Potpourri 7/22/17

  1. The Christian View of History
  2. Telling a “universal story”
  3. What makes “the net” un-neutral?
  4. The ground has shifted
  5. The protecting veil of progressivism
  6. A thoughtcrime Bill in Congress
  7. Three for three
  8. Sentimental nitwits

1

[T]he Christian view of history is not a secondary element derived by philosophical reflection from the study of history. It lies at the very heart of Christianity and forms an integral part of the Christian faith. Hence there is no Christian “philosophy of history” in the strict sense of the word. There is, instead, a Christian history and a Christian theology of history, and it is not too much to say that without them there would be no such thing as Christianity. For Christianity, together with the religion of Israel out of which it was born, is an historical religion in a sense to which none of the other world religions can claim – not even Islam, though this comes nearest to it in this respect.

(Christopher Dawson, “The Christian View of History” in Dynamics of World History, quoted by Eighth Day Institute)

2

When an event in history has become, in the mind of a writer, “universal” it’s a tip-off—the warning bell that we’re about to lose most of the important facts of that history, and that the story-telling will be a special kind—a sort that obscures all specifics that run counter to the noble vision of the universalist.

(Dorothy Rabinowitz, The Dumbing Down of Dunkirk)

3

What are Google, Amazon and Facebook wanting us not to see as we gaze, goaded by them, at the horrors of ending “net neutrality”?

Since the birth of broadband, net neutrality’s cheerleaders have feared that service providers might begin to act as the internet’s “gatekeepers,” undermining its inherent free-for-all character. But cyberspace’s dirty secret is that the gatekeepers aren’t the broadband providers lampooned by the likes of John Oliver. The real distortions come from massive “platform monopolies” like Google, Facebook and Amazon, whose proprietary algorithms decide what users see online.

The supposed purpose of “net neutrality” is to stop any internet company from getting a leg up over others. But that’s exactly what happens when Google’s search results prioritize its own services—and profits—over competitors’. This skewing of results has “stifled competition on the merits,” according to the European Commission, which fined Google $3 billion last month for the practice. If Google’s favoring its own products while pushing potential competitors down its rankings doesn’t create “fast” and “slow” lanes, what on earth does?

… Facebook, meanwhile, has virtually abandoned chronology in its News Feed in favor of picking and choosing what users see—and what they don’t—based on what the company has learned about them.

The costs of such abuses from the platform monopolies are obvious and many. Newspapers have nearly been “prioritized” out of existence by Google’s shameless appropriation of their work: Why click through and read a whole article when Google News will pluck out the most important bits and show them to you free—alongside its own ads, of course.

Whether it’s just a massive blind spot or neck-snapping hypocrisy, a net-neutrality campaign led by companies that manipulate how Americans experience the web in these ways is an Orwellian embarrassment.

Unlike the internet service providers, who have a limited share of any market, the platform giants are close to completing actual monopolies. Google now controls nearly 80% of the global market for web search, and 88% of the world’s smartphones run on its data-mining Android operating system. Amazon’s “everything store” was a quasi-monopoly, accounting for nearly a third of total U.S. retail growth in 2016, even before its acquisition of Whole Foods .

4

The president looks confused and hapless, while publicly enacting determination and a scolding tone toward those who’d let him down. He rarely showed signs of fully understanding the details or even the essentials of the plan he backed. His public remarks were all over the place: He’ll let ObamaCare collapse of its own weight; he’ll replace it with something big and beautiful; just repeal it; no, let it collapse. He criticized Hill Republicans: They “never discuss how good their healthcare bill is.” But neither did he, not in a persuasive way.

Republicans on the Hill need a popular president with the quasi-mystical clout presidential popularity brings. Mr. Trump does not have it. They need someone who has a serious understanding of his own policies and can gently knock heads together. I remember the story of a GOP senator whose vote President Reagan badly needed. Reagan met with him privately, pressed hard, the senator squirmed: I just can’t do it, Mr. President. You know I’d jump out of a plane if you asked me, but—

Reagan leaned in and said: “Jump.” The senator laughed and gave up. I’m going to tell anecdotes like this until I feel better.

(Peggy Noonan, Trump, ObamaCare and the Art of the Fail) Noonan notes that

another reason some senators voted to repeal ObamaCare in the past and refused now is they believe the ground has shifted. Back in their home states, in the almost-decade since the economic crash of 2008, and since the Obama era, what they’ve seen is more need, not less, more anxiety and dysfunction, and more public skepticism that change will constitute improvement. In politics you have to know how to read the ground, the real topography. You can’t just go by the work of past mapmakers, you have to see clearly what’s there now.

[N]o fix or improvement in health care is going to be broadly accepted unless it comes from both parties. No reform will be accepted unless it’s produced in a way that includes public hearings in which representatives make the case and explain it all …

That woman is a treasure. She and Andrew Sullivan are on parallel tracks about ACA.

5

First Congregational Church of Berkeley has cancelled a scheduled appearance of Richard Dawkins upon learning that his anti-religious bigotry extended to Islam:

[I]n the eyes of progressives like these, some religions are more worthy of consideration than others. Islam, generally speaking, is vastly more illiberal than Christianity. Somehow, though, Islam falls under the protecting veil of progressivism.

It is interesting that a Berkeley church agreed to host one of the world’s best-known atheist abusers of Christianity. Within another decade or two, that church building will probably be turned into condos.

(Rod Dreher, citing this story) “Protecting veil” is pretty evocative for the Orthodox.

6

There are millions of businesses and individuals who do no business with Israel, or with companies doing business there, for a number of reasons. Some … actively avoid purchasing goods or services from companies that do business in Israel and the Palestinian Occupied Territories because of a political viewpoint opposed to Israeli policy. Others may refrain from Israeli related business based on political beliefs, but choose not to publicly announce their reasoning. Still others do no business with companies in Israel for purely pragmatic reasons. Under the bill, however, only a person whose lack of business ties to Israel is politically motivated would be subject to fines and imprisonment–even though there are many others who engage in the very same behavior. In short, the bill would punish businesses and individuals based solely on their point of view. Such a penalty is in direct violation of the First Amendment.

(ACLU Press release (hyperlink added); see also The Intercept and the Daily Intelligencer (third segment).

I just hate it when today’s ACLU is right about something, since it’s not the principled organization it used to be. But even a blind pig ….

7

Andrew Sullivan’s Friday contribution to the Daily Intelligencer is solid, if not irrefutable, from top to bottom (he often goes squirrely after his first segment).

  1. He grasps Daniel Henninger’s knife and gives it another twist, going so far as to make something like Barack Obama’s Affordable Care Act (“Obamacare”) the conservative default position and Republicans the radicals untethered to reality. No, wait: he goes even further, calling Obama “our greatest living president, whose political shadow completely eclipses the monstrous, ridiculous fool who succeeded him.” (Like I said: not irrefutable.)
  2. He takes sharp issue with the trangenderist fad.
  3. He takes sharp issue with the Israel Anti-Boycott Act

8

Sung to the tune of “Fascinatin’ Rhythm”:

Sentimental nitwits
You’ve got minks on the go
Sentimental nitwits
They’re all a quiver
What a mess you’re making
The neighbors want to know
Baby ducks are shaking
Just like a fliver

* * * * *

Fiat justitia ruat caelum
There is no epistemological Switzerland. (Via Mars Hill Audio Journal Volume 134)

Some succinct standing advice on recurring themes.