Political Potpourri

VP debate:

Ms. Harris scored points when she focused on the Administration’s support for the case before the Supreme Court that would repeal ObamaCare. She claimed this would strip millions of their health insurance, which is false. But Mr. Pence lacked an effective reply, and this is the GOP’s biggest single vulnerability on policy. And all for a legal case that they have little chance of winning at the Court.

Mike Pence’s Re-Election Case – WSJ

 

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[T]he chaos that has followed Donald Trump around for his entire presidency like the cloud of dirt accompanying Pig-Pen moved to Walter Reed National Military Medical Center …

Trump has always demanded a bespoke reality. He famously said in a deposition that his net worth was pegged not to his assets but his mood. As president, everyone from Cabinet officials and foreign leaders, to lowly staff, to the bulk of the conservative media, has either had to bend to the reality he wants or be pilloried as traitors, weaklings or liars.

Jonah Goldberg, Donald Trump’s Bespoke Reality – The Dispatch 

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I can understand the argument that we don’t have to be afraid of COVID-19, that it shouldn’t run our lives, and that in the past six months, the nation’s scientists have invented an armamentarium of medications that can cure anyone who gets infected. I’m not sure any of that is right—but I can understand it as an argument. What I can’t understand is the idea that returning from the hospital after dispatching this non-alarming and very mild flu is worthy of a movie suggesting that the patient must have had the courage of Achilles to face it down. Have you seen the video of President Donald Trump’s triumphant trip back from Walter Reed? You would think the man was returning from liberating Europe, not getting a steroid shot in Bethesda. I should make a movie about the time I went to urgent care for a UTI.

One after another, people who were present at the ceremony [announcing Amy Coney Barrett’s nomination to the Supreme Court] have announced that they’ve got it. It’s like a roll call of the damned. Kellyanne Conway: present. Kayleigh McEnany: present. Mike Lee: present. In the court of the mad king, a positive test, and a presumed recovery, is perhaps essential for every courtesan who wants to be in the inner circle. When you hear of someone at the top who doesn’t have it, you have to wonder about their commitment to the operation. I thought Stephen Miller was going to commit Seppuku but Tuesday he was able to confirm he has it, too. And it’s fine to have a little laugh at their expense—COVID-19 is political, and to many conservatives, including presumably those infected at the White House, getting the bug is nothing to worry about.

But the Rose Garden wasn’t the only place where people were infected. During four days of debate prep (the worst debate prep in history, but that’s another matter), Chris Christie got it. Will the man ever learn? When has his relationship with Trump ever brought him anything but misery? Some people are drawn to bullies. They have a need to endlessly repeat the suffering of their childhood, always hoping for a different outcome. To see a healthy and chipper George Stephanopoulos, sitting in his neon bright Good Morning America studio interviewing a pale and clearly anxious Christie, quarantined in Jersey, was heartbreaking. “No one was wearing masks,” he said of the four days he had spent with the president, and you weren’t sure whether he was angry about it or maybe a little bit proud of it; at last he’d been given a seat at the cool kids’ table.

Caitlin Flanagan, The Rose Garden Coronavirus Experiment – The Atlantic

 

Just desserts

Vice President Mike Pence had better be awfully circumspect about filling the role that the Constitution and its Twenty-Fifth Amendment assign him. Trump will be watching. So long as Trump is conscious, he will not allow it; should he lose consciousness, he will retaliate when and if he recovers.

… He refused and forbade the most basic safety precautions in the close quarters of the West Wing and on Air Force One, except for testing, which was intended to protect him personally. On Tuesday, Trump was on the debate stage mocking former Vice President Joe Biden for wearing face masks; as the positive tests came in, he did not bother to inform Biden or his team that Trump had exposed him to the coronavirus. Until we know the date of Trump’s last negative COVID-19 test, we can only guess at the number of people he exposed. By sticking to an aggressive travel schedule with in-person gatherings while eschewing even minimal safeguards, Trump has carried the risk of disease across the country.

What you can expect is a lot of victimhood and self-pity. Trump and those around him have always demanded for themselves the decencies that they refuse others. They will get them, too. Trump’s opponents will express concern and good wishes—and if they do not, Trump’s allies will complain that those opponents are allowing politics to overwhelm human feeling. It was only three days ago that Trump on a debate stage dismissed Biden’s dead son, Beau, and falsely claimed that Biden’s surviving son, Hunter, had been dishonorably discharged from the military. The next day, Trump’s eldest son, Donald Jr., appeared on Glenn Beck’s show to describe Hunter as a “crackhead.” Now, though, we will hear a lot about how people are not being respectful enough to a president in his time of illness.

Trump has all his life posed a moral puzzle: What is due in the way of kindness and sympathy to people who have no kindness and sympathy for anyone else? Should we repay horrifying cruelty in equal measure? Then we reduce ourselves to their level. But if we return indecency with the decency due any other person in need, don’t we encourage appalling behavior? Don’t we prove to them that they belong to some unique bracket of humanity, entitled to kick others when they are writhing on the floor, and then to claim mercy when their own crimes and cruelties cast them upon the floor themselves?

David Frum, What Did You Expect of Donald Trump? – The Atlantic


Like all tyrants, Trump lives in an alternate universe where his will, tempered only by his whim, determines everything. And like all tyrants, Trump will eventually be defeated by the distance between his universe and the real one. The question has always been how long that would take, and how much damage would be done in the process. But the toll has been piling up of late. 205,000 dead, a stalled economy, a broken constitution, a bankrupt treasury, a ravaged environment, and the most toxic political culture in memory have not, exactly, made America great “again”. And, with his tax returns now public, the reality that Trump is a failed businessman and tax dodger is as inescapable as the truth that he is a serial sexual abuser.

The one simple thing I learned from being diagnosed as positive with a lethal virus decades ago is that I am not in control, and that maturity subsists in acceptance of this. A life well lived is not in denial of reality, but in difficult, unsatisfying, daily, hourly engagement with it, alongside a spiritual attempt at occasional transcendence. Similarly, it seems to me, politics is best conducted as a tackling of the world as it is, free from delusion and ideology, wary of our own bias and wants, humble in our goals, prudent in our methods. It is not a show, let alone a psychotic melodrama about a deranged narcissist.

Andrew Sullivan, Reality Ends The Reality Show – The Weekly Dish


Persuasion:
What is schadenfreude?

Watt Smith:
Thinkers like William James in the 19th century thought a lot about why we might enjoy seeing someone else suffer in a visceral, bloody way. He thought it was an evolutionary throwback to our more violent past, a glitch. But that is not quite what is at stake with the Trump situation. It’s not that you’re enjoying seeing someone suffer in a random way. And it’s not that you’re enjoying a moment of slapstick. It comes down to this question of justice and just desserts.
From research in psychology and neuroscience, there is a lot of evidence that we get a pleasurable kick from seeing justice done.

Is It Wicked to Feel Glee Because the President Is Sick? – Persuasion

Explaining myself

I posted last night some clippings from commentary on the U.S. Presidential debate of September 29, after almost four weeks’ absence and talk of ending the blog.

Problem 1 is that Wordpess, my platform, has been making “improvements” again. I’ve generally used its native editor, and they’ve replaced it with a monstrosity called a “block editor,” which is perfectly indecipherable. It wasn’t worth the effort to learn it since it’s a patently absurd way of writing essay-like things for people to read. [UPDDATE: As I subsequently tried to find a lighter graphic theme than War Correspondence had affected, it appeared that WordPress, or bloggery in general, is focused on commerce, photomontage, and other non-essay activities.] 

Problem 2 is not really a problem at all: even at my advanced age (500 dog years), I’m learning new tricks far more rewarding that mastering a stupid editor, such as not wallowing so much in news and commentary. This was made possible by spiritual adjustments which are best summarized by the advice of Fr. Stephen Freeman (for years, and especially here) and the late Fr. Thomas Hopcko. I’ve said for years that my epitaph should be “Darn! Just when I almost had it figured all out!” — a pathetic joke for a Christian, but an accurate reflection of how I was living. This annus horribilus has been a good one for taking stock of things and changing them as needed, and I can finally consider a better epitaph because that old one doesn’t fit any more.

If you think that’s too much information or a digression, it’s not: It means I’ve had less to say because I’m less “well-informed” and less in need of “venting” about things.

There may be more, but the third factor, the one facilitating my return to blogging, is the realization that I need not use WordPress’s stupid editor. I’ve acquired MarsEdit, on which I composed last night’s blog and am composing this one. It’s worth learning for me.

So I have the blogging tools I need but less to vent about. For that reason, I’ll almost certainly not return to daily blogging, and the conceit of warring against the deathworks already is feeling stale. I may return to the Tipsy Teetotaler name and a brighter graphic theme.

Finally, I commend to you Rod Dreher’s new book, Live Not by Lies, which I got on the Tuesday release date and finished yesterday — a relatively ferocious pace for me (facilitated by not wasting time on ephemeral news — see, it all connects). I think Dreher is fundamentally right about the future for cultural conservatives, but I’m partial to a Christian (Lutheran) reviewer who suggested that we may be heading for more open and literal warfare between Social Justice Warriors on the Left and “Traditionalst” atavists on the Alt-Right, with sane Christians mostly suffering collateral damage rather than being the targets of the SJWs.

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Out of the crooked timber of humanity no straight thing was ever made.

and

You shall love your crooked neighbour

“With your crooked heart.

W.H. Auden

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You can read most of my more impromptu stuff at here. It should work in your RSS aggregator, like Feedly, should you want to make a habit of it.

Georgia May 2019

In May 2019, I spent a bit over a week in Georgia, in the Caucasus, east of the Black Sea and bordering Russia, Turkey and Armenia. I went under the auspices of First Things Foundation, an Orthodox economic development charity, which raises a little money taking people to places where they have (or in this case, were placing) field workers.

I had to wait until after the Spring Concert of a group I sing in, but then off to Chicago, on to Lufthansa, and Tbilisi about 16 hours later after a Frankfurt transfer. Most of my mates had already been knocking around a few days.

First Things Foundation isn’t a travel agency or tour guide and it was not a fancy tour. We stayed in no proper hotels, and one of our places was up four flights, no elevator.

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May 11, overlooking ‎⁨Tbilisi⁩, ⁨Georgia⁩, from Turtle Lake Ascent, where we …

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… feasted at our first “Supra,” where tradition calls for 16 (I think) toasts. I was fewer than 4 hours on the ground at this point, after a long flight, and am not a big drinker anyway. But I survived pretty well.

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These Kool-Aid pitchers are wine. There were many of them …

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… and they lasted into the night — but not too late to keep me from Church on Metekhi ascent, where (alas!) I have only a video which won’t embed, apparently.

Later, we made our way toward Stepantsminda, but stopped, too close to Tbilisi for the geotagging to specify, for this old church:

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It’s a long, long way to Stepandsminda, on the Russian border, but for one thing we didn’t need our guides, as it sported the World’s Best Ideogram (zoom in if necessary):

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Spring in this region comes late.

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Our destination was Qazbegi, which I think is probably a regional name, which includes Stepantsminda (named for St. Stephen). Georgia is northern neighbor of Armenia, the oldest Christian nation, and became Christian soon after Armenia – in the early 4th Century. It is reportedly (but you know how those Chambers of Commerce are) the birthplace of wine. We have it on greater authority that it is the birthplace of Stalin, but never mind.

We were in Stepantsminda two nights, to attend a wedding and reception for one of the First Things Foundation fieldworkers. He was marrying a Russian doctor, who he met in Central America, and they chose Georgia to minimize visas and other hassles for Russian and American friends and family.

The wedding was in a monastic church, up the mountain, a mere stone’s throw from Russia.

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The bride was late, coming from Tbilisi in bad weather, with the vocal ensemble that sang sacred Georgia Chant for the wedding, popular songs (even Hotel California) at the reception, so we had ample chance to look around, and the breaking weather made for a spectacular photo of the couple.

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Area scenery. The monastery church is visible near the top of the near mountain in the first photo:

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That was my boarding house to the right in the last photo.

Breakfast place (Shorena’s Bar in Stepantsminda) and company, I’m on the right.

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The day after the wedding, we made our way to Svetitskhoveli in Mtskheta, the old capital of Georgia. Our Boarding house was a durn siight nicer than the one in Stepantsminda …

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… but the highlight for me —not just of Mtskheta but of the whole trip — was the old cathedral (where I believe Patriarch Ilya still resides on the grounds) and making the acquaintance of St. Gabriel, a Fool for Christ, who reposed in Christ in 1995.

Saint first (I couldn’t resist buying this icon), Cathedral photos follow. There are many more I didn’t publish here and many more on the web, some better than any of mine.

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Two very Georgian-style icons:

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We hung around Mtskheta and environs for much of a day, including a nice alfresco lunch.

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Georgia seems to have churches everywhere you turn, many of them a thousand or fifteen hundred years old. I could not keep track and geotagging isn’t very specific in rural Georgia. So here’s a little scenery and a lot of church from later in the trip.

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St. Nino, a woman, is virtually the founder of Georgia’s Church, and is venerated quite highly. Her distinctive cross is a Georgian marker:

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Back in Tbilisi, more sightseeing, including a Georgian Family Day celebration on the plaza of the new Cathedral.

A haberdashery for monks and clergy.

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Family Day festivities:

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Careful color-coordination:

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A luscious dish we should cook here: “Madame Bovary.”

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I was plenty ready for home after almost 8 days in Georgia, mostly passively going where I was driven, but getting some solo Tbilisi walking in at the end. (By the way: I recommend Lufthansa very highly.)

I was raised Evangelical by parents who got their adult-convert Christian formation in a fundamentalist baptist church. In the 50s and 60s, our kind of Evangelicals followed the fundamentalist taboos: smoking, drinking, dancing, playing cards, and secret societies.

I say that to put in perspective my discomfort with Georgian-level drinking — not just the wines but a sort of moonshine brandy they call Cha-cha. A lot of my pleasure in this trip was attenuated by that discomfort, which involves some collateral stories best left untold.

My overall impression of Georgia and the Georgians is an ancient people and culture, deeply and historically Christian, but in a manner that confounds Church and nation to an extent unknown in the U.S. Similar confounding is found in Greece and Russia. Oh: they don’t do Fundamentalist/Evangelical taboos — for better or worse.

It’s above my pay grade to judge whether the Christianity suffers in the amalgam, but it certainly is different from being in a minority Christian tradition in the U.S.

Debate commentary aggrregation

From secondhand reports (see below), the surprises in the debate last night were that Biden fought back and Chris Wallace totally lost control.

P.S.: They need to give the moderator a kill switch.  

 

I know there were people last night watching the debate and then live-tweeting their responses — like people in the Ninth Circle of Hell who don’t think their circumstances are bad enough and try to dig a Tenth Circle with their bleeding raw fingers.

 

Alan Jacobs. If you’re only interested in highly literarate analysis, you can stop now. None of the other comments topped Ayjay’s in the category.

 

Considering what he was up against, Biden did fine. No one could have come away from Trump’s machine-gun barrage of bile anything other than diminished. How can one respond to a man who barks one lie after another while refusing to keep his pestilential maw shut for a mere two minutes so his opponent can speak? Try to respond to one lie and he lets loose another four and drowns you out with them before you’re done.

But the Trump campaign came into the debate pushing the line that Biden is a senile old man. He more than demonstrated that isn’t true, though much of the time Biden did give off the air of someone understandably overwhelmed by an onslaught of verbal violence. Most of all, Biden came off like an ordinary politician, citing policies and data and hitting the president over his record while occasionally trying to raise his own rhetoric to the lofty heights traditionally favored by men and women in public life, seeking the honor of winning its highest office.

Trump was something else entirely — some kind of post-truth, street-fighting, full-spectrum bulls**t artist. Say anything. Dominate constantly. Display no warmth. No compassion. No empathy. Just fight, fight, fight. Kick everyone’s ass, including that of the moderator, Chris Wallace, who repeatedly tried and usually failed to impose order on the chaos.

… Down the path Trump has opened up in our politics lies moral darkness and national decline. We will either begin to right ourselves and reverse course five weeks from now by repudiating him and everything he stands for — or the darkness and decline will deepen.

Damon Linker, Trump pummels Biden — and America

On Tuesday night the American people, or at least those unlucky millions who were not watching the Yankees-Indians game on ESPN instead, were subjected to an hour and a half of mindless shouting from two hapless sad-looking old men who looked as if they would rather be anywhere else but that auditorium in Ohio. President Trump also spoke.

… no actual transcription could possibly do justice to these 96 minutes of shouts, insults, interruptions, stray thoughts, and loose babble. It was like witnessing an argument about an arcane procedural rule during a senior bingo night at a nursing home in purgatory. It was vicious, tasteless, witless, and (surprisingly, alas) painfully unfunny.

Matthew Walther, The worst presidential debate of all time

Many people will criticize how the moderator, Chris Wallace, managed the debate, and surely he could have done better. But really, nothing short of a shock collar around Trump’s neck would have disciplined the man who is, after all, the president of the United States. A president who does not respect the tax laws, does not respect the FBI, is surely not going to be constrained by a debate moderator. It was pandemonium. But it was revealing pandemonium. Who and what Trump is could not have been more vividly displayed in all the psychological reality. Debate one was not Donald Trump versus Joe Biden, or red versus blue. It was zookeepers versus poop-throwing primates.

Biden may be faded from what he was: perhaps less crisp, less sharp, less fast. But when Biden spoke, he spoke to and about America. Trump spoke only about his wounded ego. Biden communicated: I care about you. Trump communicated: I hate everybody. Biden succeeded in putting his most important messages on record: your health care, your job, your right to equal respect, regardless of race or creed—all against Trump’s disregard and disrespect. Trump might have imagined that he projected himself as strong. The whole world witnessed instead the destructive rage of a bully confronting impending defeat. Trump disgraced the presidency on that stage. He might just have delivered the self-incapacitating wound that pushes the country toward self-salvation.

David From, Trump’s Theory of the Debate Was All Wrong – The Atlantic

“Watching that debate,” one Democratic strategist told us after, “was like watching the Angel of Death unfurl its glorious infinitely black wings before me, my eyes being taken ever deeper into the absolute void where no color can exist, and seeing in that moment nothing but death and the end of all things shouted at me through the guttural Queens accent of a madman.”

The Morning Dispatch: One Bad Debate – The Morning Dispatch

I think Hunter Biden’s capitalizing on his father’s power for personal gain is fair game, but for pity’s sake, don’t trash a man’s son for his brokenness with substance abuse. If they weren’t politicians, but two ordinary guys in a bar, I would have loved to have seen Joe Biden walk over and cold-cock Trump for trashing his boy.

I can’t believe I wrote that line about a presidential debate. This is what Trump, the chaos agent, brings to our politics.

Rod Dreher, The Debate Disaster | The American Conservative

How old am I? I’m old enough to remember Al Gore’s boorish debate stunt, and Dubya’s effortless response.

Those were the good old days of mannerliness.

* * * * *

Out of the crooked timber of humanity no straight thing was ever made.

* * *

You shall love your crooked neighbour

With your crooked heart.

W.H. Auden

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You can read most of my more impromptu stuff at here. It should work in your RSS aggregator, like Feedly, should you want to make a habit of it.

Potpourri 9/3/20

Kyrie
Because we cannot be clever and honest
and are inventors of things more intricate
than the snowflake—Lord have mercy. 

Because we are full of pride
in our humility, and because we believe
in our disbelief—Lord have mercy. 

Because we will protect ourselves
from ourselves to the point
of destroying ourselves—Lord have mercy. 

And because on the slope to perfection,
when we should be half-way up,
we are half-way down—Lord have mercy. 

R.S. Thomas, Mass for Hard Times

Thomas has not been on my radar as a poet. This one blew me away (there’s a great deal more to it), as did Tell Us.

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The shift from church power to state power is not the victory of peaceable reason over irrational religious violence. The more we tell ourselves it is, the more we are capable of ignoring the violence we do in the name of reason and freedom.

William T. Cavanaugh, The Myth of Religious Violence

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“The universities now offer only one serious major: upward mobility,” Jackson writes. “Little attention is paid to educating the young to return home, or to go some other place, and dig in. There is no such thing as a ‘homecoming’ major.

Wes Jackson via Wendell Berry via Mark Mitchell and Nathan Schlueter, The Humane Vision of Wendell Berry.

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In Pittsburgh on Monday, the Democratic presidential nominee responded forcefully to President Trump’s charge that “no one will be safe in Biden’s America.” … “Does anyone believe there will be less violence in America if Donald Trump is re-elected?” Mr. Biden asked. “He can’t stop the violence—because for years he has fomented it.”

Trump’s 1980 Strategy for 2020 – WSJ

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… Christopher Lasch is someone you cite a lot in this book, and in his work there’s a real sensitivity to the importance of these cultural issues. For educated people, the conflicts over busing or religion or sexuality or whatever reinforce the sense that working people are not really worthy of our concern because they’re authoritarian, behind the times. And then for the working class, it really drives home this perception that they are held in contempt. And Lasch seemed to believe that this tension was baked in because the values of the managerial elite were precisely the values of liberal-capitalist meritocracy: individual autonomy, self-development, personal liberation, etc., the flip side of which is a suspicion of working-class values like solidarity and thick ties like family and religion and neighborhood. The working-class view is more conservative, in a sense, but it’s also a product of a real class difference in how people see their place in the world.

Well, yes, I totally agree with that. I thought you said you were pushing back.

What I’m trying to get at is: There’s a sense in which this is a very real dividing line between more affluent, college-educated Democrats and members of the white working class and even sections of the non-white working class, where the former are often socially liberal and economically conservative/centrist and the latter are often economically liberal but more conservative on issues like abortion, immigration, crime, etc. How do you think Democrats or the left more broadly should try to navigate this divide? Do you think that open conflict over these issues can be avoided if you just focus on economics? Or does something eventually have to give — working-class whites moving left on culture or educated liberals deciding that they need to accept people with more conservative social views — say, a pro-life, gun-owning Catholic — as a part of the coalition?

This is a problem, of course, but I also think it is possible for people to come together on a common cause without agreeing on everything. The problem is getting the Democrats to acknowledge that common cause. Up until now, the Democrats have spent all their resources reaching out to those affluent white-collar people in rich suburbs. Those are the only “swing voters” they’re interested in. This bunch gets everything. It’s all crafted to please this group — economic policies, culture-war stances, everything. I happen to think a really robust program for reclaiming middle-class America from the forces that have wrecked so many people’s cities and lives and health would be immensely popular. It would be so popular that lots of people would be willing to overlook, say, one’s views on gun control in order to get behind it.

What’s the Matter With Populism? Nothing. (metered paywall – New York Magazine)

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Baron Trump looks like the world’s most miserable child.

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[A]nother narrow Trump victory, especially one in which the popular vote goes for Biden, is going to kick off civil unrest that will make this summer look tame. Trump’s opponents will ping-pong even harder between the two fever dreams of the first term. The first, that Trump is a foreign pawn and opposed to everything that makes American great. This charge comes with a complimentary retweet of James Comey standing near the Liberty Bell. The second, that Trump is the final, rotten fruit of a rotten American tree that must be uprooted altogether. This one comes with a retweet of 1619 Project impresario Nikole Hannah Jones explaining that arson isn’t violence.

My assumption, however, is that Trump’s second term may prove to be more difficult than the first for him. While some progressives are trying to moralize themselves for the November election by predicting a second term flowing with dictatorial power aimed at undermining democracy forever, I predict more slapstick incompetence.

Instead of hiring the best people, Trump has relied on whoever is nearby. This cast of characters has included people with their own firm agendas (such as John Bolton) or people who just seemed to have the Trump vibe (such as Anthony Scaramucci). Many of these people have had short careers in Trumpville — and leave it quickly to write scathing memoirs of their time within. About a dozen former White House officials or other flunkies have left Team Trump to write hair-raising tell-alls.

Trump already had problems with hiring enough people to fully staff the Executive Branch. His inability to do so is part of what allows the “deep state” to undermine, dodge, or contravene his authority as president. His reputation for administrative neglect, sudden reversals, and micromanaging has dissuaded qualified people from joining the administration. It leaves the presidency weakened.

Michael Brendan Dougherty, Donald Trump Second Term: What to Expect | National Review

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Reporters standing in front of scenes of arson, flames billowing behind them, not very far from scenes of shooting and murder, insist that the protests are “mostly peaceful.” National Public Radio and a multi-billion-dollar global media conglomerate team up to bring you an illiterate “defense of looting.” The president comes to the defense of a dangerously stupid teenager who went looking for trouble illegally armed with a rifle in his hands and, to no one’s great surprise, found the trouble he was looking for.

But if there is a case to be made for looting, how about we start with NPR and its affiliates? The NPR Foundation reported holding $342 million in assets in 2018, and NPR’s management and on-air talent are splendidly compensated, many of them in excess of a half-million dollars a year. You can commission a shipload of lectures on income inequality and the salubrious effects of looting for that kind of “just property.” NPR’s headquarters on North Capitol Street in Washington, D.C., is “just property,” too — property NPR isn’t even much using at the moment, because of the epidemic. Would NPR object to someone burning it down to make a political point? Would looting NPR’s property be defensible? Yes? No? Why or why not?

… The same people burning down grocery stores today will be complaining about “food deserts” in 18 months.

… the petulant children in Portland want only to play-act at being Jacobins, and the petulant child in the White House requires a full-time culture war lest he be forced to run for reelection on his record of spotless administrative excellence and confidence-inspiring leadership. If ever two clutches of fools deserved one another, these are they.

Michael Brendan Dougherty, A Clutch of Fools | National Review

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Peter Viereck: American Conservatism’s Road Not Traveled | Front Porch Republic was very good.

* * * * *

Out of the crooked timber of humanity no straight thing was ever made.

You shall love your crooked neighbour with your crooked heart.

W.H. Auden

* * * * *

You can read most of my more impromptu stuff at here. It should work in your RSS aggregator, like Feedly, should you want to make a habit of it.

You can’t fill a God-shaped hole with information

When I was a student at Liberty University, from 2012 to 2016, I had to take two semesters of a “Christian worldview” class. It consisted essentially of bullet-point lists of ethical issues, with quizzes to make sure we knew the right answers: How did we feel about abortion? What about gay marriage? We were required to take two Bible classes and two theology classes, which included plenty of information about sexual ethics and basic Christian beliefs about caring for the poor and marginalized.

Yet the more powerful education we received was through thrice-weekly “convocations” — gatherings that frequently featured Republican pundits and politicians. In place of what many Christian schools call “chapel,” all on-campus students were required to attend an hourlong meeting that included worship and a guest speaker. We sang songs about the power of the gospel, often followed by moving speeches about saving our country from socialists or protecting our borders from invading masses.

There is a long history in Christian education that focuses on the formation of the affections, alongside the training of the intellect …

… Yet evangelicals — and Liberty, in particular — have often neglected this focus, falsely believing that if we know the right information, we will act rightly …

At Liberty, our minds may have been receiving correct content, but our hearts were being trained to love wrongly: to love political power, physical security and economic prosperity as higher goods than they are. The leaders of the university may have believed that we could be immersed in the stories and values of the Republican Party while maintaining any theological truths incompatible with them, but the power of our affective education was stronger. The ethics we learned in a classroom were not nearly as powerful as the emotion and desire created in a stadium full of people singing, praying and hearing stirring messages about making America great again.

Kaitlyn Schiess, Opinion | What Jerry Falwell Jr. Taught Me at Liberty University – The New York Times

This strikes me as true, so far as it goes. But Ms. Schiess is not likely to fill her longings anywhere in the Evangelical world.

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Scary stories ’round the campfire

Things are getting ugly, with Portland streets taken over by antifa (the press pretends that alt-right agitators are the real story) and Trump’s takeover of the GOP playing out pathetically at a convention with no platform, only grievances and lurid stories around the campfire.

Anyone who didn’t already know this but believes it now because Michael Cohen said it should be disenfranchised.

Here’s the story.

Love the illustration, but the issue is serious. After saying (truthfully, I think) that he didn’t know much about QAnon, he rambled on about it in ways likely to make some of his supporters QAnon acolytes. And his Covid-19 misinformation is legendary.

Here’s the story.


Tim Alberta was trying to figure out what it means, today, to be a Republican, what they believe in:

I decided to call Frank Luntz. Perhaps no person alive has spent more time polling Republican voters and counseling Republican politicians than Luntz, the 58-year-old focus group guru. …

“You know, I don’t have a history of dodging questions. But I don’t know how to answer that. There is no consistent philosophy,” [GOP focus group guru Frank] Luntz responded. “You can’t say it’s about making America great again at a time of Covid and economic distress and social unrest. It’s just not credible.”

Luntz thought for a moment. “I think it’s about promoting—” he stopped suddenly. “But I can’t, I don’t—” he took a pause. “That’s the best I can do.”

When I pressed, Luntz sounded as exasperated as the student whose question I was relaying. “Look, I’m the one guy who’s going to give you a straight answer. I don’t give a shit—I had a stroke in January, so there’s nothing anyone can do to me to make my life suck,” he said. “I’ve tried to give you an answer and I can’t do it. You can ask it any different way. But I don’t know the answer. For the first time in my life, I don’t know the answer.”

It can now safely be said, as his first term in the White House draws toward closure, that Donald Trump’s party is the very definition of a cult of personality. It stands for no special ideal. It possesses no organizing principle. It represents no detailed vision for governing. Filling the vacuum is a lazy, identity-based populism that draws from that lowest common denominator [Mark] Sanford alluded to. If it agitates the base, if it lights up a Fox News chyron, if it serves to alienate sturdy real Americans from delicate coastal elites, then it’s got a place in the Grand Old Party.

“Owning the libs and pissing off the media,” shrugs Brendan Buck, a longtime senior congressional aide and imperturbable party veteran if ever there was one. “That’s what we believe in now. There’s really not much more to it.”

… Unsavory fringe characters have always looked for ways to penetrate the mainstream of major parties—and mostly, they have failed. What would result from a fringe character leading a party always remained an open question. It has now been asked and answered: Some in the party have embraced the extreme, others in the party have blushed at it, but all of them have subjugated themselves to it. The same way a hothead coach stirs indiscipline in his players, the same way a renegade commander invites misconduct from his troops, a kamikaze president inspires his party to pursue martyrdom.

… This continues to be the bane of the GOP’s existence: The party is so obsessed with fighting that it has lost sight of what it’s fighting for.

Tim Alberta, The Grand Old Meltdown – POLITICO

(I pause to note that I hate with the white-hot heat of a million suns the new block-oriented WordPress editor. It’s worse than the new Facebook. And I don’t yet know how to get the old one back.)

You can read most of my more impromptu stuff at here. It should work in your RSS aggregator, like Feedly, should you want to make a habit of it.

Miscellany – August 24, 2020

President Donald Trump tweeted “Happy Sunday! We want GOD!“ as part of a string of religious-themed tweets on Sunday morning …

Also Sunday morning, the president headed to the Trump National Golf Club in Potomac Falls, Va., to play golf.

‘Happy Sunday! We want GOD!’ – POLITICO


I had grown up in a very conservative home. I’d been taught Christian values. I’d been taught that America was this exceptional country. And we’d never had somebody at the head of our party who was just completely morally bankrupt.

In fact, the moment I knew that I had a problem with Trump being our nominee was when there was a question asked in one of the debates when someone said, “You filed bankruptcy four times,” and his response was something to the effect of, “Well, yeah, I used the law to my advantage.” In my household, you would never file bankruptcy, or if you had to, it was because something devastating happened to you. You would never go out and think that you were going to use that to your advantage, because there’s somebody on the other end of that that was being harmed. You’d never swing your arm with the purpose of hitting somebody.

And it seems as though that’s what conservatism had all of a sudden become. At one point in time, conservatism was this idea of liberty, of rugged individualism. But at the same time, there was this deep sense about responsibility. It was both liberty and responsibility. You could swing your arm, but you certainly weren’t going to swing your arm to where it was going to connect with somebody else’s nose. What we’ve gotten to today is: I’m going to swing my arm. You got in the way. That’s bad on you, not on me. That’s not what conservatism always was, but it’s what it’s become.

Chad Mayes, former Republican leader in the California State Assembly, in Why California Republican Chad Mayes Left the Party (The Atlantic).

That really resonates.


There’s not going to be a Republican platform this year. This is just saying, “Whatever Trump does, we support.” They wouldn’t have needed to all be in the same room to hammer this out. They know perfectly well that there’s no point in doing so. This astonishing document appears to confirm that the Republican Party exists now as a personality cult. Did you see that Trump is now going to speak on each of the four nights of the Republican convention? Why not? If he’s the only thing the party stands for, it stands to reason.

Rod Dreher, Trump Team Chaos

UPDATE: Ferrret-Brain has outlined his agenda, which is bereft of things like “constitution” or “limited” or “life” or “judges” or “religion” or “faith” or “liberty.”


The day after the Steve Bannon indictment, I read a post claiming that:

  1. The We Build the Wall GoFundMe site didn’t meet its goal, so funds were promised to be returned.
  2. The defendants offered donors an “opt-in” transfer to a new We Build the Wall 501(c)(4) entity, and refunded to those who didn’t opt in.
  3. The new We Build the Wall 501(c)(4) entity didn’t promise that there would be no compensation for those running it.

According to the indictment, at least the third point is false:

To get the GoFundMe contributions transferred to We Build the Wall, it was essentially necessary to do a second fundraising campaign because donors would have to “opt in” — i.e., they would have to agree to the transfer.

To persuade donors to do that, the accused schemers solemnly vowed in corporate by-laws, GoFundMe website announcements, social-messaging posts, and other assertions that 100 percent of the contributions would go to wall construction. Contributors were assured that Kolfage would “not take a penny of compensation from these donations,” and would “take no salary.” Bannon is said to have publicly guaranteed, on several occasions, “I did this kind of as a volunteer” and “we’re a volunteer organization.”

Nevertheless, the indictment alleges that the defendants planned to and did divert funds for their own benefit …

Steve Bannon Indictment: If There Are Convictions, Potential Penalties Are Severe | National Review


Has Ellen DeGeneres passed her sell-by date?.

We tend to develop blind spots. There’s thinly-veiled cruelty in some of Ellen’s kindness schtick.

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You can read most of my more impromptu stuff at here. It should work in your RSS aggregator, like Feedly, should you want to make a habit of it.

I highly recommend blot.im as a crazy-easy alternative to Twitter (if you’re just looking to get your stuff “out there” and not pick fights).