Eric Metaxas

Eric Metaxas has bothered me a lot in the age of Trump.

He was supposed to be a really bright guy, who wrote biographies of Martin Luther and Dietrich Bonhoeffer, both of which were acclaimed at least in the parts of the virtual world I visit. But then he got an eponymous radio talk show, and started supporting Trump, for support of whom I had not heard and could not imagine any “really bright” defenses.

Was really bright Metaxas seeing something I was missing? Or had he just decided it was time to cash in on his “bright guy” reputation, seeing how even acclaimed books don’t pay that much in royalties? That doesn’t seem to fit: I’ve looked at the podcast version of his radio show, and two other podcasts Metaxas does, and they look a bit too high-toned, and even non-political, frankly, to be cash cows. (I’m not subscribing, but they’re apparently not the cesspools I feared, either.)

Then came a recent “debate” over Trump between him and David French. In my opinion, Metaxas did not produce even semi-bright arguments for Trump. It’s hard to identify Metaxas’ argument beyond that because it’s a “thought salad” (he’s too smooth for word salads), a fusillade of arguments lame and lamer.

I will not say that Metaxas makes evangelical-friendly arguments that he does not believe, whatever I may suspect about that. But he clearly is making fear-based arguments about the horrors that will come if Democrats are elected. (If Democrats gain the Presidency and the Senate, it could indeed get ugly because (a) they’ve been terrible on religious freedom since, oh, roughly, when Bill Clinton signed RFRA and RLUIPA and (b) now some of them are out for explicit revenge against at least Evangelicals, and it’s hard to punish Evangelical Trumpists without mucho collateral damage.)

So: Gotcha! You’re voting/inciting votes based on fear, Metaxas!

But so what? I’m voting against Trump because I fear that his malignant narcissism will tragically misapprehend the world in a future crisis — a fear his January-February misapprehension of the novel coronavirus threat justifies in spades.

I think, though, that “fear” is an equivocal word in this context. My fear for the country isn’t exactly the same genus and species as the fear Metaxas is engendering toward the prospect of Democrats controlling the political agenda again — fear of “socialism” and, of course, increased abortion (which has actually been decreasing, including under Democrats, for a long time now).

So no, I wasn’t missing anything, but it seems that stupid pro-Trump arguments are kind of an inexplicable quirk of Metaxas, who may indeed be a really bright guy in other contexts — though the way he wielded Luther and Bonhoeffer in the debate with French disinclines me to buy either of their bios.

(H/T John Fea, The French-Metaxas Debate: Some Commentary, who first got the debate transcribed and then in later commentary confirmed my impression that Metaxas was fear-mongering and, for good measure, dog-whistling.)

* * * * *

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

[O]nce you say you are ashamed,
reading the page they hold out to you,
then such light as you have made
in your history will leave you.
They will no longer need to pursue you.
You will pursue them, begging forgiveness,
And they will not forgive you.
There is no power against them.
It is only candor that is aloof from them,
only an inward clarity, unashamed,
that they cannot reach ….

Wendell Berry, Do Not Be Ashamed

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.

More miscellany, 3/25/20

Some argue that Christianophobia, which is an unreasonable hatred or anger towards Christians, does not exist but rather Christians are merely losing their privilege and being treated like everyone else. But given that the evidence that in academia individuals feel free to support anti-Christian occupational discrimination, it is hard to say that being denied a job due to religious bigotry is merely a loss of privilege.

… I found that 29.9% of all Americans have anti-Christian hostility. This is a bit higher than the 16.4% of the population who are anti-Muslim according to these same techniques.

George Yancey


Of course, I don’t know for sure that I have covid-19, because there is no testing where I live. People talk about testing on TV all day long. Usually, I’m listening through a scrim of fitful sleep. It’s like being stuck in the Loch Ness Monster programming on basic cable. There is no Nessie and no testing, but the talk goes on and on and on.

… Seven days into the waves of fever, I was drifting half in and half out of sleep. I was wearing a down jacket with the hood cinched around my head. I was buried under the covers, teeth chattering. A week like that is a very long time. (Nine days, and counting, is still longer.)

David Von Drehle. These are called “mild to moderate” symptoms. Yech!


Though the Erik Wemple Blog is no great booster of cable-news programming, we’ll take it any day over a rambling and lying President Trump. CNN and MSNBC, in fact, need to be more aggressive in cutting off the president in these briefings. There’s no reason their staffers can’t scour the briefing, produce a package with the newsworthy highlights and air it moments after the session concludes. If ever there were a time when Americans can wait for a few minutes, coronavirus is it.

Eric Wemple

I was grateful when my local 6 pm News interrupted Trump’s crypto-campaigning to give us actual news. Wemple is right.

But Team Trump pretends otherwise:

In an email to the Erik Wemple Blog, White House press secretary Stephanie Grisham denounced the truncated airing of the briefing:

The President has gone to the briefing room every day, along with many experts in various fields in an effort to inform the American public. He and the group are very generous with their time and take many questions from the press. It is astonishing to me that the media is now in the business of deciding what the American people should hear from their President — that’s not their job. It is also the height of hypocrisy for the complaint to now be that the briefings are “too long.” In addition to the most updated information for the health and safety of the country, the President will continue to deliver a message of hope, because that is what a true leader does.

(Emphasis added)


The Senate appeared ready to pass this vital legislation Sunday — until suddenly Democrats balked. They attacked the stabilization program as a “slush fund” and started to issue demands that the relief bill include a host of left-wing priorities that had nothing to do with the coronavirus. Rep. James E. Clyburn (D-S.C.), the House minority whip, told fellow Democrats in a conference call over the weekend that the relief bill was “a tremendous opportunity to restructure things to fit our vision.” House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) introduced competing legislation that included elements of Democrats’ Green New Deal, including a requirement that airlines fully offset their carbon emissions and list their greenhouse gas emissions from every flight. It includes a requirement that any company receiving loans must report on pay equity and corporate board diversity, and adds other extraneous items such as guaranteed collective bargaining for all federal workers, a bailout for the U.S. Postal Service and requirements that all states allow early voting and same-day voter registration. With the backing of the Democrats’ presumptive nominee Joe Biden, Democrats have also demanded that any relief bill include a minimum of $10,000 per person in forgiveness for federal student loans, despite the fact that President Trump already waived interest on those loans for 60 days starting March 13 and gave student borrowers the option to request a 60-day forbearance on repayments.

Marc Thiesen


Reno, who’s a friend of mine, is passing harsh judgment on priests who are not serving mass to congregations today, accusing them of a lack of faith, and of moral courage. This is so, so wrong. Nobody — not those priests, not the faithful — wants to be away from church now. We do it not out of fear, but as a temporary sacrifice to save lives. You really can communicate the virus to others by your presence.

Rod Dreher


As if his idiocy might not be idiotic enough otherwise, our President insists on Tweeting in ALL CAPS!


If, on March 31, Trump declares “mission accomplished” and tweets that America should be open for business again, each and every governor could simply say no. They could go their own way.

David French

Could and should.


We have multiple things to worry about every day, but Anthony Fauci has been worrying about something like the coronavirus for a long time. An Intelligence Matters podcast from September 2018 that is more timely than ever.


When the Catholic editor of the leading conservative Christian magazine allows the fanatically pro-abortion Andrew Cuomo to outflank him on the issue of the sanctity of human life, well, we have a problem.

Rod Dreher, on R.R. Reno’s perverse column.

Unfortunately, Rod doesn’t stop there:

I have been saying on Twitter this week that I believe the Democrats would be wise to find a way to ease Joe Biden out of the presidential race, and nominate Cuomo. This would be a terrible thing for religious and social conservatives. As I said, Cuomo is a hardcore progressive, spiter of social and religious conservatives, and personally ruthless. He has also been quite good in this crisis. As with Rudy Giuliani after 9/11, he might be an SOB, but an SOB is what we needed at that time.

Yeah, right. Elect a known SOB because he seems to be just what the moment calls for. That worked out so well in 2016.

* * * * *

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

[O]nce you say you are ashamed,
reading the page they hold out to you,
then such light as you have made
in your history will leave you.
They will no longer need to pursue you.
You will pursue them, begging forgiveness,
And they will not forgive you.
There is no power against them.
It is only candor that is aloof from them,
only an inward clarity, unashamed,
that they cannot reach ….

Wendell Berry, Do Not Be Ashamed

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.

Impeachment

Memo to Republican Senators:

  • Understandable cowardice is still cowardice.
  • It is not only Trump’s character that is being judged. Tolerance for corruption is a form of corruption.
  • Your political risks pale in comparison to the physical risks taken each day by soldiers, police officers or firefighters in service to the common good.
  • Every Republican senator who does not support Trump’s removal should publicly embrace some form of censure and be seeking a way to demonstrate this commitment en masse.
  • The “disturbing but not impeachable” argument is not convincing. Trump has provided a case study that future constitutional-law textbooks will use to illustrate the meaning of an impeachable offense.
  • Senators who are not offended by the president’s threats against them if they display independent judgment have lost all pride in the Senate’s purpose.
  • Intimidation of Republican senators would demonstrate the triumph of verbal violence — Trump’s Twitter insults, his political threats, the White House’s reported promise to put disloyal heads on pikes — in Republican politics, and in the business of the Senate itself. American democracy would be confirmed as a place where menace is rewarded and bullies prosper.

Very truly yours,

Michael Gerson

* * *

Of course, Senators can try to ignore Gerson’s points because they have a cogent and compelling defense at the ready:

Trump didn’t do the thing he’s accused of doing, but if he did it was fine, and in fact that’s exactly what he did, get over it, because it’s not only fine, it’s precisely what we want from a president, and can you believe that Biden did the same thing, shame on him.

Peter Sunderman

* * *

My Junior Senator reportedly has abdicated his sworn role in favor of voting as his constituents wish.

Well, Mike Braun, this constituent thinks that, things having come this far, the sonofabitch should be removed from office.

UPDATE:

This may sound odd, even ironic. You are here in the flush of victory. And yet it is precisely now that I ask you to contemplate the possibility of defeat — perhaps even the necessity of defeat.

Edmund Burke, in 1774, set forth a model we should all emulate when he told his Bristol constituents: “Your representative owes you, not his industry only, but his judgement, and he betrays instead of serving you if he sacrifices it to your opinion.”

Let me put the matter plainly: If you are here simply as a tote board registering the current state of opinion in your district, you are not going to serve either your constituents or the Congress of the United States weIl.

Your constituents expect you to represent their interests, and that you should certainly do. But you are also a member of the Congress, and your responsibilities are far greater than those of an ombudsman for your district. You must take, at times, a national view, even if, in taking that view, you risk the displeasure of your neighbors and friends back home.

Indeed, I feel obliged to put the matter more sharply still: If you don’t know the principle, or the policy, for which you are willing to lose your office, then you are going to do damage here.

This institution needs more members willing to look beyond the biennial contest for power, more committed to public service as a vocation rather than merely a career.

Henry J. Hyde, welcoming newly elected Republicans, November 29, 1990.

* * * * *

 

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.

Donning the prophet’s mantle

The president of the United States attempted to use his political power to coerce a foreign leader to harass and discredit one of the president’s political opponents. That is not only a violation of the Constitution; more importantly, it is profoundly immoral.

The reason many are not shocked about this is that this president has dumbed down the idea of morality in his administration. He has hired and fired a number of people who are now convicted criminals. He himself has admitted to immoral actions in business and his relationship with women, about which he remains proud. His Twitter feed alone—with its habitual string of mischaracterizations, lies, and slanders—is a near perfect example of a human being who is morally lost and confused.

… None of the president’s positives can balance the moral and political danger we face under a leader of such grossly immoral character.

This concern for the character of our national leader is not new in CT. In 1998, we wrote this:

The President’s failure to tell the truth—even when cornered—rips at the fabric of the nation. This is not a private affair. For above all, social intercourse is built on a presumption of trust: trust that the milk your grocer sells you is wholesome and pure; trust that the money you put in your bank can be taken out of the bank; trust that your babysitter, firefighters, clergy, and ambulance drivers will all do their best. And while politicians are notorious for breaking campaign promises, while in office they have a fundamental obligation to uphold our trust in them and to live by the law.

And this:

Unsavory dealings and immoral acts by the President and those close to him have rendered this administration morally unable to lead.

To the many evangelicals who continue to support Mr. Trump in spite of his blackened moral record, we might say this: Remember who you are and whom you serve. Consider how your justification of Mr. Trump influences your witness to your Lord and Savior. Consider what an unbelieving world will say if you continue to brush off Mr. Trump’s immoral words and behavior in the cause of political expediency. If we don’t reverse course now, will anyone take anything we say about justice and righteousness with any seriousness for decades to come? Can we say with a straight face that abortion is a great evil that cannot be tolerated and, with the same straight face, say that the bent and broken character of our nation’s leader doesn’t really matter in the end?

Mark Galli, Trump Should Be Removed from Office, Christianity Today, 12/19/19.

I understand and respect Christianity Today’s customary avoidance of making politics central, or even prominent, among its concerns. It certainly has not, unlike the Democrats, “had it out for [Trump] from day one,” and therefore is exempt from the “cloud of partisan suspicion.”

I have many, many criticisms of Evangelicalism as my former spiritual home, some of which have been addressed here, more at least alluded to. But it stands alongside the Roman Catholic Church (and unlike mainstream Protestantism or the Orthodox Church) as an embodiment of what people envision when they hear or read “Christianity” or “the Church(es)” — if my judgment, which has lost contact with my countrymen in many ways, can be trusted this once.

So for the sake of the Christian faith and its ecclesial embodiment, I hope, without being very hopeful, that many Evangelicals will heed CT’s articulate call for removal of Donald Trump, an utter moral shipwreck, from the office of the Presidency.

UPDATE:

Green: One of the things that you seem most concerned about in the editorial is the reputation of evangelicalism—of Christianity—and the damage that this association with Trump might do to Christian witness.

I wonder how much that motivates you—your belief that the association with Trump is going to do long-term damage to the ability of Christians to share the Gospel.

Galli: Oh my God. It’s going to be horrific.

We’ve been a movement that has said the moral character of our leaders is really important. And if they fail in that department, they can’t be a good influence. That’s what CT said when Nixon’s immoralities were discovered. That’s what we said when Clinton’s immoralities were discovered. And one of the reasons I thought we should say it now is because it’s pretty clear that this is the case with Donald Trump.

Unfortunately, a number of my brothers and sisters will just defend him to the end. They somehow think that’s going to be a good witness to the Gospel. It’s unimaginable to me how they think that, but they do. And I just think it’s a big mistake.

I will acknowledge, and I did acknowledge, that the Democrats are riding on a partisan horse here. They just vehemently hate Donald Trump. And they’ve been trying from day one to get him out of office. There’s no question about that.

But that doesn’t take away from the fact that what they discovered is actually true. That’s the thing that’s disappointing about my evangelical and conservative friends. They just won’t admit it. They just won’t say it. They just say, “It’s partisan.” Well, yeah. It’s partisan. But this partisan effort happened to uncover something that was really bad.

The fact that not a single Republican, and none of my evangelical, conservative friends, has been able to admit that strikes me as a deep and serious problem.

I’m sorry, Emma. I’m going to start preaching—I used to be a pastor. I don’t think the Republican Party or the Democratic Party are exemplars of moral virtue. As most commentators have noted, our country is in a really deeply troubling state when it comes to ethical and moral leadership. I’m certainly not going to say, “Oh, all the politicians are really ethical and Donald Trump isn’t.” No. But he happens to be the president of the United States. He deserves a certain amount of focus.

Mark Galli interviewed by Emma Green at the Atlantic

* * * * *

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.

But what about Fox?

I have hinted strongly that the Senate will not convict Trump on any impeachment articles for fear of his carpet-bombing them from Twitter after his removal from office. I may have overlooked something:

Though it is the most-watched cable (shall we say) “news” channel in the United States, [Fox’s] average primetime viewership of about 2.5 million people is less than 1 percent of the nation …

However, those Fox News viewers punch far above their weight in one regard: They are the core of any hard-right primary challenge that might be waged against an incumbent Republican senator. … Trump is neither popular nor admired among the Senate majority, but he is feared, therefore tolerated. The fear stems from his firm grip on that Fox News-viewing core and the belief that he could turn the core into an incumbent-crushing machine.

To the extent that Trump’s grip begins to loosen, the fear will begin to lift and the president’s Senate firewall will begin to crumble. That’s how I figure it, and I think Trump might be making a similar calculation, because his Twitter feed has been peppered lately with his annoyance at Fox News over various perceived acts of hostility. He might believe that he can maintain his standing solely through his unmediated tweets, regardless of Fox News. But I don’t think he really wants to find out.

David Von Drehle, (Trump’s fate is in the hands of Fox News) goes on to explain why Fox might turn on Trump. Hint: It rhymes with “Paul Ryan.”

It’s one of the cheeriest hypotheticals I’ve read in a while.

* * * * *

I sought to understand, but it was too hard for me, until I went into the sanctuary of God; then understood I their end.

(Psalm 72:15-17, Adapted from the Miles Coverdale Translation, 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.

I highly recommend blot.im as a crazy-easy alternative to Twitter (if you’re just looking to get your stuff “out there” and not pick fights).

Clippings and Commentary 2/8/19

1

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

David Shiflett

Report: West Virginia Feeling Pretty Smug Right About Now

2

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

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

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

James Howard Kunstler

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

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

3

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

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

4

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

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

5

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

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

6

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

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

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

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

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

7

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

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

8

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

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

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

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

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

* * * * *

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

Political Potpourri 1/11/19

 

1. The Wall

Some of the headlines at alternate media are pretty good. For instance To Fund ‘White Supremacist Vanity Project,’ Trump Eyes Relief Funds Earmarked for Actual Disasters.

Putting it that way, it sounds almost criminal, doesn’t it? Which makes me wonder why I didn’t think of this:

Chuck and Nancy, in their calculated intransigence, are maneuvering to create an impeachable offense against Mr. Trump the moment he moves to declare an “emergency” and grabs some money from an executive agency cash-box to commence his wall-building.

James Howard Kunstler.

More from Kunstler:

The Left does not want to regulate comings-and-goings along the US-Mexico border. Not the least little bit. The reason is well-understood too: the DNC views everyone coming across as a potential constituent, as well as a household employee.

One of my newer podcast finds is The Argument, with Michelle Goldberg, Ross Douthat and David Leonhardt. The January 10 episode made it pretty clear, from the mouths of Goldberg and Leonhardt, that ascription of venal motives aside, Kunstler is pitch perfect.

Peggy Noonan is fed up with the shutdown over the wall:

Governing by shutdown … harms the democratic spirit because it so vividly tells Americans—rubs their faces in it—that they’re pawns in a game as both parties pursue their selfish ends.

The president at the center of this drama is an unserious man. He is only episodically sincere and has no observable tropism toward truthfulness. He didn’t get a wall in two years with a Republican Congress and is now in a fix. He is handling himself as he does, with bluster and aggression, without subtlety or winning ways. He likes disorder.

But the game didn’t start with Donald Trump. Two decades of cynical, game-playing failure produced him.

(Pay wall).

In case you’re wondering, here’s what real border security looks like.

2 Bigotries, Right and Left

49 or so Jack- and Jenny-Asses in Tarrant County Texas, goaded by an original core of just one Jenny Ass, ended up wanting to expel a Pakistani immigrant Muslim Surgeon from local GOP party leadership on the un-American basis that Islam is a bad religion that shouldn’t be in America.

At least the Jack- and Jenny-Asses got overwhelmingly voted down by their fellow Republicans.

Meanwhile, to the East-Northeast therefrom (to-wit: in the United States Senate), at least three prominent distaff Democrats (Dianne Feinstein, Kamala Harris and Mazie Hirono) are unmistakably on record that seriously-believed and orthodox Roman Catholicism has no place on the Federal bench, either because the “dogma” lives too loudly or they could mix hinted misogyny into the mix of other anti-Catholic bigotries since the Knights of Columbus is all-male.

Jeremy McLellan made a video to explain the Knights to those with an open mind, concluding that “insurrection and paramilitary operations are only 3 percent of what the Knights of Columbus do. The other 97 percent? Pancake breakfasts and fish fries during Lent.”

In the process, he also cleared up what happened to (Republican) anti-Catholicism, of which I have person memories circa 1960: they transferred it to Islam.

See? It all fits together.

3 Alexandria Oscasio Palin-Cortez

From the Department of History Doesn’t Repeat, But It Rhymes: Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez: The Progressive Sarah Palin.

That’s a little unfair since Palin’s policy chops were essentially zero, while Cortez at least has “political spoonerisms” (a term I didn’t coin but wish I had) like the Pentagon being able to save $21 Trillion through better bookkeeping.

The Argument podcast I already linked is titled Why Do Powerful Women Make America Panic?, and I think Ross Douthat does a really good job of explaining why Cortez makes conservatives very uneasy. Sexism’s only a small part of it, and even that is inseparable from a kind of collar-loosening “Damn! Why does she have to be so attractive?!” The podcast is well worth a listen.

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Catching up with Kunstler

For a while, I tired of James Howard Kunstler’s blog and stopped following it. Maybe it was because he focused so much on Democrat wrongdoing against Donald Trump, which seemed very odd — and which has not ceased.

But I was reminded that he is one of the day’s great rhetoricians, who can be read with pleasure even when he’s wrong. So I resumed following him and gleaned these:

The shale oil “miracle” was an impressive stunt. For a while, it goosed US production way above the former all-time production peak of 1970, and it achieved that with astounding speed — about a decade. But this is oil that is very expensive and complex to produce. It was made possible by massive borrowing at artificial low interest rates, which are now rising. Something like three-quarters of the shale operators never made a red cent in net profit, and many of these companies will find it hard or impossible to roll over their existing debt, especially with oil under $50-a-barrel. But the price is a deceptive metric. If it zoomed up to $100-a-barrel tomorrow, the effect would only be to crush economic activity, because industry requires cheaper oil to pencil out its operations and citizens can barely afford to drive when gasoline hits $4-a-gallon at the pump. At the lower $45-a-barrel, the price crushes the oil producers. Take your pick. There’s no “Goldilocks” price.

James Howard Kunstler

It’s Nancy Pelosi’s smile that gets me … oh, and not in a good way. It’s a smile that is actually the opposite of what a smile is supposed to do: signal good will and good faith. Nancy’s smile is full of malice and bad faith, like the smiles on representations of Shiva-the-Destroyer and Huitzilopochtli, the Aztec sun god who demanded thousands of human hearts to eat, lest he bring on the end of the world.

James Howard Kunstler

Financialization of the economy was the last ploy to keep this boat floating. It allowed political and business leaders to pretend that asset-stripping the interior of the country — so that coastal moralizers could enjoy micro-green lunches and sex-change surgery — would promote the general welfare.

James Howard Kunstler

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Potpourri, 12/22/18

1

Senate Unanimously Passes Bill Making Lynching a Federal Crime” says the headline. A photo caption describes the pressing need:

“More than 4,700 people were lynched in the U.S. from 1882 to 1968, according to one estimate, and over 70 percent of the victims were black.”

Am I wrong to think “A day late, a dollar short”? Tell me more:

“For over a century, members of Congress have attempted to pass some version of a bill that would recognize lynching for what it is: a bias-motivated act of terror,” Senator Cory Booker, a New Jersey Democrat who introduced the bill, said in a statement. “Today, we have righted that wrong and taken corrective action that recognizes this stain on our country’s history.”

Okay. I had been lying awake at night worried that people weren’t recognizing that lynching is a stain on our country’s history. But then I’m WEIRD.

That addition is largely symbolic, said Brian Levin, director at the Center for the Study of Hate and Extremism at California State University, San Bernardino.

Yeah, I had kind of figured that out.

Frank Pezzella, a professor at the John Jay College of Criminal Justice, said the bill’s passage also carries a message of deterrence …

So, while they’re at it, could they please pass a law deterring elephants from invading my living room?

“It was taken for granted in the South that whites could use force against any African-Americans who became overbearing,” he said. “How do we connect that with hate crimes in the present? Hate offenders really want to kind of go back to that place.”

“Hate offenders really want to kind of go back to that place”? Seriously? That‘s how we connect an evil history to this present virtue signalling? Well, he sounds like he knows what he’s talking about, I guess. Will we pass a law against the Senate’s own progressive McCarthyism in 2068?

Just about the only thing they got right was a definition of “lynching” that limits it to killing someone because of their race or religion, which at least arguably brings it into the legitimate constitutional powers of the national government.

But note that it was unanimous. I must be missing something about the pressing need for banning lynching as a government shutdown loomed.

2

Jerry Taylor, of the relatively new Niskanen Center:

Reason, as David Hume famously noted, is a slave of the passions, and libertarian passions point in one direction and one direction only: hostility to government. This passion is a powerful engine of motivated cognition, which invariably leads to weak policy analysis and dogmatism.

That was not at the top of my list of reasons for keeping libertarianism at arms’ length, but it’s a valid point. More:

  • Wherever we look around the world, when we see inconsequential governments with limited power, as libertarians would prefer, we see “failed states.” How much liberty and human dignity can be found there? Very little.
  • [A]ll libertarians agree that there are exceptions to their ethically-driven opposition to the use of government coercion and force. If there were not, there would be no libertarians; there would only be anarchists. But what are the scale and scope of those exceptions?
  • Factionalism within the libertarian world is rife and irresolvable because the principles themselves say less than you might think about what public policy ought to be (a point made with great force by my colleague Will Wilkinson).
  • Without some means of sorting through the reams of information coming at us every day, we would be overwhelmed and incapable of considered thought or action … Yet any set of beliefs, if they are coherent, are the wet clay of ideology. Hence, the best we can do is to police our inner ideologue with a studied, skeptical outlook, a mindful appreciation of our own fallibility, and an open, inquisitive mind.

3

Unable to make the case for his own virtues, Trump must aver that his vices are commonplace and inconsequential … When all this evidence is stitched together in a narrative — as Mueller’s report will certainly do — the sum will be greater than the sleaze of its parts. Russian intelligence officials invested in an innovative strategy to support the election of a corrupt U.S. businessman with suspicious ties to Russian oligarchs. The candidate and his campaign welcomed that intervention in public and private. And the whole scheme seems to have paid off for both sides … The United States seems to have gone from zero to banana republic in no seconds flat. But whether this transformation has been illegal, it must be impeachable — or else impeachment has no meaning.

Michael Gerson

4

In fact, over the years, as the locations for duels became more picturesque and the pistols more finely manufactured, the best-bred men proved willing to defend their honor over lesser and lesser offenses. So while dueling may have begun as a response to high crimes—to treachery, treason, and adultery—by 1900 it had tiptoed down the stairs of reason, until they were being fought over the tilt of a hat, the duration of a glance, or the placement of a comma.

In the old and well-established code of dueling, it is understood that the number of paces the offender and offended take before shooting should be in inverse proportion to the magnitude of the insult. That is, the most reprehensible affront should be resolved by a duel of the fewest paces, to ensure that one of the two men will not leave the field of honor alive. Well, if that was the case, concluded the Count, then in the new era, the duels should have been fought at no less than ten thousand paces. In fact, having thrown down the gauntlet, appointed seconds, and chosen weapons, the offender should board a steamer bound for America as the offended boards another for Japan where, upon arrival, the two men could don their finest coats, descend their gangplanks, turn on the docks, and fire.

Amor Towles, A Gentleman in Moscow, Kindle locations 750-53.

5

Planned Parenthood Is Accused of Mistreating Pregnant Employees, says the headline.

In interviews and legal documents, women at Planned Parenthood and other organizations with a feminist bent described discrimination that violated federal or state laws — managers considering pregnancy in hiring decisions, for example, or denying rest breaks recommended by a doctor.

In other cases, the bias was more subtle. Many women said they were afraid to announce a pregnancy at work, sensing they would be seen as abandoning their colleagues.

Some of those employers saw accommodating expecting mothers as expensive and inconvenient. Others were unsympathetic to workers seeking special treatment.

At Mehri & Skalet, a progressive law firm suing Walmart for pregnancy discrimination, three lawyers have accused a founding partner, Cyrus Mehri, of mistreatment. Heidi Burakiewicz said Mr. Mehri pressured her to return early from maternity leave. Sandi Farrell was told to participate in a performance review during her leave, and when she asked to postpone it she was fired. Taryn Wilgus Null said Mr. Mehri questioned her child care arrangements in a performance review after she returned from leave.

And at Planned Parenthood, the country’s leading provider of reproductive services, managers in some locations declined to hire pregnant job candidates, refused requests by expecting mothers to take breaks and in some cases pushed them out of their jobs after they gave birth, according to current and former employees in California, Texas, North Carolina and New York.

My antipathy toward Planned Parenthood is probably in the middle of the pro-life pack, but I’ll just let the story speak for itself, pausing only to congratulate the New York Times, which has zero antipathy toward PP, for reporting it.

6

In an even marginally sane world, the fact that a nation’s armed forces are engaged in daily military violence would be cause for shock and alarm, and pulling those forces out of that situation would be viewed as a return to normalcy. Instead we are seeing the exact opposite. In an even marginally sane world, congressional oversight would be required to send the US military to invade countries and commit acts of war, because that act, not withdrawing them, is what’s abnormal. Instead we are seeing the exact opposite.

Caitlin Johnstone

7

 

Though I’m now a retired attorney, it’s unlikely that I’ll ever serve on a jury, partly because one of the two contending attorneys won’t want someone highly skeptical of bloodstain analysis and other pseudo-scientific tricks of the sophists’ trade.

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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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