Monday 12/12/16

  1. Made for another world
  2. Moral Panic
  3. Portrait of the King
  4. The working class
  5. She knows how to handle that
  6. Siri’s religion problem


First Things

1

In the tradition of C.S. Lewis (or maybe I should say that both are in the Great Tradition):

Even the fact that we mourn is a reason for joy.  For how could we sorrow at all, if we were merely evolved dirt?  If Darwin got it right, no traits should persist in the genome unless they have adaptive value.  That obviously fails to fit the facts.  If we were perfectly adapted to the way of this world, we would not grieve when dear ones died, but go right on to the next thing.  We would not experience strange longings for we know not what that are not to be found in this life.  We would not even have consciences, for whatever we desired would be good – just in the sense that we desired it.  Then what is the problem?  Have there not yet been enough millions of years to put us right?  Surely there have been.  Plainly we are not made for this world – not even by natural selection.  Then we are made for another.

(J Budziszewski, The Underground Thomist, God Rest Ye Merry, Melancholics)

Tertiary Things

2

Did the combination of Russian and F.B.I. intervention swing the election? Yes. Mrs. Clinton lost three states – Michigan, Wisconsin, and Pennsylvania – by less than a percentage point, and Florida by only slightly more. If she had won any three of those states, she would be president-elect. Is there any reasonable doubt that Putin/Comey made the difference?

And it wouldn’t have been seen as a marginal victory, either. Even as it was, Mrs. Clinton received almost three million more votes than her opponent, giving her a popular margin close to that of George W. Bush in 2004.

So this was a tainted election. It was not, as far as we can tell, stolen in the sense that votes were counted wrong, and the result won’t be overturned. But the result was nonetheless illegitimate in important ways; the victor was rejected by the public, and won the Electoral College only thanks to foreign intervention and grotesquely inappropriate, partisan behavior on the part of domestic law enforcement.

(Paul Krugman)

Now, many moral panics have a grain of truth in them. For example, when Europe erupted with a moral panic over witchcraft …

But this only poses the question: Why now? If “witches” had been around forever in Europe, why did Europe erupt in a moral panic during and after the Reformation? If fake news has been around forever, why are journalists suddenly fretting about it destroying democracy?

It’s the most normal, human impulse in the world. We don’t want to look in the mirror. When our flaws are exposed, we want to blame someone else. Anyone else. Moral courage is the capacity to take the hard look in the mirror and to, to coin a phrase, take the beam out of your own eye before you try to take the mote out of someone else’s.

Or, you know, you could go burn a witch.

(Pascal-Emmanuel Gobry, The crushing anxiety behind the media’s fake news hysteria)

3

The dispute cuts to core realities of intelligence analysis. Judgments are often made in a fog of uncertainty, are sometimes based on putting together shards of a mosaic that do not reveal a full picture, and can always be affected by human biases.

(New York Times, in an article on the CIA’s conviction that Russians were trying to elect Donald Trump, not just sow doubt about the system)

That it’s reconstructed shards from a mosaic biases me against the CIA’s conviction about the election:

Their manner of acting is just as if one, when a beautiful image of a king has been constructed by some skillful artist out of precious jewels, should then take this likeness of the man all to pieces, should rearrange the gems, and so fit them together as to make them into the form of a dog or of a fox, and even that but poorly executed; and should then maintain and declare that this was the beautiful image of the king which the skillful artist constructed, pointing to the jewels which had been admirably fitted together by the first artist to form the image of the king, but have been with bad effect transferred by the latter one to the shape of a dog, and by thus exhibiting the jewels, should deceive the ignorant who had no conception what a king’s form was like, and persuade them that that miserable likeness of the fox was, in fact, the beautiful image of the king.

(St. Irenaus, Against Heresies, Book I, Chapter 8, How the Valentinians pervert the Scriptures to support their own pious opinions)

4

The past few years it seemed the progressive left and the Democratic Party, confident in what they called the coalition of the ascendant, were looking at the old American working class, especially the white working class, and saying: “Here’s your disability check, now go take your opioids and get lost while we transform our country. By the way, we have friends on Wall Street.” From the right and Republicans it was: “Take your piece of the dole, we are importing an entire new people from other countries to take your place, could you please sort of pass away? We’re replacing you! Why can’t you get the message? By the way, we have friends on Wall Street.”

People don’t want to be shunted aside or told they’re expendable, that they’re yesterday and no longer count. Especially people whose country this is too, who’ve been here a long time and paid its taxes, whose sons died in its wars.

(Peggy Noonan)

5

A 2016 Elector from Kansas writes:

It started with a couple of emails three days after the election. Since Hillary Clinton had won the popular vote, former electors warned me that I would probably receive hundreds of emails urging me to change my vote to prevent Mr. Trump from getting to the White House. I answered the first few back and had some polite—and some not-so-polite—exchanges with folks urging me to vote for Mrs. Clinton. Grassroots groups such as Ask the Electors had found my work email and spread it to their email lists. They also published my work address, home address, cell phone and work phone.

I had intended on answering everyone who emailed me. Then the flood started. At its peak, I was receiving 500 emails an hour. At least 20 letters arrived at my office daily, and the calls came in 24 hours a day.

The majority of the notes called for the elimination of the Electoral College because it was undemocratic …

Others told me to act as a faithless elector and vote my conscience to stop Mr. Trump from taking the presidency …

I noticed another theme in the thousands of missives I’ve received. They don’t seek to understand or persuade—only to insist. Most of these people want it their way and they want it now. As a mother of two small children, I know how to handle that.

(Ashley McMillan Hutchinson)

Adiaphora

6

* * * * *

“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.