Wednesday, 8/24/22

Are all the laws but one to go unexecuted, and the Government itself go to pieces …?

On January 6, 2021, from a parking garage under the Capitol Visitor Center, then–Vice President Mike Pence ordered the military to defend the Capitol against a violent insurrection. According to a taped deposition of General Mark Milley, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Pence “issued very explicit, very direct, unambiguous orders” to him and Secretary of Defense Christopher Miller: “Get the military down here. Get the Guard here. Put down this situation.”

In ordinary circumstances, Pence’s actions would be unconstitutional. Indeed, a vice president who usurped the president’s constitutional authority, and the Cabinet and military officers who followed his orders, could be committing an impeachable offense. …

Jefferson also insisted, the officer who exercises emergency power must justify his actions to “his fellow citizens generally.” For Jefferson, “the good officer” must throw “himself on the justice of his country and the rectitude of his motives.”

From his title (Mike Pence Owes the Country an Explanation) and the first paragraph, I easily figured out where George Thomas was headed and why: he wants Pence to say he perceived an emergency if only because Donald Trump was failing to put down the rump insurrection.

What I didn’t expect was that he would bring Jefferson and Lincoln into it and would persuade me of his case — and by inference to repent of my former judgment on Lincoln for his ultra vires acts.

Yup, the world is messy sometimes. This once was one of my favorite quotes, in part because it challenged my purity fetish:

Purity … is not the one thing needful; and it is better that a life should contract many a dirt-mark, than forfeit usefulness in its efforts to remain unspotted.

William James, Varieties of Religious Experience Lectures 14 and 15, via here.

Sorting out a jumble

[W]e have no ideal path forward. We’re damned if Attorney General Merrick Garland goes forward with a Trump prosecution and damned if Garland holds off. But the latter path should nonetheless be treated as a viable Plan B because it permits the Democrats to continue beating Trump in the political arena by the widest possible margin. That involves all kinds of risks as well, but it’s less risky than the legal option.

Damon Linker, summarizing the case against prosecution that he’s been trying to make.

More:

  • To use the full powers of federal law enforcement during a Democratic administration to indict, try, convict, and punish this man would drive large numbers of Republicans even further into Trump’s arms …
  • The goal should be his political defeat—turning him into a loser in the court of public opinion—not using an extra-political workaround to try and exile him from political competition. If you think making Hitler and Chamberlain analogies clarifies these issues, good for you. I think it’s pretty idiotic.
  • For the sake of argument, I’ve been happy to concede the point and assume Trump is guilty of … something. But is it true? [] After reading a highly illuminating exchange between widely respected legal scholar Jack Goldsmith and journalist Josh Marshall, I’m honestly not sure.
  • Could it be that all of the sound and fury I’ve seen online from the left about the imperative of punishing Trump’s self-evident criminality is based on nothing more than a feeling, a conviction, a moral certainty that he simply must be guilty of something? If so, that would be a further sign that loathing for the former president is a fundamentally political impulse, not a legal one.

Maybe I’ll take a position on “prosecute or nolle prosequi” when someone convincingly shows that Trump committed an actual crime, and that prosecution will be a slam-dunk. Considering the proportion of Trumpists in the land, I’m not sure you’ll ever impanel a jury without one or with one that will vote to convict.

Why colleges are failing

The present model of colleges and universities is failing, for in the first place they have forgotten or even turned against their original mission; in the second, they have picked up a whole lot of unrelated sidelines, none of which they do very well, such as universal job certification; and in the third, the public is beginning to catch on that they cost far too much, and that other institutions can usually do each of these sidelines better.  Barring root and branch reform – for which we must never give up hope — it’s entirely possible that in the not-so-distant future, serious humanities teaching will have to migrate to other settings than colleges and universities.

J Budziszewski

Detritus

In a nutshell

Democracy disconnected from liberalism will not protect diversity, because majorities will use their power to repress minorities.

Francis Fukuyama, Liberalism and Its Discontents

Be careful what you ask for …

History is a prankster. You order a Gray Champion, and cosmic room service sends up a casino developer and New York real estate mogul with a laughable hairdo…

James Howard Kunstler, Living in the Long Emergency

How low can we go?

Hillary Clinton versus Donald Trump seemed like some kind of nadir, but the Florida panhandle is showing that we can go even lower: Matt Gaetz versus Rebekah Jones

Institutions trumping instinct

But it is in fact individualism and not sociability that developed over the course of human history. That individualism seems today like a solid core of our economic and political behavior is only because we have developed institutions that override our more naturally communal instincts.

Francis Fukuyama, The Origins of Political Order

One thing leads to another …

I was good at menial jobs like parking cars but went into radio because it was Minnesota and vacuum tubes give off heat. It was public radio where all the announcers sound like Methodist ministers except not as friendly and there is no Jesus, and I distinguished myself by telling jokes and stem-winding stories about a small town. People liked it; go figure.

Garrison Keillor

American exceptionalism plus

It’s American exceptionalism but goes beyond that. It says that we are the next version of Israel from the Old Testament, that we are God’s chosen nation, and that is a special covenant — a two-way agreement with God. We can’t break it, and if we do, what happened to Israel will happen to us: We will be overrun by whatever the next Babylon is, taken into captivity, and He will remove His blessing from us.

Zack Stanton, It’s Time to Talk About Violent Christian Extremism – POLITICO

Maybe a bit harsh

I would rather have gonorrhea than a record of passionate and convinced #MAGA tweeting.

Graeme Wood, What to Do With Trumpists – The Atlantic.

Maybe a bit harsh, but then it’s dated 1/19/21, the day before Joe Biden officially became President despite Trump’s lawless efforts to retain the Presidency.


[S]ubordinating truth to politics is a game which tyrants and bullies always win.

Jonathan Rauch, The Constitution of Knowledge

You can read most of my more impromptu stuff here (cathartic venting) and here (the only social medium I frequent, because people there are quirky, pleasant and real). Both should work in your RSS aggregator, like Feedly or Reeder, should you want to make a habit of it.

Thursday, 7/28/22

Polarized Politics

What would Archie say?

For all his faults, Archie [Bunker] loved his country and he loved his family, even when they called him out on his ignorance and bigotries. If Archie had been around 50 years later, he probably would have watched Fox News. He probably would have been a Trump voter. But I think that the sight of the American flag being used to attack Capitol Police would have sickened him. I hope that the resolve shown by Representatives Liz Cheney and Adam Kinzinger, and their commitment to exposing the truth, would have won his respect.

Norman Lear, in the New York Times on Wednesday, his hundredth birthday.

Perverse polarization

Republican presidential campaigns in 2024 are going to look a whole lot different than they did in 2016: They (think they) have no use for the mainstream press. “I just don’t even see what the point is anymore,’ an adviser to one likely GOP presidential aspirant told New York Magazine’s David Freedlander. “We know reporters always disagreed with the Republican Party, but it used to be you thought you could get a fair shake. Now every reporter, and every outlet, is just chasing resistance rage-clicks.” The result? “Sitting down with the mainstream press has come to be seen by Republican primary voters as consorting with the enemy, and approval by the enemy is the political kiss of death,” Freedlander writes. “Dave Carney, a longtime GOP strategist, said that, according to his team’s research, getting endorsed by a newspaper editorial board, even a local one, hurts Republicans in primaries rather than helps them. ‘No one gives a f— what the New York Times writes,’ he said. ‘In fact, it would be good if you criticize us so that we can say that even the liberal New York Times hates us.’”

The Morning Dispatch, 7/27/22

These are the kinds of Republicans who benefit from false-flag Democrat support attacking them as too extreme, too cozy with Orange Man, in order to boost them in the primaries.

Un-Disappearing Act

Adjust your picture of press corruption. It’s not so much the lies they tell as the truths they withhold. Let Mr. Biden threaten to become an albatross to progressive and Democratic hopes in 2024, and the Hunter story will un-disappear in a hurry.

Holman W. Jenkins, Jr., Hunter and Joe Biden Need Trump

A bit cynical, but only a bit.

Felix culpa

Speaking of Hunter’s laptop and grifting, it sickens me to think that the electoral margin of Joe Biden over Donald Trump could have been lost if American intelligence authorities hadn’t lyingly called Hunter Biden’s laptop “Russian disinformation.”

According to one survey, one out of six Biden voters said that had they known about Hunter’s laptop in time, they wouldn’t have voted for his father.

Lee Smith, The National Tragedy of Hunter Biden’s Laptop.

45’s authoritarian tendencies

[T]he 45th president had numerous authoritarian tendencies and instincts. He believed in personal loyalty, not loyalty to the office he held or to the Constitution. He despised the free press and encouraged popular hatred toward journalists. He treated as a traitor any American who didn’t support him. And then, of course, there were his words and deeds after the 2020 election, which incited an insurrectionary assault on the national legislature in order to keep himself in power despite his failure to win the electoral contest. If that isn’t a tyrannical act, it’s hard to imagine what would be.

Both the frequency of Trump’s lies and exaggerations and the obviousness of their mendacity are what make them fasc-ish. There’s a reason why the term “gaslighting” came into regular usage during the Trump administration: Living in the United States through those years often felt like enduring a sadistic psychological experiment in which we were constantly challenged about whether we would believe our own eyes and minds or the would-be dictator in the Oval Office spouting transparent nonsense. The fascist playbook often involves using precisely this kind of epistemic confusion—a thoroughly polluted information space—as an occasion or opportunity to seize or secure power.

Then there was Trump’s enthusiasm for any extremist group that gave him support. This led him to express ambivalence about the neo-Nazis who marched through and provoked violence in Charlottesville, Virginia in August 2017. And to offer periodic kind words for far-right groups and figures, including the Proud Boys, Oath Keepers, and various heavily armed militias.

Damon Linker, Thinking About Fascism—Part 2.

This is one of the best collections I can recall of the outward manifestations of Trump’s narcissism and worse.

Electoral Count Act Reform

Watch your Step!

“Somehow they’ve come out of the kitchen with something that actually looks as if it is correctly prepared in almost every respect,” said Walter Olsen, senior fellow at the Cato Institute’s Robert A. Levy Center for Constitutional Studies. “Now I’m just holding my breath that someone doesn’t trip and spill the tray.”

Morning Dispatch, Bipartisan Senate Group Unveils Electoral Count Act Reform. See also William A. Galston, Surprise: A Divided Congress Is Making Bipartisan Progress.

The bad news is that some Democrats want to turn this urgently-needed Bill into a Christmas Tree. The good news is that they seem to want it half-heartedly.

Stop Screwing Around

I want to begin with a question I’ve asked before. What if Mike Pence had said yes? What if the history of January 6 was very different, Pence had agreed with the John Eastman memos arguing that he enjoyed a tremendous amount of discretion in counting electoral college votes, and he either declared Trump the winner outright, throwing the election into the House of Representatives, or sent it back to the states for the state legislatures to decide which electors were valid?

America probably would have survived that moment, but the key word there is probably. Does Trump leave the White House? If the Supreme Court intervenes, does he care? Do we see a situation in which Chief Justice Roberts swears in Joe Biden while a MAGA judge swears in Trump for his “second term”? What do state governors do? Does federal law enforcement intervene? What about the military?

Mike Pence saved us from all this chaos, and he deserves our gratitude. But he never should have been put in that position, and we have an opportunity to fix the prime legal reason why he was. The primary blame, of course, rests with the depraved corruption of Donald Trump and his cadre of loyalists. The secondary blame, however, rests with the Electoral Count Act, an absolute mess of a statute.

David French, Stop Screwing Around and Pass the Electoral Count Reform Act

In my opinion, reforming the Electoral Count Act has been Job #1 since January 6, 2021. It’s quite a bit more important than the January 6 Committee, which has been more potent than I foresaw but clearly has not dissuade all Trump supporters.

But I was reminded very recently that we should be looking for, and closing, other loopholes that could be exploited to “elect” someone the voters (yes, allowing for the Electoral College’s “electoral majorities” that differ from the raw national vote majority) rejected. And I don’t think the Democrats’ absurd allegations that, for instance, requiring Voter ID is “worse than Jim Crow” comes anywhere close to meeting the need.

What do you call this?

Voters in Tunisia affirmed a new constitution for their country that would roll back many of the reforms that once made it look like the Arab Spring’s sole survivor. Some 95% of voters opted for the new constitution, but less than one-third of eligible voters turned out. The opposition, which boycotted the poll, said the results were “not credible”. Kais Saied, the president, had pressed for the referendum to transform the young democracy into another strongman system.

The world in brief | The Economist

It seems somehow facile or crypto-imperialist to suggest that a 95% vote for something is not democratic.

Other stuff

Martyrdom and Suicide

Drawing on G. K. Chesterton, we might say that martyrdom and suicide, however similar they might seem on the surface, are diametrically opposed to each other: martyrdom occurs in the recognition of a goodness that is greater than the self, a goodness that is at the source of all things, so that one gives up one’s self in the ecstasy of affirmation; suicide is the absolute negation of all things through the negation of the self: “A martyr is a man who cares so much for something outside him, that he forgets his own personal life. A suicide is a man who cares so little for anything outside him, that he wants to see the last of everything. One wants something to begin: the other wants everything to end.”

D.C. Schindler, Social Media Is Hate Speech: A Platonic Reflection on Contemporary Misology

A little sensible perspective on CRT

The CRT debate is just the latest squall in a tempest brewing and building for five years or so. And, yes, some of the liberal critiques of a Fox News hyped campaign are well taken. Is this a wedge issue for the GOP? Of course it is. Are they using the term “critical race theory” as a cynical, marketing boogeyman? Of course they are. Are some dog whistles involved? A few. Are crude bans on public servants’ speech dangerous? Absolutely. Do many of the alarmists know who Derrick Bell was? Of course not.

But does that mean there isn’t a real issue here? Of course it doesn’t.

Andrew Sullivan, What Happened To You? The radicalization of the American elite against liberalism

It will be a long time, if ever, before I’ll trust Christopher Rufo precisely because of his cynical comment about “freezing the brand” of CRT and then loading it up with extraneous things conservatives don’t like.

Title IX Run Amok

The provisions of Title IX of the Education Amendments Act of 1972 which bar sex discrimination apply to “any education program or activity receiving federal financial assistance”. In Buettner-Hartsoe v. Baltimore Lutheran High School Association, (D MD, July 21, 2022), a Maryland federal district court held that a §501(c)(3) tax exemption for a religiously-affiliated high school constitutes federal financial assistance so that the school is subject to Title IX. The court added that also in its view, schools that discriminate on the basis of sex, just like those that discriminate on the basis of race, are not entitled to federal tax exemptions. The court’s opinion applies to cases brought by 5 women who are former students at the high school who allege sexual assault and verbal sexual harassment by male students at the school. JDSupra reports on the decision.

Religion Clause Blog (emphasis added).

I don’t have deep expertise on this, but I don’t think the District Court decision will (or should) survive appellate review. If tax exemption is federal financial assistance, things are going to get pretty ugly pretty fast.

We need an apocalypse

In modern terms, “apocalypse” has come to mean “the cataclysmic end of everything”. But this is a long way from the ancient Greek understanding: to uncover, to disclose or lay bare. From this perspective, apocalypse isn’t the end of the world. Or at least, not just the end of the world. Rather, it’s the end of a worldview: discoveries that mean a previous way of looking at things is no longer tenable.

In our case, it’s no longer just cranks and prophets coming to the reluctant realisation that our current way of life can’t continue. This suspicion is percolating into the mainstream — along with a raft of increasingly unhinged responses ….

Mary Harrington, Why we need the apocalypse

Unintended second-order effects

I jokingly asked my wife to go back to work.

It’s not the money. It’s that her retirement in May has left me, for the first time in my adult life, unable readily to identify what day of the week it is.

Written May 12, 1944

So Many Blood-Lakes
(written May 12, 1944)

We have now won two world-wars, neither of which concerned us, we were
slipped in. We have levelled the powers
Of Europe, that were the powers of the world, into rubble and
dependence. We have won two wars and a third is coming.

This one–will not be so easy. We were at ease while the powers of the
world were split into factions: we’ve changed that.
We have enjoyed fine dreams; we have dreamed of unifying the world; we
are unifying it–against us.

Two wars, and they breed a third. Now guard the beaches, watch the
north, trust not the dawns. Probe every cloud.
Build power. Fortress America may yet for a long time stand, between the
east and the west, like Byzantium.

–As for me: laugh at me. I agree with you. It is a foolish business to
see the future and screech at it.
One should watch and not speak. And patriotism has run the world through
so many blood-lakes: and we always fall in.

(Robinson Jeffers)


“The Frenchman works until he can play. The American works until he can’t play; and then thanks the devil, his master, that he is donkey enough to die in harness ….” (G.K. Chesterton)

You can read most of my more impromptu stuff here (cathartic venting) and here (the only social medium I frequent, because people there are quirky, pleasant and real). Both should work in your RSS aggregator, like Feedly or Reeder, should you want to make a habit of it.

Saturday, 7/9/22

Dobbs

Digesting Dobbs‘ legal fallout

Most of my favorite podcasters have annoying mannerisms, but substance too good to get hung up on it. For a ConLaw geek, Akhil Amar’s Amarica’s Constitution fits that to a "T".

Amar glories in saying "I told you so" (not in those words) over and over and over, but as they say, "it ain’t bragging if you can do it." He definitely is one of our nation’s top Constitutional Law scholars.

Amar is a "pro-choice" liberal who recognized that Roe was a real dog’s breakfast. So I took seriously his July 6 ruminations on the rationale of Dobbs, which he considers justified if flawed (for context, note that finding little flaws in justified opinions is roughly half of what legal teaching is about).

If the court takes the Dobbs reasoning elsewhere, it portends more reversals of precedent, though not necessarily contraception, miscegenation, sodomy or same-sex marriage. (For instance, in what state in 2022 would laws against them pass to create a test case? And if such a law were passed, there’s more to stare decisis analysis than "was this wrong when decided?" or even "was this egregiously wrong when decided?")

But the originalist approaches of the conservative majority are going to be less deferential to precedent than to the original meaning of the constitutional provision in question. And that’s as it should be because the constitution, not precedent, is the supreme law of the land, and to it Justices take an oath. (It’s understood, though, that lower courts are bound by precedent from higher courts.)

I’m not sure what precedents will be at most risk, but I think we’re going to find out.

Dobbs cultural fallout

“Men, it’s on us now,” someone said on Twitter just hours after Roe v. Wade was overturned on June 24. “Either start wearing contraceptives or get a vasectomy.” In the two weeks since, the suggestion that men can or should express solidarity with women by getting vasectomies to prevent unwanted pregnancies has proliferated online. The tone varies from flirty (“getting a vasectomy is the new 6-foot-4”) to pointed (“i don’t want to hear a peep out of anyone with a dick until the vasectomy appointment is scheduled”), but the overarching message is the same: “If you create sperm and can get someone pregnant, go get a vasectomy,” one viral tweet read. “We are tired.”

… Google Trends shows a small increase in vasectomy searches during the first week of May, when the draft decision first leaked, followed by a second, larger one starting in late June. Doctors have also reported higher interest in the procedure. “We have never seen a vasectomy spike like this in response to a single political or social event,” the Florida-based urologist Doug Stein told me.

Doctors like Stein, who has been dubbed “The Vasectomy King” by local press, have spent years evangelizing for the procedure. Now their cause is suddenly ascendant. The nation’s vasectomy influencers are in the spotlight.

The Vasectomy Influencers.

Well, I certainly didn’t see that coming, though I suppose it was unrealistic to expect an outbreak of chastity.

Remember, young Lothario: vasectomy is forever. Maybe you should just keep it in your pants until you’re ready to start adulting. Not that adulting is always easy.

Adulting in America

If you’re an adult in America today, you’ve learned how to speak furtively of what is happening, how to deploy discretion in repeating what you’ve heard, this secret grammar of mass murder. Time was that a horror like the 2006 slaying of five Amish schoolgirls by a deranged gunman would hold up daily affairs for at least a few moments; even little ones could detect a disruption in the normal order of things. By now we know that if the kids are young enough to miss the news, you might as well let them, because there will—not might, but will—come a day when the reality of their situation finds them.

Elizabeth Bruenig, Living in an Age of Mass Shootings

Too much more about Orange Man and Kindred Spirits

Trumpian "coincidences"

Among tax lawyers, the most invasive type of random audit carried out by the I.R.S. is known, only partly jokingly, as “an autopsy without the benefit of death.”

The odds of being selected for that audit in any given year are tiny — out of nearly 153 million individual returns filed for 2017, for example, the I.R.S. targeted about 5,000, or roughly one out of 30,600.

One of the few who received a bureaucratic letter with the news that his 2017 return would be under intensive scrutiny was James B. Comey, who had been fired as F.B.I. director that year by President Donald J. Trump. …

Among those who were chosen to have their 2019 returns scrutinized was the man who had been Mr. Comey’s deputy at the bureau: Andrew G. McCabe, who served several months as acting F.B.I. director after Mr. Comey’s firing.

Mr. McCabe was later dismissed by the Trump Justice Department after its watchdog accused him of misleading internal F.B.I. investigators ….

Michael S. Schmidt, Comey and McCabe, Who Infuriated Trump, Both Faced Intensive I.R.S. Audits

Weaponizing the IRS is neither unprecedented nor the exlusive mark of one of the two corrupt and feckless major parties. But this is unusually blatant.

The IRS Commissioner appointed by Trump has ordered an Inspector General investigation, but it’s a stretch for me to believe that a hit-job like this didn’t come through his own office.

Roped, broke and branded

Mr Trump prizes no supporters more than those who once rejected him but then roped, broke and branded themselves. He has endorsed [Harriet] Hageman and appeared last month at a rally in Casper with her. Ms Hageman, a lawyer, stoked the crowd by itemising things to revile, from illegal immigration to Anthony Fauci. But one bit of elaboration popped out when she said Mr Trump knew she would represent “your fallacies”, quickly amending that to “families”.

High noon for Liz Cheney | The Economist

Shambolic boyo

I see nothing sad in his leaving but that he was very entertaining and had one of the best political acts—shambolic upper-class boyo, utterly lost in his personal sphere, just like you and no better than you—in modern British history.

Peggy Noonan on the downfall of Boris Johnson

Boris and Donald

The actual law-breaking and lies about law-breaking were cast in even worse light by the news today that the opposition leader, Keir Starmer, has been cleared by the police from the charge that he too had violated the lockdown rules. Starmer, to heighten the contrast, had publicly stated that he’d resign his position if he were found guilty. The difference between Keir and Boris (and I’ve known both for decades) is pretty obvious: Keir is a somewhat dull, decent bloke and Boris is an entitled, colorful charlatan.

But the glee of the elites and the mainstream media at this likable rogue’s political demise obscures something important. They were wrong to conflate him with Trump. Boris is a liar the way Bill Clinton was a liar: he lied to get himself out of trouble he’d gotten himself into. And, like Clinton, Boris had some relationship to reality — even as he tried to bluff and bluster his way through it.

Trump’s lies were far, far graver and bolder: that he’d won an election in a landslide (when he lost), and that our entire electoral system is rigged. And Trump, unlike Boris, is truly pathological and psychologically broken — incapable of distinguishing his own egomaniac fantasies from the real world.

Andrew Sullivan (emphasis added)

Not that the emphasized sentence is not how Oxford-educated pundits say "poopy-head" or "full of cooties." It’s an actual opinion — which I fully share — of psychological incapacity, which if true leads inexorably to the conclusion that Trump’s unfit to occupy the White House. That was essentially my objection to Trump from the beginning (probably 2016, when it became harder to write him off as a joke), though through a combination of luck and some adults in the room, we didn’t see the lunacy on full display until after he lost in 2020.

I thought in 2016 that his nomination, and then his election, were raised middle-fingers to America’s competent governing class. I slowly came to appreciate why a lot of American’s left-behind might want to do that, and I hope that both parties will pay attention to their legitimate grievances (i.e., the economic ones, not any racial resentments).

But God deliver us from any more Trump!

Anyway, Sullivan’s Substack this week is far more about Boris Johnson than about Trump, and gives Johnson credit for his many accomplishments. Then he pivots back:

Which brings me, of course, to the obvious analogy to the American right. The Tories were thrilled to ride Boris’ coat-tails into office — he did deliver Brexit and a smashing election victory — but they did not turn into a cult. He had to face a feisty press and weekly grillings in parliament, in which his relationship to reality was constantly tested. His own Conservative MPs — many of whom owed him their seats and careers — enabled him to a point, but they never lost their minds or, ultimately, their consciences.

Trump and the GOP? A sadder, darker, weirder story. Trump’s lies are far, far worse. Boris never questioned the results of a referendum or an election — and neither did his opponents. He didn’t marshal an armed mob to ransack parliament when his own MPs turned on him. The final straw for Boris was when he lied that he hadn’t been briefed about a minor Tory sex scandal, and apologized.

Trump, meanwhile, has unrelentingly sustained the biggest, most dangerous lie of all: that our entire democracy is rigged, that he won in a landslide in 2020, and that the GOP should seek to win the next election by any means, fair or foul. His lies are proactive and corrosive to democracy for the future. They have to be huge to work. And they are.

Why We Did It

I don’t know if this is David French’s original thought or Tim Miller’s original thought or the result of French reflecting on Miller, but darn, it’s good!

Ask any person to describe themselves, and they’ll likely respond with a mix of characteristics and virtues. They’ll describe their profession (lawyer, banker, plumber), their relationships (husband, father, grandfather), and their politics (Republican, Democrat), and if asked they might even describe their perceived virtues (honesty, fidelity, fortitude).

But what if the virtues conflict with other core parts of a person’s identity? …

[D]uring the Trump years, honesty and independence directly and starkly clashed with status. Time and again, men and women in America’s political class found that they couldn’t possess both virtue and power. They had to make a choice.

During the Trump years, the collision between status and virtue was constant and relentless. Trump never gave anyone a breather. He was never chagrined or mollified by scandal. He never apologized. He never turned over a new leaf. He just charged from one lie to another, and his demands for absolute loyalty left his defenders and followers with little ability to separate themselves from his worst moments while still remaining in the Republican tent.

As we’ve seen from days of courageous testimony before the January 6 House Select Committee, it is quite possible to say “I’m a Republican, and I’m honest.” But with each passing week—and with each new revelation—it grows more difficult to say “I’m a Trump Republican, and I’m honest.” Status conflicts with virtue, and status wins.

David French at his best, reviewing (and highly recommending) Tim Miller’s Why We Did It: A Travelogue From the Republican Road to Hell.

Thriving on toxicity

Somehow this seems to fit here, with the preceding two as preface:

There are species of bacteria that actually thrive in the toxic emissions from hydrothermal vents deep below the ocean. What would be killing sulphuric acid to most animals is food for them. We have created a similarly hostile climate in media and politics: high pressure, extreme temperature swings, and a toxic atmosphere. We should not be surprised, then, that unlovely creatures are the only ones who can thrive in this space.

Decent people with dignity are easy marks for outrage mobs, cancel culture, and the clickbait press. But fools with no shame are impervious to such a climate. Men and women of character tend to stay away, and if they don’t, are much more subject to the extortionate pressures of the political world. If your reputation is already poor, you can chase celebrity, frolicking among the deep-sea plumes, while your more delicate competitors are floating on the surface, poisoned.

Chris Stirewalt, H/T Alan Jacobs, commenting specifically on the improbable political victories of Donald Trump and Boris Johnson.

Miscellany

  • Public health officials in Oregon announced they would be delaying a meeting because to rush and get everything done for it was a white trait. Here’s what a high ranking Oregon Health Authority official wrote to postpone the upcoming confab: "We recognize that urgency is a white supremacy value that can get in the way of more intentional and thoughtful work, and we want to attend to this dynamic. Therefore, we will reach out at a later date to reschedule." The KKK would unironically love this explanation.
  • Tucker and conservative media have a hammer and keep looking for nails … Carlson is right that there is social breakdown that contributed to this shooting: After police took away the boy’s knives amid his various threats of violence, the Highland Park shooter’s dad helped buy him a gun.
  • “Joy too can be an act of resistance. I want to talk about personal acts of reclamation because sometimes people will say, ‘There’s nothing I can do. I feel so powerless.’ There is no act too small that you can engage in. Even today, I have a personal errand, I need to redo my nails. And I’ve decided that I’m going to use my new manicure as almost like a personal act of reclamation for me and my story.” — Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez

Nellie Bowles

Nellie had many more (including side-eyes at Elon Musk’s non-marital fertility), but I started feeling guilty about sharing so much paid content.


Penultimately, just a bit more, now from Andrew Sullivan’s miscellany:

  • “From an empirical, non-woke perspective, the ‘Kill TERFs’ movement is pretty astonishing. It’s a bunch of biological males, threatening to brutalize biological females, for saying that female sex is real,” – Wilfred Reilly.
  • “There is considerable overlap between the intelligence of the smartest bears and the dumbest tourists,” a Yosemite Park ranger when asked why it was so tough to design a bear-proof trash bin.

Happy

Happy as something unimportant
and free as a thing unimportant.
As something no one prizes
and which does not prize itself.
As something mocked by all
and which mocks at their mockery.
As laughter without serious reason.
As a yell able to outyell itself.
Happy as no matter what,
as any no matter what.

Happy
as a dog’s tail.

Anna Swir via Poetry Foundation


If people have always said it, it is probably true; it is the distilled wisdom of the ages. If people have not always said it, but everybody is saying it now, it is probably a lie; it is the concentrated madness of the moment.

Anthony Esolen, Out of the Ashes

You can read most of my more impromptu stuff here (cathartic venting) and here (the only social medium I frequent, because people there are quirky, pleasant and real). Both should work in your RSS aggregator, like Feedly or Reeder, should you want to make a habit of it.

Thursday, 6/30/22

Shamelessly ad hominem

Dave Portnoy can’t even deal right now. Shortly after the Dobbs news broke, the “barstool conservative” celebrity took to Twitter with an “Emergency Press Conference.” “I feel like I have to speak on this issue,” Portnoy announced. There followed 2.5 minutes of semi-coherent ranting, where he proposes that we are “literally going backwards in time,” that “maybe not everything is to a T in the Constitution,” considering it was written by “people who own slaves,” and that he’s pretty sure “95 percent of people in the country think like me — they’re socially liberal and financially conservative.”

Of course, it’s tempting to point out that this is the hot take we would expect from a guy who defended himself against charges of being a repulsive womanizing scumbag by countering that maybe he was, but he didn’t break the law. Portnoy would hardly be the first of his kind to wax vehemently eloquent on the sanctity of women’s reproductive autonomy. But his take also reflects the whole political oeuvre he represents—that areligious potpourri of sexual libertinism, anti-authoritarianism, anti-wokeness, and lots of f-bombs.

Bethel McGrew (emphasis added).

I don’t know much about Portnoy. I first paid attention to the phenomenon of “barstool conservatives” within the last month. But I like, and credit, the observation that keeping women “reproductively autonomous” is damned convenient for guys with Satyriasis.

Newly-salient

It is a crime, to take just one example, to aid and abet the forcible intimidation of government officials, including the vice president and members of Congress.

Andrew C. McCarthy, citing newly-salient Federal Criminal laws after Cassidy Hutchinson’s Tuesday testimony.

McCarthy continues:

In any event, Hutchinson explained that the speech, like all presidential speeches, was carefully vetted by staff. White House counsel Pat Cipollone and his staff pleaded for removal of the exhortations Trump was insistent on including — “fight for me,” “fight for the movement,” and so on. They were too close to the legal line of incitement. It was plainly foreseeable that the mob could take forcible action; if it did, White House lawyers feared that this rhetoric would place Trump squarely in legal jeopardy for whatever mayhem resulted — obstruction of congressional proceedings, intimidation of and assault on federal officials, and so on.

The rhetoric stayed in the speech.

So did Trump’s vow that he would be marching to the Capitol with the mob.

A mea culpa: I just assumed that Trump’s vow that he would be marching to the Capitol with the mob was just another of his (literally) innumerable lies to whip up mobs. But if you’re familiar with Hutchinson’s testimony, you now know that he was prevented from doing so by the Secret Service — and may have tried to wrest the steering wheel away from his Secret Service chauffeur.

On the observation that a lot of Hutchinson’s testimony was hearsay:

Still, a few things are worth bearing in mind. First, this isn’t just any hearsay — like idle chatter a witness might eavesdrop on. We’re talking here about a chain of command, where government officials are expected to report things to their superiors — in this instance, up to the president’s chief-of-staff. More to the point, Hutchinson learned these details just minutes after the encounter in the limo. Ornato came directly to Meadows’s office with Engel. As Engel looked on in apparent affirmation, Ornato relayed what had just happened to Hutchinson. Engel gave no indication that Ornato had gotten any of the details wrong. And if Hutchinson is lying or exaggerating, it’s strange that, under oath, she would voluntarily identify so many witnesses who could contradict her.

… [W]hen we say the committee lacks due-process legitimacy, that means it lacks legitimacy as an ultimate finder of fact. It does not mean that we can blithely dismiss any evidence the committee discloses. It does not mean that, because we’d prefer that the evidence not be true, we can dismiss it out of hand because we don’t like the Democrats or the committee process. These witnesses are testifying under oath. There is significant risk to them if they are found to have committed perjury.

For now, all we can responsibly do is ask ourselves whether the evidence presented under these deficient procedures seems coherent and credible ….

In that last assessment, confirmation bias is inevitable. To me, the evidence is coherent and credible.

Recommended: Damon Linker, After Roe: A Letter to My Teenage Daughter About the Dobbs Decision

Excerpt:

Many rejoiced at [Roe v. Wade], but it also angered lots of people—at first, mainly Catholics, who strongly opposed abortion, but they were soon joined by evangelical Christians and even some secular activists. These critics of Roe made two main arguments: first, that the decision was immoral because it declared that women had a constitutional right to murder their babies; second, that the decision was tyrannical because it negated democratically enacted laws.

Before long, those making these arguments came to be called the “pro-life movement.” For the past forty years, it has fought to influence public opinion and gain support in the legal community. That effort finally achieved its goal last Friday, after 49 years, when a Supreme Court majority took its side, declaring, in part, that enough Americans consider abortion to be murder that it should not be treated as a constitutional right; states should be free to permit or forbid the procedure based on the outcome of democratic debate.

I think Linker’s account is extraordinarily fair.

For whatever reason rooted in my emotional make-up, I have always been more in the “Roe was tyrannical” rather than “Roe was immoral” camp. Perhaps it’s because my pro-life awakening came when I was in Law School, already enrolled in a Constitutional Law class.

I believe I have written here that any state legislation on abortion would have a constitutional legitimacy that Roe and its progeny lacked. At least for now, that’s all I’m going to say about my position on what restrictions my state should enact, confident that it’s not going to declare a 40-week open season on the unborn, or even 20+ weeks. In a few weeks, when our legislature convenes, my attention will presumable sharpen.


If people have always said it, it is probably true; it is the distilled wisdom of the ages. If people have not always said it, but everybody is saying it now, it is probably a lie; it is the concentrated madness of the moment.

Anthony Esolen, Out of the Ashes

You can read most of my more impromptu stuff here (cathartic venting) and here (the only social medium I frequent, because people there are quirky, pleasant and real). Both should work in your RSS aggregator, like Feedly or Reeder, should you want to make a habit of it.

Bloodlust and other diversions

Bloodlust over principle

One of the bewildering things about being a conservative in a populist age is the sheer speed at which populists will shift their opinions, including on allegedly bedrock constitutional values, to satisfy the popular bloodlust of the moment.

David French, Why Ron DeSantis’s Disney Attacks Threaten the First Amendment.

True, but I don’t imagine it feels a whole lot different than to a center-left figure watching the further-left. What is progressive cancel culture if not bloodlust?

Majority Minority?

Yascha Mounk, America Won’t Ever Be Majority Minority could be a good conversation topic:

Most developed democracies will never become “majority minority” in any meaningful sense. It is highly premature to assume that the politics of the future will neatly pit “whites” against “people of color.” And anybody who wants diverse democracies like the United States to succeed actually has reason to celebrate the fact that demography, despite the belief that so many parts of both left and right now share, is not destiny.

When the United States Census Bureau projected that the country would become majority minority sometime in the 2040s, its demographic model was presented as an exercise in science, giving the prediction an air of unassailable fact. But this conceals the extent to which the categories used by the Census Bureau to classify Americans as white or non-white rely on highly questionable assumptions about how they identify now—and even more questionable ones about how they will do so in future.

Does the child of two white immigrants from Spain count as white or Hispanic? (According to the United States Census Bureau, the answer is: Hispanic.) Will the child of a white father and a Chinese mother identify as white or Asian? (Asian.) And is someone who has seven white great-grandparents and one black great-grandparent white or black? (Black.) Seemingly scientific, the projections of the Census Bureau assume that all Americans who have either a drop of non-white blood or some distant cultural heritage connecting them to a Spanish-speaking country will be “people of color.”

Put it that way and the "majority minority" notion seems not only dubious but eccentrically race-essentialist, with white being normal and anything less than pure white being a mutation (with the mutants in solidarity agains the normies).

Maybe keeping us at odds among ourselves while the meritocrats carry on running things is the whole point.

Two+ of these things are not like the others

Nellie Bowles

This isn’t an idle observation:

  • LGB rights are pretty secure in the US now and for the foreseeable future.
  • Valorization of TQ+ identification has become a social contagion, leading a non-trivial number of young people to permanently mutilate or sterilize their bodies, only to find later that they really were fighting against admitting that they were L or G (mostly L; boys seem less susceptible to this contagion).
  • TQ+ ideology subverts the gender binary to where L, G, and B lose their meaning.

A common-sense probing of "common good" talk

The next time someone lectures you about the common good, try this experiment: Ask them to name four or five circumstances in which their own political positions are at odds with the public interest and explain how they would go about subordinating them to that public interest. What you will learn in practically every case is that everyone thinks the public interest is identical to his own desires and priorities, which is why discussions along those lines have gone nowhere for the past 200 years or so in any reasonably developed society with more cultural and religious diversity than Denmark.

Kevin D. Williamson, ‌Public School Debate: Value-Neutral Education Doesn’t Exist

World-weary crypto-provincials

Solzhenitsyn identified in Western intellectual circles the same smug narrow-mindedness that he had discovered in liberal Russian intellectuals before the revolution. The core moment in these volumes occurs when, as Solzhenitsyn writes,

a leading [Canadian] television commentator lectured me that I presumed to judge the experience of the world from the viewpoint of my own limited Soviet and prison-camp experience. Indeed, how true! Life and death, imprisonment and hunger, the cultivation of the soul despite the captivity of the body: how very limited that is compared to the bright world of political parties, yesterday’s numbers on the stock exchange, amusements without end, and exotic foreign travel!

Gary Saul Morson. H/T Alan Jacobs

Of President Biden

Here are some difficulties when he speaks.

> When he stands at a podium and reads from a teleprompter, his mind seems to wander quickly from the meaning of what he’s saying to the impression he’s making. You can sort of see this, that he’s always wondering how he’s coming across. When he catches himself he tends to compensate by enacting emotion.

But the emotion he seems most publicly comfortable with is indignation. An example is his answer to a reporter’s question in November about the administration’s plans to compensate illegal-immigrant parents who’d been separated from their children at the border. Suddenly he was angry-faced; he raised his voice, increased his tempo, and started jabbing the air. “You lost your child. It’s gone! You deserve some kind of compensation, no matter what the circumstances.” Then, catching himself, he added mildly, “What that will be, I have no idea.” He was trying to show presentness, engagement. But there’s often an “angry old man yelling at clouds” aspect to this.

Peggy Noonan

My concurrence with this is not partisan. To avoid Orange Man, we elected a rather pale one wraith. May God have mercy on us in our dilemmas.

Brain-hackers

[I]f there was no pornography on the internet, I think maybe 10%-15% of current internet porn addicts would have found some other outlet for their illicit desires, and the rest would have just kept it in their pants. The existence of a multibillion-dollar industry bent on cultivating the very worst desires in people used the free flow of information to create addicts out of otherwise non-addicted people by hacking the susceptible parts of our brains (and souls). Practically no one truly wants to spend hours of their time looking at soul-destroying trash, but the tidal wave of liquid modernity has exploited their freedom, saying “You’re always free to choose differently!” and laughing all the way to the bank.

Matthew Loftus, ‌the liberal order and its haters

I still spend too much time online, but I long ago, and fairly suddenly (as if it were an epiphany), realized the horrible spiritual damage of wallowing in porn. I’m more gradually realizing the the (lesser, I think) social and spiritual damage of wallowing in subtler brain-hacks.

Yes, Mama. Thank you, Mama. Please go away now, Mama.

This week in Silicon Valley bias: Google is planning to tell enterprise users of its word processor that words like "motherboard" and "landlord" are insufficiently inclusive for use in polite company. We won’t actually be forbidden to use those words. Yet. Though that future has apparently already arrived in Mountain View, where at least one source says that "mainboard" is the only acceptable term for the electronics that used to honor the women who raised us. In another blow for freedom, as it’s now defined in the Valley, Twitter will suppress all climate talk that contradicts the views a panel of government-appointed scientist-politicos. Apparently suppressing talk that contradicted CDC scientist-politicians worked so well that Twitter is rushing to double down ….

Teaser for Episode 404 of the Cyberlaw Podcast

Wordplay

A university that turns itself into an asylum from controversy has ceased to be a university; it has just become an asylum.

Eleventh Circuit Judge Stanley Marcus


You can read most of my more impromptu stuff here (cathartic venting) and here (the only social medium I frequent, because people there are quirky, pleasant and real). Both should work in your RSS aggregator, like Feedly or Reeder, should you want to make a habit of it.