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.
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:
- Ukraine freely elected a pro-Russian President, but America engineered his ouster in 2014.
- 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:
- “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.”
- 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 ….
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 …
“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
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.”
[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
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 are social, too. We just need a nap afterward.
Anna Havron, an acquaintance at micro.blog, who also blogs here.
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:
- 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)
- Second, love people as the very image of God and resist the temptation to improve them.
- Third, refuse to make economics the basis of your life. Your job is not even of secondary importance.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- Seventh, cultivate contentment rather than pleasure. It will help you consume less and free you from slavery to your economic masters.
- 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.
- Ninth, learn another language. Very few things are better at teaching you about who you are not.
- Tenth, be thankful for everything, remembering that the world we live in and everything in it belongs to God.
Source: The Violence of Modernity
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 well–informed 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.
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.”
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
Because from the belief that nothing is nothing it follows that there must be something,
From R.S. Thomas, Collected Poems
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
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