Wednesday, 7/13/22

Independent State Legislatures?

Members of the Supreme Court’s conservative supermajority just last week took the next step in a little-noticed, but extremely dangerous, project: attempting to jam into law a radical misinterpretation of the Constitution’s elections and electors clauses, which, if successful, would create electoral chaos across the country.

Thomas Wolf and Ethan Herenstein, How the Supreme Court Could Upend the Integrity of Our Elections.

It is very obnoxious to attribute a "project" to the Supreme Court or to individual justices. But if you can filter out such tendentious crap, this is a more accessible explanation of the "Independent State Legislature" idea than the law journal article from the brothers Amar.

I can only hope that this pernicious novelty got such favorable mention as it did from three justices because the issue was barely briefed and superficially plausible. That won’t happen again in the North Carolina case: the issue will have the hell briefed out of it and no superficial plausibility will be left.

For my tastes, the key is one of those things you might overlook, but once you’ve seen it, you cannot unsee it.

Why liberal democracy gets no purchase in Islamdom

The general failure of liberal democracy to take hold in Muslim societies is a continuing and repeated phenomenon for an entire century beginning in the late 1800s. This failure has its source at least in part in the inhospitable nature of Islamic culture and society to Western liberal concepts.

Samuel P. Huntington, The Clash of Civilizations and the Remaking of World Order. This inhospitality is shared by what Huntington labels "Orthodox civilization," centered in Russia, where it goes back at least 150 years.

Rationality and Taboo

In this context, the words of Leszek Kołakowski are sobering and akin to Philip Rieff’s own melancholy judgment on our third-world culture: “To the extent that rationality and rationalization threaten the very presence of taboos of our civilization, they corrode its ability to survive. But it is quite improbable that taboos, which are barriers erected by instinct and not by conscious planning, could be saved, or selectively saved, by rational technique; in this area we can only rely on the uncertain hope that the social self-preservation drive will prove strong enough to react to their evaporation, and that this reaction will not come in barbarous form.”

Rod Dreher and Carl Trueman, The Rise and Triumph of the Modern Self, quoting Modernity on Endless Trial (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1990), 13.

Steve Bannon

[Steve] Bannon’s “offer” to testify seemed clearly to be an attempt to muddy the increasingly clear waters of the committee’s hearings. In the first impeachment hearings, Representatives Jim Jordan (R-OH) and John Ratcliffe (R-TX) used their positions to shout and badger witnesses and to create sound bites for right-wing media that put forward a completely misleading narrative of what the hearings were actually showing. As Josh Kovensky of Talking Points Memo pointed out today, Trump has complained bitterly that his people are unable to get their own narrative out, even as evidence against the president and his allies coming from his own inner circle is painting a damning picture of an attempt to overturn our democracy.

Public “testimony” would enable loyalists like Bannon to “flood the zone with sh*t,” as he has called his method of disinformation. Not only Bannon, but also the leader of the Oath Keepers, Stewart Rhodes, has offered to “testify.” So, too, has Representative Mo Brooks (R-AL). In each case, though, the men have tried to put limits on what they will talk about and the conditions under which they will talk, revealing both an attempt to demonstrate that they still have power to make demands (they don’t) and that they are not making good faith offers. Rhodes’s lawyer told Politico: “He wants to confront them.”

Heather Cox Richardson, Letters from an American, July 11, 2022

Anyone who’s trying to put limits on what they will talk about and the conditions under which they will talk isn’t acting in good faith. It’s theater or even sabotage.

The crossroads of forest and village

The breakdown of initiation and the diminishment of mythic understanding are actually defences against encountering our own beauty. On a societal level, we appear to be working day and night at that defense. But the Great Self is hard-wired in us, and though the ritual mechanisms to approach it are wiped out, it won’t disappear but instead becomes mired in shadow. Therefore a King can only be seen as a tyrant, a Hag only as a bringer of misfortune. We tiptoe away from these beings, far too informed to take them seriously, and then we wonder why we don’t have the energy to vote. Myth proposes the paradoxical view that we are to dwell in the tension of a “crossroads” of Village and Forest, and that this very complexity provides the grounding of an authentic human life—a strange accord with ego and soul, rationality and vision. Ego gives a shape to these energies for living in the world that benefits others, but with no inner connection they lose their divine inflections and corrupt.

Fatuity of the Month, June 2022

Your freedom of expression of yourselves in drag is what America is all about.

Nancy Pelosi, pandering on Ru Paul’s Drag Race.

Martin Shaw, quoted by Rod Dreher (without a link)

If people have always said it, it is probably true; it is the distilled wisdom of the ages. If people have not always said it, but everybody is saying it now, it is probably a lie; it is the concentrated madness of the moment.

Anthony Esolen, Out of the Ashes

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.

Unoriginal Thoughts

We’ve spent a lot of time talking during the last two years. Now the ugly truth can come out: I am a shameless plagiarist, with seldom an original idea to my name. So what better to send you off with than the sum and substance of myself — some of my favorite quotes?

Nineteen years ago, we bade some friends adieu as they moved back to the west coast. I recently came across a letter I gave them as my going-away gift, from which the preceding was the brief introduction.

Some of the quotes I shared:

Continue reading “Unoriginal Thoughts”

A Myth in the Making

Because Shelby Steele is a scholar instead of a pundit, he usually has something worth saying when he speaks up. Just so this column, Barack the Good, from tomorrow’s Wall Street Journal.


Mr. Obama wants to be—above all else—a profoundly transformative president … Mr. Obama … remains rather undefined—a president happy to have others write his “transformative” legislation … As the health-care bill and the stimulus package illustrate, scale is functioning as vision … “if I don’t know what to do, I’ll do big things” …

For me, the big insight was that the President may “literally experience [him]self as a myth in the making.” That rings true.

Hard words about the “Overpopulation Myth”

[R]ising consumption today far outstrips the rising headcount as a threat to the planet. And most of the extra consumption has been in rich countries that have long since given up adding substantial numbers to their population, while most of the remaining population growth is in countries with a very small impact on the planet. By almost any measure you choose, a small proportion of the world’s people take the majority of the world’s resources and produce the majority of its pollution.

So argues Fred Pearce in his artice The Overpopulation Myth. This has long been my sense of things, though I’ve waffled a bit lately.

I reason thus when waffling: “We can’t have more and more and more of anything else without limits. Why should I think we can have more and more babies?” I suspect that 9 out of 10 of my readers – if I had 10 readers 😉 – would respond “Well, duh!” because the overpopulation myth, be it true or false, is of of truly mythical proportions. What can I say? I just like to think counterhegemonic thoughts sometimes.

Back to Pearce’s most piercing challenge, which amounts to a corollary of the quote above:

Economists predict the world’s economy will grow by 400 per cent by 2050. If this does indeed happen, less than a tenth of that growth will be due to rising human numbers. True, some of those extra poor people might one day become rich. And if they do—and I hope they do—their impact on the planet will be greater. But it is the height of arrogance for us in the rich world to downplay the importance of our own environmental footprint because future generations of poor people might one day have the temerity to get as rich and destructive as us. How dare we?

It puts me in mind of the second emphasis of the good guys and gals over on the Porch. “Place. Limits. Liberty.”