Saturday, September 14, 2013

Odds and ends 9/14/2013

In the American Thinker, Selwyn Duke blasts the myth of Millennial conservatism. In short, Millennials will become more conservative not because their values will change, but because conservatism as a reaction to liberalism, ever on the march, will move towards them as their views are threatened in the name of progress in the future. Today’s conservatism won’t exist.

Duke explains Millennials will never be the conservatives their grandparents were because they’ve marinated in a culture of immorality. Immoral, enfeebled people are themselves big government’s best argument for bigger government.

Does “moral and religious” describe us today?

Of course, some will now say, “But why do you think millennials supported Ron Paul? They want liberty!” Sure they do.

So does a tiger in a zoo.

So does a toddler.

Neither, however, can be allowed to roam free in civilization without hurting himself or others. And the less people are civilized growing up, the closer they will be to that infantile or animalistic state—and the more they have need of cages and masters.

The truth? Government can be no better than the public’s virtue, though it can be worse. And this morality-government relationship is evident in voting patterns. Is it a coincidence that every group orthodox Christians label immoral—those involved in “alternative” sexual deathstyles, criminally inclined inner-city dwellers, effete college professors, grunge-type youths scarred with multiple tattoos and body piercings—vote left? “What fellowship hath light with darkness?” The darkness hates the light.

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So how do you make a civilization susceptible to dark demagogues?

Make it love the darkness.

I wouldn’t first and foremost spend time on intellectual appeals. As the Soviets once did (as explained by ex-KGB defector Yuri Bezmenov) I’d seek to undermine the morality of the target nation. I’d spread the idea that morality is really “values” and values are relative—all just a matter of perspective, you see. Once this was accepted and people no longer believed in the rules of morality, it would be as if they ceased believing in the rules of human nutrition: not thinking any food could actually be “bad,” they’d be governed only by taste and would try, and could develop an affinity for, anything—even perhaps poison. Vice corresponds to this on the moral menu.

I’d then get them hooked on their bad moral diet through inundation. Stoke their lust’s fires via highly sexualized entertainment, and portray violence as just as casual and cool, so lashing out at others seems the norm. I’d engorge their egos with media messages about how they could determine their own morality so that, as the serpent said, “you will be like God.”

There it is.

Lisa Fabrizio examines the cultural malaise:

One of our biggest problems and maybe one that is the father of the rest is that too many of our citizens are in a state of suspended adolescence. The messages abound from all directions: Why get married and tie yourself down? Party on! No need for a job when you can live at home and stay on your parents’ healthcare plan. Religion? Really?

Yes, nearly all facets of modern culture encourage young people to revel in the joyful irresponsibility of childhood and to stay that way forever. As a matter of fact, this has gone on for the last few generations, beginning of course with the 1960s, when we were admonished never to trust anyone over 30.

David Bass of the American Spectator comments:

Why should we find that surprising? Our country’s fiscal policy puts the wants of the present ahead of the needs of the future. Our culture of decadence does the same on the personal and relational level. That we’re choosing to skip the most self-sacrificing part of life — the rearing of children — shouldn’t be a shocker.

Father Robert Barron riffs:

In accord with the tenor of our time, those who have opted out of the children game paint themselves, of course, as victims. They are persecuted, they say, by a culture that remains relentlessly baby-obsessed and, in the words of one of the interviewees, “oppressively family-centric.” Patricia O’Laughlin, a Los Angeles-based psychotherapist, specializes in helping women cope with the crushing expectations of a society that expects them to reproduce. As an act of resistance, many childless couples have banded together for mutual support. One such group in Nashville comes together for activities such as “zip-lining, canoeing, and a monthly dinner the foodie couple in the group organizes.” One of their members, Andrea Reynolds, was quoted as saying, “We can do anything we want, so why wouldn’t we?”

What particularly struck me in this article was that none of the people interviewed ever moved outside of the ambit of his or her private desire. Some people, it seems, are into children, and others aren’t, just as some people like baseball and others prefer football. No childless couple would insist that every couple remain childless, and they would expect the same tolerance to be accorded to them from the other side. But never, in these discussions, was reference made to values that present themselves in their sheer objectivity to the subject, values that make a demand on freedom. Rather, the individual will was consistently construed as sovereign and self-disposing.

And this represents a sea change in cultural orientation. Up until very recent times, the decision whether or not to have children would never have been simply “up to the individual.” Rather, the individual choice would have been situated in the context of a whole series of values that properly condition and shape the will: family, neighborhood, society, culture, the human race, nature, and ultimately, God. We can see this so clearly in the initiation rituals of primal peoples and in the formation of young people in practically every culture on the planet until the modern period. Having children was about carrying on the family name and tradition; it was about contributing to the strength and integrity of one’s society; it was about perpetuating the great adventure of the human race; it was a participation in the dynamisms of nature itself. And finally, it was about cooperating with God’s desire that life flourish: “And you, be fruitful and multiply, teem on the earth and multiply in it” (Gen. 9:7). None of this is meant to be crushing to the will, but liberating. When these great values present themselves to our freedom, we are drawn out beyond ourselves and integrated into great realities that expand us and make us more alive.

It is finally with relief and a burst of joy that we realize that our lives are not about us. Traditionally, having children was one of the primary means by which this shift in consciousness took place. That increasingly this liberation is forestalled and that people are finding themselves locked in the cold space of what they sovereignly choose, I find rather sad.

A life of pleasure takes precedence over a life worth living. Look at two popular TV shows, How I Met Your Mother and Sex and the City. They thrive on selling the life without limits as fun and exciting. But how they are structured in their final seasons betrays their inner contradiction. The “happy ending” is not the aimless continuation of cynical, self-centered gratification into perpetuity. It’s when the characters shape up and commit the rest of their lives to something greater—shockingly, marriage, the central civil institution that the redefinitionists want to destroy, that’s every bit as precious as conservatives say it is.

“Monogamous marriage is democracy for the domestic and sexual lives for men and women.” –Glenn Stanton and Bill Maier

These TV shows’ creators view that moment of “settling,” of discovering maturity, as the end of the story. But, in real life, it’s only the beginning.

Joel Kotkin writes Millennials, whom the polls say are pro-family, should be Republicans because Republicans are pro-family. But pro-family Republicans are turning pro-family Millennials away by being pro-family. Confusing, I know.

Most millennials, note generational chroniclers Morley Winograd and Mike Hais, place high priority on being good parents and having a strong marriage.

The potential political benefit, however, is being squandered by profamily activists who tend to focus on a Manichean worldview that sees anything other than traditional arrangements as inimical to core religious values about what is defined as a “natural family.” Rather than try to accommodate modernity, many family activists contend, as one leader told me, that we need to “march back to the ’50s.”

No, not the ’50s!

Unfortunately for more hard-line social conservatives, history may go in waves, with each shift engendering a reaction, but it does not generally go backward. To remain relevant, and not to, so to speak, throw the baby out with the bathwater, some agenda items need to be laid aside. This is particularly true on issues such as gay marriage, where millennial opinion is shifting toward ever-greater acceptance, with roughly two in three in favor. By forcing allegiance to increasingly unpopular views, social conservatives are in danger of losing touch with the next generation.

What are God’s creation and 5,000 years of custom between friends?

What bothers me most about this narrative is that it’s Republicans that have to change to appeal to pious Millennials. Why don’t Millennials change? What makes them so special?

David Goldman writes:

The Church (like the Evangelical movement) is in trouble because the sexual revolution already has re-enchanted the world with a wicked sort of magic. Nothing is more uplifting in the setting of a faith community and nothing is so corrupting when set loose. It is Dante’s She-Wolf in the first Canto of the Divine Comedy, the predator whom Dante could not pass, che mai non empie la bramosa voglia, e dopo ’l pasto ha più fame che pria (who never satisfies her greedy will, and after eating is hungrier than before). There can be no conservative religion where sexual morality has unraveled.

In a superb essay on the centrality of marriage in the civil society, Andrew T. Walker writes:

Humans are social animals. Although we exist as individuals, we do not live in isolation. The need for community is woven into our being: to be human is to be part of a community of individuals. We do not reproduce asexually, but by means of the sexual union of two individuals, male and female, which generates the gift of new humanity. Our marriages are not lone, solitary institutions: we may enter marriage as individuals, but marriage finds its truest expression in the “one-flesh union” that unites a man and a woman as one.

The promise of marriage is the communal benefit it offers society. Where questions arise that purportedly imply exceptions to the conjugal definition of marriage, the tacit assumption behind many such questions is a latent and false conception of individuality—that men and women within a marriage are lone actors who unite for the purpose of marriage, fulfill an act of social obligation, and continue on in singular, non-generative roles as the participants in marriage mature. This version of marriage—one where individuals within a marriage itself define marriage—misses the forest for the trees.

Kinship demonstrates how societies, not just lone marital units, are established. Kinship connotes a truth about sociality: once procreation and rearing in the home are done, we are still interlocked by permanent, inter-generational bonds of dependence. Perhaps the most important factor of kinship is how it extracts the simultaneous and multifarious roles individuals play in society, roles that only marriage fosters. Even with a pairing of two, marriage is never static, but boundlessly dynamic.

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If we grant kinship’s centrality to marriage, same-sex relationships not only fail as to what constitutes a marriage, but same-sex relationships also fail the kinship test. Redefining marriage to include same-sex relationships enacts a legal fiction that the organic contours of society neither intuitively recognize nor posit. Same-sex marriage does not contribute to the kinship model. If natural marriage bestows life in way that is socially-oriented and centrifugal, then we might say that same-sex marriage is centripetal. In same-sex marriage, the emotional, non-generative unions of adults become the center.

Marriage holds society together like gravity holds us to earth. Marriage is a fusion of husband and wife, parents and children, family and society. Radical individualism runs counter to all of that.

Walker surmises:

Family is the foundation of society; marriage is the foundation of family. Embedded in this simple truth is the overwhelming chorus of families that form nations, a reality that no human ideology like same-sex marriage can overcome.

Phil Lawler responds to Joseph Bottum’s conceding marriage to the “equality” crowd:

We may be approaching a turning point in this great cultural battle. A Catholic counter-offensive may yet turn the tide of public opinion. My friend Robert Royal, in his response to Bottum, reminds us that in 1976 Henry Kissinger was quoted as saying: “The day of the United States is past and today is the day of the Soviet Union. My job as Secretary of State is to negotiate the most acceptable second-best position available.” Kissinger, whose expertise as a practitioner of realpolitik was unquestioned, did not notice that the Soviet empire was already crumbling under the weight of its internal contradictions, and would soon collapse. Any ideological system that denies the fundamental truths of human nature will eventually destroy itself. The culture of hedonism that emerged in the West after the sexual revolution is doomed to the same fate. So we are not on the wrong side of history after all. (emphasis added)

This paraphrases my piece “Slaves to nature” from a year ago:

Hard as we try to rewrite the laws of nature, we will fail. God has set us up to fail.

Also, from “Where the fight is”:

The Left is engaged in an epic battle to remake things the way they think they should be, hence their vain efforts to undo things as they are, things as they exist and prosper in nature. No one benefits from this undoing, not even the idealists who oversee it. In fact, like captains of a rowing ship going backwards in a powerful current, they are least pleased with the results of their labor of love. But they do get a perverse pleasure from sticking their tongues at the world. The bad news is we’re the rowers.

More Lawler:

Faith is not a matter of adding something on to reality; it is a matter of plunging deeper into reality, of aligning oneself with the truth about the human condition. Reality is already enchanted, if you will.

George Weigel despairs:

The ambient public culture has become toxic in numerous ways, one of which is a newly aggressive secularism bent on using coercive state power to enforce a naked public square (another example of [­Richard John Neuhaus]’s foresight). That this secularism has gotten a deep hold on the American government is evident in the HHS mandate and in the actions of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission that resulted in Hosanna-Tabor vs. EEOC. Moreover, the reelection of an administration that celebrates a kind of cool secularity, and the political potency of the lifestyle libertinism that has become secularism’s primary public-policy concern (the 2012 Democratic convention’s celebration of abortion as a kind of secular sacrament, for example, and the president’s appalling speech to Planned Parenthood), suggest a further erosion of the claim that there is a there there on which a “religiously informed public philosophy for the American experiment in ordered liberty” can be constructed, and to which such a public philosophy can appeal.

Indeed, the course of the marriage debate suggests that the problem is even worse. The deeper problem is that the public culture of the United States, and of the West as a whole, has lost any grip on what “human nature” might mean. That is, our public culture has lost any grip on the notion that there are Things As They Are: that there are deep truths inscribed in the world and in us, truths that we ignore at our personal and civilizational peril.

Weigel offers four things to think about. I’ll excerpt two.

First, we should recognize, without fear or exaggeration, the full gravity of our present ­political–cultural situation and moment, which is one in which a civil war is being conducted (often not very civilly) over the very meaning of the human person. The resolution of that profound crisis—which is Western-civilizational, not just American—is not going to come, if it does come, through the use of primarily political levers of persuasion and power. It will come only from a reformed culture in which Jerusalem is once again linked to Athens and Rome in the foundations of the West.

Second, we should continue, indeed intensify, the discussion over the future of natural law-based public moral argument that has begun in recent issues of the magazine. This discussion ought to be as wide-ranging as possible: Can there be an effective appeal to natural law-grounded moral norms absent any culturally received notion of “nature,” human or otherwise? Does the use of natural law language and categories undercut the imperative, which is both “internal” to the Church’s primary evangelical mission and demanded by the pressure on believers from a hostile and aggressive public culture, to get the people of the Church to think “within” a biblical apprehension of the world, in their public as well as personal lives?

Aaron Taylor at Ethika Politika also raised this concern about natural law appealing only to a Christian teleology. I addressed that concern this week at the Red Pill Report:

Many secular people’s life experiences forbid them from ignoring the falseness of the lies they’ve been sold, and they are ripe to be ministered to. Nevertheless, asking them to accept an explicitly Christian teleology—a radical proposition—still causes them to shy away from the ultimate truth. They end up choosing the devil they know over the Jesus they don’t. In other words, despite knowing better, they cling to their (secular) religion.

Taylor is right in one aspect: If marriage traditionalists’ endgame is only to convince people that marriage is one-man, one-woman, they will fail. The “marriage equality” movement’s pathology runs deeper than this single issue. In their heart of hearts they believe man is the measure of all things. We have to attack their premises. By attacking their premises, we change their lives, and oh, by the way, we change their minds about marriage.

For Christian disciples, that means more than offering Jesus as an alternative premise. It means first undoing people’s flawed premises to create a void that Jesus naturally fills.

Jay W. Richards defends marriage against a classic redefinitionist argument:

How would it harm your marriage in Texas or North Carolina for two men to “marry” in California or New York? This is like asking if the value of a real dollar in Texas would be affected by flooding the market with counterfeits in New York. Yes, it would be, because counterfeits degrade the value of all real dollars. Enshrining a false definition of marriage in our laws will inevitably harm all marriages and society. Same-sex marriage does not expand the meaning of marriage, but replaces its historical meaning with a counterfeit.

I’ve always found that question from the redefinionists superficial. Marriage is hurt by being called what it isn’t, same as math is hurt by calling two and two five.

Rod Dreher brings us this story: California just passed a law that “would prohibit organizations that discriminate on the basis of gender identity, sexual orientation, and religious affiliation from being considered a nonprofit organization entitled to tax-exempt status,” similar to San Antonio’s nondiscrimination ordinance, which passed eight to three. Similar in principle, anyway.

What’s this?

The language leaves open the meaning of gender identity. An expansive definition of gender identity could have unintended (or possibly intended) consequences on nonprofit schools and institutions that have traditionally been all-boys or all-girls.

There is no limit to what “gender identity” and “sexual orientation” could mean. Banning discrimination of such issues a blank check to sociopaths and deviants.

Hadley Arkes wrote in 1996:

The arguments for gay marriage must in fact put into place the premises that make it untenable for the law to hold back from the acceptance of polygamy. And one thing may be attributed to the gay activists quite accurately and fairly: they have the most profound interest, rooted in the logic of their doctrine, in discrediting the notion that marriage finds its defining ground in nature. For that reason, we can count on the fact that there will be someone, somewhere, ready to press this issue by raising a challenge in the court and testing the limits even further.

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For what drives the litigation for gay rights is the need to have the gay life recognized and confirmed in principle in every setting in which the issue may arise. Gay activists seem to understand that their interests will not be secured as long as there persists in the public a residual moral sense that there is something about homosexuality that is not quite right. Hence, the need to seek more and more occasions for inducing the public first to tolerate, and then, in small steps, to endorse or approve.

Tolerance is a one-way street, writes William Murchison:

It’s their tough luck to affirm an institutional understanding as old as the human race. We’ve moved on, it seems. According to whom? According, for now, to New Mexico’s Supreme Court, unless a federal court should intervene on First Amendment grounds.

Ah, the First Amendment! Freedom of conviction! La-dee-da! Depends on how the larger society arrays particular rights in the context of other particular rights.

To disentangle the cause of gay rights from the cause of civil rights used to be easy; that ceased a while back. As the gay rights cause gains stature and success, its exponents move to require not just tolerance but public support of it. In concurring with his judicial brethren as to the Huguenins’ culpability, Justice Richard Bosson drove all the way to the one-yard line with an argument for forced conformity, saying that in the world of commerce, “the Huguenins have to channel their conduct, not their beliefs, so as to leave space for other Americans who believe something different.”

Now we see, don’t we? Difference of belief is for “others,” not for those who famously cling to God and guns. What’s wrong with these people? Don’t they see “(t)hat compromise is part of the glue that holds us together as a nation, the tolerance that lubricates the varied moving parts of us as a people”? Justice Bosson laid floral offerings upon what he called “(t)hat sense of respect we owe others, whether or not we believe as they do.”

The court wouldn’t force the gay couple to compromise. That would go against jurisprudential orthodoxy, inaugurated by Vaughn Walker, that sexuality is an immutable characteristic upon which the state cannot be permitted to impose.

Murchison is a stud. Here he waxes on how much he loves Texas:

Once solidly Democratic, Texas voters flipped to the GOP starting in 1961, when, out of growing distaste for the policies and personalities of national Democrats, they elected Prof. John G. Tower to Lyndon Johnson’s former Senate seat. (The state’s Democrats, with LBJ the towering exception, tended to stay at a discreet distance from what we know of now as the BosWash, or Beltway, fringe element.) What was the problem with the Democrats? Liberalism, purely and simply. Big-government-ism. The desire for the constriction and manipulation of rights that man—in the old sense of the word that encompasses members of both sexes—enjoys flexing in accordance with his own crotchets and yearnings. The Texas frontier, a lot of it fairly frontier-y well into the mid-20th century, encouraged self-reliance and enterprise. Neither trait has exactly gone out of fashion.

But urbanization has disconnected some Texans from the lessons nature instilled in previous generations. Murchison writes:

A few decades ago, Austin was a quiet, modest city (population 200,000 in the 1960 census) with but two protrusions on its skyline: the Capitol dome and the University of Texas tower. The surrounding hills afforded languid touches of green and brown. Ain’t that way no more, boys! Downtown’s a pincushion of high rises and skyscrapers, while Interstate 35 has become a river of trucks and autos headed for San Antonio or Mexico. As for tourists and conventioneers and lobbyists! And New Yorkers—who by the way are pouring in, lured either by Greg Abbott or by their own sense of where the future lies!

They should pass a Texas citizenship test first.


Piers “Paranoid” Morgan is afraid of blind people with guns. Someone remind him not everyone’s a homicidal maniac.

It’s a Hobbesian fantasy Morgan lives in, one that places no trust in the civil society or in the consciences of men. In his mind, we all could turn on each other at any moment at the slightest provocation.


Reza Aslan misreads “The Grand Inquisitor.” He imbibes Ivan’s pessimism about the Church, extending that pessimism to communal worship. Nick Rynerson of Patheos explains:

Those who love God in a community formed by and for him forsake individualism for true fellowship. Aslan and those like him refuse to forsake their individuality, but in doing so lose any hope of fellowship that might challenge or result in knowing higher, absolute truth. And in the end, it is Ivan, not the ecclesial-bound Alyosha whose end is isolation.

This is because all goodness in The Brothers Karamazov comes from God. And all wickedness comes from isolated self-governance. Aslan and Ivan both reject the God of Scripture for something of their own creation. So when Reza Aslan says this after reading “The Grand Inquisitor:”

“[Y]ou are the only one qualified to define what God is for you. No one else is qualified to make that decision for you.”

He is merely echoing Ivan, not Dostoyevsky.

Dostoyevsky wants so much more for the reader than to live as Ivan lived. Ivan did not fare well in his anti-establishmentarianism. When only “the self” matters, “the self” destructs. In The Brothers Karamazov, self led to the downfall of every character that lived by that ethos.

“You are the only one qualified to define what God is”? I’m amazed even a faux Christian scholar like Aslan would utter such a stupid line. No one defines God. God defines Himself, enabling a community of believers to unite in common understanding of Him, putting aside one’s notions of what God should be and what I want, etc. A personal God conceived by me alone is a sure path to sin and isolation.

Church is central to the formation of social capital, James Dwyer writes in RELEVANT:

Millennials are, more than any other generation, prone to not putting down roots. The tendency among Millennials is to drift—to find satisfaction wherever it appears best, and then to move on when the grass gets greener on the other side.

The local church, by its nature, is deeply ingrained in its community. The local church is known by those around it, and in return knows those around it. The ability to know those to whom you are ministering is deeply impactful. It allows for relationships to be built, nurtured and maintained.

Many Millennials are, in fact, looking for this deep level of community, but sadly do not see the local church as providing it. There is a sense of belonging and doing life together that can only be found in the local church. For a generation looking for community, integrity and authentic relationships, it doesn’t get much better than the local church.


We need Obamacare so badly that the Obama administration is delaying it! Investor’s Business Daily observes:

“For every little boy or girl in America whose health lies in the balance, there is an urgency of now,” Sebelius wrote. “For every one of our neighbors who lives day-after-day in fear because they do not have insurance, there is an urgency of now.”

Sebelius forgot to mention that all of her “urgency of now” talk comes after the administration decided to delay massive chunks of ObamaCare.

There’s no “urgency of now” for the small-business marketplace, the verification process, data hub privacy and security protections, or a limit on out-of-pocket costs. They’ve all been put off for at least a year.

Nor is there any “urgency of now” about promises ObamaCare would cut premiums, let you keep your insurance or create jobs. Those have been cancelled.

In any case, for millions of Americans the real “fierce urgency of now” isn’t ObamaCare. It’s a full-time job. That’s something ObamaCare is making increasingly hard to find, and why its repeal is so urgently needed.

Related: “Obamacare’s Dirty Dozen Implementation Failures” via Heritage.

Also related: “Look for ‘20-40%’ Hike in Texas Health Insurance Costs Due to Obamacare” via WOAI.


Mariah Blake of Mother Jones gives a detailed account of the FBI’s breathtaking incompetence in pursuing evidence of suspicious contact between Nidal Hasan, the Fort Hood jihadist, and Anwar al-Awlaki in 2008 and 2009. My take? Incompetence and laziness compounded by political correctness.


In an amusing article for Spiked, Frank Furedi writes:

The intellectual devaluation of conservatism originates in the nineteenth century, when the British Tories were described as the ‘stupid party’. That phrase was probably coined by John Stuart Mill, who wrote in 1861 that although both the Whigs and the Tories were lacking in principle, it was the Tories who were ‘by the law of their existence the stupidest party’. Back then, associating conservatism with stupidity was justified on the grounds that upholding tradition and the status quo – as conservatives do – does not require much mental agility or imagination. In contrast, it was claimed that taking a more questioning and critical approach to politics required an ability to think abstractly and in a sophisticated way.

It’s awfully presumptuous and not too bright to think you can start from a clean slate and create a better world when you barely understand the world at all.


John Zmirnak explains why Candide sucks:

This preachy Enlightenment novella examines the deepest question—why God permits the innocent to suffer—with all the mature wisdom of a high school sophomore. Voltaire sets up as a straw man “Dr. Pangloss,” who offers glib and unconvincing answers, and engineers the plot to refute Pangloss point by point. Call this book the archetype of the smug New Atheist tract whose real goal is to convince readers of the superior cleverness of the author.

Washington Times writer David DesRosiers reviews America 3.0, which predicts what America will look like in 2040:

The authors propose a “Big Haircut” — an ordered bankruptcy tied to shared sacrifice, and devolution of power, responsibility and accountability to states, localities and individuals. Mr. Bennett and Mr. Lotus are eyes-wide-open realists: “So, these governments are going to default on their obligations. That is inevitable. We propose that it be done transparently and openly, and preferably at once,” they write. “The Big Haircut is about getting the country functional again, spreading the pain widely, and ending up with a new system that is less prone to the problems of the old.”

Calling the federal government’s collapse a “haircut” might be understating the case. There will be widespread misery and suffering as people bred to be dependent on institutions that have been infiltrated or replaced by big government cease to function. I’m less for “spreading the pain widely” than I am for spreading the pain to those responsible, but that’s probably a fantasy.


In Public Discourse, Carson Holloway describes appropriate government restraint:

The founders openly avowed that the system they created would permit representatives to defy public opinion, and that this freedom was necessary to good and just government. After all, the people are sometimes mistaken, misled into folly or injustice by their passions or whims. Nevertheless, the founders expected that such deviations from public opinion would be primarily passive and not active. Thus they tended to speak of representation as a check on public opinion. In this view, the good representative will resist foolish or unjust measures that the people demand.

But we would be hard pressed to find examples of the founders praising an active defiance of the public. Where in their voluminous writings do we find them praising public officials for foisting projects on the people that the people reject? Refusing to do what the people ask is one thing. They can always do it later if they still want it badly enough. But committing the nation to something the people reject is something else altogether, because undoing policy decisions is harder than making them in the first place.


At the London Review of Books, Rebecca Solnit rebels against dehumanizing technology. Part of me says, “Yes!” Another part of me says, “I wouldn’t be reading this without technology.” Excerpt:

If you’re even heard, since earphones – they still look to me like some sort of medical equipment, an IV drip for noise – are ubiquitous, so that on college campuses, say, finding someone who can lend you an ear isn’t easy. The young are disappearing down the rabbit hole of total immersion in the networked world, and struggling to get out of it.

Getting out of it is about slowness, and about finding alternatives to the alienation that accompanies a sweater knitted by a machine in a sweatshop in a country you know nothing about, or jam made by a giant corporation that has terrible environmental and labour practices and might be tied to the death of honeybees or the poisoning of farmworkers. It’s an attempt to put the world back together again, in its materials but also its time and labour. It’s both laughably small and heroically ambitious.


Last month I became obsessed with Haken’s debut album Aquarius. The refrain from the third track “Aquarium” calls to mind the Miley Cyrus disaster at the VMAs:

Freak of nature, pay to see her
Eyes surround her like a fever
Free me master, see me shiver
Put me back into the river

The song is about a fisherman who finds a mermaid and puts her on display in his aquarium, like a side show. It inspired my zoo metaphor in “Show us the beast.”


Texas schools can no longer ticket students for disciplinary violations. Good. “Zero tolerance” was just a way for schools to avoid the hard work of disciplining kids.
“There is no room in this country for hyphenated Americanism. When I refer to hyphenated Americans, I do not refer to naturalized Americans. Some of the very best Americans I have ever known were naturalized Americans, Americans born abroad. But a hyphenated American is not an American at all ... The one absolutely certain way of bringing this nation to ruin, of preventing all possibility of its continuing to be a nation at all, would be to permit it to become a tangle of squabbling nationalities, an intricate knot of German-Americans, Irish-Americans, English-Americans, French-Americans, Scandinavian-Americans or Italian-Americans, each preserving its separate nationality, each at heart feeling more sympathy with Europeans of that nationality, than with the other citizens of the American Republic ... There is no such thing as a hyphenated American who is a good American. The only man who is a good American is the man who is an American and nothing else.” –Teddy Roosevelt

Jon Acuff wants to retire “just sayin’” from our vocabulary:

Christians use this phrase as a “Get out of jerk free” card. We write the most vile, bitter statement on Facebook and then punctuate it with “just sayin’,” as if that makes the rest of it invisible. It didn’t, we still saw what you wrote. You know who would have loved this phrase in the Bible? The Pharisees. Can’t you see them saying to Jesus, “Whoa, Jesus, you healed a guy. That’s great. Healing is awesome. It is the Sabbath though. Just sayin’.”

I can’t disagree.

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