Thursday, 9/22/16

  1. If Trump wins …
  2. Jared Fogle’s white buddies
  3. Indy’s infrastructure hole
  4. Rule 6: Don’t make things worse
  5. The Whig narrative
  6. Pre-empting “Islamophobia”
  7. The universal music of holiness
  8. Naked Emperors

1

3. A Trump presidency would be destabilizing in a way we have never seen before. Trump is not a conservative; he’s a radical. That’s why so many people like him. But we should think hard about whether or not we can afford for someone as powerful as the American president to be a radical. True, Ronald Reagan was a transformative president who struck fear into the heart of Establishment Washington. Reagan understood that the sclerotic Establishment needed shaking up. Trump, though, is no Reagan. Reagan had a vision, and he had convictions. Trump only has attitude, and a very thin skin.

4. On the other hand, the Establishment needs destabilizing. From the Osnos piece:

Randall Schweller, a political scientist at Ohio State University, told me, “I think we’re just at a point in our history where he’s probably the right guy for the job. Not perfect, but we need someone different, because there’s such calcification in Washington. Americans are smart collectively, and if they vote for Trump I wouldn’t worry.”

There was a reason Trump beat what pundits had considered the best GOP presidential field in ages: a plurality of Republican voters didn’t want what they were selling. If you find this mystifying, then I would suggest that you are out of touch with what’s happening in this country. Trump (and Sanders) didn’t come from nowhere. A large number of Americans have waning confidence in the system as it is …

5. On the other hand, giving the power of the American presidency to a man of such vanity, arrogance, incuriosity, and recklessness — negative qualities that the destabilizing visionary Ronald Reagan never had — could be catastrophic. Osnos concludes that nervous Trump voters who tell themselves not to worry, that Congress and other forces will restrain him, are fooling themselves:

Trump presents us with the opposite risk: his victory would be not a failure of imagination but, rather, a retreat to it—the magical thought that his Presidency would be something other than the campaign that created it.

(Rod Dreher, commenting on this long New Yorker piece on what if Trump wins? Underline added. Ellipsis hides where Rod went off the rails.)

2

In America, there is no doubt that in most circumstances being white (Caucasian in census terms) is a benefit …

But, at least in one category, it appears that being white is not a really good thing, but rather a predictor for the commission of horrible federal crimes. I refer to the production of child pornography.

Richard G. Kopf, Senior United States District Judge (Nebraska)

I bristle at the trope that being white is a “predictor” of producing child pornography, as if a white guy likelier than not is into kiddie porn. But it sounds as if you’d be safe making a quick bet, before a photo came on screen, that the arrested person was a white man if you heard that someone had been arrested for producing (or using) child pornography.

Hypothesis: The profile beyond white (employed, relatively well-educated and from a higher socio-economic background) is full of predictors of a certain type of self-control — enough control not to molest an actual child, but not enough to avoid fantasies with accompanying wankery.

Now these wretches need to ratchet the self-control up one level: use virtual kiddie porn, where no actual children were harmed. I believe the Supreme Court has not reversed an opinion that lets virtual kiddie porn skate around criminal law.

(Caveat: If my superficial research has led me to a mistaken impression about the state of the law and you get sent away and live the rest of your life on a sex offender registry, don’t ask me for sympathy. Further Caveat: If your wife finds virtual kiddie porn on your computer, buddy, you can kiss unsupervised visitation bye-bye, let alone custody.)

And if you care more about your reputation than about the state of your soul, you’re a pretty sorry excuse for a human.

3

After noting bad Indianapolis infrastructure — away from the Potemkin downtown, of course:

This … doesn’t even meet the minimum standards for a city street. No wonder that citywide 27 pedestrians were killed last year and 585 since the streetlight moratorium took effect.

The city is flat broke financially (or so they say – there always seems to be some way to find money to subsidize real estate developers).  Given that putting in proper infrastructure would be a multi-billion dollar endeavor, it seems unlikely to ever happen. And even if the city tried, it has not proven to date that it is even capable of designing and building a proper urban street.

What’s more, even if it did somehow magically find the funds to build all this infrastructure, Indy suffers from the “Strong Towns Problem“: the tax base of the city doesn’t generate enough revenue to pay to maintain it. That’s one reason why even the deficient base infrastructure is in such bad shape, as the city itself would be the first to tell you.

As the streetlight moratorium itself illustrates, Indianapolis has already effectively declared bankruptcy on much of its street and alley infrastructure.

Indy will be an interesting test case on the importance of “livable streets” to urban success. To date, it has done reasonably well despite its infrastructure limitations. If it succeeds over the long term as a municipality, it will prove that the rhetoric around the importances of sidewalks and the like is overblown.  If it fails, there were certainly be multiple factors to blame, but it will nevertheless still be a cautionary tale for others than aren’t taking care of infrastructure business.

(Aaron Renn, The Indianapolis Infrastructure Hole Is So Huge It Can’t Ever Be Filled, emphasis added)

You mustn’t feel schadenfreude, because the Strong Towns Problem is coming to urban sprawl everywhere.

4

Christopher Preble offers five criteria for determining whether the U.S. should intervene militarily overseas …

I agree with all of Preble’s rules, but I would add another one to the list: the use of force must not be likely to produce worse evils than the ones that already exist. This is a very difficult bar to clear, but it has to be cleared if a military intervention isn’t going to make the other country (or countries) involved worse off than they were. One of the recurring problems in our debates over military intervention is that negative consequences of intervention for the affected country and its neighbors are often treated as an afterthought, or the potential negative consequences are dismissed by asserting that “it can’t be any worse than it is now.” The latter response was used frequently during the Iraq war debate to deny the possibility that Iraq could be worse off after regime change. We have heard much the same thing in other debates since then, and that is usually because interventionists either can’t imagine that U.S. military action can make a situation worse.

(Daniel Larison)

5

R. R. Reno comments on the puzzling fact that bathroom access for transgender students ranks as high as it does on the presidential policy agenda. Given the many critical issues facing vastly more Americans, Reno asks, why so much attention to this issue?

Reno locates the answer in the legacy of post-sixties liberalism. While this explanation is useful to a point, I don’t find it fully satisfying. After all, the question is not simply how we got here, but how we got here so phenomenally fast …

The rapidity of the change cannot be ascribed merely to the political power of liberals …

There’s something deeper going on, something that renders Christian and conservative arguments on these issues particularly ineffective. These issues are framed by a fundamental outlook that is shared by most Americans, including most conservatives and Christians. This outlook sets up the liberal win and the Christian and conservative loss. For want of a better term, I call it the Whig narrative.

Historians deride as “Whig history” accounts that describe history as the ever-progressing movement toward more freedom, equality, and democracy. The Whig narrative is the popular version of Whig history. It sees history as always progressing toward the abolition of arbitrary differences between people: between lord and commoner, free man and slave, man and woman, the propertied and the property-less, black and white, rich and poor, etc. For Americans, America’s Founding is a singularly powerful unfolding of the Whig narrative, and with it the Whig narrative jumps into hyperdrive.

… American Christians and conservatives imbibe this narrative as deeply as do liberals and Progressives—sometimes even more deeply. All Americans are Whigs, distinguished only by their more-liberal or more-conservative Whiggery.

To be sure, there are other narratives—significant and powerful narratives. But the Whig narrative is long-lasting and broadly shared. It is almost, if not quite, the official confession of American civil religion. It articulates an anthropology (to be human means to define oneself), an ethics (maintaining difference arbitrarily is wrong), and an eschatology (the progress of history). It contains a Great Commission and a form of redemption offered not only to America, but to the world.

Constructing and spreading a full-fledged Christian counternarrative won’t be the work of a moment. Such a counternarrative must not consist of mere rejection and reaction. The Whig narrative is entwined in the very warp and woof of what we think and how we think. Engaging it persuasively, both personally and culturally, will be no mean feat.

(James R. Rogers, The Whig Narrative and American Christianity)

6

When bombs went off in New York City’s Chelsea neighborhood on Saturday night, state and city officials said some very silly things. But understanding those remarks is actually key to understanding U.S. policy toward terrorism in general.

The immediate response of Mayor Bill de Blasio was to reject possible links to terrorism as such. Gov. Andrew Cuomo, meanwhile, declared that “a bomb exploding in New York is obviously an act of terrorism, but it’s not linked to international terrorism—in other words we find no ISIS connection, etc.” …

At the time both comments were uttered, nobody had any idea who had undertaken the attacks or what their motives were. Feasibly, the attacks could have been launched by militants working in the cause of international Islamism, or black power, or white supremacy, or none of the above … De Blasio was thus right to leave open the question of attribution, but he was wrong to squelch the potential terrorist link. His comment was doubly foolish given that the New Jersey attack had happened the same day and involved similar methods, which in itself indicated that an organized campaign had begun. As Cuomo had no hint who the attackers were, he actually could say nothing whatsoever about whether they had any connections to the Islamic State.

Why on earth would de Blasio and Cuomo make such fatuous comments, especially when their security advisors must have been telling them something radically different? (NYPD intelligence and counter-terrorist operations are superb.) Why, particularly, would they make remarks that are virtually certain to be disproved within days?

Both de Blasio and Cuomo made an instant decision to go the heart of the matter as they saw it, which was not analyzing or discussing terrorism, but rather preventing hate crimes and pre-empting “Islamophobia.” 

Combating that threat must take absolute supremacy. That means (among other things) systematically underplaying and under-reporting any and all violent incidents committed by Muslims, or even overtly claimed for Islamist causes. Where Islamist claims are explicitly made, then the waters must be muddied by suggesting other motives—presenting the assailant as a lone berserker, motivated perhaps by psychiatric illness or homophobia. We rarely hear this ubiquitous strategy identified or named, so I offer a name here: this is the U.S. policy of de-Islamization ….

(Phillip Jenkins, Terrorism With the Religion Taken Out, emphasis added)

7

Chant is as universal a religious form as bowing in veneration. It has its own logic, purpose, and significance. Yet sacred music in the West is far more likely to take the form of 18-19th century metrical hymns, “folk” inspired music from the 1960s and 70s, or more contemporary rock and pop inspired songs.

The absence of chant in Western culture means that our culture is deprived of the influences contained and expressed in this musical form. As we continually decry the fast pace of modern life, our endless distractions, our fears and anxieties, perhaps a regular experience of timeless chant is exactly what we need?

(Zak Alstin)

I’d go a step further and ask: If “sacred music” in your tradition does not include chant, are you really religious at all?

I ask that knowing that some will gleefully take up that challenge, boasting that they’re not religious because “Christianity isn’t a religion. It’s a relationship.”

Yeah. Sure. Just keep parroting that.

8

Naked Emperors

* * * * *

“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.