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.

Bloodlust and other diversions

Bloodlust over principle

One of the bewildering things about being a conservative in a populist age is the sheer speed at which populists will shift their opinions, including on allegedly bedrock constitutional values, to satisfy the popular bloodlust of the moment.

David French, Why Ron DeSantis’s Disney Attacks Threaten the First Amendment.

True, but I don’t imagine it feels a whole lot different than to a center-left figure watching the further-left. What is progressive cancel culture if not bloodlust?

Majority Minority?

Yascha Mounk, America Won’t Ever Be Majority Minority could be a good conversation topic:

Most developed democracies will never become “majority minority” in any meaningful sense. It is highly premature to assume that the politics of the future will neatly pit “whites” against “people of color.” And anybody who wants diverse democracies like the United States to succeed actually has reason to celebrate the fact that demography, despite the belief that so many parts of both left and right now share, is not destiny.

When the United States Census Bureau projected that the country would become majority minority sometime in the 2040s, its demographic model was presented as an exercise in science, giving the prediction an air of unassailable fact. But this conceals the extent to which the categories used by the Census Bureau to classify Americans as white or non-white rely on highly questionable assumptions about how they identify now—and even more questionable ones about how they will do so in future.

Does the child of two white immigrants from Spain count as white or Hispanic? (According to the United States Census Bureau, the answer is: Hispanic.) Will the child of a white father and a Chinese mother identify as white or Asian? (Asian.) And is someone who has seven white great-grandparents and one black great-grandparent white or black? (Black.) Seemingly scientific, the projections of the Census Bureau assume that all Americans who have either a drop of non-white blood or some distant cultural heritage connecting them to a Spanish-speaking country will be “people of color.”

Put it that way and the "majority minority" notion seems not only dubious but eccentrically race-essentialist, with white being normal and anything less than pure white being a mutation (with the mutants in solidarity agains the normies).

Maybe keeping us at odds among ourselves while the meritocrats carry on running things is the whole point.

Two+ of these things are not like the others

Nellie Bowles

This isn’t an idle observation:

  • LGB rights are pretty secure in the US now and for the foreseeable future.
  • Valorization of TQ+ identification has become a social contagion, leading a non-trivial number of young people to permanently mutilate or sterilize their bodies, only to find later that they really were fighting against admitting that they were L or G (mostly L; boys seem less susceptible to this contagion).
  • TQ+ ideology subverts the gender binary to where L, G, and B lose their meaning.

A common-sense probing of "common good" talk

The next time someone lectures you about the common good, try this experiment: Ask them to name four or five circumstances in which their own political positions are at odds with the public interest and explain how they would go about subordinating them to that public interest. What you will learn in practically every case is that everyone thinks the public interest is identical to his own desires and priorities, which is why discussions along those lines have gone nowhere for the past 200 years or so in any reasonably developed society with more cultural and religious diversity than Denmark.

Kevin D. Williamson, ‌Public School Debate: Value-Neutral Education Doesn’t Exist

World-weary crypto-provincials

Solzhenitsyn identified in Western intellectual circles the same smug narrow-mindedness that he had discovered in liberal Russian intellectuals before the revolution. The core moment in these volumes occurs when, as Solzhenitsyn writes,

a leading [Canadian] television commentator lectured me that I presumed to judge the experience of the world from the viewpoint of my own limited Soviet and prison-camp experience. Indeed, how true! Life and death, imprisonment and hunger, the cultivation of the soul despite the captivity of the body: how very limited that is compared to the bright world of political parties, yesterday’s numbers on the stock exchange, amusements without end, and exotic foreign travel!

Gary Saul Morson. H/T Alan Jacobs

Of President Biden

Here are some difficulties when he speaks.

> When he stands at a podium and reads from a teleprompter, his mind seems to wander quickly from the meaning of what he’s saying to the impression he’s making. You can sort of see this, that he’s always wondering how he’s coming across. When he catches himself he tends to compensate by enacting emotion.

But the emotion he seems most publicly comfortable with is indignation. An example is his answer to a reporter’s question in November about the administration’s plans to compensate illegal-immigrant parents who’d been separated from their children at the border. Suddenly he was angry-faced; he raised his voice, increased his tempo, and started jabbing the air. “You lost your child. It’s gone! You deserve some kind of compensation, no matter what the circumstances.” Then, catching himself, he added mildly, “What that will be, I have no idea.” He was trying to show presentness, engagement. But there’s often an “angry old man yelling at clouds” aspect to this.

Peggy Noonan

My concurrence with this is not partisan. To avoid Orange Man, we elected a rather pale one wraith. May God have mercy on us in our dilemmas.

Brain-hackers

[I]f there was no pornography on the internet, I think maybe 10%-15% of current internet porn addicts would have found some other outlet for their illicit desires, and the rest would have just kept it in their pants. The existence of a multibillion-dollar industry bent on cultivating the very worst desires in people used the free flow of information to create addicts out of otherwise non-addicted people by hacking the susceptible parts of our brains (and souls). Practically no one truly wants to spend hours of their time looking at soul-destroying trash, but the tidal wave of liquid modernity has exploited their freedom, saying “You’re always free to choose differently!” and laughing all the way to the bank.

Matthew Loftus, ‌the liberal order and its haters

I still spend too much time online, but I long ago, and fairly suddenly (as if it were an epiphany), realized the horrible spiritual damage of wallowing in porn. I’m more gradually realizing the the (lesser, I think) social and spiritual damage of wallowing in subtler brain-hacks.

Yes, Mama. Thank you, Mama. Please go away now, Mama.

This week in Silicon Valley bias: Google is planning to tell enterprise users of its word processor that words like "motherboard" and "landlord" are insufficiently inclusive for use in polite company. We won’t actually be forbidden to use those words. Yet. Though that future has apparently already arrived in Mountain View, where at least one source says that "mainboard" is the only acceptable term for the electronics that used to honor the women who raised us. In another blow for freedom, as it’s now defined in the Valley, Twitter will suppress all climate talk that contradicts the views a panel of government-appointed scientist-politicos. Apparently suppressing talk that contradicted CDC scientist-politicians worked so well that Twitter is rushing to double down ….

Teaser for Episode 404 of the Cyberlaw Podcast

Wordplay

A university that turns itself into an asylum from controversy has ceased to be a university; it has just become an asylum.

Eleventh Circuit Judge Stanley Marcus


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.

Saturday, 4/2/2022

The Ivies

Academic blinders

Fred Smith decided to step down as chief executive of FedEx, which he founded 50 years ago. Mr Smith came up with the idea of a logistics firm based around transport hubs in an economics paper when he was a student at Yale in 1965. The paper received a poor grade from his professor; FedEx is now a global giant with annual sales of $84bn.

Item in the Economist

Selling out

Kids say the darndest things:

Princeton sophomore: "I don’t want to sell out by doing something like going to McKinsey when I graduate."

Princeton senior (on her way to Goldman): "It won’t be selling out if you put a Black Lives Matter sign up on your lawn."

Robert P. George on Twitter

Ruso-Ukrainian war

End of History

Every time something dramatic happens in the world, someone feeling clever tweets “remember the end of history?” But the actual thesis of the book was that communism was the Final Boss of global ideology and that from there on out, the struggle for democracy would be just a fight against not-democracy — people who want to rig elections or crack down on opposition parties for squalid self-interested reasons — rather than against conflicting ideologies.

Matt Yglesias

What Putin is doing to Russia

Russia’s potential is being set back by decades; the young, educated and creative are leaving; and the hard men are ascendant. Once again, Russia has become a pariah spreading lies and death.

Reports from Russia, and from some friends I’ve reached, speak to a widespread dismay and shame among younger, educated, urban Russians …

A growing number of educated Russians began flowing out of Russia, some to Kyiv. When I visited there some years ago, I met several prominent Russian journalists who were, in effect, living in exile …

When the word spread that the invasion had begun, the brain drain became a rush for the doors. With flights to more than 30 countries now stopped, the twice-daily trains to Finland have been full, and many more Russians have being fleeing south to Georgia, where they don’t need a visa, or through Gulf States.

Serge Schmemann, ‌Putin Is Setting Back Russia’s Potential By Decades

134,499 smart young Russians emigrate

Reuters reported Thursday that Russian President Vladimir Putin signed an order drafting 134,500 new conscripts into the Russian army, a move the Kremlin claimed was routine and unrelated to the country’s invasion of Ukraine. “Most military personnel will undergo professional training in training centers for three to five months,” Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu said. “Let me emphasize that recruits will not be sent to any hot spots.”

The Morning Dispatch

Exoneratring Ginni Thomas

This is unlike anything else I’ve read about the Ginni Thomas (Mrs. Justice Clarence Thomas) Tweets on on around January 6. 2020:

Ginni Thomas’ texts were bonkers, and not just Japanese game show bonkers. They were legitimately disturbing. But a lot of people seem to miss the point. There’s a lot of talk that she was part of a coup. And in one sense she obviously was. But a plain reading of the texts shows that she didn’t think she was. She thought—wrongly!—that she was on the side preventing a coup. You can argue—easily and persuasively—that she was duped. But where is the evidence that she didn’t believe what she was saying to Mark Meadows in private text exchanges? You gotta pick a theory: Was she a willing and knowing participant in an effort to illegally steal an election, or was she effectively brainwashed by the people trying to steal it? Both can’t be true. So far, all of the evidence points to the latter. After all, this is a woman who couldn’t understand why Sidney Powell and Rudy Giuliani had become liabilities for the cause. And almost as bizarre, she believed a conspiracy theorist’s report that the “Biden crime family” was being arrested for treason and heading to prison barges off the coast of Guantanamo. Again, she wasn’t saying this on TV, she was saying it privately.

Ginni Thomas is not Roger Stone. I think it’s obvious that Stone is a liar and fraud who deliberately spun bogus claims to help Trump steal the election. Ginni Thomas is simply guilty of thinking that Stone and his imitators were serious people. It doesn’t reflect well on her. But until new evidence is provided, I think she’s guilty of being a true believer, not a cynical plotter. This is important for all sorts of reasons, not least that all of the people going after her husband need her to be a knowing villain rather than a victim of the villains. Distinctions matter.

Jonah Goldberg

I intend for this to be my last blog post about Mrs. Thomas, and I’m pretty sure it’s the first, too.

Modern Monetary Theory lives in the hearts of its True Believers

Remember MMT? Modern Monetary Theory was the notion, advanced by a small but influential group of very smart people, that our government can just keep printing money, traditional concerns—deficits, inflation—be damned. This view was advanced by Bernie Sanders’s economic advisor and Alexandra Ocasio-Cortez, whose policy dreams required the government to print trillions of dollars for every social cause under the sun (Green New Deal! Medicare for All!) and by Goldman Sachs, which loved the idea of a hot economy and cheap money. Covid relief was to be the big tryout. The enemy was that old man Larry Summers, trying to ruin all the fun. The Times’s Ezra Klein slips a small mea culpa in this week in an interview with Summers: “There was a reason the Biden administration wanted to run the economy hot. . . .  It felt, finally, like we were reaching people on the margins,” Klein said. “We were putting a lot of firepower to do that,” he said. “And then for that to then turn into this horrifying inflation problem.”

One of MMT’s original economist proponents is now saying Biden did it wrong with the Covid spending and, therefore, true MMT has still never been tried.

Nellie Bowles. "X hasn’t failed; X hasn’t really, properly, been tried" is the last refuge of almost every ideologue.

A book I really need to read

[Julien] Benda introduced Treason with a story about Leo Tolstoy. When Tolstoy witnessed a fellow officer beat a man who fell out of marching ranks, he asked the officer if he had never heard of the gospels. The officer, in reply, asked if Tolstoy had never heard of the army regulations. For Benda, it was reasonable that the officer replied as he did, but it was nonetheless crucial that there be men like Tolstoy to protest. These men were the clercs—loosely translated, “scribes” with the hint of ecclesiastical status. “It is thanks to these scribes … that humanity did evil for two thousand years but nonetheless paid tribute to the good,” Benda wrote. “This contradiction was an honour to the human race, opening up the crack whereby civilisation could occasionally slip through.”

… For Benda, intellectuals should stand athwart history yelling “No” when they saw the “transcendental values” of truth, beauty, and justice traduced. Paradoxically, they fulfilled their role as intellectuals when they engaged in political protest. Benda cited several exemplary cases of such engagement: Émile Zola’s intervention in the Dreyfus affair; Voltaire’s defence of Jean Calas; Spinoza’s “ultimi barbarorum” following the lynching of the de Witt brothers. Benda thought thnat Treason was itself a paradigmatic case of intellectual responsibility.

Gustav Jönsson, Treason of the Intellectuals

It seems as if every serious writer I read has read and grappled with Julien Benda.

For what it’s worth

David French

David French increasingly has been getting called out for disloyalty to the Evangelical Tribe, as here for the latest known instance ("uncharitable about the defects of his fellow evangelicals, even as he basks in the approval of writers like [David] Brooks").

I follow French pretty closely, and whatever his shortcomings, I sense nothing but friendly disappointment and a (doomed) effort to see Evangelicals do better.

To say that’s not what he’s up to because he writes for Atlantic and, sometimes, the New York Times seems more insulting to Evangelicals tacitly (as is "soft bigotry of low expectations") than anything French says outright.

KBJ

Despite what hyper-partisan Linda Greenhouse says, I do not think there’s anything unusually vile, by post-Bork standards, about the behavior of Senate Republicans in the Ketanji Brown Jackson SCOTUS confirmation proceedings.

I wish it were otherwise, but the Democrats, led by Ted Kennedy, fired the first shots in the episode that gave us the term "Borked." Compared to that, nothing Republicans have asked or said is very noteworthy — unless one thinks that the focus on child pornography is consciously playing to the QAnon set.

I expect Jackson to be confirmed and there will be no asterisk by her name in history.

The Best Thing about retirement

Of all social media sites, LinkedIn is by far my least favourite, a prison of mindless platitudes and the worst kind of dreary corporate diversity+inclusion drivel. You can connect to me here — it will improve your career and life not a single bit, but please don’t contact me via LinkedIn. I’d rather you turned up unexpectedly at my front door, naked and screaming passages from the Bible.

So, asks Trung Phan on Substack, Why is LinkedIn so cringe?

Canadian sociologist Erving Goffman has the answer: in a book called The Presentation of Self in Every Day Life, Goffman posits that every person goes through life wearing many “masks”, like an actor in a theatre play. Most people are different personalities at work vs. home vs. happy hour. People wear these different masks to impress or avoid embarrassment with different audiences…

The setup forces everyone on the site to basically wear the professional “CV mask” of their personality. Bland. Buzzwords. Inoffensive. A little exaggeration. Self-promotional (but not too much). Desperate to impress.

It’s ghastly.

Ed West

One of the very best things about retirement was abandoning my neglected LinkedIn account.

Disunification Church

In Holy Spirit Association for the Unification of World Christianity v. World Peace and Unification Sanctuary, Inc., (MD PA, March 30, 2022), a Pennsylvania federal district court dismissed on ecclesiastical abstention grounds a trademark dispute between the Unification Church (HSA), led by the late Rev. Sun Myung Moon’s wife, and defendant Unification Sanctuary, an organization created by Rev. Sun Myung Moon’s son to spread Rev. Moon’s teachings. At issue is the right of Sanctuary to use the trademarked Twelve Gates symbol. The court said in part:

While it is undisputed that the Twelve Gates symbol is registered with the USPTO in HSA’s name, Sanctuary contends that the Twelve Gates symbol is not entitled to trademark protection because the symbol has become generic as a universal religious symbol that represents Unificationism generally….

[T]he implicit question raised … is whether Sanctuary can be classified as a branch of the Unificationist church in light of the apparent fundamental disagreements between the parties relating to the beliefs and practice of this religion. Indeed, while Sanctuary classifies itself as a Unificationist church, HSA vehemently disputes this assertion…. [I]t is well-settled that the court cannot resolve church disputes on the basis of religious doctrine and practice….

HSA’s registration of the Twelve Gates symbol with the USPTO constitutes prima facie evidence that it owns this trademark right….  However, Sanctuary has contested HSA’s ownership on inherently religious grounds. Specifically, Sanctuary has alleged that Sean Moon is the owner of all Unificationist property as the heir of Rev. Moon, and that he therefore owns the trademark to the Twelve Gates symbol since he controls the Unificationist Church, and by extension, HSA as a branch of same.

Plainly, this is a dispute that the court cannot resolve without venturing into issues of church leadership or organization—an area in which the Southern District of New York and the Second Circuit have already determined is inappropriate in a similar dispute presented by the same parties.

Religion Clause blog.

How delicious is it that the Unification Church has its own internal, familial schism? Couldn’t happen to a nicer novel, audacious cult.

Wordplay

Traditions are the answers to questions we forgot we had.

Nellie Bowles on the Good Faith Effort podcast


Finally, someone has defined "woman":

a mature female who can maintain her composure while being badgered on national television by posturing politicians.

Linda Greenhouse


Laptop Class: My favorite short-hand for the social class to which I admittedly belong, which class has characteristic blind spots and animosities.


Speaking of "classes" that divide us, I heard someone (maybe Os Guinness) suggest that the real divide in America is between those who think our important revolution was 1776 in America and those who think it was 1789 in France.

Being alive

I met a man who came up as I was pouring myself a cup of coffee so I poured him one. He was a soybean farmer who also raised sheep and we talked about that for a minute. Parenting is brief, he said, the lambs are weaned at two months and the rams have no parenting responsibility whatsoever, it’s just hit and run, and by thirteen months, the ewes are ready for breeding. He said that soybean farming is looking somewhat hopeful although a couple years ago he lost his whole crop to a hailstorm and almost had to sell the farm.

“So what is the fun in farming?” I said.

“Being outdoors on a beautiful day,” he said. “Knowing other people are shut up in offices and you’re on a tractor and it’s 75 and sunny and you can smell the vegetation and hear the sheep talking.”

“In other words, just being alive,” I said.

“That’s exactly right.”

Garrison Keillor


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.

Happy Accession Day

70 years ago today, Queen Elizabeth took the throne. There’s some festivities planned, though the big affair will be the anniversary of her coronation.

Would “Voldemorting” suit you?

Freddie deBoer is a bit put out that the armies of the Successor Ideology reject every label for them, so he suggests “Voldemorting”:

Voldemorting has an obvious political purpose: that which you cannot name is made that much harder to discuss, and that which is harder to discuss is harder to criticize. That they would hide within these discursive tricks does not say good things about the content of their politics or their ability to defend them. What’s more, the people who act this way seem to think that there is no reason to give their faction a name because what they want isn’t politics, it’s just “the moral arc of the universe,” just progress, just the way things ought to be. There’s no need to talk about what they want because their politics are just right.

Whatever term [you allow for your ideology] – come out into the light and fight like the rest of us have to fight. Sooner or later, you’re going to have to.

Downgrading the forecast

As of Friday the 4th, Russia’s “imminent” invasion of Ukraine had been downgraded to “planning to fabricate a pretext to invade.”

Your sins will find you out

CNN President Jeff Zucker appeared to close a messy chapter in the cable news network’s history in December when he fired anchor Chris Cuomo after an investigation into his efforts to help his brother, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, respond to allegations of sexual harassment.

The drama was far from over.

Mr. Cuomo’s legal team then contacted the cable news network to collect severance he feels he is owed, people familiar with the matter said. In the course of those talks, Mr. Cuomo’s legal team said they believed CNN was applying its policies inconsistently, citing that Mr. Zucker hadn’t disclosed a relationship he was having with a top aide, the people said.

Wall Street Journal.

I’ve found fortification though life in the out-of-context warning “be sure your sins will find you out.” That’s exponentially truer if your sins are know to thugs like the Cuomos.

Go, Sarah!

It takes a lot to get me to root for Sarah Palin.

But consider the 2017 New York Times editorial, falsely and ghoulishly insinuating that the 2017 shooting of Steve Scalise and other Republican lawmakers was the logical eventuality of Sarah Palin’s (nonexistent) 2011 incitement of violence against Gabby Gifford (I’m giving you the gist of the NYT screed, which appeared immediately after the 2017 shooting).

That has done the trick.

I wish Palin well in her libel suit, going to trial this week. I’m not altogether happy with the prospect of eroding the New York Times v. Sullivan libel standard, but now as then hard cases make bad law.

Best outcome: Palin wins, but jury decides her reputation was already too low to be damaged much. Nominal damages of $1.

Cheap slurs

Speaking of the New York Times, its columnist Michelle Goldberg can’t even defend suspended Georgetown law professor Ilya Shapiro without misrepresenting the gist of what he said:

A libertarian constitutional law scholar named Ilya Shapiro sent out some ugly tweets last week. Shapiro, who’d recently been hired by Georgetown University’s law school, criticized Joe Biden’s pledge to nominate a Black woman to the Supreme Court, arguing that the Indian-born judge Sri Srinivasan was “objectively” the “best pick.” But Srinivasan, wrote Shapiro, “alas doesn’t fit into latest intersectionality hierarchy so we’ll get lesser black woman.” He claimed that if Biden considered only Black women, whoever he chose would always have an “asterisk attached.”

Many people were rightly incensed by Shapiro’s suggestion that a Black woman — any Black woman — would necessarily be “lesser.” … Shapiro’s tweets implied disdain not for a specific nominee, but for the entire universe of Black female jurists.

… Georgetown’s Black Law Students Association started a petition demanding his firing; as of Thursday morning it had more than 1,000 signatures. “Shapiro’s racist rhetoric and continued association with the university sends the visceral message that even if Black women attend the best law schools, hold the highest clerkships and serve on the most prestigious courts, they still are not good enough,” it said.

I wouldn’t argue with anyone who interprets Shapiro’s insulting tweets that way.

(Emphasis added)

I call bullshit.

Nobody was “rightly incensed,” and Shapiro didn’t disdain anybody.

It is impeccably logical that if Sri Srinivasan is “objectively” the “best pick,” any other pick will indeed necessarily be “lesser.”

It’s also nevertheless true that Ketanji Brown Jackson is very well-qualified, and would be on any Democrat President’s short list. I’d bet a modest amount that Shapiro would agree with that. He was just arguing for someone he thought better.

Shapiro’s full phrase, “lesser black woman,” was admittedly a groaner, for which Shapiro has apologized.

As Mark Twain once wrote, “I apologize for such a long letter – I didn’t have time to write a short one.” Shapiro could have stopped after his praise of Srinivasan, but nobody with an active Twitter life has entirely avoided infelicitous short-hand to fit the 280-character limit (or to fill it with just one more point).

Twitter groaners don’t “incense” healthy people in a healthy society, but it feels at times as if the Times wants to keep us sickly and polarized.

Hungary the besieged

At the moment, Hungary is facing persecution by the European Union because of a law it passed last summer that restricts media information about LGBT aimed at minors. It is perfectly normal for any country to restrict what information is available to children. Did you know that Sweden bans advertising that targets children?

What the Hungarians banned, or at least restricted, was advertising and other forms of information aimed at propagandizing children and minors for a permissive, left-wing take on LGBT. … The problem for the EU, of course, is that the Hungarians hold traditional views about sexuality and gender. If Budapest wanted to restrict ads selling candy and soft drinks to minors, nobody in Europe would mind, but when Budapest wants to restrict selling gender ideology to children, then it’s the most wicked thing in the world ….

Rod Dreher, ‌Hungary & American Conservatives

History Rhymes

What we are witnessing today on the international stage is more than a re-run of the Cuban Missile Crisis of 1962 with the roles of the United States and Russia reversed. It is an intentional reversal of roles and language up and down the line on Russia’s part. Nebenzya’s brazen denial that his country is intimidating Ukraine by moving its armed forces around on its own territory was intentionally serving up to the USA and NATO the tripe that has been served up to Russia these past 25 years: that NATO is a purely defensive alliance which does not threaten Russia in any way when it holds massive war exercises at Russia’s borders or stages a mock recapture of the Kaliningrad enclave.

… Russia is in a ‘gotcha’ position if things go to extremis, that it probably has a first strike capability, meaning it could so destroy the United States war-making capabilities on a first strike as to preclude an effective riposte. This is the so-called ‘window of opportunity’ that Russia has created for itself by developing and deploying hypersonic missiles and other cutting edge strategic weapons over the past twenty years while the United States poured its military budget into bloody wars on the ground in the Middle East and Afghanistan.

Gilbert Doctorow

It ain’t the 60s any more, kids

When Neil Young and Joni Mitchell saw an injustice, they used to attack it by writing protest songs, taking on racism in the “Southern Man” and the Vietnam war in “The Fiddle and the Drum”. Today, the two musicians prefer to speak out by pressing the mute button.

The Economist

Who are the real democrats?

Ben Rhodes at the Atlantic says one major political party (the Republicans) no longer accepts democracy. “Not so fast, pal,” says Ross Douthat. “It kind of depends on how you look at ‘democracy’.”

I think I’d lay low a while if I were Ben Rhodes.

Not that the Republicans aren’t deviants, mind you.

The RNC censured Liz Cheney and Adam Kinzinger on Friday, including this jaw-dropper:

Representatives Cheney and Kinzinger are participating in a Democrat-led persecution of ordinary citizens engaged in legitimate political discourse….

Another point on Trump, which reflects poorly on the GOP:

So a prime minister who won a landslide victory only a couple of years ago may well be defenestrated by his own party in the near future — because he broke Covid rules and said something disgraceful about an opponent. Now imagine the GOP doing that to Trump. Inconceivable. The man instigated a mob attack on the Congress, for Pete’s sake. He has regularly lied about opponents — and no one in the GOP gave a shit. Johnson did indeed have a populist cult of personality, like Trump. But the British Tories never went so far as to worship the man, like a golden calf, and merge their entire identity in his image.

Andrew Sullivan

(I am neither Republican nor Democrat.)

Covid deaths

I noted recently that CDC Director Rochelle Walensky couldn’t say how many Americans of the then-reported 836,000 Covid deaths have died from Covid as opposed to with Covid. That made me suspect that deaths from Covid have been over-reported (as they have in at least a few case).

The Economist, however, watches the reality-checking statistic of excess deaths, and thinks we’ve under-counted. The Economist thinks our real Covid toll is 1,001,190.

It also has data on much of the world, though it appears at a glance to be weak on sub-Saharan Africa.

Quick take

There’s nothing like censorship to quell conspiracy theories.

Caitlin Flanagan on the US surgeon general suggesting that the government and corporations use their power to censor citizens like Joe Rogan. Via Andrew Sullivan

Liquid Modernity versus the Counterculture of Commitment

[Pete] Davis opens [Dedicated: The Case for Commitment in an Age of Infinite Browsing] by asking us if we’ve ever felt the despondency of “infinite browsing mode”: unable to decide on a Netflix show, say, paralyzed by the desire to keep options open. Fear of making the wrong choice, coupled with an infinite amount of options, may make us lackadaisical. But many have also experienced anxiety resulting from our gig economy’s lack of job stability or employee loyalty, or hurt resulting from friends and loved ones who weren’t faithful to us. Infinite browsing mode tempts us, but it also pains us.

Polish philosopher Zygmunt Bauman refers to this state, Davis explains, as liquid modernity: “We can’t rely on any job or role, idea or cause, group or institution to stick around in the same form for long—and they can’t rely on us to do so, either,” Davis writes. “That’s liquid modernity: It’s Infinite Browsing Mode, but for everything in our lives.”

Davis compares this with what he calls “a Counterculture of Commitment,” and considers a diverse array of people—Fred Rogers, Martin Luther King, Jr., Dorothy Day, piano and school teachers, and more—who “took the same radical act of making commitments to particular things—to particular places and communities, to particular causes and crafts, and to particular institutions and people.”

Gracy Olmstead, ‌The Day of Small Things

Discerning the truth

Not unrelated to Infinite Browsing Mode, one of the most pressing challenges of our age is winnowing falsehoods out of truth. Nobody wants to commit to a lie, but we simply don’t have time to exhaustively investigate every claim that, if true, might well change our course in life.

So we all develop heuristics. I intend to write soon about mine. Meanwhile, I’d be interested to hear yours — both of you, all of you — heck, I don’t even pay attention to the statistics any more.


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.

Potpourri 2/3/22

Socked in by our biggest blizzard since 2007. It’s kind of nice, at least for me and mine. A really bad time to be homeless, though.

A Return to Sanity?

Several members of the West Lafayette (Indiana) City Council are pushing an ordinance to ban "conversion therapy," with fines of up to $1,000 per day. The Mayor, a very liberal Republican, says he’ll veto it. You can read some pretty good coverage of the jockeying here.

But this was what most surprised and heartened me:

And a national group devoted to advocating for LGBTQ rights and counseling gay, lesbian and transgender teens to accept who they are has been lobbying city council members in recent weeks to reject the ordinance, calling it clumsy and vague and saying it could do more harm than good.

Good for them. Now where are the conservatives willing to repudiate clumsy, vague, harmful bans on "Critical Race Theory" or "divisive concepts"? There are some, but far too many play to the peanut gallery.

Crotchety Old Icons

Only in stereotype are the elderly sweet and meek, at least other than when hulked over by someone disturbingly youthful and vigorous. Judge Richard Posner in his book on aging and human nature noted that older people, less dependent on “transacting with others,” actually have less reason than younger people to conceal their obnoxiousness. How much more so two superstars approaching their 80s with a lifetime of royalties in the bank.

Holman Jenkins, Jr. on l’affaire Rogan, Young, and Mitchell.

Jenkins continues:

Audiences seek controversy not just to open their minds, not just to annoy their betters, but because to hear impertinent, unapproved talk feels like freedom.

It’s worth a whole other column, and unfortunately a lengthy one, to disentangle the magical thinking of Covid ideology, which got Mr. Rogan in trouble in the first place. Let’s be satisfied with an example. All through Monday evening’s show, National Public Radio teased a segment about school parents who—get this—are both pro-vaccine and anti-mask. Heads explode, as if masks and vaccines aren’t different tools with different uses. Somehow they have to be regarded as ideological totems and embraced as a package.

The flight of liberal writers to Substack and other non-mainstream venues in the Covid era is often misinterpreted: It’s not because they’ve had a conservative awakening. They are simply repulsed by such NPR-style stupidity.

(Emphasis added) I used to listen to NPR because it made me feel smarter, in contrast to most news. If I had to commute today, and ran out of smart podcasts, I probably still would prefer it to the alternatives. But I can understand those who won’t.

Flores v. NFL

I don’t exactly "follow" the NFL (when I watch, it’s with a guilty conscience about Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy), but it seems that one Brian Flores has filed a lawsuit alleging that the NFL discriminated against him and other Black coaches in their hiring practices.

I thought "good luck proving that," but then I saw this:

Stunning details in Brian Flores lawsuit: in texts, Bill Belichick thought he was texting Brian Daboll (not Brian Flores) and congratulated him on getting the Giants head coach job days before Flores was set to interview for the gig.

Hmmmm. That’s pretty bad.

I’m not rooting for or against Flores, but knowledgeable people seem to be taking the lawsuit seriously, and not just people who traffic in controversy.

What’s different about our civilization

There has always been, and probably always will be, economic inequality, but few civilizations appear to have so extensively perfected the separation of winners from losers or created such a massive apparatus to winnow those who will succeed from those who will fail.

Patrick J. Deneen, Why Liberalism Failed

"When elected, I’ll nominate a [whatever] to the Supreme Court"

There’s a lot of grumbling about President Biden’s declared intention of nominating a black woman to the Supreme Court. A letters-to-the-Editor writer in the Wall Street Journal, for instance, sees an "inference that Mr. Biden needs to eliminate almost all the competition for them to be considered."

I see no reason for such an inference, even if Sri Srinivasan is better-qualified (as Ilya Shapiro infelicitously argued). The three women getting most of the mention are all well-qualified nominees independent of race and sex. At least one of them would be on any Democrat President’s short-list, and all of them are thought to be to the right of Justice Sotomayor — roughly in the neighborhood of Justice Kagan.

On balance, though, it adds no glory to the perception of judicial independence for any President to promise and pick candidates for their appeal to particular parts of his base. (On that, I’ll give Reagan credit: promising to nominate a woman was not pandering to any part of his base, but trying to reassure moderates that he wasn’t part of the <anachronism> cis-hetero-Christo-patriarchy<\anachronism>).

Side note: The smear campaign against anyone who dares to question the wisdom of Biden’s commitment to nominate a black woman to SCOTUS does, of course, include Adam Serwer, the Atlantic’s most consistently dishonest and partisan hack.

Life in 2022

As I drove Tuesday night from Church (where I sang a Liturgy unmasked — as was everyone else) to a newly-resumed Chamber singer rehearsal (where we all wore masks and some even then won’t come to rehearsal yet), I realized that the pandemic has made me an accomplished code-switcher.

Fill in the blanks

In another entry, Shirer noted that a joke had begun making its way around the more cynical quarters of Berlin: “An airplane carrying Hitler, Göring and Goebbels crashes. All three are killed. Who is saved?” Answer: “The German People.”

Eric Larsen, The Splendid and the Vile

This kind of sets my mind to thinking who I’d nominate for that plane ride today.

Adiaphora

That embarrassing moment when the tendentious quote you Tweet-attributed to Voltaire is traced instead to a neo-Nazi in the 1990s.

("Half the quotes attributed to me on the internet are not true." – Benjamin Franklin)


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

Red and Blue America on Covid

Blue and Red America on Covid

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

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

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

Damon Linker

Covid denoument?

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

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

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

Clayton Fox, ‌COVID Affects Your Memory

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Joining the billious geezers

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Orange Demagogue Returns

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

This is sheer nonsense.

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

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

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

Andrew McCarthy

Wordplay

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

Special bonus Speech-Police supplement:

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

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

Nellie Bowles

TGIFS

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

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

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

Looks like we actually did “stop the steal.”


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

Politics, news, and respite

Politics

Can America and Conservatism co-exist?

I’ve come to wonder if the tension between “America” and “conservatism” is just too great. Maybe it’s impossible to hold together a movement that is both backward-looking and forward-looking, both in love with stability and addicted to change, both go-go materialist and morally rooted. Maybe the postwar American conservatism we all knew—a collection of intellectuals, activists, politicians, journalists, and others aligned with the Republican Party—was just a parenthesis in history, a parenthesis that is now closing.

David Brooks, Conservatism is Dead

Did Biden say the unforgiveable?

Of Biden’s "rhetorical maximalism, accusing the legislators preventing its passage of siding with Bull Connor, George Wallace and Jefferson Davis":

[G]enerally politicians find reasons to forgive or forget when power forces them to do it, and power is what Biden conspicuously lacks right now. Which makes what we’ve just watched from him feel like the worst possible combination for a president — an anger that only reveals weakness, an escalation that exposes only impotence beneath.

Ross Douthat

Time to get disenthralled if you haven’t been already

Responding to the challenge by some of President Trump’s defenders that he didn’t, in fact, directly incite violence, and that the social media bans are therefore unfair, Sullivan counters:

If you want to play legal scholar on that, you can. Okay, go ahead. But at what point are these conservatives gonna recognise what’s in front of them and stop excusing this stuff? It’s insane that people will find any excuse for this person. I’m sorry, I am exhausted. There is no [expletive deleted] way to justify this person in any fashion of any way, whatever the cause. This is an unbelievable breach in American history. And in the West. It’s a huge blow beneath the waterline of Western democracy, fomented by this person, and people are asking me to prove it. I mean, text and verse, look at the last four years. Has he ever tried to hold the system together? Has he ever not tried to blow it further apart? Has he done anything which isn’t about him, rather than the country as a whole?

– Andrew Sullivan, LockdownTV

‌I was right about Donald Trump, an UnHerd interview (emphasis added).

In a piece for National Review, Michael Brendan Dougherty argues that, for many of Donald Trump’s earliest supporters, the shine has come off. “While it may be difficult or painful to remember in the year 2022, when Donald Trump came down the escalator to announce his run for president in 2015, he was an issue-driven candidate,” Dougherty writes, referring to Trump’s opposition to immigration, interventionism, and entitlement reform. “When he first ran for president, Trump genuinely promised to do things that voters wanted, to make the country great, proud, and prosperous again. Now, he is essentially asking Republicans to do something for him, to restore his tarnished honor and make credible his belief in his own victory. All that is left of Trumpism are Trump’s grievances and aspirations. This is not an agenda that will win him high office, help his party, or accomplish anything for his countrymen.”

The Morning Dispatch

Well-warranted whataboutism

Some crazy-ass proportion of Republicans poll as thinking that Donald Trump won the 2020 Election, which is pretty scary. But a new Rasmussen poll discloses some comparably scary beliefs of Democrats:

  • Fifty-nine percent (59%) of Democratic voters would favor a government policy requiring that citizens remain confined to their homes at all times, except for emergencies, if they refuse to get a COVID-19 vaccine. Such a proposal is opposed by 61% of all likely voters, including 79% of Republicans and 71% of unaffiliated voters.
  • Nearly half (48%) of Democratic voters think federal and state governments should be able to fine or imprison individuals who publicly question the efficacy of the existing COVID-19 vaccines on social media, television, radio, or in online or digital publications. Only 27% of all voters – including just 14% of Republicans and 18% of unaffiliated voters – favor criminal punishment of vaccine critics.
  • Forty-five percent (45%) of Democrats would favor governments requiring citizens to temporarily live in designated facilities or locations if they refuse to get a COVID-19 vaccine. Such a policy would be opposed by a strong majority (71%) of all voters, with 78% of Republicans and 64% of unaffiliated voters saying they would Strongly Oppose putting the unvaccinated in “designated facilities.”

COVID-19: Democratic Voters Support Harsh Measures Against Unvaccinated

Since I am, by current standards, fully vaccinated and boosted, this is no immediate skin off my nose. But I’m not sure I’ll take another booster if the powers that be decide to triple-down on vaccination.

This is Chapter N in my unwritten book "Why My Leaving the GOP Doesn’t Mean I’m a Democrat Now."*

I know there’s some kind of theoretical case for the marvels of our two-party system, and that every good person should belong to one or the other of them, but I refuse. That may mean I’m too stupid or too lawless for polite society. Maybe both parties can agree to lock me up until I pick my poison.

(* I’ve referred frequently to my leaving the GOP in the middle of Dubya’s Second Inaugural Address. I’m pleased to note that Michael Lind of the Tablet identifies the same delusional moment as a key in Republican recent history: "his commitment of the United States in his Second Inaugural to the messianic project of ‘ending tyranny in our world.’")

Suppose "the steal" were true …

There’s one thing I find odd about Trump’s ability to use election-theft lies to lock down the Republican base: What if the lies were true? Don’t they still make Trump look like an incompetent failure? And doesn’t that provide an opening for a challenger like DeSantis?

Trump’s story about 2020, such as it is, is that he won by a “landslide” but a bipartisan cadre of election officials stole the race from him. He complained a lot about election rule changes like expanded mail-in voting but didn’t stop them. He found shitty lawyers who filed idiotically argued lawsuits too late to matter. He didn’t get the Department of Justice or the Department of Homeland Security to do anything about the alleged conspiracy against him. And people he himself hired didn’t do the things he asked of them to “stop the steal,” going all the way up to Mike Pence.

If you take Trump at his word, it’s not simply that the election was stolen — it’s that the election was stolen and he failed at every turn to stop it, even as he held the powers of the presidency. It’s that all sorts of people he entrusted with power betrayed him and he let them all get away with it. And as a result, Republicans lost control of the government.

How on earth is that a message that says “nominate me again”?

Josh Barro in his new Substack

News

Maybe it’s bullshit the whole way down.

Every morning, there it is, waiting for me on my phone. The bullshit. It resembles, in its use of phrases such as “knowledgeable sources” and “experts differ,” what I used to think of as the news, but it isn’t the news and it hasn’t been for ages. It consists of its decomposed remains in a news-shaped coffin. It does impart information, strictly speaking, but not always information about our world. Or not good information, because it’s so often wrong, particularly on matters of great import and invariably to the advantage of the same interests, which suggests it should be presumed wrong as a rule.

Still, it’s hard to give up hope, and today I blew half an hour on the bullshit, under which the truth lies buried. Maybe. Maybe it’s bullshit the whole way down. How much time do you have for finding out?

Walter Kirn

"Nothing to see here. Move along now.", antisemite edition

After a white-nationalist attack, the media devote considerable resources to tracing the attacker’s ideas and search history along the ideological continuum and tarring the Republican Party with “complicity” in his crimes. After an Islamist attack, the imperative is not to establish politicians’ complicity with the criminal, but to avoid any inquiry that might amount to “Islamophobia.”

‌Anti-Semitism and Double Standards

Bret Stephens makes a similar point.

"Hidden motives"

I can be pretty cynical, but I don’t think that everybody has “hidden motives.” People who write what one might call “pro-Russian” articles for RT aren’t doing it for the money or because the FSB has got some dirt on them any more than people writing Russophobic stuff for think tanks are doing it because they’re taking orders from the FBI, MI5, or CSIS. People tend to believe what they’re doing.

In any case, I worry less about spooks and more about the military industrial complex and its funding of think tanks and the like, all of which work together to inflate threats, keep us in a state of fear, and justify increased defence spending and aggressive foreign policies. But even there, the think tankers etc believe in what they’re doing. The problem is that believers get funded whereas non-believers don’t. I don’t think “hidden motives” are the issue.

Paul Robinson, Irrusianality

That there are no "hidden motives" doesn’t necessarily mean it’s not bullshit, but those who are defying the consensus probably are going to be a bit more certain that they’re right.

Respite

Corporate cancel culture, Elon Musk edition

Cancel culture has definitely escaped from the academic zoo:

A partner at law firm Cooley LLP got an unexpected call late last year from a Tesla Inc. lawyer delivering an ultimatum.

Elon Musk, Tesla’s CEO and the world’s richest man, wanted Cooley, which was representing Tesla in numerous lawsuits, to fire one of its attorneys or it would lose the electric-vehicle company’s business, people familiar with the matter said.

Wall Street Journal, ‌Elon Musk’s Tesla Asked Law Firm to Fire Associate Hired From SEC

Cooley, bless ’em, refused and Musk is indeed moving his legal business elsewhere.

Count me a presumptive foe of all things Musk. I didn’t care one whit for Donald Trump 35 years ago (or whenever it was he crashed the national stage with The Art of the Deal) and was baffled by people who admired him, but having seen the heights to which that humbug ascended, I’m even more apprehensive about a bullying narcissist with legitimate wealth (not debt-ridden speculations) and greater intelligence.

The modern machine

Paul Kingsnorth writes much about the machine. I wonder if he first got it from Jacques Ellul?:

Technique is the social structure on which modern life is built. It is the consciousness that has come to govern all human affairs, suppressing questions of ultimate human purposes and meaning. Our society no longer asks why we should do anything. All that matters anymore, [Jacques] Ellul argued, is how to do it — to which the canned answer is always: More efficiently! Much as a modern machine can be said to run on its own, so does the technological society. Human control of it is an illusion, which means we are on a path to self-destruction — not because the social machine will necessarily kill us (although it might), but because we are fast becoming soulless creatures.

Samuel Matlack, ‌How Tech Despair Can Set You Free

Crypto

"Anyone involved in cryptocurrencies in any way is either a grifter or a mark," Zawinski told me. "It is 100% a con. There is no legitimacy," he said.

Brandon Vigliarolo, ‌Mozilla stops accepting cryptocurrency, Wikipedia may be next: Are dominos falling?

What does the existence of "weld porn" tell us?

There are websites for “weld porn,” and the mere fact that this is so should be of urgent interest to educators. Education requires a certain capacity for asceticism, but more fundamentally it is erotic. Only beautiful things lead us out to join the world beyond our heads.

Matthew Crawford, The World Beyond Your Head

Sane and grounded

Elsewhere, advocating for sanity and groundedness, Kari Jenson Gold muses under the somewhat-misleading rubric Jesus the Carpenter. Anyone who liked Shop Class As Soulcraft should take a few minutes for it.


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.