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02/13/2017

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Somewhere along the line I told you that I had bought a bunch of old Christmas movies this year and you said let you know if there were any finds or something like that. One of them was Holiday Inn. I meant to ask if you were familiar with it.

AMDG

Yes, I've seen it and liked it and would be happy to see it again. I can't remember exactly how Christmas-y it is. Maybe I should wait till next December.

Well, it's about all the holidays, but ends with Christmas. It's where White Christmas comes from.

AMDG

Donald Trump is not particularly 'unqualified' for the office and he's far better prepared to hold a position as a public executive than was the man he replaced. In your lifetime we've had John Kennedy (no experience as an executive bar commanding a PT boat with a crew of a dozen or so), Lyndon Johnson (executive experience limited to a two year stint as a second echelon official of the WPA), Nixon (no executive experience), Ford (no executive experience), and Obama (no executive experience). Johnson knew a great deal about how to work Congress (and it mattered) as did Ford (though it did not matter in his case). Nixon's incompetence as an administrator is retrospectively manifest.

The institutions we have are already degenerate versions of themselves. It won't matter much if Trump acts extralegally. The appellate courts do that routinely, and need to be brought to heel.


See Thomas Sowell's work: the portside is driven by an aggressive self-congratulatory impulse and very few in its ambo advocate anything genuinely beneficial to aught but targets for patron-client relationships (at least on a scale more extensive than local bike share programs). This asininity goes all the way down. Rank and file Democrats talk rot, all the time and about everything. As for the starboard, its working politicians are vapid and aren't interested in much but cosmetic 'tax cuts' and passing some swag to their preferred clientele (see AM McConnell's machinations in favor of the ExIm Bank). A great deal of discourse among Republican voters is just pointless dyspepsia.


That's what the post-1938 cohorts have made of the political world bequeathed us nearly 60 years ago. And it's too bad. There's not much to be done about it.

Experience is not the only qualification.

Experience is not the only qualification.

Your other qualifications are what? A history of good conduct? (Chuckles. See Kennedy, Johnson, Clinton). Accomplishment in pre-political occupations? (True in varying degrees of Carter, Reagan, Bush I, and (one might argue) Bush II - not the rest). Vigorously principled? (True of Carter and Reagan, and, when he'd declared himself, Bush II).

Basic layman's knowledge of constitutional republic concepts; no more than one or two screws loose.

You ask a lot, Maclin.

AMDG

Basic layman's knowledge of constitutional republic concepts; no more than one or two screws loose.

I have not much reason to believe he has any screws loose. He says some strange things (positing RB Cruz as a participant in the Kennedy assassination was the strangest), but I suspect that's part of his performance. I'm not sure what 'basic laymen's knowledge' he lacks of 'constitutional concepts'. Appellate judges and law professors (including his predecessor) promote all manner of hooey and your basic laymen is hardly interested in respect for procedural norms. Some of those who are are hung up on twee controversies of one sort or another (e.g. that regarding Ted Cruz' eligibility or regarding the consequences of popular election of Senators). Others entertain scenarios wherein a future Supreme Court declares Social Security or paper money unconstitutional.

Well, there's not a whole lot of point to debating it, since neither of us has direct personal knowledge of his. Based on his campaign and general public statements, it looks to me as if he is indifferent to the Constitution, or maybe just ignorant of it. He appears to be a natural autocrat and to want to govern that way.

Very funny joke about controlling our hysteria about the hysteria. Here is my theory about the hysteria, specifically about 'Trump is Hitler'.

I do not mean to say this was a better thing than today, but it seems as if down to the 1950s Catholic ethics was very casuitrous and full of complex variegated hierarchies of rights and equally complex variegated lowerarchies of wrongs. There were very many shades of 'how far can you go' on any moral decision. That's how it seems to a layperson who has only read two or three books on ethics, and those under duress. Modern Catholic ethics is less legalistic, which is good, and more focused on God and Christ, which is excellent. One has the sense that its less complex and variegated.

I don't know if any religion retains this kind of complexity. I doubt if even the Theravada Buddhists still ponder over those shades and nuances of intentions and actions. Perhaps the Muslims do, but who knows.

There was a fair bit of complexity in those
days in Protestant ethics. I would say that Reinhold Niebuhr is a lot more complex than say Stanley Hauerwas. I don't mean better. I just mean more subtle and paradoxical.

You can see where this is going. We don't just lack this subtlety. We lack the basic objective norms behind it. We are not nihilists. A program like The Americans wouldn't make sense if people didn't know instinctively that its wrong for the KGB to recruit their agents' teenage children over the heads of the parents. Breaking Bad wouldn't make sense if we didn't know that Mr White had gone to the bad.

But publically, about the only shared moral judgement is 'Hitler was bad'. Its very crude and lacking in nuance. And there is not anything above or below it in terms of badness. Just 'Hitler was bad'.

So if Trump is bad - and most of us who read this blog do think so - what else are people without a complex hierarchical sense of rights and wrongs going to say except for 'Trump is Hitler' ?

Waaay back in the day I used to very much enjoy the works of Henri Nouwen. I remember in the one where he goes for a retreat at Gethsemane Abbey, he is told he needs to find an emotional middle ground. He has to stop swinging from one extreme to the other and try to live in an affective medium.


Well...you have a point. Though he's not just Hitler, he's also racist-sexist-homophobe. I mean, you're definitely right about the absence of any complex hierarchical sense of rights and wrongs. The difference that strikes me between your example of older Catholic ethical casuistry and contemporary less formal (I am becoming allergic to the word "rigid") approaches is that in the Catholic (and similar) instance there is a conscious development--people thinking hard about the problem, putting a lot of effort into thinking about different approaches (whether rightly or wrongly isn't important for your point). But in the political realm it's a collapse, an unwillingness to think deeply, just a response to tribal signals. Like soldiers seeing an enemy flag.

And thinking of it that way--response to an enemy flag--it's actually in a way rational. If you're an Allied soldier in Europe in 1944 and see men in German uniforms, you don't stop to reflect on their personal guilt or innocence, whether they had a choice about what they're doing, how culpable they are, or consider the possibility of having a dialog with them--it's just kill or be killed. It seems that's the political mentality now. Not literally, fortunately, at this point

My point is not so much about a lack of a sense of gray areas in ethics as it is about a lack of a sense of proportion

Yes, the "so-in-so is Hitler" thing does get old. I don't worry so much about trump being Hitler but only how much will our government begin to look like one which begins to take advantage of a certain populist surge in order to do things it is not supposed to. Of course I realize that this is all a matter of perspective and that you all feel the Obama gov't did just that, while I was happy with what they did. Our current fearless leader only seems Hitler-ish in that he is quite self-absorbed, takes all and any slights quite personally, and in dealing with these slights there is an undertone of threat considering his position. Of course seeming to concentrate on exclusion of people due to race and/or religion, seeming to want to undermine the press, seeming to want to undermine the judiciary (part of our checks and balances) does appear to set him apart from any other presidents in my lifetime (Nixon?). But also, and to his credit, he seems intent on fulfilling campaign promises. I cannot remember a president coming into office trying to do this! Guantanamo Bay is still a US facility, for instance. It is all interesting but disheartening. Not that any of you are taking notice, but I did turn off my Facebook account for the time being mainly because I am tired of being assaulted by "fake news" (memes?) from both sides. I just can't take it any more.

Stu I agree with all you say about Trump. And I agree the fb negativity is too much

I had an email conversation with a friend last week, a conservative American history prof at a local college. He expressed his concern with Trump this way:

"I find Trump’s disruption—via cheap cynical ignorance—of basic democratic structures of justice and law so potentially destructive that it could undermine the possibility in the future of any kind of peaceable change rooted in law. In this sense I see Trump’s victory as a very high stakes pyrrhic victory. Whatever shreds of consensus about deliberative democracy made possible through some semblance of common rationality seems doomed. It just feels to me like Latin America—without the charm.

But maybe the institutions themselves will prevail, and we’ll have a renewed sense of the importance of civic education, among other things. Maybe we’ll get out, finally, of the STEM worship.

I do think the Democratic Party deserved this loss. And I’m relieved, as you are, that the SJW crew is disoriented. My fear is that Trump will just invite a larger counterattack, even more fierce. In some ways, nothing could be as predictable, especially after another generation passes on. Liberalism in the enlightened progressive vein isn’t going to go away, any more than the revanchist right will. Ain’t that America?"

I agree with him, but would add that I view the SJW crowd to be on the same level of potential threat culturally as DT is a potential threat politically. And of course the cultural tends to find its way into the political.

What is interesting (and frustrating) to me is that many of the conservative Catholic Trump-bashers, including several in my own immediate circle, seem to be far more critical of DT and his screw-ups than they have been of the hyperbolic reaction of the SJW's. These are mostly people who were 'never-Trumpers' before the election.




Re sense of proportion: I see, yes, very true. And I think that has to do partly with a certain pleasure in freaking out when you know in your heart that you're not in any real danger. Only partly but it's in the mix. It feels good to scream about Trump so you have to keep him scream-worthy in your mind. Therefore like you say; he must be Hitler.

I pretty much agree with Stu, too. Except I think Obama was also a threat to separation of powers.

I've unfollowed several people on Fb who are pretty angry and persistent on politics. Don't dislike them, don't want to unfriend them, just don't want the constant irritating effect. It helped a lot.

I cross-posted with you, Rob. That's interesting, I'll say more later.

I never unfollowed people on fb before. I always enjoyed the multiple perspectives it gave. I have unfollowed about 50 people since the inauguration

heh.

I'm the only guy in my group that's not on FB. My general sense is that it generates more heat than light, even though I do occasionally feel left out on some of the discussions, as the former back-and-forths we used to have regularly via email have mostly ceased.

I feel about FB the same way I feel about a smart phone: I won't bite the bullet until I absolutely have to (i.e., when other options are no longer available).

What is SJW? I missed that somehow.
I got off facebook AND deleted my account. Ain't going back.

SJW = Social Justice Warrior. The fanatical, mostly young lefties who feature in the campus horror stories about people being denounced for, for instance, having dreadlocks but not being black.

Social Justice Warrior? That's what urban dictionary states - someone who does not necessarily believe in the causes s/he is fighting "for".

I like the line about Latin America without the charm. :)

I had unfollowed exactly two people before the inauguration, and in both cases it wasn't what they posted, it was the sheer volume. Dozens of posts a day. One of them was a left-wing fanatic, the other was a dog-and-cat fanatic. I can only deal with so many pictures of sad dogs and cats in shelters pleading to be adopted.

I pretty much agree with your friend, Rob. In particular I'm very concerned that the reaction will sweep away whatever good (from the conservative point of view) Trump manages to do. It may be that the only lasting good--and it would be considerable--would be his Supreme Court justice(s). Ginsburg will hang on until her last breath.

Of course seeming to concentrate on exclusion of people due to race and/or religion, seeming to want to undermine the press,

Would to God that somebody would undermine the press.

I may be wrong, but when I think of Hitler, I think of someone who was completely focused. Focused on the wrong thing, but focused. Trump seems to be kind of all over the place.

AMDG

Speaking of Hitler, I love how Man in the High Castle shows the family life of the Smiths and doesn't present them as caricatures. If you have ever seen The Scarlet and the Black, you get that same look into the family life of the horrible Nazi that Christopher Plummer plays. After the war, Msgr. O'Flaherty visited him in prison and he converted.

AMDG

Are you making fun of my dreadlocks, Janet?

I you had them, Stu, I might have to.

You must not have been off Facebook long. You just liked something I posted really recently.

AMDG

I have really pared my Facebook newsfeed down to my family and maybe 15 other people. I just don't have time to scroll through a lot of stuff, and heaven forbid if I click something because I really don't have time to read it. I really don't have time to be typing this. ;-).

AMDG

I've been hacked!! :O

I think I suspended it yesterday?

If I never see another picture of a celebrity, politician, founding father, etc. with a quote attributed to them that they may or may not have uttered, being posted to support the point of view of the person posting it ... that would be really great!

That would be great.

I'm going to have to try and remember to watch that.

AMDG

I'm just sitting here thinking about Stu with dreadlocks and laughing.

AMDG

I had an email conversation with a friend last week, a conservative American history prof at a local college. He expressed his concern with Trump this way:

"I find Trump’s disruption—via cheap cynical ignorance—of basic democratic structures of justice and law so potentially destructive that it could undermine the possibility in the future of any kind of peaceable change rooted in law. In this sense I see Trump’s victory as a very high stakes pyrrhic victory. Whatever shreds of consensus about deliberative democracy made possible through some semblance of common rationality seems doomed. It just feels to me like Latin America—without the charm.

Your history professor friend seems unawares that the horse left the barn several decades ago.

"Your history professor friend seems unawares that the horse left the barn several decades ago."

Well, we'll see if/when his essay on same shows up in First Things in a little bit. He's been in there before. Reno may balk at this one though. Time will tell.

There are good grounds for believing that it's too late. One argument for Trump is that only someone with his honey-badger-don't-care personality and technique could provide the shake-up needed to make the government responsible again. But then "Trump" and "responsibility" don't really go together.

Janet: "when I think of Hitler, I think of someone who was completely focused. Focused on the wrong thing, but focused. Trump seems to be kind of all over the place."

Right, and true of the Nazis in general. Extremely focused, extremely organized, and therefore not the Trump phenomenon at all. I've been griping about the Trump-Nazi comparison all along. Whatever else he may be, Trump is not a Nazi. Partly that's because--and this is sort of in line with what VG was saying--so many people can't come up with anything except "Nazi" (and racist etc.) when they want to describe evil.

By the way, speaking of Facebook, I discovered the other day that I'd been unfriended by someone who marked Trump's victory by posting pictures of Holocaust victims. I hadn't argued with him, but I guess he saw something I said that made him angry.

Lots of people use "fascist" to mean any violent non-left-wing political movement. It doesn't seem to bother them that the only people actually engaged in organized street violence are anti-Trump.

I agree about the portrayal of the Smiths, btw.

Is the street violence really organized, Mac? When I was out marching against trump I had no intentions towards a violent outburst until I stumbled across an "anti-progressive" bakery and I just couldn't help throwing a brick through their window!

But I wouldn't call that organized.

Okay, I made all of that up. I need an outlet for creative humor and I can't find it in my job.

"One argument for Trump is that only someone with his honey-badger-don't-care personality and technique could provide the shake-up needed to make the government responsible again."

Right, and I think the counter-argument was that he'd shake things up so much that they'd break altogether, since they were already brittle. It was the Trump as bull-in-the-china-shop idea.

It seems I have a torn meniscius and the pain is not merely caused by the fracture

Well, as the wise Solomon said, "When it raineth, behold! it poureth."

Torn anything sounds at least as bad as broken anything. Must be very painful. Hope it gets better.

it's also the "Flight 93" argument, Rob, as I'm sure you (and Art) know: certain death vs slight chance.

Stu, there seems to be a small element, the "black bloc", that's definitely organized for violence.

You all are so much more with it than me as to what's going on in the world! Today I learned about social justice warriors and black blocs. I'm still waiting to hear what STEM means...

Science, Technology, Engineering, Math

(I think. Something like that anyway.)

No wonder I didn't know, those subjects are far away from my interests. Thanks, Mac.

I'm just going to put my dreadlock wig on and say OM for a while.

You have to reinstate your Facebook account and post a video.

You could sneak into his house and take a picture of him.

AMDG

The first group of people I unfollowed, collectively, as a group, were the folks trying to get me to adopt shelter animals before they were euthanized. One woman used to put messages on my timeline about dogs with ten hr to live. Ive never seen such horrible emotional blackmail.

I feel the priority has to be The animals one already has. When I had cats my elderly cats would have simply hated the introduction of the dog. Now that I have a golden retriever he has a very sweet tempered fellow and He is simply afraid of rottweilers and large shelter dogs. I have a cat who is on sabbatical with her and she would hate it if another dog were introduced. She regards Olivier
As quite deplorable enough without the introduction of a whole basket full of them

The thing is with these animal people who work in shelters they simply cannot see that happiness of one's own animals has to take priority

Yeah, that's the kind of thing that first made me unfollow somebody. I could have put up with one every day or two but it would be a dozen a day. I think she's quit doing that now.

I'm more hard-hearted. Even if I had no animals I would not be adopting one. We're down to one dog (there were two), and the one left is not going to live that much longer, and he's not going to be replaced. The cat is younger and may outlive us.

I will however be at risk if I am widowed and someone tries to give me a beagle.

Sorry, Janet, that's too much trouble.

I was trying to figure out why I would try to give you a beagle. ;-)

AMDG

Yeah, should have made that a separate comment.

"Let's face it: most of us have fairly easy and well-provisioned lives compared to almost all the people who have ever lived, and as much as we might see and deplore the various ills (spiritual, material, and psychological) that have accompanied it--life never gives us any gain without some countering loss--we don't really want to give up things like central heat and indoor plumbing and underground sewer systems."

I think that many of the people who think about these trade-offs try to work out which ones were legitimate/necessary and which ones weren't, and then offer their criticism accordingly. The problem is that if you're a progressive of either the left or right variety you necessarily believe that the compounded total of all these gains and losses must tend to the overall good, hence any critical examination of them is pointless.

The traditionalist/conservative looks at this and says, in effect, "Hold on a minute. Do we really have to take internet porn in order to have anesthetic dentistry and chlorinated water?"

These conversations are important because while the losses and gains continue unabated and always will, we shouldn't allow them simply to occur without examination, as if they're inevitable. The people who stand up and say "Hold on a minute" play an important role, even if sometimes they turn out to be cranks.

Oh yeah, I agree completely. I say Godspeed to anyone who wants to put in the effort on that. I did it myself for a long time. It's largely what Caelum et Terra was about. Looks like the web site where some of it was archived is gone so I can't point you to anything. It's just not something I personally have a lot of interest in anymore.

To extend my engineers-on-the-Titanic metaphor: if they really know what went wrong and can get their information back to those who need it, that's great. It's just not going to keep the ship from sinking, and that's my concern now. I haven't quite given up on that.

That makes sense.

I just finished Tony Esolen's new book Out of the Ashes, which is an exercise in that very thing. He's somewhat more sanguine about the prognosis of the culture than I am, but his diagnoses are accurate and his ideas for rebuilding are well-considered and not too big to be unachievable.

If Esolen can be sanguine at this point in his life it is remarkable. I wonder if this was published before his current woes began.

Have you read Reclaiming Catholic Social Teaching? I thought that was great.

AMDG

I think we should all do what we can even if it isn't big and programmatic. One of the articles I wrote for C & T was about what can the individual do? If one followed my advice it wouldn't make a big difference in the grand scheme of things, but it would make my life and the lives of my children and friends a little better at least.

I once read an article by William Michael of the Classical Liberal Arts Academy in which he scorned suburban gardeners who think they are making a difference by making salsa from their paltry crop of tomatoes and onions. I thought, "Now come on...isn't it better for the world and for them that they have a garden? Not everyone can live on the land." It certainly is better for my kids that we have a garden for them with which to have at least some connection to the soil. That kind of zealotry makes me sad.

A case of the best being the enemy of the good.

The thing is, if your kids have actually grown vegetables, if they decide to move to the country they might actually succeed in feeding themselves whereas Bill and I would starve to death without Kroger.

AMDG

I think his current woes started pretty recently, so my guess is that it was.

A personal reason for my current lack of interest in that project is what I've seen of the fortunes of the orthodox Catholic renewal that flowered in the '80s under JPII and in significant part inspired by him. So many hopes have been dashed. When I see a young man named John Paul on Facebook preaching the pro-abortion or pro-homosexuality line I figure there are broken-hearted parents in the background.

"If Esolen can be sanguine at this point in his life it is remarkable."

He's certainly not sanguine about the present. He's just more hopeful about the future than I am. Whereas he believes there are some things that can be salvaged and rebuilt, I think we're pretty much sunk. But this doesn't mean I don't agree with his reclamation proposals. Like Mac, I'm very much a "brighten the corner where you are" guy, and I'm sure Esolen is as well.

Maclin is a "brighten the corner where you are" guy?

AMDG

"Maclin is a 'brighten the corner where you are' guy?" Hehe.

No one can recover everything perfectly, but some people can recover some things for a time. Some people are recovering somethings, others other things. Then they get into a fight over whose recovered things are more important.

~~Maclin is a "brighten the corner where you are" guy?~~

Yes! Isn't that how you'd interpret this?:

One of the articles I wrote for C & T was about what can the individual do? If one followed my advice it wouldn't make a big difference in the grand scheme of things, but it would make my life and the lives of my children and friends a little better at least.

That was me.

As opposed to a "sitting in a corner swinging a big stick at people trying to get near you" guy?

Yeah, that was Robert and he definitely is that kind of person.

AMDG

My kids call me Mr. Sunshine.

What is the emoji for irony?

See this.

"that was Robert and he definitely is that kind of person"

My error. I saw C&T and just assumed Mac.

Still, I don't think he'd disagree with the sentiment expressed!

No, definitely not.

My link above btw was not a reply to Robert, just an effort to brighten everybody's corner.

I just didn't feel like it was enough to brighten mine only.

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