The Spirit of Vatican II, Shorter Version
Roll Tide!

Sunday Night Journal — January 8, 2012

This will be brief, because I spent most of this afternoon and evening at the hospital where my daughter Ellen had just given birth to my newest grandchild, James Lucas Tynes. Mother and son are doing fine.

Second Thoughts About Christopher Hitchens

A few weeks ago I wrote a sort of obituary for Hitchens in which, like a good many American Christians, I gave him credit for being, at least, an honest searcher for truth. A week or so after that I ran across several commentaries on him which asserted that he not only never really abandoned his Communist ideology, but that he considered it a good thing that the Soviets had manage to rid the world of a pretty good number of Orthodox priests and other Christian enemies of humanity. I neglected to bookmark any of those, but I think at least one or two were at The American Conservative. If it is true that he believed up until the end that mass murder is an acceptable solution to what he regarded as the menace of religion, he does not deserve many of the admiring words, mine and others', that have been written about him. I don't feel it necessary to say much more than that.

At National Review, Victor Davis Hanson has what seems to be a very fair-minded remembrance of him. If you're interested in this at all, you should read at least the first few paragraphs. They contain the most specific information I've yet encountered about the event which is very plausibly believed to be at the root of Hitchens's burning hatred of religion: the suicide of his mother and her ex-Anglican-priest lover. Note: Anglican. I've heard this story more than once before, but if I remember correctly the lover was described either as a Catholic priest or simply as a priest, which to most people outside the Anglican or Orthodox churches generally implies Catholic. It makes more sense this way.

Also at National Review, the British native (now an American citizen) John Derbyshire sounded a pretty sour note about Hitchens and was given by a friend this explanation of his indifference to Hitchens, despite Derbyshire's also being a skeptic with regard to religion:  “One of the reasons that you were immune to Hitchensolatry, I think, is that you are English and are therefore not susceptible to the American tendency to believe that anyone who speaks fluently with an Oxbridge accent must be right.” (The post is here.) I didn't much like hearing this, because of an uneasy feeling that there might be something to it. I heard Tony Blair arguing in Parliament for the Iraq war, and he was far more persuasive than George Bush, though in the end the substance was probably much the same. 

 "Job Creators" or Gamblers

And yet again from National Review: a fine indignant piece by Kevin D. Williamson on the Wall Street-Washington symbiosis. This is refreshing because too many conservatives--and way too many conservative politicians--either don't see or willfully ignore the fact that the high rollers of high finance are not the "job creators" that Republican politicians always say they need to protect from rapacious tax collectors. Granted, a capitalist economy needs a stock market. Granted, that there's nothing wrong with the basic principle of people investing in an enterprise, underwriting the risk and hoping for a share in the profits. But a lot of the people who make the really big money in high finance are not doing that in any meaningful sense, not directly: they're gambling on the ups and downs of the market. Here's a good sample selection:

Beyond Wall Street proper, your Fortune 500 types are looking at the many-splendored tax credits and subsidies and grants and stimulus dollars lavished upon firms such as the now-defunct Solyndra and the really-should-have-been-defunct General Electric and wondering: How do I get me some of that?

 What’s worse is that much of official Washington is looking at Wall Street and asking the same question. The answer: Easy. If Wall Street has done pretty well by investing in Washington, the more despair-inducingly germane fact is that Washington has done pretty well by investing in Wall Street. A catalogue of recent congressional insider-trading, self-dealing, IPO shenanigans, and inexplicably good investment luck would fill an entire volume, and in fact it has: The book has the Tea Party–bait title Throw Them All Out: How Politicians and Their Friends Get Rich Off Insider Stock Tips, Land Deals, and Cronyism That Would Send the Rest of Us to Prison, by Peter Schweizer of the Hoover Institution. That’s a lot of title for a fairly slim book (176 pages of reportage, plus end notes), but, despite its relatively slender dimensions, it cost me an entire night’s sleep: I spent half the night reading it in a single sitting and the other half having nightmares about it. It’s the most offensive and disturbing thing I’ve read since sampling the oeuvre of the Marquis de Sade as an undergraduate.

There is nothing conservative in supporting or enabling these arrangements. It may be difficult to craft policies that hold the gamblers accountable--or, at a minimum, make sure that when they lose they can and will pay up--without penalizing real entrepreneurs, but you have to start by recognizing the difference. More Williamson:

[F]ree-market conservatives should not romanticize the lords of finance.

Wall Street can do math, and the math looks like this: Wall Street + Washington = Wild Profitability. Free enterprise? Entrepreneurship? Starting a business making and selling stuff behind some grimy little storefront? You’d have to be a fool. Better to invest in political favors.

I've snipped out only a few good quotes from a fairly lengthy piece: here's the link again.

The Marmite Poem

Last week, writing about English food, I meant to quote the poem from the label of the Marmite jar:

Roses are red
Violets are blue
Marmite, you're brown
And I love you.

Roll Tide!

Alabama vs. LSU Monday night in New Orleans for the national championship. I intend to watch, but with some effort to preserve my equanimity. The misery of the last two times we played LSU, and the 2010 loss to Auburn, almost made me decide I'd rather not watch. I'll see how I do this time.


I can't resist: one more quote from Kevin Williamson:

Here’s what Wall Street doesn’t want: It doesn’t want to hear from Sarah Palin or Michele Bachmann or even Newt Gingrich, or suffer any sort of tea-party populism. It wants you rubes to shut up about Jesus and please pay your mortgages. It doesn’t want to hear from such traditional Republican constituencies as Christian conservatives, moral traditionalists, pro-lifers, or friends of the Second Amendment. It doesn’t even want to hear much from the Chamber of Commerce crowd, because those guys are used-car dealers and grocery-store owners and for the most part strictly from hick, so far as Wall Street is concerned. Wall Street wants an administration and a Congress — and a country — that believes what is good for Wall Street is good for America, whether that is true or isn’t. Wall Street doesn’t want free markets — it wants friends, favors, and fealty.


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Warmest congratulations on the birth of James Lucas Tynes!

Yes, hearty congratulations to all!


Congrats! (from a long time lurker brought hither by Craig)

Thanks, everyone!

Congratulations and felicitations.

Thank you.

(oh, and welcome, jim)

Congratulations on the little tike!

And that Marmite poem is Klassy :D

I was reading an article today about how the Nobel prize committee rejected "Lord of the Rings" and in the comments, someone said that LotR was like marmite, people either love them or hate them.


Heh. "The Marmite of literature". Doesn't sound very complimentary.

Surely no one just *hates* LotR?! I know people who didn't much care for it, but I don't think they hated it.

I heard some literata on a late-night TV show saying she thought Lord of the Rings should be banned. Sounds like hatred to me ...

Indeed. *banned*!?! What kind of whacko is she, I wonder? Now that you remind me, I have heard the complaint that it's racistsexistetc, and the people who make complaints like that tend to be ready haters, so...

Hi, Jim! Nice to see you over here.

I hadn't known that story about Hitchens' family background... pretty awful. Two columns about Hitchens' death that caught my eye in the past few weeks were (a) one by Fr. Raymond de Souza, published in one of our Canadian national dailies, and (b) one by John Haldane, who debated Hitchens at least once. Fr. de Souza is pretty ruthless, and he has a point. Haldane is gentler but asks some good questions.

Incidentally, a debate -- really more of a discussion -- between Hitchens and Haldane is available to be viewed online. It is one of those relatively few occasions on which Hitchens' rhetorical bluster turned against him: he was obviously so overmatched that his flights of rhetoric just looked like evasions.

I read the one by Fr. de Souza but will have to wait for the others. I really can't argue with Fr. de S. It's not the whole story, but it's an important part and can't be denied.

Wait, what??! I didn't notice this earlier--I'm so sorry!!!

Congratulations, Sir!!! How wonderful!!!

The Haldane piece is great.

I've just been watching the debate between John Haldane and Christopher Hitchens on youtube, and find that while Hitchens makes a less boorish and bullying impression than in either of his TV performances that I've seen, he still comes across as remarkably arrogant and ignorant.

I haven't been able to watch that yet, but I find myself more and more agreeing with critical views of him. Haldane poses the question: "was his an acute analytical mind, dissecting and composing reasoned arguments, or was he a rhetorician sustaining a mellifluous but often merely associative flow of words?" Definitely more the second than the first, I'd say.

Anybody who can say that it was the adoption of the separation of Church and State in the American Constitution that brought to an end the persecution of Protestants in Maryland ...

What?! Who said that?


Christopher Hitchens did, as part of his argument why religion has no role in the public sphere. The more I see of him the more I wonder why anybody was much bothered about him in the first place.

Well, that statement is just ridiculous. I realize that a lot of people might not know the history of of Maryland, but most of them probably have the sense not to make stuff up about it.


So ... My wife now has an iPhone. I was going to say something from airport blvd but it's too much trouble.

About the Hitchens remark: I still haven't watched that debate (I'm assuming that's where you heard it), but I can just imagine him saying that with an air of absolute assurance. It was that sort of statement about religious matters that made me wonder if he was just making stuff up in other contexts, too.

In part 2 of the video, at 3min12. Ironically, at 1min20 in part 7, he says "I can make a statement of objective truth easily enough."

[snort] Very easily indeed if you don't care whether it's actually true or not.

How lovely to have a new baby in the family! And January is a very good month to be born in -- that's my month as well :-).

I picked up Hitchens's memoir, Hitch-22, at the library last week. I read only the first few chapters and then skimmed some of the rest. I was struck that in the chapter on his mother he refers to her as "Yvonne," I think almost exclusively. I also picked up a strong opportunistic "vibe" in the fellow, but that may be just my reading.

Thank you. January's a fine month, though not as fine as October.:-)

"opportunistic" would certainly not be surprising. I can't really see Hitch-22 ever working its way to the top of my reading list so I won't have the occasion to make that judgment.

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