Tuesday, December 8, 2020

Melissa Maricich with a Marian hymn

Worth re-posting today (The holy name referenced in the hymn title is the name of God, but the hymn by John Michael Talbot is a paraphrase of Mary's "Magnificat" as recorded in Luke 1:46-56). This was beautifully recorded a few years ago:

Saturday, December 5, 2020

An Advent read

Mystery of the Magi: The Quest to Identify the Three Wise MenMystery of the Magi: The Quest to Identify the Three Wise Men by Dwight Longenecker
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This myth-busting book makes a wonderful Advent read, and Fr. Dwight Longenecker's enthusiasm for his own archeological and scriptural detective work is contagious. I came away from the book convinced that its thesis about the Magi being envoys from the Nabatian kingdom of King Aretas IV has considerable merit.

Longenecker's insights about the politics and economics of the ancient Middle East are fascinating. A chapter on the Star of Bethlehem starts muddled by dint of having to sift through half a dozen theories in as many pages, but eventually makes the case for the star (or planet or comet) being one of several significant astronomical events that the wise men viewed through a well-developed astrological and cultural lens.

Fortunately for all concerned, Longecker understands myth-busting as a handmaid of Truth rather than as a label that iconoclasts give their temper tantrums. The infancy narrative in the Gospel according to Saint Matthew is ultimately strengthened and deepened by this informative work.

The only missed opportunity here (it seems to me) is that although he's writing for non-specialists, Longenecker never explains the wiggle room in what became the divide between BC and AD notation. It's all well and good to point out that Jesus was born during the reign of Herod the Great, but lay readers may do double-takes if they know Latin abbreviations well enough to wonder why "Anno Domini" usage apparently suffers from a five- or six-year rounding error.

Tuesday, December 1, 2020

Poetry (and fur) in motion

"Pink" the Border Collie defended her title in the Agility championships (16" class) at the Westminster Dog Show held less than a week ago. Big kudos also to her dedicated "mom" and handler, Jennifer Crank. Both the canine and the human make Ohio proud. Their example of elite competition-level zoomies is beautiful in every sense of the word:

Thursday, November 19, 2020

A satirist who understands

"Conservative Momma" explains why this election was decided by the American people but is being arbitrated in court, very possibly the Supreme Court.


She gets it. And she's funny. The funny is subjective, of course, but this is how I know she gets it:
Last but not least:













Most of the foregoing is also summarized in graphic form by Doug Ross. There are rebuttals of sorts out there, but they don't rebut the broad outlines of the cause for consternation. 

Tuesday, November 17, 2020

Double feature movie night

I don't typically do double features, and of course movie theaters closed down in the wake of state edicts about groups of people gathering indoors in time of pandemic. But when the best person you know is recovering from a double mastectomy that followed six months of chemotherapy, and you get to love her through the whole ordeal --well, routines change, especially when she's trying to take her mind off stitches.

Saturday night in the living room, we enjoyed two different but surprisingly compatible movies: The Doctor (from 1991) and The Life Ahead (from earlier this year). 

William Hurt and Mandy Patinkin were in the older movie, while Sophia Loren returned to the screen for the first time in many years for the more recent film (in Italian with English subtitles).

Both movies are worth watching -- or watching again, as the case may be.

In the world of episodic media, aka TV, we've enjoyed re-runs of Chip and Joanna Gaines' flagship program, Fixer Upper.

Saturday, November 7, 2020

Blueprint for the machine

 

Writing for Epoch Times but excerpted at Instapundit, Michael Walsh explains election theft:

"The mechanism was simple: Flood the electorate with unsolicited ballots due to the “pandemic,” establish collection points from which they could be scooped up and monitored, sit back to watch the honest electorate stand socially distanced at the polls in the mistaken belief that Election Day actually meant something anymore... 

[then] count into the wee hours, suddenly “suspend” the tallies while figuring out exactly how many votes would be needed to erase Trump’s lead over time, and then declare Biden the winner."

Walsh also has solid suggestions for more housecleaning at the Department of Justice and the CIA. I like that he's not afraid to say that Attorney General Bill Barr is "starting to make Jeff Sessions look good." And he's not enamored with the allegedly straight-shooting John Durham, either, because that so-called "straight shooter" (U.S. attorney for the District of Connecticut allegedly looking into the origins of the 'Crossfire Hurricane' coup attempt against Donald Trump) seems also to be a slow walker, figuratively speaking. 

Indictments handed down several months ago would have been hard to ignore. Indictments handed down now will be buried as fast as the few stories about Hunter Biden's laptop were. Meanwhile, FBI Director Christopher Wray and CIA Director Gina Haspel, who were mentored by some very sketchy people, seem to have allegiance only to the administrative state of which they're both a disreputable part. 

Funny, isn't it, how Donald Trump has had to face so much opposition from within government itself? The root of the problem there lies with the Obamas, who never had the good grace to leave Washington, D.C. after Barack's two presidential terms were over, and seem to have been running a kind of government-in-exile ever since. The lecturer-in-chief initially assumed that he was his own legacy, then realized that interest charged on everything he purchased with a race card would tarnish that legacy. Now he's got coastal property in Martha's Vineyard, minions in high places, and book writing to think about.

"No drama Obama" was always a fa├žade, anyhow, else Barack would not also have bragged at a fundraiser with NBA players in 2012 that he was very rarely "the 5th- or 6th most interesting person" in any room, or gleefully reminded Republicans who questioned his penchant for executive orders that he had a pen, and he had a phone, and "elections have consequences." 

Barack and Michelle have always yearned to be among Carol Baskin's "cool cats and kittens." That they felt that way even before Baskin became a minor celebrity can be deduced from Michelle's observation that her husband's political success marked the first time in her adult life that she was "really proud" of her country -- as though the rest of us had finally made good on a debt owed. I'll grant that the Obamas are too young for the Berlin Airlift to have made an impression on them, but it's telling that things like the warm popular reception for Purple Rain, the formal end to the Cold War, the stellar career of Oprah Winfrey, and the rise of the iPhone never registered as things to be proud of, either.

Now argument (as opposed to random commentary) is in short supply, but the Democrats seem bent on turning Joe Biden into the "Commander in Thief." When American citizens with roots in Venezuela take to Twitter to say that they've seen this movie before, and when the President of Mexico has to remind Fox News and other bastions of the mainstream media that our election isn't over yet, then you know you've been played by people in both major parties who really do consider you "deplorable." And the same people want you to forget that Al Gore litigated his election loss for 37 days, as Governor Kristi Noem helpfully reminded George Stephanopoulos.

Neither major U.S. political party has cornered the market on virtue, and neither one can, but those with eyes to see have noticed that the Donkey party since 2016 has become far more authoritarian than the Elephant party.

The always-acerbic Kurt Schlichter put it this way: "Reject the gaslighting. This election was not normal. It was not regular. It was not worthy of your blind deference. Is it some sort of coincidence that all the problems arose in big urban centers in swing states run exclusively by Democrats? ...Texas could do it right in one night. Florida could do it. The swing states? Not so much."

Thursday, November 5, 2020

It comes down to words again

It almost always comes down to words, because words are windows into worldviews. Here's Andrew McCarthy's summary of the current goings-on:

“Every vote counts” is yet another semantic battle the Left has won before the right even realized it was on. And winning the semantic battle usually means winning the policy battle.

Of course, it is not suppression to oppose the counting of votes that should not count because they are not lawful. Yet Democrats succeed in putting Republicans on the defensive because Republicans do not want to be smeared as vote suppressors . . . especially when, inevitably, Democrats and the media will intimate that any effort to enforce election law as written is suppression driven by racial animus."

McCarthy's right about that.

Thinking along similar lines, Daniel Greenfield is also worth reading, and for him the key word in this election was "racist," because Democrats tried hard to paint Republicans with that threadbare brush despite mountains of evidence to the contrary. (As one Internet wag put it, every blot on the American national character -- slavery, segregation, and abortion -- either is now or once was a part of the Democrat party platform). 

Perhaps the only thing that Greenfield's analysis misses is the impact of "panic porn," which is what we got for eight months because of the way the media mishandled reporting on Wuhan Coronavirus cases with scant attention to recovery rates, context, or risk management.

Another example of a semantic struggle surfaced in Newsweek magazine, which described courageous Catholic priests as "hostile" to a Biden presidency.

One wonders what John Leo would say (although Maureen Mullarkey's tribute to him gives strong hints).

Sunday, November 1, 2020

Steve Hilton with a closing argument

Hilton makes a persuasive case in just a few minutes here.


Daniel Greenfield has also noted what happens when you pit love against hate, or MAGA against the 1619 Project.

Tyler O'Neil's election thinking is a lot like my own. And I agree with Neo, too.

With respect to COVID-19 (Wuhan coronavirus) specifically, Matt Margolis has done yeoman work cataloging progressive lies about the Trump administration's pandemic response.

Saturday, October 24, 2020

Biblical Hollywood?

 This is from the novel, A Star is Bored, by Byron Lane. The mother of a movie star (herself a star back in the day) has taken enough of a shine to her daughter's new personal assistant to warn him about her:

"Dear, I have some advice," Miss Gracie says, leaning forward only a few centimeters, but she may as well have come nose-to-nose with me; she's that engaging. "You're family now, so I can share this with you. You know the story about the man who wanted to fly, so he made wings out of wax, but he flew too high and the sun melted the wax and he fell back down to earth and landed flat on his ass in front of Jesus? It's in the Bible."

"I'm thinking, That's not the Bible. I'm thinking, Do not correct her."

Friday, October 23, 2020

Scattershot and ideological, methinks

 Years ago, I thought his book Bobos in Paradise was amusing even if blinkered in the way it used white-collar workers in the Acela Corridor as templates for pronouncements about changes in American culture. Since then, however, Bobos author David Brooks has been on a long glide into self-parody. 

Brooks is the guy who in 2005 was much taken with Barack Obama's "perfectly creased pants leg" after an interview. In a recent puff piece for The Atlantic titled "Bruce Springsteen and the Art of Aging Well," Brooks takes a gratuitous swipe at President Trump before strewing rhetorical flowers at Spingsteen's feet:

"President Donald Trump is a prime example of an unsuccessful older person," Brooks writes, "-- one who still lusts for external validation, who doesn't know who he is, who knows no peace." 

Sheesh. That's amateur psychoanalysis at its most disposable, not to say hilarious. Donald Trump seems to know exactly who he is. More than that, he seems comfortable with  himself (as does his very different but complementary Vice President, by the way). Heck, Trump seems to appreciate people who are comfortable with themselves (not least among them Melania Trump), and you can't do that if you're insecure. How Brooks missed that when it's been on public display as long as it has, I'm not sure. Why he missed it is easier to explain -- the man has axes to grind, and they have nothing to do with Bruce Springsteen's latest album. Perhaps the "problem" is that Trump does not care to be validated by the same people that Brooks does. Cocktail party invitations don't mean as much to bar owners as to partygoers who are still looking for signs that their phone calls get returned.

"The Boss" may indeed have life lessons to teach us, but it's hard to stomach Brooks' sycophancy knowing that Bruce has said he'd be on "the next plane to Australia" if American election results don't meet with his approval. Whatsa matter, boss man? You've already got your mansion on a hill. Do ya still feel like you're a rider on a downbound train?

Thursday, October 15, 2020

Of viruses and political ops

The indispensable Ace has this to say today: "Covid is not a medical story -- not in the American media. It hasn't been for some time. It's mostly a Political Op now, as far as media coverage. Only Republican gatherings have been portrayed in the media as spreading Covid for some time now. Apparently left-wingers are immune to the virus."

And let's not forget that co-blogger J.J. Sefton brought the heat (with an assist from Megan Fox at the link) earlier:

"Amazing how every lie, smear and accusation against Trump was front-page stop-the-presses news and allowed to flow on Twitter and Facebook freely along with calls for violence against Trump and his supporters. Yet this [new story from the New York Post about Joe Biden's corruption and his son's grift] was immediately censored because, reasons!"

I expect the Democrats and Republicans to run political ops on each other, in the old Mad Magazine "Spy vs. Spy" fashion. But now we know that vast swaths of federal law enforcement and investigative machinery have been corrupted to run political ops as well. It's equally disconcerting to realize that any line between news and opinion was erased three presidential terms ago, when the media slobbered over Barack Obama in ways that Joe "That's storybook, man!" Biden would have approved (and likely did, when he was still among the silverware, albeit not the sharpest knife in the drawer).

Sunday, October 11, 2020

Groovy tunes

 "Just Right Radio" (WPTK) lived up to its name recently, at least as far as I'm concerned:

  • She Loves You (The Beatles)
  • Sister Golden Hair (America)
  • Sloop John B (The Beach Boys)
  • To Love Somebody (The Bee Gees)
  • Here We Go Again (Ray Charles)
  • Stand by Your Man (Tammy Wynette)
I especially like the Hammond B3 organ that Billy Preston plays for Ray Charles in Here We Go Again; it sounds like what you'd hear at a funky evangelical Christian church service.

On a related note (ha!), Badfinger's "Day After Day" entered Jamel's reaction library as another data point in his quest to "keep great music alive". Not for nothing did that jovial man say, "I'm getting a Beatles feel from these brothas." I'm pretty sure that people who commented in his channel have since explained the ties between those two bands to Jamel.

Lessons from songwriters

Pope Francis could learn from the songcraft of Lionel Richie, Michael Jackson, and Jackson Browne, I've decided.

Sunday, October 4, 2020

Favorite answers on Quora

In no particular order (although chronological comes close), here are my favorite answers to questions on Quora:

  1. What is the definition of "covfefe"?
  2. What [are] the criteria to be considered Christian?
  3. When was the last time America had a candid discussion with itself?
  4. What was the wisest thing Jesus ever said?
  5. What is the difference between out of pocket and off the cuff?
  6. How does Mathew 20:6 square with Paul's ministry?
  7. Is Amy Coney Barrett too religious for the Supreme Court?
  8. What is the 'soul of the nation,' and what would it mean to save it?
  9. Is there a difference between Christianity and Catholicism?

Friday, September 11, 2020

Credo

I believe that "covid-19" is a deliberately anodyne and ultimately deceptive substitute for "Wuhan coronavirus."

I believe the University of Notre Dame was wrong to disavow what (former) Coach Lou Holtz said at the recent Republican National Convention, and wrong to have made Joe Biden and John Boehner co-winners of its once-prestigious Laetare Medal in 2016.

I believe that Raleigh's mayor and police chief are too timid in their kid-glove approach to rioting and vandalism, and neither should say "But Portland" or "But Seattle" because those are low bars to clear.

I believe that journalism has been undone by lazy assertions that devolve into "who you gonna believe, me or your lying eyes?"

I believe that military veterans running for political office should bring more to the table than just their military service.

I believe that comedian Frank De Lima (still with us) and missionary priest Fr. Damien de Veuster (gone to glory & acknowledged as a saint) know more about the spirit of aloha than lots of other people with roots in the Aloha State.

I believe that the Electoral College continues to play a valuable role in American life as an inspired hedge against tyranny of the majority.

I believe that the mountain dulcimer, the autoharp, and the washtub bass are underrated musical instruments.

I believe that most election-year "fact checking" is partisan hackery under color of authority.

I believe that psychological projection and the ability to turn even a balloon animal into a shiv are Democrat superpowers.

I believe that Sister Doctor Colonel Deidre Byrne has the same quiet strength that Mother Teresa did, and that's not a coincidence. 

I believe that "I Believe in Angels" is the most underrated ABBA song.

I believe the Oxford comma still punches far above its weight.

I believe that barbecue sauce should be vinegar-based rather than tomato-based (in this state, that puts me with the East Carolina crowd).

I believe that journalism would improve if there were no journalism schools.

I believe that media relations should be part of the curriculum at every urban or suburban police academy, because trouble always starts when commanders let activists who've never worn a badge frame criminal profiling as racial profiling.

I believe it would be great fun to chat with Mike Rowe, Hershel Walker, and Benjamin Franklin.

I believe that the IPA and the Gose are wildly overrated styles of beer.

I believe that the golden age of comic strips was relatively short, like the golden age of piracy -- but I'm sure glad I grew up in the overlap between Peanuts, The Far Side, and Calvin and Hobbes.

I believe that honest scholars laugh at the idea of "safe spaces" in universities, precisely because learning should be an adventure.

I believe that President Trump deserves the Nobel Peace Prize.

I believe that singing competitions are silly. But if you insist on having one just for fun, I'll draft Linda Ronstadt, Ann Wilson, and Deborah Liv Johnson for my women's team, and Sam Cooke, Bobby King, and James Keelaghan for my men's team. Then we can sit around appreciating and being uplifted by the talent of a bunch of other people, too.

Saturday, August 29, 2020

The year of living dangerously

Winter was notable for the political theater of a groundless impeachment, and spring turned surreal when North Carolina's feckless governor forbade indoor gatherings of more than 10 people beginning at 5:00 pm on St. Patrick's Day, but the front end of 2020 turned out to be a warm-up act for everything since. 

It's been a summer of "chemo and covid," as we sometimes say around here -- but the chemotherapy is almost done, and my sweetheart is a total trouper who always has gumption enough to refer to her treatment days as "healing days." Doxorubicin is a helluva drug.

Naturally, there were no vacations to speak of. My "road trip" was a two-day "there and back" to Lexington, Kentucky early in July, transporting a young adult and an even younger Ball Python, not to mention "mice on ice" in case the snake got hungry.

Uncle Jim hangs his hat just on the other side of the RDU airport most of the year, but I haven't seen him since we watched the movie Richard Jewell together, in lieu of the Ford vs. Ferrari he thought we were going to see (they're both good movies, and he was a sport about it). The last film I saw in a movie theater was this year's nifty remake of The Call of the Wild, and Lisa wore a winter coat to that screening. 

My son and I are now housemates. We make do without air conditioning while we listen to video game mayhem or the rising and falling susurration of the cicadas that marks Carolina this time of year. Fireflies still twinkle at dusk, and sometimes through moonrise. Going to work for me means booting up a computer on the dining room table. Going to work for him means pulling on a grocery store uniform, now that food service is moribund.

Daughter scrapes by in an apartment one town over with a boyfriend whom I haven't yet met. She's a surprisingly philosophical nanny. I still smile about our Fathers' Day picnic together, when each child drove separately to the park we'd chosen for that event. We were masked except when partaking from a bucket of Popeye's Chicken or the fixings that go with it. Lisa the Wonderful saved all the energy she could muster to help make the day special, as she so often does.

We shelved Disney World dreams indefinitely. Trips to the grocery store or the coffee shop with the drive-up window became events.The jovial former pastor of my parish retired with none of the fanfare he would have been feted with in normal times. 

Closer to home, Lisa and I watched house sparrows fledge from a nest built into a wreath on the front door. We also spent anxious nights on a bad weekend awaiting the return of a runaway teenager. 

But unforeseen developments can help with perspective if you let them (as writer Joel D. Hirst has done), and I'm getting better at finding grace in big things (the kid returned safely) and small ones (there are sometimes affogatos for dessert). Carrying a camera around helps.

"Attitude, not aptitude, determines altitude," as Mr. Jack Khoury used to say to his high school students, dramatically enunciating all three syllables for each of those words, and looking a little cooler than a pudgy middle-aged guy with a comb-over and black plastic eyeglass frames should have been able to.

In a season sorely lacking live musical performance, it sure was fun to see my old harmonica teacher fit to bust about his sons and their sibling band, "The Brothers Gage." 

Those chip-off-the-old block teenagers made it to the semifinals of "America's Got Talent," and performed on air for that show's celebrity judges, including the estimable Mr. Simon Cowell, before he broke his back. Watching their national debut was a treat.

I almost signed up for an intensive songwriting workshop taught over three days by Mr. Jonathan Byrd of local band Jonathan Byrd and the Pickup Cowboys, but next spring's HVAC replacement project and current adventures in cosigning for student loans have stronger claims on my bank account. Sallie Mae has no patience for people who fall behind in loan payments -- which I knew but Thomas now does, too.

Summer Olympics were canceled and outdoor exercise turned solo for most people, yet the Camp Gladiator trainers who were most effective in person still bring their A-game to "virtual" workouts. Andy, Bree, Lizzie, and Amy rock.

Other Gladiator coaches do, too, but those four still lead workouts at times I can actually make, and what I did this summer was earn a limited edition "Better Together" t-shirt. Grinding out burpees, bear crawls, and "Johnny Cs" still seems like a better idea than strolling past boarded-up shops in downtown Raleigh.

The men's prayer group of which I'm part (we pray the rosary, yo!) continues meeting weekly, though none of us realized back in February that we might not again see the inside of Panera Bread anytime soon. We didn't know that a beloved neighborhood pub would go belly-up, either. 

I miss the pub more than the bakery. At least Zoom video makes it possible for prayer peeps now living in other states to rejoin our fellowship when their schedules permit. Lord knows there's no shortage of things to pray for and about, especially in an election year.

Mom's slowing down, yet relatively healthy for her age. Da's sneaking up on 83, but the calendar can see him coming from darn near the horizon. Although he tested positive for the Wuhan coronavirus almost a month ago, he's been blessedly symptom-free of that. His recurring leg and head wounds are of more concern to my siblings and I, not least because the vascular specialist Da had an appointment with would not see him after the covid-19 diagnosis came back while Da was in the man's waiting room. What a weenie. 

"Assisted living," like "safetyism," ain't what it's cracked up to be.Two phone calls ago, Da described his extra-special-super-lockdown as "wretched, miserable, and lonely." He agreed that he is woefully short of minions. Thank goodness my flight attendant sister is just as feisty as he is, and not averse to rattling the cages that need rattling in Arizona. My brother -- he of the background in academic negotiation -- backs her up.

Echoing what the rabbi said

Sister Dede brings the fire

Rabbi and lawyer Dov Fischer wrote perceptively about the contrast between the just-concluded RNC 2020 and the DNC "virtual convention" of the week before:

"As an overriding general feeling, the Republicans were so much more live and alive, while the Democrats seemed so much more taped and tapped out."

You know there's something to that analysis -- and Melissa Mackenzie's concurrence with it -- when you see the usual suspects in high dudgeon, as the following snips show:



The general rule for me is that if the Washington Post, CNN, and the New York Times all dismiss something as crass or deceitful, it's probably honest and dangerous to their shared ideology. When the mainstream media doth protest too much, then you know the speech they're protesting was over the target.
President Trump's team has the enviable luxury of support from Kristi Noem, Hershel Walker, Rick Grennell, Pam Bondi, Daniel Cameron, Maximo Alvarez, Lou Holtz, and Sister Deidre Byrne. That lineup is by no means exhaustive, but it's solid.  
People who insist that POTUS is an amoral clown either haven't been paying attention or are stuck in a time warp. When Herschel Walker says that he (Hershel) is a good judge of character, I believe him. Unlike Nikki Haley, he hasn't tried to position himself as a moderate. And I notice that in this case, he also agrees with Sister Byrne. That's game, set, and match for DJT in the character reference department, as far as I'm concerned, even before you get to the existential questions.

Wednesday, August 26, 2020

Like children playing gotcha

Two nights into the Republican National Convention, it's plain to see that progressive commentary about anything even vaguely Trumpian can't be trusted. Sadly, that pattern won't change over the remaining two nights of the convention.

I was particularly amused to see that the lead news item at The Daily Beast this morning has nothing to do with the case that senior adviser Larry Kudlow made for the economic policy he helped POTUS advance. Instead, editors there breathlessly noted that "Trump Adviser Larry Kudlow Refers to Coronavirus Pandemic in Past Tense." Sheesh. God forbid anyone should refer to the pandemic in past tense until every American has been vaccinated against the Wuhun coronavirus, perhaps?

Meanwhile, almost every speech at the convention so far has been better than I had expected it to be. With the exception of First Lady Melania Trump's impressively heartfelt talk last night, the addresses have also been shorter than standard convention fare, also -- and that's a smart move.

Night One luminaries included Maximo Alvarez, Hershel Walker, Andrew Pollack, Jim Jordan, Natalie Harp, Tim Scott, and Kim Klacik. I'd never even heard of three of them before, but all were wonderful. A golden thread-- knowledge of history-- linked each of their different speeches. 

Night Two (i.e., last night) brought the aforementioned home run from Melania Trump, plus great stuff from Abby Johnson, Pam Bondi, Daniel Cameron, Larry Kudlow, Rand Paul, and a Maine lobsterman named Jason Joyce. Even Covington Catholic High School alumnus Nick Sandmann, young as he is, was well worth hearing.

Two of the speeches last night might even be called life-changing. Abby Johnson described abortion as it has never been described in prime time before, and Jon Ponder's story of redemption through faith put a human face on the criminal justice reform that is one of this administration's under-reported achievements. (Speaking of which, I keep up with current events more than the average bear, but I knew nothing about the "Right to Try" legislation signed into law in May 2018 until Natalie Harp mentioned it earlier this week. WRAL, you let me down!) 

The RNC so far has been putting on a clinic in effective political outreach, both to its base and to any "undecideds". Stories alleging that this administration has a vested interest in being "divisive" are misleading at best.

Saturday, August 22, 2020

Yahoo needs editors

The screen grab is from Yahoo yesterday. Malapropism though this is, it almost fits the context, because Penn's penchant might well affect any pension he has.

 

Saturday, August 15, 2020

A soundtrack life

Driving through a lightning storm the other night was entertaining. It came with a smattering of rain, but not so much that I had to keep the windshield wipers agitated for 35 miles, so that was good. The car radio kept me company, although I bopped back and forth between two different stations, as is my habit:

  • Ray Charles, You Win Again
  • Aerosmith, Sweet Emotion
  • Green Day, Basket Case
  • AC/DC, Highway to Hell
  • Commodores, Night Shift
  • Huey Lewis and the News, Power of Love
Bonus track: Jefferson Starship, Miracles

On the way to chemotherapy early the next morning, Lisa and I had a chance to sing along with Simon & Garfunkel while they were singing "Mrs. Robionson." 

And Lisa passed her chemo test, which meant she could actually receive treatment. Intimidating as that toxic cocktail of chemicals is, that it was successfully administered means we're one big step closer to finishing her 20-week treatment regimen (not counting surgery).

Sweetheart is winning her fight against cancer smack in the middle of covid-19, and for that we are profoundly grateful.

Tuesday, August 11, 2020

The man is not also a malady

 I had some fun debunking the idea that "Trumpism" is an actual condition that people suffer from. The same piece has a few thoughts on which Republicans might become party standard-bearers after Donald Trump leaves politics.

This news item from Neo about Trump's recent use of executive orders seems related. POTUS created a payroll tax holiday and mandated the continuation of enhanced unemployment benefits.

Tuesday, August 4, 2020

Kudos to grammarians at Pep Boys

"We go further to help you go farther" seems to be their new slogan. The distinction between those two adjectives is often missed, but those purveyors of after-market automotive equipment did not miss it. Well played!

UPDATE: I'm also partial to mondegreens.

Thursday, July 16, 2020

Serious questions for WRAL

Hello, news producers! I'd like to believe your station's "facts, not fear" tagline with respect to the story of the year so far. I really would. But how come I haven't heard a single anchor or reporter talking about covid-19 statistics in our state ever question Governor Cooper's medical honcho, Dr. Mandy Cohen, about methodology, or mention what I now know that doctors call "co-morbidities"? 

How many covid-19 deaths are really covid-19 deaths? Is there anyone around the property who remembers enough philosophy to ask  about the difference between "necessary" and "sufficient"? Would (or do) any of you consider the possibility that even science might be (or has been) politicized?

Not just a fine band name

"Pandemic Overreaction" has given us a multitude of reasons to believe in the law of  unintended consequences, especially in this strangest of presidential election years. Five months into panicked municipal response to the Wuhan coronavirus, and we've already seen the demise or crippling of all of the following things:
  • Public houses (aka Pubs)
  • Printed church bulletins
  • Smorgasbords
  • Self-serve soda fountains
  • Honest journalism
  • Children's theatre
  • Concert venues
  • Gymnasiums
  • Spectator sports
  • Team sports
  • Historical memory
  • Public education
  • Freedom of speech, press, and peaceable assembly
  • Free exercise of (congregational) religion
  • Bar tending
  • Martial arts studios
  • Music festivals
  • Campaign rallies
  • Air shows
  • Home and garden tours 
  • Law and order
  • Summer camps
  • Reflexive allegiance to expert opinion

Monday, July 6, 2020

Art smarts

School Teacher / Jon Havickszoon Steen (circa 1668).
Favorite comments:
"So THIS is the 1619 Project" / 
"Cupcake Mommy is late today" /
"He's about to pop that kid in the head with the Great Spoon of Knowledge" / 
"We don't need no education; we don't need no thought control." /
"No one is writing with their left hand. Where are all the sinister children?" /
"No, no! It's I before E except after C." /
"You can write a story about every character there." /
"Homeschooling?"

Tuesday, June 23, 2020

Unexpected music

True stories that brightened my day:
  • Most of the signs in my local Korean grocery store are, naturally enough, in Korean. But on my most recent visit there, Loggins & Messina's "Your Mama Don't Dance and Your Daddy Don't Rock and Roll" was playing over store speakers while I shopped. Good times!
  • The higher-end fuel stations around here that serve both prepared and pre-packaged food still have their dining areas closed for the sake of pandemic precaution while North Carolina grapples with the Wuhan coronavirus. But there's something absurdly entertaining about eating tacos in a parking lot to the soundtrack of Blue Oyster Cult's "Burning for You."

Saturday, June 20, 2020

A fine film for Juneteenth

My queen and I enjoyed Miss Virginia last night. Virginia Walden Ford is not well known outside the ambit of education reform in the District of Columbia, but she's a woman worth celebrating, and the 2019 movie about her crusade for children does a good job of that.

Unrelated to education reform but in the spirit of Juneteenth, you might also want to check out The Help, from 2011. It's a good 'un!

Thursday, June 18, 2020

Provacateurs

These are, as Gerard Vanderleun notes, strange days. Erick Hoffer's great book "The True Believer" deserves re-reading, and not simply because it explains why Confederate statues aren't the only ones being ripped down

I find that a little recourse to first principles as articulated by sober-minded pundits who can also entertain helps -- along with prayer! -- to get through the times we're in. Here are memes, and here (below) are excerpts from some of the more thought-provoking essays I've read lately:

The long-term strategic objective of the leftists is to turn the United States into Venezuela, and they want to be Maduro. The major strategic objective that will put them in position to do so is victory in the November elections. Everything happening right now is part of their overall strategy to achieve that objective. But what kind of operation are they using to achieve that objective? There are two types of operations relevant here – kinetic and information. A kinetic operation is actual warfare. It’s violence designed to defeat the enemy and cause his surrender by either physically destroying him or occupying his territory and compelling surrender. An information operation is designed to affect the perceptions, and thereby the actions, of the target. Kinetic ops tend to do something to the enemy; and info op tends to get the target to do something to himself.

Elections are usually information operations.
-- Kurt Schlichter: This Leftist Tantrum is an Information Operation and Trump is Winning It

Christian conservatives have not triumphed. Rather, cultural defeat and the near-total exclusion of social conservatives from power in the Democratic Party have left us with no options except the GOP and a defensive crouch in the court system. Thus, we end up supporting anyone who will work with and protect us, whether he is a boorish real estate developer and TV personality or a Mormon technocrat with a pro-choice record.
-- Nathanael Blake: Christians Have Very Good Reasons to Fear an Increasingly Hostile American Regime

For too long we have tolerated — some of us out of good manners, some thinking it unimportant, some effectively co-opted by the Left, and some just plain cowards — lies about American history. In the process, we have forfeited our past. The argument that America is morally indefensible has pretty much won the day. Even those who can’t possibly believe it are too cowed to resist it.
-- H.W. Crocker: The Price of Lies

Would it be impolite to mention that every damn one of the Confederate commanders whom Petraeus wants to toss in the dustbin of history was a Democrat? And is it also out of line to note that a memorial to the 54th Massachusetts Regiment (an all-black unit that fought bravely for the Union in the Civil War) was recently vandalized by rioters claiming solidarity with Black Lives Matter? Neither public education nor progressive ideology recognizes irony.
-- Patrick O'Hannigan (yup, that 'graph is mine): Rename Fort Bragg? Don't Do It

There will be no end to these demands to remove statues, because they are not made in good faith. The people making them are not attempting to make a more just and harmonious world; they’re aiming to tear America down beyond its foundations.

But if [Doug] Bandow insists on serving the communist revolutionaries at his rope store, may I suggest he at least charge full retail prices? Before we accede to demands that statues of Lee, or Washington, or Columbus, or Lincoln, or any of America’s other founding figures, be obliterated from public view, can we at least get something for them beyond empty promises of peace in our time? Can we at least force the bowdlerizers to offer up a consideration or two?
-- Scott McKay: Disagreeing with Doug Bandow on Robert E. Lee

...most of what you read online today is pointless. It’s not important to your life. It’s not going to help you make better decisions. It’s not going to help you understand the world. It’s not going to help you develop deep and meaningful connections with the people around you. The only thing it’s really doing is altering your mood and perhaps your behavior.
-- Winifred Gallagher: Why You Should Stop Reading News

Sunday, May 31, 2020

Order and astronauts

I like David Warren's cogent take on current events, one of which is the SpaceX + NASA Demo-2 mission with astronauts Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley.

Six days later but in keeping with the theme in the heading for this entry, Neo turns a nice double play with help from the ever-reliable Thomas Sowell. And (as Neo also noted) David Horowitz remains a formidable thinker, so he's worth reading, too.

Monday, May 25, 2020

Music for Memorial Day

A twofer, just because.

First the Marine Band honors our country by playing the national march, which (as the conductor's introduction notes) was written by its most famous director, "the March King."



Second, the British a capella octet Voces8 covers Enya's hauntingly beautiful "May It Be," which was also a main theme in Peter Jackson's "Lord of the Rings" movies



The New Neo also has a wonderful musical Memorial Day tribute song posted.

And the PowerLine blog dusted off a beautiful essay about why we observe what we do.

Tuesday, May 19, 2020

The cult of expertise

Extreme reluctance to lift lockdown orders unless or until Wuhan coronavirus risk seems vanishingly small is not "following science," I don't think, even if our governor dresses it up that way.

Sunday, May 17, 2020

Swinging for the fences

We're not yet back to normal baseball yet, so I've had to content myself with people who swing metaphorical bats. Jules Gomes, Roger Kimball, and George Neumayr are formidable sluggers:

Gomes has had it with the way Pope Francis obfuscates:

When a girl told Francis she wanted to invite her unchurched friends to church, Francis grabbed his interfaith fire extinguisher and hosed down her evangelistic brio.

"It is not licit that you convince them of your faith; proselytism is the strongest poison against the ecumenical path," he chided. Then, with Jesuitical equivocation rivaled only by the Weird Sisters in Shakespeare's Macbeth, he added: "You must give testimony of your Christian life ... But without wanting to convince."

Kimball is working to keep miscreants from being dropped down our collective memory hole:

Let’s talk about John Brennan a bit. You remember John Brennan. He was Barack Obama’s director of the CIA. Once upon a time, he was an enthusiast for Gus Hall, the Communist candidate for president, for whom he voted in 1976. I can’t think of any better background for the head of the country’s premier intelligence service under Obama. In 2014, having put childish things behind him as St. Paul advised, Brennan spied on the Senate Intelligence Committee. He denied it indignantly. “Nothing could be further from the truth. We wouldn’t do that. That’s just beyond the scope of reason in terms of what we’d do.”

But that was before irrefutable evidence of the CIA’s spying transpired. Then Brennan apologized, sort of. Senators were outraged. They shook their little fists. “What did he know? When did he know it? What did he order?” asked one of the Lilliputians.

Guess what happened to John Brennan for spying on the Senate Intelligence Committee?

If you said “Nothing,” go to the head of the class and collect your gold star.

George Neumayr is relentlessly logical:

How exactly do “believers of every religion,” which means believers of contradictory religions, those who accept Jesus Christ and those who reject him, unite themselves “spiritually”? The pope didn’t bother to explain. Past popes would have regarded such an instruction as jaw-droppingly scandalous. But for Pope Francis, “human fraternity” is more important than orthodoxy.

Tuesday, May 12, 2020

Thanks, Mike

Mike "Dirty Jobs" Rowe is my generation's Eric Hoffer.

Dave Rubin got Rowe to talk about the unintended consequences of making a fetish of safety.

Mr. Rowe has also been kind to many different podcasters, including Lewis Howes.

I like the fact that Rowe says his career started at age 17, when he was failing out of high school shop classes. I also like that he has a bit of experience singing opera (!). Rowe's fascinating conversation with Howes makes me want to look up the work of bass baritone James Morris. Rowe is also familiar with Aristotle's definition of tragedy, and the problem with focus grouping everything ("you eliminate really bad ideas, and really good ones").

Words to live by: "Run toward the thing that makes you uncomfortable."

More detail: confront, get good at, then find a way to love it. Note that this is deeper than "follow your bliss." Rowe says you don't follow your bliss, or wonder what you're passionate about. The trick is to take your passion with you wherever you go -- and don't be so damn picky about what you apply it to.

"There's this narrative that goes on in the world today -- I'm generalizing -- that says if you're happy in your personal relationships, it's because you found your soul mate, and if you're happy in your professional relationship, it's because you found your dream job, and if you're happy in both, it's because you followed your passion. And I think all of that is a big steaming pile of crap."

Saturday, May 9, 2020

Alas! 'Tis no more

Pandemic response claimed a great little neighborhood pub, which will not be reopening its doors after North Carolina's restaurant restrictions are lifted sometime down the road.

I had a handful of friends who worked there, all of them aces at customer service.

It was also an honor to be fondly acquainted with one of the owners and his wife, and to see a favorite local band -- the Gravy Boys -- play regularly there.

It's not every pub that attracts two generations of the same family into the ranks of its employees, or hosts monthly jam sessions for students of Irish music.

The menu was limited but savory and seasonal. Beers on tap encouraged exploration, not least because bartenders like Kim and Sean understood their clientele. There were three large TVs in the pub, but they never dominated the space, because it was a watering hole rather than a sports bar (unless Irish football was making a run at one of the European championships).

You could eat there by yourself and not feel alone, or bring a loved one and be certain that the meal and the atmosphere would be memorably good. Regulars included people of all ethnicities and walks of life.

UPDATE: Jon Sanders of the John Locke Foundation (Raleigh) will also miss this place.

Thursday, May 7, 2020

Because words mean things

The use and misuse of language (more specifically, American English) has been a favorite theme of mine over the years. I was fortunate to have both high school and college teachers who emphasized precision, and were vigilant about exposing smoke and mirrors before grading down for it (remember Mark Twain's quip about the difference between lightning and "lightning bugs"?).

Here's a bookmark for variations on the theme of words meaning things in a clear and commonly understood way, rather than as Lewis Carroll's version of Humpty Dumpty or a rousing game of "Calvinball" would have it:
  • Lots of people are writing about "lockdown," but the linked essay is the pithiest I've seen
  • Maureen Mullarkey tackles love and hope to wonderful effect in one ambitious essay
  • Dennis Prager has some wise words about the difference between ignorance and evil
So much for the heavy lifting. There's fun to be had on the lighter side of the ledger, also:
Remember Janis Joplin singing "Freedom's just another word for nothing left to lose" in that great old song by Kris Kristofferson? Well, she was wrong, and Kristofferson wrote that evocative line as something that Bobbie (or Bobby) McGee's paramour would say while looking backward with regret.

A parting thought on this subject: With the exoneration of General Michael Flynn in (some of) the news as I write this, the redoubtable Katie Pavlich took issue with former president Barack Obama's oft-repeated claim that his administration was scandal-free. Her objections to that are reasonable, but it turns out that what Obama actually said was "We didn't have a scandal that embarrassed us." And if he learned to parse words as carefully as we might surmise, then his statement leaves wiggle room: who's to say Obama was embarrassed by things like Fast & Furious or Benghazi or the targeting of conservative groups by the IRS? He might not have been, either by temperament or because he knew that allies in the media were willing to carry water for him.

UPDATE. May 30: Voice matters, too. And when passive voice is used to obscure agency, it can be dishonest. Look no farther than the New York Times for examples of that.

Wednesday, May 6, 2020

Judge got all of it wrong

Dallas, TX hair salon owner Shelley Luther has run afoul of the law because she reopened her salon in defiance of edicts from local elected officials and Judge Eric Moye. Worse, she hurt the judge's feelings, and so was lectured in court to the effect that "you owe an apology to the elected officials who you disrespected by flagrantly ignoring, and in one case defiling, their orders you now know obviously apply to you."

Luther is now serving a week in prison.

If we knew nothing else about Judge Moye, we'd know from that statement that he's full of himself, and wants to appear smarter than he actually is. You can't "defile" a cease-and-desist order (even if you rip it up in pubic, as she did), because court orders are not sacred.

English 101, judge: "Defy" and "defile" are not the same thing.

Commenters over at the Ace of Spades blog -- like Glenn Beck, Rush Limbaugh, and some other people, both famous and obscure -- quickly noted Moye's judicial arrogance. Yes, the pouncing ("conservatives pounce") devolved into a "gotcha" game, and I'm sure there are people who now bemoan the coarsening of public discourse. But -- as even the Texas AG now acknowledges -- a proper understanding of American rights and freedoms is at stake, and I especially appreciated the following reactions:

"Did the judge strap a cage with rats in it to her face first?"

"Appointed by [former TX governor] Ann Richards. Of course."

"Rosa Parks and them fellas at the lunch counter would like a word."

"It's always important in Communist Show Trials that the accused admit their 'error' and 'selfishness' and affirm the correctness and legitimacy of the state. This clown needs to be disbarred and removed from office."

UPDATE, late on May 7: A happy ending, thanks to the Texas Supreme Court

Monday, May 4, 2020

My Pandemic Pals

A nice gesture from the USN and the USAF over NYC

These are the people whose YouTube videos helped make social distancing and other lockdown measures --including chemotherapy precautions -- easier (albeit not easy) to take.

Knowing they're out there helps keep me going until the end of sweetie's chemotherapy and the not-a-minute-too-soon return of live music, library hours, professional haircuts, pub food served on dark wooden tables, elective surgeries, community theater, road trips, baristas who work counters rather than drive-up windows, and hot / olive / salad bars in better supermarkets:
  • Matt and Savanna Shaw: The father-daughter singing team was new to me, and immediately showed itself worthy of a subscription. Two great voices in one household! Three cheers for family bands!
  • Rick Beato: His 'crazy musical uncle' shtick still works, even when I disagree with some of his choices (e.g., there's no way that John Lennon's pretentious "Imagine" or Sting's criminal-minded "Every Breath You Take" should be on ANY list of 'Top 20 Rock Ballads,' much less in higher positions than "Let it Be" and "She Talks to Angels")
  • Mary Chapin Carpenter: Songs she sings from her kitchen introduced the rest of us to Angus, the mellow golden retriever, and White Kitty, the striking feline whom Angus keeps company with. And she still sounds as resonant as she did when making hits in the Nineties. Artistry without artifice -- gotta love it.
  • Local talent Jonathan Byrd is an old hand at livestream video concerts, but where he really comes into his own is in the "Byrd Word," his thoughtful weekly email to fans.
  • Billy Strings: I found this guitar wizard via Tommy Emmanuel, himself a grandmaster on that instrument, and wow! But Strings can sing, too. As one fan noted, "He's like a cross between Roy Rogers and Stevie Ray Vaughan." 
  • The winsome  "MonaLisa Twins" have covered both Pink Floyd and David Bowie to very good effect.

I would be remiss if I didn't also note a few filmmakers, because I enjoyed the following movies on a little screen:

Sunday, May 3, 2020

Tom dismantles the Karens

They had it coming, and (as noted approvingly by Mr. Vanderleun) Mr. Luongo is a sharp observer:

A Karen is a person, usually [but not always] a woman, who is never satisfied with the service she’s receiving and demands to talk to the manager. It doesn’t matter if Karen’s complaints are valid or not.

This is because Karen has been incentivized by cowardly corporate officers and government officials (but, I repeat myself) to get something she doesn’t deserve simply because they want her to shut up and not disturb everyone else.

It was one thing to indulge Karen her entitled behavior when she was getting a free order of fries or month of cable. It’s quite another when Karens become the State’s target audience for public policy.

[...]


...when we really look at how we’ve responded to COVID-19 it’s clear that the people behind the lock down of hundreds of millions of people knew they would have an army of Karens screaming on Twitter to ‘flatten the curve’ and quote bogus statistics they don’t understand from official smart people to justify giving full flower to their inner harpy.

You know who I’m talking about. These are the suburban women ratting out their neighbors for not social distancing, for *gasp* walking their dog or *gasp gasp* letting their kids play in the yard!

And that has enabled the worst people in the world to destroy the global economy because a bunch of frightened Karens can’t cope with the stress of living. The State cannot have people engaging in peaceful noncompliance with their edicts.

Monday, April 27, 2020

Lockdown as prison or as prism

Laura Welsh has an interesting take on our current situation, together with keen observation of a great movie (2017's Darkest Hour):

"Human interaction on a grand scale is what fuels extroverts. Their natural ability to cope with challenges depends heavily on being in large groups of people. When removed from crowds and sequestered in place, extroverts lose their steam and their gut-instincts become harder to discern.  Grounded extroverts are not at the top of their game."

Meanwhile, in what amounts to providing covering fire for the deeply problematic WHO (World Health Organization), Bill Gates laments nationalist impulses around the globe as "unhelpful framing" of our current situation. His own bias mirrors that of multinational corporations, in that he seems more enthusiastic about being a "citizen of the world" than he is about his own American citizenship, very possibly because he's accepted the progressive lie that conflates patriotism with jingoism or even national socialism. Patriotism is neither of those things. A bigger dose of it in our ruling class would have helped, for example, the beleaguered medical device industy.

In a related issue, we now know that many political journalists don't understand federalism. (I don't want mainstream media figures to 'learn to code' -- I want them to remember how to decode our founding documents. It's not that hard. A little philosophy from somewhere other than the Frankfurt School won't hurt. Neither would a little honesty or humility).

Daniel Flynn of The American Spectator observed this morning that a Washington Post writer who scorned sheriffs refusing to enforce stay-at-home orders from their own governor was wrong to dismiss the lawmen in Washington state as being 'part of a nationwide group of sheriffs who feel beholden to no one but their voters.' Come again? Flynn asked, before wryly noting that the sheriffs "perhaps feel beholden to the law, including the Constitution."

In a similar vein, the felicitously named Tristan Justice has an essay up at The Federalist today: Saying Lockdowns Must Last Until Mass Testing or a Vaccine is Absurd.

Dear old dad, a retired police officer now in a senior living facility, refers to himself as one of the "inmates," not least because social distancing rules have closed the dining room at that facility, and its staff now leaves meals at residents' doors. Whatever their thoughts about one size fits all edicts from various levels of government, both dad and his minders understand that they're among a high-risk population as far as the Wuhan coronavirus is concerned. The same can't be said everywhere.

Maybe the biggest problem with extolling "world citizenship" absent an existential threat along the lines of the alien attacks in the movie Independence Day is that such lazy sentimental thinking a) violates the principle of subsidiarity, and b) sabotages the concept of 'family' by stretching it out of proportion to what individuals can logically and emotionally sustain.

Apart from the way it gratuitously obscures significant political and cultural differences between countries, "world citizenship" is not synonymous with "common humanity" for the same reason that government is not synonymous with theology or biology. "World citizenship" has fans in high places, but if it were ever to be implemented, it would inevitably trade "influence" for fealty to its temperamental cousin, coercion. As a concept, it carries the stench of the pride that a few generations ago tarred medieval times as the "Dark Ages," while ignoring how they laid the groundwork for the so-called Enlightenment.

People like Mother Teresa (d. 1997) and Albert Schweitzer (d. 1965) are recognized as great humanitarians not because they loved everyone everywhere, but because we can infer that from how they treated the people in their immediate circles of influence.

Friday, April 24, 2020

Straw men selling false choices

The original essays to which Barry Brownstein links from social media platforms such as LinkedIn usually bring more light than heat to issues of the day. He's a professor emeritus of economics and leadership at the University of Baltimore, and he sounds like an uncle you'd take advice from. But in a March 24 essay at the Foundation for Economic Education (FEE), Brownstein tries to make a case for "Why We Should Love China, Not Fear It" -- and therein lies my problem: A straw man in a headline never travels alone, and Brownstein's plea for Sinophilia is thick with them.

Brownstein mounts an anti-Trump horse and goes to the whip hand right out of the gate, planting the idea that tariffs imposed on Chinese imports  are monstrously ill-advised. "FEE readers," he writes, "understand well the destructive effects of Trump's tariffs." 

It's an interesting way to start an essay that is not about tariffs, and it only makes sense if you see those economic tools as symptoms of a pathology that the president suffers from. One hopes readers on the FEE website also understand that tariffs have time limits. Consider the new trade agreement between the U.S and China that was announced in January: Other observers have concluded that it is "delivering despite coronavirus." That was the gist of a Fox Business story published the same week that Brownstein decried Donald Trump's allegedly "narcissistic" vision for America.

Straw men love adjectives in the same way that snipers love high ground. Busy reminiscing about the time he saw Trump's Tariffs open for Pandemic Overreaction, Brownstein skates right past the fact that "narcissistic vision" never signed a major label recording contract. Unlike Hillary Rodham Clinton, his opponent in their battle of the bands, the "Make America Great Again" artist whom more than 62 million Americans voted for in 2016 was all about patriotic vision.

The current U.S.-China deal was made possible partly by tariffs, and -- according to MarketWatch -- it could "move the world closer to free trade and ultimately save the World Trade Organization." Increased exports and stronger protection for intellectual property are  good things, right?

The big picture would have been easier for Brownstein to see if he hadn't been enchanted by the work of a Harvard professor known for identifying sixteen different cases "in which an ascending power (like China) challenged an established power (like the United States)." In 12 of those 16 cases, challenger and champion made war on each other.

Clutching the memory of conflict between Athens and Sparta to his chest like a model of covid-19 influence that's too scarily impressive to revise in light of actual experience, Brownstein turns from straw men he's already used (tariffs as horrible weapons, America-first trade policy as narcissistic) to introduce yet another straw man, Mr. Specious Analogy: "Suppose Mississippi became a wealthy state," he wonders-- Would that gladden your heart, or would you "worry that Mississippians gained their wealth by ripping you off"? (Subtext: Are you a kind person or a xenophobe?)

China is not Mississippi, Brownstein admits, but he is at pains to remind us that "the tide of war will stay offshore when we add love to thick economic interdependence." We do that for people with whom we share a national identity, but we ought also to do it for people from other nations, he says.

As one reader noted in comments for his essay, Brownstein's notion of love between countries seems flexible enough to include capitulation. Moreover, he doesn't allow for the possibility that you can love China while simultaneously working to check the pernicious influence of its Communist leadership at every turn (or, indeed, love China precisely by doing that if you have the power to do so, and sometimes even if you don't -- as witness the Wuhan residents saying that coronavirus figures released by their government don't add up).

Brownstein echoes National Public Radio in suggesting that Donald Trump has a zero-sum view of the world where America cannot win unless China loses. He wants the rest of us to believe that Donald Trump is a hateful narcissist treating trade policy like a zero-sum game. Have we reached the point where calling for an end to illegal trade practices is considered warlike activity when performed by Republicans from Queens? Brownstein seems to think so, but based on what we've seen throughout his presidency so far, it's more accurate to think of Donald Trump as a shrewd patriot using every peaceful means at his disposal to broker win-win agreements internationally. 

Let me propose that to the extent that it exists, zero-sum thinking comes from Chinese communist leaders who used the covid-19 crisis they abetted to bulldoze temples and churches. When they appeal to national memory or world opinion, it's with a view toward retaining their own grip on power, rather than out of nostalgia for China as the fabled  "Middle Kingdom." [Sebastian Gorka is another commentator with a few things to say on this subject].

Another straw man deserving of a brotherly backhand is the idea that a worrisome number of Americans up to and including the president operate from an assumption of "national supremacy." 

Look: Ray Charles' version of "America the Beautiful" still brings tears to my eyes, but supremacy and self-sufficiency are two different things. If you can't be patriotic without flirting with national socialism or prudent without being dismissed as hopelessly parochial, then Brownstein must also be disappointed with Brazilians (Headline on an April 8 story about developments in their country: "Brazil Turns to Local Industry to Build Ventilators as China Orders Fall Through").

Faulty premises undergirding a misguided plea for tolerance  affection would not warrant rebuttal if they were uncommon, but Professor Brownstein's willingness to speculate about motive, cherry-pick examples, and give Premier Li Jingping more latitude than President Donald Trump are in line with prevailing bias in the mass media, and it's not a good look.

[UPDATE: an early version of this essay was also published by American Greatness on May  5]