A sixth anniversary

If you’ve got a business — you didn’t build that. Somebody else made that happen.

— Barack Obama, Roanoke, Va, July 13, 2012

To say that all individuals are embedded in and the product of society is banal. Obama rises above banality by means of fallacy: equating society with government, the collectivity with the state. Of course we are shaped by our milieu. But the most formative, most important influence on the individual is not government. It is civil society, those elements of the collectivity that lie outside government: family, neighborhood, church, Rotary club, PTA, the voluntary associations that Tocqueville understood to be the genius of America and source of its energy and freedom.

What divides liberals and conservatives is not roads and bridges but Julia’s world, an Obama campaign creation that may be the most self-revealing parody of liberalism ever conceived. It’s a series of cartoon illustrations in which a fictitious Julia is swaddled and subsidized throughout her life by an all-giving government of bottomless pockets and “Queen for a Day” magnanimity. At every stage, the state is there to provide — preschool classes and cut-rate college loans, birth control and maternity care, business loans and retirement. The only time she’s on her own is at her gravesite.

Charles Krauthammer, Did the State Make You Great?, in Things That Matter.

These two episodes, retold, are a helpful reminder of why some people caught Obama Derangement Syndrome. And Krauthammer’s last sentence about Julia captures why “people who need people are the luckiest people in the world.”

* * * * *

The waters are out and no human force can turn them back, but I do not see why as we go with the stream we need sing Hallelujah to the river god.

(Sir James Fitzjames Stephen)

Reality is that which, when you stop believing in it, doesn’t go away.

(Philip K. Dick)

Some succinct standing advice on recurring themes. Where I glean stuff.

Follow me on Micro.blog Follow me on Micro.blog, too, where I blog tweet-like shorter items and … well, it’s evolving. Or, if you prefer, those micro.blog items also appear now at microblog.intellectualoid.com.

Calming the discord

Impatient with the three branches of government established at the nation’s founding, the left routinely takes its politics to the streets now to demand remedies for “inequality” or “injustice.” Yet these inchoate demands have become so disconnected from the normal mechanisms of politics that no Congress, representing 535 elections, could possibly turn them into legislation.

Shortly after the Obergefell decision, something else of cultural and political significance happened. Within months, the left began to agitate for transgender rights, another moral claim whose substantive meaning is a mystery to most Americans.

Liberals remain incredulous at Mr. Trump’s election. But nearly half the electorate voted for him, and among the reasons is that today a lot of people—across all income classes—feel they are really being jammed by the culture. Progressive jurisprudence had a lot to do with this. Liberals won their share of court decisions, but at a price: The courts in America became an agent of social discord.

It would be good for the country’s stability if a Kavanaugh Court disincentivized the left from using the courts to push the far edges of the social envelope. This is not about turning back the clock. It is about how best to resolve bitter social and cultural disputes in the future. It is about no longer using the courts to make triumphal moral claims against the majority.

In the Kavanaugh Court, extending rights claims beyond their already elastic status is going to require more rigor than appeals to a judge’s personal sensibilities or a theory of social organization developed in law journals.

Advocates for social change involving race, gender, identity and such will have to convince representative majorities, elected by voters, to agree with their point of view. Unlike in the past four decades, the high court will more often weigh in after, not before, the political process has happened.

The United States needs to settle down politically ….

Daniel Henninger (emphasis added, paywall)

I’m less convinced than Henninger that the Roe v. Wade line of cases can survive a court that shows rigorous respect for the Constitution. Here’s why.

Not too long ago, I got into an internet dust-up with an progressive ignoramus who claimed that the purpose of the Constitution was to establish “rights.” I tried to correct him, and was treated as a monster for denying his dogma.

He was wrong, but he’s far from alone. It’s widely overlooked these days (though probably not widely ignored when mentioned) that the Bill of Rights are ten amendments to the constitution, the core purpose of which was to set up the rules for governing a new nation (duh!).

Among those rules were separation of the national government into three branches, with checks and balances among them, and with limitation on their overall power because states and the people would retain all powers not delegated to the national government.

So when an overreaching court seizes an issue from the States, although the Constitution left that issue to the states, that seizure is no less a violation of the constitution than when Congress makes a law, say, respecting the establishment of religion or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.

The Supreme Court Justices swear to uphold the Constitution, and take no oath to advance rights claims without Constitutional roots. Doesn’t that oath oblige justices to undue the mistake of a prior court that improperly wrested an issue away from those to whom the Constitution left it?

It’s pretty well known among legal scholars that the constitutional underpinnings of our abortion jurisprudence are somewhere between shaky and fanciful. There was a veritable cottage industry of attempts on the legal left to re-write the defective Roe v.. Wade opinion in law journal articles from 1973 to 1992, when Justice Kennedy replaced all the trimester crap and other Roe detritus with the equally risible “mystery passage” and invocation of stare decisis to avoid a “jurisprudence of doubt.” (“Shut up,” he explained.)

Perhaps a “Kavanaugh Court” would demur from overruling the Roe line of cases because frank overruling would increase an already-dangerous level of political discord. I suppose that could be justified on a “lesser Constitutional evil” theory (e.g., “If we honor federalism and return abortion laws to the states, where they belong, the whole Constitutional edifice could be toppled in the aftermath”).

In an era of Constitutional outrages, I don’t think that would be at the top of the outrage list, but I could fairly easily see it going the other way, too, especially if our political discord dies down before an appropriate case reaches the court.

* * * * *

The waters are out and no human force can turn them back, but I do not see why as we go with the stream we need sing Hallelujah to the river god.

(Sir James Fitzjames Stephen)

Reality is that which, when you stop believing in it, doesn’t go away.

(Philip K. Dick)

Some succinct standing advice on recurring themes. Where I glean stuff.

Follow me on Micro.blog Follow me on Micro.blog, too, where I blog tweet-like shorter items and … well, it’s evolving. Or, if you prefer, those micro.blog items also appear now at microblog.intellectualoid.com.

‘Zat all you got?

  • Brett Kavanaugh participated in an aggressive investigation of Bill Clinton under Ken Starr in his late 20s or early 30s.
  • He thereafter served in Dubya’s White House and gained a much greater appreciation of the weighty duties of the office (and what, perhaps, Bill Clinton could have done had he not been besieged legally).
  • So in 2009, when a Democrat was President (and he decidedly was not in the White House), Kavanaugh published a Law Review article suggesting that Congress should pass a law exempting the President from personal legal distractions until he leaves office.
  • So Brett Kavanaugh’s change of mind on this issue is not a cynical effort to endear him to Donald Trump, and the chance that he thinks Judges may exempt the President without Congressional legislation is very slim.

The New York Times Daily podcast Wednesday was very disappointing on these matters, only once mentioning the 2009 date of the law review article, not noting that Barack Obama was then President, and generally hinting at a convenient and politically ambitious conversion.

Seriously, Times: Is that all you’ve got?

UPDATE: No, it’s not all the Left has. It took me about 10 seconds to decide that deleting this blog entry, upon learning the followng salient fact, would be dishonest, as I’ve tried to be an honest broker with my ideological cards on the table.

From that Law Review Article:

Even in the absence of congressionally conferred immunity, a serious constitutional question exists regarding whether a President can be criminally indicted and tried while in office.

Expect to hear that quoted back during confirmation hearings. Expect also to hear that it was a footnote acknowledgement, not a principal argument.

* * * * *

The waters are out and no human force can turn them back, but I do not see why as we go with the stream we need sing Hallelujah to the river god.

(Sir James Fitzjames Stephen)

Reality is that which, when you stop believing in it, doesn’t go away.

(Philip K. Dick)

Some succinct standing advice on recurring themes. Where I glean stuff.

Follow me on Micro.blog Follow me on Micro.blog, too, where I blog tweet-like shorter items and … well, it’s evolving. Or, if you prefer, those micro.blog items also appear now at microblog.intellectualoid.com.

Will Kavanaugh butcher the sacred cow?

I think it was Nina Totenburg who on NPR Tuesday evening was incredulously challenging a Trump spokesman on the claim that President Trump didn’t ask SCOTUS nominee Kavanaugh about abortion — because Trump said on the campaign trail that he would appoint pro-life justices. As the spokesman pointed out, he also promised that there would be no litmus test and that he provided a list, later expanded, of people from whom he would nominate.

Here’s the solution of Totenburg’s clumsy effort at setting up a trick box:

  • There are no secret handshakes or pass-codes. Trump and Kavanaugh are (or will be) telling the truth when they deny discussing abortion. Get over it.
  • Trump (or, likelier, his advisers on judicial matters) are just quite confident that the people on his list are going to be hostile to the Supreme Court’s abortion jurisprudence because it’s a hot, steaming mess, lacking firm roots in the Constitution. The people on the list revere the Constitution and will be disinclined, all else being equal, to ignore hot steaming messes that sully the Constitution by the pretext that it, the Constitution, and not errant justices, created the mess.
  • Notably, Democrat Chuck Schumer has declared his certainty — and horror — about how Kavanaugh would decide abortion cases (presumably starting with Kavanaugh’s constitutional reverence and following the trail from there, though Schumer would never admit that the one follows the other logically).
  • Democrat Presidents are similarly confident, without actually asking, that their nominees are not going to be overly troubled by the legal messiness of the status quo. Their party has a rather latitudinarian view about the importance of the Constitution’s original public meaning, plus some theories on how we can never know that meaning, and (double-plus) it reveres the sexual revolution. Q.E.D.
  • Trump was and is a bullshitter. Any correspondence between what he promises and what he does is, generally, coincidental. His judicial nominees from that list have been a happy exception, as he has hewed to the list of nominees from which he promised to pick. (Okay: Schumer’s a bullshitter, too, though definitely a minor-leaguer compared to President MAGA.)

A Kafkaesque part of the prescribed ritual combat will be invocations or deprecations of “Roe v. Wade.” It’s weird because Roe finally succumbed to its birth defects (helped along by a thousand cuts from Law Journal articles, left, right and center) in 1992, with Anthony Kennedy and company quietly interring it and trotting out the new rationale for continuing a liberal abortion regime: No more trimesters or such; the test of a law is whether it creates an “undue burden” on access to abortion, because “[a]t the heart of liberty is the right to define one’s own concept of existence, of meaning, of the universe and of the mystery of human life.” (Damn! How could I have missed that?!)

Roe is dead. De mortuis nil nisi bonum. But if you take away the totemistic invocation of Roe, the Senate might be struck dumb(er).

And therein lies the dilemma that will produce some sordid theater over the coming months.

* * * * *

The waters are out and no human force can turn them back, but I do not see why as we go with the stream we need sing Hallelujah to the river god.

(Sir James Fitzjames Stephen)

Reality is that which, when you stop believing in it, doesn’t go away.

(Philip K. Dick)

Some succinct standing advice on recurring themes. Where I glean stuff.

Follow me on Micro.blog Follow me on Micro.blog, too, where I blog tweet-like shorter items and … well, it’s evolving. Or, if you prefer, those micro.blog items also appear now at microblog.intellectualoid.com.

Zombie Analysis

Zombie analysis of Supreme Court nominees is my topic today.

Iconic radio talk show host Rush Limbaugh has often said that liberals “always let us know who they fear” through their unhinged attacks. Among all the potential nominees mentioned a little over a week ago, Amy Coney Barrett immediately attracted the most flak from the left.

And so, of course, the preferred nominee of Doug Mainwaring at brain-dead website LifeSiteNews.com, is Amy Coney Barrett. Not because dispassionate conservative analysis commends her (a topic entirely ignored), but because she triggers the enemy:

  • NARAL
  • Planned Parenthood
  • Seasoned Democrat politicians
  • Dick Durbin
  • Chuck Shumer
  • New York Times
  • MSNBC
  • Ruth Marcus
  • Chris Cillizza
  • Slate.com
  • Washington Post
  • Ivy League law school hegemony

I am not making this up or exaggerating. Literally the first ten reasons given for supporting her are the identies of ten opponents. The last two are my interpretations of less straightforwardly identified bogeymen.

The article, by the way, bears the unironic title “12 reasons Amy Coney Barrett should be on the Supreme Court.”

I have nothing against Amy Coney Barrett except that this kind of trolling is the commonest artument for her. That’s not her fault. It’s just the times we live in.

And it’s contemptible. It doesn’t even do justice to the qualifications of Judge Barrett, who is reduced to a piece of red meat.

* * * * *

The waters are out and no human force can turn them back, but I do not see why as we go with the stream we need sing Hallelujah to the river god.

(Sir James Fitzjames Stephen)

Reality is that which, when you stop believing in it, doesn’t go away.

(Philip K. Dick)

Some succinct standing advice on recurring themes. Where I glean stuff.

Follow me on Micro.blog Follow me on Micro.blog, too, where I blog tweet-like shorter items and … well, it’s evolving.

If you promise, deliver

[John] McAdams, a professor of political science, wrote on his personal blog, Marquette Warrior, about a recorded interaction in which a graduate student philosophy instructor told her student that his opinions opposing gay marriage “are not appropriate.”

A month later, without presenting him with any formal charges, Marquette suspended McAdams, cancelled his classes, and banned him from campus. The college later insinuated that McAdams violated a harassment policy, and that his punishments stemmed from his naming the instructor in his blog post and linking to her own, publicly available, blog.

“As FIRE has argued since the beginning, Marquette was wrong to fire John McAdams simply for criticizing a graduate student instructor who unilaterally decided that a matter of political interest was no longer up for debate by students,” said FIRE Executive Director Robert Shibley. “This ruling rightly demonstrates that when a university promises academic freedom, it is required to deliver.”

Though Marquette is a private, Roman Catholic institution not bound by the First Amendment, the university promises faculty “the full and free enjoyment of legitimate personal or academic freedoms,” and it explicitly guarantees that “dismissal will not be used to restrain faculty members in their exercise of academic freedom or other rights guaranteed by the United States Constitution.”

Press Release by FIRE. From their computers to God’s ear — and the ears of other university administrators:

“Administrators cannot simply decide that they do not like the results of certain faculty speech, and then work backwards to find a justification for firing them,” said Ari Cohn, director of FIRE’s Individual Rights Defense Program. “The court’s decision recognized that allowing a university to do so is incompatible with any meaningful understanding of academic freedom. Colleges and universities across the country that are facing calls to discipline faculty members for their online speech should pay attention to today’s decision.”

* * * * *

The waters are out and no human force can turn them back, but I do not see why as we go with the stream we need sing Hallelujah to the river god.

(Sir James Fitzjames Stephen)

Reality is that which, when you stop believing in it, doesn’t go away.

(Philip K. Dick)

Some succinct standing advice on recurring themes. Where I glean stuff.

Follow me on Micro.blog Follow me on Micro.blog, too, where I blog tweet-like shorter items and … well, it’s evolving.

“But Gorsuch”

Since Justice Anthony Kennedy announced his retirement, I have repeatedly heard some version of the following from conservatives who declined to back the Republican presidential nominee in 2016: If I had known that Donald Trump would keep his promises on judges, I would have voted for him.

The conservative case against Trump was always two-fold: His personal flaws would cripple his presidency and discredit conservatism, and he was more of a liberal Trojan horse than a true conservative anyway.

… Trump has been better for conservatives on judicial and social issues than we had reason to expect, and he has aggressively cut taxes and regulations. Overall, the personal criticisms of Trump have held up while the ideological objections so far have not.

Maybe the long-term damage Trump does to conservatism’s brand outweighs his contributions on judges. But that is a tougher case to make than simultaneously arguing Trump is too liberal and too flawed ….

W. James Antle III.

Comments from a conservative who, ahem!, “declined to back” the candidate of my former party:

  1. Trump’s promise on judges was so clear and specific that I trusted it more than any other of his promises that I can recall. His promise-keeping on this is a silver lining in a dark cloud.
  2. My concern was not that Trump would have a crippled presidency but that he would have a consequential presidency though his narcissistic and possibly sociopathic impetuousness and love of chaos. That concern remains, though I’m less concerned now about him pushing nuclear launch buttons (or trying to do so, leading to a de facto coup by a military countermand).
  3. That Trump was no conservative was manifest from his personal life and populist rabble-rousing. But that did not mark him as a “liberal.” Political reality simply is not well-portrayed by a one-dimensional line running from conservative to liberal.
  4. The damage Trump does to the culture — no, make that “the utter inability of Donald Trump to improve our God-forgetting and increasingly toxic culture” — makes even the judicial “win” feel Pyrrhic.

My vote if I had it to do over? My state was a safe state for Trump (though his whole candidacy boggled my mind), so I was spared a terrible decision. I still would have written in the American Solidarity Party candidate.

UPDATE: #4 is added.

* * * * *

The waters are out and no human force can turn them back, but I do not see why as we go with the stream we need sing Hallelujah to the river god.

(Sir James Fitzjames Stephen)

Reality is that which, when you stop believing in it, doesn’t go away.

(Philip K. Dick)

Some succinct standing advice on recurring themes. Where I glean stuff.

Follow me on Micro.blog Follow me on Micro.blog, too, where I blog tweet-like shorter items and … well, it’s evolving.

Not just another warring Hobbesian voice

The press — especially the prestige press like the New York Times — has trouble seeing religion as anything real. They so thoroughly view everything through a political lens that they assume that religion is just politics in disguise.

Some Christians feed that perception, though — and insofar as they do, they are behaving somewhere between dubiously and very badly — closer to the latter than the former, in my opinion.

Consider:

In a conversation with a young friend, I was told that “politics is the only way to get anything done.” This is not true. Politics (the use of civil power) is a means to gain the upper hand in a Hobbesian struggle. It is war, fought by other means. It is for that reason that politics is a questionable activity for Christians. The victories achieved are often brief, and, depending on the opposition, only maintained by the continued use of force.

It is profoundly the case that civil (or military) force are not the tools of the Kingdom of God. It is among the many reasons why the Kingdom of God is not, and never can be a human project …

What Christ brought was not a set of ideas to be shared in the Hobbesian conflicts of this world. What He brought was the Kingdom itself and the means for our entrance into that Kingdom and for its life to be manifest in us. It has become commonplace for modern Christians to espouse some ideas based on Christian “moral principles” and to make them the guiding light for political projects, sometimes saying that they are “building up the Kingdom in this world” (or words to that effect).

When the Christian life is reduced to moral and political principles, it simply becomes one more warring voice within Hobbes’ nightmarish description of life. This is true regardless of how noble our intentions might be. This is also deeply frustrating for us. The Christian life as moral and political principle does not require anything more than new opinions. It masquerades as renewal and change when it is nothing more than the same war fought by unbelievers.

Fr. Stephen Freeman

In my perception, “building up the Kingdom in this world” is a characteristically progressive Christian trope.

The dread “Religious Right” tends so strongly toward dispensational premillennialism that it would be a feat of theological code-switching of epic proportions for them to say that with a straight face. That doesn’t mean the Religious Right doesn’t “espouse some ideas based on Christian ‘moral principles’ and to make them the guiding light for political projects,” however — which feeds the media bias first cited above.

On the precedent of the Apostle Paul, however, I think we may assert our legal rights defensively (and in most cases, Christians are legally aggressed against more than aggressors).

But we mustn’t kid ourselves that we’re building the Kingdom of God when we do. Whatever you label it, it’s something other than that.

* * * * *

The waters are out and no human force can turn them back, but I do not see why as we go with the stream we need sing Hallelujah to the river god.

(Sir James Fitzjames Stephen)

Reality is that which, when you stop believing in it, doesn’t go away.

(Philip K. Dick)

Some succinct standing advice on recurring themes. Where I glean stuff.

Follow me on Micro.blog Follow me on Micro.blog, too, where I blog tweet-like shorter items and … well, it’s evolving.

Δ blindness

The New York Times item (news? analysis? editorial?) on the Right “weaponizing” the First Amendment is, of course, subject to satire and plausible accusations of hypocrisy — as is the Rights newish romance with that Amendment.

But here’s a fresh spin on the story:

[I]f you follow this logic of this Times analysis, then workers at low-budget religious ministries that offer women alternatives to abortion actually represent “the powerful” classes in California, in a free-speech fight with government, Planned Parenthood, et al, over whether ministries can be compelled to give women what amounted to referrals to abortion facilities.

When you apply this to other crucial First Amendment doctrines then you would find yourself defending the rights of a single baker (a traditional Christian) to decline a request to create a one-of-a-kind artistic cake celebrating a same-sex wedding rite (after offering the couple any of the standard cakes or desserts in his shop). The baker’s very narrow, faith-based refusal of this task was offensive and caused pain, yet the gay couple had many other options in the local marketplace. The baker is “the powerful” force in this legal fight?

It would also be possible to defend Catholic nuns who refused government commandments that they cooperate with efforts to provide contraceptive options to their own staff, in violations of important Catholic doctrines linked to their mission. The elderly nuns represent the “the powerful” classes in this legal fight?

I am left, once again, wondering what label to assign to contemporary people and groups that are weak in their defense of free speech, weak in their defense of freedom of association and weak in their defense of the free exercise of religion. What should fair-minded journalists call them? What should the Times team have called the powers that be on the “progressive” side of the debate (including the newspaper’s editorial-page team)?

The one label that cannot be assigned to these groups is “liberal.” That just won’t fly, in the wider context of American political thought.

(Terry Mattingly, emphasis added)

Progressives and Conservatives have different characteristic blindnesses.

* * * * *

The waters are out and no human force can turn them back, but I do not see why as we go with the stream we need sing Hallelujah to the river god.

(Sir James Fitzjames Stephen)

Reality is that which, when you stop believing in it, doesn’t go away.

(Philip K. Dick)

Some succinct standing advice on recurring themes. Where I glean stuff.

Follow me on Micro.blog Follow me on Micro.blog, too, where I blog tweet-like shorter items and … well, it’s evolving.

“Trimmer”

I have long felt in public policy as if I were shifting from one side of a tossing ship to the other, trying to stabilize it. That’s exactly the metaphor in which I thought about it, and I wondered if that meant I was more centrist than conservative, despite my self-identification as a conservative (pronouns: Your Royal Majesty, Your Royal Majesty’s, His Royal Majesty).

So I was delighted to hear that one of our greatest conservative luminaries heartily approves of this disposition, and that there’s even a name for it!

The greatest recent philosopher in this tradition, Michael Oakeshott, described the kind of conservative politician he favored, and he used George Savile’s term for such a character: a “trimmer.” His account reads pretty much like Anthony Kennedy:

The ‘trimmer’ is one who disposes his weight so as to keep the ship upon an even keel. And our inspection of his conduct reveals certain general ideas at work … Being concerned to prevent politics from running to extremes, he believes that there is a time for everything and that everything has its time — not providentially, but empirically. He will be found facing in whatever direction the occasion seems to require if the boat is to go even.

No figure is more mocked or ridiculed in our contemporary culture than this kind of moderate. And yet no one right now is more integral to the survival of our way of life.

This matters. The displacement of this kind of conservatism by political ideology, religious fundamentalism, and constitutional recklessness should not just be of concern to those on the center-right. It should concern Democrats as well, whether liberals or leftists.

Andrew Sullivan, writing of “trimmer” Anthony Kennedy (but he would, now, wouldn’t he?).

* * * * *

The waters are out and no human force can turn them back, but I do not see why as we go with the stream we need sing Hallelujah to the river god.

(Sir James Fitzjames Stephen)

Reality is that which, when you stop believing in it, doesn’t go away.

(Philip K. Dick)

Place. Limits. Liberty.

Some succinct standing advice on recurring themes.

Where I glean stuff.