Saturday of an eventful week

  1. Right reason versus the might of force
  2. A puzzler, this is
  3. Roy Moore: Guilty by a Preponderance …
  4. … but of what is he guilty?
  5. Don’t be a schlemiel
  6. Where did all the journos go?
  7. Existential political crises
  8. Rich Spiders, Dessicated Flies
  9. Safer Harbors
  10. I can top that!

1

In a society based on right reason, men are “deterred from crime” not “so much by the fear of the penalties ordained by law as by the sense of shame which Nature has given to man in the form of a certain fear of justified censure.” The true leader in a republic, Cicero continued, admonishes his citizens to do good and do well because of right opinion rather than by the might of force.

(Brad Birzer, reflecting on the legacy of Cicero)

We are not living in a society based on right reason.

The sexual revolution in particular is deterring, or trying to deter, by the might of force, conscientious citizens from behaviors for which they not only feel no shame or justified censure from outside, but to which they feel morally compelled by right reason.

I’m referring to people doing things like declining to participate in celebrations of same-sex “marriages” by selling their personal time and artistry. They are suffering a dignitary harm at the hands of wrong reason far greater than what they allegedly inflict by the use of right reason: stripped of their livelihoods and branded as bigots, while their accusers suffer a one-block drive to a competing artisan.

2

In the midst of credible (if slightly NSFW) allegations by actress Ellen Page of various abuses and indignities she suffered, this puzzling, ideologically-tinged paragraph:

These abusers make us feel powerless and overwhelmed by their empire. Let’s not forget the sitting Supreme Court justice and President of the United States. One accused of sexual harassment by Anita Hill, whose testimony was discredited. The other proudly describing his own pattern of assault to an entertainment reporter. How many men in the media – titans of industry – need to be exposed for us to understand the gravity of the situation and to demand the fundamental safety and respect that is our right?

(Emphasis added)

As I understand “discredited,” Clarence Thomas should not be considered an abuser —and I agree with Page that Anita Hill’s testimony failed to persuade people of its truth.

3

I don’t think my conclusion is a “slam dunk,” though, as is my opinion on Roy Moore, now that I’ve digested the facts. Likelier than not, guilty.

(I brace myself for “judge not lest ye be judged,” the only verse remaining in the Trumpista Abridged Bible, though The Donald himself violates it left and right.)

  • His accusers did not “come forward” like Social Justice Warriors or limelight-seekers. The Post reached out to them and did real investigative reporting in response to rumors. Any attempt to discredit them as partisan hacks or seekers after fame is false and contemptible—contemptible because accusing the accusers of powerful people of seeking fame illicitly is one of the very reasons they don’t come forward.
  • The testimony of the 14-year-old victim is poignant and rings true (as corroborated by other victims of abuse recounting their own similar feelings).
  • The stories are heavily corroborated by others familiar with Moore at the time.
  • And then there’s this summary:

4

One very small caveat, though. I’ve heard Republican spokesmen rising up to condemn Moore as a pedophile, but the behavior of which he is guilty is not pedophilia. It is perhaps ephebophilia. Acting on ephebophilia is not-quite-as-creepy (pedophilia is even classified as a psychological disorder, unlike ephebophilia), but still frequently criminal, whence the term “jail-bait.”

I say “perhaps” because ephebophilia apparently is a preference for adolescents, and for all we know, Roy Moore was also seeking to fornicate with women of his own age as well, as an equal opportunity satyr.

Note well: this is not a “much ado about little” defense of Moore. It rises from the same pedantic impulse that refuses to call, say, the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Edition “hard core pornography.” It’s a matter of degree, and I wouldn’t want a would-be statutory rapist representing me were I living in Alabama. There’s no statute of limitation on bad character.

5

One more thing: temper your indignation about Hollywood men a few degrees or you’ll soon feel a bit of a schlemiel:

Hollywood itself, being the vulgar place it has always been, must be nervously awaiting the inevitable next phase of this melodrama: when various actresses, and other women around the biz, are revealed to be sluts who screwed and blew their way to stardom — not to put too fine a point on it. Surely a few ladies out there have misbehaved in the way that ladies can, trading favors for fame and fortune — or do you suppose that never happens? Or only when men force them to?

(James Howard Kunstler, hyperlink added by moi.) I’m not naming names because I’m holding no open secrets. But you know it happens.

On second thought, I could doubtless name a few plausible names, whose career successes were greatly disproportionate to their actual talent—but still I won’t. It’s the wrong time for that.

6

If you’re depressed by the credible accusations against Judge Roy Moore or Louis C.K., don’t despair. Soon enough, “it will be back to business-as-usual in the news racket: nattering about contacts with Russia, a faraway land that, we’re told, is determined to corrupt the morals of our shining city on a hill.” (James Howard Kunstler)

Kunstler, himself formerly a journalist, continues:

The metamorphosis of the news business from a dignified and necessary component of the public interest to a gong and geek show is now complete. Some of you may remember that it used to be the task of news organizations to actually gather the news from far and wide. When Walter Cronkite came over the airways on CBS news, he “anchored” the revolving team of reporters in the field: we go to Marvin Kalb in Moscow… Fred Graham in Atlanta… Peter Kalischer in Paris… Lesley Stahl in New York…. Do you know what those people were doing? They were reporting the news on site, because it was important to actually be in the places where events were happening and talking to the people involved in them …

Turn on Anderson Cooper on CNN these days and what do you get: “And now lets turn to our panel for analysis.” Our panel? Analysis? A gang of moonlighting kibitzers with an opinion about what might have actually happened in the world that day, which none of them have been busy actually reporting on … Do these so-called news organizations even employ any reporters anymore?

I don’t think so ….

Which is another reason to love NPR if you want to take in news through your ears.

7

Mr. Trump’s first year has left almost everyone embittered: “Democrats are furious at Trump, and rational Republicans are deeply depressed. Regular Republicans feel nothing is getting done—I heard this everywhere I went.”

The bottom line is that the election was about Mr. Trump: “How do you win when your leader has an approval rating of 35%?”

The threat for Democrats is that they’ll overplay their hand—that heady with their first big win since Barack Obama’s re-election, they’ll go crazy-left.

If they are clever they will see their strong space as anti-Trump, socially moderate and economically liberal. Will they be clever? Hunger encourages discipline, and they are hungry. But emboldened progressives will want to seize the day.

The parties are each in an existential crisis. The Democrats, split between the Sanders/Warren progressive vision and the old Clinton vision, will fight more passionately among themselves as 2020 approaches. The Republicans are left knowing that day by day, Mr. Trump is crashing. The wiser of them suspect that when he’s gone, what replaces him is nothing. Because the Republican Party is riven and no one knows what it stands for anymore.

In both parties there is too much distance between the top and the bottom. In both, ambivalent leaders are chasing after voters they no longer understand. That is the second big fact since Trump’s election.

(Peggy Noonan) Noonan is notable even when not at the very top of her game. I look forward to her Friday columns.

8

Regarding the inventors of smart phones:

These men are billionaires because they have tapped into the inexhaustible capacity for humans to be distracted from what truly matters. The tech money men are robbing countless lives of meaning for the sake of money. Each day they devise new ways to entrap us. In the end, you begin to appreciate why this whole new dimension of human experience is called the web. They are the spiders; we are the flies.

(Andrew Sullivan) We are the flies, too, of the “panels for analysis.”

9

[I]t is helpful for any convert to any form of Christianity to know that there is no truly safe harbor. There are safer harbors — Roman Catholicism is one of them, I’d say — but no place is truly safe. I’ll be writing later today about my own branch of the Christian faith, Orthodoxy, and what some new Pew Research says about its condition today. I’d say that Orthodoxy is the safest of all the safer harbors, but again, if anyone outside the faith thinks they are going to escape the deluge by taking refuge in the Orthodox Church, or any Church, they’re deceiving themselves. The best you can do is to embrace a form of Christianity that is deeply rooted in the past, and is more likely to resist the currents of popular opinion. Regrettably, this papacy seems to be working hard to dissolve the steadfast resistance that Rome gave in principle (if not always in reality, at the local level) to liquid modernity.

Well said, Rod (from Pope Francis, Chaplain To Liquid Modernity).

That last, bolded sentence, captures a lot of why I’m concerned with goings-on in Roman Catholicism, which outnumbers the Orthodox roughly 5-1 worldwide and is the “The Church” in the eyes of most Western Europeans and Americans.

10

The Pope who sometimes seems a chaplain to liquid modernity did a good thing:

During a general audience at St. Peter’s Square in Vatican City on Wednesday morning, Francis chastised Catholics who use their phones during Mass. “At some point, the priest during the Mass says, ‘Lift up your hearts,’” the Pontiff said. “He does not say, ‘Lift up your cell phones to take pictures.’” … “Please,” he said, “the Mass is not a show. It’s a meeting with the passion and the resurrection of our Lord.”

(Would that the realization of “a meeting with the passion and the resurrection of our Lord” would extend to purveyors of clown masses and rap nuptials.)

But I can top that.

A few years ago, at the end of a gathering of Orthodox choir leaders, cantors, etc., I was singing the Sunday Liturgy at the Russian Orthodox cathedral in Cincinnati. The Bishop was present, serving the Liturgy. Cameras were everywhere.

He stopped the Liturgy right in the middle (not some general audience), rebuked the photographers and told them to put the cameras away. Then he resumed—and the cameras did stay put away.

* * * * *

“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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