Ready to move on?

1

We seem to be at the end of a process that is legitimately important but has been hyped, manipulated and sullied to even greater prominence. I have no doubt that Brett Kavanaugh will forever carry the metaphorical “asterisk next to his name” in the minds of many until the day he leaves the court.

But I’m sure ready to move on now.

2

Adam Gopnik displays some world-class non-sequitur and false confidence:

[Brett Kavanaugh] became disqualified for the Supreme Court the moment that he accepted the offer from Donald Trump. At this stage in his Presidency, Trump, already described in reports from his own aides as unfit for the office, implicated by his former lawyer as an unindicted co-conspirator in a felony, and now alleged, according to the Times, to have benefitted from tax schemes that in some instances amounted to “outright fraud”—not to mention being a liar and a con artist—should not be allowed to appoint Justices for lifetime appointments.

Whatever the effect of this truth on vote-counting congressional Realpolitik, it is the moral ground upon which all subsequent argument has to begin. Trump’s purpose in appointing Kavanaugh to the Court was clearly to provide himself with a protective vote for whenever one issue or another arising from his misbehavior makes its way there ….

I don’t particularly disagree with anything Gopnik said about Trump, but his conclusions do not remotely follow, and to my mind they are the deranged fury of a liberal who thinks conservative justices are as outcome-oriented as progressive justices.

Be it noted, however, that not all spittle-flecked un-thought come from the left.

Most of us are relatively naïve, ready to believe what our news outlets put forth. We have open minds and were ready and willing to listen to Ford’s testimony and consider for ourselves if it was believable. It was not. Her testimony was obviously scripted, practiced, massaged, and fabricated out of whole cloth.

Patricial McCarthy at The American Thinker (which consistently fails to live up to its name).

I think a case could be made that McCarthy’s article actually gets worse from there.

3

I’ve faulted Rod Dreher’s recent preoccupations, mildly because I like him, but here he could be said to read my mind on the omens for Kavanaugh’s confirmation:

Of course I am relieved by this outcome — not so much that Brett Kavanaugh is going to the Supreme Court, but that a nominee was not brought down by unsubstantiated, last-minute accusations, and media bullying, and that logic, evidence, and due process won the day. Even so, I don’t feel triumphalistic …

I don’t think our country is going to be better off because of any of this, though. We will only be less worse off than we would have been had the Left won this clash by using these malicious tactics.

(“Here” in my lead-in excludes the matters I elided. That’s why I elided them.)

4

The U.S. Chamber is running political ads against Joe Donnelly’s re-election.

Oh! No! How could I have been so wrong!? They’re running educational ads asking us to call him and tell him to stop siding with Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren by voting against middle-class tax cuts for Indiana’s “hard-working employers and families” and to support the the Permanent Tax Cuts for Americans Act (break out the band for a chorus of God Bless America).

I’m so ashamed of my mistake.

(Yes. That’s how the game is played. A lot of advocacy groups have decided that tendentious “education” is less hassle and more lucrative than maintaining a PAC, a Political Action Committee, for the purpose of explicit endorsements and financial support of candidates.)

5

Trump supporters who imagine that they’ve found a straight-talking champion who will drain the swamp while using his business acumen to make America great again have been suckered, bigly.

Paul Krugman, who I rarely quote (or even read, but who accurately summarizes the major New Yok Times exposé here, executive summary of sorts here, and podcast discussion here).

The Times does not, so far as I’ve seen or heard, dispute Trump’s boast of $10 billion net worth, but I frankly doubt that. To paraphrase Mary McCarthy’s characterization of Lillian Hellman, “Every word he utters is a lie, including ‘and’ and ‘the’.”

Were Trump not the boss of the boss of the IRS, he and his siblings might soon be paying tens or hundreds of millions of dollars in taxes and penalties on wealth swelled by tax fraud.

Grant me to accept with serenity the things I can’t change, Lord.

 

6

[I]f you apologize to a manipulator for something they will never, ever let you forget it and will bring it up any time you step out of line. For normal, empathetic people, apologies are a way to improve relations with each other and avoid hurting one another in the future; they’re a way of saying “I understand that I did a thing that hurt you, and I’ll try really hard not to do it again in the future.” Narcissists, sociopaths, psychopaths and other chronic manipulators don’t see them that way, since they don’t care if they hurt other people and only care about getting what they want. For a manipulator, an apology is a weapon to use against the person making it, which is why you never see them making apologies of their own.

Caitlin Johnstone.

 

7

I cannot recall the last time I so thoroughly agreed with Peter Leithart (it’s probably more than 22 years ago):

God has given the United States over to divisive blindness and stupidity.

This is the way the world ends
This is the way the world ends
This is the way the world ends
Not with a bang but a soap opera.

As my friend Mike Bull said, the Spirit has departed, and we’re back to Babel, where no one can speak to his neighbor. God has delivered us to divisive blindness and stupidity, to the force René Girard identified as “Satan.”

It’s not as if he didn’t warn us. Paul writes that ungrateful idolaters become “futile in their speculations, and their foolish heart was darkened.” Isaiah saw it happening in Judah: Idolaters “do not know, nor do they understand, for He has smeared over their eyes so that they cannot see and their hearts so that they cannot comprehend” (Isa 44).

This doesn’t mean we’re helpless. Or, better, our helplessness can drive us to seek justice in a higher court. We can shatter the idols that bind and blind us, and turn to God in prayer ….

Deride it as “thoughts’n’prayers in its Sunday best” if you like, but I think you’re deluded if you fancy that only one of the major parties is at fault and we need only vote them out.

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The redder pill

Every so often, someone comes along and says something sufficiently arresting that it makes all the usual commentary on the events of the day seems as superficial as I occasionally suspect on my own, unbidden.

No, it’s not Rod Dreher. He says he took the Red Pill, but I think he’s still in The Matrix. (I really need to watch that movie some day instead of just alluding to it randomly.)

Ladies and gentlemen, I give you Caitlin Johnstone:

A think tank is an organization wherein highly-paid academics pour their collective brainpower into coming up with convincing arguments that it would be good and smart to do something evil and stupid.

(Medea Benjamin Shows America What Real Resistance Looks Like)

In reality, the US political system is like the unplugged video game remote that kids give their baby brother so he stops whining that he wants a turn to play. No matter who they vote for they get an Orwellian warmongering government which exists solely to advance the agendas of a plutocratic class which has no loyalties to any nation; the only difference is sometimes that government is pretending to care about women and minorities and sometimes it’s pretending to care about white men. In reality, all the jewelers work for the same plutocrat, and that video game remote won’t impact the outcome of the game no matter how many buttons you push.

(Trump’s “Opposition” Supports All His Evil Agendas While Attacking Fake Nonsense)

I’ve encountered the latter theme in Fredrik deBoer, but Caitlin brings her views to life with things like free verse, not just vivid prose. I consider them complements, and Caitlin is more prolific as Fredrik battles some thorny personal issues.

I thank Eric Mader of Clay Testament for “introducing” us.

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Is (Liberal) Democracy Dying?

The Atlantic for October is a theme issue:

840

I can’t provide URLs because it’s still subscriber-only, but you get get to your favorite bookstore and pick up a copy. All of the following are from that issue, as was Anne Applebaum, A Warning From Europe: The Worst Is Yet to Come, about which I blogged earlier.

1

It is much harder to struggle against irrelevance than against exploitation.

Yuval Noah Harari, Why Technology Favors Tyranny.

And a stunning microcosm:

On December 6, 2017, another crucial milestone was reached when Google’s AlphaZero program defeated the Stockfish 8 program. Stockfish 8 had won a world computer chess championship in 2016. It had access to centuries of accumulated human experience in chess, as well as decades of computer experience. By contrast, AlphaZero had not been taught any chess strategies by its human creators — not even standard openings. Rather, it used the latest machine-learning principles to teach itself chess by playing against itself. Nevertheless, out of 100 games that the novice AlphaZero played against Stockfish 8, AlphaZero won 28 and tied 72 — it didn’t lose once. Since AlphaZero had learned nothing from any human, many of its winning moves and strategies seemed unconventional to the human eye. They could be described as creative, if not downright genius.

Can you guess how long AlphaZero spent learning chess from scratch, preparing for the match against Stockfish 8, and developing its genius instincts? Four hours.

(Emphasis added)

2

Many progressives, particularly young ones, have turned against what were once sacrosanct American principles. Freedom of speech is an instrument of the dehumanization of women and minorities. Religious liberty is an engine of discrimination. Property rights are a shield for structural injustice and white supremacy. In a recent poll, two-thirds of college-age Democrats said that “a diverse and inclusive society” is more important than “protecting free speech rights.” Only 30 percent of Americans born in the 1980s believe that living in a democracy is “essential,” compared with 72 percent of Americans born in the 1930s.

… One of our students told us: “I don’t know any lefty people my age who aren’t seriously questioning whether the First Amendment is still on balance a good thing.”

Amy Chua and Jed Rubenfeld, The Threat of Tribalism.

But wait! There’s more! It’s not tribalist without at least two tribes!

In a 2017 survey by the Pew Research Center, less than half of Republicans said that the freedom of the press “to criticize politicians” was “very important” to maintaining a strong democracy in the United States. In other 2017 surveys, more than half of Trump supporters said the president “should be able to overturn decisions by judges that he disagrees with,” and more than half of Republicans said they would support postponing the 2020 presidential election if Trump proposed delaying it “until the country can make sure that only eligible American citizens can vote.”

I can’t pick which side is worse. Can you?

3

Jeffrey Rosen incited in me kindly feelings toward California:

Voters in several states are experimenting with alternative primary systems that might elect more moderate representatives. California and Washington State have adopted a “top two” system, in which candidates from both parties compete in a nonpartisan primary, and the two candidates who get the most votes run against each other in the general election — even if they’re from the same party. States, which Louis Brandeis called “laboratories of democracy,” are proving to be the most effective way to encourage deliberation at a time when Congress acts only along party lines.

Madison and the Mob.

4

This author was shot, randomly, with a 22:

Knee-jerk calls for gun control didn’t resonate with me. Yet a reverence toward guns no longer felt right either.

I found my ambivalence unsettling. Everyone else seemed so sure about how to feel about guns—people on campus, on the internet, back home. Unlike most of them, I had made intimate acquaintance with gun violence. I should have had some special insight. If what had happened to me wasn’t fodder for clarity, I feared nothing ever would be.

As we drove, he asked me to remind him what I was writing about. I said some- thing lazy, offhanded: “What it was like getting shot in a place that loves guns.”

“It’s not love,” he said. We pulled into the parking lot of his store, which sits high on a hill. You can see almost all of Tuscaloosa from there. “It’s about necessity.” He mentioned rattlesnakes and coyotes. For people in rural areas — that’s more than 40 percent of Alabamians — guns are still a day-to-day defense against such animals. Yes, there is ample love for guns in Alabama. But to forget that they’re tools is to miss an important point.

Elaina Plott, The Bullet in My Arm.

Perhaps, but they’re not the kind of tools Our People use now, are they dear?

5

A 2018 U.S. Magazine asking whether democracy is dying might be suspected of a hit on 45, but it really was not. He did get more than passing mention in David Frum’s contribution, though:

[A] Donald Trump with impulse control would not be Donald Trump …

When Trump refers to “my” generals or “my” intelligence agencies, he is teaching his supporters to rethink how the presidency should function. We are a long way from Ronald Reagan’s remark that he and his wife were but “the latest tenants in the People’s House.”

In 2016, Trump supporters openly brandished firearms near polling places. Since then, they’ve learned to rationalize clandestine election assistance from a hostile foreign government. The president pardoned former Sheriff Joe Arpaio, convicted of contempt of court for violating civil rights in Maricopa County, Arizona, and Dinesh D’Souza, convicted of violating election-finance laws—sending an unmistakable message of support for attacks on the legal order. Where President Trump has led, millions of people who regard themselves as loyal Americans, believers in the Constitution, have ominously followed.

Building an Autocracy.

6

To stop the rot afflicting American government, Americans are going to have to get back in the habit of democracy.

[In the 19th Century] From churches to mutual insurers to fraternities to volunteer fire companies, America’s civic institutions were run not by aristocratic elites who inherited their offices, nor by centrally appointed administrators, but by democratically elected representatives.

Civic participation was thus the norm, not the exception.

Democracy had become the shared civic religion of a people who otherwise had little in common.

But the United States is no longer a nation of joiners. As the political scientist Robert Putnam famously demonstrated in Bowling Alone, participation in civic groups and organizations of all kinds declined precipitously in the last decades of the 20th century.

Trump turned the long-standing veneration of civic procedure on its head. He proclaimed that America is “rigged”; that “the insiders wrote the rules of the game to keep themselves in power and in the money.” The norms and practices of democratic governance, he insisted, had allowed elites to entrench themselves.

Trump secured the Republican nomination by speaking directly to those voters who had the least experience with democratic institutions. In April 2016, when the Republican field had narrowed from 17 candidates to three, a PRRI/The Atlantic survey found Trump enjoying a narrow lead over second-place Ted Cruz among Republican-leaning voters, 37 to 31 percent. But among those who seldom or never participated in community activities such as sports teams, book clubs, parent-teacher associations, or neighborhood associations, Trump led 50 to 24 percent. In fact, such civically disengaged voters accounted for a majority of his support.

Yoni Applebaum, Americans Aren’t Practicing Democracy Any More.

7

And finally:

The cardinal fact always is the loss of contact with objective information. Public as well as private reason depends upon it. Not what somebody says, not what somebody wishes were true, but what is so beyond all our opining, constitutes the touchstone of our sanity. And a society which lives at second-hand will commit incredible follies and countenance inconceivable brutalities if that contact is intermittent and untrustworthy. Demagoguery is a parasite that flourishes where discrimination fails, and only those who are at grips with things themselves are impervious to it. For … the demagogue, whether of the Right or the Left, is, consciously or unconsciously an undetected liar.

Walter Lippman, November 1919 (before my father was born), quoted in a side-bar.

I’m venturing a guess that nobody born since 1970 will understand his use of “discrimination” unless they have a liberal arts college education.

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Brief collection 9/13/18

1

Pope Francis has called a global meeting of Catholic bishops to discuss how to prevent sex abuse …

The Vatican statement said the topic of the gathering, scheduled for Feb. 21-24, would be the “prevention of abuse of minors and vulnerable adults.” It wasn’t clear whether the agenda would also include the disciplining of abusive clergy and of bishops who cover up or neglect abuse by priests under their authority.

Wall Street Journal

I think the Roman Church has had a fairly good idea how to reduce pedophilic child abuse since the report 14 years ago in the wake on the 2002 scandal.

But I don’t see much sign that it has made progress on homosexual predation on adolescents, seminarians and priests, or any progress at all at dropping the hammer on high-ranking enablers.

 

2

What will the Supreme Court look like when neither side has to walk on eggs to win the favor of the one in the middle? It will be a more conservative court, for sure, and maybe a more honest one. Justices may feel more free to say what they really think, and the public will ultimately judge the result by expressing itself in electoral politics. History does not stop in 2018.

Linda Greenhouse

Greenhouse is often outrageously biased even in her news reporting, not just in opinion pieces, but this one’s worth reading — with a grain of salt.

 

3

Public health experts dismiss [Critical Reviews in Toxicology, and Regulatory Toxicology and Pharmacology] as unreliable vanity journals. “These two journals exist to manufacture and disseminate scientific doubt,” says David Michaels, a professor at the George Washington University School of Public Health and the author of “Doubt Is Their Product,” a book about product defense science. “They provide the appearance of peer review and credibility to ‘product defense’ science — mercenary studies not designed to contribute to the scientific enterprise but to forestall public health and environmental protections and to defeat litigation. Corporations opposing public health or environmental regulations enter the rigged studies and questionable analyses published in these mercenary journals into regulatory proceedings or lawsuits to manufacture scientific uncertainty.”

Then, Michaels says, companies can say, “Look, the studies have conflicting conclusions, so there is too much scientific uncertainty to issue regulations to protect the public or to compensate victims.” ….

Paul D. Thacker, Scientists know plastics are dangerous. Why won’t the government say so?

I had no idea. The industry didn’t want me to have any idea. The “forensic” scientists (as in “‘forensic dating’ is the world’s oldest profession”) did their dirty duty.

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My blog overfloweth

Oh dear! So much that’s shareable today!

The Clergy Sexual Abuse Scandal

1

Nike reportedly is facing a boycott for an ad featuring Colin Kaepernick, who famously “took the knee” during the NFL’s repulsive and gratuitous pre-game patriotic frenzies.

Kaepernick

We’ll see if Nike actually believes in something, “even if it means sacrificing everything.” Nike has set itself up nicely to illustrate how “courage” no less than “patriotism” can be insincerely weaponized for commercial purposes.

Contrast:

Viganò

2

Ross Douthat … in a twitter thread which noted, among other things,

One of the striking things about the Hebrew Bible is that it’s the record of a people that makes extraordinary claims for itself — that their tribal god is the Only God, that they are His chosen people, that all nations will eventually worship him, etc.

And they buttress those claims with an extensive history in which they are … terrible. Morally terrible, politically impotent, constantly apostasizing, ignoring their prophets, the works.

Basically the Hebrew Bible says: “Hi, we’re the true chosen people of God, and to prove it let us tell a long series of stories about how our patriarchs were sinners, our kings were even worse, and we failed God completely time and time again.”

The best king of Israel, the awesome all-conquering one, is a philanderer and murderer. The second-best one, the temple-builder, becomes an idol-worshiper. And about the rest, the less said the better.

Pace certain evangelicals-for-Trump and certain RC churchmen, this is not an argument for tolerating ugliness in service of some higher good. God and His prophet deal very harshly w/David when he kills Uriah, and the attitude of the prophets throughout is horror at Israel’s sins.

But for all their horror the prophets never doubt that Israel is the elect, the chosen people, God’s intended bride. And if the Old Testament is supposed to be a revelation with big implications for the new covenant, for the Christian church, that part is important.

Eve Tushnet quoting, obviously, Ross Douthat.

Trump & the Vichy Republicans

3

News:

Two long running, Obama era, investigations of two very popular Republican Congressmen were brought to a well publicized charge, just ahead of the Mid-Terms, by the Jeff Sessions Justice Department. Two easy wins now in doubt because there is not enough time. Good job Jeff.

(Another damned Tweet by our Tweeter-in-Chief, who thinks an Attorney General is a wingman.)

News analysis by Peter Baker and Nicholas Fandos:

  • His tweet over the holiday weekend chastising Jeff Sessions, the attorney general, for the Justice Department’s recent indictments of two Republican congressmen because it could cost the party seats in November crossed lines that even he had not yet breached, asserting that specific continuing criminal prosecutions should be decided on the basis of partisan advantage.
  • “I think it was appalling,” Senator Susan Collins of Maine, another Republican, told reporters asking on Tuesday about the tweet. “It’s unbelievable. It’s unbelievable.”
  • Over nearly 20 months in office, Mr. Trump has repeatedly castigated the Justice Department and the F.B.I. for investigating his associates and not investigating his enemies. He has threatened time and again to fire Mr. Sessions because his recusal from the Russia investigation meant that he could not protect the president from the inquiry.
  • Mr. Trump’s suggestion would have been a major scandal under any other president, veterans of past administrations said. “His interference in an ongoing criminal investigation may be the single most shocking thing he’s done as president,” said Walter E. Dellinger, a former acting solicitor general under President Bill Clinton.
  • Senator Jeff Flake of Arizona, a Republican who has been among the president’s most outspoken critics in his own party, had the same reaction. “Those who study this kind of thing say it’s a lot more evidence for abuse of power or obstruction,” he said. “I just know it’s not healthy for the institutions of government to have the president want to use the Department of Justice that way.”
  • Senator Lisa Murkowski, Republican of Alaska, likewise criticized the president’s comments. “I’m looking at them just as you are looking at them,” she told reporters. “I thought that yesterday’s comments were not appropriate and they upset me.”

I agree with Walter Dellinger. If Trump is impeached, I hope his browbeating of law enforcement people for doing their jobs is prominent among the charges.

4

Ross Douthat imagines the defense theme of the Vichy Republicans in the court of public opinion:

Yes, they would say, the president is erratic, dangerous, unfit and bigoted. But notwithstanding certain columnist fantasies you can’t impeach somebody for all that — or for pretending to be a dictator on Twitter, for that matter. And by the standards of any normal presidency we still have him contained.

Sure, the trade wars are bad, but every president launches at least one dumb trade war. We stopped the child migrant business, his other immigration moves are just stepped-up enforcement of the law, we’ve stepped back from the brink (however bizarrely) with the North Koreans, we’re still sanctioning the Russians.

Meanwhile he’s nominated the most establishment Republican jurist possible to the Supreme Court, and we won’t even let him fire his own attorney general, let alone Bob Mueller.

Look, we’re not enabling an American Putin here. We’re just babysitting the most impotent chief executive we’ll ever see, and locking in some good judges before the Democrats sweep us out.

5

I have given my qualified approval to President Trump’s defense of religious freedom. The qualification is that he hasn’t shown any solicitude for the religious freedom of anyone other than Evangelical Protestants (though we other Christians collect crumbs from their State Dinner Table).

Here’s someone else’s expression of one instance of where Trump has been bad on religious freedom.

Kavanaugh Confirmation Hearings

6

Ben Sasse Conducts a Two-Minute Master Class in American Civics

7

Democrats Open Contentious Hearings With Attack on ‘Partisan’ Kavanaugh

When the New York Times puts in scare-quotes “partisan” as a description of a Republican Supreme Court nominee, I think it’s a sign that the Democrats beslimed themselves pretty good yesterday.

Is Steve Bannon fit for polite company?

8

A Venn diagram showing New Yorker readers and Trump fans would contain two circles miles apart. The folks in the New Yorker circle are far more likely to believe that Trump is a nascent despot than to believe that he is anything like a normal president. Nor are they likely to change their minds simply by spending an hour in the physical presence of Bannon.

Left-leaning cultural arbiters became too skillful with their weapon of choice, mastering those institutions so completely that certain kinds of progressivism became not merely normal, but mandatory. But by leaving less and less room for dissenters, the hegemons created a counter-tribe of outsiders who reject their authority as vehemently as they exert it. And thus, for the same reasons that the beliefs of New Yorker readers are in no danger from Steve Bannon, the views of Trump fans are entirely safe from David Remnick.

What’s left is a kind of ceremonial cleansing of the sacred city, a mighty labor to make sure that the two circles on the Venn diagram never, ever come into contact. There’s something admirable about uncompromising ethical purity, but also something rather dangerous. For it means that outside your circle, there’s an entirely different normal. And if you abdicate any influence over that alternate normality, while rigorously expelling your own heretics, you may one day awake to find that your impeccably maintained ring of truth has been swamped by that other normal, now grown entirely beyond your control.

Megan McArdle

9

I agree with those who think that he should never have been invited. Steve Bannon keeps failing in his various projects to overthrow the establishment or create a political mass movement. Were it not for the lavish media attention he still gets, he’d be a classic coffee-house revolutionary, regaling strangers about how he came “this close” to ruling and how, with a little help from you, he can get the revolution restarted. But because he provides relatively good quotes and calls back journalists, the mainstream media have an investment in keeping him more relevant that he really is. He was fired by Trump, defenestrated by Breitbart and the Mercers, and lives on largely as a useful prop for the media he claims to despise.

Jonah Goldberg

10

New Yorker, editor David Remnick, explaining why he had extended, and then quickly rescinded, an invitation to former presidential adviser Stephen K. Bannon to be interviewed on a public stage.

[I]t’s worth considering what Remnick’s disinvitation has actually achieved. Here’s my list:

It has kept Bannon’s name prominently in the news, no doubt to his considerable delight. It has turned a nativist bigot into a victim of liberal censorship. It has lent credence to the belief that journalists are, as Bannon said of Remnick, “gutless.” It has corroborated the view that the news media is a collection of left-wing group thinkers who, if they aren’t quite peddling “fake news,” are mainly interested in advancing only their own truths. It has kept readers of The New Yorker locked in their usual echo chamber. It has strengthened the belief that vulnerable institutions can be hounded into submitting to the irascible (and unappeasable) demands of social media mobs. Above all, it has foreclosed an opportunity to submit Bannon to the kind of probing examination that Remnick had initially promised, and that is journalism at its best.

The next time we journalists demand “courage” of the politicians, let’s first take care to prove that we know what the word means, and to exhibit some courage ourselves.

Bret Stephens

As Rod Dreher points out, The Economist did it better.

Miscellany

11

John McCain, well aware of his impending death, orchestrated a Resistance Funeral.

It’s currently obligatory to overlook his flaws as well as to remember his virtues, and I’ll not breach my obligation just yet. Indeed, I expect canonization forthwith.

But what I didn’t expect is hectoring pundits posing “WWJMD” criticisms every time Republicans do something deemed insufficiently bipartisan.

12

If you consider yourself a sane conservative, I’d suggest you bookmark the US edition of the Spectator. It’s pretty lively, with some voices other than the usual suspects.

It was there, for instance, that I learned that:

The Pussy Church of Modern Witchcraft (PCMW) in Maryland has just been afforded Tax Exempt Status by the IRS, which recognised it as a legitimate place of worship, or rather a ‘place of lesbian faith’. Serving a lesbian-feminist congregation, the PCMW is described on its website as, ‘a congregation of female-born, lesbian-led Women devoted to the liberation of Women and Girls from the oppression we face based on our sex.’

 

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Saturday Potpourri 8/25/18

1

I cannot personally rule out voting for Trump in 2020, despite the fact that I believe he is a menace to the rule of law. To vote against Trump will almost certainly mean voting for a president who will turn the power of the state on people like me. That still might be the decent and correct thing to do, and if so, I hope I have the courage to do it. But it’s a hell of an ask.

Rod Dreher. His quotes from Andrew Sullivan (overlapping what I quoted) and Peter Beinart are notable, too.

Like Dreher, I don’t entirely buy the Beinart argument — did we ever really worry about dark men raping pale women, or was that just a pretext for recreational lynching? — but the general gist about competing notions of “corrupt” does seem to be on the scent of something.

I think I’d have voted for Hillary in 2016, had my state been “in play” instead of a lock for Trump, though I knew she would “turn the power of the state on people like me.” But that was because I considered Trump’s narcissism so extreme as possibly to land us in a war, not because I thought she was nicer or less venal.

By 2020, if Trump hasn’t Tweeted us into war, the attacks on the rule of law will predominate in my opposition. But it is quite conceivable that the Democrats will nominate some extremist without Hillary’s demonstrated semi-competence in actual governance. I’m not holding my breath for a return to normalcy of any sort.

2

What do you mean, “crisis”? We have (at least) three is an interesting, even disturbing, short blog by Chris Damian on clergy sexual abuse in the Roman Church.. The crisis/es include “abuse of minors.” This crisis is

the most understood and the most explored. Following the 2002 reporting by the Boston Globe, the US bishops commissioned a study, run independently by researchers at the John Jay College of Criminal Justice.

I was surprised at some of the findings Damian reported from John Jay, but he provided a link, so I’m assuming until alerted otherwise (or I have enough time on my hands to read the report) that he has not misrepresented them.

They disrupt, if taken seriously, the sense I was developing about the sources or causes of the crises. No, make that “seriously disrupt ….”

3

Allen Weisselberg [Trump Organization CFO] testified before a grand jury, the third confidant of Trump known to have provided information in an illegal hush-money investigation that has implicated the president.

Wall Street Journal teaser for this article. According to NPR, one might say “Longtime Trump Organization CFO Allen Weisselberg.”

Don’t discount the depth of what this guy could be disclosing. That so many confidants are testifying to the grand jury, many with grants of immunity, is legally big, but as I think I’ve said, I’m at a loss for what any of this means politically in a country I barely still recognize.

4ts

Yesterday, an Anabaptist man from nearby came and powerwashed my house. Then some younger Anabaptist men (his kin, I suspect) washed the windows. They did wonderful work at a reasonable price. We will seek them out for return engagements.

I’ve had similar “nice bearded men” in black straw skimmers doing our home remodeling and upgrades. They, too, did wonderful work, though a bit “saltier” on price.

They’re all from a group akin to the Old Order Amish (who congregate further North in Indiana), but they drive cars and trucks, use cell phones, tend to be in construction and things like power washing, concrete leveling and repair. They’re well represented behind the tables of our Farmer’s Market. The fanciest career I’ve noticed any of them undertaking is accountant (uncertified). I grew up hearing them called “German Baptist.”

Their grammar isn’t perfect. Their affect is generally a bit laconic. But they make themselves useful to their fellow men and women, support their families, and seem (from an unplugged family life, I strongly suspect) to avoid a lot of the nonsense that exercises most of their countrymen, present company not excluded. I suspect they’re not too exercised about Special Counsel grand jury proceedings, grants of immunity, and what it all means politically.

That’s not nothing. Starting fresh, I might prefer the via media of a Matthew Crawford, but somehow our Exceptionally American desk jobs and 401k’s have left us among the unhappier of the world’s peoples. Yet we seem to think that spreading our ways is an apt response to the categorical imperative.

I think we’ve been sold a bill of goods, though I can’t decide how much of it was deliberate (“if we do this, we can induce people into doing that“) versus such a state of affairs coming about by inexorable cosmic logic once we start off thinking filthy lucre is the summum bonum that can buy us whatever else we want. I could elaborate a few reasons for thinking that we were deliberately manipulated, but “deliberate” doesn’t necessarily mean “malicious” or “consciously exploitative.” The human capacity for self-deception is really deep.

5

Thus began the Beloved Festival, at which some 2,500 people pitched tents or splurged for a luxury “glamping” yurt for four days of “sacred” activities that ended on August 13th. These included kundalini and “galactivated” yoga, Sufi soul singing, crystal-bowl sound healing, medicinal poetry, Thai massage, Latino storytelling, native-American shamanism, gong meditation inspired by NASA data from deep space, grief rituals from Burkina Faso’s Dagara tribe and rave-like takes on Oriental ecstatic dance.

… Moss Kane, a Beloved visitor who works at Two-Spirit Shamanic Healing, a practice in Portland, Oregon, reckons that the boom in transformational festivals has already begun to chip away at the “crumbling power” of bad capitalism through the emergence of more people with older, wiser souls.

… Beloved hosts workshops on diversity, gender equality and using empathy to fight “divisive entitlement”. Marji Marlowe, who ran Beloved’s Care Circle Sanctuary this year, says a big part of her job is alerting visitors to the privilege whites enjoy but did not earn. Beloved also offers education on the misstep of “appropriating” cultures by, for example, donning feather headdresses, says its community manager, Dez Ramirez. Given the cultural mishmash of Beloved’s programme, this approach may perplex some, but other transformational festivals do the same.

Economist, Sex, crystals and compost toilets.

I’m betting on the German Baptist version of “older souls” in a head-to-head match with Beloved Festival and others of that ilk. At long odds, too.

6

I’m becoming a fan of professional soccer, especially European (Premier League, Bundesliga, and such). I’m still learning the rules to become a discerning viewer, but I have no favorite teams yet besides the default “home town” Indy Eleven (sort of as every Hoosier is supposed to be a Colts fan).

It’s probably worth mentioning that this is not really a protest or boycott of NFL. I’ve genuinely lost interest in NFL for a number of reasons

  • the hype (e.g., military flyovers)
  • the mostly-Sunday games
  • the hootchie-kootchie cheerleaders (who are abused about like bar bands are abused — underpaid because of huge supply, limited demand — and sexualized to boot) and
  • the evidence of chronic traumatic brain injury.

That last one’s why I don’t watch boxing or MMA, though I have a great-nephew who’s a professional MMA fighter.

Colin Kaepernick offends me less than Trump’s response and the owners’ capitulation, but that controversy was the only thing in recent years that made me want to watch at all. I’m even pretty indifferent to the Super Bowl any more.

Recommendation: If you want to give soccer a try, tune into Premier League or Bundesliga. They have NFL-size stadiums, packed with enthusiasts, the gentlemen spectators dressed like gentlemen and not visibly intoxicated. What’s not to like?

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Our lives were meant to be written in code, indecipherable to onlookers except through the cipher of Jesus.

Greg Coles.

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.

Potpourri, 8/21/18

 

1

“Scared stiff,” “weak,” not a “real attorney general”? He has been called worse in his time. It would seem to be the case that he has intuited something that most of his colleagues — to say nothing of the American people — have not: namely, that it is sometimes, indeed frequently, a good idea not to take the president seriously.

Sessions is the most devoted of our emperor’s servants precisely because he has nothing in common with the rest of them. He is neither a scheming amoral hanger-on like so many members of this administration, current and former, or a stolidly disinterested public servant like James Mattis, the defense secretary whom one could imagine resigning in the face of serious policy disagreements — to say nothing of insults to his personal honor along the lines of those to which Sessions has been repeatedly subjected. The attorney general is a true believer.

As long as he is at liberty to wage a renewed drug war and implement the schemes for restricting immigration of which he and his former deputy Stephen Miller have so long dreamed, Sessions will remain in this White House, brushing the dirt from his shoulders without so much as a smirk.

Matthew Walther on Jeff Sessions.

I’m reflexively suspicious of Sessions because, unlike with Walker Percy, Flannery O’Connor, Harrison Scott Key and other southern writers, I can actually hear his drawl, and it triggers my own micro-version of PTSD from my discordant sojourn of three semesters in a third-tier southern Christianish educational institution (which I was invited to leave for the sin of being an “out” conscientious objector in the Vietnam era — an invitation that made too much sense to refuse).

But there is something about stoic Sessions, starting with his trail-blazingly early support of Trump, that sets him apart from both (a) the cynical climbers and (b) the kenotic, clenched-teeth-reluctant patriots in the Trump White House.

2

Before I talk about the ways in which the closet may have contributed to a culture of cover-up and abuse, let me say that most talk of “root causes” is premature and comes across as using other people’s rape as a weapon in a culture war.

This is the only part of Eve Tushet’s column, A Closeted Subculture, with which I’m pretty sure I disagree, almost vehemently. There have been plenty of people thinking about this abuse scandal for at least 16 years, since the “long lent,” and complaining that the hierarchy of the Roman Catholic Church refused to identify the pervasive (not universal) homosexual nexus in abuse cases.

“Please, God! Not another study!”, I can hear faithful Catholics saying if they’ve not had blinders on since 2002 — but yet another study (or other stalling tactic) is the eventuality of the position that it’s premature to identify “root causes.”

More from Tushnet::

There are three basic roles I suspect the closet plays in parts of our Church. First, where people greatly fear being considered gay, it will be especially hard for boys or men to report sexual assault and coercion. Regardless of whether or not they’re gay themselves, they will fear that they’ll be told they were responsible for their abuse or welcomed it, and they will fear (for example) being made to leave the seminary or being outed to their family. Similarly, even if you weren’t assaulted yourself, if an abuser knows you’re gay then he has a secret to hold over your head, which you may fear that he’ll reveal if you report his abuse (or your suspicions of him).

Second, young people struggling with their sexuality are especially vulnerable where being gay is especially stigmatized. They may confide in an older man, perhaps someone who has cultivated their trust because he senses their vulnerability. He may even have shared his own secret homosexuality with them, precisely in order to win their trust; which he will then go on to abuse. His secret creates a powerful bond between them, even a sense that the victim has a responsibility to protect the abuser. Secrets can create a false intimacy, an environment in which manipulation is especially easy.

And third, the fear and secrecy of the closet distort people’s self-understandings, their ability to surrender their lives to Christ, and therefore their ability to regulate their behavior. What you can’t even admit to yourself, you can’t surrender to God: This may be part of what’s going on with men who rail against gay people, while they themselves were abusing men for sex ….

There’s quite a lot more there. Tushnet’s bottom line is that celibate gay men who are healthy enough to come out of the closet, and who will affirm and teach all that the Church itself teaches, should be ordained, and that gay priest bans will fail spectacularly. It’s an argument I had intuited but hesitated to spell out because (obligatory caveat) it’s not my Church; I’m just affected by its woes as are all Christians in the West.

Overall, I think Tushnet — a lesbian convert to Catholicism from atheism, a celibate, and a recovering alcoholic — can see more clearly than Andrew Sullivan, a gay Catholic in a same-sex marriage, whose disobedience of the Church regarding chastity seems to have clouded his vision.

I especially appreciate Tushnet articulating those three ill-effects of the closet, which merit a bit more reflection, really, than I’ve given so far.

3

Jasmyn Fleik, 27, of the Madison LGBTQ Dogma Defense Alliance, rejected the bishop’s claim that homosexual priests were the problem.

“Just because 80 percent of the victims of clerical sex abuse are boys, and just because most of the abusing priests were known to be sexually active gay men, that doesn’t at all mean homosexuality has anything to do with this crisis!” Fleik insisted, to coughs and rolling of eyes from bystanders.

“I mean, like, use your brain for once,” she added.

Eric Mader at Clay Testament, mixing fact with fact (mainstream media’s disinterest, presumably because of people like the presumably fictitious Ms. Fleik).

4

Jerry Falwell Jr. is becoming a self-parody again. See Jay Cost, a little vignette about him from Matthew Walther in the middle of a piece about Jeff Sessions, and World magazine’s story about his university’s journalism department and school newspaper.

There ought to be a parable about the perils of sycophancy over Trump.

Oh, wait! There is: “Lie down with dogs, rise up with fleas.”

(The Jerry Fallwells, too, trigger my micro-PTSD.)

5

[Dear Tipsy],

Across North America, cities and towns are betting big on megaprojects like stadiums and shopping malls, in hopes that just one more big win will put their city back in the black.

It’s pretty tempting, right? One last gamble, then you’re out. One more risk, and you’ll be set for life (or at least until the next election cycle).

The only problem with this thinking? Cities who do it haven’t asked themselves what it really means for a city to win.

Today, my colleague Chuck Marohn is proposing something that shouldn’t be radical, but very much is: the only way that cities can “win” for their citizens is to stop putting them at enormous risk of losing it all.

That doesn’t mean risking nothing, of course. It doesn’t even mean we can’t be brave.

It means the opposite: having the courage to stand up to a dominant culture that’s bankrupting our towns and making our communities worse places to live. And having the courage to stand up for something so much better.

How will you help?

-Kea and the rest of the Strong Towns Team

Email August 20 from the estimable Small Towns, referring to this article.

Not all corporate welfare comes from the Feds. Cities, Counties and States give away billions annually, bidding for the attention of corporations that will bully them further (“you need to pass this kind of law; you need to repeal that kind of law”) in the process.

“How will you help?” Well, I scanned my check register and found that I have not given commensurate to Small Towns’ growth and influenceit has been three years since I gave even a pittance.

Time flies. Secure websites can cure such an oversight almost instantly.

6

The Agenda That Dare Not Speak Its Name

MATTHEW CONTINETTI

The reason Democrats seek power in 2018 is to obstruct President Trump wholly and without exception, to tie down his administration using the subpoena powers of a dozen committees, and ultimately to lay the groundwork for his impeachment.

It’s tempting to say “Yeah? You got a problem with that?”

* * * * *

Some succinct standing advice on recurring themes.

Where I glean stuff.

Jesus, loser

I think Christian Smith pretty well described Moralistic Therapeutic Deism when he coined the term, but Fr. Patrick Henry Reardon’s definition is now my favorite:

The function of Church in society is to keep spiritually healthy and morally upright those who are pursuing the American Dream.

But according to Luke, the Gospel is to leave all things and embrace the cross daily.

Could anything be more opposed to the cross of Christ than a life dedicated to the quest for personal prosperity? … What Jesus warns this man about is a life in which he loves God with his whole heart, loves his neighbor as himself, and goes about making as much money as he can … Wealth itself so easily becomes idolatrous.

If wealth is the mark of success, then think about it: Who are the failures? Who are the “losers”? …

Can any philosophy be more at odds with the cross of Christ than the [social Darwinist] survival of the fittest? The cross is the absolute answer to Darwin, just as the absolute answer to Nietszche and the will to power. The cross stands against all of that.

The basic floor of the cross of Calvary is that Jesus did not survive. He died as a poor man who had nothing to show for his life. He left no bank account. He was a loser. As he died, he was obliged to leave the care of his widowed mother to another poor man. By every standard recognized in the money market, Jesus was a failure. A poor man who died a poor man.

* * * * *

I also blog short items at Micro.blog.

Some succinct standing advice on recurring themes.

Where I glean stuff.

Signs of the times

James Howard Kunstler probably coined the term “techno-narcissism.” He definitely uses it more than anyone I know. A related term is “techno-triumphalism.” I believe he uses that, too. He definitely does not think that technology is immanentizing the eschaton.

He may be understating it:

The second, Bitcoin, combines mania with techno-triumphalism. Almost nobody understands Bitcoing or Blockchain, but people are speculating in Bitcoin. One wise wag said “I know exactly what a Bitcoin is worth: one tulip bulb.” My theory that gold has no intrinsic worth (you can’t eat it, live in it or burn it for heat) commensurate with its totemistic value is similar.

Another bad signs: Mermaid academies, Abduction-for-hire services, and Designer cookie dough.

But if people couldn’t see doom in Donald Trump versus Hillary Clinton for President, they’re unlikely to see it in any of these.

* * * * *

“No man hath a velvet cross.” (Samuel Rutherford, 17th century Scotland)

Some succinct standing advice on recurring themes.

Where I glean stuff.

Why I’m not a Libertarian

Reason is a libertarian monthly print magazine covering politics, culture, and ideas through a provocative mix of news, analysis, commentary, and reviews.” Thus saith the sponsored link in my search results.

[I]t’s shortsighted when publications like Reason Magazine scoff at law enforcement’s attempts to curb child trafficking by implying that runaways are more safe with pimps than with child protective services, basing this conclusion on the fact that that’s what trafficked, manipulated sixteen- and seventeen-year-olds say when asked.

Yes, Reason. I can’t think of another serious publication that would report on the Weinstein trafficking allegation in this way: “In this case, Weinstein is accused of using a fraudulent employment opportunity to lure Noble to his hotel room for what he hoped would be quid-pro-quo sex and what turned into a sexual assault.” It appears we have a national problem these days with hoped-for quid-pro-quo sex turning into sexual assault. All those dashed hopes.

Reason has long defended prostitution and turned a blind eye to the trafficking in the sex industry, preferring to champion rights for “sex workers.” And again this past spring, the magazine’s associate editor Elizabeth Nolan Brown penned a cover story accusing the FBI of policing sex in their attempts to save trafficked victims. “Most of the minors found in these crackdowns are not selling sex because someone is forcing them into it,” Brown urges, “but because they have no other palatable options to get by. They need shelter, cash, better care, legit employment, and better prospects all around.” Seemingly blind to how having limited options is fertile ground for coercion and exploitation, Brown paints an empathetic picture of a man named Irick Oneal who was prosecuted for trafficking a fifteen-year-old runaway who says she didn’t want to go back to CPS. Elsewhere, she describes trafficking prosecutions like this: “U.S. prosecutors announced federal indictments against a Missouri man accused of driving an 18-year-old sex worker across state lines and a pair of cousins whose initially consensual pimping of three adult women (including one of the defendants’ girlfriends) had turned abusive.” I suppose the pimp’s hopes were dashed here too.

Such statements reveal an agenda to portray prostitution as based on consensual relations at all costs—even at the cost of overlooking children being sold into slavery. It’s hard to think of another explanation that would gloss over the value of removing a thirteen-year-old girl from traffickers and instead bemoan the arrest of numerous prostituting adults caught in the same sting. “Authorities are routinely taking money set aside to stop child sexual exploitation and using it to find and punish adults, many just a few years past childhood themselves, for private sexual activities,” Brown decries. Who exactly did she think was exploiting the children, if not adults? 

Somewhere along the way, Brown and Reason lose sight of the value of that thirteen-year-old girl. Somehow it’s more important to protect profits than to stop the rape of a girl. Somehow, that girl’s repeated sexual assault, stolen liberty, and damaged health became a cost of doing business, for which the surrounding adults are not accountable.

According to Reason Magazine, if more adults are arrested than minors rescued, it means the entire effort to stop child trafficking is a failure or a farce. It doesn’t strike them as curious that the so-called “sex workers” aren’t fazed by trafficked minors in their midst. Perhaps Reason doesn’t want to investigate that further, because then they’d see that most people working in the sex industry came from backgrounds of sex abuse under eighteen as well. They’d see that many of them also first stumbled into the industry at thirteen or fourteen too. Perhaps many in the sex industry aren’t appalled by child abuse, not because it’s only happening to a rare few of them, but because it’s what most have experienced themselves.

(Harvey Weinstein Isn’t Unusual: Sexual Abuse and Trafficking in the United States)

At my advanced age, I’ve had many reminders why I cannot resolve my political ennui by declaring myself Libertarian. Reptilian reductionism ranks high among those reminders, and I cannot bring myself to think that the evil of sex trafficking is less that the evils sometimes wrought in trying to stop sex trafficking.

And in case you’re wondering: Yes, I went to the source and didn’t just trust Witherspoon’s summary of how Reason was treating sex trafficking.

* * * * *

“No man hath a velvet cross.” (Samuel Rutherford, 17th century Scotland)

Some succinct standing advice on recurring themes.

Where I glean stuff.