Wussy Democrats

Joe Klein, Democrats Are Playing Chess on Impeachment. They Aren’t Going to Win. (The Washington Post, December 3, 2019) Joseph O’Neill, No More Nice Dems (New York Review of Books, December 19, 2019) Let’s start with two recent, on-point articles about the Democratic Party, one by journalist and Primary Colors author, Joe Klein, and the other by Bard professor and novelist, Joseph O’Neil. Both articles echo SteveContinue reading “Wussy Democrats”

Toward a New Cosmology: The Grand Pivot from Natural Law to Complexity Science

As we can see from the hardening religious impulse in our current authoritarian, autocratic moment, the traditionalist defense of “civilization” ultimately rests upon the complicated, combined influence of the major Abrahamic revealed religions (Judaism, Christianity, and Islam). The Abrahamic faiths – based as they are on divine revelation, sacred texts and prophetic moments – require a creator-centricContinue reading “Toward a New Cosmology: The Grand Pivot from Natural Law to Complexity Science”

What Is “New” About the New Atheists?

In my previous essay, I invoked “those famously fratricidal brothers, Peter and Christopher Hitchens, who published dueling books on behalf of theism and atheism within a few years of each other, brother Peter writing in his book that “’On this my brother and I agree: that independence of mind is immensely precious, and that we should tryContinue reading “What Is “New” About the New Atheists?”

The New Atheists and Conversion Moments

There is a widely held (and somewhat depressing) view that most people are hedgehogs. We know One Big Thing (or, for many of us, perhaps only one little thing). At some point in our twenties, we experience a “conversion moment,” a singular epiphany about the ways of the world, which heralds some consolidation of our mature “self” and thereby opens the gates to our future.Continue reading “The New Atheists and Conversion Moments”

Know Your Enemy: A Podcast About Conservative Ideas That Speaks to All of Us

If you’re looking for a podcast that speaks to the political and spiritual confusion of our times with grace, humor, intelligence, and insight, consider Know Your Enemy. Hosted by journalists Matthew Sitman (an editor at Commonweal Magazine and Dissent Magazine contributor) and Sam Adler-Bell (who has written for The Intercept, The Outline, and Commonweal), and sponsored by Dissent, Know Your Enemy’s mission is to engage and illuminate the ideas of political andContinue reading “Know Your Enemy: A Podcast About Conservative Ideas That Speaks to All of Us”

The Law as Society’s “Operating System”

How the Federalist Society Stole the Federal Judiciary, Conquered Washington DC, and Imperiled the Nation This is essay #2 of a multi-part series about how the remarkable political and legal influence of the Federalist Society in the Trump era – what I call a “court-jacking” –  illuminates the emerging civilizational conflict between competing cosmologies, representedContinue reading “The Law as Society’s “Operating System””

How the Federalist Society Stole the Federal Judiciary, Conquered Washington DC, and Imperiled the Nation

This is essay #1 of a multi-part series about how the remarkable political and legal influence of the Federalist Society – what I call a “court-jacking” –  illuminates the emerging civilizational conflict between competing cosmologies, represented by natural law moral philosophy and complexity science. The Federalist Society held its annual National Lawyers Convention earlier thisContinue reading “How the Federalist Society Stole the Federal Judiciary, Conquered Washington DC, and Imperiled the Nation”

Move Fast and Break Things: Authoritarian Politics, Digital Technology, and Trump’s Disruptive Heart of Darkness

The recent, much-discussed NY Times article about Trump presidential campaign digital ad spending, entitled Trump Campaign Floods Web With Ads, Raking In Cash as Democrats Struggle, displays in gory detail the stakes for Progressives and Democrats (and normal not-unhinged people) in the great battle, unfolding in real time before our eyes, for the soul and future of America (andContinue reading “Move Fast and Break Things: Authoritarian Politics, Digital Technology, and Trump’s Disruptive Heart of Darkness”

Conscience and the Scientific Community: A Profile of Kennette Benedict, Ploughshares Fund Board Member

This article originally appeared on the Ploughshares Fund website. For nearly 40 years, Ploughshares Fund has supported the most effective people and organizations in the world to reduce and eventually eliminate the dangers posed by nuclear weapons. Since 1981, Ploughshares Fund has distributed nearly $100 million in grants to organizations such as the Bulletin of theContinue reading “Conscience and the Scientific Community: A Profile of Kennette Benedict, Ploughshares Fund Board Member”

The Grand Pivot

As we can see from the hardening religious impulse in our current authoritarian, autocratic moment, the traditionalist defense of “western civilization” ultimately rests upon the complicated, combined influence of the major Abrahamic revealed religions (Judaism, Christianity, and Islam). The Abrahamic faiths – based as they are on divine revelation, sacred texts and prophetic moments –Continue reading “The Grand Pivot”

Virtue and Power: The Political Dysphoria of Natural Law Moral Philosophy

This (thank God) is my final essay on Princeton professor Robby George and natural law moral philosophy. Other essays I’ve written about natural law (see below) have emphasized its political uses for an influential cohort of Catholic conservatives closely connected to Donald Trump and the Republican Party. In this essay, I explore the relationship betweenContinue reading “Virtue and Power: The Political Dysphoria of Natural Law Moral Philosophy”

Alien vs. Predator: The Metastasis of Steve Bannon

As I’ve previously written, in the spirit of Yeats’s Second Coming poem, the axis of conflict in the coming decades will be a civilizational battle between two irreconcilable, non-liberal regimes and worldviews – backward-looking, Creator-centered Catholic natural law and forward-looking Creation-centered complexity science. As I’ve also previously written, Steve Bannon, who welcomes this Armageddon, discloses the raw political truth beneath theContinue reading “Alien vs. Predator: The Metastasis of Steve Bannon”

Steve Bannon’s Pennywise Moment

Bannon at the Vatican In the summer of 2014, Steve Bannon delivered closing remarks to a small conference on “alleviating global poverty” hosted by the Dignitatis Humanae Institute (DHI) in a small marble palace tucked deep within the Vatican. Bannon spoke via Skype from Los Angeles. This address came to the attention of the world in theContinue reading “Steve Bannon’s Pennywise Moment”

Steve Bannon’s Second Coming

The Truth Beneath the Lie Everyone remembers how Steve Bannon douche-slouched his way into the Trump White House for the first time, like the hitchhiking epiphenomena of a brain tumor. They were our Bobbsey Twins, Bannon and Trump. Our post-millennial and post-modern, inverted and psychotic, parody of Bill and Hillary Clinton’s own half-demented claim thatContinue reading “Steve Bannon’s Second Coming”

Neil Gorsuch and the Frozen Future of the Federal Courts

Two Washington Post essays, spaced apart by 31 months, bookend the ascent and arrival upon the judicial mountaintop of Neil Gorsuch. In February of 2017, following the nomination of Neil Gorsuch by Donald Trump to replace Antonin Scalia on the Supreme Court bench, Princeton professor Robby George wrote in a *Washington Post* infomercial that we should ignore the haters onContinue reading “Neil Gorsuch and the Frozen Future of the Federal Courts”

Robby George and Me

In recent years, I’ve written quite a bit about the ideas and influence of conservative legal scholar, political philosopher, and public intellectual Robert P. (Robby) George, who serves as the McCormick Professor of Jurisprudence and Director of the James Madison Program in American Ideals and Institutions at Princeton University. At the risk of inserting myself too directlyContinue reading “Robby George and Me”

Eight Thoughts on Guns and Freedom

Waterboarding is how we baptize terrorists. – Sarah Palin (NRA annual meeting, 2014) Guns give us a pretty clear and simple way to think about this gross (orange) hairball we’ve just coughed up. In the United States, guns are collocative with a host of other right-wing cultural tropes that have found their way into our political idiom (white supremacy,Continue reading “Eight Thoughts on Guns and Freedom”

Trump Likes to Watch: The Visual Foundations of Modern Politics

Following the 2016 presidential election, Politico published a really interesting post (and podcast) about Chuck Todd’s experiences interviewing Donald Trump, with insights about Trump’s daddy issues, Trump’s not-laughing issues, and Trump’s manipulative-messing-with-the-media-pajama-interview issues. But far and away, the most interesting Chuck Todd insight concerned Trump’s visual-and-meta-visual issues, which captures a truth about contemporary politics that extends well beyond Trump to the structural foundations ofContinue reading “Trump Likes to Watch: The Visual Foundations of Modern Politics”

From Aquinas to Abortion: Self-Consuming Sexual Sagas of the New Natural Law

Natural law philosophy assumes intrinsic rational capacities of humans to properly perceive and pursue uniquely human goods. For centuries, natural law assumptions of intrinsic human rational capacities have been theologically agnostic. No Creator God required. Thoroughly optional! Beneath these open skies, natural law philosophy ranged broadly and proactively across the spectrum of evolving human circumstancesContinue reading “From Aquinas to Abortion: Self-Consuming Sexual Sagas of the New Natural Law”

A 2016 Presidential Election Mystery Unfolds in Wisconsin’s Juneau County

I wrote this geeky analysis of Wisconsin’s traumatic 2016 election landfall in the spring of 2017. Wisconsin is much on the mind of political junkies these days, who rightly view it as the bellwether for the national election in 2020 (listen to the latter 3rd of this recent Pod Save America podcast, in which Dan PfeifferContinue reading “A 2016 Presidential Election Mystery Unfolds in Wisconsin’s Juneau County”

Amy Wax is Whack

*The New Yorker’s* contentious interview with conservative University of Pennsylvania law professor Amy Wax (entitled A Penn Law Professor Wants to Make America White Again) is so weird. I sensed some of this weirdness in my own analysis of Amy Wax’s (much-maligned) address to the (much-maligned) July conference on National Conservatism in Washington, DC. But she ratchets up the strangeness in her Q&AContinue reading “Amy Wax is Whack”

Human Reason and Its Discontents: A Natural Law Sampler

The selections below illustrate the broad scope and application of natural law philosophy to Christian conservative perspectives on the issues that most divide the United States (and European nations) in this historical moment: a) how we think about and interpret history; b) the legacy and meaning of slavery and racism for national identity; c) migration,Continue reading “Human Reason and Its Discontents: A Natural Law Sampler”

Agent of Misdirection: John Calipari and the Theatrics of Race, Basketball, and Money

Misdirection. A form of deception in which the attention of an audience is focused on one thing in order to distract its attention from another. Managing the audience’s attention is the aim of all theater, it is the foremost requirement of theatrical magic. – Wikipedia On November 6, 2018, in a much-anticipated game on the firstContinue reading “Agent of Misdirection: John Calipari and the Theatrics of Race, Basketball, and Money”

Robby George’s Primer on Natural Law

In 2007, Professor Robert George, McCormick Professor of Jurisprudence and Director of the James Madison Program in American Ideals and Institutions at Princeton University, delivered the John Dewey Lecture in Philosophy at Harvard Law School. George himself received his legal education at Harvard, and was there introduced to ideas about the relationship between law and morality, the study of which,Continue reading “Robby George’s Primer on Natural Law”

Language and the Apocalypse: Trump’s Barking Summons to the Hounds of Hell

In this otherworldly, discordant political moment, I’d like to reclaim two fine articles published just prior to the 2016 presidential election that pay attention to the deeper structure of the tortured, mangled language games that beset us. Neither essay claims to have answers, but both in their humble, searching manner point us toward definitions ofContinue reading “Language and the Apocalypse: Trump’s Barking Summons to the Hounds of Hell”

Aaron’s Rod: The Righteous Religious Rage of Robert P. George

In October 2015, Bloomberg further burnished Robby George’s reputation as the wise man of the Republican Party with an article headlined “Half the Republican Field Seeks Advice From This Princeton Professor.” During the earliest stages of the 2016 presidential campaign, Ted Cruz, Jeb Bush, Ben Carson, Marco Rubio, and Rick Santorum sought Robby George’s advice on howContinue reading “Aaron’s Rod: The Righteous Religious Rage of Robert P. George”

God and Religion at Princeton

Collegiate gothic citadel of learning in a historic, picturesque town roughly equidistant from New York and Philadelphia, from Boston and Washington, DC, Princeton University is proximate to urban centers of wealth and power, while remaining demurely provincial and unassuming (the town is a mere 5-minute ride from the Northeast Rail Corridor via the terminally adorable Dinky, aContinue reading “God and Religion at Princeton”

Unalienable Rights, Alien Populations and Natural Law

We hold these Truths to be self-evident, that all Men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness. The media has spilled much ink parsing the meaning of Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s recently announced State Department “CommissionContinue reading “Unalienable Rights, Alien Populations and Natural Law”

‘Hamilton the Musical’ and the American Historical Imagination

I’ll just say it. Four years out, Hamilton the Musical remains the most important American cultural moment of the 21st century. The genius of Lin-Manuel Miranda’s creation is that his imaginative, hip hop, racial caste/casting adaptation of the massive Ron Chernow biography of Alexander Hamilton almost instantly, and effortlessly, has changed the way we think about American history. Part One / Alexander Hamilton, SuperstarContinue reading “‘Hamilton the Musical’ and the American Historical Imagination”

Amy Wax’s Recent Inflammatory Statements on Cultural Nationalism and Immigration

For those interested in a framework for thinking about University of Pennsylvania Law School professor Amy Wax’s controversial remarks about immigration, culture, and race at the recent National Conservatism conference in Washington, DC, I’d recommend reading these two documents. Here’s What Amy Wax Really Said About Immigration (The Federalist, July 26, 2019) – Provides a full transcript of Wax’s addressContinue reading “Amy Wax’s Recent Inflammatory Statements on Cultural Nationalism and Immigration”

Alexander Hamilton, Senator Mike Lee, and the U.S. Constitution

“Mine is an odd destiny. Perhaps no man in the United states has sacrificed or done more for the present Constitution than myself — and … I am still trying to prop the frail and worthless fabric. Yet I have the murmurs of its friends no less than the curses of its foes for myContinue reading “Alexander Hamilton, Senator Mike Lee, and the U.S. Constitution”

The Divinity of Data: Artificial Intelligence, the Death of God and the End of Individuality

In the first decade of the 21st century, an unsexy, inoffensive software markup language called XML solved a problem that has been the predicate for all major historical transformations: extracting content from its conventional forms and repurposing this content in ways never before imagined. XML became the vehicle for liberating data – as digital representations of the stuffContinue reading “The Divinity of Data: Artificial Intelligence, the Death of God and the End of Individuality”

From Working Class to White Trash: Risk, Responsibility, Causation, and Brokenness in America

Long before Donald Trump seized his spurious, self-canceling political moment as the imagined defender and champion of the “hardworking Americans” maligned as “deplorables” and “garbage” by out-of-touch, elitist Democrats such as Hillary Clinton and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, we have grappled as a nation with the complexities and contradictions of the relationship between “class” and “race,” and between “workingContinue reading “From Working Class to White Trash: Risk, Responsibility, Causation, and Brokenness in America”

‘Send Her Back:’ Limitations of a Language Lens on Racism

Donald Trump has once again upset the apple cart with his incendiary suggestion that four first-term female congresswomen (Ilhan Omar, Rashida Tlaib, Ayanna Pressley, and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez) go back to the (presumably) shithole countries from which they came. The ensuing dust-up – amplified by send her back chants at Trump’s recent North Carolina rally – has predictablyContinue reading “‘Send Her Back:’ Limitations of a Language Lens on Racism”

Thirteen Ways to Think About the Election of Donald Trump

“I wish it need not have happened in my time,” said Frodo.“So do I,” said Gandalf, “and so do all who live to see such times. But that is not for them to decide. All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given us.” – J.R.R. Tolkien, The LordContinue reading “Thirteen Ways to Think About the Election of Donald Trump”

Wolf at the Door: Antonin Scalia and the Death of American Law

Note: I wrote this essay a number of years ago, but am mindful of its relevance as we consider the Antonin Scalia legacy in the aftermath of his death, a task that remains especially vital as more than three years Mitch McConnell and Donald Trump have reshaped the entire federal judiciary in his image (including, of course,Continue reading “Wolf at the Door: Antonin Scalia and the Death of American Law”

“The Left Ruins Everything It Touches:” A Peek Inside the Weird, Sputtering Brain of Dennis Prager

Despite his wannabe symphony orchestra conducting pretensions, Dennis Prager is one of the more discordant and less thoughtful of the morality police on the right. Which is to say he is – at his best, when hitting the high notes – an unsophisticated scold. But Prager is worth tracking anyway. He has for two decades been aContinue reading ““The Left Ruins Everything It Touches:” A Peek Inside the Weird, Sputtering Brain of Dennis Prager”

Welcome to Bizarro World: Ayn Rand, Donald Trump, and the Assault on Public Institutions

Well, since we’ve been chatting about Peter Thiel … In July 2017, The New York Times published a fascinating essay about the cult-like worship of Ayn Rand among Silicon Valley tech bros such as Peter Thiel and Travis Kalanick, and of Donald Trump administration insiders such as Rex Tillerson, Mike Pompeo, and Trump himself. In aContinue reading “Welcome to Bizarro World: Ayn Rand, Donald Trump, and the Assault on Public Institutions”

Return to Oz: Peter Thiel’s Retro Futurism and the Perils of Limitless Self-Love

Early in 2017, the redowdable Maureen Dowd interviewed Peter Thiel (for the “Fashion and Style” section of the New York Times). Technology blog Gizmodo printed an orgy of quotes from the interview and gushed about its subject. Both Maureen Dowd and Peter Thiel are currently back in the spotlight for stirring up shit – Dowd for sponsoring the recent lunchContinue reading “Return to Oz: Peter Thiel’s Retro Futurism and the Perils of Limitless Self-Love”

Serving God and Mammon: The Rise and Influence of the Heritage Foundation and the Federalist Society

The Creation Project excavates Western history using the conceptual tools of complexity science. The contemporary story that foregrounds this archeological dig emphasizes the philosophical and political influence in the past five decades of a reactionary slice of American Catholicism. In this period, the ideas, organizations, and personalities of impresarios ranging from Antonin Scalia to Robert George to LeonardContinue reading “Serving God and Mammon: The Rise and Influence of the Heritage Foundation and the Federalist Society”

Culture War Catholicism and American Conservative Politics

Conversations on religious influences in American public life in the Trump era typically focus on white evangelical Protestant support for Donald Trump and the Christian nationalist wing of the Republican Party. The impact of Israeli-aligned Jewish political organizations and conservative Jewish political donors such as Sheldon Adelson is also well-known. However, the rise and organizational strength of AmericanContinue reading “Culture War Catholicism and American Conservative Politics”

The Creation Project: Revealed Religion, Natural Law, Western Civilization, and the Ends of the Earth

The premise of The Creation Project is that we will never understand and address the cognitive and existential dread the Donald Trump phenomenon has unleashed by merely parsing the man or the immediate circumstances surrounding his election and its aftermath. In a period marked by the unprecedented unraveling of the geological and biological premises of our existence,Continue reading “The Creation Project: Revealed Religion, Natural Law, Western Civilization, and the Ends of the Earth”

Roy Moore and the Horse He Rode In On: Revealed Religion and Natural Law in the Alabama Senate Race

In August, former (twice!) Alabama state Supreme Court Chief Justice Roy Moore (with a rich symbolism perhaps not fully appreciated) rode his horse Sassy into the unincorporated town of Gallant (population 850, also known as Greasy Cove) to cast a ballot for himself as the Republican nominee for the Senate seat vacated by Jeff Sessions.Continue reading “Roy Moore and the Horse He Rode In On: Revealed Religion and Natural Law in the Alabama Senate Race”

The Dark Side of the Sun: Solar Power and Global Electronic Waste

When complete, First Solar’s California Flats project will generate enough electricity to power Apple’s Cupertino headquarters complex, as well as its California stores and data centers. Many have hailed this agreement as a first step toward more widespread commercial adoption of solar power. After all, how can any company go wrong traveling in the footsteps of Apple?Continue reading “The Dark Side of the Sun: Solar Power and Global Electronic Waste”

Women and Guns

In this era of open government and data transparency, the demographics of gun ownership in the United States remain opaque. Which poses a conundrum for gun rights zealots. On the one hand, the National Rifle Association has pushed hard to limit collection and disclosure of gun purchase and ownership data. The NRA also has successfully curbed research for public healthContinue reading “Women and Guns”

Going Back to Indiana: With Two Cheers for Its Gun-Toting Gals!

The National Rifle Association, firearms manufacturers and gun rights bloggers frequently state (and assume) that in the 21st century, a new generation of female, minority and millennial gun-owners purchases, carries and uses firearms. This claim aligns the firearms industry and gun rights zealots with new demographic realities in the United States, which of course no longer favorContinue reading “Going Back to Indiana: With Two Cheers for Its Gun-Toting Gals!”

Climate Reformation: The Solar Technology Vision of Zoltan Kiss

As someone who for much of the past year has studied the global climate crisis as an existential threat to human life, I can’t overstate the value brought to Seeking Alpha investment forums by the articles written and published by Zoltan Kiss. Dr. Kiss is one of the OGs of solar photovoltaic (SPV) technology. AsContinue reading “Climate Reformation: The Solar Technology Vision of Zoltan Kiss”

Losing: The Soul of a Writer

In June 2013, the New Yorker paid tribute to Vasily Grossman, unheralded Russian war correspondent and novelist. Unheralded to me, at least. Apparently not to the rest of the literate public. The full title of the New Yorker essay is “Vasily Grossman: Loser, Saint.” The saint part didn’t interest me. The loser part did. I stayedContinue reading “Losing: The Soul of a Writer”

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