Thursday 12/15/16

  1. Mencken
  2. Aleppo
  3. The Script is Written, the suspects auditioning
  4. Despotism and Donald Trump
  5. In a counterfactual universe

Secondary Things

1

Atheism was a natural fit for him. Few men have been so resistant to the sensus divinitatis. While his religious views were, like all his ideas, vividly expressed, he had little to say that was deep or original on the subject when confronted with such tinseled divines as the preacher Aimee Semple McPherson or the puritanical calamity of Prohibition. It was mostly off-the-shelf Mill and Nietzsche, enough to wow a college sophomore and offend the over-earnest believer. No one should read Mencken for the sophistication of his theorizing. Even Mr. Hart admits as much: “His desire for an intellectual output of some permanence appeared to be disproportionate to his own abilities or training.” Mencken’s great gift was for caricature. His most famous writings on religion—his coverage of the Scopes Monkey Trial of 1925, a mostly-for-show spectacle that Mencken helped engineer—paints believers as anti-modern yokels come down from the hills to pester wised-up folk like H.L. Mencken. The caricature was as funny and influential as it was unfair and ill-informed.

(Andrew Ferguson, reviewing D.G. Hart’s Damning Words: The Life and Religious Times of H.L. Mencken)

Tertiary Things

2

The fall of Aleppo is a humanitarian and cultural disaster, and it happened under the watch of the world, and under its moral responsibility.

In Syria, there haven’t been any good options for a long time. But the international community, led full force by the United States, has picked the worst option at every turn.

(Pascal-Emmanuel Gobry)

It almost feels obscene to treat Aleppo as just one of many snippets in an aggregator blog, and especially via a snippet so short. But in a world of woe, our role in making this disaster needs to be called out.

Exceptionalism? Indispensable nation? Really?

3

The script is written and the usual suspects are auditioning.

This Week in Hate tracks hate crimes and harassment around the country since the election of Donald Trump. The Southern Poverty Law Center and other groups are keeping detailed counts of harassment and abuse. We will regularly present a selection of incidents to show the scope of the problem.

(New York Times, This Week in Hate) Remember the good ole Obama days when all our crimes were loving?

Meanwhile, climate scientists continue to pretend that their data on government computers in the U.S. is endangered by the Trump Presidency — a claim only slightly less absurd than the call to get same-sex-married before 1/20/17 because it will probably be illegal on 1/21/17 (see below, too). Since the scientists’ response is to frantically copy public scientific data to multiple additional locations, it is unobjectionable except for the silliness of the pretext.

4

[T]he same folks who see in Mr. Trump a Mussolini in waiting are blind to the soft despotism that has already taken root in our government. This is the unelected and increasingly assertive class that populates our federal bureaucracies and substitutes rule by regulation for the rule of law. The result? Over the Obama years, the Competitive Enterprise Institute reckons, Washington has averaged 35 regulations for every law.

In the introduction to its just-released report on how to address this federal overreach, CEI President Kent Lassman puts it this way: “It is time for a reckoning.”

… While an uneasy William Howard Taft, for example, made Labor its own cabinet office on the last day of his presidency, Woodrow Wilson named its first secretary.

Meanwhile, HUD is a child of LBJ’s Great Society. The EPA was Nixon’s attempt to buy liberal approval for his administration. As for the Education Department, it was a reward from Jimmy Carter for the endorsement the National Education Association gave him in 1976. At the time this cabinet seat was established, even the New York Times called it “unwise” and editorialized against it.

… Mr. Pruitt, Dr. Carson, Mr. Puzder and Mrs. DeVos are not beholden to the orthodoxies that drive the rules and mandates these bureaucracies impose.

Mrs. DeVos, for example, has spent her life promoting school choice, and her husband founded a charter school. It is difficult to imagine an Education Department under Secretary DeVos ever sending out a “Dear Colleague” letter to bully universities into expanding the definition of sexual harassment and then encouraging them to handle allegations in a way that has turned many campus tribunals into Star Chambers. Not to mention making a federal case about bathrooms.

(William McGurn, Despotism and Donald Trump)

5

President-elect Clinton has appointed several members to top government posts that have supported so-called same-sex marriage and opposed religious freedom laws, leaving many in the religious community concerned that their civil rights hang in the balance.

Of course, that story never was printed. But this one, from CNN was:

President-elect Trump has appointed several members to top government posts that have supported so-called religious freedom laws and opposed same-sex marriage, leaving many in the LGBTQ community concerned that their civil rights hang in the balance.

 (Julia Duin, Will Trump’s America lead to a legal bloodbath for gays? CNN all but predicts it will)

* * * * *

“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.