Monday, July 25, 2016

Strongmen Want a Conflagration


Howe and Strauss' theory of generations has long predicted the "Crisis of 2020."  The cycle of generations is now ripe for aging Baby Boomers to launch a crusade about something, which compliant Millennials will fight.

The theory does not predict that a bad thing will automatically happen in 2020.  Rather, it says that bad things happen all the time, but only when we have leaders looking for a fight and young people willing to take orders do we have the conditions that, time and again, have led to the major crises of U.S. history.

The rise of strongmen around the world is the first precondition.  Putin is the scariest, but Erdogan follows the pattern, too.  And Trump is the most likely American strongman - long on aggressive rhetoric, short on any actual plan to do something.  And to each provocation, his response is bellicose.  In response to a single man driving a truck through a crowd in France, Trump said he would declare world war.

The strongmen, and the angry base behind them, want a big fight - whether it actually addresses their problem or not.

Sunday, July 24, 2016

Super Delegates are a Good Idea. The Republicans Wish They Had Had Some This Time.


Political parties in a democratic society do not themselves have to be democratic.

There is no contradiction in this claim.  The party is a private membership organization designed to win elections and pass legislation.  Anyone can join.  But only those who have joined have a legitimate claim to voice in its choices, especially of candidates.  And the wise leaders of that private organization sometimes need to overrule the choice of many voters if that choice would lose elections or make it impossible to pass legislation.

Democrats learned this the hard way in 1972.

Republicans have been so establishment-driven for, well, forever, that it never occurred to them than an insurgent could come in from outside the party to take over their under-protected candidate-selection procedure.

The same thing might have happened to Democrats this year, but the wise and timely invention of super-delegates kept a non-Democrat from seriously threatening to take the party's nomination.

Saturday, July 23, 2016

The Methodist Social Creed and the Catholic Social Teaching


The choice of Tim Kaine to be Hillary Clinton's vice-president joins two active proponents of two of mainstream Christendom's most active social uplift doctrines.

The Methodist Church has always been active against social evils, from the days of John and Charles Wesley's opposition to slavery.  A core principle of the current United Methodist Social Creed is

We believe in the right and duty of persons to work for the glory of God and the good of themselves and others and in the protection of their welfare in so doing; in the rights to property as a trust from God, collective bargaining, and responsible consumption; and in the elimination of economic and social distress.

Catholic Social Teaching is an even more developed theory and practice of the just order of society, organized around a "preferential option for the poor."

Using the power of government to lift up "the least of these" is what Methodist and Catholic politicians have been doing for all of American history.

Friday, July 22, 2016

The Ban on Non-Profits Endorsing Candidates is Good for the Church


Donald Trump says that "an amendment, pushed by Lyndon Johnson, many years ago, threatens religious institutions with a loss of their tax-exempt status if they openly advocated their political views."

Trump's claim is mostly false - religious institutions often advocate their political views.  What they can't do is advocate voting for specific candidates. Moreover, the law that Johnson pushed was not aimed at religious institutions, but rather at red-baiting McCarthyite organizations.  Since the law covered all tax-exempt non-profits, it also covered religious institutions. 

I think this law is actually very good for the churches.  I expect my church and pastor to promote decency and justice, which sometimes mean taking a side in a political argument.  However, that is different from endorsing or opposing specific candidates.  Candidates are people with a mix of vices and virtues - some of which will only be revealed in the future.  The potential for corruption in the short run, and embarrassment in the long run, of allying the church with specific candidates, is very great.  


The current law, which was not made for or about religious institutions, has worked to our advantage.


Sunday, July 17, 2016

The Diseases of Aging Are Declining - Not Sure Why, But We'll Take It


I often lift up improvements in the world which are the result of deliberate efforts at betterment.

But there are also things that are improving for unclear reasons.  Several of the diseases of aging - colon cancer, broken hips, dementia - are all down.  Researchers don't really know why.

They conclude that it is probably the result of everything - deliberate effort, unintended consequences, cause X.

I will believe that we should keep doing the right thing, and we will probably be helped by Providence, too.

Sunday, July 10, 2016

The Gun-Obsessed Got Their Way In Dallas


The gun-obsessed want everyone to be able to have heavy weapons for two reasons.

First, to defend themselves if the government becomes oppressive.

Second, to defend themselves against a bad guy with a gun.

The Dallas gunman who shot police did so because he believed that the police had become oppressive to black men like him.

The peaceful Black Lives Matter event that he shot up was faced with some twenty open-carry protesters who had their assault weapons on full display.  When the shooting started, they did nothing to stop the bad guy with a gun.  Instead they ran away, like everyone else.

Everyone, that is, except the actual "well-regulated militia," the police force.

Worse, the guys running around with their big guns showing interfered with the police figuring out which guy with a big gun was the bad guy that day.


Monday, July 04, 2016

Brexit Leaders Quit When They Realize What a Mess They Have Made


Boris Johnson and Nicholas Farage led the effort to vote Britain out of the European Union. They won.

Then the economic costs started coming in.

Boris Johnson, who was poised to become Prime Minister after driving out his own party leader, decided he didn't want to preside over the mess he created.

And Nicholas Farage, the head of the United Kingdom Independence Party which exists entirely to win the Brexit fight, has also quit.

The news is full of Brits who voted for Brexit as a protest against "elites" and "bureaucrats telling us what to do" who now regret it.

The lesson for Americans?  Voting for Trump as a protest could have actual disastrous consequences. Elections are not a game.  And we don't get a do-over.