Grievance, rebellion and burnt bridges: Tracing Josh Hawley’s path to the insurrection

The Washington Post reports:

Hawley made a striking declaration about his view of Americans in a June 2019 article in Christianity Today, titled “The Age of Pelagius.” He said Pelagius, a Greek scholar born about the year 350, had said individuals had freedom to be whatever they chose. “It’s the Pelagian vision,” he wrote. “Liberty is the right to choose your own meaning.”

Hawley found such liberty abhorrent.

He said it meant that an individual could “emancipate yourself not just from God but from society, family, and tradition.” He said those seeking this liberty became elitists.

This was too much for his onetime hero, George Will, who viewed individual liberty as an essential American trait. Will had been helpful during the Senate campaign. He had been urged to write about Hawley by Danforth, his longtime friend and the godfather of Will’s daughter. Will came to Missouri, rode with Hawley on a campaign bus and wrote a column praising the candidate as “an actual, not a pretend, conservative.”

But Will gradually concluded that his assessment had been wrong. He wrote a column in January 2020 ridiculing Hawley’s attack on individualism. As the two feuded, the senator fired off a Trump-like tweet at the man he once revered: “I’m told NeverTrumper and ex-Republican George Will attacking me again today for talking about working people. Oh George. Don’t you have a country club to go to?”

Will said in an interview that he found the tweet “surpassingly dumb.” He later condemned Hawley’s effort to reject the presidential election results and create a “synthetic drama” on Jan. 6, writing that the senator from Missouri, along with Trump and Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Tex.), must be “forevermore shunned. … Each will wear a scarlet ’S’ as a seditionist.”

My father was not a fan of Pelagius. I guess I’m ambivalent. I don’t care about the mechanics of salvation and I don’t believe that humans are perfectible and rational (they have a limited capacity for rationality) but I do believe in the ability of people to improve (I don’t want to go through life without believing in free will but I recognize there are good arguments against it). Pelagius seems like he would have fit in well with the Enlightenment and its belief in the inherent goodness of human nature (which I do not share).

Judaism is more optimistic than Christianity about human potential.

Paul Johnson wrote in his History of the English People:

Since the conversion of the Emperor Constantine, the official religion of the Empire had been Christianity. Though the administrative centre of the Empire had been transferred to Byzantium, the state religion was still centrally conducted from Rome. Already indeed its chain of command, and its contacts with outlying regions such as Britain, were maintained in a more regular fashion than the political and military functions of the Empire. Christianity still had a working international infrastructure. This religion, by its very nature, was centralised, universalist, authoritarian and anti-regional. It was run by a disciplined priestly caste, commanded by bishops based on the imperial urban centres, under the ultimate authority of the Bishop of Rome himself, the spiritual voice of the western Empire. Its doctrines were absolutist, preaching unthinking submission to divine authority: the Emperor and his high priest, the Bishop of Rome, in this world, and a unitary god, who appointed the Emperor, in the next. Man was born in sin, and must accept tribulation as inevitable; he could indeed be redeemed, but only by an authority external to him – God in the next world, the Emperor in this. Salvation, now and for ever, lay solely with the Christian Empire. These attitudes and doctrines underlay the political posture of the pro-imperial party in Britain.

They had, however, come under increasing challenge from a theologian who took an altogether less pessimistic view of the human condition, and of the divine dispensation for man. Significantly, this theologian was British. Pelagius was born in Britain, of native stock, about AD 350, and was about thirty when he first travelled to Rome. He had had a good education, in the legal traditions of the Empire, but his outlook had been shaped by the local environment – physical, political and economic – of a distant province, which had never been more than semi-Romanised, and which was a very peripheral factor in imperial policy. Pelagius attacked the prevailing orthodoxy of Roman Christianity. When Adam sinned, he argued, he injured himself only:
it was nonsense to pretend his fault was transmitted to every human being, to be effaced only by divine grace; a child was baptised to be united with Christ, not to be purged of original sin. Man was a rational, perfectible creature: he could live without sin if he chose; grace was desirable, but not essential. Man was a free being, with the power to choose between good and evil. He could become the master of his destiny: the most important thing about him was his freedom of will. If he fell, that was his own fault; but by his actions he could rise too.

Pelagianism was the spiritual formula for nationalism, for the independence movements breaking out from a crumbling empire. In
the year 410 Pelagius was still in Rome, leaving it just before the city was sacked by the Goths. His work was by no means complete, and had not yet been anathematised by a Church which saw it as a threat to its universalist authority. But his views were already widely known and arousing fierce controversy. They were hotly repudiated by the orthodox political and religious element who saw the re-establishment of the Empire, in all its plenitude, as the only hope of salvation from the barbarian. But they were eagerly accepted by those who thought that the Empire was already dead, and that individual communities must look to their own defences. Man could save himself by his exertions, and others by his example: in this world as well as in the next. The Empire could not, by a miraculous infusion of grace, turn back the savages from the gates: only organised local resistance could do that. Possibly even the barbarians themselves could be brought within the pale of civilisation, and unite with local citizens in building viable societies to their mutual profit. Pelagius had pointed out that free will existed even among the barbarians; they too were perfectible, could choose freedom and profit from it.

These arguments had a particular appeal in Britain, which had always felt itself a neglected, despised and expendable outpost of the Continental imperial system. There is no evidence Pelagius ever re- turned to Britain. But he was not the only British member of his school; one of the most energetic and vehement of his companions was also a Briton, and there may have been others. At any rate his beliefs were widely held in Britain by 410 : there was a strong Pelagian party among the British propertied class. There, orthodox Christianity was no more than a powerful, officially endorsed sect; perhaps not even the predominant one. Not all the leading Britons were convinced that Christianity was the only religion. In the late fourth century there had been a pagan revival in Britain, which has left traces in the splendid shrine of Nodens, in the west country, built possibly as late as AD 400. Among the British Pelagians, at least, there was an ambivalent attitude to other religions, a refusal to recognise Christianity as the exclusive route to salvation, a willingness to do business with the unconverted. This could be expressed in political and military, as well as religious, terms.

Tolerance may have been dictated by common sense. Nearly 150 years later, the monk Gildas, writing from the standpoint of orthodox Christianity, blames the destruction of an independent Britain by barbarous invaders on the moral failings of the British, their lack of resolution in their faith. Echoing him, Bede says that the British were submerged because they made no attempt to convert the heathen to Christianity. But Gildas’s account is avowedly didactic, not historical; he was a partisan, among other things an anti-Pelagian. His reconstruction of events after 410 distorts what actually happened, for he made himself the mouthpiece of the pro-imperial party. To negotiate with the barbarians, on the basis of a mutual tolerance of race and religion, was an obvious course for the British nationalists, who were also Pelagians. Saxons had been established, as military settlers federated to the provincial authorities, on parts of the East Coast for many decades. They were part of Britain’s defensive system, such as it was. It was sensible to encourage others, of Jutish and Frisian and Prankish origin, moving across the narrow seas, to settle themselves in Kent in organised, law-abiding communities, working in co-operation with the British authorities for the defence of all the island’s peoples. These settlers had been touched by civilisation; they were not outer barbarians but military tribes who could be used against them. The story of the British Vortigern, or High King, and Hengist and Horsa, reflects an arrangement which made good political and military sense at the time. It ended in tragedy, according to the subsequent gloss of both British and English Dark Age historians. But it may, in fact, have successfully ensured a limited period of peace in which newly independent Britain could organise itself. And the collapse of the British State, which endured in some form for nearly 150 years, seems to have been brought about by civil war rather than external attack; moreover, our only account of what happened comes from Gildas, who was a leading member of one of the British factions.

At any rate, in 410 the Pelagian nationalist party in Britain took control, though its authority, and policy, were qualified. We know roughly what happened from the historian Zosimus. He says that in 410 an enormous army of barbarians crossed the Rhine, without effective resistance from the imperial authorities. The British revolted from Roman rule, and established a national state. They took up arms, freed their cities from the barbarian invaders, expelled the remaining members of the imperial administration and set up their own system of government.

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Improve oxygen uptake in the blood – Patrick McKeown

I have some disagreements.

* It is not a good idea to deliberately take a breath. It should be involuntary. The more you manipulate your breathing, the more interfering tension habits you’ll develop that will reduce the quality of your breath. When you gasp for breath or deliberately try to inhale as much air as possible, you simultaneously tense up your body, you inculcate tension patterns, and you reduce your breath capacity.

People prefer to learn by adding on new habits rather than reducing bad habits.

* When this guy speaks, he tends to tip his head back, tightening and compressing his neck and back muscles, reducing his breath capacity.

The Guardian reports:

Patrick McKeown, a Galway-based Buteyko practitioner who advocates mouth-taping during sleep, travels widely to speak at conferences. Prior to Covid-19 he was booked up 18 months in advance. “Five years ago, it was sleep,” he says. “Right now, breathing is hot.” McKeown believes a range of conditions including asthma are caused or exacerbated by modern human tendencies to mouth breath and over-breathe. Buteyko Method teachings have traditionally emphasised the idea that mouth breathing lowers carbon dioxide levels in the blood, which, in turn, causes asthma symptoms. McKeown distances himself from this, saying that while low CO2 plays a role, so too do the cooling and drying of the airways caused by, he says, mouth breathing, and that the resulting wheezing, coughing and breathlessness in some people can be eased by switching to nose and lighter breathing.

While Prof Thomas acknowledges that more nose-breathing might help some asthma patients, he says the Buteyko method’s emphasis on increased oxygen intake and low carbon dioxide levels in the blood is simplistic. “People with asthma don’t overbreathe, and we’ve measured CO2 levels in asthmatics before and after retraining and found no relationship whatsoever between severity of asthma and CO2 levels,” he says. “The claim that asthma is caused by hyperventilation and low carbon dioxide are scientifically untenable.”

Prof Thomas acknowledges that more nose-breathing might help some asthma patients, but rejects the emphasis on either increased oxygen intake or low carbon dioxide levels in the blood as simplistic. “People with asthma don’t over breathe, and we’ve measured CO2 levels in asthmatics before and after retraining and found no relationship whatsoever between severity of asthma and CO2 levels,” he says. “The claim that asthma is caused by hyperventilation and low carbon dioxide are scientifically untenable.”

…Extraordinary claims that breathing techniques can treat serious diseases and improve performance in various ways are based on preliminary findings, small studies and research that shows only associations. The claims on Wim Hof’s website, for example, that his method “is linked to reducing symptoms of” diseases including rheumatoid arthritis, multiple sclerosis and Parkinson’s disease are unsupported by high-quality research. Dolan’s website quotes a US doctor as stating: “Possibly one of the best therapies ever discovered for HIV, other infectious diseases, and most degenerative, or chronic illnesses (including cancer) is oxygen therapy.”

Many people undoubtedly benefit from breathing exercises. However, overblown claims about these powers are frustrating for scientists who believe they do have potential for more widespread use, but that this should be supported by good-quality research and trials. “It is likely there will be uses for breathing techniques in a variety of medical settings,” says Thomas. “However, it’s not a magic bullet. “There are a lot of people peddling snake oil. What one has to do is look at these claims with a sceptical eye, and do proper scientific studies to show whether or not it works. If you are just generally worried about your health, it won’t do you any harm. Just don’t expect it to turn your life around.”

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I can’t imagine anyone claiming that Jordan Peterson’s teachings ruined his life

I’ve never cared about Jordan Peterson one way or another, but it seems clear to me that he has done overwhelmingly more good than harm with his public life. Thousands of men in particular felt great benefit from taking him on a substitute father figure. Who am I to begrudge that? I had decades where I yearned for a substitute father figure. If you are going to take on a guru, Jordan is better than 99% of them.

I can’t see any arguments that Jordan has wreaked mass destruction. To the extent he’s had an affect on people, it seems for the good. I don’t feel any emotional tug to any side of the arguments about Jordan. I’m sure that Jordan, like everyone else, benefits from accurate criticism.

I’ve never read any of his books nor listened to his lectures. I listened to one of his podcast interviews (Ten Ways the World is Getting Better). I watched the documentary on him. Why hate him unless it is out of jealousy of his success?

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How Much Do American Jews Care About Israel?

According to the new Pew Research Center report on American Jewry:

Eight-in-ten U.S. Jews say caring about Israel is an essential or important part of what being Jewish means to them. Nearly six-in-ten say they personally feel an emotional attachment to Israel, and a similar share say they follow news about the Jewish state at least somewhat closely.

…More broadly, young U.S. Jews are less emotionally attached to Israel than older ones. As of 2020, half of Jewish adults under age 30 describe themselves as very or somewhat emotionally attached to Israel (48%), compared with two-thirds of Jews ages 65 and older.

In addition, among Jews ages 50 and older, 51% say that caring about Israel is essential to what being Jewish means to them, and an additional 37% say it is important but not essential; just 10% say that caring about Israel is not important to them. By contrast, among Jewish adults under 30, one-third say that caring about Israel is essential (35%), and one-quarter (27%) say it’s not important to what being Jewish means to them.

The same pattern – lower levels of attachment to Israel among younger Jewish adults than among older ones – also was present in the 2013 survey. Because the 2013 survey was conducted by live interviewers over the telephone and the 2020 survey was self-administered by respondents online or on a paper questionnaire, the results on some questions are not directly comparable. This includes measures of attachment to Israel, and consequently it is difficult to know whether overall levels of attachment to Israel among Jewish Americans have changed over that seven-year period.

This Pew result is out of kilter with similar surveys of American Jewry which show much lower levels of attachment to Israel.

In his book The Israel Lobby (co-authored with Stephen Walt), John J. Mearsheimer wrote:

Yet the Israel lobby is not synonymous with American Jewry, and “Jewish lobby” is not an appropriate term for describing the various individuals and groups that work to foster U.S. support for Israel. For one thing, there is significant variation among American Jews in their depth of commitment to Israel. Roughly a third of them, in fact, do not identify Israel as a particularly salient issue. In 2004, for example, a well-regarded survey found that 36 percent of Jewish Americans were either “not very” or “not at all” emotionally attached to Israel. 6 Furthermore, many American Jews who care a lot about Israel do not support the policies endorsed endorsed by the dominant organizations in the lobby, just as many gun owners do not support every policy that the NRA advocates and not all retirees favor every position endorsed by the AARP. For example, American Jews were less enthusiastic about going to war in Iraq than the population as a whole, even though key organizations in the lobby supported the war, and they are more opposed to the war today. Finally, some of the individuals and groups that are especially vocal on Israel’s behalf, such as the Christian Zionists, are not Jewish. So while American Jews are the lobby’s predominant constituency, it is more accurate to refer to this loose coalition as the Israel lobby. It is the specific political agenda that defines the lobby, not the religious or ethnic identity of those pushing it.
The attachment that many American Jews feel for Israel is not difficult to understand, and as noted in the Introduction, it resembles the attitudes of other ethnic groups that retain an affinity for other countries or peoples with similar backgrounds in foreign lands. 7 Although many Jews in the United States were ambivalent about Zionism during the movement’s early years, support grew significantly after Hitler came to power in 1933 and especially after the horrors inflicted on the Jews during World War II became widely known. 8
Relatively few Jews chose to leave the United States and move to Israel after its founding in 1948, a pattern that Prime Minister David Ben-Gurion and other Israeli leaders initially criticized. Nevertheless, a strong commitment to Israel soon became an important element of identity for many American Jews. 9 The establishment of a Jewish state in historic Palestine seemed miraculous in itself, especially in the aftermath of the Nazi Holocaust. Israel’s achievements in “making the desert bloom” were an obvious source of pride, and a close identification with Israel provided a new basis for community for a population that was rapidly assimilating into American society and becoming increasingly secular at the same time. As Rosenthal notes:
To equate Israel with Judaism was a comforting way to avoid the encumbrances of religion by focusing one’s Jewishness on a secular state 8,000 miles from home … Synagogues, the new mainstay of American Jewish life in the postwar era, became Israel-centered. A new class of Jewish professionals … arose in the suburbs. They soon discovered that Israel was the most effective means to counter the growing religious indifference of their constituencies. Primarily in response to Israel’s overwhelming need for financial and political support, new institutions … arose, and fundraising and lobbying increasingly defined American Jews’ relationship to Israel.

Footnote 6. Steven M. Cohen, The 2004 National Survey of American Jews , sponsored by the Jewish Agency for Israel’s Department of Jewish-Zionist Education, February 24, 2005. Also see 2006 Annual Survey of American Jewish Opinion , conducted September 25-October 16, 2006, American Jewish Committee, October 18, 2006; Steven M. Cohen, “Poll: Attachment of U.S. Jews to Israel Falls in Past 2 Years,” Forward , March 4, 2005; and M. J. Rosenberg, “Letting Israel Sell Itself,” Weekly Opinion Column, Issue #218, Israel Policy Forum, Washington, DC, March 18, 2005. A recent report prepared for the American Jewish Committee notes that “there is a consensus among several studies that Israel is not central to young people’s Jewish identity.” Jacob B. Ukeles et al., “Young Jewish Adults in the United States Today,” American Jewish Committee, September 2006, 34. Also see Amiram Barkat, “Young American Jews Are More Ambivalent Toward Israel, Study Shows,” Ha’aretz , March 7, 2005.

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Opioid Nation

Dr. Marcia Angell writes:

The problem with these three books, and it’s a big one, is that they treat the Purdue story as though it were the whole story of the opioid epidemic. But OxyContin did not give rise to opioid addiction, although it jump-started the current epidemic. Heroin has been a common street drug ever since it was banned in 1924. Morphine has also been widely abused.

Nor would taking OxyContin off the market end the epidemic. The overwhelming majority of opioid deaths are caused not by OxyContin but by combinations of fentanyl, heroin, and cocaine, often brought in from China via Mexican cartels, and frequently taken along with benzodiazepines (such as Valium or Xanax) and alcohol. These drugs are cheaper and stronger, particularly fentanyl. Fentanyl was first synthesized in 1960, and soon became widely used as an anesthetic and powerful painkiller. It is legally manufactured and highly effective when used appropriately, often for short medical procedures such as colonoscopies. The illicit production and street use is relatively new, but it is now the main cause of most opioid-related deaths (nearly 90 percent in Massachusetts).

The steady increase in opioid deaths after OxyContin came on the market has been supplanted by a much faster increase starting around 2013, when heroin and fentanyl use increased dramatically. We now have two epidemics—the overuse of prescription drugs and the much more deadly and now largely unrelated epidemic of street drugs. By concentrating on the first, we are closing the barn door after the horse is long gone.

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