Conservatives American and Crunchy

So here's an article (really blog) from the interesting journal The American Conservative. The AC has two themes:  America ought to be a republic, and not an empire.  And America is held together by our distinctive traditions—and not some abstract ideology. American Conservatives don't think that to be an American is to embrace the principles of the Declaration of Independence, and they even find an "unwritten constitution" that's older and more fundamental than our written Constitution.


So American Conservatives tend to be isolationists and localists (and even secessionists) and hate the Wall Street, corporate globalizers as much as the Occupiers do.  Because the American Conservatives are so traditional, they also tend to be very literary, and so they often don't even claim their political choices are effective in some immediate sense. Alexis de Tocqueville complained that the literary class—detached from real political responsibility—is singularly lacking in prudence, and there's evidence he remains right when it comes to both our left and our right.

American Conservative writers only rarely vote for a candidate for president of one of our two major parties—and when they did last time they chose Obama as often as Romney. They hate neoconservatives more than they hate liberal Democrats. And they really like the isolationism and libertarianism of Ron and Rand Paul—and even those of George McGovern (who really did become rather libertarian—while remaining all about "come home America"—late in life).

But these American Conservatives are a strange sort of libertarian.  They're not at all like the atheistic sophisticates who also call themselves libertarians we find sometimes on BIG THINK.  One of them calls himself a "Tory anarchist," by which he seems to mean that he wants to save the world of manners and morals from the leveling effects of both atomistic capitalism and big, bureaucratic government.  One of their philosophic heroes—Russell Kirk—called himself a "bohemian Tory," and we might instructively contrast that personal branding with the "bourgeois bohemians" David Brooks finds among highly educated and citified Americans.

This particular article is by Rod Dreher.  He identifies himself as a crunchy conservative. That means, in his own mind, that he's localist in politics, orthodox in religion, but as totally organic and as ecologically conscious as some nostalgic ex-Hippie. To be a crunchy con, Rod claims, is to be a "Birkenstock-loving [Edmund] Burkean." He's always fun to read and sometimes he's even right.

Rod, too, is very literary, and he routinely fills the ordinary details of his life with deeper meaning. When he moves from one place to another or one religion to another, he alive to the spiritual significance of the change (and of course shares it with us).

Rod has at least this going for him:  He's more consistently ecological than those "do your own thing" ex-Hippies.  He worries about both natural ecology and social ecology:  The world has to be a proper home for both trees and families, and people, like trees, can't flourish unless they're securely located in a particular place. There's something really perverse about some tree-hugger who's not all about hugging his or her spouse and kids (and friends and neighbors) too.

So it turns out that I didn't get to Rod's actual article yet.  Next time.  But its big point is that people in both America and Europe are too uprooted these days. They're doing violence to who they are by nature as relational beings.

A still from the film "We Became Fragments" by Luisa Conlon , Lacy Roberts and Hanna Miller, part of the Global Oneness Project library.

Photo: Luisa Conlon , Lacy Roberts and Hanna Miller / Global Oneness Project
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  • Vaughan-Lee explains 6 ways that storytelling can foster empathy and deliver powerful learning experiences.
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Culture & Religion

Sometimes philosophers are wrong and admitting that you could be wrong is a big part of being a real philosopher. While most philosophers make minor adjustments to their arguments to correct for mistakes, others make large shifts in their thinking. Here, we have four philosophers who went back on what they said earlier in often radical ways. 

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Politics & Current Affairs
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Experts are already predicting an 'active' 2020 hurricane season

It looks like a busy hurricane season ahead. Probably.

Image source: Shashank Sahay/unsplash
Surprising Science
  • Before the hurricane season even started in 2020, Arthur and Bertha had already blown through, and Cristobal may be brewing right now.
  • Weather forecasters see signs of a rough season ahead, with just a couple of reasons why maybe not.
  • Where's an El Niño when you need one?

Welcome to Hurricane Season 2020. 2020, of course, scoffs at this calendric event much as it has everything else that's normal — meteorologists have already used up the year's A and B storm names before we even got here. And while early storms don't necessarily mean a bruising season ahead, forecasters expect an active season this year. Maybe storms will blow away the murder hornets and 13-year locusts we had planned.

NOAA expects a busy season

According to NOAA's Climate Prediction Center, an agency of the National Weather Service, there's a 60 percent chance that we're embarking upon a season with more storms than normal. There does, however, remain a 30 percent it'll be normal. Better than usual? Unlikely: Just a 10 percent chance.

Where a normal hurricane season has an average of 12 named storms, 6 of which become hurricanes and 3 of which are major hurricanes, the Climate Prediction Center reckons we're on track for 13 to 29 storms, 6 to 10 of which will become hurricanes, and 3 to 6 of these will be category 3, 4, or 5, packing winds of 111 mph or higher.

What has forecasters concerned are two factors in particular.

This year's El Niño ("Little Boy") looks to be more of a La Niña ("Little Girl"). The two conditions are part of what's called the El Niño-Southern Oscillation (ENSO) cycle, which describes temperature fluctuations between the ocean and atmosphere in the east-central Equatorial Pacific. With an El Niño, waters in the Pacific are unusually warm, whereas a La Niña means unusually cool waters. NOAA says that an El Niño can suppress hurricane formation in the Atlantic, and this year that mitigating effect is unlikely to be present.

Second, current conditions in the Atlantic and Caribbean suggest a fertile hurricane environment:

  • The ocean there is warmer than usual.
  • There's reduced vertical wind shear.
  • Atlantic tropical trade winds are weak.
  • There have been strong West African monsoons this year.

Here's NOAA's video laying out their forecast:

But wait.

ArsTechnica spoke to hurricane scientist Phil Klotzbach, who agrees generally with NOAA, saying, "All in all, signs are certainly pointing towards an active season." Still, he notes a couple of signals that contradict that worrying outlook.

First off, Klotzbach notes that the surest sign of a rough hurricane season is when its earliest storms form in the deep tropics south of 25°N and east of the Lesser Antilles. "When you get storm formations here prior to June 1, it's typically a harbinger of an extremely active season." Fortunately, this year's hurricanes Arthur and Bertha, as well as the maybe-imminent Cristobal, formed outside this region. So there's that.

Second, Klotzbach notes that the correlation between early storm activity and a season's number of storms and intensities, is actually slightly negative. So while statistical connections aren't strongly predictive, there's at least some reason to think these early storms may augur an easy season ahead.

Image source: NOAA

Batten down the hatches early

If 2020's taught us anything, it's how to juggle multiple crises at once, and layering an active hurricane season on top of SARS-CoV-2 — not to mention everything else — poses a special challenge. Warns Treasury Secretary Wilbur Ross, "As Americans focus their attention on a safe and healthy reopening of our country, it remains critically important that we also remember to make the necessary preparations for the upcoming hurricane season." If, as many medical experts expect, we're forced back into quarantine by additional coronavirus waves, the oceanic waves slamming against our shores will best be met by storm preparations put in place in a less last-minute fashion than usual.

Ross adds, "Just as in years past, NOAA experts will stay ahead of developing hurricanes and tropical storms and provide the forecasts and warnings we depend on to stay safe."

Let's hope this, at least, can be counted on in this crazy year.

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