Clippings and Commentary 2/8/19

1

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

David Shiflett

Report: West Virginia Feeling Pretty Smug Right About Now

2

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

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

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

James Howard Kunstler

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

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

3

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

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

4

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

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

5

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

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

6

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

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

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

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

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

7

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

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

8

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

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

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

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

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

* * * * *

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

Clippings, 11/24/18

1

This first item is more than just a clipping. So sue me.

  • The U.S. Government’s own list of terrorist attacks since 2001 shows a dramatic drop in the violence carried out by Iran and an accompanying surge in horrific acts by radical Sunni Muslims who are not aligned with Iran.
  • The last major terrorist attack causing casualties that is linked to Iran was the July 2012 bombing of a bus with Israeli tourists in Bulgaria, retaliation for what Iran perceived to be Israel’s role in assassinating five Iranian scientists involved with Iran’s Nuclear program, between January 2010 and January 2012.
  • The U.S.-led 2003 war in Iraq played a critical role in Iran’s resurgence as a regional power.

Intel Vets Tell Trump Iran Is Not Top Terror Sponsor.

[A]s I have observed before, the red hazard light that continues to be blinking most brightly relates to Washington’s relationship with Iran, which has unnecessarily deteriorated dramatically over the past year and which brings with it collateral problems with Russia and Turkey that could trigger a much wider conflict. I say unnecessarily because all the steps taken to poison the relationship have come out of Washington, not Tehran. The Trump administration refused to certify that the Iranians had been in compliance with the nuclear agreement negotiated in 2015 and has since escalated its verbal attacks, mostly at the United Nations, claiming that the regime in Tehran is the major source of terrorism in the world and that it is seeking hegemony over a broad arc of countries running westward from its borders to the Mediterranean Sea.

Philip Giraldi, Who Are the Leading State Sponsors of Terrorism?

John Bolton is bound and determined to wage war on Iran. I’d bet a bundle on it happening.

2

To secular and leftist Europeans, Hungary’s Fundamental Law came as a shock. The preamble set the tone—it is the opening line of the Hungarian National Hymn (anthem): “God, bless the Hungarians.” That was already too much for The Guardian. A writer for that left-wing British newspaper noted that the new constitution’s “preamble is heavily influenced by the Christian faith and commits Hungary to a whole new set of values, such as family, nation, fidelity, faith, love and labour.” It was enough to point this out: further criticism would apparently have been superfluous.

Equally against the European grain were provisions of the Fundamental Law such as these: “We avow that the family and the nation constitute the most important framework of our coexistence”; “The life of the offspring shall be protected from the moment of conception”; “Hungary shall protect the institution of marriage as the union of a man and a woman.” This last, in particular, was subjected to almost universal condemnation, expressed in the language of hatred and rage.

Lee Congdon, Viktor Orbán and the Hungarian Resistance (Modern Age, Fall 2018)

I am mindful of this every time I read the New York Times writing of Orban being “far-right.”

3

[W]riting off an ocean of rural and Rust Belt red is a terrible strategy in the long term. If the Democrats want to win and keep winning, with a mandate to put their policies into effect, they need to face four hard truths.

1 Demography Is Not Destiny
“Why not just wait for the white working class to die off?” asked an audience member at last year’s Berkeley Festival of Ideas. I get this question a lot, and I always reply: “Do you understand now why they voted for Trump? Your attitude is offensive, and Trump is their middle finger.

Joan C. Williams, The Democrats’ White-People Problem (Atlantic, December 2018) (Italics added).

4

We may be witnessing another voter realignment. When I was young, the Republicans were the party of the elite, and the Democrats were the party of the working class. It seems that now the Republicans are the party of the white working class, and the Democrats are the party of the wealthy and educated. Democrats have decided to go after those elite voters and have done so in ways that have made them less attractive to working class whites. It remains to be seen if this realignment is temporary, or whether we are at the beginning of a larger migration of elite whites to the Democrats and working class whites to the Republicans. But the recent midterm elections seem to have strengthened this switch.

… [M]oney is not everything. After all how would you feel about a political party that offers you higher wages but talks about you as a “deplorable?” You probably would not see that party as looking out for your best interest. But this sort of attitude plays well among the educated elite. So to become palatable to white elites Democrats have acted in ways that have made their party more alienating to the white middle class.

… I remember watching a Beto/Cruz debate a few weeks ago. The debate moved to the topic of gun control. And right on cue, Beto whipped out one of the favorite talking points of highly educated whites that we need to do more than give gun victims “thoughts and prayers.” At that point I knew that Beto did not have what it took to cut into the hold Cruz had on the lower class white voter and in a state with a lot of small towns filled with such voters that Cruz was likely to win.

… The real irony of that was Beto was trying to run a campaign of inclusiveness across racial, economic and even political lines. Yet, he could not quite leave out this little bit of snark.

George Yancey

5

Washington think tanks are undergoing a fundamental evolution. A lot of them, like the American Enterprise Institute and the Brookings Institution, were built to advise parties that no longer exist. They were built for a style of public debate — based on social science evidence and congressional hearings that are more than just show trials — that no longer exists. Many people at these places have discovered that they have more in common with one another than they do with the extremists on their own sides.

So suddenly there is a flurry of working together across ideological lines. Next week, for example, the group Opportunity America, with Brookings and A.E.I., will release a bipartisan agenda called “Work, Skills, Community: Restoring Opportunity for the Working Class.”

One of the core questions before us is this: Who is going to lead this country? Is it perpetual outsiders like Trump, with no governing or policy competence, who say the establishments have forfeited all credibility? Or are there enough chastened members of establishments, who have governing experience, who acknowledge past mistakes, who take the time to reconnect with the country and apply their expertise in new ways?

I don’t know about you, I’ll take a chastened establishment any day.

David Brooks, The Return of the Chastened Establishment (The Opportunity America link is a 136-page PDF download.)

6

But politics isn’t just a seething cauldron of unmanageable and frightening shifts and realignments. There’s also the tacit requirement that politicians prattle on demand about anything and everything. F’rinstance:

“He shot from the hip with a sledgehammer instead of using a scalpel.”

Sen. Claire McCaskill, on … oh, what does it matter anyway? She was prattling about something. (via George Will).

7

My periodic reminder that “more conservative than other major newspapers” does not mean that it gets religion:

Deep down, however, beneath the trappings of food, family and often-forgettable football games, Thanksgiving is really a management story. It’s a case study in how extraordinary leaders build happy, productive teams.

Sam Walker, Wall Street Journal

8

Wealth, she said in a 1983 interview with Parade magazine, was “sort of like having good looks: It’s not something you’ve earned, but you don’t go out and scar your face, either.”

Carolyn Rose Hunt via the Wall Street Journal (which does more or less “get” money).

* * * * *

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.

Manufacturing Enemies

It is necessary sometimes to ask questions just so they’re not forgotten in the miasma war-mongers, who know that war is the health of the state, consciously create. Pat Buchanan obliges:

[I]s it not time to put al-Qaeda in perspective and consider whether our Mideast policy is creating more terrorists than we are killing?

But by having fought a “war on terror” overseas in [Lindsey] Graham’s way — invading, occupying, nation-building in Afghanistan and Iraq — we lost 6,000 soldiers and brought back 40,000 wounded Americans.

Were the wars in which we suffered such casualties, and that cost us $2 trillion and counting, really worth it? Did they make us more secure?

Ten years ago, anti-interventionists warned that a plunge into the Islamic world would produce what it was designed to prevent. We could create more terrorists than we would kill.

For the root of 9/11 was Islamic hatred of America’s perceived domination and a fanatic determination to drive us out of their world.

They were over here because we were over there. And if we went over there in even greater force, even more Muslims would rise up to expel us from what is, after all, their neighborhood, not ours.

So the anti-interventionists argued.

After 58,000 dead we left Vietnam. How many Americans have the Vietnamese killed since we left?

William Pfaff agrees, but in different terms:

The war against terror now being conducted from the White House, with the increasing use of drones, obviously is a self-perpetuating and self-enlarging undertaking that of its nature guarantees that the United States is the creator and perpetuator of the very war it fights.

What has happened to this administration? We know that the Republican Party is now institutionally deranged. The government bureaucracy has since 9/11 been purged of dissent, militarized, securitized, all of its members now under orders to spy on all of their fellows to report any suspicious move anyone might make. Washington is thereby rendered increasingly immobile when confronted with a need for thoughtful action. The world regards the American government today with amazement and no little fear.

The George W. Bush administration, the neo-conservatives, the Zionist movement and now the Barack Obama administration, have out of colossal ignorance and lack of prudence gone to war against this fundamentalist movement. It is this upheaval that Mr. Obama thinks he is going to conquer, with his drones and his talismatic technological modernism of mass information—and supposed mass omniscience.

These tools now tell American governments about everything except the essential facts. These facts are that Islamic fundamentalism will fail because theocracy cannot survive in the post-Ottoman world. This already is being demonstrated in Egypt, Syria, Tunisia and Turkey. Despite that, Islamic society will in the end settle its own history—which may prove only another tragedy. The other fact is that an arrogant and foolish United States, as exists today, can only harm itself by interfering, and become part of the tragedy.

Were I to travel abroad today, I’d have to say repeatedly “I love my country but detest its government.” Because I write blogs like this, I could add “and oppose it openly.” And I can tell my grandchildren that I did not sit idly by as the Great Hubris played out.

History, insofar as it cares at all, will presumably find plenty to fault in my positions (I am reflexively opposed to violence).

But I very much doubt that history will say “Islamic fascism arose spontaneously and the United States of America fought valiantly against it.” The judgment, I fear, will be more like “Islamic extremism arose in response to the insouciant American crypto-Empire, and America fanned the flames, to keep the voters scared and compliant, until the Great Collapse of the American Hegemon, which the world greeted with a sigh of relief.”

In other words, I think we’re living in an unfolding tragedy, wherein America’s tragic flaw – the felt necessity of being about something, of needing a grand-if-not-grandiose mission, of being a “nation with the soul of a [fundamentalist] Church” – plays out in folly, perversity, and collapse.

And then … it will be some other empire’s turn, until Messiah comes (again).

* * * * *

“The remarks made in this essay do not represent scholarly research. They are intended as topical stimulations for conversation among intelligent and informed people.” (Gerhart Niemeyer)

Some succinct standing advice on recurring themes.