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------------------------------------------------------------------ GET HTTP/1.1 Host: Connection: keep-alive Upgrade-Insecure-Requests: 1 User-Agent: Mozilla/5.0 (Windows NT 10.0; Win64; x64) AppleWebKit/537.36 (KHTML, like Gecko) Chrome/52.0.2743.116 Safari/537.36 Accept: text/html,application/xhtml+xml,application/xml;q=0.9,image/webp,*/*;q=0.8 Referer: Accept-Encoding: gzip, deflate, sdch Accept-Language: en-US,en;q=0.8 Cookie: __cfduid=d9aa133693a70c75dace14b1dc2ad91e91470760615; cf_clearance=0c3b18391b4d7b2dccb3d43aad7cc3abc9165cdd-1470760619-1800 HTTP/1.1 200 OK Date: Tue, 09 Aug 2016 16:36:59 GMT Content-Type: text/xml; charset=UTF-8 Connection: keep-alive X-Powered-By: PHP/5.5.9-1ubuntu4.6 Set-Cookie: modal-interstitial=1; expires=Wed, 10-Aug-2016 16:36:59 GMT; Max-Age=86400 X-Pingback: Last-Modified: Tue, 09 Aug 2016 14:50:51 GMT ETag: W/"d909d361838c07f83cca1ecac5332df6" Server: cloudflare-nginx CF-RAY: 2cfca15032750165-ORD Content-Length: 141729 The American Conservative » Rod Dreher Tue, 09 Aug 2016 14:50:51 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Love Just Keeps On Winning Tue, 09 Aug 2016 12:43:51 +0000 The State of New Jersey is trying to keep love from winning, looks like:

Despite her doctor’s assurances that insurance would pay for fertility treatment, Ms. Krupa’s provider, Horizon Blue Cross Blue Shield, denied coverage. The company cited a state insurance mandate from 2001 that required most women under 35 — no matter their sexual orientation — to demonstrate their infertility through “two years of unprotected sexual intercourse.”

Now the Krupas [Marianne and Erin], along with two other women, are suing the commissioner of the New Jersey Department of Banking and Insurance, claiming the mandate discriminates against their sexual orientation — essentially forcing infertile homosexual women to pay for costly procedures to try to become pregnant.


Dr. William Ziegler, the medical director of the Reproductive Science Center of New Jersey, said the issue of insurance coverage had long weighed on the field of fertility treatment.

“I’m not sure if there was a lot of thought given to the implications of what this would cause and how many New Jerseyans it would exclude,” Dr. Ziegler said of the mandate. “It’s a double standard. It discriminates against same-sex couples because they don’t have the biological equipment to have a baby the way a heterosexual couple does.”

I’m just going to let Dr. Ziegler’s statement hang out there. Centuries from now, when historians are trying to figure out how, exactly, the most advanced nation on earth lost its mind and fell apart, Dr. Ziegler’s realization about the thoughtless bigotry grieving barren lesbians of New Jersey will be of interest.

Meanwhile, in Charlotte, North Carolina, the public school leadership has a new plan for love to win:

The Charlotte-Mecklenburg School District addressed transgender issues in their new recommended policies.

The recommendations ask principals to implement and enforce ways to reduce bullying.

If implemented, the policies also would allow transgender students to take part in extracurricular activities and overnight trips with the gender they identify with.

The policies also asks school officials to stop referring to children as boys and girls, and instead refer to them as students and scholars.

Members of the North Carolina Values Coalition called the rules radical, and said the policies take the focus off of education and puts it on “gender fluidity.”

Bigots, the lot.

By the way, the other night at an event in the city, I met a lawyer. We got to talking about politics, and eventually he said that his son is gay. The lawyer said he has been bowled over by the number of kids his son’s age who have embraced gender fluidity. “Oh, it’s a thing now,” he said, shaking his head. I told him this story, and he said, more or less, “Yep.”


Love is even winning over military medicine. From a recent directive by the Secretary of the Navy:

b. No later than October 1, 2016.

(1) The DoD will issue a training handbook for Commanders and Commanding Officers, transgender Service Members, and the force; and medical guidance for providing transition related care to transgender members.

(2) The Military Health System will be required to provide transgender Sailors and Marines all medically necessary care related to gender transition, based on the guidance that is issued. [Emphasis mine. — RD]

(3) Reference (b) is effective October 1, 2016. Sailors and Marines will be able to begin the process to officially change their gender in personnel management systems. Once the Sailor or Marines gender marker is changed, the member will be responsible for meeting all applicable military standards in the preferred gender and will use military berthing, bathroom, and shower facilities associated with their preferred gender.

As one military blogger puts it, “If you want a sex change but can’t afford it, join the military.”

Like the public schools, the military has become a locus for advocating radical social change. It’s all the Law of Merited Impossibility, you know. They’ll tell you it will never happen, that you’re being an alarmist, and when it happens, they’ll say shut up, because only a bigot could possibly object.

Meanwhile, on the far edges of progress, here’s a screen grab from Rowman & Littlefield, an academic press, of a new volume in its catalog:

Screen Shot 2016-08-09 at 6.32.47 AM

I can hear the howls of derision now: You Santorum-y monster! How dare you compare pedophilia to [whatever the Left wants today on the sexual progress front]! And it is true that nothing is equivalent to pedophilia. My point is not to make a moral equivalence, but rather to show that this is how it works. Once the barriers are down, things that were once unthinkable — the US Armed Forces paying for sex changes, for example, or public schools directing teachers and school staff not to call students “boys” or “girls” — first become thinkable, then become debatable, then become normative, then become mandatory.

Finally, a reader sends in this photo taken outside an outlet of the trendy furniture store West Elm:

Reader photo

Reader photo

Has there ever, in the history of selling furniture — especially trendy, high-end modern furniture — been a store that has not welcomed gay customers? Of course not. This is pure virtue signaling. And you know, posting this kind of thing in store windows is becoming the equivalent of the Greengrocer’s “Workers Of The World, Unite” store sign under communism. John Kay of the Financial Times explains the reference:

Václav Havel, the first and only president of post-communist Czechoslovakia, died last week. The central figure of his famous dissident essay, The Power of the Powerless, was a greengrocer with a placard in his window saying: “Workers of the World Unite!” Havel asked an apparently simple question: what is the purpose of this display?

The shopkeeper is not motivated by an intention to communicate his enthusiasm for unity of the workers of the world. Nor was his superior seized by such desire. And the leaders of the authoritarian system in which the sign is displayed know that their power would not long survive unity of the workers of the world. In fact, it is unlikely that anyone who sees the sign gives attention to its substantive content.

The real meaning is not conveyed by the printed words. The greengrocer’s intention is to signal conformity and avoid trouble. Havel translates the slogan as: “I am afraid and therefore unquestioningly obedient.”

More from John Kay:

Thirty years before Havel, George Orwell identified the corrupting influence of discourse based on the repetition of pre-packaged phrases. A corrupting influence not just on language but on society itself. He described the speaker who “has gone some distance towards turning himself into a machine”, observing: “The appropriate noises are coming out of his larynx, but his brain is not involved as it would be if he were choosing his words for himself.” We often hear such speakers at business conferences and on political platforms.

Havel also emphasised the mechanical nature of the process of effusion. “Part of the essence of the post-totalitarian system,” he said, “is that it draws everyone into its sphere of power, not so they may realise themselves as human beings, but so they may surrender their human identity in favour of the system.” The empty exhortation of “workers of the world unite!” conceals the reality of the power structure that lies behind it. But the vacuous rhetoric traps the speaker as well as the hearer, the leaders as well as the led. [Emphasis mine — RD] “Both are objects in a system of control, but at the same time they are its subjects,” wrote Havel. They are inhabitants of a world whose assumptions are false, and self-descriptions fraudulent.

“Love wins,” and variations of this message posted in shop windows and disseminated through the culture, and made into a de facto test of conformity, is how conformity to the ideology of the Sexual Revolution is now enforced by the system it now controls.

What, you don’t think workers of the world should unite, comrade? Then why not put the sign in your window?

What, you don’t think that love is winning? Then why won’t you post the sign? Why won’t you wear the rainbow badge in the office? Why won’t you declare yourself an ally?

This form of social control is part of the mechanism that opens the door to the polymorphous forms of moral chaos highlighted above. We are just getting started. Below, from an earlier post of mine denouncing the culture of silence over abuse in churches, a Nobel Prize-winning anti-communist dissident explains part of what’s going on here:

We all understand, I think, the problem with leaders not wanting to lose what they have: power, wealth, fame, etc. The more difficult problem is explaining why people much farther down the power structure — specifically, those who are being exploited by the leadership — are willing to cooperate in their own exploitation. They too are unwilling to risk what they have — but what do they have, really?

Here’s an answer. The dynamic behind this phenomenon is what the Polish dissident writer Czesław Miłosz, in his classic study of intellectuals under Polish communism, The Captive Mind, called “the Pill of Murti-Bing.” The concept comes from a 1927 dystopian novel by Stanisław Witkiewicz in which an Asian army overruns Poland, and conquers its people in part by giving them pills to assuage their anxieties over their condition. From The Captive Mind:

Witkiewicz’s heroes are unhappy in that they have no faith and no sense of meaning in their work. This atmosphere of decay and senselessness extends throughout the entire country. And at that moment, a great number of hawkers appear in the cities peddling Murti-Bing pills. Murti-Bing was a Mongolian philosopher who had succeeded in producing an organic means of transporting a “philosophy of life.” This Murti-Bing “philosophy of life,” which constituted the strength of the Sino-Mongolian army, was contained in pills in an extremely condensed form. A man who used these pills changed completely. He became serene and happy.

For Miłosz, Polish intellectuals who capitulated to communism and Soviet rule had taken the pill of Murti-Bing. It was what made their condition bearable. They could not stand to see reality, for if they recognized what was really happening in their country, the pain and shock would make life too much to take.

This is why people who have no financial or status tied up in protecting abuse of corruption within an institution can nevertheless be expected to rally around that institution and its leaders. Those who tell the truth threaten their Murti-Bing pill supply, and therefore their sense of order and well-being. To them, better that a few victims must be made to suffer rather than the entire community be forced to wean itself from Murti-Bing.

Better that a (relative) few Christians will be forced out of their jobs or forced to lose their businesses than the entire community be forced to wean itself from our own Murti-Bing.

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Elegy For Normality Mon, 08 Aug 2016 21:34:25 +0000 Hillbilly Elegy, recognizes her patients]]> Hey folks, I’m really sorry that so many of you are losing your comments. It’s not just happening to you. I’m losing a lot of NFRs I append to your comments. I don’t know why it’s happening, though I assume it has everything to do with the way our website was rocked to the rafters by the viral response to my interview with J.D. Vance. Only this weekend, two weeks after it first appeared, did the traffic approach normal again. I deeply apologize to you for the problems. I’m having them too. We’re working on it, I promise. Let me suggest to you that you copy and save your comment to your clipboard before you hit “publish.” That way, if it doesn’t post, you will not have lost it, and you can try again. I’m going to start doing that. I’ve been doing it with my blog entries for a while now (good thing I did it with this post, because I almost lost the first one), and I’m so frustrated by losing comments that I’m going to start doing that too.

Every day I get amazing letters from readers who were knocked over by what J.D. had to say in the interview, and who decided from it to buy his memoir Hillbilly Elegy, about growing up poor and white in Appalachia. I’m used to that now. But every now and then, one will flop over the transom that makes me go Holy cow! Like this one:

Gosh, this was great. So helpful to me as a home care nurse from LA who now lives in [a rural southern California town] and sees patients mainly in [a nearby rural southern California town]. Oh, dear. So many things I have seen that I had no idea existed this close to LA. It unfortunately seems to me that a lot of the folks I see are not interested in change. They would like more benefits from the government. Meth addiction — I am shocked now to meet young white people here who are not addicted. And, something else: weird, weird sex stuff.  I am 53, from LA and have never heard of “gay for pay” but I hear about it all the time up here. Thanks again! I will buy that book.

Last night I was at the gym — woohoo, the Slug is exercising again! — and saw on the TV there a 60 Minutes segment about heroin use in small-town America. They focused mostly on Ohio. I wasn’t shocked by it, because I had read Sam Quinones’ great book Dreamland, on the same subject. I blogged about it here. Excerpt:

This is how heroin went from being the kind of scary big-city drug that only lowlifes used in the Seventies to being a drug of choice for Mayberry.

The most fascinating part of Dreamland is how Quinones examines the cultural roots of the opiate epidemic. He writes:

In heroin addicts, I had seen the debasement that comes from the loss of free will and enslavement to what amounts to an idea: permanent pleasure, numbness, and the avoidance of pain. But man’s decay has always begun as soon as he has it all, and is free of friction, pain, and the deprivation that temper his behavior.

In fact, the United States achieved something like this state of affairs … in the last decade of the twentieth century and the first decade of the twenty-first century. When I returned home from Mexico in those years, I noticed a scary obesity emerging. It wasn’t just the people. Everything seemed obese and excessive. Massive Hummers and SUVs were cars on steroids. In some of the Southern California suburbs near where I grew up, on plots laid out with three-bedroom houses in the 1950s, seven-thousand-square-foot mansions barely squeezed between the lot lines, leaving no place in which to enjoy the California sun.


Excess contaminated the best of America. Caltech churned out brilliant students, yet too many of them now went not to science but to Wall Street to create financial gimmicks that paid off handsomely and produced nothing. Exorbitant salaries, meanwhile, were paid to Wall Street and corporate executives, no matter how poorly they did. Banks packaged rolls of bad mortgages and we believed Standard & Poor’s when they called them AAA. Well-off parents no longer asked their children to work when they became teenagers.

In Mexico, I gained a new appreciation of what America means to a poor person limited by his own humble origins. I took great pride that America had turned more poor Mexicans into members of the middle class than had Mexico. Then I would return home and see too much of the country turning on this legacy in pursuit of comfort, living on credit, attempting to achieve happiness through more stuff. And I saw no coincidence that this was also when great numbers of these same kids — most of them well-off and white — began consuming huge quantities of the morphine molecule, doping up and tuning out.

Dreamland is not really about being materially poor, but about being spiritually poor. If Hillbilly Elegy meant something to you, read Dreamland.  I couldn’t stop thinking about it today, reflecting on the fresh-faced young suburban Ohio woman and recovering heroin addict who told 60 Minutes correspondent Bill Whitaker last night about shooting up in the high school bathroom. Her name is Hannah Morris. It started with pot, then went to pills, then to smoking heroin, then shooting it up:

Bill Whitaker: So you were what, 15?

Hannah Morris: Yeah. And I was like, oh my gosh that was amazing.

Bill Whitaker: You remember it even now?

Hannah Morris: Oh yeah. Let’s say I’ve never done a drug in my life. I would normally be happiness at a six or a seven, at a scale out of 10, you know. And then you take heroin and you’re automatically at a 26. And you’re like, I want that again.

Hannah says the heroin was so addictive that rather quickly she and several other students went from smoking it at parties to shooting it up at high school.

Hannah Morris: Like, doing it at school in the bathroom.

Bill Whitaker: A syringe?

Hannah Morris: A syringe. I would have it in my purse, all ready to go.

Fifteen years old. Not the inner city, but an upper middle class Midwestern suburb.

What a country we’ve become.

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No, Eric Metaxas Is Not A Proto-Nazi Mon, 08 Aug 2016 14:12:21 +0000 A number of conservative Christians have been deeply distressed by Evangelical superstar Eric Metaxas’s enthusiastic endorsement of Donald Trump. Here’s an example of Eric stating his point of view:

Donald Trump’s rise is certainly a symptom of our fading virtue and faith, but ironically he may well be our only hope for finding our way back to bolder expressions of them. The eerie waxworks automaton formerly known as Hillary Rodham Clinton will no doubt double down on President Obama’s two-term repulsion to Constitutional government, in which unutterably sad case we simply wouldn’t ever be able to claw our way back up the abyss into which we shall have been thrust. If two more anti-Constitutionalist judges are shoehorned onto the Supreme Court we will have a Constitutional crisis — actually a cataclysm — in which the last Justices of that hoary institution will take that thing once described by a Constitutionalist Executive as the “government of the people, by the people, for the people” and place it into a coffin gaily decorated with smiley face and rainbow stickers.

I think Eric is wrong about this, very wrong. Well, I think he is right to say that Donald Trump’s emergence is a sign of our decline, and I think he is right to identify Hillary Clinton as an enemy of certain First Amendment freedoms. Where he goes wrong, in my view, is in vastly overstating the nature of the threat from a Clinton presidency, and vastly understating of the threat from a Trump presidency. As a conservative Christian, I find myself unable to choose between either revolting candidate, but I have at least several very serious Christian friends who have told me they’re pulling the lever for Trump out of a hope, however slim, that he will do less damage than Clinton to religious liberty. I think this is a very slim hope, but it’s better than the certainty that Clinton will be a disaster. I can understand Christians voting for Trump in fear, trembling, and desperation, but I can’t understand them being enthusiastic about it.

I have privately told Eric some version of this on several occasions, and have told him that I’ve heard from quite a few of his Evangelical admirers who tell me that he is dramatically hurting his credibility with his full-throated Trump endorsements. We are old friends, and this is the kind of thing old friends say to each other. I love Eric — I really do — and know that he is no different today than he was when he was a struggling writer. True fact: I decided at one point in 2000 that I needed to tell Eric that it was time to quit driving himself crazy trying to launch a writing career, and get a normal job. Yes, you’re a fantastic writer, I planned to say, but you’re hoping for lightning to strike, and it just isn’t going to happen.

I never worked up the courage to stomp on Eric’s dream. Thank God for it! Such is the quality of my professional advice that had I said those things, and had he listened to me and done as I advised, the world would have been denied Bonhoeffer and all the other good work he has done. Maybe I’m wrong in what I’ve said to Eric about his enthusiastic public backing of Trump. I don’t think so, but it’s possible.

Anyway, my judgment is that my old friend is seriously wrong about Trump, and seriously wrong to be such an enthusiastic advocate of the man, especially as a Christian public intellectual. Again, I’ve said this to him privately on more than one occasion. Eric’s a big boy; he can take criticism. And certainly when a public intellectual takes a controversial position on a controversial topic, he’s got to expect to take a lot of it. That’s fair.

Now, having said all that, I was deeply shocked by the smear job Mark Oppenheimer did on Eric over Eric’s Trumpism. Oppenheimer notes that there has been a split between Jewish conservatives and some Christian conservatives (Evangelicals) on Trump, which is true:

This split between Jewish and Christian conservatives is troubling, not because I am rooting for conservative unity—as a liberal, I’m not—but because of what it says about Christians’ real agenda [Note: Not “these Christians” but “Christians,” full stop. — RD] when it comes to Jewish interests. Despite serious Jewish misgivings about Trump, and despite the ominous historical parallels his campaign conjures, his status as the not-Hillary is what really matters.

The alt-right couldn’t have said it better: Here’s this Oppenheimer, a liberal Jews, implying to Christians that if they don’t put Jewish interests ahead of their own interests, they are anti-Semites, or at least fellow travelers of anti-Semites.

Consider what Oppenheimer’s logic would mean if it were used by a pro-Trump conservative Christian. Indulge me for a moment as I lay out some important background to the point I want to make.

Consider that last year, in a Time magazine essay, Oppenheimer argued that post-Obergefell — a decision he cheered for — it is time for churches and religious organizations to have their tax-exempt status removed. To be fair, he wasn’t saying only conservative religious institutions, but all of them. It’s a principled argument. But many, many churches and religious charities operate on such a slim financial margin that losing tax exemption would sink them. Nobody seriously expects the Hillary Clinton administration to follow Oppenheimer’s advice and strip tax exemption from all religious institutions, but the clear trajectory of federal government action since Obergefell, and HRC’s militant and unambiguous support for expanding gay rights, makes it entirely reasonable to believe that a Clinton White House would order the IRS to revoke tax-exempt status of churches, religious colleges, and other religious organizations that do not embrace full gay civil rights. In other words, they would be Bob Jones’d.

Here is an excerpt from the Hillary Clinton campaign website’s LGBT page:

  • Fight for full federal equality for LGBT Americans. Hillary will work with Congress to pass the Equality Act, continue President Obama’s LGBT equality executive actions, and support efforts underway in the courts to protect people from discrimination on the basis of gender identity and sexual orientation in every aspect of public life.

In every aspect of public life. This likely means ending the tax exemption for “anti-LGBT” institutions. It likely means supporting measures like California’s odious SB1146, which, if signed into law, will force scores of Christian institutions of higher education in the state to violate their own religious convictions or close their doors. The bill would do this by banning the use of Cal Grants — state-funded student aid — at schools that discriminate against LGBTs in the state’s eyes. This would disproportionately affect poor and minority students. But then, as so often is the case with the Left, some minorities are more important than others.

And to liberal Jews, advancing gay rights matters more than protecting the religious liberty of Orthodox Jews. In an important essay in the Jewish magazine Mosaic, law professor David Bernstein argues that liberals have made an illiberal pseudo-religion of anti-discrimination, one that directly targets traditionalist Jews. excerpt:

Traditional Judaism, after all, depends entirely on discriminating in the original sense of distinguishing: between holy and profane, Sabbath and weekday, man and woman, Jews and others. Such discriminations cannot be reworked without transforming classical Judaism into something unrecognizable to many Jews. Will Jewish institutions be able to withstand today’s freewheeling assault on religious liberty? Or will the enforcers of state-mandated “non-discrimination” not rest easy until they complete their Orwellian campaign of positive discrimination against every last dissenter from the progressive line?

Also by way of background, Oppenheimer identifies himself as a liberal. Not only is Oppenheimer ardently pro-gay, he has also identified as pro-choice. You may have seen clips of Hillary’s speech to Planned Parenthood in which she said her campaign “belongs to” them, America’s top abortionists.

None of this is surprising for a liberal Jew. Liberal Jews are among the biggest supporters, as a group, of abortion rights. According to a 2012 study, 95 percent of Jewish Democrats and 77 percent of Jewish Republicans support full abortion rights. The Anti-Defamation League cheers pro-choice victories in court, as if abortion rights had a thing to do with the vital work of fighting anti-Semitism. American Jews have shown overwhelming support for gay marriage. Generally speaking, to be a Jewish American is to support gay rights and abortion rights.

So, with all that in mind, think about what a pro-Trump conservative Christian could do with Oppenheimer’s logic: Consider what this says about Jews’ real agenda when it comes to Christian interests: Despite serious Christian misgivings about Hillary, and despite the ominous threat to unborn children and the rights of traditional Christians and their institutions’ liberty, her status as the not-Trump is what really matters. 

What Oppenheimer really says in that paragraph, and in his entire column, is that Christians like Metaxas are prepared to throw Jews under the bus to keep Hillary Clinton from being elected president. If that is true, then it is equally true that Jews like Oppenheimer are prepared to throw orthodox Christians under the bus to keep Trump from being elected president. By framing the stakes of the election in this way, Oppenheimer legitimates alt-right anti-Semites who say that Jews don’t care what happens to Christians, and that opposition to Jewish political goals is going to be denounced as de facto anti-Semitic.

In fact, the situation is worse from the Christian side than from the Jewish side. More from Oppenheimer’s piece:

And finally I got to the Jewish question. I asked what Metaxas would say to Jews, like me, who worry about the mob mentality at Trump’s rallies? Or the online anti-Semitism of many of his followers? Or the tweet from Trump’s campaign of  Clinton against the star of David, and a background of dollars? Metaxas said I was simply misunderstanding.

“You are the kind of a person least likely on planet earth to understand how he’s communicating,” Metaxas said. “If this is a guy whose daughter married a Jew and became Jewish, he has a history—there is no way you can get around that. Any of us who are from New York are culturally Jewish. He didn’t go to Yale or work for the Times—he is in his own cultural universe. You have to understand who he is really. You put these quotes in a paper, and all the intellectuals go clucking. But that is unfair.”

Metaxas said that he would “never give no credence” to Jews’ concerns. “As the author of Bonhoeffer, I was the first one thinking, ‘Is this somebody in the mold of Hitler?’” he said. “Because I wrote the book on Bonhoeffer, I was thinking about this Nietzschian will to power—if you worship power like Hitler did, this is a direction you can go. Since then, I have come to think on some level that is true of Trump, but it isn’t true to the extent that we should be fearful of … I get the parallels, but a lot of this is emotional. I don’t think Americans would put up for that. I think we are very different as a nation than Germany was.”

I wondered if anything would turn Metaxas against Trump. What if Trump was caught on tape talking about the kikes or Christ-killer? “Would you withdraw your support from him?” I asked.

“Hell yes!” Metaxas said. But such an idea was absurd, Metaxas said. “I can’t conceive of it. His grandchildren are Jewish, his son is Jewish. It becomes—to ask that question is silly.”

So, Oppenheimer drops the H-bomb — Hitler — on Metaxas. To be fair, it is by no means unjust to put hard questions to the author of Bonhoeffer about the parallels many people see in the rise of Hitler and the rise of Trump. Personally, I don’t think Trump is anti-Semitic at all, but I also think he doesn’t mind one bit getting the support of open anti-Semites from the alt-right. This is one of the things that bothers me most about him, and I believe it ought to bother Eric a lot more than it does. I think he is far too quick to explain away Trump’s involvement with anti-Semites. I think this criticism of Eric by Oppenheimer is tough but fair:

In trying to explain away the signs that Trump has fascist tendencies, Metaxas—who, remember, thinks himself a historian—has, without realizing what he’s done, given a catalogue of the naïve ways that people have explained away budding fascist movements. Either the movement is just shtick; or mere politicking (he’s not “genuinely xenophobic or bigoted”); or the rantings of the harmless crazy uncle; or simple populism, not comprehensible by the elites. And if it is scary, it’s not that scary, because saner forces will keep it in check.

I don’t think Trump is Hitler. Not in the least. But what he represents is bad enough on its own. We don’t have to resort to the most extreme historical analogy to object to Trump and Trumpism. But Oppenheimer does, and he goes off the rails:

But there is something sinister in Metaxas’s rationalization. In giving Jews a privileged place—he would, he promises, ditch Trump if Trump ever said anything totally, irrefutably anti-Semitic—Metaxas has in fact insulted us. Jews know that demagogues who demonize immigrants and the disabled cannot, to put it mildly, be counted on to look out for the Jews. Fascist tendencies don’t always start with the Jews, but they end with us. That’s true even if their spokesperson is, as in this case, a father to Jews, a grandfather to Jews, and, by virtue of being from New York, “culturally Jewish.” What Metaxas seems to mean by “culturally Jewish” is, in the case of Trump, hard to say. That he’s brusque? That he drives a hard bargain? Trump is culturally Jewish only if you believe the worst in Jewish stereotypes.

And so, we go from “Eric Metaxas is dangerously naive about Donald Trump” — something I think is true — to “Eric Metaxas is an anti-Semite.” And that is not only thoroughly untrue, it is a vicious, disgusting slander. I know and like Mark Oppenheimer, but I find this smear to be entirely beneath him. He makes it pissily personal here (emphasis mine):

As the host of Socrates in the City, a New York speaker series that mostly features conservative men talking about the big questions of life, Metaxas has hosted live discussions with, in addition to Christian usual suspects like Mike Huckabee, religious Jews like physicist Gerald Schroeder and Rabbi Jonathan Sacks. And as a New Yorker, as a Yalie, as a media guy, Metaxas lives and works with Jews all the time.

Yet Metaxas came out for Trump last month, and has spoken widely of his support since. Metaxas’s cultivated persona—pocket squares are involved—and his demonstrated interest in the well-lived life make him an oddity as a Trump supporter, doubly odd because of his familiarity with Jews. But while most of the Jews I know—even the Republicans—are terrified by Trump, I was curious that, in interviews, Metaxas, in effect a historian of fascism, didn’t seem to perceive a conflict between his Jew-friendliness and his Trump support.

Look, I have known Eric since he was a virtual nobody, and he has always dressed this way. It’s who he is. He’s a dapper, cosmopolitan guy. Oppenheimer’s tarring him as some kind of phony because of his sartorial tastes is just cheap. Besides, the clothes you wear say nothing about your politics. Roger Stone is one of the nattiest dressers in Manhattan, and he’s a hardcore, mischief-making Trumpkin. Oppenheimer’s piece says to me that he sees Eric Metaxas’s support for Trump as a betrayal of his intellectual class. After all, he is, like Oppenheimer, a graduate of Yale and someone who moves within the Manhattan cultural orbit. He is not supposed to endorse someone like Trump. But he has, and that is why this is so personal.

Read the whole thing. Or rather, don’t. It’s a morally shabby piece of writing, one that took an important, fair, and necessary point — that the way certain Christian conservative intellectuals and opinion leaders are supporting Trump is troubling — and turned it into an occasion to denounce a good and decent man, one who doesn’t have even the slightest bit of anti-Semitism in him. In so doing, Oppenheimer has unwittingly made a case that can be seen as backing Christians support of Trump, and regarding Jewish opposition to this as anti-Christian.

At the risk of overexplaining myself, let me make it clear that I am with Oppenheimer in sharing his confusion and frustration that the author of Bonhoeffer is so enthusiastic in his support of Trump. In fact, I may be even feel it more acutely than Oppenheimer because I know how profoundly good Eric is. On the other hand, I recognize that Eric’s steeping himself in the history of the rise of Nazi Germany, and what the Nazis did to churches that refused to obey the dictates of the state, arguably makes him more aware than Oppenheimer of the dangers posed by Hillary Clinton and the militantly secularist Democrats.

The Law of Merited Impossibility — an epistemological construct governing the way the liberal overclass frames the clash between gay rights and religious liberty, as if to say, “What you Christians fear will never happen, and when it does, you bigots will deserve it” — is exactly what this is about. When liberals wanted gay marriage, they denied that it would have any impact whatsoever on religious liberty and the rights of religious traditionalists opposed to same-sex marriage. Now that they have what they want, and we see that in fact LGBT rights clash directly with religious liberty, and that Christians (as well as Muslims and traditional Jews) are going to lose and lose and lose, we are told that we bigots have it coming. That if we would just give up our bigotry, they would leave us alone.

This is shockingly illiberal. Liberals — even religiously observant liberals like Mark Oppenheimer — are so enamored of egalitarianism that they don’t grasp the damage they are doing to religious dissenters, and to religious liberty, a foundational principle of the United States. Eric Metaxas does see this, and he is right to see it, because it is true. 

He believes that electing a flawed man like Donald Trump is a better bet than voting for Hillary Clinton, because we don’t know what Trump is going to do on religious liberty, but we do have a very good idea what Clinton will do — and it’s bad. That is the reasoning that my Christian friends who are voting for Trump offer to justify their votes. I do not share it, but I can respect it.

Where I differ with Eric and conservative Christians like him is in their willingness to overlook Trump’s massive character flaws out of fear of Hillary, and what Trump’s emotionally unstable personality would mean for national security. I agree with some of what Trump is said to stand for — non-interventionism abroad (though I don’t think he means it), and immigration restriction (though I hate the way he frames it), but I stand with the Southern Baptist leader Russell Moore on this:

Jesus taught his disciples to “count the cost” of following him. We should know, he said, where we’re going and what we’re leaving behind. We should also count the cost of following Donald Trump. To do so would mean that we’ve decided to join the other side of the culture war, that image and celebrity and money and power and social Darwinist “winning” trump the conservation of moral principles and a just society. We ought to listen, to get past the boisterous confidence and the television lights and the waving arms and hear just whose speech we’re applauding.

To support Trump, especially to support him with the enthusiasm my friend Eric shows, requires far too much of Christians, in my view. The reason the Trump vs. Clinton contest is so agonizing for many conservative Christians is that we know that if Clinton wins, we are going to suffer serious damage, likely for decades (if Democrats win the Senate and she gets to put liberals on the Supreme Court, and in federal judgeships). But we also know that Donald Trump is a bad man who we would never, ever support if not for fear of what a Clinton presidency would mean for us. Speaking only for myself, I cannot vote for either one. I suppose something might change between now and November, but if I do find myself pulling the lever for either candidate, I will be disgusted with myself, and will feel soiled — more so than the day I, a conservative, voted for the crook Edwin W. Edwards to keep the neo-Nazi David Duke from being elected governor of Louisiana.

Here’s the bottom line: Mark Oppenheimer looks at Trump and asks, “Is he good for the Jews?”, and answers, “Hell no!” Fair enough. But Eric Metaxas looks at Hillary Clinton and asks, “Is she good for the Christians?” and answers, “Hell no!” That too is a legitimate judgment. Is Oppenheimer suggesting that Jews have the right to vote for their own perceived interests, but Christians don’t have the right to vote for their own perceived interests? Surely not, because if that were true, it would embody the worst in Jewish stereotypes.

(Now I have to spend the rest of the day spiking anti-Semitic comments on this blog from alt-rightists. I’ll warn you right now: if you say anything anti-Semitic in your comment, I will send it to spam without even thinking twice about it.)

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Can Christians Afford The Leadership We Have? Mon, 08 Aug 2016 04:54:29 +0000 Ross Douthat reflects on the meaning of the murder of Father Jacques Hamel, the elderly Catholic priest butchered at the altar of his parish church by Islamists. He says that it is possible to say both that Father Jacques was a martyr in the old-fashioned sense, but that it is unwise to make overly broad generalizations about Islam from his killing. But, he goes on, there is a sense in which the barbaric slaughter of Father Jacques challenges the entire sense of normality that people like Pope Francis and other liberals (Catholics and others) wish to pretend were the case. Here’s Douthat:

But our today is not actually quite what 1960s-era Catholicism imagined. The come-of-age church is, in the West, literally a dying church: As the French philosopher Pierre Manent noted, the scene of Father Hamel’s murder — “an almost empty church, two parishioners, three nuns, a very old priest” — vividly illustrates the condition of the faith in Western Europe.

The broader liberal order is also showing signs of strain. The European Union, a great dream when Father Hamel was ordained a priest in 1958, is now a creaking and unpopular bureaucracy, threatened by nationalism from within and struggling to assimilate immigrants from cultures that never made the liberal leap.

The Islam of many of these immigrants is likely to be Europe’s most potent religious force across the next generation, bringing with it an “Islamic exceptionalism” (to borrow the title of Shadi Hamid’s fine new book) that may not fit the existing secular-liberal experiment at all.

Meanwhile the French Catholic future seems like it may belong to a combination of African immigrants and Latin-Mass traditionalists — or else to a religious revival that would likely be nationalist, not liberal, with Joan of Arc as its model, not a modern Jesuit.

This future, God willing, will preserve the late-modern peace. But it promises something more complicated and more dangerous than the liberal imagination, secular and Catholic, envisioned 50 years ago.

Some of the nervousness about calling Father Hamel a holy martyr reflects the limits of that imagination. After all, it would have seemed all but impossible, in the bright optimism of the 1960s, that a young priest of the church of Vatican II should, in his old age, die a martyr’s death in the very heart of Europe.

But it wasn’t, and he did.

Read the whole thing.

Over the weekend, I heard from two different friends, both conservative Catholics. One had been at World Youth Day, and the other reflected on a smaller Catholic gathering. The message both of them had was, “Things are much worse than most people think.” One of the guys said:

I think we orthodox Christians need to realize how alone we are. We need to love this world and the people in it and go to its heart but we have to understand even those who seem to be fellow travelers on the surface aren’t.

I am more and more convinced that Pope Francis is sort of an anti-man for the times. In other words, he’s precisely what we do not need right now. Put differently, he’s exactly what the spirit of the age needs. He is a man so unsuited for his office and for the challenges of the day that it is scary.

Last week I interviewed legal scholars and others about the situation small-o orthodox Christians are going to find ourselves in very soon regarding our ability to keep our schools and institutions open, and to find work in various fields. The news is bad, folks. It’s really bad. I kept hearing these people who work in law saying that pastors have to inform themselves and start preparing their congregations for what’s upon us now. It’s not a joke. Pope Francis-style Christianity — Catholic, Protestant, or Orthodox — is not going to withstand what’s coming. In far too many cases, we small-o orthodox Christians cannot afford the leadership we have. They’re either fighting yesterday’s battles, fighting for the enemy, or not fighting at all, satisfied instead to think everything’s going to be fine if we just sit right here and wait.

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The Right-Wing Media Bubble Sat, 06 Aug 2016 15:33:08 +0000 In a different thread, a reader remarked to a Trump fan:

The conservative media bubble is giving people on the right a distorted sense of reality. I keep hearing conservatives praying that Wikileaks will finally reveal something devastating about Hillary Clinton, but it’s clear to me that more people are willing to hold their noses and vote for Clinton than for Trump. That’s just how it’s going to go, and all the populist anger in the world isn’t going to change it much.

I don’t know about that, because I don’t pay much attention to the ideological media. Well, scratch that, if you pay attention to the media at all, you are facing an ideology. The most infuriating part of the the liberalism of the mainstream media is that they cloak it from themselves. Anyway, point here is that I don’t spend much time inside the “conservative media bubble,” so I don’t know the extent to which the reader’s claim is true.

But it does give me a reason to post conservative writer and sometime TAC contributor Matthew Sheffield’s recent piece about how the conservative media has brought conservatives to this miserable place in which we find ourselves. Using a wallop of data, Sheffield shows that yes, the mainstream media is very powerful and quite biased to the left. No surprise there, at least not for conservatives. But he also shows that the conservative media is much smaller and weaker than many conservatives think. What’s more, the habits and practices of conservative media serve to tell its audience what it wants to hear, which often results in a false picture of the world — a false picture that has real-life impact. The fact that Donald Trump is the Republican nominee this year, and that the GOP Establishment class didn’t see him coming, is the leading example. Sheffield:

[T]he Right’s media monoculture has created negative feedback loops whereby people with little political acumen like Mark Levin, Michael Savage, and Glenn Beck are able to fill Republican voters’ heads with nonsensical ideas like planning to shut down the government with no backup plan or electing fewer GOP officeholders in pursuit of more “pure” ones, primarily because they grossly overestimate the number of conservatives in America. It is poetic justice that many of the same people who pushed these naive positions and strategies saw their own imbecilic noise machine turned against their preferred presidential candidate, Ted Cruz, in this year’s Republican primaries.

More center-right media outlets could also have been able to detect that the GOP’s economically libertarian message has little to no popularity among average Americans. Since these journalistic structures did not exist, however, the popularity of Donald Trump’s abandonment of that orthodoxy took the Republican elite completely by surprise. It shouldn’t have.

News institutions also serve a very valuable role for the left in providing a place for people who have similar values to remain connected to the larger movement while still maintaining the independence from parties and advocacy groups that they desire. Due to conservatives’ current willingness to spend only on elections and think tanks, people who lean rightward but do not like partisan politics have nowhere to go.

Conservatives and America as a whole are poorer intellectually because of this. While center-right individuals might not always fall in line for a policy battle, having large numbers of journalists who are willing to be skeptical of all sides would be a very good thing as both Left and Right need close scrutiny. Republican elites are now paying the price for refusing to subject the consultants who advise them to the skepticism they deserved.

The seeming success of Fox News and talk radio has made many conservatives think they now have a massive media empire. In truth, they have constructed an intellectual ghetto that no one else wants to visit.

Read the whole thing.

It is demonstrably true that many Americans — conservative and liberal both — have had no understanding why Trump appeals to massive numbers of their fellow citizens. We know that now. Boy, do we. Back in February, as a thought experiment, I posted “A Social Conservative Case For Donald Trump,” putting forth a brief argument for why social conservatives may believe a vote for Trump is justified. You would have thought I had put a Lucifer For President sign in my yard by the way some conservatives reacted. I plainly wasn’t endorsing Trump (you will never see a TAC writer endorse a candidate on this site), but trying to get inside the head of social conservatives who were considering voting for him. Even that was intolerable to some on the Right. The refusal to attempt to empathize is part of why we have Trump today. The thinking was: If Trump is popular with GOP primary voters, then many of the things we Republicans think are true about conservatism in America are not true. Therefore, Trump’s popularity must be ephemeral.

Then Trump said, “Ha!”

That said, Trump boosters are now in a similar situation regarding their candidate versus Hillary. Many of them cannot see why any conservative would find Trump’s behavior over the past 10 days or so revealing of personality characteristics they fear in a president. It’s as if Trump really could do anything, and people would vote for him, because he’s Not Hillary. There are tens of millions of people like that in America, but not enough to give Trump a victory in November. I encourage my fellow conservatives who have declared for Trump to consider whether or not they have created the same pro-Trump epistemic bubble for themselves that the anti-Trump GOP Establishment created for itself. Polls show that most Americans do not trust Hillary Clinton. But I don’t think most Americans regard her as so beyond-the-pale horrible that it justifies voting for someone as unstable and weird as Donald Trump.

Somebody on the Left, can’t remember who, came up with this sardonic and insightful line to describe the mental habits of Republicans: “Conservatism cannot fail; it can only be failed.” This is how the ideological mind works. Losses mean that we have failed to be sufficiently pure in our beliefs, or to work hard enough to articulate them persuasively. It rarely if ever occurs to the ideological mind that maybe those beliefs are wrong, or at least not persuasive to others for reasons having nothing to do with the quality of the case made for them or the character of those making the case.

Among my tribe — conservative Christians — we are faced with bitter-enders who believe against the evidence that America Can Be Reclaimed For Christ if only we double down on what we’ve been doing, and get more Republicans elected. It’s simply untrue. I mean, we can never say that America cannot be converted; that’s not what I mean. What I mean is that many of us do not have a realistic sense of who we are, what America has become, and the distance between those two things. A Lutheran pastor wrote me this week to encourage me about the Benedict Option, and to say that he struggles to get his congregation to understand the world that we’re all living in now, and the one that we are soon going to be living in. They prefer their comfortable illusions to unsettling truths.

We all do. It’s human nature. But we have to try all the time to discern what we are missing. We all have ideals, but if we want to have a realistic hope of seeing those ideals achieved, we have to start with a clear understanding of the world as it is, not as we would like it to be.

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NYT Best-Selling Author J.D. Vance Sat, 06 Aug 2016 03:15:30 +0000 The New York Times list]]> Screen shot

Screen shot

That’s a screen shot of the latest New York Times Bestseller List (Hardcover Fiction). Mr. J.D. Vance debuts on the list at No. 9. Woo-hoo!

If you haven’t read the interview yet, here it is. Thanks again to Surly Temple for her part in making this happen for him. It’s great when good guys win, for once.

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The Closing Of Trump’s Door Fri, 05 Aug 2016 17:07:54 +0000 Elsewhere on TAC, Pat Buchanan insists that Trump still has a path to victory this fall. Excerpt:

In August 1964, Barry was 36 points behind LBJ. As of today, Trump is 10 points behind Clinton. From Harry Truman to George H.W. Bush, many presidential candidates have been able to close a 10-point gap and win.

What does Trump need to do? In the words of Dr. Martin Luther King, “Keep your eyes on the prize”—the presidency. And between Trump and the presidency today stands not Paul Ryan, but Hillary Clinton.

The Donald, his campaign, and the party need to cease attacking one another to the elation of a hostile media, and redirect all their fire on the sole obstacle between them and a Republican sweep.

Nor is it all that complex or difficult a task.

Buchanan is right, but he’s also too late. Trump has spent the last week or two demonstrating to everyone that he has no self-discipline, even when the presidency is on the line. Peggy Noonan writes the obit for a suicidal campaign. Excerpts:

All the damage done to him this week was self-inflicted. The arrows he’s taken are arrows he shot. We have in seven days witnessed his undignified and ungrateful reaction to a Gold Star family; the odd moment with the crying baby; the one-on-one interviews, which are starting to look like something he does in the grip of a compulsion, in which Mr. Trump expresses himself thoughtlessly, carelessly, on such issues as Russia, Ukraine and sexual harassment; the relitigating of his vulgar Megyn Kelly comments from a year ago; and, as his fortunes fell, his statement that he “would not be surprised” if the November election were “rigged.” Subject to an unprecedented assault by a sitting president who called him intellectually and characterologically unfit for the presidency, Mr Trump fired back—at Paul Ryan and John McCain.

The mad scatterbrained-ness of it was captured in a Washington Post interview with Philip Rucker in which five times by my count—again, the compulsion—Mr. Trump departed the meat of the interview to turn his head and stare at the television. On seeing himself on the screen: “Lot of energy. We got a lot of energy.” Minutes later: “Look at this. It’s all Trump all day long. That’s why their ratings are through the roof.” He’s all about screens, like a toddler hooked on iPad.

Mr. Trump spent all his time doing these things instead of doing his job: making the case for his policies, expanding on his stands, and taking the battle to Hillary Clinton.


Here is a truth of life. When you act as if you’re insane, people are liable to think you’re insane. That’s what happened this week. People started to become convinced he was nuts, a total flake. … This is what became obvious, probably fatally so: Mr. Trump is not going to get serious about running for president. He does not have a second act, there are no hidden depths, there will be no “pivot.” It is not that he is willful or stubborn, though he may be, it’s that he doesn’t have the skill set needed now—discretion, carefulness, generosity, judgment.

Meanwhile, says Noonan, Hillary continues her public mendacity. Republicans ought to be mopping the floor with her right now. Instead, they’re stuck with this narcissistic head case called Trump. Read the whole thing.

Serious question for the room: is there anything Trump can do to turn this around? I mean, yeah, there might be some things he can do on paper to refocus his campaign, but it’s agonizingly obvious that he does not have what it takes inside him to win this thing. You can’t fix crazy. Trump can’t keep his eyes on the prize because he can’t keep his eyes off of TV, and his own self-image. The question now is whether or not the GOP can save the House and/or the Senate.

And the question to come is, Can populism survive Trump’s implosion? That is, which aspects of the Trump agenda — immigration restriction, non-intervention, economic populism — can be salvaged and made part of the GOP, and how?

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Why Liberals Love ‘Hillbilly Elegy’ Fri, 05 Aug 2016 16:24:54 +0000 My friend Matt Sitman tweets:

Yes, but the more interesting question, at least to me, is why so many liberals like it — or at least why they are writing to me in droves saying how the interview J.D. Vance did with me deeply resonated with them, and inspired them to buy the book. (By the way, that interview was published two weeks ago today, and it’s still drawing so much web traffic to this site that our servers are struggling to handle it.) I’ll give you a sample below of the kind of correspondence I’m getting (with a couple of tweaks to protect privacy). There’s lots of it just like these below:

Mr. Dreher, this article was fantastic.

I grew up in rural Alabama, proudly declared myself “politically somewhere to the right of Attila the Hun”, and enlisted when I was 17. I had a difficult time getting out at 23 years old, several states away from my family, with a grownup’s bills to pay but an MOS that didn’t match the career I was suited for or needed as a civilian. I spent the next several years desperately poor but “self-sufficient” – as far as I knew, anyway.

In reality, of course, I had zero understanding of how taxes work. I saw about a 28% bite taken out of my paycheck, and didn’t understand that FICA/SS didn’t ultimately go to anybody but me, myself, and I, and that I wasn’t actually paying any income tax. I also had heard of but didn’t really understand or care about things like “every federal tax dollar that leaves SC has three federal tax dollars pass by it coming in.”

Truth be told, I wasn’t just unaware, I actively disbelieved that I wasn’t “self sufficient” at all, and I naively thought that I was paying for the “welfare” that the tiny, tiny portion of the population “poorer than me” was getting. I was also completely unaware that I was “desperately poor” at all. I was making $6/hr and I thought I was middle class! I knew people who made $10/hr, and I thought they were on the low end of upper class!
Eventually I made a real career for myself, started my own business, and spent less time scratching and kicking and fighting just to stay alive. The more time and resources I had, the more I learned about how the world, and politics, worked, and the more progressive I became. I am not, today, someone who would normally read articles from a site called “American Conservative”.

But I read yours, and I’m glad I did. What you and J.D. Vance had to say in that article are exactly what I want to hear from the conservative wing of American politics. Speaking candidly, I’m unlikely to be a “conservative” again – I’m a progressive, and likely to stay that way. But what you and Vance said was thoughtful, and reasonable, and – like I try to very publicly be myself, having “been there and done that” – understanding of the realities of the working poor. It’s the real and sensible ballast that even the best of real and sensible balloons (if you’ll permit the analogy between conservative and progressive, and we can both agree to handwave away the fact that the current DNC is neither as real or as sensible as it should be) needs.

That’s probably way too much to slog through, but seriously: thank you.

Another one:

I thoroughly enjoyed this article! The conversation is not one that I have witnessed anyone else having. It is so easy to dismiss people as racist without ever considering from where their views and positions are derived. I am certainly going to read Hillbilly Elegy and look forward to reading more of your articles, By the way I am black, liberal, I most often vote Democrat and I don’t like Trump (for Reasons too high in number to state). I enjoy intelligent conversation and debate and have learned to carefully listen to and understand those who I may disagree with, so I might be educated fully on the issue not just entrenched in my beliefs.

Thank you for a refreshing read in a sea partisan sludge.

Another one, this from a reader who mistakenly believed that J.D. Vance’s experiences were mine. Still, his letter is fascinating:

I wandered in on this article today… and couldn’t stop reading. I’m Californian, a progressive and a Sanders supporter, a former Nader supporter, a former UAW organizer, currently a medical
devices engineer in [state], and have a Ph.D. in engineering. I grew up in a town 5 miles north of the Mexican border in south San Diego, and grew up among Mexican immigrants, many of whom were undocumented… they were my neighbors, my friends, my elders. I myself am an immigrant, came here as a kid with my parents, who were liberals who wanted something better than that right-wing dictatorship in [another country].

But I did grow up around the poverty line. My parents fought hard to
stay out of welfare, to stay together, and to teach us the value of
work. At 43, I have always worked since I was 14, and have always
associated these traits with working-class liberal values… and was
quite surprised many election cycles ago to hear silver-spooned class enemies in the GOP pick that up. What did these bastards know about real work? But it also pains me to see the elites, especially the East Coast elites, take over the Democratic Party.

I’m sorry to hear about your experiences at Yale Law. And I’m glad that I didn’t go to a private school, or a school in the East Coast. After moving to [my current state] 3 years ago I’ve found that liberals “out east” (east of the Sierra Nevadas) seem to come from privilege, are more dogmatic, disconnected from the working class, and can be super competitive and vindictive. I even remember starting out as an undergrad and scholarship kid at UC San Diego, how I felt the sting of class. I felt disconnected culturally from the liberals. It wasn’t until friends from high school began shipping back from Desert Storm all crazy and screwed up that I found common cause with these liberals.

As with the folks of Appalachia (I was a member of the Southern Baptist Church… it was a big military town), the defense of our neighborhoods was also paramount to us. What south San Diegans were seeing during the 90s was an entire generation deployed to guard oil fields in Iraq while the princelings of Kuwait lived it up in night clubs, and folks in Sacramento setting up laws that attack immigrants as a cheap shot to get elected. Everything was fine at the border until these demagogues (Republicans in this case) started showing up in our town in staged photo-ops.

Trump does have that appeal of at least pretending to listen to the
broken and forgotten. But just as we were about to forget the vengeance we swore against those who hurt our town, Trump comes by and reopens all the wounds, reminding us that while we might hold some conservative values, Republicans will always see us as sub-human.

I do think dialog and empathy are something of a short supply in
American politics today. The neoliberal policies and unfair trade pacts supported by both parties have been crushing our respective beloved hometowns. And we have a lot more in common than what these entrenched political entities say that we do. I’ve read “Rivethead” and “Deer Hunting with Jesus” and felt this familiarity. I will look for your book.

And here’s another one:

I just wanted to write and tell you that I was fascinated by your interview with the author JD Vance, and I speak as a socialist, agnostic, gay white male who’s never voted Republican in all his years! As a lifelong resident of the suburbs of Houston, Texas, it’s long occurred to me how insulated I am from the struggles of poor and working-class folks today; however my family started out poor, with my parents divorcing when I was six. Luckily our mother was strong enough to help us make it out of the hole by excelling in her profession as a nurse. I remember her telling me that in the days when my sister and I were very young, for Christmas she’d spend $20 on each of us at the dollar store, and she always hoped that we enjoyed our presents. That made me love my mom so much more, and I realized how lucky we’d been to have her, given how things might have turned out. In Houston as you probably know there is a staggering number of people of every imaginable type, and my school years were spent among kids from every walk of life, of every ethnicity and persuasion you can imagine. As an outsider myself, being gay and openly agnostic in an environment where neither was considered acceptable (high school was in the late 90s), I can identify with the feeling of seeming hopelessness, isolation, and fear for the future that Mr Vance describes, though certainly on a different level and for different reasons. I also feel a greater understanding now of the appeal of Trump to certain strata within our society…along with a renewed sense of how dangerous he really is to all of us (not to mention the rest of the world)! I would like to feel as hopeful for the future as Mr Vance seems to, but I’m afraid that until November (though hopefully not after!) I’ll be suffering a case of non-stop indigestion. Maybe we could all use a touch of that hillbilly idealism in our lives.

Anyway, that’s enough rambling out of me. Cheers for an excellent interview, and congratulations for gaining a new reader of the blue persuasion!

I could go on and on. I’m getting so many e-mails like these above that I can’t begin to respond to them all. I’m passing every one of them on to J.D. Vance, though. Interestingly, if I’ve received a single e-mail from a conservative about the interview, I can’t remember it.

I’m genuinely surprised and grateful for all these generous e-mails, and I’m sure J.D. is too. What I find so hopeful about it is that someone has finally found a voice with which to talk substantively about an important economic and cultural issue, but without antagonizing the other side. JDV identifies as a conservative, but his story challenges right-wing free-market pieties. And I’ve gotten plenty of e-mails from liberals who either come from poverty or who work with poor people for a living, who praise JDV’s points about the poor needing to understand that whatever structural problems they face, they retain moral agency.

What do you think, readers? Do you think the runaway success of Hillbilly Elegy, and the powerfully positive response from liberals to a book about class written by a conservative, bodes well for the possibility of constructive engagement around issues of class and poverty? To be sure, I’ve received a handful of letters from angry liberal readers who reject the idea that there’s anything wrong with poor and working class white people that government action can’t solve. I believe, and so does J.D., that government really does have a meaningful role to play in ameliorating the problems of the poor. But there will never be a government program capable of compensating for the loss of stable family structures, the loss of community, the loss of a sense of moral agency, and the loss of a sense of meaning in the lives of the poor. The solution, insofar as there is a “solution,” is not an either-or (that is, either culture or government), but a both-and. From a Washington Post review of the book:

The wounds are partly self-inflicted. The working class, he argues, has lost its sense of agency and taste for hard work. In one illuminating anecdote, he writes about his summer job at the local tile factory, lugging 60-pound pallets around. It paid $13 an hour with good benefits and opportunities for advancement. A full-time employee could earn a salary well above the poverty line.

That should have made the gig an easy sell. Yet the factory’s owner had trouble filling jobs. During Vance’s summer stint, three people left, including a man he calls Bob, a 19-year-old with a pregnant girlfriend. Bob was chronically late to work, when he showed up at all. He frequently took 45-minute bathroom breaks. Still, when he got fired, he raged against the managers who did it, refusing to acknowledge the impact of his own bad choices.

“He thought something had been done to him,” Vance writes. “There is a lack of agency here — a feeling that you have little control over your life and a willingness to blame everyone but yourself.”

Perhaps Vance’s key to success is a simple one: that he just powered through his difficulties instead of giving up or blaming someone else.

“I believe we hillbillies are the toughest god—-ed people on this earth,” he concludes. “But are we tough enough to look ourselves in the mirror and admit that our conduct harms our children? Public policy can help, but there is no government that can fix these problems for us. . . . I don’t know what the answer is precisely, but I know it starts when we stop blaming Obama or Bush or faceless companies and ask ourselves what we can do to make things better.”

The loss of industrial jobs plays a big role in the catastrophe. J.D. Vance acknowledges that plainly in his book. But it’s not the whole story. Anybody who comes to Hillbilly Elegy thinking that it’s going to tell a story that affirms the pre-conceived beliefs of mainstream conservatives or liberals is going to be surprised and challenged — in a good way.

By the way, the viral nature of the TAC interview with J.D. Vance has pushed Hillbilly Elegy onto the bestseller list (more details of which will be available shortly). It’s No. 4 on Amazon’s own list as of this morning. They can barely keep enough in stock. It really is that good, folks. All this success could not have happened to a nicer man. Credit for this spark goes to reader Surly Temple, who gave me my copy of Hillbilly Elegy.

UPDATE: A reader writes to point out:

The Washington Post review you quote states, Perhaps Vance’s key to success is a simple one: that he just powered through his difficulties instead of giving up or blaming someone else.” I think that misses the point of the book. J.D. fully acknowledges the importance of his Mamaw, Marine Corps drill instructors, and wife in changing his outcomes.

My takeaway from the book is that we can help these communities and people, but not from a distance. It takes unconditional, sacrificial love.

He’s right about that, and I shouldn’t have posted that WaPo review without commenting. JDV openly credits his Mamaw and the Marine Corps with making him the man he is today. He does not claim he got there entirely on his own, by bootstrapping it.

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Benedict Option Countries Fri, 05 Aug 2016 13:52:03 +0000 I’ve spent the last two days interviewing religious liberty litigators, law professors, and corporate officers about the present and emerging professional and economic environment for small-o orthodox Christians — this, for the Work chapter of my forthcoming Benedict Option book (now to be published in mid-March, in case you hadn’t heard). I’m going to hold this information for publication, but I want to let you know right now that the future for orthodox Christians on this front is much worse than most people understand. I thought I had a pretty good handle on how bad it was going to get, but even I learned some things that shook me up.

I now see how prophetic and absolutely dead-on the Law of Merited Impossibility was. When I think back ten, fifteen years ago, about how the gay marriage campaign was really gathering steam, and just about everybody said, “I can’t see how my gay neighbors’ marriage affects me,” people like me pointed to the network of civil rights laws, and how same-sex marriage would have a profound and wide-ranging effect. Very few people believed it. Thought we were scaremongers. And of course the news media had no interest at all in exploring this topic, because if ordinary people knew what was coming, they would have been much less willing to jump on the bandwagon.

This is when I came up with the Law of Merited Impossibility, which states, “It will never happen, and when it does, you bigots will deserve it.” This was to state succinctly the deceptive strategy that progressives undertook to get gay marriage passed. They dismissed the warnings of people like me as nothing but Henny-Penny nonsense. It was clear to any of us conservatives who have spent any time with this issue that when these things actually came to pass, the progressives would justify them by saying that bigots like us deserved whatever we got.

And now it’s happening. Believe me, you ain’t seen nothin’ yet.

I’ve been getting a few e-mails from readers asking what I think about the possibility that in the future, the situation will become so intolerable for orthodox Christians that some of us will want to emigrate. Me, I find it hard to think of a situation in which it would be so bad that I would leave my native country, but then again, I learned things these past two days that I had not anticipated, even though I’m always expecting the worst on this front. I decided this morning to post a couple of these reader e-mails to stimulate discussion. The first comes from a law student in the UK, who says:

You often write about how Europe (or at any rate, Western Europe) is a generation further down the degeneracy route.

However, there are exceptions. The European Microstates: (Andorra, Liechtenstein, Malta, Monaco and San Marino – I leave the Vatican out).

In all these countries abortion is only allowed to save the life of the mother (Monaco is an exception and in 2009 legalised it for the “hard cases”: rape, incest, serious foetal defect). None of them have same sex marriage (though some have domestic partnerships open to all). Malta only allowed divorce in 2011 (the referendum was 53% in favour the change – picture that: only 53% of the population wanted divorce to be allowed). None of them have euthanasia.

These countries have done rather well at resisting “social progress”. In all of these countries the Catholic Church has a great influence and the mass attendance rates are high. Monaco and Liechtenstein have catholicism as their State religion and the monarchs there do retain some power. When they had a referendum on abortion the Prince of Liechtenstein said he would veto any relaxation of the ban on abortion. He also said that if the European Court of Human Rights held that they had to allow same sex adoption, he would just ignore the ruling.

I was wondering if they could be seen as a model for what a BenOp could look like (or indeed if the BenOp could consist of just moving there).

I was wondering if the size of those countries might also be a factor in explaining the difficulty of progressivism there. In a very small country where everyone knows everyone else, people can have a genuine experience of communities. This might make liberal individualism less appealing.

Great post. I’m sure these microstates would not welcome immigration, and I don’t blame them one bit for that. Nevertheless, does this e-mail inspire any creative thoughts, readers?

The second one is not an e-mail, but a comment from another UK reader, writing on the thread in which I invited conservative Christians who live outside the US to talk about their situation locally. The writer’s name is Lukasz:

Despite the fact the the invitation to share experiences was extended to those living in the countries rather obsessed with leftist cultural revolution, I’d like to write about something more hopeful.

I come from Catholic Poland, but I myself am an Orthodox Christian and currently I live in UK. Nevertheless, I am very much in touch with what’s going on in my country and in many aspects these things seem to be the opposite of the changes in other Western countries. Young Poles are much more conservative than their parents and grandparents, turning to Church and faith for the meaning of live. And it very much influences our politics. Last year parliamentary elections resulted in a conservative party coming to power, but that’s not even the most important result: because of ever younger generations voting this was the first time in modern history of Poland that the leftist parties, largely descended from former communist establishment, didn’t make it into the parliament at all!

The liberal media that dominate our media market are increasingly judged as manipulative and propagandistic by the society and there are lots of grass-roots initiatives aiming at providing more balanced journalism. Soon a citizens’ project (supported by over a million of citizens in 38 million Poland) of a more strict abortion law will be discussed in our parliament and there is a great pressure on the conservative government to vote in its favor (the new regulation would outlaw abortion entirely leaving only the freedom to save mother’s life if it’s directly threatened by the child). Same-sex marriage is out of the question. At the same time although the new government likes to present itself as Catholic and the officials often attend public religious events, the Church seems to have taken a much more humble stance securing it from being accused of directly influencing the government. And the Church slowly transforms from the organization ruled top-down, to a grass root movement with strong initiative of laypersons.

Overall, there’s hope, guys, not everything everywhere undergoes degeneration. And it hasn’t been so obvious 10-15 years ago that Poland will look like that today.

This raises some interesting questions. Poland is an outlier in its religiosity and cultural conservatism (and God bless Poland), but in general, the eastern European countries, despite their relative godlessness, have been less willing to go along with western-style multiculturalism and instituting in law the LGBT agenda. They are also facing population decline, like all the other countries within the territories of what we used to call Christendom.

Do you see it as possible that these nations — Poland, Hungary, the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Bulgaria, Serbia, Romania, etc. — would be willing to accept conservative Christian migrants from the US and Western Europe? I would think at this point it would be a very hard sell — I certainly wouldn’t uproot my family and move to such a foreign region — but who knows what conditions will look like in 20 years? What could these countries do to make themselves more attractive, economically and otherwise, to English-speaking Western Christians?
What could they do to make themselves more attractive to you and your family as a place to settle? Well-educated, prosperous Western Christians who speak English as a first language may have a lot to offer those nations who would welcome them.

America is my country. I love it, and find it all but impossible to consider leaving it permanently. But my faith matters much more to me than my country, and if my country were ever to become a persecutor, then I would have to face the possibility of leaving it for a land where my family and I could worship and live freely. My fear is that if things ever got so bad in the United States that conservative Christians felt compelled to emigrate for religious liberty reasons, they would be much, much worse in any feasible alternative.

Note well: for this thread, I’m not going to post comments from readers who have nothing but criticism for the idea, or rather, whose criticism comes from a progressive point of view. I’m genuinely interested, personally and professionally, in what readers have to say about the idea. I’m personally skeptical, simply on the grounds of historical prudence. A reader wrote the other day to suggest that Orthodox Russia might be a good place for us Orthodox Christians to end up one day. Me, I can’t imagine that, because of the experience of idealistic American Communists who emigrated there in the early 1920s to build socialism, and found themselves living a nightmare. Aside from the language barrier, there isn’t enough stability in Russia to make it a realistic opportunity for people like me. Maybe this is true for central and eastern Europe too, I don’t know. You tell me. Let’s have this thought experiment.

Oh, and readers, I know many of you continue to experience difficulties posting. Would you believe that two weeks after it first appeared, the interview I did with J.D. Vance continues to draw record page views? Our servers are struggling to handle all the traffic. Many people who have never had their comments go to spam are experiencing this. We are doing all we can to fix things, but we’ve never had to deal with anything like this, and it’s hard. It’s a good problem to have, I guess, but very inconvenient for you. Thanks for your patience.

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Christian-Run Agency Embraces Pig-Man Thu, 04 Aug 2016 15:53:12 +0000 How far gone are we as a culture and civilization? This far:

The federal government announced plans Thursday to lift a moratorium on funding of certain controversial experiments that use human stem cells to create animal embryos that are partly human.

The National Institutes of Health is proposing a new policy to permit scientists to get federal money to make embryos, known as chimeras, under certain carefully monitored conditions.

The NIH imposed a moratorium on funding these experiments in September because they could raise ethical concerns.

One issue is that scientists might inadvertently create animals that have partly human brains, endowing them with some semblance of human consciousness or human thinking abilities. Another is that they could develop into animals with human sperm and eggs and breed, producing human embryos or fetuses inside animals or hybrid creatures.

That report may be a little premature. In a blog post, the NIH says it is opening up public comment on lifting its public funding ban. It’s pretty clear that this is just a prelude to something that’s a fait accompli. Besides, who is going to stand in the way of Science™ over a trivial matter like basic human dignity?

The director of the National Institutes for Health is Francis Collins, a geneticist and Evangelical Christian. On his watch, the NIH is going to create living creatures that are part human, part animal.

Do you understand how far this stuff is going? Here’s a piece that journalist Will Saletan wrote for The Washington Post in 2007(!). Excerpt:

To make humanized animals really creepy, you’d have to do several things. You’d increase the ratio of human to animal DNA. You’d transplant human cells that spread throughout the body. You’d do it early in embryonic development, so the human cells would shape the animals’ architecture, not just blend in. You’d grow the embryos to maturity. And you’d start messing with the brain.

We’re doing all of these things.

According to the British academy’s report, “researchers have constructed ever more ambitious transgenic animals” — some with an entire human chromosome — and it’s “likely that the process of engineering ever larger amounts of human DNA into mice will continue.” We’re transplanting pluripotent stem cells, which proliferate and grow many kinds of human tissue. We’re doing it early in mouse embryogenesis, and we’re implanting the resulting embryos in “foster mice” so they can develop.

We’re not doing these things because they’re creepy. We’re doing them because they’re logical. The more you humanize animals, the better they serve their purpose as lab models of humanity. That’s what’s scary about species mixing. It’s not some crazy Frankenstein project. It’s the future of medicine.

Back in the year 2000 — which seems ten lifetimes ago — Jody Bottum responded to news that British scientists had created a pig-human chimera. Excerpt:

It used to be that even the imagination of this sort of thing existed only to underscore a moral in a story. When our ancestors heard of Vlad the Impaler’s wife bathing in the blood of slaughtered virgins to keep herself beautiful, they were certain it was a bad thing. When they were told fairy tales of an old crone fattening children to suck the health from them, they knew which side they were supposed to take. When they read of Dorian Gray’s purchase of eternal youth, they understood that the price he paid was his soul.

But we live at a moment in which British newspapers can report on 19 families who have created test-tube babies solely for the purpose of serving as tissue donors for their relatives — some brought to birth, some merely harvested as embryos and fetuses. A moment in which Harper’s Bazaar can advise women to keep their faces unwrinkled by having themselves injected with fat culled from human cadavers. A moment in which the Australian philosopher Peter Singer can receive a chair at Princeton University for advocating the destruction of infants after birth if their lives are likely to be a burden. A moment in which the brains of late-term aborted babies can be vacuumed out and gleaned for stem cells.

In the midst of all this, the creation of a human-pig arrives like a thing expected. We have reached the logical end, at last. We have become the people that, once upon a time, our ancestors used fairy tales to warn their children against — and we will reap exactly the consequences those tales foretold.

You think Trump is going to stop this, Christian? Dream on. If Dr. Francis Collins, a believing Evangelical, won’t stop it, or resign his position over his inability to stop it, and if the American public is ho-hum about it, or even excited, because maybe the research will get us ever closer to Utopia — what makes you think your vote this fall makes a difference?

Signs of the times, my friends. Read them, and prepare. We are a perverse and wicked generation who deserves what we are going to get.

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‘The Stalingrad Of Irish Catholicism’ Thu, 04 Aug 2016 00:00:17 +0000 Michael Brendan Dougherty bait! Last week I had a post in which I asked conservative Christians who live outside of the US to talk about what the situation is like in their country. This fascinating comment just came in from a reader in Ireland.

I’m not a Christian but I am an ally.

The situation in (Republic of) Ireland is mixed for Christians. The process of secularisation and the discrediting of the church is perhaps familiar to many around the world but the difference in Ireland is the speed by which it happened. As late as 1995 divorce was not allowed and it was only barely legalised in a referendum. The aggressiveness of the left shifted into higher gear following the financial crisis. The labour party came to power and to balance its support for austerity it has forced the government to be aggressively anti-catholic. I didn’t see this coming before the 2011 election when they came to power but it’s important to understand that we in Ireland and the UK are heavily influenced by American politics. Whatever political fads the american left thinks up spread like a virus here eventually. For example the media increasingly uses the word undocumented to describe illegal immigrants and we’re told we have a rape culture in our universities.

Whenever the government faced a choice it sided against the Church. It closed the Vatican embassy and singled out Catholic service organisations such as the marriage organisation accord for cuts. The pretext was austerity but given its lavish funding for secular left organisations this is nonsense and understood to be nonsense.
The other major agenda is schools and hospitals. Most schools and hospitals in Ireland are church organised. In hospitals this has minimal consequence and schools rarely have clergy as staff members. The government goal was to secularise half the Catholic schools.

The interesting thing has been the response. The closure of the Vatican embassy and prime minister Enda Kenny’s (he leads a David Cameron type centre-right party that is in coalition with Labour) hysterical damnation of the church’s response to the child abuse investigation clearly meant they were further than their voters. The Vatican embassy was re-opened in 2014 when money was still tight. There school agenda has also largely hit the buffers. They have made barely any progress secularising schools because of parental opposition. I think this cost the centre right votes but there has been no significant organised pushback. The election in 2016 led to the collapse of the Labour party (yippee) and the new minority centre right seems to be changing tack. Instead of secularising schools they are trying to de-catholicize Catholic schools. I think they will be more successful here. This is where Irish people are. Less religion but not none (yet).

A gay marriage referendum in 2015 was one cry-bully extravaganza but in reality a side-show. Abortion is where the action is. The Irish establishment dearly wants legal abortion. They view the right to life as an embarrassment and a symbol of catholicism. This is the Stalingrad of Irish catholicism. There will likely be a referendum in the next few years. If the religious segment win and enter the political process more assertively thereafter there is a real chance Ireland will not go the way of the rest of Europe. I go to two masses a year when members of my family are commemorated and it doesn’t skew radically older than the rest of the population and the pews are reasonably full but there is a dire shortage of priests. My mother who is a regular at mass says people start to go again when they have kids(a sure sign of vitality). We have touches of the human rights culture but their progress is patchy and the same people who would gladly legalise abortion are turning against them because of their increasingly strident economic leftism. Ordinary people do not think less of people for their faithfulness so I think this is a major plus for Ireland relative to peer countries.

In Northern Ireland the peace agreement was used by the UK labour government as an excuse to use NI as a guinea pig for every left wing rights culture that can be thought of. But religious society nonetheless is stronger there than in GB or ROI. I suspect Derry to be the most religious christian city in Europe.

By the way, Michael Brendan Dougherty, the Catholic trad and noted Hibernophile, has been tweeting insightfully but dyspeptically about the old sod today. For example:

UPDATE: I’m moving this post to the main page to showcase Irenist’s great comment below. For the record, I’ve met him, and he’s an Irish (American) Catholic:

Everything MBD has tweeted on this has been 100% correct.

I don’t know if the inevitable abortion referendum will legalize it. But if not this time, then another referendum eventually will. Ireland is, for the foreseeable future, almost entirely lost to the Faith. Irish Catholicism is as terminally ill as Episcopalianism.


All that’s sad. What’s it mean for us American Christians? Maybe this:

Irish Catholicism was persecuted for centuries, and the Irish nobility and professional class was hollowed out by discriminatory laws and land confiscations. Many Irish reacted by rallying round an insular (as it were) pseudo-aristocracy of clericalism.

When the Irish nation attained a state, the Irish Constitution and statutes were largely written in line with Catholic social teaching. Ireland came to combine pro-life values and a relatively generous social welfare state in a way that would leave American seamless garment Catholics jealous.

While all this was happening, clericalism, corruption, complacency, xenophobia, Jansenism, puritanism, and pederasty devoured the Irish Church from within like cancers.

IOW, Irish Catholicism was repressed, which led the Irish to idealize and idolize it. This in turn led to clericalist corruption.

So here we stand at the beginning of the BenOp moment in American Christianity. We are about to be more repressed than we’re used to, and we are in danger of reacting by idealizing our counter-cultural enclaves and institutions, and idolizing the leaders of them.

A kind of “patriotism” for the Church is natural and healthy. But the Irish, reacting against the Brits, fell into a kind of “jingoism” for the Church. If we led SJWs (or whomever) goad us into a jingoism for our BenOp communities, we will be, as the Irish Church is now, on the road to annihilation.

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Trump Nukes Himself Wed, 03 Aug 2016 21:39:47 +0000 Did you see Gen. Michael Hayden’s interview on Morning Joe this a.m.?  In it, the former director of the CIA and the NSA talks in general about nuclear command and the presidency, emphasizing that the system is built for speed, not for deliberation. Message: you had better be able to trust the judgment of the Commander in Chief. 

Here’s the interview:

Go to the 6:00 mark in it. Harold Ford asks Gen. Hayden which of the national security experts he knows and trusts is advising Trump. Hayden’s simple answer: “No one.”

Think about it: the retired four-star general who ran the CIA and the NSA, and who surely knows everybody worth knowing in the national security field, can’t think of a single person he respects who is advising Trump.

At that, Joe Scarborough looked taken aback. Then he said, “A foreign policy expert on the international level went to advise Donald Trump.” He chose his words very, very carefully, plainly trying to protect the expert’s privacy. Scarborough said that three times in this one-hour briefing, Trump asked about nuclear weapons. Trump reportedly asked, “If we have them, why can’t we use them?”

If that is true, then that is reason right there not only to withhold one’s vote from Trump, but to vote against him this fall. Everything else fades in the face of the possibility of a man like that gaining control of nuclear weaponry.

Earlier in the interview, before that exchange, Hayden spoke gingerly about the constitutional crisis that would result if the military refused orders from President Trump. If what Scarborough said is true, I think it’s entirely within the realm of possibility that the military might act to prevent Trump from taking office. You know what that means.

I don’t know if what Scarborough says is true, but based on Trump’s behavior, I find it very easy to believe that Trump said this.

Here it is only early August, and Trump has us talking like this.

You have to read John Noonan’s tweetstorm about this. He once served in a nuclear missile silo, and has been through the drills. The Scarborough thing unnerved him. Excerpts:


And amid the total panic in senior GOP circles at Trump’s meltdown, Newt Gingrich basically unendorsed Trump. 

Did I mention that it’s only August 3?

Is there anything the Republican Party can do to un-nominate Trump? Asking for a friend.

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Trump’s Temperament Wed, 03 Aug 2016 12:09:00 +0000 This is a big reason why it is unnerving to think about this man in the Oval Office:

Donald J. Trump’s unabashed and continuing hostility toward the parents of a slain Muslim American soldier, and his attacks on Republican leaders who have rebuked him for it, threaten to shatter his uneasy alliance with the Republican Party at the outset of the general election campaign.

Ignoring the pleas of his advisers and entreaties from party leaders in Washington, Mr. Trump only dug in further on Tuesday. He told a Virginia television station that he had no regrets about his clash with Khizr and Ghazala Khan, the parents of an Army captain killed in Iraq. And in an extraordinarily provocative interview with The Washington Post, Mr. Trump declined to endorse for re-election several Republicans who had criticized him, including the House speaker, Paul D. Ryan of Wisconsin, and Senator John McCain of Arizona, who both face primaries this month.

He also belittled Senator Kelly Ayotte of New Hampshire, who had criticized his treatment of the Khans, for not being supportive of his campaign.

For days, Mr. Trump’s top advisers and allies have urged him to move on from the feud, which erupted when Mr. Khan criticized him at the Democratic convention, and focus instead on the economy and the national security record of his Democratic opponent, Hillary Clinton. Yet, facing outcry on the left and right, Mr. Trump has insisted to associates that he has been treated unfairly by Mr. Khan, the news media and some Republicans, said people familiar with the campaign’s deliberations who insisted on anonymity to discuss them.

Whole thing here. 

Such is Donald Trump’s vanity and sense of grievance that he cannot help himself, even when his actions are demonstrably damaging his campaign — and even when the people closest to him are warning him to knock it off and get back on course criticizing Hillary. If he can’t stifle it for the sake of advancing his own political interests, how is he going to control himself when the national interests are at stake?

The other night, I had to have a talk with my 12-year-old son about not letting his emotions get the best of him when somebody or something makes him angry. He’s struggling with this, as adolescents do. I hope that by the time he’s 70, he’s mastered his passions — especially if he runs for president.

What happens when there’s an international crisis because some foreign leader insults Trump’s honor (such as it is)? A man with this kind of temperament in charge of the world’s biggest and most advanced fighting force is terrifying. If Khizr Khan and John McCain can get under his skin and into his head like that, how in the heck would he manage Hassan Rouhani and Kim Jong Un — to say nothing of Vladimir Putin and Xi Jinping?

This is not the behavior of a strong, mature man. This is the behavior of a weak, childish one. The Republicans ought to be steamrollering Hillary Clinton right about now. Instead, its nominee is defeating himself without Hillary having to lay a glove on him.

]]> 176 ISIS Schools Pope Francis Wed, 03 Aug 2016 09:09:35 +0000 The other day, Pope Francis blamed poverty and economics for Islamic radicalism and terrorism. In the latest edition of its English language magazine, Dabiq, ISIS sets him and others straight. Excerpts (emphases are mine):

We hate you, first and foremost, because you are disbelievers; you reject the oneness of Allah – whether you realize it or not – by making partners for Him in worship, you blaspheme against Him, claiming that He has a son, you fabricate lies against His prophets and messengers, and you indulge in all manner of devilish practices. It is for this reason that we were commanded to openly declare our hatred for you and our enmity towards you. “There has already been for you an excellent example in Abraham and those with him, when they said to their people, ‘Indeed, we are disassociated from you and from whatever you worship other than Allah. We have rejected you, and there has arisen, between us and you, enmity and hatred forever until you believe in Allah alone’” (Al-Mumtahanah 4).

Furthermore, just as your disbelief is the primary reason we hate you, your disbelief is the primary reason we fight you, as we have been commanded to fight the disbelievers until they submit to the authority of Islam, either by becoming Muslims, or by paying jizyah – for those afforded this option – and living in humiliation under the rule of the Muslims. Thus, even if you were to stop fighting us, your best-case scenario in a state of war would be that we would suspend our attacks against you – if we deemed it necessary – in order to focus on the closer and more immediate threats, before eventually resuming our campaigns against you. Apart from the option of a temporary truce, this is the only likely scenario that would bring you fleeting respite from our attacks. So in the end, you cannot bring an indefinite halt to our war against you. At most, you could only delay it temporarily. “And fight them until there is no fitnah [paganism] and [until] the religion, all of it, is for Allah” (Al-Baqarah 193).


What’s important to understand here is that although some might argue that your foreign policies are the extent of what drives our hatred, this particular reason for hating you is secondary, hence the reason we addressed it at the end of the above list. The fact is, even if you were to stop bombing us, imprisoning us, torturing us, vilifying us, and usurping our lands, we would continue to hate you because our primary reason for hating you will not cease to exist until you embrace Islam. The fact is, even if you were to stop bombing us, imprisoning us, torturing us, vilifying us, and usurping our lands, we would continue to hate you because our primary reason for hating you will not cease to exist until you embrace Islam. Even if you were to pay jizyah and live under the authority of Islam in humiliation, we would continue to hate you. No doubt, we would stop fighting you then as we would stop fighting any disbelievers who enter into a covenant with us, but we would not stop hating you.

What’s equally if not more important to understand is that we fight you, not simply to punish and deter you, but to bring you true freedom in this life and salvation in the Hereafter, freedom from being enslaved to your whims and desires as well as those of your clergy and legislatures, and salvation by worshiping your Creator alone and following His messenger. We fight you in order to bring you out from the darkness of disbelief and into the light of Islam, and to liberate you from the constraints of living for the sake of the worldly life alone so that you may enjoy both the blessings of the worldly life and the bliss of the Hereafter. The gist of the matter is that there is indeed a rhyme to our terrorism, warfare, ruthlessness, and brutality. As much as some liberal journalist would like you to believe that we do what we do because we’re simply monsters with no logic behind our course of action, the fact is that we continue to wage – and escalate – a calculated war that the West thought it had ended several years ago. We continue dragging you further and further into a swamp you thought you’d already escaped only to realize that you’re stuck even deeper within its murky waters… And we do so while offering you a way out on our terms. So you can continue to believe that those “despicable terrorists” hate you because of your lattes and your Timberlands, and continue spending ridiculous amounts of money to try to prevail in an unwinnable war, or you can accept reality and recognize that we will never stop hating you until you embrace Islam, and will never stop fighting you until you’re ready to leave the swamp of warfare and terrorism through the exits we provide, the very exits put forth by our Lord for the People of the Scripture: Islam, jizyah, or – as a last means of fleeting respite – a temporary truce.

Here, from a long article against Christianity, is this conclusion, addressed to Jews and Christians:

Know well that our fight will continue until you are defeated and submit to the rule of your Creator, or until we achieve martyrdom. Allah has made our mission to wage war against disbelief until it ceases to exist, as he has ordered us to kill all pagans wherever they are found. He said, “Then kill the pagans wherever you find them” (At-Tawbah 5). In His eternal wisdom, He made an exception to only one group of disbelievers. He said, “Fight those who neither believe in Allah and the Last Day, nor do they forbid what Allah and His Messenger forbade, nor do they follow the religion of truth, of those who were given the Scripture, until they give the jizyah willingly while they are humbled” (At-Tawbah 29).

So those who have been sent the Scripture before the Quran, namely the Jews and Christians, shall be spared if they pay the jizyah and accept its terms [dhimmitude]. These terms are based on elevating the true believers – the Muslims – over the disbelieving People of the Scripture who arrogantly reject the Lord’s message. These terms can be found in authentic texts relating to when the Caliph ‘Umar Ibn al-Khattab, made a covenant with the Christians of the Levant, namely that they do not build new monasteries, churches, or shrines in or around their cities; that they do not mend what was damaged thereof; that they do not restrict traveling Muslims from using their buildings for refuge; that they do not harbor spies or other enemies; that they do not conceal when a Muslim is being cheated or betrayed; that they neither display their pagan practices nor invite anyone to them; that they do not prevent any of their relatives from accepting Islam; that they make room for the Muslims and stand for them when they want to sit; that they do not wear weapons or bear arms; that they do not sell wines; that they do not display the cross atop their churches or in sight of the Muslims; that they do not raise their voices in their churches; and so forth. Any Christian or Jew who accepts the jizyah and then breaks any of the agreed upon stipulations shall find no security, and their blood thus becomes lawful to spill and wealth permissible to seize. For indeed, “Honor belongs to Allah, His Messenger, and to the believers, but the hypocrites do not know” (Al-Munafiqun 8).

Finally, ISIS criticizes Pope Francis specifically for denying that Islam is violent:

Despite the clarity of past and perished popes regarding their enmity for Islam and its teachings, the current pope, Francis, has struggled against reality to advertise the apostate’s perversion of Islamic teachings as the actual religion of Muslims. So while Benedict and many before him emphasized the enmity between the pagan Christians and monotheistic Muslims, Francis’ work is notably more subtle, steering clear of confrontational words that would offend those who falsely claim Islam, those apostates whom the Crusaders
found played the perfect role for their infiltration into Muslim lands. While Benedict XVI met public disapproval for quoting a centuries-old Byzantine emperor, Francis continues to hide behind a deceptive veil of “good will,” covering his actual intentions of pacifying the Muslim nation. This is exemplified in Francis’ statement that “our respect for true followers of Islam should lead us to avoid hateful generalizations, for authentic Islam and the proper reading of the Quran are opposed to every form of violence”
(The Joy of the Gospel).

Here is a link to the PDF of Dabiq. It makes for fascinating, if completely chilling, reading. But be warned — there are some photos in it of terrorist actions, including a beheading.

Note well that the point is not that ISIS represents “true Islam.” There are millions of Muslims who do not follow ISIS. The point is that those who follow ISIS believe that they are following True Islam, and will act on those beliefs — and in fact they do. That is why Father Jacques Hamel, and many, many others, are dead today. And ISIS does not make up its doctrines out of whole cloth. There is precedent.

If Francis cannot speak truthfully about this for whatever reason, he should maintain silence. And not just Francis. These people, this ISIS, they’re telling the West to our faces exactly what they believe and why they’re murdering us — but we refuse to believe them.

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Ideas Have Consequences 2016 Tue, 02 Aug 2016 21:37:09 +0000 A reader is diving once again into the 1948 conservative classic Ideas Have Consequences, by Richard Weaver. This paragraph from Chapter Three jumped out at him:

The [Southern] gentleman was left to walk the stage an impecunious eccentric, protected by a certain sentimentality but no longer understood. Europe, after the agony of the first World War, turned to the opposite type for leadership, to gangsters, who, though they are often good entrepreneurs, are without codes and without inhibitions. Such leaders in Europe have given us a preview of what the collapse of values and the reign of specialization will produce.

Adds the reader: “Welcome Trump. Welcome Hillary for that matter.”

Total pseud that I am, this morning I was on the treadmill and watching Kenneth Clark’s Civilisation on YouTube. Ever seen it? It’s fantastic. You can watch it with your kids, though young ones will be bored. I’m on Episode 6, which covers the Reformation. At around the 30:00 point in the episode, Clark — not a religious man himself, but a high aesthete — discusses how the Reformation unleashed destructive passions that devastated religious images. As the camera pans over defaced images of saints in the Lady Chapel at Ely Cathedral, Clark says:

There wasn’t much religious about it. It was an instinct, an instinct to destroy anything comely, anything that reflected a state of mind that ignorant people couldn’t share. The very existence of these incomprehensible values enraged them.

In that episode, which I’ve embedded below, Clark uses concepts invented by H.G. Wells to explain the clashing worldviews in the Reformation. He says that Wells believed early history involved a clash of “communities of faith and obedience” and “communities of will.” Wells distinguishes them like this:

For thousands of years the settled civilized peoples, who were originally in most cases dark-white Caucasians, or Dravidian or Southern Mongolian peoples, seem to have developed their ideas and habits along the line of worship and personal subjection, and the nomadic peoples theirs along the line of personal self-reliance and self-assertion.

Clark brings up the Wells categories to assert that the Reformation unleashed the passions of the “communities of will” of Germanic Northern Europe, against the “communities of faith and obedience” of Latin Southern Europe.

(Interestingly, Clark leaves out the words “faith and” in his mention of Wells’s categories. As Joseph Pearce points out in his critical review of Civilisation, Clark at the time of the program was a highly cultured unbeliever, and that greatly influenced his take on civilization. Then again, the subtitle of the series is “A Personal View.” Anyway, Clark was received into the Roman Catholic Church on his deathbed, Pearce reports.)

I’ll need to look more into what Wells meant, but these categories may be useful to us today to make sense of our own time. We are plainly and overwhelmingly a community of will — and that’s why we are destroying the possibility for civilization to endure. The Benedict Option is about a return to a community of faith and obedience — faith in and obedience to a religious and metaphysical order independent of ourselves. It would have been news to the Reformers, of course, that they were inaugurating a community of will over and against a community of faith and obedience. But the seeds of voluntarism had been planted at the end of the Middle Ages by Scotus, Ockham, and other Catholics. What we are living through now is the final outworking of those ideas.

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