Sunday, July 22, 2018

Israel Says It Cannot Be Both Jewish and Democratic

7/22/2018--I always said I would not be a critic of Israel since I don't live in a country surrounded by enemies who want to destroy me. But I am not criticizing Israel here, just pointing out what the Israeli government has just enacted. The government adopted a statute providing that Israel is the national state of the Jewish people. For this reason, Arabic was downgraded from an official language.

Obviously, any Israeli citizen who is not Jewish is now a second class citizen, as Arab members of the Knesset argued in their opposition to the bill.

There always was a tension in trying to be both democratic and Jewish. In a democratic state, if a new group gains a majority, they just take over the government. But, if a state is supposed to be dedicated to a particular religious group, what happens if someone else gains a demographic majority? If Muslims and Christians gained a majority in Israel, would they not be tempted to change he nature of the Jewish state?

But how can that be prevented if the state is democratic? For now the announcement is largely symbolic. But if Arabs threaten to become the majority, further steps will have to be taken to limit their voting rights.

It's not evil. It's just the tension between a religious state and a democratic one. The Israeli government is right--you can't be both.

Tuesday, July 17, 2018

He’s Not a Russian Agent, Just Unfit to be President

7/17/2018—It is hard to react to yesterday’s press conference between President Trump and Vladimir Putin, President of Russia. Trump raises questions about American intelligence agency assessments because a dictator who assassinates people in foreign countries says so. I did not watch the news conference but President Trump did not appear to raise the issue of the seizure of Crimea, the invasion of Ukraine or the shooting down of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 in 2014, apparently with Russian weapons used by local military forces.

Of course the world already knew that the United States has been disgraced by this President, but that press conference was just too much. And they thought that President Obama was weak.

Where is the Federalist Society? Where is Mr. Leo, who prepared the list of judicial candidates for President Trump? Trump is President Washington’s worst nightmare—a man who admires murderous dictators.

As readers of this blog know, I fear the breakdown of democratic norms in America. But you have to sympathize with anyone who feels this man should never have been President. No, he’s not a Russian agent, just unfit to be President.

Saturday, July 14, 2018

Disgraceful Democratic Party Defense of Peter Strzok

7/14/2018--To paraphrase a recent book about politics--this is how the Left loses its mind: an FBI agent tasked with investigating a politically sensitive matter relating to a Democratic Party candidate for President, and later tasked with investigating allegations that the Republican Party candidate colluded with foreign powers to fix the election, writes in a late night email to a fellow agent, also so tasked, that the Republican has to be stopped.

This is what Democrats today are defending.

Just reverse the polarity and have an FBI agent writing about how Secretary Clinton has to be stopped. Would that be fine?

We have to stop acting in a partisan fashion and not defend the indefensible. This goes for Republicans practicing voter suppression and it goes for Democrats defending Peter Strzok.

Just to repeat the obvious. FBI agents have to be above reproach. They have to try to have no political favorites. Failing that, they can at least keep their mouths shut. Shut to everybody.

How would you like to find out that a racist Secret Service agent sent an email saying, I would hate to have to take a bullet for a black President.

Maybe there is a Secret Service agent who felt that way about President Obama. At least you didn't read an email about it.

It would be so refreshing to hear a single Democrat with integrity say, the emails didn't amount to a hill of beans, Trump is a bum, but you, sir, are a disgrace to the FBI.

Tuesday, July 10, 2018

Needed: A Nonpartisan Pro-Democracy Caucus Among Law Professors

7/10/2018--Below is a proposal I sent to a law review for inclusion in an issue on election law--too broad for their tastes. But, unless democratic norms are seen as constitutionally protected, there may not be any future election law. Ironically, once President Trump's nominee is confirmed, conservatives may be open to a new direction.
The Role of Law in Preventing the Death of American Democracy

American democracy is in serious crisis. The recent book How Democracies Die, by Steven Levitsky and Daniel Ziblatt, chillingly illustrates how close America’s experiences are to those of other nations that have actually lost their democracies. It can happen here. Unless something is done to prevent it, it will happen here.

Law cannot address all of the threats to democratic norms, many of which involve the violation of soft conventions, such as not treating political rivals as illegitimate, that do not rise to the level of illegality. Law is already responding to the current crisis where previously established constitutional norms are threatened, such as racial equality, freedom of speech and freedom of the press. What is lacking is the formal adoption of the norm of democratic self-government as a general constitutional principle. If this were done, the response by the courts to claims of partisan gerrymandering, forms of vote suppression and manipulations of the Electoral College would be much more aggressive and effective than they have been to this point.

The reasons that law has been largely ineffective in addressing the crisis are, first, the natural tendency to assume that everything is “politics as usual,” rather than the potential death throes of our system. Second, law professors and judges currently participate in the hyperpartisanship that is threatening public life. Third, disputes over substantive constitutional claims, such as abortion and same-sex marriage, and differences over interpretive methodologies, have overshadowed the much more fundamental threat to democracy that we are now facing. Finally, the adoption of any norm in constitutional law is fraught today because of value relativism and the fear of judicial activism.

These barriers to the recognition of the norm of democratic self-government can be overcome. Recognition of the fragility of our democracy is growing. In light of that growing recognition, it is conceivable that American law professors, who still share a commitment to constitutional democracy, can reach a bipartisan consensus over the need to protect self-government. Recognition of the norm of democratic self-government does not require surrender of substantive or methodological disagreements. There will still be controversy over abortion cases like Roe v. Wade and Obergefell v. Hodges and there will still be debate over originalism versus the living constitution. The norm of democratic self-government transcends these differences. Nor does the adoption of the norm of democratic self-government require establishing substantive and objective moral and political standards. This latter point was demonstrated beyond dispute years ago, in John Hart Ely’s classic work, Democracy and Distrust.

Adoption of the norm of democratic self-government would mean that any attempt to permanently embed partisan advantage so as to impede the ability of the people to express their decisions on matters of policy or election would be presumptively unconstitutional. That would include gerrymanders, voter ID laws, voter registration, election rules, voting roll purges and any national effort to manipulate the Electoral College through selective State abolition of winner-take-all.

By itself, law cannot prevent the death of American democracy. But, law does have a potential role to play in the attempt to save it.

Wednesday, July 4, 2018

In Christ There Is Neither Democrat nor Republican

7/4/2018--We wake up this Fourth of July in very grave danger to our democracy. If you don't believe me, read How Democracies Die, by Steven Levitsky & Daniel Ziblatt, which describes the process by which many other democracies have failed. Among the danger signs are demonizing your opponents, changing the rules, pushing every advantage. The soft touch of mutual toleration and forbearance disappear.

America is well on its way.

Whose fault is this? Why does that matter now?

The question is, how do we stop the momentum?

Maybe we don't. History does not have a lot of examples of countries that proceeded down this path and stopped short.

But my friend and mentor, Robert Taylor reminded me the other day of Paul's saying that brought inclusion to the early church communities. In Christ there is neither Jew nor gentile, male nor female, slave nor free. Whether you believe or not, it should be obvious what is meant. Not that Jesus is neutral, but that your divisions are not his. Humanity is one.

When I heard this, I thought, one thing is still missing. Right now, this kind of thinking would lead each side to think, god forgives him and loves him despite his sin--or in secular terms, I am right but he is human also.

But that misses Paul's point. Robert once illustrated Paul's point for me. You are not Hitler, he said. However, here is Hitler and here is you--holding his thumb and forefinger slightly apart. But there is God--pointing far across the room. Or, as Jesus himself said, Why do you call me good? Only God is good.

So, the point of neither D nor R is that none of us is justified. No one is good.

America will not be healed until each of us says, how did I contribute to the catastrophe? Where is that voice in America?

And, by the way, that question cannot be answered, I did not fight hard enough for justice--meaning against my enemies. No, the question is, how did I help lead America to mutual hatred? How did I fill my heart with hatred and provoke others to the same? How did I fail to listen to those people I disagree with? How did I take their concerns flippantly?

Then there might be hope.

Sunday, July 1, 2018

Can We Agree that not Everything Unions Do is Speech

7/1/2018--In Janus v AFSCME, the US Supreme Court struck down the agency fee for public sector unions. The agency fee is that portion of union dues that someone who does not wish to join a union must nevertheless pay. The agency fee deducts any political activity engaged in by the union. The rest of the fee--the agency fee--is supposed to be that portion of union dues that covers the provision of services to workers.

Can we agree that not everything a union does is speech? So, for example, let's say a union is obligated to represent a worker who is fired if the worker files a grievance over the firing. I hope we can all agree that this representation is not speech, even though speech will be employed. Therefore, it cannot violate the first amendment to force a worker to pay for this service--even if the worker opposes this service. A person cannot be forced to pay for speech with which she disagrees, but is often forced to pay for services that he does not wish to have. [think of the government forcing you to buy auto insurance when you would rather self-insure.]

Now take the case of collective bargaining. The union argues that wages should go up. But the worker does not believe that wages should go up because he opposes increases in government spending. This still seems to me like a service, rather than like speech. The government here occupies two roles--government sovereign and employer. The union may not argue that a law should be changed by the use of the agency fee, but only that workers should be treated in a certain way.

I believe in Justice Alito's anti-union enthusiasm, he confused the question of whether there should be collective bargaining--advocacy about that would be speech--with the question of what wages should be in a particular job--not speech for worker representation.

Tuesday, June 26, 2018

Liberal Inconsistency and Arrogance

6/26/2018—Let me get this straight. Liberals raise a legitimate question about when it is appropriate for a religious believer to deny commercial services to someone based on moral objections—the famous cake maker and the same sex wedding, for example, or the really horrible case of the woman about to miscarry—and then celebrate the denial of service to White House press secretary, Sarah Huckabee Sanders, at the Red Hen restaurant in Lexington, Virginia? What a double standard.

Apparently this is not illegal in Virginia. Too bad. I can hardly wait for Chick-fil-A to start asking women customers if they have had an abortion—that would not be illegal either in most States.

I feel the same way about yelling at Republican office holders at movie theaters. Apparently that is just fine with some Democrats, too.

I guess shooting people is next.

Others will object to all this because it is not civil. That is not my objection. I guess it would have been fine to throw Nazis out of one’s establishment before they took power. If you think President Trump is Hitler, why not?

To me this is all part of the liberal refusal to win elections. Instead of stupid actions like these, certain to aid Republican efforts to maintain the House and Senate, go register voters or go door to door or just talk to anyone you can find who voted for President Trump and try to change their minds—especially in a swing district.

I don’t see all these outraged liberals actually trying to convince anyone to vote against these people. We don’t need resistance. We don’t need impeachment. All we need is to win elections to get rid of these people.

Then, when you see a Republican you don’t like, you can hand them a slip of paper that states—"Another Democrat has been registered to vote in your honor. Enjoy your misrule while you can.”

Saturday, June 23, 2018

Best Paul Krugman Column Ever

6/23/2018--In Return of the Blood Libel, Paul Krugman really does zero in on the anti-immigrant hysteria. It has nothing to do with immigrants. In that way, it is simply a projection against the other, just as classic anti-semitism was. Why do people feel this way? Krugman admits he does not know. But the frenzy against immigrants today, legal and undocumented, is not about genuine policy differences. It is not about whether immigration lowers average wages. It is not about enforcing our laws. Those are matters for debate. But the idea that America is under some threat is crazy. Immigrants don't commit crime much--places with large numbers of immigrants have lower crime rates--they don't us up public resources and they by and large want the American dream. That does not mean that people here in violation of law should be allowed to stay, just that there is no reason to hate or fear them. Krugman's point--immigrants are the new Jews.

Monday, June 18, 2018

We Don’t Live in a Post-Credal Age—Only Power Lives in a Post-Credal Age

6/18/2018--What do we do when we really smart people are blind? The question arises out of a review in the New York Review of Books by the novelist Norman Rush of a book of essays by the public intellectual, Teju Cole.

According to Rush, Cole’s essays concern “an array of thematic problems routinely confounding to the educated secular leftcentric urban readerships of today. Here are two examples among the many that Cole discusses. One: In a world that is post-credal, post-religion, and post-socialism, in what should humanism be grounded? Two: When liberal empires engage in overseas criminality, what are the responsibilities of that empire’s domestic beneficiaries—the lucky, the talented, the wealthy?”

Cole reports that he was very excited when Barack Obama was elected President. Unlike George W. Bush, Obama was a literate, educated, thoughtful man. Cole writes, “We had, once again, a reader in chief.”

But then over time there was the realization that this man, Barack Obama, would kill, especially in drone strikes. Maybe several hundred, maybe three thousand, including women, children and innocent young men. Cole is devasted: “How on earth did this happen to the reader in chief? What became of literature’s vaunted power to inspire empathy?”

Well I can tell you exactly what happened—-Obama lives in a post-credal age. He is too smart to be taken in by simplistic Church nonsense about the sanctity of human life. Who taught him all this—-Teju Cole and people like him.

We don’t live in a post-credal age. Cole knows that the drone hits are criminal. They are wrong. So, let’s not blather about post-anything. Let’s try to revivify morality. Simplistic, old fashioned morality. Otherwise, we are playing into the hands of power.

Friday, June 15, 2018

What is Wrong?

6/15/2018—I am working a book review essay for the Tulsa Law Review concerning three books that ask the question, in one way or another, what is wrong?

People are still shocked that Donald Trump could be President—including some of the people who voted for him. How could this wreck of a human being have ascended so high in our society?

But it is deeper than that. Everybody believes that her opponents have succumbed to new lows in public life. I ask, how could Republicans not see that President Trump went to Korea, gave away the store and came back with nothing? If Obama had done it, they would be screaming for his scalp.

But Republicans say, if Obama had done this, Democrats would be applauding. How could they be so hypocritical? And maybe they’re right.

So, let’s say a lot of us are angry and in despair. Why is that?

Along comes Michael Ignatieff in the New York Review of Books, reviewing three books on the relationship between liberal, secular politics—think the separation of church and state—and religion. Ignatieff believes that religion will not go away, despite liberal anticipation of secularization. And he thinks he knows why. He writes:

Finally, a cardinal fact about liberal society is that it disappoints. It offers no radiant tomorrows, no redemption, no salvation. The most that the social democratic variants of liberalism have promised is a welfare state that seeks the slow reduction of unmerited suffering, the gradual diminution of injustice, and the increase of prosperity and individual flourishing. These public goals are what Western liberalism at its best has had to offer since Franklin Roosevelt, but they leave many people yearning for deeper collective belonging and stronger ties to tradition and community. This dissatisfaction leaves a void, which is constantly being filled by nonliberal doctrines.

Notice two things. First, Ignatieff has completely given up the effort to combine liberal values with flourishing human life. Liberal values, here secular values, just must be flat and dissatisfying. That is what immanence entails.

But, second, notice that he believes religion can counter this. Here Ignatieff is just wrong. If your society embraces a flat secular universe, it will infect religious life also. Tell me, just where in America does religion deliver “radiant tomorrows?” Not in any mosque, church or synagogue I have recently visited.

What Ignatieff does not see is that this is not necessary. He is the biographer of Isaiah Berlin and he believes that the whole point of liberalism is to narrow the reach of public life. There are no universal values. There are no great ends. The fear of Stalinism has now led to a new disaster of public life—empty and purposeless human life. Ignatieff is the human face of nihilism.

This is not necessary or inevitable. Ignatieff himself is trying to pick up the pieces in a new book entitled Ordinary Virtues. In it, he says that there are no universal values, but there are “tolerance, forgiveness, trust, and resilience.”

Not bad, but not enough. With that starting point, though, one could begin to construct a beautiful secularism. But not if beauty itself is by definition out of reach.

Tuesday, June 12, 2018

My Response to Ross Douthat Column on Free Speech Saving Us

6/12/2018--check out my response to last week's Douthat column, Why Won't Free Speech Save Us?, in Starting Points, the online magazine of the Kinder Institute on Constitutional Democracy at the University of Missouri.

Monday, June 11, 2018

The Nakba

6/11/2018—I attended a Bat Mitzvah on Saturday. It was lovely. The Torah portion was from the Book of Numbers—the story of the 12 spies sent into the promised land to scout it out. Ten came back and said the land was too fortified. But two, Joshua and Caleb, said the Children of Israel would conquer the land with the help of God. Because the people agreed with the ten, God determines the generation of slaves is not ready for freedom. Therefore, there must be forty years of wandering in the desert, though Joshua and Caleb are rewarded for their faith.

The Bat Mitzvah concluded from this story that we must face our fears and persevere.

As I said, a beautiful event.

But I was filled with sadness. The story of the spies is the story of genocide. The only way to possess the land where people are already living is to kill every man, woman and child. God is not telling the Children of Israel to conquer people living there as a new governing elite, but to start afresh in a new land.

As you would expect, in the Old Testament, having begun by conquest, murder and displacement, there is never peace in the land. There are constant wars until the Greeks come and subdue everybody—followed by the Romans.

I don’t mean this as a criticism of the people in the story. They had just left Egypt and slavery. They were returning to their ancestral lands. But, there were now people living there. It would have taken a real miracle for the story to end peacefully.

Now, why wasn’t the story told this way in the very liberal congregation? If it had not been for 1948, it might have been. But we now know that essentially the same thing happened then—-what the Palestinians call the Nakba—-the catastrophe.

Americans have no idea of this history. They imagine the Palestinians chose to leave. Many did. Most were forced out. People living in Gaza tell stories of their villages only a short distance away. But they are not allowed to return.

Of course the Nakba is more than just forcible displacement. Even if all of the Palestinians had stayed, they had lost much of their land.

The parallels are just too obvious and painful. Again, it is impossible to blame the Jews who were entering the land. They had just survived the Holocaust. But, by and large, they did not come to share the land but to start afresh. The UN mini-state was the result. Those lines were erased in a war the Jewish occupants did not start.

Judaism and Islam each has its own personal God. Each religion tells of all these injustices in ways that justify its people. There is no path to peace without acknowledging all these wrongs. Sometimes, history puts innocent people in the way of each other. It is not clear how justice will eventually come, but it must.

None of us is innocent. The US began in the very same way. There were people here. They were displaced and killed. They are not getting their lands back either.

But if perfect justice is unattainable, reconciliation is not. It will probably require the end of the personal God of justification, however, to get to reconciliation. And that will take a long time.

Tuesday, June 5, 2018

Yes, the President Can Pardon Himself and This Court is Going to Vote for Religious Believers

6/5/2018—Two utterly unsurprising items in the news from yesterday. First, the President claims he can pardon himself. Here is the language of the Pardon Clause—"he shall have Power to grant Reprieves and Pardons for Offenses against the United States, except in Cases of Impeachment.” Not only is there no limit on the power, it is worded as if to remind us that the remedy for abuse is impeachment and removal. So, yes, he can pardon himself and then Congress should get rid of him.

The President is liable for state crimes, so he would have to shoot Comey in DC, in Giuliani’s weird hypothetical.

Second, the Supreme Court ruled in favor of the baker. As I told my Con Law class, Justice Gorsuch was appointed to protect religious believers and that is what he is going to do, which means a majority to do that.

The theme of hostility to religion, or a non-neutral application of the law is interesting. The baker was cited for refusing to make a generalized wedding cake. Three other bakers were not cited for refusing to make a cake with a gay-bashing message. Although decided under the free exercise principle of a non-neutral law, I believe the case would go the same way if there were any other basis to refuse to make a cake. In other words, the law recognizes free expression rights in bakers making cakes. So, how can you distinguish any opposition by any other baker?

As for the anti-religion comments, these are the same comments a lot of people now make about religion in the context of religious exemptions—they are routinely called a right to discriminate, rather than a right of conscience. So, the Court still has respect for religion. But a lot of Americans do not.

Religious believers should remember that they are not practicing live and let live here. There are plenty of people who would love to revere the Obergefell same-sex marriage case if they could. Time for a grand bargain?

Friday, June 1, 2018

Why Won’t Free Speech Save Us?

6/1/2018—This is a letter I wrote to the New York Times commenting on a Sunday column by Ross Douthat.

To the Editor:

Ross Douthat wrote an excellent column arguing that a purely procedural free speech will not save us, (5/27/2018) but neglected to say why that is. The reason is that free speech was never meant to function procedurally. The purpose of free speech is to aid in a society's search for truth. Once the concept of truth is surrendered, there is no point to free speech. Therefore, to save ourselves from the rot, we must ask a simple question. When Martin Luther King, Jr., said, "...the arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice," was he speaking gibberish or was he correct? For too long, left-wing intellectuals, joined now by Donald Trump, the nihilist-in-chief, have gotten away with leading our society into the ditch by denying King's vision. Let's finally have an actual debate about materialism and moral realism. I believe Dr. King will hold up very well.
In a pitch for a piece in the Online magazine Starting Points, I amplified this point.

Douthat suggested briefly why he thought that free speech by itself is an inadequate response—free speech has become merely a procedural value, a right to argue and nothing more: “If you want a healthy culture of debate, it’s not enough to complain that Marxists and postmodernists are out to silence you; you need your own idea of what education and human life itself are for.”

The very form of Douthat’s suggestion requires some form of moral realism. It requires the commitment that there is an actual answer to the question, or at least better and worse attempts to answer the question, what is human life for? That sounds very much like what would be called today an essentialist and foundational account of free speech. Free speech would then be justified not as a procedural right alone, but as a part of a people’s search for truth.

Without that underlying substantive commitment, there is little point to free speech and no good reason to tolerate speech that we hate. Unfortunately, that commitment today is lacking, both on the political Left and the political Right. We have become materialists, relativists and nihilists. Not free speech alone, but only a commitment to truth, will save us.
There is a difference here between law and culture. As a matter of law, the First Amendment protects the right to speak without regard to anything else. The law ignores the content of speech and the purpose of speech in all but the most extremes contexts, ie., an immediate threat of violence. That is why free speech is treated as a procedural right.

But in terms of the culture, it was always assumed that there was a point to free speech as a whole. The best, the only, way to assure progress toward truth was to let the people hear the speech of all and then decide over time what to do and what to believe. Yes, at a certain point, Justice Holmes seemed to turn this upside down by defining truth as what people came to believe, rather than the other way round, but there was still an assumption that deliberation and decision by the people were the ultimate goal.

We live at a time when this faith—that deliberation can be encouraged and trusted—is missing. When people think about it at all, they do not trust their fellow citizens. Therefore, bad ideas must be kept from them. Free speech transforms from an engine of liberation to a weapon of oppression. Robust exchange is just another form of harassment. Obviously this is bad for universities—and bad for football teams disciplining their players. But it is disastrous for anything like democracy.

Monday, May 28, 2018

On Memorial Day, 2018, How Do You Fight for Democracy?

5/28/2018—I wished a man I know a “happy” Memorial Day. He responded that he had served and lost many friends. So, it was not a happy day for him, though an important one.

I am far from a veteran worldview, having never served. It is easy for me to forget just what the meaning of Memorial Day is supposed to be. To remember those who served our Nation and died doing so.

This leads me to the question raised by Dan Rather today—how do we fight for democracy? In one sense, in a military sense, this is not a difficult question. In the Civil War, the North fought against secession that would have destroyed America—the fight was for our country, not directly for democracy. On the other hand, it was also a fight against the slave power that was undemocratic to its core.

Other wars have been over land—against Mexico, for example. Not a fight for democracy.

WWI was complex. But we understand it today usually as a fight against the expansions of Germany and the Austrian Empire. We stood with the other major democracies, Great Britain and France. But we were also acting in self-defense against unrestricted submarine warfare.

WWII was a fight against racism and fascism. Nazi Germany and Japan represented everything that democracy is not. They were powerful totalitarian States. But we fought on the side of the Soviet Union against Hitler, another totalitarian State. The struggle against Communism that followed was more than a contest about majority rule.

And today the fight against Islamic terrorism—whatever that might mean—seems more like a series of actions against criminals. Against violence.

The struggle of Israel against Iran is not a question of democracy, but of something else—international aggression? The Palestinian people are occupied militarily. Certainly their democratic rights are not being respected. And can a religious State really be democratic toward its minority religious population? Not over time if the minority religions threaten to become a new majority.

Randy Barnett, the conservative Georgetown University law professor, told a group of law professors in a 2014 debate, that the point of the Constitution was never democracy. Majority rule is as much a threat to individual liberty as anything else. That is why the Constitution does not enshrine democracy, but limited government and individual rights.

This is why the undemocratic aspects of our political system—the Electoral College, equal representation in the Senate—do not bother Randy. Now, this is more than a bit of hypocrisy on Randy’s part—the framers were not dealing with a two-Party system. They would have rejected minority rule much more than majority rule—and it is minority rule that the undemocratic Constitution is currently delivering.

But Randy does raise the question about what we celebrate when we celebrate democracy. I will put the word freedom in Randy’s mouth. We celebrate and protect a free society on Memorial Day.

Democracy must be a part of that freedom, of course, though Randy might disagree. It is not freedom to be ruled by a minority, which is the situation today.

But the most important defense of democracy is faith in history. I don’t believe a nihilistic culture can be democratic. The most important right is the right of free speech. That is the right of free determination. That is the right to discuss and think. That is the sign of a free society and people—that and the concomitant freedom of the press.

But free speech requires truth as its goal. Otherwise, as Ross Douthat wrote yesterday in the New York Times, free speech is just a procedural right.

We defend democracy when we defend the right of a people to pursue truth. I wish you a solemn Memorial Day.

Thursday, May 24, 2018

“The policy may be debatable, but the law is clear”

5/24/2018—More legal positivism from Justice Neil Gorsuch: the law is the law. This quote is from Epic Systems Corp v Lewis on May 21, in which the Supreme Court, 5-4, allowed companies to require employees to waive their right to file class actions to enforce federal law in preference to individual arbitration. In each case, the employee was trying to enforce minimum wage law. But in the Lutheran Church case the law was clear that States do not have to give money to churches, but the policy overturned the law. This is all such hypocrisy.

But Epic is worse than just a case in which big business wins again. (small business is largely unaffected because class actions usually require a lot of plaintiffs). The Court distinguishes between worker official collective action, as in unionization, and the informal collective action of a workforce trying to force an employer to pay minimum wage. What is missing is any sense of human solidarity.

There is a certain kind of legal mind that cannot see any entities between corporations and unions, on the one hand, and the individual, on the other. To be fair, I guess I should add families. But the point is that human beings are not individuals. Our only state is relationship.

The Court reaches its conclusion by assuming that collective action is the exception that needs legal recognition to be enforceable. The reality of human life, which the Justices should have seen, is that the human being as an individual is the exception and there needs to be a strong presumption against limiting people to that status.

The people who should be most sensitive to the difference are religious people. That should include Justice Gorsuch. Where is the individual in the Torah? In the New Testament? In the Koran? The primary actor is the collective—the people Israel, the church, the umma. Nor can one turn to eastern religion, which tends to regard the individual self as illusion.

Epic is anti-religion. And people don’t even know it.

Thursday, May 17, 2018

Jerusalem and Gaza

5/17/2018—All those people bemoaning the move of the American embassy to Jerusalem should be apologizing for the lies told to the American people. For years, Presidential candidates promised to move the embassy—Republicans and Democrats—and then once elected did not do it. It would have been the same with a President Hillary Clinton.

You can’t have democracy that way. It is similar to the way the Democrats treat global warming—don’t campaign on it but govern on it. It is ridiculous. It infantilizes the electorate. And then we wonder why democracy is shot to hell.

The move of the embassy to Jerusalem could have been accompanied by a real promise to have a similar embassy in East Jerusalem for a Palestinian State. But instead, American officials stood by while Netanyahu spoke of an “undivided Jerusalem.” No room for Palestinians then.

This is the real lesson of the Gaza protests. The Israelis are determined to impose apartheid on the Palestinians. And the Palestinians play into their hands by their refusal to accept the existence of Israel. As long as that is so, what sense does any movement by Israel make?

But this is not sustainable. That is what Netanyahu does not see. The future he is bequeathing is more war—with the Palestinians, with Iran, with who else? This is no future and the realistic Israeli politicians are anything but realistic.

Friday, May 11, 2018

Another Mistake by President Trump

5/11/2018--Readers of this blog are aware of my opinion of the disastrous tax cut that is increasing the national debt, raising oil prices and unsettling the market. The tax cut is costing me a lot of money and will cost me more money in the future. The tax cut was a mistake.

Now we come to a new mistake. President Trump is taking the US out of the Iranian nuclear agreement. He can do this because the agreement was not a treaty and whatever US international commitments this breaks are within the President's authority to break. Basically, that kind of international law is not binding.

The objections to the agreement were twofold--and I say that because the Iranians were by all accounts not violating the agreement. Iran had stopped all development of a nuclear weapon, as promised. So, no one can claim that the US is reneging because Iran violated the terms of the agreement.

The first reason is that in some number of years--ten or fifteen depending on how one does the numbers--Iran would no longer be bound not to pursue a nuclear weapon.

This reason is asinine. After all, if there is no agreement, Iran is free to pursue a weapon now. Yes, we can attack Iran to prevent that, but we could do that in ten years also.

The second reason, which I hope is the actual motivation for Netanyahu, since he is knowledgeable about the world, is that the agreement allows Iran to pursue all the other bad behavior that Iran is currently pursuing--from ballistic missiles to proxy war fighting in Syria that directly threatens Israel. Plus, by legitimating the regime and giving the regime access to more funds in various ways, the agreement actually enhances Iran's capacity to pursue these terrible aims.

In other words, all the agreement ever did was prevent Iran from obtaining a bomb. The agreement did not go to the heart of the problem of Iran's conduct and aims.

This criticism is descriptively accurate. The Iranian agreement was premised on the view that any other bad behavior by Iran was secondary and would be made far more dangerous if, in addition to acting this way, Iran had a bomb. The agreement also assumed that progress toward an Iranian bomb would lead to a military confrontation between Iran and some combination of Israel, the US and Saudi Arabia. That military confrontation was judged to be more dangerous than the conduct Iran is currently pursuing, which was judged not to be likely to lead to all-out war.

This criticism is accurate but misguided. The people who brought us this deal were wiser than those opposing it. Their calculations were correct.

The best case scenario now would be for the Europeans and China to create banking options that render US sanctions irrelevant in order to give Iran an incentive to continue its adherence to the agreement despite the US reneging on the deal. That alternative would have the added advantage to the world of weakening Donald Trump's capacity to destabilize things. I feel bad hoping for an alternative that will harm my country, but peace is better than war. If this happens, however, the US will be crippling itself economically.

Thursday, May 3, 2018

“They Were Never Going to Let Me Be President”

5/3/2018—This quote was the headline of last Sunday’s New York Times essay by Amy Chozick that was a teaser for her new book, Chasing Hillary.

Aside from the self-congratulatory and perhaps false claim that Chozick had an early feeling Hillary would lose, and the false equivalency argument that it was unethical for the press to cover Clinton’s hacked emails, the essay perfectly illustrates the real reason Clinton lost—-there was never a reason to vote for her other than she was going to be the first female President and Trump was a menace. Even Clinton did not know why she was running—-Chozick writes, “If I had to identify a single unifying force behind Hillary Clinton’s candidacy, it was her obvious desire to get the whole thing over with.” Chozick also called the campaign a “mechanical slog.”

The tragedy of Clinton is that we know in retrospect that she had a task that she simply refused to accept—-to defend American values. Not just the values associated with Trump’s personal flaws—-misogynist, foul-mouthed, immature, unprepared—-but the rest of our values: free trade, multi-nationalism, immigration, democracy, the environment. Maybe she would have lost by an even bigger margin, but her campaign would have been honorable. Trump was a menace, but Clinton always figured it was giving in to him to run against what was really wrong with him. To admit that Trump would repeal Obamacare would have meant defending it. To admit that Trump would end the recovery would have admitted that the recovery had been weak under Obama. Etc. It was never a real campaign for her.

I don’t blame her for this mistake. If Trump himself wasn’t the best argument against voting for him, nothing else was likely to win.

But it was still a mistake. Voting for Clinton was in effect voting for the post-war system. She never said so because although she believed that, she did not want the burden of defending the post-war system. The mood was against that system. In retrospect, that mood was why she lost. She never confronted it.

Clinton’s weird belief that racism and misogyny were the only reasons she lost—-that was the “they”—-meant that she bore no responsibility for convincing anyone of anything. It allowed her the indulgence of labeling Trump supporters—-the deplorables—-and of not reaching out to religious voters to defend religious exemptions or coal miners to propose carbon capture.

Look, Clinton won the national vote convincingly and narrowly lost the States that gave Trump the Presidency. So, her strategy was a mistake but not crazy. The real problem was that even if she had won, it had all remained personal. Because of the kind of campaign she ran, she could never have reached out to the Republicans—-maybe a majority—-who did not just disapprove of Trump, but actually believed in the post-war world.

There never was any “they” opposing Clinton. All of Trump’s votes were his practically no matter who the Democrats nominated. A lot of Americans wanted to express their opposition to the post-war world. That includes some racism and misogyny because tolerance of other people is part of the values of that world. There is no indication that even today Clinton realizes the deepest mistake of her campaign—-failing to defend the world America largely built, now being undone. It was a better world than the one we are heading into now.

Tuesday, May 1, 2018

How About a Hand for President Trump?

5/1/2018—Nothing but good news on the Korea front. North Korea is promising to do the one thing every American President has tried to get from them—denuclearization. It may still not happen, but we seem closer than I can remember.

Why does President Trump not get any credit for this? Well, for one thing, much credit goes to South Korean leader Moon Jai-In, who must be seen as a moving partner.

For another, who wants to give credit to a brinkmanship that perhaps almost brought war? Maybe Trump was just lucky.

Well, as Napoleon said when he was told a general was just lucky—I would rather have a general who is lucky than good.

We should not be shocked. When the US invaded Iraq, Iran reportedly sent word that it was open to a deal. President Bush was too full of himself to make a deal with Iran. Trump did not just threaten—-he knew when to back off. It is not that easy.

Maybe Obama was too decent—-too careful. Maybe a little fear is a good thing when you want people to do something they don’t want to do.

In any event, a little credit is due.

But this is like the Correspondents’ Dinner the other night. The point is not how hot the roast was for the Administration. The point is that no liberals of any type—-political, correspondents, or anything, came in for any criticism—-alleged humor. I admit I don’t find Michelle Wolf’s humor at all funny. But surely she could have added, for example, that Planned Parenthood can’t quite decide whether it wasn’t selling baby parts or whether that is okay.

Wolf could even have mentioned my theme here--that the press doesn’t know what to do when Trump does something right—-was it the weather? It is funny to watch—-a million explanations of the North Korea success while no one says, gee, maybe he did something right. It would have been even funnier if Wolf had mentioned it.

Wednesday, April 25, 2018

It’s the Stupid Tax Cut

4/25/2018—It is almost laughable what financial coverage is like in the US. I took a look at the price of oil in Euros for the past few months and found that there was only a small move higher, from 53.24 on February 1 to 55.64 today. In contrast, in dollars, the price went from $65.32 to $73.20. In other words, 4.5% vs 12%. So, most of the increase is the fall of the dollar, not OPEC or any other supply or demand factor. Gas prices would be higher, but not as high as they are now.

As with so many other catastrophes, the problem is the tax cut. As the deficit explodes, inflation goes up and the dollar goes down—sort of the same phenomenon. Interest rates rise and the market falls. Eventually, you get a recession and the deficit then explodes even more.

I have lost a lot more in the market than I could have gained from the tax cut and even more than that in the loss of stable recovery.

Congratulations, Republican Party. It took Obama 8 years to rebuild the US economy from the last Republican President. You have managed to derail the recovery in only 15 months.

This catastrophe—for that is what it is since it will be hard to undo—cannot be particularly attributed to President Trump. Yes, he needed a legislative victory, but tax cuts as the answer to every issue predated him. It is the Republican Party anti-government mania that believes paying your bills is tyranny. I actually read somebody from George Mason argue that it is better to have a government spending $2 trillion and taxing $1 trillion than a government spending $4 trillion with a balanced budget. Not if that trillion dollar deficit derails the economy, it’s not.

Inflation and recession destroy freedom much more than does taxation. But the lunatic individuals-are-everything crowd cannot see structural limits. The talented individual rises above all that.

Next time you hear bad news, assume it’s the tax cut.

Friday, April 20, 2018

Acts of Legislative Hatred

4/20/2018—What do work requirements for Medicaid and a ban on abortion for autistic babies have in common? They both express hatred by the legislature, and many people--for poor people and mothers, respectively.

Someone will say that there are people of good will pressing for these measures, which are right now being considered by the Pennsylvania General Assembly. Really? Where are all these able bodied recipients of Medicaid? Overwhelmingly, Medicaid recipients are too old, too young, burdened with young children, beset with mental and physical disabilities—they are not able to work.

A work requirement is one more burden for already burdened lives. Spend some time in a food pantry, as my wife did for years. The people who come in—-life already crushing them. And our white male wealthy legislators want to add one more hoop to jump through? These are the same politicians who want the government off the backs of the rich.

And what if there were one able bodied person too lazy to work? This is medical care, not money. You want that person to die? If this saves any money at all, it will be because someone was too confused to file the necessary paperwork. Then that person can die, too.

How about all those autistic babies? I go around parading as pro-life. How can I be against a ban on aborting them?

This has nothing to do with the welfare of autistic children. If it did, it would be attached to a tax surcharge that would pay for autistic child services. If it did, it would offer desperate women an opportunity to put their babies up for adoption—-and the government would ensure that every such baby would be adopted. It could be done.

No. The legislators are scoring political points and expressing their contempt for pregnant women.

Thousands of parents have chosen to raise autistic children. It is said by them to be a burdensome, but rewarding act of love. Something beautiful. Now politicians, who have never sacrificed for anyone in their lives, are going to insist that someone else act in this altruistic way? Not them of course or anyone they know.

Our legislature is really disgusting.

Saturday, April 14, 2018

“No Pardon for Trump”

4/14/2018—[End of academic year is a hard time to keep up this blog. I apologize to readers waiting for new content.]

No, the above phrase is not my sentiment, but it is quite widespread among Democrats. What does that tell us?

Paul Krugman has a great column today in the Post-Gazette criticizing both Paul Ryan as a flim-flam man and the false equivalency media that pretends there is equal blame on both political Parties for America’s political crisis.

I am one of the quivalencers. My point is a shared worldview of nihilism, as readers of this blog know, which really is shared equally. It may even be worse on the political Left.

But, leaving that aside, Krugman’s last line is chilling in terms of America’s future: “It’s possible that his successor as speaker will show more backbone than he has — but only if that successor is, well, a Democrat.”

But, what happens if the next Speaker of the House is a Democrat? Yes, President Trump’s excesses will be checked—actually only some of them because of the growth of Presidential power that Democrats helped foster under Barack Obama.

Will that mean sane government, however? The answer is no. As the above sentiment shows, the Democrats are obsessed with impeaching or prosecuting Trump. And this is the case when there is actually no credible evidence right now that he has done anything. Certainly, no evidence of anything criminal. In power, I am afraid the Democrats will not sit down with Trump to govern for the best interest of the nation.

The Democrats’ particular obsessions with Stormy Daniels is completely hypocritical. Basically, who cares what Trump did or did not do? We already knew he was a creep. There should be a democratically-based rule that anything the voters already knew when a politician was elected cannot serve as a basis for removal.

Now we are hearing that the payments to her might have violated campaign finance laws. Certainly, no one should violate the law. But talk about a technical, typically Clinton-like law violation! If something similar were used against Hillary, there would be justified outrage.

I have to vote Democratic in 2018—the Republican Party, not just Trump, derailed the recovery with deficit-busting tax cuts and undermines trade and the global warming fight—but I don’t do so with any real delight. I am voting for more insanity. And that is not false equivalency.

Wednesday, April 4, 2018

What Was the Most Radical Thing Martin Luther King Jr. Ever Said?

4/4/2018—On this solemn occasion of the death of Martin Luther King Jr. fifty years ago today in Memphis, people all over the world have taken the opportunity to reconsider King’s life and contributions. Much of this is political—an attempt to enlist King in various causes.

Nothing wrong with that. If people don’t know that King cared deeply about militarism and poverty, they should be reminded.

But I doubt that this aspect of his life is the most important.

Not even his dedication to nonviolence and loving engagement, although the very core of King’s being, is the most important thing today.

For, before King could engage the world in that way, he had to believe something very specific. He had to believe, as he apparently often said, that the arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice.

This is the message that our culture today desperately needs to hear. This is what we no longer believe. Sometimes, as in the case of the writer Rich Cohen in Vanity Fair, we actually say we no longer believe this. More often, we don’t think about it. We just assume in our materialism and nihilism, that the universe is cold and indifferent, if not hostile.

Not only confessed atheists doubt King. Plenty of people in the pews do also.

The reason that we today doubt King on this crucial matter is that God died. As Friedrich Nietzsche foresaw, that monumental death would take 1000 years to be understood and withstood. It is an open question whether a culture without a belief in God can survive.

It is because we no longer believe as Martin Luther King Jr. did that we hate each other. For if I believe the universe has an arc of goodness, I can, as King did, as Jesus did, love my enemies. For not only will I be vindicated, but I can hope realistically that my enemies will come to see the Truth of things.

But if, instead, the universe is forces and chaos, then it is my will to power versus the will to power of my enemies. We have to eliminate each other, one way or the other.

Of course, the catastrophe of the death of God does not reverse it. This culture will not just believe in God. I will not just believe in God.

That is not the end matters, however. For the question, as the Jesuit theologian Bernard Lonergan saw, is not whether God exists. The first question is whether the universe is on our side. There is plenty of evidence that it is. We have not yet seen the necessity of investigating Lonergan’s question in a serious way. He and King were seeing the same arc. I can see that arc.

Do religious believers have a stake in this debate within secularism? Certainly. For, as CS Lewis argued, the fundamental divide is not between religious believers and nonbelievers. The fundamental divide is between those persons who believe that goodness, truth and beauty are real and those who believe they are merely human projections.

I line up here with Lewis. Our culture will not be healed until we decide where we stand—with Lewis, Lonergan and King or not?

Sunday, April 1, 2018

Passover, Easter and Impossible Renewal

4/1/2018—Since I deny the supernatural in principle, I am not much for the miracles of plagues and rising from the tomb. But I am all for impossible renewal, which happens all the time. I just saw Darkest Hour, which represents just such an instance.

We need a miracle to renew our public life. But the universe is full of the miracle of emergence—entities and events that surpass the elements that comprise them. Life is just such a miracle of emergence and so is freedom from Egypt and the Resurrection experience.

So, happy Easter and Passover to all believers and let all of us live in hope for a better time.

Wednesday, March 28, 2018

Is Donald Trump the Antichrist?

3/28/2018—I am kidding. My universe does not have Second Comings or the End Times. (I don’t mean the universe won’t end, just that these are natural processes, not interventions by supernatural powers.)

I raise the question in the context of a column by Marc Thiessen and my response by letter in the Post-Gazette (here). Thiessen asked why conservative Christians stick with President Trump. His answer was that Trump has delivered policies, particularly protection of religious liberty, that are crucial to this group.

My objection arose when Thiessen put this delivering in terms of the legal philosophy of strict construction of the Constitution. I have a general objection to originalism that its proponents do not practice it when it suits them—Justice Gorsuch’s vote in the church playground repaving case being the current example.

But Thiessen raises a bigger question. Clearly, Trump is continuing the denigration of Christianity that has been ongoing since Nietzsche’s Death of God. Young people see churchgoers supporting the Trump described by Stormy Daniels and they just laugh at Christ.

Now, if there were a Satan, wouldn’t this be just what he would want?

I don’t have all the details right but I read that the reference to the antichrist in particular comes from the Letters of John in the New Testament. The relationship between this and the Beast in the Book of Revelation is unclear to me, but apparently has also been identified with an antichrist figure.

But one theme stands out in many of these streams of thought. The antichrist deceives humankind. And that would naturally include many churchgoers.

It is a bad trade. Whatever policy goals Christians think they are achieving with Trump are all outweighed by associating with this man—a man as far in spirit from Jesus as one could be. The harm to the gospel is the real tragedy of Donald Trump. Christians who support him are deceived.

Friday, March 23, 2018

Going Martin Luther King, Jr., One Better

3/23/2018—Martin Luther King, Jr., used to say, echoing, I believe, Theodore Parker, that the arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice.

Aside from whether this is so, it suggests only the category of history. Slavery was unjust, so it had to go, eventually. As did Jim Crow.

But why should this be so?

For a Christian like King, the answer was presumably that God oversaw history.

But what if we eliminate the word, moral, altogether?

The arc of the universe is long, but it bends toward justice.

Now our category includes everything, including science.

But how is the statement to be understood? Through evolution. As Frans de Waal has shown, human traits of generosity and love are continuous with our nearest animal relations. Humans are different, but also similar. As Tom Berry writes, we are an expression of the universe. The universe through us bends toward justice. The universe made us this way.

People say to me that our best traits evolved naturally—they gave early humans an evolutionary advantage. The curious human found the best hunting site. The generous tribe kept the wisdom of the elderly alive. And so forth.

They say these things to demean these traits—they are only self-interest. But what this story shows is that the universe is on the side of reason and love. Well, good for the universe.

But the same thing is true of purpose—what E.L. Doctorow denotes as living in moral consequence. Humans all have the sense that what we do matters. This also evolved. If it is an illusion, as many argue, then humans are not well adapted to the universe. But why should we assume that? The universe went to a lot of trouble to create a self-conscious creature who felt her actions were intrinsically important—morally significant. Why not give the universe its due and proclaim that the universe chose beings like that. The universe is on the side of our purpose, of meaning.

Wednesday, March 21, 2018

A Little More Death of Truth—the Case of the Canadian Trade Figures

3/21/2018—Who can keep up with the outrages? President Trump insists to Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau in a meeting that Canada runs a trade surplus with the US, when it is not the case—in goods, yes, offset by services, where the US runs a surplus.

Charles Blow wrote a good column about this, calling Trump the un-American President. First, why doesn’t Trump know—the subsequent reported comments by the President and later tweet demonstrate he didn’t know.

Since Trump gets nothing out of this but the thrill of lying and the unencumbered style Trump loves, Blow calls this “lying for sport.”

Blow puts his finger on the real issue later in the column: “One of Trump’s most lasting legacies will likely be the damage he’s doing to the fundamental idea that truth matters.”

So, now we have to ask this fundamental question—does Truth matter?

In the pragmatic sense, truth matters. People won’t trust each other if they have to double check everything. Society falls apart.

But does Truth really matter? Here, if secularists are right that physical forces are all that exist, the answer is no, because nothing intrinsically matters. Or maybe I should say, Truth matters only if we say so.

This is related to the column by Joseph Paul Carter in the New York Times last summer—the Universe Doesn’t Care About Your Purpose. Only now we say, the universe doesn’t care about Truth. I hope my readers see the connection.

Neil deGrasse Tyson said on the 2014 Cosmos series redo that humans engage in science “because it matters what’s true.” He did not just mean matters to us. He meant the human feeling for intrinsic significance. Truth matters, period. Once, we would have said, matters to God. Now, we have to say, matters to the universe, because we have no other language for something intrinsic and real, but not physical. The novelist E.L. Doctorow calls it living “in moral consequence.”

The positivists, nihilists, materialists, relativists destroyed Truth in this culture. Trump is just another one of them—worse, of course, but not really different. Carter says we make purpose. Well, if so, then we can make Truth, too, and it won't matter.

Sunday, March 18, 2018

Ross Douthat Misunderstands How Christ Works in the World

3/18/2018—Ross Douthat is a great columnist. Today he has written an important column in the New York Times—an excerpt from his forthcoming book—entitled Pope Francis Is Beloved. His Papacy Might Be a Disaster (the column, not the book). Douthat is making the argument that although Pope Francis is uniquely able by his actions and person to make Christ real again for millions of people—fallen away Catholics, nonbelievers, other religious people—Francis’ theological and institutional errors are weakening the Church and eventually these errors will be judged to have outweighed his contributions. In other words, to be blunt, the Church would be better without Francis.

Douthat admits that he might be fundamentally wrong about this. Indeed, it is his ability to consider that possibility in print that makes him so great.

Douthat mistakes the basic thing—the role of the Church. What is that role? It is not to grow in numbers in the pews. It is not to bring certain modes of conduct into the world. It is not to draw a line in the sand defending moral norms.

Of course, the Church does all these things. But they are not the Chruch’s fundamental role.

The Church only exists to bring Christ to the world. Therefore, it is almost a logical error to hold that Pope Francis makes Christ real to the world in a way no one else can do, but the Church would still be better off without him.

To see this, consider Karl Barth’s famous address to trade unionists in 1911. Now many of these men were socialists and undoubtedly rejected many of the teachings of Christianity. What does Barth invite them to do? He invites them to enter a relationship with Christ. Here is what Barth says:

“If you understand the connection between the person of Jesus and your socialist convictions, and if you want to arrange your life so that it corresponds to this connection, then that does not at all mean you have to ‘believe’ or accept this, that, or the other thing. What Jesus has to bring to us are not ideas, but a way of life. …And as an atheist, a materialist, and a Darwinist, one can be a genuine follower and disciple of Jesus.”

It may seem odd that I, a nonbeliever, would be criticizing Douthat on essentially theological grounds. I am able to do this because I know the effect Pope Francis has on me. I am not in the pews. I am not changing my views on things. Yet, Francis reminds me of my love for Jesus in a way no one else can.

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

Conor Lamb’s Apparent Win

3/14/2018—Well, a 579 vote lead in a 226,000 vote race is no endorsement, but it looks like Conor Lamb has won the special election in Pennsylvania’s 18th District. If so, Lamb will have to run again in 2018 in a District yet to be finally named because of the redistricting fight in the courts.

Nevertheless, this is a remarkable achievement. Remember, this race was run under the old GOP gerrymandered map. Under that map, Republicans have won this seat easily since 2012. There was thought to be no way a Democrat could win it.

Then came Trump, of course. But, as unpopular as the President may be nationally, he is still favorably viewed by most people in the 18th—a 51% approval rating, which is a lot higher than nationally.

In addition, times are good for President Trump right now. Lamb’s opponent, Rick Saccone, tied himself to the tax cut, which is also popular right now—the bills have not yet come due, the end of the stock market bull run is not yet clear, the coming inflation has not yet arrived, with the inevitable higher interest rates—and yet Lamb still won.

OK. So, good news for Democrats and maybe they retake the House and Senate next year—not all that likely still, but possible.

But is this good news for America? A Democratic congress cannot govern with Trump in the White House—that is why a Republican Congress could not govern with Obama in the White House. Such a congress will only heap partisan fire, unless President Trump pivots and the Democrats accept it.

Trump is capable of doing this—he has no principles, after all, but self-interest and in that sense is the least partisan person in Washington. He does not care about the Republican Party.

The Democrats are as partisan as can be.

But here there is another small ray of hope. Conor Lamb is actually not a conservative Democrat—he is not pro-life, like Pennsylvania Senator Bob Casey. But Lamb is moderate and very open as a matter of temperament. He had to be to win this district, of course, but I sense this is the actual Conor Lamb. The Republicans even went after him as soft and easily led by Pelosi—a former marine and prosecutor!—but that just illustrates the point. Lamb is soft in a good sense—he will talk to Republicans. And Lamb’s success means fewer primaries against Red State Democrats who are like him. And that means a healthier Democratic Party that would be willing to find common ground with President Trump and Republicans where that is possible—like on gun control and immigration. That would be good news for America.

The narrative in the Democratic Party has been to run to the Left to excite the base. After all, the Dems had lost 5 straight special House elections in Republican dominated Districts. So what was the point of running moderates? Conor Lamb changes that narrative for the foreseeable future.

Thursday, March 8, 2018

Mark Rylance Called Me a Poacher

3/8/2018—Travel is wonderfully broadening. Last night, we saw Farinelli and the King, starring Rylance in a play written by his wife, Claire van Kampen. His performance was riveting of course. We were so close to the stage that he looked down at me and asked whether I was the poacher who had been frequenting the King’s forest—Philippe V of Spain.

But you also don’t leave home. A friend on another night greeted with incredulity my claim that there might be more than opinion about right and wrong, good and evil. He accused me of reading too much David Brooks.

It is true that David Brooks asked the right question in a column last Monday in the New York Times—what comes after the chaos of Donald Trump? But, unfortunately, Brooks does not know how to get to a new foundation. How to set ourselves on a healthier course.

I did not mind my friend’s incredulity. I actually prefer it to the disguised nihilism I usually get. Usually, people claim to believe in right and wrong when they don’t. As Steven Smith wrote, their epistemology is out of step with their ontology.

There was one moment that brought a pause at the table. I said I knew someone else who thought there was no truth—Donald Trump. The death of truth is not something my friend would readily endorse with Donald in the White House.

Sunday, March 4, 2018

Privatizing Government Policy

3/4/2018--What is wrong with liberals? We criticize efforts to privatize jails and other public services, we criticize florists who won't service same-sex weddings, but then we cheer when corporations impose policies we like on governments and people.

In 2015, the NFL suggested that Atlanta might be skipped if a transgender bill was adopted by the Georgia legislature. The Governor vetoed the bill. Liberals thought that was wonderful.

In 2018, when gun control legislation is stymied, liberals applaud Dick's Sporting Goods and Walmart for imposing limits on gun sales.

This is a mistake. Business is not your friend. The same corporate interests will next pressure New York State to lower its income tax rate. Businesses will next refuse to sell goods to gay people. Or sell alcohol.

There is a good reason to sometimes allow small businesses or even closely held corporations like Hobby Lobby a certain latitude in matters of religious conscience. Religious liberty is an important constitutional value.

But in general, business should make money and government should make policy through democratic processes. Gun control and transgender policies don't belong in corporate hands.

Democracy is messy and for now is broken. But privatizing policy is not the way to fix politics. This support for business is another example of bad, short term thinking.

Friday, March 2, 2018

To Cure American Politics, There Must Be a Reformation in Secularism

3/2/2018--Last night, in my Philosophy of Law class, I gave a 30 minute talk on the subject of how to cure American politics. The basic idea is that Americans hate and distrust each other because, since the Death of God, secularism has failed to set forth the foundation of a trustworthy universe. If there is no satisfying story of the universe, there cannot be peace in public life. Secularism's default position is the materialist one that the universe is an impersonal complex of forces and that human life has no intrisic meaning. Not only is this account inadequate to sustain a civilization, it is not persuasive. It is simply assumed. Actually, the universe does not seem to be like that at all.

Here is the talk.

Thursday, March 1, 2018

Want to Make America Great? Pay Your Bills

3/1/2018—I am disgusted by the tax cut. You don’t cut taxes when you are running large deficits, have a 4.1% unemployment rate and have large upcoming bills from an aging population. The predictable result--$1 trillion deficits forever. Oh, and naturally, spending limits were then rescinded. No one is going to give up benefits for the sake of tax cuts that went largely to the rich—where tax cuts have to go since the wealthy pay a lot of the taxes.

What is going to happen is increased inflation followed by higher interest rates followed by a recession. I defended large deficits in 2009, when we were in recession. That was good Keynesian economics. But what do you do in the next recession when you already have $1 trillion deficits going in?

Already, the first signs of inflation have appeared and interest rates have started going up. Therefore, the stock market has already gone down. Enjoying that tax cut? I’ve already lost more in the market than I am going to get back from the tax cut.

The two ridiculous justifications from the right. First, the tax cut will pay for itself. Usually, this line is a fantasy and it is here. Republicans in Congress just repeated it so they could act to cut taxes without a bad conscience. It is a rare situation when cutting taxes brings in more money. Yes, eventually you can get more growth in the economy, but you have related growing federal spending too. You don’t catch up. If it were true, then the tax rate should be 1%--think of the growth you could have. The rare situation can be true when tax rates are so high that they have led to cheating or other avoidances—-the corporate part of the tax cut could have been structured to bring in more money than it cost,from offshore. But the tax cut wasn’t limited to that.

The second ridiculous justification came from right-wing intellectuals. Freedom, they said, does not depend upon deficits, but upon the size of government. Better a $2 trillion federal budget with a $1 trillion deficit than a balanced $4 trillion federal budget.

Two problems with this line of thinking. For one thing, you don’t get reduced spending. You get a $4 trillion budget with $1 trillion in revenue. Worse, you get inflation and recession. These are worse for “freedom” than balanced government spending. Think of what inflation does to the grandmother who has retired. All of her life choices are now constrained. Where is her freedom? Think of the worker who loses his job. Where is his freedom?

But the way, the Democrats were no help here. They don’t care about deficits either. They just prefer to achieve them by unbalanced spending, which they claim will pay for itself—-it also won’t. Their complaint was only that the tax cuts went to the rich.

It would not have been the slightest better if the tax cut had been limited to payroll taxes. There should have been no tax cut at all. I will get some satisfaction from the disaster that this brings. I will say I told you so. But I will be the poorer in money, just like everybody else.

And America will continue her decline. You don’t get national greatness from borrowing. Borrowing means China will eventually determine our foreign policies. She will not have to threaten to sell our bonds on the open market, crashing the dollar. The threat will be obvious.

Saturday, February 24, 2018

When I Left the Darwin Day Committee

2/24/2018—Penn Statim, which is the online Penn State Law Review, has published my short non-fiction piece—originally written for a nonfiction contest I did not win—When I Left the Darwin Day Committee (here). The story is about my experience in 2008 with the evolution wars in public school and their fallout among scientifically oriented people. The events took place in 2008, but, unfortunately, they predict very well the place we have ended up and why. Think of these events when you think about Donald Trump’s narrow win in Pennsylvania.

Here is the opening.

I did not quit the Darwin Day Committee at Duquesne University over its plans for Darwin Day 2008. I did not really quit at all. Nor was I actually asked to resign. I just sort of drifted away by mutual consent. The Committee was celebrating a Pennsylvania victory over reactionary creationism. I saw that victory too—I really did. But, at the same time, I was mourning a tragedy of confused parents trying to maintain a meaningful world for their children. The Committee could not see the harm they were doing. They thought they were doing the right thing.

It was a long time ago now. But, today’s supporters of Donald Trump are some of those same parents, and the Darwin Day Committees of the world still don’t understand them.

Tuesday, February 20, 2018

Just a Judicial Power Grab

2/20/2018—What is the matter with Democrats? With visions of retaking the House of Representatives dancing in their heads, they endorse the violation of judicial process norms in the Pennsylvania Supreme Court’s drawing its own congressional map with no input, no hearing and no comment. Actually, it was not the Court. It was four Democrats. (my comment in Pitt Law School Jurist magazine here)

Other than pure partisan politics, what was the rush? The plaintiffs filed this case in June, 2017—11 months before the scheduled primaries. Since the case could have been filed anytime since 2012, the plaintiffs are the reason no new map could emerge for 2018 in a normally run case.

And why was there any decision at all? Prior precedent held that Pennsylvania law follows federal law. The US Supreme Court is considering gerrymandering right now. Why was there no stay?

Why was there no real trial? A November order gave Commonwealth Court weeks to come up with findings of fact and conclusions of law. Why did the Pa Supreme Court take jurisdiction over the case? Where is the evidence of original Republican Party intent to discriminate? No one bothered to prove it.

Why was there no real opinion in the case? All the opinion said was required was compactness. So, why was last week’s GOP leadership plan unacceptable? It was much more compact. Because compactness was only a floor, said the original opinion in the case. Well, then what is the law of gerrymandering in Pennsylvania? No one actually knows. The Court never said.

And where were the Republican votes on the Court? Chief Justice Saylor acknowledged that the 2011 Plan was an extreme partisan gerrymander that might require judicial action. His vote was there for a bipartisan solution. Not this disgrace. The four Justices were in too much of a hurry to retake the House to give him a chance to come on board.

This judicial power grab undermines any hope for a rule of law. This judicial power grab reinforces the view that there is no Truth. There is only an original Republican power grab and now a Democratic power grab—this one perpetrated by the one branch of government that is supposed to be above partisan politics.

And Democrats dare to gloat? They have just given in to their worst nightmare. The Death of Truth they attributed to Trump they now own. You want to see nihilism? Look in the mirror.

Saturday, February 17, 2018

Nihilism, Opioid Epidemics and School Shootings

2/17/2018—Yes, undoubtedly there are policies that would prevent school shootings and mass shootings in general. There are probably even policies that would pass Congress that would be helpful. How about a real prohibition on the illegal modification of semi-automatic weapons to machine guns?—that would have saved lives in Las Vegas. How about an armed guard at every school? Metal detectors?

These policies don’t pass because it is in the interest of politicians and interest groups to maintain political solidarity against the other side. Compromise is not in the interest of these people. Democrats have to talk gun control. Republicans have to talk mental derangement. It is a script even if it does not solve problems.

That deadlock is a symptom of a larger issue. How have we come to be so divided that we don’t want to work together even to protect children?

That larger issue has an even deeper foundation. Why is it Americans want to shoot other Americans? What kind of society produces people who kill at concerts and schools? I understand Islamic terrorism to some extent. It is a protest against American and Western policies in Islamic lands. What are the domestic shootings about?

America has always been a place that prizes individualism. That is why America never had the real mass socialist movements of Europe. But now that the social structures have broken down—churches, families, neighborhoods—now that we are isolated screens and ghostly social media presences, we are actually going crazy.

At the base of all this is the new story of reality—everything is an accident of contingent physical forces and your life has no meaning. Or, as the New York Times column put it in July, The Universe Doesn’t Care About Your Purpose. Tell that story often enough and watch the hatred and carnage. Those are the wages of nihilism.

So, health requires more than policies. Health requires a new story. There is one, to be sure. But where can you hear it? Here and in some other places. It is the story of natural meaning—of divinity within nature. It is the story of a new kind of teleology. It is a story of the holy and of beauty. A universe of self-government. That will be the new foundation of democracy one day.

Tuesday, February 13, 2018

David Brooks: “it’s time to start something new”

2/13/2018—David Brooks writes today in the New York Times of the need of something new to combat what he calls “scarcity consciousness.” (The End of the Two-Party System).

Brooks notes that we used to have—as recently as the 1990’s--an abundance mind-set, which means basically optimism that things were getting better and would continue to get better.

But today, after economic downturn and partisan warfare, it’s all us vs them—life as a zero sum game in which my gain is your loss. Permanent warfare. Tribal life.

Importantly, Brooks notes that this is not a conflict of ideas. It is more like a switch from philosophy to anti-philosophy. What Bernard Lonergan called self-refuting theses.

The defining tone of the scarcity mindset is the gospel of resentments. Anti-immigration is the perfect embodiment. Evangelism becomes a siege mentality.

Brooks concludes: “The scarcity mentality is eventually incompatible with the philosophies that have come down through the centuries. Decent liberals and conservatives will eventually decide they need to break from it structurally. They will realize it’s time to start something new.”

Unfortunately, Brooks seems to mean that we need a European-style multiparty system. That structural conclusion does not follow from his starting point. What follows from his argument is that we need a new starting point in consciousness.

Why do we no longer believe in the promise of the future? It is not the case that empirically things got so bad we lost trust. The 2008 downturn was not as bad as all that. Rather, the 2008 downturn occurred as the religious story of a benevolent universe had lost its power. That is why a return these days to prosperity is not undermining the scarcity mindset.

What we need is a universe we can trust. What we have is a universe of blind forces that are without a goal and rob our purposes of ultimate meaning. We can regain a universe we can trust, but getting there has nothing to do with politics, or political structure, as such.

Wednesday, February 7, 2018

The Democrats: Stupid Again

1/7/2018—This time stupid on immigration (maybe the most recent prior instance was not applauding a low unemployment rate for African-Americans at the State of the Union Address—talk about putting politics above the welfare of the people).

I did not hear who was being interviewed on NPR Morning Edition, but he was part of the bipartisan group trying to protect the dreamers. (I have since been told that he is a representative to Congress from Arizona). So, he was asked the obvious question—what are you willing to give up to get a deal with the President? The answer was nothing.

This person said, “I’m not willing to fund a stupid wall with taxpayer money just to fulfill a campaign promise by President Trump.”

Pardon me? What does the word “compromise" mean if it does not mean giving up something you don’t like?

So, the reporter asked again, then what is the compromise? Answer: the compromise is that President Trump has to agree with what the bipartisan group comes up with. No, he doesn’t.

If this is a cynical ploy to gain political advantage at the expense of the dreamers, then shame on the Democrats. If it is sincere, then it is short-sided. You can’t force President Trump into this humiliation. He is perfectly willing to sacrifice the dreamers. You think he has a conscience?

The most absurd part of this is that for political advantage the Democrats should give President Trump what he is asking for—a taxpayer funded wall in return for protection of the dreamers. First of all, they keep faith with the dreamers. Second, they allow President Trump to finally own the breaking of a campaign promise—a wall Mexico would pay for. The Democrats can simply say that they were forced to fund the wall with taxpayer money by President Trump in order to protect the dreamers—Democrats win, President Trump loses.

As for the wasted money, the wall doesn’t actually have to be built, you know. President Trump just wants to say he got his way—be careful what you wish for.

Where are the smart Dems? Apparently nowhere.

Thursday, February 1, 2018

Where’s the Crime? Release the Memo

2/1/2018—Today’s New York Times has more news on the investigation of President Trump. On the one hand, the FBI is opposing release of a memo prepared by House Republicans purporting to show that the FBI and the Justice Department abused their authority to obtain a spy warrant for a former Trump campaign adviser. On the other, that special prosecutor Robert Mueller (actually special counsel) is investigating a trumped-up lie (if you’ll pardon the expression) that the Trump campaign released to cover up why they met during the campaign with Russians claiming to have dirt on Hillary Clinton—they claimed the meeting was about adoption policies.

Can any news be clearer that there is nothing here and we need to move on?

As for the memo, the FBI says it is inaccurate and incomplete. Fine. Let’s all read it and see. Can the Democrats be so stupid as not to see that the only way to show us its inaccuracies is to let the public see it? What are they afraid of? That the Republicans will tell a lie? I’m sure Republicans realize that their advantage in this narrative will disappear once the memo is released and they are in no hurry. And as for claims that the memo will violate confidential sources or whatever—I haven’t believed such clams since the Pentagon Papers.

As for the lies about the meeting, since when is lying to the American people by politicians a crime worth investigating? Of course Donald Trump is a liar. And dishonorable. But the behavior of his campaign is the same as his speeches at the same time: in public, he asked Russian hackers to release any dirt on Hillary Clinton that they had learned. How can doing the same thing in a meeting be a crime if doing it in public is not a crime?

Am I supposed to believe that the Clinton campaign would not have met with a foreign source claiming to have dirt on Trump? Didn’t they?

Gaining from a crime is just not the same as conspiring to commit it. Presumably, Mueller knows this. It is relevant to the subject of Russian interference with the election, but it has nothing to do with impeachable offenses.

Why can’t the Democrats just get back to the fact that he is a bad President? Neither of these two stories helps regain Congress next November.

Sunday, January 28, 2018

Two Stories Perfectly Illustrate Our Deadlock

1/28/2018—Two stories in today’s New York Times perfectly illustrate America’s weird dysfunctional state. First, the good news: all sectors of the world economy are growing for the first time in years—since the 2008 recession and even before—thus lessening for the moment the centrifugal forces that had been tearing people apart, including Brexit and the election of Donald Trump. (This good news does not extend to coal and steel in western Pennsylvania, reports the Tribune Review, but who really thought they would recover?) In particular, estimates for 2018 growth in the US have gone up from 2.3% to 2.7%. That change adds around $720 billion to the economy.

Now, the bad news. The New York Times also reports that Congress is in complete collapse. Partisan deadlock.

This really makes no sense. Republicans should be jubilant. They are getting exactly what they predicted from the tax cut bill and from the anti-regulatory policies of the Administration. Trump is a bad man, but basically so what?

Democrats should also be happy basically because this expansion is based on Obama Administration growth. It’s good, but it shows that there are real limits to economic growth. The small additional growth is being purchased by irresponsible policies, like tax cuts that will increase the deficit and more oil and gas that will worsen global warming, that are not sustainable. But even with these bad policies, the ridiculous promise of 4% growth is not attainable.

Arguable, but not the end of the world.

Besides, the Democrats should have been able to say they supported the only good thing in the tax cut bill—lower corporate rates that President Obama proposed and the Republicans stonewalled. We could have had higher growth for years if Republicans had put their country ahead of their politics.

So, everybody has some good news.

The reason for the gloom is simply that we have no hope. No underlying vision of a better world. No common ground to enjoy being Americans together. Too many of us, not all but many, hate too many others of us.

What has to change is the way we view reality. More on that change later.

Tuesday, January 23, 2018

Distrust on Climate News

1/23/2018—Well, this is a first. NASA reported, and AccuWeather ran a story about the report, that 2017 was the warmest year worldwide without the kind of El Nino event that made 2016 so hot. This is all part of the recent trend that has sent surface temperatures up and has led to 17 of the warmest years ever recorded occurring since 2001. All this is much warmer than the 1951-1980 mean temperature.

It’s global warming. Since ice is melting everywhere, it’s not like we’re being asked to believe something we cannot also see.

The shocking thing is that by this morning, there were 19 comments, all of which denied the report in one way or another.

I’m not naming names, nor criticizing (at the moment). It’s just astounding. But it does show that skepticism about information we don’t agree with is now so deep that it is hard to see how the situation changes.

In order: I don’t believe any information about climate because it is all just politicized. Surface temperatures are manipulated and comparisons with the past are not technically possible. Unadjusted temperatures tell a different story [there must be some statistical technique that NASA uses that is being referenced by several comments]. Plant hardiness zones show that we are only returning to the 1940-1960 period in temperatures and any upward movement is caused by new thermometers installed in the 1970’s. [someone responded critically to that last comment]. 2017 is just a continuing fallout from 2016—temperatures don’t fall precipitously. Anything out of a government agency is a lie to keep tax money coming in. Con artists are always looking for ways to get our money—I did not even have to turn on air conditioning in Minneapolis last year. [that one got another critical comment]. You can’t change weather. Looks like people are waking up and I am going to remain unbiased. Still waiting for palm trees along Lake Michigan. Bullshit. Earlier comparisons are impossible. Just a way to raise taxes. It has been proven that the “data” have been “monkeyed with.” People change stats to suit their agenda. Research shows that all the planets in the solar system are warming—solar cycles. It’s just to establish socialism. Just warming back to Pliocene, when humans were not around. Decades don’t matter compared to 30,000 years. Just a weather anomaly. Politically motivated pseudo science.

Shockingly, this is it. All the comments. And AccuWeather is not a conservative news site. How can policy be made if we can’t agree on the basic facts? This is skepticism as a basic attitude, not as a method to derive truth. I’m not surprised that some people feel this way, but it seems a lot of people feel this way. That means society itself becomes irrational. I don’t mean the comments are all wrong—I mean that whatever is being asserted means to end discussion and is not open.

That quality is not a monopoly of the Right. Where is there openness?

Faith has to operate here for most of us. If the government just lies, there is nothing that can be done, since most of us are in no position to judge any of the data. I certainly am not. Scientists tell me it is getting warmer. They tell me there is liquid water under a moon of Jupiter. I expect scientists to do their best to get it right and other scientists to check. Many Americans have decided that this is not how science works anymore. Now what?

Thursday, January 18, 2018

Shutting Down the Government

1/18/2018—Remember when Republicans irresponsibly threatened to shut down the government? Remember when President Obama insisted he wanted a “clean” bill providing funding to keep the government functioning? You might as well remember that Democrats used to be in favor of lowering the corporate tax rate. Democrats are not only hypocrites—we are hypocrites with amnesia. That means that we would take inconsistent positions, but we have forgotten that we are even changing policies.

Right now, the Democrats are threatening a government shutdown if a dreamer provision is not included in the funding resolution. This is the same irresponsible conduct the Republicans routinely engaged in under President Obama.

For the record, keeping the government operating is not a policy option, it is the basic responsibility of Congress. Blackmail, which is what a threat to shut down the government is, is not a tactic that responsible leaders use. It does not matter what the issue is or how important it is.

The Democrats hope to retake the majority in Congress and the White House in 2018 and 2020. Then they will face the same Republican tactic of shutting down the government and threatened default on government bonds. Republicans don’t mind doing these things, since some Republicans in Congress think government is fundamentally a bad thing anyway. Democrats are supposed to want government to work for people.

The Democrats have missed their opportunity to end all of these bizarre charades. They could have insisted on a new legislative framework in which debt extensions and spending continuation are automatic unless Congress passes new legislation. Then, the Republicans could not use these same tactics later.

Basically, it is time to get back to the basic tasks of governing. It is time to let the American people, not just your vocal base, decide things. Granted, the Democrats have no leverage. The Republicans can pass bad legislation. They can refuse to pass good legislation. Needed legislation. That has nothing to do with shutting down government operations. The Democrats need to remind the people that electing Republicans has bad consequences and then retake Congress. America needs the Democrats to be the Party that actually governs. Not the mirror image of the Republican Party.

Sunday, January 14, 2018

What President Trump is Accomplishing

1/14/2018—It is good to be reminded of Donald Trump’s racism, as his immigration comments this week showed. It is a reminder that rating a President is not just a matter of policy outcomes.

But if Democrats do not pay attention to policy outcomes, we will be surprised that President Trump retains a great deal of support among people who voted for him in the first place. (President Trump is coming to the 18th congressional district in Pennsylvania to stump for the Republican candidate in an upcoming special election and no one seems to doubt it will help that candidate).

So, start with economic performance. The President’s tweets that the latest jobs report showed the lowest unemployment rate for African Americans ever recorded, 6.8%, is accurate. (The number began to be analyzed in 1972). That’s good news, period.

The point made in an NPR report on the claim—I never even saw coverage of the claim, which says something pretty bad about the mainstream media—that President’s don’t deserve much credit for numbers like that—is ridiculous. Presidents always take blame and credit for numbers like these. And in general the public rewards and punishes precisely along these lines—was President Bush responsible for the 2008 recession? The Republicans were hammered for it.

Then there is the GDP, the gross domestic product—a fairly broad category of economic growth (although it contains the basic biases of this kind of measure—it does not necessarily measure good things, just monetized things). Under President Obama, GDP growth never really gained traction. There were good quarters and bad ones, every year. The GDP growth in 2016 was 1.5%. Under President Trump, 2017 GDP growth will top 2.3%. That may not sound like much, but it is an addition to the economy of around $1.4 trillion. That does not all go to rich people.

The good effects of all this growth are not just higher wages (although that is the best thing—the tightening labor market is the reason wages at Wal-Mart are going up, not the new tax bill.) There was a story in the NY Times today about how workers with criminal records are now getting hired because employers have no choice.

Nor is all the regulatory cut-back bad. On January 12, the New York Times ran a story about how the fraud rule rollback benefits black colleges that probably were not its target in the first place. Not all regulations are good.

And even the tax bill’s fundamental change—lower corporate rates—reflected a policy President Obama basically supported. It was apparently a good idea.

Now none of this reflects that the bills for all this have not come due yet. Presidents Clinton and Bush relaxed regulations on lending that led to the 2008 recession that more than undid all the prior growth. It is poor tradeoff to gain oil drilling jobs by ruining the climate and the national parks.

Nor does any of this change the disaster Trump is internationally—allies cozying up to China, a potential war with North Korea, undermining the successful Iranian nuclear agreement. And much more.

But if we do not note Trump’s successes, not only will we fail to understand his appeal, we will fail to learn from those successes. President Obama would have been very happy to have had these numbers. He never did.