October 16, 2020

Scoring Your Confirmation Battles, Scully & Sasse

I'm working on an algorithm to determine how difficult a given confirmation battle will be. Kavanaugh's situation was basically a perfect storm while Amy Coney Barrett's a comparative romp in the park. 

So let's award points based on the political landscape. A score over 10 makes for a difficult journey while under 5 is a breeze. 

Are you male? Add 3 pts. Sexual harassment by a woman is much less believable, thus removing a tool from the progressive arsenal. 

Are the GOP votes lined up prior to start of confirmation? Subtract 2 points if so.  Barrett gets -2 while Kavanaugh had fence-sitters like Sen. Collins which encouraged desperate Democrat tactics. 

Are there Democrats on the Judiciary committee currently running for president? Add 3 points for each one. Kavanaugh adds 9 points while Barrett none.    

 Is there a Spartacus in the building?  Add 2 points. Both ACB and Kavanaugh add 2 points.   

So overall Kavanaugh scored 17 points while Barret sat at 0.Sen 

___

So Sen. Ben Sasse, talked about Trump in a (self-leaked?) phone call. His gripes, and he has a few, are perhaps numbingly familiar and unpersuasive to most non-liberal voters. You can say he's heroic in the Kasich mode for that, or politically tone-deaf.  Here is a breakdown of his complaints: 


1. "Trump mishandled the coronavirus." Well Trump was mediocre on it but I'm not sure a "C" grade represents "mishandling". The course of covid runs through individual actions, not government actions. The fault, dear America, lay not in the star (of the Apprentice), but in ourselves. For a conservative like Sasse to expect Big Daddy gov’t to "handle" a novel virus is Sad!

2. "Kisses dictators’ butts" Well, who cares? Does not kissing dictators’ butts change the behavior of dictators one iota? Does it bother Sasse so much that some foreigner the senator doesn’t like is getting his/her butt kissed? This is a primo example of a nothing burger. 

3. "Sells out our allies." I'd like a bit more specificity on this one. It's certainly possible but I'm hoping this doesn't simply mean "we're making our NATO partners pay their fair share". 

4.  "Spends like a drunken sailor". My understanding is that Congress is in charge of the budget. To the extent he signs expensive bills, so did Obama and G.W.Bush. Unlike Bush, Trump actually had a mandate to spend because the American people voted with the understanding he would not cut spending. See "the fault, dear Brutus..." above. 

5. "Mistreats women." Some women yes. Some men too. He's got character flaws no doubt. I understand my local garbage collector also mistreats women sometimes. Should we fire him? 

6. "Trash-talks evangelicals behind their backs." Who cares? He’s done more in actions for evangelicals than evangelical George W. Bush. Is this actually supposed to be persuasive? Everyone in Washington and in media trash-talks evangelicals.  

7. "Flirts with white supremacists."  He's also condemned them numerous times but is understandably annoyed liberals never get called out for flirting with black supremacists. 

___

Steve Scully I hardly knew ye! The ghost of Brian Lamb is quaking, only Lamb's not dead (bring back Lamb!).  

The mini-scandal is interesting on a number of levels. 

First, who knew that someone so placid and with such admirable self-control when taking crazy calls on C-Span (what a poker face!) was taking himself so seriously that he had to ask Anthony Scaramucci for advice? I mean there's the real scandal. 

Let's recall more about the sage of New York that Scully called upon. Scaramucci was let go by Trump two weeks into his term for attacking Reince Priebus, calling him a "paranoid schizophrenic" in a conversation with a reporter, and after also directing profanity-laced insults at Steve Bannon that are too spicy to post on a Catholic blog.  

Then Scully doubled-down, with the hackneyed lie, "I was hacked!". A very subtle hacking based on his timeline. 

The larger issue is that Trump is an unwitting revealer of character - just ask the many "journalists" who have been outed as frauds and hacks by him. You could call Trump a one-man honest-broker detector, a tester of character, like whether your house can stand up to really strong winds. In Catholic parlance, Trump is a near occasion of sin for reporters.

Reading the backstory, it appears that Trump got under Scully's skin by accusing him of not being objective which, ironically, led to Scully outing himself as not objective. But that's exactly the human condition. Our idols smash us. Mine do all the time. 

Biden's coming victory, despite the semi-hidden (by some media) corruption inherent in his fabulous wealth on a modest salary and his son's play-for-pay scheme that apparently required him to dole out some of the dough to "the Big Man", shows that it's more important to hide your flaws than that they be easily seen. He who hides them best, wins. I would argue that Trump's flaws are so transparent that he is less to be feared than the many ambitious pols who are more subtle. The devil's lies are subtle, not like the jester's lies. 

Ultimately the story goes: in 2015 and 2016, those conservatives wise in their own estimation were shamed by the simple, by the mass of Republican primary voters who gave their vote to Donald Trump. 


October 15, 2020

Excerpt from Peggy Noonan Column

 The Barrett hearings were almost as strange. They were, as usual, not really about her and her views but the senators and theirs. But it seemed to me that slightly more than usual they treated her like a piece of furniture. There were bizarre questions. From Mazie Hirono of Hawaii: “Since you became a legal adult, have you ever made unwanted requests for sexual favors or committed any verbal or physical harassment or assault of a sexual nature?” No, Judge Barrett said. Ms. Hirono says she asks this of all nominees, but it would have been nice if she’d said it with a hint of doubt.

Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse delivered a Rachel Maddow-style monologue on “dark money.” His data board linking “phony front groups” was wonderfully John Nash-like. The not-funny part, the sadness of it, actually, is that you could do a mirror-image chart of Democratic activism and money surrounding court nominees, and it would have been a public service if he had.

I don’t know Judge Barrett’s deeper thoughts on the Second Amendment, but by the end of the hearings I was hoping she’d pull out a gun. 

As for her Republican supporters, some of them went on about her large family and motherhood in a way that seemed, subtly, to obscure the depth of her intellect and the breadth of her command of the law. I think some of them couldn’t quite grok a mother of seven who’s their intellectual superior, so they reverted to form and patronized her. And competed with her. Sen. John Kennedy seemed especially eager to save the drowning woman, not noticing she wasn’t drowning and appears, as a lawyer, to swim better than he. 

They lauded her large family in a way that lacked finesse, by which I mean at times they sounded like Mussolini advancing pro-natalism as a matter of state. If Judge Barrett were single and childless like David Souter, she would still be a deeply impressive nominee. If she were married and the parent of nine like Antonin Scalia, she would be impressive. It is not irrelevant that she is bringing up seven children. “A mind that is stretched by a new experience can never go back to its old dimensions,” said Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr., and every child is a new experience. But when you focus on the personal at the expense of the public, you wind up with Mr. Kennedy asking, “Who does the laundry in your house?” I remember when a senator asked Scalia that and Scalia laughed in his face. Oh wait, no one ever asked Scalia that. 

Guys, did you not notice the immediate recall with which she summoned, and the depth with which she analyzed, the history of American jurisprudence? Say thank you, God, and move on. 

She will be confirmed. Having spent a long time reading of her and her decisions, what strikes me is a story she told last spring, at Notre Dame. It is personal but sheds light on her thinking. She and her husband had suddenly received a call saying a baby had come up for adoption. But she had just found out she was pregnant with her fifth child. She threw on a jacket, took a walk, and wound up on a bench in a cemetery. She thought, “If life is really hard, at least it’s short.” They adopted the baby. 

There have been many men on the court who seemed deep and were celebrated for their scholarly musings but were essentially, as individuals and in their conception of life, immature. But this is not a child, a sentimentalist, an ideological warrior. This is a thinker who thinks about reality.

She’s not what you expect when you open your handy box of categories. People who understand conservatism in a particular, maybe limited way—they don’t know what they just got. 

Modern, a particular kind of Catholic, a woman, with a lived emphasis on people in community—this is not a “standard conservative.” In her independence from partisan politics, in her lived faith in higher persons, spirits and principles, this is rather a dangerous woman.

And she’s sane.

October 14, 2020

When God Made Me Born a Yankee He Was Teasin'

Off with the dogs - we left the dogs out* - to points due south to our Laughing Gull spot in Seapines. We drove by a couple of interesting kayak opportunities: one, the Ohio River at Ravenswood; there’s a feeder river/confluence not far from route 33. The other was the Scioto near Grandview Avenue, and near where I-670 cross over it.  Driving to Hilton Head makes me want to do a dozen more vacation-type activities.

And it didn’t take long for Max to provide trip log material.  I stopped at a rest stop and Steph and I went to the bathroom. I got back first, and rather than climb in, close the doors, put the dual leash on the dogs and then take them on a quick potty break, I tried to simply corral them at the door.  Maris got on the leash fine but Max is deceptively quick (or I’m getting reflexively old). He squeezed through with a head fake and skipped across the Wendy’s drive-thru lane without a care in the world. The only thing that allowed me to stay with him was his frequent marking-his-territory moves, like peeing on the Wendy’s menu sign.  He went up to the drive-thru window and looked briefly up as if begging for food, and there was a car waiting for food, so he was sandwiched in the small area between car and window. I ran frantically, trying to make sure the driver wasn’t preparing to drive away and flatten Max. Meanwhile I had only one hand free (because I was holding Maris on leash) and my pants were coming down since I had loosened my belt on the car ride. Eventually I got him, only to later trip and fall on a hole and get dirt all over my leg and forearm. Fun stuff. 


But we arrived to our palm-shaded Shangri La. A new place this time that allows dogs and has balconies off just about every room. Windows galore. 


Sunday: 


Slept like a rock and woke up with these age old songs in my head. 


One was arguably the worst lyrics found in a Catholic hymn: “Our priest is presiding / with love we are abiding”.  I like the song but “our priest is presiding” seems a bit lame. I haven’t heard it in decades. 


The other song is one I heard in grade school. It went something like this, to tune of “On Top of Old Smokey”: 


On top of old coney

All covered with cheese

I lost my poor coney when somebody sneezed...


Google adds where memory faileth. Turns out it was a hit song from 1963, "On Top of Spaghetti”:


On top of spaghetti

All covered with cheese,

I lost my poor meatball

When somebody sneezed.

___


Cold and cloudy alas.  Temp at 64, 70 by noon. Not really beach weather given the 13mph winds.  Max continues to feral. He pooped in the house last night and again this morning. He also thieved Steph’s breakfast sandwich we’d had delivered thru Panetta bread: Steph bought two, one to eat and another to save for tomorrow but she forgot to put it away after breakfast and Max helped himself. 


(Later): He’s up to three poops in the house, one of them 15 seconds after we got back from a walk. I saw him literally pooping as I was putting away the leash. 


Monday: 


Morning dog walk past some exquisite beachfront homes. Ours is valued at 1.2 million, but the neighbor’s is 4.6m and another on our street is over $8 million! “House porn”.  Some dream properties around here.   


It’s like living in a terrarium - or a glass tree house - given all the beautiful variety of plants and trees flooding the dinette windows.


The official island song is that of the morning leaf blower. From 9 to about 11:30 this morn. Makes the need for AirPods.  


Come 11:30: pool-side. Exquisite sun and very nice temp. Idyllic echo of Miami’s early Septembers. The water gently gesticulates with the noiseless jets; Maris is loose but lying on deck while Max is leashed and resting next to the water. Tall pines and medium-sized palms fringe the pool area. A nice variety of vegetation with bushes and flowers to the south, the tall trees on the east and west. The sublime feel of Monday, the earliest era of a vacation. 


I got sidetracked by Malachi Martin of all people, via the ’net. The exorcist and exposer of Vatican scandals died in 1999 under the mysterious circumstance of a demon pushing him off a stool in his New York apartment, leading to cerebral damage and death. So he told a friend before he died. Killed in the line of duty one could say. Scaring and humbling. But he was a mysterious character with a lot of scandal. 


Headed to the beach around 1:30 and read leisurely 20 pages of book on Justice Kavanaugh nomination. Off-and-on clouds and windy, but good running weather and I did 25 minutes while listening to a YouTube video on Martin. 


Then took the dogs to the beach and got in the waves with them, although after they got smashed by one they seemed less than eager and stuck to the shoreline. But fun to see them as puppies, with Maris loose as a goose running timing patterns and Max on a long leash that that we let go and he didn’t have a yen to wander (just ambush Maris).  Really decent privacy and plenty of beach space to romp. 


A second 10,000+ step day.  And I need it as I tend to eat more junk snacks down here (chocolate muffins, pumpkin pie and Fritos to name three). Read a bit of a Stephen King novel and learned my height is perfectly normal:


“He stood up to his perfectly normal height (five-ten and a fraction)..”


Tuesday: 

Cloudy and rainy but warm enough and had enjoyable run on beach despite the weather.  Made better by having taken a WatchOS update that allowed the AirPods to work without iPhone, so I could “run free”, hands-free, this time.  Third hard run in a row and I’m feeling it, whew! 


Took the dogs to the beach and Max was as tired as I was, while leash-less Maris gave into temptation and trotted off to join three other lab retrievers nearby. You could tell she was torn between obeying Steph’s voice and the thrill of playing with dogs more playful than dud Max. 


It’s enriching to drink in all the beauty here, the fecund Low Country landscape as well as the artfully designed house. This morning caught a Bishop Barron video on his new Bible and heard a quote that seems apropos. He said, “The beautiful does not merely entertain. Rather, it invades and changes the one to whom it appears...For God is not one beautiful thing among many, rather God is Beauty itself.” 

___


Me in 2016: “wow, Trump’s election seems a cry for help by those left behind in global economy.”


Me in 2020: “wow, Biden’s election seems a cry for help by those suffering from Trump Derangement Syndrome and other anger and psychiatric issues.”


Anger makes you stupid and the more angry and thus stupid our opponents become the more the threat to us as far as self-righteousness. The Pharisees were right about a lot of things - they believed the Resurrection of the dead unlike the other Jews, and Jesus said that everyone should follow their teachings but not their example. But the problem with being right is that it just leads to self-righteousness. And there’s really no credit it all in “being right” in saying that riots are misbegotten and that liberal groups are trying to wreck the country. It’s like saying “fire is hot” and feeling self-righteous about your smarts. 


It was brought home how deeply destructive the Left is in a recent NY Times piece that said many urban public school districts in Democrat-run cities closed down their schools in part due to pique over Trump and in reaction against his wanting to open the schools. Certainly it helped stop pushback against teachers’ unions wanting to cancel school. But the issue is that many kids, poor or black, are only going to suffer more due to lack of in-school learning.  Whites and the rich can afford private schools, where teaching actually goes on in person. 


I suppose there’s a case to be made that Trump losing in 2020 would be good for the country in the sense of alleviating the mental disease (or at least a trigger, if not the root cause) of liberal hatred. 


St. Paul wrote of disregarding your own rights in order to save your opponent: “Be careful, however, that the exercise of your rights does not become a stumbling block to the weak...Therefore, if what I eat causes my brother or sister to fall into sin, I will never eat meat again, so that I will not cause them to fall.”


It’s surely a moot issue now that Trump has a nearly impossible climb to make to win. 


Wednesday:


Cardinal Sarah writes, “Love does not impose itself; it cannot impose itself...Precisely because God is present everywhere, he hides himself all the more carefully so as not to impose himself...But we can never create intimacy with God; it always comes from above, and our responsibility is to build the setting in which the encounter can take place.”


Which, if you think about it, is one thing the old 19th century spiritualists and ouji board people would agree with - even they have to do their dark arts with patience and a receptivity. 

___


Third secret of Fatima has to be the most anticlimactic message. It already happened (i.e. pope got shot, apparently murdered, that is JP2), nothing to see here.  

___


Hard to overcome laziness and fatigue and go to 8am Mass today! Woke around 7:25, took Max on a 3 minute walk (Maris still in bed) and then rode bike 15+ minutes there. Almost sacrificial given the sacrifice of coffee and morning creature comforts. Made more difficult due to fatigue due to all the running the last few days. Coffee crave. 


I do kind of got the pine today of taking another week down here mostly at the prospect of visiting Savannah on my own along with boyhood home of Clarence Thomas and Flannery O'. Could see his homes and then hit Savannah churches and walk Savannah squares. Steph not overly excited about spending the money, nor at all pleased at the prospect of her working down here and me being footloose and fancy free. 


Today was the first rock star summer day!  There were glimpses and moments before, but today 80 degrees and full sun. The weather in Hilton Head in October is just really pushing the envelope of fall I guess. The vacation already feels perishable even though ostensibly we have three full days left! I anticipate ends too much, not enjoying the means.  


So here it is Wednesday and our first extended beach time. Did an hour or so on Monday but nothing Sunday or Tuesday. It’s the sort of thing that you don’t miss until you experience it and then realize how missed it was.  Hard to believe but we didn’t get down to Beachland until 2:30 today. We stuck like glue to the pool area although Steph not so much, as she did a bike ride and then a virtual indoor workou. I was lazy and clung to the loungers, trying to make up for last few days of too much activity.  


Thursday:


So, what goes up must come down. Steph’s political awakening and newfound enthusiasm got crushed by the weight of cruel reality. For one, the polls show Biden with a giant double-digit lead. For another Trump unilaterally pulled out of the stimulus package negotiations which makes him look like he was at fault.  Third, he decided not to do the next presidential debate. So all told it feels like Trump has thrown in the towel. 


We watched the VP debate last night and it went well at least. Very watchable, unlike the painful presidential one.  For one thing, Susan Page was 1000% better than Chris Walleye. And Kamala Harris was a poor debater.  One pundit said that Amy Kobuchar would’ve killed Pence in this debate but Biden went with Harris as VP pick because “diversity is strength!”  Even when it’s not. 


What goes up must come down for me too. I tried to extend the rental on our place but they said it’s rented out starting Saturday. So if my side trip to Savannah is going to take place it needs to either today or Friday. I really want to do some city sightseeing, walk those squares, and see cathedral where Flannery O’Connor went to Mass. But how to leave this beach, with its magnet of sand, sun, water and beer?


I’m a liberal Democrat when it comes to vacations - always want more! Never enough!  


Steph thought next time we do Hilton Head we could leave a day early and I could do Savannah.  So that’s definitely a possibility I hadn’t thought of.  But I just feel like this 2020 year has been without sightseeing and I feel the dearth.  It’s been since a weekend Chicago trip last July, only a year and three months, but it feels longer somehow. 

____


I feel the wistfulness of a fast-flung vacation. Absurdly fast this year. No doubt partially a function of age since time goes by faster as you get older so a week at age 20 feels like 2-3 days at my age.  Maybe also the lack of proper reverence for time, in not using it most profitably mentally and spiritually. Social media and news erodes the gains you make in that department.


This would’ve been an ideal 2-weeker given the creature comforts, the dogs (they make it more like home), and the thus far mere 2 days of prime-time weather.  I feel the miss, the miss of heat already.  It’s always tougher in October knowing this is the “last chance saloon” of vacations. Nothing afterward as far as the eye can see. The restlessness is surely the zephyr of God reminding me of the eternity that is placed in our hearts, of the futility of seeking natural means to quench supernatural ends. There are not enough beach days to fill me up. 


It does make me wonder at how irreplaceable it feels, being at the sea instead of just being at home on a summer’s day.  What is so special about this environ? The feel of camping out? The little canopy of shade, the cooler of beer, the wide open, treeless country, the lull of sea and caress of sea-winds?  


There is something special about the elements here that serve to focus one’s attention: the lapidary light, the massage of sun on skin, the aural sea, the blue band of water making the straightest line ever seen in nature against the horizon. It’s as primal as it gets. 

____


My workout today consisted of a 40-minute, 6-mile bike ride. Easy compared to the run-hells. Up North Seapines Dr. and around a winding path and then back via the beach. So I got a decent amount of beach ride and some tree paths.. Listened to Marshall opine about the Vatican 2 church (verdict: unfavorable). He is all Aquinas, all the time. 


Late to beach again, about 2:30.  Just hard to leave the sublime pool area. It’s more open and sunnier than our last Seapines place. In some ways, best of both worlds, beach and pool!  But only if pool is used only for a few morning hours, otherwise it steals from the stage largess, the ocean. 


Read some of novel about Savannah area called Minnow and another Low Country novel called Seagrass. The lush natural descriptions just make me want to live here. Imagining myself Walker Percy with a cigar at the pool and IPA at the beach.


We brought Max & Maris down to the beach but I needed to exercise so I almost immediately took Max back up and then did my bike ride. Maris stayed with us, as cool as a cucumber even as a parade of dogs passed by. Steph put up a tent-like structure to provide shade for her.  She’s laid in that shade all late afternoon, only picking up her head with a passing dog. Not a sound heard, nor a complaint raised. 


It’s silly how I want to put a “face with a book” as far as associate someone reading on the beach. Nosy. It’s like I can’t help but look up a book someone is reading on the beach. I suppose it’s akin to be obsessed with the books people have on their shelves when you’re there for a social gathering. 


A kite lazes in the middle distance; at the rainbow’s end of it slides a beach parasailer.  Not unlike the sun which is also parasailing down the west edge signaling my beer-lack and time-lack. Three ol’ black guys stroll by. Authentically black, I think, given one wears a mask and has white socks with his sandals. And he looks good doing it, thank you very much. Not many could pull it off. Another has a “black and gold” t-shirt which may refer to the New Orleans Saints given their colors. Or the Steelers. Blessedly apolitical, just jaunting on the hard-packed sand. 


Friday:


Low Sea Bike Rental rules. They said if bikes aren’t there when they come by they’ll come by later! So we snuck in a morning ride to escape the siren call of the native species (the leaf blowers). I ended up doing extended small rides, enjoying the sight of the Spanish moss hanging like tinsel on old oaks. Fountain froths of palms reminded me of summer vacations of yore, which lie still beneath my skin. Jeweled greens of jade rising up. The dizzying variety of plant life.  Calypso paths, needle laden. The in-suck of drink, the tableau of freedom amid the canopied wonders. Saw a dolphin leap, his whole body briefly airborne. 


This wealthy side of the island seems to require an army of worker bees: landscapers, bug guys, bike rental trucks, pool cleaners... Seems a never-ending chore to keep these properties pristine. 


Back pool-side, Steph gave me a float and I urged the dogs to join me in the water but no takers. Getting out, I felt a sharp pinch on my arm and there was a bee stuck to my skin, with the stinger still in there. I dug it out and a welt and painful itch started so now I’m wondering if I’ll be allergic to it and have to emergency care it. Oy. (Later: It swelled up like a weightlifter’s forearm but went away within 2-3 days.) 


So I tried to squeeze in another run but it was exhausting and probably would’ve been better to have skipped given all the stuff we have to do tonight to be ready for morning drive. Beach time came late, just after 3pm, where I finally had time to read - specifically Minnow, an atmospheric novel set in the area. The author had me at “pluff mud”. 


Song going thru my head is James Taylor’s “Up on the Roof” only it’s the ocean is what “puts on a show for free”.  


So another “Maxident” in the form of an escape. We had about 75% of the pool area fenced and I thought I could guard the 25% but he’s a really sharp dog and seems to have known this from last time and so shot right by me to freedom. I got him, a house or two away, so it was no sweat. One thing I know is the folly is to run towards him since that only motivates him to run away (and much faster). He may be smart but not smart enough to forgo the distractions (hmm...sounds like me) of bushes and dog smells nearby which cause him to stop and smell and thus for me to catch up. 


Vacation Fridays are a frantic - if fruitless - attempt to suck more out of the day than the day can hold. So I was trying to do a bike ride, go to the beach, float in the pool, even possibly hit Savannah.


My welt now is the size of a baseball.  My thought is you “ought to see the other guy” (the bee, now lying dead).


* - That song sticks in my head like glue. Similarly, I can’t see the biblical book of Baruch and not think: “Baruch, Baruch, Baruch is on fire...” to the tune of some godforsaken ‘80s tune. 



















September 30, 2020

Chris Wallace Was the Worst One on the Debate Stage

So last night I endured the “presidential” debate, which was as disappointing as I’d feared. Biden had a pulse - which was his main hurdle to clear - and Trump decided to go for broke on the aggression front.  The president had nothing to lose in one sense since he’s significantly behind in the polls, but by interrupting constantly he didn’t give Biden the chance to make his own noose. 

But it’s certainly not in Trump’s nature to have a passive approach where you let your enemy die of his own accord rather than through your agency. Harder to take credit that way and Trump is nothing if not a “credit man”. So it was pretty much a done deal and went down the way it had to.

But it was a dismal show in part because Chris Wallace, supposedly of Fox News, curtsied before the liberal colleague courtiers at ABC/NBC/NYT/etc in his coddling of Biden. No elder abuse by Sir Wallace! Trump had to talk about his leaked taxes while Biden got a pass on potential sinecures for his son Hunter. 


It seems to me Wallace is particularly keen on alternately displaying Beltway shallowness or liberal bias, exemplified by his woebegone initial questions:


1. Should Trump be nominating a justice this late in an election cycle? (Teenage girl silliness, another example of Wallace's capture by D.C. gossip and hysterics. “Oh, how dare Trump exercise the presidency all four years of his term!”) 

2. Obamacare, climate change, race.  (Lefties cheer! By choosing the questions you’re revealing your bias, your priorities.)

3. Covid-19, "why should Americans trust you?”  (Legit, I suppose, although it gives off the conceit that the president is a god who can repeal and replace natural disasters.) 

4. Crowd sizes at Trump campaign events as potential covid-spread. (Boring! That ship sailed when protests were given the green light.) 

5. Chris asks about the difference between a V-shaped recovery and a “K-shaped” one.  (Really? The dirty little secret is the economy is not something the president controls since we have a capitalistic system with something called “business cycles” and not a Communist command and control economy.)

6. Trump taxes, whereupon the Donald is asked if he only paid $750 last year. (Ad nauseam, another example of Wallace’s teenage girl shallowness, of being titilated by the fact that the tax code is stupid and trying to pin it on Trump.) 


The news division (not just opinion) of Fox News was intended and marketed to be the counter to PBS/NBC/ABC/CBS etc..., i.e. the fair and balanced alternative to slanted news.  And so it was - for awhile. By 2003, the pressure to present a more palatable face to liberal elites was enough to prompt the hire of Wallace who came from a 25+ year background in liberal news (Boston Globe/NBC/ABC) and was formed by those institutions. 


There’s an interesting parallel to this in justices on the Supreme Court where GOP-appointed justices are “supposed” to play it straight but there’s this ineluctable pull to the Left created by the hothouses of D.C. or New York.  And Wallace reminds me a bit of John Roberts, as far as being more interested in his reputation and that of his institution than in fairness.  


September 24, 2020

Policing By Strangers is the Problem

Good take on policing in a Gilbert article by Richard Vigilante recently:

___________________________________________________________________________________

 

Pat Exner has devoted his entire professional life to educating inner-city children. More than 90 percent of his are African American. In most years 100 percent of those who finish eighth grade at his elementary school go on to finish high school. Most graduate from four-year colleges.

 

Pat did not plan a career in education and certainly not among the poor. Thirty years ago he was headed to law school, when a priest, Fr. Greg Tolaas, changed his life.

 

“Put law school off for a year,” said Father. “Go down to Jamaica, where we help run a school, and teach the poor, you know, just for a year.”

 

A few weeks later Pat found himself in Jamaica. Hideous poverty, no text books, barely anything we’d recognize as a school. He did have a box of chalk.

 

Pat has been teaching the poor ever since.

 

Even more than most of us lately, Pat has been meditating on race and crime and police and gangs and the horrors we tolerate in our inner cities. As we were talking through the trauma of the last few weeks he told me a story.

 

“I was 17 years old. My buddies and I had gotten hold of some beers. We were down in the park drinking and not smart enough or sober enough to keep quiet. I’m like in mid-chug, when I hear a deep growl. ‘Exner! What the heck do you think you are doing!’

“It was Officer Dwight Alberry. He knew me. Even worse he knew my parents. And he dealt out the worst possible punishment. ‘Ok, here is what you are going to do. You are going to walk, not drive, home, right now. I will be right behind you. And then we are going to sit down with your parents and you are going to explain to them how you got this stupid. And you are not going to leave anything out because I’ll be listening.’”

And then Pat looked at me and said: “That’s what policing should be. And it all came down to one thing: Officer Alberry knew me and he knew my family. He was not a stranger.” Two years later they were playing on the same softball team.

 

I have no sympathy for gangs or local “leaders” of “autonomous zones” wielding AK 47s and Molotov cocktails. They are worse bullies than any cop. But they do have the germ of an idea, and it’s the right idea. G.K. Chesterton would have seen it.

 

In “The Napoleon of Notting Hill”, Chesterton imagines a country in which every neighborhood is a duchy, a quasi-independent fiefdom with its own regalia and traditions and putatively the power to control its own local affairs. Inevitably that power is challenged by the state and then ... well you’ll have to read it. I think it is his best novel.

The point is that it is a novel about self-government, a government in which the most important resources are not tax receipts but the human heart and the common sense that comes from what we actually hold in common with our neighbors, the common sense of Officer Alberry.

 

We have given up democracy for bureaucracy. We have replaced government of the people, by the people, and for the people, with occasional voting for we know not whom, who proceed to do we know not what, with most of the doing being done by civil servants we never chose and cannot dismiss, following not laws we have made but ‘regulations’ we never hear of until they are enforced upon on us.

 

Our neighborhoods are governed by strangers from far away, and some of those strangers are armed.

 

Yes, I know the statistics. I know most of what is said about police is unfair. Heather McDonald, the author of “The War on Cops”, which eviscerates the idea that police departments are systemically racist, is a friend of mine. I agree with her that racism is not the essential problem. And I believe that given the way police departments are organized, they probably do as good a job as could be reasonably expected.

But do they need to be organized as they are?

 

Imagine an autonomous zone idea, but minus the Molotov mixers and AK 47s. Imagine something more like Chesterton’s Notting Hill:

 

“A well-defined urban neighborhood, probably not less than a thousand families, but not as many as 5000. Everybody either knows everybody or knows somebody who knows them.”

 

The neighborhood has a local constabulary, patrolling the neighborhood on foot, greeting neighbors and shop keepers and picking up local gossip, hearing about local problems.

 

The patrolmen are not amateurs. They are professionals, trained at a police academy, employees of the municipal or state force. They are real cops; they can make arrests, issue summonses, all that. But they all understand that getting to know the neighbors is at the core of their job.

 

Now here is the key point—the patrolmen do not report to downtown. They report to a local official, let’s call him the Sheriff, elected by the families of the neighborhood. If the neighborhood needs other police services—detectives or what not—the sheriff can call them in from the state or municipal police. That is how subsidiarity works.

 

This is a police force actually governed by the neighborhood. If there is a scandal, it is a local scandal. If there is police brutality, or police laxity, it is on the sheriff and the community that chose the sheriff. If bad officers are not removed, that’s the sheriff ’s problem at election time.

 

Should the patrolmen be armed?

 

Not our job to decide. The neighborhood decides, either by referendum or by delegating that decision to the sheriff. The consequences of arming the police, or not, lie with the community.

 

What about drugs? It is often contended that drug arrests are a major source of friction between the police and urban neighborhoods.

 

Let the neighborhood decide. Kicking drug laws up to the Feds has been a disaster. Trying to stop the traffic ‘at the source,’ we engage in para military operations around the globe, shifting the trade to ever more vicious and violent characters who gather ever greater profits into ever bloodier hands. And the drugs keep coming.

 

Making drugs a local problem would likely mean more officers taking more teens home to their parents to explain how they got so stupid. The drug trade would not pay enough to buy ammunition for the AKs.

 

Self-government is not a trick to push political responsibility back to the neighborhood and avoid rioting—or make riots seem ridiculous, though it would do that. Self-government is both a product and a source of community. It depends not on docile subjects and strict enforcers but on citizens.

 

Not merely the riots, but the entire current political crisis, a crisis more likely to pull us apart than any we have seen since the civil war, comes down to this: We have allowed ourselves to be governed by strangers until we have become strangers to each other.”


September 22, 2020

Haunted Baltimore

Remembering last year’s trip to Baltimore, in the glory daze of pre-corona... (aka fun with black and white):