URLs du Jour

2021-05-03

  • I Miss Wimpy. But Mr. Ramirez puts him to good use: Moocher In Chief.

    [Moocher in Chief]

    I suppose a lot of young 'uns (by which I mean people under 70) won't get the reference, but that's OK. Wimpy info is here.


  • If You Prefer Your Bad News To Be Textual Chris Stirewalt will provide it The Era of Big Government is Here.

    The best way to gauge the success of American political movements is not by the depth to which they shape their native party, but the breadth to which they extend into the opposing side.

    By that standard, the American conservative movement hit its lowest ebb in generations last week. Its success was so towering 25 years ago that Democratic President Bill Clinton embraced smaller government, free trade, welfare reform and fiscal discipline. Conservatism’s failure now is so abject that not only has a new Democratic president repudiated those concepts in his first address to Congress, but the Republican Party that for decades made itself synonymous with the conservative movement also increasingly rejects its core tenets. The tidal shift toward big, activist, progressive government that began even before the financial crisis of 2008 has washed over both parties and left conservatism lost at sea.

    Stirewalt recalls that famous Clinton quote: "The era of big government is over." Wrong again, Bill.


  • In Our "Unfortunate Relevance" Department… I recently finished Rod Dreher's new book, Live Not by Lies: A Manual for Christian Dissidents. It was one of those "wish I liked it better" books. I liked this essay from James Lindsay better, inspired by the same person inspiring Dreher, Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn: A Manifesto for the Based.

    When Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn wrote in The Gulag Archipelago, “Let the lie come into the world. Let it even triumph. But not through me,” that was based. Not participating in transparent lies or mass delusion is based. Doing so against the madness of the following crowd is based. Nearly everything that it means to be based is either contained within or predicated upon this one trait of character.

    Solzhenitsyn wrote those words as a result of his observations living in what may have been the most brutal tyranny of human history: Stalin’s USSR. That simplest of refusals—the refusal to lie on command, or even to fit in—is, in the end, the summary of his observations of what kind of people had what it took to resist a totalitarian regime. Keeping your head down while you hope the unconscionable blows over, say, so you can keep your job but none of your dignity, is not based.

    I recommend Solzhenitsyn's essay "Live Not By Lies". I also can't resist quoting Lindsay's final paragraph:

    Freedom is ours for the taking. The lies are coming into the world, and, for the moment, they have begun to triumph. Lord, though, are they funny. Being based is little more, then, than a laughing refusal to be pushed around by the preposterous. It’s a refusal to go along with the crowd when the crowd has gone mad. While many people seem to realize that there is some problem, only the based realize not only that its safer and healthier to break away, but that it’s also hilarious. The based aren’t about to live by ridiculous lies because they’ll be too busy laughing the bottom out from under them.

    Optimistic! I hope he's right. ("It's all fun and games until someone loses their job… oh, wait.")


  • At The Knees, Or Maybe Higher. John Ellis, writing in the probably-paywalled WSJ says Sorry, Professor, We’re Cutting You Off.

    An advanced society functions by creating a series of institutions, telling them what it wants them to do, and funding them to do it. Institutions like the police, fire departments, courts and schools do the jobs society creates them to do. But one American institution—higher education—has decided to repurpose itself. It has set aside the job given to it by society and substituted a different one.

    Higher education had a cluster of related purposes in society. Everyone benefited from the new knowledge it developed and the well-informed, thoughtful citizenry it produced. Individual students benefited from the preparation they received for careers in a developed economy. Yet these days, academia has decided that its primary purpose is the promotion of a radical political ideology, to which it gives the sunny label “social justice.”

    That’s an enormous detour from the institutional mission granted to higher education by society—and a problem of grave consequence. For the purpose that academia has now given itself happens to be the only one that the founding documents of virtually all colleges and universities take care to forbid pre-emptively. The framers of those documents understood that using the campuses to promote political ideologies would destroy their institutions, because ideologies would always be rigid enough to prevent the exploration of new ideas and the free exercise of thought. They knew that the two purposes—academic and political—aren’t simply different, but polar opposites. They can’t coexist because the one erases the other.

    Professor (Emeritus) Ellis suggests withholding the bucks. Parents, send your kids to unwoke schools; governments, start cutting back on blank-check funding.


  • In Our "Good Advice" Department… Bari Weiss suggests a simple strategy. Believe Science: Get Vaccinated. Then Relax. (At Pun Salad Manor, it's mostly "mission accomplished", except for Mrs. Salad, who is constitutionally unable to relax.)

    Bari notes (with illustrative video clips): "It feels as if we are stuck between two deranged and morally confused options."

    No, you do not need to wear a mask, let alone two, when you are a vaccinated person outside jogging. As a rule of thumb, you are incredibly unlikely (it’s almost impossible) to get Covid-19 outside in open, uncrowded spaces. There are very rare exceptions, like standing in a very tight circle and singing loudly with other people for hours. Going for a solo run in a park is not among them.

    And no, you absolutely should not call the police or Child Protective Services on parents who still mask their children anymore than you would call the police or Child Protective Services on a child who is wearing elbow-pads while they are running. You might think it’s unnecessary, excessive and a sign of helicopter parenting. It probably is. Here’s what you can do instead: Mind your own business.

    Especially note Bari's last bit of advice: "You’re not crazy: the public messaging on this has been a disaster."


  • I'll Clear It Up Further. John Hinderaker says he's Glad They Cleared That Up. What? Quoting the entire article:

    The Rochester, Minnesota, school board has declared “Black Lives Matter” to be “government speech.” I always suspected something of the sort, but it is nice to see it made official:

    The Rochester Public Schools board voted unanimously Tuesday evening to make several phrases and images, including “Black Lives Matter,” government speech, meaning the school can’t be held liable for allowing those views while not allowing opposing views.

    Got that? Dissent from the “Black Lives Matter” orthodoxy will not be permitted. The government says so. Several other phrases have been declared “government speech” as well:

    [I]n Rochester schools, speech concerning “Brown lives matter,” “Indigenous lives matter, “Stop Asian hate”, as well as the pride flag, are now all declared official government speech.

    I have to say that the concept of “government speech” is a new one on me. It is quite a few years now since I studied the First Amendment, but the idea of declaring an idea to be “government speech” so as to prohibit anything counter to it seems a bit sinister.

    Well, "Government Speech" is a thing. There's even a Wikipedia article.

    And the interesting thing about that is:

    The doctrine was implied in Wooley v. Maynard in 1977, when the Supreme Court acknowledged a legitimate government interest in communicating an official, ideologically partial message to the public.

    If that case sounds familiar, it's the one where NH resident George Maynard objected to the "Live Free or Die" slogan on his state-issued license plate (there's your "government speech"), taping it over. Which was illegal at the time. (Irony alert.) In a 6-3 decision, Maynard got off.

    So, contra Hinderaker, dissent against "government speech" is permitted; if anyone disagrees, send them to the Wooley v. Maynard decision.

    It's that "government" need not air dissenting opinions itself. E.g., New Hampshire doesn't need to provide alternate-slogan plates saying (for example) "Submit to Authority, Sheeple".

    So Rochester's school board probably on solid legal ground. That doesn't make their speech less odious, it's just permitted.

The Thursday Murder Club

[Amazon Link]

The WSJ's Tom Nolan put this debut novel from Richard Osman on his Best Mysteries of 2020 list. That's been a mixed bag so far, but this was a goodie. I started casting the BBC miniseries in my head as I read: Judi Dench as Elizabeth! Penelope Wilton as Joyce! Bob Hoskins as Ron!… oh, wait, he's dead. Well, you get the idea.

The Club is set up at a comfy British retirement village Elizabeth, Joyce, Ron, and Ibrahim get together to puzzle out unsolved cold cases from the past, provided from a retired policewoman's files. But soon enough they get a more modern crime dropped (nearly literally) at their doorstep. After an argument between the village's owner and his partner (both with criminal pasts) the partner is bludgeoned to death at his home. And an old picture is left at the crime scene…

Who done it? Well, it's complicated. And there are a lot of suspects. It pays the reader to pay attention to all the characters, you never know who's going to matter later.

The book is hilarious in spots. Each club member has talents that aid in their investigation. The cops assigned to the case are (of course) opposed to civilian interference, but are more or less forced to accept the club's help; it turns out that their methods uncover relevant clues before the police can.

But it's not all hilarity. Our heroes are old, and the book doesn't flinch from confronting what that means in terms of lost loved ones and loneliness.

I see that Richard Osman has a second book coming out in September. I'm in.


Last Modified 2021-06-03 9:16 AM EDT

Live Not by Lies

A Manual for Christian Dissidents

[Amazon Link]

It's really two books.

  1. The stories of how (mostly) Christians survived and resisted (mostly) Communist tyranny in Russia and Eastern Europe in the bad old days. The author, Rod Dreher, visits and interviews survivors and descendents. These are valuable stories that need to be told.

    The title of the book is taken from an essay by Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, released on the occasion of his 1974 exile from the USSR to the West.

  2. Dreher's warning against the "soft totalitarianism" rising in the US and Europe as we slide toward a Brave New World dystopia. That's also a promising subject, and Dreher hits a number of deserving targets.

There are a couple of big problems, though.

First, Dreher doesn't seem to do a good job of connecting up these two books into a whole argument.

Second, Dreher's critique of our modern age is fusty and illiberal. (He might take that latter adjective as a compliment.) He's very concerned about Alexa/Siri/Cortana listening in on our conversations, reporting them back to their respective mother ships. But also about declining church attendance, family stability, faith in institutions. Rising porn, drug use, cancel culture.

Fine, those are all arguably problems. (But of widely differing importance.) But do they really point to an inevitable decline into that soft totalitarianism? One where religious liberty will be put in serious jeopardy? I am unconvinced.

But (good news) Dreher quotes (partially) Solzhenitsyn's recommendations for people who choose to resist. One can't help but note their relevance today. The person who lives not by lies:

  • Will not write, sign, nor publish in any way, a single line distorting, so far as he can see, the truth;
  • Will not utter such a line in private or in public conversation, nor read it from a crib sheet, nor speak it in the role of educator, canvasser, teacher, actor;
  • Will not in painting, sculpture, photograph, technology, or music depict, support, or broadcast a single false thought, a single distortion of the truth as he discerns it;
  • Will not cite in writing or in speech a single “guiding” quote for gratification, insurance, for his success at work, unless he fully shares the cited thought and believes that it fits the context precisely;
  • Will not be forced to a demonstration or a rally if it runs counter to his desire and his will; will not take up and raise a banner or slogan in which he does not fully believe;
  • Will not raise a hand in vote for a proposal which he does not sincerely support; will not vote openly or in secret ballot for a candidate whom he deems dubious or unworthy;
  • Will not be impelled to a meeting where a forced and distorted discussion is expected to take place;
  • Will at once walk out from a session, meeting, lecture, play, or film as soon as he hears the speaker utter a lie, ideological drivel, or shameless propaganda;
  • Will not subscribe to, nor buy in retail, a newspaper or journal that distorts or hides the underlying facts.

Readers, that's a difficult way to live. But (as Solzhenitsyn says) it's the way of the "honest man, worthy of the respect of his children and contemporaries."

And I'm pretty sure the New York Times would go out of business pretty quickly if a lot of people started following that last rule.


Last Modified 2021-06-03 9:16 AM EDT