Wednesday, May 18, 2022

The Champions of Tolerance Go Medieval on a Louisville School

Over the last two or three days, the Tolerance Police have surrounded Christian Academy of Louisville, demanding that they give up their religious beliefs and come out peacefully.

The latest development in this tolerance-induced hostage crisis was a news story in today's Louisville Courier-Journal (in which I am quoted) that quotes several people who charge that a Christian school is engaged in teaching its religious beliefs to its students.

This is apparently a problem for a few people who have, it seems, only recently discovered that religious organizations actually teach the beliefs of their religion to their children.
This outrage has attracted the condemnation of a number of people only some of whom have even the most tenuous relationship to the school. In an opinion column today, another person who has no children at the school and is not related to it in any other apparent way weighed in on the crisis.

"Indoctrination and critical thinking can’t coexist," says Willie Carver, "since indoctrination is, by definition, 'the act or process of forcing somebody to accept a particular belief or set of beliefs and not allowing them to consider any others.' There is no room for criticism, for objection, for individuality of thought with indoctrination."

I don't know what dictionary Mr. Carver is using, but he needs a better one. Perhaps he should try Mirriam Webster, which defines indoctrination this way: "to imbue with a usually partisan or sectarian opinion, point of view, or principle."

In other words, indoctrination is the teaching of a doctrine. Now Mr. Carver may be ignorant of this, but the job of religious schools is to do precisely this. They are sectarian by definition. They have their own religious point of view, and they teach it to their students.

Is this indoctrination? Of course it's indoctrination. Religions have doctrines and they teach them. They also (and Mr. Carver might need some smelling salts near at hand before he reads this) have dogmas, which are authoritative doctrines. They do this on a daily basis and have done it from time immemorial.

Mr. Carver is apparently unaware that indoctrination is actually what religions do. They have them and they teach them to their adherents. That's what religions are for.

Someone in one of the stories charged that the religious conservatives who are now indoctrinating students are the very same people who have charged public schools with indoctrination, and implied that this is somehow inconsistent.

Is it? While the whole point of religious schools is to indoctrinate (precisely because they're religious), public schools are not supposed to be religious, and therefore they should be indoctrinating--not, at least, unless they want to admit that they have doctrines that should be, as Christian doctrines have for over 2,000 years, carefully examined.

And by the way, to say that indoctrination and critical thinking "can't coexist" is quite frankly boneheaded. Doctrines are themselves the product of long and serious philosophical consideration. Go read Augustine. Go read Aquinas.

Christians have views on sexuality (and other areas) that are constantly being discussed, inside and outside of the Christian community itself. They're put to the test of evidence and reason. But one of the chief characteristics of the sexual views of Woke religion is precisely its dogmatism, a virulent kind of dogmatism. The assignment at CAL emphasized the importance of charity in advocating Christian sexual ethics. You will be hard pressed to find that sentiment emphasized among the Woke scolds who seem to think that anyone who disagrees with them is not only wrong, but evil.

It's interesting to watch what happens when the champions of tolerance are confronted with disagreement. All of a sudden, their tolerance evaporates and they begin lecturing you on the evils of not agreeing with them.

It kind of defeats the purpose of being tolerant, doesn't it?

Tuesday, August 25, 2020

Are Bans on "Gay Conversion Therapy" Based on Reason and Evidence?

A legislative panel held a hearing this morning to consider the issue of a ban on "gay conversion therapy." Here are a few questions lawmakers should ask before supporting a counseling censorship bill that would put legislators with no medical expertise in the position of judging appropriate medical treatments:

First, supporters of the counseling censorship ban cite several specific practices that are part of some kinds of "conversion therapy" ("a variety of shaming, emotionally traumatic or physically painful stimuli..." as one supporter of the ban has put it) that they consider to be harmful:

  • Is it these particular practices that are the problem?
  • What about conversion therapy that does not engage in these practices?
  • Why not ban these particular practices? Why ban all conversion therapies?
  • If these practices are what is the problem, then why not ban these particular practices in any kind of therapy?
  • Why does this bill ban all conversion therapy, not just conversion therapy that engages in these particular practices?

Second, according to information from supporters, a lot of people have undergone conversion therapy. That would indicate that there must be a lot of psychologists who offer it:

  • Are there really that many bad practitioners in the psychological profession. If so, is there some larger problem in the profession?
  • Have these psychologists had a voice in the doings of the associations of which they are a part that now publicly oppose this kind of therapy?
  • Are they members of these associations at all? How representative are the associations who oppose this kind of therapy of the larger body of psychologists?

Third, if conversion therapy is to be banned because of "health risks for LGBTQ young people such as depression, decreased self-esteem, substance abuse, homelessness, and even suicidal behavior," wouldn't that implicate some of the LGBTQ orientations this bill is intended to privilege? These very pathologies seem to be overrepresented in many LGBTQ populations--apart from any conversion therapy. One report, for example, asserts that as many as 40 percent of transgender adults report having attempted suicide. Doesn't the logic of this argument call non-traditional sexual orientations themselves into question?

Fourth, let's assume that harm to some individuals (not all, there are a number of people who have benefited from some form of conversion therapy) has in fact occurred.

  • Is that sufficient reason for banning a practice?
  • Are supporters of the counseling censorship bill in favor of banning any practices which sometimes result in harm to the patient?
  • There are many medical procedures that are considered risky because of high rates of harm to the patient, and there are many types of patients who are particularly at risk for certain surgeries (such as the elderly). If resulting harm is the test, should all these procedures be banned?

Finally, if there were no demonstrated harm from conversion therapy, would supporters still oppose it?

The arguments for the counseling censorship bill is fraught with ubiquitous appeals to authority (a large array of professional associations oppose it), and the fact that public opinion polls are against it. Since when are appeals to opinion polls considered an appropriate way of determining the integrity of medical procedures? In fact, the very rhetoric of those who pretend to be acting on behalf of science--which includes not only ad populum appeals and appeals to authority, but also emotional appeals--belies a very unscientific attitude toward the issue.

One also wonders whether the people who now oppose gay conversion therapy would automatically change their minds if professional associations changed their opinions and supported it instead (as they once did before they were politically pressured to change their positions). In other words, if these associations changed their minds tomorrow, would these people drop their support for these counseling censorship bills? If we index the integrity of medical or psychological procedures to such things, then we would have to say that there was nothing wrong with conversion therapy when it had professional and public support.

It is tempting to conclude that the reason for censoring psychological counselors has little to do with these arguments and more to do with the ideologies the opponents seem to represent. But ideology should not be the determining factor for deciding the integrity of medical or psychological practices.

Saturday, June 06, 2020

The Roots of the World

G. K. Chesterton's observations about the attempt to uproot religion are just as relevant to the attempt to uproot our civilization:

The Roots of the World
by G.K. Chesterton
Daily News, August 17, 1907

Once upon a time a little boy lived in a garden in which he was permitted to pick the flowers but forbidden to pull them up by the roots. There was, however, one particular plant, insignificant, somewhat thorny, with a small, star-like flower, which he very much wanted to pull up by the roots.  His tutors and guardians, who lived in the house with him, were worthy, formal people, and they gave him reasons why he should not pull it up.  They were silly reasons as a rule. But none of the reasons against doing the thing were quite so silly as the little boy's reason for wanting to do it; for his reason was that Truth demanded that he should pull the thing up by the roots to see how it was growing.  Still it was a sleepy, thoughtless kind of house, and nobody gave him the real answer to his argument, which was that it would kill the plant, and that there is no more Truth about a dead plant than about a live one. So one dark night, when clouds sealed the moon like a secret too good or too bad to be told, the little boy came down the old creaking stairs of his farmhouse and crept into the garden in his nightgown. He told himself repeatedly that there was no more reason against his pulling this plant off the garden than against his knocking off a thistle top idly in a lane.  Yet the darkness which he had chosen contradicted him, and also his own throbbing pulse, for he told himself continually that next morning he might be crucified as the blasphemer who had tom up the sacred tree.

Perhaps he might have been so crucified if he had so torn it up. I cannot say.  But he did not tear it up; and it was not for want of trying.  For when he laid hold of the little plant in the garden he tugged and tugged, and found the thing held as if clamped to the earth with iron.  And when he strained himself a third time there came a frightful noise behind him, and either nerves or (which he would have denied) conscience made him leap back and stagger and stare around.  The house he lived in was a mere bulk of blackness against a sky almost as black. Yet after staring long he saw that the very outline had grown unfamiliar, for the great chimney of the kitchen had fallen crooked and calamitous. Desperately he gave another pull at the plant, and heard far off the roof of the stables fall in and the horses shriek and plunge. Then he ran into the house and rolled himself in the bedclothes. Next morning found the kitchen ruined, the day's food destroyed, two horses dead, and three broken loose and lost.  But the boy still kept a furious curiosity, and a little while after, when a fog from the sea had hidden home and garden, he dragged again at the roots of the indestructible plant.  He hung on to it like a boy on the rope of a tug of war, but it did not give.  Only through the grey sea-fog came choking and panic-stricken cries; they cried that the King's castle had fallen, that the towers guarding the coast were gone; that half the great sea-city had split away and slid into the sea. Then the boy was frightened for a little while, and said no more about the plant, but when he had come to a strong and careless manhood, and the destruction in the district had been slowly repaired, he said openly before the people, "Let us have done with the riddle of this irrational weed.  In the name of Truth let us drag it up." And he gathered a great company of strong men, like an army to meet invaders, and they all laid hold of the little plant and they tugged night and day.  And the Great Wall fell down in China for forty miles.  And the Pyramids were split up into jagged stones. And the Eiffel Tower in Paris went over like a ninepin, killing half the Parisians; and the Statue of Liberty in New York harbour fell forward suddenly and smashed the American fleet; and St. Paul's Cathedral killed all the journalists in Fleetstreet, and Japan had a record series of earthquakes and then sank into the sea. Some have declared that these last two incidents were not calamities properly so called; but into that I will not enter. The point, was that when they had tugged for about twenty-four hours the strong men of that country had pulled down about half of the civilized world, but had not pulled up the plant. I will not weary the reader with the full facts of this realistic story, with how they used first elephants and then steam engines to tear up the flower, and how the only result was that the flower stuck fast, but that the moon began to be agitated and even the sun was a bit dicky. At last the human race interfered, as it always does at last, by means of a revolution.  But long before that the boy, or man, who is the hero of this tale had thrown up the business, merely saying to his pastors and masters, "You gave me a number of elaborate and idle reasons why I should not pull up this shrub. Why did you not give me the two good reasons:  first, that I can't; second, that I should damage everything else if I even tried it on?"

All those who have sought in the name of science to uproot religion seem to me very like the little boy in the garden. Skeptics do not succeed in pulling up the roots of Christianity; but they do succeed in pulling up the roots of every man's ordinary vine and fig tree, of every man's garden and every man's kitchen garden. Secularists have not succeeded in wrecking divine things; but Secularists have succeeded in wrecking secular things. A religion cannot be shown to be monstrous at the last; a religion is monstrous from the beginning.  It announces itself as extraordinary. It offers itself as extravagant.  The sceptics at the most can only ask us to reject our creed as something wild.  And we have accepted it as something wild.  So far one would think there would be a mere impasse, a block between us and those who cannot feel as we do. But then follows the curious practical experience which has ratified religion in our reason for ever.  For the enemies of religion cannot leave it alone.  They laboriously attempt to smash religion. They cannot smash religion; but they do smash everything else.  With your queries and dilemmas you have made no havoc in faith,: from the first it was a transcendental conviction; it cannot be made any more transcendental than it was.  But you have (if that is any comfort to you) made a certain havoc in common morals and common sense.

The opponents of our religion do not commit us to accepting their axioms; our axioms remain what they were before; but they do commit themselves to every doctrine of insanity and despair.  They do not hit us, but they do plunge past us into the marsh and the abyss. Mr. Blatchford cannot commit us to the comment that man is not the image of his maker for that statement is as dogmatic as its denial. But he can and does commit himself to the statement, humanly ludicrous and intolerable, that I must not blame a bully or praise the man who knocks him down.  Evolutionists cannot drive us, because of the nameless gradation in Nature, to deny the personality of God, for a personal God might as well work by gradations as in any other way; but they do drive themselves, through those gradations, to deny the existence of a personal Mr. Jones, because he is within the scope of evolution and his edges are rubbed away. The  evolutionists uproot the world, but not the flowers. The Titans never scaled heaven, but they laid waste the earth.

Wednesday, November 27, 2019

The Grievance-Mongers Should Leave Thanksgiving Alone

My new article at Intellectual Takout:

When you scoop that spoonful of mashed potatoes into your mouth this Thanksgiving, just think of all of the Indians that had to die so that you could enjoy turkey and dressing with your family. 
Or at least that's how some would have it.   
It wasn't too long ago that Thanksgiving was considered a time to celebrate the things we had in common. But in recent years the holiday has been given over, like so many other things in our culture, to the politics of grievance. Everything, including holidays, must be sacrificed to the gods of resentment. 
Read the rest here.

Sunday, November 17, 2019

Saving the Quid Pro Quos from Bribery and Extortion

You just can't say that Latin isn't relevant anymore.

On "This Week" with George Stephanopolous, Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney tried to defend the Democrats rhetorical strategy last week of shifting their terminology. After focus groups showed that the Latin expression "quid pro quo" didn't elicit the negative feelings that terms such as "extortion" and "bribery" did, these latter two terms went to head to head in the finals and bribery won.

That's why you don't hear Democrats using the Latin expression anymore.

Of course, there are some non-Latin speaking Americans who wish the whole impeachment debate was being conducted in Latin so that they could think of something more important (and less political).

Maloney said this: "Quid pro quo is Latin for bribery." Now the fact that Maloney said this is interesting, but not only because it's completely inaccurate. I've discussed this expression elsewhere, but I'll underscore again that quid pro quo means "something for something." It refers to any action in which something is exchanged for something else of similar value. That would include virtually any economic exchange involving money or barter.

The Latin word for bribery is conruptela, a completely different Latin word. Bribery is one very specific kind of quid pro quo or economic exchangenamely one in which subornation is involved. Subornation happens when someone convinces someone else to do something unethical or illegal.

Bribery = quid pro quo + subornation

What would it mean to say that President Trump's quid pro quo with Zalensky (if there really was one, which wouldn't surprise me) constituted bribery? The literal application of saying that the President's action was bribery is saying that the President was offering something to Ukraine President Zelensky in order to get Zelensky to do something illegal or unethical. It is that President Trump was offering something in order to get that person to do something illegalto suborn an illegal action. But what Trump was trying to get Zalensky to do was not illegal at all: He was trying to get him in investigate whether someone committed a corrupt act. 

Since when is that illegal?

It actually would have been more accurate to have settled on the term "extortion," since that involves trying to get something from someone by force or threats. But it just didn't appeal to the Democrats' focus groupsyou know the ones I'm talking about: the ones who are now guiding the impeachment process.

But, of course, the extortion argument has its problems too. As I said last week, if withholding aid from a country in order to get them to do what you want them to do (and cutting it when they don't) was a crime, then it is one that administrations commit on a routine basis, and the question then becomes, if you think Trump's so called "extortion" was illegal, where have you been all these years?

The Democrats are shifting their terminology in order to gain a more pronounced political effect while claiming that they're not actually saying anything different. That's why they are saying that quid pro quo means the same thing as bribery when, in fact, it doesn't. 

But it has another benefit. Surely they figured out, after a little thinking about this, that staking their case on the mere charge that there was a quid pro quo in a foreign aid context was not going to do. In addition to bribery sounding more sinister than a quid pro quo, there is no law that prohibits quid pro quos, while there are laws that prohibit bribery and extortion.

The bad thing about it for the Democrats is that it raises the bar in terms of what they have to prove. Now, if they find that there was a quid pro quo, the question is whether it involves bribery, which only a very limited, specific kind of quid pro quo.

And by the way, does it bother anyone that the Democrats are using focus groups to determine what crime they are charging the President with?

Almost literally, this is what happened here: Instead of consulting the law or the Constitution, or some official enactment of our Glorious Republic in order to determine what crime the President may have committed, the Democrats hired consultants, gathered together some accountants, a banker or two, some construction workers and a grocery store clerk and asked them which words they thought sounded the most scary.

It's so ... Hamiltonian (referring to the musical not the actual person).

Meanwhile President Trumpmore a danger to himself than to otherssquandered some of his good will this week (whatever is left out there) tweeting against the former Ukraine secretary whom the Democrats had brought before the committee for the very purpose of trying to show how mean Trump had been to her. 

Of course, this had nothing to do with whether Trump committed any crime, much less any impeachable one. But still, the Democrats whole partisan point was to embarrass him as much as possible. It's a measure of Trump's carelessness that he facilitated the accomplishment of this goal in the very act of trying to prevent them from doing it.

And imagine being a Republican on the committee trying to defend the President and having to sit there while the President undermines you in the very act of defending him.

If you think it's hard being Trump's enemy, you should try being his friend some time. 

But all of this is consistent with what I have been saying all along: that the Democrats Impeachment strategy is a campaign strategy and not a legal or Constitutional strategy. These impeachment hearings are not designed to turn Trump out of office. That's not going to happen and the Democrats know it. The Democratic House can vote articles of impeachment to their heart's content, but the Republican Senate is not going to convict him.

The Democrats use of the impeachment process is not a serious constitutional endeavor; it is a campaign tactic for 2020, and there are a lot of Americans who realize this.

The Democrats are using a function of government for partisan gain. And isn't that what they are claiming the President was doing?

Saturday, November 16, 2019

The New New Criterion: A College that Still Thinks Beauty (and Truth and Goodness) Matter

I don't know why I received it so late and why I received two copies, but the November issue of The New Criterion is out and, as usual, contains some interesting things, including Roger Kimball's always excellent "News & Comments," in which, this month, he talks about Hillsdale College's new Christ Cathedral, which he rightly calls a "signal event at an important academic institution."

The Chapel, he says, is "the largest classical chapel built in America in seventy years. It must also be the most beautiful."
... [T]he cheek—the audacity—of a liberal arts college circa 2019 choosing to build and give such prominence to an explicitly Christian chapel. It even features a cross on the roof above its main entrance. Talk about transgressive! In a brochure about the chapel, we read that Hillsdale College since its founding “has been dedicated to the immemorial teachings and practices of the Christian faith. It is dedicated as well to high learning, moral formation, and the perpetuation of civil and religious liberty.”
I was at Hillsdale last year when the chapel was still under construction and saw only the exterior--and that still mostly shrouded in all the trappings of construction. Still you could tell that the building meant something and meant it very resolutely.

Kimball goes on to contrast Hillsdale's resoluteness with the flacid and equivocal, if not toxic moral posturing of so many other institutions of higher learning (even, we should point out, the ostensibly Christian ones):
Most older colleges and universities were founded to promulgate such “immemorial teachings and practices.” How many would dream of acknowledging them today? Stone by stone they have dismantled that foundation. New-age nostrums such as radical environmentalism, racial grievance-mongering, or sex-in-the-head gender mania are pursued with a fervor that seems almost religious in its intensity, but they offer sparse support for the teetering edifice they have excavated.
Read it here.

Sunday, November 10, 2019

The Questionable Major Premise in the Case Against Trump

Whether you think that Trump acted unethically, or criminally, or impeachably (is that a word?), what exactly is the argument? I have often said that, when you are trying to analyze an argument in real life, the first thing to do is to figure out the major premise of your opponent's argument.

All arguments have one big, universal premise. In the argument, 

All men are mortal
Socrates is a man
Therefore, Socrates is a mortal

The big, universal premise is the first one, "All men are mortal." It is called the "Major Premise." In formal logic, it is always stated first. But when we argue in real life, we generally omit it altogether--usually because everyone is assuming it. Usually it involves the common believe of those on both sides of the argument. But  many times, it goes unstated because the person making the argument knows it is questionable and he doesn't really want to draw attention to it. 

Let's take the major premise at the stasis of the current argument over impeachment: that there was a "quid pro quo" in aid to Ukraine. Here is the argument as it is commonly stated, missing the major premise:

The Trump administration's aid to Ukraine involved a quid pro quo
Therefore, the Trump Administration's aid to Ukraine was an impeachable crime.

What is the missing, major premise? "Any action involving a quid pro quo is an impeachable crime." Here's the complete argument, with the major premise highlighted:

Any action involving a quid pro quo is an impeachable crime
The Trump administration's aid to Ukraine involved a quid pro quo
Therefore, the Trump Administration's aid to Ukraine was an impeachable crime.

And here is where the defense of the President (a defense originating with him) has gone down precisely the wrong path. The administration and his defenders in Congress have implicitly accepted this major premise, when what they should have done is question it from the beginning.

This is where Trump's defense is terribly, horribly mistaken and it will cripple his defense until the process plays itself out. This was part of the point in a recent article in Human Events

The response they should have given to the charge that there was a quid pro quo is "So what." There are a lot of governmental actions that involve a quid pro quo, and none more obviously than foreign aid. Foreign aid not only can, but always involves an implicit or explicit quid pro quo. With the possible exception of humanitarian aid, we don't give taxpayer money away to foreign countries unless we expect something back. And there is the implicit understanding that if a country is receiving foreign aid, then it can be taken away the moment it displeases us.

And not only do we implicitly consent to the quid pro quo behind all foreign aid, we expect it. Foreign aid has never been purely charitable, and has always been a tool of foreign policy. Of course this what precisely Mick Mulvaney's point in his controversial remarks at a White House press conference. The problem with Mulvaney's remarks was not that they were incorrect, but that they went against the official narrative.

Now let me anticipate an objection here. An anti-Trumper could say, "But it is not just the fact that it is a quid pro quo; it's that the quid pro quo is one that helps him personally and politically. Once again, let's look at the major premise. The argument is stated publicly without it:

The President's Ukraine action is one that helps him politically
Therefore the President's action is an impeachable crime

Missing premise?

Any action that helps a president politically is an impeachable crime
The Trump administration's aid to Ukraine involved a quid pro quo
Therefore, the Trump Administration's aid to Ukraine was an impeachable crime.

Again, almost every act a president engages in while in office is designed to help him politically. Every policy decision, every public declaration, every presidential domestic trip helps him politically. There have even been objections to taxpayer-funded presidential junkets in the days leading up to elections in which the president is running that they are really campaign trips and shouldn't be paid for by taxpayers. But despite this, it happens all the time, and even those who protest never say that such trips are impeachable offenses.

Once again, no one can plausibly argue that acts by presidents that politically benefit them are either impeachable, or criminal, or even unethical. The major premise is just wrong.

Let's just take the most famous case of foreign aid, which is our longstanding foreign aid to Israel. Not only is there a quid pro quo (the expectation that we will receive something back from it)--that we will enjoy cooperation and support from Israel in our Mideast foreign policy, but there is a very obvious political benefit to any administration that continues our foreign aid to Israel. Every President, whatever else he may expect from aid to Israel, understands that it helps them greatly with Jewish voters. 

So neither a quid pro quo in foreign aid, nor the fact that political advantage is gained from it are either unethical, criminal, or impeachable--nor would they be so if they both involved a quid pro quo and resulted in political advantage, since two bad arguments don't make a good one.

But here is the problem: The Trump administration has mistakenly chosen what ground it will fight on, and, unfortunately for him, it is not the high ground. And to shift his position now will look like pure opportunism. He will have to admit that there was a quid pro quo, which undoubtedly there was in some form, despite the fact that he has been denying it all along. I will look like a rhetorical retreat.

And yet, I don't see another alternative. 

In either case, the President is not going to get convicted, as I have said before. But if you're going to get impeached, you might as well get it right, win or lose.

Thursday, November 07, 2019

How to Interpret an Election--And How Not To

Sometimes it seems as if the interpretation of election results has about the same objectivity as an astrological forecast. In the case of the recent state elections in Kentucky, Virginia, and Mississippi, the analyses we have are mostly the customary partisan interpretations--either that they showed that Trump was weak because of the loss of Matt Bevin in Kentucky, or that Republicans did not do well in Virginia because Trump never showed up there.

Everybody has the interpretation that makes their side look the best, although it was interesting that analysis of the New York Times "The Daily" podcast was more flattering to Trump than the one offered on Ben Shapiro's show--partly because Shapiro knew less about what was going on in the ground in Kentucky than The Daily's reporter, who actually bothered to spend some time in the state in the weeks leading up to the election.

In Kentucky, I think there are objective reasons to believe that Bevin's loss had little to do with Trump other than Trump was able to stave off a much more crushing defeat. Bevin was, after all, the least popular incumbent governor in the country. The fact that he only lost by 5,000 votes is, in light of that fact, something of a miracle.

The key observation is, of course, the fact that the down ballot Republican candidates dominated their Democratic opponents, several winning by close to 2-to-1 margins. This clearly indicates that something was happening to Bevin that was not happening to the others. Bevin was personally unpopular, particularly with teachers who, despite the fact that he led the effort to fully fund the pension system and put it on solid footing again--something that previous administrations had failed to do--blindly followed their largely Democratic-leaning liberal union leadership. But Bevin made it worse for himself by using rhetoric that teachers took personally.

Partly because of his personal unpopularity, Bevin had to run on national issues in a non-national election. The result was predictable.

In other words there are factors in the governor's race that make it a bad weather vane for either the political fortunes of Republicans in Kentucky or the fortunes of Republicans in other red states next year. A far better indicator would be the down ballot races, where Republicans swept the Democrats by large margins. 

Now there are two things that make the sweeping nature of these races significant. The first is that there is good reason to believe this was partly due to Trump visiting the state the night before the election. It is hard to believe that he did not have any effect at all. 

But perhaps more significantly, this happened in an off-year election. I don't know the history of why Kentucky's election is on a different cycle than the national election, but one thing is sure: it doesn't help Republicans in a red state like Kentucky, that benefits from a strong conservative candidate heading a national ticket. Trump's visit was meant to re-create the effect a simultaneous national race would otherwise have had. Whatever assistance Trump's appearance may have had the day before the election, it would not be able to fully duplicate the effect of a presidential election on the same day.

In other words, imagine what things would have been like had this election been fully nationalized. The fact that Republicans were able to do as well as they did in an off-year election in a red state bodes well for Republicans in legislative races in 2020 and is an indication of how well Trump will do in Kentucky in 2020.

I can't think of a good reason that won't be the case in other red states. And if you have Elizabeth Warren threatening to take away the cushy union health insurance of blue collar workers in places like Wisconsin, Ohio, Michigan and Pennsylvania, Trump might stand a good chance of winning again.

Monday, October 07, 2019

Three Questions about Impeachment

There are three questions to ask about impeachment: 1) Did the President commit a crime? 2) If the President committed a crime, is it an impeachable crime? 3) Are the Democrats running the impeachment process qualifiedethically or politicallyto judge him.

Did the President commit a crime? I'm not sure we know this. I think a lot of people think he acted unethically, but not all unethical behavior is criminal. By saying someone committed a crime, we mean one of two things: either he violated statutory law, or he engaged in behavior that legal case law has adjudged to be criminal.

The President's opponents accuse him of 1) asking a foreign government for a partisan favor, and 2) the request was contingent on the foreign government receiving aid from the United States.

If he violated a statutory law, which one did he violate? Federal laws have numbers. "Pub. L. No. 108-45" is the 45th law passed by the 108th Congress. What is the number for the statute Trump violated?

If he violated the findings of some judicial ruling, then what ruling was it?

I'm not saying there are no good answers to these questions. I'm just saying that, as someone who has paid pretty close attention the debate, I have not heard a single person address these questions. It is supposed to violate campaign finance law. Which one? What does it say? Some people say it could violate several laws. Which ones?

For all the certainty about the fact that Trump violated laws, it is curious there has been so little discussion about the laws themselves.

This is important, since laws are stated in ways that often invite interpretation. But when you have no particular law you can refer to, it's kind of hard to figure out whether the activity you are pointing to violates it or not.

If the President did commit a crime, was it an impeachable crime? This is even more murky, since the Constitution says that a president may be impeached for "high crimes and misdemeanors" What makes a crime or misdemeanor "high"? The Constitution gives no guidance on this, nor, apparently, does case law. Given that fact, the determination is a political judgment.

We as a people have to decide, through our representative government, whether it qualifies or not. If we decide it does, then it does. If we decide it doesn't, it doesn't. Period.

The outcome of that process is yet to come.

Are the Democrats running the impeachment process qualified to judge him? This, in the end, is the most important question. The one that will really tell.

For Americans to see Trump's actions for what they are, they are going to have to have confidence that the people doing the judging themselves be above politics and partisanship. They are going to have to know that the process is fair.

On this ground alone, impeachment hangs. Even if the other two questions are answered in the affirmative, the answer to this one is determinative. And to mark it worse, it is the one of which Trump's enemies seem clueless. 

The Democrats will kill their own impeachment agenda. No one except the most blind Democratic partisan believes that the partisan Democratic politicians who are now engaged in the impeachment inquiry are even remotely fair and nonpartisan. 

First, House Intelligence Committee Chariman Adam Schiff has already stepped in it twice--once by rewriting the President's comments in the transcript of the call to the Ukrainian president, and then again when he lied about when he knew about the whistleblower complaint. 

Schiff cannot play both sides of the track here. He cannot act as a partisan one moment, and in another pretend to be scrupulously judicial. It hasn't worked so far, and will continue to plague the investigation.

Second, the Democrats would impeach Trump of anything if they could, legal or illegal, ethical or non-ethical, and the voters know this. They were talking impeachment before he even took office. Americans have seen a parade of charges, one after another, each eliciting a cheer from Democrats as the think that will take down Trump, and each fading into obscurity. The Ukraine call is only most recent of these charges.

At some point (and I think we have reached it), voters just say, well, Democrats just don't like Trump and they will stop at nothing to bring him down. This is just another attempt, and it will fail like all the rest.

Can we talk about something else now?

Third, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi's failure to call a vote on articles of impeachment makes the Democrats look even worse in this regard. Trump's defenders know this, and are honing in on this weakness. The administration is now refusing to turn over documents until this is done, which is the smartest thing they could do, since it puts Pelosi in a dilemma: either she calls an impeachment vote, which she knows, at this point, her party really doesn't want, or she doesn't call it, in which case she denies the administration legal protections that the formal impeachment process provides. 

Pelosi won't call a vote on impeachment, but not because she doesn't have the votes. She may have the votes, but that doesn't mean members want a public vote. In these kinds of cases, there are people who will vote yes when it comes to it, but they don't want to pay the costs of such a vote. They are the ones that, right now, are approaching Pelosi and discouraging her from calling a vote. 

Democrats have managed till now to convince the public that they are now operation according to some "formal process" of impeachment, when, in fact, they are not. The only "formal process" when it comes to impeachment is impeachment. And the only thing that qualifies as impeachment is a vote for articles of impeachment.

The only claim the so-called "impeachment inquiry" has to formality is their own rhetoric. This is what the Trump administration is betting on: that they can make this clear by refusing to provide documents.

And let's be plain about this: Pelosi doesn't have the votes for articles of impeachment. The only support she now enjoys is support for an "impeachment inquiry." And those aren't impeachment votes. This is why the Democrats will continue to punt on actual impeachment and continue equivocate about an  "impeachment inquiry" constituting a "formal" impeachment process.

All of this goes, again, to the issue of fairness. The Democrats are accusing Trump of using his office for partisan gain. But if the public becomes convinced, as I think many already are, that the Democrats are only using the impeachment process for partisan gain, then how, they will ask, are they any better than the man they are trying? People will not accept the legitimacy of a process in which the judge is guilty of the same crime as the person being tried. They just won't.

So far, the Democrats are playing right in to Trump's strategy here. Some people think his tweets hurt him. They don't. They further anger his Democratic opponents, and they overreact, looking partisan themselves, and play right in to his strategy.

They will continue to do this. This is why Pelosi won't win her vote, and why, even if she does, the Senate will acquit. And will help Trump in the 2020 election.

Wednesday, September 25, 2019

Matt Bevin and His Fashionable Media Enemies

The fact that there is liberal bias in the mainstream media is not exactly headline news, nor is the idea that it has been going on a long time. But there is one noticeable difference in the liberal media now as opposed to, say, twenty years ago.

It used to be that reporters saw themselves as unbiased and were just unaware of the attitudes that made their way into their stories. But that pretense has pretty much been abandoned in the Twitter age. Reporters now regularly Tweet their real feelings, and, surprise surprise, they are almost exclusively left in their political orientation.

This manifests itself in a lot of different ways, but one them is to take note of things conservatives do that they say they consider objectionable which they never seem to notice their ideological soulmates doing, despite the fact that they do it as well. To put it bluntly, the rules conservative Republicans are completely different from those for liberal Democrats. 

A liberal runs the race without impediment, but as soon as the conservative approaches the hurdle, it is raised a foot or two.

I recently got into a Twitter war with several reporters, one with the Courier-Journal, and two others with the Lexington Herald-Leader, who had tweeted about the infamy of a group supporting Kentucky Gov. Matt Bevin producing a campaign ad assailing Andy Beshear's support for a piece of legislation (the so-called "Equality Act") that would "destroy girls sports" by allowing biological males to compete in women's competition.

Actually two of them tweeted about this. The other just chimed in.

Now there are a number of legitimate ways to attack this ad. You could argue that it makes assertions that are not true. You could question whether it would really "destroy girls sports." You could throw doubt on the fact that the  the "Equality Act" would allow men into women's competition. You could try to undermine the implication that Andy Beshear really supports such a thing.

All that would have been perfectly rational. But what did they do instead? Here was Daniel DeRochers with the Herald-Leader:

Instead of deploying an actual argument, Desrochers does what most progressives now do, which is engage in virtue-signaling, in this case, by accusing Bevin supporters of being "transphobic." 

"Transphobic" is a term made up by gender ideologues who, lacking the integrity to establish their positions rationally, instead invent Devil words to try to scare away anyone who has the temerity to appeal to reality.

It's an invented word designed by ideologues for ideological purposes. It is considered legitimate solely on the grounds that is used so often by all the right people. It's the word you say in order to drive thoughts about the actual biology of the situation from your mind. 

If you analyzed its Latin and Greek etymology it would mean something like "fear of change." But if you analyzed its actual usage you would get something like "Don't confuse us with your stinkin' science." 

To the progressives in the media (as with all progressives), opposition to the kooky assertions of gender ideology is proof of moral turpitude. If you disagree with the fashionable opinions on gender, you are evil. "Transphobia" is not just a disease (soon, surely, to be recognized by the increasingly politically correct medical authorities), it is a moral sickness. It is simply not possible to honestly believe that someone cannot decide what sex they are.

"Transphobia" is a cross that politically correct progressives wave in the face of the evil conservative vampire in order to make him cringe. And it often works when it's done to weakly-constituted Republicans.

Then there was the Courier-Journal's Mandy McLaren:

So just taking a position on the unfairness of biological males competing in women's sports constitutes bullying of transgender people?

All this means is that disagreeing with the fashionable opinions of liberals is now considered a thought crime, and is to be dealt with by hurling epithets like "transphobic." Just say the word and all those bigots who don't take their gender ideology medicine scatter.

I asked what, specifically, was wrong with the ad, which was followed shortly by this from Desrochers:

Well, first of all, there is no explanation of how the ad "exploits fear and misunderstanding of trans people." The ad just expresses opposition to biological males competing in women's athletic events, and calls attention to the fact (undisputed by Desrochers and McLaren) that Andy Beshear supports a bill that would (again undisputed) encourage or mandate this. Again is the mere opposition to such a thing bigotry? Is Martina Navratolova, who has called this practice "insane," a bigot? And even if it did, is it any more egregious a moral act than calling people "transphobic," as if they have some kind of psychological disease?

Let me just say this: I don't think Desrochers even believes any of this. Virtue-signaling is inherently disingenuous, which is just a way of saying that the people who do it really don't mean it. It's one of those perfunctory gestures you are expected to make when you are a political reporter at a liberal newspaper, which accounts for the weak defense he put up for it when I challenged him.

Note that he pairs the "fear and misunderstanding" charge, which he doesn't even try to justify (and for which there is really no case to be made anyway) with "in order to score political points." Scoring political points in a campaign ad? How shocking and unusual.

Is there a politician somewhere who doesn't do this? Again, this is just hand-waving. But somehow combining one charge that makes no sense with another charge that is virtually meaningless, we're supposed to think that it is a meaningful statement.

The real crime is to believe that boys are boys and girls are girls. In a world now apparently run by crazed professors out of some Womens' and Gender Studies department somewhere, this is a hanging offense.

Of course, the Twitter comments of McLaren and Desrochers are flatly partisan, showing, as I said before, that the partisan masks are off. But we're still supposed to believe that their reporting is objective.

It's not impossible, of course, but its getting harder and harder to believe.

And finally, let's just observe that any stick is good enough to beat a conservative gubernatorial candidate with. If there were a liberal Democrat running who took the side of the women who have complained about the unfairness, nothing would have been said.

That's how it works in places like the Herald and the Courier. And it's one of the reasons they have become largely irrelevant.

Saturday, August 17, 2019

Woodstock was the coming out part for the Worst Generation

My column on the 50th anniversary of Woodstock is up at Intellectual Takeout:
It is the 50th anniversary of Woodstock, and we're already being subjected to dreamy reminiscences about it from people whose accounts cannot really be relied upon because they are based largely on memories of people who were in a drug-induced stupor.
 If you were on drugs, Woodstock seemed great. Of course, if you were on drugs, anything seemed great ... 
Read the rest here.

Monday, August 05, 2019

Blaming Everyone but the Shooter

I hate to employ the word because it is so overused, but left-wing progressives are having one big meltdown over the shootings in El Paso and Dayton. Now there are a lot of appropriate responses to the shootings, such as sorry, grief, and anger. And note that none of these reactions is political in nature. 

The most remarkable thing about the reaction of liberal Democrats is that it is purely political, as all things are for postmodern nihilists.

When you point out that there are other non-political factors that, according to a wealth of research, play in to actions like those of mass shooters, you are immediately rebuked by the Democratic scolds who have taken to the airwaves to condemn Donald Trump and all his works. 

We know for example--from plain common sense if not science--that if boys sit at screens all day shooting people or blowing things up in video games in which that is what you do, then they are more likely to think that shooting people or blowing things up is not unacceptable. And when you think that something is not unacceptable, it is more likely you will be willing to engage in it.

It's not rocket science.

And we know another thing: that mass shooters have been known to copy the mass shootings of other mass shooters when they observe the attention mass shooters get on television news coverage of mass shootings (Notice that CNN is not taking credit for the shootings).

Another common denominator among mass shooters is that they are alienated loners, a factor less sociological than psychological. 

Again, it doesn't take a lot of mental acuity to figure this out.

We still don't know exactly what factors played a role in the motivation of the shooters [there is more news on this about one of the shooters which I will address tomorrow], but if you openly wonder whether any of these things played even a small role, then you are labeled a racist.


These factors are non-political. They are cultural or sociological or psychological, and they do not well-serve political ideology--ideology being the belief that everything is political.

For left-wing Democrats, the world is the setting for the war of the Children of Light (themselves) and the Children of Darkness (conservative Republicans), and to even deny that this is so is proof that you are evil and must be eliminated. If you disagree with them about anything, you are anathema.

In fact, the mere denial that you are evil is itself proof that you are. To say you are not a bigot is proof you are a bigot. To say you are not a racist is to condemn yourself to being that very thing.

This is what ideology does to people. In fact, this kind of thinking is remarkably similar to the thinking of many of the shooters themselves, who are, in large part paranoid and conspiratorial.

Most of what the left accuses people of is "hate"--defined as disagreeing with progressivism. And, ironically, their response to those they accuse of hate is to hate them in turn. They are right now in the throes of a veritable hatefest against Donald Trump. And the thing about it is that, if you were to take the things Trump has said that could be considered hateful and set them down next to the things the left is now saying about him in scope and volume, there really would be no comparison. 

Those who talk the most about the evils of hate seem to be the harshest practitioners of it.

But there is one more thing. 

Another aspect of ideology is its tendency to blame impersonal forces rather than hold individuals responsible for their behavior--except of course, when one person can be seen as the embodiment of political or social forces--the "enemy of the people," the role Trump now serves for the left. Trump is now the equivalent of Emmanuel Goldstein in Orwell's 1984, who is the enemy of the Party, and who is the object of the daily Two Minutes Hate, in which Party members gather and express their hatred (orchestrated by the Party) toward the evil totem representative of some politic force.

For left-wing Democrats--who take their cues from Marx on this--evil resides in institutions and movements, never truly in an individual. The locus of evil is some vague and ill defined force such as bigotry or racism or hatred. It can even lie in some inanimate object or objects, like guns.

So far, no Democrat seems to have blamed the actual shooters involved in these crimes, only the impersonal forces that may or may not have influenced them--or the embodiment of them in the figure of Trump.