Nate White’s Bill of Particulars

Via Garrison Keillor, I quoted some of this earlier today, but it stuck with me until I tracked the whole thing down.

This is very stylish writing, but I suspect that this whole Bill of Particulars could be distilled as epiphenomena of extreme toxic narcissism, which remains my go-to distillation. Still, there’s more than a little value to setting it out in detail for the candid consideration of all fair-minded Americans:

Someone asked “Why do some British people not like Donald Trump?”

Nate White, an articulate and witty writer from England, wrote this magnificent response:

“A few things spring to mind.

Trump lacks certain qualities which the British traditionally esteem.

For instance, he has no class, no charm, no coolness, no credibility, no compassion, no wit, no warmth, no wisdom, no subtlety, no sensitivity, no self-awareness, no humility, no honour and no grace – all qualities, funnily enough, with which his predecessor Mr. Obama was generously blessed.

So for us, the stark contrast does rather throw Trump’s limitations into embarrassingly sharp relief.

Plus, we like a laugh. And while Trump may be laughable, he has never once said anything wry, witty or even faintly amusing – not once, ever.

I don’t say that rhetorically, I mean it quite literally: not once, not ever. And that fact is particularly disturbing to the British sensibility – for us, to lack humour is almost inhuman.

But with Trump, it’s a fact. He doesn’t even seem to understand what a joke is – his idea of a joke is a crass comment, an illiterate insult, a casual act of cruelty.

Trump is a troll. And like all trolls, he is never funny and he never laughs; he only crows or jeers.

And scarily, he doesn’t just talk in crude, witless insults – he actually thinks in them. His mind is a simple bot-like algorithm of petty prejudices and knee-jerk nastiness.

There is never any under-layer of irony, complexity, nuance or depth. It’s all surface.

Some Americans might see this as refreshingly upfront.

Well, we don’t. We see it as having no inner world, no soul.

And in Britain we traditionally side with David, not Goliath. All our heroes are plucky underdogs: Robin Hood, Dick Whittington, Oliver Twist.

Trump is neither plucky, nor an underdog. He is the exact opposite of that.

He’s not even a spoiled rich-boy, or a greedy fat-cat.

He’s more a fat white slug. A Jabba the Hutt of privilege.

And worse, he is that most unforgivable of all things to the British: a bully.

That is, except when he is among bullies; then he suddenly transforms into a snivelling sidekick instead.

There are unspoken rules to this stuff – the Queensberry rules of basic decency – and he breaks them all. He punches downwards – which a gentleman should, would, could never do – and every blow he aims is below the belt. He particularly likes to kick the vulnerable or voiceless – and he kicks them when they are down.

So the fact that a significant minority – perhaps a third – of Americans look at what he does, listen to what he says, and then think ‘Yeah, he seems like my kind of guy’ is a matter of some confusion and no little distress to British people, given that Americans are supposed to be nicer than us, and mostly are. You don’t need a particularly keen eye for detail to spot a few flaws in the man.

This last point is what especially confuses and dismays British people, and many other people too; his faults seem pretty bloody hard to miss.

After all, it’s impossible to read a single tweet, or hear him speak a sentence or two, without staring deep into the abyss. He turns being artless into an art form; he is a Picasso of pettiness; a Shakespeare of shit. His faults are fractal: even his flaws have flaws, and so on ad infinitum.

God knows there have always been stupid people in the world, and plenty of nasty people too. But rarely has stupidity been so nasty, or nastiness so stupid.

He makes Nixon look trustworthy and George W look smart.

In fact, if Frankenstein decided to make a monster assembled entirely from human flaws – he would make a Trump.

And a remorseful Doctor Frankenstein would clutch out big clumpfuls of hair and scream in anguish:

‘My God… what… have… I… created?

If being a twat was a TV show, Trump would be the boxed set.”

Nate White quoted here.

Any questions?

* * *

This is a bit of a pivot, but toward the end of James Howard Kunstler’s new book, Living in the Long Emergency, Kunstler lays out his conspiracy theory of the Russiagate matter, which I excerpt thus:

The nation’s so-called “intelligence community,” led by then CIA director John Brennan, geared up a scheme to spy on the Trump campaign; entrap some of its minor players (Carter Page, George Papadopoulos, Donald Trump, Jr.) in cloak-and-dagger operations (that backfired); spin out a Russia collusion “narrative” that painted Mr. Trump as “an agent of Putin;” and engineer the appointment of a grand inquisitor, Mr. Mueller, to launch investigations that would prepare Congress with a grand brief for the president’s removal.

The dossier was used as the primary predicate document by the FBI in obtaining surveillance warrants against Mr. Trump’s associates. It was never properly vetted under the FBI regulation known as the “Woods procedure.” Emails and memoranda between the FBI and DOJ officials involved, made public since 2018, showed clearly that they knew the dossier was false but that they submitted it to the “special” FISA court judges—under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act—regardless.

Ironically, the scheme amounted to the Clinton campaign, the FBI, and other government actors interfering in the 2016 presidential election, which was exactly what the same inquisitors had blamed Mr. Trump and the Russians for.

The catch was, in spite of the exertions to nail down the election for Mrs. Clinton, she lost. And once she lost, those US government players who “meddled” in the election on her behalf stood to be exposed for the simple reason that Mr. Trump would soon be in charge of the executive branch, would appoint his own people to run the agencies, and would be in a position to discover all that misconduct. It would be reasonable to suppose that Mr. Trump would be mighty angry about what has since been termed a “soft coup” against him by his own government. It was this fear of being exposed for sedition—a serious crime—that drove the hysteria among Mr. Trump’s antagonists.

It was basically a cover-your-ass operation, a smoke screen to divert attention from their own crimes.

It is already documented in testimony to House and Senate committees that the FBI and Department of Justice officials knew that the Steele Dossier was a fabrication, and that the agencies used it anyway to kick-start their campaign against Mr. Trump. Thus, the predicate for the Mueller investigation was knowingly dishonest.

I suppose you could say that if Nate White is right about Trump, everything Kunstler alleges about Trump’s adversaries (open and covert) was justified. (I omit some of the reasons I have trouble buying Kunstler’s theory and prescind that possibility as irrelevant to my decision. For all I know or care, it might be true.)

Or I suppose you could say that if Kunstler is right about the deep state and Democrat conspiracy against Trump, no defects of Trump are weightier than the need to stick it to his dishonorable foes. Kunstler mercifully does not argue that. He basically thinks were screwed no matter what, due to decisions made bi-partisanly, mostly since World War II. (Besides which, I’m starting to think that “Deep State” is nothing more than a slur against competent professionals who irritate politicians who want to do something slipshod or semi-suicidal. And that “sticking it to” his foes will produce a lot of collateral damage to innocent bystanders.)

The question we face in November is not whether the supposed conspirators against Trump should be rewarded, but about whether we need a more fully human human being in the White House starting Inauguration Day 2021.

I need not believe any theory of Russiagate, pro-Trump or pro-foe, to make my decision because I see with my own eyes and hear with my own ears the proof of Nate White’s Bill of Particulars, not one of which has anything to do with Russia, Ukraine, or things arcane.

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

Truth-tellers not welcome

Trump Berated Intelligence Chief Over Report Russia Wants Him Re-Elected

President chastised official after staffer informed bipartisan House panel that Moscow might again seek to boost his campaign

WASHINGTON—President Trump lashed out at his acting director of national intelligence, Joseph Maguire, earlier this month after learning that one of his subordinates had briefed the House Intelligence Committee about Russia’s apparent preference for Mr. Trump in the 2020 presidential contest, people familiar with the matter said.

The Oval Office confrontation occurred after Mr. Trump learned that Shelby Pierson, the top election-security official in Mr. Maguire’s office, delivered information on election interference in a classified hearing before bipartisan members of the House panel, alongside national security officials from other federal agencies, three of the people said.

During that hearing, Ms. Pierson said Russia appeared to favor Mr. Trump over Democratic challengers and might seek to act on that preference, two of the people said, in a move that would reprise Moscow’s efforts during the 2016 election to boost his candidacy.

… The president … expressed his agitation over the substance of what Ms. Pierson told lawmakers about Russia’s possible interest in interfering on his behalf, these people said, with one person describing it as a prolonged and pointed interrogation of Mr. Maguire. Officials from other agencies were also present in the room, these people said.

Mr. Trump on Wednesday said he was replacing Mr. Maguire, a retired Navy vice admiral, as acting director of national intelligence with Richard Grenell, the current ambassador to Germany. Mr. Grenell has scant experience with intelligence matters and is viewed by Democrats as an ardent loyalist to the president. Mr. Maguire had been rumored to be in the running to be nominated to the position full-time, and Mr. Trump had praised him publicly during his tenure ….

Dustin Volz, Wall Street Journal (emphasis added)

Firing the acting head of an agency whose sole raison d’être is careful analysis to discern the unvarnished truth for the protection of the country from hostile foreign powers.

This is why it’s — ahem! — scary to have a prickly narcissist (see below for more) living in the White House.

* * * * *

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

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

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

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

Make America Human (Again?)

[S]hould someone ask me whether I would indicate the West such as it is today as a model to my country, frankly I would have to answer negatively. No, I could not recommend your society in its present state as an ideal for the transformation of ours. Through intense suffering our country has now achieved a spiritual development of such intensity that the Western system in its present state of spiritual exhaustion does not look attractive. Even those characteristics of your life which I have just mentioned are extremely saddening.

A fact which cannot be disputed is the weakening of human beings in the West while in the East they are becoming firmer and stronger — 60 years for our people and 30 years for the people of Eastern Europe. During that time we have been through a spiritual training far in advance of Western experience. Life’s complexity and mortal weight have produced stronger, deeper, and more interesting characters than those generally [produced] by standardized Western well-being.

Therefore, if our society were to be transformed into yours, it would mean an improvement in certain aspects, but also a change for the worse on some particularly significant scores. It is true, no doubt, that a society cannot remain in an abyss of lawlessness, as is the case in our country. But it is also demeaning for it to elect such mechanical legalistic smoothness as you have. After the suffering of many years of violence and oppression, the human soul longs for things higher, warmer, and purer than those offered by today’s mass living habits, introduced by the revolting invasion of publicity, by TV stupor, and by intolerable music.

If the world has not come to its end, it has approached a major turn in history, equal in importance to the turn from the Middle Ages to the Renaissance. It will exact from us a spiritual upsurge: We shall have to rise to a new height of vision, to a new level of life where our physical nature will not be cursed as in the Middle Ages, but, even more importantly, our spiritual being will not be trampled upon as in the Modern era.

This ascension will be similar to climbing onto the next anthropologic stage. No one on earth has any other way left but — upward.

Aleksander Solzhenitsyn, Harvard University Commencement Address 1978.

Re-reading this (for the first time in more than a decade, I suspect) right after reading the latest blog from Fr. Stephen Freeman, was powerful, especially substituting “modernity” for “the West.” Especially were I to make it “the modern West,” I doubt that Solzhenitsyn would object.

I know that Solzhenitsyn is not alone, because I follow the (rather occasional) blog of an American expatriate who is quite happy in post-Soviet Russia, with another friend drawn back to Georgia, where he was living with his family last I knew.

Make America Human (Again?).

* * * * *

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

(From A Psalter for Prayer)

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

Clippings and Comments, 2/19/19

1

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

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

2

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

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

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

3

Data points:

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

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

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

4

More from American expatriate Hal Freeman:

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

5

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

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

6

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

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

7

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

8

Don’t assume that events in Venezuela are spontaneous.

* * * * *

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

Clippings, 2/16/19

1

If you subscribe to First Things, don’t miss Baptism of Blood in the March edition. If you don’t, save the link for 30 days or so and the paywall will drop:

[W]hen they saw the video and knew with certainty what had happened, their confidence returned: “We now have a holy martyr in heaven, so must rejoice—nothing can harm us anymore.”

Which explains why the families handled the video with a complete sense of ease. There was an iPad in every household on which one could watch the full-length, uncut, unedited video. Malak’s mother was the only one who refused to look at the screen, while all her family’s young men, cousins, and brothers stared at it, apparently undisturbed, pointing out the men they recognized, as they had often done. There could have been no better place to watch the video—surrounded by the men’s families and runny-­nosed children, in rooms adorned with images of the crowned Twenty-One …

What would the murderers say about their video being shown like this? Would it surprise them to see how unflappable these simple-minded, poor folk were? Would they be able to see that their cruelty had failed to achieve the intended goal, and that their attempt to intimidate and disturb hadn’t succeeded?

Written of the families of the 21 Coptic Martys, beheaded by Muslim terrorists on a beach in Libya, and referring to a terrorist propaganda video of the rehearsed slaying. I immediately acquired an Icon of these Holy Martys and made it a point to join Copts in Matins and Liturgy two years ago.

(First published in micro.blog)

2

America Is Torn Between Trump’s Fibs and Progressives’ Fantasies.
The president is a master of little lies, but the left rejects the big truths that sustain politics and culture.

The problem with such a headline is that one may merely shake one’s head in vigorous affirmation without reading it:

My father … served for many years as an aide to Gov. and later Vice President Nelson Rockefeller. One night in 1979, he announced Rockefeller’s death before the television cameras. He thought it his duty as a gentleman to lie about the circumstances, and he never got over the shame of that lie.

Mr. Trump works with huckster falsehoods—the flashy superlatives of a car salesman. The progressive left works with conceptual falsities. Voters in 2020 will decide which style of lies they prefer.

Mr. Trump composes his reality after the manner of a Renaissance painter’s pentimento, except that he works at the speed of Twitter , making adjustments as circumstances shift. He slaps new paint over old facts when they become inconvenient. Mr. Trump’s abuses, he and his followers believe, somehow come right by coalescing in a larger truth—the mythic America that radiated from my father’s old Saturday Evening Post and came to its apotheosis in the Neverland of Dwight Eisenhower’s 1950s.

The progressive left embraces new visions of perfection—tamer in its methods than its 1930s predecessors, but sometimes outdistancing them in the fusion of dogmatic correctness with a fairly advanced decadence. Progressives are busy reinventing the Kingdom of God on Earth, trying to make their version as different as possible from his. They contrive elaborate new genders, for example—ones the deity didn’t think of. They invent vocabularies, terms ecstatic and bristling—“cisgendered,” “heteronormative,” “intersectionality”—designed to bully reality into compliance.

Their version of the kingdom mixes hopes of social justice with sexual nullifications and revenge fantasies. In my mother’s time, the far left in its dreams crushed capitalism and ushered the workers into paradise. Today they sweep white civilization and toxic males into the dustbin of history.

3

It was also exhilarating to see a congresswoman confront a figure who has pleaded guilty to misleading Congress before, and who helped cover up and minimize the slaughter of more than 800 civilians, including children, in El Mozote, El Salvador … [T]hat Abrams would go before the House and not be called to account for his past record would be an outrage. Making the powerful uncomfortable is what the Congress is supposed to do.

Now look at [Congresswoman Ilhan] Omar. She didn’t just push back on AIPAC’s distortion of American foreign policy, she reiterated a classic anti-Semitic trope that American Jews buy influence, period. She didn’t just confront Elliott Abrams, she refused to let him answer anything but loaded “yes” or “no” responses. And last week, for good measure, she demanded an investigation into the decision by USA Powerlifting to ban transgender women from competing in women’s powerlifting contests, because of the unfair advantage that developing a male body for most of your life will give you in lifting weights. The organization instituted the ban after a young trans woman, JayCee Cooper, smashed the state record for women’s bench press in Minnesota, beating her nearest female rival by a mile, only a year after joining the sport.

If the Democrats want to fight the next election on the need for a radical rebalancing of the economy in favor of the middle and working class, for massive investment in new green technology, for higher taxes on the superrich, and for health-care security for all Americans, they can win. If they conflate those goals with extremist rhetoric about abolishing everyone’s current health insurance, and starting from scratch, as the Green New Deal advises, not so much. If they insist that men and women are indistinguishable, that girls can have penises and boys can have periods, as transgender ideology now demands, they’ll seem nuts to most fair-minded people.

Are they really capable of fucking this up once again? The answer that is emerging in the first months of the new Democratic House is: of course they can.

Do not miss Andrew Sullivan’s Friday offering, on a single topic for a change. He had me howling in laughter at the hapless progressives, but then brought me crashing back to earth.

I won’t spoil it for you.

4

Socialism is … more frequently praised than defined because it has become a classification that no longer classifies. So, a president who promiscuously wields government power to influence the allocation of capital (e.g., bossing around Carrier even before he was inaugurated; using protectionism to pick industrial winners and losers) can preen as capitalism’s defender against socialists who, like the Bolsheviks, would storm America’s Winter Palace if the United States had one.

Time was, socialism meant thorough collectivism: state ownership of the means of production (including arable land), distribution and exchange. When this did not go swimmingly where it was first tried, Lenin said (in 1922) that socialism meant government ownership of the economy’s “commanding heights” — big entities. After many subsequent dilutions, today’s watery conceptions of socialism amount to this: Almost everyone will be nice to almost everyone, using money taken from a few. This means having government distribute, according to its conception of equity, the wealth produced by capitalism …

The “boldness” of today’s explicit and implicit socialists — taxing the “rich” — is a perennial temptation of democracy: inciting the majority to attack an unpopular minority. This is socialism now: From each faction according to its vulnerability, to each faction according to its ability to confiscate.

George Will. I hope Rod Dreher will take to heart this equivocation before he actually names his forthcoming book “Cultural Socialism” — a title so wrong on so many levels that I don’t know where to start.

5

Former representative Beto O’Rourke of Texas is experiencing a … sudden star turn. It’s easy to see why so many are attracted to him. He’s young (46), charismatic, has a beautiful family and appeals to a cross-section of Americans. But something about him seems manufactured. A leaner, lankier version of two likely role models, Bobby Kennedy and Barack Obama, his practiced performances tend to make one wish for the real McCoys. With unmistakable echoes of Obama’s cadences and Kennedy’s mannerisms, O’Rourke seems to have been created by an artificial intelligence that was informed by polls and demographic projections.

Kathleen Parker

6

Yes, Moscow Boosts Western Anti-Imperialist Voices. So What?

As we discussed recently, there will necessarily be inadvertent agreement between Russia and westerners who oppose western interventionism, because Russia, like so many other sovereign nations, opposes western interventionism. If you discover that an American who opposes US warmongering and establishment politics is saying the same things as RT, that doesn’t mean you’ve discovered a shocking conspiracy between western dissidents and the Russian government, it means people who oppose the same things oppose the same things.

If you really listen to what the CNNs and Ben Nimmos and Washington Timeses are actually trying to tell you, what they’re saying is that it’s not okay for anyone to oppose any part of the unipolar world order or the establishment which runs it. Never ever, under any circumstances. Don’t work for a media outlet that’s funded by the Russian government even though no mainstream outlets will ever platform you. Don’t even subscribe to an anti-establishment subreddit. Those things are all Russian. Listen to Big Brother instead. Big Brother will protect you from their filthy Russian lies.

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

Spinning narratives

I’ve recently encountered two disturbing (but stimulating and, ultimately, helpful — I think) items about journalistic “narratives” spun from sometimes-scant facts.

First, both chronologically and because there’s no paywall, Caitlin Johnstone (whose name I’ve been habitually misspelling), a pretty radical progressive daily blogger journalist from down under: Dissidents Must Understand The Difference Between Fact And Narrative:

Do you know the difference between fact and narrative? Are you sure? The ability to be as lucid as possible about the difference between raw data and the story that is spun about it is absolutely essential to understanding and fighting the establishment propaganda machine.

Let’s look at Russiagate for an easy example. The narrative is that Donald Trump is secretly conspiring with the Russian government to subvert American interests to advance the agendas of the Kremlin. But what are the facts? The facts are that a few people who were associated with Trump during his presidential campaign have been convicted and pled guilty to process crimes and some underhanded dealings with nations that aren’t Russia, while Trump has been staging a regime change intervention against Venezuela, bombing Syria, arming Ukraine, implementing a Nuclear Posture Review with a more aggressive stance toward Russia, withdrawing from the INF Treaty, throwing out Russian diplomats, sanctioning Russian oligarchs, expanding NATO and securing it more funding. The narrative and the facts couldn’t be more different.

But that hasn’t mattered, has it? The propagandists have been able to get everyone worked up about the idea that Putin has managed to influence the very highest levels of the US government, despite there being no facts whatsoever to substantiate that idea. It’s pure narrative, yet it’s been used to manufacture a conceptual framework which allows anyone challenging the unipolar world order to be undermined as a Kremlin crony, from Jill Stein to Tulsi Gabbard to Glenn Greenwald to Rand Paul. There is nothing but insinuation and innuendo backing up those narratives, but that’s all they need.

Second, Holman W. Jenkins, Jr. (whose name I usually shorten to Holman Jenkins), from the putatively conservative Wall Street Journal and thus behind a paywall, I fear: Suddenly, Bezos Is Media’s Hero:

Mr. Bezos and his associates deliberately promoted a Hollywood-sized misdirection, with spies and political conspiracy extending all the way to the White House and Saudi Arabia … [through] Mr. Bezos’ own Washington Post. Never mind that the only real lead Mr. Bezos’ agent provided to the paper concerned the possible role of Ms. Sanchez’s pro-Trump brother. If so, means and motive were complete: It was unnecessary to speculate about Donald Trump and the Saudis—a filigree spun on top of the tawdry facts to distract and excite the media.

Mr. Bezos’ interest seems self-evident to me: Injecting the Trump-Saudi red herring draws attention away from his own carelessness and that of Ms. Sanchez. After all, being a hero of the anti-Trump resistance, especially when Amazon lately has been vilified from the left, is better than being the chump starring in a garden-variety case of rich-guy infidelity.

… Our press seems increasingly helpless in the face of evidence-free red herrings aimed at its erogenous zones. See the widely circulated email in which Bob Woodward uncritically associates himself with Mr. Bezos’ narrative. The incentive to participate in other people’s idealized self-images is well-known in psychology. Journalists should guard against it. But, in truth, exhibiting compliance with the self-images of their sources is how many journalists do their jobs.

Which is why I strongly favor one part of what’s unfolding here: the media genuinely interesting itself in how such stories based on anonymous sources and leaks come to be published.

When the press gets done with Mr. Bezos’ private messages, let’s find out who leaked decades-old private Trump family tax documents to the New York Times. Let’s inquire into the source or sources who misrepresented to CNN, MSNBC and CBS the date on an email to make it look like the Trump campaign was in cahoots with WikiLeaks.

I could go on. How some stories come to be written strikes me as a lot more newsworthy than the stories themselves ….

If you can get through the paywall, Jenkins is a good read on l’affaire Bezos, including much that I didn’t think I could include and still be “fair use” rather than “ripoff.”

Of course, Mr. Jenkins’ “interest seems self-evident to me.” It builds the image of the Wall Street Journal’s pay-for-what-we-write model (think Apple) at the expense of the Washington Post and New York Times (think Google and Facebook, relatively speaking – or so goes Jenkins’ narrative).

Indeed, I would not be stunned were I to learn that my clicks at the Washington Post feed back into Amazon.com so it can target ads. And I’ve got as much evidence for that as the Post has for Trump and Saudi Arable being entangled with the Enquirer on this.

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

Potpourri, Solstice 2018

1

Recent budgets show that the federal government spends around $160 billion in loans, tax credits, and grants that help pay for college—the province of the top third of ­society—while allocating $20 billion for vocational and job training. The supposedly progressive idea of “free college for all” is a give-away to that top third of society. This epitomizes our problem. Andrew Carnegie built libraries in small towns throughout the country. Today’s billionaires shovel their wealth into colleges and universities that serve those at the top. Whether measured in moral prestige, cultural status, or economic rewards, over the last two generations there has been a perverse fulfillment of Jesus’s words: To them that have, more shall be given.

A few years ago, I reviewed Our Kids, Robert Putnam’s book about the fraying social contract in America (“Success Is Not Dignity,” May 2015). I noted that our ruling class fixates on upward mobility, as if the deepest problem in our society is that a few super-talented kids from difficult backgrounds are being denied opportunities to go to places like Harvard ….

R.R. Reno This is a very good “Public Square” contribution, which should be free of the paywall at least by January 20 or so.

Bit by bit I’m starting to understand how we wound up with President Donald J. Trump, and how I’m so much a part of that top third that it’s hard, in this political way, to relate to those who aren’t.

2

More:

Diversity is a shibboleth that shifts attention from the substantive question of whether our elites serve the nation’s interests to the cosmetic question of whether or not the rich and powerful “look like America.”

R.R. Reno. Chew on that one a while.

3

They know better:

Highly paid software engineers and tech executives aren’t stupid. Although they may not have read Patricia Snow’s profound analysis of the spiritual damage done by our addiction to smart phones (“Look At Me,” May 2016), they know that what they’re delivering to the world is harmful. For the last thirty years, educators have foolishly pressed for computers in classrooms and laptops or tablets for all children. Techno-activists call for high-speed Internet access for everyone. Meanwhile, those captaining the technology juggernaut send their kids to expensive private schools that have “no screen” policies. In Silicon Valley, it’s common for the rich to have nannies sign “no screen” clauses in their employment contracts. This is meant to prevent them from using their phones in front of the kids. Chamath Palihapitiya made hundreds of ­millions of dollars as an early Facebook executive. He has imposed a “no screen time whatsoever” rule on his three children, ages six through ten. By the way, Facebook recently launched the Messenger Kids app to increase usage by children.

R.R. Reno.

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Heather Mac Donald has been an indispensable voice of sanity in the frenzied debates about sex on campus. She recently commented on the hysterical reaction of feminist organizations to Education Secretary Betsy DeVos’s revisions of the Obama-era rule for campus tribunals adjudicating charges of rape and sexual abuse (“Feminists’ Undue Process”). The new guidelines tilt in the direction of a stronger commitment to due process. Mac Donald notes that a fierce regulatory approach to sex among college students is not at odds with sexual liberation. It is in fact a predictable concomitant.

The solution to what is called campus rape is a change of culture from one of entitled promiscuity to one of personal responsibility. In the absence of such norms as prudence, restraint, and respect, the bureaucracy, extending all the way up to the federal government, has happily rushed in to fill the void. The weirdest aspect of the campus sex scene is this bureaucratization of coitus, which once nominally rebellious students now self-righteously demand.

Mac Donald describes what Alexis de Tocqueville feared might become the trajectory of the democratic age. Shorn of traditional cultural norms, atomized men and women are unable to organize their lives in sustainable ways. In their vulnerability, they beg for interventions by “an immense and tutelary power, which takes upon itself alone to secure their gratifications and to watch over their fate.”

R.R. Reno

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In the United States, for example, some 40 percent of children are today born outside of marriage. The overall fertility rate has fallen to 1.76 children per woman. American children for the most part receive twelve years of public schooling that is scrubbed clean of God and Scripture. And it is now possible to lose one’s livelihood or even to be prosecuted for maintaining traditional Christian or Jewish views on various subjects.

Add to this the fact that the principal project of European and American political elites for decades now has been the establishment of a “liberal international order” whose aim is to export American norms and values to other nations, and you have a stunning picture of what the United States has become—a picture that in certain respects resembles that of Napoleonic France: an ideologically anti-religious, anti-traditionalist universalist power seeking to bring its version of the Enlightenment to the nations of the world, if necessary by force.

Yoram Hazony, Conservative Democracy (emphasis added)

6

[T]he essential fact of Russian tinkering with 2016 is that it represents an attempt to undermine democracy by manipulating and subverting what voters think about their choices. Russia, of course, had no right to engage in that kind of subterfuge — and neither does anyone else. Unfortunately, U.S. elections are already rife with similar efforts made on behalf of powerful domestic interests with their own hostility toward fair and free democracy.

… [I]t’s important to see Russia’s electoral tampering as part of a broader landscape of American democracy in decline — one that won’t be solved even if every member of the Trump campaign eventually winds up in a prison cell. American elections haven’t been fair for a very long time. Now is as good a time as any to start trying to reverse that.

Elizabeth Breunig. I’m not quite sure how we start trying to reverse Citizens United, the focus of Breunig’s wrath, but I’ve got a soft spot for the young lefty, and we, from Donald Trump to Elizabeth Warren, do seem to have a lot of distrust of the system.

7

The underlying story isn’t brand new, but it’s my favorite recent news (in the sense that ya’ gotta laugh or you’ll cry) from the gang that couldn’t shoot straight:

“Twitter allowed someone to invade my text with a disgusting anti-President message,” an alarmed Giuliani tweeted a few weeks ago, calling Twitter “card-carrying anti-Trumpers.” In fact, Giuliani had accidentally sabotaged his own tweet with a punctuation error — “G-20.In” — that automatically created a hyperlink to an Indian Web address. A clever observer quickly bought the domain and created a page that said “Donald Trump is a traitor.” Giuliani’s errant accusation was all the funnier because he’s also Trump’s “cybersecurity adviser.”

I had the fairly strong impression that Giuliani was quite a good mayor of New York City, but do not underestimate The Peter Principle.

G-20.in now has a list of links to anti-Trump news since Giuliani’s original SNAFU.

8

Syria is not a “gift” that can be “given” to Putin, despite the blinkered American political climate which places everything in that asinine context. It’s a country over which the United States has no legal authority, and never did, despite years of casualties and billions spent

Michael Tracey

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I am an adjunct Lecturer in the Department of Epidemiology and Biostatistics at the University of California, San Francisco (UCSF). I’m an expert in clinical epidemiology, particularly in systematic review methods, epidemiologic bias and evidence quality assessment. As a researcher at UCSF, I managed the Cochrane HIV/AIDS Group for over a decade and on several occasions served as a consultant to the World Health Organization (WHO) in their HIV guideline development processes.

For about 13 years, I also masqueraded “as a woman,” taking medical measures which suggest, shall we say, that I was completely committed to that lifestyle. Most men would have recoiled from this, but in my estrogen-drug-soaked stupor it seemed like a good idea. In 2013 I stopped taking estrogen for health reasons and very rapidly came back to my senses. I ceased all effort to convey the impression that I was a woman and carried on with life.

As you may imagine, I have a lot of anger at transgenderism and its enablers, as well as an “inward bruise” (as Melville called it). I am not a happy camper. I have been badly harmed ….

Hacsi Horváth, The Theatre of the Body: A detransitioned epidemiologist examines suicidality, affirmation, and transgender identity. This is a long piece, and I’ll admit finding it too depressingly familiar to read in full.

10

OMG! If Trump has lost Ann Coulter, then he’s lost … er, I dunno. Something.

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Potpourri 8/22/18

1

As a means of exposing those who insist of seeing Russian President Vladimir Putin as a reincarnation of Josef Stalin, it would be good to look at Putin’s relationship with the great Soviet dissident and anti-communist hero, Alexander Solzhenitsyn, whose centenary we celebrate this year.

Discussing the cooling of relations between Russia and the West, Solzhenitsyn’s analysis of the history of the previous fifteen years highlighted the sharpness with which he viewed contemporary events. When he had returned to Russia he discovered that the West was “practically being worshipped.” This was caused “not so much by real knowledge or a conscious choice, but by the natural disgust with the Bolshevik regime and its anti-Western propaganda.” The positive view of many Russians towards the West began to sour following “the cruel NATO bombings of Serbia”: “It’s fair to say that all layers of Russian society were deeply and indelibly shocked by those bombings.” The situation worsened as NATO sought to widen its influence to the former Soviet republics. “So, the perception of the West as mostly a ‘knight of democracy’ has been replaced with the disappointed belief that pragmatism, often cynical and selfish, lies at the core of Western policies. For many Russians it was a grave disillusionment, a crushing of ideals.”

As for the West, it was “enjoying its victory after the exhausting Cold War” and was observing the anarchy in Russian under Gorbachev and Yeltsin. It seemed as though Russia was becoming “almost a Third World country and would remain so forever.” In consequence, the re-emergence of Russia as a political power caused unease in the West, a panic “based on erstwhile fears.” It was “too bad” that the West was unable to distinguish between Russia and the Soviet Union.

What more need be said? In Vladimir Putin’s Russia, the greatest classic of anti-communist literature is now compulsory reading in all high schools. If the same could be said of the high schools of the United States, we would not have the endemic historical and political ignorance that has led to the widespread sympathy for communism among young Americans. In light of this, and in light of Mr. Putin’s evident admiration for Solzhenitsyn, let’s not try to pretend that Russia is a communist nation. We don’t need to like Vladimir Putin. We don’t need to admire him. But we do need to acknowledge that Russia has moved on from evils of socialism, even as we are in danger of embracing those very same evils.

Joseph Pearce. Can there be any doubt that Putin 2018 is an improvement over Stalin 1948, or the whole sorry history of Russian Communism from the Revolution until collapse?

2

The great flaw in anti-sacramental thinking is its abstracted notion of “spiritual.” It is presumed that for something to be “spiritual,” it must have nothing to do with the material world. That “talking to Jesus” only consists in words spoken in our heads. In truth, it is a preference for the imaginary over the real. The Word did not become flesh only to get our attention so that we would no longer have anything to do with the material world. It is the Word who became flesh Who gives us His Body and His Blood, the waters of Baptism, the marriage bed, the Apostolic ministry, the oil of healing, the laying on of hands, the lifting of the voice and all such things.

Non-sacramental Christianity has a long history of delusional teaching and practices. If the encounter with God is primarily the stuff going on in my head, then the strange results are fairly predictable. Nothing is more subject to manipulation and delusion than our subjectivity ….

Fr. Stephen Freeman, A Mediated Presence – Thank God.

3

I was away from home this afternoon, but caught All Things Considered breaking the news that Michael Cohen would plead guilty and the jury had a Paul Manafort verdict.

(Fade to modest restaurant dinner.)

The silent TV is playing talking heads, claiming (via close captioning) that Cohen fingered Trump in his guilty plea.

Home again at 9:45 pm. Wall Street Journal (Michael Cohen Pleads Guilty, Says Trump Told Him to Pay Off Women) and New York Times (Michael Cohen Says He Arranged Payments to Women at Trump’s Direction) agree that Cohen fingered Trump. Meaning no respect to news on TV — no, actually, I do mean disrespect — only now do I believe the fact or the interpretation.

This should be huge, possibly leading to impeachment. But I have given up political prognosticating because I don’t understand the Vichy Republicans. And I’m not convinced that the cure of impeachment wouldn’t be worse than the disease of Trump anyway.

That’s all I have to say for now. If a gypsy cursed me with “May you live in interesting times,” I do believe the curse “took.”

4

On a brighter and unexpected note, Congress apparently is forgoing August recess to take up budget matters, passing non-controversial spending piecemeal, and doing so in bipartisan fashion.

It’s almost as if someone exercised forethought: “What if Trump ‘shut down’ government because we can’t agree on ‘the wall,’ but the shutdown was entirely harmless mostly because all the no-brainers were passed in August, before the President’s confected crisis of September?”

One cheer out of three.

5

Data point: Reader Matt in VA, a Rod Dreher reader who is non-celibate gay, agrees in substance with Daniel Mattson that, as Mattson put it, “men with homosexual tendencies find it particularly difficult to live out the demands of chastity.” Reader Matt’s version is:

I think it’s absolutely to be expected that a clergy full of gay men will find chastity harder than a clergy full of straight men. Again, it’s so much easier to have quick, furtive sex with another man than it is with a woman.

We’re still in a state of denial that make this controversial enough that only a gay man can say it with minimal blow-back. (Well, gay men and Camille Paglia.)

I shouldn’t say it even apart from political correctness because I can’t back it up except by citing Reader Matt, Mr. Mattson (which I have now done), and Ms. Paglia (who surely has said this somewhere or other). I have neither personal experience nor data nor scholarly literature.

I’m not sure how this relates to Eve Tushnet’s focus on the closet versus the orientation, but it seems to undermine her.

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Our lives were meant to be written in code, indecipherable to onlookers except through the cipher of Jesus.

Greg Coles.

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Trimmer callout

Daniel Henninger at the Wall Street Journal accurately describes the Donald Trump foreign policy modus operandi:

The controversy overflowing the banks of the press conference between Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin is a moment to step back and assess the nonstop maelstrom called the Trump presidency.

Mr. Trump’s famous modus operandi is the art of the deal. Keep everyone guessing and off balance. Decision first, details later. Drive events, stay on offense, force everyone to react. In this, Mr. Trump has succeeded.

No one—from the individuals who work daily in the White House to friends and enemies in foreign capitals—knows what he may do next. A high-ranking official from an Asian ally who visited the Journal’s offices recently was asked if his government has a clear idea of what Mr. Trump wants them to do on trade. “No,” he said, “we do not.”

The whole world is back on its heels, which is where, according to theory, the art-of-the-deal master wants them.

As I read, I thought “This is true, and it describes an autocracy because nobody, including his White House staff, knows what he will do next and nobody is stopping him.”

Frank Bruni of the New York Times observes that “when it comes to babysitting this president, the Republican Party is a lost cause.” Bruni’s remark would have come across as a fairly anodyne liberal New York Times talking point had I not been mulling over Trump as autocrat (setting aside all other attributes).

That observation ramifies. Stay tuned.

Although one might make the case that this level of autocracy is impeachable, it would be a mere academic exercise at this point. If his own party won’t buck him, this sad, embarrassing wreck of a man, in control of the imperial Presidency we’ve built, has it in his tiny hands, guided by his cribbed mind, to cause untold damage in the world — that is, in foreign policy.

Henninger gives Trump much credit for the booming economy and for his judicial nominees.

When Mr. Trump entered office amid a generalized panic among political elites, the first thing some of us noticed was that he was filling his government with first-rate people. To revive the economy, they included economic advisers Gary Cohn and Kevin Hassett, EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt and OMB Director Mick Mulvaney. On taxes, Paul Ryan and Kevin Brady provided a detailed template. The economy raced to full employment. The stock market boomed.

On the Supreme Court, the most astute minds in the conservative legal movement gave Mr. Trump a list of stellar options. He picked Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh. More wins.

Mr. Trump has said that in Mike Pompeo, Jim Mattis and John Bolton he has the foreign-policy team he always wanted. He also said he wanted to do one-on-ones with Messrs. Xi, Kim and Putin. He has done that. The moment has arrived to start listening less to America’s adversaries and more to his own good people. That, in his first year, was the art of the win.

On foreign policy, his competent people are themselves in the dark, and our Narcissist-in-Chief doesn’t know what he doesn’t know.

Mr. Trump’s supporters say he deserves more time to negotiate wins on these big foreign-policy bets. It’s not going to get better.

(Henninger) Thus, it’s time for “show us the money.”

Trump’s ascendancy has highlighted the warranted discontent of those who’ve been left behind economically. Average is Not Over, and average America does not intend to go off to its Bantustan while the new plutocrats grow ever wealthier.

I think that message has been received. I hope it has been received, anyway, and I’m certainly trying to digest it. Our future is more populist. Restoration of the status quo ante will do average America few favors. This generally fits at least a few of my long-lived notions about course correction for America.

Moreover, the time probably has come (I’m ready at least, and have been ready since the anomalies came to my attention from reading smarter people) to re-examine NATO and our other trans-Atlantic alliances in light of nearly 30 years since the end of the Cold War. But I don’t want Trump-as-autocrat doing it by humiliating our historic allies and engaging in secretive tête-a-tête meetings with Vladimir Putin — and I say that as a Russophile. Rearranging treaties in light of changed facts on the ground needs to be an orderly process.

In 2016, Trump out-performed the polls. People lied or hid their true leanings (because supporting Trump would get you added to The Deplorables by the bien pensants). Having elected their secret favorite, a new tribe has tacitly enacted it own set of smelly tribal orthodoxies, starting with, in effect, “touch not God’s annointed autocrat.”

I’m hoping the current polls’ insane levels of support for Trump among Republicans are again off-base — that people are giving the approved tribal answers while secretly harboring doubts, deep doubts.

I see no reason to believe this except a disorderly and ever-weakening reflex that, under their tribal bluster, my countrymen are sane.

Bruni is calling for a blue wave in November if only to show quisling Republicans that not bucking Trump when appropriate is as dangerous as bucking him. I’m receptive to the idea that having rushed the cockpit of Flight 93 in 2016, wresting the controls from the establishment and putting them in Trump’s tiny hands, it’s time to rush it again and reverse our course.

No, make that “correct our course.” I don’t think there’s any simple going back. But I’m hoping for the emergence of tens of millions of Trimmers.

The ‘trimmer’ is one who disposes his weight so as to keep the ship upon an even keel. And our inspection of his conduct reveals certain general ideas at work … Being concerned to prevent politics from running to extremes, he believes that there is a time for everything and that everything has its time — not providentially, but empirically. He will be found facing in whatever direction the occasion seems to require if the boat is to go even.

May this tribe increase.

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