Poetry as Theology (and lesser stuff)

Censorship and self-censorship

Lest it be thought that my reading doesn’t span a broad spectrum, compare these three responses to the very same New York Times Editorial Board offering:

As this (superb) Times staff editorial persuasively argues, America has a free speech problem. And in many parts of the country, the right poses more of a threat to free speech than the left.

David Lat, ‌An Open Letter To Yale Law Dean Heather Gerken.

Lat is wrong. The only excuse was that it was almost an aside in the larger context.

Another week, another opportunity for our media class to freak out when it’s suggested that we are living in an age that’s not friendly to open debate. The absolute madness this anodyne NYT op-ed provoked among the NPR tote bag set should be listed in the DSM. Just an absolute shriek of anger from the privileged, overeducated Brooklynites (in spirit if not in geography) who have put our intellectual culture in such a stranglehold.

‌Freddie deBoer, Please Just Throw Me a Bone with the Wesleyan Argus Controversy.

Well, that was fun, Freddie, but Ken White ("Popehat") persuades me, where you didn’t; the editorial was worthless — or worse.

There’s a lot more good stuff than I feel I can fairly quote, but here goes with "best of the best":

Some defenders of the [Editorial] say that critics are being too pedantic, and that it’s clear the Times is talking about norms, or “free speech values,” or "free speech culture” or “norms.” First, bullshit. It’s the New York Times Editorial Board. I’m not critiquing a middle-schooler’s essay. I can hold them to a standard of coherence …

[I]t’s terrible that the Times is gullibly accepting the Right’s deeply dishonest assertion that it doesn’t engage in the sort of behavior it calls “cancel culture.” There is no serious argument that conservatives refrain from “cancel culture.” Conservatives attempt to cancel liberal professors all the time. Conservatives decry disinvitation even as they indulge in it. The meretricious Turning Point USA, which constantly bemoans cancel culture, maintains a enemies list of too-liberal professors. Conservative luminaries accuse opponents of legislation of wanting to groom minors for abuse. Our former President constantly complained about cancel culture and just as constantly demanded that people get fired for speech he didn’t like. Don’t get me started on Colin Kaepernick or Liz Cheney.

The Times also errs by utterly failing to grapple with the problem that “cancelling” represents free speech and free association. Saying we should “end cancel culture” means we’re saying some people should refrain from some exercises of speech and association to promote other people feeling more free to speak.

That’s not an outrageous proposition. We have cultural norms to that effect, and we follow them all the time. If, at a cocktail party, someone says “we should just make hate speech illegal, it’s easy,” I probably won’t say “that’s [expletive deleted] stupid Janet, you’re a dim person, put down that Appletini and get the [expletive deleted] out” even if that’s what I think in my head, because cultural norms tell me that’s rude and disproportionate. If I happen across an eighth-grader’s essay arguing that Donald Trump will be indicted for RICO, I won’t put the eighth-grader on blast the way I will if Rachel Maddow says it, because norms tell me that would be disproportionate. But a discussion of norms that value proportionality and make people more comfortable speaking isn’t serious if it doesn’t take into account the interests of the people who want to speak in return …

Popehat doesn’t write all that often, but he’s awfully good when he does.

Trans girls in Indiana Sports: A Null Set

Transgender sports: Holcomb vetoed House Bill 1041, which would ban transgender girls from playing school sports. In a letter sent to the General Assembly, Holcomb wrote that protecting integrity and fairness in women’s sports was “a worthy cause for sure,” but he believed “the wide-open nature of the grievance provisions” in the bill made it unclear about how it would be enforced consistently between different counties and school districts. Holcomb wrote that the IHSAA has had a policy in place for 10 years and that “not a single case of a male seeking to participate on a female team has completed the process.” (State Sen. Ron Alting, a Lafayette Republican, had made similar arguments when he voted against the bill.) Holcomb wrote that he could “find no evidence” to support claims that there is an existing problem in the state. Monday night, advocates who had lobbied that the bill was mean-spirited were praising Holcomb. Legislators were threatening to override the governor’s veto. U.S. Sen. Mike Braun and Indiana Attorney General Todd Rokita piled on with criticism of their own.

For more, here’s a version of the story from AP reporter Tom Davies, another one from Arika Herron at the Indianapolis Star and one more from the New York Times.

(Dave Bangert’s Based in Lafayette Substack, italics added)

If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. That’s not a bad slogan, but I’ve been around the block too many times to think it’s a principle.

30 years ago when all our local governments in my county made sexual orientation a protected class throughout the county. I attended every minute of every hearing of all three government bodies, and the only first-hand report of discrimination was from a guy whose apartment-mates asked him to live elsewhere after they found his gay porn stash. Do you call that "discrimination in housing"?

(I’m disappointed, but not surprised, at the shit-stirring responses of Mike Braun and Todd Rokita. I’m not ashamed to say I’ve never voted for either of them.)

Polyamory?

Overheard in Silicon Valley: "The modern university is a political madrassa married to a trade school married to a hedge fund married to a sports team married to an adult day care center married to a visa law firm."

Marc Andreesen

Shock treatment

Those first few days after Russia’s invasion revealed something important about the United States: Much of what looks like unbridgeable polarization online may be the product of boredom, distraction, and jadedness; when something real happens, people pay attention to that instead. We refresh our feeds incessantly, looking for new information and sharing it. And as a shooting war started, average users sought out experts and reputable news organizations. Google Trends, for example, showed a relative increase in searches for nuclear weapons and _potassium iodide—_a treatment used after radiation emergencies—while searches for Ukraine were at an all-time high. The culture war temporarily faded into the background ….

Renée DiResta, ‌The Ukraine Crisis Briefly Put America’s Culture War in Perspective

Wordplay

‘Oikophobia’ was Roger Scruton’s term to describe ‘the repudiation of inheritance and home’, the way that many socialists and progressives are motivated by a loathing for their own country, their own countrymen and often their hometowns, from which they wished to escape and punish its inhabitants.

Ed West


Campism is a longstanding tendency in the international and U.S. left. It approaches world politics from the standpoint that the main axis of conflict is between two hostile geopolitical camps: the “imperialist camp,” today made up of the United States, Western Europe, Saudi Arabia, and Israel (or some such combination) on one hand and the “anti-imperialist camp” of Russia, China, North Korea, Syria, Iran, Venezuela, Cuba, and other less-industrialized nations on the other.

Socialist Forum


rebarbative rē-bär′bə-tĭv adjective

  1. Tending to irritate; repellent.
  2. Irritating, repellent.
  3. serving or tending to repel

Use in a sentence: "The rationale for the transgender movement is couched in arcane and rebarbative prose."

H/T Carl Trueman, who continues:

Today, the latest form of body dysmorphia—rapid-onset gender dysphoria—is fueled by extremely wealthy lobby groups with a vested interest in identity politics. Backed by a medical establishment for whom ethics is little more than a supine acceptance of technological possibilities, and enabled by a political class that lacks a moral backbone, these groups are shaping the country’s pediatric care. And the cost will be catastrophically high.


"Protocol of Reconciliation and Grace Through Separation": The Orwellian title of a proposal to divide the United Methodist Church along lines of theology (not limited to ordination of practicing homosexuals, though the press tends to report it that way).


Polysemy Polysemy is the capacity for a sign to have multiple related meanings. For example, a word can have several word senses. Polysemy is distinct from homonymy—or homophony—which is an accidental similarity between two or more words; whereas homonymy is a mere linguistic coincidence, polysemy is not.

Wikipedia. (H/T , Daniel Gustafsson, Poetry as Theology: Reflections on Ephrem the Syrian and Richard Wilbur. Highly recommended for Orthodoxen; may be evocative for others, too.)


It’s good to shut up sometimes.

Marcel Marceau via The world in brief


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.

Ruso-Ukrainian War

I had collected so much on the current war that I decided to blog it separately.

Resisting Western cultural hegemony

Danilevsky concluded with words that continue to resonate today among Russian conservatives who want to resist the forces of globalism and what they see as Western cultural hegemony:

The danger consists not of the political domination of a single state, but of the cultural domination of one cultural-historical type … The issue is not whether there will be a universal state, either a republic or a monarchy, but whether one civilization, one culture, will dominate, since this would deprive humanity of one of the necessary conditions for success and perfection—the element of diversity.

Paul Robinson, Russian Conservatism, Kindle page 82.

The collective mind of Russia, insofar as there is such a thing, likely matters at present less than the mind of Putin. Were it not so, Putin wouldn’t have smashed civil society at all critical or even inquisitive voices (see below).

But Russian conservatives have at centuries of discomfort with the West. Many of them were educated in the West, and they acknowledge and admire its accomplishments, but they want to keep it arm’s length. They want Russia to be Russian.

I have not yet read about Russian liberals.

Putin and Pushkin

“You have Putin’s Russia and Pushkin’s Russia,” Krielaars observed. To blame a whole culture, past and present, for a current political action implies that everything about that culture contributed to that action. If Germany succumbed to the Nazis, don’t listen to Beethoven; because of Mussolini, cancel Dante and Raphael; if you reject American actions in Vietnam, the Middle East, or anywhere else, no more Thoreau or Emily Dickinson. Could there be a better way to encourage national hatred than to treat a whole culture and its history as a unified whole, carrying, as if genetically, a hideous quality?

When I visited Soviet-dominated Poland in 1970, people understandably resented Russian rule. Ill-disposed to the forced consumption of Russian culture, some responded, as oppressed people often do, with the sort of blind hatred that prepares victims to be oppressors as soon as the tables are turned. As a character in Dostoevsky’s novel The Brothers Karamazov observes, “it can be very pleasant to take offense.” One Pole I met proclaimed proudly: “I even hate Russian trees!” “You have something against birches?” I asked incredulously. But the more absurd his pronouncements were, the more righteous he felt.

Russian expert Michel Krielaars via Gary Saul Morson

Ukrainian Genocide

  • The International Court of Justice ruled 13-2 in favour of Ukraine, concluding that Russia’s allegations that Ukraine was committing genocide against Russian speakers in Donetsk and Luhansk were false. The ruling strips away the legal pretext that Mr Putin used for the invasion. The two dissenting judges were, unsurprisingly, from China and Russia.
  • In a menacing television appearance Mr Putin warned Russians to be aware of “fifth columnists”, urging them to “spit out like a midge that has flown into their mouths” those traitors whose minds had been captured by the West. The West’s ultimate aim, he said, was the destruction of Russia. Russian prima ballerina Olga Smirnova was clearly unpersuaded. Having been publicly critical of the war she quit the Bolshoi Theatre in Moscow to join the Dutch National Ballet. She is the most famous Russian star to quit the country over the war.

The world in brief | The Economist, 3/17/22.

Allegations of Ukrainian genocide in Donetsk and Luhansk (eastern Ukrainian regions oriented strongly toward Russia rather than the West) seemed, apart from the possible hyperbole of “genocide,” plausible to me. I’m relieved that Russia was as bereft of evidence as was Trump in his grousing about the 2020 Election.

As for the claim that “[t]he West’s ultimate aim [is] the destruction of Russia,” there’s too much to it for me to summarily dismiss it.

We have made Russia our bête noire for my entire lifetime, with a brief pause around 1990 when we fancied we might turn it into a Western liberal democracy. But as it turns out, there’s a whole lot of historic and abiding Russian conservative resistance to liberal democracy, and since it’s always helpful for a regime to have an iconic enemy, we acquiesced in Russia remaining the Other.

Add to that widespread western Christian ambivalence about Orthodox Christianity (insofar as the West is aware of it at all) and the history of Russian Orthodox collaboration with successive illiberal regimes and — Why, yes! Now that you mention it we would find it reassuring if Russia as we know it were destroyed, by us, by it’s own overreach, or from internal forces.

Putin knows it, but his very knowing it, we fancy, means it’s false.

How might the Ukraine war scramble world Christianity?

Veteran Religion Beat reporter Richard Ostling does an outstanding, objective job in Beyond the Orthodox questions: How might the Ukraine war scramble world Christianity?. It’s heavily but not exclusively focused on potential scrambling in Christian Orthodoxy. Lots of links, too.

No hate speech except against the hateful people

The Russian government moved to designate Meta as an “extremist organisation”, after reports that the parent company of Facebook and Instagram would allow Ukrainians to call for violence against Russian soldiers on its sites. Meta said there was no change to its policies on hate speech “as far as the Russian people are concerned”. The row does raise questions about Meta’s role in selecting just when it thinks support for violence is suitable across its platforms.

Business | The Economist

Putin’s crackdown on his own people

For whatever reason these stories really brought home to me the enormity of Putin’s deceit and suppression.

Dissidents flee Russia

“The plane from Moscow to Yerevan was packed with people I knew,” he recalled. “Lots of young people — the future of Russia is leaving.”

“Collective blame is an easy way to channel rage,” Maria Stepanova, a prominent Russian poet, told me. But the impulse to punish Russians on the basis of national identity is a misguided one. Ms. Stepanova told me that many emigrants are driven by a feeling of pure moral indignation, a sense that emigration is the only remaining avenue for political protest. “They simply don’t want to breathe the air here,” she said. “They want to cut all ties with their country.… They’re willing to risk ruining their lives out of this feeling of disgust.”

Sophie Pinkham, Putin’s War in Ukraine Is Forcing Russian Dissidents to Flee. That title is underinclusive: intellectuals and potential conscriptees are fleeing, too. It was predicted and now it’s happening.

Remaining dissidents are like vermin

The idea behind the hounding of prominent figures in the arts is to reject Western influence as alien. One of the most public faces of this campaign is Margarita Simonyan, the boss of the state-run RT television station. As she said in one of her recent talk shows, “We must all consolidate, grip our will in our fists, establish exceptional order in education, culture and information, and rid the country of truants, idiots and traitors.” In a speech on March 16th, Vladimir Putin said such people would be “spat out”.

The Economist, ‌Russian propagandists turn on pro-Western “traitors”

Crushing Russian civil society

Wow. Strong opener:

Within the first days of the war, the Russian government smashed to pieces whatever remained of Russian civil society—including independent media, human rights organizations, and anybody who could still speak truth to power and to their fellow citizens. As the Kremlin adopted a new draconian speech law and cracked down on organization after organization—initiating or completing bogus legal procedures against them, shutting down their websites, and sending goons to physically harass them—the people staffing those organizations picked up and left the country. Within only about 72 hours, the entire institutional fabric of Russia’s civil society, painstakingly woven out of the post-Soviet institutional wasteland, was irreparably torn to shreds.

Izabella Tabarovsky, ‌Russia’s New Exiles.

Of all the stories I’ve seen on the new emigration of Russians, this (fairly long, but no paywall) was the most potent. The life of Russia intellectual, potential conscriptee, journalistic and dissident exiles is spartan and very hard; fleeing Russia didn’t “make it all better.”

When The Tablet is good, it’s very, very good.

Personal reversal

I’ve tended to buy the John Mearsheimer argument that we forced Putin’s hand (expanding NATO eastward threatened Russia — the idea is far from being a Mearsheimer exclusive), and this blog’s recent posts have almost certainly reflected that.

I’m no longer convinced of that. Ann Applebaum on Andrew Sullivan’s podcast was surprisingly persuasive, as have been a few others.

The most persuasive argument against the “pushing NATO too far” theory, to my mind, is that we always have nuclear-capable submarines close to Russia (as they have close to us). Although “NATO is purely defensive,” standing alone, wasn’t very persuasive, “NATO, which claims to be purely defensive, is a trivial threat to Russia compared to the U.S. and it’s submarines” packs a punch. Tell me why that’s wrong.

But the most persuasive observation is what Putin is doing within his own borders, and the stupid propaganda behind which he shields himself.

I’m still not sure what Putin is up to, but it should be born in mind that Putin’s intent is not Russia-at-large’s intent — else he wouldn’t crush truthful reporting, arrest protestors, ban civil society mediating structures and so forth.

That this war might bring down Putin is an outcome fervently to be hoped and prayed for, but we dare not directly promote it, and we should not be under any illusions that his fall would lead quickly to a liberal Western democratic Russia. There’s too much history and sentiment to the contrary. Russia and the West may learn to live together, but I don’t look for homogeneity.

Caveat: I have never repudiated my conscientious objection to war, so don’t think for one second that I’m some kind of military expert.


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.

Newsfasting

We Orthodox Christians have just started Lent yesterday, and I’m already irritable from not being able to stuff my face promiscuously! Or from something.

There are always dozens of reasons for irritation.

Res Ipsa Loquitur

Ukraine

I find that some news just kind of splashes up onto my pants legs even when I’m limiting news consumption. Believe me that I’m limiting news:

  • Reading the Economist World in Brief and The Morning Dispatch for top news, but rarely click through the Economist.
  • Entirely skipping the Wall Street Journal.
  • Limiting New York Times to obituaries, religion (almost never anything good or even new there), a glance at the Opinions page, and maybe sports and travel.
  • Investigative reporting is higher-quality than regular news, but I still can’t do anything about most of what I see in The Intercept, ProPublica, and bellingcat, so I skip them most of the time.
  • When someone I respect recommends analysis by someone else that I respect, I’ll usually click through if the topic is of interest.

This is still a work in process. I may, at the risk of irritability, cut back further.

Ukraine sues Russia

Last week the International Criminal Court, which prosecutes individuals, launched an investigation into war crimes in Ukraine. On Monday the International Court of Justice, which judges governments, hears allegations of genocide. But these are not accusations against Russia. Rather, Ukraine wants the court to rule that Russia’s own allegations of genocide against Ukraine in the breakaway regions of Donetsk and Luhansk are false and contrary to international law.

Russia accepts the authority of the ICJ (unlike that of the ICC). But Ukraine does not expect its neighbour to bow to the court’s verdict. Russia did not even turn up to the court on Monday (their defence was due on Tuesday). Instead, Ukraine hopes that a verdict in its favour would strip Vladimir Putin, Russia’s president, of any vestige of legal pretext for an invasion, which, he claims, was launched to stop the supposed genocide.

Economist World in Brief.

How interesting to ask a court to rule that your invader’s excuse for invasion is a lie — and the invader has no answer to your “put up or shut up” challenge.

How to Avoid Nuclear War With Russia

Ross Douthat, How to Avoid Nuclear War With Russia is a brilliant distillation of nuclear wisdom, it seems to me.

In short, our conventional forces are so vastly superior to those of Russia that if we directly engaged Russia over its invasion of Ukraine, we’d quickly put Putin’s back to the wall and he might, quite literally, go nuclear.

I guess not all problems are answerable with technology, huh? I’ll take a wise man over a technocrat (almost) any day.

Longfellow was right

A European war is unhelpful for Trump because it reminds voters that Longfellow was right: Life is real, life is earnest. Trump’s strut through presidential politics was made possible by an American reverie; war in Europe has reminded people that politics is serious.”

George Will via the Morning Dispatch

Private Sanctions and Cancel Culture

The Bulwark chronicles how private companies and other non-government actors are punishing Russia for the Ukraine invasion.

I am not entirely amused because this sort of private war is also being waged against Wrongthink in America. For instance, conservative commentator Michelle Malkin and her husband have been banned from AirBNB for associating with Nick Fuentes, of whom AirBNB (and almost everyone else, including me) does not approve.

It may come to the point that making “exercise of free association or free speech rights” protected classes will be a better choice than letting cancel culture commit a kind of economic terrorism.

Fourth Generation War

In Iraq, Afghanistan, and elsewhere, we face Fourth Generation war, not against state militaries similar to our own but non-state forces that fight very differently. While the next conservatism favors a strong defense, it should also question the hundreds of billions of dollars we pour annually into legacy forces and weapons suitable only for fighting other states. A strong defense requires military reform, not just heaps of money.

Andrew J. Bacevich, J. David Hoeveler, James Kurth, Dermot Quinn, Paul Weyrich and William S. Lind, et al., The Essence of Conservatism

Russia may be about to experience this in Ukraine if they seek to occupy.

(I’ll bet William Lind wrote this item. He’s always talking about Fourth Generation warfare.)

Gallows humor?

Olha Koba, a psychologist in Kyiv, said that “anger and hate in this situation is a normal reaction and important to validate.” But it is important to channel it into something useful, she said, such as making incendiary bombs out of empty bottles.

Maria Varenikova, ‌Hate for Putin’s Russia Consumes Ukraine, H/T Claire Berlinski via The Morning Dispatch

Patriotism in its purest, loveliest form

After more than 24 years away, Washington Post correspondent Isabelle Khurshudyan finally returned to Odessa, the city where she and her parents were born. “Now that I’m finally here, I wish I wasn’t,” she writes in her dispatch from the coastal city, where she’s been able to reconnect with her 81-year-old great aunt, Baba Zina, who refused to evacuate. “When I asked why that was, she scolded me, telling me to not get distracted from driving. Then she explained that she was born in this city. It’s her home. She visited the United States four times. Four of her siblings moved there, but she returned to Odessa each time. There’s something about this city—with its roots back in imperial Russia, its classic architecture, its appreciation for artists and its Black Sea beaches—that make people romantic about it. Peak Odessa: The opera and ballet theater is the most fortified building in town, surrounded by a wall of sandbags. ‘I visited the Vienna opera house just to see how it compared to ours. Ours is better,’ Zina said as we drove by the theater. ‘I went to the one in Paris, too. It was nice, of course. But ours is nicer.’”

via The Morning Dispatch

Three items from Protestants

Choosing a story

I haven’t quoted Jake Meador in a while because I stopped following him because I was too busy wallowing in “news.” because reasons.

The core problem facing the western church today is that virtually everyone, including many of us, believes that the most basic, elemental right a person has is the right to self-designate. This means that, as we are cast adrift in the world, trying to make sense of who we are, where we are, and what we ought to do, we mostly do not turn outward and allow the need of neighbor and nature to answer our questions. We do not look to culture for guidance or to family or to faith. In the words of Hauerwas, *“we have no story except the story we chose when we had no story.” And so to answer the question of who we are, we look inward toward our own ambition and aspiration, desire and need. We act according to that, with scant attention paid to the costs such action will have for the world or for our neighbors.

Jake Meador, touting his new book, What Are Christians For?: Life Together at the End of the World (emphasis added).

You could do much worse than Jake Meador on the internet.

Put on the whole snappy comebacks of God

[W]e’re not really after understanding, I [] think, but rather the maintenance of a certain way of life which is sustained not necessarily through ordering affections and desires toward good ends, but rather simply through a kind of automated acquiescence to authority figures.

One gets the idea from a fair bit of Christian worldview literature (especially when some conference or course is being advertised) that a worldview is almost like a set of categories you can download, and then march out into the world equipped with the right answers and knowing in advance how to refute the wrong answers. But this is not how people learn—not how they learn real meaningful knowledge and wisdom at any rate. This kind of pre-packaged knowledge turns out to be awfully flimsy and brittle when confronted with the complexities of the real world.

Jake Meador again (quoting Brad Littlejohn), but a different blog post.

I’ve been around smart Evangelicals who thought “Worldview camps” and such were really good and really cutting edge. I had figured out pretty early on that they were pretty much as Brad Littlejohn says. Plus you can’t overcome the effects of six daily hours of public school and three daily hours of television with a one- or two-week camp.

Grokking ‘Sin’

It wasn’t until college that I ever really thought about the Christian doctrine of sin. I had grown up in a Baptist church hearing about how Jesus *“died for our sins,” but it seemed that sin was the breaking of certain rules — drinking too much, sleeping around, lying, murder and stealing …

In college, through a string of failed relationships and theological questioning, I came to understand sin as something more fundamental than rule breaking, more subtle and *“under the hood” of my consciousness. It was the ways I would casually manipulate people to get my way. It was a hidden but obnoxious need for approval …

This is the slow dawning that I had about myself in college, and with it came liberation. Far from being a crushing blow of self-hatred, the realization of my actual, non-theoretical sinfulness came with something like a recognition of grace. I saw that I was worse than I’d thought I was, and that truth knocked me off the eternal treadmill of trying to be better and do better and get it all right. It allowed me to slowly (and continually) learn to receive love, atonement, forgiveness and mercy.

Tish Harrison Warren

Seeing sin as mere rule-breaking is, in my personal experience, the worst thing about Christian fundamentalist taboos (smoking, drinking, dancing, playing cards and secret societies) of the 50s and 60s, which my Evangelical boarding school aped. It certainly gave me a skewed view, which was harmful to me and others spiritually — even though 14-to-18 year-olds have no business smoking, drinking or joining oath-bound secret societies anyway.

Other stuff

SCOTUS Opposition failure

When Kevin Williamson, a bright guy, can do no better than this in opposing a Democrat SCOTUS nominee, you know you’ve got a pretty good nominee.

Summarizing:

  • She’s part of the meritocracy, the ruling class. (He’s convincing on that.)
  • Dick Durbin and his ilk insinuating that she’s got some hardscrabble backstory is bunk. (He’s got a point.)
  • She does not believe in the rule of law. (He doesn’t deliver one single iota of evidence for that. Not one. And that’s the only one he says should disqualify her.)

After watching one-after-another Republican-appointed justice disappoint, I’m done with making predictions about actual future performance of a nominee.

Truth in Journalism

The nonconformists over at The Postliberal Order set us straight on journalistic terminology:

  • Democracy and liberalism
  • The difference between American philanthropists and Russian Oligarchs
  • Fact-checks
  • The difference between military interventions and invasions
  • Propaganda in general

You’ll appreciate the next item even more if you read this one. It’s short.

This is not propaganda

The Emmett Till Antilynching Act

The Senate passed the Emmett Till Antilynching Act by unanimous consent on Monday. Once signed into law by President Biden, the legislation will amend the U.S. Criminal Code to designate lynching as a federal hate crime punishable by up to 30 years in prison.

The Morning Dispatch.

My immediate reaction was that lynching isn’t much of an issue today, and I think I was right, but there’s this so you can gauge the problem for yourself.

And if you think it’s enough that Ahmaud Arbery was “essentially” lynched, be advised that (a) you can’t prosecute for “essentially the same thing” and (b) his murderers got life without parole, which is longer than 30 years.

Buildings for nomads. This is how the late Sir Roger Scruton described “various financial district glass-pane shoeboxes—structures.” (H/T Anthony DiMauro). Some might consider that a commendation; I don’t.

Wordplay

United in diversity:

“The EU’s quite vapid motto.” (Ed West)

Ostpolitik

From the Economist:

Ostpolitik (noun): a decades-old strategy of dealing with Russia based in part on the hope that gas pipelines could promote mutual dependence and therefore peace. Read the full article.

Spelling bees

Congratulations to [Name], an [School] student, who is heading to the Scripps National Spelling Bee in Washington D.C., May 29 to June 3. [Name] won a 10-county regional bee Saturday at [Site] in [City]. His winning word: Archetype.

Spelling Bees aren’t what they used to be.

Simile of the day

One of the guests was a retired Hungarian art historian. She had the most delicate Old World accent. It was like listening to audible porcelain.

Rod Dreher

Mal mots

In a piece for National Review, John McCormack notes how Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has diminished America’s already fledgling neo-isolationist movement even further.

The Morning Dispatch (italics added).

Someone at the Dispatch misapprehends “fledgling.”

(And once again, I’m glad I don’t write for a living and to deadline.)

Servants of their servants

For all drunkards and gluttons I weep and sigh, for they have become servants of their servants.

St. Nicholai of Zicha, Prayers by the Lake XXIX, via Fr. Stephen Freeman (italics added)

How we think

Intellect confuses intuition.
Piet Mondrian

The Economist World in Brief


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.

Ending a chapter

Changing direction

I thank the modest number of people who still follow this blog, which has been evolving for just over twelve years now.

Within the past 24 hours, I’ve renewed my personal commitment to stop wallowing in "the news." That’s made easier by the news being full of war-talk these days, which for 55 years or so has been distressing to me, even more than to others I think.

But war-talk isn’t the only reason I’m kicking the news habit.

A cyber-friend recently published what I think is a completely original analogy:

The Ukraine crisis is huge: it may end us all. Naturally it’s all over the news. But I’ve been thinking that, before there was an actual world crisis, the 24-hour news feed wasn’t much different in tone. Something really important is happening right now, and you need to read about it here! “World Order Collapses!” isn’t presented much differently than “Sleaze Accused of Sleaziness!”

I thought, oddly, about the takeover of “compression” in contemporary music recording. Audio technology can easily handle variations in volume from a delicate whisper to ear-splitting sound. (A good recording of the William Tell Overture is an example.) But more and more, people are half-listening to the music while they jog through city traffic; they can’t deal with these variations. So the solution is to flatten the dynamic range so everything sounds kind of loud all the time. (People used to blame CDs for this and say that vinyl was better. In fact, CDs are much better at capturing dynamic range; it’s just that producers in the CD era chose the compression path. Now of course, there’s nothing but audio streaming, with its even worse distortions.)

In the world of audio, these are choices that we as consumers made, or at least allowed, and the result is only an impoverished experience of music. When we apply the same mentality – keep everything at 11 all the time – to the news cycle, the results for our minds and souls are a bit more serious.

John Brady, ‌Compression and the news. My own "soul reason" is that I think I read the news out of vainglory, a/k/a vanity. Smartypants lawyers, after all, are supposed to be sophisticates and to know what’s going on in the world. Reading the news helps me fake that by giving me a wide choice of tendentious narratives (from A to C or D) to choose from. But I think it’s healthier not to be vain, right?

A fairly good list of reasons is in Rolf Dobelli’s book Stop Reading the News. There’s a lot in there that I haven’t mentioned.

This matters for the blog because, to a sorry extent, I’ve let Tipsy Teetotaler become largely a news and commentary aggregator. If I stop reading news, that’s got to change.

I suspect I’ll blog less often. Since this isn’t substack and nobody’s paying to read me, that shouldn’t matter much. I also suspect that I’ll blog a bit more about books and long-form journalism — things that actually explain how things came to be this way, or to put them in context. And maybe, if I stop doomscrolling the clickbait, I’ll regain some of my lost cognitive capacity and produce some original thoughts.

That said, I’ve collected some news before my new news resolve, and I share it now with you before the blog undergoes its metamorpohosis.

Ruso-Ukraine

Not about us

Comments like [the examples] above seem so transparently self-promotional (look, look, here’s how a war across the globe is really about the thing I’m always talking about already!) and beyond gross.

Now is not the time for petty culture war grievances and personal grifts. Yes, life—and news—in America goes on, but maybe the day Russia starts bombing Ukraine isn’t the time for your critical race theory rant or your masculinity-crisis paranoia, you know? And it certainly isn’t the time for you to try and tie whatever you would be on about anyway into the war news cycle.

I promise, the culture war and all its brave keyboard warriors will still be there next week. So will COVID-19, and climate change, and border battles. Just let it go for a minute. Show some respect, empathy, and perspective.

If you’re tempted to post things like: Russia is doing this because Americans use too many pronouns! At least Putin isn’t woke! How will the murder of Ukrainian civilians affect gas prices? Stop. Go outside for a walk. Call a loved one. Cuddle a pet. Do anything real and good and tangible while counting your blessings that you will very likely never know the fear and pain of having your country invaded by a warmongering dictator.

This isn’t about us. Stop making it about us.

Elizabeth Nolan Brown, ‌Stop Trying To Make Ukraine About Your Culture War

Civil Religion versus Political Gnosticism

From a longish, provocative, 30,000-foot view of the tensions between Russia and the West, these passages haunt me. Maybe they make sense only in context (which I invite you to read, but only when you have time to really wrestle with it):

[E]ven were Soviet communism defeated, the Russian roots in a more modern form of Civil Religion would remain. It would need to be combatted, but on a different footing and understanding.

[T]oday the old and new “neo-cons” are the newest incarnation of “right gnostics,” right liberals who are comfortable with a slower liberal revolution, yet always listing leftward in their accommodation to the “blessings of liberty.” They are the pawns of the “messianic gnostics …”.

Patrick Deneen, Russia, America, and the Danger of Political Gnosticism

(This is the kind of commentary that likely will carry over as the blog changes.)

A Truism

It is a truism in moral reasoning: To will the end is to will the means. One cannot have a duty to perform an act one lacks the capacity fulfill. Can Ukraine prevail without more direct military support from the West? It’s possible, but most analysts consider it very unlikely. Would Ukraine prevail with full NATO backing? Almost certainly. That implies NATO must be prepared to take up arms on Ukraine’s side, to ensure the supposed moral commandment is fulfilled. To hold otherwise — to claim the West should stop short of joining the fight, when that might be the only thing compatible with fulfilling the commandment — sounds appalling.

Damon Linker.

Us versus them

… a country fast turning totalitarian, one where a law which allows a 15-year-jail sentence for “spreading fake news about the actions of the Russian armed forces” will soon be rubber-stamped by parliament …

The Economist. If keeping a nation’s people in the propagandistic dark is your metric of totalitarianism, I can’t deny it’s a decent metric.

We in the USA have enough confidence that I can still read RT, Al Jazeera, The Intercept, Glenn Greenwald, Pro Publica, Bellingcat, Gilbert Doctorow and the like as a check on mainstream media’s lazy repetition of our government’s line. But it’s very time-consuming (another reason not to read the government’s line in MSM in the first place — see above), and I don’t have a very reliable heuristic on who’s closer to the truth.

Learning in War Time

The war creates no absolutely new situation; it simply aggravates the permanent human situation so that we can no longer ignore it.

C.S. Lewis, Learning in War Time, an essay in The Weight of Glory. The essay also appears to be available from several sources on the web.

Collateral Damage

Russia House—a D.C. restaurant—was targeted by vandals last week who smashed windows, broke a door, and tagged walls with anti-Russian rhetoric. The restaurant’s owners are American and Lithuanian.

The Morning Dispatch

Paul Kingsnorth continues to deliver

I started really paying attention to Paul Kingsnorth last Summer or Fall when I learned that, to his own immense surprise, he had left Paganism (his last waystation) and become not just a Christian but an Eastern Orthodox Christian. I’ve appreciated him a lot since then, though he was on my radar even before that.

Baptized into Progress

  • I was about a quarter of the way into What Technology Wants before I realised I was reading a religious text. It was quite a revelation. What Technology Wants is a book published a few years back ago by Kevin Kelly, co-founder of Wired magazine and a significant spokesman for what we might call the Silicon Valley Mindset. It takes us on a journey through the historical development of technology and into a future in which, Kelly believes, technology will be living force which controls our destiny.
  • Techno-utopianism is a subset of the contemporary religion of Progress, into which we are all baptised at birth. If Progress is God, technology is the messiah come to do His will on Earth.

Paul Kingsnorth, Planting Trees in the Anthropocene. This predates Kingsnorth’s conversion, by the way.

Tell me the new old story

[I]t hasn’t escaped my attention that all my writing, in whatever form, is basically just a reiteration of the same story, which seems to be the only one I’m capable of telling: human-scale life versus the Machine culture that is overwhelming it.

Paul Kingsnorth

"In science", as Joseph Needham put it, "a man is a machine, or if he is not, then he is nothing …."

Philip Sherrard, The Rape of Man and Nature: Modern Science and the Dehumanization of Man

Other stuff

H.L. Mencken, Prophet

A national political campaign is better than the best circus ever heard of, with a mass baptism and a couple of hangings thrown in. The men the American people admire most are the most daring liars; the men they detest most are those who try to tell them the truth. On some great and glorious day the plain folks of the land will get their heart’s desire at last and the White House will be adorned by a downright moron.

H.L. Mencken, quoted by Garrison Keillor.

Important people

Manually laboring drudges might work long hours without sacrificing productivity, but businessman could not. Their work required imagination, thought, calculation.

Americans, [Andrew Carnegie] remarked to his cousin, “were the saddest-looking race … Life is so terribly earnest here. Ambition spurs us all on, from him who handles the spade to him who employs thousands. We know no rest. … I hope Americans will find some day more time for play, like their wiser brethren upon the other side.

‌David Nasaw via The Octavian Report

Sounds as if Carnegie (Rockefeller, too) made a virtue out of what Marx saw as capitalism’s central defect.

Charmed lives

Playwright Tom Stoppard made some extended remarks recently at an awards presentation, including acknowledging his charmed life:

[I]f politics is not about giving everybody a life as charmed as mine, it’s not about anything much.

Tom Stoppard, H/T Alan Jacobs. More:

Perhaps you will recall that in the summer of 1968, England had its dissidents, too. Thousands of young people of student age, egged on by not a few of their seniors including some of my friends, occupied buildings and took to the barricades to overthrow the existing order. The disdain of the revolutionaries for bourgeois democracy, aka "fascism", was as nothing compared to my disdain for the revolutionaries. They were living in the same England, as a birthright, as I was living in as an accident of history.

(italics added)

I’m seemingly a pessimist. I rarely see myself in the mirror without something that looks like a scowl. My morning prayers have a fairly long list of American sins that I keep trying to leave in God’s hands (and then keep taking them back).

So it’s good for me to be reminded, especially as beautifully as Stoppard does, of just how much freedom we have, and of how much millions in the world would love to be here — and surely it’s possible to remember that without becoming some kind of jingoist.

Neo-Manicheanism

Discussing race relations in the South during the Civil Rights Movement, Walker Percy once told William F. Buckley that “From a moral point of view, it’s very simple. It’s either right or wrong, and there was a lot wrong. From a novelist’s point of view, human relations are much more complex than saying the white racist is wrong and the black protestors are correct.”

What does it tell us about our appetite for ambiguity that Walker Percy could not say that today without being chased out of his local public television studio.

Prufrock 3/3/22

Republic of the People

We took the United States Capital. We are the Republic of the People.

Guy Reffitt, January 6 insurrectionist, texting his family exultantly on 1/6/21.

Reffit has now pleaded guilty to seditious conspiracy. As explained by former federal prosecutor Andrew C. McCarthy at National Review, it’s going to be tough case to prove all elements of that crime at trial, so don’t be surprised if there are few such guilty pleas or even if there are acquittals at trial.

What science "allegedly" shows

Science allegedly showed trans women had larger hands and feet, bigger hearts and greater bone density and lung capacity.

Sports Illustrated, writing about Lia Thomas, quoted incredulously by Nellie Bowles.

I’d cross-index this under "you don’t need a weather man to know which way the wind is blowing."

SOTU response

Rashida Tlaib, speaking for the Working Families Party, delivered the left’s response, and even she was relatively muted. She pushed back on Biden’s calls for more police funding and called, as usual, for canceling all student debt.

Nellie Bowles.

There is no regressive policy among Democrats quite so blatant as the call for blanket cancellation of student debt. I have no doubt that many students got in over their heads, but wiping out the student debt of those (by definition) lucky enough to go to college or beyond show how little the Democrats care for people less fortunate.


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.

Ukraine and closer to home

Ruso-Ukrainian conflict

Historians losing the narrative battle

[P]ossession of scholarly credentials doesn’t automatically confer the authority to determine which claims about the past will be believed and which will not. On the contrary, fussy objections to the sweeping historical contentions deployed by powerful populist politicians frequently prove impotent in the face of grand narratives.

[F]or many (perhaps most) people, what makes one story about the past more persuasive than another isn’t the application of some set of standards approved by a professional guild of scholars but whether the story feels *right.

Damon Linker, ‌Putin, Trump, and the irresponsible wielding of history.

My daughter-in-law returned from a month in Russia very recently. She avoided political discussions because it quickly became all-too-obvious that Trump’s MAGA is matched or overmatched by Putin’s MRGA — make Russia the great thing it was in Putin’s telling — which tends to prove Linker’s point.

Shifting narratives, too

From the right, we were told that this was absolutely not going to happen. And now that it very much is happening, the argument from Steven Bannon and Co. is that the West deserves it because we are weak and decadent and unserious. More: American conservatives ought to support Russia, since that’s a country that doesn’t put up with LGBTCRT nonsense, he and his pal, the military contractor Erik Prince, said recently. “The Russian people still know which bathroom to use,” Prince said. (So do the Ukrainians, for what it’s worth.) Tucker Carlson asked Americans to consider why they hate Putin, anyway: “Has Putin ever called me a racist? Has he threatened to get me fired for disagreeing with him?”

To the small but meaningful movement of the ethnonationalist right, Russia is the last great white, Christian nation with solid gender-norms and 19th-century race relations. If your vision of owning the libs means embracing authoritarian regimes that hate America and its people, you’ve lost the plot.

Nellie Bowles, Common Sense (emphasis added)

Not "put[ting] up with LGBTCRT nonsense" gets a favorable glance from me, but no more than a glance. That said:

I inserted all the necessary caveats in my columns, but I must admit I didn’t believe Putin would launch a full invasion. As a Russian, everything in me resisted the thought. War on Ukraine is the absolute worst thing Russia can engage in. It’s unforgivable, a Cain’s mark.

Leonid Bershidskiy on Twitter. Me, too, but I didn’t pretend to be an expert. I’m not even certain that I scoffed publicly at the American Intelligence Narrative (but I scoffed in my own head at least).

Meanwhile, Putin tries to control the internal narrative

Roskomnadzor, Russia’s communications regulator, said it would restrict access to websites that refer to the war in Ukraine as an “attack, invasion, or a declaration of war”. It will also target publications that mention the shelling of Ukrainian cities and civilian casualties.

The Economist Daily Briefing

Future narrative

It takes balls to predict what comes next, but the Economist takes a stab at it:

[S]hould Mr Putin seize a large swathe of Ukraine, the gatherer of the lands will not stop to make peace at its borders. He may not invade the NATO countries that were once in the Soviet empire, at least not at first. But, bloated by victory, he will subject them to the cyber attacks and information warfare that fall short of the threshold of conflict.

Mr Putin will threaten NATO in this way, because he has come to believe that NATO threatens Russia and its people. Speaking earlier this week, he raged at the alliance’s eastward expansion. Later, he decried a fictitious “genocide” that he says the West is sponsoring in Ukraine. Mr Putin can’t tell his people that his army is fighting against their Ukrainian brothers and sisters who gained freedom. So he is telling them that Russia is at war with America, NATO and its proxies.

By the way: the Kremlin has an English-language translation of Putin’s February 27 speech/rant/tirade, but it repeatedly refused to load for me. Here’s a separate source. The speech is consequential, and our government and pundits are widely lazy, herd-minded or dishonest. I want my own copy of this speech.

Miss Peggy’s response to the new right "I don’t care" isolationists

Russia isn’t Upper Volta with a gas station; it’s Upper Volta with a gas station, the world’s largest nuclear arsenal, and a furious owner. What he does may have repercussions. If you would lead, you don’t get not to care.

Peggy Noonan

Showing my cards

  • The Fog of War is upon us, and our government and media are speaking with unwarranted certainty.
  • The End of History is, ironically, over, history having resumed with a vengeance.
  • I haven’t yet read the entirety of Putin’s February 21 speech, which I suspect contains some preposterous lies and some truths that we can’t see because of a clash of worldviews.
  • An American expat in Russia who I tend to trust has blogged some things about Ukraine’s 2014 version of the color revolutions (i.e., that the legitimately-elected government, having begun looking eastward rather than westward, was overthrown by American proxies), and about Ukraine’s treatment of the Donbas region (e.g., that its citizens are denied voting because they might swing the country back eastward), both of which I’d like to explore a bit more. The net effect, if true, is that the democratic legitimacy of the current government is doubtful.
  • In short, I think Ukraine probably is deeply divided between westernizers and Rusophiles, and while I oppose Russia’s invasion, you’re just going to have to bear with me if I don’t yet cheer on the westernizer Ukrainians as zestfully as seems to be expected.

Not Ukraine

Agricultural specialists

Lacking any moral force or vision of its own, the “objective” expertise of the agriculture specialist points like a compass needle toward the greater good of the “agribusiness” corporations.

Wendell Berry, The Unsettling of America

Reverse discrimination smacked down

Strict scrutiny applies, and racial balancing is not a compelling interest.

Tyler Cowen, Elite high school TJ will continue as it was (emphasis added).

I’m very glad to see some judicial skepticism toward Knowledge-Class insistence that their every latest great notion is a "compelling state interest." Too long the courts have bowed compliantly to the dubious demands of "diversity" and other disguises for racial reverse-discrimination.

Is it even worth it to shop for a new apartment in NYC?

Freddie deBoer is looking for a larger rental apartment in Brooklyn, and recently lost his pick when someone else offered $500 per month over the listing price before his contract was signed:

I would have enjoyed living there but I have a home, which is more than many can say, and we can still find something else if we want. The apartment would have been more than most people can afford even at the offered price. For me, the bigger issue is just that the situation provokes this New York City weariness that has afflicted me lately, this feeling that everything in this city is harder than it should be, and that everything you want can only be won through some tiring and expensive competition with somebody else. It’s wearing me out and further deepening my conflicted sense that 2023 is the year I move out of New York.

You’d like to look at a bunch of apartments and have time to think them over, weigh the pros and cons of each. But apartments constantly appear on the sites one day and are in contract the following day. People feel compelled to ask to sign at the open house, as awkward as that is in front of everyone, because if they don’t someone else surely well. And that’s the rental market. I harbor quotidian dreams of owning my own home someday, like many or most do. But though I am now in the top 5% of American earners, or thereabouts, I look at the prices of modest two-bedroom apartments in Brooklyn and there’s just no way. I do a little of the back-of-the-envelope math and it’s still a completely distant dream. And that’s to say nothing of the effort and the stress, the endless bidding wars, having to compete with all-cash offers, the innumerable hoops you have to jump through…. Buying a house isn’t exactly easy anywhere, but looking at listings for my hometown in Connecticut I see legitimately nice houses for a quarter of what these apartments cost and, wonder of wonders, properties that actually sit on the market for a little while so you can think it over.

It’s not just about housing costs, though. Obviously, you’re paying a premium for the restaurants and shows that make New York what it is, as well as high taxes. But it’s not even just affordability. It’s the broader sense that you need to hustle and never stop hustling to live here. That’s the subject of a thousand songs, after all, the New York hustle, and part of what’s so often romanticized about the place. But I don’t see much to recommend about that feeling of frantically scrambling just to hold on. Seems less than ideal!

Seems like a compatible pairing

(Motorcyclists become ethnographers of necessity, or rather rank stereotypers, for the same reason that cops do: they face risk. Stereotyping is efficient for snap judgments.)

Matthew Crawford, The World Beyond Your Head (Parentheses in original)

The irony is that we all—secular or religious people alike—make our biggest life-shaping decisions on faith. Life is too short to learn what you need to know to live well.

Frank Schaeffer, Crazy for God


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.

Narcissism-by-proxy and more

Narcissism-by-proxy

> There’s this weird psychological phenomenon in tradland [traditionland]where folks — usually but not always young men —outsource the pride and arrogance they know would be personally sinful to the Church, since She Can Never Be Wrong™. They then weaponize this narcissism-by-proxy to glibly condemn anyone who falls short, unconvincingly disguising their rash judgment as a spiritual work of mercy: “I’m just admonishing the sinner/instructing the ignorant, fam.”

Steve Skojec, ‌How Jordan Peterson Changed My Life.

Skojec was the hyper-combative muse of onepeterfive.com, a radically traditionalist Roman Catholic venture — until his faith collapsed and the rest of his life almost followed suit. I am hoping he will find Orthodoxy* (after he calms down a bit more, please — he’s already shown some improvement), and it’s interesting to see him acknowledging benefitting from Jordan Peterson because Peterson’s version of Jungianism somehow seems to rhyme a lot with Orthodoxy (all truth is God’s truth).

* (I acknowledge that Orthodoxy has its own share of young men whose pride and arrogance, plus their access to books neither of us is qualified to read — notably, The Rudder — has made them, first, insufferable prigs, then schismatic Pharisees and, finally, spiritual shipwrecks. Mercifully, I didn’t fall into that trap though I’ve been prone to that sort of thing in the past.)

Secret Diaries

Why Joshua Gibbs won’t let his daughter keep a secret diary:

> Secret diaries encourage the worst and darkest sorts of thoughts a person has. Secret diaries are often filled with complaints, insults, and grievances with others. Why? A secret diary needs a reason to be secret, which means you will fill it with the sorts of thoughts you don’t want other people hearing, which either means confessing your own sins or the sins of others. A diary is no place to confess your sins, though, because a diary can’t forgive you. And it’s no place to catalogue the sins of others … Writing things down formalizes them, confirms them, solidifies them. Writing down your thoughts takes time, and so you linger over all the unsavory thoughts you don’t want others to hear. It is one thing to have those thoughts, but another thing to dwell on them. If you have a mean or nasty thought about someone, there’s no need to make them permanent by recording them and coming back to them later.

He also affirms what a diary is good for.

Is Ruso-Ukraine a "religious war"?

> The Western secular imagination … looks at Putin’s speech the other evening, and it describes him as mad — which is another way of saying we do not understand what is going on.

Giles Fraser, who "gets it" that in a sense, Russia’s invasion of Ukraine is a religious war. So does John Schindler.

Religious wars are, mythology to the contrary notwithstanding, relatively rare, and the Ruso-Ukrainian war is partly religious not because there’s any daylight in doctrine or piety between Russian Orthodoxy and Ukrainian Orthodoxy, but because Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholemew, \likely egged on by the USA, put his foot in it\ and provoke a schism by declaring an Autocephalous Ukrainian Orthodox Church in 2019, whereas the Orthodox Church of Ukraine has long been part of the Moscow Patriarchate. Thus \the religious element of this war is inextricable from Putin’s overall irredentist ideololgy, which is distinguishable from his putative Orthodox faith.

Fans versus Disciples

> This is what our politics has become: We’re often just fans of a party — or even a religion — not believers in actual tenets.

Jane Coaston, reflecting on Georgia gubernatorial candidate Kandiss Taylor’s campaign bus, painted with her slogan "Jesus, guns, babies."


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.

Culture Wars, Hot War

Canadian Truckers

Organized fear

Since politics exists to organize fears, a major question for people caught between these two camps is which kind of power seems more frightening. The power to shut down the heart of a major city, perhaps even with the sympathy of some of the police, or the power over money and information that the Trudeau government is relying upon in its response? The specter of an insurrection or the specter of a digital police state? A revolt of the disaffected middle or a revolt of the elites?

At the moment, judging by the Canadian polls, people are unhappy with Trudeau but seem to fear the disruptions and shutdowns more than the government response. A similar preference for a disliked elite over a chaotic and disreputable opposition is why Joe Biden is president rather than Donald Trump, and why Emmanuel Macron may yet be re-elected in France.

Ross Douthat, on the “Class War” between Canadian Truckers and Canadian Meritocracy (emphasis added).

Class War

The Canadian trucker protest was a class war, Ross Douthat writes in his latest column, between what N.S. Lyons described as the “virtuals” who live in the digital world and the “practicals” who work in the “mundane physical reality” upon which the virtual society depends. “The truckers have leveraged the imposing presence of their trucks and the sympathy of other Practicals—from tow-truck drivers to cops—to attack the physical underpinnings of the capital’s economy,” he writes. “The counterstrike, while it’s finally evolved to actual physical removal, has been strikingly virtual: first a PR blitz to encourage friendly media to brand all the truckers as racists and anti-Semites and Trump supporters, then the convenient hacking and ‘doxxing’ of donors to the convoy, and then an invocation of the Emergencies Act which lets the government attack the protesters via the digital realm, freezing bank accounts and even cryptocurrency funds connected to the protests.”

The Morning Dispatch.

Ross Douthat has the condensed version, but I read N.S. Lyons’ longer substack (Reality Honks Back), which is one of the best — and most ominous — things I’ve read in weeks. Synopsis follows.

The Physicals and the Virtuals

It’s my understanding that N.S. Lyons is a pseudonym, but I’ll put still say it: “N.S. Lyons is a very smart person.”

In the recent essay ‌Reality Honks Back, Lyons reflects on the Canadian trucker convoy/strike as pitting elites (“the Virtuals,” who trade in thinking and narrative-spinning, not physical reality; in fact, they think reality is socially constructed) against “the Physicals” who trade in actual physical stuff. (Think “deplorables.”)

When the parked trucks became too intolerable a reminder that the Virtuals are utterly dependent on the Physicals (socially construct your way out of that reality if you can!), the Virtuals, having spun a narrative of neo-nazis and other deplorables, played their trump card: they incited their co-conspirators to create a new caste of economic untouchables, cutting off GoFundMe, hacking another crowdfunding site (GiveSendGo) and Doxxing donors to the truckers’ cause, and threatening economic ruin and criminal prosecution against anyone who dared try help them again.

So the Virtuals won because we don’t recognize what they did as virtual violence, whereas the Physicals, this time at least, could have retaliated only by engaging in physical violence.

Something tells me that this is only round one.

Maybe I got some of the details wrong, but I highly recommend the whole piece, and particularly the suggestion that the enmity of the Virtuals toward the Physicals (and vice-versa) is maybe the top conflict driver extant today. (It’s a theory that rhymes with the theory that we’re over-producing and under-employing college-debt-ridden elites, too.)

Update: Justin Trudeau has decided that the emergency is over and the deplorables can have their money back.

Virtuals and Physicals in the USA

Of the nation’s total 3,143 counties, the number of super landslide counties — where a presidential candidate won at least 80% of the vote — has jumped from 6% in 2004 to 22% in 2020.

“Trump’s blowouts were concentrated in white, rural counties in the Greater South, Interior West, and Great Plains,” Sabato writes, “while Biden’s were in a smattering of big cities, college towns, and smaller counties with large percentages of heavily Democratic nonwhite voters.”

Put another way, Biden won 85% of counties with a Whole Foods and only 32% of counties with a Cracker Barrel.

NPR

I thought this was an interesting tidbit until I started thinking “How many counties have both Cracker Barrel and Whole Foods? And then “Is this just a rough proxy for bigger cities versus smaller?

Paul Farmer, RIP

Paul Farmer proves that there are wonderful people doing wonderful work who for some reason never come into my field of vision until there are lamentations and obituaries at their departure. Here, here, here, here.

It’s difficult to find much discussion of religion in the life of this man whose self-sacrificial life had to be inspired by something. Get Religion calls those “God-shaped holes,” and the New York Times, Wall Street Journal and Bill Gates all had huge ones. Even Alan Jacobs didn’t hit it head-on.

But Friends University’s Russel Arben Fox comes to the rescue:

Farmer was raised a Christian believer, but only became truly committed during his years of going back and forth between Harvard and Haiti: “The fact that any sort of religious faith was so disdained at Harvard and so important to the poor–not just in Haiti but elsewhere too–made me even more convinced that faith must be something good” [MBM, pg. 85]. He became a fierce advocate of that element of Catholic social justice teaching that emphasizes giving preference to the poor, or the “option for the poor.” For Farmer, this has meant liberation theology, and a thoroughgoing critique of the failures of the rich capitalist nations of the world to attend to the manifest and desperate needs of the poorest of the poor.

Hyperbolic outrage

I should have known better than to waste any time on Olga Khazan, The New Partisan Fight Over Schools‌. It meandered around teapots, and when it found this tempest I knew I was done reading:

The most explosive example of the Republican crackdown on schools occurred when a school district in a very conservative area of Tennessee removed the Pulitzer Prize–winning Holocaust book Maus from its eighth-grade curriculum because it contains eight swear words and a bit of cartoon nudity. “It looks like the entire curriculum is developed to normalize sexuality, normalize nudity and normalize vulgar language,” the McMinn County school-board member Mike Cochran said, according to meeting minutes. “You put this stuff just enough on the edges, so the parents don’t catch it but the kids, they soak it in.” His view presumes that parents should monitor what their kids are learning.

When removing a glorified comic book from a curriculum is the most “explosive example” you’ve got, and you have to make it sound ominous-by-association that some deplorable thinks “parents should monitor what their kids are learning,” you’ve not got much.

Again, I prefer the lot of a blogger to the lot of a professional who must write even when there’s nothing much to say.

SSM and Creative Artistry

Another artisan is going to SCOTUS seeking exemption from providing creative services for same-sex “weddings”:

Tuesday’s order phrased the question before the court as “whether applying a public-accommodation law to compel an artist to speak or stay silent violates the Free Speech Clause of the First Amendment.”

Granting 303 Creative an exception “would necessarily relegate LGBT consumers to an inferior market because [Ms. Smith’s] unique services are, by definition, unavailable elsewhere,” a 2-1 panel of the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, in Denver, said in July.

“The government doesn’t have the power to silence or compel creative expression under the threat of punishment. It’s shocking that the 10th Circuit would permit Colorado to punish artists whose speech isn’t in line with state-approved ideology,” said Kristen Waggoner, general counsel of Alliance Defending Freedom, a religious advocacy group that represents 303 Creative.

Supreme Court to Hear Case of Website Designer Who Won’t Do Same-Sex Weddings – WSJ‌ (emphasis added).

I’ve just seen reports of this case for the first time the day I wrote this item, but it seems to me that the 10th Circuit’s decision says the silent part out loud: it is willing to compel an artist of unique abilities to serve all state-sanctioned “weddings” if she serves any.

The way SCOTUS (Supreme Court of the United States in shorthand) frames the question is highly favorable to 303 Creative, but I get bogged down when I think of the ramifications of this being a declaratory judgment action, where 303 Creative is not in (but wants to expand into) the wedding website business. Thus, it is not currently being compelled to use its creativity contrary to the owner’s conscience.

But I’ve got to ask, in summary of a much earlier and longer blogpost: what kind of creep would want to compel an unwilling creative-type to create for them? What kind of idiot would assume that the resulting work will be as high-caliber as work the creative actually wants to perform?

Self-referentially absurd

After an epiphany of sorts, things came into focus for Paul Kingsnorth. Among other things,

I understood why a (white male) BBC editor would stand before an audience of mostly similarly pale-skinned people and explain that nobody wants to hear white men explaining things anymore..

Russia invading Ukraine

This would deserve top placement, perhaps, if I intended to say much about Russia’s invasion of Ukraine — an invasion which I condemn but probably understand better than most Americans because I’ve been reading guys like Paul Robinson and Gilbert Doctorow as antidotes to mainstream press.

In the case of Robinson, no more:

February 23:

Regular readers will know that I have been decidedly sceptical of the idea that the Russian Federation is about to launch a full-fledged assault on the Ukraine. To be quite frank, I don’t want to believe it, as it would be an act of criminal folly – both criminal and folly, to be precise.

It would also be a humanitarian tragedy, as such an assault could not but result in a large amount of completely unnecessary death and destruction. Let us be quite clear, if it happens, I will condemn it totally and unreservedly. At that point, I will terminate this blog, as its mission to contribute to more rational discussion of both Russia and foreign policy in general will have failed absolutely and without any hope of redemption for many a year. It will be time to call an end to it all. Following a Russian invasion of Ukraine, no even remotely nuanced discussion of things Russian will be conceivable for quite possibly the rest of my life. It will be time for me to drop all punditry, cut all ties with Russia (including ending my relationship with RT), and return to being a historian safely digging in the archives of the past.

I have repeatedly condemned the West’s wars of aggression in recent years. A Russian war against Ukraine would be no worse than, for instance, the invasion of Iraq, but it would be equally criminal.

Let us hope that it doesn’t happen. If it does, you’ve seen the last of me.

(emphasis added)

February 24

In line with my last post, Irrussianality has ceased operation as of today.

God bless you all!

I think I’ll move up Robinson’s book, Russian Conservatism, on my reading list.


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.

Cantakerousness (and more)

Errata

Just because I’m infallible shouldn’t mean I don’t get to correct things. I’ll just correct other people.

Just about everyone on rube book-banners

To the best of my knowledge, Maus hasn’t been banned anywhere. I believe it was removed from the curriculum (not from the library even) of just one school district in Tennessee, for dubious or petty reasons (although there were pretty good ones, such as "graphic novels are comic books puttin’ on airs"). The "controversy" is mostly the prestige press and progressive trolls who just can’t get enough of mocking people in flyover country, with an assist from the author hinting that folks in McMinn County probably are Nazis ("I moved past total bafflement to try to be tolerant of people who may possibly not be Nazis, maybe ….")

I checked my memory with a DuckDuckGo search "What really happened in Tennessee with Maus?" and found that CNN (the top hit, actually) accurately reported the curricular nexus even in its headline while every other top hit save one (a pro-Trump "there go the libs hatin’ on normal folks again" gloat) falsely referred to "ban" in the headlines.

Doomsayers on civil war

I don’t really follow Jamelle Bouie, a young, black, progressive opinion columnist at the New York Times, but Tuesday’s column decidedly caught my eye: Why We Are Not Facing the Prospect of a Second Civil War‌. Like many in his introduction, I’ve been worrying that we are facing civil war (a prospect that renews my near-pacifism).

He describes "the inexorable syllogism of King Cotton", and how the 1850s and the election of Lincoln threatened it all:

[T]he American South produced nearly all the world’s usable raw cotton; this cotton fueled the industrial development of the North Atlantic; therefore, the advanced economies of France, the northern United States, and Great Britain were ruled, in effect, by southern planters.” The backlash to slavery — the effort to restrain its growth and contain its spread — was an existential threat to the Southern elite.

That people fervently hate each other today matters little. The key question is

whether that hate results from the irreconcilable social and economic interests of opposing groups within the society. If it must be one way or the other, then you might have a conflict on your hands.

All of our conflicts can be compromised. There are no existential threats to anyone — only LARPing about "the end of America as we know it." We can still split differences or agree to co-exist while disagreeing.

Glad I read it, and I recommend it. It’s too abbreviated to be overwhelmingly convincing, but the arguments that we are headed for civil war have mostly been abbreviated as well. For three other "no civil war" opinions, see here, here and here

Journalistic Credulity

It should be clear to any reporter that a national security source who whispers not only the alleged date of a coming invasion, but the number of days of aerial bombardment and the war’s expected level of horror and bloodiness, is either yanking your chain with a fairy tale, or using you, or both. Reporters on this beat nonetheless repeated this tale over and over, as if it were patriotic duty.

Matt Taibbi (my subscription to whom soon ends)

Is Putin Winning?

What Russia got by holding a gun to the head of Ukraine for the sake of raising its security concerns to top of mind among Western interlocutors was recognition from the United States as a major military force to be reckoned with in conventional as well as nuclear arms. And there were indications in the written U.S. response to the Russian draft treaties that significant agreements could be reached on limiting war games in Europe, on controlling or banning intermediate range nuclear capable missiles in Europe, on maintaining normal channels of communication open between the military and civilian leaders on both sides. The policy of isolation, denigration of Russia and dismissal of its security interests that dated from the Bush and Obama administrations, and in which Biden himself had participated as formulator and implementer, was now abandoned so long as Russia did not in fact invade Ukraine.

Gilbert Doctorow

Push-back

Reality+?

Reality Minus. It’s a bit rich for David Bentley Hart to note that someone else’s book is “a much, much longer book than it has any business being” and that its author fails to be “a concise expositor of ideas.” But Hart’s critique of David Chalmers’s arguments in Reality+—arguments that lead Chalmers to deem it sensible to want to “emigrate” from the physical world to some future virtual realm—is spot on: “To prefer the comfortable shelter of a simulated environment to the mysterious, wild, prodigal beauty and sublimity of life and mind — of psychē — that exist in vital nature, or even to be able calmly to contemplate absconding to the former in the aftermath of the latter’s eclipse, seems to me worse than pitiable.

Front Porch Republic (emphasis added)

It’s my strong feeling that the Metaverse is a dystopian horror, and it would be even if Mark Zuckerberg wasn’t into it commercially. But then I was shocked a few years ago to learn that a lot of college students thought (think?) Brave New World is a utopian novel.

Our foolish consistencies

A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds, adored by little statesmen and philosophers and divines. With consistency a great soul has simply nothing to do. He may as well concern himself with his shadow on the wall. Speak what you think now in hard words, and to-morrow speak what to-morrow thinks in hard words again, though it contradict every thing you said to-day. — ‘Ah, so you shall be sure to be misunderstood.’ — Is it so bad, then, to be misunderstood? Pythagoras was misunderstood, and Socrates, and Jesus, and Luther, and Copernicus, and Galileo, and Newton, and every pure and wise spirit that ever took flesh. To be great is to be misunderstood.

Ralph Waldo Emerson, brought to my mind Sunday by Ross Douthat, whose brief is more limited than Emerson’s: the foolish consistency that repeatedly plagues American law (and debases American culture), most recently in the explosion of commercial gambling and open storefront marijuana dealing.

No heart, no problem

The deep thinkers have figured a way around the unique Texas abortion law. Since it forbids abortion after a heartbeat is detected, it only applies if there’s a heart, whereas a six-week preborn child has only "a primitive tube of cardiac cells that emit electric pulses and pump blood."

So glad they explained that.

Pardon me or I’ll kill you, too

A Pakistani man sentenced to life in prison in 2019 for strangling his sister, a model on social media, was acquitted of murder Monday after his parents pardoned him under Islamic law. Waseem Azeem was arrested in 2016 after he confessed to killing Qandeel Baloch, 26, for posting what he called “shameful” pictures on Facebook. He was convicted of murder and sentenced to life in prison but his parents had sought his release. Islamic law in Pakistan allows a murder victim’s family to pardon a convicted killer.

Wire Report, page B1 of the Lafayette Journal & Courier, 2/15/22

Newsworthiness

According to mass communications theorists Maxwell McCombs and Donald Shaw, the mass media is no good at telling people what to think but is stunningly good at telling them what to think about.

Alisa Miller, Media Makeover.

Arguably (I’m tempted to say "probably") the worst media bias is in what the media choose to report, not how they choose to report it.

No good reason to oppose this one

The only members in Congress who might not want to reform [the Electoral Count Act] are those planning its imminent exploitation to overturn the next presidential election.

J. Michael Luttig, retired U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals judge.

Miscellany

Cultural Relativity

I married very young.

Spoken by British philosopher Kathleen Stock, of her marriage at age 25 to a man she met at 19.

I guess I’m living on the wrong side of the tracks, where we marry insanely young, like 23 (me) and 21 (my wife). It seems to have worked out fairly well, though.

Self-reliance

The Census Bureau’s latest Business Formation Report found Americans are founding companies at an unprecedented rate, with the number of applications to start new businesses jumping 53 percent in 2021 from pre-pandemic levels.

The Morning Dispatch, 2/16/22.

Sympathetic to Distributist economics, I love capitalists so much that I want to see millions more of them.

Many of these new businesses will fail, no doubt, as new businesses tend to do. But I will count it as a silver lining if Covid disenthralled people of the idea that wage slavery is their only option.

R.I.P., P.J. O’Rourke

As soon as children discover that the world isn’t nice, they want to make it nicer. And wouldn’t a world where everybody shares everything be nice? Aw … kids are so tender-hearted.

"But kids are broke — so they want to make the world nicer with your money. And kids don’t have much control over things — so they want to make the world nicer through your effort. And kids are very busy being young — so it’s your time that has to be spent making the world nicer. For them. The greedy little bastards.

The late P.J. O’Rourke

How matters as much as what

Joining in the widespread hope that Roe v. Wade will be reversed this year, Hadley Arkes argues that how, and with what tropes, SCOTUS reverses will be quite important:

Imagine if the justices to were to uphold the Mississippi law and say something like the following:

The case has been amply made by now, in the settled findings of embryology, that the child in the womb has been human from its first moments, a distinct life, not merely a part of the mother’s body. The legislature in Mississippi is amply justified in extending the protections of the law over this small human being, residing for a long moment in her mother’s womb. It falls to the states to weigh the question of when it would be justified to take this human life, with the same standards of judgment that enter into gauging the justification for the taking of any other human life. And so this matter should be returned to the domain in which citizens and their legislatures are free to deliberate again on the question of how the taking of life here will be measured in their standing laws on homicide.

That reasoning is straightforward and simple. It is also strikingly different from sending the matter back to the states with these words of guidance:

The question of when human life begins, or what is to be regarded as a human life in any stage, has been a controversial matter, heatedly debated, eluding consensus, and inflaming our politics. The judges who form this Court have no clearer answer to those questions than the answers that may be supplied by the first nine names in any telephone directory. And as the locale shifts to cities and states, so too will the temper and “values” borne by those first nine names. We therefore send this matter back for people in the states to deliberate upon again—to make their own “value judgments” on when human life begins, and on when that developing life commands the obligation of the law to protect it.

Surely, these divergent approaches mark the most notable difference. The first approach invites the American people to deliberate seriously again on the question of what justifies the taking of an undeniably human life. The latter steers around any serious deliberation, for it is framed with the premise that there is no truth by which to gauge our judgments …

… The dictum “equal protection of the law” is built then into any rule of law, even if not made explicit. Some judges at the state level will construe the “equal protection of the laws” as a clear challenge to laws that place limits on abortion. For as the line will surely go: It is the most patent discrimination on the basis of sex to forbid this surgery, performed solely on women, and in certain cases desperately wanted by women.

We have seen the signs already that judges in the states will find this “right to abortion” to be implicit in their state constitutions. But the seed for a resistance may be planted if the Court sends the matter back to the states with this simple point recalled and put in place: The child in the womb has been nothing less than a human life from its first moments, and it has never been merely a part of its mother ….

I can only begin to imagine how the Blue Stack* would react to moral clarity, not procedural arcana, coming from the highest court in the land.

[* Zaid Jilani describes the "Blue Stack" thus: "The institutions successfully driving this push for ideological conformity across American life—progressive nonprofits, large portions of the news media, woke corporations, Democrats in government—can collectively be called the “blue stack,” which represents an enforcement mechanism for the ruling ideology to express hegemony over American democracy."]

The San Francisco precedent

As a matter of governance, Tuesday’s [San Francisco School Board] recall was an example of local citizens asserting local control.

As a matter of precedent, however, the recall had a greater meaning. It represented the triumph of reason over radicalism. It provided an example not of how the right can beat the left, but rather of how the left can regulate and reform the left—an example that can and should be emulated on the right.

David French

Blue Collar and White? That Changes Everything

Damon Linker penetrates to at least a somewhat deeper meaning of the Canadian truckers’ convoy. (When protests aren’t progressive‌)


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 10/28/21

Misguided, yes, but not criminals

Insofar as Attorney General Merrick Garland has sicced the FBI on parent-protesters at school board meetings, I’m glad Mitch McConnell stonewalled his Supreme Court nomination.

On the other hand, see the first item here. I have thoughts, too, about how parents are in some instances shooting themselves in the foot (feet?) by extremely weird efforts to style teaching of our racial history as "CRT."

Dying for the state?

On the one hand, the democratic state modestly claims to be a mere means toward an end. On the other hand, the same state needs to convince its citizens that it can give them a meaningful identity because the state is the only means of achieving the common good. Dying for this state, as Alasdair MacIntyre has said, is “like being asked to die for the telephone company”

Stanley Hauerwas, Resident Aliens

Conservative low and high "churches"

[L]ow church conservatism retains the anti-clericalism of its religious counterpart. This entails a pervasive anti-elitism. For the low church conservative, a popular broadcaster such as Rush Limbaugh possesses greater authority than a scholar such as Russell Kirk. The former derives his position from (or has it affirmed by) the congregation—his listeners. A Kirk, on the other hand, appears all too priestly.

Becevich, Hoeveler, Kurth, Quinn, Weyrich and Lind, The Essence of Conservatism

Democracy’s currently degraded form

[I]t is hardly clear that American democracy even in its currently degraded form will survive much longer. It thus seems unduly optimistic to make calculations about the second- or third-order side effects of a judicial ruling on future electoral outcomes, when those elections may well be decided by the fiat of conspiracy-theory-believing Trumparatchiks ….

Michael C. Dorf

I disagree strenuously with Dorf on the supposed constitutional right to abortion, but other than that, these musings on ‌Will the SB8 Case Allow SCOTUS to Appear Moderate? If So, What Follows? are interesting, and the pull-quote above is not really wrong.

But as of this writing, I’m worried, too, about the frivolity of our democracy: two items in this morning’s news involve (a) bestowing a Congressional Medal of Honor posthumously on a fine young Marine from not far from my home who got killed in the botched Afghan air lift, and (b) some sort of honor for Prince.


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

Potpourri 10/11/21

Meaning is a necessity

> There are aspects of the human condition that can be explored through art, that must be explored through art, that are not conducive to stories about superheroes, wizards, cyborgs, monsters, or similar. And, in those cases where such themes are explored with genre tropes, they are generally unattractive to (some would say inappropriate for) children. And so adults should look beyond art intended for children, in order to deepen their understanding of life and the world and grapple with what it means to live a mortal life in a universe without meaning. > > … > > In life we have both cookies and kimchi, both lemonade and whiskey. There are, in other words, acquired tastes as well as obvious ones, and the former are some of the best stuff in life. This, again, does not in any way dismiss the pleasures associated with cookies and lemonade. The point is merely that very few people only consume cookies and lemonade, but far too many never access any movies or shows or books that deal in the bleaker, harder, subtler, quieter parts of life. > > Now the common rejoinder is to say “do both!” And indeed – watch both, read both. I can’t complain about that. But the entire point is that people aren’t watching both. Do you know how many people consume literally nothing but superheroes, sci-fi, zombies, video games, and so on? Very, very many. And how could there not be? Any sense that we should feel embarrassed to remain fixated on art for children in existence that once existed – and I have never been convinced that it ever did – has long since been utterly obliterated in our current moment, a time when art populism manages to both be utterly commercially and critically dominant and yet cast as a perpetual underdog. Precisely because they need to be acquired, acquired tastes have a higher barrier to entry than others, and so their embrace by the public will always be more tenuous. But there are treasures there. Think of how much is lost for so many when there is no social pressure at all to try new things, new types of things. > > It is no coincidence that we are all living in the digital world alongside a cadre of angry, embittered, activist nerds who rage out endlessly about all of the perceived slights against them. After all, there culture has told them to never leave their fantasies behind, so how can we be surprised that they react violently to the difference between those fantasies and their reality? …

Freddie DeBoer, ‌the Second Part of Life.

I do not agree with atheist Freddie that the universe is meaningless — or that humans actually can live humanly as if it were. Even atheists desire and quietly ferret out at least tacit and private meaning.

> [F]or human beings, meaning is not just a luxury. It is a necessity.

Historian Wilfred McClay, ‌Has America Lost Its Story?

Cramped narratives

> "A small circle is quite as infinite as a large circle; but, though it is quite as infinite, it is not so large. In the same way the insane explanation is quite as complete as the sane one, but it is not so large." The ideological narratives that are popular now offer just this kind of terribly cramped sense. They account for all the facts within a very small circumference, one typically marked out by the chatter of the extremely online, but they exclude much that is required for healthy, sane judgment: local particulars, affection for neighbors, and good humor, to name a few.

Jeffrey Bilbro, Staying Sane in a Mad Time (Front Porch Republic) quoting G.K. Chesterton.

Meyer Lansky vindicated!

> In the 1940s, organized crime kingpin Meyer Lansky boasted that his casino-based empire was “going to be bigger than U.S. Steel.” His prediction has been wildly surpassed. In 2014, U.S. Steel had revenue of $17.5 billion and employed 42,000 people. Indian casinos alone employed 400,000. In one recent year, gambling took in $72 billion in the United States; movie tickets, $9.5 billion; theme parks, $10.3 billion, cable TV, $51 billion. Gambling is bigger than any other form of recreation and entertainment in the country.

Helen Andrews, ‌Casino Capitalism, Literally

What troubled Michael Goldhaber

> When you have attention, you have power, and some people will try and succeed in getting huge amounts of attention, and they would not use it in equal or positive ways.

So I won’t accused of monomania for thinking that this describes Donald Trump, I acknowledge that it was stated as a general principle in the article that introduced me to the powerful concept of the "attention economy": Charlie Warzel, Michael Goldhaber, the Cassandra of the Internet Age (The New York Times). It’s one of the most illumining articles I’ve read this year, and one that I plan to review regularly until I stop getting anything new from it.

I still think it fits Trump to a gold-plated "T", but that’s not surprising, is it?

More:

> In June 2006, when Facebook was still months from launching its News Feed, Mr. Goldhaber predicted the grueling personal effects of a life mediated by technologies that feed on our attention and reward those best able to command it. “In an attention economy, one is never not on, at least when one is awake, since one is nearly always paying, getting or seeking attention.”

Fetishists

These days, when a pundit writes about politics, instead of simply stating his opinion, he feels obliged to start off with various polling numbers on what people think about it.

We are innumerate, yet we fetishize "science" that corroborates, however weakly, what we see. And most polls are very weak corroboration indeed.

Powerful fanatics compelling lies

> David Chappelle’s The Closer is, in fact, a humanely brilliant indictment of elite culture at this moment in time: a brutal exposure of its identitarian monomania, its denial of reality, and its ruthless tactics of personal and public destruction. It marks a real moment: a punching up against the powerful, especially those who pretend they aren’t. > > … > > The debate … is about whether a tiny group of fanatics, empowered by every major cultural institution, can compel or emotionally blackmail other people into saying things that are not true.

Andrew Sullivan, David Chappelle is Right, Isn’t He? (hyperlink added).

Yes, Virginia, we’re still at war. Of course we are.

Justice Kavanaugh asks a telling question:

> “Is the United States still engaged in hostilities for purposes of the AUMF against al-Qaeda and related terrorist organizations?” The AUMF (Authorization for Use of Military Force) is the 2001 congressional resolution that served as the basis for the war in Afghanistan and for continuing U.S. military operations and detention of enemy combatants. > > Yes, [Biden’s acting solicitor, Brian] Fletcher conceded, “that is the government’s position.” And it is the position the Biden administration holds, he elaborated, “notwithstanding withdrawal of troops from Afghanistan.” Whatever the White House may say about the end of the forever war, the Justice Department has represented to the Supreme Court that “we continue to be engaged in hostilities with al-Qaeda and therefore that detention under law of war remains proper.”

Andrew C. McCarthy, ‌Kavanaugh Question Reveals Biden Administration Dishonesty on Ending Forever War

What’s self-evident in education?

> Educators take nothing to be self evident; trainers take everything to be so.

Elizabeth Corey and Jeffrey Polet, Indoctrination Sessions Have No Place in the Academy. By "indoctrination," they mean "[this, that, and the other] training" of most sorts.

After reading and writing this, I found that one person, Chloé Valdary, has a relatively attractive approach to antiracism training.

Good riddance, ideologue

> I think there’s an image that a lot of Republicans have, both in politics and they sort of represent a sober and judicious way of looking at the world, and we are the adults in the room. > > And it’s more about a culture than it is an ideology. > > The original Republican conservative movement, I thought, was going to go back and look at the Constitution, when Jefferson said it won’t work if you pile up everybody in the cities because they will be subject to mass hysteria. Or de Tocqueville, and you look at certain ideas, I thought that’s what we were.

Victor Davis Hanson, interviewed by Tucker Carlson, on ‌Why I Left National Review.

I’m not a big fan of National Review. I even let my subscription lapse, but recently renewed because I was being denied access to any full article (I think online publications consciously do that to recently-lapsed subscribers.) They have a few authors I like well enough to make it worth, what, $0.77 per week?

But when VDH complains that "it’s more about a culture than it is an ideology," I’m with NRO. I’ve had it with ideology. I’ve had it with "No True Conservative would willingly live in a big city" or "you’re ignoring Tocqueville."

As far as I’m concerned, conservatism is epistemically humble and therefore more cultural than ideological.

But the VDH approach is common enough, as are innumerable others, that the name "conservative" has become virtually useless.

Goodness, gracious!

> “Can’t anybody here play this game?” comes to mind when I read about Congress and the debt ceiling hassle and the Republicans’ aversion to talking about climate change even as the reality of it is rather clear and auto manufacturers are planning for electric car production, but Republicans are satisfied with a policy of denial. This is not intelligent but they believe it’s a winning strategy. Goodness gracious. Who are these people? What game are we playing?

Garrison Keillor, ‌A few beams of light on our current situation

Thoughtcrime in America

> You may disagree with parents like me who do not want our children indoctrinated with Critical Race Theory, masked during recess, or told that their biological sex is is not real. But in a free society, we don’t call the feds to police our fellow Americans because we don’t share their politics.

Maud Maron, ‌Why Are Moms Like Me Being Called Domestic Terrorists?

The other side

I detested and still detest Donald Trump. But I’m not positive I’ve counterbalanced against his unhinged narcissism (and all its corrolaries) the Democrats’ 2016 and following dirty tricks. This Holman Jenkins column helps.

National Review’s Michael Brendan Dougherty, responding to nonsense from formerly-respected Roger Kimball, sounds off, too:

> Nearly everything Kimball says about the ongoing resistance to Trump is true. It was meretricious, hysterical, and dangerous. Even before Trump won the election, I predicted the unprecedented subterfuge that would probably be aimed at him if he won the presidency. We saw the deep state as it really is: an ongoing class warfare against the democratic peoples and their representatives whose disruptions provide accountability. No one has to coordinate 50 former intelligence agents to issue a statement denouncing the New York Post’s Hunter Biden scoop as probable Russian disinformation, justifying suppression of the story just days before the election. The deep-staters know how to do it. > > … > > We can all throw Trump the biggest pity party in history about the subterfuge he faced within the executive branch. He didn’t have the guts to clean house and make the government employees do their jobs. In other words, he didn’t do the job he was elected to do. For a president to take control of the executive branch, he must  hire people he can trust to run one of the largest organizations on earth. Trump couldn’t or wouldn’t. Every account of the Trump White House’s operation tells us that Trump trusted and respected no one who didn’t have the last name Trump or Kushner. What his actions leading up to January 6 show us is that he didn’t respect his followers, either.

Michael Brendan Dougherty, ‌January 6 Was No Hoax, Trump Abused Supporters’ Trust

Like Dougherty, I refuse to valorize either toxic narcissist Donald Trump or the "meretricious, hysterical, and dangerous" resistance. (I confess that I was slow to recognize the latter, so dangerous did I consider the former.)

Reality Check

> (Here’s a fun tip for you all: if you have the power to get someone fired or otherwise ruin their life you are not a powerless, marginalized Other.)

Freddie DeBoer

Freddie’s ability to see through cant is why I pay to read his Substack posts. A couple of others I apparently prepaid (for a year) have become annoying noise (I’ve told my computer to put them more or less out of sight.)

Another Substack

> If you come here to take in my slant on the world, wherever that leads, you’re in the right place. If you come here to watch me own the libs, you’ll probably be disappointed. I’ll rent them on occasion, as the spirit moves. Yet I’m a firm believer that if you only find the other guy’s side to be full of con artists, chiselers, and demagogues, you’re not paying close enough attention to your own.

Matt Labash, introducing his new Substack, Slack Tide.

I’m not familiar with Labash, but I’m told he’s really good.


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.