Friday, 11/4/22

Culture

Doomed, but not gloomy

The Cult of the New rides forward victorious on nearly every front. So, this country I still love is, nevertheless, one that exasperates me. I have no shortage of ideas about just how we have arrived at our present juncture, as well as having some pretty settled notions about where it is all headed. And I do not think there is much we can do about it. Perhaps a different people could do so. Just not us. Things will chug along, until they don’t.

There’s no need to be gloomy about it, however. I agree with John Lukacs, who wrote: So living during the decline of the West—and being much aware of it—is not at all that hopeless and terrible. Indeed, what an exciting time to be alive today! But you have to turn much of the noise off to see this, I think. For example, I tend to avoid any headlines containing the words Arizona, Texas, Florida, Election, or Guns. It should be obvious; these are distractions that keep us from seeing the real story. Accordingly, I no longer worry that half of our citizenry have chosen to believe a fantasy. Over our history, incredibly, we’ve fallen for worse and larger ones. And who can tell what the other half believes, if anything.

Terry Cowan, Another Story to Tell: A Stone for Uncle Charles.

Terry starts roughly where I do, albeit with better academic credentials for doomsaying. For me, it’s less the “cult of the new” and more “how many warnings of divine judgment can we blow off?”, starting most explicitly with 9/11.

His tools for avoiding gloom are exemplary, even if I still indulge too much in ephemera.

Phobias

No … sexism, homophobia, transphobia ….

Some of the rules of a Social Medium I won’t be joining because this -phobia suffix is tribalist contempt disguised as psychological diagnosis. I’m not sure I belong to a tribe, but if I do, it’s not that one.

(It’s not easy running a social medium, though …)

Sells like hotcakes

Nothing sells so well as anger and resentment. Anger moved people to burn other people at the stake, whereas hope is the stuff of Get Well Soon cards that we pitch in the trash. Hope is a cup of chamomile tea; resentment is a double bourbon.

Garrison Keillor

Penguin Random House

You have, no doubt, read about the open letter published by employees of Penguin Random House urging the publisher to rescind its $2 million book contract with Supreme Court Justice Amy Coney Barrett. The employees are “deeply concerned about free speech,” they write, but you can’t use free speech to “destroy . . . rights,” and killing children is an international human right, which makes people like Amy Coney Barrett oh so very bad. The letter has received over 600 signatures so far.

Micah Mattix.

Those 600 signatures include some smart people subscribing some very stupid ideas.

So far, Penguin Random House stands resolute.

Equal Rights for distaff assassins

The two attempted assassinations of Gerald Ford came only 17 days apart, and both would-be assassins were women. Perhaps we should for that reason consider September of 1975 the apex of American feminism, a fortnight and change in which American women finally proved that they had it in them to be as insane and violent as American men.

Kevin D. Williamson

Gaining clarity

I had some thoughts in the cave. Some things settled in me, others clarified themselves. It became clearer what path I was walking, and what it meant. It doesn’t take much time in the woods for clarity to emerge. I have always found this. The peace that passeth all understanding is always available there. The kingdom of God is within us, but the world – the human world – is designed to drown it out. The world and the Earth are not the same thing. God sings in every fibre of the Earth, but we build the world to face in the other direction. We have to die to the world to listen to the Earth. The peace is in the stream running, in the mist wreathing the crags, the growling of the rooks, the squirrel watching from the hazel bough. The voice is in the silence. The silence is easily washed away by what we think we want.

Paul Kingsnorth, having spent the night of his 50th birthday in the cave of a Celtic Saint.

Politics

The battleground of demons

In a piece for The Spectator, David Marcus urges his fellow travelers on the right to be better than unfounded Paul Pelosi conspiracy theories. “Some on the right say that promoting baseless speculation is just fighting fire with fire, that we need to play this game too. Nothing could play more completely into the hands of the far left,” he writes. “This is a battleground of progressives’ choosing. They want a news environment in which nothing is real, everything is partisan and you are free to ignore and even disdain the other side. If conservatives adopt these despicable tactics, they will lose the war for our culture and society before a shot is even fired. You beat conspiracy theories with truth and facts, not by inventing more and more disgusting conspiracy theories of your own.”

The Morning Dispatch.

I’m not onboard with the idea that shit-posting and conspiracy theories are the “battleground of progressives’ choosing.” I’d locate it as in demonic, not progressive, territory.

Our 44th White President

As Obama’s mother was white, it seems to me he has as much claim to being white as to being black. He could be the first black president, but he has equal claim to being the forty-fourth white one. Racial morphology does not matter. That is so nineteenth century. The most radical thing he can do is claim to be white. Or is it that he can only be an authentic black man but an inauthentic white one? What kind of racism is that? Are we still operating under the whites’ ‘one-drop’ rule, still living by the whites’ rules of what we are or what we can be? Why should I jump up and down about that?

Gerald Early in Hedgehog Review, on his response to a white friend who called him the day after President Obama’s election in 2008.

Celebrity losers

In the early 2000s, the Japanese racehorse Haru Urara became something of an international celebrity. This was not because of her prowess on the track. Just the opposite: Haru Urara had never won a race. She was famous not for winning but for losing. And the longer her losing streak stretched, the more famous she grew. She finished her career with a perversely pristine record: zero wins, 113 losses.

American politics doesn’t have anyone quite like Haru Urara. But it does have Beto O’Rourke and Stacey Abrams. The two Democrats are among the country’s best known political figures, better known than almost any sitting governor or U.S. senator. And they have become so well known not by winning big elections but by losing them.

… Abrams and O’Rourke … are perhaps the two greatest exponents of a peculiar phenomenon in American politics: that of the superstar loser.

Jacob Stern, Democrats Keep Falling for ‘Superstar Losers’

Oopsy!

The White House deleted a tweet that attributed the increase in Social Security checks next year to President Biden’s leadership after critics pointed out that the cost-of-living adjustment, the highest in four decades, was a result of high inflation

Wall Street Journal on Twitter.

Barbarian Tribalism

I don’t want to live in a country where it’s normal to ask, even subconsciously, “Was the victim a Democrat?” before deciding whether to be angry, outraged, or compassionate.

Jonah Goldberg

You must vote for me; it’s the only democratic choice

With just days until the midterms, President Joe Biden delivered another speech last night about the state of American democracy, arguing its continuation is on the ballot next week. Josh Barro didn’t like it. “The message makes no sense on its face,” he writes in his latest newsletter. “When Democrats talk about ‘democracy,’ they’re talking about the importance of institutions that ensure the voters get a say among multiple choices and the one they most prefer gets to rule. But they are also saying voters do not get to do that in this election. The message is that there is only one party contesting this election that is committed to democracy—the Democrats—and therefore only one real choice available. If voters reject Democrats’ agenda or their record on issues including inflation, crime, and immigration (or abortion, for that matter), they have no recourse at the ballot box—they simply must vote for Democrats anyway, at least until such time as the Republican Party is run by the likes of Liz Cheney and Adam Kinzinger. This amounts to telling voters that they have already lost their democracy.”

The Morning Dispatch.

This is the sort of incoherence that arises when “democracy” is ill-defined. Mind you, I’m not unsympathetic to Republicans who think this is a year to presume voting Democrat. I’m not even unsympathetic to the idea that the GOP, with its calculated takeover of offices that supervise elections and its pushing the damnable and incoherent “Independent State Legislature” theory, is a genuine threat to Democracy.

I can recall no election in my 74 years when I was less enthused to vote at all.


[S]ubordinating truth to politics is a game which tyrants and bullies always win.

Jonathan Rauch, The Constitution of Knowledge

The Orthodox "phronema" [roughly, mind-set] cannot be programmitized or reduced to shibboleths.

Fr. Jonathan Tobias

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.

November 1, 2022

Pilgrimage

I’m almost fully readjusted to my home time zone after almost two weeks 7 hours to the East.

My overall “secular” impression of my past two weeks in the Holy Land: if you really want to see a lot of authentic sites, important to the historic (i.e., pre-Reformation) Church, bring good shoes, socks (a pair of Ecco walkers and a second of Mephistos, worn with Wright Socks, kept me blister-free, but didn’t prevent mildly turned ankles), walking stick, and be prepared to walk over a lot of very uneven rubble and pavers that have heaved over 1500-2000 years. Even the Church of Anastasis (a/k/a Holy Sepulchre) isn’t entirely safe for those, like me, of unsteady gait and poor balance.

Also, don’t miss the sacred sites in current Jordan, which astonished me in how successful it has been chasing Mammon. (It feels surprisingly like the U.S., especially in Amman.)

Oh yeah: everybody seems to smoke almost everywhere.

And I’m ready to eat me more pig.

As for the religious impression, words fail me. I got on this trip a strenuous Christian pilgrimage. “Pilgrimage” sadly was not my experience on a prior trip, which had a much different emphasis than vereration of holy places. In contrast, we had an appropriate Gospel reading at site after site. We attended a very early-morning Orthodox Christian liturgy a few feet away from the birthplace of Christ in the crypt of the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem and a Sunday liturgy at the Tomb of the Theotokos. I venerated the place where Christ’s body lay for three days before He rose from the dead at the Church of the Resurrection (a/k/a Church of the Holy Sepulchre).

An unexpected stunner was an exhibition on the Shroud of Turin. I followed the Shroud just enough to have come around to a presumption that it was authentic. But someone took all the marks on the shroud, showing the multiple flogging/flaying wounds on He whom it had wrapped, and created a bronze figure:


If someone can find words adequate to that, they are better wordsmiths than I am.

I’m glad I went, but I fear that age has caught up with me to the point that I’ll not go again.

I’ll probably post more pictures when I get them sorted out.

Sensible change

England’s National Health Service outlined a new clinical approach earlier this month, issuing an interim service specification that says most pre-pubescent children experiencing gender incongruence—feeling their gender identity doesn’t match their biological sex—are experiencing a phase that “does not persist into adolescence.” The NHS announced plans to close the United Kingdom’s only gender-identity clinic dedicated to children this summer after an independent review found problems including insufficient record-keeping and an “unquestioning affirmative approach.” It will stand up regional centers instead, but reportedly will take a more cautious tack when treating minors’ gender dysphoria and ban the use of puberty blockers in minors outside of clinical trials.

The Morning Dispatch

Attacking with whatever’s handy at the moment

I will first go back to before the Ukrainian crisis to the election of Donald Trump in 2016 as an example of what I mean. Many people recall John McCain saying, “Russia is a gas station masquerading as a country.” President Barack Obama, in his last press conference as President, said Russia could not “change or significantly weaken the U.S..” He said compared to the U.S., “Russia is a smaller and weaker country.” He continued that Russia doesn’t produce anything anyone wants except gas, oil, and arms.

These kinds of statements were what one typically heard about Russia in those days. Russia’s economy was said to be no bigger than that of the state of Texas, and its GDP was miniscule.

Yet, after Donald Trump was elected President, we were told, “Russia did it.” It was as if Putin directed the election of the president of the United States from his Kremlin office. How does a man whom they had said runs a small, weak, “gas station” kind of country control the results of the election of someone to the highest office in the country that claims to be the most powerful on earth? Now, the Mueller Report indicated there was no proof that Russia interfered, but my point is that we had been hearing how weak, small, and economically insignificant Russia was, and then almost all of the mainstream press quickly turned and joined the politicians who said Russia had covertly changed the course of American history. If one holds to both those understandings of Russia some explanation is definitely needed. Otherwise, this is cognitive dissonance on a national level.

Hal Freeman, lightly reformatted.

A marriage that cannot last

[T]here is a fundamental incoherence in an alliance that requires affirmation of the gender binary in the L, the G, and the B whilst emphatically denying it in the T and Q.

Carl Trueman

Affirmative action

The old-style defenders of racial double standards still say they aren’t racist.  Since racial double standards are by definition racist, that’s been a hard line to peddle.  The new line is that they are racist, but in a good way:  Because only racism against whites can remedy the effects of past racism against blacks.

Since this view is relentlessly drummed into the ears of the young – and since few of them have ever been taught the ancient doctrine that justice is giving to each person what is due to him, or the sacred principle that we may never do evil for the sake of good results — perhaps it is not surprising that many of my students find the theory of good racism plausible.

J Budziszewski

Marriage in America

Gay marriage is a luxury good in our society, largely the province of professional men and women. Meanwhile, among Americans without college degrees, marriage is collapsing.

Public health officials scratch their heads, trying to explain the extraordinary decline in life expectancy in the United States, a shocking trend for a country so rich. Their captivity to progressive ideology makes them invincibly ignorant. They cannot acknowledge the obvious truth, which is that isolated, disoriented individuals deprived of the norms that would guide them toward marriage and family have dim prospects. They are more likely to stumble through life and engage in self-destructive behavior.

R.R. Reno

Intelligence, thoughtfulness, and the career they foreclose

The woke takeover of the establishment is so complete that “if you are an intelligent and thoughtful young American, you cannot be a progressive public intellectual today, any more than you can be a cavalry officer or silent movie star.” Every thought on the left is scripted, monitored, and policed. As Lyons observes, “In contrast with this oppressive decadence . . . the dialectic of the countercultural Right crackles with irreverence and intellectual possibility.”

N.S. Lyons Lyons citing Michael Lind and quoted by R.R. Reno


[S]ubordinating truth to politics is a game which tyrants and bullies always win.

Jonathan Rauch, The Constitution of Knowledge

The Orthodox "phronema" [roughly, mind-set] cannot be programmitized or reduced to shibboleths.

Fr. Jonathan Tobias

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.

Friday, 8/19/22, political

I’ve collected so much that I’m breaking it in two. Herewith, the political, writ large and smaller. The rest will come in the morniing.

Politics Writ Large

The point of these items is not partisan, but rather a view of the political field “from 30,000 feet.”

Conservatism

Three outstanding paragraphs:

I shuddered when, within a matter of months following the Obergefell decision, I began to hear activists from (otherwise obsolete?) gay-rights organizations talking about the need to push transgender issues as the next front on the leftward side of the culture war. These activists weren’t just calling for legal protections from discrimination, which wouldn’t have been especially controversial. They were demanding that the country at large give up on “the gender binary” and reject belief in any kind of biological component of sexual identity.

In its place, people were now expected to embrace an ideology of absolute gender fluidity. Boys could be girls, girls could be boys, requests on the part of children to physically change from one to the other using a range of sometimes quite radical medical interventions needed to be respected and heeded, and any and all resistance to this agenda was henceforth declared to be an expression of rank bigotry. The change even extended to pronoun usage, which went in the matter of a couple of years from something perfectly obvious and unworthy of thought for native speakers of American English to a highly fraught matter of social propriety and potential insult.

Can anyone really be surprised that this push for dramatic sociocultural change, with much of it focused on minors, coincided with a surge of support for right-wing populism, which promised to fight the left with greater ferocity than ever before?

Damon Linker, On Being a Conservative Liberal

One of my favorite sayings used to be Cet animal est très méchant. Quand on l’attaque, il se défend. It was my (conservative) response to progressive aggressors who found conservatives très méchant.

“Back in the day”, 20-30 years ago, it was invariably the progressives who aggressed, the conservatives who defended. I cannot say that categorically any more. Death threats and death plots against progressive-to-center-right public figures, by the far right, caution me against that. But Linker reminds me that the Left remains an aggressor.

Dave Hopkins, a political scientist at Boston College, told The Dispatch last month that “the definition of conservatism has changed a bit in the Trump years.”

“What counts as being a true conservative has become more about cultural issues and more about fidelity to Trump himself than it’s been about size of government,” he said.

Price St. Clair, Wyoming Voters Deal Lopsided Loss to Cheney

Another of my favorite sayings (very loosely paraphrased from memory) comes from the late William F. Buckley: "The problem with most liberals is that they cannot begin to describe the world in which they’d say ‘enough!’ and become conservatives." That certainly is the case with those who, having totally triumphed on homosexuality, thought they could put one over on us with gender theory, thus keeping their little sinecures intact.

No American Oakeshottians

Back to Damon Linker’s rewarding essay of Friday, On Being a Conservative Liberal:

The great British conservative Michael Oakeshott has a lovely essay titled “On Being Conservative” that does a fabulous job of summarizing the impulse to resist change. Here is that essay’s most famous passage: “To be conservative … is to prefer the familiar to the unknown, … the tried to the untried, fact to mystery, the actual to the possible, the limited to the unbounded, the near to the distant, the sufficient to the superabundant, the convenient to the perfect, present laughter to utopian bliss.”

Those sentiments speak to me on a very personal level … Deep into adulthood, the announcement of an unanticipated change in plans would provoke intense anxiety that manifested itself in anger, as my brain short-circuited and I did everything I could to repress an instinct to panic.

No wonder I ended up a conservative—though of a peculiar kind … I had no real attraction to the surging, striving form of American conservatism that leads some to lament decadence and stagnation or to propose schemes that might inspire greater economic and cultural dynamism. It placed me miles away from Ronald Reagan’s endorsement of Thomas Paine’s line about how it’s possible and desirable to “begin the world over again.” (That quintessentially American sentiment has always struck me as delusional and potentially dangerous.)

There are, it seems, no American Oakeshottians.

Except, perhaps, in a certain underpopulated corner of the Democratic Party—the corner in which I’ve found a de facto political home for the past two decades.

This is probably the best argument I’ve read on why a conservative “of a peculiar kind” might end up voting Democrat.

Epistemic humility

As the leader of a country that within living memory had wiped out six million Jews, she was understandably anxious not to appear prescriptive about what might constitute European identity.

Tom Holland, Dominion, distilling a lot of history and shame to 190-proof.

Religion and Politics

“I was thinking about that Marx quote that religion is the opium of the people,” Elizabeth Oldfield, the former director of the Christian think tank Theos, told me. “I think what we’ve got now is [that] politics is the amphetamines of the people.”

Helen Lewis, How Social Justice Became a New Religion

Politics Writ Smaller

New policies, maybe; barbarian behavior, no

Cheney and Romney (and Adam Kinzinger and Peter Meijer and other dissenting Republicans) are defending the party. They’re upholding its ideals. And to understand why, we have to understand the core argument of the Trump right. If I’ve heard it once, I’ve heard it a thousand times. It has two parts:

First, it’s time to end the old ways. As a policy matter, Reagan Republicanism is dead. We need more government intervention in the market, fewer military entanglements abroad, and the greater use of state power to enforce conservative moral norms. A new “workers’ party” or “parents’ party” is going to be more progressive economically and more conservative socially than Reagan’s party. We appreciate The Gipper, but he was a man of his time, and that time has passed.

Second, it’s not just the old policies we reject. We reject the old rules of behavior. The left punches hard. We’ll punch harder. We tried nominating “good” people—like Mitt—and the left painted them as racist and misogynist. We didn’t make the new rules, but we’ll play by those rules, and the new rules tell us to fight fire with fire. Never back down. Never apologize. If cruelty works, be cruel. If lies work, then lie. Support for classical liberalism and the rule of law are luxury beliefs for a protected elite that doesn’t understand the present emergency. The existence of the nation is at stake. Act like it.

As times change, policies will change. The Republican Party wasn’t going to remain the anti-slavery party when slavery ended, just as it wasn’t going to remain the Cold War party when the Soviet Union fell. Ideological fights and ideological change are normal and healthy. Not every economic problem can be fixed with a tax cut, and not every foreign challenge can be met with military power.

And so the first paragraph of the case for the new Trump right isn’t particularly alarming …

It’s the second paragraph that represents the threat. It’s the second paragraph that triggers the crisis. It’s the abandonment of truth, character, and respect for the institutions of our pluralistic republic that places our entire democratic experiment at risk ….

David French, Who Is a True ‘Turncoat’?

A rant against “normal” Republicans

Oh, my! Too much good stuff for me to quote in good conscience (since it’s copyrighted and the author makes his living writing). Excerpts to whet your appetite:

What the “Team Normal” Republicans would like is the arrangement they had before 2015 — they would like Trump to help stir up their own voters and generate “energy,” but they don’t want to have to defend his unpopular actions and characteristics to swing voters who have a negative view of him and they also don’t want to have intraparty fights with the candidates he supports.

That your party is led by an inept, impulsive, criminally inclined man, who is viewed negatively by most voters, who cares very little about whether your party wins elections or achieves policy goals, and who keeps causing the party to nominate his unappealing weirdo personal friends in otherwise-winnable Senate races, is your problem — one largely of your own making. No self-respecting set of political opponents would respond to this in any other way than by putting the screws to you as hard as is possible.

Josh Barro, A Rant: ‘Team Normal’ Republicans, Stop Whining That Democrats Won’t Help You

How to irk Trump and live to win again

Not all those who have irked Mr Trump have been purged from the party’s ranks. Georgia’s governor, Brian Kemp, and its secretary of state (chief elections officer), Brad Raffensperger, both helped thwart Mr Trump’s attempts at post-election cheating. Despite efforts to unseat them, Georgia’s primary voters made them the party’s nominees in May. But the price of self-preservation was silence. “I’ve never said a bad word about [Mr Trump’s] administration and I don’t plan on doing that,” Mr Kemp said.

The election of the Trump-appointed slate means that the “rule of law is teetering” in Arizona, according to Bill Gates (not that one), a Republican member of the Maricopa County Board of Supervisors. In other times a man like Mr Gates, a Harvard-educated lawyer and businessman who supports tighter voter-identification laws and low rates of taxation, might have aspired to statewide office, too. But with openness to electoral nullification a new litmus test for such candidates he counts himself out. He says his party has a tumour which is metastasising, and that its nature has changed fundamentally. “We’ve become a European far-right party.”

Donald Trump’s hold on the Republican Party is unquestionable (The Economist)

Trump as Ransomware must might have legs

Republicans weren’t able to uninstall the Trump ransomware this year, Chris argues in this week’s Stirewaltisms (🔒). “In a midterm election that party leaders had hoped would unite the right and focus on an unpopular sitting president and grinding inflation, Republicans in their primaries showed almost no ability to set aside their own civil war,” he writes. “Nor is there any question about which side came out ahead.”

The Morning Dispatch, 8/19/22

Trump loves to be loved. He loves to be hated. He hates to be ignored.

The press loves looks and clicks.

The Trumpist Right loves trolling and demolition.

Ain’t a chance in hell that we’re going to get relief from all the Trump-related news any time soon, Nellie. They’ll cover him even if it means his notoriety gets him elected again.

Epiphenomenon

The term “post-truth” was declared the Oxford Dictionaries’ “Word of the Year” in 2016. Post-truth is an adjective defined as “relating to or denoting circumstances in which objective facts are less influential in shaping public opinion than appeals to emotion and personal belief.”

Michael Ward, After Humanity.

Liz Cheney’s 2024

“Of course she doesn’t win,” Bill Kristol, the longtime strategist who has become one of Trump’s fiercest conservative critics, told me. But, he added, if Cheney “makes the point over and over again” that Trump represents a unique threat to American democracy and “forces the other candidates to come to grips” with that argument, she “could have a pretty significant effect” on Trump’s chances.

Ronald Brownstein, Liz Cheney Already Has a 2024 Strategy

Creepy is not the same as illegal

I still have no use for Alabama’s cornpone former Chief Justice Roy Moore, but let the record reflect that certain of his detractors have gotten an $8.2 million slapdown.


"The Frenchman works until he can play. The American works until he can’t play; and then thanks the devil, his master, that he is donkey enough to die in harness …." (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.

Monday, 7/25/22

Trump, Trump, Trump

If you’ve already heard enough, I’ll take no offense if you skip this section. But the first three of these Trump-related items all involve a bit of my own thinking and analogizing, not just quotes without comment.

Flight 93 Indictments

People continue to make the case that what Donald Trump did — here, there, everywhere — was criminal and that he should be charged. I’ll stipulate for sake of argument that every one of those arguments, even the weakest of them, is correct.

Some convictions, I believe (don’t bet anything you can’t afford to lose), would disqualify him from running in 2024.

But can we get convictions? When did Trump’s lawyers ever allow any case against him to go forward expeditiously? When did they not throw up every conceivable preliminary motion to put a spanner in the works?

And with his astonishing continued levels of support (at least as reported to pollsters; I can’t rule out mischievous responses), can we really expect unanimous jury verdicts of "guilty" anywhere in this country?

An acquittal, even if the jury voted 11-1 for conviction, might well strengthen him and his narrative of "all the poopy-heads hate me."

Michael Anton infamously argued in the 2016 Election cycle that it was either Donald Trump or the end of America as we know it. It was like flight 93: storm the cockpit and we just might live.

Let’s not repeat Anton’s mistake in reverse: "if we indict him, we just might get a conviction that will disqualify him from running again; whereas if we don’t, he’ll run again, win, and it will be the end of America as we know it."

I do think that Trump 2024 could be the end of America as we know it, and the January 6 Committee hearings have put at least slightly reinforced that in my mind (I was very anti-Trump before January 6 and before the hearings). They may even have had a net-positive effect on the electorate, swaying more against Trump than toward him in false sympathy for him as victim. But I think that beating him at the polls with a reformed Electoral Count Act to thwart shenanigans is a sounder strategy than trying to disqualify him with a felony conviction.

(David French’s argument in Friday’s Atlantic tends toward indictment despite unnamed risks — because (as I interpret it) we must show that nobody is above the law.)

I confess to TDS

I laughed at Democrats suffering Bush Derangement Syndrome. I laughed at Republicans suffering Obama Derangement Syndrome, but also shook my head at their frequent racist dog-whistles. I was above all that.

Then Donald Trump actually got the Republican nomination, and if someone wanted to call my reaction Trump Derangement Syndrome, I’d understand. My main defense is that I was right: his narcissism eventually so distorted his reality field that he put the nation at grave and unnecessary risk beginning Election Day 2020.

Conspiracy or Tragedy?

It is a sign of the committee Democrats’ love of country that they have allowed the hearings to proceed this way. They are crafting a story about Jan. 6 as a battle between Republican heroism and Republican villainy. It seems intended to create a permission structure for Trump supporters to move on without having to disavow everything they loved about his presidency, or to admit that Jan. 6 was the logical culmination of his sadistic politics.

If you believe, as I do, that Trump’s sociopathy makes him a unique threat to this country’s future, it makes sense to try to lure Republicans away from him rather than damn them for their complicity. There is a difference, however, between a smart narrative and an accurate one. In truth, you can’t cleave Trump and his most shameless antidemocratic enablers off from the rest of the Republican Party, because the party has been remade in his image. Plenty of ex-Trump officials have come off well in the hearings, including the former deputy national security adviser Matthew Pottinger, the former acting attorney general Jeffrey Rosen and, in video testimony, the former White House counsel Pat Cipollone. That shouldn’t erase the ignominy of having served Trump in the first place.

Michelle Goldberg, The Myth of the Good Trump Official.

Goldberg had me in the first paragraph but substantially lost me in the second. My TDS doesn’t make me condemn everyone who served in the Trump administration. For many of them, their service was a sign of their love of country, for which they willingly put their reputations and political futures permanently at risk to be among the adults in the room.

I know, I know: Many of them ended up as infantilized sycophants, but I don’t think that’s how they, or at least most of them, went in.

The difference between Goldberg and me on this topic is that she seemingly views the Trump years mostly as a conspiracy of bad actors against the country whereas I see it more as a tragedy, whereby a malign leader seduced a lot of benign-to-neutral followers — my paradigm being Mark Studdock in C.S. Lewis’ That Hideous Strength.

If you insist on Mephistopheles and a bunch of Fausts, I’d insist back at you that they didn’t think they were Fausts when they initially said "yes." They thought of themselves as the alternative to cronies and crazies who ended up being named Steve Bannon, Rudy Giuliani, Roger Stone, Sydney Powell, Michael Eastman, Mike Lindell and such.

And although I recognized grave danger in Trump’s narcissism, I did not foresee his seductiveness — though his ability to seduce an electoral majority of voters should have warned me.

Why I still read the New York Times

By insisting that he was cheated out of victory, Trump fashioned himself into a king-in-exile rather than a loser — an Arthur betrayed by the Mordreds of his own party, waiting in the Avalon of Mar-a-Lago to make his prophesied return.

As with many forms of dark Trumpian brilliance, though, the former president is not exactly in conscious control of this strategy. He intuited rather than calculated his way to its effectiveness, and he seems too invested in its central conceit — the absolute righteousness of his “Stop the Steal” campaign — to modulate when it begins to reap diminishing returns.

While Ron DeSantis, his strongest potential rival, has been throwing himself in front of almost every issue that Republican primary voters care about, Trump has marinated in grievance, narrowed his inner circle, and continued to badger Republican officials about undoing the last election. While DeSantis has been selling himself as the scourge of liberalism, the former president has been selling himself mostly as the scourge of Brian Kemp, Liz Cheney and Mike Pence.

A counterargument, raised on Friday by New York Magazine’s Jonathan Chait, is that so long as those lukewarm supporters still believe the 2020 election was unfair, Trump will have a trump card over any rival — because if you believe a steal happened, “you are perfectly rational to select a candidate who will acknowledge the crime and do everything to prevent it from reoccurring.”

But it seems just as possible for the lukewarm supporter to decide that if Trump’s response to being robbed was to first just let it happen and then ask his vice president to wave a magic wand on his behalf, then maybe he’s not the right guy to take on the Democratic machine next time.

There is more than one way, in other words, for Republican voters to decide that the former president is a loser ….

Ross Douthat in the New York Times.

Once again, it’s Trump’s narcissism: it’s all about him and to hell with everything else.

Not Trump

The Great EV Scam

Regulators everywhere are structuring their electric-vehicle industries on the Norway model, based on subsidies from less-affluent people who continue to buy gas-powered cars. A zombie business or industry, in today’s parlance, is one sustained less by creative destruction than by a combination of government bailout, regulation and hidden subsidies. This is what the global auto sector is becoming. Germany, having saddled its domestic makers with mandates for diesel and then electric vehicles, has repeatedly had to scarf together hidden rescues when the mandated investments didn’t pay off. Don’t think it can’t happen here. In fact, the history of the U.S. auto sector since the Chrysler bailout of 1980 has been of more or less continuous open and crypto-bailouts.

Holman W. Jenkins, Jr., The Upside-Down Logic of Electric SUVs

America, Abortionmonger to the World

A foreign policy pushing for abortion abroad is also a strategic blunder with long-term consequences. Many countries in Africa, Asia and Latin America have strict limits on abortion, and even most of the free world is closer to Dobbs than to Roe.

Some Western politicians, such as French President Emmanuel Macron, and the European Parliament have joined Mr. Biden in denouncing Dobbs. But their statements reflect more the global solidarity of pro-abortion politicians than diplomatic prudence or even their own nations’ laws and practices.

Jakub Grygiel and Rebeccah Heinrichs, Biden’s Abortion Politics Will Undermine America’s World Standing.

Note that the characterization of the free world in the first paragraph is true only in the sense that Western Europe largely leaves abortion to political processes, as does Dobbs not constitutionalizing it s did Roe. It’s false insofar as it implies that Dobbs sets a national policy of, say, legal abortion in the first trimester, which is roughly where Western Europe tends to be, as compared to Roe‘s much more radically permissive regime.

SCOTUS legitimacy: two views

For three decades, Casey was precedent on precedent. But that is not the only conception of legitimacy.

On Thursday, Justice Kagan spoke to the Ninth Circuit Judicial Conference. She was careful to avoid talking about Dobbs directly, but she clearly alluded to the case. And, according to the Washington Post–I’ve not yet found video of the event–she invoked the concept of "legitimacy" as defined by Casey. That is, the Court’s "legitimacy" is linked to public perception …

The Dobbs Court emphatically repealed and replaced that notion of legitimacy. Now, legitimacy is defined by following written law, without regard to public perception. Linda Greenhouse’s column laments that shift:

. . .  Justice Alito actually had the gall to write that "we do not pretend to know how our political system or society will respond to today’s decision." Polls conducted before the opinion’s release showing that upward of two-thirds of Americans wanted to retain a right to abortion offered a hint and were perhaps what led to Justice Alito’s self-righteous declaration: "We cannot allow our decisions to be affected by any extraneous influences such as concern about the public’s reaction to our work."

Dobbs overruled Casey‘s undue burden framework, but also overruled the precedent on precedent. Justice Scalia would often joke that the Constitution is dead, dead, dead. We should say the same for Casey‘s precedent on precedent. It’s dead, dead, dead.

Josh Blackman at the Volokh Conspiracy.

Medical miracles

What they’re doing with vagus nerve stimulation is fascinating. I got tipped off by the Wall Street Journal, but here’s a solid link sans paywall

The other book-banners

We hear constantly about conservative efforts to "ban books," which accusation sometimes amounts to nothing more than taking a book out of a curriculum while leaving it readily available in the school library. But that’s not the whole story:

Last year, when the American Booksellers Association included Abigail Shrier’s book, “Irreversible Damage: The Transgender Craze Seducing Our Daughters,” in a mailing to member booksellers, a number of booksellers publicly castigated the group for promoting a book they considered transphobic. The association issued a lengthy apology and subsequently promised to revise its practices. The group’s board then backed away from its traditional support of free expression, emphasizing the importance of avoiding “harmful speech.”

A recent overview in Publishers Weekly about the state of free expression in the industry noted, “Many longtime book people have said what makes the present unprecedented is a new impetus to censor — and self-censor — coming from the left.” When the reporter asked a half dozen influential figures at the largest publishing houses to comment, only one would talk — and only on condition of anonymity. “This is the censorship that, as the phrase goes, dare not speak its name,” the reporter wrote.

Pamela Paul, There’s More Than One Way to Ban a Book


It’s a long way to Heaven dear Lord,
it’s a hard row to hoe
And I don’t know if I’ll make it dear Lord
but I sure won’t make it alone.

SmallTown Heroes, Long Road, from their one-and-so-far-only "byzantine bluegrass" album Lo, the Hard Times.

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.

Wednesday, 7/20/22

You didn’t miss anything. I didn’t publish yesterday because I just didn’t have enough material. That’s likely to recur, as I’m gradually correcting my incorrigible habit of poring over news that seems especially shareable.

Polling

The survey also found that 32% of Latino Catholics said their religious faith dictates their views on abortion, compared to 73% of white evangelical Protestants.

A new survey found Latino Catholics overwhelmingly support abortion rights. Here’s why.

I would be a pollster’s nightmare, as I find so many polling questions unanswerable if not unintelligible.

Orthodox Christianity is opposed to abortion, but I was anti-abortion before I became Orthodox, and (heaven help me, for this may mean that I’m an American individualist) I would affirm that at no time in my life has my religious faith "dictated my views" on abortion.

I have difficulty getting into the mind of anyone who would listen to that polling question, note the import of "dictate," and then answer in the affirmative. Thus the question is a — what? litmus test? ink blot test? I certainly don’t see useful information coming from it.

I don’t consider myself a rebel against my Church. I don’t think it has ever said what an Orthodox political position on abortion should be, though in my parish we especially pray regularly for an end to abortion through changed hearts.

My religious faith does "dictate" some things — say, my rejection of monothelitism and monoenergism and suchlike — important Christological questions of import on which the Church’s position is longstanding and plausibly reasoned (e.g., those teachings effectively denied the full humanity of Christ by saying that He had no human will or energy). Countermanding what the Church says about such theological nuances is above my pay grade and, unlike David Bentley Hart, I’m not arrogant enough to "go there." (I was a Protestant for two-thirds of my life and don’t care to try it again.)

But abortion? Capital punishment? Euthanasia? Eugenics? I can’t help but form my own opinions on those, informed by the Church but not dictated to.

Notes from a roving raconteur

I beat myself up because I’m an old fundamentalist and self-mortification is our specialty. And I’ve been having too much fun lately, which confuses me, doing shows in red states to crowds that include a good many Republicans who voted for the landslide winner in 2020 but nonetheless were warm and receptive to me who voted for the thief. In blue states, audiences are listening to make sure you check the boxes of Inclusivity, Diversity, Equity, and Antiracism. These are people who don’t mind that many theaters refuse to do “Our Town” because the “Our” does not acknowledge that Grover’s Corners was stolen from indigenous people. I use the possessive pronoun in singing “My country, ’tis of thee,” which audiences in red states enjoy singing with me, and also our national anthem, ignoring the fact that Francis Scott Key did own slaves.

Back in the Sixties, when I was in my twenties, we sang “We Shall Overcome” and clearly we did not overcome, we only created new hairstyles. So we pass the torch to the young, some of whom feel the word “person” shows gender bias and want to change it to perself. To which I say, “Good luck with dat.”

Garrison Keillor, national treasure.

Vignettes

There’s no apparent common theme to this two vignettes, but I thought each of them was interesting in different ways:

  • A young Hungarian academic I dined with last evening told me how jarring it was to get his master’s degree at a western European university, and to be congratulated by fellow grad students on how lucky he was to have grown up in a country that had been blessed by Marxist government. His own family had had everything taken from them by the Communists, yet these privileged nitwits could only imagine that life had been glorious under Communism. This has something to do with the fact that he’s living back in Hungary now, though he could make a lot more money working in the West. He can’t bear to deal with such ignorant people.
  • [A correspondent was one of] a bunch of very conservative Catholics who wanted to live rurally, and went out and bought land in the same area. This reader said he has been mostly grateful for having had the chance to live there and raise his kids there, but he’s not sure he would do it again if he had the chance. The reason, he said, is that he was too optimistic about how life would be there. He says he had not counted on the fact that the kind of Catholics who would make such a radical choice — strong-willed Catholics like himself, as he conceded — would find it unusually hard to get along. The reader told me that there were frequent disputes within the community over purity — not strictly sexual purity, but over whether or not it was licit to do things like let your daughters wear pants, or keep them in skirts and dresses. He said it got to be exhausting, dealing with these communal neuroses.

Rod Dreher’s Diary, Sisi, Queen Of The Magyars

Indestructible lies

… There in Boston is a monument to the man who discovered anesthesia; many people are aware, in these latter days, that that man didn’t discover it at all, but stole the discovery from another man. Is this truth mighty, and will it prevail? Ah, no, my hearers, the monument is made of hardy material, but the lie it tells will outlast it a million years ….

Mark Twain via Alan Jacobs

When Wystan met Hannah

“I met Auden late in his life and mine—at an age when the easy, knowledgeable intimacy of friendships formed in one’s youth can no longer be attained, because not enough life is left, or expected to be left, to share with another. Thus, we were very good friends but not intimate friends.”

Hannah Arendt, explaining (it seems) her refusal of a marriage proposal by the poet and friend W. H. Auden (via L. M. Sacasas). I was unaware of that episode, which rather complicates my recollection that Auden eventually gave up trying to resist his homosexuality.

Sacasas continues on other topics:

The examples I have in mind of this receding of materiality arise, not surprisingly, from the most prosaic quarters of daily life. As a bookish person, for example, I think about how the distinct material shape of the book not only encodes a text but also becomes a reservoir of my personal history. I remember where I was when I read it. Or I recall who gave it to me or to whom I have lent it. In other words, the presence of the book on a shelf recalls its contents to mind at a glance and also intertwines an assortment of memories into the backdrop of my day-to-day life. At the very least, it becomes an always available potential portal into my past. I don’t mean to be romantic about any of this. In fact, I think this is all decidedly unromantic, having to do chiefly with the meaning and significance of the stuff that daily surrounds us.

The digitized book by contrast may have its own advantages, but by being the single undifferentiated interface for every book it loses its function as a mooring for the self. It’s not that the e-reader has no materiality of its own—of course it does. Perhaps the best way of conceptualizing this is to say that the device over-consolidates the materiality of reading in a way that smooths out the texture of our experience. Consider how this pattern of over-consolidation and subsequent smoothing of the texture of material culture recurs throughout digital society. The smartphone is a good example. An array of distinct physical objects—cash, maps, analog music players, cameras, calendars, etc.—become one thing. The texture of our experience is flattened out as a result.

He’s not wrong about this (insider joke to one of my readers). Yet, because of the Readwise service, I’m developing a preferential option for eBooks. That and my shelves having filled to overflowing with regular books several times.

It’s helpful to be reminded of what’s lost, though. I hope Warren Farha of the world’s greatest brick and mortar bookstore, Eighth Day Books in Wichita, will forgive my my opinion if he’s reading this.

Awkward

Barton and WallBuilders argue that Jefferson and the Founders, outside of some exceptions, meant for the “wall of protection” to operate in one direction. It also, the group and its founder suggested, applies mostly to the federal government, not the states.

Jack Jenkins, The activist behind opposition to the separation of church and state

Well! This is awkward! I have a bad impression of David Barton, who I’ve understood as a grifter, dining out on "America is a Christian Nation."

But Barton is almost completely correct in what I first quoted. What Thomas Jefferson called a "wall of separation" was meant to protect the churches (I’d prefer "religion," though both terms have shortcomings in this context) from the state; and it was, at the time the First Amendment was ratified, intended to apply only to the federal government ("Congress shall make no law …"). Heck, Massachusetts had an established Congregational Church for 30 more years after Jefferson’s letter to the Danbury Baptists, and that letter was well after the Bill of Rights!

Where Barton may be wrong is in in the report that he thinks that amendment "applies" rather than "applied" mostly to the Federal Government. The First Amendment has been incorporated in the post-Civil War Fourteenth Amendment and thereby made applicable to the states. Thus Saith the Courts.

Thus, it seems to me, Barton may be telling half-truths to embolden crypto-theocrats by whose concepts of Christianity I have no desire to be governed — unless the alternative is the Wokeworld religion. I would almost certainly pick the Bartonites in that contest.

Like I said: awkward.

Is the tide turning?

… there is something undeniably more powerful about reading critiques of contemporary sexual morality that arise not from traditional religious spaces, but from within secular feminism and and from elite media. That’s when you know the tide might be turning.

I bring this up because in every single argument and controversy under the sun, reality gets a vote. Culture wars are ultimately won or lost not by online arguments but through their real-world consequences, and the position that leads to greater human misery tends to lose.

To connect with the issues at the start of this piece, when speaking about the wave of intolerance that’s swept the academy, philanthropy, Hollywood, and much of mainstream media, I’ve told conservative friends that they have no idea how miserable it was making most of the people in those organizations. Something had to give, and the immiserated majority is going to be intimidated by the motivated minority for only so long.

When speaking of the reality of porn-influenced consent culture, there’s a similar dynamic in play. It’s immiserating people by the millions.

David French, in an encouraging column: we seem to have hit bottom and started back up in several ways. At least that’s what French thinks.

Imagine my arse

Comments such as these convince me that John Lennon captured a common liberal dream in his haunting song “Imagine.” Imagine if there were no countries, and no religion too. If we could just erase the borders and boundaries that divide us, then the world would “be as one.” It’s a vision of heaven for liberals, but conservatives believe it would quickly descend into hell. I think conservatives are on to something.

Jonathan Haidt, The Righteous Mind.

I absolutely hate that song, and I was glad to learn I’m not alone.


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.

Tuesday, 6/28/22

Still more on Dobbs

As I know the lay of the land uncommonly well, I am trying to say some genuinely useful things, that are not being said very commonly, on the reversal of Roe and Casey. I’m also trying to avoid worsening tensions. I even exited social media for a few days (maybe more than necessary — I’ve been peeking) when a discussion started getting unproductively heated.

Face-saving failure

Confirmation hearing vignettes:

Here’s Justice Gorsuch: “Roe v. Wade, decided in 1973, is a precedent of the U.S. Supreme Court. It has been reaffirmed. . . . So a good judge will consider it as precedent of the U.S. Supreme Court worthy as treatment of precedent like any other.”

He added that “If I were to start telling you which are my favorite precedents or which are my least favorite precedents, or if I viewed precedent in that fashion, I would be tipping my hand and suggesting to litigants that I have already made up my mind about their cases.”

And here’s Justice Kavanaugh: “Roe v. Wade is an important precedent of the Supreme Court. It has been reaffirmed many times. It was reaffirmed in Planned Parenthood v. Casey in 1992. . . . So that precedent on precedent is quite important as you think about stare decisis in this context.” He made no specific pledge about either case that we have seen. Justice Amy Coney Barrett expressly rejected the idea that Roe was a super precedent.

Wall Street Journal Editorial Board, which also explains why a nominee cannot pledge to uphold a precedent or to strike it down:

Sens. Susan Collins and Joe Manchin said Friday they feel Justices Brett Kavanaugh and Neil Gorsuch deceived them on the precedent point in testimony and in their private meetings with the Justices. We weren’t in those meetings, but we’d be stunned if either Justice came close to making a pledge about Roe.

The reason is that the first rule of judging is that you can’t pre-judge a case. Judges are limited under Article III of the Constitution to hearing cases and controversies, and that means ruling on facts and law that are specific to those cases.

No judge can know what those facts might be in advance of a case, and judges owe it to the parties to consider those facts impartially. A judge who can’t be impartial, or who has already reached a conclusion or has a bias about a case, is obliged to recuse himself. This is judicial ethics 101.

An authority on this point is no less than the late progressive Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, as she explained in 1993. “It would be wrong for me to say or preview in this legislative chamber how I would cast my vote on questions the Supreme Court may be called upon to decide,” she said. “A judge sworn to decide impartially can offer no forecasts, no hints, for that would show not only disregard for the specifics of the particular case, it would display disdain for the entire judicial process.”

Frankly, no nominee should ever pledge their vote on any issue at confirmation hearings. That alone would be a disqualifier. Any Senator worth his or her seat should understand that, and since I respect them as senateworthy, I suggest that both Collins and Manchin do understand it. Their face-saving isn’t convincing.

Now flooding the zone shamelessly

As I scan the New York Times Opinion page since Friday morning, it’s apparent that "flooding the zone with sh*t" is not a MAGAworld exclusive.

Do not trust the Grey Lady for reliable interpretation of Dobbs overruling Roe or for prognostications about what a supposedly agenda-driven court is going to do next. (Exception: Ross Douthat wrote one of the wisest things I’ve read in the aftermath, and they did publish it.)

Is the court going to ban contraception? Ban sodomy? Ban same-sex marriage? Overrule the precedents that dogmatized rights to each into existence?

Just remember: courts decide cases. They don’t go out and make mischief on their own. So how would SCOTUS even get a chance to rescind these other "unenumerated rights"?

Damon Linker (After Roe: The Reversals to Come), who I respect enough to read when it’s obvious we disagree, imputes a nefarious agenda to the court but skips any suggestion of how it would get the opportunity to realize that agenda.

I can think of no obvious way other than some jurisdiction banning contraception, sodomy or same-sex marriage, resulting in a fresh round of litigation.

What do you think of the life expectancy of a legislator, even in Texas, who proposed to outlaw contraception? Outlawing sodomy would be a hard sell in 2021 even in red states. I could imagine a performative bill to define marriage as sexually binary, but have trouble imagining it getting very far.

If it did, the lower Federal courts would almost certainly strike such a law down under Griswold, Lawrence or Obergefell. Then SCOTUS could just decline to grant certiorari.

If it granted "cert," the stare decisis analysis on those precedents would include factoring in some very, very concrete reliance on Obergefell in the SSM context.

I’m no prophet, and I’m not close enough to the political poles to be incapably of suffering rude surprises, but I just don’t see those other precedents falling until there’s I’m long in the grave and there have been some major wake-up calls from realities we’ve had on call-blocking for a while.

Heartening

After weeks of incendiary rhetoric, attacks on crisis pregnancy centers, and a foiled attempt on Justice Brett Kavanaugh’s life, Planned Parenthood and other pro-abortion groups formally disavowed violence in the name of their cause. Those who use “destruction and violence” do not speak for them or the movement, the groups said in a statement.

TMD

On a related note, one of my favorite Substackers, Freddie deBoer, scared me by opening that it’s time for the Left to engage in extralegal resistance. Fortunately, it turned out that he meant things like helping abortion-minded women get to states where abortion is legal, or even to help them find clandestine abortions in their own states.

I don’t even think the former could be criminalized; the latter, perhaps.

Victor Rosenblum

As I was writing yesterday that I wish Nat Henthoff had lived to see Friday’s Dobbs decision, I was wracking my brain for the name of his "country cousin" (also a prolife liberal Jewish Democrat) at Northwestern University Law School. I finally gave up. Of course, it finally came to me this morning. So: I also wish Victor Rosenblum had lived to see this day.

Advice for the despondent

After stylishly signaling his pro-choice virtue, Garrison Keillor shows some sympathy for the 6 justices who are now pariahs, and then turns to some good advice for his own tribe:

Meanwhile, remind yourself that other people have thrived under wretched governors so don’t be discouraged. The Duke of Saxe-Weimar threw Bach in jail for daring to think he had individual rights. Dante was sent into exile and he wrote the Inferno so he could put the politician Argenti into the Fifth Circle of Hell. Dostoevsky joined a liberal study group for which, in 1849, he was thrown into prison and sentenced to death by firing squad, and was third in line to be executed when a pardon arrived. He lit out for Paris, London, Berlin, and figured out how to survive, writing Crime and Punishment in serial installments for magazines, avoiding politics. While cruelty is in power, do what Mozart did. Exercise your gifts. Create beautiful things. Wolfgang stayed clear of emperors and did his work and he lives on today and the emperors are just moldy names on marble slabs covered with pigeon droppings. If you can’t write The Marriage of Figaro, write your own marriage and make it a work of art.

That’s kind of what I’ve been trying to do, in my very limited way, for more than a decade. I like to think of myself as that proverbial butterfly in the Amazon, very subtly changing the weather in Indiana.

Not Dobbs

Still flooding the zone

The Donald reads conservatives out of MAGAworld

Bozos on the bus

What we need as a nation, more than anything else I can think of, is a recommitment to basic competence, and, especially, a refusal to accept ideological justifications for plain old ineptitude. Too often Americans give a free pass to bunglers and bozos who belong to their tribe.

Alan Jacobs, I think we’re all bozos on this bus – Snakes and Ladders

Inauguration Day 2017 in a Nutshell

Speaking of clowns:

When a clown moves into a palace, he doesn’t become a king. The palace becomes a circus.

Turkish Proverb (reportedly)

A little levity

I probably have given too short shrift to the January 6 Committee hearings because … well, I didn’t think anything they said would change my life or my vote. But I sure got a chuckle out of this:

H/T Yassine Meskhout


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.

Persuasion Wars

Hard Left

Sam Adler-Bell, who I first encountered as co-host of the Know Your Enemy podcast, has a very good article at the New Yorker: ‌Unlearning the Language of ‘Wokeness’. He opens acknowledging that today’s use of “wokeness” is false to the historical usage, but continues:

I’m going to offer — God, forgive me — another definition of “wokeness,” one which bears at least some resemblance to the way it is deployed in our jaundiced contemporary discourses.

Here it is: Wokeness refers to the invocation of unintuitive and morally burdensome political norms and ideas in a manner which suggests they are self-evident.

This idiom — or perhaps communicative register — replaces the obligation of persuading others to adopt our values with the satisfaction of signaling our allegiance and literacy to those who already agree.

Since Adler-Bell is a radical who actually wants to change things instead of living purely in an echo-chamber, he argues for changing the communicative register, while acknowledging that intelligibly advocating radical change to people in the mainstream is, by necessity, always going to be difficult. And I think Adler-Bell has nailed the central off-putting mannerism of wokesterism, and even of progressivism more broadly.

I found Adler-Bell a bit hard to read (it was sultry, and I was sleepy), but it was worth reading in the end, especially since some guys on the Right are consciously not making the wokesters’ mistake.

Postliberal Right

Having seen the workings of institutional conservatism firsthand for several decades, we believe that the best way to understand the contemporary conservative intellectual movement is by examining the material interests that underwrite its workings and shape its mission. Those material interests aren’t all perfectly in agreement with one another, which is why the organizations in question don’t always play nice together. There are disagreements at the margins. But the North Star of all is rule by large corporate and financial power, and support for militarism and cultural aggression abroad.

In his farewell address, in 1961, President Dwight Eisenhower warned his compatriots about just this threat: the rise of a military-industrial complex that shuts out the primacy of public order and the common good to secure the economic commitments of corporate entities. This is what the conservative movement became, the jackals of Mammon. And it is what threatens the common good of the nation.

Sohrab Ahmari, Patrick Deneen, Chad Pecknold, ‌We Know How America Got Such a Corporate-Friendly Court

I know the larger postliberal agenda of these men. I even subscribe to their substack. But isn’t this opinion piece right on target?

I expect to see more and more opinion pieces from these guys and their compadres, chipping away bit-by-bit, by persuasion, at insouciant think-tank “conservatism.” Intelligibly advocating radical change to people in the mainstream is always difficult, but they’re doing it — which is exactly what the progressive Left is not doing.

I wish the progressive Left would try. We’ve been in a period of patent political ferment since the run-up to the 2016 Election. I’m a lifelong “conservative,” but conservatism already is so changed, and the label so debatable, that my self-identity isn’t really much use any more. I’m open to well-reasoned voices from many perspectives.

But the progressives are simply forfeiting the debate to the postliberals.

Do you know of anyone else persuasively arguing an alternative to our polarized stalemate?


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.

Sunday Sundries

Incongruous

The North American Patristics Society has jumped onto the woke bandwagon. A recent notice calling for nominations for committee membership ran down the lead-lined grooves of the usual invocations offered up to today’s political deities:

The Nominating Committee supports the Society’s efforts to be a more inclusive, diverse and equitable organization. To that end, we encourage nominators to consider the diversity of the membership’s races, ethnicities, genders, religions, sexual orientations, gender identities, gender expressions, disabilities, economic status and other diverse backgrounds. We also seek diverse research expertise (regions, languages, methodologies, and disciplines that strengthen this Society’s work) in various governance bodies. And we seek nominations that will foster governance that better reflects the diversity of institutional settings, academic ranks, independent non-tenure-track scholars, and other historically underrepresented groups that comprise NAPS.

No doubt these measures will lead to a blossoming of scholarly excellence. Though one wonders about the organization’s name. Patristics? Doesn’t that sound frighteningly similar to patriarchy? Surely it’s got to go.

R.R. Reno. Yes, surely it must and will.

False transcendence

C. S. Lewis writing about the proper virtue of patriotism:

For a long time yet, or perhaps forever, nations will live in danger. Rulers must somehow nerve their subjects to defend them or at least to prepare for their defense. Where the sentiment of patriotism has been destroyed this can be done only by presenting every international conflict in a purely ethical light. If people will spend neither sweat nor blood for “their country” they must be made to feel that they are spending them for justice, or civilisation, or humanity. This is a step down, not up.

As Lewis goes on to say, it is humbug to pretend that the interests of one’s nation, however just, are simply those of Justice herself: “And nonsense draws evil after it. If our country’s cause is the cause of God, wars must be wars of annihilation. A false transcendence is given to things very much of this world.” When it comes to world affairs, it’s a very American habit to claim this kind of false transcendence.

R.R. Reno again

What it means to be Christian

Some decades ago, I made the acquaintance of a new lawyer in town. He had at least one very distinguished family predecessor in the law, and we would occasionally get together for God-talk.

I was still Protestant. He was Roman Catholic, but he had attended one of the few Evangelical law schools in the land. He joked that his fellow-students were incredulous: "What’s a Catholic doing in a Christian law school?" was their amusingly provincial question.

When I a few years later told him that I was becoming Orthodox, though, he exclaimed "It will be so good to have another Christian lawyer in town!"

His exclusion of his fellow-Catholic attorneys from "Christian" was surely similar to his Evangelical law school classmates did to him as a Catholic.

Having had more than 25 years to chew on it, though, I can’t take his seeming double-standard as sheer hypocrisy. The meaning of "Christian" is contextual and even then is pretty equivocal.

Witness:

I attended a visitation this week for an old friend. It was held in the kind of Protestant Church that has sent its denominational affiliation down the memory hole. It’s no longer "Baptist" in its name, but like virtually every independent and pseudo-independent Church, it’s baptist just the same. (Just ask them to baptize your infant if you don’t believe me.) The surfaces in the warehouse auditorium were mostly flat black. The pulpit was plexiglas. There were keyboards and drum sets and such. All standard issue megachurch wannabe.

But there was one big shock. There were scads of photos of the decedent from a young age, monuments to his athletic successes, pictures of family, family present to condole, many friends to do the condoling, but … no decedent. Not even in a closed-casket. And this was not one of those delayed-because-of-Covid "Celebrations of Life." He had died just days before.

They already had cremated him (which by itself makes me cringe, but I thought cremation (cringe!) was usually done after the viewing).

The word that leapt to mind was "gnostic": believing, explicitly or implicitly, that the body is evil (at best a vessel for the "real you") and that death frees the soul from it.

That really was a kind of gut-punch. That is extremely unlike traditional Christianity.

So "Christian" sort of needs to be elastic and contextual just for us all to get along in a society that is, however decadently, part of The Thing That Used to Be Western Christendom. And I do not doubt for a moment that decedent and his wife claim(ed) that title sincerely and fervently. But I’m having some trouble seeing how theirs is substantially the same faith as mine (the one I embraced 25 years ago). Symbols matter. Reductionism is sub-Christian (if we’re being rigorous rather than sociable). Cremation, too.

This whole society is much closer to my late friend’s view than to mine. I’m the oddball, relatively speaking.

I take comfort for my deceased friend that we’re not saved by holding perfect doctrine, though holding wrong doctrine ramifies dangerously. That’s why the Church held ecumenical councils to condemn some of the wrongest wrong doctrines and to lay some boundary-stones.

Hot & Bothered

[T]o anyone who honestly faces the human condition, it seems clear that mankind will worship something. So in the absence of the Transcendent it should be no surprise that, at least in this country, we have made our politics into a something of a secular religion, both among the camps of the Right and of the Left. And it is not a particularly contemplative faith, but rather one that gets us all hot and bothered. This broad brush approach addresses extremities, and I know there is a middle ground where this is not as applicable; but the leavening effects of these trends work back towards the middle.

Terry Cowan, who blogged too rarely for my taste but is making up for it on Substack.

Rejoice and be exceedingly glad

Blessed are ye, when men shall revile you, and persecute you, and shall say all manner of evil against you falsely, for my sake. Rejoice, and be exceeding glad: for great is your reward in heaven …. (Matthew 5:11-12a)

Orthodoxy has finally arrived in America: NPR has done a hatchet-job on it.

Yes, Matthew Heimbach is a real person who was, very briefly, a newbie Orthodox Christian before his Priest discovered his racist attitudes and excommunicated him, calling on him to repent. The rest of the NPR piece is insinuation and uncorroborated "findings" from progressives within Orthodoxy or adjacent to it.

There was a time when I’d have told you that you cannot by any means trust anything from the Southern Poverty Law Center, but its 2014 piece centered on Heimbach and his "Traditionalist Youth Network" is ironically better-balanced than the NPR piece. The money quote:

Despite their prominence in white nationalist circles, Heimbach and his compatriots remain marginal figures in the Orthodox community. Metropolitan Savas Zembillas, chairman of the Committee for Church and Society of the Assembly of Canonical Orthodox Bishops of North and Central America, says that they just don’t understand Orthodoxy. According to Savas, it’s not unusual to encounter “converts to Orthodoxy who came in carrying baggage from other jurisdictions, just barely Orthodox, still wet from their chrismations [the ceremony through which one becomes a member of the Orthodox Church]. But they came to Orthodoxy because they imagined it reinforced their deepest held convictions, which were on the spectrum that would lead to Nazism, although not yet there.”

Short of politicizing Orthodoxy by a kind of profiling — giving heightened scrutiny to the political and racial beliefs of all young white males seeking admission — I’m not sure what we (Orthodoxy) are supposed to do. And I’m glad I wasn’t excluded because of my particular "baggage" once I made clear my intention to trust the trustworthy Church.

What’s wrong with this picture?

American Christians have gained a tremendous amount of legal liberty in the last few decades, but they’ve lost quite a bit of power. They are not happy about the trade. (H/T David French, interviewed by Andrew Sullivan


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.

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.