Liberalism and the Politics of Theism (John F. Doherty, 12/17/23, Public Discourse)

Which kind of earthly politics best assists man’s path to God?

Not long ago, many theists thought the answer to this question was found in liberalism. At the Second Vatican Council, the Catholic Church reaffirmed its longstanding respect for the dignity of the person and his freedom of belief, which are at liberalism’s core. Twentieth-century Italian Catholic philosopher Augusto Del Noce, in The Problem of Atheism, called liberalism “the modern world’s greatest truth.”

He said it presumes “a generically Christian theology.” Liberalism recognizes “a reality higher than man” to which man is subject—the absolute realm of truth, or God, expressed in terms of natural law and rights. It recognizes that the individual is the beginning and end of society, not its instrument, and that he must pursue truth freely. Finally, it recognizes that the scope of politics is limited—not just because man’s final end is God, rather than the state, but because fallen human nature cannot be corrected by temporal measures: the politician can minimize sin but not eliminate it.


Living in the Confederacy of Dunces: There’s an eerie parallel at work between Ignatius Reilly and vain, overeducated young adults who can’t hold a job, live healthily, or maintain a friend. (Auguste Meyrat, 3/01/24, Law & Liberty)

In all likelihood, it was this odd yet hilarious combination of characters, along with Toole’s Southern heritage, that led to the book’s posthumous release. Even in the early ‘60s, the novel offended the progressive sensibilities of publishers based in New York. It took a fellow writer from Louisiana, Walker Percy, to agree to read the manuscript and advocate for the book’s publication nearly a decade after Toole committed suicide. As if to satisfy the demands of divine justice, the book went on to become a bestseller and win the Pulitzer Prize for that year.

However, what really makes A Confederacy of Dunces a classic worthy of being read today is how closely and how well it predicts the future—our present. Even if Ignatius was a complete anomaly in his own time, there’s a whole generation of Ignatiuses today: vain, overeducated young adults who can’t hold a job, live healthily, own any property, or maintain a friendship or romantic partnership, and yet often feel proud of themselves. Like Ignatius, they feel qualified to deliver their opinion on a whole range of issues they have no clue about. Without a doubt, if Ignatius existed today, he would likely be an online influencer hosting a popular YouTube channel or podcast that spoke to disaffected men like himself.


Have Faith A New Fusionism Can Work (William Ruger, Aug 12, 2020, American Conservative)

It seems as if many American conservatives—a particular brand of conservatism that has always aimed at conserving the authentic classical liberal political tradition of America while also espousing a certain cultural vision of virtue, personal responsibility, and community—have lost some faith in their tradition and the distinctly American ideals and institutions that it supports. Yet this moment is just when we need to embrace them. A new fusionism could be found by reengaging with that tradition and energetically applying these insights to our country’s challenges today.

Coolidge, after being elected state senate president in 1914, reminded his fellow Bay Staters that they too needed to stay true to what Massachusetts stood for and had produced. He noted that: “In some unimportant detail some other States may surpass her, but in the general results, there is no place on earth where the people secure, in a larger measure, the blessings of organized government, and nowhere can those functions more properly be termed self-government.”

The rest of the essay exemplifies a philosophy that American conservatism has traditionally stood for: representative government, the moral dignity of all, the protection of natural rights including those of the less powerful, personal character and thrift, honest work and industry, and the just acquisition and protection of property.

Conservatism needs to double down on a faith in America exemplified by the principles that Coolidge extolled. We need to see power in the ability of its people to do great things when they are free to do so. Indeed, we need to harken back to the best of the American experiment and away from the siren songs of government control, a managed economy, and the centralized warfare/welfare state. It is the ideals of the Declaration and the institutions of our constitutions that have served America so well since our founding.


Secret files show how international group pushes shocking experimental gender surgery for minors (Gerald Posner, March 4, 2024, NY Post)

Newly leaked files from the world’s leading transgender health-care organization reveal it is pushing hormonal and surgical transitions for minors, including stomach-wrenching experimental procedures designed to create sexless bodies that resemble department-store mannequins. […]

The files — jaw-dropping conversations from a WPATH internal messaging board and a video of an Identity Evolution Workshop panel — were provided to journalist Michael Shellenberger, who shared the documents with me.

Shellenberger’s nonprofit Environmental Progress will release a scathing summary report, comparing the WPATH promotion of “the pseudoscientific surgical destruction of healthy genitals in vulnerable people” to the mid-20th-century use of lobotomies, “the pseudoscientific surgical destruction of healthy brains.”

The comparison to one of history’s greatest medical scandals is not hyperbole.

It is particularly true, as the files show repeatedly, when it involves WPATH’s radical approach to minors.

When the organization adopted in 2022 its current Standards of Care — relied on by the National Institutes of Health, the World Health Organization and every major American medical and psychiatric association — it scrapped a draft chapter about ethics and removed minimum-age requirements for children starting puberty blockers or undergoing sexual-modification surgeries.

It had previously recommended 16 to start hormones and 17 for surgery.

Not surprisingly, age comes up frequently in the WPATH files, from concerns about whether a developmentally delayed 13-year-old can start on puberty blockers to whether the growth of a 10-year-old girl will be stunted by hormones.

During one conversation, a member asked for advice about a 14-year-old patient, a boy who identified as a girl and had begun transitioning at 4.

When treating transgender youth, how informed is informed consent? (Megan McArdle, March 8, 2024, Washington Post)

This is not a novel problem in medicine. As therapist Dianne Berg points out in that discussion, if children have diabetes, they are given insulin even if they haven’t learned how the pancreas works. If they have depression, they might be given drugs that could increase their risk of suicide or permanently alter their developing brains to help them toward happier futures. And if a kid has a pediatric cancer, doctors don’t wait for her to be old enough to give fully informed consent to amputation or infertility — because without treatment, she might never reach that age.

Youth gender medicine is increasingly treating puberty as though it were a life-threatening condition like cancer or diabetes, and natal sex organs as though they were potentially dangerous growths. This is, of course, entirely appropriate if they are threatening, and letting nature take its course will end in suicide or a lifetime of emotional agony. Of course, with that kind of diagnosis you want to be very sure — and unlike doctors treating cancer or diabetes, who can rely on blood tests and imaging, gender-medicine doctors ultimately have only the patient’s feelings to go by.


Every adult a share-owner (Shirley R. Letwin & William Letwin, 3/08/24, CapX)

USO would, first of all, give every adult a sense of increased independence in relation to his economic environment, a sense at present confined to a few. Unlike a bank deposit or an insurance policy, a share gives its owner a direct stake and active voice in the management of an enterprise of his choice. It gives its owner a definite relationship to a business. A firm that would otherwise be a remote abstraction – a name, a set of buildings seen from the outside if seen at all, an entity enigmatically discussed in the back pages of the newspaper, an organisation directed by unknown magnates – becomes instead an operation in which the shareholder has a measurable interest, and which, as an active participant, he comes to see more clearly, closer to the inside.

Just as voters in a democracy sense that they exercise some control over how they are governed because they have the power, at the very least, periodically to turn the rascals out, so shareowners acquire an enlarged sense of being in control of their lives. By being a shareowner, a person becomes a freer man.

To value freedom is to hold that every adult ought to have a sense, accurate rather than illusory, of controlling his own life. In the past, certain advocates of free government maintained that nobody could enjoy real political or economic independence unless they owned land. Today, in an industrialised society, this is no longer feasible nor necessary. The ideal of independent proprietor-farmers has yielded to the ideal of a property-owning democracy.

Not all forms of property however can serve that ideal equally well. Title to one’s dwelling – which some 60% of British households now possess, thanks partly to the policies of the present Government – is in many ways desirable and commendable. But it does not give one a direct interest in, or what is more important, a right of control over, productive enterprises. In other words, owning one’s home does not, like owning shares, involve one in public economic life.

Further, the vast majority of British adults own investments in bank accounts, life insurance, unit trusts, and pension funds; and they thereby, though often unknowingly, possess indirect claims on shares owned by such financial intermediaries. But here again, however rewarding such investments are financially, they do not and can not give their owners a sense of enjoying a rightful and potentially active voice in determining the policies of the nation’s enterprises. In short, the ideal form of a property-owning democracy in today’s world is a share-owning democracy.

The future of all American policvies is the past of W.


IN PRAISE OF READING LE CARRÉ’S ENTIRE OEUVRE IN ORDER: Ben Winters on finishing a project he never wanted to end (BEN H. WINTERS, 3/08/24, CrimeReads)

I started at the top, not wanting to miss anything, and not wanting to allow someone else’s arbitrary rankings to dictate which books I read, in what order.

And so I traveled with John le Carré from the beginning, with Call for the Dead (1961) and A Murder of Quality (1962) two delightful if unremarkable mystery-thrillers very much of their time and place. It is only with book number three, The Spy Who Came In from the Cold (1963) that we can feel the great man becoming great; it is in In From the Cold that he finds his metier, the grubby heroics of Cold War spies, and the sophisticated nuance and drollery of his voice. By the time we get to The Looking Glass War (1965) one has the sense of a true artist, alive in a world he would make his own, adding notes of comedy and world-weary melancholy to his canvass, expanding outwards from the core.

And does he ever, in books six, seven, and eight—Tinker, Tailor (1974), Honorable Schoolboy (1977), and Smiley’s People (1979), the famous trilogy starring the flawed spymaster George Smiley, whose owl-frame glasses and air of heroic melancholy will forever define for me what a protagonist should be: not a hero who is always heroic, but one who tries to be, and never quite can.

And of course, le Carré was only get started.

Actually, he’s pretty near the end. Only the novels where he brings Smiley back to relive the old days are really worthwhile. But I too have recently been reading them in order and highly recommend the practice. Without Call for the Dead you fail to understand the Smiley of In from the Cold and the deep silliness, if not actual malice, that LeCarre’s bothsidsism aimed at the West in the Cold War.


Heil Bukowski!: The Nazi Letters That Never Were (Abel Debritto, 3/08/24, 3AM)

Accidents do happen, though. As luck would have it, I came across a relatively tiny database with a large number of Los Angeles Examiner and Los Angeles Herald Examiner issues. A perfunctory search yielded no results at all. I remembered that Bukowski’s father was mad at him for signing his piece as “Henry Bukowski” in a 1940 Los Angeles Collegian issue, his first known publication ever. I tried several variations of the Bukowski name and, lo and behold, there they were, three letters by a “Henry C. Bukowski, Jr.” I clicked on them and sure enough those were the elusive letters Bukowski had mentioned in interviews and poems, lying dormant for God knows how long in that small database no one had ever heard of.

Funnily enough, when I took a close look at the front cover of those three issues, I couldn’t help but notice they were not Los Angeles Examiner nor Los Angeles Herald Examiner, even though I was positive that’s how they were called in the database. I retraced my steps and clicked again on those Los Angeles Examiner issues, only to be taken to yet another newspaper called Los Angeles Evening Herald and Express. But of course! A classic tagging mistake! All the Los Angeles Evening Herald and Express issues had been mislabeled Los Angeles Examiner. The only way to find those letters was by accident. Blame it on the Digital Humanities’ race to digitize all books known to mankind in the blink of an eye. That, and sketchy OCR at best were the main culprits of many unproductive hours in front of the computer. And how naïve of me to think that Bukowski would have submitted his letters to Los Angeles Examiner, which was the morning edition of the paper. He tried the evening edition, when he was sober enough to read it. Funny how these things make perfect sense in retrospect only.

It all had been worth the effort. Those controversial letters were no longer some sort of mythical creature mockingly teasing me in the distance, putting my patience to the test. They were right there up for grabs, waiting to be scrutinized, analyzed, and dissected. Oh, the joys ahead!

But first things first. Although claims about those Nazi sympathies had been made by Sounes in 1998, Miles in 2005, and, above all, Ben Pleasants in his Visceral Bukowski in 2004 — all of them when Bukowski was long gone — the hard truth is that the first person to happily spread the gospel was none other than Bukowski himself. In interviews, poems, stories, and novels, Bukowski didn’t shy away from talking about what he called the “Nazi trip,” especially in the infamous Pleasants tapes — I say infamous because when Pleasants was attacked for proclaiming Bukowski was a Nazi at core, he always maintained that everything he said was sourced from the tapes he recorded in the mid-to-late 1970s, when he was working on a Bukowski biography that never came to fruition. For years, it was thought that Pleasants had made that up and that those tapes were pure fabrication, but after Pleasants passed away in 2013, I was able to track them down and, indeed, I could hear Bukowski droning on and on about his Nazi persona.

What Pleasants failed to mention was that it was all said in jest. In the tapes, Bukowski is very clear about that. His Nazi trip was a giant put-on, as simple as that. Perhaps, in a perverse sort of way, it was just another instance of his self-deprecating humor. Pleasants, who had been researching into Bukowski’s work as early as 1970, was fully aware of Bukowski’s public statements. And yet, what Bukowski remembered half-jokingly in those tapes and elsewhere, Pleasants turned into radical, deeply-rooted Nazi beliefs. Striking, to say the least. Sometimes I couldn’t help but wonder if it was just his personal vendetta over the canceled biography. It didn’t help matters that Bukowski wrote a short-story in 1978 where he made fun of Pleasants’ overbearing, self-centered demeanour.