You wanna talk erasure?

I find Ibram X. Kendi, the intellectual du jour, kind of annoying. Bari Weiss explains how his thinking is worse than annoying for Jews who refuse to erase what makes them different.

October 16, 2020

Does Trump think he’s God?

I know you’ve been praying, and in that hospital I was watching down over so many people …

Donald Trump at a rally on the White House lawn today. I did not take that out of context, but I can’t assure that NPR (5:00 pm) didn’t.

October 11, 2020

Tuesday’s debate

I know there were people last night watching the debate and then live-tweeting their responses — like people in the Ninth Circle of Hell who don’t think their circumstances are bad enough and try to dig a Tenth Circle with their bleeding raw fingers.

Alan Jacobs

October 4, 2020

Ignorance abounds

Bill Maher called Barrett a f***ing nut” because she’s really, really Catholic, like speaking in tongues.” Massimo Faggioli declared that it’s not anti-Catholic to question Barrett’s association with People of Praise.

It is ironic that Maher thinks the association with charismatic Christianity is really Catholic,” whereas Faggioli, a liberal Catholic theologian, thinks it’s not Catholic and thus fair game.

Dale M. Coulter, Amy Coney Barrett and Charismatic Christianity | First Things

October 3, 2020

Is religion” meaningful?

I have no doubt that ideologies and practices of all kinds—including, for example, Islam and Christianity—can and do promote violence under certain conditions. What I challenge as incoherent is the argument that there is something called religion—a genus of which Christianity, Islam, Hinduism, and so on are species—which is necessarily more inclined toward violence than are ideologies and institutions that are identified as secular. Unlike other books on religion and violence, I do not argue that religion either does or does not promote violence, but rather I analyze the political conditions under which the very category of religion is constructed.

William T. Cavanaugh, The Myth of Religious Violence.

October 3, 2020

A moral puzzle

Trump has all his life posed a moral puzzle: What is due in the way of kindness and sympathy to people who have no kindness and sympathy for anyone else? Should we repay horrifying cruelty in equal measure? Then we reduce ourselves to their level. But if we return indecency with the decency due any other person in need, don’t we encourage appalling behavior? Don’t we prove to them that they belong to some unique bracket of humanity, entitled to kick others when they are writhing on the floor, and then to claim mercy when their own crimes and cruelties cast them upon the floor themselves?

David Frum, What Did You Expect of Donald Trump? - The Atlantic

October 3, 2020

Worth a read

Worth a (very short) read: Alan Jacobs, not living merely for himself” — Snakes and Ladders

October 2, 2020

Caesarship of a fake empire

Trump and Biden are not the septuagenarian leaders of rival political factions; they are entertainment brands, symptoms rather than causes of our protracted decline, as incapable whether in or out of high office of meaningfully altering the underlying structures of American life as they are of expressing themselves in well-formed English sentences.

The basic organizing principle of our society is not self-government, but the amoral facilitation of any activity that increases the price of stock in publicly traded corporations …

… America as we know it and experience it is possible only because of our broadly shared commitment to refusing to think about anything.

… We do not examine or debate things in this country. We click and emote while algorithms decide which brand of shampoo our preferred objects of feigned outrage suggest we are most likely to purchase. Thus what we saw on Tuesday: two men pretending to hate each other because each one is seeking an office that only nominally exists: the caesarship of a fake empire.

Matthew Walther, The caesarship of a fake empire

October 2, 2020

Wisdom of Repugnance redux

I’m reminded of a controversial 1997 essay about cloning by conservative bioethicist Leon Kass titled The Wisdom of Repugnance.” The article, its follow-up, and a subsequent book were quite controversial at the time because many liberal philosophers and intellectuals were troubled by Kass’ suggestion that morality should be based on an appeal to disgust.” Such intuitions often lead to amoral or even outrightly anti-moral thoughts and actions, the critics insisted, and so they need to be tamed or dissolved entirely by rational argument and reflection. Only the outcome of such a rational process could produce genuinely moral principles. In response, Kass insisted that on an issue like cloning, where reasoning alone seems incapable of delivering a ground for opposition, it made sense to rely on widely shared intuitions about its wrongness.

Leaving aside Kass’ claim about the need to actively encourage moral reflection on the basis of intuition, I think it’s indisputable that we all do regularly make moral judgments on such grounds. It was an intuition, a feeling, that led so many to respond instantly with outrage to images of Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin kneeling on the neck of George Floyd as he struggled to draw his final breaths before he died.

Just as it was intuition that led so many to recoil from Trump’s behavior on Tuesday night. No one was injured. No one died. But for over 90 minutes the president of the United States behaved like a bully out for blood — one whose penchant for verbal violence would not be restrained by rules, the norms of the occasion, or even minimal standards of common decency and public comportment.

As Tuesday night’s excruciating debate finally drew to a close, what I mainly felt was repugnance toward Donald Trump — and the conviction that in this feeling could be found the beginnings of wisdom.

Damon Linker, Donald Trump and the jerk vote

October 2, 2020

the Proud Boys group added comments by President Donald Trump to their logo after he referred to them during the presidential debate … The Proud Boys’ new logo includes the phrase stand back and stand by.”

Knowhere News

About Georgia …

October 1, 2020

Nonsense 200, Reality 58

On Sunday, 58 writers signed a letter supporting J. K. Rowling after fans pummeled her on Twitter for her comments on transgenderism. Those who signed the letter included Ian McEwan, Tom Stoppard, and Lionel Shriver. Now 200 writers, publishers, booksellers and marketing assistants have responded with a letter of their own, supporting the wellbeing and rights of trans and non-binary people.” Non-binary lives are valid,” the letter reads, trans women are women, trans men are men, trans rights are human rights.”

Prufrock: September 30, 2020

Would that this were mere harmless fun.

October 1, 2020

image 9-28-20 at 9.54 pm
September 29, 2020

Why Democrats deserve another SCOTUS seat

As far as I can tell the only meaningful objection to President Trump’s plan to replace the late Ruth Bader Ginsberg with a new justice before the end of his first term is that it would be unfair. Democrats deserve another seat on the high court, you see, as their reward for not winning the White House or the Senate.

Matthew Walther, Liberals need to sleep in the bed they’ve made

September 24, 2020

Africa tries to convert the pagans

I used to say that I thought I’d live to see Africa evangelizing the United States. I was right.

I also find powerful Milbank’s invitation for Christians to rediscover the power of the Christian story. The pathos of modern theology, Milbank says, is its false humility: We are Christians,” we tend to say, but we are only a religion after all. We have to wait for sociology and political science to provide the facts’ upon which we can build, to which we can add spiritual truth as a nice gloss.” Milbank says that is wrong. What Christians believe about society, about God, about human beings being created in the image of God are facts. When Jesus talks about loving our neighbors, and tells us that if we have something against a neighbor, we must come together to reconcile before we bring our gift to the altar, that is basic sociology. Let’s not sell ourselves short by saying, Well, this is just a spiritual principle.” We need to reclaim theology’s place as queen of the sciences, so that Christian theology is sociology.

The church is called into the world to be its salt. A friend of mine used an image — since it is in the very nature of meat to rot, the crucial question is, Where was the salt when the meat was rotting?” When you put salt into the meat, the salt disappears. That’s the only way it can work. It does not call attention to itself; it is not the thing that is noticed. Rather, the meat is preserved, its flavor enhanced.

Our rotting institutions are concerned about their self-preservation. This must not be the preoccupation of the church. Christians have to be willing, in a sense, to disappear like that salt. We need to go back to the basics, to the sense of Christianity as a story, a story of loving relationship with the world, a saving story, an amazing story. Too often we have nearly lost that excitement. Were our hearts not burning on the way?” Our churches need a little bit of that. But that requires simplicity and stripping away, as we hear Christ teaching us. One can experience an elemental joy in living very simply.

Ugandan Emmanuel Katongole, interviewed by Jake Meador.

September 22, 2020


While CNN called Biden a devout Catholic” when he is attacked by Trump, Religion News Service has already labeled Barrett a controversial Catholic.” Are Biden and Barrett not both just Catholics?

Amy Coney Barrett’s possible SCOTUS nomination a Trump referendum for faith voters

September 21, 2020

Some hoaxes are more evil than others

CROW-EATING UPDATE: I misread the news story in this original posting and jumped to a false conclusion. What remained true wasn’t really worth commenting on it (see comments on Jessica Krug).

Thanks to an old cyberfriend for catching it.

September 21, 2020

Coming unhinged

Can Mitch McConnell be stopped?
If Republicans give Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s seat to some Federalist Society fanatic, Democrats should pack the court.
By Michelle Goldberg

Michelle Goldberg usually contains her progressive stridency, but on yesterday’s The Argument podcast, I thought she was coming unhinged — is substance and in tone. She apparently has not gotten over it.

September 19, 2020


I’ve been on a tear lately about how much the rhetoric or narratives that define our politics don’t line up very well with reality. Our cities aren’t ablaze, black Americans today aren’t victims of genocide,” opposing masking protocols doesn’t make you Rosa Parks, Joe Biden isn’t so impaired he doesn’t even know he’s alive,” protests that are fiery” aren’t mostly peaceful, Antifa goons aren’t Biden voters,” Section 230 doesn’t allow Mark Zuckerberg to break into your home and make a sandwich out of your liver, etc.

Jonah Goldberg, Taking Racism Seriously—And Literally

September 19, 2020

Excess love

Some of you may have seen the episode of Seinfeld in which Jerry tries to return a jacket. He says he wants to return it for spite” because he didn’t care for the salesman who sold it to him.

He’s told he can’t return a jacket simply for spite. The manager is called in.

Manager: That’s true. You can’t return an item based purely on spite.”

Jerry:. Well So fine then … then I don’t want it and then that’s why I’m returning it.”

Manager: Well you already said spite so …”

Jerry: But I changed my mind …”

Manager: No … you said spite. Too late.”

Princeton University finds itself in a similar scenario. Christopher Eisgruber, the president of the school, wrote in a letter, quite emphatically, that Princeton is systemically racist and that racism is embedded” at the school:

Racism and the damage it does to people of color nevertheless persist at Princeton as in our society, sometimes by conscious intention but more often through unexamined assumptions and stereotypes, ignorance or insensitivity, and the systemic legacy of past decisions and policies,” Eisgruber wrote. Racist assumptions from the past also remain embedded in structures of the University itself.”

In response to this wholly unsolicited confession of profound sin, the Department of Education is opening an investigation into whether or not Princeton has been falsely claiming in official documents that it doesn’t discriminate on the basis of race. Based on its admitted racism, the U.S. Department of Education is concerned Princeton’s nondiscrimination and equal opportunity assurances in its Program Participation Agreements from at least 2013 to the present may have been false,” the letter says. The Department is further concerned Princeton perhaps knew, or should have known, these assurances were false at the time they were made.” …

I love this so much I want to rent a limo I can’t afford, take it to the prom, and maybe get a tattoo celebrating my love.

Jonah Goldberg, Taking Racism Seriously—And Literally (hyperlinks omitted).

The Dispatch, for which Goldberg wrote this, is one of many new efforts to provide pretty straight news and commentary free of advertisers’ corrupting influence. It is currently offering 30-day free trials.

I subscribed early on, in large part because I can’t get enough of David French and Sarah Isgur’s legal commentaries, but apart from a little recent neocon hawkishness, I’ve enjoying the whole thing, not just David and Sarah.

September 19, 2020

Following a campaign rally in Minnesota, Mr. Trump was informed about Justice Ginsburg’s death by reporters as he walked toward Air Force One, but didn’t comment on a potential successor. She just died? Wow. I didn’t know that,” he said.

He praised her tenure on the court. She led an amazing life, what else can you say?” he said. Whether you agree or not…she led an amazing life. I’m actually sad to hear that. I am sad to hear that.”

Justice Ginsburg’s Death Creates Prospect of Bitter Nomination Fight - WSJ.

Wow! Spontaneous, unrehearsed, and it passes the Turing test!

September 19, 2020

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