Florida Man Update

Florida Man is seemingly fading toward irrelevance, and I couldn’t be much happier about it. My metric is the ease with which I’m avoiding wallowing in articles about him.

But over a few weeks, I have collected a few, and if you just skip them, bully for you.

Counted cross-stitch

There was a lovely, classic prayer at a Eric Trump and Michael Flynn rally [a few weeks ago]. It went like this: “God, open the eyes of President Trump’s understanding, that he will know how to implement divine intervention. And you will not surround him with RINO trash . . . in the name of Jesus.” You know, I think I’ve seen that one sewn onto pillows.

Nellie Bowles

Media omens

“This is a baseball country,” Mr. Christie said. “It’s always three strikes and you’re out.” Mr. Trump struck out in 2018, 2020 and 2022. He never came close to a plurality of the popular vote. When Mr. Christie ended his tenure as chairman of the RGA, in 2014, there were 31 Republican governors. Next year there will be 26. The reason, he said, is that Mr. Trump weighs the party down and picks candidates based not on issues or electability but personal loyalty. It is an electoral narcissism that is killing the party.

How to convince Trump supporters? “Give him credit for what he’s gotten done . . . but they need to be told again and again: A vote for Donald Trump is a vote for a Democratic president.”

As to Mr. Trump’s speech, it was a wan, deflated enterprise. But something in the media coverage was interesting. No broadcast network carried it, none of the major cable-news networks stuck with it to the end, and one didn’t take it at all. All covered the announcement or reported it, but it wasn’t treated as an epic event, only a news event. This suggests that this time the media will be judging Mr. Trump by normal candidate standards, not Special Phenomenon standards. But when you don’t treat Mr. Trump like he’s special, you marginalize him. I don’t think the cable networks will be giving him the oxygen they fed him so freely in 2016, in part because none of their executives want to be accused of what Jeff Zucker was accused of that year: giving him unlimited airtime to get ratings, and making him president.

Worse for Mr. Trump, those executives may simply doubt his audience is still a huge one.

Peggy Noonan

Just peeved at his losing streak

Donald Trump is done. I keep hearing and reading that, and I have no reason to disbelieve it: Announcing his 2024 candidacy at Mar-a-Loco on Tuesday night, he was less a phoenix rising than a balloon deflating. I could almost hear the helium seeping out of him.

But while that should have been music to my ears, it wasn’t. The prompt for his sudden abandonment by many Republicans is all wrong. They’re rejecting him not because of the countless ways in which he inflamed and imperiled this country, not because he’s an offense to decency and an enemy of democracy, not because he degrades almost anything and anyone he brushes up against. They’re just peeved at his losing streak.

There’s no reckoning at hand, none of the necessary grappling with all that Republicans condoned under Trump, with how perilously close to the edge they pushed America. There’s no reclamation of rectitude by a party that once bragged of a monopoly on it.

There’s just a new calculation. Republicans talk of Trump as if he’s a stock that has lost value. But the values that they betrayed in their surrender to him? They ignore or gloss over that part.

Through two impeachments, countless examples of incompetence, the profoundly destructive claim that election results couldn’t be believed and the deadly violence of Jan. 6, Trump retained the party’s support because its leaders ran the numbers and deduced that the price of shunning him was too high. In the wake of the midterms, not shunning him seems to be the costlier play.

The party hasn’t changed any more than he has. Only the numbers are different.

Frank Bruni

I’d like to think that “he’s a loser” is is being used as a narrative to pry away from him primary voters who seemingly were undeterred by his “two impeachments, countless examples of incompetence, the profoundly destructive claim that election results couldn’t be believed and the deadly violence of Jan. 6.” But the ones saying it are not the usual suspects (The Lincoln Project, The Bulwark) there are rhetorical tics and mannerisms that suggest that “loser” really is the only reason these former supporters are abandoning him, and that winning outweighed all the evil.

Christian values

Resolved: Most arguments against Vladimir Putin being a defender of Christian values in Europe also argue against Florida Man as a defender of Christian values in America.

Anyone care to take the negative on this resolution?

Wishcasting?

… Biden likely wants to run against Trump again in 2024 because he’d be the easiest Republican to beat …

Excerpt from The Morning Dispatch

Every once in a while, I get the feeling that the Dispatch is wishcasting, but I’ve got to admit that Trump is looking smaller and smaller:

[U]nlike the last time Trump claimed political persecution—after the FBI executed a search warrant at Mar-a-Lago in August—the Republican Party’s response has been far more muted. Former Vice President Mike Pence described the move as “very troubling,” Sen. Ted Cruz labeled it “Trump derangement syndrome … with a gun and badge,” and a handful of House Freedom Caucus members sent some angry tweets. But by and large, GOP leaders—either burned by their knee-jerk instinct to defend Trump after the Mar-a-Lago raid or quietly happy to see him bogged down heading into 2024—have kept their thoughts on [Special Prosecutor Jack] Smith to themselves.

How 2024 could go badly

Imagine a dozen candidates get in and all of them train their fire on DeSantis, this year’s frontrunner to be The One True Alternative. In order to supplant him and reach the one-on-one phase against Trump, a rival might reason that he first has to destroy DeSantis’ base of support.

That’s a recipe for a splintered field and another easy Trump primary victory. So much so that I suspect Trump will recruit a populist toady to run for president as a stalking horse and task them to attack DeSantis nonstop. Picture Marjorie Taylor Greene or Kari Lake laying into the governor of Florida at every campaign event in hopes of helping their patron to the nomination.

Nick Catoggio, Strength In Numbers

Legacy?

[Florida Man’s] legacy as the most popular right-wing leader since Ronald Reagan may lie in ruins.

It should already lie in ruins after he tried to orchestrate a coup against the duly elected president two years ago, and for roughly 52 percent of the electorate it does. But it’ll take more than merely attempting to end American democracy to shake the faith of that other 48 percent. To lose them, Trump will need to do something really bad—like harming the Republican Party’s chances of winning power.

Nick Cattogio, Trump Is About to Wreck His Legacy

Shall I compare him to a historic fiend

There are so many labels for Florida Man, such as “authoritarian,” “white supremacist,” and others. I’m not sure many of them hold up under even light scrutiny.

So here’s a reminder of what I think is the core problem with him: toxic narcissism. That’s the source of his reflexive cruelty to anyone who bucks him, his inability to let anyone capture limelight that he thinks belongs to him, and so much more. It’s what has rendered him incapable of admitting that he lost the election in 2020 — and I’m not convinced that his “stolen election” schtick is simply a calculated lie.

We got lucky last time that his big meltdown came only at the end. He is too incapable of seeing reality to let him near power again.


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

Jonathan Rauch, The Constitution of Knowledge

To believe that wealth is the only significant measure of the worth of an individual, a family, or a community is to reject the teaching of nearly every religion and wisdom tradition that ever was.

Mark Mitchell and Nathan Schlueter, The Humane Vision of Wendell Berry

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

Fr. Jonathan Tobias

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

Sunday fare 11/6/22

Christological heretics

Last month, Lifeway Research and Ligonier Ministries published their biannual theological survey of American Evangelicals. The results were sobering. While an overwhelming percentage of Evangelicals believe in traditional Christian sexual morality (for example, 94 percent agree that sex outside of traditional marriage is wrong, and 91 percent say that abortion is a sin), a majority also misunderstand the nature of Jesus Christ himself, believing that he is “the first and greatest being created by God.”

In fact, a surprising 43 percent of Evangelicals say that Jesus was a great teacher, but not God at all. Both of these assertions flatly contradict scripture, which unambiguously states in John 1 that “In the beginning was the Word [Jesus], and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” The Nicene creed is likewise clear: “We believe in one Lord Jesus Christ, the only Son of God, eternally begotten of the Father; God from God, Light from Light, true God from true God; begotten not made, one in being with the Father. Through Him all things were made.”

David French, How Hypocrisy Drives Unbelief

When you get Christology (doctrine of Jesus) wrong, you’ll sooner rather than later get a lot else wrong. French gives examples.

Mount Athos

I went to Athos in August: my five day trip there was a fiftieth birthday gift from someone I love. I tried not to have any expectations. You’ll often hear Athos – the ‘Christian Tibet’ – described in romantically anachronistic terms. ‘Medieval’ is a word often used, and it’s understandable: the monasteries here are astonishingly ancient and well-preserved, and in some places modernity has barely intruded. It wasn’t so long ago that travel was on foot or by donkey, and there were no telephones anywhere on the peninsula.

But this is the 21st century, and the Machine is relentless. The electric grid is here now. Satellites pass over nightly. The world closes in. Athos has paved roads now, more and more of them, and cars and computers. It’s not unusual to see monks with smartphones in their pockets, and I can’t deny the sinking feeling that came over me when I saw this for the first time. Even here. You can come here to ‘flee the world’ – St Anthony’s instruction to his followers back in the Egyptian desert in the fourth century – and bring the world with you through the screen in your pocket. Comfort, convenience, ease – they are greater threats to our souls by far than poverty or persecution.

Paul Kingsnorth

David Benetly Hart has overstayed his welcome in my wetware

David Bentley Hart, writing in Tradition and Apocalypse: An Essay on the Future of Christian Belief: “Anyone who arrogates to himself the power to say with absolute finality what the one true tradition is will invariably prove something of a fool, and usually something of a thug, and on no account must ever be credited or even countenanced.” The same might be said of anyone who announces with absolute finality that there can never be one true tradition, and who denounces those who seek to discern such a tradition as idiots and propagandists.

R.R. Reno

Might and should be said.

Caveat “Firsts”

Dan Hitchens has identified the following as a contender for Letter of the Year to The Guardian:

_Peter Young writes that Nguyen Thi Phuong Thao will be the first minority woman to have her name on an Oxford college. But two colleges founded in the 14th century were named after a Jewish peasant woman living in Roman-occupied Palestine 2,000 years ago. They are “the House of the Blessed Mary the Virgin in Oxford, commonly called Oriel College, of the Foundation of Edward II of famous memory, sometime King of England” and “St. Mary’s College of Winchester in Oxford,” known as New College to avoid any confusion with Oriel. Among later foundations, St. Anne’s College is named after Mary’s mother, and St. Catherine would probably also fit the criteria.__Stephen Shaw
_Kendal, Cumbria

R.R. Reno

Christian Nationalism

I cannot support any sort of “Christian Nationalism” in the U.S. if only because the dominant American forms of Christianity are seriously defective — one of the defects being the very lust for political power.


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

Jonathan Rauch, The Constitution of Knowledge

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

Fr. Jonathan Tobias

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

Going dark for a while.

This blog likely will be silent for two weeks or more as I travel abroad in a guided tour, returning to an intense week of catching up in various ways.

I know that chronicling travels has its appeal, but I doubt I’ll have the flexibility to do that, and I’m not even taking my laptop computer, which is my usual blogging device.

Harking back to my comments about CGM eight days ago, I expect this trip to be a metabolic dream; the Standard American Diet (SAD) is not served where I’m going, and I’ve eaten very well while losing weight traveling in such places before.

If I blog anything, it likely will be short items here OR here.

Be well! Meanwhile, I’ll clear the queue.


Stuff in General

Update (if not repentance)

I’ve shared writings of Hal Freeman, an American expatriate living in Russia, several times. I still think Hal’s honest in what he writes, but I now have reason to think that he’s misled by Russian propaganda to a greater degree than I realized.

My source strikes me as reliable, but I’ll not identify him beyond saying that he lived and worked in Donetsk for an extended period and still keeps up with affairs there and with many Ukrainians. Also, he’s a friend-of-a-friend, not known to me directly.

Freeman’s points that most swayed me involved claims that fall under two rubrics:

  1. Ukraine freely elected a pro-Russian President, but America engineered his ouster in 2014.
  2. Ukraine has cruelly oppressed Russian-leaning people in the Donbas region.

Variously paraphrasing and quoting my source, I pass along his responses to these two rubrics:

  1. “Democratically elected” is debatable. Both his ultimate success and a prior election involving the pro-Russian candidate were highly suspicious (the first was reversed by the Ukrainian Supreme Court), and after the apparent victory in 2014, the president arrested and imprisoned his opponent. [Side note: Anyone who imprisons Yulia Tymoshenko, the world’s most beautiful former head of state, is presumptively a brute.] “The Ukrainian people considered [him] too Russian, not the Americans. There is little truth behind the idea that Americans were behind the Maidan protests. If you tell the Ukrainians that, they will laugh at you.”
  2. Most of the mischief in Donbas is the work of Russian-leaning separatists. They began conscripting promiscuously, and they, not Ukraine, are responsible for the shellings that plague the Donbas. Lay the deaths of children at their feet. As for the supposed edict against speaking Russian, it either never happened or was totally disregarded and went unenforced. It is difficult to find anyone in the Donbas conversing in Ukrainian, and any implication that “Russian-speaking” equates to “Russian-leaning” is ridiculous.

I have no reason to doubt that the United States was happy to see Viktor Yanukovych go in 2014, and may have even worked to make that happen. But it does smack of credulity to speak as if Ukrainians were servile and did nothing except by our engineering.

Thanks to my source and to the unnamed intermediary who brought me his response to my quotes and commentary on Hal Freeman blog.

Speaking of Russia …

While it is true that Putin’s nationalism is in someways more "wholesome" than Western Liberalism in some ways it’s far more rotten. Putin’s anti-sexual-deviancy needs to be balanced by his disregard for the loss of innocent life. His appeal to family values has to be balanced by his blind eye to civic vices. What surprises me is just how many of the right are blind to them, or even worse, how many of them see as justifiable. From my perspective Putin’s "badness" is a different "badness" to the "badness" of the West: But it is still bad.

The Social Pathologist

Sean Hannity misreads the house

Sean Hannity aired a voicemail message from Joe Biden to Hunter Biden when the latter was in the throes of addiction. Hannity’s intent was to hurt the president by airing dirty family laundry but, as Ben Dreyfuss points out, the effect is the opposite. You’d have to have a heart of stone not to be moved by Biden’s message.

Nick Gillespie, filling in for Nellie Bowles

Old amiable America elects a Dementia Caucus

I look at the upcoming midterm election and I see candidates running for Congress who believe that gravity is a hoax and Caesar salad dressing causes strokes and the CIA caused Ian using Infrared Atmospheric Nuclei and the polls show them ahead and come January we may have a House with a large Dementia Caucus, but I am not dismayed. Call me a fool but I believe the old amiable America I’ve known is still functioning.

I believe that if you want to see America clearly, don’t read the paper, go to a state fair ….

Garrison Keillor

The invisible Machine

  • [I]f you walk on concrete all day, and you’re under electric light all day, even at night outside, and you don’t know any of that, and you see nothing that’s real, you can’t even see the stars, then you’ve already become part of this Machine that surrounds us. As more and more of the world gets urban — most of the world is urban now — more of us are living like that.
  • It’s really interesting to me that we talk about climate change as if it were somehow disconnected from all the other things that are happening to the planet. The industrial economy’s assault on the earth, which has been going on for a couple hundred years, has basically wrecked the health of the planet in all sorts of different ways. And there are a lot of things happening — large rates of extinction, soil erosion, ocean pollution, a changing climate, all sorts of smaller, subtler things as well — but it’s climate change that’s just a one-off, almost self-contained phenomenon that has somehow grabbed the headlines and has become this enormous thing that we somehow have to stop. That’s the problem, so what’s the solution? And the solution inevitably is always technological, because nobody can think about anything else. That’s the way we think in our culture: we’ve created the problem with technology, so we must have to solve it with technology. So the issue has boiled down to, the wrong kind of gas is going up into the atmosphere, so we need a fuel technology that doesn’t put it up there, as if that were the problem, rather than the way we’re living our lives, the entirety of the economy, the value system that it’s based on … Is our disconnection okay as long as it doesn’t pollute the atmosphere?
  • [S]ome people when they see a holy man will just be furious. He just has to be walking past, he doesn’t have to be evangelizing them, but the notion of seeing somebody holy, who is living the way we actually know we ought to be living — it just triggers something in a lot of people …

Paul Kingsnorth

Biden Confabulations

“I worry about the corrosive effects on democracy, of making ‘more honest than Donald Trump’ the standard for politicians,” said Michael Blake, a professor of philosophy, public policy and governance at the University of Washington.

[A]s he campaigned for the presidency in 2019, Mr. Biden described how he had traveled to Afghanistan to pin a Silver Star on a Navy captain for retrieving the body of a fellow American from a 60-foot ravine.

“This is the God’s truth,” he said, repeating a story he had told many times, “my word as a Biden.”

But as The Washington Post pointed out, it was an Army specialist, not a Navy captain, who had rescued his comrade. Former President Barack Obama, not Mr. Biden, awarded that soldier the Presidential Medal of Honor, not the Silver Star. And the ceremony took place at the White House, not in Afghanistan.

Michael D. Shear, Linda Qiu, Biden’s Folksiness Can Veer Into Folklore, or Falsehoods

Political extremes

Q: If the press labels someone “far right,” can you trust them?

A: No. The press does that regularly to move the Overton Window leftward, consciously or unconsciously.

Q: If the press labels someone “far left,” can you trust them?

A: I think so, because …

Q: Ha! Ha! Ha! Ha! Ha! Trick question. The press never calls anyone “far left.”

(H/T Mary Harrington, How far-Right are you?, for the inspiration)

Rom-Com is dead. Romance, too.

Setting aside the fact that Bros is a gay entry in the genre, the question of whether romantic comedies can be commercially successful today is one worth asking. The promiscuous lifestyles that the sexual revolution has promoted, particularly as manifested among gay men, surely militate against romance. Indeed, the very idea of sex as a lifestyle, rather than as a seal on a unique relationship, the establishment of which has taken time, effort, and self-sacrifice, seems to preclude any notion of romance.

Romance depends upon sex being costly. It was the difficulty of obtaining sex, the need for that delicate, complicated, and unpredictable interpersonal dance between two people, that was the very essence of what it was to be romantic. In a world where sex is not simply casual but remarkably cheap, the notion of romance is dead.

Carl Trueman, Why Bros Failed at the Box Office

Worse than hypocrisy

[P]art of the problem with our obsession with hypocrisy and “authenticity” is that it encourages people to make peace with their sins to avoid the charge of hypocrisy. There are worse things than being a hypocritical ass or racist, namely being a proud ass or racist. I’d rather live in a world where Dick Morris is pelted from the public stage for sucking on hooker toes than a society where we celebrate toe-sucking in order to rationalize keeping the guy around. As Ramesh Ponnuru once put it, “When Hugh Hefner moved out of the Playboy mansion the better to bring up his two young sons, nobody accused him of not living down to his principles.”

Jonah Goldberg

Accountability Culture?

[P]eople disagree about what constitutes accountability! They disagree about what people should be held accountable for, and what an appropriate punishment might be for it. There are profound differences between what different people mean when they speak about accountability. Therefore to call cancel culture “accountability culture” is simply to beg the question, to assume the conclusion that you’re arguing. It’s just a dodge.

I’m sorry to state the obvious, but this is a common maneuver among people who prefer a more vituperative, less forgiving social culture, to simply change the nomenclature in a way that suggests that the very issues of debate are already settled. You might as well call it Good Goodies Culture by People Doing Good. In both cases you’re simply assuming away the actual debatable content and then suggesting that your opponents adopt your frame.

Freddie deBoer, People Disagree About What Constitutes Accountability

An hypothesis

Once again, I’ve committed blog with nothing in it about 45. I note, too, that fine columnists are resorting to columns on truly petty stuff (not to say that every Tweet or “Truth” from 45 was consequential).

Could it be that 45 is laying low for once in the last 7 years?

[I wrote this before Friday, when he who shall not be named promised a response to the January 6 Commission’s subpoena.]

Introverts

Introverts are social, too. We just need a nap afterward.

Anna Havron, an acquaintance at micro.blog, who also blogs here.

Sunday Fare

Marriage

Marriage isn’t a fairytale. It’s a martyrdom.

Stanley Haurwas, paraphrased by Fr. Stephen Freeman, paraphrased by me.

This isn’t just a gimmicky phrase. The Orthodox wedding service uses crowns that bespeak martyrdom, and explicitly mentions St. Procopius:

One day twelve women appeared before his prison window and said to him: “We too are servants of Christ.” Accused of this, they were thrown into that same prison. St. Prokopios taught them the Faith of Christ, and prepared them to receive their “martyr’s crowns.” (This is why St. Procopius, along with the God-crowned Emperor Constantine and Empress Helen, is mentioned in the order of crowning during the wedding ceremony.)

Father Stephen makes the further points:

  • there’s no traditional marriage left to defend (in the West)
  • traditional marriage probably won’t be rebuilt (in the West) for generations
  • modern no-fault divorce was created in 1917 Russia with the explicit purpose of destroying marriage *
  • the “Benedict Option” is the parish and marriage

As if by magic, I soon stumbled across this: Marriage is Increasingly an Institution of the Highly Religious: Why That Might Be a Problem | Institute for Family Studies

(* Not only is war the friend of statism, but no-fault divorce is, too.)

How should we live?

Every ten days, my computer pops up a reminder to read one of three lists of maxims on the Christian life that I’ve picked up over the last quarter-century. This list, which I excerpted from Fr. Stephen Freeman, really got to me today for its brevity and profundity:

  1. First, live as though in the coming of Jesus Christ, the Kingdom of God has been inaugurated into the world and the outcome of history has already been determined. (Quit worrying)
  2. Second, love people as the very image of God and resist the temptation to improve them.
  3. Third, refuse to make economics the basis of your life. Your job is not even of secondary importance.
  4. Fourth, quit arguing about politics as though the political realm were the answer to the world’s problems. It gives it power that is not legitimate and enables a project that is anti-God.
  5. Fifth, learn to love your enemies. God did not place them in the world for us to fix or eliminate. If possible, refrain from violence.
  6. Sixth, raise the taking of human life to a matter of prime importance and refuse to accept violence as a means to peace. Every single life is a vast and irreplaceable treasure.
  7. Seventh, cultivate contentment rather than pleasure. It will help you consume less and free you from slavery to your economic masters.
  8. Eighth, as much as possible, think small. You are not in charge of the world. Love what is local, at hand, personal, intimate, unique, and natural. It’s a preference that matters.
  9. Ninth, learn another language. Very few things are better at teaching you about who you are not.
  10. Tenth, be thankful for everything, remembering that the world we live in and everything in it belongs to God.

Source: The Violence of Modernity

Without Comment

Living counterculturally

I must admit I greatly prefer to live in my current semi-blackout of the news. I might even like to try a full blackout at some point, truth be told. After all my efforts at news gathering, what did being so well-informed actually gain me? Ignorance, while perhaps not always blissful, is certainly far less stressful than the alternative. But that isn’t quite right either.

I can’t say for all my former obsession with keeping up with events—via books, news reports, commentary, youtube videos, commentary on commentary…upon commentary, on and on and on—that I ever actually did poke my head above the deep waters of ignorance. The ignorance of being wellinformed by the news was perhaps an even greater ignorance than of not paying it any attention at all. And in not paying attention I am far less likely to be manipulated, which is not nothing.

… [T]here is a very good way to live other than the way we’ve been sold. The alternative is actually a fairly well-laid-out path. This problem isn’t new, and people have been thinking about how to escape toxic civilization since about five minutes after the founding of the first ancient city. It turns out that it is far more achievable than I, for one, have told myself. The real question—the only question—is whether we actually want to live differently. Not whether we want to talk about living differently, or hope someday to live differently, but will we actually choose to so live right here and now? For a very long time, and even as the status quo quickly drained me of the will-to-live, I wasn’t so sure that I did. Funny that.

Jack Leahy, Stillness in the West (footnotes omitted)

A sense of control, safety, certainty

Converts to Orthodoxy are particularly vulnerable to the need to create a sense of control, safety, and certainty. A tendency to define, delineate, and create specific structures and rules is inherent in the Western mentality. This goes hand in hand with the desire to rationally explain and understand. But that attitude distorts the Orthodox phronema ….

Dr. Eugenia Scarvelis Constantinou, Thinking Orthodox.

This was my experience 25 years ago and for some time thereafter.

Mixed messages

The pastors at Thomas Road talked about creating a society apart from the world. But by the “world” they clearly meant the evils of the world as they saw them, not American life in general. In Falwell’s sermons scriptural lessons on how to become a better Christian often segued into practical advice on how to gain the respect of others and achieve success. Material wealth, Falwell once said, “is God’s way of blessing those who put him first.”

Frances Fitzgerald, The Evangelicals.

What (not quite) all evangelicals believe

[E]ven the American diplomats [at a conference in Qatar in the 1980s] assumed that all evangelicals believed that Israel had a biblical right to the Palestinian territories ….

Frances Fitzgerald, The Evangelicals.

What the diplomats assumed turned out not to be true, but the Evangelical dissenters were not the “big names.”

Sainthood

She could never be a saint, but she thought she could be a martyr if they killed her quick.

Flannery O’Connor of one of her characters.

Douthat on Vatican II

[I]n the years of Pope Francis, the liberal interpretation [of Vatican II] has returned — not just in the reopening of moral and theological debates, the establishment of a permanent listening-session style of church governance, but also in the attempt to once again suppress the older Catholic rites, the traditional Latin liturgy as it existed before Vatican II.

The work of the French historian Guillaume Cuchet, who has studied Vatican II’s impact on his once deeply Catholic nation, suggests that it was the scale and speed of the council’s reforms, as much as any particular substance, that shattered Catholic loyalty and hastened the church’s decline. Even if the council’s changes did not officially alter doctrine, to rewrite and renovate so many prayers and practices inevitably made ordinary Catholics wonder why an authority that suddenly declared itself to have been misguided across so many different fronts could still be trusted to speak on behalf of Jesus Christ himself.

After such a shock, what kind of synthesis or restoration is possible? Today all Catholics find themselves living with this question, because every one of the church’s factions is in tension with some version of church authority. Traditionalists are in tension with the Vatican’s official policies, progressives with its traditional teachings, conservatives with the liberalizing style of Pope Francis, the pope himself with the conservative emphasis of his immediate predecessors. In this sense all of us are the children of Vatican II, even if we critique or lament the council — or perhaps never more so than when we do.

Ross Douthat, How Catholics Became Prisoners of Vatican II

Q.E.D.

Because from the belief that nothing is nothing it follows that there must be something, Gloria.

From R.S. Thomas, Collected Poems

Competing liberties

To be honest, my husband and I wouldn’t have hired a web designer or a baker who didn’t want to celebrate with us. But that’s not the point. If the law allows same-sex couples to be treated differently from other couples, then our religious freedom to be married is not complete.

Steven Paulikas, Same-Sex Marriage Is a Religious Freedom.

I find unconvincing this insistence that gay couples’ “freedom to be married” outweighs others’ freedom not to “speak” what they consider lies. If that’s how the law shakes out, it’s a betrayal of the Supreme Court’s promises of pluralism in Obergefel.


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

Jonathan Rauch, The Constitution of Knowledge

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

Fr. Jonathan Tobias

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

Saturday, 9/24/22

Big Weed

Activists thought they could have the best of all worlds: regulate legal weed so thoroughly that you make it perfectly safe, bring in lots of tax dollars to the state, make entrepreneurs rich, eliminate the illegal weed market, and make the new system inclusive of the formerly illegal operators who suffered under criminal laws that are viewed by today’s lawmakers and citizens as unjustly harsh. Recreational legalization has brought none of the above, anywhere in North America.

Nate Hochman, Cannabusiness Goes to Pot, quoting Daniel Sumner and Robin Goldstein, ‌Can Legal Weed Win?: The Blunt Realities of Cannabis Economics

On the other hand …

I commented the other day that Letitia James had made me very happy (by suing three or four Trumps). But the crypto-tribal Wall Street Journal has two points I can’t just wave off:

  1. “Ms. James ran for office promising to indict Mr. Trump, which is the opposite of the way justice should be done. You’re supposed to find a crime and then identify the perpetrator. Ms. James declared Mr. Trump could “be indicted for criminal offenses” and has hunted ever since for a crime to charge him with.”
  2. No one who has ever listened to Mr. Trump will be surprised if he hyped the value of his holdings in dealing with bankers. But then no one in New York finance would ever trust only what Mr. Trump claims before signing a document or lending him money … As far as we’ve seen, the lenders don’t seem to consider themselves victims. They made money on the loans, which didn’t default. The transactions were presumably scoured by auditors and bank due-diligence officers. There is enormous variability in real-estate valuations. The question Ms. James will have to prove is whether Mr. Trump’s claims amounted to intentional fraud.

I wonder if principled Democrats in New York feel about this the way I feel about most of the publicized antics of Indiana’s current Attorney General?

Schrödinger’s pandemic

President Biden apparently went off script in a 60 Minutes interview on Sunday, accidentally expressing the closest thing to a normie take on the pandemic: “We still have a problem with Covid,” he said. “We’re still doing a lot of work on it . . . but the pandemic is over. If you notice, no one’s wearing masks. Everybody seems to be in pretty good shape. And so I think it’s changing.”

This comment was met with a resounding “No shit!” by most Americans—except for the screeches of outrage from the folx who just aren’t ready to say goodbye. The actual screech was faintly muffled by the N95s they are still wearing everywhere, but their tweets were loud and clear …

Among those disagreeing with Biden is Anthony Fauci, who I thought was already retired and sipping piña coladas on a beach in a hazmat suit somewhere, but apparently not. At the same time, the White House said that Biden was just stating the obvious, so who knows. Perhaps the pandemic, like war, is over if you want it.

Kat Rosenfeld

Not ready for Happy Acres

The biggest Election Night for my mother was 2008. She was 93. Dad was gone. We sat up late, TV on, looking at the big empty stage at Grant Park in Chicago, and then there was a roar from the crowd and Barack and Michelle and the two little girls walked out and Mother put her hands to her eyes, overwhelmed. With the appearance of that little family came the feeling that the country had cut loose from our dark racial past.

But it was too good to be true. The man set out to reform our wasteful, inefficient, infuriating health care system and he was expertly parried by McConnell and held to a draw and in 2016 Democrats nominated a woman for whom campaigning was a miserable chore and so in came the casino man who won reelection but was cheated out of it, despite what the courts said, and now we have Republican candidates refusing to say they will accept the results in November if they go the other way. This is the point at which we break with reality. Next stop is Happy Acres where we listen to the buzzing of the bees in the cigarette trees by a great big soda fountain. I’m not prepared to go there yet.

Garrison Keillor

O, wad some Power the giftie gie us …

South Korean president overheard insulting U.S. Congress as ‘idiots’

Wordplay

Wastewater epidemiology

Analysis of wastewater to determine the consumption of, or exposure to, chemicals or pathogens in a population.

It’s interesting stuff.

Interoperability

Interoperability — a fairly fundamental tenet of the Internet. Simply, it means that different applications and devices can share the same data with one another.

Keyword: Interoperability – Initiative for Digital Public Infrastructure

(Via Denny Henke on Micro.blog)


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

Jonathan Rauch, The Constitution of Knowledge

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

Fr. Jonathan Tobias

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

Sunday, 8/14/22

Doctrine ramifies

Paul, by proclaiming the body ‘a temple of the Holy Spirit’, was not merely casting as sacrilege attitudes towards sex that most men in Corinth or Rome took for granted. He was also giving to those who serviced them, the bar girls and the painted boys in brothels, the slaves used without compunction by their masters, a glimpse of salvation.

Tom Holland, Dominion

Intellect, reason, theology

Emphasis on the intellect and reason is what gives Western Christian theology a more secular and scholastic character ….

Dr. Eugenia Scarvelis Constantinou, ‌Thinking Orthodox

And along similar lines:

We long to know God (it is our natural will, indeed). It is also true that what we know of God is extremely limited. Our knowledge is always framed with an abiding ignorance. Christ, in His extreme humility, embraced certain expressions of ignorance. When asked about the time of the “restoration of the kingdom,” Christ said, “It is not for you to know times or seasons which the Father has put in His own authority.” (Acts 1:7) There are boundaries to our knowledge, an ignorance that is proper to our nature.

Our modern drive towards mastery of all things (so as to mass-produce universal pleasure) makes us rebel against the very notion of ignorance. If something cannot be fully known, then we declare it to be unworthy of knowledge. My own approach has been to start with what we do know: we know Christ and His death and resurrection. We have His commandments and the abiding presence of the Church which He gave us. And this knowledge of God through Christ is bounded by ignorance. Does it answer every question? Of course not – and it would be unhelpful if it did.

Within the life of the Church, there is a possible temptation to “get behind Christ,” to seek out “God” without reference to our ignorance and limitations. It is, I think, something inherent to the “mysticism” we find in the Church – a relationship with God without boundaries. However, our ignorance is a boundary and is as essential to the truth of our being as is our body itself. We are creatures, bounded by limits. Everything we know, everyone we know, we know within limits. Our ignorance surrounds us on every side.

The narrow way exults in what it knows, and ponders with humility the ignorance that accompanies it. To be whole is also to be who and what I truly am. It recognizes the tensions within us, and though it struggles to know God more fully, it also struggles to know its own limits and the mystery of our own ignorance.

God give us grace to walk in such a place.

Fr. Stephen Freeman

Counter-intuitive consequences

The legislation also demonstrates one of the oddest results of the modern emphasis on the radical freedom of the individual. In such a world, all must theoretically be allowed to have their own narratives of identity. But because some narratives of identity inevitably stand in opposition to others, some identities must therefore be privileged with legitimate status and others treated as cultural cancers. And that means that, in an ironic twist, the individual ceases to be sovereign and the government has to step in as enforcer. The lobby group of the day then decides who is in and who is out, with the result that, in this instance, the gay or trans person who wants to become straight or “cis” (to use the pretentious jargon), cannot be tolerated. His narrative calls into question that of others. We might say that his very existence is a threat. To grant any degree of legitimacy to his desire is to challenge the normative status of the desires of others.

Carl R. Trueman, Prohibiting Prayer in Australia

Consequences generally

My people weren’t huggers. We were Bible-believing Christians who avoided physical contact lest we contract the religious doubts of the embracee and who knows but what it could be true? My brother was a Bible believer who married a girl who then catholicized him. I could say more but I don’t want to cause trouble.

Garrison Keillor

TEC gets tough on (some) sin

Lest it be thought that the Episcopal Church has completely lost its way and will tolerate all manner of unrepented sin, a group calling itself “Episcopal Survivors Network” is demanding that St. Paul’s parish in Alexandria, Virginia “return [as] money derived from torture,” all tithes and offerings of two members of the parish thought to be tainted by their having invented novel forms of — ahem! — enhanced interrogation.

(St. Paul’s Episcopal in Alexandria Va. refuses to return funds from torture)

Christianity and Poetry

Highly recommended: Dana Gioia, Christianity and Poetry and a sort of companion podcast. Thesis: "Poetry is not merely important to Christianity. It is an essential, inextricable, and necessary aspect of religious faith and practice."

Christianish Trivia

Is this a great country or what? We now have had (at least) two “Christian” Bitcoin knock-offs:

This, too:

Wise Words

I make it my business to not make the hierarchy my business.

Rod Dreher, Meeting ‘Father Maximos’

Wordplay

Ressentiment

Ressentiment, a mixture of jealousy and frustration born out of humiliation.

The Economist.

I’ve run into this word for decades but never had bothered looking it up for the nuances. In my defense, I don’t think I ever used it in my own writing, aware that it connoted something I might not intend.

Perspective

A fool sees not the same tree that a wise man sees.

Attributed to William Blake, The Marriage of Heaven and Hell, by Iain McGilchrist in The Master and His Emissary.

Magic Words of Dismissal

One reason this newsletter has ‘fatalism’ in the title is that the word is often used a way that amuses me. It gives away the limits of what someone will allow themselves to think:

Alice: Renewable sources aren’t capable of supplying sufficient energy to replace fossil fuels on a global scale if current consumption patterns continue.

The Queen: That’s just fatalism!

The Queen isn’t addressing Alice’s point. She is using ‘fatalism’ as a magic word of dismissal to make difficult thoughts go away. If it’s ‘just fatalism’, then she doesn’t have to think about whether or not it is true. Nobody respectable is a fatalist.

Other magic words of dismissal are used in similar ways.

Anarchy: used to dismiss the idea that the state might not carry moral authority. Sometimes used to dismiss the idea that the state doesn’t carry overwhelming moral authority. Obviously, the word is never used these ways by anarchists.

Mysticism: used to dismiss any worry that there is more to the world than a chatty primate can understand.

Parochialism: used to dismiss any possibility that local interests might be more important than the interests of global networks.

FFatalism


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

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

Monday Purge

That’s “purge” as in “binge and purge.”

On polarization

Buffalo

I was at a loss for apt words, but National Review’s Jay Nordlinger provided them:

About the Buffalo shooting — that massacre — a few simple words.

I believe that the Left has to come to grips with its criminal extremists. And that the Right has to come to grips with its criminal extremists. America would be a better place. Each side does a pretty good job of keeping an eye on the other. But what if each side also kept an eye on itself? That would be a lot better.

If the Right thinks it has no problem with white nationalism — murderous white nationalism — it’s whistlin’ “Dixie.” (Uh-huh.) If the Left thinks it has no problem with Antifa/BLM-style violence, it has its head in the sand. We could use less tribalism and more patriotism.

Adam Kinzinger, the Republican congressman from Illinois, said, “The tragic shooting in Buffalo is a reminder of why we don’t play around with white nationalism.” I agree completely.

Don’t play around. Don’t wink. Don’t look the other way.

When I was a kid, I thought of the Boston Massacre as a bloodbath. And it was. But at some point I learned that five people had been killed (which is five too many). Did the guy in Buffalo commit a massacre? He did.

And, as I see it, he not only assaulted flesh-and-blood individuals — black Americans, in particular — he assaulted the very American idea.

“Don’t play around. Don’t wink. Don’t look the other way.” Not even if it makes you very, very rich, Tucker.

On double standards

While we’ve long complained of leftwing radical ideologues, we’ve closed our eyes to eyes to the steady and “nativist” march of rightwing ideologues. Perhaps they looked too much like us for us to notice.

Father Jonathan Tobias.

That kind of stings. We do tend to apply different standards to our enemies than those we apply to our friends.

Toxic Symbiosis

[P]rogressives have been blind to their own cultural power. Liberals dominate the elite cultural institutions — the universities, much of the mainstream news media, entertainment, many of the big nonprofits — and many do not seem to understand how infuriatingly condescending it looks when they describe their opponents as rubes and bigots.

The Republican Party capitalizes on this. Some days it seems as if this is the only thing the party does ….

David Brooks

Epiphanies

Sometimes, the truth isn’t told, but realized.

Beardy Guy

On healing

We’re all mutts here

The further I go, the less I’m sure how to answer the question, “Who are you?” Where to start? I’m a Purdue employee, a happy husband, a father of four, a businessman, a former elected official, a Presbyterian elder, a history buff, and a mediocre golfer. Ancestry.com informs me that genetically I’m more Syrian and Lebanese than anything else, but I’ve got high percentages of Scotch, Welsh and a dash of Italian mixed in.

And I’m a dog lover. I grew up in a family of them. We got all ours from the Humane Society, every one some sort of mixture. And every one was great: loyal, loving, a full member of the family. During those years, I adopted my mother’s opinion that mutts are the best.

We’d all better hope Mom was right. Because we’re all mutts here today. Hybrids, amalgams, crossbreeds, mongrels. Mutts. If you doubt that, go check with Ancestry.com.

Purdue President Mitch Daniels to the Class of 2022

Great Replacement conspiracy theory

The major laws governing immigration policy were passed with large bipartisan majorities in 1965, 1986 and 1990, at a time when neither party saw the issue as a dividing line between them. To the extent that the limits on immigration have not been enforced since these laws were passed, it has had more to do with business opposition than with anyone’s desire to change the country’s political demography.

Ramesh Ponnuru.

Be it remembered, though, that the Great Replacement Theory is little more than an anti-Semitic resistance to the Democrats’ gleeful anticipation of a “Coalition of the Ascendent.”

Democracy over Judicial usurpation

Judge [Douglas] Ginsburg cites a “wonderful” book by his friend Mary Ann Glendon, a Harvard legal scholar. “Abortion and Divorce in Western Law” is a study of 20 Western countries that changed their abortions laws contemporaneously—by legislation everywhere except in the U.S. In the other 19 countries, abortion is “not still a burning issue, because when a legislature acts, there has to be compromise,” Judge Ginsburg says. “It’s set up so that nothing can happen unless people compromise.”

Wall Street Journal profile.

Morning in America?

Nancy Pelosi has been denied communion by Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone. Brian Kemp is sailing to victory in Georgia despite the “stop the steal” vendetta of our 45th President, The Orange One, and the latter’s “complete and total endorsement” of Kemp’s MAGA opponent David Perdue.

Could it be morning in America again?

Miscellany

Confirmation

On Monday, I blogged, inter alia, that “in a lot of ways, my blog is a very large commonplace book.” On Tuesday evening, Alan Jacobs approvingly cited Corey Doctorow’s “idea of a blog as a place to make your commonplace book public.”

I do not follow Cory Doctorow, nor had I stumbled on his comment. It’s an interesting coincidence, and apart from reading Doctorow’s piece about it, that’s all I plan to do or say.

TGIF highlights

From Nellie Bowles’ 5/20 TGIF Edition Bari Weiss’s Substack:

Crypto wants a bailout, please: The wild and wooly world of crypto investing has gone from being very fun to, suddenly, very depressing. Things like TerraUSD, which to many looked like an overly complicated Ponzi scheme, turned out to indeed be an overly complicated Ponzi scheme. Meanwhile, the co-founder of Ethereum is arguing for some sort of bailout.

Dear Government: Don’t you dare bail them out!

More:

Netflix lays down the law: At the end of last week, Netflix updated its corporate culture memo, which now includes a jab at the company’s increasingly agitated Red Guard: “Depending on your role, you may need to work on titles you perceive to be harmful. If you’d find it hard to support our content breadth, Netflix may not be the best place for you.” And this week Netflix made that decision for 150 people. The company framed the firings as “layoffs”—but 150 people doesn’t really make a dent for a company of 11,000 people. Those 150 happen to include, just by chance, some of the most Twitter-active social justice workers in the place ….

Finally, an employer with spine!

One more:

BLM founder calls the money raised “white guilt money”: New financial disclosures shed light on how BLM co-founder Patrisse Cullors spent all that cash: About a million dollars went to the father of her child for “live production design and media.” Another $840,000 went to her brother for “security.” Of course $6 million went to a private party house (the scam there is that it was bought from a friend who had paid $3 million for that same house only a few days earlier). Cullors admitted mistakes were made with what she called “white guilt money.”

I love the candor reflected in “white guilt money.”

Pro tip for what we used to call “bleeding heart liberals”: You do not rid yourself of guilt or make the world a better place by performative gifts to grifters.

Pro tip for adherents of The Thing That Conservatism Has Become: See the above advice for bleeding heart liberals. You’ve got your own grifters, from the Lincoln Project to (increasingly) the Heritage Foundation.

I’ve no doubt I’ve omitted some because life is too short to waste it on setting up flashing yellow lights at every hazard for protection of people who are apparently eager to be duped.

Oxymoron of the Week

stablecoin, a type of cryptocurrency that is pegged to another currency, sometimes a conventional one like the dollar. Read the full article.

Economist, The World in Brief

Intellectually indefensible and politically disastrous

The crusade against Roe v. Wade as a court decision is a crusade against defective, imperialistic jurisprudence, a campaign to defend the sanctity not of human life but of our constitutional order, against those who would pervert it for their own parochial political ends, using the Supreme Court as a superlegislature to grant the Left political victories that its allies in elected office are unable to win at the ballot box. The legal and constitutional case against Roe v. Wade need not be wedded to the anti-abortion cause at all, and, indeed, a small number of brave, intellectually honest legal scholars who favor abortion rights have conceded that Roe was an extraconstitutional power grab, intellectually indefensible and politically disastrous.

Kevin D. Williamson.

Not Beautiful

Regarding the annual Sports Illustrated swimsuit edition and Jordan Peterson’s comment on a “plus-size” covergirl:

A women’s dignity revolution will not be ignited by chasing Jordan Peterson off of Twitter. The best way to dignify Yumi Nu, Sofia Jirau, or any woman in this game like them is not to force men to play along. It is to demand game over. It is to stand athwart the path of Sports Illustrated, Victoria’s Secret, and the whole degraded, degrading procession, crying “Not beautiful!”

Bethel McGrew’s Further Up Substack

Wordplay: Implicature

Implicature. The link is a search leading to multiple varying definitions.

It’s always interesting at my age to encounter a word that I not only need to nail down, but one that I need to look up because I haven’t got a clue whether it’s related to “implication” (and how it differs if it is).


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.