Monday, 8/28/22

Student Loan Forgiveness

Student Loan Forgiveness 1

The bigger problem with student debt cancellation, however, is that it’s an ad-hoc, one-off move that does absolutely nothing to fix the deep pathologies in the way America financed undergraduate education. Matt Yglesias was exactly right to ask [on Twitter] what happens on the morning after the debt cancellation:

What is the plan for the day after universal debt cancellation when masters programs raise tuition and tell prospective students not to worry about it because the debt will be cancelled down the road?

But this perverse incentive, which economists call moral hazard, will only exacerbate an underlying problem. For decades, our strategy has been to limit the supply of available college seats while using subsidized loans to pump up the demand for those limited spots.

So we need to ask ourselves why we’re merely applying an expensive band-aid instead of addressing the deeper issue — and why we’re still so enamored of the idea of hurling big wads of cash at already-overpriced service industries.

Noah Smith, America is not fixing its college financing system (H/T The Morning Dispatch)

Student Loan Forgiveness 2

We were propagandized my entire high school simply to go to college, and we were promised if we did we would make more money and have a better life (“College graduates make 1 million dollars more than those who only graduate from high school!”). We received no guidance about which colleges to go to, how much money to take out, what to major in if we wanted return-on-investment, etc. Every guidance counselor told us this; every hallway had a poster proclaiming this; every teacher drilled it into us; from ages 13-18.

And we listened to them. And then we (as a generation) found out we’d have the equivalent of mortgages to pay off before we could get a real house and also that Boomers were not retiring so we couldn’t get jobs.

To put the question simply: In sussing out responsibility for the choice to take on debt, I don’t think “was someone holding a gun to your head when you took out the loan?” is the right question. I think something closer to “when you took out this loan—almost certainly while still a teenager or in your extremely early 20s—did anyone help you understand what you were doing and what the real ramifications of this choice would be?” In most cases, I think the answer is “not really.” Does it follow, therefore, that all the loan must be forgiven? Perhaps not. But at the very least we need to reckon with agency in a serious, thoughtful way and not in the simplistic terms being put forward by many commentators.

Jake Meador, Two Bad Reasons to Oppose Loan Debt Forgiveness and Two Better Ones

No comment

Harvard Law School professor Laurence Tribe made the economic realities inadvertently stark when he tweeted on the day of Biden’s [student loan forgiveness] announcement, “Good news for thousands of my former students. I’m grateful on their behalf, Mr. President.”

David French, Is There a Christian Case for Biden’s Debt Relief Plan?.

Yes, I relented on my intention to pay no more heed to French on the intersection of politics and religion. And, yes, the wisdom of that resolve was confirmed; IMHO, French shed no real religious light on his stated topic.

Rank politics

The Rarest Thing in Politics

Like my friend, I disagree with Liz Cheney’s political positions.

But there is something about her.

As much as I disagree with her, I trust her.

Why? Because she has demonstrated a quality that is so rare in American politics today — perhaps, also, in American life — that we cannot help but find that quality to be attractive.

Liz Cheney has integrity.

When I see Liz Cheney, I feel that I am in the presence of an American patriot. True, I disagree with her. But I know we would have a respectful conversation. Like I said, I trust her.

Liz Cheney makes me think of one of the later verses of “America the Beautiful” — the ones that we rarely sing, but which I think are among the finest lyrics to ever appear in a patriotic song.

O beautiful for heroes proved
In liberating strife,
Who more than self their country loved
And mercy more than life

The verse might have been referring to American heroes who proved themselves in military battle. They loved their country more than they loved their own lives. That is the meaning of sacrifice.

Liz Cheney exemplifies those words as well. When she led a principled fight against Donald Trump, she knew she was sacrificing her run for reelection. “Nevertheless, she persisted.”

Jeffrey Salkin, It’s Cheney-mania!

Whatever happened to the Emerging Democratic Majority?

We didn’t anticipate the extent to which cultural liberalism might segue into cultural radicalism and the extent to which that view, particularly as driven by younger cohorts, would wind up imprinting itself on the entire infrastructure in and around the Democratic Party—the advocacy groups, the foundations, academia of course, certainly the lower and middle levels of the Democratic Party infrastructure itself.

Ruy Teixara, interviewed by the Wall Street Journal, on why his Emerging Democratic Majority hasn’t emerged.

A Real Problem for Republicans

The main thing holding the GOP back from a complete takeover? The Daily Beast’s Matt Lewis is surely onto something when he notes that the Party of Lincoln, in its Trumpified version, has a fondness for nominating “idiots” to run for office.

Indeed, as Nellie [Bowles] noted only last week, there isn’t enough cocaine in the world to keep Mitch McConnell and voters everywhere from recognizing that “candidate quality” is a real problem for Republicans. They tend to nominate people with absolutely zero experience even running for office, much less holding it. The results aren’t just Dr. Oz alienating Pennsylvania voters by suggesting that John Fetterman brought about his own stroke, but Georgia’s favorite son, Herschel Walker, yammering on about too many trees while being unable to accurately count his own children. 

Hillbilly Elegy author J.D. Vance managed to win his primary in Ohio with just 32 percent of the vote but rarely goes a week without some sort of gaffe, such as suggesting that women should stay in violent marriages.

Nick Gillespie

Democrats nominate an occasional loose cannon, but I wouldn’t be all that keen on eliminating party primaries were I a Democrat: the Republican base keeps delivering candidates that a relatively easy to beat.

Russia 2016, USA 2022

A report published this week by Graphika and the Stanford Internet Observatory indicated that Twitter and Meta, for the first time, recently removed a set of fake accounts from their respective platforms for “using deceptive tactics to promote pro-Western narratives in the Middle East and Central Asia.” The influence campaign had reportedly been active for years, promoting the interests of the United States and its allies, spreading anti-extremism messaging, and opposing countries like Russia, China, and Iran. Neither tech platform directly attributed the activity to the U.S. government, but the U.S. and United Kingdom were listed as the “presumptive” countries of origin.

The Morning Dispatch.

Could you remind me again how evil Russia is for trying surreptitiously to influence things like our 2016 election?

Just because it’s a fun simile

We remember Bill Clinton’s sex scandals and not Hillary Clinton’s almost-certainly criminal cattle-futures shenanigans because most people know what sex is and understand that you’re not supposed to cheat on your spouse, but trying to explain futures trading to the typical voter is like trying to get a dachshund to bark in terza rima — they just aren’t equipped. But people naturally get hypocrisy, or at least a dumbed-down version of it.

Kevin D. Williamson, Hypocrisy for Dummies

Culture

Whence cancel culture?

I had to drive a couple of hours yesterday, and I heard on a podcast a sober but startling theory I really need to pass along.

Roughly one-third (I believe he said) of college graduates are supporting themselves through jobs that require no more than a high-school education because there are not enough jobs in “the managerial class” for which they’ve been groomed. We are college-educating more people than the market requires. So the competition for managerial class jobs is fierce.

Whence cancel culture. If you can pick off a superior with a grainy home movie of him in blackface decades ago, you might just move up the ladder — assuming you’re on the ladder. If you’re not on the ladder but want on, picking off a peer by exposing a tasteless Tweet just might eliminate her from consideration.

The dynamics of the New York Times staff as described by escapees seems to fit this theory “to a T.” Restless youngsters have knocked off a number of their bosses, older colleagues and peers.

So cancel culture is (just?) the war of all against all in modern garb.

Do the math

It’s not difficult to see what’s going on here: oil companies haven’t invested in new and better domestic refineries because they know that, even in this hour of essentially free money, their profit margins are shrinking and there aren’t 30 years of crude in the ground to pay off 30-year mortgages on new refineries. The oil companies are in a “sunset industry” and they know it.

James Howard Kunstler, Adapt or Die: Kunstler’s Guide to Living in the Long Emergency.

I like the epigram to this article, too:

It is broadly true that political writing is bad writing. Where it is not true, it will generally be found that a writer is some kind of rebel, expressing his private opinions and not a “party line.”

—George Orwell, “Politics and the English Language”

Maggots doing what comes naturally

A sprawling campus, part of the University …, covers their eastern reaches. The waters are channelled into generic, forgettable pools fringed with generic, forgettable buildings. It is, of course, the modern kind of forgettable architecture. Every chunk of grey and glass has its own unique variation on the shape of a shoebox. The innovations are of the type that everyone in the world has seen so much of that only those paid to do so can even pretend to care anymore.

In this, the University … is no better or worse than every other university. They have all spread their aggressively mediocre buildings across the cities and towns: shiny lumps of architectural conformity that advertise the shallowness, greed, and transience of the institutions to the whole world. We should be thankful for them. They physically represent the death of the modern university’s soul, and so make it obvious. Now a university is just a machine for uprooting humanity. It takes the young from home but gives then no adult responsibilities, drops them into a society of other uprooted youth, habituates them to the mentality of the virtual class, and leaves them drifting in debt and doubt.

At this point, some readers may hope I will criticise the ‘woke’. I will not. A worm digesting a living human being is a problem. A worm digesting a corpse is just the natural order of things. The universities are corpses and fashionable ideologies are maggots.

A terrible decision killed the universities. History, always Sphinx-like, showed them three good things, but only let them keep two. The one that they left on the table was the one that they should have treasured. Without it, their wyrd was written. The three gifts history offered were called ‘important’, ‘new’, and ‘true’.

FFatalism, Academic landscapes.

More: An earnest young postgraduate once told me that texts have no meaning. I said I didn’t know what he meant. He tried to explain it to me again. I’m not sure why. He must have thought that he was saying something.

Quintessentially Legal and Quite Mad

Arkansas banned healthcare professionals providing gender transition procedures to anyone under 18. A Federal District (trial) Court and Circuit (appellate) court have both now held that the law violates the Equal Protection Clause:

[U]nder the Act, medical procedures that are permitted for a minor of one sex are prohibited for a minor of another sex. A minor born as a male may be prescribed testosterone or have breast tissue surgically removed, for example, but a minor born as a female is not permitted to seek the same medical treatment. Because the minor’s sex at birth determines whether or not the minor can receive certain types of medical care under the law, Act 626 discriminates on the basis of sex.

H/T Religion Clause.

I have seen this kind of reasoning over and over as the courts impose on us, and on legislators who beg to differ, their view of “discrimination on the basis of sex.” For instance, if John can marry Suzy then Sally should be allowed to “marry” Suzy.

I’m not alone:

As the [Franciscan Alliance] argues in its brief, in 2016 the government interpreted ObamaCare’s nondiscrimination provisions “to require doctors and hospitals nationwide to perform and insure gender-transition procedures and abortions or else be liable for ‘sex’ discrimination.”

Specifically, the feds read the law to require that services be offered on an equal basis. “If a gynecologist performs a hysterectomy for a woman with uterine cancer,” the alliance’s brief says, “she must do the same for a woman who wants to remove a healthy uterus to live as a man.”

This cultural clash isn’t going away, and the country is in for more trouble if progressives can’t rediscover the principle of pluralism. The government’s appeal shows a bloody-mindedness that is difficult to fathom.

Transgender Patients vs. Religious Doctors – WSJ

However often I’ve seen it, I’ve never been able to get used to such reasoning as being sane. It strikes me as sophistry, though when we set out to outlaw sex discrimination, we implicitly set out to eradicate invidious sexual stereotypes. If we leave it to individual judges to determine what’s invidious, won’t decisions be all over the map? Isn’t a stupid, sophistical woodenness better than that?

Nah!

A Child’s Purpose

“Because children grow up, we think a child’s purpose is to grow up,” Herzen says. “But a child’s purpose is to be a child. Nature doesn’t disdain what only lives for a day. It pours the whole of itself into each moment … Life’s bounty is in its flow. Later is too late.”

Oliver Burkeman, Four Thousand Weeks


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

Jonathan Rauch, The Constitution of Knowledge

The Orthodox “phronema” [roughly, mind-set] cannot be programmitized or reduced into shibboleths.

Fr. Jonathan Tobias

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

Monday, 7/18/22

Do you want the good news or the bad news first?

Okay, the good news it is: There won’t be a civil war in the U.S.

However, the Trumpist right is working a plan to take over by things like

  • death threats against election officials,
  • who then resign and
  • are replaced by Trumpists, who intend to steal the election if the vote doesn’t go the Trumpist way.

Some 100 of these crypto-insurrectionists are already in election offices.

Government by threat of violence doesn’t strike me as much better than actual violent insurrection.

See: Rachel Kleinfeld, There Won’t Be a “Civil War”

Not moving the Overton Window

After describing in some detail how relatively benign Ron DeSantis is in comparison to Orange Man, and criticizing DeSantis where he has lacked the politically suicidal courage to denounce contemptible things, Andrew Sullivan sums up a legitimate case that DeSantis’ means of getting to his goals is within the Overton Window:

I’m deeply uncomfortable with much of this.

But how different is it really from the Biden administration rigging Title IX to impose trans ideology and end due process for the accused in schools and colleges? Or from the federal government mandating active race and sex discrimination for the sake of “equity”? Or trying to ban any mental health therapy for gender-dysphoric kids that doesn’t instantly affirm the self-proclaimed gender of a child? Or proposing vaccine distribution by race? Or imposing mask mandates and lockdowns with a fervor that lasted far beyond the need to control the first and second waves — and that were instantly and conveniently waived when BLM arrived on the scene?

More generally, look at the broader context. The imposition of woke dogma throughout corporate America, the government, the nonprofit sector and our educational institutions has been a deeply authoritarian movement, brooking no dissent. The Democrats have embraced this putsch, with Biden among the most strident, deploying federal government power to advance far-left ideas. None of his underlings can define what a woman is. All seem to view America as a form of “white supremacy” — and want to teach this as fact to kids. Do Democrats really believe that all this is simply government-as-usual, and any attempt to balance this out on the right is inherently some kind of authoritarianism? I don’t.

At some point, we really do have to fight back and defend a liberal society. The Dems are attacking it. Trump can’t do it — he merely empowers and legitimizes the woke. DeSantis has shown he can actually beat them — at their own game. A conservative seeking some swing of the cultural pendulum back to the center is not a fascist.

Jayber Crow excerpts – and an added thought

NOTICE

Persons attempting to find a “text” in this book will be prosecuted; persons attempting to find a “subtext” in it will be banished; persons attempting to explain, interpret, explicate, analyze, deconstruct, or otherwise “understand” it will be exiled to a desert island in the company only of other explainers.
BY ORDER OF THE AUTHOR


Back there at the beginning, as I see now, my life was all time and almost no memory. Though I knew early of death, it still seemed to be something that happened only to other people, and I stood in an unending river of time that would go on making the same changes and the same returns forever.

And now, nearing the end, I see that my life is almost entirely memory and very little time.


(This one, which I’ve modified, reminds me of my Christian boarding school. We even had “a hundred or so” in dormitories, plus 150 or so who commuted from nearby.)

[W]hen, to be fair, I ask myself what I would do if confronted with a hundred or so orphan children adolescents of two sexes and diverse ages and characters all to be raised and educated together, then I remain a critic, but I can’t say with confidence that I would do better.

I came under suspicion of complicity almost immediately when it was discovered that my sophomore roommate was slipping out after I fell asleep, meeting up with his junior girlfriend who’d slipped out of the girl’s dorm, and making the beast with two backs in a tunnel under the education wing (🎶 Isn’t it romantic? 🎶).

After they were caught (they really shouldn’t have set up permanent housekeeping, candles and alarm clock), the administration, having forgotten how adolescents can sleep, couldn’t believe I’d slept through it time after time — but I had.

So I had the whole room to myself for a while.

Following the Science

[I]n 1922, when the popularity of eugenics was at flood tide. Respectable opinion on both sides of the Atlantic embraced the concept: a scientific approach to selective breeding to reduce, and eventually eliminate, the category of people considered mentally and morally deficient. From U.S. Supreme Court Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes to Planned Parenthood founder Margaret Sanger, eugenics policies — including involuntary sterilization — were hailed as a “progressive” and “compassionate” solution to mounting social problems.

A hundred years ago, [G.K.] Chesterton discerned something altogether different: “terrorism by tenth-rate professors.” For a time, he stood nearly alone in his prophetic assault on the eugenics movement and the pseudo-scientific theory by which it was defended.

In the end, it would require the discoveries at the death camps at Auschwitz and Dachau for most of the world to finally reject the horrific logic of eugenics.

Book titles help tell the story: Social Decay and DegenerationThe Need for Eugenic ReformRacial DecaySterilization of the Unfit; and The Twilight of the White Races.

“The man-molders of the new age will be armed with the powers of an omnicompetent state and an irresistible scientific technique,” [C.S.] Lewis wrote in The Abolition of Man. In such an age, he predicted, man’s supposed conquest over nature would not lead to his liberation — quite the opposite. “For the power of Man to make himself what he pleases means, as we have seen, the power of some men to make other men what they please.

Joseph Loconte, Eugenics, the ‘Science’ of a Century Ago (emphasis added)

Can Chivalry be resuscitated?

Men are stronger and more aggressive than women, but the difference lies not just in faculty. Men want to use their strength. Bemoan the fact if you will, but if they don’t use it to protect others, they will probably use it to take advantage of them.

Given this fact, the obvious and natural way to keep men from taking advantage of women is to teach them chivalry. Don’t suppress their manhood, ennoble it. Don’t tell them not to act like men, tell them to act like proper men. Teach them that the right use of strength is to cherish, protect, and assist the weaker sex.

You don’t make men good men by telling them how poisonous they are for being men.

J Budziszewski.

The ellipsis comes from my feeling that I shouldn’t quote the full short post, but you probably should go read it for yourself.

Teaching men to behave like proper men? J Budziszewski is a voice crying in the wilderness.


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

Anthony Esolen, Out of the Ashes

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

The Art of Blogging (and more)

I don’t necessarily agree with everything I think or blog. That probably shouldn’t be a surprise.

Alan Jacobs shrewdly observed, the Blog Imperatives are exploration, experimentation, and iteration.

That makes me feel much better about how I blog. Thanks, Alan.

Politics

Liberalism and the common man

Liberalism, she said, rather than speaking to the common man and woman as it had in the past, was veering off the tracks into “a general assault in the culture against the way ordinary Americans had come to live.”

New York Times obituary for Midge Decter

Terms like liberalism and conservatism are not very precise, but Decter definitely was onto a key to party realignments, which continue to this day.

Democrats and the common man

[F]or all the debate about the exact financial profile of people who would get relief, 87 percent of Americans don’t have federal student loans.

How did Democrats get to a place where a big election-year priority is something that this 87 percent of Americans presumably don’t care about? We might as well campaign on getting Fine Young Cannibals back together or reforming the rules of international cricket.

Conservatives will have a field day with this. Prepare to meet the Person Who Got the Stupidest Degree in America, because that person will be on Fox News more than pundits who exude an “angry cheerleading coach” vibe. The case study will be some tragic dweeb who took out $400,000 in loans to get a Ph.D. in intersectional puppet theory from Cosa Nostra Online College and who wrote their dissertation about how “Fraggle Rock” is an allegory for the Franco-Prussian War. I can picture Tucker Carlson putting on his confused cocker spaniel puppy face and asking the poor sap, “Why do Democrats want to forgive every last penny of your student loans?”

Jeff Maurer, ‌Democrats Have an Image Problem. Please, Don’t Make It Worse

[I tried to add my postscript to this and decided it was too complicated to be worth my writing and your reading.]

Nutpicking

I look forward to Fridays partly because Nellie Bowles takes over Bari Weiss’s Substack and provides a nice sample of nutpicking:

  • [In response to a George Washington University Senior who thinks the University should be renamed because … ummm, slavery and reasons]: My take: Rename everything. Tell those students, “Yes!” Rename the paper too! The only names that you can be confident won’t embarrass your descendents are numbers and letters arrayed at random. So call The Washington Post T7%#R and the New York Times (New York was named by white supremacist colonialists) L.00_124. The number of new Common Sense subscribers this would bring makes my heart flutter. We are pro-renaming. Rename everything.
  • Department of Homeland Security wants to edit your posts: That’s the latest from our Truth Czar, Nina Jankowicz, who announced that she wants there to be a select group of approved social media users with the power to “edit Twitter” and “add context.” 
The media, embarrassed by what they’ve created, are trying to downplay the danger of Jankowicz’s power. Rarely do you see people argue for a very bad idea and then get to see that very bad idea come to fruition so swiftly. When Ron DeSantis wins in 2024, at least it will be sort of darkly entertaining to see the journalists who fought so hard for this Truth Czar suddenly getting edits from the Department of Homeland Security’s Chris Rufo, though he’s probably too smart to accept such a post. (I’ll take it.)

Related to abortion law

Stare Decisis

From Bari Weiss’s Honestly podcast, The Yale Law Professor Who Is Anti-Roe, But Pro-Choice. This is an outstanding episode, and the “Yale Law Professor” is one of the country’s leading legal scholars.

I, who once had a pretty good working knowledge of Supreme Court abortion precedents, learned quite a lot from this and from a couple of related episodes of Amarica’s Constitution. The particular aspect I learned a lot about is why customary stare decisis analysis allows reversal of the Roe-Casey family of cases if one concludes that they’re wrong.

Cui bono?

Which party will benefit more in November from the likely overturning of Roe v. Wade? Whichever one better reins in its extremes, Chris argues in Thursday’s Stirewaltisms (🔒). “Democrats are going bonkers, with the White House encouraging protesters to harass Supreme Court justices at home and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer forcing a doomed-to-fail vote on a bill that wouldn’t just codify the Roe decision but go much further,” he writes. “In Louisiana, the state GOP is wrestling with a bill that would charge mothers who obtain abortions with murder, contradicting a longtime effort on the pro-life side to move away from punishing women and focusing on providers.”

The Morning Dispatch.

“Which party will benefit more” is not the questions that leaps to my mind when weighing possible reversal of a precedent nobody ever thought was solid constitutional law.

Ignoring the activist class(es)

Quietly, Tim Kaine, the Democrat from Virginia (remember Tim Kaine?!) and Susan Collins, the Republican from Maine, are working together on a compromise bill, according to PBS NewsHour. A bill that enshrines the right to an abortion in law across the country could actually pass, but it would have to set real limits, likely mirroring most European rules (which ban elective abortion after 12 weeks or so) and allowing for conscientious objectors. That requires completely ignoring the activist class for at least five minutes. Matt Yglesias has a smart essay this week on the need for a first-trimester compromise. And Axios wisely sent out a memo barring its reporters from taking a public stand on abortion—a sober correction after letting them go wild in 2020.

Nellie Bowles, TGIF: This Week in Foot-Shooting


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.

Still recovering from politics

Not political

Hygiene Theater

[I]f detractors mock these measures—temperature checks before concerts, QR codes instead of paper menus at restaurants, outdoor mask wearing—for being useless and performative, it’s worth remembering that not everything we do need necessarily have a use, and that not everything performative is without merit.

Colin Dickey, In Defense of COVID Hygiene Theater

Science Today

Highly recommended: Matthew Crawford, How science has been corrupted. H/T @ayjay

I have no axe to grind except to wipe the smugness and censoriousness off some politicized "follow the science" faces.

Abortion polling

Most abortion polling is meaningless because most people have no idea what the abortion status quo is, what Roe held, or how Casey effectively replaced Roe. Witness this.

An apparent exception: How Americans Understand Abortion: A Comprehensive Interview Study of Abortion Attitudes in the U.S. (PDF)

NFTs

Gotta say this massaged my smug nerve (though I had been thinking more in terms of tulip mania): NFTs are the new Beanie Babies H/T @Cheri on micro.blog

People went batshit for these things. They would scour the internet to try and guess which Beanies would be discontinued when, and which ones would likely shoot up in value a little bit later. Demand for these "collectables" sky-rocketed because, well, demand sky-rocketed.

Yes, this

To believe in medicine would be utter madness, were it not still a greater madness not to believe in it.

Marcel Proust, quoted in a letter to the Wall Street Journal

Ivermectin

Scott Alexander of Astral Codex Ten offers up Ivermectin: Much More Than You Wanted To Know — a very accurate title for a very long Substack posting.

The Summary (Alexander’s own words)

  • Ivermectin doesn’t reduce mortality in COVID a significant amount (let’s say d > 0.3) in the absence of comorbid parasites: 85-90% confidence
  • Parasitic worms are a significant confounder in some ivermectin studies, such that they made them get a positive result even when honest and methodologically sound: 50% confidence
  • Fraud and data processing errors are of similar magnitude to p-hacking and methodological problems in explaining bad studies (95% confidence interval for fraud: between >1% and 5% as important as methodological problems; 95% confidence interval for data processing errors: between 5% and 100% as important)
  • Probably “Trust Science” is not the right way to reach proponents of pseudoscientific medicine: ???% confidence

I believe these conclusions not because I read the whole article but because this is the kind of thing Scott Alexander writes and he is pretty trustworthy.

You got a problem with that? Maybe you should think about how much you (and everyone else in the world) believe based on trustworthy sources.

"Independent journalism"

Substack says it has more than 1 million paid subscriptions – Axios

When Substack appeared and had a run of success, news executives treated it as something traitorous and horrifying, being sure now the independents were to blame for their audience crop failures …

They were making the same mistake they nearly all made with Trump, confusing symptom with cause. Yes, a few independents have done well, but that’s mainly because the overall quality level of mainstream news plunged so low so long ago, audiences were starved for anything that wasn’t rancidly, insultingly dishonest.

… If they really wanted to wipe us out, of course, they could just put out a New York Times that sucked less. In a million years, that won’t occur to them. Which, God forgive me, I still find funny, even if there are surely more important things to worry about today.

Matt Taibbi

What do you expect?

When police are ineffectual in riots, what’s a neighborhood, or a property owner, to do? David Bernstein, ‌A Reality Check for Progressives on the Rittenhouse Case is very good and pointed.

Uneducated

When conservatives complain about the state of higher education, they typically point the finger at the deterioration of the social sciences and humanities into critical theory, identity politics, and “grievance studies.” I sympathize with the complaint, but the number of students actually majoring in those areas is tiny compared to the army marching through business, communications, engineering, and medicine. The university is being taken over by future accountants and lawyers more than social justice warriors.

Paul Miller, ‌We Are Less Educated Than We Think

Miller is not trying to reassure us with future rule by accountants and lawyers. They’re no better educated than the lefties who spend their 6-8 years of college nurturing identities and identity-based grievances,

Political — National Conservative Conference

In Wednesday’s G-File, Jonah responds to a Christopher DeMuth op-ed from last week making a “Flight 93”-style case for national conservatism. “Things are complicated,” he writes. “But what is obvious to me is that the threat to the country is not lessened when conservatives think the answer to that threat is to emulate progressive tactics and categories of thought.”

The Morning Dispatch

Another voice:

Listening to Hawley talk populist is like listening to a white progressive Upper West Sider in the 1970s try to talk jive. The words are there, but he’s trying so hard it sounds ridiculous.

The NatCons are wrong to think there is a unified thing called “the left” that hates America. This is just the apocalyptic menace many of them had to invent in order to justify their decision to vote for Donald Trump.

They are wrong, too, to think there is a wokeist Anschluss taking over all the institutions of American life. For people who spend so much time railing about the evils of social media, they sure seem to spend an awful lot of their lives on Twitter. Ninety percent of their discourse is about the discourse. Anecdotalism was also rampant at the conference—generalizing from three anecdotes about people who got canceled to conclude that all of American life is a woke hellscape. They need to get out more.

Sitting in that Orlando hotel, I found myself thinking of what I was seeing as some kind of new theme park: NatCon World, a hermetically sealed dystopian universe with its own confected thrills and chills, its own illiberal rides. I tried to console myself by noting that this NatCon theme park is the brainchild of a few isolated intellectuals with a screwy view of American politics and history. But the disconcerting reality is that America’s rarified NatCon World is just one piece of a larger illiberal populist revolt that is strong and rising.

David Brooks on the National Conservatism Conference. It’s foreboding.

One figure in National Conservatism is Rod Dreher, who I’ve followed since his first book, Crunchy Cons. Brooks’ quote from Rod ("We need to unapologetically embrace the use of state power") corroborates the opinion of another friend, Orthodox Christian as are Rod and I, who says Rod has started putting his "trust in princes, in sons of men in whom there is no salvation." Psalm 145:3 (146:3 in Western Bibles). That verse, of course, starts off "Put not your …."

Here’s my fear, evoked by Brooks’ take-down of Amanda Milius:

Another speaker, Amanda Milius, is the daughter of John Milius, who was the screenwriter for the first two Dirty Harry films and Apocalypse Now. She grew up in L.A. and wound up in the Trump administration. She argued that America needs to get back to making self-confident movies like The Searchers, the 1956 John Ford Western. This was an unapologetic movie, she asserted, about how Americans tamed the West and how Christian values got brought to “savage, undeveloped land.”

This is about as dumb a reading of The Searchers as it’s possible to imagine. The movie is actually the modern analogue to the Oresteia, by Aeschylus. The complex lead figure, played by John Wayne, is rendered barbaric and racist while fighting on behalf of westward pioneers. By the end, he is unfit to live in civilized society.

But we don’t exactly live in an age that acknowledges nuance. Milius distorts the movie into a brave manifesto of anti-woke truths—and that sort of distortion has a lot of buyers among this crowd.

(Emphasis added) It’s not at all hard for me to envision these NatCon crusaders being "rendered barbaric and racist while fighting … [b]y the end, … unfit to live in civilized society."

So the remarkable realignment of the major parties — who really thinks the Democrats are still the "party of the working man? — leave me no political home outside my dear, so-far-ineffectual, American Solidarity Party.


You can read most of my more impromptu stuff at here. It should work in your RSS aggregator, like Feedly, should you want to make a habit of it.

Metrics, algorithms and more

Not politics

If you can’t measure it, it’s not "God’s Blessing"

I have been listening to Christianity Today’s podcast series The Rise and Fall of Mars Hill, which of necessity focuses on the doings of pastor Mark Driscoll. Episode 11, a really long one, is playing as I type.

I can’t decide if this is a complicated story or a really simple one:

  1. Much of Evangelicalism is congenitally more interested in numerical growth than in discipleship and true Christian growth.
  2. That propensity, combined with a narcissistic pastor who produced numerical growth for a number of years, completely broke down any pastoral accountability or Christlikeness.

Late in Episode 11, there was this quote:

If the goal is Church growth and not Church health, one way to do it is get a really charismatic, dynamic personality that attracts a large number of people and let him do whatever he wants. And then he’ll never leave. And the people will say "I go to so-and-so’s church. So-and-so is my pastor."
"Have you ever met him?"
"No, I never met him. He’s my pastor."

The speaker was Mark Driscoll, the disgraced Mars Hill pastor, himself.

A simple story, I think. And it’s being replayed, a bit more softly and in a lower register, throughout Evangelicalism today.

Because in much (most?) of Evangelicalism, numerical growth is per se "God’s blessing on pastor so-and-so’s ministry."

Just sayin’.

Thinking Locally

  • II. … Unless one is willing to be destructive on a very large scale, one cannot do something except locally, in a small place. Global thinking can only do to the globe what a space satellite does to it: reduce it, make a bauble of it. Look at one of those photographs of half the earth taken from outer space, and see if you recognize your neighborhood. …
  • VIII. The balance between city and countryside is destroyed by industrial machinery, "cheap" productivity in field and forest, and "cheap" transportation. Rome destroyed the balance with slave labor; we have destroyed it with "cheap" fossil fuel.
  • XII. Industrial procedures have been imposed on the countryside pretty much to the extent that country people have been seduced or forced into dependence on the money economy. By encouraging this dependence, corporations have increased their ability to rob the people of their property and their labor. The result is that a very small number of people now own all the usable property in the country, and workers are increasingly the hostages of their employers.
  • XVII. Abstraction is the enemy wherever it is found. The abstractions of sustainability can ruin the world just as surely as the abstractions of industrial economics. Local life may be as much endangered by "saving the planet" as by "conquering the world." Such a project calls for abstract purposes and central powers that cannot know, and so will destroy, the integrity of local nature and local community.

Wendell Berry. This was written 1991, before the internet revolution, but I’m not sure he’d change a word of it today.

Guilt by free association

The only motivation for the invocation of Schlafly seems to be that, as [Linda] Greenhouse notes, she was the subject of a television mini-series in 2020, and that both were lawyers with large families. "Forty years later, more than a few people looked at Amy Coney Barrett and saw Phyllis Schlafly," Greenhouse writes, with no indication of who those people were. "And how could they not, given the similarity in the two women’s biographies?" This isn’t even guilt by association. It’s guilt by free association.

Noah Feldman, reviewing Linda Greenhouse’s new book, Justice on the Brink, via Josh Blackman.

Things one couldn’t say 30 years ago

I was and remain deeply indebted to Marx’s critique of the economic, social, and cultural order of capitalism and to the development of that critique by later Marxists.

Alasdair Macintyre, After Virtue.

Caveat on the headline: the first edition of After Virtue was published in 1981. I don’t know if it included this acknowledgement. In my neck of the woods, acknowledging learning from Marx in 1981 would at least get you the side-eye. I personally didn’t learn from him until later, after Communism fell, and sensible people stopped obsessing about it.

It’s the algorithms, stupid!

I think it would be preposterous to deny that there are good things [about social media]. My favorite thing is people with rare diseases finding each other and being able to compare notes. That wasn’t possible before. But it has to be said that all of those good things could happen without this algorithmic overlord. You could have all of the good of the internet and all of the good we associate with social media, which is real, without this crazy-making business model. And that’s why I find a fallacy in a lot of thinking that’s like, well, we just have to deal with Facebook making the world darker and crazier because we need this or that. That’s not true at all.

Jaron Lanier on the Sway podcast.

It’s still the algorithm, stupid!

Readwise suggests something it thinks I might like to read at the end of each day’s review of things I have read. Friday’s suggestion was this:

Goddess worship, feminine values, and women’s power depend on the ubiquity of the image. God worship, masculine values, and men’s domination of women are bound to the written word. Word and image, like masculine and feminine, are complementary opposites. Whenever a culture elevates the written word at the expense of the image, patriarchy dominates. When the importance of the image supersedes the written word, feminine values and egalitarianism flourish.

(Leonard Shlain, The Alphabet Versus the Goddess)

Ummm, I don’t think so.

It probably is selling briskly in a niche market of which I’m not a part. But it reminds me of some crazy PhD. thesis in a world where a high proportion of sane ideas have been explored by prior doctoral candidates. After defense of the thesis, the newly-minted PhD will have become heavily, heavily invested in the thesis, howsoever absurd, and will carry it into the academy with him/her.

The most baneful effects of this pattern are in theology, where an original contribution to the literature will be very likely heretical.

Rant over.

Anything that fits the narrative will be accepted tout suite

The MSM took the ludicrous story of Jussie Smollett seriously because it fit their nutty “white supremacy” narrative. They told us that a woman was brutally gang-raped at UVA (invented), that the Pulse mass shooting was driven by homophobia (untrue) and that the Atlanta spa shooter was motivated by anti-Asian bias (no known evidence for that at all). For good measure, they followed up with story after story about white supremacists targeting Asian-Americans, in a new wave of “hate,” even as the assaults were disproportionately by African Americans and the mentally ill.

We all get things wrong. What makes this more worrying is simply that all these false narratives just happen to favor the interests of the left and the Democratic party. And corrections, when they occur, take up a fraction of the space of the original falsehoods. These are not randos tweeting false rumors. They are the established press.

Andrew Sullivan, decrying the deceitfulness of mainstream media — to which media, nevertheless, sensible people have no good alternative.

(I increasingly think we do have a good alternative: tune out the news almost entirely. What good does it do me in Indiana, for instance, to have any opinion whatever about the interaction of Kentucky Catholic School boys and an older native American in DC?)

Politics of a sort

Summit for Democracy

Tensions are indeed rising between the U.S. and China, but that’s not primarily because the former is a democracy and the latter is authoritarian. It’s because America is a global hegemon that projects power into China’s near abroad, and China is a rapidly rising power seeking to expand its influence across East Asia. That places the two countries on a collision course, and whether they’ll prove able to avoid armed conflict will have very little to do either country’s form of government.

Damon Linker, The anachronistic vision behind Biden’s Summit for Democracy.

Biden’s vision may be anachronistic, but he’s not alone in that.

"Polite" has never been so flexible a term

Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene tweeted out the 13 representatives’ office phone numbers and urged Americans to “politely say how they feel about these traitor Republicans voting to pass Joe Biden’s Communist agenda.”

Morning Dispatch, ‌Did ‘Republican Traitors’ Save the Filibuster?.

MTG’s "Politely address traitors who voted for Communism" does not pass the plausible deniability test when things like this were the response:

They did. “You’re a f—ing piece of s— traitor,” one voter said in a voicemail left for GOP Rep. Fred Upton, vice chair of the Problem Solvers Caucus. “I hope you f—ing die. I hope your f—ing family dies. I hope everybody in your f—ing staff dies, you f—ing piece of f—ing s—. Traitor!”

Even National Review, in a descent almost as steep as that of the Claremont Institute, was outraged at Republicans voting for the the infrastructure bill.

I. Don’t. Get. It.


You can read most of my more impromptu stuff at here. It should work in your RSS aggregator, like Feedly, should you want to make a habit of it.

Raging against the Machine

Raging against the Machine

  • Jyoti [the writer’s wife] was a psychiatrist who earned actual money. But psychiatry was killing her, her role was not to cure people but to medicate them, to stick plasters on the wounds the Machine had gouged into the people at the bottom of the pile. There was nothing she could do about the wounds, and they kept coming.
  • My culture comes, most recently, from the southeastern suburbs of England. It’s a culture of hard work, of ‘getting on,’ of English Protestantism channeled into secular ambition. It’s about settling down and having a family, contributing, progressing, climbing up; not bad things, necessarily, not for a lot of people. But it’s also about selling up, moving on, about property ladders and career ladders, about staking your place on the consumer travelator that represents progress in a burning world. It’s about feeding the Machine that rips up the people and rips up the places and turns them all against each other while the money funnels upwards to the people who are paying attention. This is the crap our children are learning. There is not much sign at all that the tide is turning.
  • The only possible opening for a statement of this kind is that I detest writing. The process itself epitomizes the European concept of ‘legitimate’ thinking; what is written has an importance that is denied the spoken. My culture, the Lakota culture, has an oral tradition, so I ordinarily reject writing. It is one of the white world’s ways of destroying the cultures of non-European peoples, the imposing of an abstraction over the spoken relationship of a people. … Newton, for example, ‘revolutionized’ physics and the so-called natural sciences by reducing the physical universe to a linear mathematical equation. Descartes did the same thing with culture. John Locke did it with politics, and Adam Smith did it with economics. Each one of these ‘thinkers’ took a piece of the spirituality of human existence and converted it into a code, an abstraction … Each of these intellectual revolutions served to abstract the European mentality even further, to remove the wonderful complexity and spirituality from the universe and replace it with a logical sequence: one, two, three. Answer! (Quoting Russell Means)
  • ‘In Western Civilization,’ says the poet Gary Snyder, ‘our elders are books.’ Books pass on our stories. Books carry the forbidden knowledge and the true. Books are weird things, inhuman things, abstract things, but they are gateways, at their best, to the world to which the drum and the fire and the sweat lodge used to take us. The Otherworld. At her best, the writer is a shaman, a priestess, a summoner.

Paul Kingsnorth, in Savage Gods.

Hungary

Tucker in Hungary

Of Tucker Carlson in Hungary, Bill Kristol says out loud what others have been insinuating:

The New American Right is now explicitly embracing the Old European Right. Not to put to fine a point on it, the New American Right is…anti-American.

Rod Dreher is having none of it — from Kristol the rest of the Sacred Confraternity of Circle-Jerking Pundits:

Is anybody really moved by an older man calling a younger man “anti-American” because he goes to a NATO country and American ally, and speaks well of it? Isn’t that, you know, nuts?

The idea that an American conservative who admires some of what Viktor Orban does, and believes, is somehow “anti-American” is not only insulting, but is a smear designed to make people believe that to be a real American, you have to endorse selling your country, its institutions, and its traditions out to globalist liberals and American hegemons willing to start wars to turn the whole world into America. Forget it. I love my country, though I don’t love what it’s becoming. If I can learn from the Hungarians how to better resist what the people who are ruining America are doing, then that’s pro-American to me.

Rod Dreher

Which is less bad?

I would rather have honest government over dishonest government, but if I had to choose between a corrupt president who rewarded his cronies, and a president who was morally fastidious, but whose administration stopped using the word “mother” in federal documents, substituting instead “birthing people” — well, that’s not a hard choice to make. A society can survive Huey P. Long; it cannot survive losing the meaning of “mother”.

Rod Dreher, ‌Why Conservatives Should Care About Hungary

The last word on Andrew Cuomo

Are you getting tired of news about Andrew Cuomo? Me too.

Peggy Noonan has the mike-drop line:

No one in New York is walking around saying “I don’t believe it” or “That’s not the Andrew I know.” It’s apparently the Andrew Cuomo a lot of people knew.

You may now resume your regularly-scheduled activities.

Another inversion, realignment

I’ve said since Election 2016 that a major political realignment was under way (though I said it much more in the early days, before the daily assaults from Trump became too dominant in my thoughts). Here’s an emergent example:

We’ve come to an odd pass in American politics. The people who have the deepest suspicions about the way government works are increasingly enthusiastic about the use of government power.

Somehow, many of the same folks who say that government authorities shouldn’t be trusted to make sure vaccines are safe or that elections are fairly conducted also say that we should have the government set industrial policy, regulate speech on the internet, or even engineer the size and shape of American families. How can institutions so corrupt as the ones described by right-wing nationalists be trusted with the power to administer matters far more complicated than testing vaccines or counting ballots?

Chris Stirewalt, ‌The Contradictions of Paranoid Nationalism.

This is perhaps hyperbolic, but it is at least directionally right as to some of Rod Dreher’s recent utterances, for instance:

Hungary is an important example for American conservatives in part because it compels us to recognize that the state is the only means we have left to defend ourselves from those who despise us and our institutions, and want to force us to bow to soft totalitarianism. This is a hell of a thing for an American conservative raised in the Reagan era to grasp, but that’s where we are. Just as the king’s role was in part to protect the people from the depredations of the nobility, in this current era of leftist capture of US institutions (including the military!), the state is the only means by which we conservatives can exercise power in our own self-defense.

Sullivan the Prophet

[Andrew Sullivan’s] term “Christianist” felt like a mild slap in the face, right until the afternoon of Jan. 6, when a mob of believers stormed the Capitol on a “righteous” mission to overturn an election — with crosses in the crowd and prayers on their lips.

David French, reviewing Out on a Limb


You can read most of my more impromptu stuff at here. It should work in your RSS aggregator, like Feedly, should you want to make a habit of it.

When will we say “Enough!”

When will we say "Enough!"

The women with whom I spoke – currently and formerly incarcerated at “Chowchilla” prison (as the Central California Correctional Facility is colloquially known), this state’s highest security women’s prison – are watching as biological males begin to self-identify as females and transfer in. Washington state, which has a similar policy, has already allowed a rapist and serial killer of women to transfer into the women’s prison. As is true in Washington state, California requires no sex reassignment surgeries or hormones for men to become eligible for transfer to the women’s prison. Self-identification is enough. With good reason, these women are terrified.

Abigail Shrier, ‌Incarcerated Women Brace for Influx of Male Inmates

This is insanity imposed on us by a tiny minority of highly-educated ideologues and idiots. I’m sick of it. I’ll never knowingly vote for an unhinged, narcissistic Donald Trump-type, but I’ll vote for sane people who will try intelligent ways of stopping this sort of thing.

Helpful glossary

Populist worries

We worry desperately about money—not because of obsessive acquisitiveness, but because constructing a bulwark against a failing culture requires heaps of it. (How much is private security, in the absence of a police force? Private school, in the absence of non-racist public ones? Non-woke doctors, who will fulfill their oath to heal us? How much is all this going to cost, and how will we possibly afford any of it?)

Abigail Shrier, Don’t Judge Me

Interesting point. The overall article, though, is a defense of Ohio Senatorial candidate J.D. Vance against a wild screed in The Atlantic (which journal I didn’t renew, though I might some day).

Rod Dreher, too, vouches for Vance. As a Hoosier, I have no horse in this race.

Young ideologues

The youth is an intellectual merely, a believer in ideas, who thinks that ideas can overcome the world. The mature man passes beyond intellectuality to wisdom; he believes in ideas, too, but life has taught him to be content to see them embodied, which is to see them under a sort of limitation. In other words, he has found that substance is a part of life, a part which is ineluctable.

Richard Weaver, Ideas Have Consequences

I highlighted it, but apparently didn’t take it readily to heart.

The Enlightenment

The Enlightenment not only helped us to discover the Atom bomb but also gave us the intellectual means to use it without great guilt.

Stanley Hauerwas, Resident Aliens

I’m pretty bearish on "the Enlightenment," starting with the congratulatory name. I may write at greater length on this some day.

A crack in qualified immunity

"[W]hy should university officers, who have time to make calculated choices about enacting or enforcing unconstitutional policies, receive the same protection as a police officer who makes a split-second decision to use force in a dangerous setting?"

Justice Clarence Thomas, via Jonathan Adler.

Justice Thomas got his tacit wish very recently in the 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. Arrogant University of Iowa Administrators once again (yes, the University is a recidivist) decided that relatively conservative Christian groups should be brought to heel by stripping them of recognition until they stopped being, well, relatively conservative.

The 8th Circuit held that the individual administrators cannot shield their pocketbooks from individual liability for dollar-damages by claiming "qualified immunity" — because qualified immunity requires that the law be at least a bit murky, and the law against public institutions’ viewpoint discrimination is crystal clear.

Yay for the 8th Circuit!

Affective primacy

You can feel affective primacy in action the next time you run into someone you haven’t seen in many years. You’ll usually know within a second or two whether you liked or disliked the person, but it can take much longer to remember who the person is or how you know each other.

Jonathan Haidt, The Righteous Mind. I experience that regularly, but I didn’t know there was a name for it.

How the BoBos Broke America

Third, [the BoBos have] come to dominate left-wing parties around the world that were formerly vehicles for the working class. We’ve pulled these parties further left on cultural issues (prizing cosmopolitanism and questions of identity) while watering down or reversing traditional Democratic positions on trade and unions. As creative-class people enter left-leaning parties, working-class people tend to leave. Around 1990, nearly a third of Labour members of the British Parliament were from working-class backgrounds; from 2010 to 2015, the proportion wasn’t even one in 10. In 2016, Hillary Clinton won the 50 most-educated counties in America by an average of 26 points—while losing the 50 least-educated counties by an average of 31 points.

… In 2020, Joe Biden won just 500 or so counties—but together they account for 71 percent of American economic activity, according to the Brookings Institution. Donald Trump won more than 2,500 counties that together generate only 29 percent of that activity. An analysis by Brookings and The Wall Street Journal found that just 13 years ago, Democratic and Republican areas were at near parity on prosperity and income measures. Now they are divergent and getting more so. If Republicans and Democrats talk as though they are living in different realities, it’s because they are.

[T]he educated elite tended to be the most socially parochial group, as measured by contact with people in occupational clusters different from their own. In a study for The Atlantic, Amanda Ripley found that the most politically intolerant Americans “tend to be whiter, more highly educated, older, more urban, and more partisan themselves.” The most politically intolerant county in the country, Ripley found, is liberal Suffolk County, Massachusetts, which includes Boston.

With their amazing financial and convening power, blue oligarchs move to absorb any group that threatens their interests, co-opting their symbols, recruiting key leaders, hollowing out their messages. “Woke capitalism” may seem like corporations gravitating to the left, but it’s also corporations watering down the left. Members of the blue oligarchy sit atop systems that produce inequality—and on balance their actions suggest a commitment to sustaining them.

David Brooks, How the BoBos Broke America

Great article to read and argue with. I say that as someone who almost certainly qualifies as a BoBo. The second paragraph in particular was an eye-opener.

Da Press

I have finally internalized the lesson that the press is too biased to merit reliance. All of them.

So how is one to know what’s going on in the world? Curate the least unreliable?

Next lesson: we’re not meant to know what’s going on far, far from kith and kin.

UPDATE: Someone who apparently feels as I do about this suggests that BBC World News is still reliable. I’m going to try it.

Viktor Orbán week

Tucker Carlson is in Budapest this week, which is the worst thing about Budapest I can think of off-hand. (I tried watching him to see what he had to say about Hungary, but I couldn’t get past his initial, dishonest, manipulative demagoguery about other things.) This has given the usual suspects an occasion to publicly affirm that they’re still on the left-liberal team, and gives Rod Dreher yet another chance to push back.

[W]hat sets [Viktor Orbán] apart from American conservative leaders is that he recognizes the nature of the crisis, and is prepared to act boldly to address it. He believes that contemporary Western liberalism has surrendered to a civilizational death wish. I prefer the (possibly flawed) ways that Orban is meeting the crisis than the ways that the American Right is failing to do same.

Which is the only power capable of standing up to Woke Capitalists, as well as these illiberal leftists in academia, media, sports, cultural institutions, and other places? The state. That’s it. This is disorienting to Anglo-American conservatives, who are accustomed to seeing the state as the enemy, and institutions of civil society, especially business, as friends of freedom. It’s no longer true, and people on the Right who want to fight soft totalitarianism had better start to understand this. This is why American conservatives ought to be beating a path to Hungary and Poland (as well as to Spain, to talk to the Vox party, and to other European countries to learn from non-Establishment populist parties).

Rod Dreher.

Yes, I do include Rod in the unreliable sources. I could qualify that assessment, but suffice for now that he has backed up his "on balance" defense of Hungary with facts, whereas its foes have shown me no more than hand-waving, epithets, hyperbole, and "everybody-knows-ism." I’m more inclined to credit Rod.

The Spectator is closer to the situation than I am, and here’s its take:

Brussels’s problem is not really with Poland or Hungary. More fundamentally, ‘unity in diversity’ has become anathema to it. It cannot accept that the geographical borders of Europe do not neatly overlap with the European Union’s ideological fault lines.

‌Hungary, Poland and the EU’s ‘diversity’ problem

Ack-bassward

I’m not going to get into the history or beliefs of Orthodox Christians, beyond saying that the tradition began with the Schism of 1054 when millions of Christians who were unhappy with the direction of the Catholic Church (on theological and political grounds) broke away to form their own tradition.

Ryan Burge, Orthodox Christians Are More Republican Today than Twelve Years Ago. Why? – Religion in Public.

You’d have done better to say nothing at all, Ryan, since what you said is ass-backward. Here’s a more accurate account:

The unity of the universal church was disrupted over the 11th through 13th centuries as an increasingly willful Patriarch of Rome broke away from the other four great Patriarchates, taking the West into schism from the rest of the Church.

Little, nutritious bites

…they trained students to be spelunkers of their personal identities and left them incurious about the world outside their heads.

Mark Lilla, The Once and Future Liberal

Even the man we nailed on a tree for a lookout said little about it; he told us evil would come.

Les Murray, New Selected Poems

Adiaphora

The essential point I want to make here is this: elite liberals, as a class used to comfortable and orderly lives, were massively freaked out by the election of Donald Trump, and what they have demanded in turn is not a new and better political movement but for everyone else to be freaked out too … Feel the way that we feel or you will be exiled.

Liberal Democrats want the bad things they say they fear to happen; that much is obvious. They would rather the bad things happen and be proven right about the threat than for the bad things not to happen at all. This is porn. It’s all porn.

Freddie deBoer, ‌Orange Cheeto Man Bad?


The Spectacle of Latinx Colorism
The idea of sameness can devastate as much as it can connect.
By Karla Cornejo Villavicencio

They lie awake at night at the New York Times worrying about different things than I worry about.


open letter from a distinguished surgeon – Snakes and Ladders


I was gratified to read Federal Judge Imposes Sanctions on Lawyers Who Filed Frivolous Election Suit – Reason.com

May this be the first of many sanctions against rogue lawyers who joined in spreading manure about Election 2020.

I know that a lawsuit is preferable to riots in the streets, but you can’t just throw any crap on paper and call it a good faith legal claim. There’s junk law just as there’s junk science.


You can read most of my more impromptu stuff at here. It should work in your RSS aggregator, like Feedly, should you want to make a habit of it.

Goldberg the Idealist versus Gladwell the Reichian

[I]magine I was out of the loop and asked someone why Jeffrey Toobin lost his gig at The New Yorker and the answer was, “He pleasured himself on a Zoom call in front of his colleagues and boss.” I might have a lot of questions, but “Why was he fired?” really wouldn’t be one.

Apparently, that just shows I’m ensconced in a bourgeois, Judeo-Christian mindset.

From the New York Times:

Malcolm Gladwell, one of the magazine’s best known contributors, said in an interview: “I read the Condé Nast news release, and I was puzzled because I couldn’t find any intellectual justification for what they were doing. They just assumed he had done something terrible, but never told us what the terrible thing was. And my only feeling — the only way I could explain it — was that Condé Nast had taken an unexpected turn toward traditional Catholic teaching.”

[A]s doctors sometimes say about how to diagnose a patient, “If you hear hoofbeats, think horses, not zebras.”

If you read a press release announcing that a 60-year-old man—with a checkered sexual history—was fired for going into manual override at a meeting and the “only way” you can explain it is that the publisher of Vogue, Vanity Fair, and Glamour has made a shocking right turn toward Rome, you’re not even hearing zebras—you’ve spotted a herd of unicorns.

What is strange about Gladwell’s conclusion is that he’s the sort of guy who would normally argue that taboos about sexual behavior don’t spring up ex nihilo. The story in Genesis that Gladwell cites—which, for what it’s worth, was already on the scroll shelves long before the Catholic Church was founded—surely has analogs in other cultures. I don’t know this for sure, but I strongly suspect that Jeffrey Toobin would get fired from many of the leading magazines in most Muslim, Hindu, or Confucian societies for similar behavior. Has Conde Nast taken an unexpected turn toward Koranic social teaching?

More to the point, Gladwell seems incapable not only of finding fault with Toobin’s behavior, but incapable of assigning blame to his own side’s moral system. Conde Nast, which no doubt is decidedly on the MeToo side of all these debates, made a mistake in Gladwell’s eyes. Okay. But one doesn’t have to suddenly imagine that the owners of Teen Vogue have gone Opus Dei to explain why MeToo-ers might have a problem with men exposing themselves to colleagues. The scalps of Matt Lauer, Louis C.K., Mark Halperin, et al, weren’t collected by Catholic Torquemadas; they were collected by Gladwell’s friends, colleagues, and peers.

Jonah Goldberg, Morality as a Foreign Language (emphasis added).

I was as puzzled by Gladwell’s moral tone-deafness as Gladwell is by Condé Nast’s decision, and I think I found the answer in one of today’s blogs from the still-if-only-occasionally-useful First Things (whose Editor-in-Chief, Rusty Reno, became far too Trumpy for me over the last quadrennium).

Carlo Lancelloiti, who translated works of philosopher Augusto Del Noce into English, explains that Del Noce was frustrated by his fellow Catholics’ failure to correctly assess the sexual revolution. It was not just a relaxation of modesty standards:

In reality, he explained, what they were facing was “a condemnation of modesty as abnormal …” These words encapsulate what he considered the worst possible misunderstanding of the sexual revolution: as a slackening of morals. Looser sexual morality may have been its practical result, and was probably how common people experienced it, but it was absolutely not how the sexual revolution was conceived by the many writers, filmmakers, therapists, journalists, and intellectuals who advocated for it. To them it was not a moral slackening but a moral quickening. It meant freeing people from irrational and oppressive taboos, harmonizing morality and nature, reconciling life and science. The revolution was “in its own way” intransigently moral—it just inhabited a different ethical universe. This is why, Del Noce wrote, “any ‘dialogue’ with the advocates of sexual liberalization is perfectly useless, simply because they start by denying a priori the metaphysics that is the source of what they regard as ‘repressive’ morality” …

In order to explain the “philosophy” of the sexual revolution, Del Noce refers to the works of Austrian psychoanalyst Wilhelm Reich … Del Noce summarizes Reich’s programmatic book The Sexual Revolution … as follows:

Reich’s thought is based on the premise . . . that there is no order of ends, no meta-empirical authority of values. Any trace not just of Christianity but of “idealism” in the broadest sense . . . is eliminated. What is man reduced to, then, if not to a bundle of physical needs? When these needs are satisfied—when, in short, every repression is removed—he will be happy . . . Having taken away every order of ends and eliminated every authority of values, all that is left is vital energy, which can be identified with sexuality . . . Hence, the core element of life will be sexual happiness. And since full sexual satisfaction is possible, happiness is within reach.

Reich’s approach is crudely scientistic: Sexuality has no symbolic meaning and no intrinsic finality—such as the procreation of children—while “sexual happiness” (as psychological well-being) enjoys the status of supreme human goal and takes on great social and political significance

Carlo Lancellotti, The Origins of Sexual Totalitarianism (emphasis added)

Oddly enough, the “scientism” of Reich does not require moral neutrality, as most scientisms profess. He finds a new morality to be derived from science:

The following sentence from The Sexual Revolution sums it up nicely: “Religion should not be fought, but any interference with the right to carry the findings of natural science to the masses and with the attempts to secure their sexual happiness should not be tolerated.” Del Noce rephrases it as follows: “the Church is tolerated only to the extent that she does not take any stance on the moral assertions that supposedly derive from science, understood as the only valid form of knowledge.

(Italics added)

In this light, Gladwell showed admirable restraint by acting bewildered by, not outraged at, Toobin’s dismissal for public wanking which, after all, was a rejection of the evil of modesty in Toobin’s — ahem! — single-minded pursuit of sexual happiness, the summum bonum.


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

Immanuel Kant, Idea for a Universal History with a Cosmopolitan Purpose

You shall love your crooked neighbour
With your crooked heart.

W.H. Auden, As I Walked Out One Evening

The worst judge of all is the man now most ready with his judgements; the ill-educated Christian turning gradually into the ill-tempered agnostic, entangled in the end of a feud of which he never understood the beginning, blighted with a sort of hereditary boredom with he knows not what, and already weary of hearing what he has never heard.

G.K. Chesterton, The Everlasting Man (PDF)

You can read most of my more impromptu stuff here or join me and others on micro.blog. You won’t find me on Facebook any more, and I don’t post on Twitter (though I do have an account for occasional gawking).

But what about Fox?

I have hinted strongly that the Senate will not convict Trump on any impeachment articles for fear of his carpet-bombing them from Twitter after his removal from office. I may have overlooked something:

Though it is the most-watched cable (shall we say) “news” channel in the United States, [Fox’s] average primetime viewership of about 2.5 million people is less than 1 percent of the nation …

However, those Fox News viewers punch far above their weight in one regard: They are the core of any hard-right primary challenge that might be waged against an incumbent Republican senator. … Trump is neither popular nor admired among the Senate majority, but he is feared, therefore tolerated. The fear stems from his firm grip on that Fox News-viewing core and the belief that he could turn the core into an incumbent-crushing machine.

To the extent that Trump’s grip begins to loosen, the fear will begin to lift and the president’s Senate firewall will begin to crumble. That’s how I figure it, and I think Trump might be making a similar calculation, because his Twitter feed has been peppered lately with his annoyance at Fox News over various perceived acts of hostility. He might believe that he can maintain his standing solely through his unmediated tweets, regardless of Fox News. But I don’t think he really wants to find out.

David Von Drehle, (Trump’s fate is in the hands of Fox News) goes on to explain why Fox might turn on Trump. Hint: It rhymes with “Paul Ryan.”

It’s one of the cheeriest hypotheticals I’ve read in a while.

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I sought to understand, but it was too hard for me, until I went into the sanctuary of God; then understood I their end.

(Psalm 72:15-17, Adapted from the Miles Coverdale Translation, from A Psalter for Prayer)

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You can read most of my more impromptu stuff at here. It should work in your RSS aggregator, like Feedly, should you want to make a habit of it.

I highly recommend blot.im as a crazy-easy alternative to Twitter (if you’re just looking to get your stuff “out there” and not pick fights).

Irenic Politics

Jonathan Haidt has said that conservatives generally understand liberals better than liberals understand conservatives. I now offer a corollary that Trump supporters understand Never Trump Conservatives no better than liberals do.

Exhibit A is the premise of a column by Never Trumper Peter Wehner, who got a missive from a Trumpist friend:

I have a colleague who claims [talkshow host and now Presidential hopeful Joe] Walsh has instantly become the face of the Never Trump movement (much to his delight) and that his fellow Never Trumpers will never write a word of condemnation of Walsh, thereby proving their disingenuous position.

As a Conservative Never Trumper, I’m astonished at the cluelessness of that. First, I don’t need a “face” for my opposition to Trump. Second, I don’t know who Joe Walsh is well enough to adopt him, and the little I’ve heard makes me consider him quite unsuitable.

Wehner responds similarly, but first turns the tables:

I will get to Mr. Walsh and his racist rants in a moment, but first I will admit that my initial reaction to this email was bemusement at the question posed to me. Mr. Trump’s most vocal supporters are now demanding that Mr. Trump’s most vocal critics do what they will not, which is to publicly recoil against a politician — in this case, Mr. Walsh — who appeals to the worst instincts and ugliest sentiments in America.

Their argument seems to be that decency requires the president’s relatively few conservative critics to call out Mr. Walsh for saying detestable things while Mr. Trump’s right-wing supporters cheerfully defend him under any and all circumstances, regardless of the fact that the president’s rhetoric is pathologically dishonest, dehumanizing, cruel, crude, racist and misogynistic. There’s a word for what Trump supporters are doing here: hypocrisy.

Then he does turn to Walsh as promised. Read it yourself if you like.

I should add that I understand Trumpistas about as badly as they understand me, which has been a frustration to me ever since Trump proved that he had nontrivial political support. (Before then, I worried about his fans about as much as I worried about any fans of bloodsport and other spectacle.)

Back to the beginning: there are exceptions to any generality. There’s a newish Know Your Enemy podcast from two lefties (one a former conservative) who admirably describe conservative positions.

I find their attacks after the initial descriptions somewhere between non-existent and unpersuasive — which could be by design, given the literal import of the irenic podcast title (promising knowledge, not persuasion) and assuming a Left audience rather than an undecided or Right audience.

But I wonder whether their podcast, in describing conservatism so well, may turn some of their listeners from Left to some version of Right, given Haidt’s observation of how poorly Left understands Right currently.

Answer: probably not if Haidt’s Moral Foundations Theory is correct and there aren’t some other complicating factors it doesn’t cover. But greater mutual understanding would be a helpful alleviator of polarization anyway.

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You can read most of my more impromptu stuff at here. It should work in your RSS aggregator, like Feedly, should you want to make a habit of it.

I highly recommend blot.im as a crazy-easy alternative to Twitter (if you’re just looking to get your stuff “out there” and not pick fights).