Today’s ramble, 2/14/19

1

Robert E. Lee was a Southerner. So was Martin Luther King Jr. Eugene Debs was an American. So was Whittaker Chambers. Angela Davis? American. So too Phyllis Schlafly. All of them were part of all of us, makers of our own perspective. There’s something sentimental in me that wants to claim them all. When I look at a Confederate statue, I don’t think, “I am so offended by this monument to a man who fought for slavery that I believe it should be erased from public memory.” I think, “You poor bastard, you thought you were fighting for what was right and honorable, but you were blind. You were my ancestor. You are part of me — your story is a chapter in our story — and I am blind like you were, I just don’t know it yet.”

Rod Dreher, reflecting on What Does it Mean to Love America? I know I quote Rod quite a lot, lately to disagree with the course he seemed to be setting, but this one paragraph moved me.

2

New York Times Contributing Opinion Writer Linda Greenhouse makes a plausible case for why Justice John Roberts voted to reinstate the injunction against the Louisiana abortion law while litigation proceeds in the lower courts:

The chief justice voted to grant the stay, in my estimation, because to have silently let the Louisiana law take effect without Supreme Court intervention would have been to reward the defiance that I’ve described here.

The “defiance” she described was the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals engaging in what can plausibly be called conservative judicial activism, to-wit: defying a binding Supreme Court precedent on a materially indistinguishable Texas law.

Lower courts are supposed to follow precedent from higher courts even when they think the higher court was wrong and even when they think they’ve got fair winds and following seas for setting a different course.

Although the 5th Circuit was correct that different facts can justify a different outcome, the differences must be material. It’s not enough, for instance, that “Austin” is a much different city name than “Baton Rouge.”

Greenhouse, an ardent Friend of Feticide, gives very short shrift to the materiality of the factual difference the 5th Circuit described (and engages in a lot of ad hominem), and I’m giving them short shrift as well just because I don’t care to shoot my whole day on this observation: When the statutes are very similar and the trial court spent six days hearing the factual basis for injunction, plus many pages “finding” those facts, it’s a tough legal sell to second guess its findings to strike down its injunction.

(First published on my micro.blog)

3

No doubt when skeptics raised questions about the efficacy of bleeding patients to cure their cholera or of burning witches to halt crop failures, someone was standing there with their head cocked at a righteous angle, saying, “Oh no? Well, what’s your plan, then?” Unfortunately, there is no law of universal symmetry by which the recognition of a problem automatically creates a feasible solution.

But as it happens, I do have a plan …

[Z]eroing out U.S. emissions and moving the whole country into yurts wouldn’t prevent the climate from warming, because Americans are not the biggest problem anymore. The problem is the more than 6 billion people who aren’t living in the rich world.

No matter what rich-world economies do about their energy consumption, or what “moral leadership” they exert, people in the non-rich world are going to want … to do and own all the things that make modern rich-world lives so safe and pleasant.

… The solution isn’t figuring out how to subsidize or mandate green alternatives; it’s figuring out how to make them cheaper than the carbon-intensive versions.

There are a number of possible paths to that outcome ….

Megan McArdle

McArdle “confess[es] upfront that I’m far from sure my plan will work. I can only protest that it’s more likely to work than the myopic austerity of the enviro-socialists”:

[M]assive regulatory programs to marginally improve the energy efficiency of American buildings and appliances; subsidizing high-speed rail and public transit in a country almost entirely devoid of the population densities needed to make them feasible; larding green initiatives with ideological wish lists that will do nothing to prevent climate change but will do a lot to polarize the country on the most important policy priority of the 21st century.

Meanwhile, as others mock, an earnest young genius earnestly defends the Green New Deal:

It has taken years of agricultural policy to get us into this mess. Getting out of it is a question not of whether lawmaking also produces economic policy and jobs, but of what kind.

Jedediah S. Britton-Purdy, The Green New Deal Is What Realistic Environmental Policy Looks Like. “Genius” is not sarcasm: I believe Jedediah Purdy has been on my radar for a decade or so. “Genius” also is not servile endorsement of just any ole piffle he might come up with on a bad day.

Still more on GND:

The [Green New Deal] has no practical importance but much significance. First, it underscores the rise of the politics of gestures that are as flamboyant as they are empty: President Trump has his wall, the left has its GND. Second, it reprises the progressive desire to militarize everything but the military … Third, … progressives’ embrace of Trump’s political style, a stew of frivolity and mendacity.

George Will.

This column was a delight for its style, quite apart from its substance.

4

I don’t know if you knew this — but your fluid intelligence declines linearly from the age of 20 onward. It’s a pretty vicious curve, and it hits zero, by the way, when you die.

But your crystallized intelligence, which is a measure of how much wisdom you’ve accumulated, how much knowledge, rises. But it doesn’t rise as much as your fluid intelligence declines.

Jordan Peterson

5

One of the most haunting books I ever read was apparently, and I’d now say improvidently, discarded after a change of Christian conviction led me to detest the Crystal Ball style of reading Bible prophecy.

The book was titled The United States in Prophecy, and I picked it up (literally, then proprietarily) at the Moody Book Store on LaSalle Street in Chicago.From my memory of the cover and the publication date, I think this is it, and I just paid Amazon $5 to get it again on Kindle.

I thought it was going to be an idolatrous celebration of the United States, but it was very far from that.

The thesis was that the United States is Babylon the Great in (many?) Bible prophecies:

I no longer believe we can decipher from prophecy tomorrow’s newspaper headlines. That’s damned near (and I use that advisedly) an occult, soothsaying take on the Bible.

But just as Johah went and warned Nineveh, so the prophets warn not of the details of woes, but of their certainty absent a change of course.

And even if the United States is not Babylon the Great, we could eavesdrop and adjust our behavior accordingly. Prophecy, like history, rhymes, and echoes.

6

COWEN: What should we learn from Tolkien?

PETERSON: Go out and confront your dragons.

COWEN: What should we learn from Harry Potter?

PETERSON: Voluntary death and rebirth redeems.

Tyler Cowen and Jordan Peterson

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3 things, 12 rules, 1 prayer

[P]rophets are neither new nor controversial. To a first approximation, they only ever say three things:

First, good and evil are definitely real. You know they’re real. You can talk in philosophy class about how subtle and complicated they are, but this is bullshit and you know it. Good and evil are the realest and most obvious things you will ever see, and you recognize them on sight.

Second, you are kind of crap. You know what good is, but you don’t do it. You know what evil is, but you do it anyway. You avoid the straight and narrow path in favor of the easy and comfortable one. You make excuses for yourself and you blame your problems on other people. You can say otherwise, and maybe other people will believe you, but you and I both know you’re lying.

Third, it’s not too late to change. You say you’re too far gone, but that’s another lie you tell yourself. If you repented, you would be forgiven. If you take one step towards God, He will take twenty toward you. Though your sins be like scarlet, they shall be white as snow.

This is the General Prophetic Method. It’s easy, it’s old as dirt, and it works.

Scott Alexander at Slate Star Codex, reviewing Jordan Peterson’s Twelve Rules for Life.

For whatever reason, I’ve become pretty fierce about the obligations of lie-resisting and truth-telling. I’ll leave that sentence as a bit of a Rorschach test, but I’ll tell you that it includes resisting lies from sources Left and Right.

With that, and with Jordan Peterson particularly in mind, I added to my morning list of people to ask God’s blessing on “all truth-tellers, Christian or not, in this age enamored of lies” (that’s the reminder I wrote to myself).

Then an old friend — and by “old” I mean I met him in 1963 — who has remained fiercely Evangelical and activist, pricked my conscience with a video, shared on Facebook, pointing out that the United States was in a terrible spiritual state in the late 18th century — maybe worse than that of the late 20th century — but then,  voilà!, what should up and happen but the Second Great Awakening, with enormous and lasting change in its wake.

So I decided I should pray for something like a Third Great Awakening, and that’s how I wrote down a second reminder.

But it’s no secret that I’m an ecclesial and liturgical Christian. Among other things, that implies that if I’m going to pray for something every morning, I’d really like to do a bit better than “Father God, we just ask you Father to just Father bless all the truth-tellers Father and coudja just send us Father another Great Awakening Father if it’s not to much trouble — Father?”

So I was pleased Thursday night to notice, in the Prayer Book I was using, a succinct petition that, with minor adaptation, effectively rolls my truth-teller and Great Awakening prayers into one, leaving the executive details up to He Who Is At An Infinitely Higher Pay Grade:

O, Most Holy Trinity, who lovest mankind and willest not that any should perish, look, I beseech Thee, on all my countrymen that are led astray by the devil; that rejecting all errors, the hearts of those who err may be converted and return to the unity of Thy truth.

“Led astray.” “Error.” “Converted.” “Unity of Thy truth.” That seems to cover it.

Feel utterly free to make it your own, remembering that it could apply to you, too.

But if you try to type it, watch out for those dadburned modern auto-correct features. They don’t like the King’s English.

* * * * *

Reality is that which, when you stop believing in it, doesn’t go away.

(Philip K. Dick)

The waters are out and no human force can turn them back, but I do not see why as we go with the stream we need sing Hallelujah to the river god.

(Sir James Fitzjames Stephen)

Some succinct standing advice on recurring themes.

Where I glean stuff.

Signs for awakening

The rescue of thirty-some Chilean miners, to exclamations of “It’s a miracle!,” prompted a grumpy young agnostic of my acquaintance to say some churlish things, whereupon I replied in the same tone. We may have achieved mutual semi-comprehention, but not much more.

On even something as benign as expressions of thanks to God (to the superficial neglect of His instruments — “It’s a technology!” just doesn’t have the same ring), we seem, like those at the Tower of Babel, to lack a common imagination behind our superficially identical English. Continue reading “Signs for awakening”