Emollients (I hope)

1

I would find it more convincing that Trump is “shaking up his administration,” as the press reports every day or two, if they’d first report the deep complacency that needs roiling. (I just haven’t noticed that on my own.)

2

Peggy Noonan thinks Bush I should have gotten the Nobel Peace Prize, and she, ever the speech writer, wished for more articulation of what he was doing:

[The collapse of Communism] was a crucial event in the history of the West, and its meaning needed stating by the American president. There was much to be lauded, from the hard-won unity of the West to Russia’s decision to move bravely toward new ways. Much could be said without triumphalism.

It is a delicate question, in statecraft as in life, when to speak and when not to. George Bush thought it was enough to do it, not say it, as the eulogists asserted. He trusted the people to infer his reasoning from his actions. (This was his approach on his tax increase, also.) But in the end, to me, leadership is persuasion and honest argument: This is my thinking. I ask you to see it my way.

Something deeply admirable, though: No modern president now considers silence to be an option, ever. It is moving to remember one who did, who trusted the people to perceive and understand his actions. Who respected them that much.

Peggy Noonan (emphasis added)

3

[L]ook at our politics. We have the cult of Trump on the right, a demigod who, among his worshippers, can do no wrong. And we have the cult of social justice on the left, a religion whose followers show the same zeal as any born-again Evangelical. They are filling the void that Christianity once owned, without any of the wisdom and culture and restraint that Christianity once provided.

Andrew Sullivan

Sullivan lays out the religious fervor of both the Trumpistas and the Social Justice warriors. Of the latter, he notes, “A Christian is born again; an activist gets woke.

But I never expected much from secular progressives, so I’m going to focus on his indictment of Evangelical Trumpistas:

  1. Their leaders have turned Christianity into a political and social identity, not a lived faith.
  2. They have tribalized a religion explicitly built by Jesus as anti-tribal.
  3. They have turned to idols — including their blasphemous belief in America as God’s chosen country.
  4. They have embraced wealth and nationalism as core goods, two ideas utterly anathema to Christ.
  5. They are indifferent to the destruction of the creation they say they believe God made.
  6. Because their faith is unmoored but their religious impulse is strong, they seek a replacement for religion.

His conclusion: “The terrible truth of the last three years is that the fresh appeal of a leader-cult has overwhelmed the fading truths of Christianity.”

If that is true, we who still hold those fading truths can thank God that Trump is always shaking up his crypto-complacent administration rather than brewing up some Kool-Aid.

(I think it was Ross Douthat who said “If you don’t like the Religious Right, just wait ’till you see the irreligious right.” On Sullivan’s reading, it might be “post-Christian Right” or even “post-Christian politics” generally. But I like Douthat’s version better, nevertheless granting Sullivan’s point about our incorrigible religiosity.)

4

As much as Trump’s defenders may want to minimize “process crimes,” it remains a fact that the last two articles of impeachment drafted against American presidents featured clear evidence of, yes, process crimes. Process crimes are still crimes. It is an enduring feature of political corruption that politicians will lie about things that aren’t illegal but are politically or personally embarrassing — and when they lie under oath or cause others to lie under oath they violate the law.

David French

  1. Objectively, Trump is in a heap’o’trouble.
  2. Somehow, though, he brazens his way through so far. (See item 3.)

5

Trump, I suspect, isn’t unfunny. He’s anti-funny. Humor humanizes. It uncorks, unstuffs, informalizes. Used well, it puts people at ease. Trump’s method is the opposite: He wants people ill at ease. Doing so preserves his capacity to wound, his sense of superiority, his distance. Good jokes highlight the ridiculous. Trump’s jokes merely ridicule. They are caustics, not emollients.

… This is an angry age, in which Trump’s critics also simmer in rage, ridicule, self-importance, self-pity — and hatred, too. They think they’re reproaching the president. Increasingly they reflect him. [Alan] Simpson’s message contains a warning to us all.

Bret Stephens, A Presidency Without Humor.

That’s an important warning, but our humor should not leave history wondering if we were complacent. No, we’re still pretty shaken up.

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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.

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Potpourri, 11/20/18

Wherever there is trauma, there has been betrayal, an abuse of authority, a moral injury.

… People who have suffered a trauma — whether it’s a sexual assault at work or repeated beatings at home — find that their identity formation has been interrupted and fragmented. Time doesn’t flow from one day to the next but circles backward to the bad event.

As a culture we’re pretty bad at dealing with moral injury. Sometimes I look at the rising suicide and depression rates, the rising fragility and distrust, and I think it all flows from the fact that we’ve made our culture a spiritual void. When you privatize morality and denude the public square of spiritual content, you’ve robbed people of the community resources they need to process moral pain together.

David Brooks


 

Like any other news and information site, Church Militant and LifeSite News are rightly subject to fair criticism when they overstep morally and journalistically responsible bounds. But I’ll tell you this: the reason these outlets have such a readership is that they are doing what the mainstream media has for many years refused to do: report on a key aspect of the abuse scandal that offends liberal prior commitments.

Rod Dreher, commenting on an NBC online hit piece:

Corky Siemaszko approaches the Catholic gay conflict issue as a cause, not a news subject. Do his editors at NBC News even care? Are they even capable of seeing that there is a problem of news judgment here?


An instructive pattern emerges:

When Gospel Coalition people opine on LGBT issues and celibate Evangelicals respond, the latter almost always strike me as more deeply Christian than the former. Here and here, for instance. Ditto when the celibate Evangelicals start it.


“Sovereign Citizens” may be the tin-hattiest of the tin-hatters.


Companies are forever wanting to do “team-building,” but everything about the woke workplace compels those with any common sense to consider everyone around them a potential threat.

Rod Dreher.

Corporatizing the revolution has been rapid and consequential. Dreher is starting a “Woke Workplace” series with reader input.


 Ingenious: Divide States to Democratize the Senate:

Article IV providesthat “new States may be admitted by the Congress into this Union”—including from the territory of an existing state, if
its legislature consents. Five states were created in this manner: Vermont from New York (1791), Kentucky from Virginia (1792), Tennessee from North Carolina (1796), Maine from Massachusetts (1820) and West Virginia from Virginia (1863).

Drawing on that tradition, a Democracy Restoration Act could grant blanket consent to populous but underrepresented states to go forth and multiply to restore the Senate’s democratic legitimacy.

It responds to a plausible concern about a founding decision that threatens to become unsustainable.

But is the response a plan, or a taunt?

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Why vote for Trump?

Resolved: This is the most plausible explanation to date of Donald Trump’s presidency:

[W]hat genuinely excites Mr. Trump’s crowds and draws them to him is their shared antiliberalism.. By liberalism … I refer to the liberalism now metamorphisized into progressivism ….

The man who attends a Trump rally turns on his television set and that night’s news leads off with a Black Lives Matter protest in his city. If that city is Chicago, he might recall that this year some 2,619 people have been shot, 475 shot and killed, the preponderance of these being black people shot by black youth gangs. If it is another city, there is a distinct possibility, as fairly often in the past, that the protest will lead to looting of nearby shops. Al Sharpton, nattily turned out, is likely to have flown in for the festivities to remind everyone about the world’s injustice.

Our man changes channels and is greeted by a story of a long and happy lesbian marriage. He reads in the papers that people are fired from jobs for remarks that, under the reign of political correctness, are interpreted as racist, sexist, you name it; that students feel unsafe at Yale; that a year’s tuition, room and board at Dartmouth is $74,000. Doubtless before long he will read a story about an 11-year-old who is suing his parents for not allowing him to transgender himself.

Oh God, he thinks, make America great again, make America straight again, make America anything but what it is becoming. What elected Donald Trump, and what sustains him, is not his rather dubious charisma, his ideas, his obvious jolt to the country’s earlier slow economic growth, and no, not even the wretched campaign run by Hillary Clinton. Mr. Trump was chosen as a rebuke to the progressivism that has made life in America seem chaotic, if not a touch mad, and that now threatens to take over the Democratic Party.

Joseph Epstein

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Potpourri 11/10/18

I indulged my urge to travel from October 29 through election day, with a long transcontinental flight back on Wednesday. Time didn’t permit keeping up with news, let alone commenting.

I’ve spent too much time trying to “catch up.” Aware, though, that much of what passes for news is noise and commercial solicitation, I deleted many items I initially had clipped for later reading.

Here are a few thing that survived.

1 Philosophy and Religion

In the name of mercy, some recent theologians have suggested that there are elements of good in some objectively wrong acts and relationships. For example, friendship is good, and there certainly is an element of friendship in an illicit sexual relationship.

The question should not be whether there are elements of value in sins, but whether there is anything valuable about sinning.

Consider: No one can love evil for its own sake. The only thing it is possible to will for its own sake is good. Thus, the only way it is even possible to will an evil is that something about it seems good to us.

But something seems good to us in every evil, because evil cannot exist in itself. The only way to get an evil at all is to take something good and distort it.

The upshot is that the fact that evil contains disordered elements of good doesn’t mean it isn’t evil. What this fact shows is why evil can be attractive.

J Budziszewski, The Underground Thomist (emphasis added).

Having been in the “elements of good” camp, I stand corrected.


The shallowness and poverty of Evangelical thought on sexuality will not be cured by repudiating I Kissed Dating Goodbye. Where’s the positive vision?

Abigaile Rine Favale elaborates.

I’m tempted to elaborate on my own. Nominalism. Realism. Natural Law. Chastity > Virginity. That kind of thing.

But I won’t.


The Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, which represented the Little Sisters, notes that there are many ways for the government to provide contraceptives without forcing nuns to violate their beliefs.

An Unnecessary Culture War: The Little Sisters of the Poor finally get their religious exemption (WSJ, 11/10/18)

I love, and financially support, Becket Fund.

 

2 Politics

Pace Jonathan Haidt, liberals likely are not more “open” to “experience” in general than conservatives.


News from the birthplace of the free speech movement.

In a real sense, the most fascist people in America are young progressives.


Of all the ways in which Donald Trump’s presidency has made America worse, nothing epitomizes it quite so fully as the elevation of Matthew Whitaker as acting attorney general of the United States. Intellectually honest conservatives — the six or seven who remain, at any rate — need to say this, loudly. His appointment represents an unprecedented assault on the integrity and reputation of the Justice Department, the advice and consent function of the Senate, and the rule of law in the United States.

Bret Stephens


The mystery of Donald Trump is what impels him to overturn the usual rules. Is it a dark sort of cunning or simple defects of character? Because the president’s critics tend to be educated and educated people tend to think that the only kind of smarts worth having is the kind they possess — superior powers of articulation combined with deep stores of knowledge — those critics generally assume the latter. He’s a bigot. He’s a con artist. His followers are dumb. They got lucky last time. They won’t be so lucky again.

Maybe this is even right. But as Trump’s presidency moves forward, it’s no longer smart to think it’s right. There’s more than one type of intelligence. Trump’s is feral. It strikes fast. It knows where to sink the fang into the vein.

Bret Stephens.

Having been recently in the offices of the Jerusalem Post, I was surprised to note that he was once its Editor-in-Chief, and Wikipedia confirms that he took that post when he was all of 29 years old.


Democratic leaders in the House … have the president at a disadvantage. He is a businessman who’s never had to answer to a board. His whole professional life it was him and his whims and his hunger and a series of organizations of which he was sole or principal owner. Democratic leaders should see themselves as his board. They’ve got a CEO they don’t like, but they’ve got some power and they’re using it to save the company. A united board can scare a CEO. Donald Trump up against a board will not be so sure-footed. He will agree to a lot of what you want.

Peggy Noonan.

I love this idea.


With his every utterance, Trump removes the moral guardrails that keep bigotry down.

… How does a conservative movement that is supposed to believe that every healthy society needs powerful moral guardrails give itself over to a president whose every other utterance cheerfully knocks those guardrails down?

The Trumpian defense is that no political leader can fairly be held accountable for the acts of followers like Sayoc, much less of avowed opponents like Bowers. Also, what about James Hodgkinson, the Bernie Sanders supporter who shot Republican Representative Steve Scalise last year? But Sanders wasn’t instigating anyone to violence. He wasn’t calling on supporters at his rallies to “knock the crap out of” hecklers, or praising fellow members of Congress for body slamming a reporter.

… fanning one set of hatreds against immigrants has a way of fanning others, as it did for Bowers when he attacked the synagogue because he was enraged by its support for the Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society.

Bret Stephens, Yes, the President Bears Blame for the Terror From the Right.

Inclined to agree though a bit unsure, I nevertheless thought this merited consideration. No, on second thought, I agree. Period. Full stop.


“In my study of communist societies, I came to the conclusion that the purpose of communist propaganda was not to persuade or convince, not to inform, but to humiliate; and therefore, the less it corresponded to reality the better. When people are forced to remain silent when they are being told the most obvious lies, or even worse when they are forced to repeat the lies themselves, they lose once and for all their sense of probity. To assent to obvious lies is…in some small way to become evil oneself. One’s standing to resist anything is thus eroded, and even destroyed. A society of emasculated liars is easy to control. I think if you examine political correctness, it has the same effect and is intended to.”
― Theodore Dalrymple

Via Rod Dreher

Communism is dead, but pray for the humiliated souls of Sean Spicer, Sarah Huckabee Sanders, and all the other Trumpish sycophants who abase themselves with transparent lies for their boss.


 

It just occurred to me as I tagged and categorized this blog that “conservative” and “liberal” seemed to me to suffice for casual political talk. Then I decided that “right liberalism” and “left liberalism” were maybe more precise, as both fit classic liberalism. Now, with illiberals in the alt-right and progressive left, I’m more convinced than ever that “right liberalism” and “left liberalism” are useful and important categories (though I’ll probably continue to use conservative and liberal from habit).

A coalition of classical liberals might be a really good idea, but I’m not sure that Trump, who looks alt-right in comparison to right-liberals, will allow it.

 

3 Europe

“We have to protect ourselves with respect to China, Russia and even the United States of America,” Mr. Macron said on French radio.

Europe is the “main victim,” Mr. Macron said, of Mr. Trump’s decision to withdraw from the landmark 1987 Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty. That accord prohibits the use of intermediate- and shorter-range rockets, as well as testing, producing or fielding new ground-based missiles.

“We will not protect the Europeans unless we decide to have a true European army,” Mr. Macron said.

Wall Street Journal.

This, of course, set Trump into foaming at the mouth.

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Do it right

David French deals too gently, for my tastes, with the absurd histrionics of the New York Times and now the Washington Post on the meaning of “sex” in Title IX. (It’s apparent to me now that our elites distinguish wicked, troglodyte Republican science denial from shiny, trendy, bien pensant Democrat/progressive science denial.)

But I’m taking a second look at what the Administration is doing.

Here’s the very legitimate beef with the 1/19/17 status quo:

In April 2014, the Obama administration quietly expanded the definition — without an act of Congress or even a regulatory rulemaking process. In a document called “Questions and Answers on Title IX and Sexual Violence” it stated that “Title IX’s sex discrimination prohibition extends to claims of discrimination based on gender identity or failure to conform to stereotypical notions of masculinity or femininity.”

Empowered by this new definition, the Obama administration issued extraordinarily aggressive mandates to schools across the nation, requiring that schools use a transgender student’s chosen pronouns and that they open bathrooms, locker rooms, overnight accommodations, and even some sports teams to students based not on their biological sex but their chosen gender identity.

Again, this was done without an act of Congress and without even a regulatory rulemaking process ….

My question: How, precisely, does that differ procedurally from the Trump administration’s “formal guidance”?

The administration may issue formal guidance establishing a biological definition of sex. Specifically, the administration may define sex to mean “a person’s status as male or female based on immutable biological traits identifiable by or before birth.”

(David French)

This isn’t an accusation of equivalence. Perhaps there is a principled difference between “formal guidance” (whatever that means) and Obama’s “quietly expanded”? The New York Times, when it was finished with sobs of anguish, made it sound as if this is a definition the Administration wants to see in new regulations, which would be a permissible approach.

I’m 100% in favor of undoing Obama’s lawless affrontery. I’m 99.9% in favor of Executive branch departments narrowly construing “sex” for purposes of Title IX enforcement policy until Congress or the courts expand the definition. I’m 99.9% certain that’s what Congress meant in enacting Title IX.

But let’s stop abusing Executive power.

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American culture is probably the least Christian culture that we’ve ever had, because it’s so materialistic and it’s so full of lies. The whole advertising world is just intertwined with lies, appealing to the worst instincts we have. The problem is, people have been treated as consumers for so long they don’t know any other way to live.

The late Eugene Peterson on PBS, via his New York Times obituary

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Ain’t that just like life for ya?

Concrete instance:

So over the weekend President Trump made liberal heads explode by…proposing to return Title IX rules to the way they were before President Obama changed them

The truth is that this sort of confrontation was bound to happen, because there are roughly two ways of viewing transgenderism. A quick summary of those views follows:

View Number One: Transgenderism is the popular term for persistent gender dysphoria, a condition in which people who are clearly of one biological sex insist for a prolonged time period that they really are the opposite of their birth sex. Eventually they begin to dress, act, and live as though they are of the opposite sex because this brings some of them some psychological relief from the pain of their condition. Some may progress as far as lifelong medical treatments including surgeries that remove healthy body parts and organs. Many of them have other psychological comorbidities which can make the effective diagnosis and treatment plan for their gender dysphoria even more complicated. The general public should be sympathetic to their real sufferings and should be kind. However, it is not necessary for society to order itself in such a way that biological males living as females, or biological females living as males, must be given complete access to every space and situation which has been carved out for people whose actual biological sex matches their own rational perception of themselves–which is well over 99% of all human beings.

View Number Two: Transgenderism is the popular way to describe people who were really, actually born into the wrong bodies. At birth they were randomly assigned a sex based on a doctor’s observation of their exterior genitalia, but this is a barbaric practice that should be stopped, as a not-insignificant number of people who appear to be biologically male or biologically female are not the sex they appear to be. Superficial examination of body parts, internal observation of organs such as the reproductive system, and even DNA testing cannot reveal whether a person is a boy or a girl. It is, in fact, scientifically impossible to tell whether someone is male or female at birth. There is really no way at all to tell until the child, who should be raised with no gender symbolism whatsoever, is old enough to articulate his/her/their/zir/xyr preferred sex identity, at which point his/her (etc.) preference should be embraced, applauded, and supported whatever that requires. For the child whose internal sex identity actually matches his/her (etc.) body parts, there is a certain degree of unearned privilege which, though not the child’s fault, must be deplored. Other children are not so lucky and will require hormone injections, daily medications, surgeries to alter their genitals, and similar measures if they have any hope of living as a member of their true sex. Society must be radically restructured until there is no difference whatsoever between those whose apparent bodily sex matches their internal sex identity and those whose apparent bodily sex does not match their internal sex identity. This means that people who were formerly misgendered as “biologically male” must have full access to everything people born with vaginas have access to, and people formerly misgendered as “biologically female” must have full access to everything people born with penises have access to, whatever the social cost.

Erin Manning. I award this my Sanest Small Blog of the Day award.

Note that Barack Obama’s party unmistakably is the party of “View Number 2.” That is no small thing.

Generalization:

We’ve learned a few things about the Democratic Party. First, it’s still fundamentally a materialist party. The Trumpian challenge is primarily a moral and cultural challenge. But the Democrats are mostly comfortable talking about how to use federal spending to extend benefits …

Second, we’ve learned that when Democrats do raise a moral argument, it tends to be of the social justice warrior variety …

It has now become evident that Republicans are better at politicizing cultural issues and Democrats are better at offering economic benefits to those who are struggling. If you think voting behavior is primarily motivated by material appeals, the Democratic strategy is fine. But if you think it’s motivated by cultural identity, a desire for respect, a sense of what’s right, loyalty to a common story, the Democratic strategy leaves a lot to be desired.

These days, culture is more important than economics.

David Brooks. Do read it all; it’s richer than a few quotes can capture.

Yes, I think the Democrats do tend to go the Social Justice Warrior route on “moral” issues.

What does this portend for the election in two weeks? What should it portend for my absentee ballot, which I shall complete and mail Saturday or Sunday? Should I stick with doing my part to deliver the House to the Democrats, as both a rebuke to the Trumpistas and as a way prospectively to thwart Trump’s worst impulses?

It’s just like life to hand you a win in the culture wars (I have little doubt that View Number One is held by 75%+ of America, though they might lie to pollsters about it) accompanied by unpalatable truce terms.

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Picohontas, Paul Allen and more

1

I’ve been watching “alternate” and “independent” news sites, left and right, for a week or two. From a “right-wing” site (that seems to have gotten what I consider an unduly bad rap) comes the term Picohontas, with a reminder that “pico” is a prefix denoting 10-12, or one-trillionth.

Let him who has lungs to giggle, giggle.

And be assured that I’m taking these “alternate” and “independent” news sites with a whole shaker of salt. So far, they seem disappointingly tendentious. For instance, in this story (about a 70-year-old weed enthusiast who just got what amounts to a life sentence) the line that “unfortunately, he couldn’t find a lawyer that wasn’t intimidated by Bass’s trumped up charges and that was willing to fight for him” is almost certainly sewage, and a spoonful of sewage in a barrel of wine creates a barrel of sewage.

Maybe he was too poor — court-appointed public defenders often are overworked and under-funded relative to prosecutors, and might reasonably be thought too passive.

Or maybe he was too cheap to hire a lawyer and thought someone should represent him for free.

One thing I know: criminal defense attorneys are not “intimidated by … trumped up charges.” Their mouths water at such things. But they do need to make a living.

And if that site compares one more long sentence to notorious perv Anthony Weiner’s relatively short sentence, I’m deleting them from my RSS feed tracker.

2

The Atlantic notes, in an item that seems not quite up to Atlantic standards, that Paul Allen “signed the Giving Pledge in 2010, becoming one of 40 people to agree to give at least half their fortune to philanthropy,” did in fact give away hundreds of millions of dollars per year, but died 8 years later, worth 50% more than when he made the pledge. This, to the Atlantic, is “a sign of just how broken the American system of wealth is.”

In my opinion, all the author proved is that it’s deucedly hard to give away hundreds of millions of dollars without doing much collateral harm, or even more harm than good.  Let interventionist government take note.

(Meanwhile, I have little doubt that prosperity gospel preachers are going to turn Paul Allen’s last eight years into a parable, the better to fleece their flocks.)

3

Both “political correctness” and “civility” have become inflammatory notions in the post-2016 world. But what are they? Essentially, they’re both modes of speech and public conduct that aim to address the largest possible number of listeners without offense. In a liberal democracy, where citizens deliberate in public about political choices, it’s critical to have a widely inclusive, intelligible manner of speaking. The great liberal theorist John Rawls called this maximally inclusive way of communicating about politics “public reason,” and he considered it essential to maintaining a functional liberal democracy.

Elizabeth Bruenig (emphasis added).

Bruenig broached this topic differently differently a few weeks ago. I find this version better, but I’m still bothered if people really consider it “lying” to use (what Rawls calls) “public reason.”

My brain must work, my convictions form, very idiosyncratically.

4

One final thought.

I didn’t get on my bicycle much this summer, partly due to injuries sustained other than by biking. But I love riding “rails-to-trails” and other paved trails, where one can bike with minimal worries about traffic (i.e., only when you cross a road or perhaps a farm lane crosses the trail). Biking on the road is relatively worrisome, and it’s where I’ve had all my biking mishaps.

But I have stopped supporting the rails-to-trails advocacy groups because I’ve become aware that they’re carrying water mostly for wealthy, white, leisured people like me, and presumably someone else is paying the price. I am giving to support maintenance and extension of my favorite trails up in Michigan, but I’d feel really debased were I to respond to letters about some abandoned rail corridor somewhere in Indiana that isn’t paved yet, with some sentiment to put it to some other use.

5

Assorted thoughts on Picohontas — a topic in which I’m mildly embarrassed at indulging. In my defense, I skipped a lot of them. Those DNA hijinks seemed to be real pundit bait.

Since I collected ’em already, I might as well share:

According to my 23 And Me profile, I am as black as Elizabeth Warren is Native American, and as Native American as Elizabeth Warren is Native American. To put it another way, the 0.6 percent of my genes that derive from West Africa entered into my genetic line five or more generations ago; the 0.1 percent of Native American ancestry in my genetic line entered six or more generations ago.

I am 99.3 percent European, according to the same test. And of that number, all but 0.4 percent is northwestern European.

I’m fine with having non-European blood in my lineage, but guess what? I’m not Sitting Bull. I’m not Kunta Kinte. Genetics says nothing about the content of my character or yours. Elizabeth Warren is a moron to have brought this up again, and deserves the mockery she’s getting. So does the Left in general, given its obsession with racial identity.

Rod Dreher

I also have a family legend that there is Native American ancestry way back. That doesn’t mean that I publicly list my ancestry as Native American so that my employer can promote me as a diversity hire. I also don’t plagiarize French recipes and submit them to Pow Wow Chow with the claim that I am Cherokee.

Read David French’s article from last year if you want to see the full depth of her fraud: https://www.nationalreview.com/2017/11/elizabeth-warren-native-american-heritage-harvard-fraud/

Ryan Booth

As they say, history doesn’t repeat itself, but it does indeed rhyme. And so “Elizabeth Warren” rhymes with “Hillary Clinton” ….

James Pinkerton.

Finally, the best:

Warren should not have taken the test; having taken it, she should not have publicized it; having publicized it, she should quietly fire anyone who urged this gambit and move on. And liberals generally should regard this whole thing as a cautionary tale. There is an obvious appetite on the activist left for a candidate or candidates willing to take on Trump on his own brawler’s terms. But if you come at him that way, you best not miss — as Michael Avenatti, the would-be Trump of the Resistance, has been missing repeatedly of late, with a Kavanaugh intervention that helped get the judge confirmed and a libel lawsuit that just got his own client ordered to pay Trump’s legal fees.

Ross Douthat

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Mildly offensive to all

1

There has been a fair amount of terse commentary in my field of vision on the question of “Is R.R. Reno correct in this assessment?” By “this assessment, I assume the reference is to the conclusion, from which I’ll quote a great deal:

I’m willing to bet that hostility toward Kavanaugh increases proportionally with socio-economic status. It is an elite rage of law professors and management consultants. It’s the rage of the powerful, which is always more dangerous than the rage of the downtrodden. It finds articulate, well-placed leaders who can draw upon fully theorized narratives of oppression. They position themselves to speak for all who resent exclusion or exploitation, actual or perceived. They draw upon an intersectionality of rage.

For this reason, the decision by the Democrats to turn the Kavanaugh hearings into a theater of rage was a dangerous ploy. Perhaps I am even over-stating the element of calculation in the decision. Because this rage affects the powerful, Dianne Feinstein, Kamala Harris, and the others may themselves be animated by it—rage’s instruments, rather than its masters. If so, the situation for the Democrats is more perilous still.

Donald Trump raises the emotional stakes of political debate. This has been the key to his political success. But his success has come at a cost. Trump’s politics of rage unsettles establishment Republicans. Staid suburban voters who are moderate conservatives see Trump as a destabilizing figure in our body politic, putting a hard ceiling on his support.

In this context, Democrats have much to gain by presenting themselves as the responsible adults, the ego to Trump’s id. Dianne Feinstein and most other Democratic leaders are ultra-establishment figures with no interest in upheaval. Soon they will pivot back to playing the “responsible party” against Trump and Republican “extremism.” But the rage on display during the Kavanaugh hearings will not be easy to contain. It is fueling Leftist populism, which is on the rise. It highlights the Left’s own destabilizing politics of rage and destruction.

Ever since Trump’s ascent, the strongest arguments against him have focused on his temperamental unfitness for the presidency and his polarizing effect on our society. These are arguments for establishment competence and sobriety. In the aftermath of the rage-driven strategy to derail Kavanaugh’s appointment (quite different from the quiet, procedural tactics of Mitch McConnell, which derailed Merrick Garland’s appointment), these arguments are harder to make.

The Democrats may imagine that they, like Trump, will benefit from the politics of rage. But the Democrats’ power flows from their monopoly on the “responsible center.” The last season of leftwing rage came as the 1960s crashed to a close, and it did great harm to the Democratic Party. This time is different, in that both sides are drawing upon reservoirs of rage. But in my estimation, the Democrats will suffer more than the Republicans, because the Democrats have long been the establishment party. The politics of rage are far more likely to undermine than to renew the Ivy League–Goldman Sachs–Silicon Valley liberalism that has stood astride our politics since 1945, for rage always upsets the calculations by which establishments maintain their grip.

The analysis seems too varied to support a wager, so I’ll not play my chips. But I dread living in a country where the two major parties have become, basically, alt-right and antifa.

2

I can hear the “what about Merrick Garland” already:

Democrats file cloture on every nominee, which kicks off 30 hours of debate even if no Senator is opposed. They figure if they can’t defeat nominees they can delay and consume valuable time. Democrats have forced 117 cloture votes—versus 12 in Barack Obama’s first two years and four in George W. Bush’s.

Wall Street Journal. This is not “responsible center,” is it? Were I in Congress, I’d want to make sure there were as many adults around Trump as possible, unless my motive was letting him screw things up so badly that my odds of winning the next Presidential election reached the stratosphere.

3

Longtime readers will remember that three years ago, a reader told me his elderly mother, who spent years in a communist prison as a dissident, told him that the spirit overtaking our culture today reminds her of the years when communism came to her country.

Thinking that must be an exaggeration, I relayed that observation to a friend in the UK who defected with his wife in the 1960s from a communist country. He said that it was absolutely true. I asked him to explain that conclusion, because it made no sense to me. He said that it has to do with the willingness of people to try to destroy their opponents. With righteous mobs, aided and abetted by the media. Ideological hysteria. This was how the communist behaved. And these aging former dissidents, who don’t know each other, see the same thing happening in the liberal West.

(Rod Dreher, The Media & The Mob)

4

Oh, dear! At least one person is not fawning over Nikki Haley during her lame duck period:

But because she only advocates establishment-sanctioned mass murders (and perhaps partly because she wears the magical “Woman of Color” tiara), Haley can be painted as a sane, sensible adult-in-the-room by empire lackeys who are paid to normalize the brutality of the ruling class. While you still see Steve Bannon routinely decried as a monster despite his being absent from the Trump administration for over a year, far more dangerous and far more powerful ghouls are treated with respect and reverence because they know what to say in polite company and never smoked cigars with Milo Yiannopoulos. All it takes to be regarded as a decent person by establishment punditry is the willingness to avoid offending people; do that and you can murder as many children with explosives and butterfly bullets as your withered heart desires.

Haley will be departing with a disgusting 75 percent approval rating with Republicans and 55 percent approval with Democrats, because God is dead and everything is stupid. It is unknown who will replace her once she vacates her position (I’ve got my money on Reaper drone in a desk chair), but it’s a safe bet that it will be someone who espouses the same neoconservative imperialist foreign policy that this administration has been elevating since the beginning. Whoever it is should be watched closely, as should the bipartisan beltway propagandists whose job it is to humanize them.

Caitlin Johnstone, Empire Loyalists Grieve Resignation Of Moderate Psychopath Nikki Haley.

5

A non-trivial number of Evangelical women in Texas are supporting Beto O’Rourke over Ted Cruz. Two vignettes feature competing baby-centered narratives:

“I care as much about babies at the border as I do about babies in the womb,” said Tess Clarke, one of Ms. Mooney’s friends, confessing that she was “mortified” at how she used to vote, because she had only considered abortion policy. “We’ve been asleep. Now, we’ve woke up.”

Ms. Clarke, who sells candles poured by refugee women in Dallas, began to weep as she recalled visiting a migrant woman detained and separated from her daughter at the border.

Plenty of white evangelical women still support Mr. Cruz. Pam Brewer, who leads women’s ministries at Mr. Jeffress’s First Baptist Dallas, does because she wants to end legalized abortion and increase border security, to stop allowing “criminals to come kill our babies,” she said.

6

Justice Kavanaugh’s worst decision of the last month (it’s not even a close call, IMHO) was taking a victory lap with partisans Monday night. Everyone knew Trump would sully it.

Depth to which Republicans have not yet sunk: Trying to pack the court before they lost political power.

7

Reminder to the Democrats: There are good people who could actually vote for Democrats, but who don’t do so currently, because of your friends of feticide platform.

(Lurking background concern for some of us: your little-remarked transformation into the secularist party as the Republicans transformed into the Religious Right and then, mirabile dictu, the Trump party. But you’ll not cease friendship with feticide until that secularism moderates, and the GOP’s “religion” currently is so toxic, that this concern merely lurks.)

8

Noble is right to say that society sends me on a quest for authenticity. Wisdom sends me on a quest to know myself. They are utterly different adventures. Society wants me to be my true self, philosophy demands I be as I should be.

John Mark Reynolds in part of a series of comments on Alan Noble’s Disruptive Witness.

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News roundup

1

In July, Leonard Leo, executive vice president of the “constitutional originalist Federalist Society,” as RealClearPolitics phrased it, told Fox News:

“Any Supreme Court confirmation is transformative. This is a court that is often equally divided. At the end of the day, I think what’s really important to remember is that there’s been a movement on the court toward being more originalist and textualist. In other words, the idea that law means something, it has determinate meaning. And that’s the trend that I think this president wants to continue.”

But, when I think of originalism, I think this: Many of the founders owned slaves; in the Constitution they viewed black people as less than fully human; they didn’t want women or poor white men to vote. The founders, a bunch of rich, powerful white men, didn’t want true democracy in this country, and in fact were dreadfully afraid of it.

Now, a bunch of rich, powerful white men want to return us to this sensibility, wrapped in a populist “follow the Constitution” rallying cry and disguised as the ultimate form of patriotism.

Charles Blow, declaring scurrilous “war.”

Would it be entirely unfair to satirize this as “because the founders tended to own slaves, and because of the 3/5 clause (since abolished), we can ignore what they wrote and just make up whatever progressive shit we feel like?”

If it would be entirely unfair, I won’t do it. Nope. Never.

 

2

“Kavanaugh’s confirmation deepens country’s divide” (USA Today Headline 10/8/18, emphasis added).

I don’t believe it, and the story doesn’t support it. I would be just as skeptical if they said the confirmation laid the issue to rest.

The Wall Street Journal make it fairly clear what’s really at stake: both parties intend to milk this episode for all it’s worth in next month’s election. And both sides are saying the other overplayed its hand and face an electoral bloodbath.

Time will tell us whether and which.

Meanwhile, I’m sorry to report that there really are some conservatives I have heretofore respected who are converting from Never Trump to Trumpista just because he didn’t withdraw Kavanaugh (they mercifully haven’t praised him for trash-talking Dr. Ford). I’m not going to name names because some of them are not exactly public figures (e.g., a sharp law professor at a second-tier school who I happen to know, Tweeting his Trump re-assessment), but I initially thought such reports were a kind of semi-libel, a total straw man. Then I saw it with my own eyes, in my own Twitter feed (filtered to feature the more reliable sorts). #Sad #RepentanceLikelyInDueCourse

A putative conservative at the New York Times cautions against GOP gloating in a column I endorse (though I’m unfamiliar with the author, David Marcus):

Whatever one believes about the allegations leveled against Mr. Kavanaugh, it is clear that millions of Americans are in real pain. The widespread feeling that the voices of women are being ignored — once again — is leading to a rage that many on the left are increasingly embracing as the necessary counter to Trump-era conservatism.

The anger on both sides has already shut down communication and compromise among our politicians. Now it threatens the ability of average Americans to talk to each other.

The task for conservatives in the wake of these ugly two weeks is not to point and laugh, but to show care and compassion that may build trust in Mr. Kavanaugh and the court among those who so bitterly and sincerely opposed him. There is plenty of blame for the tribalism in our country to go around. Ending it, however, is a task best undertaken by the side that is winning.

 

3

A cultural division is illustrated by the difference between Wall Street Journal and New York Times most viewed stories: the former, “Friend of Dr. Ford Felt Pressure to Revisit Statement“; the latter, “Trump Engaged in Suspect Tax Schemes as He Reaped Riches From His Father.”

I find both stories “interesting,” but the Times really busted its butt on its major investigative journalism piece fleshing out what I already suspected.

The Wall Street Journal responds with a column that is unmistakably in the category of sour grapes: Dogs Bite Men and Trumps Duck Taxes.

 

4

American political discourse gets worse by the day, a lesson we’ve seen first-hand again this weekend. The Twitter mob on the political left is claiming that our Saturday editorial headline, “Susan Collins Consents,” was intended as a sly “rape joke.”

The editorial praised Maine Senator Collins for her thoughtful speech on Friday explaining her support for Brett Kavanaugh’s Supreme Court nomination. We said her thorough consideration was an exemplary case of fulfilling the Senate’s “advice and consent” duty under the Constitution. Senators are supposed to offer their advice and then offer or withhold their consent for a presidential nominee. The editorial mentioned advice and consent no fewer than six times.

Yet for some on the political left the editorial wasn’t about the Senate’s constitutional duty or praising Sen. Collins. They said we were making fun of rape ….

Wall Street Journal

 

5

“We don’t work as Democrats or Republicans, and I think it’s a very unfortunate perception that the public might get from the confirmation process,” Chief Justice Roberts said at a New England Law-Boston event in 2016. The near party-line split on recent confirmations “increases the danger that whoever comes out if it will be viewed in those terms,” he said.

Chief Justice John Roberts

 

6

JUSTICE KAGAN: Starting with Justice O’Connor and continuing with Justice Kennedy, there has been a person who, er, found the center, who people couldn’t predict in that sort of way. … It’s not so clear that, you know, I think going forward, that sort of middle position — you know, it’s not so clear whether we’ll have it.

… [I]t’s rather revealing in this clip that Kagan never considers herself for the role of the unpredictable jurist — or Sonia Sotomayor, who’s sitting next to her and never bothers to interject either. Kagan’s argument is that it should always be conservative jurists who go towards Kagan’s wing of the court, and not the other direction. Why should that be the case? Why shouldn’t Kagan take her own advice?

It’s also amusing that Kagan almost explicitly assigns herself and the other three liberal justices to the roles of predictable jurist in this statement. It’s undeniably true, but one would expect a Supreme Court justice to at least argue that she’s independent. Give Kagan one cheer for honesty, I guess, and a half-cheer to Sotomayor for not objecting to it.

Ed Morrissey. Well played, sir!

7

Women Serving on Ships Face Higher Sex-Assault Risks

Women who serve on board U.S. Navy ships and young service members at large training bases were at the greatest risk of becoming victims of sexual assault, according to a study commissioned by the Pentagon.

Wall Street Journal

What would we do without commissioned studies?

8

The Internet Gave Us Great TV—Now Where’s Our Great TV Guide? (Wall Street Journal Personal Tech)

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