Liz is Out

 

Senator Warren has called it quits. She emerged from her multimillion-dollar home (without a beer in hand) to announce that she has accepted that America doesn’t want her to be president. Beyond the fact that she has plans that would eventually bankrupt all of us, she was too ready to embellish, fabricate, and outright lie about her own biography. And while a candidate dissembling isn’t rare, she was taking it to a higher level.

She got her start in law and in academia claiming victimhood that she doesn’t deserve. She still claims she was let go from a teaching job for being “visibly pregnant” when school board records flatly refute the story. Oh, and before she entered electoral politics, she refuted it herself on video. She told this same false story at her last debate appearance only last week. Of course, no other candidate or any member of the media challenged her.

She lied about sending her son to a private school to preserve her teachers’ union credibility. I have to wonder how her mind works in that her lies are so easily found to be false. I do think that her followers just want it to be true so badly that they completely suspend disbelief.

The one story that reveals her personality (and also that of the authoritarian left) is the story she proudly tells of the poor student down to her last six bucks who gives three of them to Liz. She tells it, she thinks, to prove the importance of her campaign to America’s kids. The subtext is that Liz knows better how to spend three of the student’s last six bucks. By the way, Warren is estimated to be worth around $12 million.

I would hope that any thinking, compassionate human being would say “Keep your cash, you need it more than I do.” Further, any smart politician would say “Look, can I buy you lunch? Come with me, we’re heading for a diner. Let’s sit down and talk about your plans.” That would go over a bit better than “Thanks for the three bucks, I gotta go. Bye.”

In any case, America said to Liz today “I gotta go. Bye.”

The Bond Between Democrats and Black Voters

 

Hat tip to Patrick Ruffini for the link to this interesting piece that shows how social pressure cements loyalty between Democrats and black voters.

There’s a kind of “Bradley Effect” where black voters are more likely to say they’re Democrats when asked by a black interviewer rather than a white interviewer. They also found that black voters will donate more money to Democratic candidates when faced with similar social pressure from other black Democrats.

This corroborates my hypothesis that voting Democrat, for black voters, is not a behavior. Rather, it is an attribute. It’s now what you do; it’s who you are.

I think it would be interesting to take the study a step further to see what effect black Republicans have on black voters. I’d be especially interested in testing the hypothesis that as the number of black Republicans increases, the social pressure, and stigma, will dissipate and momentum will continue to expand GOP support. Food for thought.

You Made Me Defend Him

 

If President Trump wins re-election in November I think the thing that will push him over the top is the American notion of fundamental fairness. Does President Trump act “unpresidential?” Yes, and he acts presidential as well. Unlike his predecessors who no doubt had private (unpublished) moments that were not in keeping with the current notion of how a president should act, Trump has been the least private, most published president in our history. He truly seems to want all of America (and the world) to know what’s on his mind currently and all of the time. This communication style is different. This is not something we are used to. And we may be unsure as to whether or not we want to become used to it.

All of his quirks would work against him except for two things: (1) that which he does officially is at least as lawful (if not more so) than that which his predecessors have done, and are fully within the norm of executive leadership of the country as well as being generally effectual and providential, and (2) his critics are so over-the-top in their “counter-Trump” strategies that they have actually succeeded in convincing a lot of people that Trump is saner and more normal than his opposition.

The conventional wisdom is that the economy will win or lose the election for Trump. While I agree that if the economy remains strong in November there is no credible message that the Democrats can mount to convince enough voters to abandon Trump, it is also unclear whether a poorer economy will defeat Trump. The novel coronavirus is going to impact the US economy in a negative fashion. For Democrats, this must seem to be a gift from G-d (in Whom they do not believe) and will deliver the nation into their hands. But that will only be true under the following conditions: (1) voters assign blame to Trump, and (2) voters believe that the Democrat candidate will do a better job in restoring the economy.

And herein lies the elements of the Trump re-election message: Democrats lie. They have made serial slanders against Trump that have been demonstrably false but repeated endlessly. The public did not ultimately support Russia Hoax 1.0, Ukraine Hoax 1.0, and Russia Hoax 2.0. All of the claims about what a disaster Trump would be never came true: no plundering by him or his family of the federal fisc (unlike Biden), no concentration camps, no reporters jailed, no favorable treatment for Russia or any country other than America. Trump has hours of video with known false claims against him to replay to the voting public. So if all of that was a lie, why wouldn’t the “Trumpvirus” also be a lie?

And the second element is the theme Trump pitched to African Americans in 2016: What do you have to lose by voting for me? Trump’s policies since 2016 un-throttled restrictive elements that prevented people from making a good economy on their own. Economies heal when people are free to invest, produce, and consume. Command economies fail — slowly if restrictions are fairly loose, quickly if the “experts” hold a tight grip on the steering wheel and gears. If we are down economically in November 2020, what is the best way to bring us back up? We were down in 2008 and not much better in 2016. During Trump’s presidency until the novel coronavirus pandemic our economy was surging and recovering at an incredible pace. Would returning to Obama’s economic and global policies be the best path out of a global pandemic economic slump?

These are two good (and I think convincing) messages. But what puts it over the top is that the Democratic campaign in the fall will only be about one thing: smearing Donald Trump with all the old and repeated claims trying to make the Big Lie stick this time. I don’t think it will work, because it is nakedly untrue and thus unfair. We have seen this play run over and over again. When you go down the list of over-the-top machinations against Trump, or anyone associated with Trump, you understand who and what you empower if you vote for the Democrats in November.

You made me defend him.

SCOTUS: Not OK for Illegal Aliens to Use Fake Social Security Numbers

 

In Kansas v. Garcia, SCOTUS ruled Tuesday that Kansas can prosecute illegals who use fake social security numbers when filling out tax forms at the time of employment. The decision was a 5-4 split with the four liberal justices arguing that federal immigration law pre-empts Kansas from doing anything having to do with falsifying federally-mandated forms.

You would think that treating this as a criminal offense would be a no-brainer. Immigration enforcement, however, has been weirdly irrational since the ruling in Plyer v. Doe (1981) in which the Supremes told Texas they could not withhold funding for non-citizens from public education.

From that decision came the universal practice of forbidding state, county, and municipal employees from even asking about citizenship status. The resulting weirdness is a limbo in which millions of illegals reside among us while state and local authorities pretend not to notice, even going so far as to give them preferential treatment.

The four liberal justices in Garcia argued, in essence, that if the federal government does not care if people make fraudulent use of social security numbers and federal employment forms then the states must accept known frauds in their midst as a matter of de facto federal immigration policy (and presumably not tell the feds they know). Oddly enough, this deference to federal pre-emption does not apply when liberal judges object to ICE defying sanctuary cities to enforce deportation orders. Also odd, similar protection against state action would not be extended to actual US citizens who used fake social security numbers when taking a new job because there is no federal immigration law pre-emption exemption for them.

Trump’s re-election is vital if for no other reason than the fact it will take a lot of judicial battles to bring some clarity and common sense back to immigration policy. A SCOTUS decision two decades ago established the compulsory idiocy of not noticing express violation of immigration law. This is mostly what put us in this mess, and means that SCOTUS (and Congress) are making us pull out of it one case at a time. That will not happen if the left retakes full control.

LA Elections Were Beyond Stupid

 

When you hear the phrase “Los Angeles County Election Official,” the first word that comes to mind probably isn’t “genius.” The election officials are responsible for elections in a county so big that it has over 4,500 voting locations. They decided to reduce that number to 978.

The same officials were surprised when the 978 polling locations were crowded on Super Tuesday.

If that had been the only thing they did, you might call them “stupid.”

It wasn’t the only thing they did.

Along with the substantial reduction in voting locations they rolled out a new voting software, that required signing in with a wireless tablet, and the use of computerized voting machines. This was foisted upon volunteers not uniformly computer literate. And apparently the system wasn’t stress-tested. Glitches occurred making a terrible day even worse.

Los Angeles County spent $300 million on the software. Many of us here at Ricochet could have written software that crashes on Election Day for a fraction of that amount.

Large numbers of people waited for hours in line to vote. If you were in line at poll closing (8 p.m.), you are legally guaranteed your chance to vote. The City of Montebello apparently didn’t know that. They closed the doors right at 8 p.m. and threatened to call the police on the voters that remained outside.

But don’t worry folks. The Los Angeles County Supervisors are on the case and, by golly, they will get to the bottom of it! They are going to solve the mystery of what happened on Election Day. Their public remarks so far are focused on the software and “bad management,” and not on the tiny number of voting locations.

They might even solve the software problems, but if that’s all they do, the General Election will be worse. 3.5 million people will be voting at 978 polling locations. And again, the officials will be surprised at the mess.

Quote of the Day: The Outsider

 

“Because our politics has always rewarded those who can successfully claim the mantle of the outsider—now even more than usual—the temptation to approach our institutions antagonistically, or to avoid them altogether, has grown very strong. When we look for solutions, we tend to look not to institutions but to individuals, movements, ideals, or maverick outsiders.” — Yuval Levin, A Time to Build

The preference for the “outsider” is more dominant than ever: that’s probably the reason Donald Trump was elected. He was not only an outsider to the federal government but an outsider to any kind of government. And people were looking for a person who had no ties to government programs or agendas, and who was prepared to stir up the swamp; in many ways, that’s just what Donald Trump promised and what he has done.

The Democrats, on the other hand, seem determined to vote for a different kind of “outsider”: Bernie Sanders, who has been in the Senate seemingly forever, but has never supported a democratic republic; he is a self-identified socialist. He has always championed communism, socialism, countries like Russia, Cuba, and Venezuela. In spite of everything that this country has made available to him, he fights for an imaginary “little guy,” a supposedly impoverished middle class, and is blind to the irony of his condemnation of billionaires, when he lives in a mansion and has millions himself.

We can use the value of “honesty” to measure these two men. Some people would say they are both honest and transparent about their agendas and expressing them to the public. When it comes to honesty, however, I think that Trump is the only one who is honest with himself and the people. Sanders is not only dishonest with himself but has created an imaginary future that will never come to pass; I happen to believe that he is either incredibly foolish or a master of deception. In fact, if he were elected, he would destroy this country.

I think I’ll stay with the other outsider.

Lifelong Democrat Attends CPAC 2020

 

A few weeks ago, our own Mark Camp posted a fascinating story, aptly titled Lifelong Democrat Attends Trump Rally in New Hampshire, Pleasantly Surprised. It’s great, check it out. Karlyn Borysenko turns out to be really interesting, and an excellent writer.

We have an update. Dr. Borysenko has a new article: This liberal went to CPAC. And it was nothing like I expected.

In many of the phone calls I had immediately after I published my article, people kept telling me that I simply HAD to go to CPAC. Finally, I thought “well, if someone gives me a ticket I’ll make the trip.” Ask and you shall receive, and a few days later I was boarding a plane for Washington DC…

Welcome to the Wacky World of OSHA: Walking-Working Surfaces

 

The most commonly cited OSHA standard is 29 CFR 1910 Subpart D, Walking-Working Surfaces.  It’s not surprising: the biggest causes of death in construction are falls and being struck by an object, both of which the standard tries to prevent.

Like much of the OSHA regulations, it tends to spell out the common sense approach.  Railing, scaffolds, ladders, etc need to be well put together and guard against objects rolling off and smacking someone.  People high up need harnesses and safety lines so they are not one slip away from a splat, and the harnesses need to be inspected just like a parachute.  Lots of explicit listing of just how big a railing needs to be and what the spacing needs to be, etc.  Like nearly every standard, it begins with a set of definitions for all of the words / concepts specific to the standard.  For example:

Fall protection means any equipment, device, or system that prevents an employee from falling from an elevation or mitigates the effect of such a fall.

Self-evident, right?  Well, these are legal documents, enforceable with fines and evil government lawyers (TM)  Everything needs to be defined clearly.  Take this example:

Opening means a gap or open space in a wall, partition, vertical walking-working surface, or similar surface that is at least 30 inches (76 cm) high and at least 18 inches (46 cm) wide, through which an employee can fall to a lower level.

This means openings smaller than the definition do not qualify.  There are numerous cases in my job where the exact words of a regulation make all the difference.  A chemical hazardous waste cannot be treated or neutralized outside of a proper facility.  However, you can do all kinds of things with a chemical before it is declared a waste, including demonstrating a neutralization reaction.  The fact that the result is non-hazardous is no problem.  I did all kinds of demonstration reactions in my previous job, saving taxpayer money and my tiny budget.

Now, even with all this detail, sometimes things are not exactly clear, so the company writes OSHA and asks for an interpretation.  Standard interpretations are used by OSHA inspectors, but are not on the same legal standard.  I’ve run into quite a few standard interpretations that went a really annoying way.  For example, Bloodborne Pathogens training requires a person to be available to answer questions as the person takes the training.  Easy for in-person training, but for the online training offered to the midnight shift?  It turns out using a voicemail or email box for questions is not good enough.  Cue a few nights sleeping in my office.  We have a better system at my current employer, but it is still a bit annoying.

The remarkable things is that I have usually found OSHA’s helpline to be genuinely helpful, and relatively common-sense.  They run a safe harbor generally, so if you call and there is a problem, they are not going to pounce on you for it.  If you have any questions on OSHA standards, feel free to post in the comments with a harness and properly anchored safety line.

(This is part of the group writing series on Work)

The Oddest Episode in the Torah

 

I was asked recently to explain something that really sticks out in the Torah as, at the very least, a very odd – even disturbing – episode. Indeed, it has often flummoxed me as well just because it is quite difficult to understand both the story and why the Torah shares it with us.

The story itself is only three verses long, and even its translation is not so obvious. (I translate it a pretty standard way at first – feel free to check your own versions to see how others have done so):

At a night encampment on the way, the LORD encountered him [Moshe] and sought to kill him. So Tzipporah [Moshe’s wife] took a flint and cut off her son’s foreskin, and touched his feet with it, saying, “You are truly a bridegroom of blood to me!” And when He let him alone, she added, “A bridegroom of blood because of the circumcision.” (Exodus 4:24-26)

This whole episode is quite strange on many levels. But if we read the text carefully, and understand the personalities involved, it all comes together to make sense.

First off, we should set the scene: Moshe has been told by G-d to go to Egypt (where he was a wanted man), confront the most powerful man in the world (Pharaoh), threaten him and eventually serve to help free a slave nation from its overlords. Not exactly a trivial task!

At the same time as G-d first talks to Moshe at the burning bush, Moshe’s wife is either very pregnant or has just given birth to their second son. Either way, her husband comes home with the sheep, informs her that he has been charged with this quest, puts her and the children on a donkey, and they ride off toward Egypt. His wife, Tzipporah, had not spoken with G-d. Nor had she (unlike Yaakov’s wives) been consulted by her husband, or given any choice in the matter. So, having just given birth to a baby, she is confronted with the fact that her husband’s mind is not on his wife, or on their sons. And here is how it unfolds, with each phrase connected to how it is used elsewhere in the Torah.

“At a night encampment” The word “Malon” in Hebrew is first used at the time Joseph’s brothers discover they still have the money they should have paid to Joseph for the food they received – and suddenly, everything has gone wrong. And they were terrified by the uncertainty.

Later in the Torah, the same word refers to the grumblings and mutterings of the nation, which is quite an appropriate connection to this episode. At night encampments in the Torah, the situation is quite unsettled, uncertain, and even downright rebellious.

“The Lord encounters him” “Encounters” is really closer to an uneasy confrontation between two people. It is first used to describe Esau meeting Jacob’s messengers who were bringing advance gifts to try to fend off a conflict. (Gen 32:18 and 33:8). The outcome is in doubt. Indeed, whether there is even an open conflict is not clear.

“And sought to kill him” Here is where the plot thickens. G-d is seeking something, that much is clear. But “kill him” is not quite right. The word “to kill” is found just one verse earlier, when G-d describes killing Pharaoh’s first born. And that word is different – it is the same word as “murder,” the same word first used when murder is invented by Cain when he rose up against his brother (Gen 4:8)

No, the word in the Torah is not “kill” – it is instead “to make dead.” And the first time that word is used is when G-d forbids the fruit to Adam and Eve: “On that day you will surely die” (formed by using the same root word for “dead” twice). But Adam and Eve, despite eating the fruit, did NOT die! Instead, they changed irrevocably. Their old selves, the way they saw the world, each other, their nakedness, etc. all perished. They became entirely different, thanks to changed knowledge. There was no going back to who they were beforehand.

If this is right, then what G-d is doing when he comes to Moshe that night in the unsettled camp, is seeking a transformation. The old Moshe has to go. The new Moshe has to arrive. What was wrong with the “old” Moshe? He was a family man, working for his father-in-law, supporting his wife and children. That man could not simultaneously serve as G-d’s very mouthpiece to the world. Unlike every Jew before and after, who are called to use marriage as their template for the challenges of relating to G-d, Moshe could no longer be in a mundane marriage.

Tzipporah at this point sees what is happening. And while it may have been possible that she could have transformed as well, she either does not choose to do so, or she was not aware of the choice. She saw her husband crossing this threshold, and she realized that she was going to be collateral damage – that she was already collateral damage, and it was not going to get better. So Tzipporah chooses to get ahead of it, to cauterize the emotional wound of losing her husband.

What she does next, by cutting the foreskin of her son (note the text says her son, not their son) and touching it to Moshe’s feet is a declaration: a declaration of her new status and his: separated. (There is a connection to levirate marriage as described in Deut. 25:9 – the woman also makes a fervent declaration using the man’s foot.)

Tzipporah sees what is going on. And she takes the initiative because otherwise, she undergoes more pain. So she gets ahead of it, declares the division, declares the new status, and her feelings. She cauterizes her emotional wound.

The language she chooses tells us this: “A bloody bridegroom”. Moshe is not her bridegroom – he is/was her husband! Calling Moshe her bridegroom is to regress the relationship, back to before delivering two sons, back perhaps even to before marriage itself.

The word for “bridegroom” in the Torah is first found referring to Lot’s sons-in-law: they are connected relatives who, when it came down to it, declined to follow their own wives when the core family fled the city. In other words, “bridegroom” in this case is someone who may not be around for long, someone who may be henceforth separated.

Indeed, in Ex. 18, Moshe’s father-in-law effects a reunion, bringing Tzipporah and her two sons to Moshe. The word “bridegroom” is used in this section no less than 6 times in 8 verses – not the word for “husband” or “master.” The division that Tzipporah created in the marriage had indeed become the new reality.

The reference to “blood” is even more fundamental in the Torah. The first mention of blood in the Torah is that of Abel, calling out from the ground to G-d after Abel’s brother, Cain, had killed him. “Blood” refers to the results of murder, a situation in which there is no going back, but an aura of longstanding guilt remains. A life has been taken, and it can never be undone.

Put together, Tzipporah’s repetition of a “bloody bridegroom” is a statement of the damage to their relationship, a separation between them.

The punchline is the last word of the text: circumcision. This word, “mul,” is quite distinctive, because it does not mean “covenant,” (though it can lead to a covenant) and it also does not always refer to cutting off the foreskin. Instead, the word means a hard separation, even a stark contrast. So, for example, when Moshe dies (Deut. 34:6), he is described as being buried mul – opposite to – Peor, the basest form of idolatry. In death as in life Moshe was always in stark contrast to idol worship. So Moshe’s service to G-d is delineated by this word mul: here, on his way into Egypt, and then again at the end of the Torah when Moshe dies. Moshe is separated, set aside. He is, indeed, reserved just for G-d – and at the cost of other relationships.

When Tzipporah declares that Moshe is a bloody bridegroom “because of the mul,” she is saying that the circumcision was not just that of her son’s foreskin. She is declaring an eternal incision that would forever divide that marriage, a setting aside of Moshe. Indeed, it is also a separation of Moshe’s sons; they stay with their mother.

There is a reason why Jews bless our children to be like our forefathers and mothers – but not like Moshe and Tzipporah. Theirs was not a marriage for ordinary people to emulate. Tzipporah vanishes from the story until her father brings her and her children back to Moshe, reminding Moshe of the “bridegroom” reference all the way. And while Moshe and Tzipporah remain married afterward, it seems they are never again intimate. G-d comes first.

I think the Torah is telling us something very important by relating this episode: everything comes at a cost. True, Moshe was the greatest prophet in history. But he paid dearly. It is an insight into the level of commitment Moshe was to display for the rest of his life – as well as the pain that his wife felt as the world she knew was swept out from under her. Tzipporah becomes a sympathetic figure, loyal – but separated – until the end.

Credit: I worked this out with @ishottheserif and with my regular Torah partner, @susanquinn

Putting Russian Collusion and the Horror of Money in Politics in Context

 

This morning, Sean Davis of The Federalist provided the best take I’ve seen on Michael Bloomberg’s failed presidential run.

Ricochet’s own Mollie Hemingway made the same point this afternoon on Fox News’ “Special Report With Bret Baier.”

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Who’s Responsible for Educating the Public about COVID-19?

 

My husband went to get his hair cut this morning. His hairdresser — ahem, barber — is an 80-year-old woman originally from Cuba. And a lefty. I don’t know how the conversation started, but she was beside herself about the coronavirus. Of course, it was Trump’s fault, he was mismanaging the whole situation, what in the world was Pence doing managing the emergency team — you get the drift. She was on her way to get hand purifier (which is probably not in the stores anymore) and masks (which she may never need and won’t work). My husband tried to calm her by telling her the facts. She was not interested; after all, as much as she likes my husband, he’s a member of enemy forces!

Wednesday night, Fox News ran the latest press conference given by Pence’s team, not only providing up-to-date information on the virus, advising pre-cautionary measures to take, and answering stupid questions from the press, but promising to update the public regularly. Unfortunately, the conference was only broadcast on Fox News and CNN. I don’t know who will continue to broadcast these presentations.

Meanwhile, our barber/friend doesn’t read the newspapers. She doesn’t go online. And I suspect she doesn’t even watch TV to get her news. She counts on her collection of lefty friends to update/terrify her on a regular basis.

My question is: what responsibility does the TV media have to provide accurate information, rather than spending their time alluding to Trump’s causing the virus? What responsibility does any of the media have? Why do people prefer to commiserate with people who don’t know what they’re talking about, who stir the pot and cause fear in the hearts of their friends? What responsibility does our friend have to make sure she’s informed?

Sadly, she is a person who needs valid information, since at 80 years old, she could be at risk.

Quote of the Day: Credibility and the Wolf

 

“A lot of the fear comes directly from the loss of trust in institutions. The press, WHO, the official authorities are no longer implicitly believed by everyone. This is the cost of deceit. When you finally tell the truth your cred is gone.” – Richard Fernandez

When I studied public health communications, it was stressed to never lie or deceive. Stick to what you know. Do not split hairs or use technical terms when less technical terms will do. Be clear and stay on the facts and your message. Once you cry wolf enough, no one will believe you when the actual wolf arrives. So many people have burned up their credibility, and now their precious expert status is useless. (I turn to Tom Nichols, who wrote The Death of Expertise, and contributes to said death every time he sends a tweet.)

If you desire further examples, the horrible communications of two Obama officials during crises made things worse. The CDC director during the Ebola outbreak kept on stating that Ebola was not known to be transmitted via the airborne route. That is true, technically, but it is likely transmitted via droplets (like a cough or sneeze). Airborne transmission is a technical term for extremely contagious agents that do not need a cough or sneeze to be transmitted. That obscured the truth. Similarly, the NRC chairman during Fukushima fed paranoia and used the crisis as a case for anti-nuclear activism. He was making claims that were unsupported by science and trying to maximize the disaster.

I try to guard my credibility when talking with people about the coronavirus. I know quite a bit more than the average bear on viruses and biosafety – I literally do it for a living – but I know there are people who know a lot more than me. Even my boss recommends sticking to official advice and tested guidelines. I try to balance skepticism and openness to new approaches.

I just wish more people in power would recognize how much they have devastated their credibility, and think before they cause more panic and mayhem.

Is Chuck Schumer Evil? Or Demented? Or Both?

 

Wednesday, the Senate Minority Leader issued threats against the two newest Supreme Court Justices, Brett Kavanaugh and Neal Gorsuch. Is this considered acceptable behavior by the top-ranking Democrat in the US Senate? The venue was an “abortion-rights rally” and Schumer angrily threatened the two Justices if they issued rulings on the leftist sacrament of abortion that he disagrees with. Now, what could he mean by stating that the two justices will “pay the price” if they ruled against the doctrine of abortion with no limits that his party supports?

These threats were responded to by Chief Justice John Roberts. I’m guessing that Schumer’s audience applauded wildly at those threats.

I guess there are no lengths to which Leftists will not go to support abortion on demand, any time. This is very sad, and thoroughly disgusting. And lowers the standards (already rock-bottom) of behavior by politicians.

Member Post

 

Having been forced to spend half a year in meetings of an American university’s graduate-student government — populated exclusively by the kind of hyper-earnest and uber-bureaucratic people who produce platitudes the way we mortals produce digestive waste, the kind of people who think that solving the world’s problems is as simple as creating an “inclusive […]

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Member Post

 

Joe Biden: Not a Socialist, Just a Scoundrel by Kevin Williamson at NRO He is a vicious partisan, a coward, and a habitual liar. Poor Bernie Sanders! The youth vote failed to show up for him. The youth vote always fails to show up — it will break your heart every time. Senator Sanders didn’t […]

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Déjà Pooh, Back In The USSR

 

My wife and I went grocery shopping yesterday. Little did we know that we would get a preview of a Bernie Sanders’ presidency. There was no toilet paper,  facial tissue, bottled water, or cold medication to be had, those shelves were empty. I’ll have to add “Caracas on the Willamette” to my description of Portland. Some canned food had also disappeared from the shelves. The Coronavirus panic has hit the Portland Metro area.

Hoarding has not only hit the Portland area, there are news stories about hoarding in other US cities. I told my wife that all hope is not lost, we may have to subscribe to The Oregonian. I’ll get up in the morning before the paper is delivered, and when it hits the front porch I’ll tell my wife to cover me so I can retrieve the paper. Our toilet paper problem will be solved. A daily visit to McDonald’s for a Big Mac with extra napkins will also help mitigate the paper shortage. It’s all about adapting.

Not All Is Manageable, But All Must Be Managed: A Lenten Rant

 

Rod Dreher said a friend texted him the following about Covid-19:

When you have lived for several generations in a powerful and wealthy country untouched by deep tragedy and awash in the deep-seated belief that you are both the Chosen Land and Master of Nature, the belief that everything is manageable becomes the biggest article of faith. And the biggest blind spot.

I do not believe that everything is manageable. But part of the social bargain you make when you have “vastly more liberty as a middle-class citizen of a free-market democracy” is to treat everything as manageable, even when it’s not. Not because you truly believe everything is manageable, but because you’re obliged, for others’ sake, to at least act as if it is: to do otherwise would be irresponsible, untrustworthy, a betrayal of all those other striving citizens of the marketplace who depend, in one way or another, on you.

American Christianity is frustratingly Martha-oriented. Martha is the archetypal manager, managing, managing… all the sundry details which must be managed, not just for her own life to run smoothly, but for others’ lives to run smoothly, too. Contemplatives like Mary only exist while Marthas bustle about in the background to sustain them. In that sense, contemplation is a luxury good. The American way teaches us that, even in our suffering, choosing contemplation over management is a luxury. Our first duty is to manage our suffering to minimize the burden on all the other good folk around us, meaning it’s no mere hedonism to minimize our suffering when we can: It really is a duty. A duty to maximize our productivity under the constraints we’re given; a duty to minimize our burden. A duty to manage ourselves the best we can, and woe to the sufferer who seems to be shirking that duty!

***

Those of us who lead medically-interesting lives are well acquainted with this duty. Many ailments can’t be cured, only managed, and as much as folks complain about “the American mentality” of “just wanting a pill for it” so we don’t have to manage, anyone who’s been an American patient long enough knows that, in order to earn the privilege of being considered a good, trustworthy, deserving patient, one must sustain an eagerness to manage oneself to the best of one’s ability.

Since pregnancy is a medically-interesting condition where another’s life intimately depends on our management of our own, every middle-class pregnant woman must know this especially well. The virtuous pregnant American runs a nine-month marathon of management, down to every little last bite of food she swallows, if the American managerial class’s “new ethic of ‘total motherhood’” is to be believed:

Mothers these days are expected to “optimize every dimension of children’s lives,” she writes. Choices are often presented as the mother’s selfish desires versus the baby’s needs. As an example, Wolf quotes What to Expect When You’re Expecting, from a section called the “Best-Odds Diet,” which I remember quite well: “Every bite counts. You’ve got only nine months of meals and snacks with which to give your baby the best possible start in life … Before you close your mouth on a forkful of food, consider, ‘Is this the best bite I can give my baby?’ If it will benefit your baby, chew away. If it’ll only benefit your sweet tooth or appease your appetite put your fork down.”

Actually, the marathon doesn’t stop at birth, as the article I’m quoting from – about breastfeeding – emphasizes. To become a good mother in America is to become a manager.

In any culture, it’s only to be expected that motherhood and family ties will call on the Martha, rather than the Mary, within each woman (whether said woman believes she has an inner Martha or not!). But the ideal of American motherhood is particularly managerial, as are all American ideals. If we’re not always doing our best to manage our risks and resources, we’re doing it wrong – because this is America, dammit, and America means we’re free to do better!

***

As someone still relatively new to motherhood, I therefore confess a little irritation at Dreher’s advice, “This is why repentance — of the kind Timo’s saints led me to this afternoon — is one of the best things any of us can do to prepare for the struggle ahead” of enduring Covid-19. The old me, the not-a-mom me, could have effortlessly had agreed with Dreher. But then, the old me seemed to have more leisure to repent; more freedom to simply suffer, if need be. Even before becoming a parent, I observed that unmanaged suffering, no matter how spiritually fruitful, falls under suspicion of moral failing in America. Now, as a parent, I wonder how I’m supposed to do anything with suffering but manage it.

All pregnancies are medically interesting, but mine are somewhat more so than most. Mothers like me with pre-existing conditions know they’ll likely sacrifice some of the self-management aids they came to rely on while not pregnant for the good of their unborn, particularly pharmaceutical aids (all drugs are, in a sense, performance-enhancing drugs, best resorted to only when patients aren’t managing well without them). That mothers are expected to suffer for their children is nothing new; still, they’re expected to manage, even while forgoing managerial help. In this framework, unmanageable suffering simply isn’t allowed, even while it’s occurring.

Well, for a while now, my health hasn’t been manageable – or, at least, it hasn’t been managed, and perhaps it’s unreasonable to expect my management to be much better than it has been, given other constraints. Unreasonable to expect better management; nonetheless, I still expect it: Somehow, I should have found a way to do better, right? Especially when the consequences are putting a pregnant body (ergo a baby!) at extra risk of pneumonia while the world faces a contagion which seems to pose little risk to denizens of an advanced society, unless they’re already at risk.

As I told a friend,

My lungs have already gotten pretty chewed up this pregnancy, and while I suspect the most likely outcome of my getting Covid-19 would be just another infection no worse than ones I’ve recently had, I am a pneumonia risk and I’d rather not deal with the guilt of not being prepared if I somehow got a worse-than-average case of the bug :-(

I can’t be arsed to worry about getting particularly sick from Covid-19, much less dying from it. Instead, I worry about a case of Covid-19 meaning even more months wasted falling behind on Middle-Class Mom Things. I worry about the added hassle of checking my pulse ox – I mean, I’m grateful to live in a time and place that makes it very easy for at-risk patients to check pulse ox at home, thereby taking responsibility for this aspect of their health. Still, it’s another responsibility to manage while I doubt I’m managing the ones I already have: First-world problems!

***

I worry about absurdities like the one I’m living out now. After waiting perhaps too long, supposedly for the good of the baby, to see whether my lungs would clear without extra treatment, I forwent the usual cheap, reliable standby against lung inflammation for a much more targeted – and expensive – drug: if I must add medication to a pregnancy, Expensive Targeted Drug seemed less likely to affect the unborn than Old Standby. Expensive Targeted Drug also should help avoid other nasties, like fungal infections – except, sometimes, in one place: the voice box.

Mold is grody, and I never expected to blow so many bucks on losing my voice. Expensive Targeted Drug also failed to clear my lungs quickly. The doc recommends antibiotics if my lungs don’t clear soon, though the antibiotics worsen fungal infections. At a time of life (pregnancy) when I’m socially obligated to make extra sacrifices to avoid “unnecessary” medication, I could end up adding three, the third solely to manage the side-effect of the first two!

Some might scoff at feeling “socially obligated” to do anything in a free country – surely medical decisions take place between patient and doctor, not among wider society, not even during pregnancy – but as parents humorously note all over the interwebs, just because the buttinskis of a free country don’t (or shouldn’t) have much legal standing to butt in doesn’t keep them from butting a whole lot more once you’re a parent – whether it’s over obstetrics or buckling car seats.

Breathing trumps voice, of course, but it’s surprisingly hard to mom without a voice, especially while already too short of breath for normal levels of physical activity. Children go undisciplined. Phone calls go unreturned. Husbands (OK, there’s only one of these) feel unanswered, since the answers are inaudible. Still, until I find a way to manage my lung function better, even cooking fumes are enough to tank my productivity for hours – and my family clearly needs me more productive, not less. How did I get myself into this bind? Where did I go wrong?

When you wake up with a calf cramp, you’re supposed to flex your foot – and whatever you do, don’t point your toes, else you’ll make it worse and have only yourself to blame. When you wake up with a shin cramp, you’re supposed to point your toes – and whatever you do, don’t flex your foot, else you’ll make it worse and have only yourself to blame. So, how do you manage when you wake up with both?

Such binds are hardly crises – even most lung trouble is barely dangerous these days, with the right equipment and training. They’re just, I want to say… sometimes a bit… unmanageable. Or is any attempt to plead “unmanageable” really just an attempt to worm our way off the hook, to shirk our duty to stay on it?

***

Ogden Nash wryly observed that the sins of omission dogging modern Americans aren’t so much failures to pursue The Good as failures to pursue managerial goods:

The way you really get painfully bitten
Is by the insurance you haven’t taken out and the checks you haven’t added up
the stubs of and the appointments you haven’t kept and the bills you
haven’t paid and the letters you haven’t written.
Also, about sins of omission there is one particularly painful lack of beauty,
Namely, it isn’t as though it had been a riotous red-letter day or night every
time you neglected to do your duty;
You didn’t get a wicked forbidden thrill
Every time you let a policy lapse or forget to pay a bill;
You didn’t slap the lads in the tavern on the back and loudly cry Whee,
Let’s all fail to write just one more letter before we go home, and this round
of unwritten letters is on me.
No, you never get any fun
Out of things you haven’t done,
But they are the things that I do not like to be amid,
Because the suitable things you didn’t do give you a lot more trouble than the
unsuitable things you did.

As luck would have it, whatever suitable things I didn’t do to maintain better health have now left a pregnant woman (ergo an innocent baby!) more-than-usually vulnerable to pneumonia-causing bugs just right when a new one becomes a public-health concern.

I don’t worry I’d suffer from Covid-19 – suffering is, in some sense, the easy part. I worry that if I suffered, my suffering would spill over onto others and it’d be my fault. Death scares me less than the thought that, if I did die, I will have in some obscure sense deserved it, as the final consequence of not having been more responsible in some respect or another; my final managerial failure.

I hardly need die for my suffering to cause suffering in others: That’s already happened plenty, and doubtless will continue happening. That I’m suffering, too, seems rather beside the point from this perspective. That I have much to repent of often increasingly seems beside the point: of course I do, but how do I justify diverting resources to something as non-managerial as repentance when my poor management is already letting others down?

Not all is manageable. But in a land of free, responsible people, all must be managed, nonetheless.

***

I can’t play Martha forever. I’m a Mary by temperament if anyone is, and sooner or later my nature reasserts itself despite my best efforts to “be good” (somehow, “be good” = “be Martha”). The Good News may tell us, from Christ’s own lips, “Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her,” but choosing this better portion increasingly seems like a guilty pleasure – one which may not be taken away from me, but which perhaps ought to be, if I’m to manage.

Perhaps it’s a sign of spiritual health, not shameful weakness, that I’ll eventually flip Martha and all her Martha-guilt the bird again. I have plenty to repent of without even trying to repent of what ought to be an inclination toward “what is better”. Still, I find it interesting I often guiltily feel as if I should try to repent of the inclination, especially as I take on more domestic responsibilities.

It can be tempting to suppose family values and liquid modernity are opposites, that the managerial mentality is a symptom of taking focus off family and onto individuals as productive units. This supposition seems to miss, though, what so many Americans feel obligated to be productive for: family. Others. If we were merely ends in ourselves, our managerial failures would only let ourselves down, and wouldn’t seem nearly so irresponsible. But we know they let others down, too.

***

We may be ends in ourselves, but we’re also means by which others thrive – or not. Indeed, how could family ties, especially parenthood (I’ll add, especially motherhood), avoid being our most powerful natural reminder that we are means as well as ends?

Martha was not as managerial as she was because she was content to let herself – or perhaps any woman (she saw Mary as a means, too: “Tell her to help me!”) – be an end in herself. No, Mary had that contentment, while Martha did not. No other duty may vie with encountering God, but it’s hard not to wonder, sometimes, if one reason many feel freer to encounter God during suffering is because suffering often buys the sufferer some moral permission to be excused from ordinary social obligations.

So, what of suffering that does not excuse you from ordinary obligations? What of a society where no suffering really excuses you from the duty of management? Where, at the very least, anyone with minimal mental competence cannot be exempted from the duty of managing his own suffering, lest he unduly burden others?

What happens when a Christian society believes Martha, not Mary, has chosen the better portion?

Day 44: COVID-19 “In the Wild”

 

The current count of countries and territories reporting COVID-19 cases stands at 82. South Korea, Iran, and Italy remain the only countries with counts in four figures (outside of China). Of these Iran is experiencing the greatest number of deaths, followed by Italy and South Korea. There may be some lessons there regarding the relative health systems of those countries.

The US count stands at 128 with 4 more cases added yesterday. One case is in my county here in California — the first not tied to the State Department returnees from Wuhan/Diamond Princess. The US deaths all occurred in the Seattle, Washington area.

@omegapaladin has brought to my attention a list of disinfectants that are believed to be effective in killing the COVID-19 virus on surfaces. “RTU” stands for “ready to use,” which refers to spray bottles that you typically have for dispensing disinfectants for home and office use.

The EPA published guidance back on January 29 for qualifying disinfectant manufacturers to “include an efficacy statement in technical literature distributed to health care facilities, physicians, nurses, public health officials, non-label-related websites, consumer information services, and social media sites.” My reading of this was green-lighting a marketing campaign to educate users on the efficacy of these disinfectants (and their uses) with respect to COVID-19.

[Note: Links to all my COVID-19 posts can be found here.]

Worldometers.com news:

March 4 (GMT):

  • 1st case in the Faroe Islands: a man who had been at a conference in Paris and returned on Feb. 24. [source]
  • 15 new cases in the Netherlands [source]
  • 5 new cases in San Marino, bringing the total to 15, of which 3 (aged 81, 80, and 76 years old) are in critical condition [source]
  • 2 new cases in Hong Kong: [source]
    – a 43-year-old man, who is the “master” of a Buddhist worship hall in North Point, where 16 people were infected previously.
    – a 57-year-old female domestic helper of two previously confirmed patients, who lived in southern Hong Kong Island.
  • 28 new cases in Spain, bringing the total to 193 cases, of which 190 active and 3 closed (2 discharges and 1 death). [source]
  • 10 new cases in Belgium, 9 of which returned from a trip to northern Italy and are now isolated at home after developing an upper respiratory infection with a relatively mild flu-like condition. 1 patient, who had not traveled but is a contact of a previous case who had traveled to Venice, developed a more severe respiratory infection and was therefore admitted to the Saint-Pierre hospital in Brussels. [source]
    The European Defense Agency (EDA) in Brussels has confirmed that one of its employees has tested positive after returning last week from a trip to Italy, where the official had a meeting with around 30 officials from other EU institutions. EDA has canceled all scheduled meetings at its premises until March 13. [source]
  • 586 new cases, 15 new deaths, and 117 new recoveries in Iran [source]
  • 1st case in Poland: a person who came from Germany and is now hospitalized in Zielona Góra (Lubusz Voivodeship) in good condition. All contacts have been placed into home quarantine. 584 tests have been performed in the country. [source]
  • 1 new case in Portugal: a 44-year-old man who came from Italy and is hospitalized at the São João Hospital, in Porto in stable condition. [source]
  • 1 new case in Greece: the husband of the previously confirmed case. [source]
  • 10 new cases in Switzerland [source]
  • 2 new cases in Belarus, briging the total to 6: 4 in Minsk and 2 in the Vitebsk Region. More than 5,000 tests have been carried out [source]
  • 2 new cases in Iceland: a male and a female in their 60s who returned from Verona, Italythrough Munich, German. “They have what can be called traditional flu symptoms, not very sick”[source] 4 additional cases [source] are pending official confirmation.
  • 5 new cases in Sweden. in the Värmland region, the Västra Götaland region and the Skåne region. [source] The risk of an outbreak in Sweden is judged as “moderate.” All cases in Sweden are linked to recent travel abroad (‘import case’) or contact with a confirmed import case. [source]Sweden’s Public Health Agency expands its list of regions in Italy where recent travelers are advised to be vigilant about possible symptoms to include Aosta Valley, Liguria, Trentino-Alto Adige, Friuli Venezia Giulia and Tuscany. [source]
  • 2 new cases in Scotland (UK) [source]
  • 3 new cases in Austria [source]
  • 37 new cases in Germany [source]
  • 20 new cases in Japan [source] [source] [source] [source] [source] [source]
  • 14 new cases in Malaysia, all associated with a local cluster linked to case #26. So far, 21 out of the 50 cases have been linked to this cluster: 16 close contacts and 5 secondary contacts. [source]
  • 3 new cases in Israel: one of the patients returned from Italy on Feb. 29 and all three have been quarantined.
  • 4 new cases in the United States (California):
    1
    in Los Angeles County [source]
    2
    in Orange County in Southern California: a man in his 60s and a woman in her 30s who had recently traveled to countries that have widespread reports of COVID-19, officials said. [source]
    1
    in Contra Costa County in Northern California [source] .
  • 21 new cases in India, including a group of 15 Italian tourists [source] [source]
  • 3 new cases in Australia:
    – 1 in Victoria [source]
    – 1 in South Australia [source]
    – 1 in Queensland: a 26-year old man from Logan who had recently traveled to Iran. [source]
  • 119 new cases, 38 new deaths (37 in Hubei) and 2,652 new discharges occurred in China on March 3, as reported by the National Health Commission (NHC) of China. [source]
  • 435 new cases and 2 deaths in South Korea, including a 86 years old woman who had tested positive on Feb. 26. [source] [source] [source] [source]
  • 3 new cases in Canada (British Columbia) [source]

A Palestinian State Would Mean Israel’s Destruction

 

The completion of the marathon series of elections in Israel could determine the nation’s existence. If Netanyahu loses, Benny Gantz as prime minister will likely return Israel to the Leftist positions. Although Gantz has been characterized as a moderate, he may be offering those positions for public consumption. The fact is, Gantz is an unknown politically, and Israel needs a leader who will take clear and firm positions.

A number of issues have shifted in the Middle East that suggest Israel is not criticized as severely as it has been in the past. That shift begins with Arab countries that have discovered they have much to gain militarily and commercially with Israel. This change doesn’t mean that these countries will embrace Israel; in fact, many of the exchanges between the two countries are only first steps, and those countries could always sever their connections. But at this time, Sudan, Saudi Arabi, UAE, Egypt, Jordan, Oman, Morocco, and Bahrain have all showed an interest in changing their relationships with the Israelis, agreeing to a “normalization of relations.” Behind those decisions, for example, are the purchase of spy equipment by the Saudis, discreet meetings with a Minister of UAE; cooperation between Israel and Egypt to provide security in and out of the Gaza strip; a security buffer between Israel and Jordan, as well as Israel supplying Jordan with water.

All is not rosy, however, internationally. The United Nations continues to try to cripple Israel. Most recently they created a boycott list against Israel of over 100 companies, which is clearly political and meant to be punitive:

As several major democracies wrote the UN, the world body has no legal mandate to tell companies where they should or should not operate. Moreover, if this were really about human rights, then the key factor would be a consideration of whether Palestinian human rights are actually violated, yet that’s ignored.

Sadly, this is one more example of the Palestinian hijacking of UN bodies to promote a one-sided political agenda that fosters conflict instead of advancing peace.

High Commissioner Bachelet, who should be standing up for the UN Charter principles of universality and equality, has now allowed her office to become a tool for the discriminatory anti-Israel BDS movement, which singles out the Jewish state for boycott, divestment and sanctions. With the blacklist, the UN has now become Ground Zero for global BDS.

So Israel is making progress in building alliances with its Mideast partners, and nothing has changed, nor will change, at the United Nations in terms of singling out Israel.

Unfortunately, the Palestinians, as usual, are refusing to partner with anyone, particularly Israel, in bringing peace to the region. Here is a short list of some of their self-destructive actions that would likely make peace impossible, in the short- and long-term:

  • Mahmoud Abbas, supposedly elected democratically, has been the totalitarian ruler of the Palestinians since 2005, with no publicized plans to step down. There is no tracking of the millions of dollars given to the Palestinians, and every reason to believe that Abbas, just as Arafat did, is pocketing much of the money and paying his cronies.
  • Neither Hamas nor the Palestinians have ever changed their missions to destroy Israel. There is no reason to think that if they had their own state, they would withdraw this commitment.
  • Hamas continues to shoot rockets into Israel, and attacks have even increased.
  • Hamas and the Palestinian Authority, instead of seeing the Trump Peace Plan as a place to begin a peace negotiation, rejected it outright.
  • Perhaps a most insidious prediction for the future: textbooks for Palestinian children continue to demonize Jews and deny the legitimacy of a Jewish state. Depicting Jews as animals and justifying violence and martyrdom are included in the curriculum.

Essentially, the Palestinians want all the land and all their demands met. They have shown themselves incapable of self-governance, eschewing violence, or living peacefully.

At this writing, it appears that Bibi Netanyahu will be re-elected (although he still needs to form a coalition), and he has restated his promise to annex the Jewish settlements in Judea and Samaria.

The Israelis appear to be less concerned about international criticism regarding their decisions, since much of the world is irrational and directs its venom only at Israel and not the Palestinians. The Israelis are dealing with an irresponsible and uncompromising partner in the Palestinians. The Palestinians expect Israel to continue to give up all their land and their future, while the Palestinians offer nothing.

It’s time for Israel to claim and govern what is their due.

Member Post

 

Michelle Malkin recently spoke at an event called AFPAC, which stands for America First Political Action Committee.  America First is an organization started by a young conservative named Nick Fuentes.  His followers are called “groypers.” Malkin’s speech led to a post by our own Bethany Mandel a few days ago, The Fall of Michelle Malkin (here).  Bethany […]

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Member Post

 

A lady once asked WFB why he took pleasure in the defeat of his political adversaries.  WFB responded that saying, “Because it is pleasurable.” I can’t find the exact quote or where the story came from but I thought I ought to share it with you the day after Super Tuesday.  In a similar vein […]

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Attila the Hun’s Advice on Landscape Gardening

 

We think we know the distance between Portland and New York because we can assign what we believe is an intersubjectively verifiable number to that distance. And we can visualize the route on a map that draws—in two dimensions—the surface of the planet on the pages of an atlas. The Inuit, living above the Arctic Circle, do not draw or even use maps. Maps often confuse them. They can, nevertheless, navigate with great precision between campsites hundreds of miles apart, overland, in the dark of winter, at -40° in blizzard winds. I, who may have memorized the map, am generally lost in a world where compasses don’t seem to work and the sun, if it happens to be out, is going around in little circles. Which of us knows that distance better? Who measures it better? I can better assign a number to the distance; the Inuit can better locate themselves. My entirely abstract knowledge of that distance is quantifiable, but it is pathetically inferior to the Inuit knowledge if the purpose of the exercise is to find one’s way.

In much of life, assigning numbers is of considerably less utility than finding one’s way.


Each of us, as the sum of our choices, is a measure of the good. Plato and Protagoras; Aristotle and Alexander the Great; Billy the Kid and Susan B. Anthony; Moses and Pharaoh; Martin Luther and Martin Luther King Jr.; Michelangelo and the greengrocer down the street from the Sistine Chapel who lived a quiet life, married, attended church almost every Sunday, and left behind a legacy of kindness and love and grandchildren.

Each of us is a measure of the good.

On this interpretation, to be human is to choose, and to choose is to measure the good.


A human being is beyond measure and beyond price.

Nevertheless, although we cannot be measured, every human being can be and is judged. And it is because we are persons equally responsible for our choices that we can be judged. We choose and we may be judged for the choices we make. Such judgments cannot be reduced to the application of this or that meterstick. There are very few simple criteria for such judgments. We don’t judge a Michelangelo painting by measuring patterns on a spectrum analyzer. We judge it as a single work of art. Similarly, God would not be reduced to using weights and measures in judging human beings.

The man who serves goodness to the best of his ability with the gifts and talents God has given him, is the man of virtue.

It has often been pointed out that none of the great philosophers were women. It is less seldom noted, however, that few of the great philosophers were married men with children. Even Rousseau, who had a mistress and fathered six children, sent those children off to an orphanage immediately after birth. Most infants in 18th-century orphanages died within months. Why, I ask, would anyone entrust the biological continuation of the species to these men? And yet we look to Plato’s Republic and to Rousseau’s Emile to learn about educating our children.

Would we look to Attila the Hun for advice on landscape gardening?

With the exception of Aristotle and Aristotelian philosophers like Maimonides, philosophy and philosophers have not only been abstracted from life, they have made a virtue of being abstracted from life. That, I think, has greatly impoverished philosophy. As philosophers, we should be constantly aware of our own fragility; our own mortality; and our own moral complexity. In Plato’s Republic, each person is to do one job; but in real life we are each stronger for doing many jobs — our world is stronger as well. Mired down in the day-to-day business of living, I am, nevertheless, able to acknowledge my needs and responsibilities as a human being, a woman, a wife, a mother, a teacher, a Jew, and a student of philosophy, even when those needs and responsibilities conflict—as they generally do. Changing diapers and washing dishes gives a person the time to consider such things. Plato sought to transcend the contingencies and limitations of common human experience. I do not. A philosopher should be able to justify the continued pursuit of both the rational and the good in a world that remains contingent and uncertain. That, I believe, is the proper role of philosophy and it is also the path to the building of better cities.

Plato, from his hard-won citadel of philosophical monism looked out over the city and saw solutions to the problems that define the human condition. Like the vast majority of men and women who dwell in the streets of the city — the men and women who try to live their lives in accordance with relatively ordinary codes of good and bad, truth and falsehood — I see better choices and worse choices but few opportunities to transcend the human condition and reach certainty.

In the conduct of my life, I see choices and not solutions.


The above is taken from my mother’s magnum opus: Reflections on the Logic of the Good. We, her children, have just republished it. (It was a $900 treasure, and now you can have it for $10 – less on Kindle!)

My brother summarized this incredible book at her gravestone setting last week (following his podcast on the same topic) as follows:

“My mother opened her book with Plato’s Republic.

Plato captured the core of every Utopian dream. He wrote:

Temperance works in a different way; it spreads literally throughout the whole gamut of the city bringing about unison — as in the singing of the same chant — among the strongest and the weakest and those who are in between.

We are all familiar with this concept through our own Messianic visions. These visions imagine all of humankind knowing the perfect good and thus forming a choir singing together – each with our unique part – but all part of a perfect whole.

We serve the good because once we know it, we can’t do anything else.

My mother tore this concept to shreds.

She did it using the Republic itself. She showed that, in order to maximize the good of Unity – of the Republic – Plato was forced to define all other goods as evil.

This is why the Republic, with its elimination of individual rights, of non-conforming music or thought, is not a dream, but a nightmare.

And my mother showed that every Utopian vision must do what Plato’s did.

In my own analysis of the Torah, I borrow heavily from this. I don’t see a unitary good. G-d Himself both creates and rests. There is both Good and Holy. There is a singular G-d, but He (or She) does not represent a singular good in our world.

This is why, in the Torah, the days of Messiah are days of tremendous blessing, not total unity. This concept of Unity comes later and is defined – I believe – by those inspired by Plato himself.

Often we use the body as our analogy of this Unity. We idealize a unified people, like a unified body. We idealize being ruled by this singular understanding of the good.

But this isn’t how the body works.

My mother looked at the regulation of insulin to shows that stability and adaptability – which are necessary for life in a constantly changing world – depend on wholly independent systems working at odds with one other.

Where Utopians point to Plato’s choir, my mother pointed to Heraclitus’ bow or harp.

The beautiful society – the functional and adaptive and persistent society – is formed not by harmony and unity, but by internal tensions.

My mother used mathematics to extend these ideas.

First, she showed that the world doesn’t function on a continuum. Tiny changes can result in fundamentally different outcomes. This is the butterfly principle.

To use analogies from the book:

If we poke a pool ball on a pool table we can pretty accurately predict what it will do.

But when we poke a kitten, we have no predictive power whatsoever.

We can basically predict the motions of a planet – but a cloud is another matter.

Second, she showed that lags in information and decisions result in uncontrollable oscillations. A tightrope walker can’t consciously think about every adjustment, they need those adjustments to happen on a more fundamental level.

We might think we can reason through problems, but lags mean that we would always be reacting too late and at the wrong magnitude.

Lags necessarily threaten the survival of the centralized system.

This is why strong central planning must fail.

It is not sufficiently adaptable and so it can only provide the illusion of efficiency and stability.

Of course, the limits of central planning were more than just a practical limitation for her.

Looking at quantum mechanics, she pointed out that while we can precisely predict the probability of what an individual electron will do, we can’t actually say what it will do until it does it.

Napoleon might have invaded Russia, but he might not have.

Probabilities reveal a truth: and that truth is that our decisions end up defining our world.

For my mother, that reality led to a moral obligation.

We are obliged to make good choices.

But how can we know what is good?

A relativist would say that the good is infinitely flexible.

But my mother wasn’t a relativist.

She didn’t think all goods were equal and thus equally meaningless.

She saw something else.

To get there, she turned to science.

Those who “believe” in science believe that there is a unified and simple set of rules that govern our reality and determine it.

A single, total, science.

My mother argued that the existence of that science is itself an article of faith.

Science describes and predicts the world.

But it is not actually the world and so we can’t know if everything can be reduced to simple scientific rules.

That doesn’t mean there is no science.

Instead, it means there are multiple sciences and each holds truths.

As she wrote in the book: “As physicists, we are interested in Mozart’s mass, velocity, and electromagnetic characteristics. As chemists, we might ask questions about the chemical composition of Mozart’s bone, blood, and skin. As psychologists, we ask still other questions.”

We can see the world in these different ways.

We don’t have to see conflict – instead we can just see many paths to enlightenment.

So even though there is not a truth, there can still be truth.

My mother applied this idea to the good.

There are different measures of the good, there are competing goods.

But that does not mean that good is not real – or that judgment is not possible.

Just like a yardstick is assessed against other yardsticks, goods can be assessed against other goods. And human good is not as open-ended as might be imagined.

As evidence of this, she pointed out that all but totalitarian societies share common goods.

Where anthropologists thought they saw entirely different value systems – what they actually found were simply differences in emphasis.

Cultures might prefer peace over truth, but none argue that lying is inherently a good thing.

As she wrote: “A good man would be a good man across many societies. Those societies where such a man is attacked can be defined as evil.”

We can know good without defining it.

Just as we can recognize a beautiful horse without defining what beauty is – or even what a horse is.

So how do we measure the good?

We do it by choosing, which is the one unavoidable activity in our lives.

We choose what is better and what is worse. And by comparing, we define the good.

We define good like we define tall – through comparison.

Of course, not every choice is good, even though we all participate in the act of defining the good.

Instead, there is a matrix, a network, an organic reality, of human good that arises from our choices.

As she wrote:

“If I were a soldier confronting a critical decision in the battlefield, I might ask myself how Admiral Lord Nelson or Horatio would have acted. If I found myself amidst the poor of a large city, I might ask myself, ‘How would Mother Teresa act in this situation?’

“The good is not quantifiable, but it is real nonetheless.”

‘The Conservative Case for Joe Biden’

 

To Whom it May Concern:

Don’t.

Stop.

I care about you.

Vote for who you want, but please don’t try to make it something it isn’t.

You’re not more principled.  You have an opinion. You think four years isn’t that long. You think Joe isn’t like the others. Whatever. It’s fine. Smell your own farts but don’t ask me if I have the expertise to smell yours and call them phenomenal.

You’re not doing us a favor. Your vote isn’t adorned with gold and says “special.” I went to one of them fancy booklearning schools too and it fit like a suit off the rack.

He has an even-keeled temperament and treats people with respect? The guy who was challenging the IQ of reporters and where they went to school?m”Look, fat?” The guy who said Republicans were going to put black people in chains?

The guy who takes credit for smearing Bork and is apologetic about not smearing Thomas enough? Seems like he’s awfully quick to cater to criticism by throwing people under the bus. Just like one of your problems with the current occupant.

Hey guys, we’ll go back to the great Obama years, where people like us were audited (lifelong bureaucrats are known for putting their pensions in danger by going rogue after decades), said we wanted people to die to prevent ACA, called Brown Shirts, be falsely accused of spitting on black Congressmen, spying on rivals. He’ll treat the media better than Trump, just ask James Rosen or Sharyl Atkisson or Fox News. Good times.

At least we won’t have a liar in the White House, instead, a guy with a common experience with everyone, despite being in government since age 25. Find me a personal anecdote, I’ll find you the tall tale. He not only helped with civil rights, he was lynched once. Maybe. Or that wasn’t him but his buddy Corn Pop.

“Look at his deep abiding faith” as he answers a question from a man of the cloth. Note to you, the Biden-curious, here is the template for a Joe Biden answer: I understand where you’re coming from, anecdote with an air of truthiness that probably has 25 percent factual content at most, smear of people not as empathetic as him. Same people who were suckered by Amy Klobuchar being polite to a pro-life Democrat who was willing to vote Democrat. Find the common denominator. I learned in my dating years that just because the pretty girl says hello, it doesn’t mean she’s interested in me.

“Mitch can stop him” — sure, until the midterms where we’re all villains for obstructing. “We can repeal anything once we’re in charge.” Boy, that sounds familiar.

Again, you can vote Trump out of office. But you’re not playing high-minded 4D chess either. So the condescending pretzel logic thinkpieces can stay a draft on your computer. The Democrats don’t want to read them either, judging from Donna Brazile’s remarks.

Thanks.

Not the Man We Want, the Man We Need

 

Courtesy: Liverpool FC

I am not a fan of the Liverpool Football Club. It’s not because I find the game of soccer boring (although I do), but they clog up my baseball Twitter timeline (You are not the #Reds!) and their fans constantly sing the worst song in the Rodgers and Hammerstein catalog.

But I am becoming a fan of their manager Jürgen Klopp. The 52-year old Klopp was holding his usual postgame presser after a loss to Chelsea Tuesday night when a member of media asked him about coronavirus:

What I don’t like in life is that a very serious thing, a football manager’s opinion is important. I don’t understand that. I really don’t understand it, if I asked you, you are in exactly the same role as I am.

So it’s not important what famous people say. We have to speak about things in the right manner, not people with no knowledge, like me, talking about something.

People with knowledge will talk about it and tell people to do this, do that, and everything will be fine, or not. Not football managers, I don’t understand that. Politics, coronavirus, why me? I wear a baseball cap and have a bad shave.

Then he said, “Now, go wash your hands and stop touching your face.” No. No, he didn’t. What he really said was, “I’m concerned like everyone else. I live on this planet and I want it to be safe and healthy, I wish everybody the best, absolutely. But my opinion on coronavirus is not important.”

He may not be the man I want to see in my timeline, but he’s the man many people need. Especially the press.