Election, Justices and Sanity

The Election

From “Our choice is Joe Biden*,” an editorial in the New Hampshire Union Leader, Oct. 25:

> Our endorsement for President of these United States goes to Joe Biden.
>
> While Joe Biden is the clear choice for president, it would be a disservice to the country to send him to the White House without a backstop. We suggest splitting the ballot and electing a healthy dose of GOP senators and representatives. The best governance often comes through compromise. The civility of the Biden administration will help foster such compromise, but a blue wave would be nearly as disastrous for this country as four more years of Trump. It would result in a quagmire of big government programs that will take decades to overcome.

Notable & Quotable: A Footnote to a Biden Endorsement – WSJ

Yes, I agree, but I don’t think for a moment that’s what will happen next Tuesday.


For the people closest to me in terms of education (graduate degree), socioeconomic status (upper-middle-class suburban), region (the northeastern megalopolis stretching from Washington to Boston), and race (white), Donald Trump is an appalling human being in just about every respect. He’s corrupt. He’s cruel. He’s a bigot. He’s ignorant. He’s mendacious. He’s a narcissist. And he’s a jerk. Unlike many previous presidents, there is nothing admirable about him at all. He’s a kind anti-role-model, showing how a person shouldn’t behave in the world — the kind of person about whom you might say to your children, “Whatever you do, don’t be like him.”

But for people who write angry responses to my most critical columns about the president — most of them men, many of them from other parts of the country, quite often with military backgrounds — he looks very different. For them, Trump is a man of strength, of courage. He’s a fighter and a patriot. Even if he’s not particularly admirable as a person overall, he has qualities that we should want to have in a leader, and that are under threat in our country. They are qualities that Americans, and especially boys, should be raised to look up to and emulate, including a refusal to back down, a toughness and tenacity, and a willingness to insist that masculine strength be revered and inculcated.

I suspect this difference is a source of many of our political disputes, and the sense that we now reside in very different countries. That’s because the dispute has to do with an important and deeply significant disagreement about what type of human being, oriented to certain kinds of ideals and rooted in a certain kind of emotional life, we want our country to produce.

As a pundit, I usually shy away from issuing armchair psychological diagnoses of public figures, including our president. Unlike some columnists, I’ve never written that Trump is mentally “unwell.” Yet I have nonetheless become convinced by those who speculate that a good part of his worst behavior — the cruelty, the neediness, the craving for approval, the distinctive combination of comic bravado and paralyzing insecurity — could well be a function of him trying to make up or compensate for a childhood almost totally lacking in parental, and especially paternal, love.

Damon Linker, The very different emotional lives of Trump and Biden voters


[The] fears that religious conservatives feel are real and ought not be brushed off lightly. Losing our shaping and beloved institutions is a grievous loss. But I do not think our fears can ultimately be answered politically … Laws and policies that protect religious liberty are important, but we, as a Christian community, cannot seek those laws at any cost. If we do, we will lose our own souls in the process of preserving our freedoms.

If shoring up religious freedom requires us to champion someone whose administration is responsible for making more than 545 children orphans, someone who in Sen. Ben Sasse’s words “flirts with White supremacy,” who bullies and denigrates others and constantly engages in misogyny, arrogance and divisiveness, then we cannot preserve religious liberty while remaining faithful to the ethical call of Jesus. Self-protectiveness on the part of religious people is understandable, but … [t]he church exists to glorify God by loving and serving our neighbor. If our own institutional preservation trumps all other ethical commitments, then we have already lost what is most dear.

Given the Trump administration’s shutdown of the asylum system and so-called “Muslim ban,” it is debatable if his presidency has actually benefitted the cause of religious liberty … The root of religious freedom amid pluralism is love for our neighbors, especially our ideological or political enemies. We cannot spend eight years supporting a president whose basic modus operandi is meanness and cruelty– who vocally disagrees with the call to love one’s enemy–and then expect anyone to take us seriously when we ask them to respect our religious freedom.

“But wait!” I can hear traditional religious people cry, “Even if we are kind, respectful and honoring of our neighbor’s dignity, they will not be respectful of ours. We can be as ‘winsome’ as can be, and we will still be marginalized as bigots.” I think this may be true, but this objection assumes that kindness, respectfulness and the self-giving love of Jesus is useful [only – implied, I think] insofar as it is a successful cultural strategy. Christian discipleship calls us to radical love for our neighbor and to honor the dignity of those around us. We are called to work for the common good. We are called to witness to a different kind of King and a different kind of Kingdom. These ethical mandates are not contingent upon—nor a guarantee of—any particular outcome. They are a means to no other end other than to know and glorify God.

Tish Harrison Warren, Don’t vote Trump for religious liberty (emphasis added)


“The chief value proposition of Donald Trump’s presidency is appointees,” Noah Rothman, an editor at Commentary, told me. Barrett’s confirmation may be “the last act of this presidency,” and if Trump loses next week, “Republicans will look back on [it] fondly.”

Emma Green, Republicans Confirm Amy Coney Barrett to Supreme Court – The Atlantic

“Chief value proposition”: Nice phrase, which being interpreted is “otherwise, he was and is pretty worthless.”


Reading The American Conservative 2020 Presidential Symposium, I’m disappointed how many are voting for Trump, but heartened that three are voting for the American Solidarity Party candidate Brian Carroll.


Amy Coney Barrett

“In a less political time than we find ourselves today, I suspect [Amy Coney Barrett] would have the unanimous support of this body,” said Senator Thom Tillis (R-N.C.)

Knowhere News


[T]here is no precedent for judges or justices recusing because a case implicates the interests of the President who nominated them. Justices Gorsuch and Kavanaugh did not recuse in Trump v. Vance and Trump v. Mazars, and Justices Ginsburg and Breyer did not recuse in Clinton v. Jones. Likewise, the only one of President Nixon’s appointees to recuse in United v. Nixon was William Rehnquist, who recused because of his work in the Office of Legal Counsel, not because he was a Nixon appointee.

Jonathan A. Adler, * Should Justice Barrett Recuse from 2020 Election Litigation?*


A fine irony: after spending ~150 years proving that Roman Catholics are good liberal democratic Americans, we get yet another Catholic Justice just as Catholic scholars Deneen, Vermeule, Pappin argue against liberalism.


General Sanity

According to Michael Casey’s description, lectio divina has four stages—lectio, meditatio, oratio, and contemplatio—that roughly correspond to the different senses of Scripture—literal, Christological, behavioral, and mystical. Though you need not move through these four stages chronologically, one could move through them in the following way. First, in the lectio stage, read and re-read the text, marking key passages where the author’s argument is clearest. Write in your own words the key ideas, concepts, and arguments. In the meditatio stage, think about the context in which the text was written. What was happening in the world or the author’s life when the book was written? What was the author’s motivation, and to whom does the author write? Third, in the oratio stage, pay attention to how these ideas speak to your conscience and make you reflect on your behavior, habits, and dispositions. Fourth, in the contemplatio stage, think about what these texts say about your relationship with God, either directly or indirectly.

Lectio divina helps us slow down.

Margarita A. Mooney, Lectio Divina and Online Learning | First Things


Yet another pet peeve: consequentialist arguments for Christianity (or “religion” if you must). See Tish Harrison Warren above for repudiation of one such bad argument: “that kindness, respectfulness and the self-giving love of Jesus is useful [only] insofar as it is a successful cultural strategy.”


I was leaning toward Supreme Court Term Limits (18-year term, one justice out every two years) until I read this from the son of my late Constitutional Law prof (and himself a ConLaw heavy-hitter). Too many big problems even if you assume a Constitutional Amendment would pass.


Words I hope never to hear in an Orthodox Church: Director of Paintball Ministry. (David French, bless his heart, filled this role at his heterodox church).


I believe we are far advanced down and past the destruction of the republic … [but] maybe Frodo and Sam are, even now, on their way to Mordor to throw the ring of power into Mount Doom.

Andrew Kern, Why We Couldn’t Keep it (I) | Circe Institute

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.

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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.

Present obsessions

Coronavirus seems to dominate the news and now is beginning to dominate our tribal animosities, but don’t forget Michael Flynn.

1

Some fascinating insights by one of Rod Dreher’s readers:

[B]ecause conservatives aren’t interested in environmental policy, public health, etc., they cede those fields to progressives, which means those institutions develop progressive biases, which both repels potential conservative workers and makes it harder for them to advance, which increases progressive bias, and so on. And when conservatives DO get the chance to helm these organizations–and this is where Trump infuriates me more than almost anything else–instead of putting serious thinkers with a body of work and experience into those positions, they put in grifters or people who intentionally dislike the institution and want to weaken it. In some areas, this is an understandable if sad dynamic. But public health has been viewed as part of the magistrate’s job for as long as war and courts. Governments have been quarantining infectious disease since well before the United States existed. It is a CRUCIAL field, and it has to function, and conservatives cannot just bitch about how “well it’s full of liberals and has a liberal bias.” Yeah, public health will institutionally be biased a bit towards statist, central action. It will be skeptical of religious institutions as partners. But your county health department is as vital to your community as your local school district or police, and by ceding fields like public health to the progressives, conservatives have basically lost all institutional knowledge about things like public health. There is no viable conservative alternative to public health in this crisis–the entirety of it is “bunch of libs doing lib stuff! No to that!”

Masks As Condensed Symbols | The American Conservative (emphasis added).

I’ve been repeatedly encountering lately reminders of how we abstract fairly concrete things so we can analyze them, and a portion of what Rod’s reader said was one of those reminders.

This was one of the best things I read today inasmuch as it acknowledges institutional liberalism but indicts conservatives as co-conspirators — and reminds us to “get real.”

2

First Things is much in the news as Editor in Chief R.R. Reno becomes increasingly strident, populist and Trumpist in general, and had a downright nasty Tweetstorm this week about coronavirus “cowards.” His outburst accelerated comments on the magazine’s decline — a fairly long slide, arguably dating to the arrival of Reno.

My own contribution:

Performative: I threw my June/July First Things in the trash, unopened.

Substantive #1: I already skimmed, “clipped” and annotated it digitally.

Substantive #2: skimming, clipping and annotating is a relatively trivial job these (waning?) days of the Rusty Reno reign.


Jonathan V. Last of the Bulwark has come onto my radar recently.  He’s had several good insights.

Not one of the (conflicting) coronavirus conspiracy theories finds any basis for faulting the guy where the buck is supposed to stop. That’s the big tell that, taken literally, every one of the conspiracy-mongers is bullshitting. That’s my distillation of part of one essay.

But:

We have a “don’t wear masks” movement that overlaps almost entirely with the “reopen immediately” movement.

There are only two possible explanations for why this might be. The first is that people are dumber than a bag of hammers.

The second is that when people tell you what they think about “reopening” and “masks,” they aren’t actually talking about the coronavirus. They’re telling a story about how they see themselves and their place in the world.

… [T]here is a non-trivial number of Americans—maybe it’s 1-in–10, maybe it’s 1-in–4—who … view the pandemic as … opportunity to posture and perform.

In part, this is an artifact of how successful the mitigation measures have been: Because the death toll has been held to the scores of thousands, many people have the luxury of talking and acting however they like without facing real-world consequences …

As America’s decadence has increased over the last 30 or so years and we have become—just objectively speaking—a less serious country, one of the stories we have told ourselves was that we could become a serious people again if we faced a big enough shock or a stern enough test. That the steely, strong, serious America of the last century—the America that survived the Depression and crushed the Nazis and put men on the moon—was still somewhere within us, just waiting to be awakened. That our true, best selves just needed a call to action, a grave, existential summons.

The reaction of this vocal and sizable minority to the pandemic suggests that this story might not be true, either.

Jonathan V. Last, The Curious Case of the People Who Want to “Reopen” America—But Not Wear Masks. Well, that kinda got dark at the end, didn’t it?


Rod Dreher, too, laments First Things, but pivots:

It should also be said that from my point of view, the Christian Left is completely bankrupt. What is its point at all? It is so besotted with LGBT activism and identity politics that it is impossible to discern anything distinctly Christian about it. I mean, if it is true that far too much of the Religious Right has subordinated itself to offering theological justifications for right-wing politics, this is, if anything, more true of the Religious Left, with progressive causes. Name one thing that any significant Religious Left figure stands for that opposes secular left-wing politics …

But that’s their problem. We on the Christian Right have our own to work out. What I regret is that First Things still has a unique position of being able to offer that leadership, but is squandering it. It was a mistake for Reno to endorse Donald Trump publicly, and to thereby tie the magazine to the Trump project. I don’t object to the magazine running piece sympathetic to Trump, but it would have been far, far more prudent to have kept the magazine uncommitted. And now, in the Covid–19 crisis, the magazine has not been a place for thoughtful, challenging theological and cultural analyses of the pandemic phenomenon, but has become known for Reno’s descent into bizarro crankishness.

Rod Dreher, First Things & The Future Of Religious Conservatism | The American Conservative.


Alan Jacobs had a long history with them, but now asks what to say about First Things? at his Snakes and Ladders blog. After editor Jim Neuchterlein left, universal acceptance of Jacobs’ manuscripts became universal rejection:

It was, and still is, hard for me to know how much I had changed and how much they had.

Not, for a long time, being willing to give up altogether, I managed to get a handful of things in the magazine, but it was obvious that my relationship with it was never going to be the same. And then things started getting more generally strange. A kind of … I’m not quite sure what the word is, but I think I want to say a pugilistic culture began to dominate the magazine. When I submitted a piece to an editor, another editor wrote me an angry email demanding to know why I hadn’t submitted it to him; whenever I disagreed with Rusty Reno about something, he would, with such regularity that I felt it had to be intentional, accuse me of having said things I never said; once, when I made a comment on Twitter about the importance of Christians who share Nicene orthodoxy working together, another editor quickly informed me that I’m not a Nicene Christian. (Presumably because, since I’m not a Roman Catholic, I don’t really believe in “the holy Catholic church.”)

I suspect all these folks would tell a different story than the one I’m telling, so take all this as one person’s point of view, but more and more when I looked at First Things I found myself thinking: What the hell is going on here? Sometimes the whole magazine seemed to be about picking fights, and often enough what struck me as wholly unnecessary and counterproductive fights. (Exhibit A: the Mortara kerfuffle.) So I stopped submitting, and then I stopped subscribing, and then for the most part I stopped reading.

I fear Jacobs isn’t alone, but he concludes with a reminder that all is not lost:

Rod Dreher is correct to say, in a follow-up to the post I linked to at the top of this piece, that no other magazine of religion and public life, or religion and intellectual life, has the reach of First Things. But I think the decision by the editors of FT to occupy the rather … distinctive position in the intellectual landscape that they’ve dug into for the past few years has left room for a thousand flowers to bloom in the places that FT is no longer interested in cultivating. I have gotten more and more involved with Comment; they’re publishing some outstanding work at Plough Quarterly; even an endeavor like The Point, not specifically religious at all, makes room for religious voices ….

3

I think I’ve reached a conclusion that Judge Emmet Sullivan is acting properly seeking amici in the Department of Justice’s bizarre motion to dismiss charges against Michael Flynn. Randall D. Eliason convinced me:

[W]hat makes the Flynn case different, and so unusual, is that Flynn has already pleaded guilty. Once the court has gone through the solemn process of accepting a guilty plea, the balance of interests changes. Executive branch decisions about whether and how to prosecute are no longer implicated, because those decisions have already been made. The prosecution is largely over, the defendant stands convicted, and all that remains is sentencing — which is the prerogative of the judge. At that point, the court has a greater role to play in determining how the case proceeds.

The cases largely relied upon by Flynn and his supporters — including the most frequently cited, United States v. Fokker Services, B.V. — are cases involving prosecutorial decisions where there has been no guilty plea. That’s a crucial distinction. No one is pointing to cases in which the government has moved to completely drop a prosecution after a guilty plea because, frankly, no one can think of another example.

At the very least, because the government’s request is so unusual, it raises complex issues concerning how the court should proceed and what legal standards apply. With the Justice Department now in bed with Flynn, neither is going to present the other side of those issues to help Sullivan determine what to do next, and that makes it appropriate for a judge to invite outside experts to provide advice.

The judge in the Michael Flynn case has taken some unusual steps. Here’s why they’re appropriate.

4

“I found out with both Bush and Clinton, their childhood heroes were Willie Mays,” Shea said. “Bush told me that he didn’t want to be a president, he wanted to be Willie Mays.”

Willie Mays at 89: ‘My Thing Is Keep Talking and Keep Moving’ – The New York Times

That makes three of us.

5

Three new unnamed articles on race from the Immanent Frame. I’ve named them:

  1. How the social construct of race got constructed
  2. Race explored in poetry
  3. “Doing” religion and race together

I found the third easier to take if I imagined it as a spoof.

6

I’ve never quite understood what American Exceptionalism is. It seems to shape-shift so that you contest it at your own risk.

Is this it?

7

Having established the principle that each department must “pull its weight” financially, Liberty University abolishes all departments to focus on Division I major sports.

(#Satire #PleaseDoNotSueMeJerry)

8

Peggy Noonan seems a fitting bookend, as she comments the class warfare aspects of our coronavirus contentiousness: Scenes From the Class Struggle in Lockdown.

I think we’re going to open up the economy again, but in a vulnerable age group and without a compelling need to go out, I’ll merge back into life slowly. Meanwhile, others had darned well better behave themselves lest we do finally push hospitals beyond their limits.

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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).

“L’état, c’est moi” does not translate well into English

This is basically an aggregation with little comment.


From FiveThirtyEight.com, two very useful ‘splainers:

H/T The Morning Dispatch: How Much Longer?


Experts Reject Trump Claim

(Charlie Savage)

I suppose it’s necessary to consult experts since it’s POTUS who said it, and his acolytes will believe him over Charlie Savage.

But Savage’s experts will be dismissed as Deep-State opponents of Trump.

You can’t win this game. It’s like Calvinball.


It’s no excuse for Trump that he’s not a lawyer, and that, as conservative commentator Andrew C. McCarthy put it, Trump “frequently gets out over his skis when he discusses constitutional law” — that, indeed, he “mangles” it. Trump took a solemn oath to preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States. After his years in the job, he ought to know something about that document.

But it’s not just federalism that Trump misapprehends. It’s grade-school-level civics that the president carries out laws, not his whims or desires, however laudatory or popular they might be. The very Article II that he has claimed gives him “the right to do whatever I want as president,” actually says something quite different: not only that “he shall take care that the laws be faithfully executed,” but also that, if he needs authority to do something for the good of the country, he should go to Congress, “and recommend to their consideration such measures as he shall judge necessary and expedient.” Faithfully executing the law means not only enforcing it but also abiding by it — including its limitations.

George T. Conway III


It has indeed been galling to watch many within the press corps repeatedly ask Trump why he has declined to preempt gubernatorial decisions or shut down grocery stores when he does not enjoy the power to do either. It was galling, too, to watch many of those same voices erupt in indignation when, eventually, he began to talk as if he does … To hear the words “the authority is total” pass the lips of our chief executive was jarring, unwelcome, and dangerous. Now, as ever, “L’état, c’est moi” does not translate well into English.

NRO Editors

I wanted to just quote the last two sentences, but the first two were worthy, too.


A remarkable thing happened Monday: The New York Times executive editor, Dean Baquet, actually had to answer questions about his paper’s very different coverage of sexual-assault allegations against Joe Biden and Brett Kavanaugh. It did not go well. It is simply impossible to read the interview and the Times coverage of the two cases and come away believing that the Times acted in good faith or, frankly, that it even expects anyone to believe its explanations. The paper’s motto, at this point, may as well be “All the News You’re Willing to Buy.”

Dan McLaughlin

I completely agree with this. What I do not agree with, though, is the conservative trolling line that they’re treating Tara Reade’s Biden accusations too dismissively. Rather, they should have treated Christine Blasey Ford’s Kavanaugh accusations more dismissively, because they were more remote and less corrobotated.

Let’s not repeat Mutually Assured Destruction. Especially as to decades-old accusations, remember why were have statutes of limitation.


[The U.S. now has] a mortality rate among confirmed cases of 4.3 percent (the true mortality rate is difficult to calculate due to incomplete testing regimens) …

The Morning Dispatch: How Much Longer?


President Trump announced the United States is placing a hold on funding for the World Health Organization due to the organization’s mismanagement of the coronavirus pandemic.

The Morning Dispatch: How Much Longer?

WHO can get back in Trump’s good graces by conspicuously declaring an investigation of Hunter Biden as an asymptomatic Cootie Carrier.


State Department cables warned of safety issues at Wuhan lab studying bat coronaviruses – The Washington Post

It would be easy to misapply this either of two ways:

  1. Covid-19 is caused by a Chinese-engineered bioweapon. (One reactionary blogger I follow keeps insinuating such by emphasizing the China nexus.)
  2. The Trump administration should have known that something like Covid-19 was coming and prepared for it. (True, but much, muchlater, and not based on this scuttlebutt.)

H/T The Morning Dispatch: How Much Longer?


New York, New York, a helluva town! In many senses, and not just during this pandemic.

Rich and Healthy vs. Poor and Dead | The American Conservative


I chalk a lot of this up to social dynamics and the ever-useful Iron Law of Institutions, which posits that individuals act in a manner designed to increase their standing within their group, rather than in a manner designed to increase the probability that their group will accomplish its external goals. A certain type of performative, over-the-top radicalism is very ‘in’ online, as is clear to anyone who spends too much time on Twitter. Never was this more apparent than in the way the most online segment of the left treated Elizabeth Warren, who if elected president would have marked a major step forward for the American left on almost every conceivable front: as a corrupt neoliberal shill light years away from Sanders, ideologically. You get points for this sort of rhetoric. It doesn’t matter if it makes sense or advances the goals of your tribe — it makes you cooler within the tribe.

It Was Self-Defeating For The Democratic Socialists Of America To Announce They Wouldn’t Endorse Joe Biden – Singal-Minded.

I’ll quote no more as this is subscriber-only content. I’ve admired Singal for his courage in bucking his tribe by raising impolitic questions about Rapid-Onset Gender Dysphoria in adolescent girls (what brought him to my attention, and a subject he seems to have abandoned, but that probably is for lack of anything new to say about it just yet).

He makes his living at independent journalism, and he’s pretty good at it — and pretty independent.


“Progressive” United Methodists in the U.S. have always lagged behind the culture, but then have spun comforting myth about what prophetic leaders they were and are. Today is no different.

Far from being countercultural, the United Methodist Church and its predecessor bodies have too often functioned like cultural chameleons, changing their values and practices to fit in with the dominant culture. They have not operated with a strong sense of identity grounded in Scripture and tradition, and thus have not been able to face off the unpredictable and changing winds of cultural pressure and change.

And it the culture goes off the rails, American Methodism will follow. “The argument based on the myth of Methodist progress on slavery and race, then the ordination of women, and now same-sex marriage, is … bad history.”

Kevin Watson, Methodism Dividing at First Things (may not be out from behind the paywall yet) should you care to read a little skeptical history. Not surprisingly, Watson has a book should you care to read a lot of skeptical history.


12-Year-Old “Politically Vocal Boy” Loses Libel Claim Against Newsweek – Reason.com

Put on your big girl panties and get oveer it.

If you can’t stand the heat, bunky, get out of the kitchen.

If you want to dish it out, you’d better learn to take it.

Have I missed a cliché?


Tara Reade is the farce that launched a thousand trolls, but using Biden’s own words against him seems fair. Joe Biden’s Campaign Exhibits Double Standard On Due Process

* * * * *

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.

Second Circuit blows it

The Second U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals now has the distinction of being the only Federal Court, District or Circuit, to uphold Team Trump’s denial of Byrne Grants to cities that do not actively comply with its congressionally-unauthorized immigration rules:

The Justice Department praised the decision, issuing a statement calling it a “major victory for Americans” and saying it recognizes that the attorney general has authority to ensure that grant recipients are not thwarting federal law enforcement priorities.

(AP)

It is not a victory for Americans. Americans lose when the Federal government aggrandizes itself at the expense of cities and states without Constitutional warrant, and lose doubly when the Executive aggrandizes itself without congressional warrant as well.

And it’s not a matter of “thwarting federal law enforcement priorities” to refuse cooperation.

What kind of “conservative” impersonators do we have running DOJ?

Ilya Somin gives his own reasons on how the Second Circuit is miserably wrong.

I hope this decision doesn’t survive review by the full Second Circuit, as this was just a (3-judge?) panel, not the full Circuit.

If it does, look for a successful Supreme Court challenge now that there’s a “Circuit split,” probably striking down 8 USC Section 1373 in the process.

* * * * *

Secularism, I submit, is above all a negation of worship. I stress:—not of God’s existence, not of some kind of transcendence and therefore of some kind of religion. If secularism in theological terms is a heresy, it is primarily a heresy about man. It is the negation of man as a worshiping being, as homo adorans: the one for whom worship is the essential act which both “posits” his humanity and fulfills it.

Alexander Schmemann, For the Life of the World, Appendix 1

I appreciate Donald Trump’s judicial appointments and a few other things he has done, but I’m utterly opposed to allowing that hateful, unstable and completely self-serving man to serve as President. Maybe by saying it here, I’ll feel less compelled to fault his multiple daily outrages — mere corroboration of his dark soul and tormented mind — in the body of the blog.

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.

Framing a guilty President-Elect

A dialog between conservative lawyers, one certifiable Never-Trumpish, the other too new to me for me to say, on the FBI’s counter-intelligence investigation of the Trump campaign:

French: Do you think they thought it was gonna all come out fine because they believed they were gonna have the goods, and they were going to be the team that exposed it? Ummm. Because you know, when you have a successful prosecution — let’s say you send a Gotti to jail — there are often elements of that prosecution that are bad. You’ll have suppression motions that evidence was collected unconstitutionally, you’ll have a henchman who walks because that prosecution was so bad — whatever. But the fundamental bottom-line story is “We got him,” and everyone who’s involved in that is a hero … And it just feels to me like this is the kind of thing you do when you are pretty darn sure that you know what the ultimate outcome is going to be.

Isgur: Well, let me use a more concerning example. I have worked on cases where defendants, including one who was on death row, [were] framed. Prosecutors and police don’t frame people who they believe to be innocent — at least I have not seen that happen. They hide evidence or manufacture evidence against people they believe to be guilty. I have no doubt in reading all of this that they truly believed that this was true and it was just a matter of proving it. They were not using these investigative techniques against innocent people …

French: Well, let me make another argument for my theory about the malignancy of the Steele Dossier … If you look at the alacrity with which the ratcheted up the effort to get the Carter Page FISA after they got the Steele Dossier — I have long thought that what the Steele Dossier did effectively was create the blueprint of what they were going to prove ….

David French and Sarah Isgur in the inaugural episode of the new Advisory Opinions podcast from The Dispatch.

I think French and Isgur are right (and that their new podcast is very promising — better than one French did with Alexandra DeSanctis, not a lawyer, at NRO), and I think so largely for my convictions about human nature — essentially what Isgur says about prosecutors and police.

I also coincidentally read a review of Clint Eastwood’s new movie Richard Jewel that posits that it has no heroes and no villains — just ordinary people doing their jobs (and making life hellish for an innocent oddball). Then I read another that makes it a parable of the Russiagate investigation, with Trump being the oddball who ipso facto was guilty.

That Trump seemed such an oddball that he must be guilty (and that “oddball” is massively understated) rings emotionally true, but I’ll withhold judgment on whether Clint Eastwood is so clairvoyant that he’d make a parable based on Trump’s innocence, which was not then manifest (even if you think it is now).

* * * * *

Sailing on the sea of this present life, I think of the ocean of my many offenses; and not having a pilot for my thoughts, I call to Thee with the cry of Peter, save me, O Christ! Save me, O God! For Thou art the lover of mankind.

(From A Psalter for Prayer)

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.

The virtue least able to stand alone

Children reveal our instinct for fairness, the root concept in the virtue of justice. Of course, as every parent knows, that instinct is often distorted, with the desire for fairness being expressed only as “fairness for me.” Justice is a virtue with deep, visceral content. Whenever it is invoked, it should be accompanied with flags of warning. Of all the virtues, it is the least able to stand alone.

The virtue of justice, when taken alone, moves towards vice. The instinct for fairness quietly blends with the sin of envy, the desire that someone should “get what’s coming to them,” ironically named, “just deserts.” When we take pleasure in another’s misfortune, it is not the virtue of justice – it is the sin of envy. It is quite rare in our world that we find justice standing alone, pure and undefiled.

When mixed with envy, justice has the nightmare problem of no limitations. It is never satisfied with fairness – it requires punishment (inevitably justified as “fairness” or “recompense” or “justice”). The desire for justice, by itself, easily becomes an instrument of great evil … The natural appetite for justice knows no limit. The quiet virtues of temperance and prudence are the necessary antidotes to such excess. They are also much less easily acquired.

… Temperance and prudence require ascetical efforts.

Fr. Stephen Freeman, Justice, Temperance, Prudence and the Virtue of “No”.

Bonus from the same blog:

Conservatism is easily little more than the resistance to change. Receiving a tradition is a matter of a living relationship with what has gone before and recognizing its place in the present. Conservatism treats the past as important – tradition treats the past as still present.

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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).

Clippings (and a little opinion) 11/30/18

In some ways the most important items are last, but they have to do with heroes like Robert Mueller and villains like Donald Trump, Paul Manafort, and Michael Cohen. Some of you therefore might experience serious cognitive dissonance.

1

It’s unusual to open with the insights of a pseudonymous (or at least obscure) monk, but here goes:

The promise from the Universe, the deal I was offered by 1990’s-2000’s liberalism, is aptly summarized by Anthony Kennedy’s baptism of Existentialism as The American Philosophy in his Casey opinion, which self-same authority he quotes in his Planned Parenthood vs. Casey opinion. “At the heart of liberty is the right to define one’s own concept of existence, of meaning, of the universe, and of the mystery of human life.” The Universe had begun to offer unlimited pregnancy-free sex via the birth control pill, and we happily accepted this deal. But the Universe didn’t keep up its end of the bargain, and guys kept on knocking up the ladies when they were hoping not to. Anthony Kennedy stepped up and let us know that the Universe would be held to its promise, for we have trusted in it up to this point, and some unwanted fetuses will not stand in the way of the promise.

… In the name of freedom, we denied the Incarnation of the One Logos, unaware of that denial’s concomitant task: the unique re-logosification of each material being.

Brother Sean Finds The Key

2

I do not trust our mainstream news media. That distrust is not Trumpian, so let me explain.

I think the Wall Street Journal does the best job of straight news reporting and avoiding sensationalism, but there’s always the problem of bias in story selection (the judgment of what is “newsworthy”) and its Opinion page is predictably—well, it’s predictably what you’d expect from a very committed capitalist journal during a time of resurgent putative socialism.

So I check the New York Times daily to see what more might be newsworthy (and to read conservative and liberal-leaning opinion from columnists I’ll not enumerate). But even excluding excluding sexual deviance—a topic of endless fascination at NYT (and one on which it has semi-officially decreed that only one opinion is permissible: deviance is entirely immutable yet fluid, unchosen yet an important part of designing one’s own very best life, without moral implications and nobody else’s business except when media want to shove it at us)—the Times has become unreliable at straight-up reporting, mixing opinion into its news too often and systematically excluding some voices.

I got so disgusted with the click-baity headlines at “the Jeff Bezos Washington Post” that I now skip directly to the Opinion page and the articles categorized under “Acts of Faith.”

There are, of course, weeklies and thoughtful journals beyond that.

But all those are mainstream, and I find the entire US mainstream frequently non compos mentis. So I’ve aggregated some non-mainstream voices, no less insane at times, but insane in different ways and a helpful balance to the mainstream.

It would be untruthful to suggest Breitbart, as I very rarely go there, but it might provide some balance to my list, which leans progressive (because the mainstream is more conservative than most people appreciate). In some ways, my whole RSS feed qualifies as alternate voices, with a few exceptions like Dilbert and religious news and commentary.

This is an answer to anyone wondering “where does he come up with all this stuff?”

3

Speaking of Traditional Right, 4th Generation War (a/k/a 4GW) is one of its obsessions:

The recent mass shooting at a country music bar in California again raises an important question: are such shootings, at least some of them, an aspect of Fourth Generation war?

… so far we know no motive for the California shooter. So where, if anywhere, does it fit into Fourth Generation war?

The answer, I think, may be that this and similar cases are men’s reply to the war on men being waged by feminism. When women get seriously angry, they talk. When men get seriously angry, they kill. And feminism’s war on men, which is being carried to ever-greater extremes, is making more and more men, especially young men, very angry.

The so-called “#MeToo” campaign is only the latest absurdity. Of course most women have been subject of sexual advances from men. It is hard-wired into human nature, and into the nature of most of the animal kingdom, that the male takes the initiative in sexual encounters. Most women expect and want men to do so …

But feminism now decrees that any man taking the initiative risks being charged with that most heinous of all crimes, “sexual harassment”. Even if the woman welcomed his advances at the time, if she later changes her mind, he is guilty. He is presumed guilty until proven innocent and the woman’s word must be taken as true. The man who is convicted is thrown out of school, loses his job, and may find his whole career path closed to him–all on nothing more than a woman’s word. Of course men are getting angry ….

William S. Lind

4

I’m keeping an eye on Hungary because of my sympathy for some of what Viktor Orban has done and despite the drumbeat from our mainstream media labeling Orban or Hungary “far right.”

A NYT opinion piece Friday accuses Orban of “attacking civil society,” which, if true, would be a major black mark. But the link to prove that charge opens this piece, which opens:

Hungary’s parliament has voted to tighten control over non-governmental organisations that receive financing from abroad, as prime minister Viktor Orban continues to rail against alleged foreign interference in his rule.

(Emphasis added) It’s true that Orban’s vision of a good Hungarian society differs from that of, most notably, George Soros, King of the Meddlesome “Open Society” NGOs. But I don’t consider outside NGOs to be “civil society”, or at least consider the question so debatable that it’s tendentious to equate opposing foreign NGOs with “attacking civil society.” Hungary already has a very venerable civil society, thank you, even if Communism suppressed it.

Critics say the rules are intended to hinder the work of NGOs and portray them as suspicious and disloyal elements …

Yes. And just what is your point?

5

[T]his week the Senate Judiciary Committee had to halt progress on confirming talented judges thanks to GOP Senator Jeff Flake of Arizona.

… Mr. Flake has said he will block all judicial nominees until he receives a vote on a bill that would insulate Robert Mueller’s Russia investigation from normal political accountability …

Mr. Flake’s stunt will have zero effect on President Trump or Mr. Mueller, and he’s compromising a substantive principle to make a futile political gesture. Mr. Flake is hurting the cause of confirming conservative judges who would enforce the Constitution in the name of a bill that is unconstitutional.

The legislation violates the Constitution because it would prevent the special counsel from being fired except by a Senate-confirmed Justice Department official for “good cause.” But Article II allows the President to fire inferior officers of the executive branch at will.

Wall Street Journal editorial (emphasis added)

Tim Scott drove the final nail in the coffin on the nomination of Thomas Farr on grounds that his fingerprints were on an illegal effort to suppress black votes in South Carolina in 1990. I respect that, especially considering Sen. Scott’s skin tone and unique position.

But I’d have to agree with the Journal on Jeff Flake’s blanket obstruction, and for the reasons I’ve quoted. What good is an oath to uphold the Constitution if the urge to continue the pissing contest with Donald Trump can overcome it?

Jeff Flake’s Sad Exit” indeed.

6

The Benedict Option has now been translated and published in French, German, Spanish, Italian, Polish, Czech, Slovak, and Portuguese. It will soon be published in Croatian and Korean. The book has sold fewer raw copies in Europe than in the US, where it was a bestseller, but from my calculations, has done much better proportionally with European Christians than it has with American Christians. Why is that?

[Daniel] McCarthy’s [Spectator US] column explains it, pretty much. So many conservative American Christians have not yet come to terms with demographic reality. They still believe that because Donald Trump is president and the Republican Party is doing well politically, that they (we) have meaningful cultural power. European Christians don’t have the luxury of this illusion, and haven’t had for some time. They understand clearly that the future of the Christian faith depends on recognizing reality and acting on facts, not sentimentality.

Rod Dreher

7

[T]here were real problems facing the working class, a social crisis that had some link to stagnating incomes and the decline of industrial jobs, and the tax-cuts-as-panacea style of conservatism had passed its sell-by date. What was needed was not a repudiation of Reaganomics but an updating (and a recovery of some of Reagan’s own forgotten impulses), in which conservatism would seek to solidify the material basis of the working-class family and blue-collar communities — with child tax credits, wage subsidies, a more skills-based immigration system — even as it retained its basic commitment to free trade, light regulation and economic growth.

That was the story we wanted Republican politicians to tell. Instead Donald Trump came along and told a darker one. “Sadly the American dream is dead,” he announced after that escalator ride, and proceeded to campaign on a radically pessimistic message about the post-Reagan economic order, in which bad trade deals and mass immigration were held responsible for what he called “American carnage” in working-class communities.

During the campaign I called this message “reform conservatism’s evil twin,” since it started from a similar assumption (that the existing Republican policy agenda wasn’t offering enough to the American worker) and ended up in a more apocalyptic and xenophobic place.

Ross Douthat

8

Here is one fact beyond dispute. Look at the men whom Trump has traditionally surrounded himself with: Stone, Corsi, Paul Manafort, Cohen. These are some of the least reputable people in American politics. Trump’s inner circle has always been a cesspool.

And there is a reason for this — a reason Trump has traditionally employed unethical people to serve his purposes. It is because he has unethical jobs for them to do, involving schemes to remove political threats and gain electoral advantage. And there is every reason to believe that Trump has fully participated in such schemes.

Michael Gerson

9

When asked whether his party’s rout of Republicans on Nov. 6 indicated that many voters recoiled when they saw “R” next to a candidate’s name, [Colorado] Gov.-elect Jared Polis demurs, saying what they effectively saw was: “T.”

George Will

10

If you have any interest in what Special Counsel Robert Mueller is up to, Ken White lays it out in the Atlantic. This has been a very consequential week, with heavy foreshadowings.

I now fully expect the new House to impeach Trump, with well-supported and serious “high crimes and misdemeanors.” As usual, “it’s not the ‘crime,’ but the coverup.”

I cannot (yet?) predict what the craven Senate will do.

(Update: I tweaked a typos and an artifacts of rephrasing.)

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

More clippings, 11/24/18

1

“I can virtually guarantee you that if Hillary Clinton had won the White House, you would not see these same law firms filing numerous lawsuits against her administration in the name of the rule of law,” said Hans von Spakovsky, a legal scholar at the Heritage Foundation ….

Annie Coreal, New York Times. Yes, Big Law’s motives in challenging Trump on immigration are mixed, but “defending the rule of law” is part of the mix.

2

Alan Jacobs is going to write a book about the importance of reading old books, but Ben Sasse probably won’t read it. I may.

3

[F]or all the people who are exasperated by Friston’s impenetrability, there are nearly as many who feel he has unlocked something huge, an idea every bit as expansive as Darwin’s theory of natural selection.

Shaun Raviv, The Genius Neuroscientist Who Might Hold the Key to True AI (Wired)

Does this mean “circular, but evocative”?

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