Shame Culture and lesser things

In twenty minutes or so, the Saints and the Bucaneers, Brees and Brady, will be competing. 85 total years of quarterback. And they’re both still really good. So I’m done websurfing today.

Someone pointed out that according to the prophecies of Q, in turn according to the consensus of Q scholars (since Q is reportedly pretty cryptic), President Trump is to sweep up the evil, cannibalistic, pizza-pedophile Democrats and RINOs. I confess that I’m no Q scholar, but his days are prima facie dwindling down to a precious few.

I’d bet a modest amount that, rather than admitting their delusion, QAnon scholars will reinterpret things. My money is on some version of “this will all come to pass at the great and glorious second coming of The Donald in 2024. It is prophesied.”

This will be the proof, for those in the real world, that Q goes beyond politics, beyond conspiracy theory, and is in fact a new pagan religion (and one that’s less rational than worshipping nature) even if (this being America), it’s a paganism with some distracting Christianish cammo.

Shame culture

David French is trying to analyze some fundamental things, and not being a Southerner, I don’t quickly grasp it. But my absolute favorite Orthodox Priest-Blogger, Fr. Stephen Freeman, writes much of the crushing weight of shame, and he writes from southern culture, so French has my attention.

[W]hat we’re watching right now in much of our nation’s Christian politics is an explosion not of godly Christian passion, but rather of ancient southern shame/honor rage.

There’s an enormous amount of literature describing shame/honor culture in the South and shame/honor culture generally, but I like this succinct description from David Brooks:

> In a guilt culture you know you are good or bad by what your conscience feels. In a shame culture you know you are good or bad by what your community says about you, by whether it honors or excludes you. In a guilt culture people sometimes feel they do bad things; in a shame culture social exclusion makes people feel they are bad.

Shame/honor cultures are very focused on group reputation and group identity. Again, here’s Brooks:

> People are extremely anxious that their group might be condemned or denigrated. They demand instant respect and recognition for their group. They feel some moral wrong has been perpetrated when their group has been disrespected, and react with the most violent intensity.

Brooks was writing about the general growth of shame culture in America, including in left-wing circles on campus. But doesn’t this sound familiar on the right? Have you noticed how much of the GOP, the party of white Evangelicals, is often positively obsessed with grievance, how it marinates in anger at the insults of the “elite” or the “ruling class”?

Franklin Graham, Billy Graham’s son, has done an immense amount of good through his organization, Samaritan’s Purse. He and his legion of Christian employees and volunteers have sacrificially served the sickest and most vulnerable members of society. But when it comes to politics, Graham’s voice is radically angry and viciously tribal.

David French, Where Does the South End and Christianity Begin?

This is of concern to me in part because my Christian tradition has by some accounts grown faster in the south than elsewhere, but angry tribalism contradicts the Orthodox faith profoundly.

Trump’s Big Lie

[I]t was striking that President-elect Joe Biden chose the term [“big lie”] when he slammed two Republican senators — Ted Cruz and Josh Hawley — who have amplified Trump’s falsehood.

“I think the American public has a real good, clear look at who they are,” Biden told reporters two days after the Capitol was attacked. “They’re part of the big lie, the big lie.”

Biden nodded to the term’s origin in Nazi Germany, as embodied in Hitler’s propaganda minister Joseph Goebbels.

“We’re told that, you know, Goebbels and the great lie. You keep repeating the lie, repeating the lie,” Biden said. “The degree to which it becomes corrosive is in direct proportion to the number of people who say it.”

A big lie has singular potency, says Timothy Snyder, the Levin Professor of History at Yale University, whose books include studies of Hitler, Josef Stalin, the Holocaust and tyranny.

“There are lies that, if you believe in them, rearrange everything,” he says.

“Hannah Arendt, the political thinker, talked about the fabric of reality,” Snyder says. “And a big lie is a lie which is big enough that it tears the fabric of reality.”

In his cover story for The New York Times Magazine this week, Snyder calls Trump “the high priest of the big lie.”

As for where big lies lead, Snyder writes: “Post-truth is pre-fascism, and Trump has been our post-truth president.”

Can The Forces Unleashed By Trump’s Big Election Lie Be Undone?

Flight 93 (still)

Somewhere along the line, the “Flight 93 Election” proponents decided that their insane gamble with the country had paid off in a fabulously successful Presidency, and that was that, in saecula saeculorum. After January 6, they’re trying to change the subject:

[Laura] Ingraham says that the idea that character and norms don’t mean anything to people like her is a “straw man argument,” while always only being willing to criticize Trump’s “tone” and “style” and praising Trump for “fighting for others.” Is that what he was doing when he lied about having won the election and encouraged an angry mob of wayward souls to march on the legislative branch and his own vice president? Who was doing the fighting that day? Who was fighting for whom? And how many ultimately died? Ingraham says that the rioters were not intent on overthrowing the republic, but were just “desperate people.” Who, exactly, made them feel so desperate? Who told them their country was being “stolen” from them? It wasn’t Mitt Romney, and it wasn’t National Review.

Enter Anton, who took a brief victory lap on “predicting” that the Left would get crazier before asking if National Review’s subscribers knew that its editor had made the case for supporting Hillary Clinton in 2016 (he didn’t), and blasting Lowry for publishing his column in Politico where they couldn’t see it. Of course, Lowry’s column is now up here at National Review, where all of his Politico pieces eventually go up, but even if it wasn’t, he has not exactly hidden the ball on this site.

That Anton and Ingraham disregard the truth so blatantly and resort to such tinny arguments is probably a sign that they know that their Flight 93 presidency is ending very badly, that the project that they invested in so fully and threw away every standard to support is coming apart at the seams.

They’re letting their desperation show.

Isaac Schorr, Ingraham and Anton vs. Lowry: The Sad Descent of the Flight 93 Apologists | National Review

Cruz’s and Hawley’s Infamy

Some Republicans are hurtin’ because of what their party did over their objections. Not one pair — who are involved not romantically, but as rivals for Trump’s shitty mantle:

After the fact, the White House very quickly found itself in a supercharged version of the situation that Cruz and Hawley are also in. They presumed they could cynically ride this movement for their own ends. They gleefully lit match after match, and eventually to their horror they managed to set themselves on fire along with everyone else. They clearly incited these events. They saw them spin rapidly out of control. They ended Wednesday afternoon with five people dead, the Capitol defiled, and the country stunned. They definitely wanted to overturn the election, which by itself is a subversion of representative government. Their efforts produced a messy putsch into the bargain, and got people killed. They should be punished for it as severely as the law permits, and they should never be allowed to live down their responsibility for what happened.

Kieran Healy, What Happened? H/T Conor Friedersdorf, Recommended Reading (a paid Mailchimp weekly email)

The Falkirk Center — Liberty University’s continuing shame

Helfenbein has stated that the goal of the Falkirk Center is to have “massive cultural influence,” and I believe him after watching 12 hours of Falkirk’s nonsense podcast episodes, reading months’ worth of its articles, and scrolling through its near-endless social media feeds. “This is not your dad’s or granddad’s think tank,” says Helfenbein. Yeah, well it’s not your dad’s or granddad’s critical thinking either.

Much of Falkirk’s content is facially ridiculous, deceptive, or easily debunked. But that’s because Falkirk is not selling truth. Like any propaganda outlet, Falkirk melds partial truths with distortions to create a coherent worldview—one that comforts the audience while misleading it. There is no other way to explain the debunked claims of election fraud that Falkirk treats seriously, or the consistently shoddy interpretations of the Bible and history that would be considered sophomoric in Liberty’s own undergraduate classes. The Falkirk Center doesn’t even do a good job at creating alternate realities. Everything falls apart under the barest level of scrutiny—that is, if you can steel yourself to actually engage with all the mind-numbing content.

The Falkirk Center: Liberty University’s Slime Factory – The Bulwark

Antifa? Yeah, that’s the ticket!

One of the organizers of the Trump boat parade that sank a family’s boat in Portland, Oregon, in August was arrested Wednesday in the attempted coup on the Capitol.

Kristina Malimon, 28, was arrested on charges of unlawful entry and violating curfew. Her mother, Yevgeniya Malimon, 54, was also arrested on the same charges.

Malimon is the vice chair for the Young Republicans of Oregon. According to her bio on the organization’s website, she is also an ambassador to Turning Point USA and Liberty University’s pro-Trump think tank, the Falkirk Center. She is also listed as a delegate for the Multnomah County Republican Party.

Julia Reinstein, Kristina Malimon, Organizer Of A Trump Boat Parade, Arrested (Buzzfeed).

Yeah. It was all Antifa false flag stuff. That’s the ticket.

TOS

We talked about why we need more social media bans earlier this week and a friend who works in a tech-adjacent sector sent along something great. My buddy drafted the “Terms of Service” agreement he would use in the event he created a social network. Here they are:

> This social network is like a party I’m throwing at my house, and you’re all invited. So here’s the deal. I’m not gonna write a whole list of rules on a chalkboard like I’m your third-grade substitute teacher. I don’t mind you being rowdy because this is a fun party in my house. But if you cross the line, I’ll kick you out on your ass. Where is the line? I’m not going to try to explain it to you, so just keep yourself in check so you don’t cross it.
>
> But I’m not going to make any pretense here that I’m “fair” or “objective”. If I like you, I’ll probably let you get away with more. If I don’t like you but you’re still making the party cool, I’ll probably cut you some slack. You might get a warning, or you might not. Look, I’m partying too, and I don’t always have time to do warnings. Sometimes there will be a misunderstanding and I’ll kick you out when I should not have, and maybe I’ll regret it later. But probably not.
>
> But if you’re a real ass, you’ll be kicked out so hard that you’ll be staggering your drunken way down the street, mumbling to yourself about how unfair it was, and hearing the loud music from my amazing party which will be going on without you. And we won’t even miss you.
>
> So don’t complain to me about my party. Behave yourself and know that I am arbitrary and capricious in defense of the rocking time we are having. And don’t ask me to be “fair” because I’m just not.

This is exactly right. A TOS is not Hammurabi’s Code. It’s a set of guidelines subject to change at any minute that exist not to protect any individual “rights” but to make the product the company owns function better.

And people who pretend that this isn’t the case are either lying. Or socialists.

Jonathan V. Last, This Cult Is Ruining People’s Lives – The Triad

This, too, needs to be said:

I am insisting upon a different sort of consistency, one that rejects easy explanations and accepts that occurrences like the breaching of the Capitol on January 6 are as complex as any other part of human life. What I refuse to concede is the inhumanity of the costumed hundreds — a fraction of the total number of those who had traveled to Washington to hear President Trump speak. It is absurd, as Dickens once put it, to talk of such an event

> as if it were the only harvest ever known under the skies that had not been sown—as if nothing had ever been done, or omitted to be done, that had led to it—as if observers of the wretched millions … and of the misused and perverted resources that should have made them prosperous, had not seen it inevitably coming, years before, and had not in plain words recorded what they saw.

Last year I recognized the unmistakable signs of coming violence, and not only of the sort we are used to regarding as “political,” the surge in crime rates, drug addiction, sexual exploitation of children, and so-called deaths of despair. I for one do not understand how it is that people accustomed to talking about the very real consequences of unemployment, who take mental health seriously and understand the relationship between crime, education, poverty, and civil unrest, were able to wave away the cost of our lockdown measures.

… Washington, D.C., is under martial law, which means thousands of National Guardsmen reading Atlas Shrugged or sleeping under the same statues protesters would have been allowed to destroy only a few weary months ago. Joe Biden’s inauguration will become what President Trump once fantasized about: a military event, a quasi-fascistic spectacle of raw power, like the proclamation of a new emperor by a detail of leering praetorians.

This is the sort of thing people usually protest.

Matthew Walther, Where do riots come from?.

Not all January 6 demonstrators are criminals in any sense, insofar as not all entered the Capitol.

Not all January 6 demonstrators who entered the Capitol are guilty of the same seditious crimes.

For Civic Hygiene and deterrence, we need to hammer the worse offenders with the most serious charges the evidence supports. I don’t know how many of those there are, but I wouldn’t be surprised by hundreds of 10+ year sentences.

But I’ll be disappointed if some who entered the Capitol, if convincingly chastened, don’t get something like probation with low felonies reduced to high misdemeanors if the probationary period is completed without violation of any conditions.

Lie down with dogs, rise up with fleas

This isn’t about, anymore, the Electoral College, this is about the future of the party, and whether you’re going to ostracize and excommunicate President Trump from the party. Well, guess what? Millions of his fans will leave as well.

Rand Paul, quoted by Zachary Evans, Rand Paul: Senator Warns Republicans Will Leave Party if GOP Senators Back Impeachment | National Review

He’s probably right, which is what makes doing the right thing for the country so hard now that Trump has taken the GOP from Zombie Reaganism to the main host of QAnon.


The Four Caucuses of the GOP.

Here’s where we are: the GOP (at least in the House) broke down into four broad groups: The Profiles in Courage; the Sedition Caucus; the Mugwumps; and the Terrified.

I. The Profiles in Courage Caucus

The 10 Republicans who voted to impeach Trump

II. The Mugwump Caucus

This consisted of representatives who seemed to fully understand the enormity of Trump’s conduct… but still voted against impeachment.

III. The Sedition Caucus

We know their names: the 138 GOP reps who voted to overturn the presidential election, even after the failed insurrection attempt. Many of them had also signed a letter of support for the absurd and mendacious Texas lawsuit that sought to disenfranchise tens of millions of voters, and overturn the presidential election.

They make up nearly 2/3 of the House GOP Conference.

IV. The Terrified.

We don’t know how many Republicans were simply too afraid to vote yes, but fear was definitely a factor.

Charlie Sykes, Defeated, Disgraced, Twice Impeached – Morning Shots


When Trump leaves office, my party faces a choice: We can dedicate ourselves to defending the Constitution and perpetuating our best American institutions and traditions, or we can be a party of conspiracy theories, cable-news fantasies, and the ruin that comes with them. We can be the party of Eisenhower, or the party of the conspiracist Alex Jones. We can applaud Officer Goodman or side with the mob he outwitted. We cannot do both.

In 1922, G. K. Chesterton called America “a nation with the soul of a church.” But according to a recent study of dozens of countries, none has ditched religious belief faster since 2007 than the U.S. Without going into the causes, we can at least acknowledge one cost: For generations, most Americans understood themselves as children of a loving God, and all had a role to play in loving their neighbors. But today, many Americans have no role in any common story.

Conspiracy theories are a substitute. Support Donald Trump and you are not merely participating in a mundane political process—that’s boring. Rather, you are waging war on a global sex-trafficking conspiracy! No one should be surprised that QAnon has found a partner in the empty, hypocritical, made-for-TV deviant strain of evangelicalism that runs on dopey apocalypse-mongering. (I still consider myself an evangelical, even though so many of my nominal co-religionists have emptied the term of all historic and theological meaning.)

Senator Ben Sasse (emphasis added) did not willingly lie down with the Orange dog, but his party did. He really grasps the nettle here. Highly recommended unless you shun politics entirely.

Back by Popular Demand

As a retired attorney Never Trumper, I picked a lousy time, January 4 or 5, to damage my first-string computer so badly that it had to be decommissioned and hospitalized. My second-string computer lacks a smooth process for WordPress blogging, since the WordPress block editor strikes me as profoundly stupid and unusable. 

On the bright side, first-stringer has been released from medical care, and I was able to make notes all along the momentous way from Wednesday afternoon the 6th to date. So without further ado, my curated “best-of” notes of the last ten days.

January 6

After the riots began, I was mostly devoted to watching things develop on Television, looking for the least stupid coverage available. I believe I concluded that CNN fit that bill. I also noted:

  • The late 1990s, my wife’s car bore a bumper sticker saying “My Disgust With the Current Administration Cannot Be Expressed Here.” I wish I had one of those bumper stickers now.
  • I wish the press would stop talking about Congress being prevented from discharging its “sacred” duty. I will settle for solemn duty.

January 7

Donald Trump has been deformed and deranged for much of his life. It has been the pattern of his life to lie and to cheat, to intimidate and hurt others, to act without conscience, to show no remorse, and to make everything about himself. None of this was a secret when he ran for president, and certainly none of it was a secret once he became president. His viciousness, volatility, and nihilism were on display almost from the moment he took office. As president, he has acted just as one would have expected. He has never deviated from who he is.

Peter Werner, Republicans Own This Insurrection – The Atlantic


There is no excuse for political violence, and Trump, admittedly, did not ask anyone to engage in violence. However, if you tell people that their votes didn’t count, that the election was a sham, that the election you lost wasn’t even close but in fact a landslide in your favor, it’s only natural to expect that some people will be inclined to resort to violence, because the whole point of elections is to settle political matters without violence. If the election process is a total fraud, then violence is to be expected.

Even in the face of the violence yesterday, Trump, while telling the rioters to go home, also continued to insist that he really won in a landslide, thus continuing to foment violence. He is unfit to be president.

When Are We Going to Admit that Trump is Unfit to be President? – Reason.com


David French
@DavidAFrench

Tell me again that character doesn’t matter.

Tell me again that the only concern about Trump is with his “manners.”

You monumental hypocrites and cowards. Look what you’ve done.


Trump goosed his own mob of supporters in DC this morning, saying in a speech:

> “All of us here today do not want to see our election victory stolen by emboldened radical Democrats. We will never give up. We will never concede. It will never happen. You don’t concede when there’s death involved. Our country has had enough. We will not take it anymore.”

He said: “We will never take back our country with weakness.”

And then they went in and invaded the Capitol …

Rod Dreher, Trump’s Weimar America


Unlike so many other disturbances over the years, the events at the Capitol yesterday did not represent a policy dispute, a disagreement about a foreign war or the behavior of police. They were part of an argument over the validity of democracy itself: A violent mob declared that it should decide who becomes the next president, and Trump encouraged its members. So did his allies in Congress, and so did the far-right propagandists who support him. For a few hours, they prevailed.

Anne Applebaum, What Trump and His Mob Taught the World About America – The Atlantic


18 USC §2384—Seditious Conspiracy
If two or more persons in any State or Territory, or in any place subject to the jurisdiction of the United States, conspire to overthrow, put down, or to destroy by force the Government of the United States, or to levy war against them, or to oppose by force the authority thereof, or by force to prevent, hinder, or delay the execution of any law of the United States, or by force to seize, take, or possess any property of the United States contrary to the authority thereof, they shall each be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than twenty years, or both.(Emphases added)

What Is Seditious Conspiracy? – Reason.com

This was not simple trespass. Some of those people need the full 20 years, starting with Q Shaman, a QAnon leader/celebrity.


The problem here is that it’s Trump’s job to prevent and stop rioting, especially rioting against federal institutions. He’s supposed to prevent and stop such behavior even when it’s promoted by total strangers to him. He has a special responsibility to prevent and stop such behavior by people who are on his side, since those are the ones whom he can most effectively try to calm even when they’re already in a rioting mood.

He most certainly isn’t supposed to say things—even constitutionally protected things—that are pretty likely to cause harms of the sort that we hired him to stop. The incitement test, which applies equally to all speakers, doesn’t capture this factor, nor should it. This factor is all about the special responsibilities of government officials (Presidents, governors, mayors, police chiefs, legislators, and the like). Such officials are supposed to be politically savvy enough to know what’s likely to produce (even contrary to their intentions) criminal conduct, and are supposed to organize their speech and action in a way that minimizes this, rather than making it especially likely.

Trump’s failure was a failure not as a speaker, of the sort that strips speakers of First Amendment protection. It was a failure, a massive and unjustifiable failure, as a public servant.

Incitement and Ordinary Speakers; Duty and Political Leaders – Reason.com

Especially shameful by Trump and his little leg-humpin’ friends:

  • Trump immediately went after the most loyal ally he’s had the past four years: “Mike Pence didn’t have the courage to do what should have been done to protect our Country and our Constitution.” Marc Short, a top aide to Pence, confirmed that he was denied entry into the White House last night because Trump blamed him for Pence’s “betrayal.”
  • These walkbacks are, without question, a welcome development. But they are also evidence that the legislators’ planned objections were never really about correcting widespread voter fraud—they were about political expediency. Theoretically, nothing that transpired on Wednesday should have changed anybody’s mind about the existence of voter fraud. But it sure heightened the political ramifications of continuing to go along with the mob.

The Morning Dispatch: A Dark Day on Capitol Hill (emphasis added)


“This isn’t who we are as Americans,” the president-elect insisted. Yes, old men are entitled to their delusions, but the rest of us are not obliged to share them. Biden could not be any more wrong: This is exactly who we are.

“We must not normalize Donald Trump!” A hundred thousand variations on that sentence have been published in the past four years. It is a stupid sentence. Donald Trump does not require normalization. He is as normal as diabetes, as all-American as shooting up your high school.

The Trump presidency began in shame and dishonesty. It ends in shame, dishonesty, cowardice, and rebellion against the Constitution. For the past few weeks, the right-wing media, including the big talk-radio shows, has been coyly calling for a revolution. Of course they never thought they’d actually get one: That kind of talk is good for business — keep the rubes riled up and they won’t change the channel when the commercials come around on the half-hour. I never had much hope for the likes of Sean Hannity, tragically born too late to be a 1970s game-show host, but to watch Senator Ted Cruz descend into this kind of dangerous demagoguery as he jockeys to get out in front of the Trump parade as its new grand marshal has induced despair.

On May 4, 2016, I posted a little note to the Corner, headlined: “Pre-Planning My ‘I Told You So.’” It reads, in part: “Republicans, remember: You asked for this.” The path that the Republican Party and the conservative movement have taken in the past four years is not one that was forced on them — it is the product of choices that were made and of compromises that were entered into too willingly by self-interested men and women seeking money, celebrity, and power.

Of course it ends in violence — this is, after all, America.

Kevin D. Williamson


None of his policy achievements outweigh the paranoid extremism he has directed like a missile at the constitutional order. Pointing to his “enemies” does not excuse his behavior.

Matthew Continetti, Capitol Hill Protests: Trump Must Pay | National Review

In other words, we’ve become a bunch of damned ideologues who can’t see past our issue checklists to meta-issues, such as “This candidate ticks all the right boxes, but he’s a toxic narcissist, lifelong philanderer, cheat and con man. No way.”

There will be time to sort through the wreckage of the conservative movement and the Republican Party. There is not as much time — a little less than 14 days — to constrain the president before he plunges the nation’s capital into havoc again. Incitement to trespass, harassment, and destruction cannot go unanswered. The Constitution offers remedies. Pursue them — for no other reason than to deter the president from escalation. There must be a costS for reckless endangerment of the United States government. Trump must pay.

Matthew Continetti, Capitol Hill Protests: Trump Must Pay | National Review


This attack wasn’t just foreseeable, it was foreseen. At The Dispatch, we have been warning about the possibility of serious political violence for months. The president and many of his supporters have falsely claimed that the presidential election was stolen and have trafficked in transparently ridiculous conspiracy theories. They have told bizarre tales about false and even impossible schemes to corrupt the vote. And they’ve done this while speaking in apocalyptic terms about the fate of the nation.

Impeach Donald Trump, Remove Him, and Bar Him From Holding Office Ever Again – The Dispatch. Note the “bar him from holding office again” part.

This is from a conservative publication whose purpose is not “Never Trump” but whose sanity and decency has pretty well rooted it in that camp even as it casts its issue nets more widely.

January 8

Trump doesn’t care or doesn’t understand that he lost the election. He doesn’t care or doesn’t understand that his legal challenges, hindered in part by the stubborn facts on the ground and in part by the characteristic half-assedness of most of his endeavors, failed miserably. He doesn’t care about the idea of due process or any process at all, really, except to the extent that it can benefit him. He has consistently called for lawbreaking behavior to be deployed against journalists and activists he dislikes. He thinks he has a right to unleash constant, unhinged conspiracy theories against his enemies, but readily threatens his own critics with lawsuits. This is all deeply ingrained habit for him.

Before there was a single moment of violence yesterday, we were already in unprecedented territory: an outgoing president addressing his most deranged fans, continuing to insist that he had won an election that he had in fact lost by a significant margin (306 votes constituted a ‘landslide’ in 2016, according to the man himself), riling them up in a way that almost certainly led directly to what followed.

Yesterday was also about resentment in its rawest, least focused form. Trump was elected in 2016 in part because he was able to capitalize off a growing sense among many Americans that they have been “left behind.” There are elements of this sentiment that are well-founded and elements that are misguided, and it’s too big a subject to unpack here, but the point is that these feelings have manifested, in Trumpism, more as a general confused populist lashing-out and desire for a heroic figure than as the embrace of any specific politics or policies per se. Sure, in theory Trump voters are against illegal immigration and against China “screwing us” and for “American business” and against “thugs and looters,” but really, their political commitments start and stop at listening to Trump say mean things about the things they dislike and nice things about the things they like. They like Trump because he gives voice to their fuzzy resentments, fuzzily.

A Perfect Ending To The Trump Presidency – Singal-Minded


For roughly the past three decades, right-wing media personalities have enriched themselves by cultivating and encouraging a virulent anti-liberalism among a segment of Republican voters. As the ranks of these voters have grown and they’ve been networked together into virtual communities through social media, increasing numbers of elected officials have begun to chase them, seeking their support, by validating the increasingly deranged views they are fed by media profit-seekers.

Donald Trump’s primary and general-election victories in 2016 massively enhanced the power and intensity of this anti-liberal feedback loop. What we’ve witnessed since the November election has been its fullest flowering yet: the president, right-wing media, and dozens of members of Congress spreading and validating conspiratorial lies among a segment of the electorate — and then doing its bidding in the name of democratic representation.

Why did Ted Cruz, Josh Hawley, and the others flatter the delusions of those who stormed the Capitol building and cheer them on by casting their symbolic votes to reject the outcome of the election? They did so because, as a YouGov poll conducted on Wednesday made clear, roughly 45 percent of Republican voters approved of what happened in Washington that afternoon.

The insurrectionists are their constituents.

Damon Linker, The bloody power of symbolic gestures


For years now, my central thesis about American public life has been that it is fundamentally unreal, a kind of live action role-playing game augmented by digital technology.

The competing participatory narratives by which we experience politics have almost no connection to the banal reality of a sclerotic two-party system that primarily exists in order to increase the gross domestic product and the share prices of publicly traded corporations. Even at their respective partisan extremes — QAnon, Russiagate conspiracies, “Abolish the family” lunacy — the stories we tell ourselves about the perfidy of our leaders are a kind of ideological fan fiction.

On Wednesday we saw the limits of LARPing. The longed-for irruption of what Marxist intellectuals call “the real” — an actual attempt at the destruction of one of the most enduring symbols of the American civic order — happened. Supporters of a president who only moments before had been insisting that the recent election was illegitimate took him at his word and stormed the U.S. Capitol, smashing windows, occupying the floors of both chambers, vandalizing offices, skirmishing with police officers.

What did Wednesday’s events show us? I wish I could believe that the response would be a collective feeling that something has gone too far, that our tacit encouragement of a lunatic and conspiratorial politics has taken us to a dark place far beyond the comfortable ports of liberal capitalist decadence.
This does not seem to me likely. Instead I expect that in the weeks and months to come all the competing meta-narratives will be reinforced by Wednesday’s violence. The basic epistemic disjuncture in American society will be strengthened. Fifty percent of the country is not going to change its mind about the results of the election. A senile president incapable of maintaining order in the capital of the republic will continue to be regarded as an essentially Hitlerian figure rather than Wall Street’s second choice for the enrichment of our ruling class.

Matthew Walther, The limits of LARPing


Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg announced Thursday the company was banning President Trump from its platform “indefinitely,” at least through the end of his term. “We believe the risks of allowing the President to continue to use our service during this period are simply too great,” Zuckerberg wrote. Snapchat and Twitch made similar decisions, while Twitter reinstated the president’s account following a short suspension.

[O]ne group at least seems to be unshaken by the shocking events: The core Trump base. How has the Trump movement avoided soul-searching following a day on which some of its most committed members stormed Congress by force? Simply by rewriting the facts of the event into something consistent with their worldview, in which America’s only violent political insurrectionists come from the radical left.

Mere minutes after the motley crew of Proud Boys, militia members, and other MAGA faithful were evicted from the Capitol Wednesday, a false narrative had already begun going viral among Trump supporters on social media. The people who stormed police barricades by force at the Capitol, the story ran, had actually been Antifa interlopers posing as supporters of the president.

Never mind that the crowd had come to D.C. and marched to Congress at Trump’s explicit request; never mind that some of those filmed trashing the place were well-known alt-right personalities; never mind that others interviewed inside were perfectly chatty about who they were and why they were there; never mind that the only “evidence” provided for this theory was a couple screenshots of misidentified faces and tattoos. Boosted by credulous and sloppy right-wing web media, loose-cannon MAGA celebrities, Fox News hosts “just asking questions,” and even members of Congress, the theory that the Capitol insurrection had been instigated by false-flag leftists almost immediately took over the pro-Trump internet.

Startlingly, even Trump supporters who had been physically present at the riot—who had personally stepped across crumpled barricades, pushed through smoke and tear gas over the Capitol lawn and onto the steps of the building itself, and seen the breach with their own eyes—had come around to this narrative by the following day. On Thursday, your Morning Dispatchers interviewed more than a dozen who had returned to the National Mall for a second consecutive day. Nearly all insisted—without any prompting—that the only people who had been truly violent the day before had been covert Antifa operators.

“The whole thing was set up,” said one South Carolina woman who declined to give her name. “They wanted the people to get pumped up and do that. … The picture of the guy sitting on Pelosi’s desk or whatever? I guarantee you he was working for Antifa—or whoever it is, whatever organization.” (It was, in fact, Richard Barnett from Gravette, Arkansas. The FBI reportedly visited his house yesterday.) 

“There was, you know, a window was broken,” said Christian, a protester who had driven up from Texas earlier this week and said he had witnessed the break-in but not entered the Capitol himself. “Some people were kind of doing it—either they were overzealous or there were some agitators within. It looks like some people have identified a few likely Antifa members based on their tattoos and stuff … For the people who were genuine Trump supporters, which there probably were a few, I don’t know if they were the first in—maybe they just tagged along.”

The Morning Dispatch: Aftermath


In my reflections on Donald Trump when he was running for President in 2016, I made one significant error: I didn’t think he would nominate responsible judges and Justices. I thought he would hand out judicial appointments like candy to friends and toadies. But it turned out that the judiciary couldn’t capture his attention, so he farmed out the decisions to others who acted on sound conservative principles. (Given how many of the very judges he appointed ruled against his recent frivolous lawsuits, precisely because they were honest conservative jurists rather than toadies, I wonder if he’s belatedly reassessing his priorities.)

looking backward


Trump is now and always has been delusional. He lives in an imaginary world. His insistence that he won the last election in a “landslide” is psychologically indistinguishable from his declaration on his first day that his Inaugural crowd was larger than his predecessor’s. For four years, the actual evidence did not matter. It still doesn’t. Any rumor that helps him, however ludicrous, is true; every cold fact that hurts him, however trivial or banal, doesn’t exist. For four years as president, any advisor who told him the truth, rather than perpetuating his delusions, had an immediate expiration date. For four years, an army of volunteer propagandists knowingly disseminated his insane, cascading torrent of lies.

And Trump really believes these fantasies. He is not a calculating man. He is a creature of total impulse. As I wrote almost five years ago now, quoting Plato, a tyrant is a man “not having control of himself [who] attempts to rule others”; a man flooded with fear and love and passion, while having little or no ability to restrain or moderate them; a “real slave to the greatest fawning,” a man who “throughout his entire life … is full of fear, overflowing with convulsions and pains.” For the ancients, a tyrant represented the human whose appetites and fantasies had no form of rational control.

Quotes For The Week
“After this [rally], we’re going to walk down [to the Capitol] and I’ll be there with you. … We’re probably not going to be cheering so much for some of [the senators] because you’ll never take back our country with weakness. You have to show strength, and you have to be strong,” – insurrectionist leader Donald J. Trump, just before the violent assault on the Capitol.
“I do not believe that the founders of our country intended to invest in the vice president the unilateral authority to decide which electoral votes should be counted,” – Mike Pence.
“I can’t imagine that the president wanted this,” – Rick Santorum, deluding himself again.
“Mike Pence didn’t have the courage to do what should have been done,” – Trump.
“We love you. You are very special,” – Trump, in a taped statement addressing the seditionists who attacked the Capitol.
“Arrest everyone who has violated the fencing. Prosecute [the] trespassers [to] the fullest extent of the law for any crime beyond the simple trespass. Conclude the proceeding and confirm the election of President-elect Biden. Rule of law conservatives cannot be silent about this,” – Hugh Hewitt, the right-wing radio host of the old eponymous Dish award “given for the most egregious attempts to label Barack Obama as un-American, alien, treasonous,” on Wednesday.
“The other day, because this is America, the 82-year-old hands that used to pick somebody else’s cotton went to the polls and picked her youngest son to be a United States senator,” – Raphael Warnock, the first black senator from Georgia.
“It turns out telling voters the election is rigged is not a good way to turn out your voters,” – Mitt Romney, on the Democratic triumph in Georgia.
“The Oklahoma City bombing killed the momentum of the small government movement. This is likely to do the same thing to the Trumpian right,” – Charles Murray, author of Coming Apart: The State of White America, 1960–2010. God I hope so.
“Media: quit labeling DC protestors ‘Conservatives, Republicans, Tea Partiers, Trump Supporters, etc’ LOOK IN TO WHO THESE PEOPLE ARE who’d choose an apparent leaderless insane swarm to create a perception of condoned violence. KNOCK IT OFF. And to any insincere, fake DC ‘patriots’ used as PLANTS — you will be found out,” – 2008 veep nominee Sarah Palin, implying that the deadly attempted coup at the Capitol was a false flag operation.
“If our capable floor staff hadn’t grabbed them [the electoral college ballots rescued from the Senate floor], they would have been burned by the mob,” – Senator Jeff Merkley, tweeting a photo of the ballot chests.
“We’re storming the Capitol! It’s a revolution!” – a Trump-cult member from Knoxville, Tennessee, on camera.
“This [storming of the Capitol] didn’t happen during the U.S. Civil War,” – Jonathan Greenblatt, head of the Anti-Defamation League.
“It is a sickening and heartbreaking sight. This is how election results are disputed in a banana republic — not our democratic republic,” – George W. Bush.
“Today, the United States Capitol — the world’s greatest symbol of self-government — was ransacked while the leader of the free world cowered behind his keyboard — tweeting against his Vice President for fulfilling the duties of his oath to the Constitution,” – Republican Senator Ben Sasse.
“Destroying property, which can be replaced, is not violence,” – Nikole Hannah-Jones, on the rioting and looting this past summer.
“Right now, Republican leaders have a choice made clear in the desecrated chambers of democracy. They can continue down this road and keep stoking the raging fires. Or they can choose reality and take the first steps toward extinguishing the flames. They can choose America,” – Barack Obama.
“What’s the downside for humoring him for this little bit of time?”- a senior Republican official quoted in the WaPo on November 9, two months before the deadly attempted coup at the Capitol.

Andrew Sullivan, This Is The Face Of The GOP Now – The Weekly Dish (emphasis added)


[T]here’s virtually no popular support for the idea that social media companies should permit insurrectionists (of any ideological stripe) to use their platform to plan or incite violent unrest.
 
But what if the president of the United States is the insurrectionist-in-chief?

When Donald Trump was elevated to the presidency, his core supporters pursued a fundamentally unsustainable course. They simultaneously celebrated his norm-breaking while furiously demanding that the response to Trump follow all applicable norms. Only Trump could be the bull in the china shop. Only Trump could be the horse in the hospital.

Well, the bull has broken a lot of china. And on Wednesday, the nation’s very ability to secure the liberty that’s the lifeblood of the republic wavered and cracked. A Trump mob achieved what the Confederacy could not. It launched a violent, deadly, and sustained occupation of the Capitol. It halted for a time the vital process of counting electoral votes, a process essential to the peaceful transition of power.

Why did this happen? There were many causes, but one cause—perhaps the principal cause—was the president of the United States using private platforms to spew an avalanche of grotesque lies and inflammatory rhetoric into the body politic. He triggered an actual insurrection.

So the advice I gave more than a year ago—advice I thought applied only to unstable countries in the developing world—applies here. It applies now. Should social media companies continue to provide a platform to Trump? No. They should not.

David French, Toss Trump Off Twitter


77 percent of Trump’s voters—77 percent—say he was the rightful winner and that the election was stolen from him.

I don’t think that most of the people in the mainstream of American culture, who have viewed this week with horror, have any idea what they’re up against.

It Could Have Been Worse. – The Triad

January 9

I found myself focusing on things other than our political woes, but made on note:

“People were willing to die for this man and he just threw them all under the bus. That’s the only thing that’s shameful about the events of the past 36 hours,” Nick Fuentes, the host of the America First podcast and the unofficial leader of the white nationalist Groyper Army, angrily tweeted, shortly after Trump released a video Thursday night in which he conceded that Biden would be the next president and called for political reconciliation.

Cassandra Fairbanks, a prominent MAGA activist, tweeted: “[He] tells angry people to march to the capitol [and then] proceeds to throw his supporters under the bus.”

Politico

Had these people really not noticed yet that loyalty for Trump is entirely, utterly, a one-way street? (Not that I think “threw under the bus” is a very good description of what Donald Trump did after Congress finished counting electoral votes, but it speaks to the deluded mindset of people who thought Trump cared.)

January 10

As befits Sunday, I pretty much gave it a rest.

A Jewish publication blames Wednesday’s riot on post-Christian pagans.
Christian David French blames it on sorely misguided Christians.
I’m going to have to chew on this one a while.

January 11

The Atlantic’s Caitlyn Flanagan gave me some guilty pleasure lampooning the insurrectionists:

Here they were, a coalition of the willing: deadbeat dads, YouPorn enthusiasts, slow students, and MMA fans. They had heard the rebel yell, packed up their Confederate flags and Trump banners, and GPS-ed their way to Washington. After a few wrong turns, they had pulled into the swamp with bellies full of beer and Sausage McMuffins, maybe a little high on Adderall, ready to get it done. Like Rush Limbaugh before them, they were in search of their own Presidential Medals of Freedom, and like Donald Trump himself, they were ready to relieve themselves on the withering soul of the nation and the marble floors of the Capitol building. Out of darkness we were born and into darkness we were returning.

The Viking guy was frightening, until it turned out that he’s a notorious ham who shows up at lots of Trump events and loves publicity. Last May, in Phoenix, he was pounding his drum and yelling, “Thank you, President Trump!” and “Thank you, Q!” until a reporter approached him to ask for an interview, and in an instant he turned into Beto O’Rourke. “My name is Jake Angeli,” he said smoothly. “That’s J-A-K-E and A-N-G-E-L-I. Angel with an i.”

The comedian Norm MacDonald has observed that the second-worst job in the world is Crack Whore and that the worst job in the world is Assistant Crack Whore. So let us cast our lonely eyes on the specter of Assistant Viking, Aaron Mostofsky, who was dressed in pelts and carried a police riot shield and who—in a rare Viking flourish—was bespectacled. Can you tell us what you’re doing here today? a reporter asked him. “What I’m doing here today is,” he began, but here the words began to fail him. He looked around and then said he was there to “express my opinion as a free American, my beliefs that this election was stolen. Um—we were cheated.” He adjusted one of his pelts and said that certain blue states—“like New York”—had once been red, and “were stolen.”

Why had she come to Washington? “We’re storming the Capitol!” she whined. “It’s a revolution!” Patty Hearst was more up to speed on the philosophy and goals of the Symbionese Liberation Army before she got out of the trunk. These people were dressed like cartoon characters, they believe that the country is under attack from pedophiles and “globalists,” and they are certain that Donald Trump won the election. In other words, the Founders’ worst fear—that a bunch of dumbasses would elect a tyrant—had come to pass.

All things are born, live, and then die. We can remember who we are, and keep going—maybe even moving forward. Or we can make a mockery of ourselves and die in filth.

Caitlyn Flanagan, Worst Revolution Ever – The Atlantic]

Thanks, Caitlyn. That (especially the first paragraph) was cathartic in a guilty pleasure sort of way.


  • Ronna McDaniel and Tommy Hicks were reelected chair and co-chair of the Republican National Committee, respectively. The pair—who are both close allies of President Trump—will serve through the 2022 midterm elections.
  • Alt-right activist Ali Alexander claimed in a video posted before the protest that he was working with three House Republicans—Reps. Paul Gosar, Andy Biggs and Mo Brooks—to organize the event. Alexander said he consulted the lawmakers as he “schemed up putting maximum pressure on Congress while they were voting…”
  • Alex Jones, the InfoWars conspiracy theorist who claimed the Sandy Hook shootings were faked and has been publicly praised by President Trump, claimed in a video that the White House asked him three days before the event to lead the march to the Capitol.
  • And sources familiar with the investigation tell The Dispatch that there are indications some of the militia groups involved had plans that included harming lawmakers and harming or capturing Vice President Mike Pence.
  • Who should be held accountable for Wednesday’s siege on the Capitol? According to conservative columnist George Will, President Trump, Sen. Josh Hawley, and Sen. Ted Cruz. “The three repulsive architects of Wednesday’s heartbreaking spectacle—mobs desecrating the Republic’s noblest building and preventing the completion of a constitutional process—must be named and forevermore shunned,” he writes in his latest column. Even though Trump “lit the fuse for the riot in the weeks before the election,” the president’s conspiratorial antics were enabled by Hawley and Cruz and their refusal to certify the Electoral College vote on Wednesday, Will writes. While Trump is gone in just over a week, it will take longer to “scrub” Hawley and Cruz from public life. “Until that hygienic outcome is accomplished, from this day forward, everything they say or do or advocate should be disregarded as patent attempts to distract attention from the lurid fact of what they have become. Each will wear a scarlet ‘S’ as a seditionist.”

The Morning Dispatch: It Could Have Been So Much Worse

January 12

Republican Attorney General Official Resigns Over Group’s Role in Capitol March
Adam Piper was executive director of Republican Attorneys General Association, which sent robocalls asking people to join rally that turned into deadly riot

The executive director of the Republican Attorneys General Association resigned after the group was criticized for soliciting thousands of Trump supporters to march on the Capitol last week and fight to support President Trump’s claims of widespread voter fraud.

The Republican Attorneys General Association’s policy arm, the Rule of Law Defense Fund, authorized robocall messages urging “patriots” to join last Wednesday’s march to “fight to protect the integrity of our elections.”

… Within the organization, however, Mr. Marshall has called for an internal investigation into the robocall messages. “We are engaging in a vigorous review,” he told reporters in Montgomery, Ala., Monday. “I was completely unaware of our connection to this rally,” he said.

Other Republican attorneys general have also distanced themselves from last week’s violence.

Utah Attorney General Sean Reyes, former chair of the Rule of Law Defense Fund, disavowed involvement.

“AG Reyes was not involved in organizing the rally in Washington DC,” his office said in a statement Friday, noting that “under his tenure, RLDF was not involved in any political rallies.”

What does a rally have to do with the (nonexistent) legal merits of “stop the steal”? None. Then why would AGs push a political rally?

January 13

What do you call it when rightwingnuts do something horrible and then pretend it was leftwingnuts conducting a “false flag” operation? Is that a “false flag false flag” operation?


Pence Says He Won’t Invoke 25th Amendment, Setting Stage for Impeachment Vote
Some Republican lawmakers say they would vote to impeach Trump in the wake of Capitol riot. House Democrats passed a resolution Tuesday demanding that Pence and a majority of the cabinet invoke the 25th Amendment.

Pence had no good options. Or, to put it another way, “lie down with dogs, rise up with fleas” is a cosmic law, and he lay down with a dog in 2016.


One of the chief reasons I couldn’t vote for Donald Trump is the ugly way he talks about human beings. That said, I underestimated how many people may have voted for him because of his rough, threatening, even violent talk, rather than despite. I never thought we would see what we saw in the Capitol. I do think it reached a whole new level post-election, but as I said in my syndicated column this week, people such as Jonah Goldberg, Jay Nordlinger, and David French were right to constantly sound alarms.

This is a time for humility and repentance, and for the Left, too. We’ve been too polarized and ideologically driven with a religious-like fervor on both sides. Hurt people are hurting hurt people. We need a president who honestly wants to be president of all Americans. Including peaceful ones at the Trump rally last Wednesday.

Kathryn Jean Lopez, A Mea Culpa


Don’t skim this too lightly. It’s wicked good.

At a joint press conference, a dozen or more of the most prominent figures in the “Stop the Steal” movement gather. There’s Kevin McCarthy, Rep. Steve Scalise, Newt Gingrich, and a claque of Fox News primetime anchors. (Senators Ted Cruz and Josh Hawley are at a separate table, because no one will agree to sit with them.)

“We are here to ‘revise and extend our remarks,’” McCarthy begins in an attempt at congressional wit.

“Joe Biden is president-elect. He won. Donald Trump lost. This has been the case since a few days after election night. There was no fraud worth speaking of; the courts from one end of the country to the other have thrown out every claim of irregularity. To our eternal regret, many in my party, out of ignorance, delusion, mendacity, or fear of our own constituents, endlessly repeated outright lies emanating from the fevered mind of our delusional president, whom we never should have nominated in the first place. This helped create the climate for the most violent assault on the Capitol in 200 years. I am ashamed personally, and for my party.”

Senate GOP Leader Mitch McConnell is next.

“While I urged my colleagues to accept the electoral vote count, I bear heavy responsibility in spending the last four years ignoring the increasingly lunatic actions and rhetoric of the president. As long as he gave me my judges, I turned away from the behavior that culminated in a presidentially triggered riot. In the interest of unity, I am asking the various committee chairs to move swiftly to put President-elect Biden’s economic and national security team in place as close to January 20th as possible.

Newt Gingrich rises—slowly, with great difficulty—to acknowledge that “as a world-class historian, I knew better than to embrace the mad-as-a-hatter fantasies of the president. It’s not as if I have the mental acuity of Louie ‘Bag of Hammers’ Gohmert. But I was too busy selling my books, CDs, and commemorative coins to think about the harm I was doing to the country. I am now offering a ‘Collector’s Item’ special of videos and pen holders in honor of Joe Biden’s inaugural, just call this toll-free—”

When Gingrich has returned—slowly, painfully—to his seat, Senators Hawley and Cruz take the podium together.

“Of course we know the truth,” they recite together. “We are two of the smartest, best-credentialed senators ever: Stanford and Princeton, Yale Law and Harvard Law. But our joint lust for the presidential nomination unmoored us from any sense of decency. We are resigning our seats and—like the British politician John Profumo, who left in scandal and spent the rest of his life doing charity work—we intend to spend the coming years doing menial labor for the Little Sisters of the Poor, while engaging in prayerful meditation so that we might somehow become less reprehensible human beings.”

A few moments later, after the Fox News primetime team pledges a vow of silence, the gathering ends. And peace and tranquility settle upon our divided land.

Jeff Greenfield, Yes, by All Means, Let the Healing Begin


I hadn’t thought, before sometime in the last year, about the connotation of “impunity.” The real “tells” in last week’s riots at the U.S. Capital were the maskless rioters, smirking and taking selfies, obviously thinking that Trump and sundry Congressrats had their backs and that they were acting with impunity.

Dumbasses. Some of them are going to prison for long terms.

And, by the way, after some initial hesitation about calling the riots a “coup attempt,” because the rioters did not want personally to govern, I’m now entirely comfortable with calling a “coup attempt” the effort to disrupt the peaceful transition of power to the duly elected President so that your demagogue can remain in power.


If the price of winning your next primary is remaining silent on the question of Trump and his post-election behavior, which culminated in the storming of the Capitol by a “Hang Mike Pence!” mob, then you have lost your priorities. If you cannot explain to voters why they are wrong to give a pass to a president who behaved as Trump has done, and what it means to have a president who fouls American democracy by rousing the rabble to break down the doors of the Capitol and shout for lynching the vice president, then why are you in public service? If that’s what it takes to keep your job, why would you even want a job like that? Honestly, I do not get it.

I had an extremely frustrating conversation this evening with a friend who believes all of this was invented by the Left to discredit the president. The narrative is unfalsifiable. It’s not a question of a political disagreement; it’s about living outside of reality. All day long I’ve been getting e-mails from people who are really suffering because beloved friends and family members — even elderly parents — are completely lost in this toxic unreality of paranoia and conspiracy. I’ve never seen anything like it in my life, aside from woke militants. Something demonic is in the air. We might not need an impeachment and conviction so much as we need an exorcism.

Rod Dreher, * Impeachment As Exorcism*


The conservative Catholic writer John Jalsevac explains why he’s so angry right now. Excerpts:

> Nothing, absolutely nothing, has disturbed me more over the past four years, than the weird misuse of Christian religious language, spirituality and mysticism in service of the Trumpist political agenda ….

Rod Dreher, * Impeachment As Exorcism*


Conservative writer and radio host Erick Erickson expanded upon some of the themes we touched on above in his newsletter yesterday. Cancel culture exists, and it is a threat, he writes. But that’s not what we’re seeing in the wake of last week’s insurrection. “No, I am not sympathetic to you over major corporations deciding not to give you a penny. No, I am not sympathetic to you getting your internet social media accounts canceled. No, I am not sympathetic to you having your rising career in politics ruined,” he writes of those facing repercussions for their role in Wednesday’s events. “This was bound to happen because you overplayed your hand and your action is causing a reaction. It is an equal and opposite reaction. Trying to cancel a presidential election causes a cancelation rebound.”

The Morning Dispatch


If you asked today “what’s an evangelical?” to most people, I would want them to say: someone who believes Jesus died on the cross for our sin and in our place and we’re supposed to tell everyone about it. But for most people they’d say, “Oh, those are those people who are really super supportive of the president no matter what he does.”

Ed Stetzer interviewed in ‘How Did We Get Here?’ A Call For An Evangelical Reckoning On Trump


A related argument, lent weight by the president himself yesterday, is to suggest, hint, insinuate, or outright proclaim that impeachment could lead to violence. It could tear apart the country. Yada, yada, yada.

> “This impeachment is causing tremendous anger and you’re doing it and it’s really a terrible thing that they’re doing,” he added, in his first public comments since the deadly assault on the Capitol.
>
> “For Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer to continue on this path, I think it’s causing tremendous danger to our country and it’s causing tremendous anger. I want no violence,” Mr. Trump concluded before heading across the South Lawn to Marine One.

Maybe it could spark violence—and even if that were the case, since when do conservatives argue that we should appease potential rioters? I’ve been writing about the pernicious “riot ideology” of the 1960s left for 20 years. Lo and behold, the right has now embraced it. Moreover, the mere fact that it is plausible that Trump’s second impeachment could spark violence is an argument for why he should be impeached. Forget that he’s threatening Congress with the possibility of violence; the fact that the threat is plausible is testament to the environment he deliberately created.

But here’s my point: If Trump actually believes this stuff, the incandescently obvious moral choice is for him to resign, to spare America even greater turmoil and strife. That would be a display of Trump putting the interests of America first. The only reason for him to stick around is vanity. It’s not like there’s anything more he can do policy-wise, save issue a bunch of easily rescinded executive orders or hand out more pardons.

Jonah Goldberg

January 14

  • President Trump issued a statement yesterday (which was also texted to campaign supporters) calling for calm leading up to and on Inauguration Day. “I urge that there must be NO violence, NO lawbreaking and NO vandalism of any kind,” he said. “This is not what I stand for, and it is not what America stands for.” He expanded upon this message in a pre-recorded video as well. “Mob violence goes against everything I believe in, and everything our movement stands for,” he said. “No true supporter of mine could ever endorse political violence.” (The New illustrative case of the No True Scotsman fallacy.)
  • … ten Republicans broke ranks—sufficient to make it the most bipartisan impeachment vote in American history.
  • Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy … said the president bore responsibility for the attack … [but] argued … that the most prudent course of action would not be impeachment, but rather a “fact-finding commission and a censure resolution.” … McCarthy conditioned his comments on President Trump “accept[ing] his share of responsibility” for last week’s violence and “quell[ing] the brewing unrest.” While the former will almost assuredly never happen (at least in public) ….
  • “I had a lot of conversations with my Republican colleagues last night, and a couple of them broke down in tears, talking to me and saying that they are afraid for their lives if they vote for this impeachment.” (Rep. Jason Crow)
  • The Freedom Caucus, founded to promote limited government and reducing spending, has become in recent years little more than an enforcer of Trump loyalty ….
  • The Republican Party has a choice to make: Does it want leaders who bury their convictions for public political gain, or leaders who act on their conscience even at the risk of short-term political loss? Using Reps. Kevin McCarthy and Liz Cheney as examples of the two paths, Steve argues for the latter in a piece on the site. “I suspect in two years, in five years, in 10 years, the overwhelming majority of the country and even the majority of Republicans will look back on this moment and wonder how anyone could have voted against impeaching the president on substantive grounds,” he writes. “And the procedural arguments against doing so—there’s no time, the Senate isn’t in session, his presidency is almost finished—will feel even smaller than they feel today.”

The Morning Dispatch


Lucky are the foreign ministers of very small, very consensus-driven countries, for those who play their cards right sometimes get to hold office for many years. One of the luckiest card players out there is Jean Asselborn, the amusing polyglot who has been the foreign minister of Luxembourg since 2004. Although his country is tiny (population 613,000), the longevity of Luxembourg’s top diplomat gives him the confidence to say what he thinks—even if it is, well, undiplomatic. Last week, following the insurrection in Washington, D.C., Asselborn did exactly that: “Trump is a criminal,” he told RTL, his country’s leading broadcaster.* “A political pyromaniac who should be sent to criminal court. He’s a person who was elected democratically but who isn’t interested in democracy in the slightest.”

Anne Applebaum


It certainly was not one of those “Tell your grandchildren” moments. For the second time in a year, Donald Trump was impeached on Wednesday afternoon in the House of Representatives by a vote of 232-197, which included 10 members of his own party, after a few hours of unmemorable speechifying. The most shocking thing about it was not not being able to read Trump’s own reaction.

Matthew Walther. The remainder of Walther’s tendentious column confirms that when he’s bad, he’s dumber than a box of rocks.


The days since last Wednesday’s insurrection against the legislative branch of the United States have felt extremely odd and quite out of keeping with much of the past four years.

There’s also a different feeling in the political air — one that might best be described as being snapped back to wakefulness from a semi-conscious dream state. Or maybe a feeling of rubber hitting road after a long, drawn out sideways skid on civic black ice. We may not right our course before we crash, but at least it feels like we might have a brief window and a chance to regain control over our direction.

For the moment, at least, there’s a sense in our public life that we’ve returned to reality after four interminable years of psychological torture and abuse — a time during which the president of the United States has systematically and repeatedly used a bully pulpit amplified with powerful new communication technologies to lie to us extravagantly and constantly about nearly everything. He has conjured an alternative reality of words into which millions of our fellow citizens have gladly retreated. But the rest of us have been captured by them, too, like epistemic hostages confined to a virtual world that was imagined into existence by a narcissistic sociopath.

Damon Linker


Hypothesis: Evangelical susceptibility to QAnon is a natural extension of Evangelicalism’s steady diet of prophecy porn over more than 50 years. New Apostolic Reformation may have been an intermediate step. Hal Lindsey is a primary offender, but a teacher at my Evangelical boarding school warned us in 1964 that if Lyndon Johnson beat Barry Goldwater, the Communists planned an immediate takeover.

This crap isn’t brand new.


Insurrection and impeachment, yesterday’s All the President’s Lawyers podcast, is an extremely good discussion of the criminal law consequences and prosecutorial strategy surrounding last Wednesday’s insurrectionary Capitol riots. More than fun banter this week.


Of reports that insurrectionists are on DC dating apps, providing pictures and videos of themselves to women they’re trying to impress – some of whom are only pretending to be conservative and are sending the evidence to the FBI:

Progressive women catfishing conservative men to turn them in to the FBI. They think it’s a game. Politics justifies everything, right? What could possibly go wrong?

Rod Dreher.

Sorry, Rod, but I support those women even if they do think it’s a game. It is important that the insurrectionists and their friends understand that there are consequences – really bad ones – for following Trump into insurrection.


At 7 p.m. Eastern on Newsmax, Kelly said that there’s “overwhelming” evidence that Trump “did nothing wrong” on the day of the attack. At 8 p.m. on One America News, host Dan Ball said the Republicans who spoke out against the “political theater” of impeachment were “brave patriots.” At 9 p.m. on Fox, Sean Hannity bashed the “ten swamp Republicans” that “went along with the stunt.” Oh, and QAnon-promoting congresswoman Marjorie Taylor Greene said on Newsmax that she will file articles of impeachment against Biden on January 21.

CNN


Why would we listen to my friend Joe, who says he’s a Christian and who’s telling me about Jesus, if he also thinks that Communists are taking over America and operating a pedophile ring out of some pizza restaurant?

Ari Shapiro, * How QAnon Conspiracy Is Spreading In Christian Communities Across The U.S.*, quoting a Texas pastor who’s trying to fight QAnon.

More, and very important, stuff:

SHAPIRO: I guess one question is, if these pastors are the voices of authority within the church community, why aren’t they able to talk their parishioners out of this false belief?

BEATY: The pastors that I spoke with talked about a crisis of authority that they feel acutely as spiritual leaders. They perceive that we’re in this time when traditional forms of credibility, of verifying truth, of looking at authoritative figures as holding truth – we’re in a time when there’s a lot of mistrust of traditional sources of authority and truth. And they feel that themselves as church leaders. So they’re concerned that if they try to take on QAnon directly and speak truth instead of falsehood, that they just – they won’t be trusted. They won’t be believed.

And, also, if they try to point their church members to credible news sources, to mainstream media, that none of that will come through because, of course, according to the QAnon conspiracy theory, the mainstream media is part of the cover-up. So I think a lot of the pastors felt that their hands are tied in this time, and they’re concerned that members of their church are not only accepting falsehood and kind of believing in these falsehoods but also spreading falsehood to other people in the church. And that’s especially problematic when QAnon is being espoused by other pastors in a denomination or by leaders in a particular church.

SHAPIRO: Do you think we would find a growing belief in QAnon in any community that includes a lot of Trump supporters, or is there something specific to the white evangelical church that makes it susceptible to these messages?

BEATY: That’s a great question. I think about a poll conducted by the Billy Graham Center at Wheaton College, a prominent evangelical institution in the Chicago suburbs. This was a poll conducted in 2018 that found that over half of evangelicals, as defined by belief, are strongly convinced that the mainstream media produced fake news. And Ed Stetzer, the executive director of the Billy Graham Center, noted that that distrust in mainstream media and that willingness to write off mainstream media information as fake news opens the door for a lot of evangelicals to turn to alternative and fringe news sources, including those that traffic in conspiracy theories. So I certainly think there’s a connection there.

But, also, again, it’s that QAnon uses this explicitly spiritual language that sounds Christian. You know, there’s a clear battle between good and evil. There’s the promise of this great awakening. More people are going to wake up to these prophecies, if you will, that’s coming from Q. And so it’s easy for many white evangelicals to read their Bibles and connect the dots between what they read there and what they’re hearing from QAnon sources.

(Emphasis added)

I feel a bit of schadenfreude at the emphasized part, because bog standard American Evangelicalism is rooted in schismatic rebelliousness, and was seen as an extension of democracy in the U.S. 190-240 years ago.

I’m not even talking about guys like the Methodist Wesleys, the heirs of rebellion against Roman Catholicism (a rebellion I understand, but that’s a long story); no, sober voices like the Wesleys were the ones being rejected in favor of fire-breathers like Asbury, and innumerable individual judgments, and almost-innumerable sects and cults being born.

So it feels as if “Christian” America is reaping the whirlwind of Evangelical Protestantism’s fissiparousness. Every man is now his own pope. Pastors are, at best, facilitators or advisors. (Evanglicalism is too incoherent for this to be the whole story, but it’s a part of the story I think I know well enough to opine.)

America’s Third Great Awakening needs to be a repentant return to the Orthodox Christian faith from which Western Christendom split a thousand years ago. With God, it’s possible, but I’m not so sure it will happen until we’ve sunk even further, if then. We’re not God’s special pet.


The impeachment vote will be a vote on the president and these things. But it’ll also tell us a lot about the kinds of leaders Republicans want. Do they want leaders willing to amplify lies and deceive their constituents in the interest of political expediency? Or do they want leaders who will act out of conviction, who will do the right thing and try to persuade others, even when the short-term politics are daunting?

Any party that chooses the former doesn’t deserve to survive.

Steve Hayes, * What Kind of Leaders Do Republicans Want?*


[T]he president of the United States has systematically and repeatedly used a bully pulpit amplified with powerful new communication technologies to lie to us extravagantly and constantly about nearly everything. He has conjured an alternative reality of words into which millions of our fellow citizens have gladly retreated. But the rest of us have been captured by them, too, like epistemic hostages confined to a virtual world that was imagined into existence by a narcissistic sociopath.

What we’ve confronted at long last this past week, as shock from the events on Capitol Hill have sunk in and reverberated throughout the nation, is that lies can have dire consequences — that if enough people believe enough of them, the result can be an all-too-real disaster. That has had the salutary effect of inspiring genuine concern in some of those who, until now, have been perfectly content to play along with the game, convinced that they benefitted from the transformation of our public life into a lunatic asylum.

… [There is] a growing realization that turning our politics into an unhinged reality show has turned reality itself into a madhouse — that the president and his party piling lie upon lie upon lie has had terrible consequences, transforming a segment of the American public into lunatics convinced they must burn down American democracy in order to save it.

“What Trump taught the right is that if you are completely shameless all the time, you gain a sort of political superpower. You can get away with (almost) anything.” The advantage of telling lies all day, every day is that nothing real — no outrage, no crime, no act of cruelty or incompetence — can gain traction in the world. Instead, truth, lies, evidence, and substantive policy goals dissolve “in a stew of culture war grievance, resentment, and lunacy,” allowing free reign for every corrupt bad actor around.

Damon Linker, * America’s rendezvous with reality*


Liz Cheney’s was a moment of real stature. Standing alone in the well of the House, the third-ranking member of the Republican leadership said, of the events of Jan. 6: “The president of the United States summoned this mob, assembled the mob, and lit the flame of this attack. Everything that followed was his doing. None of this would have happened without the president. The president could have immediately and forcefully intervened to stop the violence. He did not. There has never been a greater betrayal by a president of the United States of his office and his oath to the Constitution.”

And so she would vote to impeach. Her remarks implicitly urged others in her party to do so, and the bluntness and power of what she said offered them cover: They could be tough too. But most couldn’t. They were stupid and cowardly.

They claimed high-minded concern for the nation’s well-being, but they didn’t seem to believe their own arguments; some rushed through their statements, some gestured wildly as if hoping their arms could convince their brains they were sincere.

Impeachment is needlessly divisive. They weren’t concerned about division when they refused to accept the Electoral College result …

The distinguishing characteristic of the House Republican Caucus right now is that whenever you say, “Could they be that stupid?” the answer—always—is, “Oh yes!”

… This week, before the vote, Mr. Jordan was awarded the Medal of Freedom. I am not sure that great honor will ever recover. No press were allowed, but I’m sure the ceremony was elevated, like P.T. Barnum knighting Tom Thumb with a wooden sword in the center ring of the circus.

Peggy Noonan

January 15

“I spent the last couple of days looking at what happened that day and what the president was doing while it was happening,” [South Carolina Rep. Tom Rice] said in an interview Thursday. “And the more I looked at it, the madder I got.”

Mr. Rice said that for him, the question of whether Mr. Trump had incited the crowd wasn’t the most important question. Rather, it was whether he had done enough to try to stop it, or later, to take any responsibility.

“When people are in the Capitol, ransacking the Capitol and trying to get to the Senate chamber and House chamber, and Vice President Mike Pence is in the Capitol and the president is tweeting the vice president lacks courage, I just cannot abide that,” Mr. Rice said. “It was a vote I felt I didn’t have a choice on. The path was clear.”

“I’ll be surprised if I don’t get one,” Mr. Rice said of a primary challenge. He said he had already heard plenty of both positive and negative feedback in the less than 24 hours since he cast his vote.

“I hope I get re-elected,” Mr. Rice said. “If they decide based on this vote, which I know was the right vote, that they don’t want me to be their representative, so be it.”

(Wall Street Journal, 1/15/21)


Wall Street Journal has a Guest Opinion, How to Make the Islamic World Less Radical, by Yahya Cholil Staquf.

I’m not mad at them for running it, but news I could use is How to Make Notorious Swaths of American Evangelicalism Less Radical.


The incitement case against [Donald Trump] isn’t just the use of a few words he uttered before the assault by his followers on the Capitol but the conduct over an extended period leading up to his rally before the assault on the Capitol.

Context matters. President Trump had repetitively falsely stated, as he did again at his rally on Jan. 6, that the electoral results were fraudulent and that he (and therefore his followers) had been robbed of a legitimately elected presidency. He had urged his followers to come to Washington on Jan. 6 for a “wild” day. At the Trump rally itself, his lawyer, Rudolph Giuliani, called on his followers to engage in “trial by combat,” and the president himself called on his followers to accompany him to the Capitol to combat the supposed “election theft” that he was “not going to let . . . happen” and for them “to show strength,” and “to be strong.” And as his supporters yelled out “fight for Trump,” his response was “we will not take it anymore . . . we will stop the steal.”

All this is the equivalent of waving a flock of red flags before a bull. The Supreme Court has admirably defined incitement narrowly to avoid stifling free speech, but like Mr. Shapiro it has never had an incitement case involving Donald Trump or Trump-like speech before it. We may yet hear from the court.

FLOYD ABRAMS
New York

(Source: Wall Street Journal). When Floyd Abrams thinks you’ve crossed a free speech line, you probably have crossed it.


  • An internal FBI bulletin earlier this week warned that additional armed demonstrations will likely take place in Washington, D.C. and all 50 state capitals this Sunday, ahead of President-elect Joe Biden’s inauguration on Wednesday. FBI Director Chris Wray warned of an “extensive amount of concerning online chatter” yesterday in a joint press conference with Vice President Mike Pence, who, for all intents and purposes, has been carrying out the bulk of executive branch responsibilities in recent days.
  • In the wake of last week’s events, Rich Lowry revisited Michael Anton’s (in)famous 2016 “Flight 93 Election” essay, in which Anton urged Republicans to “charge the cockpit” (vote for Trump), or risk “dying” under a Clinton presidency. “Donald Trump finally did exactly what the foremost metaphor associated with his political rise would have suggested,” Lowry writes. “He plowed his plane straight into the ground.” Anton, Lowry continues, “wrote as if the end of the republic were upon us, and there’s nothing like a rabble storming a citadel of American democracy—assaulting police officers, ransacking the place and disrupting a constitutional procedure—to shake confidence in the stability of our system. Of course, it was the man Anton believed could be our savior who whipped up and urged on this crowd. The mob didn’t charge the cockpit metaphorically, but charged the Capitol literally, in the grip of a more extreme, rough-hewn version of Anton’s logic and narrative.”
  • Missing from a lot of the conversation about whether President Trump should have been impeached, and whether he should be convicted in the Senate, is the simple fact that the vast majority of Republican voters still like the guy … [E]lected officials who believe Trump to have been reckless—like freshman GOP Rep. Nancy Mace—are attempting to bridge the divide. “It’s clear that people, some people, have been brainwashed,” Mace said. “And I’m grappling with: How do we carefully and honestly pull these people out of it and bring them back into reality?”

The Morning Dispatch


Jeong is falling for the fundamental attribution error. When those guys over there do something bad, it’s because they are bad. When our side does something bad, we just got temporarily out of hand, perhaps because we were so upset about genuine injustice (which is not something the other side, stupid and evil as they are, cares about). Our bad acts don’t reflect our essential character; their bad acts do.

But there’s no such thing as “essential character” in anything but the most zonked-out hippie sense. All there are are actions. The marks we leave on the world, the bruises and flower patches. And while I understand that people want to focus on right-wing violence at the moment — it does pose the most imminent threat — it should disturb us that so many people are willing to excuse so much violence and destruction because they think that when ‘our’ side does it, it’s warranted. This is how things really and truly degenerate — this is how more people die.

Jesse Singal


Item 1

Dear Republican Party,

Tax cuts and economic stimulus are good for business.

Lying about elections as part of a plot to overthrow US constitutional democracy that causes violent insurrection is bad for business.

Plan accordingly.

Item 2

One way to understand the partisan divide is “everyone’s entitled to healthcare (even if they can’t afford it)” vs. “everyone’s entitled to social media (even if they violate terms of service).”

Item 3

Not trying to overturn election:
Congress follows Constitutional procedures to hold POTUS accountable for actions in office.

Trying to overturn election:
Pressure state election officials to reverse results based on debunked lies, violently attack Congress to stop certification.

Item 4

If you want to attack the United States, you need the element of surprise.
In war: Japan.
Terrorism: Al Qaeda.
Information warfare: Russia.
Insurrection: Dead-end Trumpists, QAnon, far right militias.
You get one shot. After that, defenses and countermeasures ramp up.

Item 5

Who cares that violent insurrectionists will be mad if we treat their violent insurrection like a violent insurrection?
They’re already mad. That’s why they attacked America. Coddling their feelings is not our primary concern.

Love,
Corporate America

Prior five items from Nicholas Grossman on Twitter. I now Follow.


Hawley didn’t just own the libs, he gave permission to dark forces he is too childish, privileged and self-absorbed to understand.

David Brooks


Donald Trump is, of course, a class-A strange-o, a man whose youngest son is named after the imaginary friend he invented to lie to the New York gossip pages about who he was cheating on his wife with. His gold-plated plumbing fixtures are about No. 1,883,441 on the list of weird things about Donald J. Trump, possessor of a Liberace-meets-Caligula sense of taste that can only be produced by the confluence of vast inherited wealth, neurotic masculine insecurity, and an IQ of 85.

But, seriously, what is it with these people and toilets?

In 2019, Trump made an impassioned, detailed — detailed in his daft way — case for a national program to build big, beautiful, perfect toilets, complaining that, after years of misgovernment under Barack Obama et al., Americans are forced to flush too many times. In the nearest thing Trump has ever offered to a Gettysburg Address, he declared: “We have a situation where we’re looking very strongly at sinks and showers and other elements of bathrooms where you turn the faucet on, and in areas where there’s tremendous amounts of water, where the water rushes out to sea because you could never handle it, and you don’t get any water. You turn on the faucet, and you don’t get any water. They take a shower. And water comes dripping out. Just dripping out. Very quietly. Dripping out.”

The result? Americans are forced to flush “ten times, 15 times, as opposed to once.”

Funny thing about that. Nancy Pelosi has flushed twice, but there he floats.

Kevin D. Williamson, Trump & Toilets: Family Obsession | National Review


Politico’s Tim Alberta …:

> Crow is right. Numerous House Rs have received death threats in the past week, and I know for a fact several members want to impeach but fear casting that vote could get them or their families murdered. Not spinning or covering for anyone. Just stating the chilling reality.
>
> This is why, as I’ve written/said before, Republicans should have asserted themselves and held Trump accountable from Day One. Their silence in the face of his manifest abuses contributed to the formation of a cult that now threatens their lives. Never should have come to this.
>
> And yes: Trump’s rhetoric the last 5 years has stirred constant threats of violence against immigrants, journalists, Democratic lawmakers and others. Republicans are not the only ones being terrorized here. All the more reason for Americans to band together and say never again.

The bottom-line: threats and intimidation have become — and are likely to remain — an essential feature of Republican politics.

Charlie Sykes, Defeated, Disgraced, Twice Impeached – Morning Shots. I am astonished at the number of death threats to conservatives coming from somewhere conventionally called “far right.” The threatened credit the threats.


No unity until his morally bankrupt defenders get over him and repent

Tom Nichols in USA Today:

The president’s supporters, however, now plead for understanding and inclusion, for lowering the temperature, for moving on. In speech after speech Wednesday on the floor of the House, the same Republicans who had no objections to the president’s incitement to insurrection now have deep concerns about parliamentary process, the rule of law and national unity.

This is moral charlatanism and I say to hell with it.

It is almost impossible to comprehend the sheer moral poverty of the people calling now for unity. Elected Republicans now admit they fear for their physical safety from their own constituents, but instead of thunderous defenses of the Constitution, we have soft mewling from people like Sen. Marco Rubio and his Bible-Verse-A-Day tweets, or the head-spinning duplicity of Sen. Lindsey Graham, who within days of saying “count me out” of any further sedition was jollying it up with the president on Air Force One.

Via Charlie Sykes, Defeated, Disgraced, Twice Impeached – Morning Shots. I am astonished at the number of death threats to conservatives coming from somewhere conventionally called “far right.” The threatened credit the threats.


This is really a helluva lede.

> Ted Cruz has long had a public reputation as an unctuous asshole. Even so, his staffers have tended to hold him in high regard as a kind and geeky man who treated his underlings well even while his fellow senators loathed him. Now though “most of Cruzworld is pretty disgusted” with the senator for choosing to back Donald Trump’s absurd claims of widespread election fraud, in the words of one former aide. As another former aide put it, “everyone is upset with the direction things have gone, and the longer they’ve been with the senator, the more distaste they are expressing.”

January 16

Shortly after becoming the first president in U.S. history to be impeached twice, President Trump summoned political advisers and demanded to know more about the 10 Republicans who had voted against him.

Mr. Trump, who had feared an even larger number of defections, wanted to know who the lawmakers were and whether he had ever done anything for them, according to people familiar with the meeting. He also inquired who might run against them when they face re-election in two years, the people said.

Even some of his close allies say his handling of his election loss has created an entirely avoidable crisis that will overshadow his accomplishments in office and complicate his future business and political aims.

The Trump Organization has already faced some fallout from the riot, including PGA of America’s decision to terminate an agreement to hold the 2022 PGA Championship at the Trump New Jersey golf club, a move that left Mr. Trump fuming, according to a person familiar with his reaction.

As he prepares to depart, advisers describe the president as sullen and regretful about the events of the last week, though he says he is not responsible for prompting them …

the president sought to reach a detente with Mr. Pence, whom he invited to a meeting on Monday after the two men didn’t speak for five days in the wake of the riot, during which the president attacked Mr. Pence on Twitter for not helping him overturn the election.

The president, who has often turned on allies over the last four years, was taken aback by the level of loyalty to Mr. Pence in the White House, one adviser said.

Trump Spends Final Days Focused on GOP Defectors, Senate Defense – WSJ


Decent people who think Facebook and Twitter censor too much presumably have not seen Gab and Parler, the two leading open-sewer examples of what goes on when there’s no threat of censorship.


It has always bugged me that dirty money guys like Steve Wynn and Sheldon Adelson were enthusiastic Republican Party supporters.


TO PARAPHRASE Samuel Johnson, nothing concentrates the mind like the prospect of being hanged. And so it has proved inside the Republican leadership. A week after Donald Trump’s MAGA mob erected a gallows besides the Capitol reflecting pool then invaded the building, the president’s party is for the first time seriously reviewing its loyalty to him …

It is hard to exaggerate how dramatic a turnaround this already is. Although inciting the attack itself was worse than anything Mr Trump has done, it revealed nothing fundamentally new about his character. And his newly emboldened Republican critics did not merely stomach his earlier abuses—of ethics rules, migrant children, and so on—but vociferously defended them.

Lexington – The conscience of some conservatives | United States | The Economist


Ever since Donald Trump came down the escalator on June 14, 2015, his rise has been aided and abetted by the reluctance to do the hard thing and take him on directly. Instead, always and forever people hoped that he’d destroy himself, that “this time” he’d go too far.

There is no easy path to ridding our nation of Donald Trump or the movement he inspired. As Jonah has always said, this ends in tears. This ends in anguish. Republicans in the Senate have a choice: Take the risk to end it now, or appease the mob, appease talk radio and Fox, and hope and pray it ends later. There is only one responsible answer. Do the hard thing. Convict Donald Trump.

David French, GOP Senators Must Take the Hard Path – The French Press


If God tells you something:

  1. Keep it to yourself.
  2. If you share it, understand that I’m going to respond somewhere between utter indifference and active contempt.

Private revelations are private.

E.g., this Economist story


Thinking about this one tells you a lot about social media complicity in our woes:

On November 5, Facebook removed one of the first “Stop the Steal” groups, which had grown to 350,000 members—but only after the platform’s own algorithms “drove 100 new people to join [that] group every 10 seconds,” according to research from Ryerson University.

Joan Donovan, MAGA Isn’t a Typical Protest Movement – The Atlantic

Potpourri 12/19/20

The easy way for me to say this would be to cut-and-paste material I’ve already collected, but it would be inordinately long, imposing on intelligent readers, for me to do so. So let me summarize:

  • Donald Trump’s post-election lawsuits are all crap, with the exception of one he could and should have brought before the election if he was concerned about that state’s new election rules.
  • Trump and his team have been lying shamelessly about fraud in front of the cameras and on social media. The proof is that they don’t follow through by trying to prove it in court. The clearest example is that it admitted in Wisconsin federal court that the case was about little details of the means whereby administrators conducted the election, not about vote fraud. See this Andy McCarthy column (McCarthy supported Trump in the election).

It is a bitter disappointment that eight days after a snarky Wall Street Journal Op-Ed questioning Jill Biden’s insistence on the title “Doctor,” the pissing contest back and forth continues, with National Review descending into stuff like reading Dr. Biden’s dissertation and branding it “garbage.” See here, here and here.

I’m glad I’ve cut back on news consumption because it’s mostly manufactured controversies like this any more (and the Wall Street Journal knowingly manufactured it).

For what it’s worth, my late father referred to each of the Purdue professors in our Church as “Doc” — Doc Mott, Doc Remple, Doc Stanley, etc.


What’s even worse is First Things publishing a column that solemnly weighs the evidence of fraud, every instance of which has been thoroughly debunked if the author would pull his eyes out of his navel, his ears out the echo chamber, for a few minutes. See An Unstable System | John William O’Sullivan | First Things.

This is the sort of refutation that’s readily available:

Sure, it is easy to look at Biden and ask, “How could we possibly lose to this guy?” But Democrats are at least equally baffled that 63 million Americans voted for Donald Trump in 2016 and, after four years of watching him in office, that 74 million did in 2020. The candidates on offer in both 2016 and 2020 were deeply distressing to a lot of Americans, many of whom no longer understand their neigh bors and most of whom decided to choose what they saw as a lesser evil. Trump, in particular, spent four years inflaming his critics’ loathing of him. He made the infuriating of liberals (“owning the libs,” in Internet-speak) central to his brand. Should we be surprised that liberals turned out in droves, if not to support Biden, then simply to stop being infuriated by Trump?

Yes, Biden held few in-person events, and drew far fewer in-person votes. But Bi den’s supporters were disproportionately people who preferred to err on the side of caution. For months, Democrats preached that in-person voting was unsafe; for months, Republicans preached that mail-in voting was untrustworthy. It should sur prise nobody that the two parties’ voters behaved in starkly different fashion.

… the timeline of vote counts was so predictable in 2020 that it had a name before Election Day: the “red mirage.” Because Democrats were more likely to vote by mail, and because the most heavily Democratic cities already tend to be the last counters owing to urban inefficiency, it was widely predicted that in those cities the counting of mail-in ballots would delay the most Democratic portion of the vote tally until the end. This did not happen everywhere: States such as Florida and Texas allowed mail-in ballots to be tabulated before Election Day. But Republican legislatures in the Midwest blocked early counting, and the result was in fact a high concen tration of Democratic ballots at the end. Everybody who was paying attention saw this coming a mile away.

Dan Mclaughlin, Presidential Election: ‘It Must Have Been Stolen’ | National Review


O sacred monarch, do not leave us. But if you do, we your faithful people will await your coming again in glory in 2024.

Alan Jacobs, The Return of the King (Snakes and Ladders)


On a much brighter note:

What’s especially striking to me is the reversal of the long historical pattern of the Rs representing the well-off and the Ds representing the struggling working people. That has reversed here just as it has nationally: The wealthier someone is around here, the more likely they are to be D … The Democratic Party that I knew and supported for 40 years was on the side of the working people, but that just isn’t true now, either legislatively or culturally … I cannot emphasize this strongly enough: If Democrats want to ‘unify’ the country—and I frankly don’t believe that they do—they’d get off their god damned high horses for once, and ditch their overweening, self-declared superiority, and join the human race.

Charlie Wilson, quoted by Tim Alberta in 20 Americans Who Explain the 2020 Election – POLITICO.

All other things aside, Trump’s basic lack of competency disqualifies him. I’m pretty sure a lot of people who voted for him wouldn’t want him for a boss, co-worker, or subordinate, yet they vote for him the way they might vote for a contestant on a TV reality show.

Stephen Rosenthal, quoted by Tim Alberta in 20 Americans Who Explain the 2020 Election – POLITICO

I’ve lived in SE Michigan my entire life, and have always been a Republican—part of the Evangelical-Republican alliance, back when it was, I believe, honorable. But Evangelicals as a whole lost their way many years ago when the alliance became a religious cause in itself, a cause larger than our former convictions … We became so enamored with power, it should have been no surprise to me (though it was) that evangelicals were and are willing to sacrifice our moral reputations for the sake of ‘winning.’ … I’ve hated every moment of Trump’s presidency, because of what I fear it’s done to the Gospel, and the reputations of those who claim to believe it.

Pastor Ken Brown, quoted by Tim Alberta in 20 Americans Who Explain the 2020 Election – POLITICO.

(But perhaps Pastor Brown has conflated charismatic flakes with traditional Evangelicals. See my recantation. The more I look, the more these New Apostolic Reformation theocrats seem clearly outside the commonest accepted boundaries of Evangelicalism. See, too, this Evangelical source that’s trying to be careful about NAR.)

“As with many if not most of our large institutions, these two parties are hollowed out … We saw in 2016, two outsiders, Sanders and Trump—not even historical members of the parties—were arguably the only candidates who brought any real dynamism to the race, whereas if these organizations were strong and highly functional, they wouldn’t even have permitted them to run under their party’s banners.”

In this regard, Rosenthal is a man after my own heart: I’m a firm believer that no conversation about institutional decline in America can be had without examining the deterioration of both major parties as gatekeepers to separate serious people from sideshows ….

Stephen Rosenthal, quoted (with approval) by Tim Alberta in 20 Americans Who Explain the 2020 Election – POLITICO

The whole Tim Alberta ‘splainer is worth your time if you want to hate your countrymen less.


You’ll notice we are not having a national debate about paying off poor people’s mortgages. We could do that just as easily if the self-declared champions of the poor had any interest in anything other than their own status and their own appetites. They don’t.

Kevin Williamson

The only explanation I’ve heard from the Democrats is that while the middle- and upper-classes have more student debt, student loan forgiveness would improve the net worth of poor debtors more.

Nice try. I do believe that Oren Cass’s campaign to make the GOP a union-friendly worker’s party has got real merit.


I proposed to my husband, Chasten, in an airport terminal.

Former South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg, joking about his qualifications after being nominated for Transportation Secretary by President-elect Joe Biden.

(Knowhere News)

It’s nice to know that there may be a sense of playfulness on Team Biden, but this (out of context, as it came to me) goes beyond playful to flippant or defiant. I trust that the Senate will wipe any smirk off his face in confirmation hearings.


America’s constitutional order, the political scientist Gregory Weiner argues, depends on a style of politics that the conservative political philosopher Michael Oakeshott called “nomocratic.” Nomocratic regimes hold themselves accountable to public processes (such as voting) whose outcome no one can be sure of in advance. They commit themselves to the rule of law and democratic decision making, even if the other side wins. Teleocratic politics, by contrast, is accountable to particular outcomes. Legitimacy comes not from following the agreed-upon rules but from obtaining the desired result. In other words, the election is valid—provided our side wins.

Trump has placed himself explicitly in the teleocratic camp. Teleocracy is incompatible with democracy and the rule of law; Trump’s position would once have horrified Republicans.

… Until Trump, no American politician had ever imagined running a fire-hose-of-falsehood campaign against the American public, much less had figured out how to do it. Trump saw the possibilities and capitalized on them. He opened the disinformation spigot on the first day of his presidency, with a blatant lie about the size of his inauguration crowd, and then spewed falsehoods at a rate that defied fact-checking—in October, more than 50 falsehoods a day.

… Trump’s development of an American model for mass disinformation may prove to be his most important and pernicious legacy.

Jonathan Rausch, What Trump Is Doing to the Country Right Now – The Atlantic


I called Klain the other day to ask him how he knew, to such a granular degree, that the Trump-Fauci relationship would go sideways. “We knew already that Trump has a style of governing that rejects facts and that demands that people see the world his way, that they live in his counterfactual reality,” he said. “He also has a tendency to downplay threats, whatever kind of threats they are. I knew Dr. Fauci well enough to know that he was going to tell the truth and speak out and that sooner or later that would run afoul of the Trump approach to governance.”

Klain was in a unique position to make predictions about COVID-19. As the coordinator of Obama’s successful fight against Ebola, he had developed important knowledge about infectious disease. But he also gained an understanding of Trump’s destructive impact on public health.

“One thing people forget is that after ‘birtherism’ blew up on Trump, he faded from view for a little while and only emerged back into our politics around Ebola,” Klain said. “He was the leading public voice attacking Obama’s Ebola response. His tweets—there are studies that show this—were a main cause of the fear that galvanized around Ebola. He tweeted that the efforts to fight Ebola in West Africa were a mistake, that bringing home the doctor who had contracted Ebola in West Africa was a mistake—he said he should be left to die. Trump was completely unhinged from science, and this had a significant impact on the public psyche. It gave me an early indication of how he would handle a pandemic.”

Jeffrey Goldberg, Ron Klain on Donald Trump and the Coronavirus Outbreak – The Atlantic


Last, but sadly not least:

Every time that the science clashed with the messaging, messaging won.

Kyle McGowan, quoted by Noah Weiland, ‘Like a Hand Grasping’: Trump Appointees Describe the Crushing of the C.D.C.. I was afraid I was seeing that in “real time.”

Church and State, but not Church/State

Where religion and politics meet

David French is not happy with his co-religionists, who he provincially calls “the Church”:

… core biblical values are contingent, but support for Donald Trump is not …

We’re way, way past concerns for the church’s “public witness.” We’re way past concerns over whether the “reputation” of the church will survive this wave of insanity. There is no other way to say this. A significant movement of American Christians—encouraged by the president himself—is now directly threatening the rule of law, the Constitution, and the peace and unity of the American republic.

It’s clear now that when many of those people declared Trump to be “God’s anointed” they did not mean that his presidency was “instituted by God” in the same manner as other governing authorities, as described in Romans 13. (By conventional Christian reasoning, Joe Biden’s upcoming presidency is also instituted by God.)

No, they believe that Trump had a special purpose and a special calling, and that this election defeat is nothing less than a manifestation of a Satanic effort to disrupt God’s plan for this nation. They were not “holding their nose” to support him. They were deeply, spiritually, and personally invested in his political success.

We know that mainstream American Christian leaders can unite to condemn secular and progressive movements and ideas they find biblically problematic. For example, late last month the presidents of Southern Baptist seminaries united to declare that “affirmation of Critical Race Theory, Intersectionality and any version of Critical Theory is incompatible with the Baptist Faith & Message.”

As I’ve written, critical race theory has its uses and its flaws, but I wonder—how many critical race theorists are in conservative Christian pews? But how many more election conspiracy theorists and Christian nationalists are sitting right there, including in my own denomination, fervently believing lies and fervently praying for actions and outcomes that are fundamentally unjust?

Simply put, there should be at least as much concern about injustice and sin from the religious right as from the secular left.

David French, The Dangerous Idolatry of Christian Trumpism

French’s column (along with Damon Linker’s gimlet-eyed identification of Trump as “demonic”) has me musing about whether Donald Trump qualifies for the title “AntiChrist” according to the standards of those who obsess over identifying AntiChrist.

And French’s labeling of Christianish Trumpists as part of “the church” reinforces my skepticism about Evangelical ecclesiology (French is Evangelical or at least Evangelical-adjacent; I think he’d choose the former) — about the possibility of Christ’s Church being so expansive as to take in delusional political freaks whose main interest in Christ seems to be His political utility.

Sigh! It’s none of my business to stake out the boundaries of the Church, but I can understand the reflex “if this is Christianity, I want no part of it.” I wish I could say “this is not, in any sense, Christianity,” but I can’t. I can (and do below) say something else that’s just as decisive for me.


Evangelicalism has figured out how to avoid the numerical decline besetting many religions: become so identified with Republican politics that people whose Lord and Savior is the GOP will self-identify as “Evangelical,” albeit without darkening the doors of church. For instance,

for 2008, 2012, and 2016 low attending evangelicals all start in basically the same spot – 35–40% conservative. But look at the solid pink line representing the data from 2019. Nearly half of self-identified evangelicals who never go to church identified as conservative (a jump of basically ten points).

the most religiously devout evangelical in 2019 is a bit less likely to be conservative than a devout evangelical from 2008.

Ryan P. Burge, So, Why is Evangelicalism Not Declining? Because Non-Attenders Are Taking On the Label (Religion in Public).

Burge, by the way, is becoming huge in social scientific scrutiny of American religion.


I left frank Evangelicalism in my late 20s over the issue of dispensationalism, which I perceived as so pervasive as to almost define Evangelicalism. (I left basically as soon as I discovered that my skepticism about dispensationalist prophecy porn — “Rapture crap” — was shared by others, serious Calvinists, who were not compromising with unbelief.)

At age 49, I was Orthodox, no longer Calvinist, and thus not even “Evangelical-adjacent.”

So I cannot begin to persuade Evangelical Trumpists to repent their folly.

So why do I rail against them as if I could change their minds?

Partly because I persist in the increasingly-implausible instinct that some of them are sane and sincere. But probably a bigger part is performative: I want the world to know that I am not an Evangelical, that Evangelicalsm is well out of the historic Christian mainstream (in its prophecy obsession, yes, but more in its rejection of liturgy and sacrament), and that disgust with Evangelicalism (and Roman Catholic clergy sexual abuse, for that matter) does not necessitate rejection of Christianity or adoption of some sort of me-and-Jesus-who-needs-Church delusion.

I other words, when all else fails, consider Orthodoxy. If there’s no Orthodox Church nearby, that’s curable in many cases.


I include this from Evangelical-leaning Anglican Alan Jacobs because he identifies an ascendant Evangelical vice:

There is no infallible means for discerning when a religious believer has been spoken to, directly and personally, by God. However, there is a reliable way to disconfirm such a claim. When a person demands that other people immediately accept that he has been spoken to by God, and treats with insult and contempt those who do not acknowledge his claim to unique revelation, then we can be sure that no genuine message has been received, and that the voice echoing in that person’s mind is not that of God but that of his own ego.

Alan Jacobs again, testing the spirits.

I suspect this has to do with Saturday’s “Jericho Marches,” which started with some guy who claimed that God told him to do it. I don’t recall whether he claimed that God told him that all Real Christians® must join him.


Evangelicals aren’t the only ones mucking about in political matters.

With America facing a bitterly divisive election, Episcopal Church leaders did what they do in tense times — they held a National Cathedral service rallying the Washington, D.C., establishment.

This online “Holding onto Hope” service featured a Sikh filmmaker, a female rabbi from Chicago, the Islamic Society of North America’s former interfaith relations director, the female presiding bishop of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, a Jesuit priest known for promoting LGBTQ tolerance and former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice.

“Our ideals, values, principles and dreams of beloved community matter,” said Episcopal Presiding Bishop Michael Curry, the church’s first African-American leader. “They matter to our life as a nation and as a world. Our values matter!”

This was the kind of rite – think National Public Radio at prayer – a church can offer when its history includes 11 U.S. presidents and countless legislators and judges from coast to coast.

Continuing its recent trends, “relevance” isn’t working for the ECUSA much better in 2020 than in other recent decades — witness the title Terrifying statistics from 2019 offer another Groundhog Day jolt for Episcopalians — GetReligion

Law and politics, straight up

When conservatives defend their fight to overturn the election as an answer to the way Democrats reacted to Donald Trump’s victory in 2016, they are correct in the sense that most of their arguments and proposed tactics have antecedents on the liberal side …

The difference, though, is that the right’s fantasy has been embraced from the start by a Republican president (Hillary Clinton was a follower rather than a leader in calling Trump “illegitimate”), and it has penetrated much faster and further into the apparatus of Republican politics. In January 2017, only a handful of Democratic backbenchers objected to Congress’s certification of Trump’s election. But you can find the name of the House minority leader, Kevin McCarthy, on a brief supporting the ridiculous Texas lawsuit.

The Texas lawsuit didn’t torch any city blocks, but all those congressional signatures on the amicus brief did make it feel like something more than just another meme. The crucial question it raises is whether people can be fed on fantasies forever — or whether once enough politicians have endorsed dreampolitik, the pressure to make the dream into reality will inexorably build.

Ross Douthat, The Texas Lawsuit and the Age of Dreampolitik


On Saturday, a federal district court judge in Wisconsin issued an opinion explaining why, on the merits, Texas’s substantive arguments were without merit. And, as occurred on the Supreme Court, a judge appointed by President Trump, Brett Ludwig, ruled against him.

Some Trump supporters are inclined to suggest the campaign’s court losses are the result of progressive judicial activism or #Resistance judging. This is nonsense. Dozens of election suits have been filed, and dozens of judges of all political stripes and judicial philosophies have ruled against the claims put forward by the Trump campaign and its allies. In this case, the opinion was written by a judge appointed by President Trump in September. Trump and his allies claim they want their legal claims heard by judges who will apply the law. They have been.

Jonathan Adler, Another Court Loss for Trump Campaign in Wisconsin


Out of the crooked timber of humanity no straight thing was ever made.

Immanuel Kant

You shall love your crooked neighbour
With your crooked heart.

W.H. Auden

The worst judge of all is the man now most ready with his judgements; the ill-educated Christian turning gradually into the ill-tempered agnostic, entangled in the end of a feud of which he never understood the beginning, blighted with a sort of hereditary boredom with he knows not what, and already weary of hearing what he has never heard.

G.K. Chesterton, The Everlasting Man

You can read most of my more impromptu stuff here or join me and others on micro.blog. You won’t find me on Facebook any more, and I don’t post on Twitter (though I do have an account for occasional gawking).

First and Lesser Things

First Things

The invisible God painted his own portrait on the canvas of the incarnation.

Father Patrick Henry Reardon, The Visible Revelation of the Father


I’m on the Board of a classical Christian School that my grandchildren attend. I sometimes wonder whether parents substantially understand the ramifications of classical education. A classical educator has stated my concern well, starting with how the misunderstanding manifests in students:

Our students desire to learn the material, gain cursory knowledge, earn a high grade, get into an elite college, receive a lucrative job offer with a competitive salary, all in order to master themselves and the world around them. Classical educators desire for our students to love truth, goodness and beauty. We yearn for them to be men and women of virtue and moral character. We want them to love what God loves and to steward the world gifted to them by their Creator. Wendell Berry, American essayist, describes well the dilemma of modern education:

“Education is not properly an industry, and its proper use is not to serve industries, either by job-training or by industry-subsidized research. Its proper use is to enable citizens to live lives that are economically, politically, socially, and culturally responsible… A proper education enables young people to put their lives in order, which means knowing what things are more important than other things; it means putting first things first.”

… Ours is a counter-cultural revolution, which explains a tension often experienced between classical educators and parents. We not only need classical teachers and classically-minded students; we need classically-minded parents. The job of the educator is not to replace the parent but to partner with them. Partnerships do not thrive if the partners are unequally yoked.

The Formation of Classical Parents | Circe Institute

The essay has three steps for The Formation of Classical Parents.


Donald Trump didn’t invent misinformation and disinformation; they have been around for much of human history. But Trump—by virtue of his considerable skills in this area, aided by social media and capitalizing on “truth decay” and diminishing trust in sources of factual information—exploited them more effectively than anyone else has in American history.

Believing that the toxicity in our politics will quickly and easily be drained would be silly; in fact, in some quarters, things will get worse. (We see this in Trump supporters who are migrating from Fox News to Newsmax and One America News because Fox was deemed insufficiently pro-Trump, as startling as that seems.) But not having a president who wakes up every morning thinking of ways to divide Americans by race, region, and religion, by class and party, will be a move in the right direction.

“The party told you to reject the evidence of your eyes and ears. It was their final, most essential command,” George Orwell wrote in his masterpiece 1984.

“[Winston Smith’s] heart sank as he thought of the enormous power arrayed against him, the ease with which any Party intellectual would overthrow him in debate, the subtle arguments which he would not be able to understand, much less answer. And yet he was in the right! They were wrong and he was right. The obvious, the silly, and the true had got to be defended. Truisms are true, hold on to that! The solid world exists, its laws do not change. Stones are hard, water is wet, objects unsupported fall towards the earth’s center. With the feeling he was speaking to O’Brien, and also that he was setting forth an important axiom, he wrote: Freedom is the freedom to say that two plus two makes four. If that is granted, all else follows.”

For four long years, that important axiom was denied by the president of the United States and almost everyone in his party. But last month, more than 80 million Americans declared that enough was enough. What many of them were saying with their vote—what I was trying to say with my vote—was that it’s time to reaffirm that stones are indeed hard, that water is indeed wet, that objects unsupported do fall toward the Earth’s center. That two plus two does make four.

Maybe the road out of the epistemic crisis that Barack Obama correctly identified runs not simply, or even primarily, through the realm of politics or social-media reforms, as important as they are. Perhaps the path requires us to order our lives well, remind ourselves and others to love what is worthy of our love, and affirm that “one word of truth shall outweigh the whole world.” We won’t get there tomorrow. But each of us can begin to take steps on the journey tomorrow, a journey out of mist and shadows toward the sunlit uplands.

Peter Wehner, Trump’s Most Malicious Legacy – The Atlantic. I had it in the back of my mind that history had vindicated the vision of Brave New World over that of 1984, and I still think it does. But I re-read Brave New World a week or two ago and recognized that it, too, does not really fit the condition we’re in.

Walker Percy’s Prescient Dystopia, Love in the Ruins, fits all too well, though it’s a much different sort of dystopia than Huxley’s or Orwell’s.


Lesser Things

  • Fact of the day: “Of the 265 counties most dominated by blue-collar workers—areas where at least 40 percent of employed adults have jobs in construction, the service industry or other nonprofessional fields—Mr. Biden won just 15, according to data from researchers at the Economic Innovation Group, a bipartisan policy research group.” Lisa Lerer, New York Times.
  • Per David Catanese at McClatchy: “Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger has launched an investigation into a collection of groups, accusing the New Georgia Project launched by Stacey Abrams of sending registration forms to people in New York and citing evidence of other operations trying to convince college students to temporarily change their residency to Georgia.”

The Sweep: Georgia Heats Up – The Sweep


Natural law theory has received renewed attention among Protestants in recent years. The natural law tradition posits that a God-given, self-evident universal moral order exists that human reason can grasp. The natural law defines and identifies which actions are reasonable and worth pursuing—even apart from an immediate appeal to divine revelation.

The Gospel and the Natural Law | Andrew Walker | First Things


In 2017, the situation was different, but in its own way dire. I testified:

“I have sharply criticized President [Barack] Obama’s policies, but my concerns pale in comparison with the sense of alarm I feel about the judgment and dispositions of the incoming White House team. In such a setting, there is no question in my mind that a Secretary Mattis would be a stabilizing and moderating force, preventing wildly stupid, dangerous, or illegal things from happening, and over time, helping to steer American foreign and security policy in a sound and sensible direction.

Marshall did indeed reassure the American people, and Mattis did indeed block, or at least slow down, some of the wild fancies of Donald Trump.

Eliot Cohen, This Is No Job for a General – The Atlantic


Nothing is sadder than the question posed indignantly, “Do you know who I am?” I first heard it when I was 17, on a flight back from Europe (my mom had won a trip in a church raffle, and sent me). I was seated near the back row, and heard a man from Louisiana arguing with a flight attendant, who kept telling him not to hang out near the galley.

“Do you know who I am?” the man huffed. I thought, wow, a real celebrity, I wonder who he is? I learned from their touchy dialogue that the supposed dignitary was a friend of the Louisiana Agriculture Commissioner’s, who had been leading a tour of Europe with his political supporters, and was seated up in first class. Here was this guy telling a Delta Airlines attendant on a flight to Atlanta from Brussels that she’d better back down, because he’s a friend of a provincial minister of agriculture. It’s a thing of beauty, if you look at it from a certain angle.

Thoughts About Celebrity | The American Conservative


In 1908 G.K. Chesterton penned Orthodoxy to confront the idiocy of the motto “Believe in yourself”:

“Shall I tell you where the men are who believe most in themselves? For I can tell you. I know of men who believe in themselves more colossally than Napoleon or Caesar. I know where flames the fixed star of certainty and success. I can guide you to the thrones of the Supermen. The men who really believe in themselves are all in lunatic asylums.”

Through a Looking Glass Darkly | Comment Magazine


If, even as the price to be paid for a fifth vote, I ever joined an opinion for the Court that began: “The Constitution promises liberty to all within its reach, a liberty that includes certain specific rights that allow persons, within a lawful realm, to define and express their identity,” I would hide my head in a bag. The Supreme Court of the United States has descended from the disciplined legal reasoning of John Marshall and Joseph Story to the mystical aphorisms of the fortune cookie.

Justice Antonin Scalia via Josh Blackman, Why rewrite Brown, Roe, and Obergefell?


“Those of us in journalism have to come to terms with the fact that free speech, a principle that we hold sacred, is being weaponized against the principle of journalism and what do we do about that,. As reporters, we kind of march into this war with our facts nobly shouldered as if they were going to win the day and what we’re seeing that is because of the scale of this alternative reality that you’ve been talking about, our facts, our principles, our scientific method–it isn’t enough. So what do we do?”

Jonathan Turley, “Free Speech Is Being Weaponized”: Columbia Dean and New Yorker Writer Calls For More Censorship

The elite consensus is rapidly repudiating free speech, which bodes ill for the future.


The House of Representatives on Tuesday passed the $740 billion National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) 335-78, a wide enough margin to override the veto President Trump has telegraphed. The bill, which directs military spending for the upcoming year, includes pay raises for troops and is filled with bipartisan priorities, but Trump has demanded an unrelated provision—the repeal of tech platforms’ Section 230 liability protections—be included.

The Morning Dispatch: House Powers Through Veto Threat on NDAA


Seriously, the main use of Bitcoin is to allow people to smuggle money, buy illegal items like kiddie porn, and speculate on the price of Bitcoin. They had to create an entire new Stable coin class just to get around how slow Bitcoin is when actually used. The energy use to run the system is amazingly awful. The entire market is beset with crooked exchanges and a million different Ponzi schemes. But other than that, sending your cash to strangers on the internet for beanie baby equivalents is a great idea.

Poliorcetes, commenting on Bitcoin Is Back and Booming. Will the Rally Last? (The Dispatch)

I’m 90%+ sure that Bitcoin is an hysteria, a bubble inflating (though the bursting point is uncertain), because we’ve collectively lost touch with reality.


[T]o understand how social conservatives feel about [HHS nominee Xavier] Becerra, imagine if a Republican president elected on a promise to heal partisan wounds and deal with a pandemic nominated Rick Santorum as his first secretary of Health and Human Services.

Rod Dreher quoting Ross Douthat who’s quoting John McCormack of National Review in turn.

More:

there is a chasm between what Trump’s team is telling the public about the case, and what is actually in their legal filings. The court filings are pathetic, the lawyers said. Clown-car stuff. But see, this is the kind of thing that ordinary people — that is, people without legal training — can’t easily understand. One of the lawyers said that voter fraud might well have happened, but if you can’t show evidence in court, you’ve got nothing. That is the problem here, for Team Trump.

Unlike Eric Metaxas, I don’t believe that it is clear that God is on Trump’s side, I don’t believe that Trump will be inaugurated, and I certainly don’t believe that Trump is worth dying for.

Look, I believe that soft totalitarianism is coming, and though I believe Covid is a real crisis, I also believe that powerful people are going to take advantage of it to push for bad things. But the idea that Donald Trump is our only hope — really? Really? The idea that he has the mandate of heaven, and that Christians should be prepared to see the Constitutional order destroyed for the sake of Donald Trump — it’s just beyond crazy. I would never, ever submit to the dictatorial rule of Donald Trump, and it is utterly appalling that Christians would say that doing so is what God would have us do.

Yappy Catholic crazy person John Zmirak likens me and other Christians who don’t sign on to the Trump post-election crusade to Nazi collaborators. And Eric Metaxas, who has been a friend of mine for over 20 years, promoted that column to the skies. This is where the heads of a lot of Christians are these days: Donald or death.

I think the “Stop The Steal” movement is mistaken, but I would not be so alarmed by it were these leaders not tying it to fidelity to God. The progressive Left in this country is bonkers; that we know. Must we on the Right show ourselves to be every bit as shipwrecked on the reef of ideology? Every minute we spend on trying to salvage Trump’s pride is a minute we are not spending on building a meaningful, substantive resistance. And it is de facto helping people like Xavier Becerra by neutralizing conservatives and Christians who would be open to fighting against whatever the Biden administration attempts, but who don’t want to be associated with sedition and religious extremism.

I never thought that yappy Christianist right-wingers like Zmirak would be the first to loudly label sane, observant traditional Christians as traitors.


Kelly’s lawsuit raises an interesting question of Pennsylvania law: Were the commonwealth’s 2019 election reforms that expanded mail-in voting consistent with the Pennsylvania constitution? But note the date of the reforms. Kelly could have raised his challenge well before the election. He should have raised his challenge before the election. So it was no surprise that the Pennsylvania Supreme Court rejected his lawsuit as filed too late.

It was even less surprising that SCOTUS refused to engage. Why? Because the Pennsylvania Supreme Court is the final authority on the meaning and interpretation of Pennsylvania law and the Pennsylvania constitution, not SCOTUS.

Everything I’m telling you in this newsletter is elementary. It represents basic election law, basic constitutional law, and basic rules of evidence. So why does the GOP belief that the election was stolen persist even through repeated, decisive legal defeats?

There’s a complicated answer and a simple answer. Let’s ignore the complicated answer for the moment—it’s based in the enduring human vulnerability to conspiracies compounded by widespread and increasing distrust in institutions. In short, to greater and lesser degrees conspiracy theories will always be among us.

In this case, however, the challenge of human nature is compounded by the fact that multiple trusted conservative and Republican voices are making arguments they know—or should know—aren’t just wrong, but frivolous.

In normal circumstances, a legal personality like Mark Levin would shred the arguments in the Pennsylvania case. Instead, he promoted it. Ted Cruz has the legal skills to know the case has no hope. He offered to argue it at the Supreme Court. And I know the attorney general of Texas well enough to know that this lawsuit is far beneath his level of legal expertise.

In other words, lawyers who should know better are conning their own fans and constituents. Credentialed charlatans are telling frightened and sad Americans exactly what they want to hear about topics they have no reason to understand. Is it any wonder they believe?

The Kraken Is Lackin’ – The French Press


Texas’s stunningly stupid statistical proof that the election result can’t be right:

That, believe it or not, is it. (A) If the 2020 voting population had precisely the same party preferences as the 2016 voting population, Biden could not possibly have won; and (B) if the mail-in and in-person voters had precisely the same party preferences, Biden could not possibly have won.

Wow! Man bites dog!! Who would have believed it!! If the 2020 voting population had the same Repub/Dem split as it had in 2016, Trump must have won!! If mail-in voters had the same preferences as in-person voters, Trump must have won!! And if my aunt had four wheels, she’d be a motorcar!!

Dr. Cicchetti, in other words, has falsified two hypotheses that nobody in his/her right mind could possibly have believed might actually be true. Garbage in, garbage out.

I would remind Dr. Cicchetti—and, more importantly, Texas AG Paxton—that we periodically conduct “elections” precisely because voter preferences may change over time, and some people who voted for the Democratic candidate in one election might choose the Republican in the next, or vice versa. Were this not the case, I suppose we’d still have a Federalist as Chief Executive. [“Your Honor, the chance that Thomas Jefferson carried Maryland in 1800, as has been reported, is less than one in 8 million billion quadrillion!! (assuming that voter preferences haven’t changed since the 1796 election …)”]

David Post, More on Statistical Stupidity at SCOTUS


Eventually, her beliefs radicalized further: She became convinced that trans women are men ….

TERFs and The Donald: The Future of Reddit’s Banned Groups – The Atlantic

Oh: biological fact is now “radical”?


Perennial wisdom:

Out of the crooked timber of humanity no straight thing was ever made.

Immanuel Kant

You shall love your crooked neighbour
With your crooked heart.

W.H. Auden

The worst judge of all is the man now most ready with his judgements; the ill-educated Christian turning gradually into the ill-tempered agnostic, entangled in the end of a feud of which he never understood the beginning, blighted with a sort of hereditary boredom with he knows not what, and already weary of hearing what he has never heard.

G.K. Chesterton, The Everlasting Man

You can read most of my more impromptu stuff here or join me and others on micro.blog. You won’t find me on Facebook any more, and I don’t post on Twitter (though I do have an account for occasional gawking).

Catch-up collation, 11/22/20

She deserves to be confirmed—not least because of the ugly campaign against her.

Judy Shelton’s Heresy – WSJ

Sorry, guys, but this is the kind of dumbass argument that would have resulted in Trump’s re-election because he, too, vile though he be, suffered ugly, delusional and obsessive Resistance.

“Owning the Libs” isn’t a good enough reason to confirm her if she is a flake.


With the country’s polarization deepening and Congress likely gridlocked, presidents on both sides of the aisle have relied on executive orders (EOs) to push key parts of their agendas. According to the American Presidency Project, President Bill Clinton averaged 46 executive orders per year during his term. President George W. Bush averaged 36, Obama 35, and Trump 51. (All of these figures are down dramatically from the mid-20th century, when President Herbert Hoover averaged 242 EOs per year and President Franklin Delano Roosevelt averaged 307.)

The Morning Dispatch

That Presidents are using fewer Executive Orders than in the past surprises me quite a lot.


As of Tuesday night, the Trump campaign and its allies were—by Democratic election lawyer Marc Elias’ count—1 for 26 in their post-election lawsuits; the vast, vast majority of their claims of widespread voting irregularities or fraud have been rejected or dismissed by judges across the country.

The president’s main problem? He’s got his order of operations backward. Typically in litigation, plaintiffs will carefully and thoroughly collect evidence and build a compelling narrative that supports their case. Trump, conversely, started with the conclusion—that the election was stolen from him—and now his (dwindling supply of) lawyers are scrambling to backfill that claim with evidence that, thus far, does not exist.

One Pennsylvania lawsuit looking to stop the certification of results in the state, for example, was filed with only the promise of unearthing evidence of massive amounts of voter fraud at some point in the future. “Voters are currently compiling analytical evidence of illegal voting from data they already have and are in the process of obtaining,” the plaintiffs write. “They intend to produce this evidence at the evidentiary hearing to establish that sufficient illegal ballots were included in the results to change or place in doubt the November 3 presidential election results.”

Because Trump and his allies are working backward from his “stolen election” claim, no amount of evidence to the contrary will shake them. On November 12, Trump asserted that, once Georgia underwent a recount, he would win the state. Well, Georgia election officials ordered a recount, and Biden is still going to win the state. So now Trump is adamant that the “Fake recount going on in Georgia means nothing” and the real problem is a consent decree about ballot signatures that both parties agreed to back in March. Once that inevitably fizzles, it’ll be something else.

At some level, Trump’s self-deception is both entirely expected and entirely meaningless. Joe Biden will be sworn in on January 20 and the world will move on.

But the president’s refusal to budge from his conspiratorial alternate reality is wreaking havoc in its wake—and not just by grinding the transition process to a halt. Philadelphia City Commissioner Al Schmidt, a Republican, said on November 8 that his office has received death threats for not buying into widespread election fraud conspiracies. Trump targeted him on Twitter three days later. After Trump—and GOP Sens. Kelly Loeffler and David Perdue—went after Georgia’s Republican Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger, he and his wife have been dealing with death threats, too.

And on Tuesday night, one of the most widely respected members of the Trump administration—CISA Director Chris Krebs—got the axe for doing his job: Protecting the integrity of the election and debunking misinformation about the electoral process, both foreign and domestic. The “Rumor Control” and “#Protect2020” websites his agency spearheaded have, by all accounts, been nothing but successful. “The November 3rd election was the most secure in American history,” a joint statement from the Election Infrastructure Government Coordinating Council Executive Committee read last week.

Krebs’ reward? “Effective immediately, Chris Krebs has been terminated as Director of the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency,” Trump tweeted just after 7 p.m. Tuesday. Krebs’ deputy reportedly resigned after the move as well, leaving Brandon Wales—a Krebs ally—as likely acting director.

The Morning Dispatch


[C]anceling student loan debt would be a massive unforced error for the newly minted Biden administration. It would show that one of the new Democratic president’s highest priorities during a pandemic and a destabilizing economic shock is to provide a bailout to people who are overwhelmingly likely to end up as members of the upper-middle class. It would amount to a transfer payment from contractors and service workers to high-earning knowledge workers and other white-collar employees. As such, it would also accelerate trends in the Democratic Party that would leave it vulnerable to a Republican Party increasingly trying to rebrand itself as a champion of the working class.

As economist Thomas Piketty and others have pointed out in recent years, center-left political parties suffer at the ballot-box when they come to represent the interests of the upper-middle class at the expense of the working class, allowing the nationalist-populist right to make inroads with the latter. This has happened in a series of European countries in recent years, and it’s happening in the U.S. as well, with the Democrats enjoying surging support in inner-ring suburbs but losing ground in working-class, exurban, and rural areas.

Damon Linker, The class folly of canceling student loans

I cannot endorse Linker’s view heartily enough. The Democrats need not only to avoid too hard a swerve leftward, but they need to avoid clamorous calls like this that will more securely lock workers into an increasingly insane GOP. But considering how little of the progrressive left is “POC”, how much white college grads, I may be repeating myself.


The fact that such a proposal would disproportionately benefit high-earning professionals does not make it a bad one. But it should be expanded into a debt jubilee that would cancel all obligations up to the same five-figure sum proposed by Schumer: credit cards, auto loans, remaining mortgage balances, and, especially, medical debts, which should be discharged without any limit.

Matthew Walther, America needs a real debt jubilee

I haven’t kept score, but it seems to me that, like Babe Ruth, Walther always swings for the fence and thus whiffs a lot.


It would take a heart of stone not to laugh as Trump finally turns on the real Judas in his eyes: Fox News (where I’m a contributor). The network, Trump tweeted, “forgot what made them successful, what got them there. They forgot the Golden Goose. The biggest difference between the 2016 Election, and 2020, was @FoxNews!”

Never mind that Fox was No. 1 in every time slot more than a decade before Trump descended that escalator in 2015. Never mind that for four years, Trump began his day with his Presidential Daily Brief—Fox and Friends—and ended it with the primetime gang. And never mind that Trump and the opinion side of the network remain in a deeply codependent relationship.

Trump didn’t get the unwavering, full-throated praise he needed, so now he’s thinking about creating a competing network, one without all the obvious anti-Trump bias!

[T]he one thing we won’t ever feel about the Trump presidency is nostalgia—not least because he won’t really be gone. Even after he leaves the White House, he’ll be fighting for himself—and making sure we hear him—for the rest of his days.

Jonah Goldberg, Donald Trump Will Never Stop Fighting—For Himself – The Dispatch (emphasis added)


Since 2016, America’s international reputation has been transformed. No longer the world’s most admired democracy, our political system is more often perceived as uniquely dysfunctional, and our leaders as notably dangerous. Poll after poll shows that respect for America is not just plummeting, but also turning into something very different. Some 70 percent of South Koreans and more than 60 percent of Japanese—two nations whose friendship America needs in order to push back against Chinese influence in Asia—view the U.S. as a “major threat.” In Germany, our key ally in Europe, far more people fear Trump than fear Russia’s Vladimir Putin, China’s Xi Jinping, or North Korea’s Kim Jong Un.

Anne Applebaum, The Post-Trump World Will Never Go Back to Normal – The Atlantic

How sad is that.

Related topic: As we once surpassed Great Britain, so China appears destined to surpass us economically. What are we going to do to maintain leadership in other realms?


I keep forgetting to acknowledge that the “Evangelicals” who deeply drank the Trump Kool-Aid would not even have been considered Evangelicals in my youth. They are Prosperity Gospel pentecostals, arguably heretics, the closest analogy in my youth being Oral Roberts — who we did not then consider Evangelical in my circles.

This is not, of course, an endorsement of what I consider true Evangelicals. American Evangelicalism at its very, very best — far better than I experienced growing up — was described by the late Tom Howard in his spiritual biography, Evangelical is Not Enough: Worship of God in Liturgy and Sacrament. Though Howard walked the Roman road, I  to Constantinople (Orthodoxy), the arguments for either are almost indistinguishable when it comes to the superiority of liturgy and sacrament over Evangelical worship variations.


I have been an engaged Christian for over half my life now, but I have never once tried to evangelize directly. Some people have that gift; I do not. I have not ever been offended when someone tried to share their faith with me, but I have also resisted those conversations. Why? Because fair or not, I have always regarded them as people trying to befriend me for instrumental reasons. They’re not interested in me as I am; they are only interested in me as a potential convert. It’s like they’re trying to secure my vote for Jesus, or something.

Again, I have never held it against them; how else would you evangelize if you didn’t take the risk of coming off that way? But I was also not the slightest bit interested in what they had to say. Had we become friends first, and I had come to trust in their care for me, then I might have been open to hearing them out. Not before, though.

A reader e-mailed the other day to say he is not a Christian, but asked why I became one … I seem to recall that he wasn’t asking me to tell my conversion story …, but rather to say why I think he should become a Christian.

I don’t want to make an apologetic argument. There are many of those, done by people far better at that than I am. The reader’s query has bobbed to the surface in my mind over the past few days, and made me think more deeply about what it was that made me feel that if I was going to live in truth, I had to become a Christian — and not just a Christian, but the kind of Christian I became. What I’ll say here is not intended to be an apologetic, but just some musing on what seized my imagination, and compelled me to convert. I’m not interested in offering propositions and syllogisms. I only want to talk about the core experience that opened my eyes, and then my heart, to God.

It begins in awe. That is the primordial experience of religion: becoming intensely aware of the numinous realm, and one’s need to establish a relationship to it …

“When I saw God, as religions seemed to want me to see God, as an all-seeing supernatural entity with a great personal interest in my life and behaviour, laying down laws, demanding worship and promising me an afterlife in return, I had no interest, and still don’t. I don’t believe it. But when, later, I began to see that perhaps this was a common human interpretation of an experience of something greater than the individual ego – when I began to understand that all religions and all spiritual traditions have their mystics who had interpreted this great spirit, this Dao, this experience of the divine, very differently – then I began to see that perhaps it was something I could understand after all. I began to see that perhaps what some people call God, or the sacred, or the divine, was what I experienced as some power, some strange greatness, immanent in the wild world around me.

“In other words, perhaps I do after all understand the perpetual human search for the sacred, whether I can adequately explain it or not, and I think I may know why it still matters, despite my culture’s frantic attempts to convince me otherwise. I have experienced the feelings that charge the concept with so much electricity. It’s just that I have never experienced them in places that people designate as holy.”

The Rose Window & The Labyrinth – Daily Dreher (embedded quote by Paul Kingsnorth)

I addressed Evangelicalism above, but it now occurs to me that it rarely “begins in awe … the primordial experience of religion: becoming intensely aware of the numinous realm, and one’s need to establish a relationship to it.” Evangelical conversions are almost always directed more toward eternal self-preservation, since there’s little awesome or numinous in Evangelical life.


When I speak to former colleagues of mine who are—or were—in the Republican sphere that includes Graham, the conversation about “what happened to Lindsey Graham?” usually ends with the conclusion that he is scared to death of what life would be like if he wasn’t a U.S. senator.

In an interview in February 2019, Graham was asked why he had such a dramatic shift of allegiance towards Donald Trump. His answer: “From my point of view, if you know anything about me, it’d be odd not to do this.” When asked what “this ” meant, he said “try to be relevant.”

It seems that for Graham, changing one’s operational code to fit the political climate so as to stay close to power is not just acceptable—it’s part of his inherent identity ….

Nicholas Connors, Lindsey Graham Is the Worst – The Bulwark


The true threat for the Church … comes … from the universal dictatorship of apparently humanistic ideologies. Anyone who contradicts this dictatorship is excluded from the basic consensus of society. One hundred years ago, anyone would have thought it absurd to speak of homosexual matrimony. Today those who oppose it are socially excommunicated. The same holds true for abortion and the production of human beings in the laboratory ….

Antonio Socci, Benedict XVI Warns of a New Totalitarianism (OnePeterFive)


What we are witnessing is a power grab carried out chiefly by some white Americans against other white Americans. The goal of the new woke national establishment, the successor to the old Northeastern mainline Protestant establishment that was temporarily displaced by the neo-Jacksonian New Deal Democratic coalition, is to stigmatize, humiliate and disempower recalcitrant Southern, Catholic, and Jewish whites, along with members of ethnic and racial minorities who refuse to be assimilated into the new national orthodoxy disseminated from New York, San Francisco, Washington, D.C., and the prestigious private universities of New England. Properly understood, the Great Awokening is the revenge of the Yankees.

Michael Lind, The Revenge of the Yankees – Tablet Magazine


Another claim Mr. Giuliani referenced related to the delivery, in the middle of the night after Election Day, of boxes of ballots to the counting headquarters—several affidavits in the state lawsuit claimed these boxes were unmarked and unsealed. Judge Kenny dismissed those allegations as “generalized speculation.”

Mr. Giuliani was joined at the news conference by Sidney Powell, an attorney who has represented Michael Flynn, the former Trump administration national security adviser who pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI and is now trying to reverse the plea.

Ms. Powell aired accusations of foreign interference in the election, which she also claimed had been rigged by “communist money” from Cuba and China and through a plot concocted by Hugo Chávez, the Venezuelan leader who died in 2013, and the financier George Soros.

Mr. Giuliani said he had viewed hundreds of affidavits in Michigan and Pennsylvania that proved fraud, though he said he couldn’t reveal most of them because the accusers wanted to remain anonymous.

Trump Legal Team Claims Broad Conspiracy to Manipulate Election – WSJ


No hard evidence of widespread fraud, no success in the courts or prospect of it. You can have a theory that a bad thing was done, but only facts will establish it. You need to do more than what Rudy Giuliani did at his news conference Thursday, which was throw out huge, barely comprehensible allegations and call people “crooks.” You need to do more than Sidney Powell, who, at the same news conference, charged that “communist money” is behind an international conspiracy to rig the U.S. election. There was drama, hyperbole, perhaps madness. But the wilder the charges, the more insubstantial the case appeared.

More than two weeks after the election, it’s clear where this is going. The winner will be certified and acknowledged; Joe Biden will be inaugurated. But it’s right to worry about the damage being done on the journey.

What would have happened if the John Birch Society had been online, if it had existed in the internet age when accusations, dark warnings and violent talk can rip through a country in a millisecond and anonymous voices can whip things up for profit or pleasure?

It wouldn’t have faded. It would have prospered.

Peggy Noonan, A Bogus Dispute Is Doing Real Damage – WSJ


Thursday morning, President Trump teased an “Important News Conference” happening later in the afternoon in which his lawyers would lay out a “clear and viable path to victory” because the “pieces are very nicely falling into place.” The only accurate part of the tweet was that a news conference did, indeed, occur. It was just under two hours, and the Trump administration’s recently fired CISA Director Chris Krebs called it “the most dangerous 1hr 45 minutes of television in American history.”

In a statement provided to The Dispatch, Sen. Ben Sasse said that “based on what I’ve read in their filings, when Trump campaign lawyers have stood before courts …, they have repeatedly refused to actually allege grand fraud—because there are legal consequences for lying to judges.”

The Morning Dispatch: Farcical (But Dangerous) Conspiracies From Trump’s Legal Team – The Morning Dispatch


The substitution of the word pendentem for ascendentem occurs only in the later medieval devotional texts of the prayer, and it transforms its whole theological resonance. The Crucifixion is now something which happens to Christ, rather than his triumphal act: he does not ascend the cross, he hangs upon it ….

Eamon Duffy, The Stripping of the Altars


I strongly believe that George W. Bush was a worse president than Donald Trump, even if we restrict our analysis to his first term. While Trump is more chaotic, Bush was more ideological, was better able to surround himself with staffers competent enough to carry out his worst policy wishes, and simply did considerably more harm to considerably more people.

Many, many people I respect and care about disagree with me about this, quite strongly. In my view, they have a tendency to overweight the importance of mean words and breaches of etiquette relative to actual policy. And surely Bush is better than Trump if the metric is rudeness.

On Donald Trump, George W. Bush, And Moral Luck – Singal-Minded

Count me among those who disagree, though it was Bush’s conversion from “walk humbly” conservatism to hawkish and utopian democracy-spending that led to my leaving the GOP.


We may think that we prefer that the royals can be more informal, more human, what we may get is someone as vulgar as Prince Andrew, with his womanizing and gallivanting with the odious Jeffrey Epstein. Or, to switch to another monarchy, consider Pope Francis, who brought marked informality to the papacy, which, if you ask me, was doing just fine with the papal pomp.

[H]aving made unwise vows, ought [Charles and Diana] both have kept them, at the expense of their happiness[?] I think yes. It is more important that they live out their duty to be what they promised to be, rather than to be what they wanted to be. What if that meant they were miserable together? No one wants a couple to suffer, and certainly no spouse should suffer abuse, including repeated and unrepentant infidelity. But following Dante’s wisdom, if people are not willing to suffer to be faithful to their vows (marital and otherwise), society will disintegrate.

One of the most stunning things anyone ever said to me came a few years ago when I traveled to a Christian college to give a talk about one of my books. I was talking over a meal with some professors, and asked, as is my habit, what are the greatest challenges they see facing their students. I’ll never forget what the professor sitting on my left said: that he did not think many of his students would be able to form stable families.

“Why on earth not?” I asked.

“Because they have never seen one,” he replied. Nods all around the table.

That floored me. These were students at an Evangelical Christian college, yet most of them, according to their teachers, came from broken families. The professors went on to explain that most of the students they talk to about it want to marry and have children, but they are filled with radical doubt about their ability to sustain marriage and family. And why not? Most of the adults in their lives have failed to live up to their marriage vows. They did not believe it was possible.

Rod Dreher, The Pity Of The Royal Marriage – Daily Dreher (commenting on the new season of The Crown on Netflix).


In his interview with Dreher, Vance warned — prophetically — that while Trumpism offered a cheap thrill, the man himself offered nothing to treat the root causes of American despair. He’s the OxyContin of Presidents. At best, he made people understand that their pain was economic as much as cultural. But Vance’s real disappointment with Trump — “the tragedy of his presidency” — is that he encouraged white working class voters to blame others for their problems … But the fact that Vance only made it out by the skin of his teeth — and hillbilly [venture capitalists] remain a rare breed — suggests that merely exhorting the people of Middletown, Ohio, to make better choices isn’t going to do much. As his book makes clear, a poor kid only needs to make a handful of bad choices to fail and 100 good choices to become a success. The opposite is true for rich kids: three of four decent choices all-but guarantee success; you need to continually mess up to truly mess up.

Hillbilly Elegy resents ‘white trash’ – UnHerd


Many readers outside of California will not have heard of Governor Gavin Newsom. But if you need to summon up a mental image, imagine Marie Antoinette without that late Queen’s sense of self-awareness.

That Douglas Murray sure knows how to write an opening paragraph.


the CIA’s “most endangered employee for much of the past year” was the whistleblower who helped launch the impeachment proceedings against the president.

I’ve … never seen anything like the atmosphere of fear and intimidation that’s reigned on the right from the moment that Donald Trump seized the commanding heights of the GOP. I strongly believe this reality explains a great deal of public Republican silence and compliance in the face of even obvious and egregious Trump deceptions, incompetence, and misdeeds. The Trumpist wing of the GOP wields a big stick even as it also offers a rather tasty carrot … if you yield.

… “only cowards don’t conform” is an odd way to define bravery.

Let’s Talk About Fear – The French Press


What I see, and Muñoz seems not to see is that the threat to fundamental American values is not an exclusively radical-left enterprise. A right captured by cruelty and illiberalism is not building a better America, and it’s certainly not building a governing majority. Moreover, it is curious to see Muñoz blithely assert that the radical left is overtaking the Democratic party when large segments of the Democratic party are not only in open revolt against the radical left, the moderate faction soundly defeated the radicals in the Democratic presidential primary—and the radicals know it.

Who represents the greater departure from American political norms? Joe Biden or Donald Trump?

Let’s Talk About Fear – The French Press


I’ve enjoyed the NYT The Argument podcast for a couple of years, but it seems to me that Michelle Goldberg is getting loonier and loonier since Frank Bruni left.


Similarly, Jim Wallis, a patriarch of the Religious Left, was cancelled this year because he declined to publish in Sojourners a hysterical piece accusing the Catholic Church of white supremacy. All of Wallis’s work meant nothing to these zealots. He’s just another old white male who is insufficiently woke.

‘Triumph Of The Hillbilly’ | The American Conservative

Jim Wallis not woke enough for Sojourners?! We are doomed.


The most surprising thing about Liberty’s dream season, however, may be the string of scandals that form the foundation for the school’s success. McCaw resigned from his last job at Baylor amid allegations that his department mishandled sexual-assault allegations involving football players. Head coach Hugh Freeze came to Liberty after resigning at Mississippi over “conduct in his personal life” involving escort services.

Both men were brought to Lynchburg, Va., by Jerry Falwell Jr., the former Liberty president who resigned earlier this year amid a series of scandals that included allegations, which Falwell denied, that he for years watched his wife have sex with another man.

College Football’s Biggest Upset: Liberty University Is Undefeated – WSJ

And fundamentalist parents pay money to send their kids to this fundamentalist school! Any resemblance between postmodern Protestant fundamentalism and “the faith once delivered” is purely coincidental.


Sorry, Jonathan Rausch. You’re a good writer, but Trump’s Firehose of Falsehood is just Steve Bannon’s “flood the zone with shit” cleaned up for family consumption.


One nice thing about the current situation is that it’s making the difference between extremely partisan but fundamentally honest folks like Dreher and Erickson and utter hacks like Metaxas extra clear.

Andrew Egger on Twitter, after Rod Dreher called out Eric Metaxas for breathlessly Tweeting a link to an “actual newspaper” with details of the “election fraud” — a newspaper Dreher knew to be a grocery-store-giveaway from a GOP hack.

There’s a lot, by the way, I don’t like about many of Dreher’s postings at his American Conservative blog, but I don’t think he qualifies as “extremely partisan.” He has worn his ambivalence about the GOP on his sleeve for more than a decade. In the back-and-forth on this Tweet, Egger eventually concedes that.

I also don’t think he’s “far right,” but as (1) that’s the zeitgeist and (2) it’s almost as meaningless as “poopy-head,” I’m not going to die on that hill.


A week ago, we got a complementary copy of an unfamiliar newspaper, the Epoch Times. It seemed conservative in orientation, a bit eccentric in story selection, and anachronistically anti-Communist. I was considering a 3-month subscription as a trial.

Googled it and found that it’s a Falun Gong operation.

I have nothing in particular against Falun Gong, but I refuse to fall into the thought-pattern that the dissidents within an adversary are ipso facto friends. I also don’t seek out the Christian Science Monitor or trust the Washington Times, an operation of the Unification Church.


Republicans are united in the idea that it’s intolerant to attempt to exclude traditional conservative Christians from public office because of their religious beliefs—or even to condemn them as extremists or immoral. To turn around a demand that a Christian pastor of a different church with different beliefs withdraw from politics because of his theology and his sermons are outside of the mainstream in a way that favors the GOP is indeed hypocritical.

But that’s not the end of the inquiry. There still remains the rather important reality that religious beliefs can drive both policy and conduct in office. We all ground our policies and conduct in a particular world view, whether it’s located in a secular philosophy or a religious theology. So if there are unfair ways of evaluating a person’s faith, there are also fair questions we can ask.

So yes, ask Pastor Warnock about American military spending, American military policy or about support for veterans. Ask him if his beliefs would require him to vote against military intervention no matter the stakes. But don’t assume you know the answer to those questions based on 26 seconds of a single sermon—especially when those 26 seconds easily match with conventional Christian beliefs.

It’s a simple reality that religious beliefs often seem strange or inexplicable to those outside the faith (or even outside a specific denomination). And when you’re not steeped in a specific theology, you often have no idea how it will play out in political philosophy. I’m a Christian in the Calvinist reformed tradition, for example, yet I have vigorous public policy disagreements with many of my Calvinist friends.

David French, ‘America, Nobody Can Serve God and the Military’, calling out Republican bullshit like this contemptible Marco Rubio tweet.


Dog bites man isn’t news. Man bites dog is news.

University gets free speech right, even when it’s speech of Republicans, is also news.


The worst judge of all is the man now most ready with his judgements; the ill-educated Christian turning gradually into the ill-tempered agnostic, entangled in the end of a feud of which he never understood the beginning, blighted with a sort of hereditary boredom with he knows not what, and already weary of hearing what he has never heard.

G.K. Chesterton, The Everlasting Man

You can read most of my more impromptu stuff here or join me and others on micro.blog. You won’t find me on Facebook any more, and I don’t post on Twitter (though I do have an account for occasional gawking).

Potpourri 11/11/20

Audacious Plaintiff gets aptly smacked down.

If you want privacy, folks, you don’t go to court. You especially don’t go to court with a lurid complaint and then ask for privacy because the defense might be lurid, too.


Against fierce cultural and social pressures, you strive—with the help of grace, your pastors, and each other—to live the Catholic ethic of human love even as you experience same-sex attractions. Your efforts at fidelity bespeak deep faith, a powerful hope, and authentic love.

Living chastely—living what John Paul II called “the integrity of love”—is not easy for anyone in our licentious culture …

… unlike some others, you do not demand that truth bend to desire. With Flannery O’Connor, you know that “the truth does not change according to our ability to stomach it emotionally.” …

Just as importantly, you do not treat chastity as an ecclesiastical “policy issue” and you do not lobby within the Church for a change in “policy,” because you know that what is at stake here is truth: a truth that makes for happiness, genuine friendship, and, ultimately, beatitude ….

George Weigel, An Open Letter to the People of “Courage”.

I generally am not a fan of George Weigel, but to patronize First Things is to run into him constantly, and he does occasionally say something I agree with, as he does here. I do not endorse, though, some other parts of the same little piece; specifically, I’m not prepared to exonerate Pope Francis from charges of mischief.


My favorite “spy podcast” is Intelligence Matters. Today’s weekly was probably the best I’ve heard, not about spying so much as strategic intelligence about relations with China.

As Great Britain had to gingerly make room for the United States a century ago, so we may need gingerly to make some room for emergent China. New superpower, old analogies.


The worst judge of all is the man now most ready with his judgements; the ill-educated Christian turning gradually into the ill-tempered agnostic, entangled in the end of a feud of which he never understood the beginning, blighted with a sort of hereditary boredom with he knows not what, and already weary of hearing what he has never heard.

G.K. Chesterton, The Everlasting Man.

The sharpness of the observation isn’t immediately obvious to a lazy read. It fits today’s abandonment of churches by social climbers quite well.


The Centers for Disease Control updated its guidance on masks to indicate that masks protect the individuals wearing them, not just those around them. “Experimental and epidemiological data support community masking to reduce the spread of SARS-CoV-2,” the CDC’s website reads. “The prevention benefit of masking is derived from the combination of source control and personal protection for the mask wearer.” The number of people currently hospitalized with COVID-19 hit an all-time high yesterday, according to the COVID Tracking Project.

The Morning Dispatch

The disparity between the science on face masks and the political posturing about them frustrates me a lot. My common sense tells me they should help. The science seems to say they help, but a lot less than I’d have guessed. One of my scientifically smartest friends is not convinced that they help at all (and, scientist or not, is almost mystical about “face-to-face” encounter. No reductionist he.).

I wear one in many situations that make me look like a liberal (how weird to correlate things so!). I leave it off, even when singing as cantor at Church, if nobody’s within ten feet or so of me and I can sing away from the congregation (except for mask-mandatory liturgies, which we’ve added twice mosthly for the elderly or extra-cautious).

But the pandemic locally is the worst ever. Yesterday’s new-infection rate would have meant almost a third of the county getting Covid within a year if it continued unabated.


Here beginneth political punditry. If you are “soooo done with that”, or “just can’t even”, you may stop reading.

If you’re wondering why so many prominent elected Republicans are standing by TrumpWorld’s increasingly untethered to reality conspiracies about widespread voter fraud and election theft, Burgess Everett offers one explanation in Politico. “The party needs President Donald Trump’s help to clinch two runoff elections in Georgia on Jan. 5 that will determine the fate of the Senate GOP’s majority,” Everett writes. “And accepting the presidential results ahead of Trump, a politician driven by loyalty, could put Republicans at odds with the president and his core supporters amid the must-win elections down South.”

The Morning Dispatch

I’m sorry, but that’s not good enough. “Some things,” as Antonin Scalia said of his friendship with Notorious RBG, “are more important than votes.”


The day after the firing of the secretary of defense who resisted the use of troops against peaceful American protesters is probably not a great time for the secretary of state to joke about a transition to a “second Trump administration.” If he was in fact joking. Welcome to what the Republican party is in 2020—a threat to democratic order.

Mona Charen, There Is No Return to Normalcy – Ethics & Public Policy Center She delivers the goods, too.


[I]t’s … possible to make use of the [Devil] as a metaphor, an idea, treating it as the fanciful creation of culture as it tries to make sense of something real in human experience.

What is this something? It’s more precisely a someone — the kind of person who delights in wreaking havoc, who acts entirely from his own interests, and whose interests are incompatible with received norms, standards, restraints, and laws. Someone who actively seeks to inspire anger and animus, who likes nothing more than provoking conflict all around him, both to create advantages for himself and because pulling everyone around him down to his own ignoble level soothes his nagging worry that someone, somewhere might be more widely admired. This is a person who lives for adulation without regard for whether the glory is earned. The louder the cheers, the better. That’s all that counts. And so the only thing that’s a threat is the prospect of the cheers going silent — of someone else rightfully winning the contest for public approval.

Donald Trump is the demon in American democracy.

What makes Trump demonic? One thing above all: His willingness, even eagerness, to do serious, potentially fatal, damage to something beautiful, noble, fragile, and rare, purely to satisfy his own emotional needs. That something is American self-government. Trump can’t accept losing, can’t accept rejection, and savors provoking division. He wants to be a maestro conducting a cacophony of animosities at the center of our national stage because it feeds his insatiable craving for attention and power — and because, I suspect, he delights in pulling everybody else down to his own level.

That is a satanic impulse …

… He’s asserted that the Democrats stole the election without providing a shred of proof in even a single state to back up the incendiary accusation. The result? Seventy percent of Republicans are already prepared to say that the election wasn’t free and fair. Which means they are inclined to believe that the Biden administration is illegitimate even before it starts — because, as Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina put it on Monday night on Fox News, the Democrats are only able win power by cheating.

Damon Linker has been on a roll. I agree with Trump is a demonic force in American politics completely (except that I am a believing Christian, as Linker used to be, and so believe an an actual Satan).

It bothers me less that 70-some million voted for Trump than that some bitter-ender Christian-adjacent folks (i.e., heretics) believe “stolen election” and the prosperity gospelers’ maniacal insistence that this demonic man is God’s choice for America.


President-elect Joe Biden projected calm on Tuesday despite President Trump’s continued refusal to concede the election. “The fact that they’re not willing to acknowledge we won at this point is not of much consequence for our planning and what we’re able to do between now and January 20,” Biden said. He called Trump’s post-election behavior an “embarrassment,” adding that it “will not help the president’s legacy.”

The Morning Dispatch

That kind of heated rhetoric has just got to stop. I’ll give Biden 50 months to cut it out.


Out of the crooked timber of humanity no straight thing was ever made.

You shall love your crooked neighbour
With your crooked heart.

W.H. Auden


You can read most of my more impromptu stuff here or join me and others on micro.blog. You won’t find me on Facebook any more, and I don’t post on Twitter (though I do have an account for occasional gawking).

Potpourri 9/3/20

Kyrie
Because we cannot be clever and honest
and are inventors of things more intricate
than the snowflake—Lord have mercy. 

Because we are full of pride
in our humility, and because we believe
in our disbelief—Lord have mercy. 

Because we will protect ourselves
from ourselves to the point
of destroying ourselves—Lord have mercy. 

And because on the slope to perfection,
when we should be half-way up,
we are half-way down—Lord have mercy. 

R.S. Thomas, Mass for Hard Times

Thomas has not been on my radar as a poet. This one blew me away (there’s a great deal more to it), as did Tell Us.

* * *

The shift from church power to state power is not the victory of peaceable reason over irrational religious violence. The more we tell ourselves it is, the more we are capable of ignoring the violence we do in the name of reason and freedom.

William T. Cavanaugh, The Myth of Religious Violence

* * *


“The universities now offer only one serious major: upward mobility,” Jackson writes. “Little attention is paid to educating the young to return home, or to go some other place, and dig in. There is no such thing as a ‘homecoming’ major.

Wes Jackson via Wendell Berry via Mark Mitchell and Nathan Schlueter, The Humane Vision of Wendell Berry.

* * *


In Pittsburgh on Monday, the Democratic presidential nominee responded forcefully to President Trump’s charge that “no one will be safe in Biden’s America.” … “Does anyone believe there will be less violence in America if Donald Trump is re-elected?” Mr. Biden asked. “He can’t stop the violence—because for years he has fomented it.”

Trump’s 1980 Strategy for 2020 – WSJ

* * *


… Christopher Lasch is someone you cite a lot in this book, and in his work there’s a real sensitivity to the importance of these cultural issues. For educated people, the conflicts over busing or religion or sexuality or whatever reinforce the sense that working people are not really worthy of our concern because they’re authoritarian, behind the times. And then for the working class, it really drives home this perception that they are held in contempt. And Lasch seemed to believe that this tension was baked in because the values of the managerial elite were precisely the values of liberal-capitalist meritocracy: individual autonomy, self-development, personal liberation, etc., the flip side of which is a suspicion of working-class values like solidarity and thick ties like family and religion and neighborhood. The working-class view is more conservative, in a sense, but it’s also a product of a real class difference in how people see their place in the world.

Well, yes, I totally agree with that. I thought you said you were pushing back.

What I’m trying to get at is: There’s a sense in which this is a very real dividing line between more affluent, college-educated Democrats and members of the white working class and even sections of the non-white working class, where the former are often socially liberal and economically conservative/centrist and the latter are often economically liberal but more conservative on issues like abortion, immigration, crime, etc. How do you think Democrats or the left more broadly should try to navigate this divide? Do you think that open conflict over these issues can be avoided if you just focus on economics? Or does something eventually have to give — working-class whites moving left on culture or educated liberals deciding that they need to accept people with more conservative social views — say, a pro-life, gun-owning Catholic — as a part of the coalition?

This is a problem, of course, but I also think it is possible for people to come together on a common cause without agreeing on everything. The problem is getting the Democrats to acknowledge that common cause. Up until now, the Democrats have spent all their resources reaching out to those affluent white-collar people in rich suburbs. Those are the only “swing voters” they’re interested in. This bunch gets everything. It’s all crafted to please this group — economic policies, culture-war stances, everything. I happen to think a really robust program for reclaiming middle-class America from the forces that have wrecked so many people’s cities and lives and health would be immensely popular. It would be so popular that lots of people would be willing to overlook, say, one’s views on gun control in order to get behind it.

What’s the Matter With Populism? Nothing. (metered paywall – New York Magazine)

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Baron Trump looks like the world’s most miserable child.

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[A]nother narrow Trump victory, especially one in which the popular vote goes for Biden, is going to kick off civil unrest that will make this summer look tame. Trump’s opponents will ping-pong even harder between the two fever dreams of the first term. The first, that Trump is a foreign pawn and opposed to everything that makes American great. This charge comes with a complimentary retweet of James Comey standing near the Liberty Bell. The second, that Trump is the final, rotten fruit of a rotten American tree that must be uprooted altogether. This one comes with a retweet of 1619 Project impresario Nikole Hannah Jones explaining that arson isn’t violence.

My assumption, however, is that Trump’s second term may prove to be more difficult than the first for him. While some progressives are trying to moralize themselves for the November election by predicting a second term flowing with dictatorial power aimed at undermining democracy forever, I predict more slapstick incompetence.

Instead of hiring the best people, Trump has relied on whoever is nearby. This cast of characters has included people with their own firm agendas (such as John Bolton) or people who just seemed to have the Trump vibe (such as Anthony Scaramucci). Many of these people have had short careers in Trumpville — and leave it quickly to write scathing memoirs of their time within. About a dozen former White House officials or other flunkies have left Team Trump to write hair-raising tell-alls.

Trump already had problems with hiring enough people to fully staff the Executive Branch. His inability to do so is part of what allows the “deep state” to undermine, dodge, or contravene his authority as president. His reputation for administrative neglect, sudden reversals, and micromanaging has dissuaded qualified people from joining the administration. It leaves the presidency weakened.

Michael Brendan Dougherty, Donald Trump Second Term: What to Expect | National Review

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Reporters standing in front of scenes of arson, flames billowing behind them, not very far from scenes of shooting and murder, insist that the protests are “mostly peaceful.” National Public Radio and a multi-billion-dollar global media conglomerate team up to bring you an illiterate “defense of looting.” The president comes to the defense of a dangerously stupid teenager who went looking for trouble illegally armed with a rifle in his hands and, to no one’s great surprise, found the trouble he was looking for.

But if there is a case to be made for looting, how about we start with NPR and its affiliates? The NPR Foundation reported holding $342 million in assets in 2018, and NPR’s management and on-air talent are splendidly compensated, many of them in excess of a half-million dollars a year. You can commission a shipload of lectures on income inequality and the salubrious effects of looting for that kind of “just property.” NPR’s headquarters on North Capitol Street in Washington, D.C., is “just property,” too — property NPR isn’t even much using at the moment, because of the epidemic. Would NPR object to someone burning it down to make a political point? Would looting NPR’s property be defensible? Yes? No? Why or why not?

… The same people burning down grocery stores today will be complaining about “food deserts” in 18 months.

… the petulant children in Portland want only to play-act at being Jacobins, and the petulant child in the White House requires a full-time culture war lest he be forced to run for reelection on his record of spotless administrative excellence and confidence-inspiring leadership. If ever two clutches of fools deserved one another, these are they.

Michael Brendan Dougherty, A Clutch of Fools | National Review

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Peter Viereck: American Conservatism’s Road Not Traveled | Front Porch Republic was very good.

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Out of the crooked timber of humanity no straight thing was ever made.

You shall love your crooked neighbour with your crooked heart.

W.H. Auden

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You can read most of my more impromptu stuff at here. It should work in your RSS aggregator, like Feedly, should you want to make a habit of it.

Miscellany – August 24, 2020

President Donald Trump tweeted “Happy Sunday! We want GOD!“ as part of a string of religious-themed tweets on Sunday morning …

Also Sunday morning, the president headed to the Trump National Golf Club in Potomac Falls, Va., to play golf.

‘Happy Sunday! We want GOD!’ – POLITICO


I had grown up in a very conservative home. I’d been taught Christian values. I’d been taught that America was this exceptional country. And we’d never had somebody at the head of our party who was just completely morally bankrupt.

In fact, the moment I knew that I had a problem with Trump being our nominee was when there was a question asked in one of the debates when someone said, “You filed bankruptcy four times,” and his response was something to the effect of, “Well, yeah, I used the law to my advantage.” In my household, you would never file bankruptcy, or if you had to, it was because something devastating happened to you. You would never go out and think that you were going to use that to your advantage, because there’s somebody on the other end of that that was being harmed. You’d never swing your arm with the purpose of hitting somebody.

And it seems as though that’s what conservatism had all of a sudden become. At one point in time, conservatism was this idea of liberty, of rugged individualism. But at the same time, there was this deep sense about responsibility. It was both liberty and responsibility. You could swing your arm, but you certainly weren’t going to swing your arm to where it was going to connect with somebody else’s nose. What we’ve gotten to today is: I’m going to swing my arm. You got in the way. That’s bad on you, not on me. That’s not what conservatism always was, but it’s what it’s become.

Chad Mayes, former Republican leader in the California State Assembly, in Why California Republican Chad Mayes Left the Party (The Atlantic).

That really resonates.


There’s not going to be a Republican platform this year. This is just saying, “Whatever Trump does, we support.” They wouldn’t have needed to all be in the same room to hammer this out. They know perfectly well that there’s no point in doing so. This astonishing document appears to confirm that the Republican Party exists now as a personality cult. Did you see that Trump is now going to speak on each of the four nights of the Republican convention? Why not? If he’s the only thing the party stands for, it stands to reason.

Rod Dreher, Trump Team Chaos

UPDATE: Ferrret-Brain has outlined his agenda, which is bereft of things like “constitution” or “limited” or “life” or “judges” or “religion” or “faith” or “liberty.”


The day after the Steve Bannon indictment, I read a post claiming that:

  1. The We Build the Wall GoFundMe site didn’t meet its goal, so funds were promised to be returned.
  2. The defendants offered donors an “opt-in” transfer to a new We Build the Wall 501(c)(4) entity, and refunded to those who didn’t opt in.
  3. The new We Build the Wall 501(c)(4) entity didn’t promise that there would be no compensation for those running it.

According to the indictment, at least the third point is false:

To get the GoFundMe contributions transferred to We Build the Wall, it was essentially necessary to do a second fundraising campaign because donors would have to “opt in” — i.e., they would have to agree to the transfer.

To persuade donors to do that, the accused schemers solemnly vowed in corporate by-laws, GoFundMe website announcements, social-messaging posts, and other assertions that 100 percent of the contributions would go to wall construction. Contributors were assured that Kolfage would “not take a penny of compensation from these donations,” and would “take no salary.” Bannon is said to have publicly guaranteed, on several occasions, “I did this kind of as a volunteer” and “we’re a volunteer organization.”

Nevertheless, the indictment alleges that the defendants planned to and did divert funds for their own benefit …

Steve Bannon Indictment: If There Are Convictions, Potential Penalties Are Severe | National Review


Has Ellen DeGeneres passed her sell-by date?.

We tend to develop blind spots. There’s thinly-veiled cruelty in some of Ellen’s kindness schtick.

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You can read most of my more impromptu stuff at here. It should work in your RSS aggregator, like Feedly, should you want to make a habit of it.

I highly recommend blot.im as a crazy-easy alternative to Twitter (if you’re just looking to get your stuff “out there” and not pick fights).

“Because of … Sex”

I’ve tried to let go of my anxieties about things beyond my control, and I’m not doing too badly in my effort.

Part of my calm comes, ironically, from some political realism (call it fatalism if you must): my side lost the culture wars, at least for now and the near future, so there will be adverse legal and political consequences.

Those consequences likely will be worse because so many of the noisesome avatars of American Christianism have been humping Trump’s leg for 42 months, evoking disgust from normal and Left-abnormal alike.

That I wasn’t among them will give no impunity, partly because, God willing, if a knock comes in the night I’ll not say “No! Not me! I’m not that kind of Christian!” Like ’em or not, the leg-humpers are my distant spiritual kin, so to deny them in time of great peril is like denying Christ.

Another bit of calm comes from the realization that, consequences or not, for now and the near future cultural conservatives, mostly Christian, will almost certainly have it incomparably better than most Christians in the past. (This also means that “knock in the night” is pretty unlikely.)

By “past,” I do not mean “since the birth of Evangelicalism in the 18th and 19th century Great Awakenings.” I mean 2000 years of Christianity. Commemorating the Martyrs and Confessors in Matins each week has taught me that. Real believers will survive and perhaps thrive — although things could get worse than I imagaine so they’ll thrive by departing to be with Christ;  “winsome” don’t always feed the devil-dawg’s bloodlust.

But “not anxious” doesn’t mean “disinterested,” and I’m pretty keenly interested in yesterday’s Title VII  decision (hereafter “Bostock“).

“Not anxious” also doesn’t mean “oblivious” to ramifications that are going to roil the nation for a while. The ones that most get my attention are not the ramifications under Title VII, which deals with discrimination in employment in details I’m unfamiliar with, but ramifications on what sex discrimination prohibitions will mean, by exactly the same Bostock logic, in Title IX and elsewhere. Title IX, for instance, is where the “biological males in women’s locker rooms” specter arises, as not many employers have people getting naked in locker rooms, but most educational institutions do.

Nevertheless, I’m going to pretty much set aside such sequelae to focus on the decision, it’s logic, illogic, dissents and hints about the current court going forward. Sequelae may get comments when they come.

You can get a skillfully pared-down version (from 120 pages to 30) of the Bostock decision here, by the way. If you don’t at least skim it, don’t you dare make snarky remarks about any of the authors.


First observation: I see no sign of bad faith by any of the three authors. Cases don’t get to SCOTUS unless they’re difficult legally. Specifically, I repudiate demagoguery that Gorsuch was just being true to his elite class (What other class do we want on the court? Anyone who makes it onto any Federal Court is ipso facto subject to the “elitist” charge.) or sucking up to the NYT Editorial Board.

Indeed:

The decision was a remarkably clear illustration of several fault lines that persist within the conservative movement. First, there is the friction between textualism and originalism, two judicial philosophies that are often lumped together but that found themselves squarely opposed in this case.

Speaking for the textualists—those who eschew a law’s authorial intent to focus only on its explicit wording—Gorsuch’s argument was simple: Title VII forbids any and all discrimination on the basis of sex, and “an employer who fires an individual for being homosexual or transgender fires that person for traits or actions it would not have questioned in members of a different sex.” In short: If you are a business owner, and your female employees are allowed to date men, but you fire a male employee for dating a man, it’s hard to argue his sex was not a determining factor in your decision.

Speaking for the originalists—those who attempt to determine what the intent of a law was at the time it was passed—Justice Samuel Alito fervently disagreed: It was staggeringly plain, he argued, that not a single legislator who voted to codify Title VII would have considered discrimination “on the basis of sex” to include sexual orientation and gender identity. The very concepts would have been foreign to them.

That friction was nothing, however, compared with what became evident between the conservatives who praised Gorsuch’s decision as quality textualism and those who argued that it amounted to a betrayal of the whole point of getting Trump justices on the court: to get the right some policy wins.

… Tweeted Jon Schweppe of the social conservative American Principles Project: “I was told there would be winning.”

The Morning Dispatch: The Supreme Court Expands Discrimination Protections.

Left and Right seem agreed that SCOTUS is a political legislative body in disguise. Left and Right are wrong.


Commentary on the oral argument in Bostock last November:

The argument is this: If an employer would never fire Ginger for taking a romantic interest in men, but does fire George when it learns that he does so, it has treated him differently because of his sex. Similar arguments can reach the case of an employee’s gender identity.

You might call the phenomenon “surprise plain meaning”—a meaning of the text that the drafters did not intend or notice at the time. Every law student learns about this early on, as with the question of whether a “No Vehicles in the Park” rule covers bicycles, skateboards, or a statue of the general in his Jeep.

Of the five conservative Justices, Neil Gorsuch showed himself the most hospitable toward the plaintiffs’ case on Tuesday [i.e., oral arguments], and no wonder: as the most committed textualist, he’s the likeliest to see surprise plain meaning as beating legislative history.

The Supreme Court Is Not Debating Your “Humanity”. The comments on Gorsuch were prophetic, but certainly not unique.

I thought that the dissent by Justice Alito, who faulted Justice Gorsuch’s adoption of the Ginger and George logic, was quite persuasive. Take a deep breath for an argument that’s nothing like television smack-talk:

At oral argument, the attorney representing the employees, [Pam Karlan] a prominent professor of constitutional law, was asked if there would be discrimination because of sex if an employer with a blanket policy against hiring gays, lesbians, and transgender individuals implemented that policy without knowing the biological sex of any job applicants. Her candid answer was that this would “not” be sex discrimination. And she was right.

The attorney’s concession was necessary, but it is fatal to the Court’s interpretation, for if an employer discriminates against individual applicants or employees without even knowing whether they are male or female, it is impossible to argue that the employer intentionally discriminated because of sex. An employer cannot intentionally discriminate on the basis of a characteristic of which the employer has no knowledge. And if an employer does not violate Title VII by discriminating on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity without knowing the sex of the affected individuals, there is no reason why the same employer could not lawfully implement the same policy even if it knows the sex of these individuals. If an employer takes an adverse employment action for a perfectly legitimate reason—for example, because an employee stole company property—that action is not converted into sex discrimination simply because the employer knows the employee’s sex. As explained, a disparate treatment case requires proof of intent—i.e., that the employee’s sex motivated the firing. In short, what this example shows is that discrimination because of sexual orientation or gender identity does not inherently or necessarily entail discrimination because of sex, and for that reason, the Court’s chief argument collapses….

I would paraphrase: “If an employer takes an adverse employment action for any reason that he considers legitimate in his sole discretion so long as it is not otherwise forbidden by law—that action is not converted into forbidden sex discrimination simply because the employer knows the employee’s sex.”


Legal experts who watched the arguments unfold weren’t entirely shocked that Gorsuch ruled as he did. The justice is well known as a textualist, someone who holds that the meaning of a law turns on the text alone, not the intentions of its drafters.

“What I saw in the argument [i.e., last November) was Gorsuch really struggling with the fact that the textual argument seemed really powerful to him,” Samuel Bagenstos, a University of Michigan law professor, told me. “There’s no way to think about sexual orientation discrimination without sex being part of it.”

Michelle Goldberg, Surprise! Justice on L.G.B.T. Rights From a Trump Judge


This is not a narrow ruling that just means you can’t fire a person for being gay. Extending civil rights law to protect a whole new category carries with it a host of ancillary protections.

… [T]he Bostock ruling won’t stay confined to employment law. The majority opinion protests, disingenuously, that “sex-segregated bathrooms, locker rooms, and dress codes” are “questions for future cases.” But federal law is full of prohibitions on sex discrimination (Justice Alito’s dissent lists over 100 such statutes), and every one of those will have to be reconsidered in light of today’s ruling.

Justice Gorsuch Just Opened Pandora’s Box


[L]et’s be honest: there was no leadership among the national Republicans. At least President Trump was willing to take the heat for a transgender military ban. But even he, and Republican politicians who supported him, did not articulate why they believe what they do.

If they can’t or won’t talk about these things substantively, it’s no wonder that people think it must be what Justice Anthony Kennedy once called “irrational animus.”

Again, I ask you: what, from a social conservative viewpoint, is the function of the Republican Party? Maybe:

  • to separate conservative Christians from their money and their votes
  • to dose Deplorables anxious about cultural decline with the Pill of Murti-Bing, a drug that induces a sense of happiness and blind obedience

What else?

Rod Dreher, Religious Conservatism’s Potemkin Power (emphasis added).

The problem is not just that your run-of-the-mill Congressional hack can’t talk about these things substantively, but that even the good arguments of people like Ryan T. Anderson are greeted with slack-jawed refusals of comprehension and then dismissed as lipstick on an irrational animus pig. (That this treatment is the real irrational animus is, of course, a posssibility that must not be uttered.)


Some conservative Evangelicals who work at Evangelical institutions (they told me their names and affiliations) have reached out to me tonight after reading this. Their collective view: [Bostock] is a real moment in which we can see the slow-motion collapse of conservative Evangelicalism.

Dreher, supra. Tacit admission that “Evangelical” is now a political label, not religious?


This decision hands LGBT activists the coercive machinery of civil rights law.

R. R. Reno


Interesting point about Bostock: It assumes that the original public meaning of “sex” in Title VII was “status as either male or female [as] determined by reproductive biology.”

In other words, it assumes the “gender binary” that some idiots pretend to find problematic. That assumption is not incidental, but central, though I’ve only heard one comment on it so far. From such subtle acorns mighty legal oaks may grow.

So the gender identitarians may have won a legal battle while losing a philosophical war (with future legal consequences to be determined).


Bostock‘s “textualist” (whether is is sound textualism is contested by the dissenters) decision on the meaning of “because of … sex” vindicates Phyllis Shlafly’s opposition to ERA on the basis of what the cognate “on account of sex” would come to mean.


Finally, I remember the rent garments, weeping, and gnashing of teeth among religious liberty advocates (including me) when Scalia in Employment Division v. Smith overruled Wisconsin v. Yoder (he pretended to be drawing out its real meaning, but nobody was fooled).

But it turned out that — well, let’s just say that for a couple of decades Employment Division v. Smith changed legal strategies and theories, but not many outcomes. Then Scalia’s imagination met its match in categorical bans on discrimination that cleared his “neutral law, general applicability” threshold.

Similarly, some people claim to see signs that Catholic Gorsuch has enhanced protections of religious liberty concealed in his coat pocket, ready for an appropriate case to apply them. Basically, they’re saying that he’s ready to create a judicial version of the rarely-successful “Fairness for All” legislative approach to the long struggle between sexual liberation and religious freedom.

Since the religious liberty cause has fared poorly in courts and commissions, obsessed as they seem to be with vindicating a right of sexual minoritiess to live life unaware that anyone disapproves for any reason,  I would like that more than a little.

UPDATE: Here’s David French talking, among other things, about the potential “Fairness for All” jurisprudential coup.

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Out of the crooked timber of humanity no straight thing was ever made.

* * * * *

You can read most of my more impromptu stuff at here. It should work in your RSS aggregator, like Feedly, should you want to make a habit of it.