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Tuesday 9/20/16

  1. The Cold War Is Over
  2. Three View of Putin
  3. Moderation (fora and debate)
  4. Pitching to The Unprotected
  5. Francis the Fabulist
  6. Who hacked up these human hairballs?
  7. Going to my Safe Place

1

Russia is invaded all the time—by the Tatars, the Poles, the Lithuanians, the Swedes, the French, us British, the Germans, the Japanese, the Germans again: They keep coming. Nor are these invasions remote history. On the main airport road into Moscow, at Khimki, stands a row of steel dragon-teeth anti-tank barriers, commemorating the arrival there, before Christmas 1941, of Hitler’s armies. The Nazis could see Ivan the Great’s tall white and gold bell tower glittering amid the snow in the Kremlin, but they never got any nearer.

In my time in Moscow, one day each May was marked by the sight of stocky, grizzled old men, excusably tipsy, dancing and singing in the street, their medals clicking on their chests, as they remembered the ghastly war which turned back the Hitlerian menace. No matter that their own government was evil. They knew that better than I. The thing they had faced was even worse: It was a matter of survival, and young men and women would applaud and embrace these survivors, who must by now be all gone, given the wretched life expectancy of Soviet men …

… I have checked the following carefully with Russian friends, and it is true. The usual Russian term for safety or security, bezopasnost, is a negative word meaning “without danger” (bez = “without”; opasnost = “danger”). The natural state of affairs is danger.

… If the U.S. had China on the 49th Parallel and Germany on the Rio Grande, and a long land border with the Islamic world where the Pacific Ocean now is, it might be a very different place. There might even be a good excuse for the Patriot Act and the Department of Homeland Security and the FBI. If Russia’s neighbors were Canada and Mexico, rather than Germany, China, Turkey, and Poland, and if its other flanks were guarded by thousands of miles of open ocean, it might have free institutions and long traditions of free speech and the rule of law. It might also be a lot richer. As it is, Russia is a strong state with a country, rather than a country with a strong state. If it were otherwise, it would have gone the way of the Lithuanian Empire or, come to that, the Golden Horde.

Nobody who has seen these things could possibly compare the old Soviet Union with the new Russia. The trouble is, almost nobody has seen them. Nor, it seems, has anyone noticed the withdrawal of Moscow’s power from 700,000 square miles of territory which it once held down with boots and tanks and secret policemen. Somehow or other this unprecedented peaceful withdrawal of a power undefeated in war is being portrayed as “expansionism.” Nobody who understands history, geography, or, come to that, arithmetic can possibly accept this portrayal. There is much to criticize in Russia’s foreign policy, especially if one is a Ukrainian nationalist, but the repossession of Crimea does not signal a revival of the Warsaw Pact. It is instead a limited and minor action in the context of this conquered and reconquered stretch of soil, the ugly but unexceptional act of a regional power.

Mikhail Gorbachev’s feline spokesman, Gennadi Gerasimov, once teased suspicious Western correspondents by sneering at them in the early days of the great perestroika and glasnost experiment, “We have done the cruelest thing to you that we could possibly have done. We have deprived you of an enemy.” He was laughing at us, but he was dead right. The Cold War was a period of moral clarity when the other side really was an evil empire, and when armed resolve for once succeeded in defeating the expansion of evil in the world.

(Peter Hitchens, The Cold War Is Over)

Is the bipartisan vilification of Putin as a stand-in for Russia a reflexive redirection of attention from our own imperialist impulses, or is it a conscious deception?

2

I am not going to try to dissect this [recent New York Times] piece, in part because (1) I am an Orthodox Christian and (2) I spend quite a bit of time hanging out with Russians and with other Orthodox Christians who hang out with Russians. But I do want to share one big idea.

You see, I hear people talking about Vladimir V. Putin quite a bit. I would divide these people into at least three groups.

  1. First, there are the people who consider him a corrupt, brutal strongman, at best, and a tyrant at worst.
  2. Second, there are people who do not admire Putin at all, but they enjoy the fact that he gets under the skin of liberals and post-liberals here in the West. Putin is, in other words, a Russian and he drives elites in the West a bit mad.
  3. Third, there are Orthodox people who appreciate the fact that Putin – for whatever reasons – is defending some (repeat “SOME”) of the teachings of the Orthodox faith, whether he sincerely believes these moral doctrines or not. Of course, Putin’s sins against Orthodoxy on many other issues are perfectly obvious.

Now, the tricky thing is that most of my Orthodox friends who closely follow events in and around Russia are in all three of these camps at the same time.

(Terry Mattingly)

3

“Today Show” host Matt Lauer has taken withering criticism from some reporters for his handling of NBC’s recent commander-in-chief forum featuring separate 30-minute interviews with Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton. He should have fact-checked the candidates, critics say, especially Donald Trump when Mr. Trump claimed he always opposed the Iraq war.

I hope the four moderators of the coming presidential and vice-presidential debates pay no attention to the criticism. If moderators at the debates try to become live on-air fact checkers, they will fail in their one and only duty, which is to moderate a debate that allows the American people to decide which candidate they prefer.

Mr. Lauer moderated a forum that featured two separate interviews. It was not a debate. The difference is enormous, and that’s the fundamental flaw in the argument that Mr. Lauer’s performance is a what-not-to-do lesson for the coming debate moderators.

It would have been better if Mr. Lauer challenged Mr. Trump’s assertion that he always opposed the Iraq war. Since Mrs. Clinton wasn’t on the same stage and in a position to rebut what Mr. Trump said, viewers would have benefited from Mr. Lauer’s challenge.

But at the coming debates, it is not, and should not be, up to the moderators to set the record straight. It’s up to the candidates to rebut, and if they’re not prepared or they don’t do it, that’s their fault. In addition, tens of millions of Americans, on both sides of the aisle, will cry foul and attack the moderators for being biased if they step in.

(Ari Fleischer, emphasis added)

4

Trump has come to strongly resemble Marine Le Pen, leader of France’s National Front — even down to the luxurious blonde hair and Putin crush. Both Trump and Le Pen have tried to appeal to “The Unprotected” — those on the losing side of the new economy and cultural shifts. Trump has done this throughout his campaign, and this is exactly the same constituency and message that Le Pen adopted in setting up the National Front as the party to protect everyday French people.

(Pascal-Emmanuel Gobry)

5

Pope Francis has encouraged Europeans to welcome refugees, calling authentic hospitality “our greatest security against hateful acts of terrorism.”

Francis Saturday spoke to alumni of Jesuit schools in Europe who were in Rome for a conference on refugees.

What on earth is he talking about? It may be right for Europeans to welcome refugees — I don’t agree, but it’s a debatable point over whether or not charity requires Europeans to take that risk– but to say that welcoming over a million Muslims into Europe is “our greatest security against hateful acts of terrorism” is at best absurd propaganda. Who can possibly believe this? The same people who believe that “diversity is our strength”?

It has become increasingly popular to speak of racial and ethnic diversity as a civic strength. From multicultural festivals to pronouncements from political leaders, the message is the same: our differences make us stronger.

But a massive new study, based on detailed interviews of nearly 30,000 people across America, has concluded just the opposite. Harvard political scientist Robert Putnam — famous for “Bowling Alone,” his 2000 book on declining civic engagement — has found that the greater the diversity in a community, the fewer people vote and the less they volunteer, the less they give to charity and work on community projects. In the most diverse communities, neighbors trust one another about half as much as they do in the most homogenous settings. The study, the largest ever on civic engagement in America, found that virtually all measures of civic health are lower in more diverse settings.

“The extent of the effect is shocking,” says Scott Page, a University of Michigan political scientist.

The study comes at a time when the future of the American melting pot is the focus of intense political debate, from immigration to race-based admissions to schools, and it poses challenges to advocates on all sides of the issues. The study is already being cited by some conservatives as proof of the harm large-scale immigration causes to the nation’s social fabric. But with demographic trends already pushing the nation inexorably toward greater diversity, the real question may yet lie ahead: how to handle the unsettling social changes that Putnam’s research predicts.

“We can’t ignore the findings,” says Ali Noorani, executive director of the Massachusetts Immigrant and Refugee Advocacy Coalition. “The big question we have to ask ourselves is, what do we do about it; what are the next steps?”

When you are struggling mightily to integrate the Muslims you already have, as Europe is, it is not wise to import massive numbers of them. Not if you want to maintain a cohesive society.

(Rod Dreher, quoting this 2007 Boston Globe piece about Harvard political scientist Robert Putnam) I find it impossible to disagree, and I’ve long been as contemptuous of “diversity is our strength” as I am about “God is essential to our success.”

If I were a conservative Roman Catholic instead of Orthodox, Pope Francis would just drive me crazy.

6

Ask yourself: how could these two ancient institutions, the Democratic and Republican parties, cough up such human hairballs? And having done so, do they deserve to continue to exist? And if they go up in a vapor, along with the public’s incomes and savings, what happens next?

(James Howard Kunstler)

* * * * *

Scott Liebertz is right that one essential ethical justification for a refusal to vote for one of the two major party candidates (“Don’t get mad, get Evan!”) is that your vote loses all power if one of the parties can take it for granted. That is exactly how social conservatives became, as David French aptly calls us, “the cheapest date in American politics.”

Today, every vote cast for someone other than the two major candidates is a vote to preserve our national honor. Of course the very fact of having two such reprobates as our major nominees has already done irreparable damage to that honor.

(Greg Forster, second hyperlink changed) I love that “cheapest date in American politics” line, and the Right to Life organizations, Jerry Fallwell, Jr., and innumerable others have earned it.

* * * * *

7

The interior freedom an authentic liberal education imparts is the safest space on earth. https://t.co/ETs2fiL6MX

— Mollie (@MZHemingway) September 19, 2016

* * * * *

“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.

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