Georgetown C&O Canal

At dusk I walked from Georgetown Waterfront Park on the Potomac uphill past the C&O Canal, along M Street for a few blocks, and eventually home. Georgetown’s section of the C&O Canal is looking picturesque:

The C&O Canal runs through Georgetown along the Potomac River west from Rock Creek. The Chesapeake and Ohio National Historical Park is located along the C&O Canal from Rock Creek Park to the DC boundary and extends into Maryland. The park is open during all daylight hours.

The Chesapeake and Ohio (C&O) Canal is one of the most intact and impressive survivals of the American canal-building era. The C&O Canal is unique in that it remains virtually unbroken and without substantial modification affecting its original character for its entire length of 185 miles.

The 501(c)3 non-profit organization Georgetown Heritage was recently founded to restore and revitalize the mile-long section of the C&O Canal that runs through Georgetown.

Pittsburgh for six hours

I spent about six hours in Pittsburgh today, where I visited to meet with Rehumanize International to talk shop. Rehumanize has an important mission: “to ensure that each and every human being’s life is respected, valued, and protected.” Rehumanize was founded by Aimee Murphy, who was a fellow Notre Dame Vita Institute participant with me last summer:

Rehumanize International is a non-profit human rights organization dedicated to creating a culture of peace and life, and in so doing, we seek to bring an end to all aggressive violence against humans through education, discourse, and action.

We adhere to an ethos called the Consistent Life Ethic, which calls for an opposition to all forms of aggressive violence against human beings, including but not limited to:​

  • Abortion
  • Abuse (domestic, assault, rape)
  • Capital Punishment
  • Embryonic Stem-Cell Research
  • Euthanasia
  • Human Trafficking
  • Physician Assisted Suicide
  • Police brutality
  • Poverty Issues
  • Racism
  • Suicide
  • Torture
  • Unjust War

The Consistent Life Ethic serves as the philosophical foundation of our advocacy.

Additionally, we achieve our vision by maintaining our organization as non-sectarian and non-partisan, and furthermore by promoting collaboration amongst many organizations across movements.

I took these photos on the way in and out of the city.


I was in Manassas, Virginia this weekend, and spent two hours or so in McKay Used Books. I didn’t know that places like McKays still existed, but was glad to spend the time:

McKay Used Books is unlike any other bookstore you’ve been to. We have hundreds of thousands of different items on our shelves on any given day for your browsing pleasure. Since 1983, we have bought, sold, and traded with customers through the Northern Virginia area.

Looking for books? We have fiction, non-fiction, children’s books, graphic novels, and comics.  Are you a movie buff looking to fill out your collection, trying to find something to watch tonight, or maybe a cheap date night flick? Check out our DVDs and BluRays in every genre. Long commute? Try our books on cd! Is music your thing? We’ve literally got thousands of cds in all different categories and now Vinyl and cassettes too! Did you say that you are a gamer? Well that’s good, because we carry RPG materials, every type of video game and video game accessory, current and retro. In addition to all that, we now carry board games, action figures, beanie babies, and even Nerf guns. There’s something here for everyone!

How do we get all this stuff you ask? From customers like you of course.

I picked up about 70 books and while there met a fascinating man who wanted to talk with me about aliens.

Annie in Fort Washington

We visited Harmony Hall Arts Center in Fort Washington, Maryland last night to see a community theater production of Annie. Harmony Hall Arts Center is in a little community space that reminded me a lot of the WREC that used to exist where I grew up.  A friend played the part of FDR, Bert Healy, and a few other roles. A bit from Jonathan C. Jackson, director and choreographer, from the program:

Welcome to Tantallon Community Players Production of Annie! Annie was the first musical I remember seeing as a child, and it will always hold a special place in my heart. Its sense of optimism and hope is something that has stayed with me my entire life.

The comic strip “Little Orphan Annie” began in 1924 and has continuously revived itself on screen and stage, making this a story that transcends time. “Little Orphan Annie” ran continuously for 85 years, with its last printing on June 13, 2010.

We should all aspire to attack our life challenges with a smile, shake off self-doubt and fears, and sing our hearts out. Maybe the world would be a better place if we simply take each day as it comes, expect the best of our ourselves and the people around us, and yes, when challenged with seemingly insurmountable odds, be patient, the sun will come out tomorrow.

‘A very particular type of fury’

Samuel Gregg considers Michael Novak’s Spirit of Democratic Capitalism in light of the apparent resurgence in interest in democratic socialism:

Novak never claimed that economics should be decisive in political choices. But he did think that the basic insights into reality provided by economics — the workings of incentives and self-interest, comparative advantage, trade-offs, the necessity of free prices as carriers of information, attentiveness to the known side effects of particular choices, etc. — should no more be ignored than any other empirically validated observation arising from the social sciences.

The lessons of economics, however, weren’t the primary point of departure for Novak’s critique of socialism. He genuinely wanted to understand why people embrace socialism, and he concluded that it wasn’t simply economic ignorance.

By the early 1980s, Novak argued, socialism had become less about practical economic programs than about (1) certain ideals regarding equality and poverty and (2) deep hostility to capitalism per se. The single-minded pursuit of these beliefs, combined with the tendency to view capitalism in almost demonic terms, meant that socialism assumed the form of what Novak called a “political religion.” This, he believed, was what made socialism erroneous — and very dangerous.

Being a political faith, socialism could never fulfill the expectations associated with true religion. But its ersatz religious nature meant that socialism’s economic and political failures would inevitably generate a very particular type of fury.

Socialism’s record of failure, Novak pointed out, was clear. Instead of growing wealth across society, it gradually impoverished all. Far from producing greater equality, it facilitated its own inequities, the most glaring being those between the planners and everyone else. …

Throughout The Spirit of Democratic Capitalism, Novak was relentless in stressing that any serious theory of political economy must pay attention to the human condition. Humans are good yet capable of evil. Our reason is powerful but not all-powerful. Men are not angels, but neither are they beasts. The genius of market economies, Novak held, is that they recognize humanity’s capacities and limitations and help direct them to the realization of some important goods. …

Many of the social dysfunctionalities that worry socialism’s advocates and capitalism’s critics don’t have market solutions because, Novak understood, their causes often have little to do with economics.

Surveillance capitalism

Alessandra Bocchi shared this excerpt from The Age of Surveillance Capitalism: The Fight for the Human Future at the New Frontier of Power:

Sur-veil-lance Cap-i-tal-ism, n.

1. A new economic order that claims human experience as free raw material for hidden commercial practices of extraction, prediction, and sales; 2. A parasitic economic logic in which the production of goods and services is subordinated to a new global architecture of behavioral modification; 3. A rogue mutation of capitalism marked by concentrations of wealth, knowledge, and power unprecedented in human history; 4. The foundational framework of a surveillance economy; 5. As significant a threat to human nature in the twenty-first century as industrial capitalism was to the natural world in the nineteenth and twentieth; 6. The origin of a new instrumentarian power that asserts dominance over society and presents startling challenges to market democracy; 7. A movement that aims to impose a new collective order based on total certainty; 8. An axpropriation of critical human rights that is best understood as a coup from above: an overthrow of the people’s sovereignty.

That’s a capacious definition, but it’s hammering away at surveillance capitalism as something that I think many of us intuit. Planning to read this at some point later this year, especially to discover whether the book focuses more on surveillance or more on capitalism.

Women Speak

Americans United for Life hosted “Women Speak 2019: A Symposium on Life Without Roe” this morning at The Heritage Foundation in Washington, DC:

Women Speak 2019 brings together leaders in law, medicine, economics, and culture, to explore the current cultural and political paradigm that falsely argues abortion is necessary for women’s advancement in society.

“Women Speak” addresses itself to the heart of the presumption underlying the U.S. Supreme Court’s Roe and Casey abortion jurisprudence—that is, the idea that American women have a “reliance interest” in abortion.  A few scenes from the symposium:

Paul Strand was there and reports:

Americans United for Life organized the event, with its leader Catherine Glenn Foster arguing women would no longer need to kill their unborn children if society was more accepting of motherhood.

She asserted, “It is not women who need to change, but a nation that would discriminate against pregnant and parenting women.”

Because of that prejudice, many women feel they’ll threaten their careers, their opportunities if they embrace motherhood.

Writer Alexandra DeSanctis of National Review answered, “It’s actually deeply disempowering to women to tell them that they need the right to kill their own child in order to be flourishing, in order to be happy.”

Foster told CBN News, “The Supreme Court has this mistaken assumption that women rely on abortion to succeed in society. They say that we can’t make it on our own, that we’re not enough, that we have to have abortion, legalized abortion on demand, all nine months of pregnancy, in order to succeed. And that is simply false.”

She suggests as women fill up more and more positions in the working world, businesses and the women will both be better off if institutions learn to positively accommodate motherhood. If they won’t, it sends a deadly message. …

“Since Roe v Wade, 61 million Americans are not here because they’ve been aborted,” said Rep. Vicki Hartzler (R-MO)…

Women Speak was a great symposium and is available in its entirety on Facebook and YouTube streams:

8:30 a.m. – Registration
9:00 a.m. – Welcoming Remarks by Melanie Israel
9:10 a.m. – Opening Remarks by Catherine Glenn Foster
9:20-9:35 a.m. – Congressional Address by Rep. Vicky Hartzler
9:40-9:55 a.m. – Congressional Address by Rep. Debbie Lesko
10:00-10:30 a.m. – Law & Policy Panel
10:35-11:05 a.m. – Women’s Health Panel
11:05 a.m. – Break
11:15 a.m. – Presentation of “Defender of Life in the Media” Award
11:30 a.m. – Culture Panel
12:05 p.m. – Closing Remarks
12:15 p.m. – Lunch

‘What is essential is invisible to the eye’

Antoine de Saint-Exupéry writes in Letter to a Hostage about essential but invisible aspects of life. Maria Popova shares his experience as a journalist in Spain in the 1930s, reporting on the Civil War:

I waited for the shot, for this was the time of quick trials. But there was no shot. After a complete blank of a few seconds, during which the shifts at work appeared to dance in another universe—a kind of dream ballet—my anarchists, slightly nodding their heads, bid me precede them, and we set off, without hurry, across the lines of junction. The capture had been done in perfect silence, with an extraordinary economy of movement. It was like a game of creatures of the ocean bed.

I soon descended to a basement transformed into a guard post. Badly lit by a poor oil lamp, some other militia were dozing, their guns between their legs. They exchanged a few words, in a neutral voice, with the men of my patrol. One of them searched me. …

The dominant impression was that of boredom. Boredom and sleep. The power of concentration of these men seemed exhausted. I almost wished for a sign of hostility, as a human contact. But … they gazed at me without any reaction, as if they were looking at a Chinese fish in an aquarium. …

Then the miracle happened. Oh! a very discreet miracle. I had no cigarette. As one of my guards was smoking, I asked him, by gesture, showing the vestige of a smile, if he would give me one. The man first stretched himself, slowly passed his hand across his brow, raised his eyes, no longer to my tie but to my face, and, to my great astonishment, he also attempted a smile. It was like the dawning of the day.

This miracle did not conclude the tragedy, it removed it altogether, as light does shadow. There had been no tragedy. This miracle altered nothing visible. The feeble oil lamp, the table scattered with papers, the men propped against the wall, the colors, the smell, everything remained unchanged. Yet everything was transformed in its very substance. That smile saved me. It was a sign just as final, as obvious in its future consequences, as unchangeable as the rising of the sun. It marked the beginning of a new era. Nothing had changed, everything was changed. The table scattered with papers became alive. The oil lamp became alive. The walls were alive. The boredom dripping from every lifeless thing in that cellar grew lighter as if by magic. It seemed that an invisible stream of blood had started flowing again, connecting all things in the same body, and restoring to them their significance.

The men had not moved either, but, though a minute earlier they had seemed to be farther away from me than an antediluvian species, now they grew into contemporary life. I had an extraordinary feeling of presence. That is it: of presence. And I was aware of a connection.

The boy who had smiled at me, and who, until a few minutes before, had been nothing but a function, a tool, a kind of monstrous insect, appeared now rather awkward, almost shy, of a wonderful shyness—that terrorist! He was no less a brute than any other. But the revelation of the man in him shed such a light upon his vulnerable side! We men assume haughty airs, but within the depth of our hearts, we know hesitation, doubt, grief.

Nothing had yet been said. Yet everything was resolved.

We ask, “Where is God?” in our moments of hopelessness, and in those moments we forget Saint-Exupery’s reminder: “What is essential is invisible to the eye.”

NRI Washington Regional Fellowship

Since January I’ve been periodically heading to the Fund for American Studies near Dupont Circle as a part of the National Review Institute’s Washington Regional Fellowship:

National Review Institute (NRI) was founded by William F. Buckley Jr. in 1991, 36 years after he founded National Review magazine. The Institute is a non-profit, 501(c)(3), journalistic think-tank, established to advance the principles Buckley promoted throughout his life, complement the mission of the magazine, and support NR’s best talent. Each year, NRI selects impressive mid-career professionals in key metropolitan areas—including Washington, D.C., Philadelphia, New York City, Chicago, San Francisco, and Dallas—to participate in its Regional Fellowship Programs. In each city, 20 to 25 Fellows attend eight dinner seminars on the foundations of conservative thought. Fellows complete 25- to 30-page reading assignments from foundational texts—from Burke to Buckley—and then discuss the reading with one of the conservative movement’s leading thinkers.

Tonight, we had the last of our eight sessions. Professor Daniel J. Mahoney, whom I last saw interview Ignat Solzhenitsyn at Notre Dame in October, put together the syllabus that guided our sessions:

I. William F. Buckley, Jr. and American Conservatism (Dr. Lee Edwards) For sixty years, William F. Buckley Jr. was the voice of a conservatism that managed to be both sober and combative, committed to permanent verities, and dismissive of a corrupt liberal orthodoxy. He brought style and intellectual penetration to conservatism as it emerged as a coherent movement after World War II. National Review, founded by Buckley and a cohort of friends in 1955, was—and remains—the flagship journal of a thoughtful American conservatism. This first session is dedicated to the thought and journalism of WFB and his role in shaping modern American conservatism.

II. Burke, Prudence, and the Spirit of Conservatism (Dr. Yuval Levin) The great eighteenth-century Anglo-Irish statesman and political philosopher Edmund Burke was in important respects the father of modern conservatism. A champion of the American cause and a panegyrist to English liberty, he saw the great evils at work in the French Revolution and in modern ideology, more generally. An evocative writer and rhetorician, he defended reform, not revolution, and what can be called a “politics of prudence.” He was the enemy par excellence of abstraction in politics, of an appeal to abstract ideas that ignores circumstances, the wisdom of the ages, and settled tradition.

III. The Founders’ Constitution (Dr. Matt Spalding) The United States is that rare country whose nationhood is coextensive with her constitutional arrangements. The “philosophy” of the American Constitution is laid out with remarkable learning, penetration, and insight in the Federalist papers (1787–1788) written by Madison, Hamilton, and Jay. Any thoughtful American conservatism will aim to “conserve” the constitutional heritage bequeathed by our constitutional Founders.

IV. Economic Freedom and Political Freedom (Dr. Roberta Herzberg) The rule of law is the foundation, the pediment, of a free society. This section will explore Friedrich Hayek’s vision of a “constitution of liberty” centered on the rule of law. The threats to the rule of law from the administrative state will also be highlighted.

V. Conservatism, Libertarianism, and Fusionism (Mr. Eugene B. Meyer) Contemporary conservatism has been marked by an enduring tension between a “conservative” defense of tradition and moral virtue (and of legitimate government authority) and a “libertarian” emphasis on the dangers of statism and the need for an expansive realm of personal freedom. Where some see an enhancement of human freedom, others see the erosion of the crucial moral and cultural prerequisites of a free society. These readings will also explore efforts to “fuse” traditionalism and libertarianism that were near and dear to National Review over the years. One reading deals with the decidedly “unconservative” thinking of Ayn Rand whose thought remains influential in some libertarian circles.

VI. Mediating Structures Between the State and the Individual (Mr. William A. Schambra) The best conservative thought opposes radical individualism (which erodes the “mediating structures” between the state and the individual) in the name of those associations and groupings that give shape and form to human liberty. Alexis de Tocqueville famously praised Americans for their prodigious “art of association,” their remarkable capacity to form voluntary associations between the state and the individual. Contemporary conservative thinkers such as Robert Nisbet, Richard John Neuhaus, and Peter Berger have drawn on Tocqueville’s wisdom to show how “mediating structures” can renew community and “empower people,” and in the process act as a check on state power.

VII. Conservatism, Democracy, and Foreign Policy (Dr. John Hillen) Americans have grown war-weary and tired of military engagements abroad. Yet America has vital interests and an abiding commitment to the survival of western civilization. The readings in this session explore the necessity of American foreign policy to combine spiritedness and moderation and to avoid the twin pitfalls of democratic crusadism and escape from our responsibilities in the world.

VIII. The Conservative Spirit and Civic Gratitude (Ms. Kathryn Jean Lopez) The American Dream is imperiled today by social breakdown and economic stagnation. The first reading for this session emphasizes fidelity to “ancient moorings” and resistance to encroaching statism, the second reminds us of our debts to the past and the need to cultivate a spirit of gratitude and civic obligation. Together, they capture the spirit of conservatism as William F. Buckley Jr. understood it.

Leaving Bismarck

Leaving Bismarck today after a good few days with eleven great bioethics classmates and other great people. After commencement yesterday, I visited the nearby Cathedral of the Holy Spirit for Sunday vigil mass. Bismarck’s Cathedral was completed in 1942, and was beautiful in its particular way. It’s situated amidst what seems like a solid neighborhood, with real trees and substantial homes.

After yesterday’s vigil mass, a few of us headed back to the hotel, cleaned up, and visited La Carreta along East Bismarck Expressway for dinner. Afterwards we headed to Captain Jack’s behind our hotel for a few six packs, and enjoyed each other’s company in the lobby playing the board game Pandemic and talking late into the night.

I’m in the Bismarck airport right now, about to catch a 2pm flight to Chicago and then a final flight home to Washington.