Tuesday, September 18, 2018

Briefs


Kavanaugh
Anybody who ever was a drunken high school boy can have no doubt that He Did It, whether he remembers it or not.  If he does remember, he'll lie about it — but far more disqualifying are the lies he already told during his 2006 confirmation hearings for the DC Circuit Court of Appeals, regarding his service in the Bush administration.  He was an adult by then, and presumably sober.

Trade War
China's threat to respond to the latest Tr*mpian tariff escalations by disrupting US supply chains must be taken very seriously, given that key components of important manufactured products just are not available outside of China.  Even unregenerate supply-siders like Larry Kudlow are able to see that; Our President, though, only will listen to his paleo-mercantilist trade advisor, Peter Navarro.  Can mainstream corporatist Republicans stop them?  Maybe.  Maybe not.

Big Lie
Jaws agape, anybody who has been paying any attention at all over the past forty years stared in amazement as Our President declared that Democrats want to destroy Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security.  Will his base believe him?  As Hitler wrote in Mein Kampf, "in the primitive simplicity of their minds they more readily fall victims to the big lie than the small lie, since they themselves often tell small lies in little matters but would be ashamed to resort to large-scale falsehoods." 

Thursday, September 6, 2018

"Adults in the Room"


Now that a "senior official in the Trump Administration" has assured us that there are some in the White House who "have vowed to thwart the president's worst impulses," I suppose we're all supposed to feel better.  Indeed, it's good to know that somebody will try to stop Our President should he decide to nuke North Korea (or Canada), but that is small comfort when the so-called "adults in the room" all are Republican loyalists.  It would be absurd to expect contemporary Republicans, wholly captured by the corporations and the super-rich, to control what the anonymous Times editorialist calls "the root of the problem... the president's amorality."

Corporations, by their nature, are amoral.  They exist solely to generate profits for their investors, and their political activities are directed towards that same goal.  The Republican Party has served them well, especially under the current administration, with regulatory rollbacks, attacks on organized labor, and massive, permanent cuts in their tax liability.  The Supreme Court was stacked in their favor even before Gorsuch and Kavanaugh, and looks likely to remain that way for a long time.

Corporate political operatives might have preferred President Scott Walker, President Marco Rubio, or even President Ted Cruz, but they needed Tr*mp to win.  They needed Tr*mp the demagogue to mobilize the fear and the anger that drove the 2016 election — and if that meant putting up with somebody who "is impetuous, adversarial, petty and ineffective," so be it.  Given his limited intellectual capacity and curiosity, they thought he would be easy enough to control once in office: Ryan and McConnell would take care of business while the new president played golf.

It didn't work out that way.  Tr*mp has been so outrageous, so dangerous and divisive, that the "adults in the room" can't keep him under control.  He has become a threat to the Republican Party, and a threat to corporate hegemony: even corporatist Democrats are being pushed aside by those further to their left.

It is possible that the Times editorial was the opening salvo in an effort to jettison Tr*mp by those who brought him to power.  We might never know for sure, but it will be interesting to see what develops between now and Election Day.

Wednesday, September 5, 2018

Catholics in Crisis


Power struggles have been characteristic of the Roman Catholic hierarchy throughout the history of the Church, but the Church typically kept its internal conflicts contained.  Recent events, though, have created the greatest threat to unity since the Protestant Reformation.  The open letter to Pope Francis from Archbishop Carlo Maria ViganĂ² bears little resemblance to Luther's 95 Theses, but may prove equally disruptive.  Backed by American  Catholic conservatives, who have much more in common with Evangelical protestants than with the Jesuits and other relative liberals who back Francis, ViganĂ² is calling on Francis to resign.

While the current hostilities appear centered on who knew what about the sex life of the now-discredited Cardinal McCarrick, the real conflict is more fundamental: Francis and the liberals want to keep the Church relevant to modern worshipers; the conservatives want to keep it pure.  While  everybody condemns the priestly diddling of altar boys, it is the liberal suggestion that divorced Catholics might somehow receive Holy Communion that drives conservatives insane with rage.

To hold the interest of the laity, though, it's best to keep the conversation about sex; so the Church's worldwide pedophile problem gets the most attention.  The conservatives claim the root cause was too much tolerance for homosexuals, while the liberals blame "clericalism" — the idea that priests assert too much power and authority.

The Church always has attracted homosexuals because it has been a socially acceptable refuge for those temperamentally incapable of heterosexual family life.  Some know they are gay to begin with, some discover it in the single-sex environment of the seminary, and some are the self-hating variety whose militant denial makes them natural conservatives.

For the pedophile, though, joining the Church may be less about sanctuary than about opportunity —  the unquestioning trust the devout invest in those with "spiritual authority."  It is a power all too easy to abuse, so Francis and the liberals are right to blame "clericalism" — but blaming clericalism is not a solution.  Without his spiritual authority, a priest is just another ordinary man, and the power structure of the Church as a whole is undermined.

While nobody currently can be sure just who knew what about whom, it seems obvious that every institution that lays claim to moral authority feels pressured to cover up moral lapses; and that the broader and more complex the institutional structure, the more elaborate the coverups will be.  For now, Francis opts for silence, possibly concerned that anything he says could provoke genuine schism within his Church.  Whether or not he can come up with a better response remains to be seen.