Saturday, September 08, 2018

The Banality of Barack

September 7, 2018

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Former President Barack Obama speaks at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign.
(John Gross/Reuters)
Capping off a week where Senate Democrats embarrassed themselves at what should have been the semi-serious vetting of a Supreme Court justice, along comes our foot-stomping former president to remind Americans of who, ultimately, is responsible for infantilizing national politics.
While lecturing college students assembled in an auditorium in central Illinois—the adopted home state he rarely visits—Barack Obama engaged in the type of vacuous, preening, pretentious, and meaningless soliloquy that once upon a time was accepted as thoughtful political discourse. But it was a temper tantrum disguised as a sermon. He might as well as gone on stage in Champaign and said, “Trump is a big fat meanie!”
Listening to Obama speak is the auditory equivalent of eating cotton candy. It looks sweet and pretty at first, and momentarily it tickles your tongue with the first taste. But it quickly dissolves in your mouth, leaving behind an odd aftertaste. Your hunger isn’t satisfied; you kick yourself for wasting the calories, and you move on to the carnival hot dog. (Yes, these metaphors are intentional.)
Friday’s speech was yet another reminder of why Donald Trump won in 2016: Voters rejected Barack Obama as much as they rejected Hillary Clinton. After a decade of binging on this skilled politician’s oratory cocktail of empty platitudes, self-puffery, and finger-wagging scoldings, we were burned out. Americans started to notice that the soaring rhetoric did not match the accomplishments. There was a creeping sense the same man who once promised his vision was “not red states or blue states, just the United States” had done more damage to the body politic than any other president in recent memory.
And he wasn’t even a good tactician for his own side. In fact, while this political mastermind was in the Oval Office, his party lost more than 1,000 seats to Republicans across the country.
Not an Ounce of Self-Awareness
One might imagine that suffering one political humiliation after another would humble this former community organizer. That handing over the keys to the most powerful office in the world to someone with zero political experience—who questioned your birth certificate and publicly mocked your presumed successor—then systematically disassembled every key achievement of your administration while the economy responded in delight would make you reconsider your approach. Maybe a true statesman would spend two years in exile reexamining what went wrong on his watch and offer a few mea culpas to the political party—and to the country—he helped diminish.
But there is no indication Barack Obama has learned any lessons from 2016. His speech (while he was accepting an ethics award, no less) was a weary remix of Obama’s Greatest Hits. It’s not just that Obama is petulant and demeaning. It’s not that he gets away with the very name-calling and ridicule that Trump gets blasted for.
The bottom line is Obama is a bore. His banality is reflective of the wider Democratic Party malaise. There is no inspiring message or even policy prescription. It’s wholly reliant on tropes about race and class and fear. It’s filled with potshots at the other side while pretending to be above-it-all and morally superior. The chin held high in the air as he speaks is not accidental: Obama is pretending to be just like you, but believes deep down he is far better.
Well-Worn Complaints
Far from the speech being the “greatest, most timely, and most important in the history of this country” as one Democratic activist described it, Obama’s speech sounded like an updated version of every speech he’s given in the past few years. It was filled with whiny platitudes about moments in time and stark choices and inequality and demagogues. He veered between warnings about fake patriotism while insisting it’s our civic duty to vote the way he wants. He pouted about not getting credit for the country’s booming economy. Both sides are culpable for the current political divide, Obama admitted, but Republicans are much more to blame. (Perhaps he missed this week’s spectacle at the Kavanaugh hearings.)
He trotted out the same well-worn complaints about voting rights and climate change. Solutions always come with a price, such as a carbon tax and higher minimum wage. After eight years of trying, he still can’t come up with a convincing sell on how to fix the nation’s failing immigration system: “Democrats talk about reforming our immigration system so, yes, it is orderly and it is fair and it is legal but it continues to welcome strivers and dreamers from all around the world.” Huh?
There were more nuggets of nothingness: A vacuum in democracy. The politics of fear. Stand up to bullies not follow them. We need more women in charge. The best way to protest is to vote. Walls don’t keep out threats like terrorism or disease.
Pretty boring stuff from a guy who is widely considered by the media as one of the greatest presidential orators of all time. It’s doubtful that Chris Matthews felt a thrill up his leg as he listened to this snoozer.
He Goes Low
It wouldn’t be Obama if he didn’t land some low punches at his political foes. This is one of the most overlooked characteristics of the former president: He is as petty and petulant as the current one.
Capitalizing on one of the big news stories of the week, Obama brought up the anonymous op-ed in theNew York Times allegedly authored by a senior official in the Trump administration: “The claim that everything will turn out OK because there are people inside the White House who secretly aren’t following the president’s orders, that is not a check. That’s not how our democracy is supposed to work,” Obama said. “They’re not doing us a service by actively promoting ninety percent of the crazy stuff that’s coming out of this White House, and then saying, ‘Don’t worry, we’re preventing the other 10 percent.’”
So much for civil norms about a previous president not criticizing a sitting president.
Obama now is threatening to campaign for Democratic candidates nationwide, an effort that has been snubbed by some incumbents fighting for reelection in states won by Donald Trump. Perhaps those Democrats know something Obama does not. His powers of political persuasion are gone, torched by a Manhattan business man and reality TV star he once publicly taunted never would be president. It looks like Obama, now as always, is the last to know.

Friday, September 07, 2018

The Friendly, Sexy Stardom of Burt Reynolds

By Sarah Larson
September 7, 2018

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For pop-culture enthusiasts of the seventies and eighties, reports of the death of Burt Reynolds, at age eighty-two, of a heart attack, in Jupiter, Florida, may have come as an unexpected shock. Some of us imagined him as eternally youthful, wisecracking, knowingly amused. Reynolds was a genial presence who seemed to have it all—in his heyday, he was the country’s top box-office star for five years; later, he lived in a sprawling estate called Valhalla—and remain a good sport. (His memoir, from 2015, is called “But Enough About Me.”) He was an amiable king of machismo, hairy chests, and highway-focussed buddy comedies, and his friendly sexiness—onscreen and on the covers of tabloids and glossy magazines—was for many years a constant. His groundbreaking centerfold in Cosmopolitan, from 1972, in which he stretched out, naked, on a bearskin rug, embodied his affable sensuality. “He was handsome, humorous, wonderful body, frisky,” Helen Gurley Brown later said, of choosing him for the shoot.

Reynolds was born in Michigan in 1936. He was a star football player at Florida State University; after an injury, he dropped out and moved to New York to become an actor. (Late in life, he went back to school.) After performing in a New York production of “Mister Roberts,” he got a TV contract, and in the next three decades appeared in dozens of rugged roles in Westerns, adventure movies, cop shows, and other brawny fare, including “Gunsmoke,” “Riverboat,” and “Hawk,” in which he starred as an Iroquois New York City detective. He hit his stride in the seventies, beginning with his breakout role as Lewis in “Deliverance,” in 1972. In 1977, “Smokey and the Bandit” made him an icon to kids, too. He played the Bandit, half of a duo that scrambles to bring a truckload of bootlegged beer from Texas to Georgia, joined by a runaway bride and pursued by a sheriff named Buford T. Justice. (In a famous scene, set to fiddle music, Reynolds, driving a black Trans Am, casually jumps a bridge with Sally Field squealing in his passenger seat. They subsequently dated for several years.) There were two sequels, just as Southern-fried, one involving a song recorded by Reynolds, “Let’s Do Something Cheap and Superficial,” that became a modest hit. And in “The Cannonball Run,” a bonkers, all-star affair, Reynolds chews gum while speeding an ambulance containing Farrah Fawcett from New York to California. (The gum-chewing, and the rascally insouciance, dominated Norm MacDonald’s “S.N.L.” impressions of him.)

Reynolds remained lovably roguish throughout that tire-screeching era; I was startled to rewatch “The Cannonball Run” years later and remember how much time he spends slapping Dom DeLuise and calling him a blimp. There and beyond, it was a hearty decade-plus of wailing sirens, flying V-8s, and cars getting sheared in two while somebody yells “dangnabbit.” And all along, Reynolds did his own stunts. In “Stroker Ace,” from 1983, he played a nascar driver who clashes with a fried-chicken magnate. The film was a flop, but he co-starred with Loni Anderson, whom he married. (If you were a fan of “WKRP in Cincinnati,” you were likely also fond of Anderson, who seemed like an apt match for Reynolds—they both radiated a warm and earthy stardom. The marriage, which ended in divorce, seems to have been less fun than I imagined; Reynolds later lamented not marrying Sally Field.) In the eighties and nineties, Reynolds’s career downshifted in influence but chugged along in productivity; he worked steadily throughout his life.

In 1997, Paul Thomas Anderson’s poignant, improbably sweet seventies-porn opus “Boogie Nights” returned Reynolds to us, older and wizened and handsome as ever, in the role of a director who brings Mark Wahlberg’s well-endowed innocent into a celluloid world where he rises, falls, and finds a ragtag, triple-X family, of which Reynolds is the patriarch. (“I make … exotic pictures,” he says to Wahlberg, with a smirk.) Reynolds looked right at home; there was something touching about seeing him, polyester-clad and sympathetic—if exuding a hint of manipulative, amoral sleaze—comfortably owning the era whence he came. He was nominated for an Oscar for the role, and that felt right, too.

And still he chugged on. This year, in a move that now feels, uncannily, like foresight, Reynolds featured in Adam Rifkin’s “The Last Movie Star,” which was written for him. He plays an aging, cane-wielding film icon receiving a somewhat humble lifetime-achievement award. “An audience will forgive a shitty act II if you can wow ’em in act III,” he says at one point. In a charming conversation with Kathryn Shattuck in the Times earlier this year, Reynolds says of the film, “I liked it. It was very different than anything I’d done. There weren’t any cars or things jumping other cars or girls and stuff.” He also recounts a lovely memory of an evening with Elaine Stritch, and the greatness of her renditions of Sondheim’s “I’m Still Here,” from “Follies,” the ultimate lifetime-in-showbiz anthem. (“Black sable one day, next day it goes into hock, but I'm here / Top billing Monday, Tuesday you’re touring in stock, but I'm here.”)

“Elaine Stritch, boy, could she sing that song,” he says. “I went out with her one night. It was just for fun, but we had the best time, laughing and giggling. And I’m saying good night to her, and I said, ‘Elaine?’ And she said, ‘Yes?’ as she waswalking away. And I said, ‘I’m still here.’ And she said, “So am I, hon.”

The Threat of ‘Genius’ to Truly Successful Architecture

September 7, 2018
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Cooper Union New Academic Building at 41 Cooper Square near Astor Place in the East Village of Manhattan, New York City. Designed by Thom Mayne of Morphosis Architecture, opened in 2009.
For the truly great projects, architects are necessary, and can take credit for magnificent structures like London’s St Paul’s Cathedral and Istanbul’s Suleymanyie Mosque. Nevertheless, most architects of the buildings we love remain anonymous, and those who designed the great Gothic cathedrals owe their achievements as much to the guilds of stonemasons as to their own astonishing plans. Moreover, by far the greatest number of buildings that we admire had no architect at all. Think of the medieval houses that compose the hilltop towns of Italy, the great stone tenements of Edinburgh, the backwaters of Venice, the thousands of village churches scattered over Europe, and just about every other building stitched into the fabric of those places that we visit because they provide the soothing experience of a deep settlement and a shared home.
Reflecting on these matters I long ago drew the conclusion that the first principle of architecture is that most of us can do it. You can teach music, poetry, and painting. But what you learn will never suffice to make you into a composer, a poet, or a painter. There is that extra thing, which the romantics called “genius”, without which technique will never lead to real works of art. In the case of architecture not only is the part that can be taught sufficient in itself, but also the belief that you need something else—genius, originality, creativity, etc.—is the principal threat to real success.                   
The pursuit of genius in architecture is what has most contributed to the unstitching of our urban fabric, giving us those buildings in outlandish shapes and unsightly materials that take a chunk of the city and make it into somewhere else, as Morphosis did with New York’s Cooper Square, or Zaha Hadid with the Port Authority Building in Antwerp.
These buildings that stand out when they should be fitting in declare the genius of their creators, with no consideration paid to the offense suffered by the rest of us. China is now littered with this stuff, and as a result there is no city in that country that has the remotest resemblance to a settlement.
In response it will be said that we need to accommodate our growing populations, and to make efficient use of the land available for building, and how can we do this without architects? The refutation of this lies in the garden shed and the trailer. Almost all of us are capable of designing such a thing, and placing it in agreeable surroundings and conciliatory relation to its neighbors. The trailer park usually achieves a density of population far greater than the estate of tower-block apartments, and leaves the residents free to embellish their individual holdings with agreeable details, flower pots, even classical windows and doorways, along the edges of incipient streets.
In my experience the most poignant illustration of these truths is provided by the gecekondu (= built in one night) around Ankara. An old Ottoman law, inherited from the Byzantine Empire and therefore from Rome, tells us that, if you have acquired a piece of land to which no one has a proven right of ownership and if you build a dwelling there in one night, you can assume a permanent right of residence. When Atatürk declared the ancient city of Ankara to be the capital of the new Turkey he set the architects to work, building tower blocks and modern highways in regimented patterns that chill the heart and repel everyone who is not obliged by his work to reside there. Meanwhile all around the capital, on the bare hills to which no one had a claim of ownership, there arose by an invisible hand some of the most harmonious settlements created in modern times: houses of one or two stories, in easily handled materials such as brick, wood, corrugated iron, and tiles, nestling close together since none can lay claim to any more garden than the corners left over from building, each fitted neatly into the hillside and with tracks running among them along which no car can pass.
In time the residents cover them with stucco and paint them in those lovely Turkish blues and ochres; they bring electricity and water and light their paths not with glaring sodium lights but with intermittent bulbs, twinkling from afar like grounded galaxies. They join together to form charitable associations, so as to build mosques in the ancient style and neighborhood schools beside them.
These suburbs are the most unpolluted (in every respect) that the modern world has produced, and contain more residents per square mile than any of the architect-designed banlieux around Paris. And they are produced in just the way that sheds are produced, by people using their God-given ability to knock things together so as to put a roof over their head.
Roger Scruton is The American Conservative’New Urbanism Fellow.

Today's Tune: Bruce Springsteen - Springsteen on Broadway Performance from 2018 Tony Awards

Perspective: Bruce Springsteen is aging just fine on Broadway

By Randy Lewis
September 5, 2018

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Marrying rock ’n’ roll and Broadway has long been a challenge.

Jukebox musicals, for instance, tend to incorporate some of the most beloved and influential songs of the rock era in theatrical productions aimed at audiences more interested in dressing up for a toe-tapping evening of polite theater rather than a hot and sweaty, roof-rattling, decibel-cranking night in a smoky nightclub.

As far back as 1989 with “Buddy — The Buddy Holly Story,” on through shows built on music of the Beatles, Elvis Presley, Motown, Sun Records and others, there’s always been a certain something missing, at least for this viewer and lifelong rock fan.

For my money, the element that few, if any, theater producers and directors have successfully harnessed has been the authentic, liberated and liberating in-and-of-the-moment spirit of rock ’n’ roll.

That’s a key part of what makes Bruce Springsteen’s current one-man show, “Springsteen on Broadway,” such a wondrous anomaly, despite at least three decades of efforts by various parties to bring some of the spirit of rock to the Great White Way.

As smartly scripted as Springsteen’s show is, skillfully touching on different phases of his life in parallel with his recent autobiography “Born to Run,” my conclusion after belatedly catching up with “Springsteen on Broadway” last week on a trip to New York is that it’s not fundamentally different than the countless Springsteen concert performances I’ve attended over the last 40 years, starting in 1978 when I first saw him live at the Forum in Inglewood on his “Darkness On the Edge of Town” tour.

In a nutshell, a Springsteen concert is a lot of music with some illuminating monologues between inspiring songs. “Springsteen on Broadway” is a lot of illuminating monologues separated by inspiring songs. Among the cornerstone Springsteen hits and deeper cuts in the show are “Born to Run,” “Thunder Road,” “Dancing in the Dark,” “My Hometown,” “Growin’ Up,” “Brilliant Disguise,” “Tougher Than the Rest” and “The Ghost of Tom Joad.”

It’s Springsteen on the same pulpit he’s always taken, whether backed by the venerable E Street Band, in solo shows or during the great string of performances he did a decade or so back with the expanded forces of the folk-country-gospel minded Sessions Band.

As my colleague, theater critic Charles McNulty, so succinctly noted in reviewing the show when it opened nearly a year ago: “Toward the end of the two-hour intermission-less show, he intones The Lord’s Prayer, but by then it’s clear that ‘Springsteen on Broadway’ is for him a kind of sacrament.”

My only update to that assessment is that 10 months down the road, the show now stretches closer to two hours and 45 minutes, nearing the epic nature of typical Springsteen/E Street Band marathons that run three or often even four hours.

For Springsteen, playing music was never simply a quest for fame or fortune; it’s always been a vehicle for experiencing life to its fullest, for fomenting genuine connection with like-mind human beings and for tapping the power of music to align with something greater than oneself.

“The way I see it,” he writes in his book, “we ate the apple and Adam, Eve, the rebel Jesus in all his glory and Satan are all part of God’s plan to make men and women out of us, to give us the precious gifts of earth, dirt, sweat, blood, sex, sin, goodness, freedom, captivity, love, fear, life and death … our humanity and a world of our own.”

The only thing missing was Springsteen following that with “Can I get an amen!”

In a passage of the show lifted almost verbatim from the book, Springsteen explained to the Walter Kerr Theatre audience last week the special thing that a rock band is: “A real rock ’n’ roll band evolves out of a common place and time. It’s all about what occurs when musicians of similar background come together in a local gumbo that mixes into something greater than the sum of the parts: 1+1=3.

“The primary math of the real world is one and one equals two,” he continues, with the fervor of a preacher on a roll.

“But artists, musicians, con men, poets, mystics and such are paid to turn that math on its head, to rub two sticks together and bring forth fire. Everybody performs this alchemy somewhere in their life, but it’s hard to hold onto and easy to forget.

“People don’t come to rock shows to learn something,” he suggests. “They come to be reminded of something they already know and feel deep down in their gut.”

As I took it all in — including his honest confessions of times in his life when his execution fell short of his ambition — I was reminded of Ray Davies, Garth Brooks, Loudon Wainwright III and Randy Newman.

They are among the small handful of pop figures who have channeled the kind of emotional immediacy and disarming honesty into theatrically minded shows in the manner that distinguishes “Springsteen on Broadway” from so many other pop music-adjacent efforts.

Springsteen’s show has been extended several times from its originally planned engagement of a few weeks, but is now set to close for good on Dec. 15.

The good news, at least for those without the geographical or financial wherewithal to catch the stage production, is that Springsteen and his longtime collaborator, director Thom Zimny, are putting together a film version that is scheduled to premiere on Netflix the same night the live-action version closes.


Review: ‘Springsteen on Broadway’ Reveals the Artist, Real and Intense-

Thursday, September 06, 2018

The Church That De-Christianizes The World

September 6, 2018
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1st century Pompeii
Catholic academic Benjamin Wiker offers a red-hot take on the deep historical and moral meaning of the Church’s abuse scandal. He points out that Christianity appeared in a Greco-Roman culture where men having sex with boys was a common cultural practice (which, he points out, means that sexual desire is a lot more fluid and socially determined than we have been inclined to think):
Christianity made pedophilia a moral issue. As Christianity slowly evangelized the pagan Roman Empire, the widespread acceptance of men having sex with boys was replaced by widespread moral revulsion (and the appearance of anti-pedophilia laws that followed upon it). The same is true as well for homosexuality, sexual slavery, abortion, infanticide and euthanasia. They became moral issues, rather than accepted pagan social practices, only because of Christian evangelization.
Here are the lessons we must learn from this history.
The sole reason that there are still secular laws on the books that prohibit and punish pedophilia is that Christianity came to dominate culture in the West through evangelization. The only reason that we have accepted homosexuality in culture and in law is the increasing de-Christianization of the culture in the West. As we become even more secularized (i.e., repaganized), pedophilia will soon be accepted, just as homosexuality, abortion, infanticide, and euthanasia have already been embraced.
This is a massive, massive crisis in and for the Church because a deeply-embedded worldwide homosexual network among our priests, bishops, and cardinals is actively engaged in bringing about the full de-Christianization of the world by preying on boys between 12-18, literally recreating Greco-Roman sexual culture in our seminaries and dioceses. If you want to know what it was like in the sordid sexual days of ancient Greece and Rome, just read the Pennsylvania Report.
That’s a rather horrible irony, isn’t it? The very men most authoritatively charged with the evangelization of all the nations are full-steam ahead bringing about the devangelization of the nations. In doing so, these priests, bishops, and cardinals at the very heart of the Catholic Church are acting as willing agents of repaganization, undoing 2,000 years of Church History.
If you haven’t yet seen it, read my TAC essay from five years ago, “Sex After Christianity”.  It is one of the most widely-read pieces I’ve ever done for the magazine. In it, I discuss why the acceptance of same-sex marriage really is a death blow for the Christian order. Excerpt:
Though he might not have put it quite that way, the eminent sociologist Philip Rieff would probably have said yes. Rieff’s landmark 1966 book The Triumph Of the Therapeutic analyzes what he calls the “deconversion” of the West from Christianity. Nearly everyone recognizes that this process has been underway since the Enlightenment, but Rieff showed that it had reached a more advanced stage than most people—least of all Christians—recognized.
Rieff, who died in 2006, was an unbeliever, but he understood that religion is the key to understanding any culture. For Rieff, the essence of any and every culture can be identified by what it forbids. Each imposes a series of moral demands on its members, for the sake of serving communal purposes, and helps them cope with these demands. A culture requires a cultus—a sense of sacred order, a cosmology that roots these moral demands within a metaphysical framework.
You don’t behave this way and not that way because it’s good for you; you do so because this moral vision is encoded in the nature of reality. This is the basis of natural-law theory, which has been at the heart of contemporary secular arguments against same-sex marriage (and which have persuaded no one).
Rieff, writing in the 1960s, identified the sexual revolution—though he did not use that term—as a leading indicator of Christianity’s death as a culturally determinative force. In classical Christian culture, he wrote, “the rejection of sexual individualism” was “very near the center of the symbolic that has not held.” He meant that renouncing the sexual autonomy and sensuality of pagan culture was at the core of Christian culture—a culture that, crucially, did not merely renounce but redirected the erotic instinct. That the West was rapidly re-paganizing around sensuality and sexual liberation was a powerful sign of Christianity’s demise.
It is nearly impossible for contemporary Americans to grasp why sex was a central concern of early Christianity. Sarah Ruden, the Yale-trained classics translator, explains the culture into which Christianity appeared in her 2010 book Paul Among The People. Ruden contends that it’s profoundly ignorant to think of the Apostle Paul as a dour proto-Puritan descending upon happy-go-lucky pagan hippies, ordering them to stop having fun.
In fact, Paul’s teachings on sexual purity and marriage were adopted as liberating in the pornographic, sexually exploitive Greco-Roman culture of the time—exploitive especially of slaves and women, whose value to pagan males lay chiefly in their ability to produce children and provide sexual pleasure. Christianity, as articulated by Paul, worked a cultural revolution, restraining and channeling male eros, elevating the status of both women and of the human body, and infusing marriage—and marital sexuality—with love.
Christian marriage, Ruden writes, was “as different from anything before or since as the command to turn the other cheek.” The point is not that Christianity was only, or primarily, about redefining and revaluing sexuality, but that within a Christian anthropology sex takes on a new and different meaning, one that mandated a radical change of behavior and cultural norms. In Christianity, what people do with their sexuality cannot be separated from what the human person is.
It would be absurd to claim that Christian civilization ever achieved a golden age of social harmony and sexual bliss. It is easy to find eras in Christian history when church authorities were obsessed with sexual purity. But as Rieff recognizes, Christianity did establish a way to harness the sexual instinct, embed it within a community, and direct it in positive ways.
What makes our own era different from the past, says Rieff, is that we have ceased to believe in the Christian cultural framework, yet we have made it impossible to believe in any other that does what culture must do: restrain individual passions and channel them creatively toward communal purposes.
Rather, in the modern era, we have inverted the role of culture. Instead of teaching us what we must deprive ourselves of to be civilized, we have a society that tells us we find meaning and purpose in releasing ourselves from the old prohibitions.
How this came to be is a complicated story involving the rise of humanism, the advent of the Enlightenment, and the coming of modernity. As philosopher Charles Taylor writes in his magisterial religious and cultural history A Secular Age, “The entire ethical stance of moderns supposes and follows on from the death of God (and of course, of the meaningful cosmos).” To be modern is to believe in one’s individual desires as the locus of authority and self-definition.
Gradually the West lost the sense that Christianity had much to do with civilizational order, Taylor writes. In the 20th century, casting off restrictive Christian ideals about sexuality became increasingly identified with health. By the 1960s, the conviction that sexual expression was healthy and good—the more of it, the better—and that sexual desire was intrinsic to one’s personal identity culminated in the sexual revolution, the animating spirit of which held that freedom and authenticity were to be found not in sexual withholding (the Christian view) but in sexual expression and assertion. That is how the modern American claims his freedom.
To Rieff, ours is a particular kind of “revolutionary epoch” because the revolution cannot by its nature be institutionalized. Because it denies the possibility of communal knowledge of binding truths transcending the individual, the revolution cannot establish a stable social order. As Rieff characterizes it, “The answer to all questions of ‘what for’ is ‘more’.”
Our post-Christian culture, then, is an “anti-culture.” We are compelled by the logic of modernity and the myth of individual freedom to continue tearing away the last vestiges of the old order, convinced that true happiness and harmony will be ours once all limits have been nullified.
Gay marriage signifies the final triumph of the Sexual Revolution and the dethroning of Christianity because it denies the core concept of Christian anthropology. In classical Christian teaching, the divinely sanctioned union of male and female is an icon of the relationship of Christ to His church and ultimately of God to His creation. This is why gay marriage negates Christian cosmology, from which we derive our modern concept of human rights and other fundamental goods of modernity. Whether we can keep them in the post-Christian epoch remains to be seen.
Read the whole thing. This essay became the basis for the Sex chapter in The Benedict Option. 
Wiker has identified something truly tragic, and truly outrageous: the sexual corruption of the Catholic clergy has contributed mightily to the de-Christianization of the world. Something of world-historical importance is going on here, and it has reached the summit of the Roman Catholic Church.

New York Times' 'Inside' Attack on Trump Unbelievably Cowardly

September 5, 2018

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The New York "Walter DurantyTimes is up to its old tricks again:
The Times today is taking the rare step of publishing an anonymous Op-Ed essay. We have done so at the request of the author, a senior official in the Trump administration whose identity is known to us and whose job would be jeopardized by its disclosure. We believe publishing this essay anonymously is the only way to deliver an important perspective to our readers.
How many minutes (or seconds) of arm-twisting did it take the Times to publish this anonymous op-ed weeks before the midterms in the midst of the Kavanaugh confirmation hearings?

Whatever the case, the political views of this "courageous"  official, who insists insiders like him or her are saving us from the dreaded Trump, can be found in the penultimate paragraphs of his article.
Senator John McCain put it best in his farewell letter. All Americans should heed his words and break free of the tribalism trap, with the high aim of uniting through our shared values and love of this great nation. 
We may no longer have Senator McCain. But we will always have his example — a lodestar for restoring honor to public life and our national dialogue.
John McCain? A lodestar? For the last dozen years or so John McCain had been the bête noire of virtually all conservatives and libertarians, betraying them on multiple occasions, most recently on the Obamacare vote, which he held to the last second to apply maximum torture to Donald Trump. Whatever McCain thought about the policy seemed immaterial.

Yes, McCain had reason to be angry with Trump, who said nasty things about his military service, but then McCain had previously said nasty things about the idea of Trump running in the first place.  If McCain's a lodestar for anything it's expediency and slavish playing up to the media.

But it's ironic to see him lauded in the pages of the New York Times, the very paper that falsely accused the senator of having an affair roughly a month before his 2008 presidential election, not owning up to its lie for months.

Nevertheless let's give Mr. Anonymous his due and address his arguments.  They seem to center on foreign policy because he does deign to admit the new tax law and deregulation are a good thing, though, in his eyes, Trump had little to do with it.

His big complaint, once again, is that the president is soft on Putin and Kim Jong-un.  He discounts, actually doesn't mention, the obvious possibility that Trump has been playing good cop/bad cop, complimenting the despots personally while sticking it to them on policy (sanctions, etc.).  Instead, he insists that the president is being  saved from his affinity for dictators by his hard-nosed staff, not bothering to note that such hawks as Mike Pompeo and John Bolton were originally chosen by Trump and seem to be working quite well with him.

Whether the god cop/bad cop approach will ultimately work is clearly an open question, but that previous approaches have failed is not.  Curiously missing from the op-ed is any mention of Trump's Middle East policy, which has been tremendously advantageous to Israel and disadvantageous to Iran.  Is our anonymous correspondent for this or not?

Maybe it doesn't matter in his/her weltanschauung.  He/she calls the president immoral, but what's moral about an anonymous attack?  It's certainly not a profile in courage.

What the Times is publishing here for its own very temporary convenience is inside propaganda from the hoary ultra-establishment wing of the Republican Party.  It is the Deep State in action, though the author claims to represent the "steady state."

The man or woman who wrote this article is in actuality an abject coward, the kind of tattletale who is afraid to identify himself or herself for fear of losing a government job.  How pathetic is that?  Why would anyone trust such a person?

Oh, yes, I bet somebody did -- Bob Woodward.  We should ask him who it is.

Roger L. Simon - co-founder and CEO Emeritus of PJ Media - is an author and an Academy Award-nominated screenwriter.

The Spy in the White House, the Dogs in the Manger

September 5, 2018
Image result for donald trump white house staff
The New York Times hit a new journalistic low on Wednesday with the publication of an anonymous op-ed, purportedly by a senior member of the Trump Administration, that reveals the existence of a sapper within the president’s circle. No doubt commissioned to coincide with the release of Bob Woodward’s latest exercise in Washington fiction, Fear, as well the orgy of crocodile tears occasioned by the passing of John McCain, it portrays an erratic, amoral president entirely unmoored from previous notions of ideological or party fidelity, whose impulsive behavior his aides are trying, with only some success, to contain and correct.
“This isn’t the work of the so-called deep state,” writes the author. “It’s the work of the steady state.”
The erratic behavior would be more concerning if it weren’t for unsung heroes in and around the White House. Some of his aides have been cast as villains by the media. But in private, they have gone to great lengths to keep bad decisions contained to the West Wing, though they are clearly not always successful. It may be cold comfort in this chaotic era, but Americans should know that there are adults in the room. We fully recognize what is happening. And we are trying to do what’s right even when Donald Trump won’t.
Not for the first time, what’s going on in Washington brings to mind not the late Roman Empire, but the early one—the Julian line that began with Caesar, passed through Augustus and Tiberius, and then degenerated into the reigns of Caligula, Claudius, and ended with Nero. As the Republic morphed into the Empire, the Senate receded in importance, as did the twin consuls, annually elected. Powerful women—the mothers, wives, and mistresses of the emperors—wielded great power. And yet, in the end, nearly all died unnatural deaths, assassinated (all but Augustus, in fact), murdered, executed, or forced to suicide. To spare you reading Gibbon in his magnificent entirety: the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire was written in the stars, right from the start, just as Shakespeare said.
The Left and its allies in the media would have us think—as this op-ed is clearly meant to do—that Trump is some combination of Claudius and Nero, a mad king barely restrained by his courtiers. “Meetings with him veer off topic and off the rails, he engages in repetitive rants, and his impulsiveness results in half-baked, ill-informed and occasionally reckless decisions that have to be walked back,” the unknown author writes. “Given the instability many witnessed, there were early whispers within the cabinet of invoking the 25th Amendment, which would start a complex process for removing the president. But no one wanted to precipitate a constitutional crisis.”
I have no idea whether any of this is true. It is possible that Trump is as changeable as they say, and that his worst impulses are held in check by the wise men around him. More likely, however, is that Trump remains surrounded by those who want to see him fail, out of pique; if he’s an emperor, he’s beleaguered rather than omnipotent, with spies lurking behind every arras, shivs at the ready.
Certainly, the success of the administration’s initiatives, from the booming economy to the moments of clarity it has brought to rogue enemies and feckless allies from North Korea to Germany, is indisputable, no matter what you think of Trump. I would further venture to say that those who support the president do not do so because they are enamored of him, or think of him as a god-king, or Cheeto Jesus, but rather because they agree with his policies and like their results.
But to a wide swath of #TheResistance, this is both incredible and unacceptable. Trump offends them so personally and so deeply that they cannot constrain their bitterness, their jealousy, and their anger. The old guard, Baby Boomer media, almost to a man, despises him for his insouciant rejection of the “norms” with which they grew up. Indeed, one of the things that most infuriates them is his resolute refusal to play the part of Richard Nixon, which is why they have recently deployed the ghosts of Watergate Past, including not only “Woodstein” but even superannuated bit players like John Dean, as repellant a weasel today as he was in the 1970s.
And so organizations like the Times now feel free to violate every canon in the reporter’s handbook, and turn to legions of Deep Throat wannabees—whose identities are protected not because their lives are in danger but because they might lose their jobs and thus be of no further use to #TheResistance. That this puts the Times’s reporters into direct conflict with its editors has not gone unnoticed; as Jodi Kantor tweeted:
So basically: Times reporters now must try to unearth the identity of an author that our colleagues in Opinion have sworn to protect with anonymity? 

Still, it’s a little late for Kantor and her colleagues to find that old-time religion. No reportorial cats patrol the anonymice/rat precincts any more, and so journalism is overrun by self-serving vermin, men without chests who prize their jobs more than their honor—Brave Sir Robins all, who fire their slings and arrows behind the newsprint equivalent of an Antifa mask and then run away. Or, even worse, we have a group of unprincipled, fabulist reporters who invent from whole cloth a shadow army of “resistance” fighters, the better to give imaginary voice to the reporters’ own political proclivities.
Sarah Sanders responded quickly to Mr. Anonymous: “The individual behind this piece has chosen to deceive, rather than support, the duly elected President of the United States. He is not putting country first, but putting himself and his ego ahead of the will of the American people. This coward should do the right thing, and resign.”
Fat chance. For the dirty little secret of official Washington is that every single civil servant and Washington bureau reporter has more job security than the president; voter-and-term-limited chief executives may come and go, but Congress, the agencies, and the parasites who feed off of them are nearly forever, long after the current occupant of the White House is gone.
Consumed with resentment toward a man they loathe and, worse, for whom not a single person they collectively know voted, today’s journalists jealously guard what’s left of their dignity, their ethics, and their honor, even as they gnaw at their own entrails, and wonder why they’re dying.
Michael Walsh is a journalist, author, and screenwriter. He was for 16 years the music critic and foreign correspondent for Time Magazine, for which he covered the fall of the Berlin Wall and the collapse of the Soviet Union. His works include the novels As Time Goes ByAnd All the Saints (winner, 2004 American Book Award for fiction), and the bestselling “Devlin” series of NSA thrillers; as well as the recent nonfiction bestseller, The Devil’s Pleasure Palace. A sequel, The Fiery Angel, was published by Encounter in May 2018. Follow him on Twitter at @dkahanerules