). Don’t cabin this argument.

Update: Rod Dreher weighs in against French, failing badly if he was trying to cover himself in glory instead of just waving the tribal flag. I wonder if American Conservative would give him a sabbatical while he works through a few things? I wonder if it would really make things better if they did.

The impending “reversal of Roe

The salutary political consequences

Peggy Noonan goes a bit meta on the consequences if SCOTUS “reverses Roe“:

[Roe] left both parties less healthy. The Democrats locked into abortion as party orthodoxy, let dissenters know they were unwelcome, pushed ever more extreme measures to please their activists, and survived on huge campaign donations from the abortion industry itself. Republican politicians were often insincere on the issue, and when sincere almost never tried to explain their thinking and persuade anyone. They took for granted and secretly disrespected their pro-life groups, which consultants regularly shook down for campaign cash. They ticked off the “I’m pro-life” box in speeches, got applause and went on to talk about the deficit. They were forgiven a great deal because of their so-called stand, and this contributed, the past 25 years, to the party’s drift.

Abortion distorted both parties.

Advice now, especially for Republican men, if Roe indeed is struck down: Do not be your ignorant selves. Do not, as large dumb misogynists, start waxing on about how if a woman gets an illegal abortion she can be jailed. Don’t fail to embrace compromise because you can make money on keeping the abortion issue alive. I want to say “Just shut your mouths,” but my assignment is more rigorous. It is to have a heart. Use the moment to come forward as human beings who care about women and want to give families the help they need. Align with national legislation that helps single mothers to survive. Support women, including with child-care credits that come in cash and don’t immediately go to child care, to help mothers stay at home with babies. Shelters, classes in parenting skills and life skills. All these exist in various forms: make them better, broader, bigger.

This is an opportunity to change your party’s reputation.

Democrats too. You have been given a gift and don’t know it. You think, “Yes, we get a hot new issue for 2022!” But you always aggress more than you think. The gift is that if, as a national matter, the abortion issue is removed, you could be a normal party again. You have no idea, because you don’t respect outsiders, how many people would feel free to join your party with the poison cloud dispersed. You could be something like the party you were before Roe: liberal on spending and taxation, self-consciously the champion of working men and women, for peace and not war. As you were in 1970.

Or, absent the emotionally cohering issue of abortion, you can choose to further align with extremes within the culture, and remain abnormal.

But the end of Roe could be a historic gift for both parties, a chance to become their better selves.

How will the court “reverse Roe“?

Thursday’s Advisory Opinions podcast persuaded me, without saying it in so many words, that Alito’s first draft won’t be his last. He has a bit of a needle to thread (the needle is oxymoronically named “Substantive Due Process”) and the first draft doesn’t persuasively thread it.

The main article in Friday’s Morning Dispatch also covers the question of unenumerated rights that might theoretically be at risk if the opinion doesn’t get the reasoning right.

My own opinion (caveat: I’m retired and rusty on legal analysis, and my opinion has been clarified only recently by thinking harder than before about stare decisis) is that:

  • almost all the cases recognizing unenumerated rights over the last 60 years have been bogus, the right to marry across lines of “race” (Loving v. Virginia) being the only exception I can think of readily;
  • of the remaining bogus decisions (Griswold, Lawrence, Obergefell) I can think of none that require reversal under the considerations that come into play in stare decisis. That’s another way of saying that “wrongly decided” (or “bogus”) doesn’t necessarily imply “should be reversed”; it’s more complicated than that.

Concise

The latest theme on the political left is that the Supreme Court Justices who might overturn Roe v. Wade are at war with democracy. It’s a strange argument, since overturning Roe would merely return abortion policy to the states for political debate in elections and legislatures. That’s the definition of democracy.

Wall Street Journal Editorial Board. Most Editorial Board editorials aren’t worth reading, but that first paragraph was at least concise. The rest of the editorial? Meh.

American progressives, and some on the right, have convinced themselves that legal abortion will disappear the moment the Supreme Court reverses its Roe v. Wade precedent. Since the Court is contemplating this, readers might appreciate examples from democracies that have grappled with this difficult issue without nine Justices to tell them what to do.

We mean Europe, where abortion is legal in most countries, usually with limits that are more strict than America’s and generally as a result of democratic choice.

Wall Street Journal Editorial Board separately.

Worth your time

Overruling Roe Would Extinguish A Judicially Created Right, But Would Restore The People’s “Precious Right To Govern Themselves”

The other stuff

An artefact of sensible times

For those curious, the Fifth Circuit [U.S. Court of Appeals] is holding its conference in Nashville because, apparently, there are no facilities large enough in Mississippi to host this confab.

Update: I have since been reliably informed that judicial conferences are not held in Mississippi for another reason: all of the hotels large enough in the state are attached to casinos, and some rule prohibits holding judicial functions in places attached to casinos. As a result, several hotels in Mississippi are large enough, but due to the casinos, none are not suitable.

Josh Blackman

An interesting rule from the days when people were smart enough to know that casinos are disreputable. They still are — as is commercial gambling on sports.

But we’ve decided to monetize vice, often with the promise that the revenue will fund schools. Monetizing vice does indeed “school” children, but not in any good way.

Surviving big cultural disasters

Having an inner life is how we can survive if the world falls apart … It’s how people have endured and thrived living under authoritarian regimes … If a populist regime … is in the cards, it’s time to become bird-watchers and hikers and readers of classics and take care of our friends and children and ignore the ignorance and cruelty afar.

Garrison Keillor, with some historic particulars elided. Some of the elisions may leave the impression that Keillor is opposed to all populism, though I don’t know that. I’d like to think there could be a populism that isn’t ignorant and cruel, though I see few signs of one yet.

Facing the end of life

I realize that we are all circling around the Airport of Death, but it just seems to me that if you take that step [moving to a retirement community] it means that you are entering your landing pattern. I think that I will rather just live until I die.

Terry Cowan.

At 73, I think I’ve fairly realistically reckoned with my mortality at last.

But that can be dangerous; you mustn’t just sit and wait for the grim reaper when getting up and moving could keep him away a bit longer. Sloth is a sin even for oldsters. And even if moving hurts a bit.

Wordplay

  • the right place to be is surely in the woods, or in a monastery. Or in a monastery in the woods.

Paul Kingsnorth

  • All slang is metaphor, and all metaphor is poetry.

G. K. Chesterton


You can read most of my more impromptu stuff here (cathartic venting) and here (the only social medium I frequent, because people there are quirky, pleasant and real). Both should work in your RSS aggregator, like Feedly or Reeder, should you want to make a habit of it.

The impending reversal of Roe (and more)

On the impending reversal of Roe

Will Congress enshrine abortion in federal law?

Democrats are talking about using the nuclear option (abolishing the filibuster) to enshrine Roe into federal law over Republican objections. I’m not sure they’ll hold Joe Manchin either on abolishing the filibuster or on abortion if they do, but let’s set that aside.

If they succeed, I suspect the law will meet the fate of RFRA, the Religious Freedom Restoration Act: held unconstitutional as a restriction on states’ “police powers.”

A similar outcome on abortion would leave abortion enshrined on military bases, federal women’s uterus-havers prisons and some other federal domains, but at the very political high cost of turning the Senate into a more democratic and less deliberative institution.

What a contrast!

I made it a point to listen to a top liberal legal podcast on the leaked SCOTUS opinion.

As I suspected would be the case, these three law professors offered no substantive defense of Roe v. Wade or Planned Parenthood v. Casey. None. Because they’re too smart to think it’s defensible in any terms of conventional constitutional reasoning. It was all mockery (Justices Alito and Thomas, Thomas’s wife, etc.), F-bombs and other vulgarities, unintelligible in-group code, posturing and dark speculation about what other “rights” the conservative majority wants to destroy.

It heightens my appreciation for the excellence and sophistication of Advisory Opinions — where I learned, by the way, of the existence of the other legal podcast.

Delegitimizing the Court

Speculating on possible reasons for the leak:

[F]inally, to the extent that a leak like this has some delegitimizing effect no matter what, that might be an end unto itself: If the court is going to be conservative, then let it have no mystique whatsoever.

This last place is where most liberals will end up, I’m sure, should the draft ruling turn out to be the final one. But there is an irony here, of course, because a key implication of Alito’s draft — and of arguments marshaled for generations by Roe’s critics — is that treating the judiciary as the main arbiter of our gravest moral debates was always a mistake, one that could lead only to exactly the kind of delegitimization that we see before us now.

Regardless of whether the draft becomes the final decision, then, its leak has already vindicated one of its key premises: that trying to remove an issue like abortion from normal democratic politics was always likely to end very badly for the court.

Ross Douthat. I’m glad Douthat pointed that out. I hadn’t thought how the delegitimization of the court started 49 years ago with Roe.

Roll out the protest signs!

Meanwhile, Substacker Rhyd Wildermuth envisions the less-than-punchy woke protest signs that should, for woke consistency’s sake, be forthcoming:

  • Protect a pregnant uterus-haver’s right to choose
  • Trans-women, cis-men, and assigned-male-at-birth non-binary people should not be allowed to make decisions on what trans-men, assigned-female-at-birth non-binary people, and cis-women do with their bodies.

Everything else

Doom’n’gloom

[T]hough I will never condemn those ‘dead white men’, neither can I stand up and ‘defend the West’ in some uncomplicated fashion. The West is my home – but the West has also eaten my home. Should I stand up to save it from itself? How would that happen? What would I be fighting for?

The French esoteric philosopher René Guénon, who dedicated his life to studying the metaphysical decay of the West, called this the ‘crisis of the modern world’, and he saw it as an explicitly spiritual matter. In his 1945 book The Reign of Quantity and the Signs of the Times, Guénon, a French convert to Sufi Islam who lived much of his life in Egypt, argued that the modern West’s decisive turn away from the spiritual life towards the purely material realm had plunged us into an era he called the ‘Reign of Quantity’. He referred to this turn as ‘the modern deviation’, or sometimes ‘the Western deviation.’

Guénon believed that the world’s old religious traditions all contained the same ‘universal character’ and could lead towards the same truth. The modern West, however, had unilaterally turned away from the pursuit of any higher truth, and the result had been the Reign of Quantity, which was now overcoming the world at Western hands. ‘Western domination’, he wrote, ‘is itself no more than an expression of the “reign of quantity.”’

All of this brings us back to where we began – the culture wars of the age of hyperreality. Guénon concluded his dense and sometimes difficult study by suggesting that we are living in a ‘great parody’: an age of ‘inverted spirituality’ and ‘counter-tradition’ in which even institutions which claimed to be transmitting the spiritual traditions – most churches, for example – were shells of the real thing. To Guenon, this was a manifestation of an actual spiritual war. He agreed with St Paul that ‘we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world.’ Some dark spiritual force was inhabiting the shell of our culture, he said, and driving us ever downwards.

Paul Kingsnorth

How Not To Write An Obituary

Terry Cowan gives some overdue advice on writing an obituary. I hope it was as cathartic for him to write it as it was for me to read it, because (I predict, for no better reason than general pessimism about humanity) that it won’t change a thing.

Setting aside “soulmate” and “love-of-her/his-life,” this advice is my favorite:

Finally, do not try to preach your loved one into Heaven by way of their obituary. There is no need to go on and on about what a fine Christian Gloria Kay was, or expanding on how much she “loved the Lord.” Frankly, it is not as if the Office of Admissions in Heaven is keeping a file of clippings, and this obituary will be one more document in your favor. Just say “Gloria Kay was a faithful Christian, a member of fill-in-the-blank Church.” Also, go-slow on stating what your loved one will be doing in Heaven now. That is always just so much broad evangelical wishful thinking. It is important to remember that we are actually not in control here, and it may be presumptuous to assert that Homer is now face to face with his Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. When I see an obituary that says something like “Wilma adored her precious children and grandchildren but her greatest joy was telling others about Jesus,” well, that just describes the type of person you would duck down another aisle if you saw them across the way in the grocery store.

The only missing thing I can think of “earned his angel wings.”

Sen. J.D. Vance

In the Fall of 2016, I traveled from Indiana to St. Gregory Palamas Monastery in eastern Ohio for a brief personal retreat. Running low on gas, I pulled off the four-lane road and traveled a few miles to a small town gas station.

That small town almost certainly had more Trump signs than homes, with at least one sign in every yard and not a single Hillary Clinton sign.

I don’t think of myself as especially insular, but I was shocked.

Over almost six subsequent years since, I’ve begun (or perhaps more than begun) to understand why (for what reasons or interests other than perverse nihilism or lib-trolling) people like rural Ohioans voted for Trump. They’ve been passed over, and they’re not accepting the idea that they deserve it because they’re of less value than coastal Americans.

Fair point. Weighty, even.

I still detest Trump personally (for reasons I summarize as “toxic narcissism” because writing a Bill of Particulars could consume my whole remaining life), and I regret that a Republican populist must kiss his hind-parts and get his endorsement to win a primary.

So Tuesday’s Ohio primary victory of J.D. Vance Tuesday, after he finally got Trump’s endorsement, isn’t much of a surprise, nor will his victory in the Fall be a surprise.

I hope he can become his own man again after the abasement of his campaign. He’s a bright guy who could elevate the debate if he wants to.


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.

A.D.D., but organized after the fact

There’s no single theme today, just as there usually isn’t. But I took the scattered stuff and sorted it.

Politics

Josh Hawley’s voodoo

Republican Sen. Josh Hawley unveiled a proposal last week that he believes will “solve” the current supply chain crisis by requiring companies manufacture “over 50 percent of the value” of certain goods in the United States, but Eric Boehm of Reason argues it would make today’s shortfalls permanent. “One must assume that if the lights in his home went out due to a storm, Hawley would respond by declaring electricity to be a mistake and demanding that the government require homes to be lit with candles and gas lamps,” Boehm jests in response to Hawley’s plan. “After all, what is the electrical grid but a complicated supply chain that leaves Americans woefully dependent on production and distribution systems (power plants, substations, and lines) that they do not fully control? Better to produce your own lighting, right? If that means you have to live without television or the internet, well, those are just the trade-offs required to achieve self-sufficiency.”

The Morning Dispatch 11/1/21.

I commented on this column very briefly already, as well as separately registering my opinion on Josh Hawley (“braying populist(ish) ass”), its author.

S.B. 8

For anti-abortion activists, Texas’s recent law, Senate Bill 8, must have seemed like magic—a way to stop abortion immediately, without the grind of constitutional litigation and its attendant legal fees.

Mary Ziegler, ‌The Anti-abortion Movement Will Win Even If It Loses

You should actually ask a few anti-abortion activists outside of Texas, Professor Ziegler, instead of speculating.

Whistling (an amusing little ditty) in the dark

White and suburban kids in Virginia are now saved from CRT and Sharia and Bigfoot and Unicorns.

Daily Beast columnist Wajahat Ali, Tweeting about Glenn Youngkin’s election win. Yascha Mounk, more open to reality, says “It is impossible to win elections by telling voters that their concerns are imaginary”.

I was irritated when Christopher Rufo started agitpropping that anything he didn’t like was Critical Race Theory:

“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,” [Rufo] wrote.

Jelani Cobb, ‌The Man Behind Critical Race Theory

But I’m becoming equally irritated at Democrats’ insouciant and sometime dishonest Motte and Bailey denial that there’s anything there at all. There is, as Mounk outlines:

[A]cross the nation, many teachers have, over the past years, begun to adopt a pedagogical program that owes its inspiration to ideas that are very fashionable on the academic left, and that go well beyond telling students about America’s copious historical sins.

In some elementary and middle schools, students are now being asked to place themselves on a scale of privilege based on such attributes as their skin color. History lessons in some high schools teach that racism is not just a persistent reality but the defining feature of America. And some school systems have even embraced ideas that spread pernicious prejudices about nonwhite people, as when a presentation to principals of New York City public schools denounced virtues such as “perfectionism” or the “worship of the written word” as elements of “white-supremacy culture.”

Maybe that’s nut-picking, but I’m irritated at the Democrats because my former party, the GOP, still kisses Donald Trump’s a**, and is not fit to govern in its present state. (Youngkin has pledged to ban CRT, a pledge he’ll either ignore or botch in the execution — see next item, for instance.) But “govern” the GOP will, starting in January 2023, if Democrats don’t wise up — and the Left end of its base resists all wisdom.

Opposing perspectives on the Holocaust?!

The most notorious example of this came two weeks ago in Southlake, Texas, when a school administrator told teachers that, if they include a “book on the Holocaust” in their syllabi, then they also have to include one with “opposing perspectives.”

David French

This is what happens when populist bulls decide to visit the Left-illiberal china shop, passing vague laws against divisive and hateful ideologies in public schools.

Counting all the chickens in one medium egg

Is it a “done deal” that the GOP regains control of House and Senate in 2022? Not so fast, buddy!

Candidates matter. Youngkin became the candidate after a nominating convention for state party diehards used ranked-choice balloting to pick among seven contenders. And they did it this way on purpose to ensure that “a crazy” didn’t tank their chances of winning the race. Jonah is more in favor of cigar smoke-filled back rooms with party bosses than I am—the big difference, I think, being how many times our butts would be touched if we were ever invited into such a room. But clearly picking an electable candidate is important. And a political party willing to give serious thought to what process is most likely to yield the most electable candidate is going to have an advantage in midterm elections. 

Which is all to say, no, I don’t think Virginia is proof that the Senate and House will flip. It’s quite likely that the House does, in my view. But I think the primaries for these Senate seats are going to dictate a lot about what it means to have a winnable race for either party.

Sarah Isgur (emphasis added).

The folks on the Dispatch podcast the day after the elections were even more explicit: had the GOP not used a ranked-choice vote at its convention, its nominee would have been State Sen. Amanda Chase, “Trump in heels,” and it’s much less likely they’d have won.

I’m with Jonah on returning to smoke-filled rooms — both parties — and if the voters don’t like it they can abandon the parties or start new, more “democratic” ones. Well, maybe I’m being impetuous, but it’s not the first time I’ve thought of how different things would be if candidates were chosen for electability rather than for how violently they’ll trigger the other guys. Both parties, I think, are likelier to elect extremists in primaries than to select them with party professionals.

(I sort of miss the military draft, too, but that’s for another day’s installment of “Times When Young Tipsy Was Naïve.”)

Of court the Grey Lady says “Republicans pounce.” What else would she say?

There it was, just as media critics parody:

Republicans Pounce …

More specifically, “Republicans Pounce on Schools as a Wedge Issue to Unite the Party.” (Caveat: The Times tends to change its headlines to create the impression of fresh content, but that was the headline at 6:30 am EDT November 4.)

In the Times thinking, I guess, there’s never a fair issue that simply works to the advantage of Republicans because Democrats are firmly tied to an unpopular approach.

The subheadline was

Rallying around what it calls “parental rights,” the party is pushing to build on its victories this week by stoking white resentment and tapping into broader anger at the education system.

On “parental rights,” the Democrats have it right legally. If you send your kids to public school, you don’t get to reach in and custom-tailor their education. Your key parental right is to not send them to public schools in the first place.

On “white resentment,” that’s right up there with “Republicans pounce.” But “along with Glenn Youngkin, Virginians elected Winsome Sears, a black woman, as lieutenant governor and Jason Miyares, a Cuban American, as attorney general.

Not politics (or not really politics, anyway)

The Second American Republic

[E]ven before the passage of [the] Reconstruction amendments — indeed, as a kind of precondition for them — Lincoln fatally injured the Constitution of 1787. He consciously and repeatedly violated core elements of that Constitution as they had been understood by nearly all Americans of the time, himself included.

Through those acts of destruction, Lincoln effectively broke the Constitution of 1787, paving the way for something very different to replace it. What began as a messy, pragmatic compromise necessary to hold the young country together was reborn as an aspirational blueprint for a nation based on the principle of equal liberty for all.

Noah Feldman, Lincoln Broke Our Constitution. Then He Remade It.

Some whip-smart conservative decades ago noted that Lincoln ushered in our Second Republic. He also claimed that FDR brought our Third Republic.

His main point, I think, was that we should stop flattering ourselves about being the world’s longest-lived stable democracy. We’re really just uncommonly good at putting liptick onto, and keeping blood out of, some of our revolutions.

“Higher” education

They have built colleges on an equal scale, only to see them turned into playgrounds for grown-up children or centers of vocationalism and professionalism. Finally, they have seen pragmatists, as if in peculiar spite against the very idea of hierarchy, endeavoring to turn classes into democratic forums, where the teacher is only a moderator, and no one offends by presuming to speak with superior knowledge.

Richard Weaver, Ideas Have Consequences

Sending everyone to college hasn’t given everyone a college education. That can’t be done. It’s given everyone what used to be a high school education. A very, very expensive high school education.

J Budziszewski

Reaching a political dead end

Only an open semiotic system can clear space for us to affirm life. Only open trade will bring peace. Only open borders will bring saving diversity. Only open minds can stop the return of Auschwitz. There is simply no other way. When intelligent, educated, and responsible people talk this way, we know that we’ve reached a dead end.

R.R. Reno, Return of the Strong Gods. I have come to distrust Reno because of his Trumpist and populist conversion, but I try to read across a wide spectrum of opinion, and this hyperbole is provocative.

Genocide of the Tomboys

One mom spoke about how having to fight the culture at her middle-school daughter’s school, on behalf of her daughter. Her daughter is a tomboy, and the culture at school is aggressively pro-trans. She thanks God that her daughter is a solid and committed Christian, and wants nothing to do with that. The mom said that she has worked hard to help her daughter understand that there’s nothing wrong with being a tomboy, and that it doesn’t mean she is a transgendered male.

Rod Dreher

More about his weekend with an unusual Evangelical group — one that “gets” the Benedict Option and Live Not By Lies:

“This isn’t a typical Evangelical service,” the guy sitting next to me said. I repeated that to someone else at the church, who said, “Yeah, if you went to a megachurch, you’d hate it. It’s basically 45 minutes of concert followed by a TED talk about how God wants you to be happy.”

Our Father, Who Art in the White House …

National governments are widely assumed to be responsible for and capable of providing those things which former generations thought only God could provide—freedom from fear, hunger, disease and want—in a word: “happiness.

Stanley Hauerwas, Resident Aliens. (Gosh I quote him a lot!)

Catechesis failure

Though my identity as unequivocally Evangelical is more than 40 years in my past, I still watch, and am aghast at my credulity for ever accepting unquestioningly that we Evangelicals were true and countercultural Christians.

That Donald Trump with his crudities and cruelties could ever be a mad crowd favorite of evangelicals is just mind-boggling. How could that happen?

The best monocausal explanation I’ve seen is catechesis failure:

“What we’re seeing is massive discipleship failure caused by massive catechesis failure,” James Ernest, the vice president and editor in chief at Eerdmans, a publisher of religious books, told me. Ernest was one of several figures I spoke with who pointed to catechism, the process of instructing and informing people through teaching, as the source of the problem. “The evangelical Church in the U.S. over the last five decades has failed to form its adherents into disciples. So there is a great hollowness. All that was needed to cause the implosion that we have seen was a sufficiently provocative stimulus. And that stimulus came.”

“Culture catechizes,” Alan Jacobs, a distinguished professor of humanities in the honors program at Baylor University, told me. Culture teaches us what matters and what views we should take about what matters. Our current political culture, Jacobs argued, has multiple technologies and platforms for catechizing—television, radio, Facebook, Twitter, and podcasts among them. People who want to be connected to their political tribe—the people they think are like them, the people they think are on their side—subject themselves to its catechesis all day long, every single day, hour after hour after hour.

On the flip side, many churches aren’t interested in catechesis at all. They focus instead on entertainment, because entertainment is what keeps people in their seats and coins in the offering plate. But as Jacobs points out, even those pastors who really are committed to catechesis get to spend, on average, less than an hour a week teaching their people. Sermons are short. Only some churchgoers attend adult-education classes, and even fewer attend Bible study and small groups. Cable news, however, is always on. “So if people are getting one kind of catechesis for half an hour per week,” Jacobs asked, “and another for dozens of hours per week, which one do you think will win out?”

Peter Wehner, ‌The Schism in the Evangelical Church

That’s not perfectly satisfying since I don’t know whether or why Evangelicals watch more television (or more FOX and OAN) than other religious groups, but it feels like it’s on the right track.

(And I’ve become fairly sure that Evangelicals would be in the vanguard of falling for Antichrist.)

Republican Justices revive a cottage industry

A cottage industry has revived in the law schools: re-writing Roe v. Wade to prove how the Constitution really does require abortion essentially on demand. ‘Roe’ Was an Originalist Reading of the Constitution – The Atlantic. If you’re interested in wagering that the upcoming Dobbs case out of Mississippi (abortion banned after 15 weeks) has nothing to do with it, let me know. I’m not opposed to easy money.

(I acknowledge that Planned Parenthood v. Casey has replaced Roe as our controlling abortion precedent — but it’s no better-reasoned.)

New atheists

The new atheists’ texts are manifestoes, buoyantly coarse and intentionally simplistic, meant to fortify true unbelievers in their unbelief…

David Bently Hart, The Experience of God


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.

Single-Issue Voting — Again

There was a time when I considered myself substantially a single-issue voter, and that single issue was abortion. But then a smart guy infuriated me by insisting that the Republicans were insincerely "playing" anti-abortion voters with anti-abortion rhetoric. The guy had some political baggage that gave me a second reason to discount his opinion — besides, that is, not wanting to look like a fool to myself.

Whether before or after that encounter, I began noticing GOP fools or rogues, quite unsuitable for high office, regardless of what they said about abortion. And less than three years after my infuriating encounter, I repudiated the GOP for unrelated reasons.

The GOP hasn’t gotten any better, but they got my votes more often than not.

Now details have emerged on exactly what Trump was up to on January 6 when the crowd he enfrenzied rioted in the Capitol, calling for Mike Pence, for whom a gallows had been prepared: Trump was executing a plan by a sociopath named John Eastman (who certainly should be expelled from the Federalist Society for this stunt) to "legally" steal the election through ambiguities of the Electoral Count Act of 1887. See here, here, here and probably many other places.

It’s appalling.

After laying the factual predicate from November 3 to present, ranging from death threats to officials with integrity to absurdities like the Ohio GOP censuring a Michigan Congressman, Mona Charen summarizes her (and my) feelings:

So there really is only a single issue I will vote on in 2021—truth. The Republican party, in Washington and nationally, has become a conspiracy of liars. As such, it threatens the stability of the republic. Even a seemingly inoffensive candidate like Glenn Youngkin has given aid and comfort to this sinister agenda by stressing “election integrity” in his campaign. It doesn’t change a thing to reflect that he’s almost certainly insincere. He stopped talking about it after winning the primary, suggesting that all the “integrity” talk was just a sop to MAGA voters. Still, a victory for him will send a message that the Republican party is normal again, a party that good people can support.

It’s not. It’s a cult dedicated to lying, rewarding liars, and punishing truth tellers. I won’t vote for it.

Me neither. When I can’t vote for Democrats (i.e., most of the time), I’ll be voting third party or abstaining.


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.

Politically homeless (and more)

Where is my political home?

David French was at the top of his game as a socio-legal pundit Sunday. It’s hard to know what to excerpt, and you really should read it all.

But excerpt I feel I must.

After registering his concerns with the new Texas abortion law, he turns "meta":

I don’t think most Americans appreciate how much the debate over abortion has changed in the last thirty years of American life. Two changes are particularly important. One is profoundly negative, and the other is extraordinarily positive.

First, the legal and political debate over abortion has become purely partisan at exactly the time when our nation’s profound polarization means that party affiliation is becoming central to millions of Americans’ personal identities.

Thirty years ago there was a robust pro-life wing of the Democratic Party. Even 15 years ago, when I moved back to Tennessee, my congressman was a proudly pro-life Democrat. My heavily Republican district voted him out in 2010. It preferred a “pro-life” candidate who faced evidence that he tried to pressure a girlfriend to abort their child and supported his ex-wife’s two abortions.

And now? Elected pro-life Democrats are very, very hard to find. Even worse, as the parties move away from each other on a host of important political issues—and as the GOP continues to embrace Donald Trump and his ethos and contains an ever-expanding coalition of cranks and radicals—it is increasingly difficult to ask Democrats to lend any aid and comfort to a party that they find unmoored from even basic decency, integrity, and truth itself.

Or, as I’ve heard so many believers from many faiths say: “I’m pro-life, and I want the law to protect the unborn. I welcome refugees. I want to address the contemporary reality and persistent legacy of racism. I want politicians to be people of good character and fundamental integrity. Where do I go? Where is my home?

(Emphasis added) Abortion was not my personal breaking point with the GOP, but I spent at least a decade politically homeless, and my new home is a third party (and ipso facto quixotic).

Third Commandment?! Is that old thing still around!?

My plea to my fellow Christians: If you insist on refusing the vaccine, that is your right. But please do not bring God into it. Doing so is the very definition of violating the Third Commandment, “Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord thy God in vain.”

Curtis Chang, Christian Exemptions to Vaccine Mandates Lack Sound Basis – The New York Times

The reader, the author, and the young traveler

I had meant to live like a tramp or a pilgrim or a wandering scholar, sleeping in ditches and ricks and only consorting with birds of the same feather. But recently I had been strolling from castle to castle, sipping Tokay out of cut-glass goblets and smoking pipes a yard long with archdukes instead of halving gaspers with tramps. These deviations could hardly be condemned as climbing: this suggests the dignity of toil, and these unplanned changes of level had come about with the effortlessness of ballooning.

Patrick Leigh Fermor, Between the Woods and the Water, which recounts one leg of his walk across Europe — this time, central Europe — in the 1930s, before storm clouds of war were mounting.

The passages describing his sojourns among the patricians of Middle Europe are among the happiest in the book, but among the saddest too: for we know, as the author knows, but as the young traveller never did, that all that happy, reckless and cultivated society, which answered his knocks at the door with such instant generosity, was doomed. Within Paddy’s own lifetime, it would be eliminated.

(Introduction to the book)

Unintended Consequences

Spotted:

Did Texas Hand Biden a Lifeline?
By Matthew Continetti The unpredictable politics of abortion in 2022 and 2024.

Good question. Since I let my National Review subscription lapse, I don’t know Continetti’s answer for certain. But Afghanistan was a blow to Biden, until our amnesiac press decided that the quirkey-to-the-Nth-degree Texas abortion law would sell more papers, get more clicks.

I’m no longer privy to high-level pro-life litigation strategy as I once was, but I very much doubt that any law like Texas’ was a part of it. This was Texas being contrary, independent Texas!.

Another possible unintended consequence of the Texas heartbeat law: if the Supreme Court upholds Mississippi’s ban on abortions after the 15th week in its upcoming Dobbs case (which would put us in line with Western Europe), the result may be hard to portray as extreme.

Takes a village

Not the village I’ve seen …

I have seen the village, and it don’t want it raising my child.

Spotted by my wife on Pinterest

… and sure as hell not Los Angeles!

It’s OK that our babies may not have learned all their times tables. They learned resilience. They learned survival. They learned critical-thinking skills. They know the difference between a riot and a protest. They know the words insurrection and coup.”

Cecily Myart-Cruz, head of United Teachers Los Angeles

Astonishingly, the reporter on this story, Jason McGahan, said of this woman

the following:

She doesn’t look much like a firebrand. Short and stout, with sparkling brown eyes, brightly painted pink lips, and copper-red, shoulder-length hair, she’s a Central Casting version of a kindly, cuddly school teacher.

McGahan must have gone to a really tough school. She looks to me like a Central Casting version of a villainous (villainess?) woman pro rassler.

Fundamentalism then and now

I am thinking about moving to Texas so that I can be in open disagreement with the powers that be and express this freely, instead of living in colonies of liberal progressives where I must put tape over my mouth except when among close personal friends. Freedom of speech is watched closely where I live and we all know it. “What exactly is it you want to say that you can’t?” you wonder. It is something that, were I to say it, I’d be kicked out of the Democratic Party and my library card would be confiscated and I’d be barred from Amazon and Starbucks and the Episcopal church would make me sit in the Penitents’ Corner. So I’ll keep it to myself.

I grew up fundamentalist so I’m familiar with the drill. We couldn’t join marching band because we believed that rhythmic movement would lead to dancing, which then led to fornication. We never sang uptempo hymns, only dirges. Women kept silent in church because the sound of their voices would lead men to think impure thoughts. So the rigidity of progressive righteousness is familiar to me. I can live with it. I know which friends can be trusted and which cannot.

Garrison Keillor.

I’m not so sure, Gary. Merely acknowledging that today’s progressives are every bit as prim and uptight as yesterday’s fundamentalists might get you cancelled.

Trump redux

I sure hope I’ll be able to drop the subject if the Orange One rules out a 2024 run, but meantime some reminders are in order:

Inglorious Bastards

The Bulwark is a website (news and commentary — mostly the latter) that arose to oppose Trump from a conservative (neocon, it seems to me) perspective. On January 4, Mona Charen (who I’ve loved for decades) righteously ripped into the Wall Street Journal for its record during the Trump years:

In the Trump era, the Journal’s editorial board has betrayed its readers. It has trimmed and hemmed and to-be-sured its way through the most sustained assault on truth and the American political order of our lifetime. Every now and then—usually on textbook economic matters like tariffs—the board has issued stern rebukes of the president’s policies. But rarely. For the most part, it has retreated into anti-anti-Trumpism, averting its gaze from the president and focusing disproportionately on his opponents.

Today, the Journal concedes, “too many Republicans refuse to accept Mr. Trump’s defeat.” They note that the Senators who have agreed to contest the Electoral College count this week cite no evidence of fraud, “Instead they cite ‘allegations of fraud and irregularities’ that feed ‘deep distrust’ of the results—distrust they and the President are feeding.” So far, so good. But then, in a typical misfire, the editors caution that “this is a . . . lousy political strategy for returning to power.” Ah. So that’s the main issue then?

The president of the United States is attempting to subvert the democratic process. He is calling on his followers to swarm Washington, D.C., on January 6. For what conceivable purpose?

I particularly loved "trimmed and hemmed and to-be-sured its way through the most sustained assault on truth and the American political order of our lifetime", which is pitch-perfect.

But the main point is that no good ever could ever have come from "calling on [Trump’s] followers to swarm Washington, D.C., on January 6" and the Wall Street Journal covered itself with feckless shame for not saying so.

Dehumanizer to the core

What is it that I want from government, exactly?

The answer my brain keeps coming back to is in reference to something my guy Jeb Bush used to say about education. He wanted every child to have the opportunity to live a life of purpose and meaning. And that’s basically what I want from our government and society.

Donald Trump created a party that didn’t even pretend to care about dignity and purpose.

Trump saw Republican voters as customers who needed to be attracted to his brand. And if his customers wanted a brand identified with being as cruel as possible to other humans, then it was cruelty he would sell. Banning people from entry into the country if they are Muslim does not have a pro-human dignity side to the argument. Neither does separating parents from their children at the border. Or cheering on killer cops. Or grabbing women by the pussy against their will. Or trying to cancel the votes of people who live in a city with a lot of blacks.

Trump’s entire essence is in direct conflict with the notion that people have dignity. He is a dehumanizer to his core.

Tim Miller at The Bulwark

Gore Vidal redux

I was a young fan of Bill Buckley’s polysyllabic erudition, and cheered when Buckley threatened to “sock [Gore Vidal] in the goddam mouth.” But is Vidal’s later conspiracy theorizing looking prescient?


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.