Holdovers vs. Loyalists

One of my bigger inner conflicts over the past few months is how to view the National Security Council, its affiliates and constituent pieces.

I’ve been listening to the Intelligence Matters podcast, and I’m impressed by the sobriety and relative political neutrality of our “intelligence community.” Dissatisfaction with Trump is implicit fairly often, but so are defenses of Trump against some of the most strident criticisms of him. I heard one of them just yesterday mildly say that Trump’s penchant for economic sanctions has forced the intelligence community to up their game on economic analysis.

That same speaker, addressing an audience heavy with students who likely were considering intelligence work, described it by analogy:

  • How many of you like solving jigsaw puzzles? Okay, keep your hands up.
  • How many of you like solving jigsaw puzzles when you don’t know what the picture is? Okay, keep your hands up.
  • How many of you like solving jigsaw puzzles when you don’t know what the picture is and you know you only have a quarter of the pieces? Okay, keep your hands up.
  • How many of you like solving jigsaw puzzles when you don’t know what the picture is, and you know you only have a quarter of the pieces, and the President of the United States wants to know what the picture is in 5 minutes to inform a major decision?

So when someone refers to “Obama holdovers” at NSC rather than to “career intelligence professionals,” my crap detector awakens. That, basically, is the schtick of Rich Higgins in The White House Fired Me for My Loyalty. Higgins also wrote the forgettable POTUS & Political Warfare.

In the former, he complains:

Staffers were assigned to develop plans for ending U.S. involvement in Afghanistan. Instead they came up with reasons it couldn’t be done. Gen. H.R. McMaster, the national security adviser, delivered them to the president and explained why he couldn’t keep his campaign promises.

There were a few Trump loyalists on the staff, but we were outnumbered and mostly ignored. It was clear that the Trump presidency wouldn’t succeed unless the resistance was defeated. That meant Obama holdovers had to be replaced by people who would carry out the new president’s agenda. We few loyalists drew up a list. When Gen. McMaster found out, he called an all-hands assembly and declared: “There are no ‘holdovers.’ We are all on the same team.”

(Emphasis added) In the latter he argues — oh, I don’t know how to describe it except “Hey! Look at me, Mr. Trump! I’m your man!”

Come to think of it, that’s the subtext of the former, too.

I am uneasy at the plausible threat of the “deep state” to self-governance, but I’m very uneasy at the thought of “loyalists” Larry, Moe and Curly Joe, with little or no national security experience, supplanting “holdovers” to carry out the new president’s agenda” for a possibly dishonorable or ruinous withdrawal from Afghanistan. I think I’d rather risk the experienced “deep state” keeping us involved for reasons they can articulate other than in word salads.

That decision, though, is not a no-brainer. I was grateful to the Wall Street Journal for publishing this odd opinion piece that inadvertently made the alternative to “deep state” look as scary as it did by the self-outing of a sycophantic Trump loyalist who comes across as not terribly bright.

* * * * *

In the fearful day of judgment, O Lord, forgive my prissy efforts at purity.

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.

Shame on Mike Braun

My State’s Republican U.S. Senate primary in 2018 featured three candidates bidding up the level of servility promised to King Donald were they elected. The one who seemed to me most servile, Mike Braun, won the nomination and the election, and proceeded mostly to disappear into the D.C. swamp.

Now he has become a bit visible again. First, he expressed his preference for some impeachment trial (not summary dismissal of the articles of impeachment), contrary to the position Trump had just taken. So far, so good.

But then he joined Tom Cotton and the odious Ted Cruz in trying to get the Justice Department to investigate the National Iranian American Council (NIAC) on baseless suspicions of being agents of the Iranian government.

There’s little I detest more than thinly-veiled attacks on free speech, and this is one such attack:

The attack on NIAC is a symptom of a deeper pathology in our foreign policy debates. Supporters of hard-line policies routinely accuse critics of taking the side of other governments because those critics consistently best them in argument and demonstrate that those policies are harmful to the United States and the affected country. It is no coincidence that this latest attack comes in the wake of the complete failure of the Trump administration’s Iran policy. Sens. Cotton and Cruz in particular have been some of the loudest supporters of that policy, and its failure will expose them to considerable ridicule.

Hard-liners seek to impugn the integrity and loyalty of their critics, but in their ham-fisted attempts to attack their opponents they simply demonstrate their own lack of integrity. Advocates of a more peaceful and restrained foreign policy are no strangers to being falsely accused and misrepresented. We should stand with NIAC when they are being insulted and maligned in this way.

Daniel Larison

Shame on Mike Braun.

* * * * *

All Christian readers could benefit from listening to the podcast The Struggle Against the Normal Life. It’s a short (11:05) detox for our toxic faux Christian environment.

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.

Mother Nature winds up

I have a sinking feeling that Mother Nature is gearing up to show us, yet again, that it’s not nice to try to fool her or to abuse her. The toll could be billions.

I’m not just talking about climate change. I’m talking about the moving human pieces, and the pushing-back human pieces, too.

Like this: the global south gets hot first; its residents mass-migrate north; authoritarian personalities in the north are mightily alarmed. Mayhem ensues.

Did I just accidentally paraphrase Camp of the Saints? It’s not a rhetorical question. I think mass-migration is a key element of that profoundly racist (I’m relying on Rod Dreher for that characterization) book.

Instead of just wondering, I looked it up: Dreher says the feckless official response to mass-migration was a key plot element in Camp of the Saints, too, and I’m not sure that climate change was the migration’s impetus. But those are indifferent details, aren’t they?

We’ve got feckless governments galore, and our choices seem to be between authoritarian and feckless. And if we got the happy medium of resolute government blocking excessive immigration, the agent of death would be heat and famine — the poor dying for our sins again, but not so directly as by armed anti-immigrants. (I’m not hyperlinking to Camp of the Saints, by the way, because I only looked at it once on Amazon and now Amazon bombards me with unwanted offers of various right-wing books.)

We could use a deus ex machina about now, couldn’t we? Or ex anywhere.

I’d say I’m waiting to finish Hannah Arendt’s The Origins of Totalitarianism for my final judgment, but I never reach certainty on such complex things.

Final Judgment isn’t mine, anyway. It’s, uh, “Mother Nature’s.”

* * * * *

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).

Potpourri, 2/20/19

1

Depression is a malfunction in the instrument we use to determine reality. The brain experiences a chemical imbalance and wraps a narrative around it. So the lack of serotonin, in the mind’s alchemy, becomes something like, “Everybody hates me.”

… I know that — when I’m in my right mind — I choose hope.

That phrase — “in my right mind” — is harsh. No one would use it in a clinical setting. But it fits my experience exactly.

  • In my right mind — when I am rested and fed, medicated and caffeinated — I know that I was living within a dismal lie.
  • In my right mind, I know I have friends who will not forsake me.
  • In my right mind, I know that chemistry need not be destiny.
  • In my right mind, I know that weeping may endure for the night, but joy comes in the morning.

I think this medical condition works as a metaphor for the human condition.

All of us — whatever our natural serotonin level — look around us and see plenty of reason for doubt, anger and sadness.

Those who hold to the wild hope of a living God can say certain things:

  • In our right minds — as our most sane and solid selves — we know that the appearance of a universe ruled by cruel chaos is a lie and that the cold void is actually a sheltering sky.
  • In our right minds, we know that life is not a farce but a pilgrimage — or maybe a farce and a pilgrimage, depending on the day.
  • In our right minds, we know that hope can grow within us — like a seed, like a child.
  • In our right minds, we know that transcendence sparks and crackles around us — in a blinding light, and a child’s voice, and fire, and tears, and a warmed heart, and a sculpture just down the hill — if we open ourselves to seeing it.

Fate may do what it wants. But this much is settled. In our right minds, we know that love is at the heart of all things.

Michael Gerson

2

“Merciless sympathy” seems a pretty apt description for some of what we’re seeing in our fractious nation:

Merciless sympathy is how declining to oppose Brett Kavanaugh’s appointment to the Supreme Court is transmuted into callousness toward rape victims, how support for the Second Amendment is recast as contempt for the children killed in Parkland, how doubting the breathless accounts of the Covington Catholic matter becomes racist hostility to an elderly Native American veteran. As rhetorical stratagems go, it is obvious, shallow, and stupid — and therefore effective in the era of Twitter-dominated discourse, in which shallowness and stupidity are weaponized.

Kevin D. Williamson

3

I was unaware that the Trump administration is pressing to decriminalize homosexuality around the world. No sooner was oddity that brought to my attention than I leared that it’s being opposed — in Out! Magazine, of all places — as “part of an old colonialist handbook.”

And moments later, I found the plausible explanation that ties the two oddities together. They’re probably both disingenuous:

The purpose of the Trump administration homosexuality-decriminalization push will be to add another mechanism or justification for regime change, sanctions, wars of choice, and punitive action against countries the military-industrial complex and AIPAC crew don’t like anyway. It will be used to justify action against places like Iran while countries with similar laws and regimes like Saudi Arabia will see no consequences. It’s a “pinkwashing” tool to get buy-in from urban/suburban liberals and “moderate,” bourgeois conservatives. Just watch — soon we’ll be drone-bombing Third World villages …

Nothing the “national security” apparatus in our country does should ever be taken at face value ….

Those ellipses omit some rhetoric that I don’t think Team Trump will use to explain the drone attacks. But I do suspect that the “pinkwashing” intends mostly to mute some Left opposition to more lethal aggression.

Retrace my steps here.

4

The episode unfolded on the morning of Feb. 4 at Lawton Chiles Middle Academy in Polk County. The boy, who had refused to stand for the pledge the entire school year, had a substitute teacher that day who confronted him when he did not join his classmates.

“Why if it was so bad here he did not go to another place to live,” the teacher asked the boy, according to a statement issued by the teacher and obtained by Bay News 9, a news station in St. Petersburg, Fla.

According to the teacher, the boy, who is black, responded, “They brought me here.”

The teacher wrote that she replied, “Well you can always go back, because I came here from Cuba and the day I feel I’m not welcome here anymore I would find another place to live.”

She then called the school’s administrative offices “because I did not want to continue dealing with him,” according to her statement.

A school resource officer with the Lakeland Police Department eventually responded to the classroom and arrested the boy ….

I think I took sanity for granted even before I went to law school. That story, that sub, is insane.

5

For what it’s worth, I’m not certain that the Roman Catholic clergy sexual abuse problem is accurately described as ephebophilia, though that’s evocative and closer to the truth than “pedophilia.” I think those who’ve caught on that it’s not pedophilia too easily are deciding “then it must be the other one.”

Basics:

Ephebophilia strictly denotes the preference for mid-to-late adolescent sexual partners, not the mere presence of some level of sexual attraction.

Wikipedia. Do we have any reason to think that molester priests preferred adolescents?

That a gay priest should have his head turned by a remarkably configured 15-year-old boy, or by a hunky seminarian, gives full credit to “we’re just like you except for the objects of our desire.” So long as the hunky seminarian is as appealing as the 15-year-old, I don’t think it’s ephebophilia.

(This ouburst was provoked by a well-meaning example of the hasty “not pedophilia, but ephebophilia” genre.)

6

Coincidence?

A day after California filed a lawsuit challenging President Trump’s emergency declaration on the border, the Transportation Department said it was exploring legal options to claw back $2.5 billion in federal funds it had already spent on the state’s high-speed rail network.

7

U.S. officials revealed last week that a federal grand jury indicted Monica Witt, a former Air Force counterintelligence official, on charges of passing extremely sensitive secrets to agents of Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Corps.

The case highlights how broken the U.S. intelligence system has become. For more than 30 years it has demonstrated an inability to keep secrets, to protect itself from foreign penetrations by hostile spy services, or to prevent current and former officials from defecting.

The result: Brave foreign nationals who risk their lives inside harsh regimes to spy for America are being killed and imprisoned on a significant scale.

I don’t think it would be hard to flip this Wall Street Journal column into, say, an Iranian perspective. See the added emphasis and think about it for a minute.

* * * * *

Follow me on Micro.blog Follow me on Micro.blog, too, where I blog tweet-like shorter items. Frankly, it’s kind of becoming my main blog. If you prefer, those micro.blog items also appear now at microblog.intellectualoid.com. Both should work in your RSS aggregator, like Feedly.

Clippings and Comments, 2/19/19

1

In the Ralph Northram controversy (medical school yearbook, blackface and Klan costume, just in case you’ve already forgotten), I heard an interesting tidbit on a little-explored backwater of the controversy: who leaked the information about the med school yearbook page?

The answer, apparently, is unnamed, but presumably pro-life, medical school classmates outraged by his defense of what some evocatively call “4th trimester abortion.”

2

[T]he Communist Party and many other outlets feel free to publish strong criticisms of Putin. He is criticized here on a number of other topics, especially what some see as his passive responses to Western aggression. That does not happen in a totalitarian society. If I did not see the news here in Russia, I would judge from Western sources I live in a closed society where no one feels free to criticize the leader. Putin is a strong leader to be sure, but he is no dictator. Dictators silence public criticisms. I would also wrongly conclude Putin enjoys a close relationship with the Communist Party in Russia—or is secretly sympathetic to a return to Communism. A leader wanting to return to Communism does not repeatedly say, as has Putin, that whoever wants Communism restored has no brain. Western publications claiming Putin does not allow dissent in Russia or is a “closet Communist” are not based on actual research of what is written and said here. They ignore or distort both what Putin has written and said and imply contrary views are not allowed …

On a related point, overall I think the news shows here present different sides of most issues more fairly than their U.S. counterparts. I admit surpassing the fairness and objectivity of the American MSM is a very low bar to hurdle. In news talk shows here a number of perspectives are heard. They even have an American journalist, Michael Bohm, who usually takes the pro-American perspective on major international stories on one of the main news programs. Can you imagine a major news talk show in America allowing a knowledgeable Russian to explain freely the Russian “side” of the news?

Hal Freeman, an American expatriate in Russia. You might want to do a reality check on your Russia fears.

3

Data points:

  • As of 2017, acceptance of gay marriage is now stronger among American Muslims than among white evangelical Christians.
  • Two new Muslim congresswomen, Rashida Tlaib and Ilhan Omar, are conspicuously pro-L.G.B.T.Q.

You might want to reality-check your “creeping Sharia” fears, too.

The Economist had a major series on Islam in the West February 16. From what I’ve read so far, it’s consistent with this.

4

More from American expatriate Hal Freeman:

When I was 18 years old I joined the U.S. Marines … John Bolton wasn’t willing to do what I and thousands of young men were willing to do, but he and others in leadership are still sending young men and women to such places. I detest both the hypocrisy and the casual way leaders and politicians are eager to send Americans to risk their lives for what turns out to be political posturing and arms sales. Dying in Afghanistan or Syria will not ensure the security of the American borders or the American way of life. In my youthful naivete, I was willing to risk my life for my country. Knowing what I know now, I’m not willing to risk my children.

5

First, the issue of human sexuality has become the most pressing issue for the church of our generation. This is not to say that it can be divorced from other crucial issues, say, of mission, ecclesial identity, ministerial orders, executive authority, epistemology, and the like. Nor it is to say that everyone would agree that it is the most important issue facing the church. We can all provide our own list of items on this score; for me, it would not be at or even near the top of my concerns. However, the crowbar of civil and church history in the West has sidelined ecclesial debates about ancillary matters. Human sexuality has become the issue of our time and anyone who cares about the future of the church cannot ignore it.

William J. Abraham, In Defense of Mexit, on the impending rending of United Methodism.

6

There’s something touching about a widow of the Aurora, Illinois factory shooting being too emotional to talk to the press about her husband, and about her Facebook postings to which the press thus must resort.

I’m probably on shaky ground here, but I find it faintly creepy when people similarly bereaved are eager to share it with with total strangers through media ghouls. And, of course, their loss gives them no special expertise with which to browbeat the rest of us.

7

This Day in History: Former Vice President Aaron Burr is arrested for treason. Quite good.

8

Don’t assume that events in Venezuela are spontaneous.

* * * * *

Follow me on Micro.blog Follow me on Micro.blog, too, where I blog tweet-like shorter items. Frankly, it’s kind of becoming my main blog. If you prefer, those micro.blog items also appear now at microblog.intellectualoid.com. Both should work in your RSS aggregator, like Feedly.

Clippings and Commentary 2/8/19

1

The Commonwealth of Virginia … prides itself on being the mother of presidents (eight so far) and a place of profound political decorum. But suddenly we’re living in Dogpatch … How can we continue looking down on Arkansas and Mississippi with this sort of stuff going on?

David Shiflett

Report: West Virginia Feeling Pretty Smug Right About Now

2

[T]he laws of physics override the bright ideas of politicians. America has been … promoting oxymorons such as “green skyscrapers” and “clean energy,” but the truth is we’re not going to run WalMart, Suburbia, DisneyWorld, and the interstate highway system on any combination of wind, solar, geothermal, recycled Fry-Max, and dark matter.

For all that, there are actually some sound proposals in the mostly delusional matrix of the Green New Deal promoted by foxy front-person AOC.

  • Revoke corporate personhood by amending our Constitution to make clear that corporations are not persons and money is not speech. Right on, I say, though they have not quite articulated the argument which is that corporations, unlike persons, have no vested allegiance to the public interest, but rather a legal obligation solely to shareholders and their boards-of-directors.
  • Replace partisan oversight of elections with non-partisan election commissions. A no-brainer.
  • Replace big money control of election campaigns with full public financing and free and equal access to the airwaves. Quite cheap and worth every penny.
  • Break up the oversized banks that are “too big to fail.” And while you’re at it, resume enforcement of the anti-trust laws.
  • Restore the Glass-Steagall separation of depository commercial banks from speculative investment banks. Duh….

James Howard Kunstler

I suspect, after Citizens United, that public financing of elections to the exclusion of private contributions is unconstitutional. Other than that, I’m just trying to keep my head down while peeking regularly to see how this plays out.

Well, not really. I’m rooting for Tulsi Gabbard for her party’s nomination because she favors religious freedom and opposes stupid, counterproductive wars that make war criminals of us.

3

Both parties are beholden to extreme partisans in their bases. But President Trump has his base onside. The conventional wisdom in 2016 was that the Republicans had nominated someone so extreme that he couldn’t possibly win. Yet he did. You watch: the Democrats are going to nominate someone so extreme on economics and culture that they’re going to ensure Trump’s re-election.

I lack Rod Dreher’s fear of Democrat faux socialism (or maybe I just don’t understand what he’s talking about since “socialism” is pretty equivocal these days), but I suspect I’m an outlier on that.

4

“This is a fight that doesn’t need to happen. The status quo is, there’s a diversity of agencies. And it doesn’t make anything more available to close down religious agencies because they have the wrong beliefs. It just takes away an option,” said Mark Rienzi, the president of the Becket Fund. The law firm, which focuses on religious liberty, advocates for the faith-based agencies. “Sometimes the presentation of this issue can suggest that the religious agencies are stopping people from being adoptive and foster parents. It’s just not true. There are lots of agencies. There really is an easy live-and-let-live solution.”

And this kind of sober focus on religious freedom is why I’ve developed a preference for Becket Fund over the better-known (but less focused on religious freedom per se) Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF).

5

It’s no accident that some of the most homophobic societies, like Iran, for example, are big proponents of sex-reassignment surgery for gender-nonconforming kids and adults (the government even pays for it) while being homosexual warrants the death penalty. Assuming that a non-stereotypical kid is trans rather than gay is, in fact, dangerously close to this worldview.

Andrew Sullivan, reflecting on the appearance of radical feminist TERFs (“Trans Exclusionary Radical Feminists” — women who recognized that calling men with gender dysphoria “women” isn’t a mere matter of good manners) on a Heritage Foundation panel.

6

I think Andrew Sullivan should have led with his third item last Friday:

If you’ve been waiting for the U.S. Senate to exercise its constitutional prerogatives in the era of Trump, you need wait no longer. A big bipartisan majority has finally stood up to Trump … by voting to advance an amendment in favor of continuing the 18-year occupation of Afghanistan and the ongoing intervention in Syria!

Mitch McConnell actually went on the Senate floor to argue that Trump’s proposed exit from Afghanistan, where no serious progress has been made for almost two decades, would be far too sudden. “The precipitous withdrawal of United States forces from either [Syria or Afghanistan] could put at risk hard-won gains and United States national security,” he argued. “I believe the threats remain.” Precipitous!

In fact, the vote was — at 68-to-23 — veto-proof. Sure, 2,000 Americans have been killed in Afghanistan, and 20,000 seriously wounded or injured. But they’re all volunteers! ….

So go right ahead and hold me in Contempt of Congress — and all other minions of the military-industrial-journalistic complex. I can’t even make an exception for my own Senator any more.

7

During the Berlin airlift, thought at the time to be the height of the Cold War, Secretary of State George C. Marshall, who’d been Army chief of staff during World War II, was asked how worried he was. “I’ve seen worse,” he replied. He had. No one around this president has seen worse. When Jim Mattis, John Kelly and H.R. McMaster left the administration, a cumulative 123 years of military and diplomatic experience left with them.

Peggy Noonan, Can Trump Handle a Foreign Crisis? (Spoiler Alert: We have absolutely no reason to think he can.)

8

On a drive back from Indianapolis last night, I listened to (among others) a podcast post-mortem of Trump’s SOTU.

Toward the end, they played a fairly extended clip of the tail-end of SOTU, that “sounded deeply weird” to the host (beginning at 21:26):

You have come from the rocky shores of Maine and the volcanic peaks of Hawaii, from the snowy woods of Wisconsin and the red deserts of Arizona, from the green farms of Kentucky and the golden beaches of California ….

I agreed that it sounded deeply weird, but I was a little bit disappointed that neither Rich Lowry nor Elizabeth Breunig put their finger on it: there is no way that Donald Trump in a million years would say anything so poetic on his own. Monkeys banging on typewriters would stumble into the Corpus Shakespeareanis before that.

What torture it must be to serve as a speech-writer for a man whose native tongue is so base as to be unworthy of any solemn occasion! You can’t even take pleasure in the sheer craft of making some moderately lofty sentiment sound natural as it issues forth from the boss.

* * * * *

Follow me on Micro.blog Follow me on Micro.blog, too, where I blog tweet-like shorter items. Frankly, it’s kind of becoming my main blog. If you prefer, those micro.blog items also appear now at microblog.intellectualoid.com. Both should work in your RSS aggregator, like Feedly.

My blog runneth over

Our death-dealing cold in the Midwest (I expect deaths before this is published) is a good excuse to stay inside, imbibing coffee and bourbon, reading, and even thinking.

Okay, the bourbon is purely notional until the sun’s below the yardarm (somewhere).

1

There is a second source of this focus on the individual instead of the larger social structures. That source is in the heavy conservative Christian influence within today’s conservative movement. An important aspect of evangelical Christianity is the responsibility of the individual to accept Christ. We Christians are told again and again that our family, friends and country will not save us. Only we can gain salvation by accepting Christ ourselves. It is an individual choice that we all have to make. This is tied to the notion of freewill individualism that is a basic assumption within evangelicalism.

And as an evangelical, I agree with that idea. I agree that salvation comes to individuals and not families or communities. I can go into why I have that theological belief, but that is beyond the scope of my current topic. Needless to say I am quite comfortable with assigning personal responsibility as it concerns one’s spiritual faith. But what I will assert is that my priority on salvation for the individuals does not go into my understanding of political and social policy. For me the supernatural dimension is not a perfect replica of our current natural reality.

But I think that for many conservatives, there is a leap from this type of theological understanding to an application to our political circumstances.

George Yancey, What I don’t like about the right. A good column, to be followed next week by what he (a political scientist) dislikes about the left.

But a few points about my chosen pull quote:

  • “Conservative Christian” does not equal Evangelical. I could even argue that very few Evangelicals are “conservative,” properly speaking, but that disambiguation is for another day.
  • I agree that salvation comes to individuals and not families or communities is a straw man. No Christian tradition says otherwise. That salvation is communal, however, acknowledges that salvation is more than that magic moment when, under the influence of the Four Spiritual Laws, you take the once-saved-always-saved step of mouthing “the sinner’s prayer.” When I was a young Evangelical, back when dinosaurs roamed the earth, my Evangelical boarding school, fer cryin’ out loud, even prescribed a systematic theology text wherein salvation involved justification, sanctification and glorification. Today, Evangelical salvation = justification. Period. Full stop. If you think you’re going to get sanctified while voluntarily absenting yourself from Church, Go to Jail. Go Directly to Jail. Do Not Pass Go, Do Not Collect $200.

2

The primary distinction I make, between Left and Right, could be put in this way. Going back to the French Revolution, the Left has always been fashionable, the Right unfashionable. If gentle reader should wish to be more fashionable, at the present day, he will have to swing Left — to the “we the people” side. (I consider Mr Trump to be left-liberal-progressive, for instance; Mrs Clinton was, too.) And as I assure my leftish friends, if they should wish to be less fashionable, they must swing Right, towards self-denying faith in God.

David Warren.

Therein, a glimmer of how the 81% of Evangelicals who voted for Trump (some of them, God forbid, enthusiastically) are not conservative, properly speaking, though I clipped it before I read George Yancey’s garbled equation.

3

Samplings from a column on learning kindness:

  • The all-purpose question. “Tell me about the challenges you are facing?” Use it when there seems to be nothing else to say.
  • Your narrative will never win. In many intractable conflicts, like the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, each side wants the other to adopt its narrative and admit it was wrong the whole time. This will never happen. Get over it. Find a new narrative.
  • Attune to the process. When you’re in the middle of an emotional disagreement, shift attention to the process of how you are having the conversation. In a neutral voice name the emotions people are feeling and the dynamic that is in play. Treat the hot emotions as cool, objective facts we all have to deal with. People can’t trust you if you don’t show them you’re aware of how you are contributing to the problem.
  • Reject either/or. The human mind has a tendency to reduce problems to either we do this or we do that. This is narrowcasting. There are usually many more options neither side has imagined yet.
  • Presume the good. Any disagreement will go better if you assume the other person has good intentions and if you demonstrate how much you over all admire him or her. Fake this, in all but extreme cases.

David Brooks.

4

“Puff [Billy] Graham,” William Randolph Heast is reported to have said.

Things haven’t changed much, though I think Hearst has been replaced by HiveMind International, Inc., whose memo reads “Puff Kamala.”

This is more a function of media’s need for clicks than of Ms. Harris’ merits.

Pro-Tip: If you want your kid to get his or her 15 minutes of fame, give them a fanciful name, like Kamala or Tulsi or Beto.

5

More on Covington Catholic:

[T]his feels personal because it could so easily happen to any of us. The encounter was so mundane that you have to wonder what other non-events will be used to try to destroy you or me …

I also think about what will happen if I ever have a kid. Would my 16-year-old always stay on the right side of the face police? Or might he occasionally be awkward at that age? What if he had some kind of a mental or physical disability that caused him to have facial expressions or body movements that people took the wrong way? (I say “he” because so much of the vituperation that’s been directed at the Covington kids has been explicitly based on their gender.) …

In the past few days, I’ve been under the weather (getting better now, so don’t worry about me), and sometimes as I’ve stood around in a public place, I’ve stopped to think: hey, I might have had an inappropriate facial expression just now, because of a combination of feeling a little out of it and feeling physically uncomfortable. If someone were video-recording me, could they find one still that made it look like I was “disrespecting” the wrong person?

I want to say to some of these people joining virtual lynch mobs based on the latest viral video: Is that really who you are? Or are you too afraid to say what you really think? Or have you forgotten what you really think because you’re more focused on . . . looking just right?

Jonathan Althouse Cohen (H/T Eugene Volokh).

6

“It has always seemed self-evident to me that even if I drank a lot, I would still be responsible for my actions,” Ms. [Neomi] Rao wrote in the Yale Herald. “A man who rapes a drunk girl should be prosecuted. At the same time, a good way to avoid a potential date rape is to stay reasonably sober.” We look forward to the same people who assailed Brett Kavanaugh for drinking too much beer finding fault with Ms. Rao’s sobriety.

Wall Street Journal.

It seems self-evident to all sane people, Ms. Rao, but we’re a minority now.

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

Sir James Fitzjames Stephen

7

Mr. [Peter] Boghossian—along with two confederates, neither of whom has an academic affiliation—set out to expose shoddy scholarship in what they call “grievance studies.” They concocted 20 pseudonymous “academic papers,” complete with fake data, and submitted them to leading peer-reviewed scholarly journals in fields like “queer studies” and “fat studies.” The Journal’s Jillian Melchior discovered the deception last summer and broke the story in October, by which time seven of the phony papers had been accepted for publication and four published.

“It had to be done,” Mr. Boghossian tells me. “We saw what was happening in these fields, and we were horrified at the faulty epistemology that these people were using to credential themselves and teach others.” The effort drew praise from some well-known public intellectuals, including Richard Dawkins, Jordan Peterson and Steven Pinker.

Mr. Boghossian said in October that he expected to face disciplinary action and maybe to lose his job …

More serious are the sanctions against Mr. Boghossian announced Dec. 21 on behalf of Portland State’s Institutional Review Board for conducting research on “human subjects” without submitting his research protocol to the IRB for review as required by the federal National Research Act of 1974. The “human subjects” in question were the editors and peer-reviewers of the duped journals. Portland State ordered Mr. Boghossian to undergo “human subjects research training,” and its letter warns that “further actions may be required,” with no elaboration.

Odd as it may sound, experts say Portland State seems to have a strong case against Mr. Boghossian: As a legal matter, he was doing research, and other professors were his subjects ….

Wall Street Journal. I regret the paywall.

Mr. Boghossian’s problem is that HHS has taken it upon itself, under color of a law enacted to prevent recurrence of things like the Tuskegee experiments, to forbid merry pranksters from tricking frauds and humbugs into unmasking themselves. They wouldn’t put it that way, of course, but it’s an unintended consequence.

8

This Trump [foreign policy], in practice, isn’t the isolationism that he sometimes promised on the campaign trail; nor is it the flailing bellicosity that many of his critics feared. It’s a doctrine of disentanglement, retrenchment and realignment, in which the United States tries to abandon its most idealistic hopes and unrealistic military commitments, narrow its list of potential enemies and consolidate its attempts at influence. The overarching goal isn’t to cede United States primacy or abandon American alliances, as Trump’s opponents often charge; rather, it’s to maintain American primacy on a more manageable footing, while focusing more energy and effort on containing the power and influence of China.

Ross Douthat

9

Speaking of frauds and humbugs:

The president was elected, in part, by giving his supporters an impression of business acumen. This was, in fact, the image carefully cultivated by book publishers and TV producers. And by Trump himself as a presidential candidate, who claimed to be a peerless negotiator, an unrivaled businessman and an excellent manager.

These claims can now be believed only by the ideologically addled.

The other branding claims made by Trump have become equally incredible. His reputation as a self-made billionaire lies in ruins. An extensive New York Times article on Trump’s wealth found a bassinet millionaire, consistently bailed out of bad bets, who dodged gift taxes, milked his empire for cash and cultivated a deceptive image of business brilliance. And special counsel Robert S. Mueller III’s investigation may reveal serious corruption and perjury in cataloguing Trump’s 30-year panting desire to sell his brand in Russia.

And who can take Trump seriously as a manager? He has a talent for weeding out the talented and responsible. He is a world-class nepotist. He is incapable of delegation or of taking conflicting advice. He is unreliable in dealing with his allies. He is capable of taking several conflicting policy views on the same topic — be it health care, or the “dreamers,” or gun control — in a matter of days or hours. He often has no clear goals. He has no attention span and is consistently ignorant of details. He is prone to vicious and public abuse of rivals and of employees. Try to put that profile up on LinkedIn.

Michael Gerson.

10

Who ya gonna believe: your President or your own lyin’ eyes?

GOP on Twitter, paraphrased (via some guy on Facebook). After that guy called this gaslighting and brazen lying, he got a comment, which quoted this “Answer I got from a faithful Trump/GOP supporter, when I asked how they tolerate the lies:

It’s not lying. It’s speaking what you want to be true so that eventually it becomes real. That’s why Trump has always been successful. It’s what highly successful, powerful people do!

Someone‘s been watching too damned much Joel Osteen, which means “any Joel Osteen.”

11

… Hundreds of poems have been written about standing on the beach and looking at the waves and I can’t remember a single one of them.

Garrison Keillor, The old indoorsman looks out at winter.

* * * * *

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

Potpourri 1/29/19

1

I’m disinclined, in January of 2019, to declare who I’m voting for in November 2020. In a saner age, I don’t think the question would even come up.

But we’re all politics, all the time now, and the uniquely detestable man in the White House tempts one to reveries.

I am affiliated with neither the Democrats nor, since 2005, with the Republicans. I’m assuming that Donald Trump will get the GOP nomination again if he wants it, so the record and positions of the Democrat nominee will become pretty important.

An orthodox progressive, but with a history of conservatism and a seemingly heartfelt and courageous insistence on religious liberty (this essay clearly was taking on, among others, Kamala Harris), provides one of the more attractive reveries — not for her progressivism, but for the leaven of religious toleration, too rare a political commodity on the Left these days:

We’ll see, if she becomes a real contender, what the Democrat Roger Stones can come up with to slime her.

2

Fifteen years have been spent in a fruitless search for a viable business model that will support the kind of journalism the country expects — and, no, conservatives, I’m not talking about “the liberal media.” I’m talking about media organizations that pour resources into informing the public about the everyday, noncontroversial stuff that makes up the bulk of media content.

The journalism business isn’t being destroyed because its liberal skew alienated readers. The problem isn’t getting readers; the problem is monetizing them as they move online. Facebook and Google and Monster and Craigslist have hoovered up the advertising dollars that used to pay for reporting … The main competition for ad dollars now comes from massive tech companies that don’t produce content at all.

Megan McArdle.

3

Roger Stone is not everybody’s cup of antifreeze. I don’t want to go too tweet-mean on the guy, but let’s face it, physically he does look a little like Zippy-the-Pinhead — if, say, Zippy had made it to community college and learned how to manage a four-in-hand necktie.

James Howard Kunstler.

4

My country has seamlessly transitioned from British colony to US military/intelligence asset without ever once raising its head toward anything resembling national sovereignty except once briefly in the mid-seventies, which saw a CIA/MI6 coup oust our elected leadership here …

Sovereignty is such an alien concept in a collective reality tunnel that has been shaped by propaganda to view imperialism, American exceptionalism and nonstop interventionism as perfectly normal that we now have the American establishment simultaneously (A) shrieking about Russian clickbait on Facebook as an unforgivable act of war, and (B) using crushing sanctions, CIA covert ops, and an active campaign to delegitimize a nation’s leadership in order to topple an entire government. This wild discrepancy is justified with the unquestioned assumption that the US has something called “moral authority” in the world, while Russia and Venezuela lack moral authority, despite the US being responsible for innumerable acts of butchery and destruction which are grossly immoral by any metric.

Australian Caitlyn Johnstone

* * * * *

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.

Clippings, 12/12/18

1

Many in the pro-life movement, of which I am passionately a part, will consider the Harvard Law-educated intellectual [Ben Shapiro] a huge get. Not me. Despite Shapiro’s star power and stature, I consider his appearance a serious mistake for the March, one that will move us even further from being understood as the broad-based human rights movement we need to embody in order to go from fringe to mainstream.

Shapiro’s appearance is an especially ominous sign after last year’s appearance via satellite TV of President Trump — the absolute nemesis of more left-leaning pro-lifers like myself.

It was bad enough to have the movement associated with Trump. On his year’s stage, will Shapiro read his show’s regular advertisements for the U.S. Conceal-Carry Association? How will the crowd react when he does his daily promotion of his “Leftist Tears: Hot or Cold” tumbler?

The set of all pro-lifers is huge, politically diverse, and, as I have argued in these pages, more representative of the views of people of color than of white people — especially white liberals.

Unfortunately, while the March features the occasional Democratic politician or openly liberal pro-life activist, the speakers’ list and political tone in recent years have become overwhelmingly Republican and conservative. Increasingly, and especially with Trump speaking last year, those who identity with a different political ideology have been alienated from the most important pro-life march in the country — as well as the most important annual pro-life strategic meetings that surround the March.

This alienation is among the factors pushing non-conservative pro-life organizations such as New Wave Feminists, Rehumanize International, Secular Pro-Life, Democrats for Life, Consistent Life, among others, to hold alternative events at the March. This is a disaster for a number of reasons, among them that the pro-life movement will never meet our goals unless we can be understood as a broad-based human rights movement — and not merely as a Republican or conservative constituency.

Charles Camosy.

2

PETA is all in on Twitter’s hate speech policy:

Calling someone a “pig” or a “dog,” PETA observed, is “supremacist and speciesist.” Additionally, using such language may have the effect of “normalizing violence against animals and desensitizing people to their suffering.” …

On December 4, PETA posted a tweet against using anti-animal language, using its new tagline “Bringing Home the Bagels Since 1980”! Bagels? That was in lieu of the more readily recognizable bacon, which PETA wants to help us remove from our language (“bring home the bacon”), along with all other animal products from our diets and lives as a whole.

PETA also wants us to change our language because, as the tweet stated, “Words matter, and as our understanding of social justice evolves, our language evolves along with it. Here’s how to remove speciesism from your daily conversations.” To help us “Stop Using Anti-Animal Language,” PETA offered other substitutions …

The Twitterverse erupted in mockery and ridicule, at least according to the mainstream media. The next day USA Today ran the headline, “PETA ridiculed, criticized for comparing ‘speciesism’ with racism, homophobia and ableism.” The Washington Post said, “the Internet thinks they’re feeding a fed horse,” a poke at one of PETA’s suggested replacement phrases.

Mercatornet

3

[P]erhaps instead of secularization it makes sense to talk about the fragmentation and personalization of Christianity — to describe America as a nation of Christian heretics, if you will, in which traditional churches have been supplanted by self-help gurus and spiritual-political entrepreneurs. These figures cobble together pieces of the old orthodoxies, take out the inconvenient bits and pitch them to mass audiences that want part of the old-time religion but nothing too unsettling or challenging or ascetic. The result is a nation where Protestant awakenings have given way to post-Protestant wokeness, where Reinhold Niebuhr and Fulton Sheen have ceded pulpits to Joel Osteen and Oprah Winfrey, where the prosperity gospel and Christian nationalism rule the right and a social gospel denuded of theological content rules the left.

Ross Douthat

4

Those people keep having kids and being happy and ignoring us. Don’t they read? They do read, but the wrong things! Why don’t they read what we suggest? Don’t credentials matter to them?

Smugness is most uncomfortable facing jolly fecundity.

John Mark Reynolds, quoting Salutation.

5

Talk about a twist: He sought the presidency, as so many others surely did, because it’s the ultimate validation. But it has given him his bitterest taste yet of rejection.

Frank Bruni

* * * * *

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.

Clippings and commentary, 12/1/18

1

For a couple of months now, I’ve asked myself a question as I begin to blog on this platform:

Since Alan Jacobs and Caitlin Johnstone are right, what’s really worth blogging today? How about the practical outworkings of their respective insights?

I think that has been helpful, but the two mostly articulate what I knew in my bones already—not that I’ve known it all that long, but a couple of years at least. So I’m not sure that all that much has changed.

2

In that light, Andrew Sullivan was on fire Friday.

His weekly contribution to New York Magazine’s Daily Intelligencer typically is in three unrelated parts, and often his second or third part drops off into something regarding his (homo)sexuality. Those often bore me.

But this week he had three strong parts, the first on The Right’s Climate Change Shame:

I honestly can’t see how the science of this can be right or left. It’s either our best working hypothesis or not. And absolutely, we can have a debate about how to best counter it: massive investment in new green technology; a carbon tax; cap and trade; private-sector innovation of the kind that has helped restrain emissions in the U.S. already. And this debate could be had on right-left lines. But we cannot even have the debate because American conservatism has ruled it out of bounds.

Then there is the final, classic Republican nonargument: “I don’t see it.” When nothing else works, just subjectively deny all objective reality.

This title piece is very strong.

3

True to form, the second part is about sex, but he’s very stimulating:

Does the fact that less than one percent of humans feel psychologically at odds with their biological sex mean that biological sex really doesn’t exist and needs to be defined away entirely? Or does it underline just how deep the connection between sex and gender almost always is?

… the fact that this society is run overwhelmingly on heterosexual lines makes sense to me, given their overwhelming majority. As long as the government does not actively persecute or enable the persecution of a minority, who cares? An intersex person is as deeply human as anyone else. So is a gay or transgender person. It’s stupid to pretend they are entirely normal, because it gives the concept of normality too much power over us ….

4

Finally, he gets into his own sexuality but in context of a delightful reductio ad absurdum of intersectionality:

[A]n oppressor can also be identified in multiple, intersectional ways. I spend my days oppressing marginalized people and women, because, according to social-justice ideology, I am not just male, but also white and cisgendered. My sin — like the virtue of the oppressed — is multifaceted. So multifaceted, in fact, that being gay must surely be included. Also: HIV-positive. Come to think of it: immigrant. And an English Catholic — which makes me a victim in my childhood and adolescence. Suddenly, I’m a little more complicated, aren’t I? But wait! As a Catholic, I am also an oppressive enabler of a misogynist institution, and at the same time, as a gay Catholic, I’m a marginalized member of an oppressed “LGBTQ” community, as well as sustaining an institution that oppresses other gays.

It can get very complicated very fast. I remain confident that I remain an oppressor because my sex, gender, and race — let alone my belief in liberal constitutionalism and limited government — probably trump all my victim points. But that is a pretty arbitrary line, is it not? Think of the recent leftist discourse around white women. One minute, they are the vanguard of the fight against patriarchy; the next minute, they are quislings devoted to white supremacy and saturated with false consciousness.

And that’s why I favor more intersectionality, not less. Let’s push this to its logical conclusion. Let’s pile on identity after identity for any individual person; place her in multiple, overlapping oppression dynamics, victim and victimizer, oppressor and oppressed; map her class, race, region, religion, marital status, politics, nationality, language, disability, attractiveness, body weight, and any other form of identity you can. After a while, with any individual’s multifaceted past, present, and future, you will end up in this multicultural world with countless unique combinations of endless identities in a near-infinite loop of victim and victimizer. You will, in fact, end up with … an individual human being!

In the end, all totalizing ideologies disappear up their own assholes. With intersectionality, we have now entered the lower colon.

In saying that, he probably has made himself an Enemy of the People—the kind of creeps who don’t just tweet insults, but who show up at your home en masse, beating on the door and threatening imminent harm.

For the rest of us, Sullivan provided some material to save the world (or rebuild after collapse).

5

For two years, Democrats have denounced President Trump’s rhetoric as divisive, and sometimes they’ve been right. Yet they’re also only too happy to polarize the electorate along racial lines, insinuating that Republicans steal elections and pick judges who nurse old bigotries.

WSJ Editorial Board, Democrats and Racial Division

6

Garry Kasparov, the chess champion and chairman of the Renew Democracy Initiative (with which I’m associated), has an excellent suggestion for how to respond immediately to Russia’s attack Sunday on three Ukrainian naval ships operating in their own territorial waters: Send a flotilla of U.S. and NATO warships through the narrow Kerch Strait to pay a port call to the besieged Ukrainian city of Mariupol, on the Sea of Azov.

The move would be Trumanesque, recalling the Berlin airlift of 1948. It would symbolize the West’s solidarity with our embattled Ukrainian ally, our rejection of Russia’s seizure of Crimea, and our defiance of the Kremlin’s arrogant, violent, lawless behavior. And it would serve as powerful evidence that, when it comes to standing up for the free world, Donald Trump is not, after all, Vladimir Putin’s poodle.

In other words, don’t count on it.

Where’s Sean Hannity when you need him to be embarrassed for his country?

Bret Stephens

Russia is our whipping boy (the Republicans’ after the cold war, now the Democrats’ and the elites’), and my reflex at new accusations against it is skepticism. But darned if that bridge over the Kerch Straits isn’t deliberately too low for big ships. Sometimes the accusations may be true.

7

Mr. Bush came to the Oval Office under the towering, sharply defined shadow of Ronald Reagan, a onetime rival for whom he had served as vice president.

No president before had arrived with his breadth of experience: decorated Navy pilot, successful oil executive, congressman, United Nations delegate, Republican Party chairman, envoy to Beijing, director of Central Intelligence.

Over the course of a single term that began on Jan. 20, 1989, Mr. Bush found himself at the helm of the world’s only remaining superpower. The Berlin Wall fell; the Soviet Union ceased to exist; the communist bloc in Eastern Europe broke up; the Cold War ended.

His firm, restrained diplomatic sense helped assure the harmony and peace with which these world-shaking events played out, one after the other.

Karen Tumulty, Washington Post. In other words, his greatest accommplishment may have been the war on falling Russia that did not happen.

R.I.P.

8

Alan Jacobs has been far less obsessive about debunking “cultural Marxism” as a useful category than various bloggers have been in accusing people of it.

Jacobs’ latest, starting with the definition of someone who thinks the term is useful:

So what is cultural Marxism? In brief, it is a belief that cultural productions (books, institutions, etc.) and ideas are emanations of underlying power structures, so we must scrutinize and judge all culture and ideas based on their relation to power.

The problem here, put as succinctly as I can put it, is that you can take this view of culture without being a Marxist, and you can be a Marxist without taking this view of culture.

(enough with the “Cultural Marxism” already)

I hope I’ve never personally used the term here, but if I have, I repent in sackcloth and ashes. The internet neighborhoods I frequent tend to be populated by people who use the term (no, they are not notably anti-Semitic), so it may have made its way into a quotation.

Maybe I should use its use as a categorical diqualification to join my Feedly stream—not as a litmus test for anti-Semitism, but as a litmus test for loose thinking.

9

I think the most powerful argument I have for my fellow Christians is that supporting Trump is destructive to the way we represent Christ. Some Christians talked about trying to guide Trump through our support and help him be a better man. Maybe they actually believe that would happen, but the opposite has happened. Evangelicals have become worse rather than Trump becoming better. Evangelicals once believed that our sexual morals mattered in leadership but no more. The defense of Trump by some evangelicals reaches the height of hypocrisy. I have Christian contacts who were very hard on Trump during the primaries and were disgusted with Trump in the general election. If they did vote for Trump, they held their nose while they did it. Today, to my dismay, some of those same Christians have turned into some of his biggest supporters. Christians did not save Trump. Trump corrupted them.

And none of this is to ignore that by supporting Trump, Christians have tied themselves to his race baiting, sexism, lying and incompetence. I know that many of my Christian friends hated that argument when I used it. They pointed out that just because they voted for Trump does not mean they agree with him on everything. I understand that logically. But in reality people are going to associate a vote with Trump as an affirmation of all the characteristics linked to him. It does not matter that you voted for Trump because you did not like Clinton; when you vote Trump you get the whole package. All the lying, race-baiting, sexism and the rest is something you will be seen as endorsing. So that 81 percent of white evangelicals number will continue to plague evangelicalism for some time to come.

It is better to stand for something, even if that something is rejected by the larger society, than to show oneself as willing to compromise one’s own morals to achieve political victories ….

George Yancey, Being Destroyed from Within

10

There is no level of fraudulence, falsity, and charlatanism that our elites will not eat up on the subject of “education,” because the subject itself is empty of content (hey-hey-ho-ho Western-Civ-has-got-to-go led to the most appalling vacuum) and thus all of the grifters, shakedown artists, hucksters, frauds, and the like have come flooding in to fill the void.

Matt in VA, quoted in Rod Dreher’s story on a fraudulent Louisiana alternative school.

* * * * *

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.