Friday, 9/25/15

  1. Left, too, has its obsessions
  2. Our secular Christian nation
  3. At ease in dystopia
  4. Diesel trade-offs
  5. Another fanciful Pope Francis extrapolation
  6. The journal of foreign policy reality
  7. Too ignorant for Democracy?
  8. Ben Carson on Islam

1

New York Times Editorial Board Thursday:

The G.O.P.’s Obsession With Planned Parenthood: This time Republicans are using American women’s right to sexual health as their flimsy excuse to shut down the government, again.

Meanwhile, conservative media are rightfully writing about mainstream media’s insouciance about Planned Parenthood: this time, they’re ignoring infanticide and ghoulish trafficking in dead baby parts. No question-begging about “heavy editing” and the deceptive, sting-like pretexts of the videos should obscure that.

By the way:

Pope Francis praised America’s Roman Catholic church for its “unfailing commitment” to the pro-life cause on Wednesday, saying it was “the primary reason” for his visit to the country.

Sorry, NYT and NPR. It’s not all about you or your pet causes.

2

As the Obama administration continues its assault on the rights of religious groups, and Christians in particular, to conduct themselves in accordance with their beliefs, supporters of religious rights often are accused of subscribing to the conviction that ours is a Christian nation. Such a view is assumed by journalists and academics alike to be racist, sexist, homophobic, and intrinsically authoritarian. That the charge of intrinsic malevolence is false (whatever the views of some who subscribe to the idea of a Christian nation) should be obvious. As to the simple equation of opposition to aggressive secularization with “Christian nationhood,” there actually is some logic to the charge. But the logic is not sufficient to justify the charge.Moreover, the charge distracts us from the ways in which our nation truly is and is not Christian.

(Bruce Frohnen, introducing a well-balanced column)

3

In a blog, I get the luxury of re-arranging Tweets in chronological order rather than reverse chronological order:

I think that about covers it.

4

I feel a bit like a prophet in my speculation about VW:

What regulators don’t ever explain is that these defeat devices serve a functional purpose, which is usually to increase performance and fuel efficiency. They want to pretend that emissions regulations are a clean, free ride. Until now, VW—which advertised its environmental friendly and powerful engines—was in on the charade.

Auto experts have posited that VW’s defeat device was intended to boost fuel economy and torque, which are two big draws of modern diesel cars. VW’s 2015 Passat gets 44 miles per gallon on highways. Trouble is, engines that are designed to burn more efficiently—and therefore emit less carbon—release more NOx. They also have less oomph. EPA and CARB should fess up to this trade-off, and the wrongdoing involved ought to be precisely identified.

The immediate upshot is that VW will have to recall the lemons to bring them in compliance with government rules. Any fix will likely cost several thousand dollars per vehicle, reduce performance and increase carbon emissions. Will drivers even want the government’s clean bill of health?

(Wall Street Journal) The only thing missing is an eyewitness to the knowing wink between EPA and VW.

Volkswagen has admitted it designed cars to cheat pollution tests, but the trouble with diesel emissions probably goes beyond just one automaker, according to tests of other manufacturers.

Road tests of more than a dozen popular models from several manufacturers showed that the raw nitrogen oxide emissions from the cars were on average seven times European standards, according to a little-noticed October report from the same outfit that flagged the VW problems.

Most of the models in the October report have not been publicly identified. One of the cars tested is the BMW X3, which had emissions calculated at 11 times the European limit, according to the testing company.

The failure of so many cars suggests not only the difficulty of making a diesel engine that conforms to stringent pollution standards, but also that it’s possible that more than one company engaged in deliberate ma­nipu­la­tion of the testing.

“We have no information or data that that is going on — but it’s certainly the right question to be asking,” said John German of the International Council on Clean Transportation, which produced the October report as well as the report that led to the unraveling of Volkswagen’s deception. “It’s a question that every country should be addressing.”

(Washington Post)

5

I have faulted the leftish for their fantasies about Pope Francis’ softening and tendencies. Now I need to fault someone more like me for reading an awful lot into Il Papa‘s calling on the Little Sisters.

This is a sign, obviously of support for them [in their court case]” said Father Federico Lombardi, SJ, the head of the Holy See Press Office.

“In this sense it is connected also to the words that the Pope has said in support of the Bishops of the United States in the speech to President Obama,” Father Lombardi continued.

“This was a little addition to the programme, but I think it has an important meaning in this moment,” he said.

I mean, I hope he’s right, and it’s certainly plausible, but the spin is a little short on corroborating detail — just like the left’s breathless excitement at supposed papal novelties like (confession and) absolution.

6

Earlier this month, when it emerged in Congressional testimony that the Obama administration had spent $500 million to train what amounted to four or five “moderate” Syrian rebels, I thought of Daniel Larison’s blog post from August 12, 2014, warning that Obama had just set aside half a billion dollars to drop down the Mideast rathole. Larison wrote at the time:

One would think that events in Iraq over the last few months would dispel the illusion that U.S. arms and training guarantee that things will develop in a certain way. The U.S. spent years and enormous sums of money to train and equip the Iraqi army, and it was useless in preventing ISIS from seizing large parts of Iraq.

And on June 30, 2014, Larison also wrote to criticize the president’s $500 million plan as a boondoggle in the making:

All of the calls to arm the opposition in Syria are based on the false belief that the U.S. has the ability to manipulate and direct the course of a foreign civil war, and that it is only because Washington has “failed” to insert itself aggressively enough that the war has turned out the way it has. Obama’s decision has the distinction of being guaranteed not to “work” on its own terms while also being harmful. Adding in a few more weapons into the Syrian civil war isn’t going to achieve anything except to help prolong the war and put off the day when a negotiated settlement can be reached. The more support that the U.S. and other outside governments provide to the opposition, the less inclined they will be to negotiate. Arming insurgents doesn’t give the U.S. much in the way of control or influence over them, but it does implicate the U.S. in whatever they do with the weapons and training provided to them.

More Larison:

The developments of the last six months ought to have put an end to the idea of arming the Syrian opposition once and for all, but the administration has outdone itself in finding a Syria policy option that makes no sense, satisfies no one, and slowly pulls the U.S. into a conflict where Americans still have little or nothing at stake.

And now, a year later, the verdict is in: Larison was entirely right. Half a billion taxpayer dollars, thrown to the wind in a bipartisan donnybrook.

(Rod Dreher)

7

[I]gnorance today matters more than it did in the past, because the role of government in our lives is so much greater. A hundred and fifty years ago it was possible to live a full and happy life with minimal experience of government. About a hundred years before that it was possible for Samuel Johnson to write, “How small, of all that human hearts endure, / That part which laws or kings can cause or cure.” Such innocent times! Now “laws and kings” have insinuated themselves so deeply into all our lives that ignorance of their power and influence can exact horrifying costs.

(Alan Jacobs, writing as “A,” one side of a dialog on democracy)

8

Carson did not say no Muslim could serve. He said he would not advocate having a Muslim as president, that Islamic beliefs are inconsistent with the U.S. Constitution. Is he wrong? Or is it now impermissible to question a candidate’s beliefs about God, man, and the state, and about whether his religious convictions might affect his conduct in office?

A man’s religion is a part of who he is. While not an infallible guide to what he will do, it is often a reliable road map.

If Mormons still championed polygamy and declared that blacks could not be Mormons, would it be illegitimate to raise that issue? Should a Quaker who believes in “turning the other cheek” not be pressed on whether his faith disqualifies him to be commander in chief? If an Evangelical running for president believes the “end times” are at hand, would it be un-American to ask of the Armageddonite if his religious beliefs might affect his decision on war in the Middle East?

(Pat Buchanan, putting perhaps the best possible spin on Dr. Carson’s comment)

* * * * *

“In learning as in traveling and, of course, in lovemaking, all the charm lies in not coming too quickly to the point, but in meandering around for a while.” (Eva Brann)

Some succinct standing advice on recurring themes.