Today’s ramble, 2/14/19

1

Robert E. Lee was a Southerner. So was Martin Luther King Jr. Eugene Debs was an American. So was Whittaker Chambers. Angela Davis? American. So too Phyllis Schlafly. All of them were part of all of us, makers of our own perspective. There’s something sentimental in me that wants to claim them all. When I look at a Confederate statue, I don’t think, “I am so offended by this monument to a man who fought for slavery that I believe it should be erased from public memory.” I think, “You poor bastard, you thought you were fighting for what was right and honorable, but you were blind. You were my ancestor. You are part of me — your story is a chapter in our story — and I am blind like you were, I just don’t know it yet.”

Rod Dreher, reflecting on What Does it Mean to Love America? I know I quote Rod quite a lot, lately to disagree with the course he seemed to be setting, but this one paragraph moved me.

2

New York Times Contributing Opinion Writer Linda Greenhouse makes a plausible case for why Justice John Roberts voted to reinstate the injunction against the Louisiana abortion law while litigation proceeds in the lower courts:

The chief justice voted to grant the stay, in my estimation, because to have silently let the Louisiana law take effect without Supreme Court intervention would have been to reward the defiance that I’ve described here.

The “defiance” she described was the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals engaging in what can plausibly be called conservative judicial activism, to-wit: defying a binding Supreme Court precedent on a materially indistinguishable Texas law.

Lower courts are supposed to follow precedent from higher courts even when they think the higher court was wrong and even when they think they’ve got fair winds and following seas for setting a different course.

Although the 5th Circuit was correct that different facts can justify a different outcome, the differences must be material. It’s not enough, for instance, that “Austin” is a much different city name than “Baton Rouge.”

Greenhouse, an ardent Friend of Feticide, gives very short shrift to the materiality of the factual difference the 5th Circuit described (and engages in a lot of ad hominem), and I’m giving them short shrift as well just because I don’t care to shoot my whole day on this observation: When the statutes are very similar and the trial court spent six days hearing the factual basis for injunction, plus many pages “finding” those facts, it’s a tough legal sell to second guess its findings to strike down its injunction.

(First published on my micro.blog)

3

No doubt when skeptics raised questions about the efficacy of bleeding patients to cure their cholera or of burning witches to halt crop failures, someone was standing there with their head cocked at a righteous angle, saying, “Oh no? Well, what’s your plan, then?” Unfortunately, there is no law of universal symmetry by which the recognition of a problem automatically creates a feasible solution.

But as it happens, I do have a plan …

[Z]eroing out U.S. emissions and moving the whole country into yurts wouldn’t prevent the climate from warming, because Americans are not the biggest problem anymore. The problem is the more than 6 billion people who aren’t living in the rich world.

No matter what rich-world economies do about their energy consumption, or what “moral leadership” they exert, people in the non-rich world are going to want … to do and own all the things that make modern rich-world lives so safe and pleasant.

… The solution isn’t figuring out how to subsidize or mandate green alternatives; it’s figuring out how to make them cheaper than the carbon-intensive versions.

There are a number of possible paths to that outcome ….

Megan McArdle

McArdle “confess[es] upfront that I’m far from sure my plan will work. I can only protest that it’s more likely to work than the myopic austerity of the enviro-socialists”:

[M]assive regulatory programs to marginally improve the energy efficiency of American buildings and appliances; subsidizing high-speed rail and public transit in a country almost entirely devoid of the population densities needed to make them feasible; larding green initiatives with ideological wish lists that will do nothing to prevent climate change but will do a lot to polarize the country on the most important policy priority of the 21st century.

Meanwhile, as others mock, an earnest young genius earnestly defends the Green New Deal:

It has taken years of agricultural policy to get us into this mess. Getting out of it is a question not of whether lawmaking also produces economic policy and jobs, but of what kind.

Jedediah S. Britton-Purdy, The Green New Deal Is What Realistic Environmental Policy Looks Like. “Genius” is not sarcasm: I believe Jedediah Purdy has been on my radar for a decade or so. “Genius” also is not servile endorsement of just any ole piffle he might come up with on a bad day.

Still more on GND:

The [Green New Deal] has no practical importance but much significance. First, it underscores the rise of the politics of gestures that are as flamboyant as they are empty: President Trump has his wall, the left has its GND. Second, it reprises the progressive desire to militarize everything but the military … Third, … progressives’ embrace of Trump’s political style, a stew of frivolity and mendacity.

George Will.

This column was a delight for its style, quite apart from its substance.

4

I don’t know if you knew this — but your fluid intelligence declines linearly from the age of 20 onward. It’s a pretty vicious curve, and it hits zero, by the way, when you die.

But your crystallized intelligence, which is a measure of how much wisdom you’ve accumulated, how much knowledge, rises. But it doesn’t rise as much as your fluid intelligence declines.

Jordan Peterson

5

One of the most haunting books I ever read was apparently, and I’d now say improvidently, discarded after a change of Christian conviction led me to detest the Crystal Ball style of reading Bible prophecy.

The book was titled The United States in Prophecy, and I picked it up (literally, then proprietarily) at the Moody Book Store on LaSalle Street in Chicago.From my memory of the cover and the publication date, I think this is it, and I just paid Amazon $5 to get it again on Kindle.

I thought it was going to be an idolatrous celebration of the United States, but it was very far from that.

The thesis was that the United States is Babylon the Great in (many?) Bible prophecies:

I no longer believe we can decipher from prophecy tomorrow’s newspaper headlines. That’s damned near (and I use that advisedly) an occult, soothsaying take on the Bible.

But just as Johah went and warned Nineveh, so the prophets warn not of the details of woes, but of their certainty absent a change of course.

And even if the United States is not Babylon the Great, we could eavesdrop and adjust our behavior accordingly. Prophecy, like history, rhymes, and echoes.

6

COWEN: What should we learn from Tolkien?

PETERSON: Go out and confront your dragons.

COWEN: What should we learn from Harry Potter?

PETERSON: Voluntary death and rebirth redeems.

Tyler Cowen and Jordan Peterson

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Clippings from 1/27/19

1

It just beggars belief that the same liberals who fret about “micro-aggressions” for 20-somethings were able to see 16-year-olds absorbing the worst racist garbage from religious bigots … and then express the desire to punch the kids in the face.

Our mainstream press has been poisoned by tribalism. My own trust in it is eroding. I’m far from the only one.

What was so depressing to me about the Covington incident was how so many liberals felt comfortable taking a random teenager and, purely because of his race and gender, projected onto him all their resentments and hatred of “white men” in general.

This is the abyss of hate versus hate, tribe versus tribe. This is a moment when we can look at ourselves in the mirror of social media and see what we have become. Liberal democracy is being dismantled before our eyes — by all of us. This process is greater than one president. It is bottom-up as well as top-down. Tyranny, as Damon Linker reminded us this week, is not just political but psychological, and the tyrannical impulse, ratcheted up by social media, is in all of us. It infects the soul of the entire body politic. It destroys good people. It slowly strangles liberal democracy. This is the ongoing extinction level event.

Andrew Sullivan

2

That so much of the progressive-media discourse on the Covington episode consisted of the emotional revisitation of petty (and some unpetty) childhood traumas has given the whole project a Freudian odor, and, like the work of Sigmund Freud himself, it consists largely of intellectual fraud bolstered by manufactured or distorted evidence — claims of fact that are said to speak to a higher metaphysical truth no matter how frequently and how thoroughly they are debunked as claims of fact.

In the Covington fiasco, the very American progressives who boast so tirelessly and tediously that they are “for the People” have reclaimed an ancient prerogative of aristocracy: the whipping boy.

Kevin D. Williamson

3

One of the unexpected and very pleasant comments I heard over the weekend was on the excellent Left, Right & Center podcast, and I believe from Josh Barro, the podcast moderator (who never tires of the “full disclosure” that his “husband’s” emails were among those leaked by Wikileaks in the 2016 election runup). It went like this (not a direct quote):

Quite recently, we excused an inquisition into the decades-old high school acts of one Brett Kavanaugh. It was carefully explained that the justification was that his acts back then, if they were as alleged by Christine Blasey Ford, were seriously criminal, and he was seeking one of the highest offices in the land, with essentially life tenure.

There is no justification remotely approaching this for the inquisition against the Covington Catholic lads.

Thank you, Josh.

4

[Rhode Island Governor Gina Raimondo] recalled an exchange with college students not long ago. One of them said: “I get who you are. You’re one of those spineless centrists.”

“And I was like, ‘Excuse me?’,” she said. “It takes a lot of spine to be a centrist in America today. You get whacked from the left and whacked from the right. That’s my life. I get whacked.”

Frank Bruni

5

[T]here are several difficulties with the current briefs for impeachment, which suffice for now to keep a Pence presidency out of reach.

The first is the gulf between the democracy-subverting powers that the briefs ascribe to Trump and the actual extent of his influence …

Much of the case for “trampling” … is a case against Trump’s rhetoric. And one can acknowledge that rhetoric’s evils while doubting that the ranting of a president so hemmed in, unpopular and weak is meaningfully threatening the Constitution.

… [T]he second problem with the case for impeachment … might be summed up in a line from a poem that Trump often quoted in 2016: You knew damn well I was a snake before you took me in. … [L]ittle about his rhetorical excess, his penchant for lies and insults or the seaminess of his courtiers was hidden from voters on the campaign trail in 2016, in an election that by the Constitution’s standards Trump legitimately won.

[Yoni] Appelbaum … analogizes Trump’s race-baiting to Andrew Johnson’s efforts to impede Reconstruction in the late-1860s South. But when he was impeached, Johnson was literally using his veto to abet the possible restoration of white supremacy. Whereas Trump is conspicuously losing a fight over some modest border fencing, and his last race-inflected policy move was … a criminal justice reform supported by many African-Americans. The president may be a bigot, but the policy stakes do not remotely resemble 1868.

Ross Douthat, 1/27/19 (emphasis added).

Take heed of this. Much as I detest Trump, I think all three points are valid, and the second one worries me most.

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Clippings and comment, 1/22/19 pm

1

David Brooks:

[I]n the age of social media [polarization is] almost entirely about social type. It’s about finding and spreading the viral soap operas that are supposed to reveal the dark hearts of those who are in the opposite social type from your own.

It’s about finding images that confirm your negative stereotypes about people you don’t know. It’s about reducing a complex human life into one viral moment and then banishing him to oblivion.

You don’t have to read social theory on this phenomenon; just look at the fracas surrounding the Covington Catholic High School boys.

… [I]t’s important to remember that these days the social media tail wags the mainstream media dog. If you want your story to be well placed and if you want to be professionally rewarded, you have to generate page views — you have to incite social media. The way to do that is to reinforce the prejudices of your readers.

… The crucial thing is that the nation’s culture is now enmeshed in a new technology that we don’t yet know how to control.

It’s hard to believe that people are going to continue forever on platforms where they are so cruel to one another. It’s hard to believe that people are going to be content, year after year, to distort their own personalities in service to a platform, making themselves humorless, semi-blind, joyless and grim.

I want Brooks’ story to “be well placed” and Brooks “to be professionally rewarded” for his synthesis of the weekend incident and his framing of the problem it reveals.

2

[T]he vilification of Mrs. Pence makes prophetic Justice Samuel Alito’s prediction in his dissent in Obergefell v. Hodges, the Supreme Court decision throwing out all state laws against same-sex marriage. Justice Alito saw a perilous future for those who still embraced the view Mr. Obama once claimed to hold. “I assume that those who cling to old beliefs will be able to whisper their thoughts in the recesses of their homes,” he wrote, “but if they repeat those views in public, they will risk being labeled as bigots and treated as such by governments, employers, and schools.”

In the larger sense the faith-shaming of Mrs. Pence exposes an inversion of tropes. In history and literature, typically it has been the religious side that can’t tolerate the slightest disagreement from its dogma and behaves like outraged 17th-century Salemites when they think they have uncovered a witch.

Now look at the Immanuel Christian School. Those who run it know they and those who think like them are the big losers in America’s culture war. All they ask is to be allowed, within the confines of their community, to uphold 2,000 years of Christian teaching on marriage, sexuality and the human person.

When Obergefell was decided, it was sold as live-and-let-live. But as Justice Alito foresaw, today some sweet mysteries of the universe are more equal than others. In other words, it isn’t enough for the victors to win; the new sense of justice requires that those who still don’t agree must be compelled to violate their deepest beliefs ….

William McGurn

3

A very good point:

But for the sake of arguing let us assume that the boys did just what the initial story alleged them to do. They went and harassed a Native American while that Indian made his protest. What then? Is what they did terrible? Yeah. Should they be punished? Absolutely. Should that punishment be that they are doxed, tarred as a racist, and casted out of respectable society for the rest of their lives? Once again, have you ever been 16? Or to put it another way do you want to be judged for the rest of your live by the worst thing you have ever done?

My point is that even if the initial story was correct this overreaction says a lot about what we have become. Do we really think that we should not forgive them? Criminals who break into our homes can get forgiven, but not 16 year old kids. Assault them? Dox them? Did people actually listen to what they are saying, or read what they are writing, when they decided to dehumanize these boys? Or did it just feel good to have a villain that we can treat like dirt?

[L]et us not let the elephant in the room go unnoticed. The boys made for convenient villains because they were wearing MAGA hats. They also white males who are likely heterosexual and Catholic. For certain groups in our society individuals with such characteristics should not have a place in our public square. Therefore, we are allowed to dehumanize individuals with these characteristics. There is a narrative whereby we should not be concern with “white tears.” After all even if whites are mistreated, it is nothing compared to how they have mistreated, and continue to mistreat, other right? This argument gives some people license to ignore any complaints from white Christian males.

4

While the petition now before us is based solely on the Free Speech Clause of the First Amendment, petitioner still has live claims under the Free Exercise Clause of the First Amendment and Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 … Petitioner’s decision to rely primarily on his free speech claims as opposed to these alternative claims may be due to certain decisions of this Court.

In Employment Div., Dept. of Human Resources of Ore. v. Smith, 494 U. S. 872 (1990), the Court drastically cut back on the protection provided by the Free Exercise Clause, and in Trans World Airlines, Inc. v. Hardison, 432 U. S. 63 (1977), the Court opined that Title VII’s prohibition of discrimination on the basis of religion does not require an employer to make any accommodation that imposes more than a de minimis burden. In this case, however, we have not been asked to revisit those decisions.

Statement of Justice Alito, joined by Thomas, Gorsuch and Kavanaugh, respecting the denial of certiorari in Kennedy v. Bremerton School District, 586 U.S. ____ (January 22, 2019). Eugene Volokh thinks this signals willingness of these justices to reconsider Employment Div. v. Smith, and

What’s more, Justice Breyer had earlier (in City of Boerne v. Flores (1997)) made clear that he thought Employment Division v. Smith was indeed wrongly decided and should be overruled.

Reading the two first-quoted paragraphs in context, I emphatically agree with Volokh about what they signal. So there may be a majority ready to restore a more robust free exercise clause, which I’ve supported ever since Employment Div. v. Smith emasculated (can one still say that?) free exercise (or at least lowered its testosterone level dramatically).

Unlike either of the stereotypes Volokh describes regarding who favored broad free exercise right in the past versus now, I have always favored them, with little concern for government efficiency (is that an oxymoron?). But I must admit that the people getting the short end of parsimonious free exercise rights these days are more like me (Christian, traditional on sexual behavior and marriage, etc. — see item 2, above) than free exercise claimants used to be, and that would make broadening particularly congenial.

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Clips and comments, 1/22/19

1

From time immemorial, people have buried the dead. Sometimes, they even risked their lives to carry out this most basic duty. In times of persecution, for example, Christians put themselves in great danger to recover the bodies of martyrs so that they might receive the holy rites of Christian burial.

The Old Testament recounts the story of the elder Tobias, who, while exiled to Nineveh, observed the Hebrew Law by burying the dead against the wishes of King Sennacherib.

The body is sacred and must be treated with all due dignity and respect. It has always been that way. No one needed to explain why the dead must be buried—until our time.

Thus primed for a Catholic author, John Horvat II, to call on his church to repent of allowing cremation, I instead got standard-issue tongue-clucking about the Washington legislature, which is prepared to allow insult to reposed humans by a different pagan-tinged means than the cremation the Catholic Church now allows:

[I]t is hard not to be shocked by a bill now before the Washington State Legislature with a good chance of passage. Lawmakers are working toward allowing a new process called “recomposition,” by which human beings would be turned into compost.

Human composting is not just a practical alternative to burial. It is an eco-religious act. Its advocates openly promote it as an expression of social justice and ecological fervor. It fits into a pantheistic worldview where everything is reduced to matter in constant transformation.

The process of human composting consists of putting shrouded unembalmed human remains in a revolving cylinder with wood chips, alfalfa and other organic matter to hasten decomposition. After a month, the body is reduced to a cubic yard of nutrient-dense soil that can be used for planting trees to benefit the Earth.

The comments to this article features some (presumably Catholic) readers arguing over the relative environmental benefits of cremation versus composting (the author at least focused on the right thing), which tells me that the Catholic Church has already been utterly routed in the battle for human dignity after death.

2

When it’s over, I want to say all my life
I was a bride married to amazement.
I was the bridegroom, taking the world into my arms.

When it’s over, I don’t want to wonder
if I have made of my life something particular, and real.

I don’t want to find myself sighing and frightened,
or full of argument.

I don’t want to end up simply having visited this world.

From (the late) Mary Oliver, When Death Comes (H/T Christopher Benson)

3

I began reading John Senior’s The Death of Christian Culture anticipating delight and insight.

Those haven’t been absent, but neither has bitter disappointment:

The only way to bring Christianity to the Bantu or the British, however, is to bring them clothes, chairs, bread, wine, and Latin. Belloc was exactly right in his famous epigram: “Europe is the faith; the faith is Europe“ … The church has grown in a particular way and has always brought its habits with it, so that wherever it has gone it has been a European thing—stretched, adapted, but essentially a European thing.

(Page 19) I do not believe this, and don’t even think that an observant Roman Catholic should believe it. If Senior is not taking Belloc out of context, I’m disappointed in both.

This was first published in 1978, not 150 years ago, when it might have been forgivable for “a man of his times.” They read like the words of a man who mistook mere cantakerous atavism for fidelity.

His great-grandchildren will see Christian African missionaries in Europe (if it’s not too Islamicized in Europe to allow it), and they won’t be bringing tea, crumpets or chairs.

4

Michael Brendan Dougherty, The Coming Test Acts Will Challenge Religious Freedom, predicts that government is turning against orthodox faiths and will “threaten[] employment and restrict[] the political action of those dissenters who c[an] not endorse the established opinions of the state. And the pressure they bring to bear will be a major test of faith for Christians themselves.”

I may be wrong in thinking this fairly remote, but I am right to observe that concentrated corporate power is doing the same thing on its own, without laws to compel them or to impede them.

I’ve said for years that I oppose big corporate power as well as big government power, but at the moment I fear it far more.

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Rediscovering imaginary Mary

It’s Advent, drawing nigh to Christmas, so religion writers turn in desperation for new angles, giving this fan of the old angles an occasional case of the heebie-jeebies.

For instance, there’s something weird and a little creepy about Evangelicals trying to turn the Theotokos into some kind of Che Guevara figure when they stumble onto the continuation of the Magnificat after the first lines they’ve known. Here and here are examples. I first encountered both within the last 24 hours.

Fifty years ago, that sort of thing was scorned by Evangelicals as Liberation Theology, so I guess Evangelicals are on roughly their usual time-lag for adopting fads, turning Mary into a revolutionaryvehicle for Jesus,” on a long Uber drive from Heaven to Bethlehem, with some zesty direct action planned (politics is what it’s all about, right?) after she drops off her fare.

Bah! Humbug! Have these people no capacity for mystery?

GABRIEL

When Eve, in love with her own will,
Denied the will of Love and fell,
She turned the flesh Love knew so well
To knowledge of her love until
Both love and knowledge were of sin.
What her negation wounded, may
Your affirmation heal today;
Love’s will requires your own, that in
The flesh whose love you do not know,
Loves knowledge into flesh may grow.

MARY

My flesh in terror and fire
Rejoices that the Word
Who unites the world out of nothing,
As a pledge of His word to love her
Against her will, and to turn
Her desperate longing to love,
Should ask to wear me,
From now until their wedding day,
For an engagement ring.

GABRIEL

Since Adam, being free to choose,
Chose to imagine he was free
To choose his own necessity,
Lost in his freedom, Man pursues
The shadow of his images:
To-day the Unknown seeks the known;
What I am willed to ask, your own
Will has to answer; child, it lies
Within your power of choosing to
Conceive the Child who chooses you.

W.H. Auden, For the Time Being.

Now that is truly radical.

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While we’re on a Christmas theme, let me praise this little benediction snippet, attributed to the Church of Ireland and set to glorious, sappy music by Philip W.J. Stopford:

May Christ, who by His incarnation gathered into one all things earthly, all things heavenly, … fill you with joy and peace.

We Tenors get to sing that, and it usually kind of chokes me up.

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Clippings 12/20/18.

1

I don’t share the anxiety many conservatives have about Islam in America (Islam in Europe is a different matter, for particularly European reasons). For better or for worse, post-Christian America is going to turn Islam into Moralistic Therapeutic Deism too.

Rod Dreher, stating as expectation what I somewhat suspected. Read the linked blog and you’ll see why.

2

Viktor Orban is not making it easy to believe that a civilized but illiberal democracy is coming to Hungary:

More than 400 private news outlets have been brought under the control of a holding company run by close allies of Mr. Orbán, including his personal lawyer and a lawmaker from his party, Fidesz. While proponents defend the move as promoting “balance” in Hungarian media, critics say it amounts to a thinly veiled return to a communist-style centralized state-media system. Adding credibility to the objections, Mr. Orbán issued a decree exempting the holding company from scrutiny by the agency charged with protecting competition against excessive concentration. Meanwhile, one of the two remaining major opposition newspapers shut down after the government ceased advertising in it.

Mr. Orbán has also appointed Maria Schmidt … as head of a new Holocaust museum designed to depict Hungary’s role in a more favorable light than does the existing museum, which acknowledges the Hungarian state’s collaboration in deporting more than 400,000 Hungarian Jews to Auschwitz.

Ms. Schmidt has … said the extermination of the Jews represented a marginal point of view not among the Nazis’ principal war aims. When the Hungarian Jewish community criticized her, she responded that “some groups would like to consider their ancestors’ tragic fate an inheritable and advantageous privilege.” In so doing, she declared menacingly, “they exclude themselves from our national community.”

William A. Galston.

3

It was an enormous heroic undertaking that if I told you the whole story, you’d be breathless with admiration, so I will just say this: my wife and I — mostly my wife but I was there, too — have moved from a three-story house in St. Paul to a two-bedroom apartment in Minneapolis. We did it, shed ourselves of truckloads of material goods, and now enjoy the gift to be simple and the gift to be free. Period. End of story.

We did it because it dawned on us that we were two people living in a few corners of a house for ten and that if we didn’t move, the county would send social workers who specialize in dementia issues.

But the beauty of the move is psychological, how it puts dead history behind you and opens up vistas shining and new. This is the American solution to just about any problem: get out of town. I worked in St. Paul for forty years and got sandbagged a year ago and felt bad about it and now I’m in Minneapolis and am over it. So there.

Glad to hear that Gary. Of all the #MeToo tales, yours seemed the most improbable.

Cos? His was bitterly disappointing, but somehow not improbable.

4

There is almost nothing that our mainstream media will not celebrate if it is labeled pro-LGBT.

This and its followup story are very disturbing: An eleven-year-old transvestite boy dancing provocatively in gay bars for bills handed up from the audience, enabled by his parents (bad) and valorized by ABC’s Good Morning America (horrifying).

As one comment to the source blog said, “Where’s Fred Phelps when you need him?”

5

The precedent of Clinton’s acquittal is Trump’s greatest shield. The hard political lessons Republicans learned along the way — especially during the 1998 midterm elections, which saw the Democrats pick up five House seats after a year of GOP attacks on Clinton (no change occurred in the Senate) — should also caution the Democrats.

But it won’t. The difference now is the militarized industrial news complex that simply must be fed. It will gorge itself on impeachment. Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.), the incoming chairman of the Judiciary Committee, will be the new Peter Rodino for those old enough to recall the Nixon impeachment drama. Rudolph W. Giuliani will be reprising the role played by James Carville in the Clinton impeachment drama, going after critics and prosecutors of Trump the way the Ragin’ Cajun went after independent counsel Kenneth W. Starr and team.

It will be a ratings bonanza. Who likes ratings bonanzas? Who can command the media — or any particular outlet — and appear on 10 minutes notice? Who, in short, might learn to love “the process”? Trump, of course. It isn’t a normal presidency seeking normal historical achievements. He already has some of those in his massive tax cut, his two justices on the Supreme Court, a much-needed military rebuild and a new realism regarding China. This president can look at his markers already down on the table and actually come to relish the battle.

Don’t be surprised. Be prepared.

Hugh Hewitt, who may be, like Brer’ Rabbit in the Joel Chandler Harris stories, using some reverse psychology.

I’m nevertheless inclined to think that impeachment might backfire on the Democrats and that removal by the Senate would be very bad for the country, one-third or more of which would say “See: If you try to drain the swamp, they’ll crucify you.”

Heck, we might even see a new religion, with Trump as its deity. Would even that break the (somewhat oversold) Evangelical thralldom?

6

“I’m not saying it should be a hotel or a party,” former inmate Cecil Fluker told the county council, “but damn, can we come out alive?”

Michael Gerson on the Cleveland penal system, a mere microcosm of our problems.

7

Walk over to your bookshelf and pull off books by three of your favorite Christian writers—old or young. If the person is a pastor, the author’s biography will mention his church’s name. Of course. But if he or she isn’t, there is a 99 percent chance it won’t. It’s just him. Or her. They are a free-floating, self-defining Christian.

Have you ever thought about where James Dobson goes to church? Or J. I. Packer?

It’s the same thing with your favorite Christian artists. Did you ever wonder where Amy Grant attends? Or Lecrae?

I’m not blaming these individuals. I’m just saying that evangelicalism teaches us to think of them as…I don’t know…voices. Celebrities. Hovering-in-the-air personalities. Something. But as local church members? It’s an institutionally clunky and strange thought.

So it is with us non-celebrities. We identify ourselves as “evangelical” before we do “member of Cheverly Baptist Church” or “Covenant Presbyterian.” That church may have shared the gospel with us, nurtured us into the faith, publicly affirmed our profession of faith, fed and strengthened us into maturity, and corrected us when we veered off course, but we still view ourselves independently from it, like the child who goes to college and forgets all about his or her family.

My friend Sam Emadi has noticed that Christians book stores typically separate the “Christian life” section from the “church” section. “Why aren’t those one section?” he asks. Good question.

Jonathan Leeman. I had kind of thought that this sort of “free-floating, self-defining Christian” celebrity was a distinctive of “women’s ministries,” but maybe not.

8

Alan Dershowitz Is Lying To You, says Popehat.

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Potpourri, 12/17/18

1

Here’s the racket that you should have gone into. You’re selling something, a college diploma, that’s deemed a necessity. And you have total pricing power. Better than that: When you raise your prices, you not only don’t lose customers, you may actually attract new ones.

For lack of objective measures, people associate the sticker price with quality: If school A costs more than B, I guess it’s a better school. A third-party payer, the government, funds it all, so that the customer—that is, the student and the family—feels insulated against the cost. A perfect formula for complacency.

The acquisition of Kaplan was, as he puts it, a “matter of kismet.” Mr. Daniels was determined to enhance Purdue’s online educational offerings but frustrated by his inability to do so. “Every year, between Christmas and New Year’s Day, I write a little self-evaluation and give it to the board,” he says. “Three years in a row, the worst grade I gave myself was for online education.” Purdue faced a make-or-buy decision: “Should we invest and build an online presence internally, or should we try to acquire it?”

In early 2017, a common friend connected Mr. Daniels to Donald Graham, chairman of the Graham Holdings Co. , which had sold the Washington Post to Jeff Bezos in 2013 and still owned Kaplan University. “Don called me,” Mr. Daniels recalls, “and he said to me, ‘This will probably be the shortest call of your day, but I don’t suppose, by any chance, you want to buy Kaplan.’ ” Fifteen minutes later, “we had a deal.”

“The most innovative university president in America,” Mitch Daniels in the Wall Street Journal’s Weekend Interview, 12/15/18, College Bloat Meets “The Blade”.

I’m near the epicenter of Daniels’ doings, just across the Wabash, and it is stimulating.

2

A rather harsh assessment:

I’ve only been around Phil Anschutz a few times. My impressions on those occasions was that he was a run-of-the-mill arrogant billionaire. He was used to people courting him and he addressed them condescendingly from the lofty height of his own wealth.

I’ve never met Ryan McKibben, who runs part of Anschutz’s media group. But stories about him have circulated around Washington over the years. The stories suggest that he is an ordinary corporate bureaucrat — with all the petty vanities and the lack of interest in ideas that go with the type.

This week, Anschutz and McKibbin murdered The Weekly Standard, the conservative opinion magazine that Anschutz owned. They didn’t merely close it because it was losing money. They seemed to have murdered it out of greed and vengeance.

John Podhoretz, one of the magazine’s founders, reports that they actively prevented potential buyers from coming in to take it over and keep it alive. They apparently wanted to hurt the employees and harvest the subscription list so they could make money off it. And Anschutz, being a professing Christian, decided to close the magazine at the height of the Christmas season, and so cause maximum pain to his former employees and their families.

David Brooks. If Brooks is right, I hope it stings Anschutz quite bitterly.

3

Don’t take our freedom of speech for granted.

“Australia is the only Western democracy without an explicit constitutional protection for freedom of speech,” Matt Collins, a defamation lawyer and the president of the Victorian Bar, told me. “People say that Sydney is the libel capital of the world,” he added.

The upshot: Not only is it easier for a plaintiff to win a defamation suit in Australia, but people are far less likely to blow the whistle on misconduct, knowing what the legal (and therefore financial) consequences might be.

“The use of defamation cases against women with sexual harassment complaints is having a huge chilling effect,” said Kate Jenkins, the Australian government’s sex discrimination commissioner. “Women I speak to all over the country are absolutely adamant that they cannot complain because it risks absolutely everything for them.”

An Australian filmmaker named Sophie Mathisen put it more bluntly: “The question in our current context is not, Do you want to come forward and speak on behalf of other women? The question is, Do you want to come forward and set yourself on fire publicly?”

Bari Weiss.

4

Megan McArdle, investigating a scientific taboo on research on intelligence, hits a wall and finds herself vilified for even asking questions. Along the way, she makes an interesting case that there are good reasons for the taboo:

There’s a history, I said, of scientists finding whatever they expect, from scientists insisting that humans had 48 chromosomes, even as their experiments kept showing 46, to the eugenics that fueled the Holocaust. One of Jussim’s own papers shows that left-leaning social psychologists have long been inadvertently biasing their research toward answers the left finds congenial.

Given flawed scientists and imperfect scientific methods, and given the fraught history of Western racism, isn’t the likelihood of getting it wrong just too high? And the potential cost of those particular errors simply too catastrophic to risk? All societies place some questions out of bounds because they’re too toxic; we don’t debate whether child molestation or spousal murder is acceptable.

Without hesitation, Jussim agreed. Carl wasn’t endorsing a link between race and IQ, Jussim pointed out, just starting a discussion about whether we should study it. “If we had that discussion,” he said, “I would personally advocate for a moratorium for all the reasons you just described.”

How the social science community built the wall she hit is an interesting story, too. It’s an example of ad hominem and guilt by association replacing refutation.

5

There’s an interesting Catholic/Orthodox dialogue going on, again between theologians. And some of them have agreed that basically they agree on so many things. They’re really the same. Leave out the political aspect of this, but even from the point of view of the average believer, if you spend ten minutes at the Divine Liturgy in an Orthodox church and ten minutes in a Roman Catholic mass, you understand these are totally different pieties. And whatever the theologians have decided is the same, the little old babushka who kisses the icon knows that what she does is different from the Catholics down the road. So I think in answer to your question, the denominational divisions basically define theology, and for most lay people, the theological distinctions are not terribly real.

Peter Berger H/T Rod Dreher, who elaborates a bit on the point, as do his readers.

6

I am pleased to report that my Advent/Christmas choral singing is complete, after four extra rehearsals and three concerts in two weeks with Lafayette Master Chorale and Lafayette Chamber Singers (on top of ordinary Church services). My 70-year-old vocal chords are ready for a rest.

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

Potpourri, 12/14/18

1

Fr. Patrick Henry Reardon in a podcast recounted a professor at an Anglican divinity school complaining that much commentary on Pauline epistles focus disproportionately on the first halves, what God has done for us, to the neglect of the second halves, what we should now do.

2

Christian struggle against evil in this world is not, in its first instance, political or social, but ascetical.

Fr. Patrick Henry Reardon, Christ in the Psalms, commenting on Psalm 57 (Septuagint numbering)

3

Women’s magazines and news outlets depict women who vote Republican as deviants. Vogue headlined a postelection commentary “Why Do White Women Keep Voting for the GOP and Against Their Own Interests?” The Guardian asked: “Half of White Women Continue to Vote Republican. What’s Wrong with Them?” The latter article asserted that “white women vote for Republicans for the same reason that white men do: because they are racist.” Barbra Streisand claimed “a lot of women vote the way their husbands vote; they don’t believe enough in their own thoughts.” Hillary Clinton, Michelle Obama and Madeleine Albright have all expressed similar sentiments in public.

Far-left activists next month march on Washington again under the banner “the Women’s March.” The media will present them as simply “women”—as if women with other views don’t exist.

Carrie Lukas

4

Peggy Noonan reports (among other things) some polling data that prove the worthlessness of some polls (such as “Four in 10 expect Mueller will find evidence of crimes, while just over half of those polled do not think they will be impeachable offenses.”), then settles in to her real point:

Politics is part theater, part showbiz, it’s always been emotional, but we’ve gotten too emotional, both parties. It’s too much about feelings and how moved you are. The balance is off. We have been electing magic ponies in our presidential contests, and we have done this while slighting qualities like experience, hard and concrete political accomplishment, even personal maturity. Barack Obama, whatever else he was, was a magic pony. Donald Trump too. Beto O’Rourke, who is so electrifying Democrats, also appears to be a magic pony.

Messrs. Obama and Trump represented a mood. They didn’t ask for or elicit rigorous judgment, they excited voters. Mr. Trump’s election was driven by a feeling of indignation and pushback: You elites treat me like a nobody in my own country, I’m about to show you who’s boss. His supporters didn’t consider it disqualifying that he’d never held office. They saw it as proof he wasn’t in the club and could turn things around. His ignorance was taken as authenticity. In this he was like Sarah Palin, another magic pony.

But sober judgment, serious accomplishment, deep knowledge and personal maturity are most important in our political leaders, because of the complexity of the problems we face. History will be confounded that at such a crucial time, trying to come up with a plan to address such issues as artificial intelligence and robotics and the future of work and a rising China and the stresses of the nuclear world, we kept choosing magic ponies and hoping for the best.

5

“There are some people in our party here who are just plain anti-Muslim,” said Tarrant County [TX] GOP chairman Darl Easton, who appointed Dr. Shafi to his post. “There are more than I expected there to be.”

Muslim GOP Leader Targeted by Party Activists in Texas.

That leader is a Pakistani immigrant surgeon, who came here before 1990. The kerfuffle reminds me of 1960, when JFK had to promise some Texans (history rhymes) that he was, in effect, American first, Roman Catholic second.

Even if Roman Catholicism or Islam entail some political positions at odds with American political and constitutional traditions, which I do not concede, it is part of America’s dubious genius so to “assimiliate” people that such entailments drop away.

Dare I suggest that Texas should worry more about its home-grown Independent Fundamental Baptists than about 53-year-old Muslim immigrant surgeons? Those IFBs seem to think that 14-year-old girls are temptresses agains whose wiles its male pastors are powerless. Sounds un-American to me.

But in the category of “probably not fake news,” the Wall Street Journal reports that pro-Kremlin activists want to bring back monarchy, perhaps with Vladimir Putin as Czar. I say it’s probably not fake because, heck, I know some American Orthodox converts who gratuitously hanker for a Czar/Tsar in Russia again.

Maybe Orthodox Christians shouldn’t be trusted to hold office in America? (It might be a blessing.)

6

A confused mother writes to The New York Times‘s advice column:

I’m the mother of an amazing teenage daughter. Our relationship is close, but recently things have gotten complicated. She came out to us as pansexual when she was 11. I was concerned about her labeling herself at such a young age and being bullied.

Came out as pansexual at age 11. Hoo boy. I’d bet cash money that this mother is not remotely worried about bullying; she was rightly worried that her daughter was weirdly and inappropriately sexualizing herself at a young age. But she can’t say that in her culture, because we are crazy people.

Rod Dreher. I’d take that bet for a modest amount, Rod, because we may be a crazier people than you recognize. Remember the little girls’ beauty pageants, with the girls all tarted up by their moms? The sexualization is just a public school thing.

Don’t miss Reader Zapollo in Dreher’s UPDATE.

7

Every once and a while, Caitlin Johnstone comes up with something that’s not expressly political. I like this poem. I can’t help it.

8

From the Department of Denial Is Not A River In Egypt:

As for men and women with homosexual tendencies who have already made religious vows, Francis ordered them not to act upon their desires in any way: “It is better that they leave the priesthood or the consecrated life rather than live a double life.”

… [S]ome 80 percent of the victims of priestly sexual malfeasance have been male. And more than 95 percent of those boys haven’t been prepubescent children (whose predators have their own pathology) but adolescents past puberty and sexually mature in body if not in mind. In other words, the bulk of the entire unsavory enterprise concerned run-of-the-mill homosexual activity conducted under the cover of priestly reputation for holiness and a strikingly lopsided adult-teen power dynamic.

Charlotte Allen.

9

Saved for last, a news Dump-On-Trump.


Scott Alexander at Slate Star Codex musters evidence that Donald Trump hasn’t even been good at promoting Trumpism, which, if true, would have to rank among the most abject of failures.


[T]his president leav[es] his constituency high and dry through political incompetence, behavioral incontinence, an inability to maintain a focus on anything, and an incapacity to think or act coherently.

Robert Merry, American Conservative. This is not an earth-shattering reversal, as the American Conservative has tended to the #NeverTrump side, but I thought it well-expressed.


I find Barr to be awful, but in a conventional way. So — Whitaker, the acting AG, I find to be awful in a norm-violating, Trump-administration type of way.

Ken White (a/k/a Popehat) in the All The Presidents Lawyers podcast of 12/10/18.


Many Never-Trumper Christians have acknowledged solid Federal Court nominees and a cooling of government hostility toward orthodox Christians (perhaps a better record on religious freedom overall, even, despite the rhetoric unmistakably targeting Muslim immigrants). Other Christians support Trump, period, full stop.

George Yancey has an instructive analogy for the supporters, in which analogy the Never-Trumpers will recognize their own concerns.

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