June 17, 2020

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John Bolton Tells the Truth: Even if they don't like him, every Republican and conservative in Washington knows that Bolton doesn't make things up. What will they do now? (WILLIAM KRISTOL  JUNE 17, 2020, The Bulwark)

Twice over the last few years, I've met with individuals who had recently departed the Trump administration after serving at very senior levels. I'd known these individuals before Donald Trump descended his escalator five years ago. I hadn't been in touch with them during their time in the administration so as not to cause complications for them if somehow it became known we'd talked. I believed these individuals had chosen to serve this problematic president with good intentions, and probably accomplished more good--or more precisely prevented more harm--than many on the outside realized.

When these individuals left, I was led to understand through intermediaries that they would not resist, they might even welcome, an invitation to talk. So talk we did, at some length, privately.

I can report one exchange I had with both individuals. I said to each of them: "You know I'm alarmed by President Donald Trump. If I'd seen what you saw up close, would I be a bit reassured--or even more alarmed?"

Both answered promptly.

One responded, "You'd be more alarmed."

The other simply said, "Twice."

I was a bit befuddled and asked him what he meant. "You'd be twice as alarmed," he explained.

Posted by orrinj at 5:23 PM


Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


The Rebirth of the Left-Conservative TraditionA blend of left-wing policies--like support for Social Security and infrastructure spending--with favored conservative ideas, like nationalism and immigration reform, is finding its voice (ERIC KAUFMANN, JUNE 15, 2020, Tablet)

Left-conservatism foregrounds nationalism more than religion. Where the religious right was evangelical and universalist, thus dovetailing nicely with neoconservatism's missionary liberalism, national conservatism is traditionalist, particularist, and isolationist. National conservatives endorse left-wing policies such as protectionism, infrastructure spending, and support for welfare programs like Social Security alongside conservative ideas such as immigration restriction and nationalism. In Europe, the mix is similar, albeit with a stronger focus on taxing the rich.

In the mid-2010s, British "post-liberalism" has come to coalesce around the online magazine Unherd. One of its leading avatars is David Goodhart, who founded the center-left periodical Prospect in 1995. Influenced by Lind, Goodhart wrote a controversial article in Prospect in 2004 titled "Is Britain Too Diverse" arguing that diversity and solidarity existing in tension, and that high levels of the former were incompatible with the desire to protect the welfare state. His Road to Somewhere (2017) juxtaposed socially mobile "Anywheres" who attach primarily to credentials rather than the nation with rooted "Somewheres" who lack degrees, live near their place of birth and cherish national traditions. The new Social Democratic Party (SDP) of William Clouston, fireman-intellectual Paul Embery, and the patriotic Blue Labour wing of the Labour Party share similar beliefs and positioning.

Perhaps the essence of left-conservatism is its plea for social cohesion and a concomitant rejection of post-national elites with their one-two punch of economic liberalism and the adversary culture. At root, the New Class/Anywhere elite is attached to a transnational status culture, much like Europe's aristocracy prior to the age of nations. 

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Are We All Christians Now? A Review of Tom Holland's Dominion (Daniel Strand,  June 17, 2020, Providence)

When I taught Western civilization, I was always looking for a book like Holland's. Too often the Western civ. curriculum industry focuses on historical events and less on cultural or moral ones. We are prone to be incurious about things that are so deeply assumed. Dominion explores the shifting assumptions in Europe through hinge moments where we can see something new or notable. Whether first-century Galatia or twenty-first-century Germany, Holland shows the manifestations and echoes of Christianity in how events play out and how historical actors describe their motivations.

As opposed to intellectual history, which too often floats above historical events, Holland focuses on historical actors and their motivations, which is much more convincing and persuasive to the average reader. Rather than an abstract discussion of paganism and Christian monotheism, he has Pompey strolling through the Temple in Jerusalem.

Holland's method shows how Christian ideals often frame the conditions on which our debates occur, whether the debaters are aware or not. At times the argument works more persuasively than others. One can perhaps find too much Christianity behind each and every cultural event or historical turning point. The motives and reasons for acting are often unclear, and pressures on historical actors are numerous.

Christians and non-Christians alike should read this book because Holland presents a very realistic picture of historical events and the influence of Christianity. Christians don't come out looking like heroes, which is closer to reality than the narrative of triumphalism. History plods and is filled with ups and downs. There is much to the history of Europe that deserves our admiration and much that deserves or condemnation. Christianity laid the groundwork for some of the most humane and wonderful aspects of Western society. It also played a role in some of its darker moments.

My hope is that Holland's book gains a wide readership and that Christian communities seriously debate and digest it. That said, I want to raise one substantive question. Holland offers mainly a history and, every now and then, a bit of reflection, but one question recurred as I read his narrative: What is Christians ethics? By that I mean, what is the goal of the moral life that Christians believe is incumbent upon all those who claim this faith? Holland's book presents a fascinating and sweeping vision of Christianity's effect on a particular civilization. But he prescinds from, self-consciously, the theological question that drives these effects in society. Western society imbibed Christian morals that transformed it, but what will happen if there are no Christians to support those values? If we assume Holland is right about his thesis--that the values of Western civilization are essentially Christian--are these Christian values sustainable without Christians who live them out?

Holland is not terribly clear on this point. He relentlessly points to this religion whose "molten heart" is a crucified man who had a lasting and profound revolutionary effect on society. Even Christianity's critics judge Christian failures by Christian assumptions, showing the extent to which Christianity has, in a sense, become inescapable. But can Christian ideas of love, sacrifice, care for the weak, humility, and the universal body of Christ be detached from the roots that nourish it? Can one have Christian values without the faith? At times Holland implies that we can and do.

While folks often speak of places like the Scandinavian nations as secular and post-Christian, the more of their culture you consume the more you realize how profoundly Christ-haunted they are.  The question is whether that is durable.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


US utility plans to ditch coal in favour of renewables - in just five years (Joshua S Hill,17 June 2020, Renew Economy)

Vectren, US energy company servicing the state of Indiana, has announced plans to shift from what is a nearly an all coal generation business to producing nearly two thirds of its total energy from renewable energy sources by 2025.

Trump Can't Save Coal Country (KEITH JOHNSON, OCTOBER 30, 2019, Foreign Policy)

President Donald Trump came into the White House vowing to end the Obama administration's so-called war on coal and Make Anthracite Great Again. Instead, Trump is overseeing a cascading collapse of America's coal industry, a trend that could have political consequences for him in the 2020 U.S. presidential election.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


What's Really Going On at Seattle's So-Called Autonomous Zone?Failed experiment by radical anarchists, a new sort of utopia, or just a place? (JANE C. HU, JUNE 16, 2020, Slate)

Over the weekend, I went to see for myself what CHAZ was all about and sort out whether claims I'd seen online were truths, half-truths, or flat-out lies. (You can also check out a livestream with six angles showing parts of the space; it looks like any other mundane city street cam of people walking by, sometimes with cute dogs.) The first thing I learned: CHAZ is no longer the preferred nomenclature. Organizers are now asking that people call it the CHOP--the Capitol Hill Occupied Protest--and signs at the barricades welcome visitors to CHOP. While CHAZ's original claim to "autonomous zone" may have gotten attention, it's obvious to anyone in Seattle that the zone is not autonomous. People live there, and businesses are still operating. Residents still need to get in and out of the barricades and are allowed access; at a barricade on the eastern side, activists even painted some makeshift parking spaces for liquor store customers. Those businesses and residents--as well as CHOP occupants--still use electricity and water. And unlike any actual autonomous zone, people move freely in or out. While I was in CHOP, I saw at least one resident driving through a CHOP barricade to access an apartment building garage.

At those barricades, there were no armed guards, and no one asked me for ID. Right-wingers' claims of "infiltrating" the space seem needlessly dramatic; you can just walk right in. But if people recognize you and they're not fans of your work, there is a chance you'll be confronted by a crowd asking you to leave. (Tim Eyman, a local politician known for his anti-tax measures--and for stealing a $70 chair from Office Depot--was asked to leave last week.)

While there were no guards when I visited, there were people stationed at each barricade, handing out masks and directing cars through to provide supplies or access their homes. I also saw volunteers at one barricade radioing to the rest to ask whether any others needed supplies and to seek a mental health expert to help manage a man sitting on a corner throwing trash at passersby. Gaebriel, 21, who was greeting folks and directing traffic at the barricade near 10th and Pine streets, told me she'd seen the media reports of armed guards and thought they were unfortunate but inevitable with how quickly misinformation spreads on social media. "I just hope people come see for themselves," she said.

After all, there is no official word on CHOP or CHAZ. Though there are several prominent figures in the Seattle protest scene who are heavily involved with CHOP, there is no central leadership. And it's worth noting that the people don't always agree. For instance, some activists say that the CHAZ is hosting the CHOP, suggesting some are still thinking of this area as a permanent zone. Other activists have voiced hopes that the SPD will eventually turn the now-empty precinct building into a community center. There's also a range of protester demands. The most prominent one, now painted on the wood boarding up the precinct building, is to defund the SPD by 50 percent. But walking around the CHOP, I also saw a list of police reform demands taped to a tree, which included asks like mandating police to wear body cameras and developing new processes to handle misconduct claims. Someone had taken a Sharpie and crossed the whole thing out and wrote over it: "NO COPS! AT ALL."

People also had different reasons and motives for being in the CHOP. While some were clearly residents or heavily involved volunteers, others seemed to be cultural tourists and documentarians. 

I'm old enough to remember when we conservatives loved Hernando de Soto's Other Path.