Which is it? Is Trump a dictator, or a clown who can’t get anything done?
Up until now, both options were on the table, and Trump’s adversaries could pick the one that seemed to work at the moment. He’s Hitler for a while, but then he’s incompetent. (Or maybe he’s still Hitler, just an incompetent version.)
I suspect the failure of the health care gambit is going to change the conversation. We’re going to get more of the unhinged, incompetent story and less of the Hitler story.
Today is the 18th anniversary of the bombing of Serbia. I don’t pretend to know all the geopolitics behind it. I just assume that since Bill Clinton was behind it, it was stupid.
I saw a link to this video of a Serbian air-raid siren, which I’m told is showing up in some people’s Facebook feeds.
When I was a kid there was an air raid siren a block or two away, down by the pool. New Carrollton, the city where I grew up, was built in the late 50s and early 60s, when Americans were still afraid of a Soviet attack. We had air-raid drills in elementary school, and we’d have to get under our desks.
Of course we weren’t afraid of planes dropping conventional bombs. We were afraid of ICBMs, and we mostly laughed about it, because even in elementary school we were smart enough to realize that hiding under a desk wasn’t going to save you from a nuke. Still, the whole thing was a little disquieting.
Our air-raid siren sounded similar to the one in that video, as I recall. But I’m sure it was much scarier for people in Serbia, with a real prospect of planes and bombs and destruction. For us it was just “and suddenly you’re dead.”
I have no way of knowing how involved the Russian government has been in any of the leaks and hacks and whatnot that have been going on these past months and years. But it’s clear to me that Russia is benefiting a great deal from them, no matter who is behind them.
My greatest concern — the one that keeps me awake at night — is that the awesome powers of our intelligence community might have been corrupted for political purposes. While we’re not witnessing broad, Stasi-style surveillance of citizens, it’s clear there have been serious errors of judgment and action among our otherwise professional intelligence community.
Well … we’re not yet witnessing broad, Stasi-style surveillance of citizens, but with each month new details emerge, and it’s becoming quite clear that our intelligence chiefs are not being honest with us. Or, to put the most charitable possible face on it, they’re not nearly as careful with intelligence as they pretend to be.
Russia benefits because Americans will start to realize that our government isn’t all that trustworthy either.
I’m not trying to make a moral equivalence between the U.S. government and the Soviet Union, or East Germany, or anything like that. What I’m saying is that the more we realize how corrupt our own government is, the smaller the distance seems between the two.
(Yes, I realize that the Stasi was German, not Russian. The point is that our government is spying on its own citizens too.)
Yesterday’s terror attack (almost certainly by a devotee of the religion of peace) is a sad but poignant reminder of why Americans don’t trust the media.
When something like this happens, we all know what’s going on. Large parts of the media are hoping — desperately hoping — that the attacker is not a Muslim, or an immigrant, and does not have ties to any Islamic organizations, but is rather a white, born-again fundamentalist from Wisconsin. (Or whatever the equivalent would be in England.)
They are desperately hoping to prop up this idea that terror is not disproportionately associated with Muslims.
Some of the media will go the other way and play up any the Muslim connection. To get us angry. To make us fear and hate all Muslims.
But no matter which side the news source is coming from, very few of them are interested in telling us the facts, straight and unvarnished. They’re worried about our reaction to the facts, and they want to manipulate that as much as they can. So they twist and nudge and adjust the story to make us angry the way they want us to be angry.
In most outlets, if the terrorist does turn out to be a white guy, that’s front and center. But if he turns out to be a Muslim immigrant, they try their best to bury that fact.
Their concern is not “reporting the news,” but controlling the public reaction.
The thing is, we all know that to be true. It’s not even an open secret. It’s obvious, staring us in the face every single day. We’ve seen it in every paper, every newscast, every news web site … for decades. It’s so normal, so expected, that we don’t even think about it.
And then they have the gall to expect us to trust them and treat them as objective observers, and to accuse other outlets of being “fake news.”
Disrespect for the truth didn’t start with Trump. It’s been building for decades, and Trump is simply capitalizing on it. I find it hilarious when news people act as if they didn’t create this environment.
A local story has become national. A 14-year old girl was raped in her high school by two fellow students, one 17 and one 18. At least one of the alleged perps was in the country illegally, and was previously detained by ICE. (Why wasn’t he sent home?)
This story fuels the ongoing idea that there are all lots of violent immigrants roaming around the country, committing crimes, and is causing predictable reactions from all sides. The school is claiming it’s just doing what the law requires, but the tone-deaf administrators are making things worse by their stupid, blame-shifting reaction to the incident. Parents want to hear about safety, not about policies and laws and Supreme Court decisions.
An aggravating detail behind the story is that both Montgomery County and Rockville City don’t completely cooperate with immigration officials. That wouldn’t have changed anything with these two individuals — it’s not as if they fingerprint kids before they go to school, so the school had no way of knowing about these kids’ immigration status — but such policies have a magnet effect. They draw more immigrants to the area, which has resulted in a huge demographic shift in the county.
According to reports I heard on the radio yesterday, in many areas of Montgomery County there is a very large percentage of illegal immigrants in the schools. In some places it’s 30 percent or more. This places a huge financial burden on the taxpayers. (You also have to wonder who gave whom the right to do this to the communities.)
You don’t have to be an immigrant to commit a violent crime, of course, so there are two very different questions about this case. The first concerns basic safety in the schools. I.e., how did a rape like this occur, irrespective of the immigration status of the alleged perps, and what is the school going to do to prevent such things in the future? The second is whether increased immigration is essentially asking for trouble like this.
That second question is so politically fraught that it’s hard to answer. If anyone keeps reliable statistics on the percentage of crimes committed by illegal aliens, I’m sure they’re not releasing them. That in itself would be a hate crime, according to some lunatics on the left. There are some questions you’re not even allowed to ask without being accused of racism.
But that really is the question.
Are we importing trouble, or are we importing workers and “dreamers”? There are some people who don’t want to know the answer to that question. They just want to push their ideology.
I think the explanation of Trump’s wiretap claim is very simple. He was sick of the media running with an unsubstantiated story about collusion between his campaign and Russia, so he changed the story.
If they can make an unsubstantiated claim, so can he.
Some conservative outlets were making the case that Obama had ordered surveillance on Trump, so that was enough to give the accusation a little credence and to keep the story going for a while.
Trump didn’t have any substantial evidence of surveillance. He was opportunistic and he manipulated the news cycle.
His strategy worked. The news changed.
But now we have these so-called investigations into Russian collusion and unlawful surveillance. Various directors of this and that are going to sit in front of the camera and … lie to us. Congressmen and Senators are going to repeat those lies, and that’s going to be the story for the next week.
I know they’re going to lie because they’ve done it repeatedly before with no consequences. E.g., documents released by Snowden show that our Director of National Intelligence lied under oath about surveillance. He’s never been punished for that.
I believe the government is spying on everybody, and they can get info on anybody they want on the flimsiest of pretexts.
Why do I think this? Because power corrupts. If you give somebody power — without a significant and reliable restraint on that power — they will abuse it. Not might. Not could. Will. That is a fact of human nature.
Congress will lie about this too because they created this mess. In the paranoia after the 9/11 attacks, they gave the intelligence services too much power.
In this kind of an environment, even if there is evidence that Obama had Trump surveilled, and even if Congress knows about that evidence, they will listen to the lies from our intelligence services, and they will repeat those lies in front of the camera in doggedly insistent terms, calling anyone who doubts them a fool and a conspiracy theorist. And most of the media will play along because it fits their preferred story line.
We know for a fact that they lie to us about espionage. (It wouldn’t be very good espionage if they didn’t, would it?) So I am predisposed to disbelieve anything they say on the subject.
The Farmer in the Dell came to mind this morning, and I realized as it was rolling around in my head that aside from being a silly thing for kids to sing, it could also be seen as a teaching tool, to some extent. It shows kids an order to life. The farmer takes a wife, the wife takes a child, etc.
While I was thinking about the nursery rhyme, a question that’s been rattling around in my mind suddenly surfaced, and I pondered it on my jog. The question being, How do liberal Christians simultaneously claim to believe the Bible and accept homosexuality (and other things)?
Yes, it seems like a long distance from the farmer to the gay pastor, but … give me a few minutes of your time and I think it will make sense.
There are people in the world who object to “heteronormativity.” That is, making the assumption that heterosexuality is the normative way, and that anything else is a deviation. “The Farmer in the Dell” could be considered “heteronormative.”
The people who object to heteronormativity believe little things like “The Farmer in the Dell” teach a heterosexual structure to life. It tells them the normal way. The boys are expected to grow up to become productive fellows, who then take a wife and have a child. It seems innocent enough, but to people who have different inclinations it might feel uncomfortable, and we all know that making people uncomfortable is a horrible sin.
Other people might say that the song isn’t meant to push people in any particular direction, it’s just a description of the way things are. But I think that is a bit disingenuous.
To make it simple, let’s say that you can view human sexuality as fixed, fluid, or some combination of the two.
If sexuality is entirely fixed, then the various “heteronormative” things we feed to children aren’t going to have any effect on their sexuality. The stories might annoy some people who don’t fit the mold, but the little ditties and such aren’t going to change them.
But I don’t think either extreme (all fixed or all fluid) is very defensible. Sexuality seems to be somewhat fixed and somewhat fluid. (If you don’t agree, just accept it for the sake of argument and bear with me.)
Now, let’s postulate that it’s good for society to convince boys to be productive, to get married and to have children, and to convince girls into marrying boys and having children. There’s lots of research that allegedly shows that sort of thing (then again, it is “social science,” so who can say?), but for now bear with me and just pretend that it’s true — that society can benefit from heteronormativity.
We’re used to the idea of people giving up some of their freedom and liberty for the good of society. Jury duty is a good example. It’s reasonable for society to impose this obligation on us — to take away some of our time and freedom — because society needs jurors.
Along those same lines, it’s at least possible that it’s reasonable for society to impose sexual obligations on people. Even if we know that not everybody is entirely interested in getting married and having babies, it could be best for society if we push people in that direction.
For example, societies need warriors, so it’s reasonable for society to push boys towards martial skills and attitudes. Societies need a next generation, so it’s reasonable for society to push girls towards wanting to have babies. How much and how far they push, and what’s a reasonable imposition on individual liberty, is all up for debate. But at some level society has an interest in encouraging certain attitudes and behaviors.
Now, at last, we’re ready to talk about the liberal Christian.
Every serious Christian knows that there are things the Bible tells us to do (or not do) that we no longer follow: washing people’s feet, or refraining from the meat of an animal that’s been strangled, or greeting one another with a kiss. In the first and third case, it’s pretty obvious these were cultural things. The second one is a little weirder, for lots of reasons.
What if “pushing people towards heterosexuality” is also a culturally-bound thing? What if it was relevant in other times, with other social structures, and isn’t relevant any more?
That’s a big “if,” but try to play along for a moment.
If that’s true — I’m not saying it is, I’m just postulating — then the liberal Christian who has no problem with the homosexual pastor is no different than the conservative Christian who doesn’t kiss everybody at church.
There’s nothing new here. This is, indeed, the kind of thing you hear from many liberal Christians. But in my experience, they usually put it in a ridiculously ignorant way, like “Well, you don’t eat kosher.” (That’s an ignorant thing to say because the kosher rules never applied to Gentiles anyway, and all foods were pronounced clean in the New Testament — even for Jews.)
My point is “you don’t eat kosher” is a dumb example of a perfectly legit argument, which is that in some cases a change in a social structure or expectation can change the way we interpret a moral rule. So if someone can make the case that heteronormativity is that kind of thing — something that’s necessary in one culture but not in another — then something analogous may apply.
But there’s more work to do than that. Sexual rules are far more deeply embedded in the whole Bible — and, I would say, in our own psyches — than anything about food.
So while I admit the theoretical possibility that biblical sexual norms are culturally conditioned, it seems there’s a whole lot of work to do to get there.
They would need to show, for example, that heteronormativity was necessary in biblical times (or in certain types of cultures) and is not necessary now, in our culture. They also need to deal with the “no sex outside of marriage” part of sexual morality.
It’s a big hill to climb, in my opinion.
In my experience, most liberal Christians embrace lax attitudes towards sex for much softer reasons. Because feelings. But there is at least the possibility that such a thing could be intellectually justified.
The discussion on ad blockers got me wondering — if the ad-supported model completely fell apart, and websites all started charging for content, which websites would I be willing to pay for?
(I realize this is an over-simplification. Websites have many more revenue opportunities than simply ads or paid subscriptions.)
The thing is, most of the sites I rely on for news don’t create any news. They just link to (or comment on) news from other sites. In an exclusively paid subscription world, those sites would disappear. (And that might be a good thing.)
For example, what good would Drudge be if every time you clicked on a link you hit a paywall?
I started to think about middle of the road news sources (maybe The Christian Science Monitor?) but … if I want to be honest with myself, I really prefer news that comes from a conservative (aka sane) perspective. So I’d probably go with The Washington Times.