Can’t get away from it

I wasn’t going to pass this along, but after the arrest of the bombing suspect in Florida, I heard our President bloviating, and the feelings came rushing back.

The most fundamental moral principle in the universe may well be: “You break it, you buy it.” But a close second is: You can’t call women cruel and misogynist names, defame ethnic groups, discriminate based on religion, accuse opponents of being “un-American” and “treasonous,” excuse and encourage violence by your supporters, threaten political rivals with prison, tear migrant children from the arms of parents and then credibly call for national “unity” when it is politically useful.

This is the horrible reality of our political moment. The president of the United States says something entirely presidential — “We want all sides to come together in peace and harmony” — and it did nothing more than add another layer to his lies. More specifically, President Trump wants Americans to join him in a fake reality — to prove their loyalty by taking outlandish hypocrisy at face value. It is like the sophomoric entrance ritual to some secret society. Eat this cow eye and pig intestine, and we will be bound forever by our willingness to do asinine things on command. Trump’s call for national unity is the functional equivalent of an offal banquet.

It would be different if Trump had accompanied his words of reconciliation with any sense of remorse. But this is a difficult thing for a narcissist to fake (though some have that talent). I come from a religious tradition where anything can be forgiven — but only if repentance involves demonstrated sincerity. Trump could not maintain his ruse of reconciliation for 15 seconds. He used his call for unity to blame the news media for hostility and negativity. This is like a leper blaming the mirror for his sores.

Michael Gerson (emphasis added).

Everybody, I think, knows this is true, but what do I know? I do not understand many of my countrymen any more. Maybe some of them really believe that the extreme snarkiness toward Trump of the New York Times, Washington Post and (slightly less) National Public Radio spontaneously combusted, and that I shouldn’t believe my lyin’ eyes telling me the Trump tossed matches almost every day.

* * * * *

Pandering after relevance is a sure way to destroy the integrity of the church. (Attributed to Eugene Peterson by Mark Galli)

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.

Populism and corruption

Last week I couldn’t shake Andrew Sullivan’s introduction: “We always knew this would happen — that the rule of law and Trump would at some point be unable to coexist.”

This week, I can’t shake Alan Jacobs:

Norms are created by institutions, and we live in an age of weak and despised institutions. This is how populist leaders arise: when a great many people believe that institutions exist merely to serve themselves, they come to despise not just those institutions but also the norms associated with them, and applaud leaders who scorn and seek to tear down the whole edifice. And if those leaders make their disdain known in sufficiently charismatic ways, few will notice when they are guilty of the very sins they decry. Moreover, when people see the sheer size of the institutions at which they’re so angry, they despair of any real change happening, and are content with listening to leaders who channel their own frustration.

General contempt for our institutions, government and church alike, makes them too weak to enforce their norms, which first enables corruption — the kind of corruption American Catholic bishops and members of the Congress of the United States are guilty of — and then produces populist figures who appear to want to undo that corruption. But the institutions are too weak to control the leaders either, so those leaders are empowered to do more or less whatever they want to do. This is the case with Trump, who will surely last at least until the 2020 election, and also, I think, with Francis, who will probably last until he dies or chooses like his predecessor to resign.

Moreover, since neither Trump nor Francis is interested in doing the work needed to repair their corrupt institutions — they don’t even have any incentive to do so: the ongoing presence of “swamps” is what lends them such legitimacy as they possessall the products and enablers of corruption are safe. This is why the American bishops who spent decades enabling and hiding sexual abuse are probably feeling pretty good about their prospects right now.

(Bold added, italics in original) I have read so many Catholics in this dreadful hour asking “Lord, where shall we go?” — specifically about the longing for a valid Eucharist, ex opere operato — that I sense another facet of why Francis has little incentive for repairing what’s broken.

Jacobs’ P.S. is an interesting speculation, too.

We’re conditioned to think of populist autocrats as reactionary conservatives, aren’t we? But remember that Trump was widely (and accurately in my opinion) excoriated as “no conservative” or things along those lines, and Pope Francis has been hailed as a “breath of fresh air” and such, suggesting a reformer of a stale and conservative institution.

I once read (sadly, I think around and of the Roman Church’s “long lent” the last time sexual abuse was in the spotlight) that sociology defines “corruption” along the lines of “lacking resources for self-correction.” It takes someone or something from outside to fix things.

Peter Beinart thinks he discerns a different, semi-fascist meaning of “corruption” at work among the President’s supporters, citing Yale philosophy professor Jason Stanley:

Corruption, to the fascist politician … is really about the corruption of purity rather than of the law. Officially, the fascist politician’s denunciations of corruption sound like a denunciation of political corruption. But such talk is intended to evoke corruption in the sense of the usurpation of the traditional order.

According to that school of “corruption,” I guess Trump is supposed to be America’s restorer of the traditional order, Pope Francis the Vatican’s bringer of a new, better order. The two construals of “corrupt” converge.

That, I guess, brings us back to Alan Jacobs sense that neither is going anywhere.

(This all feels a little bit half-baked and inelegantly written even to me, but it’s the best I can do on a notion (insight?) that came to me and has already exceeded any reasonable time budget for writing it down.)

* * * * *

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

Greg Coles.

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.

Monday Potpourri, 8/27/18

1

I tend to think of the encyclical Humanae Vitae (which I’ve never finished reading) as all about the evils of artificial contraception. That’s a blind spot.

Carl Trueman points to its prediction of the moral and social chaos sexual revolution would leave in its wake, and to contemporaneous commentary by Dietrich von Hildebrand that entails “a moving account of human love and a critique of a society that reduces love to sex and sentiment.”

In this volume, von Hildebrand clearly draws upon earlier arguments from his 1927 book In Defense of Purity: Love is ecstatic and joyful, transcending rational analysis. Von Hildebrand’s key text is Song of Songs, the biblical poem that captures the mystery, power, longing, and exuberance of erotic love. Much conservative Protestant writing on marriage typically neglects the Song for a prosaic, patriarchal focus on male authority and female submission. Those tempted by such a drab view of love ought to read von Hildebrand, for whom passion, mystery, and ecstasy all play their biblical parts.

Still, the part of Humanae Vitae that leaves me leery is the insistence that every marital act instantiate both the unitive and procreative purposes of sex. I’m willing to admit mistakes in how I’ve lived my life (my blogs are not my confessional, but I’ll not deny here what I confess there), but I’m not conscience-wracked — even now, when I know so much more about the Christian tradition on contraception than I knew then — that my wife and I tooks steps to prevent pregnancy during our first year of marriage so she could complete her college degree.

Granted, the same contraceptive technologies, by Supreme Court decisions of half a century or so ago, must be available to fornicators and adulterers as well as married couples, but to put it in reductionist terms that the encyclical presumably avoids, is delaying or spacing pregnancy in marriage a slippery slope to all the evils of the sexual revolution?

Apart from the possibility that I’ve thought more about that than most people, my response lacks any authority, but here goes: that’s not my lived experience.

2

Alan Jacobs, who doesn’t write all that much about matters political, musing on two heads of state, the U.S. and the Vatican:

Norms are created by institutions, and we live in an age of weak and despised institutions. This is how populist leaders arise: when a great many people believe that institutions exist merely to serve themselves, they come to despise not just those institutions but also the norms associated with them, and applaud leaders who scorn and seek to tear down the whole edifice. And if those leaders make their disdain known in sufficiently charismatic ways, few will notice when they are guilty of the very sins they decry.

He’s not expecting either The Donald or Pope Francis to be “forced out” or to change course.

So why do we get the vapors so badly when news breaks?

The big social-media companies function as what I have called the Ministry of Amnesia, and the result is that we lack temporal bandwidth. Unless we work hard to cultivate that temporal bandwidth, we won’t have the “personal density” to resist the amnesia-producing forces that make us think that whatever happens today is more important than anything that has ever happened.

Increasingly, I think, the people who rule our society understand how all this works, and no one understands it better than Donald Trump …

[T]he greatest of social changes tend to happen, as Edward Gibbon put it, insensibly. Even when they seem sudden, it is almost always case that the suddenness is merely a very long gradual transformation finally bearing fruit. There’s a famous moment in Hemingway’s The Sun Also Rises when one character asks another how he went bankrupt. “Two ways,” the man replies. “Gradually and then suddenly.” But the “suddenly” happened because he was previously insensible to the “gradually.” Likewise, events are always appearing to us with extreme suddenness — but only because we are so amnesiac that we have failed to discern the long slow gradual forces that made this moment inevitable.

Alan Jacobs again, elsewhere. Do read it all. There’s a payoff.

3

Jeffrey Bilbro, Learning to Distinguish between Demonic and Redemptive Technologies, at Front Porch Republic responds to a Christianity Today essay that tends to reduces Agribiz to “genetic seed modification and GPS-guided harvesters,” ignoring assaults with on crops and earthy by chemical fertilizers and pesticides.

Bilbro’s most important contribution, it seems to me, is a not-too-vicious debunking of what the CT author seems to think is the only alternative to Agribiz in the manner Monsanto pursues, and some allusive hints we may just be cruising gradually toward sudden calamity.

* * * * *

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

Greg Coles.

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.

One year

On the first anniversary of Donald Trump’s inauguration, the Washington Post opinion page featured Mollie Ziegler Hemingway, half of a journalism power couple, announcing that, and why, she now supports him.

That was interesting enough in its own right, but at the bottom of the story, some further links appeared:

  1. The 10 best things Trump has done in his first year in office
  2. The 10 worst things Trump has done in his first year in office
  3. Erik Wemple: New York Times crowdsources the case for Trump, embarrasses pundit class

That last one links to here and makes a telling observation about why ordinary people and Never Trumpers can articulate what good Trump may have done more effectively than his closest confidants can:

Such individuals have an advantage over the professional class of Trump supporters, in that anyone in Trump’s orbit knows better than to cede any ground, to admit any fault, in defense of Trump. Should they do so, they’ll lose critical Trump-sycophancy points.

Then he gives an example of how the sycophants come off as dissembling geldings.

Yesterday, I called Trump a train wreck of a human being, and I stand by that. What profiteth it a man if he gain the world but lose his soul? I would not trade places with him. Not for $3 billion (if that’s a real assessment of his wealth); not for Melania, Stormy Daniels or all the other women; not for the Presidency of the United States.

(Yes, I know: “Judge not lest ye be judged.” But II Thessalonians 3:13-15 and Ezekiel 33:8 too.)

But his failure at the most important thing doesn’t mean he’s failed at everything. Read and judge for yourself.

UPDATES:

I wonder if Pastor Robert Jeffress, who described himself to The Atlantic on 10/28/17 as the president’s “most vocal and visible evangelical spokesman,” would still stand by this remark he made in that same interview:

“I do think President Trump is a positive role model for children.  Specifically, I would be happy for my children (and now, my coming grandchildren) to emulate his work ethic, leadership skills, and patriotism.”

(Rod Dreher) It is hard for me to imagine that the man who considered Trump a positive role model is practicing the same religion I try to practice.

Second change was adding the Ezekiel citation, above — which I wasn’t going to mention by itself.

* * * * *

“While saints are engaged in introspection, burly sinners run the world.” (John Dewey) Be a saint anyway.

Some succinct standing advice on recurring themes.

Where I glean stuff.

Blessing or Curse?

I almost didn’t click the New York Times Opinion headline “Is Trump a Blessing or Curse for Religious Conservatives?” But since it was by “OpEd Contributors” rather than the Editorial Board (from which I would have expected disingenuous concern trolling had they adopted such a headline), I clicked, and found Ross Douthat, a Never-Trumper, interviewing Never-Trumper David French (Evangelical/Calvinist) and Trump Supporter John Zmirak (a Crisis Magazine type Catholic). It is outstanding and well worth using one of your free looks at New York Times pieces should you not be a subscriber.

The views of French and Zmirak are starkly opposed to one another, but the disagreement remains polite. Zmirak (whose articles at Crisis were sometimes off-putting when I followed Crisis) skillfully and unexpectedly pushes some of my buttons:

Were Christians scandalized by the spectacle of George W. Bush leaving Iraqi Christians to face jihadi violence? They should have been. It was far worse than anything Trump has done. I must confess that I am deeply embittered by the callousness that George W. Bush displayed toward the lives and liberties of religious minorities in Iraq — when as U.S. commander in chief, he had essentially absolute power over that occupied country. Of about one million Christians, some 900,000 were ethnically cleansed, most of them while our troops still occupied the country. I can put up with Donald Trump’s old Howard Stern tapes all day long, compared with that.

Well, yes, as a matter of fact, I was scandalized. And embittered. That is closely related to why I declared my break with the GOP, and why Ted Cruz turned my stomach and earned my hostility with his calculated provocation of folks at an In Defense of Christians conference.

Zmirak almost had me with the seductive “skeptical prudence” until French weighed back in:

Douthat: So when we see polls showing a wild swing between the 1990s and the present in the share of evangelicals who think character matters in a politician, John, you think evangelicals are actually coming around to a more sensible view than they held in the Clinton era?

Zmirak: Yes. Just as evangelicals are coming around to using Natural Law (philosophical) arguments — rather than biblical proof-texts for their political positions, I think they are moving closer to the skeptical prudence that always marked Catholic, Lutheran and Anglican political thinking. Read what the Family Research Council, or National Organization for Marriage, publish on social issues. They’re not thumping the Bible. They’re citing Cicero and Aristotle.

French: I’m sorry, but the transformation of the evangelical public from the American segment most willing to hold leaders to a high moral standard to the segment now least likely smacks of pure, primitive partisanship, not high theological principle. Evangelicals aren’t coming around to using Natural Law at all. It’s pure instrumentalism. They’ve made an alliance of convenience. They haven’t made some sort of thoughtful intellectual shift.

The interview goes beyond political ramifications and also discusses such things as how Trump relates to the surge of “nones.” There, too, there’s a point-counterpoint that is skillful and make some sorting out and critical analysis necessary to decide.

Here’s my sorting: Zmirak is riding an a wave of kept promises by Trump. I consider that wave welcome, but entirely unexpected.

Before November 8, 2016, I had no reason to expect Trump, a man of extraordinarily base character and a world-class bullshitter, to keep a single promise to Christian supporters. All I felt fairly confident of was that on religious freedom, his fickleness would be preferable to Hillary’s hostility to orthodox Christians who want to live openly as such. But that one issue was not sufficient to outweigh what has proven to be epic narcissism (I knew it was severe narcissism, possibly sociopathy, but events have proven it worse than I feared) that drives him to irrational and counter-productive behavior.

Zmirak has at least one more notable comment:

I have this from pastors who met with Trump for many hours: He genuinely listens to them. They’re the kind of people most playboys from Queens never encounter. He connected with some of them personally. He saw their concern for his soul. And he took and takes their concerns seriously.

Trump sees that the church is a big part of what made America great, and he sees that the state persecution that President Obama began hurts the country. I hope that he sees more, sees Christ as his savior. But in his role as Caesar, protecting our rights is quite enough.

If I had known this from credible sources before the election, it would have impressed me somewhat that narcissist Trump is actually capable of listening for longer than it takes to compose a Tweet. But such was the sycophancy on display from Trump-friendly pastors that it would have been hard to persuade me that such a report was credible.

So in the end, though I’m closer kin to Zmirak religiously than to French, I’m with the latter, for reasons this can serve to summarize:

I belong to the camp of Christians who are grateful when Trump makes good decisions but also quite mindful that our political witness is inseparable from our Christian witness. Thus, we have no option but to condemn his worst impulses and work to counteract his toxic influence on our larger culture. While policy positions are important (though Trump’s real impact is often vastly overblown), a nation is ultimately shaped far more by its culture than its policies, and we can never forsake the greater power for the lesser win.

Where Christians once demanded honesty, they rationalized lies. Where Christians once sought evidence of ideological consistency, they accepted incoherence.

Many of us, however, looked at these accommodations and asked a simple question. Where is your faith? Christians were acting as if not just the nation — but the church itself — was in peril based on the outcome of a single election. Yet is God not sovereign over all the nations, including our own? Doesn’t scripture repeatedly condemn the exact kinds of moral compromises that so many Christians made? Don’t we believe those scriptures?

There is nothing more dangerous to the church than a lack of faith. I don’t at all mind it when Christians cheer the good things that Donald Trump has done. I join them. I do mind when they rationalize and excuse bad acts out of a completely misguided and faithless sense of cultural and political necessity.

(Emphasis added)

It is possible that in 20 years, I’ll say “God in his providence used this most improbable Caesar to good end,” but I don’t think I’ll ever regret my write-in vote, which was based on what I knew then. That God can use evil men, or turn evil to good, never justifies voting for evil men or evil policies.

* * * * *

Some succinct standing advice on recurring themes.

Where I glean stuff.

Shorts

Shorts:

* * * * *

Some succinct standing advice on recurring themes.

 

Pervs, Predators, Rapists

I’m going to wade into the weeds here in a separate blog rather than sully another one.

If you read the original Washington Post story, you know it was rigorously reported, with great care and professionalism. Four women who did not seek out the press, who did not know each other, and who surely guessed going public would bring them nothing but grief, came forward and provided first-person details that established a pattern. Thirty people corroborated details. This is not attack journalism. It is great journalism.

If Roy Moore had a long and demonstrated history of randomly attacking children with a baseball bat, or if the FBI announced it had found in his possession a stash of child porn, Moore supporters would never back him. But that, in a way, figuratively, is what he stands accused of doing. His “porn,” his addiction, was cruising malls for young women, often teenagers. His “attacking children” was moving sexually on those young women and leaving them damaged.

Who were the girls he targeted? Interestingly, this tribune of the common folk and their earnest, believing ways allegedly preyed mostly on the unprotected. He chose young women he could push around …

A thing about predators, from the men of the Catholic Church sex scandals to the man cruising the mall, is that they never prey on the protected. They don’t prey on the daughter of the biggest family in town, the child of the man who owns the factory or the local newspaper. They tend to prey on kids with no father in the home.

Roy Moore targeted the deplorables. They were people with no sway, no pull. Some of them, in the presidential election, voted for Donald Trump.

There are better conservatives in Alabama than Roy Moore. Republican women, rise up and raise hell. That would be real loyalty, and to those who are really your own.

(Peggy Noonan, Alabama Women. Say No to Moore)

* * *

Power without character looks like [several examples omitted] … And it looks like the Christian defense of Moore, which has ceased to be recognizably Christian.

This may be the greatest shame of a shameful time. What institution, of all institutions, should be providing the leaven of principle to political life? What institution is specifically called on to oppose the oppression of children, women and minorities, to engage the world with civility and kindness, to prepare its members for honorable service to the common good?

A hint: It is the institution that is currently — in some visible expressions — overlooking, for political reasons, credible accusations of child molestation. Some religious leaders are willing to call good evil, and evil good, in service to a different faith — a faith defined by their political identity. This is heresy at best; idolatry at worst.

Most Christians, of course, are not actively supporting Moore. But how many Americans would identify evangelical Christianity as a prophetic voice for human dignity and moral character on the political right? Very few. And they would be wrong.

Many of the people who should be supplying the moral values required by self-government have corrupted themselves. The Trump administration will be remembered for many things. The widespread, infectious corruption of institutions and individuals may be its most damning legacy.

(Michael Gerson)

Apart from some vagueness about just who the defendant is, I’m on board with Gerson’s indictment.

Silver lining: this marks the moment that the defendant “evangelical Christianity” [in North America] has irrevocably forfeited the right to kvetch about compromises some Orthodox Clergy in Russia made to preserve the Church through the reign of Communism.

* * *

The religious right’s embrace of Trump … is not some kind of aberration in the transformation of a faith into a worldly and political cause, it is its logical consequence. The Christian right’s support for a sociopathic, cruel, and vulgar pagan was inevitable, in other words, from the moment the Moral Majority was born. If politics is fused with religion, and if your opponents are deemed evil, then almost anything can be justified to defeat them. Sooner or later, you’l find yourself defending the molestation of a minor. Which is why I have long refused to call this political movement Christian, but Christianist. It is not about faith; it is about power.

But evangelical Republicans are not, of course, the only group susceptible to such corruption. Democrats are human as well, as we have so abundantly discovered. Many of them have also made their political struggle into a secular form of religion, and found myriad ways to defend the indefensible because the cause demanded it. I vividly remember Gloria Steinem’s op-ed defending Bill Clinton’s sex abuse at the time (she still refuses to disown it). I remember how many wanted to conflate sexual abuse with private consensual sex. I also recall a bizarre very-Washington lunch in that period when, for some reason, I was seated next to Barbra Streisand (my first and thankfully last encounter with the singer). I mentioned Paula Jones’s lawsuit — which I’d just defended in the pages of The New Republic — just to see what she’d say. Streisand’s lip curled. “Ugh,” she scoffed. “She’s a little kurva.” I later discovered that this means “whore,” “bitch,” or “slut.” And that was by no means an unusual Democratic response of the time.

(Andrew Sullivan, The Danger of Knowing You’re on the ‘Right Side of History’)

Have we at last reached the end of whataboutism?

Sullivan then turns to admiring “Michelle Goldberg’s beginning of a reckoning with the toxic legacy of the Clintons.” Having dropped the New York Times a month or two ago, I have not used any of my free articles on Goldberg’s piece. I’m cynical about people “discovering” the evil of people who have passed from any real power.

I will not judge Goldberg—or Caitlyn Flanagan, or Chelsea Handler, or the rest of the growing throng—guilty of opportunism, though, because life’s too messy for that. Maybe Weinstein, Bill Cosby, Roger Ailes, Bill O’Reilly and especially Roy Moore (who, like Bill Clinton, preyed on low-status women who could be dismissed as “little kurva”) actually opened their eyes.

If so, may their epiphany spread even further, multiply, and bear greater fruit than just a belated condemnation of the country’s most powerful power couple.

* * *

 

Like a spider monkey with a lit stick of dynamite

I didn’t mean to do it, but in short order this morning I had collected three worthy snippets on how Donald Trump manipulates us. (The third is my favorite, sublimely succinct and almost poetic.)

Every president has his own strategy for dealing with periods of acute difficulty. Franklin Delano Roosevelt, John F. Kennedy and Ronald Reagan worked to disarm their opponents with charm, grace and humor. Richard Nixon and Bill Clinton moved to the center. George H.W. Bush and Barack Obama tried to get down to business and to do something significant and concrete.

By contrast, Donald Trump heightens the contradictions. He tries to provoke unrest and discontent, with a clear intuition that they are his best friends. He creates demons and scapegoats. That’s also Stephen Bannon’s approach, and it captures what drew the two men together.

That might be smart politics. But more fundamentally, it appears to be Trump’s gut instinct, his go-to approach when cornered or in trouble. In some cases, his statements look uncomfortably like Russia’s Facebook ads.

While Trump’s characteristic strategy is to intensify social divisions, and to make what divides Americans as salient and visible as possible, that approach is more often associated with the left than the right (true to its Marxist origins).

(Cass R. Sunstein, Russia Is Using Marxist Strategies, and So Is Trump:
Moscow’s meddling in the U.S. election was aimed at stoking social tensions. Sound familiar?
)

In the year since Donald Trump was elected president, the national news media has congratulated itself on a new golden age of accountability journalism.

And it’s true in many ways. The scoops have been relentless, the digging intense, the results important.

But in another crucial way, the reality-based press has failed.

Too often, it has succumbed to the chaos of covering Trump, who lies and blusters and distracts at every turn.

Of course, given the differences among news organizations, generalizing is a fraught exercise. Nonetheless, each news cycle is an exhausting, confusing blast of conflicting claims, fact-checking, reactions and outrage.

Trump drives the news, all day and every day, a human fire hose of hyperbolic tweets, insults, oversimplification and bragging.

And then there’s the huge influence of Fox News, which early last week was discussing hamburger emoji as the rest of the national media was reporting the indictments of Trump associates.

The president has been sowing those seeds of mistrust for many months, and cultivates them daily with extra-strength fertilizer.

Reporters “have so-called sources that, in my opinion, don’t exist,” Trump told Lou Dobbs of Fox Business recently. “They just ― they make it up. It is so dishonest. It is so fake.”

Of course, that’s not true. Reporters for legitimate news organizations do not make things up. Those few reporters who fabricate sources get fired and are driven out of the business.

(Margaret Sullivan, Media Columnist for the Washington Post, in Trump’s message of mistrust is sinking in, even in journalism’s new ‘golden age’)

[T]he president grabs the public’s attention like a spider monkey running through a church with a lit stick of dynamite.

(Jonah Goldberg)

* * * * *

“Liberal education is concerned with the souls of men, and therefore has little or no use for machines … [it] consists in learning to listen to still and small voices and therefore in becoming deaf to loudspeakers.” (Leo Strauss)

There is no epistemological Switzerland. (Via Mars Hill Audio Journal Volume 134)

Some succinct standing advice on recurring themes.

Trigger-warned

“Natural disasters and their man-made counterparts (mass shootings, terrorist attacks) pose an obvious challenge for those living the Me-Driven Life. These events are frustrating, and inconvenient, because they tend to cause those people to think about their own problems: their injuries, the loss of loved ones, their hunger, thirst, discomfort, life-threatening cholera, what have you.

This is a common character flaw, and it is harmful because it distracts them from their more pressing obligation to think about you ….”

(Dana Milbank, A Narcissist’s Guide to Helping Others Understand It Is All About You)

President Trump is the author of many of the most successful business books of all time, from The Art of the Deal to … um … those other ones. And with his presidency spooling out before us like an endless rainbow of winning, there’s much that leaders of any organization, company, or family can learn about how to make their enterprise function like the “fine-tuned machine” that is the Trump administration.

Perhaps someday Trump will sit down to write a book detailing his leadership secrets, offering up another trove of penetrating insight and inspiring prose. Until then, here are some tips we can glean from watching Trump’s unrivaled performance as president.

1. Force your underlings to praise you in public. This will make them feel like honored parts of the team! It’s a technique Trump often employs, whether it’s a Cabinet meeting or a get-together with a group of religious leaders. He’ll call on them one at a time, knowing that they’ll all feel compelled to give him the hosannas he’s looking for …

(Paul Waldman, Leadership tips from Donald J. Trump)

Why? Why can’t just one religious leader, of all people, have the cojones to say “It’s always an honor to be invited to meet with the President of our nation” and leave it at that?

UPDATE:

The thing I got most wrong is that I did not anticipate the sheer chaos and dysfunction and slovenliness of the Trump operation. I didn’t sufficiently anticipate how distracted Trump could be by things that are not essential. My model was that he was greedy first and authoritarian second. What I did not see was that he was needy first, greedy second, and authoritarian third. We’d be in a lot worse shape if he were a more meticulous, serious-minded person.

(David Frum, The Atlantic, October 2017)

* * * * *

“Liberal education is concerned with the souls of men, and therefore has little or no use for machines … [it] consists in learning to listen to still and small voices and therefore in becoming deaf to loudspeakers.” (Leo Strauss)

There is no epistemological Switzerland. (Via Mars Hill Audio Journal Volume 134)

Some succinct standing advice on recurring themes.