Potpourri, 12/14/18

1

Fr. Patrick Henry Reardon in a podcast recounted a professor at an Anglican divinity school complaining that much commentary on Pauline epistles focus disproportionately on the first halves, what God has done for us, to the neglect of the second halves, what we should now do.

2

Christian struggle against evil in this world is not, in its first instance, political or social, but ascetical.

Fr. Patrick Henry Reardon, Christ in the Psalms, commenting on Psalm 57 (Septuagint numbering)

3

Women’s magazines and news outlets depict women who vote Republican as deviants. Vogue headlined a postelection commentary “Why Do White Women Keep Voting for the GOP and Against Their Own Interests?” The Guardian asked: “Half of White Women Continue to Vote Republican. What’s Wrong with Them?” The latter article asserted that “white women vote for Republicans for the same reason that white men do: because they are racist.” Barbra Streisand claimed “a lot of women vote the way their husbands vote; they don’t believe enough in their own thoughts.” Hillary Clinton, Michelle Obama and Madeleine Albright have all expressed similar sentiments in public.

Far-left activists next month march on Washington again under the banner “the Women’s March.” The media will present them as simply “women”—as if women with other views don’t exist.

Carrie Lukas

4

Peggy Noonan reports (among other things) some polling data that prove the worthlessness of some polls (such as “Four in 10 expect Mueller will find evidence of crimes, while just over half of those polled do not think they will be impeachable offenses.”), then settles in to her real point:

Politics is part theater, part showbiz, it’s always been emotional, but we’ve gotten too emotional, both parties. It’s too much about feelings and how moved you are. The balance is off. We have been electing magic ponies in our presidential contests, and we have done this while slighting qualities like experience, hard and concrete political accomplishment, even personal maturity. Barack Obama, whatever else he was, was a magic pony. Donald Trump too. Beto O’Rourke, who is so electrifying Democrats, also appears to be a magic pony.

Messrs. Obama and Trump represented a mood. They didn’t ask for or elicit rigorous judgment, they excited voters. Mr. Trump’s election was driven by a feeling of indignation and pushback: You elites treat me like a nobody in my own country, I’m about to show you who’s boss. His supporters didn’t consider it disqualifying that he’d never held office. They saw it as proof he wasn’t in the club and could turn things around. His ignorance was taken as authenticity. In this he was like Sarah Palin, another magic pony.

But sober judgment, serious accomplishment, deep knowledge and personal maturity are most important in our political leaders, because of the complexity of the problems we face. History will be confounded that at such a crucial time, trying to come up with a plan to address such issues as artificial intelligence and robotics and the future of work and a rising China and the stresses of the nuclear world, we kept choosing magic ponies and hoping for the best.

5

“There are some people in our party here who are just plain anti-Muslim,” said Tarrant County [TX] GOP chairman Darl Easton, who appointed Dr. Shafi to his post. “There are more than I expected there to be.”

Muslim GOP Leader Targeted by Party Activists in Texas.

That leader is a Pakistani immigrant surgeon, who came here before 1990. The kerfuffle reminds me of 1960, when JFK had to promise some Texans (history rhymes) that he was, in effect, American first, Roman Catholic second.

Even if Roman Catholicism or Islam entail some political positions at odds with American political and constitutional traditions, which I do not concede, it is part of America’s dubious genius so to “assimiliate” people that such entailments drop away.

Dare I suggest that Texas should worry more about its home-grown Independent Fundamental Baptists than about 53-year-old Muslim immigrant surgeons? Those IFBs seem to think that 14-year-old girls are temptresses agains whose wiles its male pastors are powerless. Sounds un-American to me.

But in the category of “probably not fake news,” the Wall Street Journal reports that pro-Kremlin activists want to bring back monarchy, perhaps with Vladimir Putin as Czar. I say it’s probably not fake because, heck, I know some American Orthodox converts who gratuitously hanker for a Czar/Tsar in Russia again.

Maybe Orthodox Christians shouldn’t be trusted to hold office in America? (It might be a blessing.)

6

A confused mother writes to The New York Times‘s advice column:

I’m the mother of an amazing teenage daughter. Our relationship is close, but recently things have gotten complicated. She came out to us as pansexual when she was 11. I was concerned about her labeling herself at such a young age and being bullied.

Came out as pansexual at age 11. Hoo boy. I’d bet cash money that this mother is not remotely worried about bullying; she was rightly worried that her daughter was weirdly and inappropriately sexualizing herself at a young age. But she can’t say that in her culture, because we are crazy people.

Rod Dreher. I’d take that bet for a modest amount, Rod, because we may be a crazier people than you recognize. Remember the little girls’ beauty pageants, with the girls all tarted up by their moms? The sexualization is just a public school thing.

Don’t miss Reader Zapollo in Dreher’s UPDATE.

7

Every once and a while, Caitlin Johnstone comes up with something that’s not expressly political. I like this poem. I can’t help it.

8

From the Department of Denial Is Not A River In Egypt:

As for men and women with homosexual tendencies who have already made religious vows, Francis ordered them not to act upon their desires in any way: “It is better that they leave the priesthood or the consecrated life rather than live a double life.”

… [S]ome 80 percent of the victims of priestly sexual malfeasance have been male. And more than 95 percent of those boys haven’t been prepubescent children (whose predators have their own pathology) but adolescents past puberty and sexually mature in body if not in mind. In other words, the bulk of the entire unsavory enterprise concerned run-of-the-mill homosexual activity conducted under the cover of priestly reputation for holiness and a strikingly lopsided adult-teen power dynamic.

Charlotte Allen.

9

Saved for last, a news Dump-On-Trump.


Scott Alexander at Slate Star Codex musters evidence that Donald Trump hasn’t even been good at promoting Trumpism, which, if true, would have to rank among the most abject of failures.


[T]his president leav[es] his constituency high and dry through political incompetence, behavioral incontinence, an inability to maintain a focus on anything, and an incapacity to think or act coherently.

Robert Merry, American Conservative. This is not an earth-shattering reversal, as the American Conservative has tended to the #NeverTrump side, but I thought it well-expressed.


I find Barr to be awful, but in a conventional way. So — Whitaker, the acting AG, I find to be awful in a norm-violating, Trump-administration type of way.

Ken White (a/k/a Popehat) in the All The Presidents Lawyers podcast of 12/10/18.


Many Never-Trumper Christians have acknowledged solid Federal Court nominees and a cooling of government hostility toward orthodox Christians (perhaps a better record on religious freedom overall, even, despite the rhetoric unmistakably targeting Muslim immigrants). Other Christians support Trump, period, full stop.

George Yancey has an instructive analogy for the supporters, in which analogy the Never-Trumpers will recognize their own concerns.

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Potpourri 11/27/18

1

An obese man wants to lose weight. He hires a personal trainer and a nutritionist and informs them he wants to go from 300 pounds to 200. “I am willing to diet and exercise,” he tells them earnestly. The obese man purchases an expensive program with the personal trainer, whom he sees five days a week. The nutritionist advises the obese man on meal plans, and he begins eating grains for breakfast, a salad for lunch, and lean white meat and vegetables for dinner. He jogs a mile every morning, then works with his trainer at the gym for ninety minutes.

Three months pass and the man has lost no weight. The nutritionist inquires about his eating habits, and the man says he has eaten exactly what she told him to eat.

“Are you eating anything besides what I told you to eat?”

The man replies, “Before bed, I’ll have pizza, cake and ice cream, and a few Russian imperial stouts.”

The nutritionist asks, “Is that the only time you eat that kind of food?”

The man replies, “It’s typically what I eat on weekends. Monday through Friday, though, from breakfast till dinner, I keep the diet and do the exercise.”

Of course, merely keeping a diet for eight hours a day, five days a week, will not be sufficient to improve a man’s health. Neither will a classical education do much good if it is only kept on weekdays during business hours. It is possible for a man to undo his daily diet every night before bed, and it is likewise possible for everything that happens between 8am and 3pm at school to be erased at home between 3pm and bedtime.

If classical education were mainly concerned with students knowing what is right, then whatever took place in the life of the student between 3pm and bedtime would not matter so much. For all their faults, video games, pop music, and social media are not likely to scrub the memory. However, a classical education is more concerned with loving what is right than merely knowing it ….

Joshua Gibbs, A Classical Education Demands A Classical Home.

2

In the forties, there were many who turned against their old beliefs, but there were very few who understood what had been wrong with those beliefs. Far from giving up their belief in history and success, they simply changed trains, as it were; the train of Socialism and Communism had been wrong, and they changed to the train of Capitalism or Freudianism or some refined Marxism, or a sophisticated mixture of all three. Auden, instead, became a Christian; that is, he left the train of History altogether. I don’t know whether Stephen Spender is right in asserting that “prayer corresponded to his deepest need”—I suspect that his deepest need was simply to write verses—but I am reasonably sure that his sanity, the great good sense that illuminated all his prose writings (his essays and book reviews), was due in no small measure to the protective shield of orthodoxy.

Hannah Arendt, writing about W.H. Auden.

3

I texted over the weekend with a European friend with whom I had not been in touch for a couple of decades. Over the course of our conversation, I revealed to him that since we had last been in touch, I had left Catholicism. He said he had too. It turns out that a kid he had once been an altar boy with told him that Father had molested him back then. My friend said it was “just dumb luck” that he wasn’t attacked also. He has learned, as have we all, that rapey Father was not unusual, and that bishops have known about dirty priests like him for a long time, and done little or nothing about it. My friend couldn’t take any of it seriously after that. He told me that he misses certain things, but that he is not going to take his young sons into the Church, as he regards the Catholic priesthood as “a refuge for homosexuals and child molesters.”

Now, you can regard that European man as a fool if you like, but the fact is that the Catholic faith, which has been faithfully handed down in his family from time immemorial, stops with his generation, and may never again be known among his line ….

Rod Dreher.

4

I’ve never been one for name-dropping, but … Wess Stafford.

It seemed at one point as if everybody in my former Evangelical circles knew who he was, but the irony is that I didn’t — though I’d gone to school with him, graduating with him, in a very small school (i.e., graduating class of about 60).

Wess Stafford arrived at Wheaton Academy during the blizzard of ’67 hopeless, alone, and angry. The way he saw it, he had two choices – run away or end it all. Today, when asked, Dr. Stafford would tell you that what followed was a transformation so powerful that he now refers to his life as “before Wheaton Academy and after Wheaton Academy!”

(Wheaton Academy Giving Tuesday email)

That’s all true. I know Wess now and we’re on first-name basis. But I didn’t know him then because his arrival was the beginning of our last semester, and he quickly learned that his education (beginning on the African mission field) to that point had been woefully inadequate. (Things that had happened to him — hint: see item 3 — didn’t help matters any.) He was going to have to study like mad to begin to catch up, and though he had hoped to outrun our track coach, Gil Dodds, athletics weren’t going to fit into his schedule, which left little time for anything but intense study.

He did what he had to do and went on to become famous for his charity work.

So, his slipping into our stream at the last minute and then having to bury himself in his room and in the library is my excuse for not remembering him.

The world is full of interesting stories. I hope this was one.

5

For what it’s worth, I have zero indignation about the woman in Mississippi, running for public office, who said “If he invited me to a public hanging, I’d be right there in the front row.” (Or something like that.)

The reporting has been free of all context except that she’s white, her opponent is black, she attended a private school that was segregated, and it is, above all, Mississippi (wink, wink, home of deplorables).

I have no sympathy with racism, but the remark, without context, is susceptible of non-racist interpretations, and I’m sick of the game of “Gotcha!,” where the press helps gin up the “controversy.” The press failure to provide more context leaves me very, very suspicious that they’re just trying to keep our rapt attention.

6

It’s so great that we have a very stable genius businessman for President!

When GM announced that it was cutting 15,000 jobs, our very stable genius businessman/President said he wasn’t happy about it (his happiness is the measure of all things) and they should try making something that people will buy.

Why didn’t GM think of that? Duh!

MAGA!

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More clippings, 11/24/18

1

“I can virtually guarantee you that if Hillary Clinton had won the White House, you would not see these same law firms filing numerous lawsuits against her administration in the name of the rule of law,” said Hans von Spakovsky, a legal scholar at the Heritage Foundation ….

Annie Coreal, New York Times. Yes, Big Law’s motives in challenging Trump on immigration are mixed, but “defending the rule of law” is part of the mix.

2

Alan Jacobs is going to write a book about the importance of reading old books, but Ben Sasse probably won’t read it. I may.

3

[F]or all the people who are exasperated by Friston’s impenetrability, there are nearly as many who feel he has unlocked something huge, an idea every bit as expansive as Darwin’s theory of natural selection.

Shaun Raviv, The Genius Neuroscientist Who Might Hold the Key to True AI (Wired)

Does this mean “circular, but evocative”?

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Clippings, 11/24/18

1

This first item is more than just a clipping. So sue me.

  • The U.S. Government’s own list of terrorist attacks since 2001 shows a dramatic drop in the violence carried out by Iran and an accompanying surge in horrific acts by radical Sunni Muslims who are not aligned with Iran.
  • The last major terrorist attack causing casualties that is linked to Iran was the July 2012 bombing of a bus with Israeli tourists in Bulgaria, retaliation for what Iran perceived to be Israel’s role in assassinating five Iranian scientists involved with Iran’s Nuclear program, between January 2010 and January 2012.
  • The U.S.-led 2003 war in Iraq played a critical role in Iran’s resurgence as a regional power.

Intel Vets Tell Trump Iran Is Not Top Terror Sponsor.

[A]s I have observed before, the red hazard light that continues to be blinking most brightly relates to Washington’s relationship with Iran, which has unnecessarily deteriorated dramatically over the past year and which brings with it collateral problems with Russia and Turkey that could trigger a much wider conflict. I say unnecessarily because all the steps taken to poison the relationship have come out of Washington, not Tehran. The Trump administration refused to certify that the Iranians had been in compliance with the nuclear agreement negotiated in 2015 and has since escalated its verbal attacks, mostly at the United Nations, claiming that the regime in Tehran is the major source of terrorism in the world and that it is seeking hegemony over a broad arc of countries running westward from its borders to the Mediterranean Sea.

Philip Giraldi, Who Are the Leading State Sponsors of Terrorism?

John Bolton is bound and determined to wage war on Iran. I’d bet a bundle on it happening.

2

To secular and leftist Europeans, Hungary’s Fundamental Law came as a shock. The preamble set the tone—it is the opening line of the Hungarian National Hymn (anthem): “God, bless the Hungarians.” That was already too much for The Guardian. A writer for that left-wing British newspaper noted that the new constitution’s “preamble is heavily influenced by the Christian faith and commits Hungary to a whole new set of values, such as family, nation, fidelity, faith, love and labour.” It was enough to point this out: further criticism would apparently have been superfluous.

Equally against the European grain were provisions of the Fundamental Law such as these: “We avow that the family and the nation constitute the most important framework of our coexistence”; “The life of the offspring shall be protected from the moment of conception”; “Hungary shall protect the institution of marriage as the union of a man and a woman.” This last, in particular, was subjected to almost universal condemnation, expressed in the language of hatred and rage.

Lee Congdon, Viktor Orbán and the Hungarian Resistance (Modern Age, Fall 2018)

I am mindful of this every time I read the New York Times writing of Orban being “far-right.”

3

[W]riting off an ocean of rural and Rust Belt red is a terrible strategy in the long term. If the Democrats want to win and keep winning, with a mandate to put their policies into effect, they need to face four hard truths.

1 Demography Is Not Destiny
“Why not just wait for the white working class to die off?” asked an audience member at last year’s Berkeley Festival of Ideas. I get this question a lot, and I always reply: “Do you understand now why they voted for Trump? Your attitude is offensive, and Trump is their middle finger.

Joan C. Williams, The Democrats’ White-People Problem (Atlantic, December 2018) (Italics added).

4

We may be witnessing another voter realignment. When I was young, the Republicans were the party of the elite, and the Democrats were the party of the working class. It seems that now the Republicans are the party of the white working class, and the Democrats are the party of the wealthy and educated. Democrats have decided to go after those elite voters and have done so in ways that have made them less attractive to working class whites. It remains to be seen if this realignment is temporary, or whether we are at the beginning of a larger migration of elite whites to the Democrats and working class whites to the Republicans. But the recent midterm elections seem to have strengthened this switch.

… [M]oney is not everything. After all how would you feel about a political party that offers you higher wages but talks about you as a “deplorable?” You probably would not see that party as looking out for your best interest. But this sort of attitude plays well among the educated elite. So to become palatable to white elites Democrats have acted in ways that have made their party more alienating to the white middle class.

… I remember watching a Beto/Cruz debate a few weeks ago. The debate moved to the topic of gun control. And right on cue, Beto whipped out one of the favorite talking points of highly educated whites that we need to do more than give gun victims “thoughts and prayers.” At that point I knew that Beto did not have what it took to cut into the hold Cruz had on the lower class white voter and in a state with a lot of small towns filled with such voters that Cruz was likely to win.

… The real irony of that was Beto was trying to run a campaign of inclusiveness across racial, economic and even political lines. Yet, he could not quite leave out this little bit of snark.

George Yancey

5

Washington think tanks are undergoing a fundamental evolution. A lot of them, like the American Enterprise Institute and the Brookings Institution, were built to advise parties that no longer exist. They were built for a style of public debate — based on social science evidence and congressional hearings that are more than just show trials — that no longer exists. Many people at these places have discovered that they have more in common with one another than they do with the extremists on their own sides.

So suddenly there is a flurry of working together across ideological lines. Next week, for example, the group Opportunity America, with Brookings and A.E.I., will release a bipartisan agenda called “Work, Skills, Community: Restoring Opportunity for the Working Class.”

One of the core questions before us is this: Who is going to lead this country? Is it perpetual outsiders like Trump, with no governing or policy competence, who say the establishments have forfeited all credibility? Or are there enough chastened members of establishments, who have governing experience, who acknowledge past mistakes, who take the time to reconnect with the country and apply their expertise in new ways?

I don’t know about you, I’ll take a chastened establishment any day.

David Brooks, The Return of the Chastened Establishment (The Opportunity America link is a 136-page PDF download.)

6

But politics isn’t just a seething cauldron of unmanageable and frightening shifts and realignments. There’s also the tacit requirement that politicians prattle on demand about anything and everything. F’rinstance:

“He shot from the hip with a sledgehammer instead of using a scalpel.”

Sen. Claire McCaskill, on … oh, what does it matter anyway? She was prattling about something. (via George Will).

7

My periodic reminder that “more conservative than other major newspapers” does not mean that it gets religion:

Deep down, however, beneath the trappings of food, family and often-forgettable football games, Thanksgiving is really a management story. It’s a case study in how extraordinary leaders build happy, productive teams.

Sam Walker, Wall Street Journal

8

Wealth, she said in a 1983 interview with Parade magazine, was “sort of like having good looks: It’s not something you’ve earned, but you don’t go out and scar your face, either.”

Carolyn Rose Hunt via the Wall Street Journal (which does more or less “get” money).

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Mélange 11/17/18

1

To maintain its large membership base, the ACLU recruited new members by directing mass mailings to mailing lists rented from a broad range of liberal groups. The result of the shift of the ACLU to a mass membership organization was that it gradually transformed itself from a civil libertarian organization into a liberal organization with an interest in civil liberties …

… With the election of Donald Trump, its membership rolls have grown to almost two million, almost all of them liberal politically, few of whom are devoted to civil liberties as such. Meanwhile, the left in general has become less interested in, and in some cases opposed to, freedom of speech, freedom of religion, and the rights of the accused.

Future historians will have to reconstruct exactly how and why the tipping point has been reached, but the ACLU’s actions over the last couple of months show that the ACLU is no longer a civil libertarian organization in any meaningful sense, but just another left-wing pressure group, albeit one with a civil libertarian history.

First, the ACLU ran an anti-Brett Kavanaugh video ad that relied entirely on something that no committed civil libertarian would countenance, guilt by association …

Meanwhile, yesterday, the Department of Education released a proposed new Title IX regulation that provides for due process rights for accused students that had been prohibited by Obama-era guidance. Shockingly, even to those of us who have followed the ACLU’s long, slow decline, the ACLU tweeted in reponse that the proposed regulation “promotes an unfair process, inappropriately favoring the accused.” Even longtime ACLU critics are choking on the ACLU, of all organizations, claiming that due proess protections “inappropriately favor the accuse.”

The ACLU had a clear choice between the identitarian politics of the feminist hard left, and retaining some semblance of its traditional commitment to fair process. It chose the former. And that along with the Kavanaugh ad signals the final end of the ACLU as we knew it. RIP.

David Bernstein at the Volokh Conspiracy blog

I’m glad he said it since I lack the high status to command respect. And I’m glad he cited specific proof.

ACLU no longer cares about civil liberties and SPLC primarily cares about labeling its adversaries “haters.” We’re in a fine mess.

2

Insider sources have reportedly confirmed to the Washington Post that Assange has been charged. Because those charges are sealed, it’s impossible to know what they are or how they’re being justified. If you ask #Resistance Twitter, it’s because it’s #MuellerTime and Assange is about to be arrested under some mysterious charges involving WikiLeaks’ publication of non-government, non-classified emails in 2016. If you ask QAnon cultists, it’s because Donald Trump is planning to extradite Assange so as to rescue him and deal a fatal blow to the Deep State. If you ask people who actually know what they’re talking about, however, it’s most likely for WikiLeaks’ Afghanistan and Iraq war logs and/or last year’s CIA leak publications, and most likely using the Espionage Act. This would constitute a deadly blow to press freedoms, and arguably a greater leap in the direction of Orwellian dystopia than the Patriot Act.

It also proves once again that Julian Assange was completely right.

Caitlin Johnstone

3

In ancient Egypt there lived a wise king named Thamus. One day he was visited by a clever god called Theuth.

Theuth was an inventor of many useful things: arithmetic and geometry; astronomy and dice. But his greatest discovery, so he believed, “was the use of letters.” And it was this invention that Theuth was most eager to share with King Thamus.

The art of writing, Theuth said, “will make the Egyptians wiser and give them better memories; it is a specific both for the memory and for the wit.”

But Thamus rebuffed him. “O most ingenious Theuth,” he said, “the parent or inventor of an art is not always the best judge of the utility or inutility of his own inventions to the users of them.”

The king continued: “For this discovery of yours will create forgetfulness in the learners’ souls, because they will not use their memories; they will trust to the external written characters and not remember themselves.”

Written words, Thamus concluded, “give your disciples not truth, but only the semblance of truth; they will be hearers of many things but will have learned nothing; they will appear to be omniscient and will generally know nothing; they will be tiresome company, having the show of wisdom without the reality.”

Welcome to Facebook ….

Bret Stephens

4

They changed the world to sand, and now find it slipping through their fingers.

Jonathan Pageau, who spoke for a whole half hour as Jordan Peterson sat listening. Those two have made some kind of intuitive connection over cognate insights about “logos.”

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Potpourri 11/10/18

I indulged my urge to travel from October 29 through election day, with a long transcontinental flight back on Wednesday. Time didn’t permit keeping up with news, let alone commenting.

I’ve spent too much time trying to “catch up.” Aware, though, that much of what passes for news is noise and commercial solicitation, I deleted many items I initially had clipped for later reading.

Here are a few thing that survived.

1 Philosophy and Religion

In the name of mercy, some recent theologians have suggested that there are elements of good in some objectively wrong acts and relationships. For example, friendship is good, and there certainly is an element of friendship in an illicit sexual relationship.

The question should not be whether there are elements of value in sins, but whether there is anything valuable about sinning.

Consider: No one can love evil for its own sake. The only thing it is possible to will for its own sake is good. Thus, the only way it is even possible to will an evil is that something about it seems good to us.

But something seems good to us in every evil, because evil cannot exist in itself. The only way to get an evil at all is to take something good and distort it.

The upshot is that the fact that evil contains disordered elements of good doesn’t mean it isn’t evil. What this fact shows is why evil can be attractive.

J Budziszewski, The Underground Thomist (emphasis added).

Having been in the “elements of good” camp, I stand corrected.


The shallowness and poverty of Evangelical thought on sexuality will not be cured by repudiating I Kissed Dating Goodbye. Where’s the positive vision?

Abigaile Rine Favale elaborates.

I’m tempted to elaborate on my own. Nominalism. Realism. Natural Law. Chastity > Virginity. That kind of thing.

But I won’t.


The Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, which represented the Little Sisters, notes that there are many ways for the government to provide contraceptives without forcing nuns to violate their beliefs.

An Unnecessary Culture War: The Little Sisters of the Poor finally get their religious exemption (WSJ, 11/10/18)

I love, and financially support, Becket Fund.

 

2 Politics

Pace Jonathan Haidt, liberals likely are not more “open” to “experience” in general than conservatives.


News from the birthplace of the free speech movement.

In a real sense, the most fascist people in America are young progressives.


Of all the ways in which Donald Trump’s presidency has made America worse, nothing epitomizes it quite so fully as the elevation of Matthew Whitaker as acting attorney general of the United States. Intellectually honest conservatives — the six or seven who remain, at any rate — need to say this, loudly. His appointment represents an unprecedented assault on the integrity and reputation of the Justice Department, the advice and consent function of the Senate, and the rule of law in the United States.

Bret Stephens


The mystery of Donald Trump is what impels him to overturn the usual rules. Is it a dark sort of cunning or simple defects of character? Because the president’s critics tend to be educated and educated people tend to think that the only kind of smarts worth having is the kind they possess — superior powers of articulation combined with deep stores of knowledge — those critics generally assume the latter. He’s a bigot. He’s a con artist. His followers are dumb. They got lucky last time. They won’t be so lucky again.

Maybe this is even right. But as Trump’s presidency moves forward, it’s no longer smart to think it’s right. There’s more than one type of intelligence. Trump’s is feral. It strikes fast. It knows where to sink the fang into the vein.

Bret Stephens.

Having been recently in the offices of the Jerusalem Post, I was surprised to note that he was once its Editor-in-Chief, and Wikipedia confirms that he took that post when he was all of 29 years old.


Democratic leaders in the House … have the president at a disadvantage. He is a businessman who’s never had to answer to a board. His whole professional life it was him and his whims and his hunger and a series of organizations of which he was sole or principal owner. Democratic leaders should see themselves as his board. They’ve got a CEO they don’t like, but they’ve got some power and they’re using it to save the company. A united board can scare a CEO. Donald Trump up against a board will not be so sure-footed. He will agree to a lot of what you want.

Peggy Noonan.

I love this idea.


With his every utterance, Trump removes the moral guardrails that keep bigotry down.

… How does a conservative movement that is supposed to believe that every healthy society needs powerful moral guardrails give itself over to a president whose every other utterance cheerfully knocks those guardrails down?

The Trumpian defense is that no political leader can fairly be held accountable for the acts of followers like Sayoc, much less of avowed opponents like Bowers. Also, what about James Hodgkinson, the Bernie Sanders supporter who shot Republican Representative Steve Scalise last year? But Sanders wasn’t instigating anyone to violence. He wasn’t calling on supporters at his rallies to “knock the crap out of” hecklers, or praising fellow members of Congress for body slamming a reporter.

… fanning one set of hatreds against immigrants has a way of fanning others, as it did for Bowers when he attacked the synagogue because he was enraged by its support for the Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society.

Bret Stephens, Yes, the President Bears Blame for the Terror From the Right.

Inclined to agree though a bit unsure, I nevertheless thought this merited consideration. No, on second thought, I agree. Period. Full stop.


“In my study of communist societies, I came to the conclusion that the purpose of communist propaganda was not to persuade or convince, not to inform, but to humiliate; and therefore, the less it corresponded to reality the better. When people are forced to remain silent when they are being told the most obvious lies, or even worse when they are forced to repeat the lies themselves, they lose once and for all their sense of probity. To assent to obvious lies is…in some small way to become evil oneself. One’s standing to resist anything is thus eroded, and even destroyed. A society of emasculated liars is easy to control. I think if you examine political correctness, it has the same effect and is intended to.”
― Theodore Dalrymple

Via Rod Dreher

Communism is dead, but pray for the humiliated souls of Sean Spicer, Sarah Huckabee Sanders, and all the other Trumpish sycophants who abase themselves with transparent lies for their boss.


 

It just occurred to me as I tagged and categorized this blog that “conservative” and “liberal” seemed to me to suffice for casual political talk. Then I decided that “right liberalism” and “left liberalism” were maybe more precise, as both fit classic liberalism. Now, with illiberals in the alt-right and progressive left, I’m more convinced than ever that “right liberalism” and “left liberalism” are useful and important categories (though I’ll probably continue to use conservative and liberal from habit).

A coalition of classical liberals might be a really good idea, but I’m not sure that Trump, who looks alt-right in comparison to right-liberals, will allow it.

 

3 Europe

“We have to protect ourselves with respect to China, Russia and even the United States of America,” Mr. Macron said on French radio.

Europe is the “main victim,” Mr. Macron said, of Mr. Trump’s decision to withdraw from the landmark 1987 Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty. That accord prohibits the use of intermediate- and shorter-range rockets, as well as testing, producing or fielding new ground-based missiles.

“We will not protect the Europeans unless we decide to have a true European army,” Mr. Macron said.

Wall Street Journal.

This, of course, set Trump into foaming at the mouth.

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Tuesday, 9/11/18

Orthodoxy

1

As I’ve said before, it is my opinion that the collapse of religion is THE fundamental problem of Western Civilisation and without the restoration of religion we’re going nowhere. However unlike the Trads it is my opinion that an attempt to turn the clock back, and practice religion like it was practiced in the 1650’s is not going to work. Rather, the Christian religion is going to have to transform itself in someway if it is to successfully combat Modernity.

As for Christianity, Western Civilisation is really the civilisation built on basis of the Protestant and Catholic religions. Eastern Orthodoxy, while Christian is not of the West, and I would advise the Trads, those looking to turn the clock back to look at it, as it lacks the ability to change: It’s all tradition.

The Social Pathologist, a blog subtitled The Diseases of Modern Life as seen through the Secular Confessional.

I never really have comprehended the secularist case for the social importance of religion. I suppose it’s right, as secularists confessing it are making something of a declaration against interest. But whether I understand it or not, I appreciate people who don’t personally believe nevertheless giving Christianity its due.

So although I fault his word choice, “It’s all tradition” (we would say “it’s the faith once delivered to the Saints“), I especially appreciate his commendation of Orthodoxy to those not minded to (shudder) “innovate.”

We do consider “unchanging” a feature, not a bug.

I am skeptical, though, of the author’s claim that Protestantism is “a dying religion.” From “spiritual but not religious” to nuda scriptura, the desire to roll-your-own religion is powerful, and what earthly authority can pontificate that the rough beast, its hour come round at last, is not “Protestant,” strange fire and all?

When this somewhat wrong-headed fellow turns to Roman Cathoicism, I think he worth reading and considering, and that’s all I’m saying as I keep getting too deeply into the weeds of the current crisis in that tradition.

 

Shout-Out to an Adversary

2

I was unaware that a gay California legislator, who wants to outlaw “paid ‘conversion therapy,’ which purports to change a person’s sexual orientation,” pulled his own Bill at the last minute, though he had plenty of votes to pass it, because he seemed to think that the very vocal critics might be onto something and that he might make the Bill better (and, perhaps not incidentally, more resistant to First amendment challenge).

Perhaps the message is finally getting through: Wrongthink has some rights, and that it is justly embarrassing to pass a Bill, over objections of unconstitutionality, and then see it struck down as unconstitutional.

Kudos to Assemblyman Evan Low and to the Los Angeles Times for what reportedly was very fine coverage of the story.

 

SCOTUS

3

Not all California (or other) politicians are capable of the class Evan Low exhibited:

During Brett Kavanaugh’s confirmation hearings, [Kamala Harris] demanded to know whether the judge thought the president could legally politicize the Justice Department, for example by prosecuting his political enemies while going easy on his friends. Senator Harris would know more than a little about that: She wasted a great deal of time and a fair sum of Californians’ tax dollars illegally using her position as attorney general of California to attempt to bully nonprofits into giving up their donors lists. It was a transparent effort to target them for harassment and retaliation. That little jihad ultimately was ruled an unconstitutional violation of the First Amendment by the federal courts. Harris and her opposite number in New York State, Eric Schneiderman, did nothing but misuse their offices to harass their political rivals. (Well, in fairness, Schneiderman did take some time to beat women, if The New Yorker is to be believed, and resigned his office after three women accused him of abuse.) She misused her job like that was her job.

You know how this works: Liars think everybody is lying, cheaters think everybody else is a cheat, and self-serving political hacks who misuse their offices think that that’s just how the game is played, that everybody does it.

Kevin D. Williamson, The Caste System. He is absolutely right about abuse of the legal system for political purposes by Kamala Harris and Eric Schneiderman.

 

4

Whereas Trump is populist, intentionally divisive, anti-establishment, immoderate, and contemptuous of many of traditional norms of comity and civility, Kavanaugh is a product of the establishment, gets along with colleagues across the spectrum, respects precedent and plays by the rules. Any Republican president would have placed Kavanaugh on his short list. He has no associations with the Trump wing of the Republican Party. Trump nominated him in deference to the legal elite of the party, including the Federalist Society, many of whom are as concerned about Trump’s character and disposition as any Democrat.

The notion that any Trump nominee is illegitimate because he would shield Trump from hypothetical future subpoenas or prosecutions is belied by history. Nixon’s appointments voted against him in United States vs. Nixon, and Clinton’s appointments voted against him in Clinton vs. Jones. Kavanaugh has no closer relationship to Trump that those appointees did to the presidents who appointed them.

Michael W. McConnell. Eugene Volokh concurs.

 

5

I think I saw just once a passing reference to SCOTUS nominee Brett Kavanaugh’s high opinion of Merrick Garland, the Obama nominee whose “seat” the Republicans “stole” as the common trope has it.

Walter Olson confirms that it’s true and explains why the reference was fleeting.

I have no need of any other hypothesis.

 

6

Beyond wanting to restore its place as Asia’s dominant nation, China is seeking to become the most powerful and influential country in the world. Moreover, its economic success is allowing its authoritarian political system and mixed economic system to become a model for other countries. For the first time in decades, there is a worldwide debate about the best form of government and economic system.

Michael Morel. The authoritarianism of China’s government should not be underestimated. Two chilling stories, here and here.

 

Miscellany

7

Daniel Drezner satirizes the Anonymous New York Times Op-Ed.


Are major social media biased against conservatives?

I think maybe they are, functionally if not ideologically. But government regulation to eradicate bias is a cure worse than the disease.

That’s all I wanted to say.


I feel rather sorry for any prominent person named “T.J. McCarrick” even if the disgraced Cardinal‘s middle initial is “E.”

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Observations on Orthodoxy

The Eastern Orthodox Church might be called a little stingy in its acknowledging of anyone as a theologian. Strictly speaking, our church recognizes but three—just three saints whose names include that epithet. They are Saint John the Theologian (also called John the Evangelist), Saint Gregory the Theologian (also called Gregory of Nazianzus, and one of the Cappadocian Fathers), and Saint Symeon the New Theologian. As it happens, each of these men wrote their theologies in poetry, highlighting to some degree the rabbinic understanding that true theology is always parabolic, as the One of whom we speak extends beyond comprehension, irreducible.

One of the discoveries that led me finally to embrace the eastern church was its disposition toward biblical scripture. The church of my youth approached the scriptures as if they were both knowable and reducible to proposition; each verse was approached as a fixed utterance, dictated, word by word, by God to certain men; the scriptures were understood to be God’s words precisely, and they were understood to be the revelation, as such. On the other hand, Orthodoxy observes that what God revealed to these men was but a glimpse of himself, and that those men thereafter employed their own words to offer up what might be better understood as a witness to the revelation. That is to say, these writers beheld a mystical vision, and sought to share it by whatever means they could muster. What we make of their textual witness is, of course, another matter.

Poet Scott Cairns, in Image Journal.

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Monday Mélange 9/3/18

 

1

The narrator provides us with one final parcel of information that he has learned about Bartleby, a rumor he has heard that before the young man entered his employ, he worked in the dead letter office in Washington, D.C.:

Conceive a man by nature and misfortune prone to a pallid hopelessness, can any business seem more fitted to heighten it than that of continually handling these dead letters, and assorting them for the flames? For by the cart-load they are annually burned. Sometimes from out the folded paper the pale clerk takes a ring:—the finger it was meant for, perhaps, moulders in the grave; a bank-note sent in swiftest charity:—he whom it would relieve, nor eats nor hungers any more; pardon for those who died despairing; hope for those who died unhoping; good tidings for those who died stifled by unrelieved calamities. On errands of life, these letters speed to death.

Ah Bartleby! Ah humanity!

James Gardner, in a “Masterpiece” review of Melville’s Bartleby, the Scrivener.

2

[E]ven a silent and secluded Benedict sends a message. Italian friends have told me that The Benedict Option has become for many in Italy a refuge from the Francis stuff. I find that discouraging, to be honest, because I did not write the book with an anti-Francis agenda in mind, and don’t want it to be taken as anti-Francis. Nevertheless, Father Antonio Spadaro, SJ, a major Francis mouthpiece, and Cardinal Blase Cupich of Chicago have both publicly denounced the book and the idea as counter to Pope Francis’s vision, so what can I say? My book is certainly infused with the spirit of Ratzinger, who I think of as the second Benedict of the Benedict Option.

An interesting blog of Rod Dreher, drawing parallels between the first Benedict’s retreat from a “dangerous and godless gulf” and the reported motivation behind Benedict XVI’s resignation — the loss of a Vatican battle over cracking down on the likes of Cardinal Theodore McCarrick.

However his resignation came about, there’s reason for hope in his continued relevance:

Years ago, when I was in college, I read Thomas Merton’s great autobiography The Seven Storey Mountain. In it, Merton, who wrote it as a new Trappist monk, talked about the World War II years, and said that maybe the entire world was held together by the prayers of monks hidden away in monasteries.

3

Since the authorities announced on Aug. 22 that Cristhian Bahena Rivera, a farmworker from Mexico, was charged with first-degree murder in her death, politicians and pundits have used the arrest to push for stronger immigration laws.

In a column in The Des Moines Register on Saturday, her father, Rob Tibbetts, encouraged the debate on immigration. “But,” he added, “do not appropriate Mollie’s soul in advancing views she believed were profoundly racist.”

The Register on Friday published a column by the president’s eldest son, Donald Trump Jr., in which he blamed Democrats for Ms. Tibbetts’s death and said claims that conservatives and Republicans were politicizing her death were “absurd.”

Melissa Gomez, New York Times.

You might as well ask bears not to shit in the woods, Mr. Tibbetts. And that steaming pile? “Fake news!” “Absurd.”

4

Oh, the horror!

Rolling Stone accuses the Education Secretary of ‘listening to the men’s rights groups she’s met with’.

Cockburn at Spectator USA.

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Saturday Sundries 9/1/18

 

1

Postmodern theory may be the most loathed concept ever to have emerged from academia. Developed within literature and philosophy departments in the 1970s, it supposedly told us that facts were debatable, that individual perspectives mattered most, that shared meaning was an illusion and that universal truth was a myth.

The right quickly identified these notions as a danger to the very foundations of society and spent decades flogging the university lefties who promoted them …

Later, centrists and liberals searching for a culprit behind the ascent of Donald Trump and the war on fact that surrounds him joined the conservative crusade …

These challenges to postmodern theory did identify an important crisis: Losing a shared vocabulary for the world’s problems, for the way we relate to one another and for current events may be the greatest threat to American society …

Yet these problems were exactly what worried postmodern theorists. Their project was an attempt to understand why people had begun to interpret material facts so differently ….

Aaron Hanlon, Postmodernism didn’t cause Trump. It explains him.

Hanlon is easy to excerpt, since each paragraph seems to be structured Thesis/Illustations. I disagree with some of the illustrations, but appreciate a refresher on postmodernism which “wasn’t a thing” yet during my formal education.

2

We know that many conservatives voted for Trump because he promised to appoint conservative judges to the Supreme Court. We also know that Trump ran away with the evangelical Christian vote.

But one must ask these men and women of the cloth: Is it really more important to hope for a Supreme Court that might reverse (or, more realistically, erode) Roe v. Wade than it is to have a president of whom we can be proud? In whom we can trust to be thoughtful, honest and impervious to every little slight?

… Trump was surely serious when he spoke about the darkness that would descend upon the land if Republicans lose the House. One would have thought he was speaking of the Islamic State or the Taliban, not fellow Americans with a different point of view. Even stranger, he mentioned violence in the context of antifa, a loose group of anti-fascists militant in their protest of the white supremacists who have celebrated Trump’s presidency as a giant step for white mankind.

Kathleen Parker

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