The good guys win a couple

What do you know? The Johnson Amendment will remain in the tax code, and the parsonage exemption is out.

First, the Johnson Amendment:

A Democratic senator taking part in talks on the GOP tax package says a provision allowing churches to endorse political candidates and still keep their tax-free status won’t be in the final bill.

Good. This should never have even made it into the tax bill. If churches want to do electioneering, then they shouldn’t be able to do it with tax-free dollars — basically, a public subsidy.

Second, a federal court has ruled against the parsonage exemption.

A federal judge ordered the IRS to stop letting clergy deduct housing allowances, after finding that the federal law violates the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment by endorsing religion.

U.S. District Judge Barbara Crabb ruled for atheist group Freedom From Religion Foundation, or FFRF, in October, finding that a provision of the tax code, Section 107(2) of Title 26, unconstitutionally allows Christian ministers to deduct housing allowances from their taxable income, because it benefits religious leaders and no one else.

Good, again. If the members of a church wish to put their Holy Man in a mansion, more power to them. But ordinary decency — the Christian prohibition against theft, I should have thought — should have precluded the expectation that the rest of us would subsidize the project. I’m sure this decision will be appealed, but the housing allowance is so egregious it’s difficult to see how it could be sustained.

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About the Mueller smears

As the smears of Robert Mueller and the FBI intensify in order to manufacture an excuse for firing him and then claiming the institutions of governance are too corrupt to properly investigate Trump, it occurs to me that this dog-and-pony show has legs only because a lot of the country has no idea what it is to be a professional.

Every day in this country, every single day, without exception

  • Journalists accurately report about people and events they don’t like.

  • Engineers execute flawless designs for projects they don’t like for clients they loathe.

  • Lawyers walk into court and free people they wouldn’t allow anywhere near their spouse or children.

  • Doctors fight valiantly to save the lives of people they despise — cop killers, mass murderers, drug dealers, on and on.

  • Teachers struggle to educate children they privately wish had been aborted.

  • Biographers write trustworthy accounts of the life of Hitler, Pol Pot, Stalin, Lenin, on and on, even though they aren’t big fans of totalitarians. Conversely, Parson Weems’ life of George Washington is an exemplar for what a professional biographer wouldn’t do.

  • Military officers carry-out orders given by officers they dislike and whose purpose seems dubious.

  • Pharmacists dispense medicines whose use they disapprove.

  • And on and on. Contractors build homes on property they wish had remained undeveloped, mechanics repair Japanese cars whose popularity put his brother-in-law out of a job, librarians help patrons find books they consider odious — and the work gets done properly.

Likes and dislikes and facts and responsibilities are separable, and professionally-minded people do separate them. Every day.

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The Day of the Dispossessed

The bottom line here is straightforward: Neither the courts nor the press are
going to be bullied into submission — and beyond them, neither will tens
of millions of Americans be bullied into submission.

It’s going to be ugly, for sure, but the good guys are going to prevail.

The Case for Optimism

Tuesday’s exit polls tell a remarkable story: It was black voters who carried Doug Jones across the finish line and, as in the case of Donald Trump, it was white evangelicals who made Roy Moore’s candidacy plausible.

Think about that. After more than a year of serial lies and indecencies and corruption, ill-considered chicken with a North Korean madman, multiple attempts to shrink health care in order to give money to the super-wealthy like himself, a looming tax bill that will constitute the greatest wealth transfer in American history, investigations that have developed a strong prima facie case for treason … evangelicals rallied to a theocratic, mean-spirited nutjob child molester even crazier than The Donald.

I am not kidding you, and I am not wrong: The Evangelical Right are a clear and present danger to America — not quite a fifth column, but hostile to modernity itself and resolved to turn the clock back to the days of a Sunnybrook Republic that never actually existed except in picture-books.

And when it really mattered the sane, decent-minded voters of Alabama rallied-up and pushed them back. YAY! for them; we all owe them a real debt of gratitude. If Roy Moore had won, Republican lawmakers would be doubling-down on their whorish submission to the Buffoon-in-Chief and Robert Mueller would probably be cleaning-out his office.

Why is it so often the case that it is minorities, the dispossessed, the outsiders, who do the hard work of holding America to its ideals rather than those who enjoy its fruits? The question, once asked, answers itself: Because they are the ones who have to; the rest — a demographic once comprised almost exclusively of (falsely-)pious whites — are too busy plucking the grapes. That’s the real reason to support generous immigration policies, not slogans like “our strength is our diversity” et ceetera, et cetera. It is immigrants who come here believing in America’s ideals and keep them alive and give them meaning and demand that America live up to them.

The outsiders, whether domestic or daydreaming in some foreign pesthole, are our first and best line of defense against decadence.

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Factoid of the day

It’s important to bear in mind that we aren’t talking about a harmless sect of eccentrics; we’re talking about a substantial demographic — who voted for a theocratic nutjob who is fundamentally hostile to the Enlightenment ideals of America’s founding.

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Back in the ol’ hometown, ctd

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