Wednesday 11/2/16

  1. Whatcha gonna do?
  2. Restrooms are not for affirmation
  3. Making the stranglehold more sportsmanlike
  4. Why no Obama scandals?
  5. James Comey Did the Right Thing
  6. Political muscle memory


First Things

1

Two years ago, Alan Jacobs challenged those congregations and denominations that were “on the journey” toward greater acceptance of homosexual behavior:

Either throughout your history or at some significant point in your history you let your views on a massively important issue be shaped largely by what was acceptable in the cultural circles within which you hoped to be welcome. How do you plan to keep that from happening again?

(Emphasis in original) The item is short, compellingly logical, and more relevant now than ever, as not just Evangelicals, but my former denomination, supposedly “conservative” Calvinists, are flirting with throwing over all of human history.

(H/T Rod Dreher)

Tertiary Things

2

It’s surely a sign of the times that the United States Supreme Court is going to hear a case about who can use a bathroom:

[A]ccording to the federal government and LGBT activists, the primary function of private facilities is not privacy; it is affirmation of a person’s gender identity.

Relying upon guidance from the U.S. Department of Education, which for several years quietly had pushed the idea that schools must treat a student consistent with his or her gender identity, [Gavin] Grimm sued the school district.

The suit argues that under federal Title IX and its regulations, the school must affirm Grimm’s male gender identity by allowing use of the boys’ restrooms.

The lawsuit received immediate support from the Education and Justice departments, which ultimately issued the now infamous “Dear Colleague” letter in May 2016. In it, the departments threatened to strip federal funding from any school that does not use its locker rooms, showers, restrooms, and even overnight accommodation on school trips to affirm a student’s gender identity.

But locker rooms and restrooms are not for affirmation; they are for privacy. And schools should remain free to put the privacy of their students above political agendas.

(Emphasis added)

To all the nonlawyers in the country who are recognize the insanity of this, I offer my personal apology for the behavior of members of my profession in carefully and craftily causing the craziness. My only plea in mitigation is that members of my profession fight the craziness, too (which some will see as the mark of a racket, but trust me: the profession is not that well coordinated).

3

In Reinventing Collapse: The Soviet Experience and American Prospects, Dmitry Orlov compared the U.S. electoral system to that of the former Soviet Union (where he was born and whose collapse he personally witnessed) in this way:

The Soviet Union had a single, entrenched, systemically corrupt political party, which held a monopoly on power. The US has two entrenched, systemically corrupt political parties, whose positions are often indistinguishable and which together hold a monopoly on power. In either case, there is, or was, a single governing elite, but in the United States it organizes itself into opposing teams to make its stranglehold on power seem more sportsmanlike. It is certainly more sporting to have two capitalist parties go at each other than just having the one communist party to vote for. The things they fight over in public are generally symbolic little tokens of social policy, chosen for ease of public posturing. The Communist party offered just one bitter pill. The two capitalist parties offer a choice of two placebos… It is a tribute to the intelligence of the American people that so few of them bother to vote.

I find his characterization too dismissive of meaningful differences between the Democratic and Republican parties or, in the case of this particular campaign, the two candidates as individuals. But Orlov touches on something that I believe is true—namely, that the narrowing of the U.S. political landscape down to a battle between two teams fighting over fairly limited ground creates conditions where no truly radical or systemic changes can take place.

In the Collapse of Complex Societies, anthropologist and historian Joseph Tainter details how advanced civilizations of the past responded to crises of their own making by doubling down on the complexity that got them into the mess in the first place, thus ensuring their own collapse. One might see a parallel to how our political institutions are responding to the crises we face– by doubling down on the divisiveness, short-term thinking, and the financing of the corporate oligarchy that helped get us where we are.

(Asher Miller, On Standing Rock and the Ballot Box, Resilience; originally published by Post Carbon Institute)

4

Some may object. They’ll reply that the only problem is the aggressive prosecutorial zeal of the Republicans. And it is true that Republicans have an ongoing grudge against Clinton. But let’s posit the existence of a vast right wing conspiracy that hates President Obama just as much as it hates the Clintons. Why is it only able to turn up news-driving scandals on the latter? Could it be that Obama, however detested by conservatives, conducts himself with higher ethical standards than Bill and Hillary?

Clinton is the face of a prosperous, grasping establishment that won’t bear challenge from the left or right. Her ability to survive scandal after scandal will not be received as some testament to her political canniness or some deep integrity. It will be received as just the system defending its own from attack. Her survival and her ability to win is a a tribute to the power and self-regard of our political class. And this class has no plausible solution for the nation’s foreign policy, for its immigration system, or for an economic system that abets the elite’s secession from their own nation.

Clinton’s presidency will be a slog because she is exactly like the system she defends. She can point to the great wealth this system produces for its top clients. But neither she nor her cheerleaders can really claim that it looks like wisdom or justice to anyone else.

(Michael Brendan Dougherty, The Clinton presidency is going to be a miserable slog)

5

Earlier this year, everyone was calling for a responsible investigation and rapid resolution of the email matter. The FBI pushed ahead, and in July, Comey announced that the matter had been thoroughly investigated and that he would not recommend prosecution. That announcement was a great boon to Clinton’s campaign — she touted it as a vindication, and, in the wake of Comey’s announcement, her poll numbers appreciably improved.

The FBI then discovered that the investigation had not, in fact, been a complete one. It appears that thousands of emails exist on a computer belonging to former congressman Anthony Weiner and Clinton aide Huma Abedin that had not been turned over during the investigation. The failure of the Clinton camp to provide all pertinent evidence rendered Comey’s July announcement misleading. The FBI’s investigation was not comprehensive and not complete, and the conclusions announced by Comey three months ago were therefore premature.

If the FBI remained silent about the newly discovered incompleteness of its earlier investigation, it would be deliberately leaving uncorrected a misleading statement being used by the Clinton campaign to its political advantage. Thus, failure to correct the record would have been deceitful and would have represented a political decision to influence the election by leaving in place a misleading statement. At this point, the right choice was honesty — explaining that new emails had been found and would have to be reviewed. To the extent this step might affect the election, its effect arises from correcting a previous erroneous statement — in other words, from truthfulness.

Much is being made of the point that Comey does not know whether the new trove of emails is significant. That misses the point. The two critical facts conveyed to the public in July were that the investigation was completed and that, based on that completed investigation, no prosecution was warranted.

(William Barr, James Comey Did the Right Thing, Washington Post)

Adiaphora

6

It must be something like “muscle memory,” but when I hear some bad political news for Hillary Clinton, my heart reflexively soars. Then I remember that bad news for her is good news for Donald Trump and my heart crash-lands.

Were it not for the American Solidarity Party, I might have written in @SMOD2016 when I voted early today.

The American Solidarity Party embraces some positions that might have been deal-killers for me not all that long ago, but now the curtain is pulled back and the wretched condition of politics as usual is on full display. I’m not willing to be a bomb-thrower, but I’m ready to push for some systemic change, resist though our stranglers may.

* * * * *

“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.