Tuesday 12/20/16

  1. Reasons, evidence and arguments
  2. The hollowed-out world we have made
  3. Religious Right redux
  4. Regulatory Risk up 80%?
  5. Russia and the election
  6. Some things just are not done
  7. [sic]

First Things

O Key of David and sceptre of the House of Israel;
you open and no one can shut;
you shut and no one can open:
Come and lead the prisoners from the prison house,

O Clavis, one of the “O Antiphons” of late Advent. (See Isaiah 22:22Isaiah 9:7Isaiah 42:7)

Thanks to Wikipedia, which had better English translations than the wooden and unimaginative “modern” paraphrases I found at the first two, ironically Roman Catholic, websites I tried.

Secondary Things

1

A few weeks ago, I was pleased to be Peter Singer’s conversation partner at a forum at Princeton (where both of us teach). The event was tied to his new book “Ethics in the Real World.” Mr. Singer defends the morality of practices—not only abortion but euthanasia and even infanticide—that I strongly reject. Yet I welcomed the opportunity to read his book, listen to his arguments, and talk with him. Why? Because I know how much can be learned from engaging an intelligent and well-informed scholar whose convictions on many issues of morality, justice and human rights are diametrically opposed to my own.

We all should be willing—eager—to engage with anyone who is prepared to do business in the currency of intellectual discourse by offering reasons, marshaling evidence and making arguments. The more important the subject under discussion, the more eager we should be to listen and engage—especially if the person in question will challenge our deeply held beliefs, even those that form our identity.

(Robert P. George, Why I Wanted to Debated Peter Singer)

2

I do not have the sense that The Wall Street Journal’s journalistic or editorial staffs are particularly sensitive to irony, but the juxtaposition of the articles “The Children of the Opioid Crisis” and “Families on the Field of Dreams” in one issue (December 16) was either truly inspired or remarkably obtuse. What a wonderful illustration of the hollowed-out world we have made. On the one hand, you have children irreparably scarred by a society without strong religious, community or familial bonds, where values like prudence, temperance and simplicity have been replaced by a mindless pursuit of a pleasurable fix, the logical outcome of a world in which the only values are a mindless, soulless pursuit of material goods and an almost totalitarian hedonism. And the story only featured the luckiest cases, children who had grandparents who were able to intervene or were lucky to find a kindly foster family. Think of the poor angels who have not even been that lucky. Jesus wept.

On the other hand, you have stories of parents, all wealthy, all white, all ostensibly educated, whose highest telos seems to be water polo or soccer or skiing for their coddled teenage children and who therefore uproot themselves from whatever home and community they and their children have known to pursue such big goals as playing hockey for Boston College. Big dreams! What lessons are these children learning? That the pursuit of some solipsistic and socially worthless goal involving sports (!) should supplant the needs and company of their immediate families, not to mention those of grandparents and uncles and aunts and childhood friends. That your father should live in an upper-crust boardinghouse so you can play a sport that only seemed meaningful when the Russians and the Hungarians left blood in the Olympic pool in 1956 ….

(Pat Maloney via Rod Dreher; hyperlinks added) I noticed and read at least part of The Children of the Opioid Crisis Friday, but I missed Families on the Field of Dreams.

I venture a guess that the Grandparent guardians in the first story were Trump voters, the jet-setters in the second story much likelier to have voted for Clinton. Therein may lie a parable.

3

Far from imploding, the Religious Right made up more than 30 percent of the voting electorate. According to the Pew Research organization, white evangelical Christians voted for Mr. Trump by an utterly overwhelming margin, 81 percent to Clinton’s 16 percent. And Catholic voters, too, supported Mr. Trump over Mrs. Clinton by a 23-point margin, 60 percent to 37 percent.

What accounts for the media’s fallacious and erroneous coverage? Among many other things, the media largely failed to recognize that Mr. Trump and the Christian Right faced a common enemy: globalists and globalization. Thus, while the media were fixated on the discrepancy between the traditional values of conservative Christians and Mr. Trump’s moral indiscretions, they overlooked the common globalizing concerns that both traditionalists and Mr. Trump shared.

Globalization is characterized as a worldwide social and economic system comprised of a capitalist economy, telecommunications, technology, and mass urbanization. It has been argued that such economic and technological dynamics have the power to arrest control of national economies away from [sic] totalitarian projects such as the former Soviet Union and communist China while simultaneously expanding economic growth and prominence among capitalistic nations.

However, what is crucial to understand is that built into globalization processes is what Anthony Giddens terms detraditionalization … In the shadow of globalized transnational policies, traditional moral codes and customs become increasingly implausible to objectively sustain.

… [T]raditional morals and customs tend to give way to what are called lifestyle values. Lifestyle values operate according to a plurality of what sociologist Peter Berger defines as “life-worlds,” wherein each individual practices whatever belief system deemed most plausible by him or her. These belief systems include everything from religious identity to gender identity.

Beginning in the 1990s, representatives from the Religious Right began to see their domestic struggle with the ascendance of secular lifestyle values in far more globalist terms. Already in 1999, Harold O.J. Brown of the conservative Christian think tank, the Howard Center, delivered a speech at the Second World Congress entitled “Globalization and the Family,” where he explained the relationship between globalization and changing social relations:

Globalization is the concept or ideal that tells us not that small is beautiful but that small is pitiful and out of date. The nation replaces the family, as in the U.S.A. public welfare replaces the father, and instead of individual nations… we shall create a “world community.”

Allan C. Carlson, also of the Howard Center, observed: “[T]he new global civilization… is militantly secular, ferociously anti-traditional, fundamentally hostile to autonomous families, the enemy of robust marital fertility, and a threat to the newly conceived child everywhere… including the new Christian child.” Religious Right activism has thus increasingly considered globalists and globalization as the primary threats to traditional values …

Austin Ruse, president of the Catholic Family and Human Rights Institute, summarized Christian Right international activism as focused on defending and perpetuating what he calls the “three sovereignties” that are under attack: nation, church, and family. With his emphasis on nationalism, protection of Christians, and promise of appointing pro-life judges, Mr. Trump’s campaign represented a mutual defense of these three sovereignties, making his candidacy a natural attraction for proponents of traditional values.

The contempt that America’s secular elite has for traditional moral values seems to have blinded them to the fact that, for tens of millions of citizens worldwide, nationhood, tradition, and religion really do matter ….

(Stephen Turley, President Trump & the Rise of the Global Religious Right); footnotes omitted)

I continue to be baffled by Trump’s victory, and to seek out plausible explanations. This is as plausible as many, and in some ways takes my reasons-why-I-voted-for-Trump-if-I-actually-had-voted-for-Trump up a level of generality: from Hillary will be very bad for the free exercise of religion of people like me to a globalist attack on nation, church, and family.

Still, I can’t rule out that this is — fundamentally, however good some details may be — a Just-So Story. I’d have been more impressed had it been written in advance of the election.

I’d also not that this new “Global Religious Right” is a rather different and more congenial beast than the Jerry Fallwell/Pat Robertson old Religious Right (wonks like Harold O.J. Brown and Allan Carlson from the Howard Center think tank were not old religious right leaders, in my opinion), which may indeed have met its deserved death November 8.

Tertiary Things

4

I would challenge a wild figure like this from the New York Times so I can’t let it slide when it comes from the Wall Street Journal:

A new analysis confirms that the average industry’s regulatory risk has increased nearly 80% from 2010—and that this burden particularly hurts manufacturing and heavy industry.

The analysis was developed by a small group of quantitative hotshots under the guidance of Alex Vogel, an old Washington hand, and Jeff Hood, a 30-year finance veteran. Instead of considering the question of regulatory risk like D.C. think tankers, they approached it like Wall Street analysts.

Their most inventive technique involved natural-language processing, an essential tool of the big-data era that has been used to analyze Shakespeare and fight spam email. Messrs. Vogel and Hood used the technology to analyze the language in the 10K reports that companies file with the Securities and Exchange Commission.

Every 10K report includes a formal assessment of the company’s vulnerabilities. Messrs. Vogel and Hood flagged any words and phrases that signaled regulatory exposure. They included general terms like “regulation” and “Congress” as well as specific ones like “fraud,” “inversions” and “Dodd-Frank.” They did something similar with the Federal Register to capture economically significant rule-making ….

(Clark S. Judge, The Rust Belt Is Right to Blame Obama) Though their conclusion is startling, I can’t say “their most inventive technique” was obviously loaded in favor of their conclusion. Did corporate leaders en masse start finding it it plausible to blame bad results in SEC reports on regulatory burden? Was there any comparison to 10K natural language trends in prior recessions?

5

The New York Times especially worked the “Russia Hacks Election” story to a fare-the-well, saying in its Sunday edition:

The Central Intelligence Agency has concluded that Moscow put its thumb on the scale for Mr. Trump through the release of hacked Democratic emails, which provided fodder for many of the most pernicious false attacks on Mrs. Clinton on social media.

False attacks? What, that Hillary’s cronies put the DNC’s “thumb on the scale” against Bernie Sanders? That Donna Brazille gave Hillary debate questions beforehand? That as Secretary of State Hillary gave more face-time to foreign supplicants based on their contributions to the Clinton Foundation, and expedited arms deals for especially big givers? That she collected millions in speaking fees for sucking up to Too-Big-To-Fail bankers? That The Times and The WashPo and CNN reporters were taking direction from Hillary’s PR operatives?

President Obama did his bit to amplify the message by coloring Russian President Vladimir Putin as being behind the so-called hacking because “not much happens in Russia without, you know, Vladimir Putin,” just like not much happened in old Puritan New England without the involvement of Old Scratch. So now we have an up-to-date Devil figure to stir the paranoid imaginations of an already divided and perturbed public.

Hillary and her supporters have vehemently asserted that “seventeen intelligence agencies” agree with the assessment that Russia hacked the election. It might be greater news to the American people to hear that there actually are seventeen such agencies out there. Perhaps Mrs. Clinton or Mr. Obama might explain exactly what they are beyond the CIA, the FBI, the DIA, the NSA, and DHS. Personally, I feel less secure knowing that there are so many additional surveillance services sifting through everybody’s digital debris trail.

(James Howard Kunstler) All to no avail.

6

In the local TV story, Sherry Spencer said that as parents, she and Rand “deeply love our son, as we always will,” but, she added “we unequivocally do not agree with the extreme positions espoused by Richard.”

She reiterated in a Medium post on Dec. 16 that she is the sole owner of the 22 Lupfer building in downtown Whitefish and wrote that “she poured her heart and soul into this project.”

Sherry Spencer criticized the pressure she received from community members and directed her frustration toward one woman, a local real-estate agent, who was also a target of the Daily Stormer post.

Richard does not own the building, nor has he ever used it for his writing or publishing. Put simply, the building has nothing to do with politics — and it has everything to do with tourism and local businesses.

I had no intention of selling . . . until I started receiving terrible threats in the last couple of weeks.

Sherry Spencer never intended to “go public” with the story, she wrote, but the media coverage “forces my hand.”

She continued:

Whatever you think about my son’s ideas — they are, after all, ideas — in what moral universe is it right for the “sins” of the son to be visited upon the mother?

All I wanted to do with the building was help Whitefish.

The people attacking me claim that “loves lives here.” Now it’s time for them to show it.

The following day, Sherry Spencer updated the Medium post with a disclaimer asking readers to stay “within the bounds of respectful, civilized discussion of this matter by refraining from abusive comments or targeted harassment of any of the parties involved, or their families.” She added that she disavowed the harassment some were already facing.

(Katie Metler, Jewish leaders in Richard Spencer’s home town targeted in posting on neo-Nazi website) Richard Spencer, if you don’t know, is an alt-right figure, with particularly strong racist overtones, who’s trolling the waters after Trump’s election for whatever racist rabble will prove rousable.

My take is limited and simple: decent people do not insist that parents renounce their children (e.g., Sherry Spencer) or that children renounce their parents (e.g., Mel Gibson). Period. Full stop.

7

I have no desire to become Mr. Language Man, but I inserted a “[sic]” above which I’ll now explain.

The writer wrote “power to arrest control of national economies away from totalitarian projects ….” I’m reasonably sure that what he meant was “power to wrest control of national economies away from totalitarian projects ….”

Mrs. Tipsy, less fascinated by the Religious Right than I, found the whole article difficult to read, so perhaps I’m missing all but the low-hanging fruit.

* * * * *

“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.