Friday, November 24, 2017

Not again

Horror in Egypt:

The Egyptian military kicked off a hunt for the attackers of a Sufi mosque in the northern Sinai, a military source said, combing the area of Friday's assault that killed at least 235 people -- thought to be the deadliest terror attack on the country's soil.
President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi vowed to respond to the attack on al Rawdah mosque with "brute force." Some 109 others were injured, Egyptian state media reported.
No one has claimed responsibility, but the strike bears the hallmarks of an attack by ISIS.
    The mosque is known as the birthplace of an important Sufi cleric. Sufism is a mystical branch of Islam that some ultra-orthodox Muslims consider heretical.
    Jihad is by no means eradicated from this world.
     

    On making my peace with plying the pundit trade from flyover country

    Erick Erickson has, in the last couple of days, published two pieces on how his decision to stay in central Georgia has affected his career. One appears at The Resurgent and one at Townhall.

    Early on, he considered moving to either Washington, D.C. or New York. Although he has done well for himself staying put, he is aware of the opportunity cost of doing so:

    It has taken some time for me to come to terms with the fact that my career will not be what it could have been and ideas like this probably will not happen because I refuse to move to those cities. But the more I see and hear today, the more I know I made the right decision and what might have been lost career wise has been found soul-wise among my family, friends and church.
    The recent revelations about the extent of debauchery in those cities, as well as Los Angeles, has confirmed his conclusion that he decided well:

    It makes me not want to be anywhere near the entertainment and news industry. There are really good people in the business. I have encountered them. But I have encountered some I thought were good people and they have turned out to be monsters in the shadows. What's worse is how the behavior seems to be widespread -- lots of people knew about it or were victimized and few people said anything. How many more stories will come out?
    In mid-1955 (there's that time again; you'll recall how it figures into the post immediately beneath this one), when National Review began publishing, while it exhibited touches of wit and whimsy, it held itself to the highest standards of discernment, erudition and civility.  As the years progressed, particularly after conservatism experienced some political success, most notably Reagan, more magazines and some new think tanks came along that upheld those standards. Then came talk radio, and the potential of that medium's entertainment factor became obvious to a growing number of aspirants to a broadcasting career.

    Cut to the present - the Trump era - and those peddling the advent of some kind of "populism" that looks askance at the calm exchange of ideas and an art of persuasion that presumes a certain level of refinement on the part of the average American, are arguing that such standards are a hindrance to the realization of conservative goals. If one can exhibit a brash attitude, the argument goes, one can get a wide airing, on television, radio and the Internet, and in print. And have a shot at the highest echelons of celebrity that pundits can achieve.

    It's hard to see how the prospect of that kind of celebrity could not infect one's more admirable goals. Cruises hosted by magazines. Invitations to be panelists at conferences. Being called an expert in one thing or another when introduced on television shows. Maybe even lengthy profiles on oneself in mainstream magazines. Hobnobbing with a greater concentration of attractive people. Who can deny the exhilaration that would come with oneself, even more than one's ideas or principles, being considered intriguing and worthy of scads of attention?

    Speaking of National Review, last August, David French (who lives in a small Tennessee community) made the noteworthy point there that the biggest venues involved in the business of of giving conservatives exposure do so from a dollars-and-cents calculation:

    The problem goes well beyond this cocoon effect, into the very moral and intellectual heart of the conservative movement. Like any human enterprise, Fox is filled with a wide variety of people — some good, some bad. But it is, at heart, a commercial endeavor, rather than an intellectual or spiritual one. Its fundamental priority is to make money, not to advance a particular set of ideas or values in public life.

    To be clear, one of the ways that it makes money is through a very deliberate strategy of counter-programming the mainstream media. But that is an economic determination far more than an ideological one, which means that Fox’s priorities will never exactly match the conservative movement’s.
    All this resonates with me, as I am well into the middle years of my life and still plying the polemicist's trade in central Indiana. It's not the kind of place where one finds a great number of cocktail parties and conferences for right-of-center pundits, save for the occasional event in Indianapolis or some nearby university, but Erickson's peace-making with his choice is one I can relate to.

    The more I see people I formerly admired sign onto nebulous Trumpism, the more I have to conclude that hunger for ratings is at least a factor. Laura Ingraham's degree of media presence has surged since she hopped on that bandwagon. Has her own show on Fox now!

    And the more I see of the depravity that permeates the media world generally, the more grateful I am that my own involvement with it is leavened with daily interactions with people who work with their hands and come home every night to spouses and kids - in time to have supper with them.

    Much of my writing over the last few years has been for local and regional magazines, profiling small business people (for a business periodical), farmers (for a farming publication), and people involved in enhancing life in our community (for a general-interest city magazine). Walking plant floors or fields with these people, conversing with them in their downtown shops, or the offices of the agencies for which they work, has kept me in touch with a social fabric that may not have the cultural impact it once did, but that is where real caring, real dedication and real wisdom are found.

    As post-America becomes wackier, I take more frequent inventory of my motives for chronicling the process. There's an anchoring effect to maneuvering through a physical and immediate social environment that is at least relatively unpolluted by what I'm reporting on. It's easier to find places to go off and pray. My level of trust in my neighbors, my spouse, even my drinking buddies, is of the highest order.

    I know myself well enough to know I wouldn't do well where daily environmental reinforcement for sane living were absent.

    I'm really and truly not after being a big shot. Now, seeing my principles prevail, that is worth toiling after with all the intensity I can bring to bear.



    Reflections occasioned by the death of Malcolm Young

    AC/DC embodied the flattening of our culture. The whole concept was a jumble of derivations, from Angus Young's schoolboy outfit, settled on after a series of other ideas, and spurred by the over-the-top theatricality that so much of the early-1970s rock world was enamored with, to the high-registered screeching of first vocalist Bon Scott and his successor Brian Johnson to the minor-penatonic-driven guitar riffs that provided the hooks for its songs. The antecedents for each of these features had originally been done with a great deal more flair, and placed in contexts that, at least on some level, had something to do with something.

    From the standpoint of cultural history, the story of the band's formation is not without its interesting qualities. There was a sizable migration out of the UK in the early 1960s to Australia, and the Young brothers - including George - naturally felt a kinship with fellow expatriates when they settled in the Sydney suburbs. George's band, The Easybeats, comprised of fellow Brits who'd wound up down under, became stars in Australia and had records chart in the UK and even the US throughout the rest of the 60s. But the songs George and his composing partner Harry Vanda wrote were pointing the way for the Young ethos that would become fully developed in AC/DC: predictable, simple chord changes and a boneheaded backbeat, generic hard rock that could have come from anywhere.

    Even the name exhibits an utter lack of imagination. Angus and Malcolm Young saw a reference to electric current on their sister's sewing machine. It's clear from the logo they fashioned for it, and the names of many of the albums they inflicted on the world (High Voltage, TNT, Powerage, Ballbreaker) that the intent was to proudly convey a complete lack of any kind of subtlety. The message was, "Hey, we're a bunch of testosterone-pumped guys fresh out of our teens who make no pretense about our output being anything other than an indulgence in the most primal of impulses. We make a big bang and a big boom, and that's about the long and the short of it." Consider the number of their tunes that have as their theme nothing more grand than the power of rock and roll. If the music is indeed powerful, do we need to be sold on that fact lyrically?

    With regard to the antecedents to the above features, it's obvious from a cursory listening that Led Zeppelin had been a major influence. Perhaps a completely untrained ear and mind unacquainted with any kind of cultural context would have no problem putting both acts in the same category. This would be an incorrect classification. Jimmy Page and John Paul Jones, guitarist and bassist respectively for Led Zeppelin, had wide-ranging experience as British session musicians prior to forming that band. John Paul Jones was classically trained and arranged the strings on tracks by the Rolling Stones and the Yardbirds, the band Jimmy Page spent two years in. Page had played on records by Burt Bacharach and Brenda Lee. Yes, Led Zeppelin did employ rather simplistic riffs (for which they got some rather bad reviews for their early albums), but other things were going on as well: touches of mandolin, recorder, and synthesizer, attention-grabbing rhythmic shifts and guitar parts that went far beyond the best-known figures. Led Zeppelin album cover art could be counted on to be visually intriguing, in contrast to the portraits in snarl and attitude offered by AC/DC.

    Which is not to say that a case can't be made for Led Zeppelin being overestimated. Weren't they steeped in the blues?, one might ask, and didn't they treat that heritage with a great deal of respect? Well, yes, but here I'm going to risk accusations of pop-culture sacrilege by suggesting that the primitivism that characterizes the blues has an outsized place in our estimations. The guitar, piano and vocal contributions of Charley Patton, Roosevelt Sykes, Muddy Waters and Buddy Guy occupy a  comparatively narrow musical territory. While books have been written about the stylistic intricacies of these and other blues greats, the fact is that the lack of sophistication is their main appeal.

    We must say this for the blues - and blues-based rock - however: it provides us a musical launching point for broader cultural understanding. To really "get" Muddy Waters, one has to become familiar with the great migration of blacks from the ranches of Texas, the cotton farms of the Delta, and the lumber camps of Louisiana to the industrial cities of the north during the first half of the twentieth century. That, in turn, opens the window onto other cultural features of that phenomenon along with the music: food, dress, social conventions (the evolution of the barn dance from the southern days to the rent party custom practiced once these people arrived in the crowded tenements of Chicago, Detroit and other Northern cities).  There is the tension between gospel and blues that most blues performers had experience with.

    But there's no such historical strain for us to tap into with AC/CD. Just four white guys from anywhere who need to rock off some excess adrenaline.

    Which is why I was deeply disappointed to read a glowing tribute to Malcolm Young in Red State, of all places, by Susan Wright, of all people. She gives a cursory account of the band's history, but for the most part, it refers back to her own experience:

    AC/DC and the sound created by the Young brothers was pure booze-and-blues fueled rock and roll. These songs are still played at parties, before concerts, and in clubs all over the world. You can’t even think “rock and roll” and not think about AC/DC, somewhere in your mental discography of the genre.
    Every jukebox in every pizza joint when I was growing up had several AC/DC songs for play.
    Even today, the hipsters are wearing vintage AC/DC t-shirts.
    This was probably my first favorite hard rock band, and I’m probably not the only one reading this that can say that.
    Wright is such a fine writer, and has her head on refreshingly straight regarding the train wreck that is our current sociopolitical juncture, so it was lamentable indeed to see her lapse into this kind of meaningless gushing and trotting out of banalities about pizza joints.

    But I have a feeling she was born well after I was. And that leads to its own set of sticky arguments.

    Oh, so you have to have been born no later than the middle of 1955 to have a truly comprehensive understanding of Western cultural dynamics?

    No, but it helps.

    Mid-1955 was about the time cultural observers were beginning to take note of this new - well, it wasn't exactly one genre, but rather an amalgam of genres the appeal of which to adolescents was becoming apparent to savvy marketeers - musical direction, and the general consensus was alarm. In fact, the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland has some film clips from that era that are presented in such a way as to convey the message, can you believe what people back then found objectionable?

    And the main elements of that first wave of rock & roll are those we find some two decades later in the music of AC/DC: the simplest of chords, crudely strung together and brutally hammered out on very loud guitars, unabashedly untrained voices, and the most repetitive of rhythms.

    While rock has had its moments of truly sublime achievement, these elements are always fundamental features, drawn upon in some measure. Those early critics were not wrong that this new veneration of the primitive was a marked departure from musical evolution up to that point. And it permeated other art forms as well.

    One of AC/DC's best-known songs was "Rock and Roll Ain't Noise Pollution." Looking over the band's body of work, we see no reason to conclude otherwise.








    Wednesday, November 22, 2017

    I can't get too worked up over the Roy Moore situation, but it's important to say why

    The Alabama Senate seat just isn't my hill to die on.

    So many levels to this: let's start with Moore himself. It's a major stretch to say he embodies the central tenets of conservatism. His ham-handed gestures and utterances over the years might indicate that those tenets constitute the core of who he is, but they seem more likely to be a crude kind of marketing tool, a currying of favor with the yee-haw wing of the right-of-center voting populace. It is one thing to forthrightly proclaim the Ten Commandments as central to one's values and policy orientation, even to press for their status as the wellspring of Western legal thought; it is quite another to plunk a granite monument inscribed with them on the courthouse lawn. It is one thing to fully understand the magnitude of the jihadist threat against the West and amass all available resources to act on that understanding; it is quite another to declare that certain Illinois and Indiana municipalities are subject to sharia. It is one thing to state unflinchingly that homosexuality is statistically abnormal, runs counter to nature's design for sex as a species-propagating drive, and is, per Romans 1, 1 Corinthians 6 and Leviticus 18, a violation of God's law. It is quite another to assert that it ought to be illegal.

    Then there is the question of whether he's guilty or innocent of all or any of the sexual-impropriety accusations against him. He claims that the former waitress's yearbook is fake and wants to see Gloria Allred turn it over to a third party. He seems to have been a faithful husband and dutiful father since getting married. Still, there are so many stories now, each told in such detail, and bolstered by the recollections of townsfolk who recall his "weird" dating proclivities during the late 1970s that it seems unlikely that all of them have been concocted out of whole cloth. I still maintain that anybody who says that he can be presumed either completely innocent or completely guilty is jumping the gun.

    Then there is there very real undesirability of Doug Jones, the Democratic candidate. He is fine with late-term abortions. He may qualify his statements about gun control by claiming to be a big Second Amendment proponent, but he goes in for that "common-sense measures" talk that is the stuff of slippery slopes.

    Still, it comes down to Ben Shapiro's point: "If we’re really at the point in American politics where political opposition requires electing credibly accused child molesters, then we ought to put down ballots and pick up guns.

    Then, of course, there is Donald Trump, who can be counted on to weigh in with something ridiculous, something incoherent and devoid of substance. "He says it didn't happen" is about as vacuous as it comes.

    Are Moore's enthusiasts giving any thought to the bad blood that is going to be implicit in his relations with fellow Republican Senators from the get-go? Have they considered this from a branding standpoint? What if an issue comes before that chamber and its true good guys - say, Ben Sasse, Ted Cruz or Mike Lee - are passionate about a particular legislative approach to dealing with it, and Moore also vocally supports such an approach? How many microseconds do Moore fans think it will take for leftist Senators, leftist pundits and the frenzied social-media warriors to lump all these figures together and tarnish the effort?

    It gets harder by the day to resist tribalist gotcha, to set as a goal the wailing and gnashing of teeth on the part of progressives. Still, resist we must. Any such wailing is merely the byproduct of what we ought to be after: the furtherance of our principles in the realms of public policy and far more importantly the culture.

    I actually make this argument on the basis of absolutism. The moral relativity which we rightly ascribe to the Left will have infected us deeply, maybe fatally, if we work to send someone to Capitol Hill who plausibly acted in utter violation of what we know to be right and true.

    I'll be blunt: I am wary in the extreme of anyone who is going out of his or her way to persuade us that Moore is most likely innocent when we know no such thing.

    I think he should go just because it's too late to repair whatever stature he once had.

    Tuesday, November 21, 2017

    Tuesday roundup

    If Robert Mugabe is indeed forced to step down as Zimbabwe's dictator (which looks ever more likely, given that he has been removed as head of his party, the Zanu-PF, which was the title that gave him his power), his successor will likely be his former bodyguard and enforcer, Emmerson Mnangagwa. Mnangagwa is an even bigger monster. The Fifth Brigade, which he employed to carry out a massacre lasting several years, was trained in North Korea.

    More seismic shifts in Saudi Arabia: the country's Grand Mufti has issued a fatwa forbidding war against Jews.  This from a guy whose past pronouncements have included these:

    Sheikh Abdul Aziz is not exactly a theological liberal. In March 2012, he reportedly declaredthat it was necessary to destroy all churches in Kuwait, or possibly in the region.
    Earlier this year, he warned of the “depravity” of cinemas and music concerts, saying they would corrupt morals if allowed in the kingdom.
    In December 2015, while calling for greater Islamic co-operation against Isis, he labelled Isis “part of the Israeli army”, thus suggesting that when it comes to Israel he is delusional.
    So undoubtedly he’s not going to announce that synagogues or churches may be built in Saudi Arabia any time soon.
    Nevertheless, he is the most senior cleric in the state which has served as the epicentre of Sunni Islamic fanaticism and the most austere and conservative interpretation of a religion which has Jew-hatred at its theological core. If such a man is now saying that war against the Jewish state is not holy at all but must be forbidden on religious grounds, will this not have some impact within the Islamic religious world for which holy war against the Jews is an article of faith?
    H/T: Bookworm 

    Stephen Moore likes several features of how the Republican tax plan - the synthesis of what the House and Senate are doing - is shaping up: elimination of state and local tax deduction, eliminating the "A"CA individual mandate, and this one, which  is actually the imposition of a new tax. He likes it (and so does LITD), because it addresses the bloat and hence the rot in post-American higher education:

    Finally, there is the proposed tax on college endowments. These are massive storehouses of wealth: Harvard and Yale combined sit on a nest egg of almost $60 billion, enough to give every student free tuition at these schools from now until forever. Instead, these university endowments act like giant financial trading dynasties, with very little of the largesse going to help students pay tuition. The GOP plan would put a small tax on the unspent money in the endowments if they don't start spending the money down. My only complaint is that the tax is way too low. But the first shot against the university-industrial complex has finally been fired.
    The productivity of American universities, as Richard Vedder of Ohio University has documented, continues to decline. Vedder also found that university tuitions don't go down when these schools have bigger endowments. They go up. These endowments subsidize the six- and seven-figure salaries of pompous, tired, and tenured professors (who teach four or five hours a week) and administrators. Bravo to Republicans for starting to turn off the spigot.
    Colin Flaherty, author of Don't Make the Black Kids Angry, writing at The American Thinker, examines the pomposity and enormous self-regard of Pippa Biddle, a writer for Wired and a product of a blue-blood upbringing.

    Pippa and her pals used to take vacations to some deprived corner of the world, spread a little whiteness around, pronounce the natives better for it, and go back home to, in her case, to captain the ski team at Miss Porter’s.
    During one of her trips of “Volun-tourism,” Pippa and her pals were building some kind of school or nuclear power plant or whatever white people build in third world hellholes, which is almost always pieced out and sold off before their departing flights leave the runway. She later found out that the locals had to come in at night and tore down everything they had built that day. Then rebuilt it. Turns out that building a wall is a lot more complicated than the ladies at Miss Porter’s school realized: you need a level to make sure the wall is… well, level.
    Pippa made a bit of splash in the New York Times when she declared that all the white people traveling to help black people were racist and wrongheaded and harmful. 
    It could have been called Don’t Make the Entitled White Rich Girls Angry.
    And Pippa was not going to stand for that anymore. Not on her watch.
    Instead, Pippa decided to make a living out of writing fairy tales of hate speech the same way she built a wall: without foundation, without expertise, without anything except an overweening whiteness that allowed her to appoint herself as guardian of all things black.
    With nothing on the level.
    Thanks, Pippa, we got it from here: We are going to continue to document how black crime and violence is wildly out of proportion, and how reporters and public officials and trust fund babies are in denial, deceit, and delusion about it. People like you, Pippa.

    Ouch!

    Erick Erickson makes a point we often make here at LITD - namely, that male and female human beings are not interchangeable. Therefore, he says, men must not treat women the way they treat other men. They must treat women much better. Brings to mind the assertion John Kelly made in his presser a while back, that we used to understand that women are sacred.
     

    Monday, November 20, 2017

    Adding to the list becomes an hourly exercise now

    Charlie Rose. Gentle, reflective Charlie Rose, for cryin' out loud. Eight accusers. Allusions to maneuvers well-known among interns and staff, such as the "shower trick" and the "crusty paws."

    Def Jam Recordings mogul Russell Simmons.

    New York Times reporter Glenn Thrush 

    A staffer at the SEIU.


    The cultural rot of the last half-century-plus that is a prominent theme here at LITD seems to run deeper than I'd imagined.

    1 Peter 5:8 absolutely nails our current state of affairs.

    Hard to muster any empathy for Lois Lerner

    She was, you'll recall, the head of the IRS department at its Cincinnati office in charge of monitoring filings by nonprofit organizations. In that capacity, she knew some of her staff were harassing and intimidating conservative groups. Now she's trying to keep the records of her communications from those days sealed.

    The LITD position: Make 'em public.

    Get this: she and her assistant, Holly Paz, want to make the harassed groups the threatening party in this scenario:

    During the course of the Ohio case, the tea party groups filed thousands of pages of documents, but testimony from Ms. Lerner and Ms. Paz was left out of the public record because of their earlier request for privacy.
    Now Ms. Lerner and Ms. Paz say that since the case has been settled, there is no reason for their testimony to ever become public.
    “The voluminous record of harassment and physical threats to Mss. Lerner and Paz and their families during the pendency of this litigation provides a compelling reason to seal the materials,” the women’s attorneys said.
    They particularly blamed Mark Meckler, a tea party leader whose organization helped fund the class-action lawsuit, saying he helped stoke the threats against them by calling IRS agents “criminal thugs.”
    “These words matter. They have created a fertile environment where threats and harassment against Mss. Lerner and Paz have flourished,” the lawyers said.
    Mr. Meckler laughed when he learned about the filing.
    “Four years of harassing innocent American citizens for their political beliefs, and she’s scared of a guy in a cowboy hat talking to a bunch of little old ladies at a tea party event?” he said, recounting the speech where he called IRSagents “thugs.”
    He said if the depositions didn’t show any bad action on her part, then Ms. Lerner should have nothing to fear from their release to the public.
    “The reality is because she knows she is guilty as the day is long and she doesn’t want people to know what she actually did,” he said.
    “It’s hard to have any sympathy for the women. And frankly, I don’t believe she’s genuinely scared,” Mr. Meckler said.
    I suppose comparisons to Elena Ceaucescu pleading, "We loved you like our own children!" are a bit strong, but there is certainly a whiff of the irony that accompanies any comeuppance of fallen and cornered totalitarians. And that's what Lerner, Paz and the anti-free-market-and-low-tax thugs on their staff really are.

    Everything about a shameful episode like this needs to be public knowledge. It's the only way to prevent a possible recurrence.

    The agency that, among all federal-government bodies, is the encapsulation of government's role as the entity with a monopoly on the legitimate use of force, the agency charged with using that force to take the money of citizens using a variety of means (income tax, capital-gains tax, inheritance tax, inventory tax, etc.) had in its employ a number of people who held in utter contempt those who, quite civilly, argued for Madisonian restraint in the exercise of that power.

    That is chilling.

    Making the records public would be a significant step in eradicating this kind of mindset from the leviathan state.

    Sunday, November 19, 2017

    Somebody please take away his phone

    He really tweeted this today:

    Now that the three basketball players are out of China and saved from years in jail, LaVar Ball, the father of LiAngelo, is unaccepting of what I did for his son and that shoplifting is no big deal. I should have left them in jail!
    Yes, LaVar Ball is a hotdog and a grandstander. Yes, his son and the son's teammates did indeed shoplift in China. And, yes, given the legal aspect of it, personal magnanimity on Trump's part, even if it was for publicity purposes, which it probably was, was a factor in their release.

    But Donal Trump is 71 and has not the first subatomic particle of humility in his entire being "(I don't think I need forgiveness"), so the defining characteristics of his personality are very unlikely to change. And one of those characteristics is letting slights, from anyone, in any circumstances, get under his skin and responding in kind.

    There's a foreign-policy element to this as well. China is a rival, an adversary. Its system of justice is severe. Does Trump's tweet not send a message to the Chinese government / Communist party along the lines of, "We want our people back in situations like this, if they genuflect before me while still in your custody. If they don't, you can have 'em"?

    This man-child has established a pattern over the course of his first year: do one or two positive policy-level things, then ruin the effect of it with a petty, childish tweet. Repeat the cycle.

    It could have been so different.


    Friday, November 17, 2017

    Adding to the list becomes a daily exercise now

    I'm going to assume you're up to speed on Al Franken.

    Subsequent "inappropriate behavior" (isn't that a nice, sanitary term?) revelations coming across the radar screen include

    NPR Roger LaMay (who comes on the heels of that organization's news executive a few days ago):

    On Wednesday, NPR Board Chairman Roger LaMay announced that he was stepping down at the end of his second one-year term. LaMay, who remains on the board, said he needed to devote more time to running the popular Philadelphia public radio music station WXPN, where he is general manager.
    However, according to a knowledgeable source, LaMay is the subject of a complaint filed with NPR alleging past inappropriate behavior. Few additional details are currently known.

    Stephen Bittel, Florida Democratic Party chair:

    The resignation comes after Politico reported that six women had complained about Bittel leering at them and making comments of an explicit, sexual nature. He also, apparently, kept a lot of breast-related paraphernalia in his office that made the women feel uncomfortable:
    “There was a lot of boob stuff in his office,” said a woman who was a fundraiser years ago and had to interact with him. “I was told by other women not to go into his bathroom. I was warned.”
    In a written statement, a spokesman for Bittel didn’t dispute the women’s accounts and acknowledged he had the breast-shaped stress balls. But, he said, they were a gift “from a former female general counsel of his company years ago as a joke for his birthday. He keeps them in a drawer with other gag gifts.”
    None of the women accused Bittel of touching them in any way, but it seems they didn't like the way he let his eyes do the walking:
    “He’s just so f----ng creepy,” said a former female party staffer, anger palpable in her tone. “He just leers at you, and stares. I don’t know if you know what that feels like, but he just leers at you. I don’t know how to describe the feeling.”
    It's probably a lot like being trapped on a plane with Al Franken.
    And then there's Ohio state legislator Wes Gooden. This one is particularly scurrilous. The damage he has wrought to the cause of traditional morality is huge. At what point did this guy give his soul over to his kind of depravity - and I don't just mean the shenanigans in his office. The chasm between his public persona and his real self was nearly infinite. How does one hide the cognitive dissonance? What the hell motivated the guy to keep talking the talk about social conservatism? Did he ever come close to cracking? Was he relieved when he got caught? Will his wife stay with him?

    An Ohio lawmaker who routinely touted his Christian faith and anti-LGBT views has resigned after being caught having sex with a man in his office.
    Wes Goodman, who is the Republican state legislator for Ohio, is married to a woman who is assistant director of an annual anti-abortion rally known as March for Life.
    The right-wing legislator, who pushed “family values”, was reportedly witnessed having sex with a man inside his office who was not employed by the legislator.
    According to the Columbus Dispatch, the observer told Ohio House Chief of Staff Mike Dittoe what had happened on Tuesday afternoon. Mr Dittoe responded by telling House Speaker Republican Cliff Rosenberger who in turn met with Mr Goodman.
    The 33-year-old, who has been branded the “conscience of the conservative movement”, resigned for “inappropriate conduct” shortly after the meeting took place.
    Mr Goodman, whose Twitter biography describes him as “Christian. American. Conservative. Republican. Husband to @Beth1027”, has regularly claimed "natural marriage" occurs between a man and a woman.
    "Healthy, vibrant, thriving, values-driven families are the source of Ohio's proud history and the key to Ohio's future greatness,” reads his campaign website which has now been taken offline.
    “The ideals of a loving father and mother, a committed natural marriage, and a caring community are well worth pursuing and protecting."
    The glaring question as this cascade's momentum increases, is, is this a recent phenomenon, or is the fact that society is finally seriously investigating it bringing a seaminess that has always been with us to light?

    If it's the latter, the gossamer thread by which civilization hangs is thinner than we'd been presuming.

    I leave you with Damon Linker's latest column for The Week, entitled "Al Franken Is Just the Beginning."

    Saying this is a firing offense if you're the chief diversity officer at Apple

    Denise Young Smith had had the position for six months. In October, she said the following at the One World Summit in Bogota, Colombia:

    “There can be 12 white, blue-eyed, blond men in a room and they’re going to be diverse too because they’re going to bring a different life experience and life perspective to the conversation,” the inaugural diversity chief said.
    “Diversity is the human experience,” she said, according to Quartz. “I get a little bit frustrated when diversity or the term diversity is tagged to the people of color, or the women, or the LGBT.”
    That was it. Boom. She's gone.

    It's the same mentality that will not tolerate the phrase "all lives matter."

    Ideas don't have intrinsic merit, according to this mindset. It depends on the demographics of the person expressing them.

    And the next puke-worthy development was that she sent out an email apologizing. No standing by her position. She has to live with her cowardice every day for the rest of her life now.

    The jackbootery is everywhere.


    This is big, folks

    Saudi Arabian King Salman is going to step down next week and hand his throne over to his son, Crown Prince Muhammed bin Salman.

    That would be the son who had several relatives, influential figures in business, government and the royal family, arrested. The son who has instigated a loosening of longstanding strictures on Saudi society, most notably letting women drive cars.

    But it's his agenda for the region in which his country is situated that ought to get our attention:

    The high level source said once crowned king, the prince will shift his focus to Iran, a long standing rival oil empire to Saudi Arabia in the Middle East, with fears military action is possible.
    He will also enlist the help of the Israeli military to crush Hezbollah, the Lebanese militia supported by Iran, according to the source. 
    'MBS is convinced that he has to hit Iran and Hezbollah,' he said. 'Contrary to the advice of the royal family elders, that's MBS's next target. Hence why the ruler of Kuwait privately calls him "The raging Bull". 
    'MBS's plan is to start the fire in Lebanon, but he's hoping to count on Israeli military backing. He has already promised Israel billions of dollars in direct financial aid if they agree. 
    'MBS can not confront Hezbollah in Lebanon without Israel. Plan B is to fight Hezbollah in Syria,' said the source. 

    Saudi Arabia has heretofore not really been at the forefront of the shaping of Middle Eastern dynamics - not in the way that Syria, Iraq, Turkey, Yemen, the Kurds, and, of course, the above-mentioned Iran, have.

    And a development like this is going to have implications for outside players with a stake in how things go down there. Think Russia. Think the United States.

    In our modern world, nuance is in short supply, and that's going to be a danger here. While the most obvious level of what's unfolding - Saudi Arabia leaning more toward the West, reaching out to Israel for a deepened alliance, and going nose-to-nose with Iran - might make it a no-brainer as to what US policy should be, there are secondary considerations that must be dealt with. For instance, Trump, per his "haters-and-fools" tweet, thinks it's possible to basically wipe the slate clean with Russia and, by golly, solve problems like Ukraine and North Korea. But there's that nagging strong alliance Russia has with Iran. It has been a principle shaper of developments in Syria, and would surely be so in any conflagration - proxy or direct - between Iran and Saudi Arabia.

    In fact, Trump has already taken to Twitter to express what sure looks like an unequivocal position, saying he has "great confidence in King Salman and the Crown Prince . . . they know exactly what they are doing." Did he run this by his foreign-policy advisors first?

    I'm not saying that one can't size up the situation on a moral level. In a fallen world, it's all going to be relative in a certain sense, but there are clear good guys and bad guys in this. But there are also delicate arrangements that have prevented the always-volatile nature of mideast affairs from reaching cataclysmic proportions.

    This is going to require a degree of finesse that I'm not at all sure the present US chief executive is capable of.  I pray that I'm underestimating him.


    What I would say at this stage is, easy does it on tweets about this, Mr. President.

    Thursday, November 16, 2017

    Thursday roundup

    Francis Menton at the Manhattan Contrarian has a piece called "The Climate Alarmists Definitely Don't Believe Their Own Propaganda." In addition to pointing up the hypocrisy of that crowd's jetting off to conferences to tell the rest of us to drastically alter the way we live (an ongoing exercise effectively done many times before, but here with fresh examples), he makes an important point: Yes, nuclear power would answer the climatistas' demand for a clean energy source (even though they continue to oppose it), but let's not go subsidizing that or otherwise giving it an artificial advantage in the marketplace. The plain fact is that a free market is going to ensure that fossil fuels remain predominant for several more decades at least. And that's fine.

    Two views on what is to be done re: the vexing North Korea menace. Compare and contrast:

    Joseph Bosco at The Diplomat says that Henry Kissinger, at age 93, is still coming up with fresh ideas on world problems, and has one for this situation to offer Trump. Kissinger's take is that the mutual respect established between Trump and Xi can ensure that there will be an ongoing economic squeeze on North Korea, with a Plan B in the wings that China will not stand in the way of:

    Xi’s success in achieving Mao-like supremacy at the 19th Party Congress has given him the freedom to act more boldly in preventing Pyongyang from further souring Beijing’s relations with Washington. His private assurances to the U.S. president may well account for Trump’s comments, which were both upbeat and firmly expectant of positive results. With Xi at his side, he stated:
    China can fix this problem easily and quickly, and I am calling on China and your great president to hopefully work on it very hard. I know one thing about your president: If he works on it hard, it will happen. There’s no doubt about it.
    It is not unreasonable to conclude that Trump expects Xi to deliver in one of two ways. Under Plan A, China will continue its financial and economic squeeze until Kim agrees to scrap his nuclear and missile programs. If that does not yield the desired outcome, Plan B is for Beijing to stand by as the United States and South Korea “surgically” destroy those capabilities.
    In fact, no less an authority on Chinese thinking than Trump adviser Henry Kissinger has suggested that kind of Washington-Beijing cooperation on a kinetic solution. During a 1994 interview, in one of his many defenses of China’s tolerance of the North Korean problem, Kissinger speculated that Beijing was passive “because they figure we will take care of the problem and they can take a free ride.”
    Kissinger went further, saying that he himself once believed the United States should unilaterally “knock out the nuclear capability of North Korea, if necessary even by aerial strikes.” But he said he now thought it would be “too dangerous for us to do this alone given the general mentality that now exists in Washington and unwillingness to support it.” Nevertheless, Kissinger went one, we should “tell China that we are willing to go as far as you are willing to go in doing away with the nuclear capability… including a blockade and total economic isolation.”
    Thomas Donnelly  at The American Enterprise Institute says that, because China would insist on calling the shots on any new regime arrangement should Kim fold, under the weight of either Plan A or Plan B, it's best to get on with Plan B, and do so quickly:

    In sum, we find ourselves in a Macbeth-like situation: “If it is done when ‘tis done, ‘twere well it were done quickly” and cold-bloodedly. A war on the peninsula would “trammel up” many consequences, and the more we might summon a “blow [that] might be-all and end-all”—or at least the most powerful possible—the better. A less literary but more historical frame of reference might well be the invasion of the Japanese home islands, in which case a “reasonable” outcome also seemed to exceed America’s conventional military grasp.

    Kevin Williamson at NRO says that  Capitol-Hill Republicans' fears of the reactions of various factions and special interests regarding how any bold, simple, pro-freedom moves on matters like taxation and health care keep legislative efforts so convoluted and wonky that nothing is going to get done.

    Inspired by Trump, the Republicans have declared themselves agents of chaos, and have taken up the least conservative sentiment there is as their motto: “Hey, how could it get any worse?”

    It can always get worse.

    There is not going to be any certainty on the big domestic-policy items — taxes, health care, the entitlements, and much else — until there is a reasonable, sober, sustainable settlement on our national fiscal challenge. So long as the charade of ten-year sunsets and CBO-satisfying accounting shenanigans rule the day, there is not going to be any predictability — and that is going to impose real costs on economic growth, employment, wages, and future prosperity.

    We don’t have regime uncertainty. We have a regime of uncertainty. And it is time to change that.

    In other words, this supposed new era under Trump hasn't moved the needle at all. Yes, some of that is due to the inertia bias of legislative Pubs, but Trump has not exactly forged a productive relationship, based on a strong and consistent vision, with them.

    Ted Cruz is squaring off against fellow Republican senators Joni Ernst and Chuck Grassley over ethanol subsidies. This is a perfect illustration of the principle at work in the Williamson piece. Those two Iowa senators, Ernst especially, are supposed to be solid conservatives, but they're scared to death of the power of King Corn to jeopardize their jobs. It also proves once again that Ted Cruz is a man of consistent principle, and that it is nothing short of a tragedy that he's not our president.

    The Alamo is a shrine to human valor, the notion of choosing to die with honor. When the famous 1836 battle occurred there, it was an outpost surrounded by wilderness. Within a few short years, the city of San Antonio grew around it. The Menger Hotel, still very much in operation, was built across the street in 1859. It may not occur to the average citizen that the site's upkeep needs a boost, but we can be encouraged that some folks are focusing on just that:

    We finally have the leadership and the plan that we need. Texas Land Commissioner George P. Bush has made preserving the Alamo his top priority. He has brought a talented team together to focus on saving the Alamo. His plan is simple: Preserve the Alamo's 1836 structures; close Alamo Street and recover the Battlefield; build the world-class museum that the Alamo deserves. Commissioner Bush is a son of Texas, and he will ensure that the Alamo always tells the story of 1836 faithfully.
    Great short Erick Erickson video - looks like it was taken on the lawn of his home - about contemporary post-American Christianity's golden-calf problem.





    Wednesday, November 15, 2017

    A martini-sipping secular agnostic gets backed into a corner by God

    I amaze myself these days.

    Not in the sense of self-satisfaction over any exceptional accomplishments. As a matter of fact, the case could be made that I've recently been experiencing something of a lull. I had a spate of magazine pieces recently published, and I am somewhat active musically, but it all falls short of heyday status. I've been busier.

    No, it's all the churchy stuff. Three years ago, I was just a guy, depending on my own dispositional resources to see me through the challenges attendant to this life. Now I regularly attend a small rural Methodist church, the demographic profile of which skews older. I provide special music for that portion of the service every few weeks, and I help out with vacation Bible school. On recent Tuesday evenings, I've been participating in an eight-week discussion series at a community church here in town. The structure is provided by a book and video series called Starting Point. It's for those new to a faith walk, as well as those who are coming back to one after a hiatus. I pray, fervently, all day long.

    A few days ago, in a post here at LITD, I gave a brief synopsis of my trek:

    As I've stated before, one of the last sticking points for me before committing to a faith walk was that I saw myself as an alright guy, with room for improvement as is true of anyone, but on balance a decent human being.



    And it didn't help that most of the invitations to consider Christianity that I encountered were boneheaded turn-offs. Little pamphlets that thought they were winning me over with messages like, "We deserve Hell and death, but there's good news!" or, "Your works are as filthy rags before the Lord."



    Might be just the sales job for some people, but my reaction was, "Save it for somebody else, pal." And I continued to let my Bible collect dust on a shelf.



    I was a conservative long before I became a follower of Christ. With regard to Questions of a Spiritual Nature, I went years vaguely deferring to the Buddhist and Taoist teachings that resonated for me during my hippie days. But after my ideological conversion experience, I had to admit to myself that I'd become a secular agnostic. The whole notion of what the nature of ultimate reality is was pretty far down my list of important stuff to think about.
    There was actually one other sticking point, and it was really basic: We can't see God. I even read Michael Novak's No One Sees God, and it provided a helpful nudge. (I think I started flirting with church attendance - at the local Catholic parish - about the time I was reading it.)  Still I was vulnerable enough that I found the avalanche of cynical dismissals of the Judeo-Christian model  that inundate us all daily tugging at me, inviting me to consider the possibility .that it was all a fairy tale.

    Another helpful nudge was what C.S. Lewis had to say about the nature of reality - that the things of this universe had jagged edges, that scientific discovery was by definition the stuff of surprise, that irregularity characterized the way it is all put together.  I started to see what he was saying about how it would actually be odd if the universe conformed to our expectations for uniformity of patterns. The example he cites is our solar system. The planets' orbits aren't perfectly circular, they're not equally spaced, the planets's sizes don't progress from smallest to largest, and the number of moons revolving around each vary considerably.

    So the human being's relationship to the Creator of it all is going to be surprising as well.

    But the invisibility of God still nagged me. To compound my sense of reservation, there was all this talk of angels and devils.

    But then the stuff that comprises most of the content of this blog became so egregious that I could find no word that more effectively characterized it than "demonic." 1 Peter 5:8 hit me right between the eyes. I saw it as far more than metaphor. America and Western civilization generally were indeed being devoured by the Devil.

    I'd already had this blog for some time when this came together for me, and the more I looked at what needed to be addressed, the less adequate I found my resources as a secular polemicist for doing so. The first question I now had to ask myself was whether I was contributing to the cultural rot, and in what way.

    The resulting inventory of what I was about as a blogger showed up in small ways. I narrowed my criteria for the applicability of snarky monikers for public figures. I was less inclined to offer pat solutions to vexing policy dilemmas.

    And then the Trump era got underway, and I took extra care to make sure I was not engaging in naked tribal turf-defense. And I saw a number of pundits I'd formerly admired doing just that, which brought on the ongoing fracturing of conservatism. It was becoming more clear by the day that a label, even one with as noble a pedigree as conservatism has, was going to fall short of ameliorating all this world's ills.

    One could say God was backing me into a corner. I had to take Him seriously, since everything else, around me and inside of me, was broken. He and His laws would not be mocked.

    But I saw that grace is available for the deliberately humble. And community - a commodity on which there is a premium in fragmented post-America - is available for those who want to give and receive encouragement on the faith walk.

    So on pretty much any Sunday morning, you'll find me in the pew at my little country church. And in my office you're nearly as likely to find me with folded hands at my desk as banging away at my keyboard.

    I still like cocktail hour, I still let loose with flurries of blush-inducing expletives during lapses in my reverence, and I still have my moments of confusion and doubt. I still size people up on the basis of standards of appearance and speech that I now understand don't amount to much if anything.

    But there's a hope I couldn't conceive of five short years ago that leavens the daily life wrought by my foibles.

    I understand the actual purpose of what I've been doing. The question of how to be an effective human being has an answer.








    Roy Moore is what happens when righties buy into the tribalist fervor that characterizes our times

    John Daniel Davidson at The Federalist crystallizes just what is wrong with Moore's track record as a supposed champion of religious liberty:

    As a result of these battles [the Ten Commandments monument and the defiance of Hodges v. Obergfell], Moore became something a martyr to some social conservatives, who mistakenly believed he was standing athwart history in the name of religious freedom, or moral clarity, or something. Too many conservatives conflated Moore’s crusade against the federal judiciary with the persecution that Christian cake bakers, florists, and pro-life groups now face at the hands of progressive state governments in California and elsewhere.
    But they’re not the same thing. Moore’s fundamental claim that a state supreme court can ignore a ruling of the U.S. Supreme Court is anything but conservative. That question was settled by the Civil War and the constitutional amendments that followed in its wake, and no one who claims to be a conservative would argue otherwise.
    But Moore’s moral grandstanding about the Ten Commandments monument and the Obergefell ruling weren’t just wrong as matters of law or history, they were fundamentally anti-American: Moore elevated himself, on more than one occasion, above the law. This is the sort of thing conservatives rightly accused former President Barack Obama of doing with his “pen and phone” approach to governing by executive fiat.
    The excuse that Moore was on “our side” of the culture wars should never have been enough to forgive this behavior. That it was enough—and among some die-hard supporters, still might be—to elect Moore as the GOP candidate in Alabama’s special election next month is a sign of just how dysfunctional and deleterious our political tribalism has become.

    It can be hard, here in post-America where every last cultural institution has gone completely off the rails, for three-pillar conservatives to avoid hair-trigger responses to the glaringly egregious assaults on civilization. It can, in certain cases, require nerves of steel. But once the underlying principles have been jettisoned for defending the supposed brand's viability in the marketplace, the whole conservative exercise becomes pointless.

    It's heartening to see that even tribalist pseudo-conservatives are now strongly encouraging Moore to consider dropping out. The cleanup effort is going to be plenty daunting as it is.

    Tuesday, November 14, 2017

    Western civilization has gone utterly mad - today's edition

    You can now get in trouble as a teacher for using language that was universally accepted - for reasons of common sense - until about three years ago:

    A school in England suspended a teacher after he accidentally referred to a transgender boy student as a girl.
    Math teacher Joshua Sutcliffe, 27, said “well done girls” to two students at an Oxfordshire secondary school. He apologized to the transgender student, however, Sutcliffe faces a disciplinary hearing this week and officials could charge him with misconduct for misgendering, the Evening Standard reported.
    “While the suggestion that gender is fluid conflicts sharply with my Christian beliefs… I have never looked to impose my convictions on others,” Sutcliffe, who is also a Christian pastor, said according to BBC News.
    The teacher was suspended six weeks after the incident when the student’s mother complained.
    Sutcliffe thinks referring to someone by their birth gender isn’t wrong or unreasonable, according to the Daily Mail.
    The Oxfordshire school told BBC that it would be “inappropriate” to comment on the investigation into the teacher’s conduct.
    More than 2,000 children aged three to 18 in the U.K. were referred to a gender identity specialist last year, BBC reports.
    The teacher’s suspension comes after similar events in the U.S. An 8-year-old transgender student and his parents recently sued a California school for failing to let him express his identity as a girl and another set of parents filed a lawsuit against a school in New York, alleging the school created a hostile environment for their five-year-old kid, according to The New York Times.
    How many heartbreaking, nauseating levels are there to consider here?

    Let's start with the kids mentioned in the last paragraph of the linked report. 8 years old and 5 years old. Like their brains, sense organs, hair, bones and muscles, these kids' genitals and hormone-producing glands are in the very earliest stages of development. They barely have the faintest idea what it means to be the gender identity with which they were born. Additionally, they are social neophytes. Their experience with observing and interacting with opposite-gender people has barely extended beyond parents, aunts and uncles and any siblings they have. In short, no five-year-old is qualified to say anything about feeling like a boy or a girl.

    Then there is the mother of the student in the British school. In late 2017, to even ask, "What kind of parent supports this kind of tragic delusion on the part of her precious offspring?" is to open oneself to responses along the lines of, "Boy, is your worldview hopeless antiquated and bigoted." Again, this inflection point has occurred only in the last three or so years. For the ten thousand-plus-year history of our species prior to that, it would have been the key question in such a situation.

    Then there is the school system's position. The school system is ostensibly in the business of educating.  Imparting knowledge of how the universe is constructed. You know, things like, there are two genders for humans and most other species: male and female. These are permanent identity traits determined by the DNA in each cell of a person.

    We have institutionalized delusion. We are well along the path to atomizing what had been our society. Each individual defining what heretofore had been recognized as objective reality for himself or herself - or itself, as the case may be.

    This not only flies in the face of basic understanding, it is a middle finger to almighty God.

    It will not end well.

    Monday, November 13, 2017

    Another Moore accuser

    The gist of her story:

    Nelson is 55 years old (she turns 56 this week), and she and her husband supported President Trump. Her account is that she began working at Old Hickory House, a restaurant off of Highway 431 in Gadsden, Alabama, when she was 15. “I worked there after school as a waitress,” she stated. She continued:
    Some nights I worked until 7 p.m. and other nights until 10 p.m. Mr. Roy Moore was a regular customer. He came in almost every night and he would stay until closing time. He sat at the counter in the same seat night after night, and I remember exactly where he sat. Mr. Moore was an adult. He was much older than I was. I knew that he was the district attorney in Etowah County, I didn’t understand what that meant, but I did know that he was an important person and I always treated him with respect. He would pull the ends of my red hair … He would compliment me on my looks, and I would think nothing of it. I was accustomed to men flirting with me, because I was well developed and competed in beauty pageants. I did not attach any significance to Mr. Moore’s behavior towards me, and I did not respond to Mr. Moore’s flirtatious behavior.
    According to Nelson, she received a yearbook at school, and she brought it to work on the evening of November 22, 1977; by now, she would have been 16. She says that Moore offered to write a note in her yearbook, which she accepted. “I felt flattered and I said yes,” she stated. Moore then allegedly wrote in her yearbook a flirtatious note: “To a sweeter, more beautiful girl I could not say Merry Christmas. Christmas 1977, Love, Roy Moore, Old Hickory House.”
    She says that a week or two later, she was working at the restaurant and her shift ended at 10 p.m.; she expected her boyfriend to pick her up, but he was late. Moore offered to drive her home. Her account then continued, as she broke down in tears:
    Mr. Moore was wearing brown hush puppies on his feet. He drove a 2-door car. I believe it was an old car, but I do not recall the model. I got into his car in the passenger seat and he began driving. I thought he would get on the highway but instead he drove to the back of the restaurant. I was not immediately alarmed as there was an exit from the back of the restaurant to the street, and he could drive there to my house without getting on the highway…He stopped the car. He stopped the car and he parked his car in between the dumpster and the back of the restaurant where there were no lights. There it was dark and it was deserted. I was alarmed and I immediately asked him what he was doing. Instead of answering my question, Mr. Moore reached over and began groping me, putting his hands on my breasts. I tried to open my car door to leave, but he reached over and locked it so I could not get out. I tried fighting him off, while yelling at him to stop, but instead of stopping he began squeezing my neck attempting to force my head onto his crotch. I continued to struggle. I was determined that I was not going to allow him to force me to have sex with him. I was terrified. He was also trying to pull my shirt off. I thought that he was going to rape me. I was twisting and struggling and begging him to stop. I had tears running down my face. At some point he gave up. He then looked at me and said, ‘You are a child. I am the District Attorney of Etowah County. If you tell anyone about this, no one will believe you.” He finally allowed me to open the car door and I either fell out or he pushed me out. I was on the ground as he pulled out of the parking area behind the restaurant. The passenger door was still open as he burned rubber pulling away leaving me laying there on the cold concrete in the dark. 
    Sounds credible. That would be a lot of detail for someone to fabricate. Plus, she's a Trump voter.

    Of course, she did herself no favors hiring the notorious Gloria Allred to represent her, and that fact has already figured in to dismissive remarks about her coming forward.

    But consider the recollections of Teresa Jones, who says that "it was common knowledge" among the Etowah County prosecutor's office that Moore dated high-school girls and that "everybody thought it was weird." Then there's the lame way Moore handled himself in the Hannity interview.

    The plain fact of the matter, and this is why I haven't posted much about this entire situation, is that no one has any way of knowing at this point how much, if any, of any of the allegations is true. Which leaves us with a lot of tiresome digging in of heels on either side of the want-him-to-win / want-him-to-go-away divide.

    There's a really foul element on the want-him-to-win side of the spectrum that hangs its justification for its position on a "greater-good" argument. Ann Coulter says it's important to drag him across the finish line because he'd vote for a wall. (You'll recall that she said she'd be cool with Trump performing abortions in the White House if he followed through on his tough campaign rhetoric about immigration.) David Horowitz says he's essential because it's always essential to defeat Democrats.

    But this is just a current crystallization of the boneheaded tribalism that passes for political engagement in post-America. The mindset that spurs Hannity and Schlichter to disparage a great mind and leader like Ben Sasse. The kind that gets Paul Ryan labeled a RINO or even a liberal in comment-thread rants. Every frustration or disappointment with any public figure warrants immediate banishment in the current climate.

    We don't know enough to draw etched-in-stone conclusions about Moore, but the LITD position is that it doesn't look good. But to those who consider themselves conservatives who are utterly convinced that Bill Clinton was the Harvey Weinstein of politics and are now taking the Coulter-Horowitz position, and, conversely, those who are utterly convinced that we have irrefutable evidence of a tawdry past replete with actual assault when there is the possibility that he is completely clean are blowing smoke.

    But, in 2017 post-America, that's no deterrent from weighing in at fevered decibels.