The thrills and fun of attending a Trump rally (this one in Charleston)

The Trump rally in Charleston, South Carolina, was a joyous celebration of American virtues and of the uniquely American leader we are blessed to have.

I avoid crowds, especially during the flu season, but when I had the chance to attend Trump’s rally in Charleston, South Carolina, just a short drive from my home, I had to go. I’m glad I did, too, for it was a delightful experience from start to finish.

In some ways, there’s not that much to write about given that videos of the rally are already online. You can watch Trump’s speech below and probably hear it better than I did. (Indeed, once I’m done writing tonight, I plan to listen to his speech again to get the bits I missed.)

Trump in real life is exactly as you see him on the screen — a larger-than-life, uniquely American character, a showman who is nevertheless a person of tremendous substance and accomplishment. He’s also a comedian with the perfect timing of any performer who ever appeared on a Borscht Belt (aka Catskills) stage.

Given how urban and, indeed, how Jewish, Trump’s humor is, you’d think it wouldn’t sell well in Charleston, South Carolina. However, if you thought that, you’d be wrong. The audience loved it every bit as American audiences in mid-20th century America ate up humor from Jack Benny, George Burns, Milton Berle, Sid Caesar, or Danny Kaye. Once you’re in on the joke — once you accept the showman’s style — you will always laugh.

Since you can see Trump’s speech for yourself, what in the world do I have to offer? I can talk about the energy and the ambiance.

We arrived at 4:00 on this Friday afternoon, just as the doors were opening. Some people had already gotten in line Thursday morning! They definitely got the good seats for their efforts, down on the floor of the North Charleston Convention Center’s Coliseum. Still, those of us who didn’t get there until 4:00 on the “day of” were still able to get seats in the nosebleed section. And unusually for a nosebleed section, because the Coliseum seats only 13,000 people, we still felt relatively close to the speaker’s podium. We were able to see Trump’s blue suit, white shirt, red tie, and blonde hair with perfect clarity.

Trump’s team made sure that the whole event was efficiently managed. When we hit the line, it was already moving and it flowed smoothly for the next 15 minutes or so, right up until we were at the security check. That was well-staffed so even though the security people went through every jacket and bag with incredible care, and ran everyone through a metal detector, we were out of that line within about 5 minutes. We were then shuttled through the Coliseum hallways until we got to an entrance where there were still seats available, headed up the stairs and boom! There we were, seated and waiting for the show to begin.

What was truly bizarre, in a wonderful way, was the women’s restroom — it was clean and there was no line! I don’t know what kind of black magic happened there, but I was grateful.

That’s the background stuff. What was delightful was the crowd. Sadly, it was a mostly white crowd, with only a small number of black, Asian, and Hispanic people present. I say sadly because they would have been so welcomed there. When Trump spoke about outreach to the black community, the whole crowd roared its approval. People there clearly believe, as I do, that blacks have been enslaved by the Democrat party for too long. It’s time for them to break free and come to a community that welcomes them as fellow Americans who can enjoy this land’s bounty, rather than as a victim class that can reliably be played for votes as needed.

While the crowd may have been mostly white, there was nothing else “mostly” about it. If I were stereotyping people by their looks, I saw the following: young families, military people, cops, blue-collar workers, white-collar workers, bikers, retirees, farmers, widows and widowers, scads of “women for Trump,” high school students, college students, millennials, polished urban people, and rough-hewn country people. What bound them together was a shared love of country and, because he is serving this country well, love of Trump.

I struck up conversations with several people and learned a few things about what makes them Trump supporters: All of the people to whom I spoke voted for Trump in 2016. Despite his bombast and boasting, they believed him then when he made his many promises, in part because he wasn’t a career politician but was, instead, a businessman with a broad and deep record of success.

Now, in 2020, they’re supporting him more fervently than ever because he kept those promises. They agree with him that a controlled border protects Americans from criminals, job-takers, and disease; they hate socialism; they support the Second Amendment; they support law enforcement; they adore the effect of Trump’s economic policies; they believe in a colorblind society; and they passionately support Israel. Even if they don’t agree with all of Trump’s policies, they agree with enough of them to want Trump back for four more years — and, given how Congress and the press treated him during three of his first four years, they jokingly agree that he really ought to get a do-over.

People at the rally wanted to have fun. They made instant friends and enthusiastically did both the wave and those call and response games people play across stadiums and coliseums. When Trump and others spoke (Tim Scott and Lindsay Graham were there, as well as people whose names I didn’t catch who warmed up the crowd early), it was like being at an old-time silent movie, with the audience booing and cheering as Trump’s speech paraded villains and heroes before them. Indeed, sometimes the audience participation was so loud it was hard to hear Trump, which is why I may go back and listen to his talk again just to hear the bits I missed.

This was a happy, friendly audience. They joined in with Trump when he castigated the media, but there was no heat, anger, or banked violence. It was a fun ritual not the warm-up act for an angry mob. These are people who have just watched America enjoy the best four years in their lifetimes, and they’re joyously looking to four more years just like it. They trust Trump to do his best with the coronavirus (a Black Swan event), and know with certainty that he’ll do his best with all of his other plans and promises.

Another interesting thing I noticed was how well-informed the audience was. Don Lemon and his MSNBC buddies may like to sneer at Trump voters, but these are people who are completely current about national and international policies. The moment Trump started on a topic, whether foreign or domestic, you could hear the people around you start filling in the blanks or turn to their companions to make a comment. They love talking about the Constitution and quite obviously know what it actually says, rather than what the emanations of penumbras imply.

Four years ago, people like Mark Steyn and Roger Simon, after attending Trump rallies said, “This man is going to win. He has the people at his back.” Although I haven’t been to a Bernie rally, it’s hard for me to imagine it as this joyous celebration. Instead, I see it as a miserable meeting of angry people. I’ll bet my money on joy every time.

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It’s unsurprising that Ivy League colleges churn out dangerous leftists

The Ivy League and other institutions of higher ed propagate ideas as destructive to America as the pernicious ivy plant is to a garden or home.

I spent several hours today rooting out ivy from the planting bed by my front door. I am exhausted because ivy is a very difficult plant. Here’s its life trajectory:

If you keep ivy in a pot in your house, it’s a pretty little plant that doesn’t cause much mischief. You have to trim it back regularly but it’s otherwise quite decorative. See how sweet that little ivy is?

The problem begins if you let that sweet little plant out of the pot and into your garden, as a previous owner of my house apparently did. Once outside, it grows uncontrollably. Worse, it doesn’t stay in one place, where you can uproot it if you don’t like it. Instead, it sends out shoots everywhere. Worse, each of these shoots produces roots that dig into the ground and give birth to other tendrils. It climbs up trees and digs down into the root systems of your smaller bushes and ground cover plants, where it wraps itself around the roots. The only way to kill the ivy is to kill those plants.

Ivy will also insinuate itself into your doors and windows, your vents, and your shutters. It will climb your walls, destroy your grout, pull down your bricks and siding, tear down your gutters, and generally wreak havoc everywhere it can go. All the while, the leaves continue to have that pretty, decorative ivy look. Even as it’s destroying everything it touches, it manages to look attractive.

In addition, every tendril has a gazillion roots and the vines have a habit of breaking off just as you think you’re about to pull a whole root system out successfully. Thus, no matter how much you manage to destroy above ground, you know you’ve left more vines and roots underground where they are unreachable. This means that it’s virtually impossible ever to rid yourself of ivy. All that you can do is maintain vigilance and attack it when even a single leaf appears anywhere.

It occurred to me today as I was struggling with the ivy destroying my planting beds, trying to tear down my bricks and gutters, strangling my other plants, and resisting my best efforts to track down every root and tendril that there is no difference between ivy and American socialism.

If socialists are confined to urban cocktail parties and a few university faculty lounges, they can be innocuous and even decorative and interesting. However, once you set them free, they destroy everything they touch.

On the surface, they might be grandmotherly figures like Elizabeth Warren (if you like nagging, pushy grandmothers), or perky little boys like Pete Buttigieg, or funny, crazy uncles like Bernie, but underneath they’re putting out tendrils that swamp and destroy everything. They entangle themselves in America’s institutions and eventually destroy them.

Moreover, you cannot simply destroy them root and branch. No matter the efforts you make to destroy leftism, whether in academia, the media, entertainment, or anywhere else, it keeps putting down those roots and shooting out those tendrils. The Soviet Union and East Germany may fall, but socialism just digs in elsewhere.

In America, the primary place in which socialism rooted itself has been academia. For sixty years, academia has been producing young socialists who, like ivy tendrils, spread out from the various academic mother roots and entwine themselves in American institutions. They look all bright and perky, as junior executives or fresh young reporters or new professors or teachers, but underneath they are working hard to pull down the institutions that currently prop them up.

With this in mind, it seems appropriate that America’s oldest and most famous institutions, all of which have become bastions of leftist indoctrination in America, are called “the Ivy League.” Sure, the ivy vining up their walls looks pretty (the picture above is from Princeton), but that ivy is just as destructive on the outside of the buildings as the academics’ and administrators’ ideas are destructive on the inside.

I’ll say again what I’ve said a hundred times or more before: It’s time for the federal government to withdraw every single penny of federal taxpayer money from America’s colleges and universities, including government-backed student loans. In other words, we need to do the opposite of what every Democrat and communist politician is advocating. For obvious reasons, they want more money in higher education, essentially fertilizing the socialism they spread throughout America, an idea as pernicious to our nation as ivy is to a garden and home.

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Let’s talk about coronavirus

With coronavirus dominating the news, I’ve had time to come up with a few thoughts. The bottom line: Trump’s doing the right things and I’m not panicking.

I’ve been quiet about coronavirus. It’s unnerving and I can’t do anything to stop its spread, so there really hasn’t been much for me to say beyond that. However, having ruminated on the subject for over a month, I do have some comments:

1. I think Trump handled the press conference very well. He was relaxed but serious. He was careful not to incite panic but also didn’t underplay the threat.

2. What Trump said was consistent and intelligent: (a) We’ve got the best systems possible in place, (b) Pence is a stellar point person because he’s had executive experience with epidemic disease in Indiana, (c) I currently have a strong team working on it and can instantly bring qualified people on board to help if the dynamic shifts, and (d) aren’t you grateful now that I closed America to planes from China? While you were busy calling me xenophobic, I was busy saving your collective derrieres. I like the idea of Pence in charge. He strikes me as an organized thinker, an intelligent man, and an effective leader.

3. Trump’s assessment of the situation also struck me as spot-on: We don’t know if it’s going to get better or worse, or if it will hit hard, soft, or not at all. We are just working on plans for every eventuality.  The fact is that, with the current state of the disease, if he said anything else, he would have been lying.

4. I like knowing that a pragmatic, effective executive is in charge of one of government’s core functions, which is to stop the spread of epidemic disease. While I don’t think the government should be telling colleges to make sure that all men accused of sexual harassment are destroyed (as Obama effectively did with the “Dear Colleague” letter), I strongly believe that government exists, in part, to have a plan in case of disease outbreaks. Apropos the government’s role, I find it morbidly amusing that in China, Italy, South Korea, and all other countries affected by the coronavirus, governments are calling upon the same weapon they’ve used since time immemorial in the face of epidemic disease: quarantine. Some things never change.

5. What we’re being told now is to wash our hands, stay home when sick, avoid people who are sneezing and sniffling, disinfect surfaces that a lot of people touch, keep hands away from faces, etc. This all works for me because I do it anyway. I’m something of a germaphobe. Within my own home, I’m pretty good but when I go out into the world, I see bacteria everywhere. I’m the one at the market cleaning my shopping cart with a disinfectant wipe. I learned years ago that shopping carts are amazing disease vectors, especially because of the kids who sit in them. When I get back to the car, I disinfect my hands before touching anything. I’ll then disinfect anything I may have touched in the store too: My wallet, my phone, etc. I sneeze in my elbow and hope others will too.

6. One of the problems with coronavirus is that, even though it’s an upper respiratory disease, it’s apparently also spread by fecal matter. That means it will be a disaster in places that don’t have good fecal matter control: China (a very dirty place with primitive toilets and no culture of handwashing), India (which is working hard to bring toilets to people but it’s slow going), Africa (a world drowning in fecal matter), and San Francisco (another world drowning in fecal matter). San Francisco’s mayor, London Breed, was smart to declare a public health crisis. Of course, if SF handles the problem the way it did AIDS, it will refuse to take steps against disease behaviors for fear of being politically correct. Here’s the bottom line: If we observe good toilet hygiene, we have a better chance of avoiding the spread of infection.

7. I don’t trust China at all, so I assume the numbers of infections and deaths are higher than reported. Having said that, I’m pretty sure we’re not seeing something like China in 1347 and Europe in 1348. That was when the Black Plague killed off 1/3 to 1/2 of the world’s population.

There are a few reasons I’m not seeing what’s happening as an Armageddon-esque event. First, the plague was an extraordinarily aggressive disease, sometimes killing people within hours. Second, the plague was also an extraordinarily contagious disease that seemed to have no mild form during its first pass through the world. (Coronavirus can be so mild that people don’t know they have it.) Third, we have better ways to treat secondary symptoms, such as infections or swelling in the lungs. Also, the government is testing antiviral medicines to see if they help.

Currently, the mortality rate for coronavirus is around 2%, which is much greater than for the ordinary flu, so that’s bad. Still, 2% is not 40% or 50% or 90%. That helps me keep perspective.

8. I thank goodness that Trump has been forcing American businesses to stop being so dependent on China. Our dependence is bad now but think how much worse it would have been if this had hit three years ago. I worry a great deal about the fact that we farmed all of our pharmaceutical manufacturers to China, though. That’s not just in terms of drugs for coronavirus; it’s about drugs for everything. We should never have become dependent on another country for something so basic as medicines. Still, that’s another thing I can’t affect and that just makes me nervous when I think about it.

9. I’ve got a lot of my retirement money in the market. I know the market will drop. I am not going to panic because I’m fortunate enough to have resources for the next few months. This too shall pass and the market shall rise again.

10. The media lives for occasions like this. Panic sells and they also see it as a way to attack Trump. Just as I don’t trust China, I don’t trust the media either.

11. The last time I wrote about coronavirus, I wrote about the Chinese penchant for eating wildly exotic foods (bats, live mice, etc.), which creates a risk of zoonotic diseases (i.e., diseases that leap from animals to humans). I’m seeing more reports saying that it’s likely that the Chinese made the disease in a lab and released it deliberately or accidentally. I remain agnostic about this. I wouldn’t be surprised but I’m not going to get my knickers in a twist about something so speculative.

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Remember, USA, There Cannot Today Be a Miracle on Ice By the United States!

We’re Now One of the Bad Guys who Use Pro Athletes and Crush the Other Nations!

I could not let the 40th Anniversary of the Miracle on Ice without a blog post (since it is exceedingly unlikely the legislature will elect me a judge) and a friendly but pointed reminder to my countrymen!

And that is not what this TV station (ABC 7 in NY) commented on:

The Americans’ stunning 4-3 victory in the Miracle on Ice game – which was played 40 years ago Saturday – was shown on tape delay because the game started at 5 p.m. Today that would be unthinkable.

“If you go back to what happened, cable TV is in its infancy, no internet, no national newspaper, no social media, none of what we have today,” said Al Michaels, who called the game. “So you could truly keep a lot of people in the dark as to what the result was.”

Michaels is right of course. But that’s not it…

It is not even the wonderful parade in St. Paul called the Greatest Day in US Sports History…no, wait for it!

It is that today, in many sports, the Miracle on Ice or whatever, at the Olympics, cannot happen UNLESS it is the USA that is upset by some smaller national team that is not laden with pro athletes. (That is one reason why the curling gold was such a big deal – it was a lot like the 1980 event. See Here and Here.)

For those who want to celebrate the Miracle on Ice in the proper way, here are a few of Sanders’ greatest hits on this subject! And here and here, too.

So I say: Yes, celebrate the Miracle on Ice and here’s the US Olympic Committee site to protest pro athletes in the Olympic Games. It’s not fair to the smaller nations, it favors the major powers, it is driven by TV ratings, and it’s sports imperialism!

Bernie’s so-called “rape fantasy” essay will not damage him

If you read Bernie’s 1972 “rape fantasy” essay, you realize he was protesting both violent porn and emotional gender inequality, not promoting rape.

At PJ Media, the always-excellent Matt Margolis writes that it’s time to ask “hard questions” about Bernie Sanders’ infamous rape fantasy essay. I’d like to suggest that Bernie won’t mind those questions because he’ll have a good answer: His ugly opening paragraph wasn’t intended to promote sick sex but to protest it and to demand emotional equality between men and women

If you can make yourself read through the entire muddled thing, which veers between philosophy and cheap literature, you’ll realize that Bernie’s making a point and, much as I hate to say it, a good one. The point is that human history had created an unhealthy dynamic between men and women which needed to be corrected, but that feminism was turning into man-hatred, which destroys relationships.

Here’s the essay in its entirety. It is execrably written, in part because Marxists are always bad writers and in part because Bernie specifically was a horrible writer.

Bernie Sanders' rape fantasy essay from 1972

Most people never get beyond the opening paragraphs, by which time they assume that those ugly words represent Bernie’s own sexual fantasies, all of which center around women being abused and liking it:

A man goes home and masturbates his typical fantasy. A woman on her knees, a woman tied up, a woman abused.

A woman enjoys intercourse with her man – as she fantasizes being raped by 3 men simultaneously.

The man and woman get dressed up on Sunday – and go to Church, or maybe to their “revolutionary” political meeting.

However, if you keep reading, what you realize is that Bernie was trying to create a powerful, eye-catching lede by repeating the common currency in the hardcore men’s magazines and in ordinary newspapers:

Have you ever looked at the Stag, Man, Hero, Tough magazines on the shelf of your local bookstore? Do you know why the newspapers with the articles like “Girl 12 raped by 14 men” sell so well? To what in us are they appealing?

That was Bernie’s premise: Americans in 1972, on both the right (church-going) and the left (revolutionary meetings), were being sold a vile view of sex, whether in underground literature or in the mainstream media.

From that starting point, Bernie wrote paragraph after paragraph of free-form waffle that, once boiled down, seems to be saying that men and women should be equal partners:

Women, for their own preservation, are trying to pull themselves together. And it’s necessary for all of humanity that they do. Slavishness on the one hand breeds pigness [sic] on the other hand. Pigness on one hand breeds slavishness on the other. Men and women – both are losers. Women adapt themselves to fill the needs of men, and men adapt themselves to fill the needs of women. In the beginning there were strong men who killed the animals and brought home the food – and the dependent women who cooked it. No more! Only the roles remain – waiting to be shaken off. There are no “human” oppressors. Oppressors have lost their humanity. One one hand “slavishness,” on the other hand “pigness.” Six of one, half dozen of the other. Who wins?

Maybe I’m misreading the above paragraph (and that’s easy to do considering the truly awful, junior high school quality writing), but it seems Bernie was saying that women’s past dependency on men for food nurtured both men’s belief that women liked being dependent and women’s belief that men should be dominant. He was then trying to say that these sex roles were bad and needed to stop.

I’ll interject here and say something about woman’s romance literature. My beloved Jane Austen’s books are so delightful because her male and female characters are equals. They each need and learn something from the other, but neither is subservient and neither views the other through a veil of gender stereotypes. The same is true for Louisa May Alcott’s characters. Dorothy Sayers also falls in that tradition. (And yes, there are dozens of others, but those are the ones that spring to mind.)

However, there’s long been a genre of women’s writing that relies heavily on the dominant man sweeping away the woman. Although Charlotte Bronte’s Mr. Rochester and Jane Eye ultimately were equals (and she even proved to be the stronger character of the two), her book provided another template, one of powerful, brooding, domineering men. In many women’s romances from Charlotte Bronte on until the mid-1960s or so, this quality was represented in men seizing women and kissing them violently. That was as far as social acceptability could go. Men’s writing also traded on this “good, but incredibly dominant man” notion, which you can see in Ian Fleming’s The Spy Who Loved Me. In the book, James Bond is something of a brute but because he’s a righteous brute the woman willingly takes him to her bed.

By the late 1960s and early 1970s, romance novels started to take on a “rapey” feel, something that continued through the 1980s. The problem for romance writers was that good girls weren’t supposed to have premarital sex. By then, though, actual sex, not just implied sex, was selling, so the authors had to get the women into bed. The answer was to have “willing rape.” The “hero” forced sex on the woman, but it wasn’t actually rape (or as Whoopi Goldberg called it “rape rape”) because the woman secretly wanted it.

This was not a good era for the more graphic romance novels. Eventually, that whole icky rape fantasy idea went out the window when it became acceptable for women in romance novels to engage willingly in premarital sex. In a funny way, writing in 1972, Bernie seemed to have been honing in on this up-and-coming “rape fantasy” romance novel genre.

Having established that there was an unhealthy sexual dynamic at work in 1972 America, Bernie turned to gender roles. He wrote about women’s need to retain femininity while being strong. Ironically enough, this is the part of the essay that could actually hurt him today, not among conservatives but among strident feminists and those who deny that sex has anything to do with behavior:

Many women seem to be walking a tightrope now. Their qualities of love, openness, and gentleness were too deeply enmeshed with qualities of dependency, subservience, and masochism. How do you love – without being dependent? How do you be gentle – without being subservient? How do you maintain a relationship without giving up your identity and without getting strung out? How do you reach out and give your heart to your lover, but maintain the soul which is you?

In 2020, those are the real fighting words – to leftists, for they assume genuine gender differences.

Moreover, Bernie seemed to be aware that the rising tide of feminism in 1972 was predicated on man hatred:

And Men. Men are in pain too. They are thinking, wondering. What is it they want from a woman? Are they at fault? At they perpetrating this man-woman situation? Are they oppressors?

The man is bitter.

“You lied to me,” he said. (She did.)

“You said that you loved me, that you wanted me, that you needed me. Those are your words.” (They are.)

“But in reality,” he said, “If you ever loved me, or wanted me, or needed me (all of which I’m not certain was ever true), you also hated me. You hated me – just as you have hated every man in your entire life, but you didn’t have the guts to tell me that. You hated me before you ever saw me, even though I was not your father, or your teacher, or your sex friend when you were 13 years old, or your husband. You hated me not because of who I am, or what I was to you, but because I am a man. You did not deal with me as a person – as me. You lived a lie with me, used me and played games with me – and that’s a piggy thing to do.”

Even as Bernie recognized that men could feel women’s oozing hatred and contempt, he noted that, at the dawn of modern feminism, women had a legitimate complaint, which was that too many men didn’t view women as equals:

And she said, “You wanted me not as a woman, or a lover, or a friend, but as a submissive woman, or submissive friend, or submissive lover; and right now where my head is I balk at even the slightest suspicion of that kind of demand.”

In his awkward way, Bernie realized that men and women were at an impasse, staring at each other over an unbridgeable chasm:

And he said, “You’re full of __________.”

And they never again made love together (which they had each liked to do more than anything) or never ever saw each other one more time.

I am second to none in my deep dislike for Bernie Sanders’ politics. (I set up an entire little blog to challenge Bernie’s pernicious ideology.) I think he’s a genuinely evil man to promote Marxist socialism, something he does even while he stands on the unmarked graves of its 100,000,000 victims, most of them killed during Bernie’s lifetime. Everyone says Bernie is honest but he’s not. No one can be honest when peddling the world’s biggest lie, which is that socialism benefits people.

Still, despite’s Bernie’s being evil, this 1972 essay is not the way to attack him from the right. It may be poorly written, but he was trying to make a valid point and there’s no use allowing him to expand on that point to his benefit.

Image credit: Screen grab from Bernie Sander’s February 23, 2020 60 Minutes interview.

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This year’s race for president is an eerie repeat of the early days of the 1920 election season

A corrupt politician, a communist, a “government by expert” guy, and a pro-American iconoclast are running for president. This is 1920 all over again.

The presidential election in 1920 was a very interesting one. At the end of the day, the race boiled down to a contest between the Republican Warren G. Harding and the Democrat James M. Cox. However, in the lead-up to the election, a more interesting field was in play. Here were four of the candidates:

Woodrow Wilson, the current president, wanted to run again despite the fact that he had been felled by a stroke. For obvious reasons, the Democrat party didn’t want an ailing man who was, by then, quite unpopular.

Eugene V. Debs, a hardcore socialist, made his fourth run for president, something he did from inside a prison cell.

Warren G. Harding, a former U.S. Senator, was the quintessential “smoke-filled room” candidate.

Teddy Roosevelt, a colorful character who had been president from 1901 through 1909, also wanted to run again.

That’s the short version about those men. Here’s the longer version, along with a little bit about their modern political cognates in the presidential race.

Woodrow Wilson was America’s first progressive president. He represented the culmination of an upper-middle-class movement that believed in better living through expertise. Not just any expertise, though, but government expertise. An academic who was certain that he knew best, he believed that the Constitution was a limiting document that prevented him from micromanaging the American people for their own benefit.

Randolph J. May sums up nicely Wilson’s approach to government:

Wilson was convinced, in no small measure by his admiration for prominent late 19th century German social scientists, that “modern government” should be guided by administrative agency “experts” with specialized knowledge beyond the ken of ordinary Americans — and that these experts shouldn’t be unduly constrained by ordinary notions of democratic rule or constitutional constraints.

So, in his seminal 1887 article, “The Study of Administration,” published in the same year that the first modern regulatory commission, the Interstate Commerce Commission, was created, Wilson explained that he wanted to counter “the error of trying to do too much by vote.” Hence, he admonished that “self-government does not consist in having a hand in everything,” while pleading for “administrative elasticity and discretion” free from checks and balances.


Wilson well understood that his notion of Progressive governance by “fourth branch” administrative experts was constitutionally problematic. In 1891, he wrote that “the functions of government are in a very real sense independent of legislation, and even constitutions.” Regarding this view that the Constitution was an obstacle to be overcome, not a legitimate charter establishing a system of checks on government power, Wilson never wavered. He complained in 1913 as president: “The Constitution was founded on the law of gravitation. The government was to exist and move by virtue of the efficacy of ‘checks and balances.’ The trouble with the theory is that government is not a machine, but a living thing. No living thing can have its organs offset against each other, as checks, and live.”

Once Wilson decided that America needed to be the world’s policeman (because, again, Wilson knew best), he created the Wilson doctrine that has dominated American politics right up until the Trump presidency (even, in a screwy way, the Obama presidency. I’ve written about it here and won’t repeat myself. It’s enough to say that Wilson used the excuse of war to expand government power beyond anything seen before in America, reaching a point almost equal to martial law.

Wilson’s heir in the 2020 election is Mike Bloomberg. Like Wilson, Bloomberg believes in better living through government micromanagement. He trusts his own judgment about all things is better than the judgment of the American people. He believes that his expertise will make Americans so happy that they won’t notice the loss of their freedoms (especially the Second Amendment). Unlike Wilson, Bloomberg comes out of the business world, not academia, but his approach is the same. Incidentally, despite Bernie’s win in Nevada, creating momentum, don’t count Bloomberg out. Bloomberg believes (probably correctly) that Bernie can’t win. Moreover, he loathes Trump so much that he’ll throw any amount of money at defeating Bernie either before or at the Democrat convention.

As an aside, Adolf Hitler greatly admired Wilson’s approach to governance, including his racial and eugenic policies. After all, once you’ve set yourself up as a bureaucratic, administrative god, you start to see yourself as unconstrained by mere conventional morality.

Eugene V. Debs was a deeply committed socialist and, indeed, was one of the founders of the Industrial Workers of the World, an international labor union you may remember from your high school history class known as the “Wobblies.” It pretty much tells you everything you need to know about Debs that Howard Zinn greatly admired him: “Debs was what every socialist or anarchist or radical should be: fierce in his convictions, kind and compassionate in his personal relations.”

Bernie Sanders is Debs’ heir in this election. Indeed, Sanders has always been a Debs’ acolyte. In 1979, he made a documentary dedicated to Debs. (The Stanley Kurtz article from which I’m quoting, by the way, is from 2015.)

It’s true that this is a documentary about Debs’s socialism, not Sanders’s. Yet in his 1997 memoirOutsider in the House, Sanders proudly invokes his Debs documentary and declares that Debs “remains a hero of mine.” Sanders himself plays the voice of Debs in the film. Sanders’ documentary lacks any hint that Debs might have either made mistakes or taken positions that may seem troubling in retrospect. Debs is Bernie’s hero and Bernie clearly wants Debs to be your hero too.

Nowadays, Sanders points to Scandinavian welfare states as the embodiment of his democratic socialism. I don’t doubt that Sanders would like to see America move in that direction, and that is troubling enough. Yet the Debs documentary suggests that Sanders’s ultimate goal lies beyond even European social democracy. The man who made this documentary was pretty clearly a classic socialist: committed to relentless class struggle, complete overthrow of the capitalist system — preferably by the vote, but by violence if necessary — and full worker control of the means of production via the government.

There’s plenty of continuity with Sanders’s current rhetoric here, like his controversial remarks decrying the number of deodorants consumers get to choose from in capitalist society. These days, Sanders calls for a “political revolution,” and the Debs documentary clearly admires labor unions and politicians who seek to bring about revolution by peaceful democratic means. Yet just as clearly, Sanders admires Debs for saying that, in the last resort, violent revolution remains an option.

Sanders’ treatment of Debs’ support for Russia’s communist revolution of 1917 is particularly striking. Here, at least, you might expect a bit of distancing or criticism from a truly “democratic” socialist. Yet Sanders obviously admires Debs’ decision to give “unqualified support to the Russian Revolution which had just taken place under the leadership of Lenin and Trotsky.” When Sanders turns to explaining the decline of Debs’ Socialist Party after 1917, he attributes it to the party’s opposition to World War I and to fear of persecution. Nowhere does Sanders suggest that the Russian Revolution and its aftermath may have raised legitimate concerns about socialism. Sanders’s honeymoon in the Soviet Union and his trips to Cuba and Nicaragua make a lot of sense in light of his documentary on Debs.

I recommend reading Kurtz’s entire article. It explains a lot about what Sanders is hiding in this election cycle, especially with his pretense that Denmark, a capitalist state with a strong welfare sector, is what socialism looks like.

Incidentally, I believe that both Buttigieg, the son of an open Marxist college professor, and Amy Klobuchar, a true daughter of leftist Minnesota, hope ultimately to achieve Debs’ goals from 1920. They’re Fabians, though, believing that slo-mo socialism is more palatable than a rush into total socialism.

Warren G. Harding was the establishment favorite. An amiable, corrupt dunce, the Republican party put him in place because they knew they could control him and because his fuzzy politics and his willingness to say whatever it took to win aligned generally with Republican party goals in 1920. Eventually, his corruption caught up with him, ending in the famous (or infamous) Teapot Dome Scandal.

One hundred years later, and the amiable, corrupt dunce is Joe Biden, who entered the primary season as the Democrat establishment’s favorite. Nobody expects much from Joe Biden, other than to just do whatever leftist initiative the backroom boys and girls tell him to do. In the unlikely event he becomes president, his inevitable corruption scandal will easily eclipse anything attached to Harding. Moreover, while Harding may have been a pawn, the Hunter Biden story says that Joe Biden is an actor, not a pawn.

And finally, there’s Teddy Roosevelt. From the first day he hit the American political scene, Teddy Roosevelt was a happy warrior — a truly larger-than-life character. He had a ferocious love for America, was brash and blustery, came up with innovative ideas, and was a fierce warrior against corruption and monopolies. He also had a big, colorful, successful brood, including (by his beautiful first wife) his brilliant, charismatic daughter, Alice Roosevelt Longworth. He was an American original in every way.

We currently have such an American original in the White House in the person of Donald Trump. He too is a happy warrior — a brash, blustery, larger-than-life character who loves America ferociously and has a big, colorful, successful brood, including (by his beautiful first wife) his brilliant, charismatic daughter, Ivanka Kushner. And Trump, of course, is nothing if not an American original.

Like Trump, who is the most pro-Israel president since 1948, Teddy Roosevelt was deeply philo-Semitic and pro-Zionist:

[T]he president was a profound supporter of Jews and their needs and interests, both at home and overseas, and he was much beloved by the Jewish people. Roosevelt had visited Eretz Yisrael, then under Ottoman rule, in 1873 as a teenager and written about the trip in his diary, including a description of Jews at prayer at the Kotel.

As regimental commander of the famed Rough Riders leading the charge up San Juan Hill during the Spanish-American War, he developed great admiration for the bravery of the 17 Jews under his command. Praising them, he said, “One of the best colonels among the regulars who fought beside me was a Jew. One of the commanders of the ship which blockaded the coast so well was a Jew. In my own regiment, I promoted five men from the ranks for valor… and these included one Jew.” The first of the Rough Riders to be killed in action was a Jew, 16-year-old Jacob Wilbusky of Texas (and the first to fall in the American attack on Manila was also a Jew, Sergeant Maurice Joost of California).

As police commissioner, Roosevelt developed a special relationship with Jews, praising them for their dedicated service to New York City. In one celebrated incident, the bravery of a Jewish policeman racing fearlessly into a burning house convinced Roosevelt that Jews could make outstanding contributions to America and that discrimination against them could not be tolerated.

In his autobiography, he tells the amusing tale of a Pastor Hermann Ahlwardt, a German preacher who had embarked on an anti-Semitic crusade against the Jews of New York; Roosevelt specifically assigned 40 Jewish police officers to protect him, writing that the “proper thing to do was to make [Ahlwardt] ridiculous.”

(Do read the whole article from which I quoted because it’s a fascinating look at the last president before Trump who supported Jews and the State of Israel — although Israel was only an idea, not a state, at the time.)

Roosevelt famously believed in speaking softly and carrying a big stick. Trump has changed that a bit. In dealing with America’s enemies, he speaks jovially, even in a very friendly fashion, but he makes clear that he has a big stick. Remember how, while dining with Chinese President Xi, Trump excused himself to order a missile strike on Syria. Trump has also rebuilt the American military, decimated by eight years of Obama policies. Trump makes it clear that he prefers peace but is ready for war.

Naturally, there are differences between Roosevelt and Trump. The most substantive is that Teddy’s crusade against corruption was against corruption in the private sector. Trump, of course, is waging an equally fierce war against corruption within the government itself.

But back to the 1920 campaign season. In 1919, Roosevelt died right as the campaign season began and Wilson was rejected by his own party. In 1920 itself, Debs got less than 4% of the vote, and Harding won.

This time around, things are different: Trump, the Roosevelt cognate, is thankfully not dead but is thriving in the White House. Bloomberg, the Warren cognate, is falling in the polls. Biden, the Harding cognate, almost certainly won’t win the election because he’s cratering in polls and primaries. And Sanders — the Eugene V. Debs of 2020 — is soaring to wild success in the Democrat primary.

In 1920, American voters did not choose wisely. Harding went on to become one of the least successful, most denigrated presidents in American history. Had he not died in office, leading to Coolidge’s hands-off, constitutional presidency, there’s no telling how far off the rails America might have gone.

Now, in 2020, Americans have another chance to choose wisely. As matters are shaping up, they can hand the presidency to our 21st century Teddy Roosevelt or they can give it to the 21st century Eugene V. Debs. We are being reminded that, while history may line up the same playing pieces, voters do not have to make the same moves.

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Thoughts about the current state of the 2020 election

Every one of the icky Democrat party candidates is a wannabe tyrant who is not qualified to be president but that doesn’t mean one of them can’t win.

I watched the Democrat primary debate and had very mixed feelings. On the one hand, I thought that this collection of despots, whether socialists (everyone but Mike Bloomberg) or just naturally despotic (Mike Bloomberg) doesn’t stand a snowball’s chance in a hot place come the general election. On the other hand, the mere fact that five of them are the ones the party faithful have winnowed down as potential presidents and that one of them was easily able to buy his way onto the stage really terrified me. Is this what America has come to?

But let me back up a little bit. The debate had to be watched at two levels. The first level was the accomplishments and personalities of those running. The second level was the type of America they see before them and the promises they make should they become America’s chief executive. I thought that they failed at every metric.

Here’s my quick rundown on the personalities:

The only person on the stage whose accomplishments arguably qualify him to be President was Mike Bloomberg. He has started businesses and most certainly understands how money works. He’s run one of the world’s largest cities and did a decent job there. Those are the pros.

The cons are that Bloomberg has a reptilian personality, that he’s so far beyond the common touch he comes close to being a Zuckerberg-type alien being. He also really hasn’t built anything. I know that last sounds funny because he’s built something extremely useful in terms of information and created prodigious wealth for many people, but those are actually quite abstract things.

Trump has built things — real, solid things that people can touch and that need to last. Trump’s time in the building world has given him the common touch and has forced him to deal with reality, rather than with only ideas and theories. I can’t explain better than that, but I think Trump’s accomplishments, although less profitable than Bloomberg’s, are more significant.

Elizabeth Warren is a harpy and a shrew. She’s someone who’s never created anything. She was (in my humble estimation) a mediocre teacher because she was a poor communicator and she then traded on a stolen identity to leverage herself into the academic big time.

Being a congresscritter also isn’t a useful qualification. Congresspeople are pack animals who come up with ideas but have never had responsibility for the success or failure of those ideas. While being a shrew made her a good attack dog against Bloomberg during the debate, my feeling is that, just as no one wanted Hillary the Harridan in the White House, Warren the Shrew is not an appealing personality either. And the lies, the endless, endless lies. If there’s one person who can make Hillary seem almost honest, it’s Warren. That’s not a good selling point.

Bernie is evil. I know I’m not supposed to say that. I’m supposed to say that he’s just the crazy uncle who’s a straight shooter with his consistent beliefs, something that must earn him respect.

No. This is a man who lived through more than 50% of the 20th century, a century that saw socialism in its various forms send around 100 million people to early graves through murder, war, torture, and slave labor. Bernie was around for that. He was born during WWII; he saw what happened in North Korea; he saw what happened in Vietnam; he saw what happened in Cuba; he saw what happened across Latin America and Africa; he saw what happened in the Soviet Union; and he saw what happened in China. That he can still believe in socialism despite seeing the misery it relentlessly inflicted around the world means that he’s either completely evil or he’s a fool . . . and I don’t think he’s a fool.

Moreover, Bernie is a grossly dishonest person. Back in 2016, when he was merely a parasite who lived off of government and wives, one could say that he was an honest man who lived in accordance with his belief system. Since then, though, as Bloomberg was good enough to point out during the debate, Bernie has become a multimillionaire with real estate holdings and fast cars, who flies around American in private jets.

Rather than give up this wealth as a good true believer should, Bernie has instead given up his attacks on millionaires and now only attacks billionaires. While Trump may puff about statistics, he’s completely honest about his core beliefs. Bernie, however, applied his apparent core beliefs to himself only because he was incapable of earning money (angry communists usually are).

When Bernie finally earned money, he didn’t act like an honest man and say, “I was wrong in my beliefs.” Instead, like every tyrant in the world, he said, “I don’t have to live by the rules I intend to impose on others.” That’s hypocritical and, because socialism and death march hand-in-hand, evil.

Biden is a dead man walking. As the evening wore on, he struggled to hold on to his mental functioning. I would say it’s sad, but it’s not, because Biden is a corrupt man whose every policy for decades has been bad for America. And the fact that he likes to boast about his small bank account is irrelevant. He’s cleverly channeled money to his family and that still counts for corruption.

Have you ever seen the movie Election with Reese Witherspoon? She plays this sunny, perky, unbelievably vicious high school student whose running for election as class president. That’s Buttigieg. His tight little grin says it all: This is a power-hungry little guy who hides behind his chipper “class valedictorian” persona.  In many ways, he’s the perfect foil for. . . .

Amy Klobuchar who probably reminds more people than just me of the un-nice PTA president. There are tons of wonderful PTA presidents but anyone with children has run across the other type. These women look like the perfect suburban housewife, they willingly take on projects because they want to be a star and believe it will make them likable, and they’re mean, bitchy, and like to play both ends against the middle. They’re also the types who take all the credit and none of the blame, no matter how either of those things should actually be allocated. When pushed into a corner, they’re mean.

The mere fact that both Buttigieg and Klobuchar remind me of bad high school stereotypes is a reminder that neither is ready for primetime. Additionally, Buttigieg, aside from being the perky, gay, class valedictorian has absolutely no meaningful accomplishments or skills that would justify entrusting him with the entire United States. And Klobuchar is just another Senator (see Elizabeth Warren, above, or Bernie Sanders).

That’s the candidates’ personalities and qualifications. On that list, Bloomberg is the only one who should even be looking at the White House. What about the policies?

On a policy basis, none of them should be allowed within 100 miles of the White House. They’re all despot wannabes. Everything they stand for is antithetical to what’s made America the greatest, freest, richest country in the world.

Bloomberg (probably) has managerial skills and he did stand up for capitalism. On the other hand, he hates the Second Amendment, which should knock him out of the running right off the bat.

Bloomberg also hates the Constitution, the American system, and the American voters. How do I know that? Because he’s using his wealth to do a complete end-run around our democratic system. That’s not reverence for the Constitution. That’s a man who sees it as a meaningless piece of paper. And it’s not respect for American voters, it’s deep, deep cynicism. A man whose life is defined by money, he thinks everyone can be bought.

Moreover, we know from the way in which he ran New York that Bloomberg has no time for individual liberty. You’re all stupid and he knows better. He believes in capitalism — and I appreciate that — but he doesn’t believe in freedom, which is America’s core promise. He’s not a socialist because he doesn’t want the government to run things. He’s a tyrant because he wants himself to run things.

Do I need to say anything about Warren and Bernie running as far left as they can? Perhaps I should break down the kind of leftist that each is. Warren is more of a fascist than a communist. That is, she doesn’t want to nationalize the means of production. Like the National Socialists in Germany or the Fascists in Italy, Warren is okay with private ownership provided that everything functions within the state. Bernie, of course, is a hardcore communist. It was not a low blow for Bloomberg to call him out on it; it was the truth

Biden, again, is a dead man walking. He’ll do anything and say anything to get elected. He’s hitched his wagon to the Democrat party, but Biden’s always in it for himself.

Klobuchar and Buttigieg are Fabians, aka the slow-walking socialists. Their proposals about everything have a full socialist endpoint, they just want to do it gradually, kind of like dropping a frog in the pot of water and slowly heating it to boiling. His chipmunk grin and her motherly demeanor shouldn’t disguise that they are every bit as despotic in their goals as everyone else on that stage.

Aside from their different forms of despotism, the only thing animating the Democrat candidates is raw Trump hatred. They’ve become feral about it. They don’t attack his policies or his outcomes because they can’t. All they can do, like rabid dogs, is bark and foam about his being an evil fraud who’s making America a horrible place.

It tells you a lot about these six people that their idea of an “evil place” is a country with more wealth, more employed people, fewer poor people, better racial harmony, more border control, and a drawdown of endless wars even as the military is kept incredibly strong. They live in a Bizarro Land in which all of these good things are bad and the only way to remedy things is to raise taxes, destroy the southern border, socialize medicine, take away guns, and limit individual liberty.

At this particular moment, I think the Democrat candidates cannot win. Having said that, there are all sorts of things that can happen:

One: The Deep State is still gunning for Trump and it’s very powerful.

Two: Coronavirus can upset the world economy, which could hurt Trump’s prospects. I know doctors who are panicking. Having said that, I believe that it’s just going to be a bad flu season. American ingenuity is mapping the virus’s gene, which promises better treatments and cures.

We also have a useful piece of information now, which is that the disease is spread via fecal matter. America is far ahead of China and other second and third world countries when it comes to stopping that kind of spread. We have better plumbing and, even more importantly, we have a culture that knows people should wash their hands after using the facility. Some don’t, obviously, but they know better. With a deadly disease out there spread through poop, a whole lot of people who have been slackers about washing their hands are about to change that. The Chinese and Muslim cultures don’t have that respect for the power of fecal bacteria. Their countries may be hit hard. . . .

Lastly, we have better treatment than you’re going to find in China or North Korea. Funnily enough, their socialized medicine systems don’t seem to be up to the job of treating the disease.

Three: The media, although it should have been in the trash heap of history by 2012, when it managed to get Obama reelected, is still a force to be reckoned with. Even though more people than ever recognize the lies it tells, its sheer presence around America and it’s never-ending, repetitious messages make it powerful. We’d be fools to count it out.

Four: Something else. Yeah, I know that’s a meaningless statement but the nature of black swans is that they’re completely unexpected and unpredictable.

Five: Even if Trump wins again, the Democrat money aimed at congress could see Democrats retain control over the House and the Senate switch hands. Keep in mind that Republicans have a razor-thin margin in the Senate. If Trump loses Congress, he will be hounded from pillar to post in a way that makes the last three years look like a garden party.

So, what’s your job? Vote. In the primaries, vote for the congresscritter who will support Trump. (And yeah, I know that in Democrat open primary states your vote is meaningless, and I’m sorry about that.) And in November, vote, vote, vote for Republicans, all the way down the line, from Trump right down to the county dog catcher. Democrats need to lose so soundly that it will take a generation before they again think about imposing socialism on the constitutional United States of America.

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Thoughts about the increase in American suicide

An article about suicide suggested that religious faith matters to our ability to ride out unhappiness, rather than yielding to the impulse of the grave.

Last week, the Free Beacon ran a very sad article about the fact that American suicide rates keep increasing:

Every year since the turn of the millennium, the number of Americans dying by suicide has risen, with nearly 50,000 deaths in 2018 alone.

That steady increase began after almost a decade and a half of decline and has proceeded at such a pace that 2018’s per capita suicide rate is the highest since the start of World War II. Suicide is now among the 10 leading causes of death in the United States, the second-most common cause for Americans between the ages of 10 and 24, and the third-most for those between 25 and 44.

These figures are a tragedy. But they are also a mystery.

It’s that “mystery” part that got me thinking. My first assumption when I carelessly read the article was that we were looking at the despair of the Obama years when the economy was stagnant and unemployment rife – but then I saw that the figures include 2018, which was two years into the Trump administration when things were improving.

One person thinks we’re simply looking at a cycle:

“Suicide rates are cyclical,” Dr. Bart Andrews, an AAS board member, told the Washington Free Beacon. “If you look at the U.S. rates over the history that we’ve been tracking it, we tend to see these 20- or 30-year cycles of up and down suicide trends.”

Andrews said that he’s not yet convinced that the sudden spike in 2000 is a departure from this cyclicality—its magnitude may just represent better tracking. But it is hard to see the past 20 years following the same dynamics as the ’70s and ’80s when data collection was at least closer in quality to today.

What’s also confusing is that things that people assume cause suicide . . . don’t.

Even though teenagers engage in less risky behavior than they used to, their suicide rates have increased. The economy doesn’t seem to matter either, as I noted above. And while a lot of suicides are done with guns, it turns out that the rise in gun ownership doesn’t correlate to the increase in suicides. Some people think social media is at issue, but it turns out that screen time doesn’t tie into suicide. And of course, there’s the fact that, since Trump became president, more people are happy. So cultural malaise isn’t factoring into the spike either.

So, here’s my theory, although it may be no better than the Monty Python dinosaur theory that I love to cite when pointing out the meaningless obvious.

My theory (clearing throat), my theory (ahem) is that the reason for the spike in suicides is the decline in religion. Yeah, that’s a super-obvious point and I’m not the first to make it, but I’d like to add a couple of small twists. But first, let me discuss the obvious point.

It’s no secret that traditional religion is declining in America. If you search “America decline in religion,” you’ll find dozens of articles talking about how Americans are retreating from traditional faiths, especially Judeo-Christian faiths.

Faith gives meaning to life. Dennis Prager talks about this often, so let me give just a few quotations. Here’s what he says in an article about the fact that young people today are unhappy:

Aside from food, the greatest human need is meaning. I owe this insight to Viktor Frankl and his classic work “Man’s Search for Meaning,” which I first read in high school and which influenced me more than any book other than the Bible. Karl Marx saw man as primarily motivated by economics; Sigmund Freud saw man as primarily driven by the sexual drive; Charles Darwin, or at least his followers, sees us as primarily driven by biology.


More than a third of Americans born after 1980 affiliate with no religion. This is unprecedented in American history; until this generation, the vast majority of Americans have been religious.

Maybe, just maybe, the death of religion — the greatest provider of meaning, while certainly not the only — is the single biggest factor in the increasing sadness and loneliness among Americans (and so many others). A 2016 study published in the American Medical Association JAMA Psychiatry journal found that American women who attended a religious service at least once a week were five times less likely to commit suicide. Common sense suggests the same is true of men.

The bottom line: The reason so many young people are depressed, unhappy and angry is the left has told them that God and Judeo-Christian religions are nonsense; their country is largely evil; their past is deplorable; and their future is hopeless.

In a different post, about certain conservatives (whom he adores) who are not religious, Prager threw in one more existential thought:

[Heather] Mac Donald: “Part of my resistance to this is simply I don’t find claims of petitionary prayer and the idea of a personal loving God consistent with what I see — what I call the daily massacre of the innocents. To me it’s a very hard claim to make that I should expect God to pay attention to my well-being when He’s willing to allow horrific things to happen to people far more deserving and innocent than I am. So, for me, it’s partly just a truth value. I cannot stomach what appears to me to be a patently false claim about a personal loving God.”

I agree with Heather’s premises but not with her conclusion. I have never believed that God has any reason to pay more attention to me than to any other innocent human being. And I, too, “cannot stomach” the “daily massacre of the innocents” — so much so that I have written how I find the commandment to love God the hardest commandment in the Bible.

But what I also cannot stomach is the thought of a universe in which the horrible suffering of innocents is never compensated by a good and just God: The good and the evil all die; the former receive no reward and the latter no punishment.

The problem of unjust suffering troubles every thinking believer. But the Jewish theologian Milton Steinberg offered a powerful response: “The believer in God has to account for unjust suffering; the atheist has to account for everything else.” Between the two, I would argue that the atheist’s burden is infinitely greater. And insurmountable.

Summing it up, religion gives life meaning, even if we cannot discern God’s purpose, and religion, even if inexplicable or silly, is still better than the black abyss of atheism. And yes, I know that there are individuals out there, including one of my favorite commenters (you know who you are, NW), who strongly feel that you don’t need traditional faith to have meaning or existential serenity. I still think, however, that for the bell curve of humanity faith helps. Lacking faith, life becomes purposeless and that’s profoundly depressing in a way that may make life unbearable.

So, the above is the big, obvious idea about why a loss of religion correlates with suicides. Here are my two smaller, more esoteric reasons:

First, there are actions we can take that, while neither illegal nor dangerous, nevertheless demean us profoundly as human beings. I’m thinking of sexually degrading things of the type that are so easily available on the internet, but I’m sure there are other things that would fall in the same category. I suspect (although I have no way of knowing) that being religious puts something of a brake on engaging in these activities in the first place.

If you’re not religious, though, and have no brake, you may find yourself –at least in your own head – living in a very bad, painful, unpleasant, physically and mentally fetid universe. And even though you don’t have a religion telling you that you’re doing something morally wrong, you probably still have something inside you telling you that you’re are unclean. And perhaps when that feeling of having dirtied yourself gets too overwhelming, when the ugliness you’ve wandered into eats you up and you see no way out, death is preferable.

Again, this is just a guess on my part that, maybe, religious people wouldn’t get to that dark place to begin with.

Additionally, I wonder if there’s another out for religious people who do manage to find themselves in that dark place. Without faith, people who are in those bad places don’t know how to cleanse themselves of the feeling of having been there. However, isn’t one of the promises of Christianity that, if you really come to know Christ and dedicated yourself to living in accordance with those principles, your soul is cleansed?

In other words, no matter how far you’ve fallen into the muck, religion helps you to pick yourself up and clean yourself. That’s probably why sex workers and hardcore drug users who manage to leave the old life behind often cite God. Not only are their behaviors different, but they have forgiven themselves. The cleansing power of true faith was certainly true for one young woman I wrote about.

Despite being Jewish, I know less about how the Jewish faith handles remorse, repentance, and reform, but the Old Testament definitely seems to allow for these things. After all, Moses didn’t come to religion until he was a middle-aged man. Also, I seem to remember that one of the prophets married a prostitute (but am too lazy to confirm).

Second, suicide is a mortal sin in Catholicism and a sin in the Judeo-Christian faith generally. The reason, as I understand it, is that God created each of us, making it a crime against God to destroy that which he has created. That too is a brake on suicide.

I was thinking that particular brake because one of my Little Bookworms wrote a short essay about St. Ignatius of Loyola. What I didn’t know was that St. Ignatius suffered a period of existential despair so profound he contemplated suicide. It was the knowledge that suicide is a mortal sin that stopped him. He went on to a life of greatness.

We know that many suicides are matters of impulse. Religious faith – and the belief that killing yourself puts you at odds with God – may well be a brake on that impulse, as it was with Loyola. I’m sure St. Ignatius is not the only person who rode out a suicidal impulse for fear of imperiling one’s immortal soul. In a non-religious society, however, too many people don’t have the benefit of that brake.

Anyway, those are my thoughts. Now, back to fixing up the new house. (Today is Venetian blind and hanging plants day. Every day, the house is more of a home.)

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Trump may have been wrong about Bloomberg and the box, but there are other ways

On Sunday, Trump said that Mini Mikey Bloomberg would stand on a box during the debates, something Bloomberg denied. However, Mikey may have other plans….

During the 2016 election, Trump demonstrated a unique knack for finding nicknames that forever define his opponent. Remember “Low Energy” Jeb!, “Crooked Hillary,” and “Little Marco”? None of these nicknames used clever wordplay, such as rhymes or sound-alikes, but all of them stuck like glue, defining down people who have run against him.

In this election season, Trump started calling Joe Biden “Sleepy Joe.” Again, it’s not clever wordplay, but it’s good. A lot of people have been calling Joe Biden “creepy,” because of his habits around girls and women. Trump, however, knew that if the President of the United States called Joe “creepy,” many people would find it offensive. Instead, he labeled Joe “sleepy,” which did two things. First, it inevitably reminded people that Joe is creepy. Second, it forced 77-year-old Joe, who is clearly feeling the weight of his years on the campaign trail, to be endlessly wired, even manic. Trump got into Joe’s head.

Trump is at it again with Mike Bloomberg. Because Democrats have realized there’s a downside to having a presidential candidate who openly calls for the socialism they all desire, they’re hoping that the uber-capitalist Mike Bloomberg will assuage voters’ concerns about a communist Democrat party. It doesn’t matter that Bloomberg is every bit as totalitarian as his socialist opponents in the Democrat primary. It’s enough that he’s not wearing Che images on his tie.

With Bloomberg on the rise, Trump has taken the measure of the man and found him wanting. There’s a lot of psychology going on here. First, Mike is a little guy. He claims to be 5’8″, but is probably closer to 5’6″. Speaking as a petite person myself, there’s nothing wrong with being short, although the taller candidate in a media age usually wins. However, Trump is also clearly saying that  Bloomberg is a little person in other ways: there’s no there there. He’s a nothing. He has no decency or moral compass. He’s not a mensch. He has no stature.

On Sunday, Trump doubled down on Bloomberg’s lack of stature. He started with three tweets and, in each one, focused more on how a little person Mike is:

Mini Mike is part of the Fake News. They are all working together. In fact, Bloomberg isn’t covering himself (too boring to do), or other Dems. Only Trump. That sounds fair! It’s all the Fake News Media, and that’s why nobody believes in them any more.

— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) February 2, 2020

Many of the ads you are watching were paid for by Mini Mike Bloomberg. He is going nowhere, just wasting his money, but he is getting the DNC to rig the election against Crazy Bernie, something they wouldn’t do for @CoryBooker and others. They are doing it to Bernie again, 2016.

— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) February 2, 2020

Mini Mike is now negotiating both to get on the Democrat Primary debate stage, and to have the right to stand on boxes, or a lift, during the debates. This is sometimes done, but really not fair!

— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) February 2, 2020

Trump repeated the point about Mini’s height later in the day on Sean Hannity’s show:

Bloomberg’s campaign couldn’t resist taking the bait:

Bloomberg’s National Press Secretary Julie Wood fired back after the eight-minute footage aired.

She said: “The president is lying. He is a pathological liar who lies about everything: his fake hair, his obesity, and his spray-on tan.”

That was a very foolish response. Trump’s looks are old news. Moreover, calling someone fat or bewigged doesn’t go to his leadership qualities. Calling someone “little,” though, speaks not just to height but to moral stature and Bloomberg’s campaign just made it news. If Bloomberg ever debates Trump, all that people will notice is how Trump towers over mini-Mike.

CNN, of course, also got very excited when it came to rebutting Trump’s statement that Mini Mikey would be standing on a box:

This apparently is real.

— Brit Hume (@brithume) February 2, 2020

I’m going to accept as true that Trump was incorrect when he said that Mini Mike needed a box — that’s not where this issue ends. Instead, I have big, big, tall, tall news.

According to my own reliable source (my dog has never lied to me), Bloomberg is in negotiations with Jon Stewart to buy the exact same lift that Stewart used during his debate with Bill O’Reilly in 2012:

Just remember, folks, that you heard it here first.

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