Links from the last week

1. Schmucks Like Us

Woods apparently drinks too much sometimes, and, if the tabloids are to be believed, he has expansive sexual appetites. I wonder how alien those problems really are to the average American man. But the average American man does not have $600 million, an almost universally known name, and a face recognized by 98 percent of the people he encounters. Maybe you haven’t behaved the way Tiger Woods does — but how many Playboy models do you have on speed-dial? How many of them were calling you at the peak of your career or slightly thereafter? Maybe you lead a more virtuous life. Maybe you just lead a smaller one. It is difficult to say without being tested.

2. Why Do Taxpayers Get the Bill for a Union President’s Pension?

By (in part) Jarrett Skorup, whom I’ve gotten to know via social media a bit.  Also a good question.

Mr. Cook became president of the MEA in 2011. He is set to retire later this year. His current salary is more than $200,000. While his pay was determined by the union, his paychecks still came from the Lansing school district. Had Mr. Cook stayed on as a teacher’s assistant in 1993, his annual pension benefit in retirement would be around $10,000, according to estimates by the Mackinac Center for Public Policy (which uncovered the scheme). Instead, Mr. Cook is in line to receive an annual pension of at least $105,000 for the rest of his life, at taxpayer expense.

The school district says it didn’t intend for this to happen. But three words in Mr. Cook’s “educator on loan” contract prohibit the district from terminating the arrangement.

3. Transcription of the 2005 Kenyon Commencement Address

A Twitter friend mentioned that he thought that John Calvin and David Foster Wallace drove home the point better than anyone that everybody worships something – David Foster Wallace?  Never heard of him, until now.

Because here’s something else that’s weird but true: in the day-to day trenches of adult life, there is actually no such thing as atheism. There is no such thing as not worshipping. Everybody worships. The only choice we get is what to worship. And the compelling reason for maybe choosing some sort of god or spiritual-type thing to worship — be it JC or Allah, be it YHWH or the Wiccan Mother Goddess, or the Four Noble Truths, or some inviolable set of ethical principles — is that pretty much anything else you worship will eat you alive. If you worship money and things, if they are where you tap real meaning in life, then you will never have enough, never feel you have enough. It’s the truth. Worship your body and beauty and sexual allure and you will always feel ugly. And when time and age start showing, you will die a million deaths before they finally grieve you. On one level, we all know this stuff already. It’s been codified as myths, proverbs, clichés, epigrams, parables; the skeleton of every great story. The whole trick is keeping the truth up front in daily consciousness.

4. Crushing on Crushers: Why do intellectuals fall in love with dictators and totalitarians?

Lot of good articles coming out of City Journal lately.

Though Hollander does not claim that there is a single explanation for intellectuals’ attraction to dictatorships such as those of Stalin, Mao, and Castro (or Khomeini, in the case of Foucault), let alone to have found it, he nevertheless believes, in my view plausibly, that the longing for quasi-religious belief in an age when actual religion has largely been rejected is a significant part of the explanation. The totalitarian dictators were not the typical politicians of democratic systems who, whatever their rhetoric, seem mainly to tinker at the edges of human existence, are ready or forced to make grubby compromises with their opponents, reveal themselves to be morally and financially corrupt, are more impressive in opposition than in office, have no overarching ideas for the redemption of humanity, and make no claims to be panjandrums of all human knowledge and wisdom. Rather, those dictators were religious leaders who claimed the power to answer all human questions at once and to lead humanity into a land of perpetual milk, honey, and peace. They were omniscient, omnicompetent, loving, and kind, infinitely concerned for the welfare of their people; yet at the same time they were modest, humble, and supposedly embarrassed by the adulation they received. The intellectuals, then, sought in them not men but messiahs.

5. How Nationalism Can Solve the Crisis of Islam

Interesting piece. I do think it is basically taken for granted in the American Left that borders and barriers of all kinds generally encourage hate, and that if we just take a bunch of very different people and toss them together, they’ll learn to like and understand each other and we shall have peace and unity. And sometimes something like that happens especially on an individual level… and at least as often, it seems to me, exactly the reverse happens, and “resentments and anxieties” are enhanced. (The mixing ground of social media certainly provides examples of both but especially, dare I say, the latter.)

To wit, for most people everywhere, humanity is ‘too large and too diverse’ to provide meaningful communion. ‘I cannot prove that the nation-state is the only viable form,’ he says. ‘But what I’m sure about is that to live a fully human life, you need a common life and a community. This is a Greek idea, a Roman idea, a Christian idea.’

6. Allan Bloom’s Souls Without Longing, All Grown Up

The unnatural existence that Bloom’s students live is very bad news for the future of our species or, more precisely, the future of our sophisticated way of life. That sophisticated life can’t be sustained by niceness alone, even as a quality of highly productive meritocratic specialists. Safe sex, for example, is detached from the bare act’s natural function for an animal born to die; it serves the highly self-conscious individual and is perfectly contrary to nature. And the cure for niceness—economic collapse and war—is surely around the corner.

Nature can be cast out with a pitchfork, but it’ll always come running back in. Thank God for that.

7. A dissenting opinion in one of the “travel-ban” cases

Via Jacob Gershman on Twitter.  More of a “straight-political” piece than I normally care to share, but the bigger point is – the system ought to be more important than any particular ruling.  A think a lot of anti-Trump folks know full well that these decisions are conclusions-driving-reason rather than the other way around, most starkly illustrated by the concession of an ACLU lawyer that the very same executive order might be perfectly legal if it had been signed by Hilary Clinton.  Courts that strike down rules just because they don’t like them and then search for some justification to do so ought to bother anybody who cares about the rule of law, and all the benefits that flow to a nation that holds to the rule of law.  In truth, a lot of people don’t care at all, and that is unfortunate.

The danger of the majority’s new rule is that it will enable any court to justify its decision to strike down any executive action with which it disagrees. It need only find one statement that contradicts the stated reasons for a subsequent executive action and thereby pronounce that reasons for the executive action are a pretext. This, I submit, is precisely what the majority opinion does.

This week’s post brought to you by the largest church in Canada.

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