Thursday, 10/26/17

  1. Thou shalt kill or be fined
  2. The other side of the coin
  3. The bad fascist’s more competent cabinet
  4. A weird amicus brief in the cake case
  5. Flake on Trump
  6. Conservatives on Flake
  7. Obliterating distinctions
  8. Retweetables

1

In Belgium

The Brothers of Charity adopted their policy of offering euthanasia after a home for the elderly was fined more than $6,000 for refusing a seventy-four-year-old woman’s request for euthanasia, a practice that the Belgian government permits and that its courts have turned into a right. This is an example of the pressure placed on the Church by post-Christian culture, a pressure that forces us to decide whether we will conform ourselves to the new norms or say “no.”

2

If, pace the late Michael Novak, democratic capitalism “contributes to a culture of freedom,” “shapes culture and politics,” and its “political and cultural influences of economic liberty are, over the long run, irresistible,” then like almost everything else in this cosmos, might it’s shiny coin have another, darker, side?

R.R. Reno of First Things wrote last month implying that he thought so. Samuel Gregg, in Public Discourse, pushed back and now Reno replies (not the first item in the long monthly ramble).

3

Bearing in mind that Trump is too much the flibbertiigibbet to be an effective fascist personally, I’m less confident about Jeff Sessions and the Department of Justice:

“This is part of a pattern of the Department of Justice seeking to uncover anonymous internet users for no good reason,” [Popehat author Ken] White continued, “as we saw when the Department of Justice subpoenaed Reason Magazine to discover the identities of some commenters who made rude (but absolutely not true-threat) comments about a judge. It’s disturbing that the government would seek to strip Twitter users of anonymity just because a defendant sent them a smiley face unsolicited.” (Read more about Reason‘s subpoeana saga here.)

This summer, the Justice Department issued a “sweeping demand for information about an anti-Trump website, a dragnet that civil libertarians had criticized as an assault on freedom of speech and freedom of association that was apt to intimidate the president’s opponents,” as Reason‘s Jacob Sullum put it. DOJ has also been seeking ample info from social networks related to its probe into possible Russian election meddling. Twitter has been pushing back against that request too.

DOJ Demands Info on Popehat and Others Tagged in Smiley Emoji Tweet.

Popehat elaborates at his blog, which has been pretty quiet lately:

[W]hen I read the subpoena yesterday, I was suddenly gripped with exactly the sort of impulses that I urge clients to resist: the overpowering urge to do something and talk to someone to straighten it all out. I was tempted to email the AUSA and introduce myself, and to argue that it’s ridiculous that he subpoenaed my identity, and ask what the hell he wants. That, of course, would be extremely stupid, even though I’ve done nothing wrong — perhaps especially because I’ve done nothing wrong. Fortunately, just as I plead with clients to resist this urge to reach out to the government, I resisted it myself. But I must admit it is powerful.

4

The AP reports (at the end of a story mostly about opponents of Jack Phillips in the upcoming same-sex-wedding cake case):

Last month, 11 cake artists submitted a brief that looked almost good enough to eat. It contained dozens of pictures of extravagant and finely detailed cakes, including multitiered cakes for same-sex weddings.

The point of the brief was to show that the cakes are works of art and are entitled to the same constitutional protection as artworks in other mediums.

The cake artists do not call for the court to rule one way or another, but their argument fits nicely with the one being advanced by Phillips.

Bobby Ross Jr. at GetReligion takes it from there:

I Googled to see if an earlier AP report might have quoted some of those cake artists. However, I could not find such a story. So I’m unsure if this is news that the wire service reported previously or if this is the first time AP has mentioned it.

But my internet search did turn up a Washington Post story on the brief that I missed:

The point is to convince the justices that, whatever else they decide, they should acknowledge that cakemaking is not “just baking,” but also an art.

“If this brief did nothing beyond showcasing this small sample of creative work, it would surely convey that these unique projects involve artistic talent and communicate emotions and messages at least as clearly as other forms of art,” says the file from 11 bakers from around the country.

Such a finding is important to Jack Phillips of Masterpiece Cakeshop in Lakewood, Colo., who was found to have violated the state’s public accommodation law by refusing to create a cake for Charlie Craig and David Mullins.

Phillips cited his religious objections to same-sex marriage, but at the Supreme Court his brief stresses that his cakes are creations of artistic expression and that the First Amendment protects him from being compelled to create art with a message he rejects.

Some more fascinating material from that Post report:

At least one of the bakers — Young didn’t want to identify her — said she hoped not to be asked to create a cake for a same-sex couple.

But another, Kim Brittenburg, of Kym’s Creations in Allentown, Pa., loves same-sex weddings. She has a transgender son, and the brief says same-sex couples offer her the most artistic freedom. They are “frequently far more open to displays of personality and vivid expression, allowing the cake artist a decidedly freer hand in creation.”

Rainbows, though, apparently are de rigueur.

Cake artists, the brief explains, “must be able to sculpt, to paint, to draw; they must have the aesthetic sense of an interior designer and the architect’s ability to convert ideas into three-dimensional, stable products.”

This is a religion story (not to say that it’s about nothing else) because like most laymen, Jack Phillips initially articulated his objection to baking a same-sex wedding cake in terms of his religious convictions. But it so happens that legally the very same facts support what I think is Phillips’ strongest legal theory, giving the strong free speech precedents: freedom from compelled artistic expression (regardless of why someone doesn’t want to use his art in a particular cause).

Were it not the signature cause of the Progressive Left to bring everyone to their knees on all matters touching sexual minorities, I’d say Phillips has a lay-down hand. But that is the signature cause of culturally powerful forces, isn’t it?

5

We must never regard as “normal” the regular and casual undermining of our democratic norms and ideals. We must never meekly accept the daily sundering of our country—the personal attacks, the threats against principles, freedoms, and institution, the flagrant disregard for truth and decency, the reckless provocations, most often for the pettiest and most personal reasons, reasons having nothing whatsoever to do with the fortunes of the people that we have been elected to serve.

(Jeff Flake, widely thought to have been talking about you-know-who)

6

Jeff Flake’s conservatism deserves to lose. He’s right about Trump’s character, but as I wrote in response to his book a short while back, all he offers is warmed-over Reaganism. If establishment Republicans like Flake had been paying attention, they would have changed with the times, and headed off somebody like Trump. I don’t mean that they should have surrendered their principles, necessarily, but adjusted them to fit the circumstances. Burke himself said that a state without the means of change is without the means of its own conservation. It’s true of a political party, certainly. Political parties are not churches, after all. The problem with the Republican Party and movement conservatism is that it regarded Reaganism as a kind of religion.

Jeff Flake strikes me as an honorable man. But good riddance to his kind of Republican.

That is not an endorsement of Trump by any means. Trump is a cancer consuming the body politic. But I’m with Damon Linker in being fed up with the same old establishment Republican boilerplate. This is precisely correct:

The center-right knows what it believes in, at least at the level of ideals, and it wants and expects the voters to approve of it. But the voters have made clear that they do not. The sensible response to this problem is not to keep stubbornly reaffirming those same rejected beliefs in the misplaced hope that the voters will suddenly come to their senses. It’s to rethink those beliefs, transforming them into something that might have greater popular appeal — or else to retire from the arena, making room for new ideas and new champions.

Bush and McCain delivered a couple of nice speeches last week. But now it’s time for them to go.

As usual, MBD said more in one tweet than I said in acres of rambling:

(Rod Dreher)

7

The most portentous general event of our time is the steady obliteration of those distinctions which create society.

(Richard Weaver, Ideas Have Consequences – 1948)

8

* * * * *

“Liberal education is concerned with the souls of men, and therefore has little or no use for machines … [it] consists in learning to listen to still and small voices and therefore in becoming deaf to loudspeakers.” (Leo Strauss)

There is no epistemological Switzerland. (Via Mars Hill Audio Journal Volume 134)

Some succinct standing advice on recurring themes.

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