Indiction 2022

Culture

A “culture of disrespect” and its primary vector

“We now have very good research comparing American kids who speak English at home to immigrant kids who don’t speak English at home,” he said. “American kids who speak English at home are much more likely to be anxious, depressed, disengaged, and experienced non-suicidal self-injury compared to kids who don’t speak English at home, using speaking English at home as a proxy for engagement with American culture.” When he advises immigrant families in the United States, he tells them not to speak English at home.

“Being American-born and raised to American parents is now a major risk factor for bad outcomes,” Dr. Sax said. “Being American-born and raised to American parents is a major risk factor for anxiety, depression, disengagement from school non-suicidal self-injury and many other bad outcomes, being children of immigrants and not speaking English at home now predicts good outcomes.”

America has become a “culture of disrespect” and English, a primary vector. Every cultural medium—your kid’s favorite webisodes on YouTube or Disney Plus—promotes to children the notion that parents are foolish and inept and that it’s admirable, cool, or smart for kids to dismiss, deride or countermand them.

I liked what Dr. Sax had to say, in part because he seems to wrestle with his own conclusions. He clearly dislikes telling Americans our culture is “toxic” for families; the very idea seems to pain him. The problem is, he believes it is true.

Abigail Shrier, ”I Don’t Want American Kids”, quoting Dr. Leonard Sax.

Why do we want a liberal education? …

… Because everyone in the modern university is living in its opposite, and it sucks.

Zero-tolerance as amulet

“Zero-tolerance” is a phrase that people use in a vain attempt to ward off evil. Whenever any institution makes an official statement declaring that they have a “zero-tolerance approach” to anything, everyone knows what it means: We have been infinitely tolerant to this kind of behavior in the past, and we just got caught, so we have to make a statement. It’s like calling yourself a “patriot” or an “anti-fascist” — it means precisely the opposite of what it says.

Alan Jacobs, let’s be clear

Is this coherent and meaningful?

The origins of this book lie in my curiosity about how and why a particular statement has come to be regarded as coherent and meaningful: “I am a woman trapped in a man’s body.”

Carl Trueman, The Rise and Triumph of the Modern Self

The Phantoms in our lives

Remember Phantom limb syndrome? Then there was Phantom Phone. Now, in a similar vein, I think I have Phantom haptic syndrome from my Apple Watch.

I really haven’t fully decided whether my Apple Watch makes my life any better, especially if you net out things like that.

Economia

The scourge of income equality

I fully expected, from the title, to find sheer sophistry here. I misunderestimated Phil Gramm:

In 2017, among working-age households, the bottom 20% earned only $6,941 on average, and only 36% were employed. But after transfer payments and taxes, those households had an average income of $48,806. The average working-age household in the second quintile earned $31,811 and 85% of them were employed. But after transfers and taxes, they had income of $50,492, a mere 3.5% more than the bottom quintile. The middle quintile earned $66,453 and 92% were employed. But after taxes and transfers, they kept only $61,350—just 26% more than the bottom quintile.

… Despite Democratic politicians’ efforts to provoke resentment against the rich, when was the last time you heard working people complain that some people in America are rich? The hostility of working people is increasingly focused on a system where those who don’t break a sweat are about as well off as they are.

This justifiable resentment is the economic source of today’s American populism ….

Phil Gramm and John Early, Income Equality, Not Inequality, Is the Problem

This makes me a bit more hostile to Universal Basic Income, too.

Will collapse necessarily end “the good life”?

There’s a YouTube wherein:

Peter Zeihan explains why he thinks everything is about to come crashing down. Amongst his predictions, delivered with an excitable zeal which belies their context, are the coming disintegration of the economies of Germany and China, global demographic collapse, a rise in famines and a collapse in global supply chains, and the ongoing disappearance of the workforce across all industries.

What’s interesting to me about this kind of presentation is often what is missing. In this case I heard nothing at all, for example, about the future of Africa and nothing of any seriousness about climate change or ecological degradation. More to the point, it’s very much an economist’s worldview, which means it is hemmed in by the usual limitations. It’s possible that what constitutes a good human life may amount to more than growth in material wealth, but you won’t come across that notion here. It’s a machinist’s analysis of the failures of the Machine.

Paul Kingsnorth

Politics

Ends and Means

If we are willing to grant, at the outset, that the people we’re debating agree about ends—that they want a healthy and prosperous society in which all people can flourish—then we can converse with them, we can see ourselves as genuine members of a community. And even if at the end of the day we have to conclude that we all do not want the same goods (which can, alas, happen), it is better that we learn it at the end of the day than decide it before sunrise.

Alan Jacobs, How to Think

What the politically-disengaged do know

He loves to be loved. He even loves to be hated. He cannot bear to be ignored. So in a sense, I’m playing into his hands.

So be it.

So be it.

I’ve been stunned at how many people I’ve encountered who fit this description. They’re establishing careers, starting families, buying first homes—building a life—and don’t really have the time or inclination to get engaged politically. They don’t know a ton about either party’s policy platform or legislative record. What they do know is Trump irritates them to no end. He reminds them of the lightweight underclassmen at a college kegger; his raucousness was entertaining at first, but the act has worn awfully thin. They just want to get rid of him and get on with the party.

Tim Alberta, 4 Funny Feelings about 2020

One terrible reason to support a candidate

Trump has benefited, as usual, from his being the center of attention, as well as from a defensive reflex among Republicans who may have misgivings to rally around him anyway, figuring that if he is so hated and abused by the other side they owe it to him — and themselves.

This may be an understandable sentiment, especially with memories still fresh of the abuses and hysteria that attended the Russia-gate probe. At the end of the day, though, that a potential presidential candidate was raided by the FBI is a terrible reason to support him.

Rich Lowry


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

Jonathan Rauch, The Constitution of Knowledge

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

Fr. Jonathan Tobias

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

Monday, 8/28/22

Student Loan Forgiveness

Student Loan Forgiveness 1

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

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

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

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

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

Student Loan Forgiveness 2

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

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

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

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

No comment

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

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

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

Rank politics

The Rarest Thing in Politics

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

But there is something about her.

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

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

Liz Cheney has integrity.

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

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

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

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

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

Jeffrey Salkin, It’s Cheney-mania!

Whatever happened to the Emerging Democratic Majority?

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

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

A Real Problem for Republicans

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

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

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

Nick Gillespie

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

Russia 2016, USA 2022

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

The Morning Dispatch.

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

Just because it’s a fun simile

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

Kevin D. Williamson, Hypocrisy for Dummies

Culture

Whence cancel culture?

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

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

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

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

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

Do the math

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

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

I like the epigram to this article, too:

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

—George Orwell, “Politics and the English Language”

Maggots doing what comes naturally

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

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

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

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

FFatalism, Academic landscapes.

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

Quintessentially Legal and Quite Mad

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

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

H/T Religion Clause.

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

I’m not alone:

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

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

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

Transgender Patients vs. Religious Doctors – WSJ

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

Nah!

A Child’s Purpose

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

Oliver Burkeman, Four Thousand Weeks


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

Jonathan Rauch, The Constitution of Knowledge

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

Fr. Jonathan Tobias

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

Sunday, 8/28/22

Memory eternal!

Metropolitan Kallistos Ware has reposed in the Lord

Metropolitan Kallistos Ware reposed in the Lord last Tuesday.

“Let me keep my distance, always, from those who think they have the answers.

Let me keep company always with those who say "Look!" and laugh in astonishment, and bow their heads.”

Mary Oliver, Evidence: Poems

Against David Frenchism

I may have finally reached a tipping point trying to process David French’s commentaries on religion and politics. Henceforth, I will either not bother at all or at least approach his columns and podcasts with an attitude of “tell me, in the first paragraph or two, why I should stick around and hear you out.”

I’ll still listen to him on law, but I don’t think he has anything I need to hear about the intersection of religion and politics.

That problem isn’t that he’s anti-Trump, goodness knows. The problem is that he’s reflexively parochial, and his “parish” is white Evangelicalism; that he says “Christians” when he means “white Evangelicals” drives me to distraction.

(Deep breath.)

I suppose this bugs me so much because French is writing and podcasting in secular, not Evangelical, spaces. He’s being read by people who may judge all of Christianity by his fixations on North American white Evangelical grotesqueries.

There is a Church that is rooted far deeper in history than the Second Great Awakening, utterly orthodox in its Christianity, and ambivalent-to-indifferent in its politics (the impressions of some American converts notwithstanding). If you’ve read me for long, you know where I think it’s found. All we ask of a polity is that we may lead a calm and peaceful lives in all godliness and sanctity.

But you’d never appreciate that by reading David French, who basically tells the Western world that “Christians be like Falwell Jr. and Orange Man.” That’s just not true, and eliding Christianity with Evangelicalism turns people off to the holy and life-giving potential of authentic, historic Christianity.

Up with Jake Meadorism

Here is one of the arguments some friends have made in defending the evangelical hard pivot toward Trump and right-wing politics more generally: The country is changing. No one will be friendly to all of our beliefs or values. However, if the progressives win, the likeliest outcome is some blending of dhimmitude and persecution. On the other hand, if the right wins, religious liberty will at least mostly be safe and we’ll be left alone. So it makes sense for orthodox Christians to migrate rightward.

The difficulty I see with this: Our churches do not exist within sealed spaces closed off from the world outside the congregation. Rather, our parishioners are being discipled all the time by the networks they participate in. So when we strengthen our ties to the political right and, in particular, when we tend to look past or gloss over the right’s sins for sakes of the political coalition (which is just a reality of life with any political coalition you try to participate in), we aren’t simply retreating into a stable space where right-wing governments protect our stable, faithful Christian communities. Rather, our communities are being shaped through the very act of partnering with specific groups, of speaking about some sins and not speaking about others. These things are, in themselves, formative.

To get his core insight, I had to quote most of his short post, but there is a bit of good stuff left, and with no paywall, either.

Jake Meador, Places of Refuge are Places of Discipleship. Meador, too, is Protestant, and as a Reformed Christian, he (as did I) appears to think himself Evangelical or Evangelical-adjacent. Unlike French, he doesn’t parochially collapse Christianity into Evangelicalism.

Why I Will Disregard any American Episcopalian Who Complains About Small States Getting As Many Senators as Big States

“Yes, a bishop’s episcopal charism does not depend on the number of worshipers in their see. But when almost all the micro-dioceses are in the west, and when western bishops are disproportionately present at Lambeth 2022, this is white privilege in action," he wrote. "Lambeth 2022 is taking place even though the bishops of half of African Anglicans have refused to come. Their dioceses constitute a third of the total Anglican Communion. Western bishops may say ‘it was their choice not to come.’ But this is not a good look."

Terry Mattingly, Some trends in global Anglican Communion are starting to look rather Black and White — GetReligion

Context:

  • Many western bishops lead "micro-dioceses" with under 1,000 active members or "mini-dioceses" with fewer than 5,000.
  • The Church of Nigeria claims 17 million members and 22 million active participants.
  • Uganda has 10 million members
  • Rwanda has 1 million members.

A Christian Culture (for the very first time)

By pretty much all measures, the Orthodox Christian countries of Eastern Europe take their faith more seriously than the Catholic countries further West or the Protestant countries which mainly lie around the continent’s fringes. I should really say ‘former Protestant countries’ because, as I have written here in the past, these countries – including mine, Britain – are now post-religious. Faith has been replaced by politics, ideology, activism or the material and technological idolatry which we call ‘progress.’

All of which means that I have until recently never seen a real Christian culture, of the kind my country used to be many centuries ago, and my adopted country, Ireland, used to be until more recently.

Paul Kingsnorth, Intermission: Monasteries of Romania #1

Godsplaining to the Archbishop

“If we say our God is an all-loving god, how do you explain that at any given time probably 400 million living on the planet at one time would be gay?” he asked. “Are the religions of the world, as does Catholicism, saying to those hundreds of millions of people, ‘You have to pass your whole life without any physical, genital expression of that love?’”

Archbishop Rembert G. Weakland, recently deceased, to the New York Times in 2009, roughly seven years after exposure of his hush money payment to a male lover (or rape victim).

It is suggestive that “the religions of the world” seem, to the disgraced Archbishop, to speak with one voice. How could that be if the idea of lifelong sexual abstinence is so stupid? Might it be that the spirit of our age is the anomaly, the deviation from the wisdom of the ages?

Did the Archbishop not confess that Mary, the “Mother of God,” remained ever a virgin? Or did he, like a highly multiparous protestant I corresponded with at some length, rule out Mary’s ever-virginity because that would be “perverted”?

Further, it is famously not just the Church that tells people “You have to” do something you’d rather not do, See, e.g., decalogue.

Still further, surely a substantial part of the work of the Church is dealing sacramentally and pastorally with people who fail to live up to divine expectations. See, e.g., confession.

Finally, the surmised number of gay people is irrelevant to the correct answer to the Archbishop’s tendentious question.

To get other glimpses of the odious decedent, see Rembert Weakland, Proud Vandal

Youth alienation then and now

[T]he thing that disturbs me the most right now is that the conversations often that I’m having with younger evangelicals. When someone says to me I’m thinking about walking away, it’s usually a very different conversation than I would have had 10 years ago. 10 years ago, it would have been with a younger person saying I just can’t believe the supernatural stuff that we believe anymore. Or I really think the moral ideas of the church are too strict and too judgmental, and I want to walk away.

Now it’s almost the reverse, almost directly the reverse. It’s people who are saying, I don’t think the church believes what it says it believes and what it’s taught me, or at least I fear that it doesn’t.

[W]e’re not looking for some Christian America in the past because in order to do that, we would have to redefine what we mean by Christian … [i]n all sorts of ways that I think are harmful.

Russell Moore

Repentance

Repentance is everything you do to get sin, those inborn passions, out of you. It’s reading, thinking, praying, weeding out disruptive influences in your life, sharing time with fellow Christians, following the guidance of the saints. Repentance is the renunciation of what harms us and the acquisition of what is beneficial to us, writes a holy counselor.

Dee Pennock, God’s Path to Sanity

Demoting free exercise

In essence, [Employment Division v.] Smith demoted the Free Exercise Clause of the First Amendment to a glorified nondiscrimination doctrine. Rather than granting Americans an affirmative right to practice their religion absent compelling governmental reasons to restrict that practice, the Free Exercise Clause becomes almost entirely defensive—impotent against government encroachment absent evidence of targeted attack or unequal treatment.

David French


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

Jonathan Rauch, The Constitution of Knowledge

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

Fr. Jonathan Tobias

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

Wednesday, 8/24/22

Are all the laws but one to go unexecuted, and the Government itself go to pieces …?

On January 6, 2021, from a parking garage under the Capitol Visitor Center, then–Vice President Mike Pence ordered the military to defend the Capitol against a violent insurrection. According to a taped deposition of General Mark Milley, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Pence “issued very explicit, very direct, unambiguous orders” to him and Secretary of Defense Christopher Miller: “Get the military down here. Get the Guard here. Put down this situation.”

In ordinary circumstances, Pence’s actions would be unconstitutional. Indeed, a vice president who usurped the president’s constitutional authority, and the Cabinet and military officers who followed his orders, could be committing an impeachable offense. …

Jefferson also insisted, the officer who exercises emergency power must justify his actions to “his fellow citizens generally.” For Jefferson, “the good officer” must throw “himself on the justice of his country and the rectitude of his motives.”

From his title (Mike Pence Owes the Country an Explanation) and the first paragraph, I easily figured out where George Thomas was headed and why: he wants Pence to say he perceived an emergency if only because Donald Trump was failing to put down the rump insurrection.

What I didn’t expect was that he would bring Jefferson and Lincoln into it and would persuade me of his case — and by inference to repent of my former judgment on Lincoln for his ultra vires acts.

Yup, the world is messy sometimes. This once was one of my favorite quotes, in part because it challenged my purity fetish:

Purity … is not the one thing needful; and it is better that a life should contract many a dirt-mark, than forfeit usefulness in its efforts to remain unspotted.

William James, Varieties of Religious Experience Lectures 14 and 15, via here.

Sorting out a jumble

[W]e have no ideal path forward. We’re damned if Attorney General Merrick Garland goes forward with a Trump prosecution and damned if Garland holds off. But the latter path should nonetheless be treated as a viable Plan B because it permits the Democrats to continue beating Trump in the political arena by the widest possible margin. That involves all kinds of risks as well, but it’s less risky than the legal option.

Damon Linker, summarizing the case against prosecution that he’s been trying to make.

More:

  • To use the full powers of federal law enforcement during a Democratic administration to indict, try, convict, and punish this man would drive large numbers of Republicans even further into Trump’s arms …
  • The goal should be his political defeat—turning him into a loser in the court of public opinion—not using an extra-political workaround to try and exile him from political competition. If you think making Hitler and Chamberlain analogies clarifies these issues, good for you. I think it’s pretty idiotic.
  • For the sake of argument, I’ve been happy to concede the point and assume Trump is guilty of … something. But is it true? [] After reading a highly illuminating exchange between widely respected legal scholar Jack Goldsmith and journalist Josh Marshall, I’m honestly not sure.
  • Could it be that all of the sound and fury I’ve seen online from the left about the imperative of punishing Trump’s self-evident criminality is based on nothing more than a feeling, a conviction, a moral certainty that he simply must be guilty of something? If so, that would be a further sign that loathing for the former president is a fundamentally political impulse, not a legal one.

Maybe I’ll take a position on “prosecute or nolle prosequi” when someone convincingly shows that Trump committed an actual crime, and that prosecution will be a slam-dunk. Considering the proportion of Trumpists in the land, I’m not sure you’ll ever impanel a jury without one or with one that will vote to convict.

Why colleges are failing

The present model of colleges and universities is failing, for in the first place they have forgotten or even turned against their original mission; in the second, they have picked up a whole lot of unrelated sidelines, none of which they do very well, such as universal job certification; and in the third, the public is beginning to catch on that they cost far too much, and that other institutions can usually do each of these sidelines better.  Barring root and branch reform – for which we must never give up hope — it’s entirely possible that in the not-so-distant future, serious humanities teaching will have to migrate to other settings than colleges and universities.

J Budziszewski

Detritus

In a nutshell

Democracy disconnected from liberalism will not protect diversity, because majorities will use their power to repress minorities.

Francis Fukuyama, Liberalism and Its Discontents

Be careful what you ask for …

History is a prankster. You order a Gray Champion, and cosmic room service sends up a casino developer and New York real estate mogul with a laughable hairdo…

James Howard Kunstler, Living in the Long Emergency

How low can we go?

Hillary Clinton versus Donald Trump seemed like some kind of nadir, but the Florida panhandle is showing that we can go even lower: Matt Gaetz versus Rebekah Jones

Institutions trumping instinct

But it is in fact individualism and not sociability that developed over the course of human history. That individualism seems today like a solid core of our economic and political behavior is only because we have developed institutions that override our more naturally communal instincts.

Francis Fukuyama, The Origins of Political Order

One thing leads to another …

I was good at menial jobs like parking cars but went into radio because it was Minnesota and vacuum tubes give off heat. It was public radio where all the announcers sound like Methodist ministers except not as friendly and there is no Jesus, and I distinguished myself by telling jokes and stem-winding stories about a small town. People liked it; go figure.

Garrison Keillor

American exceptionalism plus

It’s American exceptionalism but goes beyond that. It says that we are the next version of Israel from the Old Testament, that we are God’s chosen nation, and that is a special covenant — a two-way agreement with God. We can’t break it, and if we do, what happened to Israel will happen to us: We will be overrun by whatever the next Babylon is, taken into captivity, and He will remove His blessing from us.

Zack Stanton, It’s Time to Talk About Violent Christian Extremism – POLITICO

Maybe a bit harsh

I would rather have gonorrhea than a record of passionate and convinced #MAGA tweeting.

Graeme Wood, What to Do With Trumpists – The Atlantic.

Maybe a bit harsh, but then it’s dated 1/19/21, the day before Joe Biden officially became President despite Trump’s lawless efforts to retain the Presidency.


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

Jonathan Rauch, The Constitution of Knowledge

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, 8/21/22

Archeology: a fancy word for speculating about our ancestors

Another distinguished writer, again, in commenting on the cave-drawings attributed to the neolithic men of the reindeer period, said that none of their pictures appeared to have any religious purpose; and he seemed almost to infer that they had no religion. I can hardly imagine a thinner thread of argument than this which reconstructs the very inmost moods of the prehistoric mind from the fact that somebody who has scrawled a few sketches on a rock, from what motive we do not know, for what purpose we do not know, acting under what customs or conventions we do not know, may possibly have found it easier to draw reindeer than to draw religion.

G.K. Chesterton, The Everlasting Man

In the same vein, David MacCauley, Motel of the Mysteries

Worth repeating

Frederick Buechner has met Christians who remind him of American tourists in Europe: Not knowing the language of their listeners, they speak the language of Zion loudly and forcefully, hoping the natives will somehow comprehend. They seem cocky with faith, voluble with their theology, and content with a God who resembles a cosmic Good Buddy. Their certitude both fascinates and alarms him.

Phillip Yancey, Frederick Buechner, the Reverend of Oz

The Machine almost compels a bit of hypocrisy

To fail to reach lofty goals is not hypocritical, and even to publicly defend those goals while knowing you have failed to reach them is not hypocritical if you are open about your limits.

… If stepping outside the Machine were possible, then it would not be necessary.

Irony is politically important. It is important because anything less than an unreachable ideal will be caught by the Machine, eviscerated, repackaged, and sold back to you in a form that is exactly the same apart from the way that it drains everything good from your soul. No idea, no belief, no institution, and no practice is beyond the Machine’s grasp. Only the ideal, being formless, is safe. Of course, the ideal, being formless, is also beyond our grasp, so we cannot cling to it for safety. If we try, then we will cling instead to our idea of it; and if we do that, we will soon find out that our idea was the Machine’s all along. The only way to succeed is by committing so completely that failure is inevitable. And this is the other reason why we need irony. The completeness of our failures reveals to us the depths of our absurdity. This is a gift. Will-to-power needs us take ourselves seriously. It is the product of pride and it struggles when we genuinely laugh at ourselves.

FFatalism, Is asceticism ascetic?

Reassurance

I was a conscientious objector in the Vietnam era, who ended up serving his country by, so to speak, emptying bedpans in Peoria. In the ensuing decades, I’ve never become a hawk, but I’ve wondered whether I was right back then, whether I was trying to retain a purity that this fallen world doesn’t really allow.

Yesterday, I read this (including the full surrounding essay) from a Priest who, serving as chaplain “for the airmen who dropped the atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki in August 1945, and gave them his blessing”:

Ethical hairsplitting over the morality of various types of instruments and structures of mass slaughter is not what the world needs from the church, although it is what the world has come to expect from the followers of Christ. What the world needs is a grouping of Christians that will stand up and pay up with Jesus Christ. What the world needs is Christians who, in language that the simplest soul could understand, will proclaim: the follower of Christ cannot participate in mass slaughter. He or she must love as Christ loved, live as Christ lived and, if necessary, die as Christ died, loving ones enemies.

For the 300 years immediately following Jesus’ resurrection, the church universally saw Christ and his teaching as nonviolent. Remember that the church taught this ethic in the face of at least three serious attempts by the state to liquidate her. It was subject to horrendous and ongoing torture and death. If ever there was an occasion for justified retaliation and defensive slaughter, whether in form of a just war or a just revolution, this was it. The economic and political elite of the Roman state and their military had turned the citizens of the state against Christians and were embarked on a murderous public policy of exterminating the Christian community.

Yet the church, in the face of the heinous crimes committed against her members, insisted without reservation that when Christ disarmed Peter he disarmed all Christians. Christians continued to believe that Christ was, to use the words of an ancient liturgy, their fortress, their refuge, and their strength, and that if Christ was all they needed for security and defense, then Christ was all they should have. Indeed, this was a new security ethic.

Father George Zabelka, Blessing the Bombs.

Father George is right about Christian history. The Orthodox Church required a time of repentance, including abstention from the Eucharist, for soldiers who had killed even in a “just war.”

I find reassurance for my youthful conscientious objection in that, thought I was inspired more by Menno Simons (“Spears and swords of iron we leave to those who, alas, consider human blood and swine’s blood of well-nigh equal value.“) than by the Fathers of the Church.


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, 8/20/22 (no politics)

Following up my last post, the non-political portion of the stuff I’d collected.

RIP

More on Beuchner

Again, with the caveat that I never read any Beuchner:

His first novel was a great success. After his second, he came to faith. He was attending a church service in New York where the pastor was talking about how Jesus is crowned amid confession, tears and great laughter. “At the phrase great laughter, for reasons that I have never satisfactorily understood, the great wall of China crumbled and Atlantis rose up out of the sea, and on Madison Avenue, at 73rd Street, tears leapt from my eyes as though I had been struck across the face.”

He spent the rest of his life as a border-stalker, too literary for many Christians and too Christian for the literary set. His faith was personal, unpretentious and accessible. “Faith is homesickness. Faith is a lump in the throat. Faith is less a position on than a movement toward.” It is sensing a presence, not buying an argument.

David Brooks, The Man Who Found His Inner Depths

“Too literary for many Christians” means “not sufficiently neat, tidy and pious.”

Norah Vincent

Another author I’ve heard of but not read. (You can learn a fair amount by reading New York Times obituaries.)

In her year and a half living as Ned, Ms. Vincent put him in a number of stereotypical, hypermasculine situations. He joined a blue-collar bowling league, though he was a terrible bowler. (His teammates were kind and cheered him on; they thought he was gay, Ms. Vincent learned later, because they thought he bowled like a girl.)

He spent weeks in a monastery with cloistered monks. He went to strip clubs and dated women, though he was rebuffed more often than not in singles bars. He worked in sales, hustling coupon books and other low-margin products door-to-door with fellow salesmen who, with their cartoon bravado, seemed drawn from the 1983 David Mamet play “Glengarry Glen Ross.”

Finally, at an Iron John retreat, a therapeutic masculinity workshop — think drum circles and hero archetypes — modeled on the work of the men’s movement author Robert Bly, Ned began to lose it. Being Ned had worn Ms. Vincent down; she felt alienated and disassociated, and after the retreat she checked herself into a hospital for depression.

She was suffering, she wrote, for the same reason that many of the men she met were suffering: Their assigned gender roles, she found, were suffocating them and alienating them from themselves.

“Manhood is a leaden mythology riding on the shoulders of every man,” she wrote, and they needed help: “If men are still really in power, then it benefits us all considerably to heal the dyspeptic at the wheel.”

Norah Vincent, Who Chronicled Passing as a Man, Is Dead at 53 – The New York Times. The book alluded to is Self-Made Man.

Science and sciencey

Big Bang?

Another one bites the dust.

Science is tentative, reformable. And so it’s too early conclusively to bid adieu to the Big Bang hypothesis. But stay tuned.

Total dudes, or at least dude-adjacent

I’m glad the hospital produced these videos. They ought to be open about what they’re doing to children. And I’m glad these doctors are talking about their diagnoses of toddlers who dare to play with the wrong color toys or teen girls who hate their bodies. It’s then extremely fair to simply disagree and say, hey this isn’t good. As a former toddler who played with trucks, I’m glad I’ve managed to keep my uterus as long as I have.

Nellie Bowles, Last Hurrah Before the Baby!.

Nellie played with trucks. She’s lesbian, not male, not trans. And she’s having a baby (from her womb, not from her “wife” or a surrogate). I firmly believe that some girls who play with trucks are straight.

The most infuriating part of the trans mania to me is that it takes the most simplistic stereotypes of gender-appropriate behavior and turns deviation from them as evidence of transgender identity. Far likelier that it’s non-conclusive evidence (i.e., a hint) of homosexuality.

The second most infuriating part is of pseudo-science like trans medicine (also from Nellie):

In the new gender belief system, female-ness and male-ness are feelings, removed from the physical body. So what is femaleness, then? It is a sense of weakness, receptivity, softness, and submission. Duh.

And so it makes sense that a powerful, dominant uterus-haver in, say, 15th-century France, could not possibly have identified as a woman, not if she (they?) knew what we know now. Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre is putting on a play about the life of Joan of Arc, and in it she is not a she at all. How could she be? Joan is strong and independent! So Joan is recast as a nonbinary hero and goes by they/them. From the Globe’s website announcing the show:  “Joan finds their power and their belief spreads like fire.” (Spreads like fire . . . you see Joan was burned at the stake, so they’re doing a metaphor with that.)

You know who else was nonbinary, according to the new academic experts? Elizabeth I! Yes, all through history powerful people who thought they were women were, in fact, total dudes or at least dude-adjacent. All of them, from Cleopatra to Sojourner Truth—they were never women. That was just us imposing the gender-binary on all these super awesome people of indeterminate identity.

The way to know that this is sexism is to imagine something similar being done to a historical man. Like: this historical man was really submissive and quiet, so our play now re-imagines him as a woman, which we think he was.

Legalia

Now that you’ve joined our sleeper cell …

here are some guidelines for staying below the enemy’s radar.

Creepy posts like this will certainly not do anything to attract emotionally healthy people who are reticent about integralism or other postliberal legal approaches.

1000 words

Unusually good KAL cartoon this week in the Economist:

Originalism

Originalism has become, as Richard Primus of the University of Michigan Law School says, a “surname of a family of approaches to constitutional law” that might not recognise one another around the dinner table.

America tussles over a newly fashionable constitutional theory (The Economist)

I’m growing increasingly convinced that originalism is the correct way to analyze constitutional questions, but Professor Primus isn’t totally wrong, either. Inter-originalism tussles will, I hope, resolve to a shared method.

How could there be multiple members of the “originalism” family that don’t recognize one another? Well, for instance, an originalism that reflexively looks only to first founding and averts its eyes from the post-Civil War amendments is missing the mark:

Elizabeth Wydra, president of the Constitutional Accountability Centre, a law firm and advocacy organisation, is not waiting for liberals to take hold of the court. She finds powerful originalist sources for progressive causes—especially in the Reconstruction Amendments. These provisions, which ended slavery and guaranteed equal rights for formerly enslaved people, “reflect broad conceptions of equality, inclusion and liberty”. For true originalists, Ms Wydra says, “the 14th Amendment should matter just as much to you as the Second Amendment.”

This doesn’t mean I’ll agree with Ms. Wydra’s conclusions on cases, but she’s right that the nation had a “second founding” 160 years ago, and that, too, affects “original meaning.”


“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.

Friday, 8/19/22, political

I’ve collected so much that I’m breaking it in two. Herewith, the political, writ large and smaller. The rest will come in the morniing.

Politics Writ Large

The point of these items is not partisan, but rather a view of the political field “from 30,000 feet.”

Conservatism

Three outstanding paragraphs:

I shuddered when, within a matter of months following the Obergefell decision, I began to hear activists from (otherwise obsolete?) gay-rights organizations talking about the need to push transgender issues as the next front on the leftward side of the culture war. These activists weren’t just calling for legal protections from discrimination, which wouldn’t have been especially controversial. They were demanding that the country at large give up on “the gender binary” and reject belief in any kind of biological component of sexual identity.

In its place, people were now expected to embrace an ideology of absolute gender fluidity. Boys could be girls, girls could be boys, requests on the part of children to physically change from one to the other using a range of sometimes quite radical medical interventions needed to be respected and heeded, and any and all resistance to this agenda was henceforth declared to be an expression of rank bigotry. The change even extended to pronoun usage, which went in the matter of a couple of years from something perfectly obvious and unworthy of thought for native speakers of American English to a highly fraught matter of social propriety and potential insult.

Can anyone really be surprised that this push for dramatic sociocultural change, with much of it focused on minors, coincided with a surge of support for right-wing populism, which promised to fight the left with greater ferocity than ever before?

Damon Linker, On Being a Conservative Liberal

One of my favorite sayings used to be Cet animal est très méchant. Quand on l’attaque, il se défend. It was my (conservative) response to progressive aggressors who found conservatives très méchant.

“Back in the day”, 20-30 years ago, it was invariably the progressives who aggressed, the conservatives who defended. I cannot say that categorically any more. Death threats and death plots against progressive-to-center-right public figures, by the far right, caution me against that. But Linker reminds me that the Left remains an aggressor.

Dave Hopkins, a political scientist at Boston College, told The Dispatch last month that “the definition of conservatism has changed a bit in the Trump years.”

“What counts as being a true conservative has become more about cultural issues and more about fidelity to Trump himself than it’s been about size of government,” he said.

Price St. Clair, Wyoming Voters Deal Lopsided Loss to Cheney

Another of my favorite sayings (very loosely paraphrased from memory) comes from the late William F. Buckley: "The problem with most liberals is that they cannot begin to describe the world in which they’d say ‘enough!’ and become conservatives." That certainly is the case with those who, having totally triumphed on homosexuality, thought they could put one over on us with gender theory, thus keeping their little sinecures intact.

No American Oakeshottians

Back to Damon Linker’s rewarding essay of Friday, On Being a Conservative Liberal:

The great British conservative Michael Oakeshott has a lovely essay titled “On Being Conservative” that does a fabulous job of summarizing the impulse to resist change. Here is that essay’s most famous passage: “To be conservative … is to prefer the familiar to the unknown, … the tried to the untried, fact to mystery, the actual to the possible, the limited to the unbounded, the near to the distant, the sufficient to the superabundant, the convenient to the perfect, present laughter to utopian bliss.”

Those sentiments speak to me on a very personal level … Deep into adulthood, the announcement of an unanticipated change in plans would provoke intense anxiety that manifested itself in anger, as my brain short-circuited and I did everything I could to repress an instinct to panic.

No wonder I ended up a conservative—though of a peculiar kind … I had no real attraction to the surging, striving form of American conservatism that leads some to lament decadence and stagnation or to propose schemes that might inspire greater economic and cultural dynamism. It placed me miles away from Ronald Reagan’s endorsement of Thomas Paine’s line about how it’s possible and desirable to “begin the world over again.” (That quintessentially American sentiment has always struck me as delusional and potentially dangerous.)

There are, it seems, no American Oakeshottians.

Except, perhaps, in a certain underpopulated corner of the Democratic Party—the corner in which I’ve found a de facto political home for the past two decades.

This is probably the best argument I’ve read on why a conservative “of a peculiar kind” might end up voting Democrat.

Epistemic humility

As the leader of a country that within living memory had wiped out six million Jews, she was understandably anxious not to appear prescriptive about what might constitute European identity.

Tom Holland, Dominion, distilling a lot of history and shame to 190-proof.

Religion and Politics

“I was thinking about that Marx quote that religion is the opium of the people,” Elizabeth Oldfield, the former director of the Christian think tank Theos, told me. “I think what we’ve got now is [that] politics is the amphetamines of the people.”

Helen Lewis, How Social Justice Became a New Religion

Politics Writ Smaller

New policies, maybe; barbarian behavior, no

Cheney and Romney (and Adam Kinzinger and Peter Meijer and other dissenting Republicans) are defending the party. They’re upholding its ideals. And to understand why, we have to understand the core argument of the Trump right. If I’ve heard it once, I’ve heard it a thousand times. It has two parts:

First, it’s time to end the old ways. As a policy matter, Reagan Republicanism is dead. We need more government intervention in the market, fewer military entanglements abroad, and the greater use of state power to enforce conservative moral norms. A new “workers’ party” or “parents’ party” is going to be more progressive economically and more conservative socially than Reagan’s party. We appreciate The Gipper, but he was a man of his time, and that time has passed.

Second, it’s not just the old policies we reject. We reject the old rules of behavior. The left punches hard. We’ll punch harder. We tried nominating “good” people—like Mitt—and the left painted them as racist and misogynist. We didn’t make the new rules, but we’ll play by those rules, and the new rules tell us to fight fire with fire. Never back down. Never apologize. If cruelty works, be cruel. If lies work, then lie. Support for classical liberalism and the rule of law are luxury beliefs for a protected elite that doesn’t understand the present emergency. The existence of the nation is at stake. Act like it.

As times change, policies will change. The Republican Party wasn’t going to remain the anti-slavery party when slavery ended, just as it wasn’t going to remain the Cold War party when the Soviet Union fell. Ideological fights and ideological change are normal and healthy. Not every economic problem can be fixed with a tax cut, and not every foreign challenge can be met with military power.

And so the first paragraph of the case for the new Trump right isn’t particularly alarming …

It’s the second paragraph that represents the threat. It’s the second paragraph that triggers the crisis. It’s the abandonment of truth, character, and respect for the institutions of our pluralistic republic that places our entire democratic experiment at risk ….

David French, Who Is a True ‘Turncoat’?

A rant against “normal” Republicans

Oh, my! Too much good stuff for me to quote in good conscience (since it’s copyrighted and the author makes his living writing). Excerpts to whet your appetite:

What the “Team Normal” Republicans would like is the arrangement they had before 2015 — they would like Trump to help stir up their own voters and generate “energy,” but they don’t want to have to defend his unpopular actions and characteristics to swing voters who have a negative view of him and they also don’t want to have intraparty fights with the candidates he supports.

That your party is led by an inept, impulsive, criminally inclined man, who is viewed negatively by most voters, who cares very little about whether your party wins elections or achieves policy goals, and who keeps causing the party to nominate his unappealing weirdo personal friends in otherwise-winnable Senate races, is your problem — one largely of your own making. No self-respecting set of political opponents would respond to this in any other way than by putting the screws to you as hard as is possible.

Josh Barro, A Rant: ‘Team Normal’ Republicans, Stop Whining That Democrats Won’t Help You

How to irk Trump and live to win again

Not all those who have irked Mr Trump have been purged from the party’s ranks. Georgia’s governor, Brian Kemp, and its secretary of state (chief elections officer), Brad Raffensperger, both helped thwart Mr Trump’s attempts at post-election cheating. Despite efforts to unseat them, Georgia’s primary voters made them the party’s nominees in May. But the price of self-preservation was silence. “I’ve never said a bad word about [Mr Trump’s] administration and I don’t plan on doing that,” Mr Kemp said.

The election of the Trump-appointed slate means that the “rule of law is teetering” in Arizona, according to Bill Gates (not that one), a Republican member of the Maricopa County Board of Supervisors. In other times a man like Mr Gates, a Harvard-educated lawyer and businessman who supports tighter voter-identification laws and low rates of taxation, might have aspired to statewide office, too. But with openness to electoral nullification a new litmus test for such candidates he counts himself out. He says his party has a tumour which is metastasising, and that its nature has changed fundamentally. “We’ve become a European far-right party.”

Donald Trump’s hold on the Republican Party is unquestionable (The Economist)

Trump as Ransomware must might have legs

Republicans weren’t able to uninstall the Trump ransomware this year, Chris argues in this week’s Stirewaltisms (🔒). “In a midterm election that party leaders had hoped would unite the right and focus on an unpopular sitting president and grinding inflation, Republicans in their primaries showed almost no ability to set aside their own civil war,” he writes. “Nor is there any question about which side came out ahead.”

The Morning Dispatch, 8/19/22

Trump loves to be loved. He loves to be hated. He hates to be ignored.

The press loves looks and clicks.

The Trumpist Right loves trolling and demolition.

Ain’t a chance in hell that we’re going to get relief from all the Trump-related news any time soon, Nellie. They’ll cover him even if it means his notoriety gets him elected again.

Epiphenomenon

The term “post-truth” was declared the Oxford Dictionaries’ “Word of the Year” in 2016. Post-truth is an adjective defined as “relating to or denoting circumstances in which objective facts are less influential in shaping public opinion than appeals to emotion and personal belief.”

Michael Ward, After Humanity.

Liz Cheney’s 2024

“Of course she doesn’t win,” Bill Kristol, the longtime strategist who has become one of Trump’s fiercest conservative critics, told me. But, he added, if Cheney “makes the point over and over again” that Trump represents a unique threat to American democracy and “forces the other candidates to come to grips” with that argument, she “could have a pretty significant effect” on Trump’s chances.

Ronald Brownstein, Liz Cheney Already Has a 2024 Strategy

Creepy is not the same as illegal

I still have no use for Alabama’s cornpone former Chief Justice Roy Moore, but let the record reflect that certain of his detractors have gotten an $8.2 million slapdown.


"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.

Wednesday, 8/17/22

What fools we mortals be

Proof that he knows better

I once ran into an old acquaintance at a Middletown bar who told me that he had recently quit his job because he was sick of waking up early. I later saw him complaining on Facebook about the “Obama economy” and how it had affected his life. I don’t doubt that the Obama economy has affected many, but this man is assuredly not among them. His status in life is directly attributable to the choices he’s made, and his life will improve only through better decisions. But for him to make better choices, he needs to live in an environment that forces him to ask tough questions about himself. There is a cultural movement in the white working class to blame problems on society or the government, and that movement gains adherents by the day.

J.D. Vance, Hillbilly Elegy. The movement to blame someone else now seems to have Vance as one of its leaders.

The great paradox of “queer” ideology

The great paradox of “queer” ideology is that it both seeks the margins and then complains about being marginalized! It wants both the frisson of outsiderdom and total acceptance by insiderdom. It’s the kind of reasoning you expect from a toddler not a grownup. The “centering” of the “marginalized” is how critical queer theory always eventually disappears up its own backhole.

Norm McDonald once said of the term “cisgender” that “it’s a way of marginalizing a normal person.” And he’s right. When “queer theorists” insist they are about diversity, they mean the opposite. The point is not to live and let live; it is to impose their queerness on everyone — to make themselves feel more secure.

Andrew Sullivan

Strategic Name-choosing

“I figured if I called myself Dykewomon,” she joked in an interview with J: The Jewish News of Northern California this year, “I would never get reviewed in The New York Times. Which has been true.”

Obituary of Lesbian “author, poet and activist” Elana Dykewomon (neé Nachman) in the New York Times

Solomon Asch’s corollary

In a famous 1951 experiment, the psychologist Solomon Asch showed how easily humans can be manipulated by social pressure to conform. If everyone else in the room affirms even the most blatant falsehood, we will very often affirm it ourselves, even denying the clear evidence of our own eyes.

But a variation of the Asch experiment gives hope. If only one other person in the room—a single reality ally—tells the truth, the pressure to conform drops sharply and we become much more willing to buck the lie. That is why authoritarian regimes work so furiously to stifle opposition voices, even seemingly weak ones. It is what the Soviet dissident Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn was getting at when he said, “The simple act of an ordinary brave man is not to participate in lies, not to support false actions! His rule: Let that [lie] come into the world, let it even reign supreme—only not through me.”

Jonathan Rauch, The Reality Ally (Persuasion)

So, I’ll join the alliance: Joe Biden won the 2020 Presidential Election. He did not steal it.

Does everyone have a narrative?

Yes, the legacy media, like the New York Times, have a narrative. But so do (some? most?) upstart media, like Quillette.

Ken White (Popehat) demolishes an absurd Quillette story, twisted and jammed into the narrative “kids today are intolerant snowflakes.”

What the story actually shows, stripped of handwaving and unwarranted characterizations, is some private school students protesting perfectly appropriately when a powerful lawyer and Harvard Professor subjected them to repeated use of the word “nigger,” part of the title of a book by another powerful professor. And, ironically, the professor who claims to have been cancelled by kids silently walking out on his lecture, is famously, even performatively, in favor of free speech and expression — for himself, apparently, but not for those who would protest his ideas.

People disagreeing with you or protesting you without trying to silence or deplatform you is not what generally is meant by “cancellation.”

But the Quillette article fits my worldview, so I might have bought it had Popehat not intervened.

‘Murica

Sclerosis plus ideological capture

America’s response to Covid-19 went badly not just for Trump-related reasons, but because of problems inherent to our public health edifice, from bureaucratic sclerosis to the ideological capture of putatively neutral institutions …

And then along with these failures came an absurd ideological spectacle, in which health officials agonized about how to state the obvious — that monkeypox at present is primarily a threat to men who have sex with men — and whether to do anything to publicly discourage certain Dionysian festivities associated with Pride Month. As the suffer-no-fools writer Josh Barro has exhaustively chronicled, public-health communication around monkeypox has been an orgy of euphemism and wokespeak, misleading and baffling if you don’t understand what isn’t being said.

This, too, has repeated Covidian failures. The political anxiety about saying or doing anything that might appear to stigmatize homosexuality mirrors the great public-health abdication to the George Floyd protests — in which a great many members of an expert community that had championed closures and lockdowns decided to torch their credibility by endorsing mass protests because the cause seemed too progressive to critique.

In each case what’s been thrown over is neutrality — the idea that public health treats risky behaviors equally, regardless of what form of expression they represent …

[S]peaking for myself, as a citizen with a personal interest in medical controversy, when I read the kind of blathering, newspeak-infused monkeypox advisories that Barro highlights, all I can think is: I can never trust anything these people say again.

Ross Douthat, The C.D.C. Continues to Lead From Behind – The New York Times

Priceless Americana

6-7 years back, I asked my eldest’s scout leader if he was a Christian. He said, “Of course, it’s the most important thing in my life.” I asked where he went to church and he replied, “I’ve never been, but my wife was raised Catholic.” For him, it was just another part of his … American identity.

One response to a social medium thread on churchless Christianity (that began with the thrown-down gauntlet “Being reliably right-wing doesn’t confer upon you the status of being an “orthodox Christian,” even if it is with a small ‘o.’”)

Is this how tribalism begins?

Protection of freedom of thought requires that no group should be permitted by law to express an opinion. For when a group starts having opinions, it inevitably tends to impose them on its members.

Simone Weil, The Need for Roots. I cannot concur with her literal sense, but today’s tribalism makes me think that she was directionally correct.

There are a number of tribalists who think me a traitor because I unexpectedly and publicly bucked the tribe — a tribe of which I was never a member, but only a co-belligerent.

Prophetic

Christian concern about popular culture should be as much about the sensibilities it encourages as about its content.

Ken Myers, All God’s Children and Blue Suede Shoes.

Just so you don’t miss the prophetic gravamen, not that the book predates social media and the ubiquitous smartphone. (And blogs, too, frankly.)

Hit list

The American Conservative has a list of cases it wants to see reversed now that Roe is reversed:

If you know all those cases without looking them up, you’re a better man than I am.

I’m sympathetic to overturning at least one of them. One other, On birthright citizenship, my reflex is that if Michael Anton or John Eastman is agin it, I’m fer it.

Did I mention that I’ve dropped my American Conservative subscription? So many sites I used to enjoy reading that I now avoid. Maybe I’m the one that’s changing (though I’m confident that the Trump-Sluagh has gotten to some of them).

It’s hard to admit that I really don’t fit anywhere other than an Orthodox Church (and that’s because the Church is mercifully broad in accommodating quirks).

George Soros is not off-limits

Democratic billionaire George Soros has, by his own admission, had an outsized influence on our politics over the years with his political donations—just as GOP mega-donors Sheldon Adelson, Paul Singer, and Charles and David Koch had on the right. “All well and good. America is a free country, and Soros has every right to spend his vast fortune however he wants within the boundaries of the law, as well as to justify that spending in the public square,” James Kirchick writes in Tablet Magazine. “[But] the same applies to those of us inhabiting lower tax brackets, who have no less a right to criticize Soros for how he’s trying to influence American public life.” Because Soros is Jewish, however, many progressives have adopted the tactic of dismissing any criticism of his political advocacy as anti-Semitic—a charge Kirchick, himself Jewish, believes is unfair. “The argument that the mere mention of the name ‘Soros’ is tantamount to antisemitism, which is effectively the position of the progressive political, media, and activist elite, is made entirely in bad faith,” he writes. “If the mind of a Soros supporter, upon hearing his name, races immediately to an image of a ‘Jew,’ and one who serves as a stand-in for ‘the Jews,’ it’s probably not the motives of the critic that need questioning.”

The Morning Dispatch, August 16, 2022

Isms

When I was young, there was a conservative book titled “Today’s Isms.” I was trying to figure out what ISMS stood for. It turns out, it stands for ideologies — communism, socialism, fascism. We could add a few today.

Islamism

There’s nothing freakish about the attack on Salman Rushdie:

And yet as shocking as this attack was, it was also 33 years in the making: The Satanic Verses is a book with a very bloody trail

In July 1991, the Japanese translator of the condemned book, Hitoshi Igarashi, 44-years-old, was stabbed to death outside his office at the University of Tsukuba, northeast of Tokyo. The same month, the book’s Italian translator, Ettore Capriolo, was also stabbed—this time, in his own home in Milan. Two years later, in July 1993, the book’s Turkish translator, the prolific author Aziz Nesin, was the target of an arson attack on a hotel in the city of Sivas. He escaped, but 37 others were killed. A few months later, Islamists came for William Nygaard, the book’s Norwegian publisher. Nygaard was shot three times outside his home in Oslo and was critically injured.

And those are stories we remember. In 1989, 12 people were killed at an anti-Rushdie riot in Mumbai, the author’s birthplace, where the book was also banned. Five Pakistanis died in Islamabad under similar circumstances.

Bari Weiss, We Ignored Salman Rushdie’s Warning

But would we back Rushdie were Satanic Verses being published today?

When Rushdie made those comments to L’Express it was in the fallout of PEN, the country’s premiere literary group, deciding to honor the satirical French magazine Charlie Hebdo with an award. Months before, a dozen staff members of Charlie Hebdo were murdered by two terrorists in their offices. It was impossible to think of a publication that deserved to be recognized and elevated more.

And yet the response from more than 200 of the world’s most celebrated authors was to protest the award. Famous writers—Joyce Carol Oates, Lorrie Moore, Michael Cunningham, Rachel Kushner, Michael Ondaatje, Teju Cole, Peter Carey, Junot Díaz—suggested that maybe the people who had just seen their friends murdered for publishing a satirical magazine were a little bit at fault, too. That if something offends a minority group, that perhaps it shouldn’t be printed. And those cartoonists were certainly offensive, even the dead ones. These writers accused PEN of “valorizing selectively offensive material: material that intensifies the anti-Islamic, anti-Maghreb, anti-Arab sentiments already prevalent in the Western world.”

Bari Weiss, We Ignored Salman Rushdie’s Warning

Trumpism

When I left Above the Law in 2019 for my two-year detour into legal recruiting, it was partly because of Donald Trump. Writing about the law in 2019 meant writing about Trump, and writing about Trump meant unpleasantness.

I returned to writing by launching Original Jurisdiction in December 2020, after Trump lost the presidential election, and I turned it into my full-time job in May 2021, after he left office. I thought it was safe to go back in the water.

Alas, here we are, more than 18 months after his administration’s end, and Trump still dominates the headlines. Almost every category in today’s Judicial Notice relates to the controversial ex-president.

David Lat, We Just Can’t Quit Him

Miscellany

A back-handed recommendation

I’m not generally given to wretched excess, but when I get into a six-episode Shetland on Britbox, I’m apt to binge-watch.

Breaking the Sabbath

The princess—I mean the Shiek’s daughter—was only thirteen or fourteen years old, and had a very sweet face and a pretty one. She was the only Syrian female we have seen yet who was not so sinfully ugly that she couldn’t smile after ten o’clock Saturday night without breaking the Sabbath.

Mark Twain, Innocents Abroad.

I’m not sure the princess would worry about breaking the Christian Sabbath. Twain should have made it “sundown Friday.”

Frederick Beuchner

[Frederick Beuchner] did not hold orthodox religious views.

“Contrary to widespread religious belief,” he wrote in a 1994 essay for The Times, “I don’t think God goes around changing things in the sense of making bad things happen to bad people and good things happen to good people, or of giving one side victory over the other in wars, or of pushing a bill through Congress to make school prayer constitutional.”

Robert D. McFadden’s obituary of Beuchner in the New York Times.

What an odd illustration of un-“orthodox religious views”!

Frederick Buechner has met Christians who remind him of American tourists in Europe: Not knowing the language of their listeners, they speak the language of Zion loudly and forcefully, hoping the natives will somehow comprehend. They seem cocky with faith, voluble with their theology, and content with a God who resembles a cosmic Good Buddy. Their certitude both fascinates and alarms him.

Phillip Yancey, ‌Frederick Buechner, the Reverend of Oz

With the caveat that I, oddly enough, cannot recall reading anything from “the most quoted living writer among Christians of influence” (though I’ve known the name for decades and decades), I recommend the Yancey piece, from Christianity Today, as far more perceptive than the Times obituary.


"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.

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.

Saturday, 8/13/22

Ya gotta work with what ya got

I once had a law partner who many considered gorgeous and who certainly presented herself well. One day, haggling outside a divorce courtoom with a lawyer who was particularly good at getting under opposing counsel’s skin, he told her he might as well give in, because she would get it anyway by [description of sexy behavior before the male judge omitted]. “Ya gotta work with whatcha got, Lou,” she shot back.

Just so in politics, too:

[Ron] DeSantis’s action-figure approach to his role as governor of Florida is in part about the fact that [Ted] Cruz, [Josh] Hawley and others don’t have the executive authority that he does and can’t make things happen as unilaterally or as quickly. They’re would-be MAGA superheroes bereft of their red capes.

Cruz and Hawley were such hams during the confirmation hearings for Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson because, as members of the Senate Judiciary Committee, they had a stage that DeSantis, Pence, Pompeo and others didn’t. Might as well pig out on the opportunity.

Frank Bruni, Josh Hawley’s manhood, Mike Pompeo’s midriff and other 2024 teases. Bruni has takes on Nikki Haley, Mike Pence and Mike Pompeo, too.

Nellie’s Nuggets

  • Good progressives in England have removed Colson Whitehead’s “The Underground Railroad” from university reading lists. The book won the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction in 2017, which doesn’t say that much necessarily but I add my vote that it’s phenomenal. Why remove it? It has graphic depictions of slavery. Those depictions might upset people. It’s unclear how people are supposed to learn about something terrible like slavery without being upset, but perhaps Mr. Whitehead should consider a gentler sort of Goodnight Moon rendition for the delicate souls in ivory towers.
  • In Sunni v. Shiite violence, which one is the white supremacist? When four Muslim men were murdered in Albuquerque by an alleged serial killer who drove a dark grey sedan, everyone assumed the killer was some white supremacist. Biden came out to say: “My administration stands strongly with the Muslim community. … These hateful attacks have no place in America.” Turns out, the guy arrested and charged with so far two of the killings is a Sunni Muslim, and he may have been partly motivated by anger that his daughter married a Shiite Muslim. Yes, it’s true: Violence also exists outside of Western culture.
  • A lot of liberals basically won’t be happy until Trump is in Shawshank. [At least one conservative, too. (Tipsy)]

Nellie Bowles

Nellie, herself well and truly pregnant, notes this, too:

An abortion case: A hideous story in Nebraska became national news this week as an ominous sign about “post-Roe America.” Here’s what happened: a 17-year-old took pills to induce a a miscarriage, and she planned it in part on Facebook Messenger with her mom. The abortion was exposed in part after Facebook’s parent company handed over her chat history. This is the thing we are supposed to be upset about.

Maybe it’s just me, but it seems the real outrage here is that the aborted baby was around 23 weeks old and, with modern medicine, could have a 55% chance of survival. (Nebraska outlaws abortions after 20 weeks unless there is danger to the mother’s life). This family allegedly induced an abortion on a viable baby, attempted to burn the body to get rid of evidence, and then buried it. I’m not sure this is the abortion privacy case to hinge the movement on right now.

All Things Trump

Trump’s effective schtick

Why is Donald Trump so powerful? How did he come to dominate one of the two major parties and get himself elected president? Is it his hair? His waistline? No, it’s his narratives. Trump tells powerful stories that ring true to tens of millions of Americans.

The main one is that America is being ruined by corrupt coastal elites. According to this narrative, there is an interlocking network of highly educated Americans who make up what the Trumpians have come to call the Regime: Washington power players, liberal media, big foundations, elite universities, woke corporations. These people are corrupt, condescending and immoral and are looking out only for themselves. They are out to get Trump because Trump is the person who stands up to them. They are not only out to get Trump; they are out to get you.

This narrative has a core of truth to it. Highly educated metropolitan elites have become something of a self-enclosed Brahmin class. But the Trumpian propaganda turns what is an unfortunate social chasm into venomous conspiracy theory. It simply assumes, against a lot of evidence, that the leading institutions of society are inherently corrupt, malevolent and partisan and are acting in bad faith.

It simply assumes that the proof of people’s virtue is that they’re getting attacked by the Regime …

America absolutely needs to punish those who commit crimes. On the other hand, America absolutely needs to make sure that Trump does not get another term as president. What do we do if the former makes the latter more likely? I have no clue how to get out of this potential conflict between our legal and political realities.

David Brooks, Did the F.B.I. Just Re-Elect Donald Trump?

Messy, absurd, uncathartic

When I first heard about the FBI’s raid on Mar-A-Lago, I merely hoped that there was a very, very good reason for it, and that the feds found what they were looking for. Days later, none of us knows the answer to either of those questions.

Donald J. Trump knows, of course. But he won’t tell us — because appropriate official silence allows him to flood the zone with his own bullshit, gin up his fevered base, and burnish his case for returning to power as a triumphant victim of the Deep State (aka the rule of law). All I know is that he is a grotesque liar and will say anything if it wins him a few minutes of news-cycle attention.

… A few more rabid Twitter cycles and every minuscule facet of this story will be pored over, and, in all likelihood, the conclusion, if it ever emerges, will be what it has consistently been: messy, absurd, and without that cathartic “We got him!” moment every Resistance groupie has been dreaming of since 2016.

Andrew Sullivan, Don’t Take The Trump Bait

Be it remembered …

“As he rails against Weaponized Law Enforcement, it’s worth recalling Trump’s chants of ‘Lock Her Up!’” – Charlie Sykes.

The Search Warrant

We’ve now seen the warrant under which Mar a Lago (is that how it’s spelled?) was searched Monday. Having not practiced criminal law, I have no particular comment on it.

But the issuance and execution of the warrant tells us something we hadn’t known and that I missed until Josh Barro and Ken White mentioned it (paywall): the Merrick Garland Justice Department does have the political will to proceed with criminal charges against Donald Trump.

Prosecuting a former President of the United States (FPOTUS, as the warrant has it) is a big deal, and Trump has done his best to make it an even bigger deal. There were (and are) legitimate questions about whether the game is worth the candle. (See David Brooks, above.) But Merrick Garland, with or without (preferably the latter) input from the White House, certainly appears to have decided that it is.

Here’s why I’m glad he did: we can’t let a bunch of domestic terrorists dictate what the government may and may not do. That’s true of the 2020 summer mobs and it’s true of the Proud Boys, playing IRA to the Trumpified GOP’s Sinn Fein. An epidemic of death threats has flipped votes in Congress, and we can’t let that sort of thing go on and, emboldened by success, grow.


"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.