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): 

September 06, 2020

Ten Second Guide to Current News

Your 10-Second Guide to the News Today: 

1. Trump accused of disparaging fallen soldiers. (Who could possibly care what Trump thinks? Unless he’s your husband or father.)
2. Trump said Sarah Sanders should take one for the team. (Now that’s funny!) 
3. Tom Seaver died. (God rest his soul!) 
4. Pelosi faux pas. (Power begets power: she can do as she wills because she’s untouchable in her district, which is because she’s powerful.) 
5. NBC Sports POD (Pious and Overly Devotional) intro to “controversial” song “My Old Kentucky Home” (vomit-inducing) 
6. Report finds that 93% of the time protests are peaceful. (Report finds that 93% of the time I don’t commit arson or loot. Yay me!) 
7. Shelby Steele comments on the grifters and the white guilt industrial complex (Anyone know a way to profit from WGIC, maybe futures contract?) 
8. Pro Athletes striking on account of a stranger resisting arrest: (Monopolies have their privileges.) 
9. Looting breaks out in Minneapolis again. (Fire sale, literally.) 
10. Media puts thumb, arm, legs, head on the scale. (“You elected Donald Trump so that’s why you can’t have nice things, like fairness in journalism.”) 
11. Black MBA students get professor placed on leave due to their mental health issues. (Sharpening business acumen using WGIC.) 
12. BLM: (Black-led organization necessary to remind itself that black lives matter given level of black-on-black crime.)

Risk Assessment from a Germaphobe

Who knew churchgoing could be so complicated?  I need a slide rule and a Geiger counter. Or something like that. It’s all very complicated. 

My sense is that fervent churches tend to make room for Covid, alas. Faith beats fear. 

Went to a Byzantine church today and they make limited concessions to the virus. Communion on the tongue only; I went up hoping I could receive in the hand but priest said “that’s not how we do it here” so I put my hands down and received on tongue. 

No ventilation, just A/C, and the liturgy is not shortened in recognition of that - over 1 hour when I rolled. 

Finally, everybody sings. A lot. Over half the service. Which makes corona happy. 

On the bright side there was a limited congregation (around 40) and appropriate spacing. Still, feels riskier than St. Margaret’s but then I’m no epidemiologist. 

St. Margaret’s: 

Back door open for ventilation. Crowd of about 80, socially distanced. Masks worn. Communion on hand only. A 45 minute liturgy. Limited congregation singing. 


No ventilation. Crowd of about 40, socially distanced. 3/4ths are masked. Communion on tongue only. 1 hour liturgy. Congregation singing. 

And of course the improved spiritual benefit of the Byzantine ought to outweigh the increased risk, which adds another layer of complexity to it.

Today’s hashtag is: #OverthinkingThings.