Miscellany, 6/19/21

“The ‘Friends’ reunion we just had looked weird, because if you even suggested a show today about six people all of whom were straight and white, the network would laugh you out of the room and then cancel you on Twitter. And yet there is a recurrent theme on the far left that things have never been worse.”

The comedian Kevin Hart had recently told the New York Times, “You’re witnessing white power and white privilege at an all-time high.” Mr. Maher: “This is one of the big problems with wokeness, that what you say doesn’t have to make sense or jibe with the facts, or ever be challenged, lest the challenge itself be conflated with racism.”

He added: “Saying white power and privilege is at an all-time high is just ridiculous. Higher than a century ago, the year of the Tulsa race massacre? Higher than when the KKK rode unchecked and Jim Crow unchallenged?” …

Bill Maher, quoted by Peggy Noonan (Bill Maher Diagnoses Liberal ‘Progressophobia’ – WSJ)


In essence, [Employment Division v.] Smith demoted the Free Exercise Clause of the First Amendment to a glorified nondiscrimination doctrine. Rather than granting Americans an affirmative right to practice their religion absent compelling governmental reasons to restrict that practice, the Free Exercise Clause becomes almost entirely defensive—impotent against government encroachment absent evidence of targeted attack or unequal treatment.

David French, Four Things You Need to Know After a Huge Day at SCOTUS


The Obamacare battle created an unwritten Roberts rule. The fight against Obamacare has never been the GOP’s finest hour. The party hated the law yet couldn’t repeal the law, even when it controlled the presidency, House, and Senate. It hated the law, yet it couldn’t agree on a replacement for the law. There was never a realistic plan. It’s over, and Obama won.

But I’d also add that the Obamacare trilogy has not represented the Supreme Court’s finest hour …

[I]f you step back and look at the entire trilogy, the contortions … tell me that something was going on, that an unwritten rule might be in play. Remember that Justice Roberts always has one eye on the institutional credibility of the Supreme Court. Overturning an immense piece of social legislation passed by a filibuster-proof legislative majority would create a cultural and political convulsion. Roberts doesn’t want a convulsive court.

So what’s Roberts’s unwritten rule? Perhaps it’s something like this: When the elected branches of government enact truly significant social reforms, opponents should focus on winning elections more than winning cases. Any other approach degrades the cultural and political capital of the court.

David French, Four Things You Need to Know After a Huge Day at SCOTUS


Antifa did it. And it was totally peaceful. And we were expressing our righteous and justified indignation at the Democratic vote steal. And Portland was worse. And the FBI entrapped us.

David Frum, H/T Andrew Sullivan


Discretion to grant exceptions makes a law less than generally applicable, even if no exception has ever been granted, because discretion creates the potential for discrimination. Some lower courts have said that, but this is the first time in the Supreme Court. The Court has long invalidated standardless discretion in free speech cases, and the same rule should apply to free exercise, but they had never said that before.

There is no compelling interest in protecting same-sex couples here, because they are fully served in Philadelphia. And the liberals joined that. This passage clearly implies that the fact that gays are angry and offended by the continued existence of CSS does not give rise to a compelling interest. Here too, they had repeatedly so held in free speech cases, and the same rule should apply to free exercise, but whether it does has been disputed.

Douglas Laycock, via National Review, on Fulton v. City of Philadelphia (emphasis added).


In recognizing the Church’s role in providing moral leadership, we acknowledge and accept the tension that comes with being in disagreement with the Church in some areas. We recognize that no political party is perfectly in accord with all aspects of Church doctrine. This fact speaks to the secular nature of American democracy, not the devotion of our democratically elected leaders. Yet we believe we can speak to the fundamental issues that unite us as Catholics and lend our voices to changing the political debate – a debate that often fails to reflect and encompass the depth and complexity of these issues.

We believe the separation of church and state allows for our faith to inform our public duties and best serve our constituents.

Excerpt from Statement of Principles by nearly 60 Catholic Democrats in the U.S. House of Representatives. The occasion of the statement was the reported progress of the U.S. Bishops’ Conference toward denying communion to politicians who support legal abortion, with our current President serving as Exhibit A.

But I can’t find anything objectionable in this excerpt — and I note that the same sort of logic about "the depth and complexity of issues" gives Catholic neocons clear consciences about opposing the Church on capital punishment and economic policy that seems contrary to Catholic Social Teaching.

(By the way: one signer was Congressman Frank Mrvan, who in the Indiana legislature was foremost among pro-life Democrats.)


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John Paul Stevens

I write a second time to note the death of Justice John Paul Stevens. I withdrew the first, this morning, because, almost as soon as I published it, details came back to me that I thought I had forgotten.

My first stab at it.

As noted by Prof. Friedman and five scholars whose work he links at Religion Clause, Justice Stevens was a big fan of our fabled church-state separation, so he caught my motivated attention.

What I can add as a particular sort Christian believer is that Stevens’ reasoning in his opinions did not seem remotely to apprehend what it means to be integrally religious — religious in a way that become part of one’s very identity. His lamentable judicial characterizations of religion frequently struck me as tone-deaf and micro-aggressive. It was as if religion were a hobby like bridge or golf, but markedly less intelligent and quite unworthy of the Right People.

What later came to me was a more detailed account of wherein his view of religion went awry.

Justice Stevens seemed to view religion more or less as LARPing: religious people are in a role-playing game in which a putative (if not punitive) god, our gamemaster, has set the rules, some of which are quite arbitrary. They are, however, The Rules, and some people really, really get into the game, and think that they will suffer terribly through eternity if they break those rules (Don’t ask too many questions. Just believe.). For some reason, probably related to how deadly serious some people are about it, our Founders privileged religious LARPing in the First Amendment.

Integral Christianity (I can’t speak for any other religion, and can speak only second-hand of LARP Christianity), in contrast, thinks that the “one God … almighty, creator of … all things visible and invisible,” has created and invited us into a reality, parts of which we cannot see or conclusively prove. Our loving God has not laid down arbitrary rules for slavish observance, but relates to us lovingly in ways variously analogized to marriage, adoption — even “partaking of the divine nature.”

Integrally Christian people, in short, think they are the true “reality-based community.” They realize that not everybody can perceive the reality. They realize that some (like me) have had no visions or ecstasies or direct revelations and are operating, more or less, on faith — having seen just enough to make faith itself reasonable.

In Justice Stephens’ defense, there’s a depressingly large proportion of LARPers among self-identified religious people. I’ve fulminated about it before, under the rubric of Nominalism versus Realism, and Realism is foundational to Natural Law thought as well.

I don’t think I had acquired even a rudimentary vocabulary of Nominalism versus Realism when Justice Stevens was alive and writing, but I knew that how he described religiosity rang false to how I lived it. He’s entitled to his own opinion, but he’s not entitled to his own facts.

I have never, as best I can recall, read or heard anyone else remark on the oddity of Justice Stevens’ characterizations of what it means to be religious, on the Nominalism he assumed, over against Realism. I never even heard, as best I can recall, anyone else remark on his strange compulsion to provide a gratuitous metanarrative of “religion,” a term so diverse that angels fear to define it.

I consider that academic silence a bad omen for religious liberty cases in the future, for Justice Stevens’ metanarrative of religion would surely subordinate it just about any “right” rooted in something deemed essential, not accidental.

I was happy when Justice Stevens retired, but I cannot allow myself to be happy about anyone’s death. That’s less because my faith commands me against it than because the way reality works is that grudges that deep would deface my soul.

I doubt that he’d have understood that distinction.

R.I.P. anyway.

UPDATE:

As if it weren’t enough to write this, then pull it down and re-write, I now cite with delight a better description of integral/classical Christianity from Fr. Stephen Freeman, as well as my commentary on it as a supplement to this blog entry.

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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 Comment, 2/6/19

1

Ms. Devi publicly defended Mr. Fryer. Since then, she says she’s struggled to find research collaborators and has lost nearly every female friend at Harvard: “Suddenly, I would find that my emails were going unanswered. People would avert their gaze from me walking down the hall. There was this culture of guilty until proven innocent and, if you’re defending him, guilt by association.”

Ms. Devi adds that every one of her remaining friends has advised her not to defend Mr. Fryer. One told her that “at a place like this, which is extremely progressive, it will only have a cost—it will have no benefit.” Ms. Devi says she knows of others who also wanted to defend Mr. Fryer but “don’t want to go against the social-media mob.”

An immigrant from India, Ms. Devi fears her outspokenness will limit her job prospects in the U.S. “It’s very, very high-risk to identify myself and defend an accused person,” Ms. Devi says. “Everyone protects the identity of the accuser. She gets to hide under the mask of anonymity, and we have to destroy our futures.”

Jillian Kay Melchior, Title IX’s Witness Intimidation, Wall Street Journal.

This is the kind of toxic culture against which Betsy DeVos’s regulatory legal changes are powerless.

2

It’s nice to be Trump. His bragging is unencumbered by his past. His self-satisfaction crowds out any self-examination. What he needs isn’t a fact check. It’s a reality check, because his worst fictions aren’t statistical. They’re spiritual.

The State of the Union address was a herky-jerky testament to that. I say herky-jerky because it was six or eight or maybe 10 speeches in one, caroming without warning from a plea for unity to a tirade about the border; from some boast about American glory under Trump to some reverie about American glory before Trump (yes, it existed!); from a hurried legislative wish list to a final stretch of ersatz poetry that read like lines from a batch of defective or remaindered Hallmark cards. As much as Trump needed modesty, his paragraphs needed transitions.

“Don’t sit yet,” he told them when he feared that they would end their celebration too soon, before his next great pronouncement. “You’re going to like this.”

Even the newly, briefly, falsely sensitive version of Trump couldn’t lose his bossy streak — or stop hungering for, and predicting, the next round of applause.

Frank Bruni.

3

I’m tempted to write “Democrats are reduced to pointless obstructionism,” but “obstructionism” implies the ability to obstruct. Senate Democrats lack that ability, having done away with the filibuster for lower-court judicial nominations when they were in control. Thus they are reduced even further, to “pointless mudslinging.”

Yet “pointless” doesn’t mean “harmless.” The Democratic senators’ juvenile tactics will not stop Rao’s confirmation, but they are lowering the already debased national discourse.

Rao is now 45 years old, solidly middle-aged. To reach middle age, one must first pass through an earlier stage of simultaneously knowing very little about the world while believing oneself to understand it completely. Youthful folly is particularly unfortunate in budding writers, who inevitably commit their stupidity to the page. If they write for publication — rather than privately composing the worst novel ever written in the English language, as I did at that age — their silliness will linger for posterity to sample.

… [F]rankly, Rao’s college writing wasn’t nearly as bad as it could have been. It wasn’t even as bad as I expected from early media coverage.

Megan McArdle

4

[F]rom the moment he announced his run for the presidency, I believed that Trump was intellectually, temperamentally, and psychologically unfit to be president. Indeed, I warned the GOP about Trump back in 2011, when I wrote an op-ed in The Wall Street Journal decrying his claim that Barack Obama was not born in America. From time to time, people emerge who are peddlers of paranoia and who violate unwritten codes that are vital to a self-governing society, I wrote, adding, “They delight in making our public discourse more childish and freakish, focusing attention on absurdities rather than substantive issues, and stirring up mistrust among citizens. When they do, those they claim to represent should speak out forcefully against them.”

Today I see the Republican Party through the clarifying prism of Donald Trump, who consistently appealed to the ugliest instincts and attitudes of the GOP base—in 2011, when he entered the political stage by promoting a racist conspiracy theory, and in 2016, when he won the GOP nomination. He’s done the same time and time again during his presidency—his attacks on the intelligence of black politicians, black journalists, and black athletes; his response to the deadly violence in Charlottesville, Virginia; and his closing argument during the midterm elections, when he retweeted a racist ad that even Fox News would not run.

Peter Wehner, on why he left the GOP and what he has gained thereby.

Apart from my having left the party earlier than Wehner, he captures my feelings very well.

5

What is the statute of limitations for being a jerk-goofball-hellraiser? asks Kathleen Parker of Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam:

In 1983, just before winning a third term as Louisiana’s governor, Edwin Edwards famously said that the only way he could lose the race was “if I’m caught in bed with either a dead girl or a live boy.”

Presumably, no one checked his yearbook.

Parker must have tenure, a large 401k, and a looming retirement, because it is now forbidden, on pain of professional death, to forgive youth and foolishness.

6

Had you heard about Liam Neeson making terrible, racist comments? Did your source bother quoting what he actually said, in context, or was your source someone like the preening Peacock Piers Morgan (“so full of shit his breath makes acid rain,” as Bruce Cockburn sang of someone else), who tells you what to think before he tells you what Neeson said?

We have created a culture that despises repentance, and condemns grace.

If you can’t multiply examples of that during the past week, you weren’t paying attention.

7

Of late, I’ve found a term for my political temperament: “trimmer” (second listed meaning). So I am today declaring myself a centrist non-candidate for POTUS. The toxicity of Left and Right, sampled above, have become intolerable.

8

My Church is the best Church because it never interferes with a man’s politics or his religion.

Uncle Toby in Tristram Shandy, via John Senior, The Death of Christian Culture, page 136.

Uncle Toby is Andrew Cuomo’s patron saint.

9

Because I find his droning, vulgar cadences intolerable, I did not listen to even to that portion of the President’s State of the Union address that may have been continuing as I left a musical rehearsal.

But it sounds as if I may have missed something even worse than the usual vulgarity: I may have missed a scripted approximation of normalcy, which would make the return to vulgar reality even more agonizing.

I’m too old for roller coasters, even if they’re just emotional.

10

A Canadian cryptocurrency exchange says about $140 million worth of customers’ holdings are stuck in an electronic vault because the company’s founder, and sole employee, died without sharing the password.

But two independent researchers say publicly available transaction records associated with QuadrigaCX suggest the money may be gone, not trapped.

They say it appears Quadriga transferred customer funds to other cryptocurrency exchanges, although it isn’t clear what might have happened to the money from there.

Paul Vigna, Wall Street Journal.

My avoidance of cryptocurrencies is vindicated.

11

In a reflection on the Nashville Statement written a few years ago, I wrote:

Like me, Justin grew up Southern Baptist. Sometimes, someone will ask me why I think Justin “changed his theology” to support gay marriage, while I stuck with conservative theology. However, the question actually rests on a misunderstanding. I did not “hold onto” the theology of marriage I learned in Southern Baptist Churches growing up. If I had, I would support same-sex marriage.

When I listen to Justin’s presentations, what I hear in his arguments for same-sex marriage is simply the logical outworking of the theology of marriage we both grew up with. Many of his arguments are modified versions of the arguments which I heard to rationalize divorce and contraception in the Southern Baptist congregation I grew up in.

And because of the obvious prejudice of so many conservative Christians toward gay people, it’s easy for him to dismiss conservative exegesis as Pharisaical legalism.

You might say that I “backed” my way into the Catholic Church,first by recognizing the link between accepting contraception and accepting same-sex marriage, and only later recognizing the flaws of the “slow motion sexual revolutionaries” I grew up with in the Southern Baptist Church.

Ron Belgau. This “alternate universe” argument, where one says “If I believed X, I would eventually come to believe Y,” is one that I have made, if only when arguing with myself about what I would believe today had I remained in the Christian Reformed Church.

12

Oh, how we miss the trolley problem .

There’s a runaway trolley plunging toward a widow and five orphans, but if you pull the lever to divert it, you’ll hit Elon Musk. Which do you choose?

This is a problem?!. Quick! Where’s that lever?!

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More potpourri

1

  1. “We oppose the nomination of XX, a dangerous right wing extremist ….” (The gist of an actual progressive press release, where someone forgot to fill in the name of the actual nominee after the announcement. But they probably were the first out of the gate to oppose whoever-the-heck.)
  2. We oppose the nomination of Brett Kavanaugh, a dangerous right wing extremist …. (subsequent story, stable for a while).
  3. We oppose the nomination of Brett Kavanaugh because this woman says he lewdly and drunkenly attacked her at a teen drinking party 36 or so years ago.
  4. We oppose the nomination of Brett Kavanaugh because he dangled his dong in front of an extremely drunken co-ed at Yale, which nobody else present saw. Oh. Never mind.
  5. We oppose the nomination of Brett Kavanaugh because he ran quaalude-fueled gang rape parties. We know because a client of Trump’s evil progressive twin says she attended lots of them and finally got raped. Oh. Never mind.
  6. We oppose the nomination of Brett Kavanaugh because we believe all survivors. (11th-hour virtue-signaling theory, to which some still adhere despite the patent lack of corroboration.)
  7. We oppose the nomination of Brett Kavanaugh because he got too hot under the collar after we threw all this crap at him and was very evasive about our questions and didn’t break down under questioning like someone on Perry Mason.

Am I the only one who thought “they’re playing Calvinball, not conducting a Senate inquiry”?

Calvinball is a game invented by Calvin and Hobbes. Calvinball has no rules; the players make up their own rules as they go along, making it so that no Calvinball game is like another.

Rules cannot be used twice (except for the rule that rules cannot be used twice), and any plays made in one game may not be made again in any future games. The game may involve wickets, mallets, volleyballs, and additional sports-related equipment.

There is only one permanent rule in Calvinball: players cannot play it the same way twice. For example, in one game of Calvinball, the goal was to capture the opponent’s flag, whereas in a different game of Calvinball, the goal was to score points by hitting badminton shuttlecocks against trees using a croquet mallet. Masks must be worn at all times in Calvinball; these are not allowed to be questioned.

Are there more than a dozen of us who are bothered by Kavanaugh’s excessive (and probably illegal) drinking as a teenager? Absent evidence that he has an ongoing problem, I wouldn’t disqualify him for it, but the halo is ill-suited to him.

2

Jonathan Chait and Andrew Sullivan, prophets:

3

I feel so affirmed that at least one other person in the cosmos thought that!

4

5

6

What do they teach children today?!

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Spiking the ball

 

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(I have not yet reached “broken glass” phase, but this débâcle has made me likelier to vote for candidates of my former party. Both parties deserve to lose, but the Republicans don’t affirmatively hate people like me and mine. That’s not nothing.)

 

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You might want to click the link to see what she was trolling.

 

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If there is one thin, bright light in all this, it is that the Kavanaugh vote will be bipartisan. Only in the narrowest possible sense, with one Republican senator — Lisa Murkowski of Alaska — likely to vote no, and a lone Democrat voting to confirm. But a straight party-line vote would have been even worse and, these days, we have to count the smallest blessings.

Megan McArdle

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Potpourri (mostly political) 9/25/18

1

I apologize if I’ve quoted this before, but I’m a retired lawyer, I’ve watched SCOTUS for decades, and I can’t stop mulling this over.

Here goes:

I can imagine two operative standards for a nominee in Kavanaugh’s shoes. One is what we might call the minimally convincing standard—which we can loosely define as a showing just powerful enough to align the few uncommitted Republicans with the already-declared Republicans and thus assure confirmation.

The other let’s call the no-asterisks standard—that is, a showing sufficiently powerful that a reasonable person will not spend the years of Kavanaugh’s service mentally doubting his integrity or fitness for the role he is playing. It is a showing sufficient for a reasonable pro-choice woman to believe it legitimate—if not desirable—for Kavanaugh to sit on a case reconsidering Roe v. Wade, or for a sexual-assault victim, whatever she may think of his views, to believe it legitimate for him to hear her appeal.

Putting it all together, Kavanaugh’s task strikes me as an unenviable one. He needs to prove a negative about events long ago with sufficient persuasiveness that a reasonable person will regard his service as untainted by the allegations against him, and he needs to do so using only arguments that don’t themselves taint him.

Benjamin Wittes in the Atlantic.

I have called this article “clarifying,” and I particularly had these passages in mind. But now I’m wondering.

We’re all aware of the high levels of polarization in the country. Democrat Senator Mazie Hirono says she disbelieves Kavanaugh’s denial of Dr. Ford’s accusation because she doesn’t like his ideology. On the other side, we have Donald Trump predicting he could shoot someone in Times Square and get away with it.

Consider Hirono and those blasé Times Square bystander archetypes. Where is the archetypal “reasonable person” (or “reasonable pro-choice woman”) who hasn’t already made up his or her mind on the Kavanaugh nomination, or whose opinion of his qualifications (not some political calculus) has materially changed because of the accusations against him?

If you were already inclined to trust Kavanaugh, the evidence against him is weak enough to justify rallying to his side. (“How dare these liberals engage in dirty tricks against this smart, decent family man who’s devoted his life to the law!”) But if you were already inclined to distrust him, the evidence against him is strong enough to justify feeling vindicated. (“You mean the guy who seems eager to gut women’s reproductive rights shows a pattern of misogyny and violence againéé women? No kidding!”)

Damon Linker.

Who thinks that they’ll watch Dr. Ford or Kavanaugh without a glimmer of confirmation bias?

Can any justice be confirmed in this toxic atmosphere without an asterisk by his or her name? (“Hey! I’m reasonable! I think he’s guilty as hell! He’s just the type!”)

Can any conservative man be confirmed without accusations of sexual improprieties? If it comes from an old acquaintance rather than a total stranger, won’t it always come packing an asterisk?

There’s an aphorism about not letting the perfect be the enemy of the good. It’s on my mind these days.

2

FBI Director Christopher A. Wray recently told an audience that there must be a way that cryptographers hadn’t thought of yet to securely guarantee that law enforcement could unlock encrypted devices. He proclaimed “We put a man on the moon” in trying to make the point that if mathematicians and scientists could do that, surely they could find a way to build a secure encryption backdoor. But after decades of research and debate, the experts overwhelmingly agree: trying to build a secure backdoor would be like asking NASA’s to safely land a human on the sun. It’s not possible.

Robyn Greene

3

If Trump fires Rosenstein, he gets rid of the guy who has been Robert Mueller’s main protector at Justice. Yet firing him on charges of insubordination means believing that the Fake News got the story about Rosenstein’s 25th Amendment musings right. This may be the ultimate Trumpian dilemma.

Bret Stephens, in conversation with Gail Collins.

4

The clear implication of the [ad’s] sumptuous red lipstick and the impossibly tall high-heel is that a woman’s womb, ovaries, and breasts are recreational equipment which it would be unthinkable to waste on nurturing a new human being. Maybe when these organs are older and starting not to work so well, they can be used for making and nourishing babies—after a few rounds of chemical fertility treatment, of course. But right now, it’s party time. It’s me time. It’s little black dress time.

Because sex is fun, right? And it’s even more fun when there’s an edge of risk in it, which is why we end up with “emergency contraception” ads in the Underground and an epidemic of STDs. But what’s the purpose of all these cocktails and clubbing? Why do people devote so much of their lives to finding someone with whom to rub bodies if they’re not interested in what body-rubbing was designed to create?

Or take for example this WebMD article about “emergency contraception,” which suggests a woman might want to use it if she had sex and “something went wrong.” Could you run that by me again? In what other instance do we describe body systems accomplishing their intended functions by saying “something went wrong”? ….

G. Shane Morris, If You Don’t Want Kids, Don’t Have Sex (or Get Married).

Caveat: Do not ever think that my quoting something from Shane Morris implies that I agree with him more than about half the time. Some day, I may even unload on him about something in the other half.

5

… I despise Ted Cruz. That is “D-e-s-p-i-s-e,” in case I haven’t spelled out my loathing clearly enough … Because he’s like a serpent covered in Vaseline. Because he treats the American people like two-bit suckers in 10-gallon hats. Because he sucks up to the guy who insulted his wife — by retweet, no less. Because of his phony piety and even phonier principles. Because I see him as the spiritual love child of the 1980s televangelist Jimmy Swaggart and Jack Nicholson’s character in “The Shining.” Because his ethics are purely situational. Because he makes Donald Trump look like a human being by comparison. Because “New York values.” Because his fellow politicians detest him, and that’s just among Republicans. Because he never got over being the smartest kid in eighth grade. Because he’s conniving enough to try to put one over you, but not perceptive enough to realize that you see right through him. Because he’s the type of man who would sell his family into slavery if that’s what it took to get elected. And that he would use said slavery as a sob story to get himself re-elected.

Otherwise, you might say I’m his No. 1 fan.

Bret Stephens, in conversation with Gail Collins.

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Monday 9/17/18

1

David French is much more sensible than Damon Linker on the current status of the Brett Kavanaugh nomination. Linker’s approach gives veto power to accusers whose lurid accusations are likelier false than true (by which I’m not pre-judging the current accusations — I’m talking about his rationale).

Neither would approve a Thursday vote, though.

2

I believe it was Ross Douthat who coined “if you don’t like the Religious Right, just wait ’till you see the irreligious right.” That’s panning out — though the “irreligion” is just one facet of communal breakdown:

[T]he different groups make about the same amount of money, which cuts against strict economic-anxiety explanations for Trumpism. But the churchgoers and nonchurchgoers differ more in social capital: The irreligious are less likely to have college degrees, less likely to be married and more likely to be divorced; they’re also less civically engaged, less satisfied with their neighborhoods and communities, and less trusting and optimistic in general.

This seems to support the argument, advanced by Tim Carney of the Washington Examiner among others, that support for populism correlates with a kind of communal breakdown, in which secularization is one variable among many leaving people feeling isolated and angry, and drawing them to the ersatz solidarity of white identity politics.

… only about a third of Trump’s 2016 voters are in church on a typical Sunday, and almost half attend seldom or not at all.

Ross Douthat

3

[T]he Deep State now feels confident enough to say … openly: the Deep State wants international conflict. The op-ed includes a bald-faced declaration to that effect:

Take foreign policy: in public and private, President Trump shows a preference for autocrats and dictators, such as President Vladimir Putin of Russia and North Korea’s leader, Kim Jong-Un . . .

Astute observers have noted, though, that the rest of the administration is operating on another track, one where countries like Russia are called out for meddling and punished accordingly. . .

The op-ed goes on to talk approvingly about how the Deep State has punished Russia against the President’s wishes, to the point of boasting about it:

He (President Trump) complained for weeks about senior staff members letting him get boxed into further confrontation with Russia, and he expressed frustration that the United States continued to impose sanctions on the country . . .

But his national security team knew better – such actions had to be taken, to hold Moscow accountable.

Here is the significance of the op-ed, not in what it reveals about President Trump but what it says about the Deep State itself, namely that it thrives on unnecessary and strategically counterproductive international conflicts. Those conflicts justify the trillion dollar “national security” budget off which the Deep State feeds, they provide the arenas in which the “national security team” builds its careers and power and they distract the public from our sorry military performance against the real threat, the threat of Fourth Generation war and the entities that wage it. They are, in short, bread for the Establishment and circuses for the citizens.

William S. Lind, The Deep State Speaks (emphasis added).

4

First, now that being censored on social media is a surefire way to win conservative clicks, it’s fair to assume that claims of censorship will proliferate, and not all of them will be true. Second, that doesn’t mean they’re all false, either. When it comes to the right, Silicon Valley almost certainly suffers from what the Valley used to call “epistemic closure” before the Valley embraced it. In that climate, “Sorry, mistake” isn’t likely to mollify anyone.

So the right has good reason for its suspicion, and no way to get good evidence that might rebut it. To see if Alex Jones had indeed been turned into Voldemort, I had to put my Facebook account — and a bit of my reputation — at risk. And even then, the fact that my account stayed up might simply show that the censors saw it as a trap that they were smart enough to avoid.

Bottom line: conservative concern about platform bias will continue to grow, and only radical transparency about platform standards and due process is likely to address that concern.

Stewart Baker (emphasis added), who tested reports that linking to Infowars from Facebook could get you suspended from the latter.

My personal “line I won’t cross” is somewhere between Breitbart and Infowars. I’ll occasionally visit the former, never knowingly visit the latter as if I might learn anything except how odious it is.

Where’s Facebook’s? Okay to link to Richard Spencer? Daily Stormer?

5

The McCarrick outcry is fading, it would appear, because his victims are adult men. Apparently sexual abuse of young men by an older man who is their ecclesiastical superior isn’t that big a deal.

Adult men make less instantly sympathetic victims than children, and the alleged incidents involving McCarrick are less headline-grabbingly horrifying than the episodes revealed by Pennsylvania’s recent grand jury report. But the church has more than a duty to ensure that minors aren’t victimized and should be sensitive to the fact that, where religious authority is exploited, the effects of sexual abuse can be especially devastating, as in Reading’s case.

Terry Mattingly, commenting on some fine reporting by Elizabeth Breunig under the Washington Post’s “Acts of Faith” rubric.

Yeah. Right. Winnowing out men who don’t want the priesthood so much that they’ll tolerate hanky-panky is a swell way of making sure you get lots of gay or sexually ambivalent priests who value the prestige of priesthood more than the truth of dogma and moral teaching.

6

Seriously, folks, if you are planning to withhold your regular tithe to your diocese for the time being, why not redirect it to the Norcia monks, who are the real deal? They are a light for the whole world. Please think about making a donation — or sign up for regular donations. You know how much I care about them, and esteem them. If you want to give confidently to help build a Catholic future you can believe in, the Monks of Norcia need your help.

Rod Dreher.

* * * * *

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Political Potpourri, 9/10/18

The Good

1

Heather Mac Donald, in “The Diversity Delusion: How Race and Gender Pandering Corrupt the University and Undermine Our Culture,” notes that, “as of early 2018, 79 judges had issued rulings against schools’ rape trial procedures” adopted in conformity with the Obama administration’s dictates.

She says a 2006 University of Virginia survey found “that only 23 percent of the subjects whom the survey characterized as rape victims felt that they had been raped” …

Mac Donald notes that campus sexual-assault policies often assign “wildly asymmetrical responsibilities and liabilities.” In campuses’ alcohol-saturated hookup culture, men are assigned the Victorian role as guardians of frail females’ virtue: If he and she are drunk, she typically is absolved of agency and he is accountable for both of their behaviors. Yet, contradictorily, a core tenet of academic progressivism is that the differences between men and women are not innate, they are “socially constructed,” having nothing to do with biology. Never mind various cultures’ centuries of experience with laws and courtship rituals developed to tame the male libido.

George Will, defending Besty DeVos’s revision of Department of Education rules on handling of campus sexual assault complaints — which have been widely mischaracterized so egregiously that “bad faith” is almost the only explanation.

 

2

I asked the senator from Kentucky if his record on judicial appointments, including the decision to hold open the seat vacated after Scalia’s untimely death in February 2016 until after the presidential election was the most important part of his legacy as a senator. “I think it’s the most consequential series of things that I’ve done that have the longest impact on the country,” he answered. “In the legislative process,” he continued, “there’s not much you can do all by yourself. The one thing the majority leader can do that no one else can do is the schedule, what you will do or what you will not do. I think the decision not to fill the Scalia vacancy was the most consequential decision of my career. And I think the follow-up on that, to not only fill the Supreme Court vacancies, but put in place men and women [on the federal courts of appeals] who believe that the job is to interpret the law into as many places as we can, particularly at the circuit court level, for as long as we’re in the majority is the most important thing I will have been involved in in my career.”

Hugh Hewitt, Mitch McConnell has saved the Constitution.

For the record:

  1. I’m deeply ambivalent about the precedent of sitting on a SCOTUS nominee without hearings. It doesn’t pass a smell test even if it’s not unlawful.
  2. But I’m grateful for the quality of Trump’s judicial nominees and that their judicial philosophies* are more congruent with my own than Merrick Garland’s presumably** is.
  3. “Saved the Constitution” is hyperbole, but the stakes were high, and the tendency to see SCOTUS nominees as having “an agenda” is a sad symptom of the how the court is perceived, with some justification.

 

3

The truth is that “settled law” is just a euphemism that jurists and legal scholars use to refer to Supreme Court precedent that is indeed binding – but only until a majority of the justices decide that it should be overruled. In the 2003 e-mail, Kavanaugh was largely right to say that the Supreme Court “can always overrule its precedent.” And that’s a good thing. The Supreme Court needs to have the power to overturn flawed constitutional precedent, as this is usually the only way to correct wrong constitutional decisions, short of using the extraordinarily difficult amendment process.

Few people, particularly on the left, pine for the return of Bowers v. Hardwick, the 1986 case in which a narrow majority upheld the constitutionality of anti-sodomy laws. The Court eventually overruled Bowers in Lawrence v. Texas (2003), which has since become something of an iconic decision.

Ilya Somin (emphasis added). Somin doesn’t mention boring but binding precedent upholding anti-sodomy laws years before Bowers v. Hardwick:

The first challenge to a sodomy law to reach the U.S. Supreme court was Doe v. Commonwealth Attorney of Richmond in 1976. That case challenged Virginia’s sodomy law as a violation of the right to privacy. For technical reasons, the Supreme Court was required to consider the appeal of this decision upholding the law (in most circumstances, the Court only hears cases it selects). Although the Court accepted neither written nor oral arguments, its memorandum upholding the law is its first decision in a sodomy challenge.

ACLU, Getting Rid of Sodomy Laws. The one sentence summary affirmation was binding authority, and it meant in effect that there wasn’t enough merit to the case against sodomy laws to waste any time explaining why.

My own position long was that all jurisdictions should repeal sodomy laws, but I couldn’t find an acceptable constitutional rationale (a free-floating right of privacy just doesn’t cut it for me) for striking them down.

 

The Bad

4

Jay Sekulow, tried to argue to Robert Mueller that Trump could not be asked to give an interview because he is a compulsive liar. They literally explained to Mueller how they conducted a mock interview with Trump, and he was so unable to tell the truth that they considered him mentally disqualified from testifying:

Jay Sekulow went to Mueller’s office and re-enacted the mock interview. Their goal: to argue that Trump couldn’t possibly testify because he was incapable of telling the truth.

“He just made something up. That’s his nature,” Dowd said to Mueller.

It seems somehow unfair to let somebody remain on the job as president because he’s such a compulsive liar he can’t be allowed to testify under oath.

Jonathan Chait

 

5

Publicity is bad when it attracts the dogged scrutiny of a special counsel along the lines of Robert S. Mueller III. The man isn’t perfect. But he is deeply experienced and impervious to distractions. Trump has loosed a rabid and foaming Rudolph W. Giuliani on Mueller, to no more effect than a Pekingese yipping at a Greyhound bus. With his patrician wealth, his Bronze Star and his sterling résumé, Mueller neither wants nor fears anything Trump can bring.

On the other hand, Mueller has obtained certain things that, I’d wager, lie at or near the root of Trump’s mania. No, not the sordid details of a porn-star payoff. Trump has been known to spill dirt on himself to the tabloids just to stroke his own ego. He could be the emoji for shamelessness.

I’m talking about Trump’s bank records , turned over last year by Deutsche Bank, which also coughed up $630 million in fines in 2017 to settle charges of participating in a $10 billion Russian money-laundering scheme. And I’m talking about the immunized testimony of Trump’s longtime chief financial officer Allen Weisselberg . If anyone knows the details of money (Russian or otherwise, licit or not) moving through Trump’s privately held businesses, it’s this guy. And I’m talking about Trump’s personal and corporate tax returns, the ones he has been so determined to keep private, which Mueller almost certainly possesses .

This is the forest, I’ll bet, from which the president’s increasingly nutty behavior is being shaken.

David Von Drehle. Von Drehle also speculates that Jared Kushiner wrote The Anonymous Op-Ed, as even Jared and Ivanka need an exit strategy.

 

6

In nations that have known the horror of dictatorship or foreign occupation, there are often long traditions of what Poland’s national poet once called “patriotic treason” …

In occupied countries, large public events can spontaneously take on political overtones, too …

I am listing all these distant foreign events because at the moment they have strange echoes in Washington. Sen. John McCain’s funeral felt like one of those spontaneous political events. As in a dictatorship, people spoke in code: President Trump’s name was not mentioned, yet everybody understood that praise for McCain, a symbol of the dying values of the old Republican Party, was also criticism of the authoritarian populist in the White House …

There can be only one explanation for this kind of behavior: White House officials, and many others in Washington, really do not feel they are living in a fully legal state ….

Leading members of Congress might resist invoking the 25th Amendment, which would of course be described by Trump’s supporters as a “Cabinet coup.” The mob — not the literal, physical street mob, but the online mob that has replaced it — would seek revenge. There may not be any presidential goons, but any senior official who signs his or her name to a call for impeachment or removal will certainly be subjected to waves of hatred on social media, starting with a denunciation from the president. Recriminations will follow on Fox News, along with a smear campaign, a doxing campaign, attacks on the target’s family and perhaps worse. It is possible we have underestimated the degree to which our political culture has already become more authoritarian.

Anne Applebaum, Washington feels like the capital of an occupied country. This rang very true to me.

 

Elsewhere

7

In the wake of reports about his predecessor’s systematically harassing seminarians in a beach house, Cardinal Wuerl suggested that it was nothing that couldn’t be solved with more vacation time.

… Wuerl has announced a six-week “season of healing.” No penitence, no accountability. Just an announcement that in six weeks, he expects his image to be rehabbed, and everyone else will have to move on. You weren’t healed during my season of healing? That’s on you, bub. As for me, it’s time for another retreat with the lads.

Michael Brendan Dougherty

Footnote

* I say “philosophies” in the plural because Brett Kavanaugh says he is an “originalist” while others insist he’s a “textualist.”

** I say “presumably” because we never got the hearings that would have identified his reportedly moderate philosophy.

* * * * *

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Too interesting times

I’m starting light. I’ll end very heavy.

1

What is this? Pronoun pickiness run amok?

2

Signs of wretched excess: Pumpkins Spice in August.

Some pleasures are just meant to be seasonal.

(H/T Smokey Ardisson on micro.blog)

3

I’m sincerely hoping, and strongly suspect as I’ve not read of this elsewhere, that this is a small eddy in an already-small fetid swamp of AlexJonesish conspiracy theorists:

McCain conspiracists say his brain cancer was a hoax

4

Brett Kavanaugh Is a Mensch: When Bethesda, Maryland went NIMBY on a Synagogue, Kavanaugh pitched into the defense of the Synagogue.

5

Within 45 minutes of Ronald Reagan’s announcement that Robert Bork was his pick to replace the retiring Justice Lewis Powell on the high court, Kennedy introduced him to America this way:

“Robert Bork’s America is a land in which women would be forced into back-alley abortions, blacks would sit at segregated lunch counters, rogue police could break down citizens’ doors in midnight raids, schoolchildren could not be taught about evolution, artists would be censored at the whim of government, and the doors of the federal courts would be shut on the fingers of millions of citizens for whom the judiciary is often the only protector of the individual rights that are the heart of our democracy.”

Now compare this, for sheer style, with the attempt by Elizabeth Warren, current occupant of the seat once held by Kennedy, to do the same for Mr. Trump’s nominee:

“Judge Kavanaugh is part of a movement to twist the Constitution in ways that are deeply hostile to the rights of everyone but those at the top. He’s been a part of that movement for the majority of his professional life, both before and after he became a judge. And now, he has a record of 12 years of judicial decisions that demonstrate his loyalty to that radical ideology.”

Here’s some bad news for Sen. Warren. I remember Ted Kennedy. I watched when Ted Kennedy turned Robert Bork’s name into a nasty verb. And I say this to the woman who now holds the late senator’s seat: Ms. Warren, you are no Ted Kennedy.

After so many years of crying Bork, Democrats have forgotten an essential in politics: count your votes. Brett Kavanaugh will take his seat on the Supreme Court in the end. And yours truly is betting it will be with the votes of at least two Democratic senators.

William McGurn

6

Well, at Least Sheriff Joe Isn’t Going to Congress

Most heartening headline of the day

Cast aside and left to wallow in the knowledge that his moment has passed, he has a fitting end to the public life of a true American villain.

I’ll forgive Mike Pence the praise he lavished on this villain if he repents publicly and convincingly. That was a moment when I understood why many of my fellow Hoosiers contemned a man I felt was too great a cipher to warrant contempt.

7

President Trump’s chief economic adviser, Larry Kudlow, announced Tuesday that the administration is “taking a look” at regulating Google’s conduct, given Trump’s complaints earlier in the day that the company’s search results suppress conservative views. Kudlow’s statement raises First Amendment concerns of the highest magnitude.

Floyd Abrams. Click that link to “taking a look.” That’s pure, venomous effort to chill a free press and its modern adjunct, the search engine.

What is potentially dangerous is the assertion in the president’s tweets that “This is a very serious situation-will be addressed!” and Kudlow’s intimation that a regulatory response was actually being considered. Of course, Trump and Kudlow may not mean it. Or they may mean it and will not pursue it further. But one cannot tell, and so when such statements are made, it is worth responding immediately ….

And when Floyd Abrams responds this way on a First Amendment matter, it is a warranted shot across the bow of would-be tyrants. Don’t you think for a minute that Brett Kavanaugh will be so grateful to Trump that such nuances will be lost on him.

8

I close with sad but notable news.

I first became aware of Damon Linker when he was at First Things magazine around 16-18 years ago. “First Things” is pervasively Roman Catholic in its staffing, though not in what it publishes, so I sort of assumed that Linker was Catholic. I had no idea he was a new convert when he arrived.

Now he’s leaving. Although I’m skipping most news of American Clergy Abuse Scandal II, personal stories are likely exceptions. I’ve distilled what I find most compelling in Linker’s story:

The core of the church’s problem isn’t personal immorality, or institutional corruption, or hypocrisy. The core of the problem is ugliness.

People too often fail to appreciate the role of beauty in religion …

The singular importance of beauty or nobility to the most profound moral and religious experience was noted centuries before Christ in the dialogues of Plato, where the character of Socrates frequently asks his interlocutors searching questions about elevation. What do we admire? What acts stir us and move us to tears? Often it is those acts involving self-sacrifice, devotion to something loftier, something purportedly higher …

When I converted to the Catholic Church 18 years ago, I did so in large part because I was deeply moved by the act of self-sacrifice that the church places at its heart …

If I didn’t really believe in all of the theological precepts taught by the church, at least I wanted to — because I considered them beautiful, and because I wanted to be a part of the beauty, to elevate myself by assimilating myself to it.

That impulse seems very far away from me now. It began to fade in the church scandals that broke less than two years after I entered the church. The crisis deepened by working for a devout priest who responded to the scandals by circling the wagons against the secular press and its impertinent reporters looking to harm the church with their pesky attachment to uncovering the truth.

[T]o wade through the toxic sludge of the grand jury report; to follow the story of Theodore McCarrick’s loathsome character and career; to confront the allegations piled up in Viganò’s memo — it is to come face to face with monstrous, grotesque ugliness. It is to see the Catholic Church as a repulsive institution — or at least one permeated by repulsive human beings who reward one another for repulsive acts, all the while deigning to lecture the world about its sin.

No thanks. I’m done.

And I bet I’ll have a lot of company headed for the door.

The “devout priest” he worked for was the late Fr. Richard John Neuhaus, himself a convert, who I thought very highly of — and still do. But “circling the wagons” and whanging on people like Rod Dreher (“‘Shut up’, he explained”) was both wrong and ugly.

I don’t know if Linker is leaving Rome for another Christian tradition or if his entire faith is crushed, but his brokenness is a sad, sad commentary.

Millstone. Neck. Sea. Kyrie eleison!

* * * * *

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

Greg Coles.

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Worldview shapers

They’re all good judges, but for what it’s worth, I hope President Trump nominates Amy Coney Barrett to be the next justice on the Supreme Court.

… The way Senate Democrats treated Barrett last autumn — in particular, Senator Dianne Feinstein’s argument that Barrett was simply too religious and too devoutly Catholic to serve on the bench, declaring, “the dogma lives loudly within you,” revealed an argument this country needs to have: whether the country accepts deeply religious people in positions of legal authority.

… I don’t think you have to look too hard to find progressives who believe, more or less, that devout Catholics — perhaps devout Christians of any stripe — simply can’t be trusted to rule on the law and should be prevented from serving in the judiciary whenever possible. A Catholic judge can insist, loudly and often, that they believe their role as a judge is to rule on the law and the Constitution alone, and that while their faith no doubt shapes their values and their worldview — as much as any religion, philosophy, or atheism shapes the values and worldview of any other judge — and some progressives will insist it’s all a ruse. Some are determined to see any religiously active Christians as theocrats in black robes. (As this 2007 cartoon demonstrates, the arguments are sometimes not that subtle at all; merely an affiliation with a Catholic faith makes you an agent of the Pope.)

You know that if Barrett is the nominee, someone on the Left will make an openly sexist criticism. You know her seven children will be discussed in depth. You know that someone will inevitably make an argument that amounts to, “Look, if we’re going to allow Catholics to be judges, they at least have to be lapsed Catholics.”

Why do some progressives see Catholics and/or Christians as aspiring dictators from the bench, eager to toss away any established rights, established traditions, and impose an oppressive doctrine on the entire country and stifle dissent and differing points of view?

Because that’s how some progressives see the role of the judiciary.

Jim Geraghty (boldface added)

I have already given my reasons why I hope President Trump does not nominate Judge Barrett for this vacancy, and neither Geraghty nor Rod Dreher have persuaded me that “teachable moment” outweighs “vicious bloodbath.”

But the text that I’ve boldfaced alludes to a blind spot that drives me nuts: the idea that there is neutral ground, and that our judges should be picked from there.

There is no neutral ground. That’s not a “this is war, so pick your side” statement. It’s a statement about the formation of educated, balanced and strong adults, from which sizable group we pick things like Supreme Court justices (and, normally, Presidents).

If there are any amnesiacs, who’ve truly lost the conceptual screen through which they sift reality (at least by default, and subject to changes of mind), they will not be chosen by any President who wants to leave a print on the judiciary, which is to say “by any President.”

Some remaining choices are candidates who know they have a screen through which they sift reality but lie about it, and those who have a screen through which they sift reality but don’t realize it.

I think a candidate who’s honest about his deepest personal commitments and plausibly promises to distinguish them from the law is the best choice of the three.

* * * * *

The waters are out and no human force can turn them back, but I do not see why as we go with the stream we need sing Hallelujah to the river god.

(Sir James Fitzjames Stephen)

Reality is that which, when you stop believing in it, doesn’t go away.

(Philip K. Dick)

Some succinct standing advice on recurring themes. Where I glean stuff.

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