Slippery slopes, deep divisions

 

  1. Slippery slopes are real
  2. Fusion GPS
  3. A startling criticism from the ABA
  4. 99% of what you need to know
  5. Just how divided are we?

1

First they came for Robert E. Lee. Now they’re coming after George Washington’s Church pew.

For conservatives who pay attention, the slippery slope isn’t a logical fallacy, but a way of life. In our gloomy predictions, we regularly understate how far society will begin kicking us down the slope once we start sliding. It would’ve been unthinkable for even the most pessimistic anti-divorce activist of half a century ago to predict that the majority of American children would be born illegitimately within a few decades. Anti-euthanasia activists never dared suggest that the Dutch would be so depraved as to begin drugging children into their graves merely because they reported depression. When Vermont was considering legislation providing for civil unions for same-sex couples, not even the sweatiest, most paranoid snake-handler imagined that florists would be financially ruined by the government for refusing to serve customers whose nuptials violated their religious scruples. Yet here we are.

(Michael Brendan Dougherty, The Next Lost Cause, National Review)

2

I’m trying in general to avoid gossipy sniping, which rarely contributes to wisdom, but this seems an exception;

One of the dirty little secrets in Washington is that Fusion [GPS] is a longtime source for journalists, planting political hits that Fusion is paid by third parties to dig up. Now the press corps is defending its meal ticket, often without reporting honestly about Fusion and how it works.

One example is the story by someone named Jason Schwartz in Politico on Monday that attacked us for our Mueller editorial. This media enforcer quoted Neil King, identifying him as a former WSJ editor who slammed our work and said “I don’t know a single WSJ alum who’s not agog at where that edit page is heading.” Perhaps Mr. King is agog because Axios reported in January that he had joined . . . Fusion GPS.

So Politico quotes an employee of Fusion to attack The Wall Street Journal for criticizing Fusion. Even better, Mr. Schwartz didn’t tell his readers that Mr. King has worked for Fusion. Mr. Schwartz also failed to point out that Mr. King’s wife, Shailagh Murray, also a former Journal reporter, worked in the Obama White House. Perhaps Mr. Schwartz understands that this kind of political incestuousness is so routine in Washington that even to mention it would get him drummed out of the club.

(Wall Street Journal Editorial Board)

3

The ABA’s standing committee [on the Federal Judiciary] has deemed Leonard Steven Grasz “Not Qualified” for a seat on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit. Based on several anonymous interviews, the ABA report asserted that Mr. Grasz demonstrates “bias and lack of open-mindedness,” and thus lacks “judicial temperament.” Why? Because Grasz wrote in 1999 that lower-court judges should not race to extend the Supreme Court’s prior rulings on abortion to create even broader rights. This, the ABA report concludes, is no less than an attack on the Supreme Court’s own authority, and on the duty of lower-court judges to faithfully apply the Court’s precedents.

It’s a startling criticism …

It is also a startlingly dishonest accusation. For Mr. Grasz actually urges, in the same 1999 article, that judges are bound to obey Supreme Court precedent: “Lower federal courts are obliged to follow clear legal precedent regardless of whether it may seem unwise or even morally repugnant to do so,” he wrote …

The ABA goes so far to assert that Mr. Grasz’s efforts to distinguish his personal policy views from the proper role of a judge are “troubling.” Far more troubling is the ABA report’s own unexplained decision to attack Mr. Grasz in this way: singling him out for criticism based on the substance of his legal views; hiding his express statement that all lower-court judges are bound to faithfully apply Supreme Court precedent; and then mocking his ability to judge cases based on the law instead of personal policy preferences. Perhaps the ABA report was just projecting its own bias on to Mr. Grasz. By stoking fears of what it calls Mr. Grasz’s “deeply-held social agenda,” the ABA report not-so-subtly echoes Sen. Dianne Feinstein’s infamously blunt attack on the religious beliefs of another judicial nominee, Amy Barrett.

(Adam J. White, Beware the ABA’s Own Version of ‘Judicial Activism,’ The Weekly Standard)

A decade or so after I began practicing law, the ABA officially joined my imaginary “Friends of Feticide,” whereupon I severed my relationship with the ABA and became an early member of the National Lawyers Association, formed in opposition to ABA’s abortion advocacy. It surprises me not one bit that a group willing to support feticide would act dishonorably in other ways as well.

What the Weekly Standard quotes of Grasz makes him sound quite acceptable to me, but I know nothing more than that about him.

4

… 99 percent of what a citizen needs to know can be gleaned from reading the newspaper plus quality magazines. That is, rarely are there veiled explanations of events, known only to a special few. Government has a legitimate interest in keeping some items of information classified: names of covert agents, locations of strategic submarines. But the list of legitimate secrets should be short. Nearly all of what people need to know is in the newspaper and in serious magazines.

The “real” motives behind events, the “hidden” truths—in most cases they are obvious, and it is the obvious that is powerful. For instance the world wars began not for hidden, secret reasons but because of forces known to anyone who had picked up a newspaper or attended a university lecture. Ninety-nine percent of the backstory for great achievements such as the Civil Rights Act, or great blunders such as the nomination of Donald Trump, are not hush-hush, rather exactly what anyone who follows current events knew at the time. The notion that history can be explained only via “secrets” makes government insiders feel more important, and can help sell books. But if you want to know what’s going on, pick up any good newspaper, or THE WEEKLY STANDARD or The Atlantic. Ninety-nine percent of what you need is right out in the open.

(Gregg Easterbrook, The Weekly Standard) I just recently subscribed to The Weekly Standard and not that long ago subscribed to The Atlantic. I also subscribe to the Economist, from the Brits.

Let’s put my feelings about them this way: their signal-to-noise ratio is very high. I won’t try to anticipate dismissive remarks about their supposed positions on political spectra.

Easterbook continues:

As for the Steele Manila Folder, what’s inside may be phony. But supposing some contents are authentic, what could there be that was not already known to the 62 million Americans who pulled the lever for Trump? His lack of qualifications, his narcissism, his smirking disdain for the institutions of our democracy—everybody knew! Ninety-nine percent of the time, the things that everybody knows are more disturbing than secrets.

5

Several [Liberty University] staff and faculty members told me they fear sanction should they publicly disagree with [Jerry] Falwell [Jr.]; none agreed to be named. But they claimed that Falwell Jr.’s growing political advocacy has been accompanied by a clampdown on speech on Liberty’s campus.

Last year, an editor at The Liberty Champion, the college’s official newspaper, tried to publish an article critical of Trump’s Access Hollywood comments. Falwell, the editor alleged, stepped in and spiked the article.

In 2015, I had been invited to give an alumni lecture at the school, but was abruptly disinvited weeks before the event took place. In a telephone conversation at the time, Falwell Jr. explained that my disinvitiation was the result of a column I had authored that was critical of Hobby Lobby, a company owned by the Green family, which has donated millions of dollars to the school in years past.

“You don’t seem to remember who your friends are,” Falwell told me. “So we’ll continue to keep an eye on you and if things change on your end, we’ll reevaluate.”

(Jonathan Merritt, Why Liberty University Kicked an Anti-Trump Christian Author Off Campus, The Atlantic) The anti-Trump Christin author, by the way, was not Jonathan Merritt, but more recent.

Plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose. 48 years ago, I was not-so-cordially given the choice to shut up or get out at a Christianish “university” that could not tolerate the presence of an open-if-conflicted conscientious objector. I’ll not name the institution because of signs that it’s doing better by Christian and intellectual integrity today.

But this illustrates two things:

  1. Falwell Junior is so dim a bulb that he thinks having a right to do something (yes, he may tyrannize his private fiefdom) makes it right to do it; and
  2. Our country is more divided today than at any time since the Vietnam era.

Sadly, the President consciously drives and thrives on division, with no efforts whatever to unite the country.

* * * * *

“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.