10

Because Shut Up, They Explained

Crux has announced a new “prime directive” regarding their editorial policy, which they have seemingly established in light of the Austen Ivereigh commentary piece I blogged about the other day. Here’s Crux explaining:

“While Crux will always foster vigorous discussion, we will not tolerate attacks on persons. If the nature of a piece requires that specific individuals be named in a critical light, it must always be for their ideas or policy positions, never for their backgrounds, personalities, private lives, supposed dysfunctions or failures, etc.”

Which proves Crux doesn’t quite get the anger over the Ivereigh piece. In other words, they seem to be under the impression that it had more to do with “name-calling” than the actual substance. As further proof that they just don’t get it, they allowed another stinker of a “converts, oh what you please shut up” piece, this time by a convert himself: David Mills. In fairness, Mills doesn’t say that converts should keep silence, at least not forever. As he explains:

For a long time, and perhaps a very long time, the convert will see the Catholic Thing as you see a garden through a bay window, not as you see it when you’re standing amidst the flowers. He sees its design and beauty, but doesn’t feel the sun or smell the flowers or enjoy walking barefoot on the grass. Nor does he know what it is like to get caught in the rain or stung by a bee, or to spend hours weeding. He has to spend many years outside to know what life in the garden is really like.

Jay Anderson takes Mills to task. Jay concedes that Mills has a point when he suggests converts should take their time and “get their feet wet” before speaking out on matters of the faith. But:

This is fetishizing the cradle Catholic experience as being the *REAL* Catholic experience, and holding up any alternative to that as somehow less than. I used to do this exact same thing that Mills is doing when I was a new Catholic. I used to lament that I would never be able to experience the Faith with the instinct and the ethos of a cradle Catholic. That I would somehow always be an “incomplete” or not “REAL” Catholic like all my brethren born into the Faith and that I had somehow been “deprived” of my “birthright” as a “true” Catholic.

Now I recognize that for the utter horse

Well, I won’t spoil the rest, so as Don would say, read the rest here. Needless to say I agree with Jay.

17

Will No One Rid Us Of These Turbulent Converts

Like some ghoul in a late night horror movie that repeatedly sits up in its grave and shuffles abroad, after being repeatedly killed and buried, Paul Zummo stalks The American Catholic once again, frightening the heterodox Catholics and leftist agitators of the Catholic blogopshere. -Antonin Scalia, horribly paraphrased.

So what could have awoken me from a nearly year-long stupor to return to these pages? If you guessed interminable, poorly reasoned, strawmen-laden, intellectually dishonest, bilge spewed by certain Catholic bloggers furious about any criticism leveled against the precious Pope Francis, you are not only right, you are eerily specifically right.

In light of continued concerns expressed by certain Catholics about the current pontificate, his most fervent defenders have fought back with well-reasoned, well-articulated, substantive rebuttals calmly and meticulously pointing out flaws in those concerns.

Wait, my bad. In fact they’ve engaged in baseless character destruction. The latest group to come under attack are those dastardly converts – you know, the people who have bravely answered Christ’s call to conversion, in many cases forsaking the religious faith of their childhood and of their families because they have discovered and embraced the truth. Well, it seems they are a bit of a problem.

Austen Ivereigh is the latest, spewing forth 1,200 words of bile against converts, who, because they bring with them the baggage of their previous faith (or lack thereof), have come to become foolishly critical of Pope Francis. Ivereigh takes his cue from the “sage,” Michael Sean Winters. Winters, model of Catholic living for all, had whined: “I am so tired of converts telling us that the pope is not Catholic.”

Ivereigh, though, assures us: “I don’t want to be seen to be sniffy and condescending towards people who become Catholic.” Naturally, he proceeds to be sniffy and condescending towards people who became Catholic for the remainder of his article. Here’s a sampling of his writing:

“But still, I hesitate even now to write about convert neurosis, and how it conditions critiques of Pope Francis.” – Convert neurosis is certainly a great way to show that one is not being demeaning in the slightest

“Now, Schmitz never actually said the pope wasn’t Catholic, but his narrative and that of many of Francis’s angry, vociferous critics adds up to something rather like it.” – Ah, the angry young Catholic convert, a touching image.

“The Church is missionary, and exists to spread the Gospel, and some of those it touches will want to become Catholic, and that’s wonderful. People who have thought and prayed their way to faith are special, and bring great gifts with which they have been showered. We love converts.” – Yeah, I don’t know how anyone could interpret that as condescending at all.

“But it is a lot more likely that their baggage has distorted their hermeneutic, and they are suffering from convert neurosis.” – There’s that term again: convert neurosis, with some additional baggage thrown in.

“A friend in Ireland writes: “I keep seeing people who seem to have converted mainly because the Church teaches things that match their ideological outlook, whereas when I came back it was a case of doing so because I thought the Church had historical authority to teach things even if they sounded mad or were inconvenient.” – Again, what is sniffy and condescending about alleging that many who convert do so for ideological reasons?

Of course not only is Ivereigh sniffy and condescending, he fails to adequately address what precisely is wrong with the criticism coming from converts and cradle Catholics. Oh, you didn’t know cradle Catholics could also be critics? Well, let’s not worry about our concerns because that would get in the way of this narrative. Ivereigh is also profoundly ignorant about papal elections:

And if the many retweets of my retweet of Winters’s complaint is anything to go by, many share his view not just that this stance is not just incongruous, but annoying, because rather than consider the possibility that there may be something deficient in their own view of the Church and its tradition, they prefer to assume that it is the successor of St. Peter – chosen by the Holy Spirit in a conclave free from outside interference – who is lacking.  (Emphasis mine)

This is pure theological error, and it being spread in the pages of an ostensibly Catholic publication. (I guess new regalia is not the first poor decision made by the Knights). The Holy Spirit does not choose the pope. The Holy Spirit guides the Cardinal electors, but that does not mean they are incapable of error in their selection.

Unfortunately Ivereigh bases most of his attack on converts on the proposition that the Holy Spirit knows better than those ignorant converts. Indeed, his basic attitude is one of dismissiveness:

Conversion is an act of humility. It involves a renunciation of sovereignty, the idea that I know best. It involves trust – in Jesus Christ, and in His Church, and in the successor of St. Peter – even when they challenge my preconceptions.

Certainly all good Catholics should prayerfully reflect on all matters, and should not spout off angrily against the pope or against any prelate without carefully considering all arguments. Yet is similarly insufficient to reply to these criticisms with rhetorical hand waving. Pretending that converts were wrongfully being neurotic about the papal enclave, and using Amoris Laetitia as a cudgel to prove that neurosis is, well, rather odd considering  the many problems with the document.

Ivereigh later posted an apology, but this is pathetically weak. Essentially he’s apologizing for using poorly chosen terminology. He doesn’t, however, recant of the substance of his remarks, rendering his apology meaningless.

Ivereigh and Winters are hardly alone in being suspect of converts. Mark Silk also offers up a bit of dismissive snark:

“Here we are getting really close to what really bothers Matthew,” scoffed Ivereigh. “He wants the red shoes. He wants the popes to be carried on a sedia gestatoria [the ceremonial throne on which popes were carried until 1978]. He wants a church which no longer exists.”

What’s new, this time around, is the readiness of conservative converts to come right out and criticize what principally distinguishes Roman Catholicism from the rest of Christianity — the pope. You’d almost think they were still Protestants.

Silk approvingly quotes Iverigh’s contention that what motivates certain converts is their desire for appropriate regalia, then misrepresents the position of Francis critics. Convert (and cradle Catholic) critics do not dispute the authority or legitimacy of the pope or his office. What distinguishes us from the ultramontanists is recognizing that the pope is not an infallible human being, and is thus capable – GASP! – of being less than perfect, and capable being wrong when he is not speaking ex cathedra. In other words, we are not Rex Mottram Catholics.

And where did I even find this Silk article? Why from none other than our good pal Anthony Annett, the artist formerly known as Morning’s Minion, who linked to Silk via his twitter page. I deleted my twitter account (again) in part because of the nastiness of, well, pretty much everyone (including myself). Twitter is just not a place for rational discourse. Yet Tony’s twitter page is especially full of nasty invective. A quick perusal of his twitter page that evidently detraction and calmuny are not sins, at least according to Tony, but failure to hue 100% to his environmental policies and/or working for Heritage are.

It’s odd that the biggest fans of Pope Francis – the pope who is supposedly bringing in all these converts due to his willingness to open dialogue – are so hostile to converts and their ability to engage in theological dialogue. It’s almost as if they have another agenda.

It also suggests that if anyone is demonstrating signs of neurosis, it is them.

 

 

14

The Attack of the Smugnorant

At the Cranky Conservative I coined a term: “smugnorant.” As I wrote:

[Stephen] Colbert and his former partner in crime at Comedy Central, Jon Stewart, represent some of the very worst aspects of our culture. They are the heroes of people whom I would designate as smugnorant – the noxious combination of smug and ignorant. They’re the types of people who will take to social media to decry those illiterate yokels in the hinterlands while displaying a keen lack of any depth of understanding of who their “opponents” are or what drives them as well as a deeply flawed (if that) grasp of American history. For years these two have taken to the airwaves to peddle a brand of humor based on ironic detachment and one-line snark meant to demonstrate the utter foolishness of the other side. They are the forerunners of generation meme, who think one-line slogans slapped onto funny pictures are genius insights that can shut down any argument. It’s the bumper sticker mentality given a new face in the information age.

I’ve been fortunate to come across a blog post that has plenty of smugnorance in both the main post and the comments. It comes from the Friendly Atheist over at Patheos – yes, I know you will be shocked that there could be any smugnorance over at Patheos (apologies to David Griffey, who is a rare voice of reason over there). The blogger Hemant Mehta wrote of an “illegal” Ten Commandments display the state of Arkansas is about to place on the grounds of the capitol. I’ll just gloss over Mehta’s seeming inability to distinguish the concepts of illegality and unconstitutionality to highlight this comment:

After all, the government is forbidden from promoting Christianity, which is all this monument would be doing.

This is the kind of sentence that almost literally gives me a headache because there’s just so much to unpack. I suppose he is referring to the establishment clause of the first amendment to the constitution, which does not mention anything resembling a ban on “promoting” a religion (not to mention that Christianity in and of itself is not a religion, but a group of religions, often with conflicting creeds). The erection of a monument does not establish any state religion. It does not signify material aid to any religion, which is generally what concerned the framers of the amendment as well as similar documents such as the Virginia statute for religious liberty. But I’ll again gloss over this constitutional conundrum to focus on this:

promoting Christianity, which is all this monument would be doing

So a monument to the Ten Commandments, or as Jewish people might refer to it, the Aseret ha-Dibrot, first written down in the Torah in the book of Exodus, which otherwise commemorates the Hebrew people’s flight from Egypt, surely only promotes Christianity. There just ain’t no other religious group who might be interested in this monument? There’s just no other religion that holds this set of commands in esteem? I mean I’m racking my brain, but there’s just got to be some other group or religion being, ahem, promoted here.

Now to be fair the post itself primarily evidences only one-half of the smugnorant combo. Have no fear though, we’re talking about Patheos, and thus there are always the comments. And we dive right into the very first comment, one which received no less than 13 upvotes:

Does it include the Commandment about not worshiping graven images?

Is it protected from irony chariots?

Does it explain why so many of the Commandments would be unconstitutional if made into laws in America?

Will they include the examples of bearing false witness that will be necessary to approve the idol of the words of the Gods?

There must be nothing quite like the pride someone like “Rogue Medic” feels when he/she/it/cis/cer slaps out an irrefutable jumble of logic like this one which completely eviscerates the other side’s point of view. Well, only if you disregard the fact that nobody is worshiping a graven image in this scenario, the “irony chariots” comment is just word vomit, the idea that commandments would be unconstitutional is a non sequitur if we’re being generous. and the stuff about bearing false witness is just logically incoherent. Other than that, it’s the sort of stuff Edmund Burke, John Locke, FA Hayak and countless other philosophers throughout history can only dreamed to have written.

Or how about this true monument to detached irony written by truth warrior ORAXX:

I would be astonished if they [conservative Christians] ever read any part of the Constitution other than the Second Amendment. They certainly don’t understand that document in any kind of a historical perspective. The commandments, probably, because they can be read in less than a minute, and that is more in keeping with their attention spans.

Yes, that’s right, there’s nothing like dissing the cumulative intelligence of an entirely diffeent group of people while commenting on a post that confuses “illegal” and “unconstitutional” and doesn’t seem to grasp that people other than Christians might be appreciative of a Ten Commandments display. Hooray for hipster irony, just not in the way the poster intended.

I’ll spare you further brain damage by posting more comments, including the long thread about gun owners and how totally stoooooopid they all are. You can read them for yourself, if you’re so inclined. There is absolutely nothing in the comments that betrays even a hint of understanding of what conservatives and/or Christians truly believe, or truly grapples with the constitutional issues of a Ten Commandments display on state capitol grounds. But we have an awful lot of smug jokes about how dumb the other side is. Yep, those yokels in hill country are just bubble-dwelling idiots with no comprehension of history, the constitution, the true words of the Bible, and logic. Yep, it’s those “others” who are just plain ignorant.

4

David Daleiden Cleared of All Charges

Via Red State:

The man behind the undercover sting videos that exposed Planned Parenthood’s baby parts for profit scheme, David Daleiden, was indicted on sham charges of attempting to purchase baby parts from Planned Parenthood. These charges are viewed by many as a smoke screen to pull attention away from Planned Parenthood, and cast shade on Daleiden.

But now, Daleiden has been cleared of all charges by the Harris County DA. This after a Harris county judged completely dismissed the case against Daleiden.

This is a logical conclusion, seeing as how Daleiden and his associates followed the law when creating these videos. It should also be noted that the DA who filed these charges against Daleiden was working with Planned Parenthood to discredit and hopefully, end Daleiden’s career.

The damage has already been done, as intended. Purely political prosecutions such as this are not about actually getting convictions – though if you can get one, as in the case of Tom Delay, all the better. Daleiden has effectively been Rick Perry’d, as his work has been discredited in the eyes of an ignorant public who likely will not see stories about the charges being dropped.

6

The Cranky Con Returns

Having spent some time away from blogging or even looking at news stories for a couple of months has refreshed my batteries, so to speak. So, renewed by re-reading the Federalist Papers and biographies of the founding fathers, I have begun blogging again at the Cranky Conservative. Long time readers will undoubtedly be familiar with my former nom de plume.

Don’t worry, it’s not going to be just “Trump/Hillary are awful posts.” I’m hoping to criticially re-examine what it means to be a conservative and I will hopefully present a cogent defense of conservatism, especially as a response to increased authoritarianism present in both parties.

11

The Solid South Goes for Trump

Donald Trump’s clean sweep of southeastern states has taken many pundits by surprise, but it shouldn’t have. Trump’s performance in the south among evangelical voters is actually quite in keeping with the strain of evangelical conservatism prevalent in the bible belt.

Many moons ago in a prior blogging life I wrote a multi-part series detailing the different strands of American conservatism, and reading it now I may have forecasted the rise of Trump. First, I noted a type of conservatism (cranky conservatism) that seems to typify the Trump voter.

On the other end of the spectrum, the paleo-conservatives and crankycons seem to hate everything.  And yet they are most comfortable with populist schemes that betray the Framers’ original plans.  Their anti-elitism runs so deep that they would bequeath to the masses enormous power.  Their enemies are the ghouls in the academies with their fancy ideas.  But while they would have you believe that they are the true inheritors of the conservative mantle, their philosophy is a deep betrayal of the republican tradition.  Their ultimate designs are no less radical than the hated neocons they so regularly disparage.

Sounds like a typical Trump supporter to me.

As related to religion and conservatism, this is what I wrote back in 2005 (please ignore the horrible misspelling of hear as “here”):

Traditional conservatism is generally less concerned about the temporal world.  This strain of conservatism dates to Augustine, who saw utopian schemes for the foolishness that they were.  Thus, it should come as no surprise that the intellectual impetus behind this brand usually comes from the Roman Catholic Church, or its near neighbors in the Episcopalian version.  Buckley, Kirk, Ponnuru, Reagan: all thinkers who are Catholic or whose religion was close to that of Roman Catholicism.  This is no mere coincidence.

We here a lot about religion and the conservative movement, and indeed religion has played a crucial role in all conservative parties throughout the world.  But what many fail to understand, principally because they fail to understand Christianity is that there are crucial differences in the religious outlook of Evangelicals and Catholics, and these differences play out in the political world.  The steadfast pessimism of the Catholic faith is mirrored in the political outlook of most conservative Catholics.  They see this as a fallen world.  And while we should strive to make this world as good as we can, our expectations for the temporal world should not be so high.  Consequently, we should not put much stock in government and its ability to change the world.

I am not as well-versed in Evangelical religion to speak authoritatively, but it seems to me that the Evangelicals are much more optimistic about reshaping this earthly realm.  Their fervor for conversion seeps into their political consciousness, thus they have grander visions for reform than does the Catholic conservative.

It would be easy to simply paint as the essential demarcation in conservative thought as the interplay between Catholic and Evangelical theology.  It would be easy because it is essentially correct.  We share many of the same values, but at some point there is a rift in our fundamental vision of the government because there is a fundamental rift in our theological outlook.  That is not to say that all Catholics are all of a particular political stripe, and all Evangelicals of another.  But if one wants to understand the divergence in American conservative thought, there would be worse starting points than this examination of the difference between Catholicism and Evangelical religion.

None of the developments of the previous decade has changed my thinking on these matters. To be sure, not all Evangelicals are utopian, nor are all Catholic conservatives necessarily fierce opponents of “big government.” Indeed the lone remaining standard bearer of traditional conservatism is Ted Cruz, a fervent Evangelical himself. Yet the populist appeal of Trump in the south indicates there is something to this distinction. Meanwhile Cruz has done better in the southwest and midwest, areas of the country that have a more libertarian hue and better represent the traditional strain of conservatism.

Contrary to the narrative, this primary is far from over. Trump is likely to be the nominee, but Cruz still has a fighting chance. This is the ultimate showdown of the two types of conservatism I detailed many years ago. Regardless of who wins, I believe we’re just seeing the beginnings of a much fiercer war for the heart of conservatism.

23

National Review Endorses Ted Cruz

No doubt this will only embolden a portion of you to oppose Ted Cruz all the more, but NR’s editorial endorsing Cruz lays out, with eloquence, the case for Cruz (and saves me a lot of time writing).

We supported Cruz’s campaign in 2012 because we saw in him what conservatives nationwide have come to see as well. Cruz is a brilliant and articulate exponent of our views on the full spectrum of issues. Other Republicans say we should protect the Constitution. Cruz has actually done it; indeed, it has been the animating passion of his career. He is a strong believer in the liberating power of free markets, including free trade (notwithstanding the usual rhetorical hedges). His skepticism about “comprehensive immigration reform” is leading him to a realism about the impact of immigration that has been missing from our policymaking and debate. He favors a foreign policy based on a hard-headed assessment of American interests, one that seeks to strengthen our power but is mindful of its limits. He forthrightly defends religious liberty, the right to life of unborn children, and the role of marriage in connecting children to their parents — causes that reduce too many other Republicans to mumbling.

That forthrightness is worth emphasizing. Conservatism should not be merely combative; but especially in our political culture, it must be willing to be controversial. Too many Republicans shrink from this implication of our creed. Not Cruz. And this virtue is connected to others that primary voters should keep in mind. Conservatives need not worry that Cruz will be tripped up by an interview question, or answer it with mindless conventional wisdom when a better answer is available. We need rarely worry, either, that his stumbling words will have to be recast by aides and supporters later. Neither of those things could be said about a lot of Republican nominees over the years.

Of course the Trump forces will just say that this is proof that Ted Cruz is really a member of the Establishment (as indeed one wag on Twitter suggested immediately upon seeing this news), but basically anyone who doesn’t think Donald Trump is the Messiah is deemed to be part of the evil Establishment by Trump supporters.

11

Georgetown University Finds a New Low

Just when you thought the dissident “Catholic” university couldn’t find a new low, it manages to surpass even our lowest expectations.

The Lecture Fund at Georgetown University is planning to host Planned Parenthood Federation of America (PPFA) President Cecile Richards on campus this April, The Cardinal Newman Society has learned.

“This is the latest in a long history of scandal at Georgetown University,” said Cardinal Newman Society President Patrick Reilly. “Disguised as an academic event, this is nothing more than a platform for abortion advocacy at a Catholic university and under the nose of the Catholic bishops, featuring a wicked woman who defends the sale of baby body parts and is responsible for the deaths of millions of aborted children.”

It would be one thing to invite Richards to a debate, but here she is given the floor to spew her pro-abortion propaganda. And with Ms. Richards, we’re not talking about someone who happens to favor abortion but who is discussing a different topic. No, she is the head of an organization that is responsible for the murder of over 300,000 unborn children per year, not to mention the selling of body parts. Planned Parenthood is just about the most anti-Catholic institution on the face of the Earth, and the head of this organization is being given a platform by an institution that deems itself to be Catholic.

How outrageous is this decision? The Archdiocese of Washington even spoke out against the decision.

In any case, this is not our issue here. What we lament and find sadly lacking in this choice by the student group is any reflection of what should be an environment of morality, ethics and human decency that one expects on a campus that asserts its Jesuit and Catholic history and identity.

One would prefer to see some recognition by this student group of the lives and ministry, focus and values of people like Blessed Óscar Romero, Blessed Teresa of Calcutta and Pope Francis in place of that group’s seemingly constant preoccupation with sexual activity, contraception and abortion. The Archdiocese of Washington is always open and ready to dialogue with the students, faculty and administration of the University on issues of such significance.

The apparent unawareness of those pushing the violence of abortion and the denigration of human dignity that there are other human values and issues being challenged in the world lends credence to the perception of the “ivory tower” life of some on campus. This unfortunately does not speak well for the future. One would hope to see this generation of Georgetown graduates have a far less self-absorbed attitude when facing neighbors and those in need, especially the most vulnerable among us.

When even this Archdiocese condemns an action, you know you’ve gone too far.

I do not normally encourage vocally protesting a speaker, as I generally find it obnoxious. This is a case where I can make an exception.

29

And Then There Was, Let’s Face it, One

There have been roughly 456,343,455 articles written explaining the Trump phenomenon. My estimate might be off by one or two, but it’s in the ballpark. While I’ve long maintained that Trump is the most inappropriate vehicle possible for those who rightly feel dissatisfied with the Republican party, to me the anger expressed in the pro-Trump movement is entirely justified.

You would think by now that Republican party boosters would have a firm grasp on the political culture in which we’re operating in. Alas, based on the continued intransigence of a certain subset of the #NeverTrump movement, it is clear that they are as pigheaded and foolish as any Trump supporter.

#NeverTrump, for those of you who (smartly) don’t use Twitter, is a hashtag to express the solidarity of a movement that not only seeks to deny Trump the nomination, but which has also indicated its unwillingness to support Trump in the general election, no matter what. This group – and I am or was a part of this movement – has advocated strategic voting meant to deny Trump the ability to win the needed delegates before the GOP convention to secure the nomination. Many anti-Trumpsters advocated strategic voting wherein people voted for non-Trump candidates that were not necessarily their first choice but who had better chances in select states. So, for example, Cruz supporters should back Rubio in Florida, while Rubio backers were advised to go with Cruz in Louisiana.

We are now nearly two-fifths of the way trough the primary season, and it has become manifestly obvious to all but the most strident of Rubio and John “let them bake cakes” Kasich boosters than Ted Cruz is the only viable option to Donald Trump. Cruz has now won six states, and finished ahead of Trump in another. He has, moreover, won in the northeast, the northwest, and the heartland. In other words, the GOP electorate is coalescing around Cruz, while Rubio and Kasich struggle to even win enough votes to garner delegates. Cruz continues to poll the strongest against Trump, and regularly maintains an advantage in a two-man race.

Unfortunately Rubio supporters have acted much like Homer Simpson chasing the pig in the clip above. They deny the reality of the situation, and instead insist on strategic voting despite evidence that such a strategy will, at best, simply deny Trump getting the required 1,237 delegates. If this strategy works we’re left with a nominee being selected at the convention. If that nominee is anyone other than Donald Trump (unless it’s someone like Cruz who garners a similar amount of delegates during the primary season), then the result would be just as disastrous for the long-term future of the Republican party as a Trump outright win in the primary.

Considering the mood of the electorate – Democrat and Republican alike – a brokered convention that nominates Marco Rubio or, even worse, John Kasich, would completely turn off not just Trump supporters, but a fair number of other voters as well. Sure, it would be within the rules (as people are fond of repeating), but such a nominee – again, if it’s someone who didn’t have at least 1,000 or so delegates going into the convention – would be utterly damaged. Whatever your opinion of Trump supporters, completely turning them off and making them feel disenfranchised is an awfully stupid election strategy.

No, this thing needs to get settled in the primary, and the only two men who can win the Republican nomination outright are Ted Cruz and Donald Trump. Rubio backers have relied to a great extent on the argument that Marco Rubio is the most electable Republican in the general election. This argument from pragmatism – which is dubious to begin with – is countered by another pragmatic reality: Rubio is not nominateable. Neither is Kasich. It’s over for them, and any process that gives them a nomination through the back door of a contested convention will damage any general election chance they have.

So if you live in Ohio, Michigan, or Florida, and you don’t want Donald Trump to be the nominee, here’s your strategic play: vote for Ted Cruz.

NB: Rubio backers might argue with some credibility that Rubio’s poor numbers are due to strategic voting. While I can’t deny that there might be something to this, it’s hard to believe that the enormous gap between Cruz  and Rubio/Kasich is due to any great extent to Rubio/Kasich backers voting strategically. Voters are not quite that sophisticated.

78

Donald Trump: Unfit to be Commander in Chief

There was a horrifying moment during last night debates (there were several cringe-worthy moments as well) when Donald Trump said he would order soldiers to kill women and children. If you remain unconvinced that Donald Trump is singularly unfit to be Commander in Chief after this debate, then perhaps the words of a retired soldier will do the trick.

Tonight, in the Detroit debate, Donald Trump went further.  He doubled down on his claim that American Soldiers should be in the business of assassinating innocent women and children because of the actions of their husbands/fathers.  This is wrong.  This is a war crime.  This is an illegal order.  When he was told U.S. troops do not obey orders to commit war crimes, he responded in typical Trump fashion. “I know leadership, I tell them to do it and they will do it.  I’m a leader.”

This is not just a bad idea.  This is not just embarrassingly stupid.  This is even further trashing of the honor and dignity of the members of the world’s best military.  No Soldier I trained would ever obey that order.  Even worse is to contemplate the soul destroying reality for any that did obey it.  Killing a combatant in defense of yourself and your battle buddies is right and just, but it never leaves you.  In the back of your mind is always the realization that you took a human life, no matter how justified.  How could anyone contemplate putting Soldiers in the position to live the rest of their lives seeing the faces of dead innocent children in their dreams every night?

Donald Trump cannot be the Commander in Chief of the United States Military.  If nothing else convinces you to be #NeverTrump, think of the men and women who offer their lives in defense of your freedom.  Think of what Trump as President means to them in light of what he said at the debate.

In case I was not clear: American Soldiers as a group will NOT obey illegal, unconstitutional orders to commit war crimes.  They will not, and anyone who would consider asking them to should shut up and go home.  Anyone who would consider that does not deserve the votes of the Republican party or of the American people.

This isn’t a joke. “Sticking it to the Establishment” ain’t worth the cost of losing your soul.

9

One Image Says It All

Last night went moderately better than expected, so you’re stuck with me for a little while longer.

While there were some disappointments, such as Trump blowout wins in Georgia, Tennessee, and Alabama (thank you Benedict Sessions!), there were bright spots such as Cruz’s larger than expected win in Texas, as well as him edging out Donald Trump in Alaska despite Sarah Palin’s endorsement. The absolute highlight of the evening, however, was Chris Christie looking forlorn behind Donald Trump as he gave his victory speech. This vine video might be the funniest thing I have ever seen, and captures the utter ridiculousness of the entire farce. This is especially good if you are a Curb Your Enthusiasm aficionado.

42

I Will Not be Cowed into Voting for Trump this November

Roughly eight percent of the Republican delegates have been doled out thus far, but evidently it’s all over but the shouting. We might as well make piece with GOP nominee Donald Trump, we’re told. Whether or not one is ready to so readily concede, I’ve already seen the message pivot on various social media platforms. Despite the fact that a majority of Republican voters do not like or simply loathe the man, the quadrennial ritual is about to take place. Yes folks, it’s time for another lovely round of “Vote Republican in November or else.”

Oh I’m just as guilty as anyone as playing this game before. I almost made it through 2012 myself before regretfully folding and pulling the imaginary lever for Mitt Romney (more on that later), and I did the same for McCain in 2008. I’ve made the same arguments now being put forth by Team Vote GOP or Die, so I understand them. I personally find it rather amusing that the same people who have kvetched the most about this strategy in the past are now the ones wielding it, but so be it.

There are two core arguments being put forward as to why we need to get in line for Trump: the courts, and “OMG! Hillary!” (Yeah, Bernie too, but establishment Democrats are ironically better at putting their thumbs on the scale to thwart grassroots sentiment than the not quite so Machiavellian GOPe, so forget him for the time being).

Normally I’d fall in line with this way of thinking, but not this time. Let’s address the courts first.

Antonin Scalia’s death has made the Supreme Court, and the corresponding presidential appointment power, even more pressing of an issue than it normally is. Assuming Senate Republicans actually hold the line – and to their credit, I think they will – then the next president will not only choose his replacement, he or she might get to fill two other vacancies, if not more. Do we want Hillary to make those appointments? Donald Trump may not be counted on to make suitable choices, but at least with him we have a fighting chance. Sure he hasn’t demonstrated any familiarity with constitutional law, or a deep understanding of originalism, and on several high profile cases (such as Kelo) he took the anti-Constitutional side. But he will surely have the best men and women advising him, and we can trust that he will pick good people to pick good people.

To which I reply: The infinitesimal chance that Donald Trump will astutely nominate jurists whose philosophies echo Antonin Scalia, Samuel Alito, or – dare a girl dream – Clarence Thomas, does not counter all of the other negatives associated with Donald Trump. When speaking of constitutional issues Trump seems barely more coherent than a high school kid who has not done his social studies homework. It’s easy to make too much of his comment that his radically pro-abortion sister would make a “phenomenal” Supreme Court justice, but it underlines his fundamental lack of seriousness on the courts and constitutional issues. He may mouth platitudes about appointing “pro life, conservative” justices, but even when he’s trying to say things he knows his supporters want to hear, he still betrays his complete lack of understanding of what the courts are about. I don’t want “pro life, conservative” justices, I want constitutionalists who will adhere to the document as written and originally understood by its framers. Such justices would naturally decide in a manner that would overturn the social justice engineering wrought by the courts, but would also consistently vote so as to keep the courts out of other areas that are not their concern.

It’s also folly to count on Trump picking excellent advisers to assist him with these picks. We’re left hoping that he picks the right person to pick the right people. Hey, I have an idea – let’s cut out the middleman. Maybe instead of Trump we could have a president who, say, has argued (and consistently won) before the Supreme Court and thus might actually know a little but about constitutional law. Oh, I know, that’s crazy talk. Better to roll the dice, cross our fingers and pray that Trump picks the right person to pick the right person.

Even assuming Trump hits the jackpot and chooses a suitable replacement for Scalia, guess what – he’s likely gonna have to repeat that process multiple times. I would be surprised if Clarence Thomas and Anthony Kennedy don’t resign during the next Republican administration. Ruth Bader Ginsburg might try to hang on for another four years in case Trump wins, but even she might walk away. So not only are we relying on Trump getting it right to simply hold the line, we might need him to make the right call when it comes to appointing someone who could switch the court’s basic composition.

Wait. There’s more. While we focus obsessively on the Supreme Court we forget to scores of lower court appointments that will be made. As Danel Horowtiz details, less than one percent of cases make it to the Supreme Court, meaning that most cases are decided on the appellate level. And as Horowitz shows, President Obama has completely remade the lower courts.

While most people focus exclusively on the Supreme Court and how that institution has reached rock bottom with some of the decisions of the past term, the situation in the lower courts is even worse.  And remember, only 1% of this country’s cases ever make it to the land’s highest court.  Obama has now appointed 54 active appeals court judges, which represents 30% of the appeals court benches.

As of 2016, nine of the 13 circuits are comprised of majorities of Democrat-appointees.  In totality, there are 92 Democrat circuit judges, 77 GOP judges, and 10 vacant seats.  The all-important D.C. Court of Appeals—the second most important court in the land on constitutional issues—is now 7-4 majority Democrat-appointees, with four judges appointed by Obama alone.

On the district level, Obama has now appointed 260 judges, 39% of the federal district bench.

Even if we trusted to Trump to somehow have a better batting average of appointing constitutionalists to the bench than Ronald Reagan and the Bushes, it probably won’t matter. The courts are so fundamentally broken that even appointing the right people – which we can’t even trust Trump will do – won’t solve anything.

Which brings us to the final point. The judiciary has usurped the legislature’s role in deciding social issues. It has become a super legislature, far beyond anything imagined by the framers of the Constitution. Even if the courts decided rightly on these major social issues, we should question why they are even deciding so many of these issues in the first place. Major judicial reform is necessary, including such ideas as jurisdiction stripping. While I wouldn’t expect even a President Cruz to succeed in this arena, at least not as thoroughly as one would hope, there is no chance in Hades than a President Trump will get behind any initiatives to reform the judiciary. In the end, the courts are simply too far gone to think that electing Donald Trump can make any difference whatsoever.

Which brings us to the “but Hillary” argument. Yes, Hillary Clinton is a sociopathic, charisma vacuum who would almost literally (maybe not almost) kill someone who stood in her way of obtaining office. She has no scruples, would say anything to get elected, lies as easily as any of us breathe, and is a doctrinaire leftist.

But I also kind of just described Donald Trump (except for the charisma thing – I’ll give him that).

Phillip Klein laid out a pretty exhaustive list of Trump’s political failings. It’s hard to see in this list precisely where he’s markedly better than Hillary Clinton. In fact both are political chameleons who seem to thirst after power, and will do and say anything to attain that power. In the end, President Clinton or President Trump will do nothing to repeal Obamacare, and both seem to be fine with ideas to further socialize health care. Neither is going to reign in the judiciary, nor are they going to halt the expansion of executive powers. And on and on.

As mentioned above I held out for much of 2012 before finally succumbing to the “he’s better than Obama” argument as applied to Mitt Romney. The thing is, Mitt Romney is Edmund Burke, Barry Goldwater, and Ronald Reagan rolled into one compared to Donald Trump, not to mention his clearly superior moral character. Mitt Romney, for all his faults, truly was a superior alternative to Barack Obama. I cannot say the same about Donald Trump as compared to Hillary Clinton.

So that is why no amount of pleading will ever get me to vote for Donald Trump. If it makes you feel better I live in a state that has zero chance of going Republican in a general election, so it also won’t matter. As I said in my previous post, Donald Trump actually could and maybe even likely will defeat Hillary Clinton. God help our nation that this is our choice.

NB: If Tuesday goes as poorly as I fear it might, this will be my final post on presidential politics until election day in November. I don’t think I can stomach eight months of coverage of these two fundamentally loathsome human beings.

71

Marco Rubio Would be an Election Day Disaster

I am bucking both conventional wisdom and my own stated feelings in coming to the conclusion that Marco Rubio, if he somehow wins the Republican nomination, would lose to Hillary Clinton (though possibly not Bernie Sanders). I have long held that just about any Republican can beat the charisma vacuum that is Hillary, but now I have grave doubts about Rubio’s ability to win in November.

Let me first concede that polling data suggests the opposite. Right now the Real Clear Politics average of polls shows Rubio up by 3-4 points over Hillary, with Ted Cruz a little less than a percentage point over Hillary, and Donald Trump several points behind Hillary. The polls over the past couple of months have been fairly consistent, with both Rubio and Cruz holding edges over Hillary, but Hillary holding an edge over Trump (with Sanders beating everyone).

But general election polls nine months out before everything has been decided are not quite reliable. That said, the polls do confirm what many feel to be the case. Hillary Clinton has not one jot of her husband’s political skills or appeal, and if just about anyone besides a 74-year old socialist were her primary opponent, she would be toast by now. Sanders has a certain appeal to the millennial crowd, and the general electorate is likely unaware of the full extent of his radicalism.

For the Republicans, Rubio has a superficial appeal that would seem to sway more independent voters. He is not perceived to be as much of an ideologue as Ted Cruz, and apparently has a more vibrant appeal than the supposedly dour Cruz. Trump, meanwhile, reviles people on all sides of the political spectrum. I for one have not only sworn I would never vote for the man, but have said his nomination would cause me to disassociate myself from the Republican party. In that I am hardly alone. If he can’t even get Republicans to vote for him, then how could Trump possibly win?

As much as it pains me to say, Trump not only can win a general election, it’s possible he would even be a favorite to beat Hillary. Of all the reasons I personally dislike Trump and pray fervently he is not the nominee, his lack of electability has never been one. Even if a decent chunk of conservatives refuse to vote for him, he can actually bring in enough disaffected, middle class whites to offset the loss of Republicans. Besides, don’t doubt that more than a few people vowing not to vote for him will, in the end, blink.

We’ve just alluded to Cruz and his ideological rigidity and lack of charisma. Very many people, even on the right, seem to have a visceral hatred of the man.

So why would either be more likely to win in November than Rubio?

In the 1997 movie The Devil’s Advocate,  the main character (and son of Satan, but we don’t need to get into the plot right now – but the movie’s worth checking out if only for Al Pacino’s amazing hammy scene at the end) Kevin Lomax is a defense attorney for a man accused of murder, played by Craig T. Nelson. That the man he is representing is a loathesome, New York real estate tycoon is not at all connected to the point I’m about to make, but it’s a funny coincidence. Anyway, during opening arguments, Lomax (played by Keannu Reeves) offers his opening remarks:

What I need to tell you won’t take very long at all. I don’t like Alexander Cullen. I don’t think he’s a nice person. I don’t expect you to like him. He’s been a terrible husband to all three of his wives. He’s been a destructive force in the lives of his stepchildren. He’s cheated the city, his partners… …his employees. He’s paid hundreds of thousands of dollars in penalties and fines. I don’t like hm. I’m going to tell you some things during the course of this trial that are going to make you like him even less.

But this isn’t a popularity contest. It’s a murder trial. And the single most important provable fact of this proceeding is that Alexander Cullen was somewhere else when these horrible crimes took place.

I want one thing from you. That’s it. One thing.I want you to ask yourself: “Is not liking this man reason enough to convict him of murder?”

When an angry Cullen confronts Lomax about these remarks, Lomax replies (pardon the very crude language):

I’m gonna bust my ass make sure they hate you. Because as long as you’re boning Melissa, you’re not home killing your wife!

There’s something to be said about laying your cards out on the table. It’s been established that Trump is, well, not a nice guy, and yet he’s winning over Evangelical voters (a topic for another day after a few rounds of heavy drinks). Cruz – not nearly as unlikable as he’s portrayed, but whatever – is also something of a known commodity. As Matt Walsh points out, Cruz is still able to win over voters through the strength of his ideas despite the lack of a strong charismatic appeal (though admittedly this was written after the Iowa caucus when things were looking a bit rosier for Cruz).

The point is though that Cruz and Trump have reputations that precede them. And that might be a good thing for their general election prospects. The voters already have a sense of what these candidates are (even if it’s exaggerated in Cruz’s case, but again, whatever), and yet Cruz still holds his own in a potential election matchup against Hillary. Moreover, one gets the sense that both Trump and Cruz will be able to withstand the blows that Hillary is going to land in debates and in the incessant advertising and media blitz to come. The thing is, people already have a good sense of who these men are, and there’s not much more that the Democrats can do to bring them down. And both men also will be quick to hit back just as hard. Neither man is a boy scout, and for general election purposes, that’s a good thing.

Which brings us to Rubio. The opposition dump that is to come on Marco Rubio is going to make whatever Right to Rise did look like a day at the beach. This has nothing to do with any personal issues that will get dug up, but rather how the Democrats will inevitably go after his “extremism.” Well all those Rubio supporters here in the primary pointing out Rubio’s conservative voting record are going to have to scramble when that voting record is suddenly more deeply explored by the media and the DNC – but I repeat myself. Sure they’ll do the same to Cruz, but again, that’s already known about him. Suddenly the squeaky clean boy wonder won’t look quite as “moderate,” and when his foreign policy bellicosity is added to the mix, suddenly he looks even more extreme than Cruz.

And how would Rubio respond to the attacks that are to come? This is where the rubber hits the road and my lack of confidence in Rubio comes to the fore. Does Rubio have what it takes to take on the Democratic party/Clinton machine? What I’ve seen of Rubio thus far does not impress me. His speaking style inspires some, but has me thinking he needs to hit the decaf. More seriously, I don’t see in him the type of person who can take an attack head-on and deftly go on the counter-attack. Even if one thinks the debate flub against Christie became an exaggerated talking point, it demonstrated a weakness that will be exploited in the general election. I don’t happen to think Rubio is dumb or programmed, nor am I confident that he has the chops to go mano y mujer against Hillary.

What’s more, I don’t think he will pull in as many non-Republicans as Trump, nor will he do as well among Republicans as Cruz. Will conservatives stay at home on election day if Rubio is the nominee? Not necessarily, but as was the case with Romney, I don’t think his nomination will help mobilize the base to engender even greater Republican turnout. Rubio will be perceived, rightly or wrongly, as just another Establishment Republican. He’ll get most on the right to dutifully go to the polls for him, but will they knock on doors for him? Will they hit the phone banks?

I’m not even certain Rubio will outperform Cruz among non-Republicans. There is a bitter anti-Establishment mood in this country, and Cruz is a much better vehicle for that feeling than Marco Rubio. Let’s be blunt – are the angry, white middle-class Americans going to storm the polls for one of the leaders of the Gang of Eight? Rubio supporters can roll their eyes if they wish at another invocation of the dreaded Gang of Eight, but it’s a stench that will not leave Marco. And while it’s a stench that will drive away disaffected independents, it will not draw in minority voters.

So I’m bucking conventional wisdom to say that of the three main Republican contenders, Marco Rubio is the most ill-suited to win this November election. Could I be wrong? Of course, I’ve gotten plenty wrong before – except about Jeb Bush not being the nominee. Go me. Therefore if your primary motivation for voting for Rubio is electability – first slap yourself for playing this stupid game because you probably voted for Romney and McCain for the same reasons, and second, know that you’re betting on the wrong horse.

 

42

New York Values

Well this campaign season just keeps getting better. Last night the Republicans had the latest in a series of presidential debates. I personally thought the top three contenders – Ted Cruz, Marco Rubio, and Donald Trump – all acquitted themselves very well. Even Donald Trump, as off-point and rambling in his answers as ever, was basically coherent. Jeb Bush continues to look like a hostage forced to run for the presidency against his will. Chris Christie did well even if he completely dissembled about his record and once again complained about people debating during a debate. John Kasich is still permitted to participate in these things for reasons that elude most sane people. And Ben Carson, well, Dr. Carson is an extraordinarily humble man of great character, and I’ll leave it at that because I don’t want to say anything too mean.

There were some fierce exchanges, and perhaps the biggest moment of the night occurred Ted Cruz deftly handled the question about his status as a natural born citizen. He even got Trump to concede that he only went there because of Cruz’s standing in the polls. It was beautiful to see the crowd actually boo Trump as he tried to continue down this foolish path.

The other Trump-Cruz exchange arguably did not go quite as well for Cruz. On the stump Cruz had dissed the Donald for upholding “New York values,” a line of attack he continued during the debate. Cruz concluded with the line “Not a lot of conservatives come out of Manhattan,” a line which was actually a subtle jab at Trump’s remark that “not a lot of Evangelicals come out of Cuba.” Trump hit back, going to the 9/11 well to talk about how New Yorkers stood tall and united after the terrorist attacks. It was certainly a well-crafted response by Donald, and it caught Cruz a bit off guard. Video of the exchange can be seen at this link.

Now there’s been some back-and-forth in the social media world about Cruz’s “New York values” line of attack – a phrase, by the way, uttered by Trump himself a few years ago. Many New Yorkers are supposedly upset by the remarks as evidenced by this Daily News front page (link does not go to the Daily News*).

*I remarked on twitter that if the New York Times had a lobotomy, the result would be the New York Daily News. I was in error. The Daily News is the result of the New York Times getting drunk. 

Now, I happen to be a native New Yorker, born and raised in the mean streets of Queens. I attended high school in Manhattan and worked there for a couple of years after college. My family still all live in New York. I loved New York, and still get a little weepy sometimes when I hear Frank Sinatra’s version of “New York, New York.” I remain loyal to my New York sports teams, particularly the Mets. Donald Trump was absolutely right about the spirit of New Yorkers, and their great resiliency. There is a great charm in New York bluntness. Having lived in several other large cities, and having regularly traveled throughout the country, I still think in many ways that New York is the greatest city in the country, especially if you are a certain age. The combination of arts, entertainments, business, food (the best food of any major city, or at least the city with the best diversity of good food), and just the general vibrancy of the city are unmatched. And even as Democratic as the city might be, there is a great working class charm to the outer boroughs where the residents are not so easily typecast. There is a reason New York City did not elect a Democratic mayor for two decades, and why the one who served for 12 years shortly before Giuliani (Ed Koch) was hardly a doctrinaire leftist.

All that being said, let me relay a statistic for you. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the abortion rate in 2010 for women aged 15-44 was 17.7 per 1,000 women in the country. New York’s rate was 35.3, second only to Delaware. No other state was in the thirties. I am willing to bet a small fortunate that the rate in the city was much higher than upstate.

Abortion rates of course don’t tell the whole story, though there is a definite correlation between high abortion rate states and “blue” states. There are demographic, economic and other factors at play in the statistic as well.

But let’s be clear about something. Ted Cruz was getting at something all of us understand in our hearts. There is a certain value set among urbanites and other people on the east coast that clashes with the values of folks in much of the rest of the country. Of course not everyone who happens to live in New York holds the same values as the urban elites, and even holding those values does not make you, ipso facto, a bad person. Believing in socialized medicine does not render you incapable of rising to the occasion in moments of great stress, or of helping in times of crisis. But when it comes to the world of politics, and in understanding the role of government, or in holding certain cultural values, New Yorkers and the like generally clash with the values and ideology held by the majority of Republicans, and definitely of conservatives. All the crocodile tears shed in the world will not change this stubborn fact. Even if you cringe at the hint of a suggestion of some kind of culture war, you have to acknowledge the difference in value sets. And no matter how much Donald Trump has pulled the wool over the eyes of many voters, his history and his actions show he’s from a different world (metaphorically speaking) than traditional conservatives. And that’s Ted Cruz’s point, and it’s a point that is absolutely correct.

44

Friendly Fire

When Rick Perry dropped out of the presidential race in 2o12 it was an easy decision to back Rick Santorum. Santorum was easily the best of the remaining field of candidates, as his political ideology closely mirrored my own. I have no desire to fe-fight the battles of 2012, though I will say that I thought some of the attacks on Santorum, particularly by some on the libertarian-right who depicted Rick as a big government conservative, were unfair.

Santorum is running again for the presidency, and thus far is gaining almost no traction. Considering that GOP runners-up have historically wound up being the man nominated next time, this is somewhat curious. It’s true that the field is (or was) much stronger, but Santorum had established a decent base of support. It’s also worth noting that while Donald Trump has rocketed to the top of the polls largely based on his strong rhetoric vis a vis illegal immigration, Santorum, unlike the Donald, has consistently been an immigration hawk. Even with Donald’s bluster, Santrum still holds the strictest line on immigration – legal and illegal. And yet he flounders, barely registering in the polls.

Whatever the cause for his stagnation, he and his supporters still hold out hope that he can make the same kind of poll comeback in Iowa as he did four years ago. Indeed he is in about the same spot in the polls as he was at this time, roughly five weeks before the Iowa caucus. Yet it doesn’t seem likely that Santorum will come from back of the pack this time, and one of the primary reasons is Ted Cruz. Cruz has garnered the support of the evangelical and conservative wings of the party, and what’s more, he has developed the sort of ground game in Iowa and elsewhere that makes it very unlikely he will fade from the race.

I am most certainly not the only Santorum supporter who prefers Cruz this time around. Though I still like Rick, there are a few key differences between the two that make me prefer Cruz. I’ve always been a bit bothered by Santorum’s more bellicose foreign policy views, and Cruz seems to fit a happier middle ground between the Paulite and McCainiac extremes of the party. Santorum has also backed ethanol subsidies and the Export-Import bank, two corporate welfare schemes that belie the idea that he is not in fact a big government conservative.

With Santorum being desperate to start gaining ground, he has decided to go after Cruz on social issues. Santorum, like Mike Huckaphony Huckabee last week, has tried to take advantage of a Politico hit piece news story purporting to show Cruz being two-faced on social issues.

In June, Ted Cruz promised on NPR that opposition to gay marriage would be “front and center” in his 2016 campaign.

In July, he said the Supreme Court’s decision allowing same-sex marriage was the “very definition of tyranny” and urged states to ignore the ruling.

But in December, behind closed doors at a big-dollar Manhattan fundraiser, the quickly ascending presidential candidate assured a Republican gay-rights supporter that a Cruz administration would not make fighting same-sex marriage a top priority.

In a recording provided to POLITICO, Cruz answers a flat “No” when asked whether fighting gay marriage is a “top-three priority,” an answer that pleased his socially moderate hosts but could surprise some of his evangelical backers.

Aha! You see – Cruz isn’t as committed to social issues as his public statements make him seen. He’s a fraud!

Except, as Patterico points out, everything Cruz said in private is what he has been saying publicly for months on the campaign trail. First, Patterico provides the full quote from the fundraiser:

Q: Can I ask you a question? So, I’m a big supporter. And the only issue I really disagree with you about is gay marriage. And I’m curious: Given all the problems that the country’s facing — like ISIS, the growth of government — how big a priority is fighting gay marriage going to be to a Cruz administration?

CRUZ: “My view on gay marriage is that I’m a constitutionalist and marriage is a question for the states. And so I think if someone wants to change the marriage laws of their state, the way to do so is convince your fellow citizens — and change them democratically, rather than five unelected judges. … Being a constitutionalist is integral to my approach to every other issue. So that I’m very devoted to.

Q: So would you say it’s like a top-three priority for you — fighting gay marriage?

CRUZ: “No. I would say defending the Constitution is a top priority. And that cuts across the whole spectrum — whether it’s defending [the] First Amendment, defending religious liberty, stopping courts from making public policy issues that are left to the people. …

I also think the 10th Amendment of the Constitution cuts across a whole lot of issues and can bring people together. People of New York may well resolve the marriage question differently than the people of Florida or Texas or Ohio. … That’s why we have 50 states — to allow a diversity of views. And so that is a core commitment.

There’s more at the link. Long story short, there is absolutely no inconsistency between what Cruz said in private and what he has said in public.

Santorum, though, has decided to attack Cruz for his federalist-inspired approach.

“It’s basically that he’s not the social conservative that he’s portraying himself to be and is the answer is he’s not,” added Santorum, citing aPolitico story where Cruz said on a secret tape at a fundraiser that he wouldn’t make fighting same-sex marriage a top three priority in his administration.

“If people want to do drugs in Colorado, it’s fine with him,” said Santorum. “If people want have different kind of marriages, it’s fine with him. He doesn’t agree with it. If you want to have an abortion, it’s fine with him, he doesn’t agree with it, but he’s not gonna fight it. That’s not what people are looking for. They’re looking for someone who has a very clear vision of what’s right and what’s wrong and be able to lay that vision out for the American people.”

This is at best a gross mischaracterization of Cruz’s beliefs. What’s more, as streiff at Redstate says:

There is nothing non-conservative about saying that you are willing to allow the voters of Colorado to legalize drugs or the voters of Massachusetts to legalize homosexual marriage. That doesn’t make those decisions right but what social conservatism is about is creating a space where people of faith are free to campaign to have their view be the dominant one. On abortion that means fighting in all states to have abortion outlawed. It doesn’t mean you have to win in all states. It means getting the Supreme Court out of these issues and not imposing Anthony Kennedy’s perverted view of human sexuality upon 300 million people.

I’d go a step further than streiff and note that Cruz’s approach is far, far more likely to lead to social conservative victories than is Santorum’s. Sad to say, Santorum is living up to his image as a would-be nagger in chief. Cruz’s approach, meanwhile, is one that would get the courts out of the social policy game. If the states are left to their own devices to set policy, then we would have a much greater chance of seeing abortion outlawed or gay marriages not sanctioned than we would now. That is not to say that we stop fighting the cultural values – just the opposite. It’s just that the primary objective of a president is to appoint justices who respect the 10th Amendment and would thus allow those fights to be had on a local level. It would then be up to social conservatives to spread their message in New York, California, Massachusetts, etc.

I understand why Santorum said what he said, but it doesn’t make it any less disappointing. Yet I’ve been constantly disappointed by the need people seem to feel to absolutely denigrate every presidential candidate that is not their first choice, but that’s another discussion.

 

 

10

Horizontal versus Vertical Orientation

Nicholas Frankovich has a very astute post in National Review’s Corner blog about the amazing technicolor light show from the Vatican last night. In it he argues that the real battle in the Catholic world is not between the right and the left, but rather between those who are vertically oriented and horizontally oriented.

Two years ago on the Feast of the Immaculate Conception, Pope Francis traveled to the neighborhood, Piazza di Spagna, which is near Rome’s highest-end shopping district, to pray and preach against neglect of the poor. On that occasion too, his politics overshadowed his spirituality. In general, he does a bad job of integrating Christianity’s horizontal message, “love thy neighbor,” with its vertical message, “love God.”

His intentions may be noble, but what he usually ends up communicating is that the horizontal message is primary. His assumption, which was fashionable among Jesuit educators in the 1970s, is apparently based on Maslow’s hierarchy of needs: You can’t expect someone to listen to your theology and philosophy if he’s cold, hungry, and sick. So the first duty of a teacher and of a preacher is to be, in effect, a social worker and political activist.

The poor we will have always with us, however. The implication of Jesuit social activism is that we must constantly postpone our attention to their spiritual needs. In many quarters, including the Vatican under this pontificate, the institutional Church has lapsed — or crashed, with a thud — into its besetting sin of valuing temporal over spiritual power. The political popes of the Renaissance would understand Francis well.

Contemporary Catholicism is mainly divided not between the political Left and the political Right but between the horizontally oriented and the vertically oriented. The latter are often pushed to the margins of Catholic circles. Last night, while up at corporate headquarters the princes of the Church were garishly attempting to ingratiate themselves to global political elites, the Institute of Christ the King, an order of traditional Catholic priests, led a stately Marian procession through the streets of Rome.

I noted in my critique of Pope Francis’s environmental encyclical that it really lacked a firm theological message, and that the encyclical was too secular in its language. Frankovich crystallizes why Pope Francis’s message seemed so hollow to me.

92

Trump Freakout Number 999

No doubt jealous that President Obama was getting all the attention for his latest inane speech, and worried that Ted Cruz had passed him in the polls in Iowa, Donald Trump offered his latest off-the-cuff, incendiary policy proposal: prohibiting Muslim immigration and foreign travel to the United States. There are five key points to make about this and the reaction to it.

1. It’s stupid and unworkable. A blanket ban on all Muslim immigration fits in well with Trump’s basic approach to politics, which is to use a jackhammer to screw in a nail. Not only does the proposal cast all Muslims together as the enemy, it could have potentially adverse foreign policy implications, as Ben Shapiro explains:

Kiss Our Intelligence Apparatus Goodnight. We need to work with Muslims both foreign and domestic. It’s one thing to label Islamic terrorism and radical Islam a problem. It’s another to label all individual Muslims a problem. That’s what this policy does. It’s factually wrong and ethically incomprehensible. Donald Trump has just transformed into the strawman President Obama abused on Sunday night.

It’s unworkable for all of the reasons Reihan Salan suggests:

So I understand Trump’s anxiousness, and I share in it. Where we part company is on how the United States ought to treat people who identify as Muslims going forward. I use this awkward locution (“people who identify as Muslims”) advisedly, because the screening mechanism Trump seems to have settled on is to ask travelers if they are Muslim and to turn away those who say yes. There is something almost quaint about this approach, as if we should expect that people who are trying to do us harm will play by the rules Trump has laid out and openly profess their religious beliefs, knowing all the while that it would lead to their exclusion from the country. Granted, there are many Muslims who would never deny their faith, even if it meant that they wouldn’t be allowed into the country. Indeed, I can imagine such professions sparking a social media campaign designed to discredit the exclusion of Muslims, and to celebrate principled resistance to it. The trouble is that terrorists rely on deceit to achieve their objectives, while the kind of people who’d never dream of lying about their religious convictions generally fall in a different category.

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As usual, Trump is speaking off the cuff. Perhaps he is not entirely serious about simply asking people if they are Muslims or not, in which case he could rely on country of origin. Shall we exclude travelers from Muslim-majority countries? This approach would exclude Christians, Hindus, Buddhists, animists, and other religious minorities, and it would ignore the Muslim citizens of non-Muslim-majority countries, like India, Britain, or France. We might instead exclude people with Arabic surnames, as this is generally a good marker of Muslim ancestry, though not a perfect one: this approach would exclude some nontrivial number of non-practicing Muslims, converts to other faiths, atheists, and agnostics, not to mention a large number of Muslims who reject Islamism and Islamist violence.

Now I can already here the Trumpeteers shouting: aha, so that means you’re with Obama and just want unfettered Islamic immigration. Trump supporters and sympathizers have an unusually Manichean worldview: if you don’t support Trump that means you must support Jeb, if you disagree with banning Muslim immigration you’re for open borders, etc. On the contrary, it’s quite possible to disagree with the proposal to ban all Muslim immigration while simultaneously viewing President Obama and the left as dangerously naive when it comes to the problem of Islamic radicalism.

2. Trump doesn’t even mean it. As I wrote elsewhere, if Donald Trump became dictator tomorrow this ban would never occur, just as most of his over-the-top immigration proposals would never see the light of day. Trump offers up this red meat in the hopes of getting his supporters riled up while also getting his opponents to lash out in over-reaction. As usual, he accomplished both missions, and so in that respect Eric Erickson is correct in calling this a brilliant political move.

If you truly believe that this is a well thought out proposal, here’s the Donald explaining how it would work:

Willie Geist: Donald, a customs agent would ask the person his or her religion?

Donald Trump: They would be probably, they would say, ‘are you Muslim?’

Geist: And if they said, ‘yes,’ they would not be allowed in the country?

Trump: That is correct.

Wow, that’s almost as foolproof as asking immigrants if they are terrorists. This will certainly ensnare any would-be evil doers.

3. No, this will not help Isis. It has became all the rage to denounce all unpopular policy ideas as things that would be recruiting tools for ISIS. We were told that the refusal to allow Syrian refugees into the country would be used as a recruiting tool, and now we’re hearing that Donald’s proposal will only create more terrorists. I suggest we turn this idea around: I think that using the no-fly list as an excuse to deprive people of their second amendment rights without due process will only enable the terrorists, and will clearly create more jihadists.*

*No, I don’t actually think that, but it’s no less absurd.

You know what fuels the terrorists: our very existence. Some damned fool idea by a loud-mouthed American is not pushing anyone over the edge to jihad.

4. No, this is not unconstitutional. There seems to be an insistence in some quarters that all bad policy ideas are ipso facto unconstitutional. Jim Geraghty, for one, has been banging the drum on the proposal’s lack of constitutionality. Sorry to say bu the US government can pretty much restrict immigration to whoever the hell it wants. There is no constitutional right to emigrate here, and neither the first amendment or the ban on religious tests for public office speak to this issue. Unconstitutional does not mean “icky ideas.”

Now there has been some confusion as to whether Trump has lumped American citizens into this blanket ban, but it seems at the moment that this is confined to non-citizens overseas.

5. Only one person has not taken the bait. Like night follows day, the denouncements came in from all sides. Twitter quickly filled up with angry tweets, and presidential candidates giddily joined the fray. Jeb Bush, Lindsay Graham, Marco Rubio and pretty much the rest of the remaining GOP field quickly jumped in to declare how horrible a person Trump was.

Jeb Bush getting on twitter to denounce Trump might be the most tone-deaf political maneuver one can imagine. Donald Trump’s position as the lead horse in the GOP field is almost entirely due to Jeb Bush’s existence in the race. Bush’s continued delusional run – and lump Graham, Kasich, and most of the others in there – is what is keeping Trump atop the polls. Narrow the field to three candidates, or even four, and suddenly Trump’s 25 percent doesn’t look so impressive. Yet not only does Bush persist, he does the one thing Trump desires most: he gave him negative attention.

Only one GOP candidate didn’t take the bait, and it’s the one person who seems to know what the hell he’s doing. Ted Cruz didn’t denounce Trump, but instead chose a softer way to distance himself from the Donald:

“I do not agree with his proposals. I do not think it is the right solution,” Cruz said in the Capitol. “The right solution I believe is the legislation that I have introduced.”

More on what Cruz has proposed here.

So not only did Cruz refuse to poke the bear, he made his own policy proposal the centerpiece.

Amazingly Cruz is being roundly denounced himself by some for refusing to do his own denouncing. While it’s certainly possible that this is a cynical ploy not to anger Trump’s supporters for fear of alienating them down the road, it also happens to be the proper strategy, and one that other Republican candidates would be well advised to employ. Yet only Cruz seems to have the wits to understand this. That almost in and of itself is why Cruz is now in position to surpass Trump sooner or later.

32

The Trumpeteers’ New Emmanuel Goldstein

Trying to keep Trump supporter logic straight is a harrowing ordeal. When confronted with the reality of Trump’s many, many, many (did I say many?) deviations from conservative orthodoxy, Trumps fans respond with an “argument” that employs “GOPe” “Jeb Bush” and “RINO” in some form. The irony of calling any other candidate a Republican in Name Only while supporting the one candidate who is – based on his actual voting and ideological history – quite literally a Republican in Name Only is often lost on these individuals.

Throughout the campaign the big bad for most Trump supporters was Jeb Bush. Jeb Bush was held up as the Establishment darling, and as such the symbol of all that was wrong with the GOP (e). This is perhaps the one time the Trump supporters were largely right. For reasons that defy explanation the GOP Establishment, such as it is, has propped up Jeb Bush. Despite being arguably the absolute worse type of nominee the party could hope for to run against Hillary, the big donors flocked to him. As such, any attempt to criticize Trump has been met with accusations that one must therefore support Jeb Bush. Again, this ignored the fact that at one time 15 (now 12) other candidates were in the race, and the combined polling support for those other candidates has hovered around 60-70 percent, which would seem to indicate to anyone with either a sense of logic or ability to do math that Republicans had other choices in the primary.

Now that Jeb’s star has faded he has been replaced with a new Emmanuel Goldstein. It’s not Ben Carson. Though Trump has personally attacked Carson (and quite maliciously), the real subject of his supporters’ vitriol is Marco Rubio. Just as Oceania has always been at war with Eastasia, and never Eurasia, evidently the real enemy has been Marco Rubio all along.

You can see it in comments sections of right-leaning blogs all the time. Marco Rubio is the clear GOPe darling (not Jeb Bush – it’s never been Jeb Bush), and the man to be feared. Now as Bush fades in the polls it’s quite possible that that hefty six percent or so of the electorate currently supporting Jeb will swing Marco’s way, and that indeed the big bad Establishment might see Rubio as their new savior. But the almost delusional antipathy to Rubio is only starting to peak, as can be seen in this bizarre rant where Ace of Spades lays the blame of Donald Trump’s inability to answer a question in a coherent manner at the blame of Rubio’s followers. Yeah, it’s the GOPe that rendered Trump incapable of clearly and convincingly saying no to a reporter who asked if we should just round up all of the Muslims in the USA and force them to register in some kind of database.

Sadly this is all too representative of the basic gist of Trump support, which is entirely grounded in some kind of hate towards the “other”: other candidates, other cultures, other ways of communicating that are more sophisticated than grunting. It also highlights how the Trump phenomenon is built on a foundation of sand. Even though Jeb Bush never reached particularly high in the polls, we were repeatedly told that if you didn’t hop aboard Team Trump then we were cruising towards a Bush coronation. Now Marco Rubio is the new scarecrow and symbol of all things to be feared.

And now that Ted Cruz is climbing higher in the polls, undoubtedly we will soon come to learn that the true Establishment darling all along has been the man that seems to be the most despised figure among this same so-called Establishment. In fact one Trump supporter has already assured me that “[m]any of us had Cruz pegged as a stalking horse before Trump even announced.” Scooby and Shaggy will soon unmask Ted Cruz only to see Mitt Romney in disguise, I suppose.  We’re not going to want the GOPe to get their man, they’ll say, and there’s no one that the GOPe loves more than Ted Cruz. Ted Cruz has always been their dream candidate, and never Marco Rubio. Or Bush. Or Romney.

And so it goes.

10

Will the Real Pharisees Please Stand Up?

It’s always nice when you are set to write on a topic but find yourself with a lack of time to discover that somebody else has already covered the issue. So, thank you C.C. Pecknold for doing the heavy lifting so that I don’t have to. Writing about the troublesome paragraphs of the final report of the synod on the family, Pecknold observes:

Jesuits, in fact, have a reputation for just this kind of casuistry that is so apparent in the ambiguous paragraphs. All signs point to Pope Francis’s interpreting them in the way progressives hope. But I’m on record as being a hopeful conservative with regard to this pope, often reading him against the liberal narrative rather than with it. I am obedient to the Office of Saint Peter, and I love this pope. I pray for him as I pray for my own father. And I trust that the Holy Spirit will guard and protect the pope insofar as God uses him as an instrument of the Church’s unity, as a guardian of the deposit of faith, and as our chief evangelist. But as Saint Paul reminds us, our obedience must be rational (Rom. 12.1–2). And thus far rational obedience impels me to ask the Holy Father questions.

What sort of legalism does the pope have in mind? When the pope condemns the Pharisees, does he realize that they were the ones who were casuistical and loosely legalist in allowing for divorce? Does he know that Christ responded to the Pharisees’ legalism with a radical gospel challenge that renewed the creation of man in grace, and the indissolubility of marriage? Does he see that Kasper’s proposal is itself at one with the Pharisees? Does he really think conservatives are teachers of the law rather than of virtue and truth? Does he really think that progressives wanting to accommodate the Church to liberal values, or comply with secular mores, are the vital source of newness for the Church?

Even if Pecknold’s hopefulness with regards to the Pontiff is a tad naive, the observation about Phariseeism is spot on. Heterodox, dissenting Catholics are the quickest to use the term “Pharisee,” mainly because that’s about the only argument their poor brains can muster. When applied to the issue of civilly divorced and remarried Catholics receiving Communion, this label is horribly misapplied. Jesus was highly critical of the Pharisees not merely because they were legalistic, but because their legalism in essence became their religion, and they missed the forest for the trees in their approach to faith. If Catholics were in the habit of suggesting that people could not receive Communion if their shirts were not buttoned up to at least the penultimate button, that would be a more apt description of Phariseeism. Insisting that we adhere to the strict words of Jesus quoted in the Gospels with respect to Catholic couples cohabitating in a state of sin is most certainly not a form of Phariseeism. The true Pharisees will be the ones who use the language of the final synod report to permit couples living in this state of sin to receive the Eucharist absent true repentance. Get ready to see just how many camels they will be trying to fit through the eye of the needle.

30

Of Pundits and Voters

I did not watch the Democratic presidential debate on Tuesday. There are two primary reasons for this: I am not a masochist, and the New York Mets were playing in the National League Division Series.* Either one of those reasons would have been sufficient to avoid this debacle, and the two in combination  made it a slam dunk decision.

*One may be tempted to sneer that the fact that I am a Mets fan negates my denial of being a masochist, to which I reply . . . Ummm, I’ll get back to you when I have a good retort.

The almost unanimous verdict among pundits all along the political spectrum was that Hillary Clinton was the winner, and it was not particularly close. Clinton was a giant among midgets dwarves little people Democrats. For two shining hours she even seemed almost, dare it be said, human? Perhaps her crack team of engineers, scientists, data programmers, and other smart people finally managed to work together to develop a chip that imparted something close to a personality. She was in command of the issues, managed to approximate the sound of laughter when appropriate without creeping everyone out, and avoided shrieking at decibels that would have had all neighborhood dogs howling in agony. This miracle of modern technology, working in conjunction with the pathetic opposition she faced*, enabled Clinton to get away with the most brutal assault since Chase Utley was allowed to break the existing rules of baseball in order to break a defenseless Ruben Tejada’s legs.

*By way of comparison, imagine a Republican debate in which Bobby Jindal, Carly Fiorina, Ben Carson, Marco Rubio, Chris Christie, Rand Paul, Rick Santorum, Ted Cruz, Mike Huckabee, and John Kasich all had to skip, and we were left with Donald Trump, Jed Bush, Lindsey Graham, George Pataki and Jim Gilmore. That is essentially what the Democratic field has been reduced to. 

So we had every pundit alive tripping over himself (or herself, or xerself, or ximself, or whatever pronoun you’re comfortable with) to declare Hillary the winner. So why is it that every focus group and online poll known to man indicated that Bernie Sanders won, and it wasn’t particularly close? I’ll be the first to admit that online polls are as useful as Joe Torre – just ask President Ron Paul – but almost every sample of actual real live voters who may theoretically vote in the Democrat primary, assuming of course evil Rethuglicans don’t deny them their right by forcing them to show personal identification at the polling place, indicates that Sanders was the real winner. What gives?

This is where I’m supposed to snarkily dismiss the punditocracy of being out of touch establishment shills who are merely zealously working overtime to ensure that Madame Hillary is coronated with minimal effort, and that most of them have their heads shoved so far up their collective posteriors that they have completely lost touch with the common man. And I suppose I’m supposed to make some crack about cocktail parties, and maybe another something or other about shills and the establishment, yada yada.

Well that’s partially right. But let me offer up a slightly less cynical take, or at least one that is cynical in the other direction. The problem with pundits, and I guess I’ll include yours truly in that category, is that we judge these things by completely different criteria than the people these debates are meant to persuade. We’re largely looking for substantive answers delivered in a convincing style. We’re looking for a certain adeptness at thinking on one’s feet, hopefully packaged in a way that is folksy without being condescending.

Now is that what the undecided voter is looking for? Do you think said undecided voter, who is probably that person you wind up in line behind at McDonald’s who spends ten minutes trying to decipher the oh-so-complicated menu before settling on the Big Mac, is carefully scrutinizing the pitch at which a candidate’s prepackaged lies responses are delivered? Is the type of voter who is reasonably persuaded that it is actually possible to deliver on the magical list of free stuff the Democrats have been promising all night such a reasoned, informed individual that he will deduct points from Bernie Sanders from sounding like an escapee from Bellevue? When Sanders guffaws on stage and says “G-damn” during a presidential debate, do you think that voter is clutching his pearls and tut-tutting the his lack of social etiquette?

I have some bad news for the pundits, and frankly for most of the American public for that matter. There’s really no way to put this delicately, so I’m just going to say it: these debates are principally aimed at the dumbest segment of the American electorate. Oh sure there are at least  still some reasonably educated people who may not have settled on a candidate yet, so the undecided segment of the audience for a primary debate might be a little bit better informed than that of a general election one. By and large, though, it is not unfair to wager that most of people who haven’t made up their minds and who are actually trying to gauge their vote on these “debates” are not the sorts of people who as zealously and closely follow politics as the people writing about the debates. Which is to say that the pundit interpretation of what happened on stage during the debate is worth almost nothing if one actually wants to know who really won the debate.

25

What Version of the Bible Does John Kasich Own?

Some time ago I ranked the Republican candidates for the White House in order of my own personal preference. At the time I ranked Ohio governor John Kasich in the middle of the pack. I think I was way too generous.

“Look at Medicaid expansion! Do you know how many people are yelling at me? I go to events where people yell at me. You know what I tell em? I mean, God bless em, I’m telling them a little bit better than this, there’s a book, it’s got a new part and an old part,  they put it together. It’s a remarkable book. If you don’t have one, I’ll buy you one, and it talks about how we treat the poor. Sometimes you just have to lead.”

Video at the link.

Kasich echoes an oft-repeated trope of left-wing Christians in claiming that those who oppose expanding the size and scope of the government are somehow not living up to biblical teachings. I’ve read different translations of the Bible – RSV, NRSV, Douay-Rheims – all in their entirety, and somehow missed the passage in which Jesus says, “Truly, Truly, I say to you that whoever grumbles when the government takes money from thy pocket and gives it to someone else surely will face the fires of Gehenna.” I mean there’s a whole lot in the Bible about personal charity and individual responsibility for taking care of the widow and the orphan, but I gotta say there’s nothing in there about government programs and the need to redistribute wealth.

Even if we concede that as a matter of some notion of community justice the state is responsible for providing some minimal sustenance to the least privileged among us, that does not preclude some kind of debate as to the means of providing said sustenance. What the hyprocrites who cry “Cafeteria Catholic!” at conservatives who oppose certain economic measures miss is that there is plenty of room for legitimate debate about the type of programs that we should establish to help the poor. Blindly accepting that any government program is ipso facto good and worthy of expansion is at a minimum foolish, and certainly does not justify this type of arrogant and condescending dismissal of fellow believers.

Surely there are libertarian-leaning folks, especially among the Ayn Rand acolytes of the modern era, who truly don’t indicate any concern for the poor whatsoever. Conservatives and libertarians alike can be at times dismissive of the genuine hardships that people face, and I earnestly pray that my own political opinions are informed by an honest interpretation of biblical and magisterial injunctions. Kasich’s attitude implies that only one path is correct in the field of economics. Well John, welcome to the land of disregarded candidates. Enjoy your time with George, Jim, Lindsey and the rest.

8

My Irony Meter Has Exploded

After reading these two items, it might be irreparably destroyed.

Item the first:

A Montgomery County man has filed a unique class action lawsuit in the wake of the Ashley Madison hacking scandal.

Christopher Russell, who is listed in court files only as a county resident, filed a complaint in U.S. District Court in Greenbelt Sept. 11 claiming that the site fraudulently represented its female users as actual women, but in fact most were automated bots designed to entice male users to spend money.

Russell spent $100 on the site to purchase credits that allowed him to message other users who he believed were real women, according to the complaint, but they may have actually been bots or workers paid by the site. The site is set up to allow married men and women to secretly coordinate affairs.

 

So you might say he is filing suit because a party with which he entered into a contract did not live up to the terms of said contract. Uh huh.

Item the second has to do with First Thing’s excommunication of Maureen Mullarkey from their blog. For those who missed the sordid affair, here is RR Reno’s post on the matter. For point of reference, here is Maureen’s blog, republished at One Peter Five. You can discern for yourselves if the post in question merited banishment.

One person who is not satisfied with First Thing’s actions: Mark Shea.

Mr. Reno:  Though I applaud your decision to give Maureen Mullarkey’s pope-hating blog the well-deserved ax, I think it is important to note that the level of sheer malice and [email protected]#$% [edited by PZ] crazy in the comboxes announcing he ouster at First Things is, like the popularity of Donald Trump among the wreckage of what was once conservatism, an indictment of the catechesis that conservatives have been getting from their manufacturers of thought and opinion over the last decade.

First Things–like the editors of National Review and the talking hairdos at FOX who have spent all summer trying to figure out how to team the Trumpkin Frankenstein base–have nobody to blame but themselves for the creation of that demographic. That Mullarkeys and similar lunatics have been given a forum and treated as voices to be taken seriously at all in conservative media is what has helped foster the subculture that is now roaring and frothing in that combox, as well as banging at the doors ofNational Review like zombies assaulting a shopping mall.  The sheer atavistic nuttiness on display among the Francis-haters in that First Things combox and elsewhere is the fruit of an Americanized fake gospel that FT and other conservative media has worked hard to promote.

Yes, in a post in which Shea describes others as [email protected]#$% crazy, lunatics, and zombies, and on a blog that is not exactly known for its decorum and lack of virulence, Mark Shea thinks that FT and its ilk are only to blame for sparking the development of an atmosphere that encourages the nuttiness that he claims is on display in the comments section of its blog.

Self-awareness, thy name is not Mark Shea.

7

The Lamest Defense of Planned Parenthood Ever

Have you ever gotten to the last line of an editorial where the author’s biographical information is posted and just shuddered? That happened to me today as I read this lame attack on Congress by David S. Cohen, who is somehow a law professor at Drexel in Philadelphia. Cohen argues that the House bill which would strip Planned Parenthood of funding violates the constitutional prohibition against bills of attainder. No, really, check this out:

The first day of teaching constitutional law, I inevitably find myself asking the question: “Does anyone know what a bill of attainder is?”

When one reads the rest of the article, one wonders if Professor Cohen know what a bill of attainder is.

A bill of attainder is a law that inflicts punishment upon a particular individual without a judicial trial. In other words, a bill of attainder is, as the Supreme Court has termed it, a “trial by legislature” rather than by court.

Ladies and gentlemen, you have just read the one factually correct line in the entire article.

Though no one is talking about it, this most recent dust-up over federal funding for Planned Parenthood is very clearly an example of an unconstitutional bill of attainder: Congress is singling out Planned Parenthood and punishing the organization for allegedly improper and illegal actions.

So just having factually and accurately defined a bill of attainder, Professor (shudder) Cohen now stretches the meaning beyond all recognition to imply that the attempt to not fund a private organization is the same thing as Congress punishing a person for treason without trial.

I have a high opinion of the readers of this particular blog. Based on the comments most of you have displayed a good grasp of logic and basic reading comprehension. Sadly, Professor (weeps) Cohen does not have such a high grasp of logic and reasoning. It takes quite a feat of mental gymnastics to categorize a Congressional attempt to not fund an organization as a bill of attainder. Planned Parenthood is not being “punished.” Cecile Richards (unfortunately) is not about to face either jail time or the gallows. The organization that she runs, which still manages to rake in millions of dollars from clients and from donors, might – like thousands of other similar organizations – have to live without receiving grants from the federal government. Somehow I don’t think that when James Madison, Alexander Hamilton, Rufus King, and the other men who gathered together in Philadelphia during the summer of 1787 crafted the language in the Constitution about bills of attainder that this is what they had on their minds.

More fundamentally, Congress can make spending decisions based on whatever criteria it deems appropriate. Planned Parenthood is not entitled to federal money, and thus is not being deprived of essential liberty in the way that a person found guilty without trial would be. Therefore the linkage here is incredibly dubious, at best.

Professor (sobs uncontrollably) Cohen continues:

First, removing Planned Parenthood’s federal funding, over half a billion dollars that help it provide cancer screenings, gynecological care, contraceptive counseling, and more, is a clear instance of punishment. (emphasis mine)

Hmmmm, something seems to be missing from this list. Whatever could that “more” be?

Professor (what is wrong with this country) Cohen really gives the way over the course of his next two sentences:

The Republican-controlled House voted to remove the funding based on deceptive videos from the Center for Medical Progress that purport to show that Planned Parenthood sells aborted fetal body parts and alters abortion procedures to facilitate those sales.

Putting aside the fact that the videos show nothing of the sort,

So Cohen is going to go with the LIE that the videos are in any way deceptive, and then he is going to wishcast away all the parts of the video do indeed show that Planned Parenthood is engaging in all of the practices it has been accused of. I don’t think we really need to read any more of Professor (don’t send your kids to law school) Cohen constitutional “analysis.” He has just outed himself as a silly partisan hack who will bend constitutional law to mean what he wants it to mean.

Sleep well Americans – this is the man who gets to teach our next generation of lawyers about constitutional law. Clearly they are in excellent hands.

23

“And she just taps the heart, and it starts beating.”

The latest Center for Medical Progress video is up.

Content warning at the video.

From the CMP link:

O’Donnell describes the harvesting, or “procurement,” of organs from a nearly intact late-term fetus aborted at Planned Parenthood Mar Monte’s Alameda clinic in San Jose, CA. “‘I want to see something kind of cool,’” O’Donnell says her supervisor asked her. “And she just taps the heart, and it starts beating. And I’m sitting here and I’m looking at this fetus, and its heart is beating, and I don’t know what to think.

 

. . . The video also features recordings of Dr. Ben Van Handel, the Executive Director of Novogenix Laboratories, LLC, and also of Perrin Larton, Procurement Manager of Advanced Bioscience Resources, Inc. (ABR). Novogenix is the company that has harvested fetal organs from abortions done by Planned Parenthood Federation of America’s Senior Director of Medical Services, Dr. Deborah Nucatola, in Los Angeles, while ABR is the oldest fetal tissue procurement company and works with Planned Parenthood in San Diego and other clinics around the country. Van Handel admits, “There are times when after the procedure is done that the heart actually is still beating,” and Larton describes abortions she has seen where “the fetus was already in the vaginal canal whenever we put her in the stirrups, it just fell out.

Pure, unadulterated evil.

44

Ranking the Field

Now that we’re somewhat officially underway in the presidential campaign season, I thought I’d rundown my current rankings of the GOP field. This is a rough estimate of how I personally rank them. This has nothing to do with how I deem their chances at winning the nomination or the presidency in general, though there will be some mention of that in the discussion.

15 – 17: Jim Gilmore, George Pataki, Lindsay Graham. Just call them the 3 G’s. Their presence in this race just baffles. Gilmore is officially registering as an asterisk in the polls, the other two are barely above that.

14. Rand Paul: Ron Paul lite is living up to his name. He presents a more palatable version of his father, but in doing so he has failed to sway those who didn’t support his dad, and at the same time he has alienated a good chunk of his father’s base.

13. Donald Trump: I’ve just about had my say on the Donald. Yes, we get it Trump supporters: you’re angry. Many of us are upset and frustrated with the Republican party’s leadership as well. We’ve just discovered more effective outlets for our frustration.

12. Ben Carson: If there has been one benefit to the Trump candidacy, it is that Carson appears credible by comparison. Carson is clearly the more thoughtful of the two male outsider candidates, and I would love for him to come to his senses and make a bid for the Senate in Maryland where I think he would have a pretty decent shot at winning. But one speech does not a president make, and this is not Carson’s time.

11. Mike Huckabee: You know there must be a lot of chaffe for Huckabee to be this high up the list. Huckabee is the big government conservative that foolish “conservatarians” convinced themselves that Rick Santorum is. He is an eloquent speaker and always does well in debates, but that is not the measure of presidential timbre.

10. Chris Christie: If Donald Trump were a governor, he’d be Chris Christie. While Christie’s off the cuff bloviations might have come off as refreshing and maybe even a little fun at first, now they just seem like the pathetic utterances of an ineffective governor. I would be somewhat surprised if Christie makes it to primary season before withdrawing from the race.

9. Carly Fiorina: Fiorina has charmed her way up the polls, and indeed she has proven to be an effective communicator. Where Trump is all show, she adds substance to style and has been one of the most effective champions of conservative ideas in the race. But before getting too excited about Fiorina, be forewarned. First of all, there’s the little matter of her complete lack of political experience. Even if you view that as a plus and not a negative, and point to her stewardship as CEO of Hewlett Packard, well I wouldn’t exactly rush to put that feather in her cap. (We’ll call her record mixed, and leave it at that.) On social issues her language is wishy-washy, and in general she’s somewhat of a blank slate. She has promise, but there are better candidates with stronger track records.

8. Jeb Bush: You were probably expecting him much lower on the list, but I do not have the same antipathy towards Jeb as others do. His record as governor of Florida was generally strong, and all in all I always thought he would have made a more effective president than his brother. That being said, he should absolutely not be the nominee. Aside from his (at the very least) muddled positions on immigration and Common Core, Bush is the absolute worst person to run against Hillary Clinton. His nomination would certainly negate the dynastic factor. What’s more, at least the person that Hillary is tied to is (sad as it is) actually popular with the electorate. And while Hillary Clinton is a charismatic dud, Jeb is not exactly a dynamo himself. More substantively, we are now almost a full decade removed from his term of office. I’m not the first to observe that he simply does not feel the connections to the issues that matter with the electorate that he might have once possessed. On top of all that, he’s a clumsy speaker who has made a number of unforced errors that hardly seems befitting the Establishment darling.

7. John Kasich: Well, Newt Gingrich made a pretty strong bid in 2012, so why not have another member of the 90s conservative revolution give it a shot? Unlike Gingrich then and Bush now, Kasich actually currently holds elective office, and won re-election in 2014 fairly easily. A conservative governor of a desperately needed swing state? Sounds like a sure winner to me. Unfortunately Kasich has decided to go the Bush route in seemingly taking delight in poking his base in the eye. And while he has a fairly strong conservative record, his support for Medicaid expansion is what particularly galls, especially in the way he framed it as a religious issue. Echoing the likes of Archbishop Cupich he said”“Now, when you die and get to the meeting with St. Peter, he’s probably not going to ask you much about what you did about keeping government small. But he is going to ask you what you did for the poor. You better have a good answer.” I didn’t realize entry into the kingdom of heaven would be based on my support of giving other people’s money to the poor. That soundbite is also odd considering more recent comments about faith and politics. Really, John? There’s only one social issue of importance now?

6. Marco Rubio: If he hadn’t initially supported the Gang of Eight deal on amnesty he’d be the front-runner. Alas he did, and so here we are. Unlike others I am willing to forgive a single transgression when a person’s record is otherwise solid, and Rubio’s record is very good. If anything gives me pause it is his somewhat aggressive approach towards foreign policy. He is almost at the polar opposite end of Rand Paul, and frankly I find both extremes troubling. It’s for this, and not his transgression on amnesty, that Rubio remains outside of the top tier.

Tie 4: Ted Cruz and Rick Santorum: If either man had been a governor he’d be the runaway leader for me. Alas, they’ll just have to make do with their sparkling ideological records. I was proud to support Santorum in 2012. Though I preferred Perry, Santorum was a strong second choice and, well, let’s not re-fight those battles. As with Rubio, my main concern is with Santorum’s dare I say neoconnish outlook on foreign affairs. Santorum is much more likely than Cruz to support military involvement, and as such Cruz might have the edge over Santorum. Both men are absolutely solid on both economic and social issues. Santorum gets pegged as a big government conservative, but this is completely unfair based on his track record. Santorum does have a bit of a protectionist streak in him, so once again Cruz comes out slightly ahead when it comes to trade. In terms of their overall chances, I’m sad to say that I don’t see Santorum making much of a run, though he did surprise last time out. Cruz, on the other hand, could potentially win a chunk of the anti-Establishment vote from the Trump supporters as real elections draw near. Along with Walker and Bush, I’d peg him as one of the front-runners (assuming the Trump boomlet does in fact die out, which I’m less certain of now).

Tie 1: Scott Walker, Bobby Jindal, and Rick Perry: And here is where I shake my head over the current state of the campaign. Let’s be frank: none of these men are perfect. Walker has been somewhat wishy-washy on immigration. Jindal’s budget record in Louisiana has been disappointing (although Leon Wolf makes a persuasive case that Jindal’s budget record is quite commendable). Perry continually makes missteps in debates and in his overall campaign strategy. One of our faults as Americans in these campaigns is looking for some perfect candidate who will absolutely embody everything we hold dear, and who will, in a single term, make America a land flowing with milk and honey, where rainbows will dash across the sky every day. And so we nitpick our politicians, looking for the slightest flaws. Then when we grow frustrated we lash out at everyone. So Ted Cruz and Scott Walker becomes no better than John Boehner and Mitch McConnell. They’re all equally bad, or so we delude ourselves.

So here we are. Three solid conservative governors with good to great records, including one man who won statewide elections three times in four years in a swing state and in the face of intense opposition. Rick Perry won three terms on his own and oversaw one of the few solidly functioning economies in the state. Bobby Jindal has worked to restore some sense of political trust in a state that has been wrecked by both political and natural disasters. Again, their records are not perfect, but I would take it in my home state.

And where are they? Two of them had to sit at the equivalent of the kiddies table during the debates two weeks ago, with Jindal also registering as an asterisk in the polling, and the other remains mired in a kind of political limbo – doing better than most but not as well as he should. All the while a boorish lout who is literally a Republican in Name Only laps the field and a man nine years removed from effective governance is the darling of the establishment class.

Perhaps Walker and the rest deserve some of the blame for their failure to catch on in the polling. And it’s still too early to get quite panicked, especially when history shows that candidates have a tendency to rise from the ashes as soon as you are about to count them out. We’ll see how this all plays out, I suppose.

6

Requiem for a Shill

Today is a momentous day for political theater as later tonight millions of Americans will tune in for a big tv event. I’m of course talking about the final Daily Show featuring Jon Stewart.

There are several commentaries exploring what a fantastic fraud Stewart was. This one is a few years old, but here’s Jim Treacher exposing Stewart’s two-faced nature.

Stewart has been playing this game for years, most notably back in 2004 when he comment-trolled my future boss, called him a dick*, and said he’s ruining America. Then, he responded to the ensuing discussion with, “You guys do know I’m on Comedy Central, right?” Stewart wants you to take his political opinions seriously, but then when you try to engage his argument, he draws back and says, “Whoa, I’m just a comedian!” Yes, you can be a comedian and yes, you can be a pundit. You can even be both over the course of the same conversation. But Stewart plays the two roles against each other to deflect criticism, and it’s dishonest.

Call it Clown Nose On, Clown Nose Off.

Bill McMorriss calls him the left’s Donald Trump. He delves into how Stewart ceased being an honest broker, pulling his punches when it came to Democrats. He also highlights Stewart’s simplistic and dull “humor.”

When Stewart first rushed onto the scene of renegade, devil-may-care truth-telling, the zeitgeist of the day demanded howling lamentations of soundbite politics. Stewart is the chief pioneer of soundbite humor, the news of the day broken into out-of-context eight-second clips followed by three to five minutes of the host making funny faces and sighing loudly as each one plays.

It’s the comedic equivalent of saying “ugh,” of Popsicle-stick one-liners, only less original. It was built for our SEO-fueled, clickbait-laden age. Stewart may despise the “Watch Jon Stewart DEMOLISH Idaho’s Infamous Homophobic, Bigoted, Sexist, Cis-Gendered Republican County Dog Catcher” headlines that accompany each one of his segments, but those headlines have been routine for nearly a decade and the show has never deviated from its formula.

Then there’s the matter of his dishonest editing.

That’s exactly what Stewart did to former Libertarian presidential nominee Wayne Allen Root when it aired a segment of him bashing the Internal Revenue Service for profiling Tea Party groups while seemingly defending racial profiling that he’d spent his career condemning.

“When the interviewer asked the 3 guests for their opinion of me…all 3 said something nice. The director said, ‘Cut. C’mon guys. This is supposed to be funny. Please say something funny or negative about Wayne. Like ‘rich white guy’ or ‘Fox News guy.’ And then they turned the camera back on…and each guest said something negative about me,” Root said in an email to Reason.

Here’s John Daniel Davidson, also writing in the Federalist.

This is no small thing. Stewart has managed to convince large numbers of Americans, especially Millennials, that he is a real-life newsman and can be trusted as a news source, but also, paradoxically, that he’s just a comedian making jokes about the absurd political news of the day. In a recent survey, self-identifying liberals said they trusted “The Daily Show” more than Fox News and CNN. Among moderates, he’s more trusted than MSNBC.

. . . The purpose of the show is to entertain, sure, but the purpose of the entertainment is to discredit political opponents of the Left. More or less the same is true of liberal “explanatory journalism” outfits like Vox and Politifact, which exist largely to provide Left-leaning readers with liberal talking points on the issues of the day. As Kevin Williamson pointed out last year, Jon Stewart and Ezra Klein are cut from the same cloth: “For the Left, the maker of comedy and the maker of graphs perform the same function. It does not matter who does the ‘destroying,’ so long as it gets done.”

And here’s a video at Reason TV: Five Reasons Jon Stewart is Full of (well, you know.)

I will not shed a tear for Stewart’s departure. He has done more to damage political discourse than anyone else in this country. Young hipster leftists have been reduced to snarky brats who have no ability to truly analyze or even honestly assess their opponent’s political views. I am no stranger to snark or sarcasm, but these are essentially the only arrows in their quiver. Stewart may have been as much a reflection of this pose as an inspiration, but either way we’re better off without this shill on air four nights a week.

4

CMP’s Latest Video

The third in their on-going series looking into Worse Than Murder Inc’s selling of aborted baby body parts.

Extreme content warning for this video, showing the dissection of an aborted child. It also features an interview with a lab tech who used to work for a company that procured body parts from Planned Parenthood.

May God have mercy on us all.

On a related note, here is Brit Hume’s fantastic commentary about these videos.

31

The “Truth Teller” Speaks His Mind

By now everyone reading this blog has either heard or read of Donald Trump’s incomprehensibly silly remarks about John McCain. As a reminder, here is what he said:

“He’s not a war hero,” said Trump. “He was a war hero because he was captured. I like people who weren’t captured.” The comments clearly shocked the crowd at the summit, some of whom reacted with boos and shouts of condemnation.

Here is where I am contractually obligated to note that I am no fan of McCain, and that one’s war record doesn’t justify political actions four decades later. But this is also a man who voluntarily stayed in prison in place of another soldier, and who endured mental and physical anguish that the soft bellied anonmyi who occupy the internet like a plague couldn’t begin to dream of. What’s more, in attacking McCain, Trump managed to insult all prisoners of war.

Tangentially, I’ll note that the continued defense of every idiotic thing that comes out of this man’s mouth is starting to feel vaguely familiar. The last two election cycles we had to endure Ron Paul supporters flocking to every thread where even the slightest criticism of Doctor Paul was made. The same phenomenon is at work in this cycle with Trump, who at this point could call the Virgin Mary a dirty little whore and he’d have legions of supporters cheering on his “bravery” and “just telling it like he sees it” and “Yeah, well, Jeb Bush, GOPe, establishment shill, GAAAAAAAAHHHH!!!”

At any rate, it’s telling that this comment made all the news when it’s not even the dumbest thing he said during this talk. Here’s Captain Truth Teller on the Eucharist:

“When we go in church and I drink the little wine, which is about the only wine I drink, and I eat the little cracker — I guess that’s a form of asking forgiveness,” Mr. Trump said.

The “little wine” and the “little cracker.” Yes, this is how Donald Trump references the body and blood of our Lord Jesus Christ. Now it must be mentioned that the thrice-married Donald is a Presbyterian, and so he’s possibly just revealing the truth about how certain Protestants view the Eucharist. Having been to a few of their services I could see how the average person could view what they serve as a little wine and crackers. That being said, perhaps a few more people might appreciate Trump for the circus sideshow freak that truly is.

 

 

42

The Long Con

I just had a rather refreshing weekend. Why, you may ask? Not once did I go on Facebook, and though I perused some of my favorite blogs, I stayed out of the comments section  (except for this blog, naturally). It’s amazing what a little internet hiatus can do for the spirit.

The comments sections of conservative blogs in particular have been sources of frustration. So while I enjoyed parts of Kevin Williamson’s post about “Whinos’ on National Review Online (even if it’s a bit overdone), I knew enough not to get sucked into the comments, because it would have only filled me with despair.

When Donald Trump initially announced his candidacy I reacted like a good number of conservatives: I rolled my eyes and just tried to pretend that he wasn’t there. Then a funny thing happened. The more that conservative pundits criticized the Donald, the more popular he became. Soon Trump caught fire, and is probably the most discussed candidate in the race.

This should have been predictable. I noticed this trend during the 2012 campaign as well. The more it seems that a certain candidate is bashed in the press, the more a certain section of the conservative movement flocks to that person. It’s almost as though every time a Kevin Williamson or Jonah Goldberg pens a column bashing Donald Trump, the larger his support grows.

Of course there’s more to Trump’s popularity than mere spite. He tells it like it. Or so I’ve been told repeatedly by erstwhile conservatives who are sick and tired of the establishment (maaaaaan). Somehow modern day conservatives have morphed into hippies, stuck on an endless loop railing against the establishment, and Donald Trump represents that counter-culture.

And the thing is, as Ace so aptly observes, Trump’s ascendancy can be laid at the feet of many of the people who loathe him so much. The fecklessness of the Republican party has turned off a great many conservatives. The grassroots feels – with complete justification – that the party has abandoned them. Handed majorities in the House and Senate, it seems that the GOP leadership is afraid to do anything with their majorities. Understandably their options are limited with Barack Obama in the White House, but Boehner, McConnell have folded without even trying to take on the administration.

On the specific issue of immigration, many on the right feel that the party leadership is more apt to side with the Democrats than with their grassroots. Along comes Trump, “telling it like it is,” confronting the media head on. He’s not politically correct, and he doesn’t apologize. He says outrageous things and he doesn’t back down. He is effectively the young conservative id given voice.

Here’s the problem. The same conservatives who have been smitten by the Trump are those that regularly bash the GOP – again rightly – for making noise but failing to follow through on its promises. So what have they done? They’ve gotten behind a demagogic con man who not too long ago was criticizing Mitt Romney for being too harsh on the issue of illegal immigration, who has voiced support for single payer health care, who once backed partial birth abortion, and who has given money to Hillary Clinton and voiced general approval for her and the current incumbent of the White House. Jay Caruso is right when he says that Trump’s “truth telling” persona is a myth. And yet a large segment of the conservative base will continue to insist that Trump is a “truth teller,” while bashing Jonah Goldberg and others who are writing things that they know will upset their readership.

Just last week I was informed by one of these fearless Trumpaholics that he could never support Ted Cruz – a man he agrees with “99 percent of the time” – because of his initial support for Trade Promotion Authority. Nevermind that TPA was something that conservatives have traditionally championed, and nevermind the fact that Ted Cruz backed off his support. Oh no. You see Ted Cruz had demonstrated impurity. So who’s the fallback? A man who, if given a dose of sodium pentothal before being asked his political views, would register to the left of Jeb Bush (and Lindsay Graham and George Pataki, for that matter) on the political spectrum.*

And that, ultimately, is why I have grown more frustrated. I get Trump’s emotional appeal, but beyond that it is sickening to watch events unfold as they are. Once again conservatives purists are going to hand the nomination to the very person that they claim to despise. Why? Because they will pick off, one by one, candidates that express an impure thought, or who are less vocal in supporting the things they support than they’d like. So eminently qualified candidates with a proven conservative track record will be cast aside for some demagogue who says the right things but who is as genuine as a three dollar bill. And in the end the very man they’re all trying to avoid being the nominee will be the man who gets the nod.

The funny thing is that often Trump supporters imply that any criticism of Trump is a sign that you want Jeb Bush to win, as though there aren’t 15 other choices in this race, some of them even good choices. Yet they are doing as much to guarantee that Jeb is the ultimate nominee. Which is why it’s going to be amusing a year from now when all of them rail against the evil establishment that has given them GOP nominee Jeb Bush, when it is they who will have done more to make that nightmare a reality.

Of course Donald Trump will eventually flame out. He’ll say something wrong, as someone with no convictions is wont to do. So he’ll lose ground in the polls to someone else who can bloviate and act like he is a champion come to rescue the masses.

Chris Christie can hardly wait.

9

Thoughts on Laudato Si

Earlier last week I quipped that the original title of Pope Francis’s latest encyclical was Industrial Society and Its Future. For those who didn’t get the reference, it is the title of the Unabomber Ted Kaczynski’s manifesto. Now I wrote this with tongue firmly planted in cheek, although I am evidently not the only person who made this connection. Though the Pontiff iterates that he is not opposed to technological progress per se, the impression he leaves is that he is not particularly fond of modern society and the advances of the great inventions of the 20th and 21st century.

In this he’s not entirely alone. Who hasn’t complained about the ways people bury themselves in their phones, failing to interact with those around them? But he goes far beyond such laments and rails against many of the aspects of modern life. What’s more aggravating is the way that he ignores how most of these advances have improved rather than hampered the lives of the poor. More unfortunately, this is a relatively minor failing of the encyclical compared to its other shortcomings.

The overarching defense of the encyclical is that it isn’t just about climate change. The Pope was really aiming his pen in large part at secularist environmentalists and trying to persuade them to encounter the entirety of the Gospel. After all, the Pope definitively defends Church teaching on abortion and family life, pointing out the hypocrisy of greenies who seemingly value plant life over human life.

This is true to an extent. It is not merely a climate change encyclical, and the Pope made an attempt to provide a holistic approach to ecology. As Yuval Levin puts it:

The Pope is trying to hijack the standing and authority (in the eyes of global elites and others) of a left-wing or radical environmentalist agenda to advance a deeply traditional Catholic vision of the human good and to get it a hearing by dressing it up as enlightened ecology.

Sadly the Pope utterly failed in this attempt, and that leads me to my fundamental criticism. The encyclical is a rather bifurcated document. The Pope generally relies on secularist language in attempt to talk, as it were, to the whole world. Then the Pope scatters in theological references. At no point, though, does he integrate the theological and the secular. What we’re left with is an encyclical that simultaneously treats the secular audience too softly and too hard. Too softly in that he is reluctant to boldly preach the Gospel message to them to convince them of the right approach to acting more ethically, and yet too hard because where he does attempt to defend traditional Church teaching, he does so in an abrupt, unconvincing manner. Calling out the hypocrisy of supporting environmental reform while also defending abortion rights is all well and good, but the Pope fails to elaborate on this. He doesn’t substantively rely on the rich teachings of the Church that date back two thousand years. He just makes a declarative statement that this attitude is incongruous and then moves on.

That this approach is doomed to failure is witnessed in the very first comment to the post linked at the beginning of this post.

If the pope wants to fight climate change he could start by allowing contraception.

Clearly the parts of this encyclical that we’re supposed to have cheered on didn’t reach this person.

Now it will be said that the Pope is not at fault because either the media under-reported these aspects of the encyclical or the audience simply rejected it. Sorry, but more than after two years into his Pontificate if he’s unaware of how his words will be used, then the Pope is not a particularly wise man. Furthermore, if he’s going to make a moral case against abortion and birth control, he has to try a little bit harder than he did on these pages. Considering how repetitive and long-winded the rest of the encyclical is, he surely could have edited down elsewhere to make room for more detailed apologetics on these issues. He did not, though, and he is primarily responsibile for this failure to connect.

And that’s a core issue with this Pope’s style: it’s one that is necessarily going to sway the people he’s trying to sway. Just as he is doomed to fail to convince the secularists, his method of dealing with economics is just as awkward and off-putting. He presents a rather black and white worldview with the ever put upon poor on one side, and a group of Snidely Whiplash-like cartoon capitalists on the other, twirling their mustaches and cooking up schemes to make the poor even poorer. Actually, there might be a third group: uncaring bumpkins sitting in their air conditioned homes with the eyes locked onto their mobile devices.

What’s funny about this rather strawman-laden document (which incidentally reads as though sections were written by the blogger formerly known as Morning’s Minion) is that he chides the ivory tower intellectuals who don’t really interact with the real world, and who form opinions without truly understanding what people are going through on a day-to-day basis. Now it’s true that perhaps Americans and others in the west can’t relate to some of the abysmal conditions existing in other parts of the world, and thus we might tend to ignore or shrug off as exaggerated some of the Pope’s lamentations. At the same time, the Pope himself has lived in his own sort of bubble. Having lived his entire life in an economic basket case he can’t totally be faulted for criticizing the current economic system. Yet these experiences have perhaps inoculated him from forming a more accurate picture of the world and how economic and technological progress has vastly improved the lot of much of humanity. Thus he has formed a rather simplistic view of capitalism. Sadly, this leads to a simplistic, meandering, and ultimately worthless document.

Coda: I wrote this blog and had it set to post last Friday, but then the Supreme Court decision came down and decided to hold off. Part of me thought of completely deleting the post because it seemed other issues were more pressing. Ultimately that’s why I decided to publish this: it’s even more evidence of the Pope’s bad judgment. With all that is happening in the world, this is what he chooses to write a long-winded encyclical about? This is what he’s throwing the full p.r. machine of the Vatican into? I’m not normally one for suggesting that Pope can’t write about certain subjects due to the severity of other issues. Metaphorically speaking Popes ought to be able to walk and chew gum at the same time. And the Pope can’t drop everything for American political events. But it’s not just America that is being impacted by these cultural shifts.

32

The Rise of Rex Mottram Catholicism

If you have not read Evelyn Waugh’s Brideshead Revisited – well, what’s wrong with you? You should really go read it. Like right now. I’ll be here when you get back.

Now that you’ve returned, let’s talk about the character of Rex Mottram. Rex, of course, is Julia Flyte’s fiance. He is a non-practicing Protestant, and he goes through the process of becoming a Catholic. Since the book is set in the 1920s, and thus pre-Vatican II, Rex is not subjected to RCIA. Instead, Rex meets with the Flyte family’s priest, Father Mowbray. Father Mowbray relates the following exchange:

“Yesterday I asked him whether Our Lord had more than one nature. He said: ‘Just as many as you say, Father.’ Then again I asked him: ‘Supposing the Pope looked up and saw a cloud and said ‘It’s going to rain’, would that be bound to happen?’ ‘Oh, yes, Father.’ ‘But supposing it didn’t?’ He thought a moment and said, “I suppose it would be sort of raining spiritually, only we were too sinful to see it.'”

This, along with Rex’s unquestioning acceptance of Cordelia Flyte’s description of Catholic doctrine are among the funniest aspects of the book. What this scene does is expose one of the silliest anti-Catholic prejudices, namely, that Catholics are expected to uncritically and unblinkingly accept every word uttered or written by a Pope as unequivocal truth. This makes hash out of the doctrine of infallibility, which this very educated audience understands applies only to ex cathedra statements regarding faith and morals.

This stereotype of Catholics has fueled anti-Catholicism here, to the point that Catholic politicians have had to fend off charges that they are, in essence, tools of the Vatican. Yet today we see a rise in the number of faithful Catholics who seem intent on giving credence to the stereotype.

I’m not the first blogger to note the rise of the “Rex Mottram Catholic.” In fact I’m not the first person today to observe the phenomenon.

An example of the genre is provided by a former TAC blogger who now writes, naturally, for Patheos. This is hardly the most egregious example of the type, but it is a handy showcase. Larry D of Acts of the Apostasy has a strawmen caricature-inspired satire of what not to expect from the (now released) Papal Encyclical. He then writes:

Bottom line? The encyclical will be Catholic, and will espouse and expand on Catholic teaching. Faithful Catholics needn’t get their biodegradable knickers in a twist over Laudato Sii. Those who are…well, they have an agenda to push. Will there be some things in the encyclical that might make us a bit uncomfortable? Sure, I fully expect it – because being a Catholic sometimes makes you a bit uncomfortable. Comes with the territory. Let the Right and the Left yammer about it – ignore them. Online at least – read the thing and be able to discuss it cogently and coherently with flesh and blood folks, like family members and coworkers.

Let’s unpack this a bit. He first accuses anyone who might be bothered by the encyclical as “having an agenda” to push, as though there could be no legitimate quarrel with anything the Pope writes. Further observe that Larry has pre-judged the criticism before it has even been offered. That’s right – before the encyclical had even been released and anyone knew officially what was in the document he determined that anyone who made a fuss had an agenda to push. So he’s criticizing the criticism, that hadn’t occurred yet, of a document that hadn’t even been released.We’re through the looking glass here people.

He then continues in a vein that is typical of the Rex Mottram Catholic: the Pope ain’t gonna say anything that is contradictory to Church teaching, so why the fuss? In other words, as long as the Pope doesn’t say anything heretical – and ipso facto he cannot – then why even raise a fuss?

There are several problems with the line of thinking, and we’ve been over some of them in excruciating detail. I won’t address the potential problems with this specific encyclical because I haven’t read it. Generally, though, this sort of thinking both excessively elevates the Pope and diminishes him. It elevates him because it places large swathes of what he says and writes outside the bounds of legitimate criticism. It diminishes him by reducing him to nothing more than a vessel of speaking truisms about the faith. If the Pope is merely echoing basic tenets of the faith such as that we are meant to be stewards of creation and have grave responsibilities towards it, then so what? Why bother with a 200 page encyclical? He could have pretty much said the same thing in a 10-minute homily. Obviously, though, the Pope’s intention is to do much more with this. He is hoping to shape debate and push Catholics (and others) towards a certain course of action. Well if that’s the case, don’t we have the duty to take a step back and make sure that what the Pope is saying has merit to it?

You can see this attitude in the comments. When one commenter dared imply that the Pope’s opinion about the scientific data was not sacrosanct, someone replied, “Why do you place your understanding above the Pope’s in determining what is, and what is not, ‘supported by scientific data’?”

This brings us back to the Rex Mottram quote. The Pope has no special charism to interpret scientific data. If he sees a few clouds in the sky and predicts rain, it’s not disobedient for me to pull up my Droid, open the Accuweather app, and inform him that there is a zero percent chance of precipitation.

One last note. Another talking point that has been and will be repeated is that conservative Catholics who ignore, dispute, criticize, etc. this encyclical are no different than liberal Catholics who did the same to previous documents, especially Humanae Vitae. Anyone who does so would be guilty of Cafeteria Catholicism just the same.

I would concede that there is a danger that too many Catholics will raise up the “prudential judgment” banner too reflexively. I’ll also concede that Larry D, for instance, has a point in noting that sometimes being a Catholic makes you uncomfortable. Our disposition as Catholics should be that hen we read this or anything written by the Holy Father that we put our prejudices aside, and not mentally check out whenever he says something that might contradict something we believe.

What I will vehemently dispute is that any criticism of this or any document is just the same as the reaction to Humanae Vitae. People did not just object to certain facets of the encyclical. Rather, dissidents objected to the very core teaching of Church that Pope Paul VI was promulgating. Now, if Catholics object to the idea of being stewards of creation, then yeah, they’re hypocritical cafeteria-style Catholics. If we reject the fundamental idea of caring for the poor, that’s dissidence. I suspect, however, that there won’t be much of that style of reaction.

15

Various & Sundry, 5/11/15

– The Republican field is filled with conservative candidates who have a wide-range of executive and legislative experience, and who generally speak eloquently and articulately on the issues.

Then there’s Ben Carson.

Carson, in his first speech in the state as a candidate, was asked by a voter about the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS), the federal mandate that fuel refiners blend a certain volume of ethanol and biodiesel into their gasoline and diesel supplies.

“I don’t particularly like the idea of government subsidies for anything because it interferes with the natural free market,” Carson said, according to The Des Moines Register.

Not bad. Subsidies in general are detrimental. If he’d only stopped there. But sadly, he didn’t.

Therefore, I would probably be in favor of taking that $4 billion a year we spend on oil subsidies and using that in new fueling stations” for 30 percent ethanol blends, he added.

For a candidate whose main selling point is he made a good speech one time, he sure sticks his foot in his mouth quite often.

– Speaking of bad candidates in a good field, Mike Huckabee doesn’t seem too concerned about his snake oil salesmanship gone awry.

– I am linking to Think Progress, and not to mock them. Why? Because even they thought Mark Halperin’s interview with Ted Cruz was cringe-worthy.

Late last month, Bloomberg’s Mark Halperin conducted a cringe-worthy interview with Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX). The interview meandered from questions about how Cruz plans to appeal to Latino voters to what appeared to be a series of requests that Cruz, who is Cuban American, prove that he is really, truly, authentically Cuban. By the end of the interview, when Halperin asks Cruz to say a few words “en Español,” one can’t help but think that Cruz had unwittingly wandered into a minstrel show, with Halperin demanding that Cruz perform for an audience.

Though Halperin begins the interview by raising a legitimate topic — a speech Cruz gave to the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce — his conversation with Cruz quickly goes off the rails. “Your last name is Cruz and you’re from Texas,” Halperin asks Cruz. “Just based on that, should you have appeal to Hispanic voters?”

Halperin’s suggestion that Hispanic voters may base their vote solely on the ethnicity of a particular candidate is actually a relative high point of the interview. The next question begins with Halperin telling Cruz that “people are really interested in you and your identity,” before Halperin asks whether Cruz listed himself as “Hispanic” when he applied to college and law school. Over the course of the next five minutes, Halperin demands that Cruz identify his “favorite Cuban food” and his “favorite “Cuban singer.”

Looking forward to Halperin’s interview with Bobby Jindal where he dares the Louisiana Governor to prepare “some of that curry stuff” on live television.

– Londonites riot over the UK election results. Someone might take away a barely noticeable portion of their government cheese. Can’t have that.

18

Various & Sundry, 5/6/15

– There were a lot of good articles written in the aftermath of the Baltimore riots, but David French’s may have been the best of the lot.

For decades, the Left has ruled America’s great cities, presiding over often-unaccountable police departments, denying access to affordable housing, and dramatically increasing the state’s intrusion into citizens’ lives. In fact, the Left’s diverse urban centers are at the heart of the so-called coalition of the ascendant that will allegedly guarantee liberal domination for years to come. Yet now one part of that coalition is throwing rocks and burning cars, and another part of that coalition is locking shields and wielding pepper spray. And a third segment — the urban intellectual elite — can’t decide whether to justify or condemn the riots. It’s blue versus blue in America’s cities. Their one-party rule has failed.

Incidentally French has become my second favorite National Review writer after Kevin Williamson.

– Speaking of Williamson, here he is in the aftermath of the terror attack in Garland.

And speaking of the shooting, we’ve had another round of the “I support free spech, but . . . ” game. Here’s Ace shooting down that silliness, including a link to Megyn Kelly’s takedown of Bill O’Reilly ignorantly spouting (an occurrence as common as Bill O’Reilly drawing breath).

– Here’s a good refutation of the lament that Congress just doesn’t work in a bipartisan fashion anymore. Well, maybe it shouldn’t.

– Here’s another David French article (it’s been awhile since V&S entries). I had a similar evolution as French, though I got there much sooner. The supporters of gay marriage had as much to do with me changing my mind (to opposition) as anything else.

– Maybe General Jack D. Ripper was onto something after all.

– Speaking of ill-founded health conspiracy thinking, Chipotle’s GMO ban is both a toothless bit of pr tomfoolery as well as a silly ploy based on scientific illiteracy.

But what are the health risks from eating genetically modified food?

There aren’t any. Twenty-five years worth of scientific studies have shown no evidence of harm from the use of GM crops. A recent report from the European Union found that “the main conclusion to be drawn from the efforts of more than 130 research projects, covering a period of more than 25 years of research and involving more than 500 independent research groups, is that biotechnology, and in particular GMOs, are not per se more risky [to consume] than e.g. conventional plant breeding technologies.” These findings are backed by the American Medical Association, the US National Academy of Sciences, and the World Health Organization — along with other respected scientific research based organizations worldwide. Nevertheless, popular resistance to the product continues to grow. As a result of this, all of the countries in the EU and dozens of other countries worldwide restrict or ban the production and sale of genetically modified foods.

Millennials aren’t having babies. Nothing to worry about though. Nosirree.

– The folks at Protein World might be my heroes.

Someone seems not to have ever seen the Naked Gun.

4

Various & Sundry, 4/23/15

I was going to wait to post another Various & Sundry until after the Mets lost another game, but I wouldn’t have to hold out on you until June.

Example Number I lost count of how we are raising a nation of coddled brats.

On Thursday, the State of Israel is celebrating her 67th birthday. Naturally, pro-Israel college students nationwide have organized celebratory gatherings – ranging from guest speakers to culturally (read: food) oriented events.

On Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s campus, the planned celebration was not without controversy and dissent.

On April 20th, the student group [email protected] issued an “open letter” decrying an Israel Independence Day celebration scheduled to take place during SpringFest. [email protected] went as far as to claim that the event makes them feel “unsafe.”

– In completely unrelated news, a wide majority of Americans say they would not permit their elementary school-age children walk to school by themselves. There are some issues with the poll: elementary school-age could mean anything between 5 and 14 years-old, plus who knows how many families live miles away from school. That being the case, it’s more proof that large swathes of the public think of pre-teens as little faberge eggs that cannot be let out of adult sight for more than a second.

– Pro-abortion zealots in Colorado won’t even criminalize the act of ripping out and killing an unborn child against the mother’s wishes.

But abortion extremists — the real abortion extremists — insist that cutting a pregnant woman’s baby out of her and killing it, even against her wishes, should not be a crime in and of itself. You could charge this guy with assault for cutting the woman — but the deliberate cutting out of her unborn child would support no further charges, because it’s simply not a life. It’s not even property that could be vandalized.

Seven Things Everyone Should Know about Pregnant Ladies. I particularly liked number four.

Another ridiculous media trope. In movies, laboring women are regularly getting raced to the hospital by mailmen or pizza boys who happen to be on hand. Nervous fathers experiment with different routes to the hospital because that extra 45 seconds will probably spell the difference between life and death.

How often have you seen this happen in real life, where a pregnant woman is rushed out of a restaurant or mall because the baby is coming right this second? Probably never. There’s a reason for that. In most cases, labor takes pretty much forever. My deliveries take so long I could just walk the six miles to the hospital, except by the time I got there it’d already be full of people who had heart attacks because they saw a laboring woman strolling along the interstate.

The movie Knocked Up was one of the few that actually got labor right, oddly enough.

Number five is also good.

A surprising number of people seem to think that pregnant women are automatic wards of the public. Nope.

That means you don’t need to give me the evil eye when I step into the coffee shop. (You don’t even know what I’m ordering. And also, it’s not your business.) There’s no reason to be scandalized if you see me in the checkout line of Total Wine. I might be going to dinner party, or getting something special for my husband’s birthday. Or maybe I am buying something for myself, which is completely fine, because guess what? I won’t be pregnant forever, or even (if it’s visible now) for very much longer. If the store is having a sale on the Lus’ favorite Shiraz, why shouldn’t I pick up a case?

We used to have British neighbors. One year they hosted a new year’s eve party. The woman was pregnant – late second/early third trimester – and she was happily drinking a beer. Most other countries do not put absolutist restrictions on alcohol consumption during pregnancy. Obviously they don’t encourage women to get drunk, but the occasional glass of wine or beer is fine. Of course not in lawsuit happy America.

Some interesting photos of what the White House looks like completely gutted.

– Yeah, this has bad idea written all over it: Doctor Who could be coming to the big screen. It might not happen for eight years, so there’s plenty of time to enjoy the series until its demise.

– And just because: Whittaker Chamber’s awesome takedown of the rancid Atlas Shrugged. There’s so much to love about this essay, but I’ll highlight this paragraph:

The overlap is not as incongruous as it looks. Atlas Shrugged can be called a novel only by devaluing the term. It is a massive tract for the times. Its story merely serves Miss Rand to get the customers inside the tent, and as a soapbox for delivering her Message. The Message is the thing. It is, in sum, a forthright philosophic materialism. Upperclassmen might incline to sniff and say that the author has, with vast effort, contrived a simple materialist system, one, intellectually, at about the stage of the oxcart, though without mastering the principle of the wheel. Like any consistent materialism, this one begins by rejecting God, religion, original sin, etc., etc. (This book’s aggressive atheism and rather unbuttoned “higher morality,” which chiefly outrage some readers, are, in fact, secondary ripples, and result inevitably from its underpinning premises.) Thus, Randian Man, like Marxian Man, is made the center of a godless world.

Okay, one more

Something of this implication is fixed in the book’s dictatorial tone, which is much its most striking feature. Out of a lifetime of reading, I can recall no other book in which a tone of overriding arrogance was so implacably sustained. Its shrillness is without reprieve. Its dogmatism is without appeal. In addition, the mind which finds this tone natural to it shares other characteristics of its type. 1) It consistently mistakes raw force for strength, and the rawer the force, the more reverent the posture of the mind before it. 2) It supposes itself to be the bringer of a final revelation. Therefore, resistance to the Message cannot be tolerated because disagreement can never be merely honest, prudent, or just humanly fallible. Dissent from revelation so final (because, the author would say, so reasonable) can only be willfully wicked. There are ways of dealing with such wickedness, and, in fact, right reason itself enjoins them. From almost any page of Atlas Shrugged, a voice can be heard, from painful necessity, commanding: “To a gas chamber–go!” The same inflexibly self-righteous stance results, too (in the total absence of any saving humor), in odd extravagances of inflection and gesture-that Dollar Sign, for example. At first, we try to tell ourselves that these are just lapses, that this mind has, somehow, mislaid the discriminating knack that most of us pray will warn us in time of the difference between what is effective and firm, and what is wildly grotesque and excessive. Soon we suspect something worse. We suspect that this mind finds, precisely in extravagance, some exalting merit; feels a surging release of power and passion precisely in smashing up the house. A tornado might feel this way, or Carrie Nation.

18

Various & Sundry, 4/16/15

– Many are rightfully upset with the two parties in this country, but here’s a reminder that countries with multiple party systems are not fairing any better. Instead of one and a half meddlesome, anti-liberty parties they’ve got five of them in the UK. David Cameron makes John Boehner look like Ted Cruz. No matter the party setup, as long as a significant proportion of the population actively seeks government control at every juncture of life, change is all but impossible.

– Speaking of which, a crystal clear example of why the government gets away with taking more of people’s money: it’s the popular thing to do.

There it is in a nutshell. How much revenue the government collects, the state of the federal deficit or the morality of double taxation aren’t of any concern to Ed Kilgore and his ilk. In the end, the true evil in America is the specter of wealth and success. Purporting to speak for “the commonwealth” in their unwashed masses, liberal spokesmodels are mostly upset at anyone who buys into the “perceived morality of capitalism.” This underpins virtually every argument we have on economics and tax policy. Liberals have their own vision for America and it is one where success is something to be ashamed of and which should be punished wherever it is found. If everyone can’t have everything, then we should all share in the pain regardless of personal merit. The Left embraces socialism wholeheartedly, but most of the time they are at least embarrassed enough about it to lie and come up with some other argument as cover. Kilgore is, in a way, providing a refreshing bit of honesty here.
That doesn’t mean that the effort to repeal the death tax will come without cost. As Noah explained last night, good policy is not always good politics and it would be foolish to completely ignore that warning. It is true that populism is a powerful totem, and during tough economic times it’s easy to wave a red flag in front of the masses and urge them to take up their pitchforks and torches against those they perceive as “the rich.” But everyone with any interest in honest work and the ambition to make a better life for themselves and their family eventually realizes that their own success will become the target if they embrace such policies.

The soak the rich, screw ’em all attitude is not limited to the secular left. Far too many Catholics think obedience to Catholic teaching entails taking as much from the taxpayer, especially the “rich” taxpayer, as possible. I guess the tenth commandment is as out of vogue as the tenth amendment.

– Speaking of issues Catholics foolishly get behind, the living wage/minimum wage comes to mind. In the interests of advancing their agenda, many will claim that Walmart’s low wages are in effect subsidized by the government in the form of food stamps. Eh, not so much.

– Not all Republican politicians are craven cowards. Example Number One: Mike Lee.

We can do this first by influencing the attitudes of those around us, making every effort to persuade friends and neighbors that constitutionally limited government not only matters but is essential to our prosperity as a nation. Second, we have to remind elected representatives in Washington that the power to make laws belongs to Congress, not unaccountable bureaucrats, and encourage them to enact regulatory reform measures like the REINS Act, which would help put Congress make in charge of lawmaking. Finally, we have to bring our knowledge of the Constitution back to the ballot box and vote differently—especially when it comes to federal offices.

This is just the conclusion of an otherwise sterling essay examining the ways we have drifted over the years.

Of course Lee hasn’t single-handedly ended Obamacare or repealed the entirety of the tax code, so he must naturally be as bad as the rest.

– While Lee is right that we’ve gone far astray from the original constitutional design, some suggested remedies are worse than the disease.

Many on the right have contended that a Convention of States is distinct from a constitutional convention. What’s more, they might say, that process could be the only way to rein in the unelected elements of the federal government, like the judiciary or the nation’s unwieldy and proliferating regulatory agencies. Some on the right contend that the Constitution has been so perverted that it is already essentially defunct. But these same conservatives, who often lament the fact that Republican lawmakers are so regularly rolled by left-wing organizations and liberal politicians, would be foolish to vest in these GOP officeholders the authority to remake the system entirely. They would quickly find that conservative politicians who regularly fail to outmaneuver liberals in Congress don’t find their luck has improved on the convention floor.

I have never understood the call for a constitutional convention. There is zero possibility that what would emerge would be an improvement over our current situation. It would open pandora’s box to any number of bad ideas that would only further weaken the nature of our limited constitutional republic.

– Commenter Phillip has brought to our attention the troubling case of a Priest who seems to have been wrongfully convicted, and his inability to become freed.

Chris Matthews is a nut, but we knew that already. What’s funny is that on the left’s own terms the Republican presidential field is probably the most culturally diverse in history, while the Democrats have more of the same white faces. You would think Matthews would be celebrating that diversity, not mocking it.

– Fascinating story about Jackie Robinson. Long story short, a black man was booted by the New York Post for being too biased in favor of Republicans. Times have changed.

Churches vandalized by homosexual activists and/or their supporters. Somehow I don’t see this being national news.

19

Various & Sundry, 4/15/15

– Cancel the primaries, folks, Walker has it all sewn up. I jest, but the horserace stuff really bothers me. I’m as guilty as anyone, and I’m not helping matters with four different links to stories related to the presidential election in some way, but is it too much to ask that we wait a little while before digging seriously into poll numbers?

– I’m extremely critical of Rand Paul, but if he is able to turn the abortion narrative on its head, then kudos.

But Wasserman Schultz’s feigned confidence on the issue of abortion politics was betrayed when she channeled Mitt Romney just a few seconds later. “At the end of the day, it’s unlikely that voters are going to be deciding who they’re going to vote for for president and whether a candidate has their back on this issue,” the DNC chairwoman said of abortion. “It’s more going to be on jobs and the economy.”

You know we are witnessing a tectonic shift in American politics regarding right to life issues when the progenitor of 2012’s War on Women and a self-described champion of “reproductive justice” sounds more like a Republican than Republicans. Wasserman Schultz would rather take the issue of abortion off the table entirely than be faced with the prospect of alienating her party’s rabidly pro-abortion base.

I’m not as sure as Rothman that the tide has turned yet. I’ll note that the polling data has always been more favorable to pro-lifers, and has consistently shown that those whose primary issue of concern is abortion tend to vote pro-life rather than pro-abortion. What has stung Republicans is the, ugh, narrative. It’s about time someone took the fight to the Democrats and put them on the defensive, where they should be, as they are the ones truly on the fringes when it comes to this issue.

– Jonah Goldberg says its only a matter of time before we hear from the Hillarycons.

Since then, the caliber of defectors have proved to be less and less impressive. That’s not to say that some weren’t sincere, but generally speaking their public arguments for switching to the other side were not very persuasive and often at odds with their real motivations. Douglas Kmiec is probably the most notorious example of an “ObamaCon,” at least among pro-lifers (he famously defended Obama’s vote in support of partial birth abortion, a hard case to make for someone calling himself a Catholic pro-lifer). Obama rewarded him with an ambassadorship to Malta, inspiring any of us to quip that it profits a man nothing to trade his soul for the whole world, but for Malta . . . ? Anyway, it will be interesting to see if Hillary Clinton can inspire similar conversions this time around.

Speaking of old Dougie, how is his vice presidential candidacy coming along?

– Hilllary Clinton: faux champion of the poor. I’m not sure that stories like these, which accurately reflect the hypocrisy of Madame Clinton, really have much of an impact on the electorate. By now most people know she’s a phony, and the LIVs who don’t are lost causes.

– David French wants to bring some common sense to the topic of police shootings. This is absurd of course. We demand nothing short narrative-based journalism steeped in ideological hand-wringing.

We live in some scary times. The media are more invested in digging up dirt on ordinary joes (and janes) expressing opinions than they are in vetting actual candidates for the highest office in the land.

 

 

37

Various & Sundry, 4/13/15

Apologies in advance as my schedule will make the V&S a bit spotty over the next few weeks.

– Marco Rubio is officially a candidate for the presidency. He seems to have rehabilitated his standing to the point where he should be considered, at the least. a solid tier two candidate at this juncture.

– I guess somebody else also announced her candidacy. Matt Walsh argues that no, it isn’t time for a woman president.

It’s time, instead, for a competent and honest adult of either gender to be president.

Competent and honest are not words I’d use to describe Hillary.

– The Maryland couple who had a run-in with CPS when their kids were caught walking by themselves once again had a run-in with the authorities.

Danielle Meitiv, the “Maryland Mom” just called. She and her husband are on their way to the CPS “Emergency Crisis Center.” Why?

The police picked up the kids when they were outside AGAIN sometime this afternoon, and this time the cops TOOK THEM WITHOUT TELLING THE PARENTS.

The kids, ages 10 and 6, were supposed to come home at 6 from playing. At 6:30, Danielle says, she and her husband Sasha were pretty worried. By 8, they were frantic. Only THEN did someone from the CPS Crisis Center call the parents and say that the police had picked the children up. The kids are at the Crisis Center. (Danielle thinks that the center must be a place that is open on weekends to intake kids from dangerous situations.)

Evidently a “concerned citizen” dropped a dime on the kids. Nothing says “concerned” as much as calling the cops when you see kids walking by themselves instead of, you know, checking in on the kids yourself. And while most of the comments I’ve read are supportive of the Meitivs, it’s clear that there are a not inconsiderable people who will be elbowing themselves to the front of the line when the police state victory parade comes marching through town.

– Fr. Z asks if you pray for the priests who administered your sacraments. This gave me pause as I considered that two of the priests who gave me my sacraments (or initally gave me the sacraments) are no longer priests. Sometimes it’s easy to forget that priests are people with temptations, anxieties and fears like the rest of us, and they they need our prayers and support.

– John Lillis writes of a dinner engagement with Glenn Beck. Beck’s schtick wears thin after awhile, even if his heart is often in the right place.

– The Mariners turned a 2-1 double play, and that may have been the first in MLB history.

– Somebody compiled a video showing all of the scenes involving Severus Snape in chronological order. Fascinating display of character development.

5

Various & Sundry, 4/8/15

– The Hugo Awards have presented us with a rather odd cultural moment, and one which – for once – conservatives are winning.

To counteract the voting bias, Correia organized a campaign called “Sad Puppies”—because, he explains, “boring message fiction is the leading cause of Puppy Related Sadness.” Which gives you a small sampling of the kind of goofy, irreverent humor with which the campaign has been conducted. The idea was simply to suggest a slate of authors Correia thought were likely to be overlooked or slighted because of their views—and to counteract that effect by lobbying in their favor.

But then things got out of hand. This year, the Sad Puppies campaign (and a related slate of recommendations called Rabid Puppies) swept the field. The response was a total meltdown among the leftist elites who had assumed, in previous years, that they (and their favorite publisher, Tor) basically owned the Hugos. So they did what the Left always does: they smeared everyone who disagrees with them as racists.

– Fr. Z links to a video which helps explain why more men don’t go to Church. Fortunately I do not have to endure such things at my parish.

Oh look at that – more doubt is being placed on another set of government dietary guidelines.

Moreover, according to studies published in recent years by pillars of the medical community, the low levels of salt recommended by the government might actually be dangerous.

“There is no longer any valid basis for the current salt guidelines,” said Andrew Mente, a professor at McMaster University in Ontario and one of the researchers involved in a major study published last year by the New England Journal of Medicine. “So why are we still scaring people about salt?”’

More salt on my bacon, please.

– Yeah, Charlie Cooke’s a hypocrite. You know what? I guess I am as well because I pretty much agree with everything he says here.

I am an opponent of the death penalty, and I have for a long time now been happy to argue why. But I fear that I am also something of a hypocrite on the matter, in that my heart and my head are often in two different places. Like many people, when I hear the news that a serial rapist/murderer has been killed, something in my gut says, “good!” And then I quickly check myself, and I remember why I’m against it, and I recall that I really don’t trust the state the make these sorts of decisions. It is always important to look to our better angels when our emotions run away with our brains. Upon hearing the news that Dzhokhar Tsarnaev had been found guilty on all thirty of the counts that were brought against him, however, I have had trouble rebounding from my initial, intuitive, instinct. On paper, I hope that he is not sentenced to death. But if he is, will I care that much? Meh.

– The Kennedy (with some very rare and exceptions) has done as much as any to guarantee the deaths millions of unborn children. I guess it makes sense for one of them to get to work on the born.

When Kennedy asked the crowd of a few hundred viewers how many parents had a child injured by vaccines, numerous hands went up. “They get the shot, that night they have a fever of a hundred and three, they go to sleep, and three months later their brain is gone,” Kennedy said. “This is a holocaust, what this is doing to our country.”

Interesting analogy from someone who seeks to imprison climate change “deniers.”

7

Various & Sundry, 4/7/15

I hope everyone is having a happy and blessed Easter.

– Rand Paul has officially entered the 2016 presidential race. There’s a long way to go, and at this point there are a number of candidates I could see myself supporting. He is not one of them. There are myriad reasons why, and he gave me another one today.

– Kevin Williamson with a typically brilliant column, which concludes thusly:.

“I expect to die in bed,” Francis Eugene Cardinal George famously remarked. “My successor will die in prison, and his successor will die a martyr in the public square. His successor will pick up the shards of a ruined society and slowly help rebuild civilization, as the church has done so often in human history.” Perhaps it will not come to that. But we already are on the precipice of sending men with guns to the homes and businesses of bakers to enforce compliance with dictates undreamt-of the day before yesterday. Yes, render unto Caesar, and all that. But render only what is Caesar’s — and not one mite more.

– Speaking of the Indiana RFRA law, I do have to agree with Andy McCarthy’s analysis. The federal RFRA was an overwrought reaction to what was a correctly decided Supreme Court case. Naturally this does not justify the over-reaction to the Indiana law, but we do need to have some perspective, as McCarthy explains the original legislation’s history:

It should be no surprise, though. RFRA was an unfortunate reaction, by an odd combination of conservative religious leaders and opportunistic statists, to a 1990 Supreme Court decision, Employment Division v. Smith, written by Justice Antonin Scalia, a brilliant conservative jurist (and, for what it’s worth in this context, a devout Catholic). The statute’s enactment was triggered in 1993, when the Court reaffirmed Smith in Church of Lukumi Babalu Aye v. City of Hialeah. These cases stand for the principle that the First Amendment does not provide a religion-based exemption from compliance with a law of general application that is religion-neutral — i.e., a law that applies to everyone equally and does not discriminate against adherents of a particular religion.

Moreover, RFRA does not provide a principled, knowable carapace of religious freedom. Rather, it transfers the power to decide what religious convictions will be respected from where it belongs, in the hands of free people through their elected representatives, to where it should not reside, in the whims of politically unaccountable judges whose sensibilities often differ widely from the community’s sensibilities. When someone claims a law burdens religion, RFRA imposes a test: The government must prove that the law serves a compelling public purpose and represents the least burdensome manner of doing so. There is no reason to believe judges are better equipped to perform that balancing than legislatures; and there is nothing about a law degree that makes a judge a suitable arbiter of which tenets of your faith outweigh the government’s interests, and which do not. Furthermore, if a legislature strikes the wrong balance, its statute can be amended with comparative ease; reversing a court’s error in defining the parameters of a constitutional right is extraordinarily difficult.

As McCarthy explains, the fact that the likes of Ted Kennedy supported the federal RFRA is reason enough to make conservatives suspect the wisdom of it.

– So Rolling Stone has retracted its UVA rape story and is on the cusp of being sued. Good. Let me just add that as the father of three (soon to be four) girls, those who lie about rape are utterly repellent, for they make it that much more difficult for those who were raped.

– Sally Kohn might be one of the dumbest pundits alive, and that’s saying something.

In a column for TPM, liberal media personality Sally Kohn asserted that it makes no sense to say the government is forcing people of faith to violate their consciences, because government can’t force you to do anything:
You may have heard that the government is forcing businesses not to discriminate. It isn’t. If you chose to run a business, you have to follow the laws. If you don’t, that’s a choice—and you choose to suffer the consequences.
Kohn, who has a law degree from NYU, carried her theory even further, stating that members of the police force aren’t really using force to enforce the law unless they put a gun to your head:

This issue of government force is a funny one. You could also argue that the government is forcing you to drive below the speed limit or wear a seatbelt in your car. But it’s not. There isn’t a police officer holding a gun to your head literally forcing you to buckle up. In fact, you are 100 percent free to speed and not wear your seatbelt—and simply deal with the consequences if you’re pulled over. Is the threat of the fine for breaking the law amount to “forcing” you to follow the law? No.
Eric Garner, who was choked by Staten Island police and later died at the scene of his arrest for selling untaxed cigarettes, might disagree with Kohn’s description of what does and doesn’t constitute force. Unfortunately, Kohn fails to see the linguistic hints embedded in the words we use to describe how government compels legal compliance.

15

Various & Sundry, 3/30/2015

With Holy Week upon us, this will be the last V&S until after Easter.

– Gabriel Malor answers all your questions about the Indiana state RFRA. Considering that Malor often rankles the Ace of Spades commentariat with his writings on gay issues, particularly his support for gay marriage, it is significant that he is coming out against the anti-bill hysteria.

– A woman who killed an unborn child in Colorado will not be facing murder charges.

Why can’t prosecutors charge Lane with murder? Colorado is one of only 12 states that do not protect unborn children from murder. For that gap, Coloradans can thank Democrats who controlled the state legislature, and the abortion industry that controls Democrats … and themselves for buying their arguments when they had a chance to prevent this injustice

For the Democrats, it’s the abortion lobbey uber alles. That’s why this guy doesn’t have a chance in hell.

– Nicholas Frankovich defends Cardinal Burke from the smears of some intellectually dishonest critics, including one at the National Catholic Fishwrap.

Distinguishing between sinner and sin is usually easy: The sin doesn’t define the sinner, and neither does the sinner define the sin. The David who committed adultery with Bathsheba was still, after all, David the apple of God’s eye. But the adultery he committed was still adultery. Our ability to think both thoughts simultaneously may be waning, although some people only pretend that they don’t understand. Their aim is to dumb down the conversation to the point that thinking has no place in it anymore. If their opponent has won the debate intellectually, what can they do? Ignore his ideas, deplore ideas generally (oh, those “doctors of the law,” those “Pharisees”!), and push sentiments (cheap “mercy,” the Catholic version of cheap grace) that they hope will appeal to the soft-headed child in us all.

– So this Google thing might be getting a wee bit out of control.

The question for voters who are watching the ongoing regulation battles should come when you compare the two different stories above. You have a company which is clearly in bed with the Obama administration in particular and the Democrats in general. And you also have a track record which indicates that they’re not shy about manipulating their search results when it works to their favor. How much faith should you then have that they are delivering news results or political analysis about various candidates and issue oriented questions in a consistent, agnostic fashion?

Of course I read this story on a Droid, using a Chrome browser, and am typing this all up on a Chromebook. So yeah.

– And now idiots.

A selfie-obsessed tourist apologized Sunday for posting an online pic of herself grinning at the site of the deadly East Village inferno.

Modal TriggerAfter The Post exposed her with a front-page story headlined “Village Idiots,” Christina Freundlich said she was “deeply sorry for my careless and distasteful post.”

“It was inconsiderate to those hurt in the crash and to the city of New York,” she said in an email to The Des Moines Register.

– And tonight’s music video.

17

Various & Sundry, 3/26/15

– Was Jesus a nonviolent pacifist?

No.

Kids climbing on a statue by the Vietnam War Memorial? End of civilization as we know it or no big deal? Or maybe something in between.

– Who says economics can’t be exciting? Well, pretty much everyone, but it can be enlightening.

The best way to (in Barack Obama’s 2008 words to Joe the Plumber) “spread the wealth around,” is, Tamny argues, “to leave it in the hands of the wealthy.” Personal consumption absorbs a small portion of their money and the remainder is not idle. It is invested by them, using the skill that earned it. Will it be more beneficially employed by the political class of a confiscatory government?

– On a related note, James Lileks on the power of the Apple watch. He takes some fun shots at those who lament the unequal distribution of goodies.

It’s so different today. Every morning an executive in a $100,000 car is driving through the housing projects, when suddenly he really, you know, looks around for once, and understands. Like the hero of Metropolis, he clasps his hands to his breast and cries out with his newfound solidarity with the toiling and the idle. Half of these guys pull over, toss someone the keys, and take the bus the rest of the way. So if you put them in cars where they can’t look out, they will never develop social conscience. Also, all personal jets should have glass bottoms and fly at a maximum altitude of 750 feet.

– Chefs weigh in on the central question of our time? Is Chicago style deep dish pizza even pizza?

Not really.

I’ve never been a fan. I feel like it’s a lasagna with a crust.

Bread with tomato sauce is how I’d describe it. But to each his own.

7

Various & Sundry, 3/25/15

– Today’s manufactured news outrage: Ted Cruz goes on Obamacare.

Inconceivable! How could the most prominent anti-Obamacare Senator buy insurance through Obamacare? Errr, because he basically had to. His wife is going on a leave of absence from her position at Goldman Sachs, so the Cruz family had to make a decision.

Cruz currently gets his insurance through his wife’s plan. That insurance is suspended once she takes a leave of absence to campaign with him, leaving him with three options. He can decline to purchase insurance, which no husband and father with the means to get coverage would ever do. His wife could use COBRA to keep her Goldman Sachs insurance intact for another 18 months, which would cost the family a bunch and would leave them uninsured circa October 2016 when the coverage lapses (assuming Mrs. Cruz hasn’t returned to work by then). Or he can follow the Grassley rule and buy an unsubsidized ObamaCare exchange plan, as federal law requires of members of Congress. Why, oh why, might Cruz prefer what’s behind door number three notwithstanding his ferocious opposition to ObamaCare? Anyone want to guess why a guy running for president as a loud-and-proud populist might choose to subject himself to the same unpopular program that millions of Americans are coping with right now?

As Cruz himself noted, he also wants to abolish the IRS and yet he continues to pay taxes. Double hypocrite!

– I guess “hands up don’t shoot” only garners media attention under certain circumstances.

Two high school freshmen were arrested in connection with the killing of a man walking his dog last week in Philadelphia’s Overbrook section. A third teen, who police say actually pulled the trigger, is still on the loose.

Brandon Smith, 15, was arrested Thursday and charged in the murder of James Patrick Stuhlman, who plead for his life before he was gunned down while walking his dog along the 6400 block of Woodcrest Avenue last Thursday night, police said.

—-

“At one point he did plead for his life,” said Clark. “He said, ‘please don’t shoot me, please don’t shoot me,’ and they still shot him one time.”

Stuhlman usually took his 13-year old daughter with him on these walks. Fortunately she didn’t go this time.

– So we’ve pretty much reached the end of western civilization. It’s been nice knowing you.

“Get Hard” casts Ferrell as a casually racist investment banker brought down for a crime he didn’t commit. To prep for prison, he hires a black car wash attendant (Hart) to teach him how to survive in the Big House. He just assumes Hart’s character is a thug, even though he’s a squeaky clean family man. Let the barrage of racial stereotypes commence.

The movie is evidently poking fun at racism. But you see, poking fun at racism is now, according to the geniuses who are decrying this movie, racist.

Oh, it gets worse.

Another Variety story suggested the fact that Ferrell’s character isn’t eager to perform oral sex on a man might be “homophobic.”

That’s it, I’m tapping out.

– A rather thoughtful rumination by Yuval Levin on the philosophic underpinnings of conservatism and libertarianism.

Conservatism inherently points in this direction for reasons that are anthropological, sociological, and epistemological (if you’ll pardon my street slang). We conservatives tend to see the human person as an incorrigible mass of contradictions: a fallen and imperfect being created in a divine image, a creature possessed of fundamental dignity and inalienable rights but always prone to excess and to sin and ever in need of self-restraint and moral formation. This gives us high standards but low expectations of human affairs and makes us wary of utopianisms of all stripes. It also causes us to be more impressed with successful human institutions than we are outraged at failed ones, and so to be protective of our inheritance and eager to build on the longstanding institutions of our society (rather than engineer new ones) to improve things because they are likely to possess more knowledge than we can readily perceive—and more than any collection of technical experts, however capable, is ever likely to have.
This anthropology informs our sociology. The conservative vision of society is moved by a low opinion of the capacity of individuals to address complex problems even as it is informed by a high regard for the rights and freedoms of those individuals. It therefore seeks for social arrangements and institutions that counterbalance human failures and encourage individual moral progress while respecting human liberty and dignity. And it finds these in the mediating institutions of a free society—families, communities, civic and religious groups, markets, and more—that stand between the individual and the state.

Much more at the link.

– The Curt Jester provides some musings on “Mass Etiquette.” Yep, I’ve had many of these thoughts at Mass as well.

21

Various & Sundry, 3/24/15

– Ted Cruz has announced his candidacy for the presidency, so cue the first round of GOP infighting, of which more is sure to come. I agree with parts of Sean Saffron’s take, though I think he is generally too dismissive of Cruz overall. All things being equal, I would prefer someone with executive experience. That being said, comparisons to Barack Obama are not completely fair. Yes, both men hadn’t served even half a Senate term before announcing their candidacies for the presidency, but that’s where the comparisons end. Barack Obama taught some constitutional law, while Ted Cruz argued cases before the Supreme Court (and won). Barack Obama’s main accomplishment was writing not one, but two autobiographies before actually doing anything of substance. Cruz’s pre-Senate experience dwarfs Obama’s. That doesn’t mean Cruz should be the leading contender, or that his lack of executive experience shouldn’t be an issue, but he’s not the GOP version of Obama.

Then there’s much other silliness regarding Cruz, as he’s attracted his own set of birther nonsense. Sorry, he’s a natural born citizen. Meanwhile Cruz has drawn criticism from such Republican luminaries as Donald Trump and Peter King, the latter of whom opined “So, to me, he is just a guy with a big mouth and no results.”Seriously, Peter King thinks that Ted Cruz has a big mouth and gets no results. Let that sink in. Next up we’ll be hearing from Bill Clinton and his concerns about Cruz possibly being sexually immodest.

– On the other side of the aisle, the Democrats are still wondering who might be able to fill-in in case Hillary bows out. Don’t you worry Democrats, you’ve got a can’t miss front-runner. You know who I’m talking about:

Former Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley will be the choice of New York Democrats for president if Hillary Rodham Clinton is forced out of the race by her State Department e-mail scandal, a prominent Democrat has told The Post.

. . . .

O’Malley, an all-but-announced candidate who was on a campaign swing in Iowa over the weekend, “is the one who I think is going to emerge as the front-runner if Hillary is forced out,’’ said the Democrat, a strong Clinton backer whose views carry considerable weight with party members.

Here it comes.

– The Diocese of Metuchen offers us a real profile in courage.

This week the plot thickens, with the diocese telling the New Jersey press that Jannuzzi has never been told she was fired, and they are “baffled” why anyone (especially Jannuzzi’s family) is suggesting otherwise.

Yesterday, Patricia Jannuzzi’s lawyer finally spoke to the press in response to this statement, and what he said is not pretty for the diocese: “At every point in our discussions the diocesan lawyers told us repeatedly there was no way that Patricia Jannuzzi would ever come back to the Immaculata classroom under any possible scenario,” Oakley told MyCentralJersey.com. “On Thursday by phone, the diocesan lawyers told me clearly and finally that Patricia Jannuzzi would be terminated as of the end of August, end of discussion.”

– What could possibly go wrong by over-coddling our children? They can turn into hyper-sensitive snowflakes who can’t tolerate the idea that someone somewhere is expressing an opinion with which they disagree.

KATHERINE BYRON, a senior at Brown University and a member of its Sexual Assault Task Force, considers it her duty to make Brown a safe place for rape victims, free from anything that might prompt memories of trauma. So when she heard last fall that a student group had organized a debate about campus sexual assault between Jessica Valenti, the founder of feministing.com, and Wendy McElroy, a libertarian, and that Ms. McElroy was likely to criticize the term “rape culture,” Ms. Byron was alarmed. “Bringing in a speaker like that could serve to invalidate people’s experiences,” she told me. It could be “damaging.”

Ms. Byron and some fellow task force members secured a meeting with administrators. Not long after, Brown’s president, Christina H. Paxson, announced that the university would hold a simultaneous, competing talk to provide “research and facts” about “the role of culture in sexual assault.” Meanwhile, student volunteers put up posters advertising that a “safe space” would be available for anyone who found the debate too upsetting.

The safe space, Ms. Byron explained, was intended to give people who might find comments “troubling” or “triggering,” a place to recuperate. The room was equipped with cookies, coloring books, bubbles, Play-Doh, calming music, pillows, blankets and a video of frolicking puppies, as well as students and staff members trained to deal with trauma. Emma Hall, a junior, rape survivor and “sexual assault peer educator” who helped set up the room and worked in it during the debate, estimates that a couple of dozen people used it. At one point she went to the lecture hall — it was packed — but after a while, she had to return to the safe space. “I was feeling bombarded by a lot of viewpoints that really go against my dearly and closely held beliefs,” Ms. Hall said.

– On the other hand, even some on the left are starting to think this hypersensitive pc stuff has gotten way out of hand.

– Sure “Jackie” may have been completely lying, but her lies reveal much about a deeper truth. Or something.

– Huzzah! Some states are finally starting to see the light about daylight savings time. Unfortunately my state is not among them, and some want to keep it year round rather than jettisoning it altogether.

8

Various & Sundry, 3/20/15

– Yeah, I can’t believe I’m writing about the Mair affair again, but Leon Wolf makes the same point I did last night.

I wonder how long it will take us, as a movement, to learn from the strategic mistakes of our past. A major reason why we keep nominating moderates for the Presidency is that these kinds of attacks on viable conservative alternatives leave the moderate as the only plausible alternative standing.  While conservatives are dividing their support into increasingly narrow slices, the moderate voters unify early behind a single candidate and don’t go to pieces over one or two differences of opinion.

As Wolf says, it’s one thing to vet a candidate and not prematurely crown a favorite, but it’s another to disqualify candidates based on minor infractions.

Also, William Jacobson has another good take on the matter, writing that conservative pundits are embarrassing themselves.

But the campaign is not about Mair, it’s about larger issues of changing the course of the country in ways that Walker has accomplished in Wisconsin. Walker needs to do a better job vetting new hires that keep consistent with his message and his strategy.

Voters should vote on Walker, not his staff.

To summarize, we have a group of conservative bloggers and pundits upset that Walker fired a staffer, and then we have another group of conservative bloggers and pundits upset that Walker hired her in the first place. Then we have the remaining 97% or so of GOP voters who couldn’t care less either way. Maybe over the weekend both of these groups can grow up and start writing about issues people actually give a fig about and not some petty inside baseball stuff.

– Vatican says no to use of the 1998 ICEL translation. Fr. Z says exactly what I was thinking.

Out of curiosity, I wonder how many of those who want for the opportunity to use the 1998 version are supportive of those who want the opportunity to use the 1962Missale Romanum.

Elliot Bougis tackles the debate over the Church and the death penalty, and responds to a particularly silly post as well.

– Color me surprised: looks like the Obama administration flat-out lied to a federal judge.

A federal judge sharply scolded a Justice Department attorney at a hearing on President Obama’s immigration executive actions, suggesting that the administration misled him on a key part of the program — and that he fell for it, “like an idiot.”

He’s not the first person to utter those words  in response to the Obama administration, and he won’t be the last, I’m sure.

– This is an interesting story. A college student claims he was banned from a class because he told some uncomfortable truths about “rape culture.”

A student at Reed College has been banned from class for denying the existence of “rape culture” in the United States and arguing that the oft-repeated statistic that one in five women are raped at college is bogus.
Jeremiah True, 19, received an email from professor Pancho Savery on March 14 telling him he was making his classmates so uncomfortable that he was no longer welcome to participate in the “conference” sections of his Humanities 110 class, a course which focuses on the art and literature of classical Greece, according to BuzzFeed News.

While this got everybody’s rage meters turned up to seven, I wondered if there might be more to the story. Well, there is. The teacher in question was contacted by Reason, and the teacher claims that the student was barred because “of a series of disruptive behaviors.” Then when the student in question was contacted, well, this was his reply.

Before I interview with you, you must agree to make “[the n-word]” be the first word in your article.

Umm, yeah.

Now, Savery’s reply was vague enough that it could still be the case that True was kicked out for nothing more than hurting people’s feelings, and True may merely have been testing the reporter who contacted him. That being said, whenever a story seems a little fishy, do a little digging first before freaking out.

– Another interesting story. Two kids in Philadelphia were late getting to the bus stop and so missed their bus. They walked home to find that their mother already left for work, and so they were locked out. A cop saw the kids, discovered what had happened, and after checking with his supervisor, brought the kids to school.

Great community policing? You might think, but evidently not if you are those kids’ mother.

But the problem, the girls mother never knew what happened until a neighbor called her to say she saw her daughters drive away with police.

“I started crying. I broke down and i got here and I was hysterical”

 

“I don’t want them not to trust the police but they need to be aware they need to let their mother know. They need to let them say call my mom before they get in to say “call my mom,” she said.

I can understand the mother’s initial fear and even anger, but I have a hard time faulting the police in any way for anything they did in this situation.

– One day the Onion will be no more because reality is rapidly becoming more absurd than satire. A gun control group opened a fake gun store to guilt-trip people who wanted to buy guns. I agree with this take:

I like this clip as a microcosm of the gun-control movement in that it’s concerned chiefly with moral self-congratulation. You think anyone coming into the shop hadn’t heard of Sandy Hook or kids accidentally shooting family members with their parents’ guns before the schmuck behind the counter told them? This is a shaming exercise, pure and simple. And just to ensure that the appropriate amount of shame was expressed, if not actually felt, the producers exposed the ruse to the customers afterward and then stuck a camera in their faces to ask them if they’d reconsidered their purchase. Go figure that people who live in a very liberal, very anti-gun city, faced with the prospect of appearing in a viral vid that shows them trying to buy the SAME TYPE OF GUN ADAM LANZA USED, BRO, chose to express contrition when confronted.

Indeed.

9

Various & Sundry, 3/19/15

– More fallout from the incredible controversy of Walker firing a staffer. Or that staffer resigning. Or whatever. William Jacobson has a sensible take. Of course what this whole thing shows me is that the right is going to sabotage another election, disqualifying good candidates for minor infractions, and thus enabling someone like Jeb Bush to walk off with the nomination. Then bloggers like Ace of Spades will write 3,000 word rants about how evil the Republican establishment is, without of course conceding that they enabled the very nomination that they so decried.

– Yeah, Harry Reid is a real piece of, umm, work.

Senator John Cornyn (R., Texas) has offered a bill that would use fines levied on convicted human traffickers to fund services for victims of human trafficking — for liberated slaves. And his bill would do more than that: It would fund task forces and investigative units dedicated to breaking up trafficking rings. The bill contains language that is horrible to contemplate in the 21st century: “trafficking with respect to peonage, slavery, involuntary servitude, or forced labor.”

Who could be against such a bill? Senator Harry Reid, for one. The Nevada Democrat and Senate minority leader boasts of his pro-life record, and advertises the many occasions upon which he has voted against government funding of abortions. In the United States, the public funding of abortion is generally prohibited through “Hyde amendments,” commonplace statutory language that goes back to the earliest post-Roe days that ensures, out of a decent respect for the consciences of individual Americans, that none of them is forced by the government to participate financially in abortion. Senator Cornyn’s bill contains such a provision, and Democrats are pretending to be surprised by that. The truth is that they are taking a beating in their new minority status, while their national leadership is embroiled in a series of scandals and failures. A fight over abortion, they calculate, might be just the thing — and there’s always the chance that Republicans will help them out by having an obscure backbencher from nowhere proffer an innovative theory about reproductive biology.

– Obama hints at seeking to make voting mandatory. Because what we need are more uninformed voters deciding the fate of our country.

Obama floated the idea of mandatory voting in the U.S. while speaking to a civic group in Cleveland on Wednesday. Asked about the influence of money in U.S. elections, Obama digressed into the topic of voting rights and said the U.S. should be making it easier for people to vote.

Just ask Australia, where citizens have no choice but to vote, the president said.

“If everybody voted, then it would completely change the political map in this country,” Obama said, calling it “potentially transformative.” Not only that, Obama said, but universal voting would “counteract money more than anything.”

Oh, and shocker of shockers, he’s full of, umm, bile.

Disproportionately, Americans who skip the polls on Election Day are younger, lower-income and more likely to be immigrants or minorities, Obama said. “There’s a reason why some folks try to keep them away from the polls,” he said in a veiled reference to voter identification laws in a number of states.

First of all, voter id laws, contrary to the scare-mongering of the deranged left, are not about disenfranchising legally eligible voters. Democrats know this, but they have to keep lying because lying is all they have left. Secondly, couldn’t it be reasonably inferred that efforts to make voting “mandatory” are politically motivated attempts to influence election outcomes? Nah, only Republicans and conservatives engage in that sort of thing.

– Speaking of The One, he’s now going to punish the people of Israel for defying him. Which I guess is consistent for a man with a Messiah complex.

While saying it was “premature” to discuss Washington’s policy response, the [Obama administration] official wouldn’t rule out a modified American posture at the United Nations, where the U.S. has long fended off resolutions critical of Israeli settlement activity and demanding its withdrawal from Palestinian territories. “We are signaling that if the Israeli government’s position is no longer to pursue a Palestinian state, we’re going to have to broaden the spectrum of options we pursue going forward,” the official said.

Well, when you’ve defied the will of a petulant, egotistical brat, I suppose you’ve asked for it.

Joy Pullmann looks at the fertility industry’s lack of oversight. I love this paragraph:

Lastly: How freakin’ many “third-rail” issues are there? Last I heard, that phrase applied to Social Security. Now it apparently applies to abortion, contraception, producing humans like so many cars, the national budget, military bloat, entitlements, ending marriage, you name it. Isn’t that practically everything our government is involved in nowadays? How can anyone govern if they can’t discuss what they’re doing!

– Now this is some really important analysis: does diving to first actually get you there faster? Answer: kind of.

They key to maintaining the advantage is technique. According to Rivas, “The average velocity reached by the runner in the last long step is 9.5 m/s. The average velocity of first .6 meter of sliding is 6.2 m/s, and the average velocity of full body sliding was 5.2 m/s.” Since the diver had a .81m headstart at the end of his dive (25.6 inches), it should take much more than a meter (three feet) of sliding for the runner to overtake the diver.

In other words, if the runner/diver has absolutely perfect technique, he has a fraction of a second advantage over the guy who runs through the bag. Considering that this analysis doesn’t weigh the injury risks of diving over running, my suggestion would be that the traditional view – that a runner ought to keep running – should prevail.

12

Various & Sundry, 3/18/15

– So I guess today’s controversy is Scott Walker firing (or accepting the “resignation”) of his online outreach director after an outcry was made against her hiring due to some harsh things she said about Iowa. Because you simply cannot say anything critical about Iowa, that wonderful Republican bellwether that has correctly picked the Republican nominee twice in thirty years and has voted for the ultimate GOP nominee in the general election once during that same time.

Here’s Drew M at Ace of Spades saying, “Eh, no big deal.” Here’s Ace himself going to eleven on the freakout-o-meter. Personally I just don’t care much either way, though I slightly lean towards the Drew M position. That being said, my main takeaway from all this: just stay away from twitter. Nothing good comes from twitter.

– Let’s step in the wayback machine to a time when adults were welcome in the Democrat party. George Will memorializes Daniel Patrick Moynihan and his accurate assessment that the breakdown of the family would exacerbate economic woes, especially for minorities. Moynihan was pilloried for his views, so it’s refreshing to see that absolutely nothing has changed in our political discourse in half a century.

Fifty years ago this month, Moynihan, then a 37-year-old social scientist working in the Labor Department, wrote a report, “The Negro Family: The Case for National Action,” that was leaked in July. The crisis he discerned was that 23.6 percent of African-American births were to unmarried women. Among the “tangle” of pathologies he associated with the absence of fathers was a continually renewed cohort of inadequately socialized adolescent males. This meant dangerous neighborhoods and schools where disciplining displaced teaching. He would later write: “A community that allows a large number of young men to grow up in broken families, dominated by women, never acquiring any stable relationship to male authority . . . that community asks for and gets chaos.”
Academic sensitivity enforcers and race-mongers denounced him as a racist who was “blaming the victim.” Today, 72 percent of African-American children are born to single women, 48 percent of first births of all races and ethnicities are to unmarried women, and more than 3 million mothers under 30 are not living with the fathers of their children.

Ben Carson may need to sit down and do some studying if he wants to take this whole presidential run seriously.

Neurosurgeon and prospective Republican presidential candidate Dr. Ben Carson stumbled on key foreign policy questions during an interview with conservative radio host Hugh Hewitt on Wednesday, appearing to not realize the Baltic States are members of NATO and dating the founding of Islam to well before the birth of Christ.

In fairness, reading through the interview online Carson doesn’t necessarily state that Islam predates Christ, but that the tension in the region does. That being said, I continue to find his entire candidacy quixotic. Conservatives have – rightly – spent the better part of almost decade decrying the cult of personality surrounding Barack Obama, and yet there’s a fairly solid base of support for someone whose main accomplishment in the political arena is delivering one single speech that people liked. In a field that will feature a half-dozen accomplished governors plus a few more serious candidates with varying degrees of accomplishment, what exactly is Carson’s appeal?

– Funny video: how to become gluten intolerant.

I feel sorry for people who have celiac disease and who probably get a roll of the eyes whenever they request gluten free food. Unfortunately there is now a cottage industry of people who don’t even know what gluten is demanding that anything they consume must absolutely not contain the stuff.

– I’ve been lifting weights and getting into strength training. If this thread indicates what happens to the brains of people who lift weights, I might be done.

27

Various & Sundry, 3/17/15

– A couple of posts that look at the Democratic field for 2016. First Robert Tracinski on the Democrats weak bench.

The Democrats have an astonishingly weak bench of potential 2016 presidential challengers. National Journal runs down the list, and it’s not a very impressive roster. True, one of these could emerge, maybe a Democratic senator—Amy Klobuchar? Kirsten Gillibrand? Mark Warner?—but there’s no one with a lot of name recognition, even among Democrats, or much of a national political organization. There’s Vice-President Joe Biden, but I suspect his eccentricity is mostly tolerated because of the relative unimportance of his office. And then there’s Elizabeth Warren, who says she’s not running and who, besides, has all the down-to-earth, populist, all-American charisma you would expect from member of the Harvard Faculty Club. Other national Democrats include a bunch of septuagenarians—Harry Reid, Nancy Pelosi, and the like—who are hardly up-and-coming young saviors of the party.

How is it that the Democrats have hollowed out their party so much that they do not have an extensive roster of young leaders waiting in the wings?

Tracinski notes how Bill Clinton placed his own political ambition ahead of his party’s needs. Barack Obama has done the same, and in my opinion, has been even more aloof from the rest of his party than either Clinton. This has all had the effect of wiping out the party as it loses election after election at the state and local level, further eroding its bench.

What they may not have anticipated is how badly this would hit them on the state level, where they have been wiped out in the statehouses. This further weakens the bench by ending the career of many a young Democratic politician before it even begins. It’s like a big league baseball team trying to recruit players without access to the “farm teams” where rising stars can gain experience and demonstrate their talent. And as with the effect on Congress, this specifically deprives the Democrats of talent outside a narrow demographic that dominates big cities and the coasts.

Michael Barone suggests this effect: “The geographically clustered Obama coalition—blacks, Hispanics (in some states), gentry liberals—tends to elect officeholders with little incentive to compile records that would make them competitive in target states and capable of winning crossover votes.” A few years ago, this was called the Emerging Democratic Majority. But that theory is in shambles, and it’s looking like Democrats actually pulled aReverse Southern Strategy. They were so intent on basing their electoral future on educated young people and racial minorities that they thoroughly alienate everyone else: whites, southerners, blue-collar workers, suburbanites—all the people they thought they could do without and found out that they can’t.

Victor Davis Hanson has a similar analysis.

A paradox arose in Obama’s efforts at encouraging bloc voting. To galvanize groups on the basis of their race, tribe, or gender, the Obama cadre has resorted to divisive language  — “punish our enemies,” “nation of cowards,” “my people” — that turns off independent voters and even some liberal white voters. When the president weighed in during the trial of the “white Hispanic” George Zimmerman by telling the nation that if he had had a son, that boy would have looked like Trayvon Martin, such an eerie tribal appeal bothered at least as many Americans as it may have stirred. Blacks and Latinos may appreciate Eric Holder’s constant sermonizing about white prejudice or Obama’s riffs on Skip Gates and Ferguson, but just as many other Americans do not believe that Gates was singled out on the basis of race and do not see how the thuggish Michael Brown, who had robbed a store and rushed a police officer, could conceivably become a civil-rights hero.

More importantly, there is no indication that Obama’s knack for firing up minority voters is transferrable in the same measure to other Democratic candidates such as Hillary Clinton. Once one appeals to tribal identity on the basis of race and appearance, one lives or dies with such superficial affinities. Hillary, in other words, is not Latino or black, and her winning 60 percent of the former or 85 percent of the latter would simply not be good enough under the formulaic racial bloc voting that Obama has bequeathed to Democrats. In addition, Obama seems to bestow voter resentment, as much as he does enthusiasm, on other Democrats. In 2014, it seemed that Obama harmed Democratic candidates a lot more than he helped them, especially when he reminded the electorate that his own policies were de facto on the ballot.

There’s much more at the link, all of it good. The Democrats have put all their eggs in one basket – both in the person of Hillary Clinton and the overall theme of identity politics.

The sad thing about the Democratic field is that it so bad that it’s starting to make the 2008 GOP candidates look like a field of dreams.

– Of course it’s not all roses for the GOP, as it does face a headwind when it comes to the electoral college.

Yes, the somewhat arcane — yet remarkably durable — way in which presidential elections are decided tilts toward Democrats in 2016, as documented by nonpartisan political handicapper Nathan Gonzales in a recent edition of the Rothenberg & Gonzales Political Report.

Gonzales notes that if you add up all of the states that are either “safe” for the eventual Democratic nominee or “favor” that nominee, you get 217 electoral votes. (A candidate needs to win 270 to be elected president.) Do the same for states safe or favoring the Republican standard-bearer, per Gonzales’s rankings, and you get just 191 electoral votes.

This is true, but as the previous two articles highlight, some of the identity politics that have given the Democrats this electoral college advantage might no longer be as powerful.

– Then again, does it matter who wins. As this scathing post from Drew M highlights, it’s difficult to root for a team, so to speak, captained by the likes of John Boehner.

– Msgr. Pope digs deeper into the sin of sloth. It isn’t just about being lazy.

That said, sloth does often manifest itself as a kind of lethargy, a boredom that can’t seem to muster any interest, energy, joy, or enthusiasm for spiritual gifts. Such people may be enthusiastic about many things, but God and the faith are not among them.

. . . And boredom feeds right into sloth. The “still, small voice of God,” the quiet of prayer, the simple reading of Scripture and the pondering of its message, the unfolding of spiritual meaning through reflection, the slower joys of normal human conversation in communal prayer and fellowship … none of these appeal to the many who are overstimulated and used to a breakneck pace. Sunday, once the highlight of the week for many (due to the beauty of the liturgy, the music, the hearing of the sermon, the joy of fellowship, and the quiet of Holy Communion), is now considered boring and about as appealing as going to the dentist, a necessary evil at best.  Thus, sloth is fueled by the boredom our culture feels at anything going less than 90 miles and hour.

Sigh.

Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz has decided that his 4,700-store enterprise is no longer just going to be offering customers coffee, frothy drinks, and overpriced pastries. His baristas will soon serve up a venti-size helping of social justice.

“Starbucks published a full page ad in the New York Times on Sunday — a stark, black, page with a tiny caption ‘Shall We Overcome?’ in the middle, and the words ‘Race Together’ with the company logo, on the bottom right,” read a Fortune Magazine report previewing a forthcoming Starbucks campaign in which the coffee chain’s baristas will be encouraged to talk about race relations with their customers.

I rarely go to Starbucks, mainly because I don’t feel like paying $2.50 for burnt-tasting coffee. This is just further reason to avoid the place. Because really, I fully expect bored twenty-somethings to provide meaningful dialogue about complex racial and political issues while serving coffee.

– The Ferguson Report reminds Dave French why he became a conservative.

And that malignancy has spread throughout the public institutions. Our local government’s core mission was dispensing favors. If you were part of the local elite, the normal rules of life simply didn’t apply. Speeding tickets? No problem. You need a conditional use permit? You got it! To this day one of the most satisfying events of my professional life was defeating the local zoning board in the first constitutional case of my career — winning the case after a local leader haughtily told my church client, “We can and will dictate how you worship.”

. . .Reading the DOJ’s Ferguson report took me back to the bad old days. It is the story of a small class of the local power brokers creating two sets of rules, one for the connected and another for the mass of people who are forced — often at gunpoint — to pay for the “privilege” of being governed. This is a very old story, and if the poor of Ferguson are overwhelmingly black, then it’s inevitable that a government built on exploitation will disproportionately exploit black citizens. I have no doubt that there are some racists in Ferguson’s leadership, but we also know that even black leaders will exploit black citizens in the cities they lead — setting up de facto rules that benefit the governing class at the expense of the poor. See, for example, Detroit.  It is entirely possible to believe (as I do) that the evidence indicates that “hands up, don’t shoot” is a fiction, even a malicious fiction, while also believing that the evidence indicates that Ferguson’s government was corrupt in exactly the way that government is typically corrupt.

 

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Various & Sundry, 3/16/15

– Everyone else is linking to this G-File, so I might as well throw my hat in the ring. A very funny look at a really tragic situation.

It’s perfectly fine to want a woman to be president of the United States. All things being equal, I guess I might prefer it, too. But the question before the country isn’t, “Should we elect a category?” It’s, “Should we elect Hillary Clinton?” And these are wildly different questions. She’d “accomplish” being the first female president in the first second of her presidency. She’d then be Hillary Clinton for the next 126 million seconds of her presidency (Someone will check my math, I’m sure).

When someone asks, “Wouldn’t it be great to have a female president?” the correct answer, with varying degrees of enthusiasm, to be sure, is “Yes.”

When asked, “Wouldn’t it be great to have Hillary Clinton as president?” The correct answer, again with varying degrees of enthusiasm, is “Oh, dear God, no. No, no, no. No.”

I don’t think this will happen, but if somehow in just under two years the best this country can offer is Bush vs. Clinton, we’re going to need a do-over as a nation.

– And in case you didn’t have your fill of Clinton-bashing at NRO, here’s Kevin Williamson’s turn to play whack-a-mole. He writes of Hillary’s Faustian bargain in which she abandoned any pretext of trying to achieve measurable policy outcomes and seems to be seeking the presidency just to assuage her ambitions.

The story is as old as Faust. But what did Hillary Rodham Clinton get out of her infernal bargain? There is money, to be sure, the Clintons having grown vastly wealthy, but she does not give the impression of a person who is in it for the money — she seems like the sort of person who could live quite contentedly on a fraction of what she might make as an academic and an ornament to corporate boards. Bill Clinton was in it for the adoration and affirmation (and does not seem to despise money), but Mrs. Clinton cannot hide the wry cynicism with which she regards the public — she lacks her husband’s psychopathic gift for being simultaneously sentimental and predatory.

– It’s clearly a slow news day because this is what’s passing for news on the hard left: a three year old girl heard Ted Cruz say the world is on fire. According to the Einsteins that make up the far left Cruz’s incendiary rhetoric left this poor child scarred for life. Except, of course, she was totally fine.

“There was no tears,” Trant said, telling the show she told her daughter that ”Ted Cruz is the one that will put this fire out. And then she then looked at him as a hero.”

“I’m telling you: She was quite happy,” Trant added. “She was like, ‘oh? you’re going to put that out? We’re good. We’re good here.’”

If you think that the above story is a big deal, but roll your eyes at the mere mention of Benghazi, can you do me and the country a big favor: never vote again. Thanks. I’d say something about reproducing as well but this is a Catholic site.

– Over at One Peter Five, a rundown of Bishop Schneider’s ten elements of renewal in the liturgy. They’re all good, but numbers four and five really struck a chord with me:

4. The faithful approaching to receive the Lamb of God in Holy Communion should greet and receive Him with an act of adoration, kneeling. Which moment in the life of the faithful is more sacred than this moment of encounter with the Lord?

5.There should be more room for silence during the liturgy, especially during those moments which most fully express the mystery of the redemption. Especially when the sacrifice of the cross is made present during the Eucharistic prayer.

There’s a lot that can be said – and I hope to get around to saying it in a more detailed post – about the lack of reverence for the Holy Eucharist, and how we have diminished the sense of awe for the real presence.