Month: August 2012


I didn’t get to bed until almost midnight, my kid’s football game was tough to watch, I’m busy at the office, and I’m battling a headache.

But I need to respond to the Groeschel situation. Readers know that I’ve long been a fan. See, for example, this recent entry. In fact, be sure to see that entry and focus on the penultimate sentence: “He’s getting older and he’s had some health problems, so you might get frustrated with his halting speech.”

I should’ve also said that “you might get frustrated with his tendency to lose his train of thought.” I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been listening to Groeschel and I just kind of smile, realizing he’s mixing two ideas in the same monologue. It’s not common on his show, but it’s certainly not rare. If I had to guess, I’d say he does it once or twice an hour.

And he undoubtedly did it in this case. He took the example of a pretty 16-year-old girl dressing inappropriately and acting flirtatiously with a vulnerable priest and applied it to a conversation about Jerry Sandusky. It is, quite frankly, a WTH moment, and if I didn’t feel like I knew Groeschel, I’d be outraged. And I don’t blame the secular press for being outraged (a partial list of secular publications that have wasted no time blasting away: HuffPo, New York Post, New York Magazine). There is, from what I can see, no way to defend the substance of what Groeschel said, but I also don’t think he meant it. You’re dealing with a man who was hit by a car a few years ago and almost died, suffered one or more strokes, and has had other health problems. You’re also dealing with a guy … Read the rest



My apologies for the pre-fab bloggging this week. Between a blitz at the office and two out-of-town trips and a mild flu-like ailment of some sort, it hasn’t been a great week. The light blogging continues this morning, due to an out-of-town football game last night in Kalamazoo.

But I do have a good BYCU piece: “Michigan is crazy for craft beer, a $133 million industry. Michigan ranks fifth in nation in number of breweries, microbreweries, brewpubs, according to Michigan Brewers Guild.” My state has 118 active brewers, which is mighty impressive.

Of course, the government is doing everything it can to slow down this growth industry, courtesy of its ham-handed, red-tape-bound Liquor Control Commission, but as Nock said, nature flows easily toward alcohol. It’s no use trying to stop it or even slow it down much. Attempts by Michigan bureaucrats to gum up the works and hinder its manufacture aren’t working. I say “hallelujah.” … Read the rest

Funny Conan

Yesterday a medical marijuana group officially endorsed President Obama for president. Doesn’t really help Obama though, because they were just getting around to endorsing him for 2008.

The oldest person on Facebook is a 101-year-old woman. She said, “I want to waste what little time I have left.”… Read the rest


notebooks.jpgFrom the Notebooks

As part of my dive into Nock, I’ve dove into the 1920s. I would watch Boardwalk Empire as part of my studies (I read a review last year that said the show has taken great efforts to reproduce the period in all its gilded extravagance, but its increasing semi-porn undercurrents forced me to give away the DVDs or spend every Saturday morning in the Confession line).

Anyway, my efforts have sent me back to H.L. Mencken. I’ve dipped into his enormous corpus occasionally over the past twenty years, always with good results. My most-recent Menckenian wanderings have likewise proven profitable and enjoyable.

Mencken had a knack to say things I think, but when he says them, they stretch from nearly 100 years ago, thereby giving them an air of authority and reverence. If he observed X in 1920, and I’m thinking X in 2012, it would seem that X has a higher chance of legitimacy. Of course, Gnostic heresies stretched from the fourth century through the Albigensians into the 20th century, so continuity by itself does not confer legitimacy, but still: one finds comfort in the like-mindedness of ghosts.

I pondered all this while reading a 1912 piece for The Smart Set about “The Nature of Vice.” This passage about drink reflects something I’ve pointed out repeatedly over the years:

“My personal experience, indeed, is that the ingestion of alcohol, in the modest quantities I affect, is not only not damaging but actually very beneficial. It produces in me a feeling of comfort, of amiability, of tolerance, of mellowness. It makes me a more humane and sympathetic, and hence a happier, man. I am able, thus mildly etherized, to enjoy and applaud many things which would otherwise baffle and alarm me. . . And that effect is … Read the rest


Jacques Ellul had a unique definition of anarchy: “By anarchy, I mean first an absolute rejection of violence.” Anarchy and Christianity, Eerdmans (1991) p. 11.

Such a definition might seem ironic, but it’s not. When you spend a few minutes thinking intently about government, you realize that all government entails a level of force, and force is nothing other than implied violence: “Do X, or you go to jail. If you refuse to go to jail, we will force you at gunpoint into jail or we’ll take you there in a headlock.” Violence underpins political government, so if you reject all violence, you must reject government. It’s that simple. It’s no wonder that Peter Marshall points out in his excellent Demanding the Impossible: A History of Anarchism, that “only a tiny minority of anarchists have practised terror as a revolutionary strategy” and that “historically anarchism has been far less violent than other political creeds.”

Of course, there are forms of government that don’t entail violence. My local Kiwanis Club has a governing structure, and there’s no violence, implicit or explicit. The same for the Catholic Church’s governing structure (though its power of ex-communication might seem like a form of violence, it’s a form of spiritual violence that occupies an entirely different plane from what I’m talking about here). There’s a type of governance on my son’s sports teams: a few kids naturally rise to the level of “leader” or even “captain,” but there’s no violence. Violence only enters with political government.

So could there be a form of political government without violence? No. Even the anarcho-capitalists who posit a society based on peaceful contracts would have a level of violence in its administration: if you breach a contract, private enforcement agencies will extract the damages from you, by … Read the rest


Taking Alex and Abbie to college today. Both oldest kids in Ann Arbor, living about one mile from each other. A sad day, but life moves on.

Quotes and Notes

“When proponents say ‘let’s do something about it,’ they mean ‘let’s get hold of the political machinery so that we can do something to somebody else.’ And that somebody else is invariably you.” Chodorov

“It is not for man to seek, or even to believe in God. He has only to refuse to believe in everything that is not God. This refusal does not presuppose belief. It is enough to recognize, what is obvious to any mind, that all the goods of this world, past, present, or future, real or imaginary, are finite and limited and radically incapable of satisfying the desire which burns perpetually with in us for an infinite and perfect good… It is not a matter of self-questioning or searching. A man has only to persist in his refusal, and one day or another God will come to him.” Simone Weil

Herbert Spencer’s Social Statistics and Henry George’s Progress and Poverty are, taken together, “the complete formulation of the philosophy of human freedom; the one complements the other.” Albert Jay Nock. A heady recommendation, indeed. I plan on reading both, but Nock recommends that people read George’s pamphlet on the Irish Land Question first. It’s not an easy read.

“When rebuked for taking no part in Athenian politics,” Socrates replied that “this showed only that he and his followers were the very best politicians in Athens.” Nock.

Similarly, by not voting in a federal election, an American today arguably shows that he’s more interested in democracy than the people who vote. The “non-vote” is a vote against the tyranny of the federal government and … Read the rest


Ranking the Cities

We took a day trip to Chicago on Saturday. We went to the Shedd Aquarium, ate at Uno’s (over-rated), walked/shopped the Miracle Mile, then decided the heat was too much and drove home early, pulling into our driveway before 8:00 p.m.

On the way there, I re-visted a train of thought I’d been considering off-and-on for a few months: Where does Chicago rank, culturally, among important U.S. cities? Where do other cities like Miami and Boston rank?

And what do I mean by “culturally”? Heck if I know, but I guess I could frame the issue this way: if I could get a digital read out of the Jungian collective unconscious of all Americans, where would the various cities rank in intuitive importance? How much does each city have in the area of cultural references, theaters, film production, history, tradition, sports, music, food, politics, etc. and etc. Put everything together, and where do the cities fall in importance?

I came up with this list. Now make no doubt about it: The list is highly subjective, but it’s not arbitrary. I have reasons for the ranking (see parenthetical comment for the things that came to my mind first), but I can’t defend the ranking. Again, it’s subjective. Feel free to differ in the comments box. If everyone looked at this list and said, “Oh, yeah, he’s 100% right,” I’d be shocked . . . and a little disappointed.

I divide the list into different classes. In Class 1, I put NYC. I think it’s in a class by itself. Everyone else is head and shoulders and maybe even torso below NYC. Also, a lot of cities don’t make the list at all (e.g., Jacksonville, Columbus, Wichita, Topeka, etc.), so if one of your favorite cities is toward the … Read the rest