Thursday, August 29, 2019

Representation, Not Redemption

Usually, the uniquely American tendency to insist on a menu of "inalienable rights" beyond any Constitutional regimen comes from progressive quarters, with the significant exception of guns on the right and free expression generally from libertarians.  Recently, some more-right-of-center sources have been a bit more preachy about the Sixth and Eighth Amendments than one might expect on behalf of some particularly monstrous defendants, as if the system would not be working if their ostensible constitutional protections weren't given in direct proportion to their alleged offenses.

Musing in hindsight about granting Jeffrey Epstein bail, or about the perils of the "justice by denunciation" in Epstein's (or any) criminal case isn't remotely worthy of condemnation as,  say, Dave Chappelle's dual declaration that Michael Jackson was innnocent, or, alternatively, that his victims somehow brought it on themselves.  However, even salient points aren't necessarily advisable.  

In musing that Epstein might be alive today had he been granted bail, some key points--both widely known and less known--about the defendant are glossed over.  Epstein's unlimited financial and private transporation resources were widely known; his range of international connections and the depth of domestic officialdom (more than) allegdly in his pocket were not; all that and common sense would mandate remand. The editorial muses that the then ostensibly "excessive" bail mandated that he receive the requisite protection in prison, which he obviously didn't get.  However, his lack of protection in jail had nothing to do with the eighth amendment, but rather a function of a series of bureaucratic snafus.  If one considers that Epstein might have actually paid off people to look the other way, the case against home confinement is infinitely strengthened.

Conrad Black has every reason to rage against an incompetent and malevolent justice system; however that should leas him raging against Acosta's incompetence for going for a result, rather than defending him for getting that "best result" and pretending it was the most just one available.  Epstein's sojourn in jail in Florida further indicates that more could have been done and that local law enforcement at several levels just weren't even trying, and that they knew it. Black also should consider that mob justice often produces the one victim who can bring down the predator: consider what just happened with Epstein at a court hearing where several victims testified after the suicide; Larry Nassar's multiple victims coming forward during his trial and compounding his charges; and the Cosby and Weinstein cases.  Where there is a mob of victims--as there seem to be in all of those cases--mob justice is a prosaic as it is poetic.

Similarly, during the sentencing phase of the Nassar trial, Judge Aquilina came under criticism from some quarters from disallowing Nassar to read his letter, and for essentially deeming him irredeemable.   Some accused her of applying ostensible "liberal" tenets in her denunciations of Nassar and her willingness to express what she hoped would happen to him in prison.  This was/is nonsense, and any conservative should be ashamed to tar such a unique moment in upholding law and order.  

The question asked "Under what conditions does a convict forfeit their dignity?" sounds a lot more like an ostensible "liberal" paints about the mistreatment about "justice involved persons" rather than a theoretically conservative critique of judicial excess.  A conservative should champion a withering condemnation of offensive conduct from the bench, particulary conduct as egregiously beyond the pale as Nassar's.  Aquilina should have been celebrated in conservative quarters. 

Furthermore, any law and order conservative who complains that a "claim that Nassar is beyond rehabilitation was an affront to the dignity unique to every person" forgets that the death penalty does exactly that: determines that a person's continuing threat to public order outweighs any potential redemption.  Some were willing to even afford the Pittsburgh shooter that chance at "rehabilitiation" and were perturbed by the decision to seek the death penalty; but those pleas did not come from conservative quarters.  Furthermore, as most conservative philosophies have very strong links with various theologies, most classical theologies are replete with examples of those "unsaved" and "damned", metaphysically and otherwise, so a conservative refusal to see that some people are beyond redemption would present a further irony.

The Constitution provides for a criminal defendant's representation, and legal ethics demand that said representation be zealous.  It does not automatically provide a defense, and it certainly does not mandate that everyone has a shot at rehabilitation or redemption.  

Offenders have lawyers to "defend" them so that we don't have to.

Wednesday, August 21, 2019

Essential Loyals

Paul Findley died at 98 this past week.  The former Republican Representative from Illinois was nicknamed "Arafat's Best Friend in Congress" after a 1978 meeting with the archterrorist in Damascus seduced Findley into rethinking his previously mainstream political positions.  Findley forever blamed AIPAC and the Jews for his 1982 election loss to Dick Durbin until the day he died; he became and remained one the the most ardent anti-zionists in the US.

Findley's passing led to some musings among friends: is contemporary antizionism and antisemitism really a function of party?  Findley is an exception among Republicans, to be sure--even considering more recent examples like Walter Jones, who got squishy after the Iraq War went south and decided to blame the Jews, and Justin [H]Amash, who didn't really have credible GOP bonafides anyway.  But does anyone remember the 1992 election, with HW Bush and his staffers James Baker III, Brent Scowcroft and John Sununu pushed concerned voters into the Clinton column?  Or how even the otherwise stalwart Reagan administration employed Caspar Weinberger, who couldn't get over his last name and took it out on actual Jews?

However, after further review, the exceptions prove the rule: while there have been antisemites and antizionists in the Republican party--some prominent ones, even--on the whole the party has been solidly Judeophilic and pro-Zionist, institutionally, since at least 1980 if not before.  The Democrats have become the mirror image: while it's possible that even a significant majority of Democrats currently in office and the donor class still harbor Zionist sympathies, the party is philosophically and institutionally heading in the direction of the now fully Corbynized Labour.

It might be dificult to pinpoint when this trend started.  While the 1988 Atlanta DNC had essentially been co-opted by Jesse Jackson and his minions C. Vernon Mason and Alton Maddox, who used the convention floor to showcase the most blatant PLO support seen at the time, that trend proved short lived: the 1992 DNC in New York was exponentially more Jew-friendly (which may have been of a piece with Clinton's effectively sidelining Jackson, not least after the "Sister Souljah moment".)  

One might view the trend of increased sympathy for Palestinians as having become more entrenched starting with the Durban conference in 2001, when the gauntlet was essentially thrown to anyone left of center that their liberal bonafides were contingent upon their hostility to Israel, and 2003, when the antiwar movement--particulary ANSWER and their allies--threw down the same gauntlet.  The Democrats followed: viz. John Kerry, who as Senator had an almost 100% rating from AIPAC before 2002, effectively became a spokesman for Palestinian initiatives as Secretary of State, to the point that even the Israeli left accused him of perfidy and incompetence during the Gaza War of Summer 2014.

The election of Donald Trump to the Presidency and the ongiong hard left socialization of the party's progressives put this trend on steroids, and that has been no more exemplified by the ascendancy of Congresswomen Tlaib and Omar as intersectional heroes, and most recently the lockstep manner in which the Democratic party has reacted to Israel barring them from entry.  On the one hand, there are tweets from Rep. Ted Lieu decrying ostensible double loyalties of GOP politicians both Jewish and Gentile, while not a word about Rep. Tlaib sporting a Palestinian flag; on the other, the Democrats considering some form of censure for Israeli officials for the by citing the historical analog of Saudi Arabia being forced to allow Congressman Henry Waxman to enter that country in 1975 displays their (likely willful) failure to understand history, parallels and analogies.  [And they wonder why the public school system is falling apart.]

The fact the President Trump tweeted at the Israelis accusing them of showing weakness for even considering granting entry to Tlaib and Omar wasn't done to further his own political agenda at the Israelis' expense: it was to provide them cover for what they should have done in the first place.  The mistake of the foreign ministry was in not telling the rest of the Democratic delegation ahead of time that Tlaib and Omar would never be welcome.  Trump's tweet confirmed that the ban was a joint US and Israeli interest; entry was a Democratic party interest, not a national one.  

In fact, Jewish Democrats are the ones doing the cowering.  Witness how Tlaib backed off from her tear-stained request to visit her grandmother when other Palestinians accused her of being a "sellout".  She has nothing to fear from Jewish Democrats: they can't leverage her, and most Jewish progressives don't want to let other Jewish Democrats even try.    As long as they don't demand the most draconian form of censure for Tlaib, Omar and all of their allies, and work singularly toward making them permanently political radioactive, Jewish Democrats have no kick about anything the President has said about disloyalty.  Politically neutralizing the squad is an American interest, never mind a Jewish one.  The Jewish Democrats' dilemma is less Solomonic than meets the eye, and the events of this past week have shown that: if they are more preturbed by the ostensible "insults" to Omar and Tlaib than they are by Omar and Tlaib's ongoing insults to both Americans and Jews, they have shown where their ultimate loyalties lay: with their party, uber alles.

Friday, June 21, 2019

Irony Deficiencies

Sometimes you are what you don’t eat.

A series of otherwise unrelated recent events viewed together might indicate that, among their many glaring shortcomings, progressives above all might simply be suffering from irony deficiency.

The caloric theme was evident when Gibson’s Bakery won an astounding $44 million civil judgment at the expense of Oberlin University: a jury had found that an apparent student protest branding the bakery as “racist” for detaining students in the act of shoplifting had been not only been libelous but had been egregiously aided and abetted by high-level administrators at the school.  

Several ironies were inherent in the peddling of the false racism narrative, not least that, as noted in Atlantic’s coverage of the case, “[one] student offered to plead guilty to misdemeanor theft, a plea deal the bakery’s owner, explicitly approved, but judge rejected the deal…one of the student defendants would later remark that he appreciated the support of his classmates even though it probably hurt his case.”

A bigger irony might be in several liberal assessments of the result:  "Holding universities financially liable for student speech will inevitably lead them to police and censor that speech, creating a chilling effect that is antithetical to the First Amendment.”  The lack of self-awareness here from supporters of the school—which has been one institution that has been particularly aggressive in promulgating the progressive agenda—is astounding: most schools like Oberlin are usually very much in favor of “policing and censoring” student speech, and they themselves present the bigger threat to free expression. 

Less astounding but no less appalling are the tendencies of Oberlin’s allies’ to blatantly lie about how administration-driven the protests were, in the face of public court records, such willful dissembling as simply another progressive tool notwithstanding.   It further justifies the schadenfreude that has ensued from certain quarters about Oberlin being the first of hopefully many progressive eminences and institutions being force fed their own ostensible “principles”.

Oberlin’s comeuppance may be a further indicator of how progressivism is itself the ultimate “cultural appropriator”, as detailed by Zach Goldberg in his study of the phenomenon: ““wokeness”—a term that originated in black popular culture—is a broad euphemism for a more narrow phenomenon: the rapidly changing political ideology of white liberals that is remaking American politics.”   In that sense, contemporary progressivism might owe as much if not more to Kipling than Karl Marx:

The woke elite act like white saviors who must lead the rest of the country, including the racial minorities whose interests they claim to represent, to a vision of justice the less enlightened groups would not choose for themselves….Consider, for instance, that black and Asian Democrats and liberals are significantly more supportive of restrictive immigration policies and less positive toward racial/ethnic diversity than their white counterparts. Black and Hispanic Democrats and liberals are more sympathetic toward Israel than the Palestinians (likely due in part to the fact that they tend to be more religious). They are also more likely to part ways when it comes to contemporary social and gender-identity issues, including views of the #MeToo movement. In all, though they do converge on some issues, the attitudes and policy preferences of the woke white left are unrepresentative of the “marginalized communities” with whom they are supposed to be allies.” 

Moving from politics to popular culture, some have noticed a trend particular to comedy where the industry, in reaction to having a President who ostensibly “at heart, [is] one thing: an insult comic”, has simply abandoned irony and incongruity as comic devices, "creating a kind of insult comedy for the Resistance: less subtle, less civil—and, strangely, more conservative.”  Here, a double irony: an overwhelmingly liberal establishment imitating their bete noire by abandoning the one thing they ostensibly do for a living.

Unless progressive activists and entertainers have been using Alanis Morrissette’s definition of irony all along.

In fact, while the Politico piece presents Jon Stewart as the paradigm of “ironic detachment”, it underestimates how much of the irony was itself an act, and overestimates how “detached” he really was.  Make no mistake: Stewart’s real contribution to political discourse was advocating for policies he liked while making himself appear to be above the fray, while simultaneously subtly promulgating false moral equivalencies; one favorite was to consistently present Christian attempts to exercise religious rights as equally dangerous to the American fabric as Islamist terrorism.  Lest anyone forget what ultimately put him on the map as the go-to source for television news, his 2004 takedown of Tucker Carlson on Crossfire indicated that Stewart was no more above employing adhominy than our current Insult-Comic-In-Chief.  The ironies were likely not lost on Stewart, but they seem to have been lost on everyone who watched him.

The progressive irony deficiency might be simply attributable to the progressive tendency to hold non- or anti-progressives to a different double standard than they hold themselves, particularly when they suddenly find themselves at the business end of the more painful consequences they wish to mete out to their antagonists.  In addition to the Oberlin suit, a spectacle involving a metaphorical force-feeding involved NY Times publisher A.G. Sulzberger feeling compelled to write an Op-Ed…in the Wall Street journal (irony alert?) lamenting—as the NY Sun noted with appropriate if barely concealed glee in an editorial—“how irresponsible it is for President Trump to issue a tweet accusing the Times of committing, in the course of exposing our cyber attacks on Russia’s electrical grid, “virtual treason””.  The Sun then went on to list no less than three high-profile treason accusation headlines issued from the Times at Trump from their stable of Op-Ed eminences (in these particular cases, Krugman, Kristof and Blow).  

One wonders whether it occurred to Sulzberger to attempt an analogous Oberlin “we can’t control our writers/students” defense, or if he realized that the real world consequences of treason are far heavier than $44 million, and that he and his stable could be on the hook long before the President would.  In any case it is apparent that irony is no longer taught in journalism and comedy schools—or, as the Oberlin case demonstrates, any schools, for that matter. 

Once on a date with a woman who was a nutritionist, I mentioned my then chronic addiction to sugar cereals.

She made a face, confirming my guess she considered such fare anathema.

I pressed the point: “But they have vitamins! And minerals! And iron!”

She said: “They’re sprayed on.”

You have to wonder whether any previous progressive pretensions to irony are as “sprayed on” as the iron on Frosted Flakes.  Progressives are a lot more directly responsible for the purported death of irony than conservatives ever could be, as that device was claimed to be exclusive to nonconservatives; if not, the left has been suffering from irony deficiency for a lot longer than anyone previously assumed.

Sunday, March 31, 2019

Notes on a Class Action; or, #metoo Graduates High School

*The girls were right.  Theoretically, they didn't go far enough, but by not naming and shaming, they kept a semblance of a moral high ground.  They would have been justified if they had engaged in equivalent adhominy, even if that entailed impugning the ostensible masculinity of their raters (which would have revealed who the real snowflakes were). Turns out this was the more effective approach this time.

*The girls could claim that the nature of the list as an aggregate indicated that they were being interacted with in a way they did not approve of—this wasn’t a question of power imbalance; this was a question of being addressed for and about things for which they didn’t consent.  Looks exist, and men are going to look, but that does not give license to—and certainly does not obligate—men to willy-nilly institute a grading system to codify thoughts that are probably better kept to themselves, and which should be eliminated from most workplaces, or analogous locations.

*The principal wasn't being conservative or fighting PC or standing up for the Constitution  by giving equal treatment, as it were, to both the listers and the listed; she was covering her ass.  In any case, “freedoms” can legally circumscribed in a public school system, definitely vis-a-vis 4A, maybe even 1A, in additions to workplaces having leeway in regulating themselves. *Workplace regulations/restrictions vis-a-vis one’s colleagues on a personal relational level are certainly not violations of free speech.  Even political speech at the workplace can be regulated, as has been proven by the NFL anthem case.  Additionally, this is no way comparable to campus speech codes: those are extremely broad and not equitable, as some speech is favored over other forms, and the restriction ostensibly violate the actual business of that workplace, which is (or should be) freedom of inquiry.  If a campus speech code was limited to “policing” instances such as this one—in both directions, in case any male feels objectified by reverse rating—it might be more legitimate, as the commentary is personal and not political.  This “list” was workplace generated, and the girls concluded that it constituted a hostile environment without having outsiders agitate for them.  Furthermore, unless any of these girls are public figures, they definitely have an expectation of privacy—even in college, but especially in high school, owing to being minors and with a definite expectation of in loco parentis that might not be equivalent on college campuses (which is another reason to explain why the principal failed at her job.) 

*The kid who instituted the rating system isn’t the least bit remorseful; he was just smart enough to pivot to an "I'm woke" speech: “I recognize that I’m in a position in this world generally where I have privilege. I’m a white guy at a very rich high school. It’s easy for me to lose sight of the consequences of my actions and kind of feel like I’m above something.” This kid likely an aspiring lothario who will likely use his newfound “wokeness” to continue his penchant for conquest in a way that might actually work better than his now-failed attempt.  Furthermore, unlike Nick Sandmann, the “woke” speech will immunizes him from more draconian consequences.

*There’s a here's a big difference between "toxic masculinity" as the PC culture sees it and actual narcissistic misogyny under the veneer of ostensible male privilege/prerogatives.  PC culture and proggery ties the two together, ensuring that real behavioral problems don't get fixed.  The girls’ conduct, one the other hand, provides a real teachable moment;  so far it hasn’t become a wider cause with progressive scope creep, despite the boy ringleader’s newfound “wokeness”.

*An ostensible counterclaim that “well what if the girls would do the same thing?” falls flat on three counts: 1] if they did, it would be/should be subject to the same level of scrutiny and sanction 2] its unlikely that men would object the same way unless they were on the lower end of the spectrum [and not because they would have been rated, but because they would covet the higher rating and the ostensible concomitant female attention].; in this case, the women objected if they were rated highly.  This is a bipartisan concern: that feminists would object to this is no surprise; but one would hope that essentialists—those who would insist on distinction in gender and gender roles, almost to the point of fixation—should at least not attempt to make recourse to “what if women did the same thing”, especially because 3] they didn’t.

*Tangentially, once upon a time there was a blockbuster about “reverse harassment”: “1994’s “Disclosure” with Michael Douglas and Demi Moore, based on a Michael Crichton novel.  In the days long before #metoo, Hollywood was willing to entertain the notion that harassment could be a two-way street, even having the movie end with the idea that even powerful women could harass and get away with it until some form of justice is reached.  Nowadays, this movie couldn’t be made, especially since the late Crichton was an avowed skeptic of climate change alarmism, as he forcefully promulgated in his heavily sourced novel State of Fear.  However, the point is that despite the fact even with the culture heavily tilted toward addressing male harassment almost at the expense of cases where females are predatory or enabling (we're looking at you Sen. Gillbrand, Christina Garcia, Linda Sarsour, Cardi B)--those case speak to a different constellation of cultural-political forces and don’t diminish the nature of the claims of misbehavior made by women.  

*Also tangentially,  indicates the distinction between why the Clarence Thomas, Al Franken, Harvey Weinstein, and even Aziz Ansari “outings” were legit, and the Brett Kavanaugh hearings were a circus.  Thomas, Franken, and Weinstein committed their infractions while on the job and used their public and prominent personas to further their conquests; Ansari wasn’t technically “on the job”, but his professional persona was built around a veneer of gentlemanly demeanor and both his date and his post-downfall rant proved that even he didn’t do what he said.  The claims against Kavanaugh were neither current (no one tried to claim any of this happened after his college years) nor workplace generated (like Weinstein and/or Thomas), even independent of the wildly dubious nature of the claims themselves.  This “list” was “workplace” generated.

*If you're a "social conservative" who thinks there's too much smut in the culture and you don’t back the girls’ protest, you doubly deserve to be consigned to incelitude: you might be right wing, but you’re not religious and you’re not conservative.

Wednesday, February 27, 2019

Adhominy: If You Don’t, They Will

All too often what will be heretofore referred to as adhominy and adhominous arguments are deemed to be ipso facto invalid, as they ostensibly focus on the person making the argument rather than the substance.

In point of fact, rules of logic notwithstanding, adhominy and adhominous arguments serve several purposes which oftentimes buttress a point in a way that direct logical refutation might not.   Brevity, crucial in the Twitterverse, is always better served by an ostensibly adhominous label, speaking volumes without excessive verbiage.  As in: drawing a historical analog between powerful people appeasing hateful underlings, elevating them to positions of power under the guise of keeping them “under control” while using them as a cover for one’s own truer darker political impulses.

Hence: #NancyVonPapen.  

Additionally, labeling an opponent often serves to undermine a false premise, or several: one can invalidate both an argument and arguer simultaneously: nothing can be more devastating than a curt “you’re wrong AND you have no standing to make that assertion” with a hashtag, especially if an antagonist can be forced to either dig further in support of an unpopular position and be tied to it in perpetuity, or abandon it completely and have a lifetime of work erased. 

Hence: #AlexandriaOcastroCowfart.  

We live in an adversarial culture run by the court of public opinion—and like “real court”, juries are emotionally swayed by “arguments” that are extra-legal, or extra-logical, and are still valid, if only post-facto.  One would be well advised to keep a quiverfull of adhominous arrows.  As “ridicule is man's most potent weapon”, one can always expect no less from one’s opponent: if you don’t “freeze it, personalize it, and polarize it”, they will.  

Additionally—contra Alinsky—the price of a successful attack is not always a constructive alternative (as can be evidenced by his own previous assertion that “if you push a negative hard and deep enough it will break through into its counterside”); often the negation accomplished by said “successful attack” is ipso facto the constructive alternative: to stand athwart something yelling “Stop”, until it does.  The difference in the case of adhominy is that the “Stop!!” is often accompanied by a “you ______ !!!”, but it might make the tactic more effective (and what could be more bipartisan than a marriage between Buckley and Alinsky?)

It is also crucial to note making adhominous argument or even labeling an opponent cannot and should not be an expression of “hate”—even if it’s belittling—unless it’s direct incitement.  Granted, calling an adhominous argument “hateful” is in itself an effective adhominous tactic, effective because it often works; however, on both logical and adhominous grounds, it can be often parried in an almost akaido-like manner: which one of us is taking this personally, and which one of us is really engaging in “hate”?  

Which, tangentially, is why the argument that the vitriol being leveled at Jussie Smollett for his hoax—by a usually salient source that has no truck with intersectional identity politics—is wrong.

Daniel Payne writes:

[W]hat Smollett did was terrible. No, there was no excuse for it. Yes, he should suffer consequences for it. But you do not have to hate him for it, and in fact there is great virtue in taking pity on him. He is in a lonely, miserable place right now, set apart from the rest of us, staring down a very dark path and facing a lifetime of awful repercussions.  You could do worse things than feel compassion for a man so beset by colossal stupidity and monumental suffering. The world is never in need of more anger. Hating Jussie Smollett will not solve anything at all. And feeling sorry for him will not hurt anything.”

Payne, who is definitely not trying to either excuse Smollett nor engage in adhominy in any direction, still confuses not having compassion and being angry with “hate”.   This “hate”—if it exists—is ancillary and possibly irrelevant, and injecting it in to the conversation as the inevitable result of a perceived “lack of compassion” actually aggravates the offense and  cover up.  In fact, there is a “great” lack “of virtue in taking pity” on an offender who refuses to acknowledge wrongdoing and makes use of his family, friends and a sympathetic media to make his case; "feeling sorry for him will not hurt anything" except for the credibility of future victims, to which Smollett has already caused immeasurable hurt; "the world is never in need of more anger", except when the fear of righteous anger might serve as a deterrent to this offense being repeated elsewhere.  

Finally, Smollett “staring down a very dark path and facing a lifetime of awful repercussions” is not necessarily the most likely outcome: has Payne forgotten the examples of Jayson Blair and Jackie Coakley?  

Hence: #JussieBlair? 


Tuesday, February 19, 2019

On Second Thought, It’s You Too

One principle prevalent in Jewish “mussar” literature (loosely translated: personal ethics/self-improvement) is “Actions prove one another”.  Recent public revelations regarding several progressive icons indicate for both the abject moral bankruptcy of intersectional progressivism and its unfortunate staying power in American political life.  However, the actions of the specific icons in question leave little doubt that, when it comes to progressive “principles”, the political is almost all personal: it’s almost always about them.

Representative Walter Jones (R-NC) died last week on his 76th birthday.   Jones, having entered Congress in 1995, was ostensibly a die-hard social conservative who consistently opposed abortion and gay marriage and a libertarian anti-statist who “rarely — if ever — agreed to support bills to fund the government”; but, until two years into George W. Bush’s Iraq War, was a staunch militarist and nationalist who proposed “Freedom Fries” as an item on the House menu when the French refused to support the war effort.  (“Freedom Fries” wasn’t nearly as devastating a critique as the classic New York Post “Axis of Weasel" headline, with two Mustela heads photoshopped on the French and German UN ambassadors.)

However, what ultimately defines Jones’ tenure is the zeal with which he abandoned his former pro-war position, the zeal of the convert he was in real life (in several ways: from Episcopalianism to Catholicism; and, like another prominent Southern pol—Roy Moore—from Democrat to Republican (both in 1992)).  Like Peter Beinart, another conservative-turned-progressive once-fierce-supporter-turned-fierce-critic of the Iraq War (and then, Israel and the Jews as a result of the War), Jones was consistently the Republican most amenable to Iran and most hostile to Israel in the House, which made him a darling of hard left progressives.  Jones also told NPR in 2017 “he signed over 12,000 letters to families and extended families who've lost loved ones in the Iraq and Afghanistan wars…that was, for me, asking God to forgive me for my mistake”, revealing, in the end, as it would be for most progressives, it was really all about him, and his own self-righteousness: “When I leave Congress, I would rather have one thing said about me: ‘I will never question Walter Jones’ integrity.’”  There’s no question, Walt: you didn’t have any.

Also last week, Colin Kaepernick settled his collusion lawsuit with the NFL for an undisclosed sum, with both parties bound by a nondisclosure agreement.   Multidirectional crowing was inevitable, from those who thought that the NFL lost to the former QB to those who thought the NFL was forced into submission because it was insufficiently amenable to the patriotic demands of its own fanbase (never mind the President).  Beyond the issues of free speech in the workplace, or how salient the claims of the on-field protesters are or were—even independent of Kaepernick’s adoption of the most radical intersectional postures, from labeling all cops as killers, lionizing Fidel Castro, or palling with Linda Sarsour—the self-serving nature of Kaepernick’s “activism”, on display long before the Nike ad, may have been cemented by his insane salary demands after the AAF invited him to play.   Speculation was that he received between $60 and $80 million; it stands to reason that he may have folded for a lesser pay day after realizing he had asked too much.   It was always about him.

Tangentially, Kaepernick’s legal representative in this matter is none other than Mark Geragos, the crack attorney who got Michael Jackson acquitted of CSA charges in 2005; apparently, successfully representing a terrorist sympathizer must be a walk in the park compared to getting a notorious pedophile off the hook.  Jackson’s legacy took another hit recently: even more sordid and graphic revelations of his predatory modus operandi through the release of Leaving Neverland led even the New York Times Op-Ed page to manifest a moral conscience for 22 seconds.  Jackson’s status as a multicultural progressive icon were best explained in Al Sharpton’s eulogies for Jackson, particularly where he noted that without Jackson, we wouldn’t have a Barack Obama; it at least partially explains why Jackson has not yet had his legacy brutally erased a la Jimmy Savile.  In Jackson’s case, it certainly wasn’t about the children.

Sharpton himself, anointer of Jackson and architect of the Brawley hoax, decided to hedge his bets this time with the Jussie Smollett hoax: maybe he has a nagging conscience like Walter Jones.   Either way, enough ink has been spilled about this elaborate-if-slapstick con job and the concomitant self-imposed gullibility of the media and progressive fellow travelers (not to mention the rap sheet of similar hatecrime hoaxes that the media pretends never happened) that the most incisive reporting on the subject has come from satirical sources such as the Babylon Bee and npcdaily; the media gaslighting surrounding this hoax also resembles the recent media gaslighting vis a vis denial of the Green New Deal’s cow fart commandment, with the bonus that some reporters are actually blaming their critics for making them lie.  However, the most disturbing element of the Smollett hoax are reports that—as Michael Davis Smith explained—“Smollett thought the police had two innocent men in custody and he said he would testify against them. Only when he realized the cops got the right guys-the guys he orchestrated the hoax with-did he refuse to comply…Smollett was willing to send two innocent people to prison for his publicity stunt.”

Progressivism is most dangerous when “it’s about me” becomes about you too.

Wednesday, January 2, 2019

When Your Mitts Can Be Too Clean

Mitt Romney is a good man.

Mitt Romney could be an example of almost everything that is right about public service.

Mitt Romney reminds us again why he didn’t win the Presidency in 2012: 

He wasn’t willing to get his Mitts dirty.

Romney—a man whose personality has been shaped invariably by ostensibly traditional values a lot more than Trump’s—has a difficult time envisioning solutions to political problems without applying seemingly metaphysical standards.  Eventually, what happens is, policies that can be carried out effectively by those less than pure are either neglected or then left tho be carried out by those who are neither pure nor effective, if not outright malevolent.

In theory, one can parse/fisk a number of Romney’s complaints on policy grounds.  Two key points should be sufficient.  One, a President might not need to display “mutual respect” towards those who consider his assumption of the office to be illegitimate; Two, a President should not base his concept of American leadership on whether erstwhile European (and other) “allies” decide whether American will “do the right thing in world affairs”.

Yet Mitt—using his own admonition—ironically falls the most short when he declares “A president should unite us and inspire us to follow “our better angels.”” Absolutely not.  There are some things that are sacred.  Investing political office—no matter how high—with a metaphysical sacred status far beyond Constitutional proscriptions is a prescription for short circuiting the effectiveness of what LBJ termed the already “awesome duties of this office”.  

In the spirit of the author not following his own advice, and with the caveat that any analog between the sacred and secular is to be considered a loss one, there is a Midrashic exposition about the dedication of the Tabernacle in the Wilderness that on the day of the dedication, Bezalel, who had painstakingly constructed the Tabernacle, was aghast that all of sudden there were sacrificial meat and ash byproducts all over his heretofore pristine structure.  Aaron and the Priests gently reminded him that is was the reason the Tabernacle was constructed.  Invariably sacred work involved getting your hands dirty.  Remove the metaphysicality and “dirty work” as a necessary condition is amplified exponentially—necessary, and certainly not sufficient.

There are those both left and right who would insist that compromising purities is always tantamount to using the ends to justify the means.  As Yoram Hazony points out in his study of Esther, more often, the insistence upon purity is the enemy of the moral; the insistence on purity uses all ends to justify its own means, in that it justifies unwarranted inaction; and it commits a form of reverse cultural misappropriation, in that it invests secular endeavors with the level of sacred callings and then holds them to the same standard.

In the end, the insistence on purity—again using Mitt’s admonition—falls short twice over.