The mills of the gods

The millstones of the gods grind late, but they grind fine.

Plutarch

Hoo, boy — it’s been a bad day for The Donald.

  • A Federal judge has ruled that Trump’s emergency declaration, which seizes funds from the military for use building his border wall, is illegal.

  • A Federal judge has ruled that the Trump administration rule prohibiting immigration by those who might become a “public charge,” is illegal.

  • A Federal judge has ruled that, yes, his accounting firm can be required to release his tax returns to investigators.

So the courts are rejecting his high-handed and plainly unlawful conduct, and the House of Representatives is surely headed toward impeachment. Not for the first time, I wonder: How did Trump’s supporters not know that his ignorance and squalid self-absorption would come to a bad end?

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Quote for the day

Pete Buttigieg got off the best line of last night’s debate.

When religion is used in that way, to me, it makes god smaller.

The entire clip is below:

I’ve wondered occasionally: Do evangelicals carry-on about love-love-love so much because they know Abraham’s god is one small, mean, and vengeful sumbidg?

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Romanticizing retreat

It isn’t quite so decadent as Rousseau’s celebration of American indians as noble savages, but could we please get over our sudden enthusiasm for rural America as a fount of yoeman virtue and r-e-a-l Americans? The latest iteration of this nonsense comes in a celebration of essayist Wendell Berry.

PORT ROYAL, Kentucky — Wendell Berry doesn’t like screens. The 85-year-old writer doesn’t own a TV, computer, or cellphone. If you call the landline at his country home in Port Royal, you won’t reach an answering machine. When he reads this profile, it will be because someone else printed it out. And, if his general approach to life is any indication, he will probably take his time.

It’s virtually impossible to imagine life in the modern world without our technological accessories, but Berry has consistently presented this spartan circumstance as a compelling proposition: An unplugged life, rooted in nature, he has argued, is the key to fulfillment.

Bah. I live in Franklin County, North Carolina, hard by Research Triangle Park. I live in a comfortable, modern home situated on a large lot, and good shopping, medical care, and chicken-to-go are minutes away.

But a peculiarity of North Carolina — much of the Old South, in fact — is that it is two societies. Go 20-miles west from my front door, and you’re amongst some of the country’s finest minds; go 20-miles in the opposite direction and you’re amongst some of the most backward-looking ignorance and degrading poverty imaginable.

Yes, America needs farmers, and I’m happy there are people who want to farm. A modern economy needs distribution centers, sometimes in otherwise remote locations, and I’m glad there are people who want to live there, too. But let’s not kid ourselves, either: a lot of rural America is trapped where it is because it thought the mines were coming back, that the textile mill would come back, that steel and concrete would go out of style and timber would come back, that the railroad would come back, that tobacco would come back — on and on. And after 10–, 20–, and 30-years of waiting without result the communities have grown old, the brightest kids have left town, and progress is when poorly-paying jobs come to town because they have to take what they can get.

Berry himself was once lured away by the promises of urban life. After graduating from the University of Kentucky in 1957, Berry landed a fellowship at Stanford University, followed by a Guggenheim Fellowship and a job teaching English at New York University.

In 1964, Berry lived in what many considered the intellectual and cultural epicenter of America: Greenwich Village. But against the advice of his colleagues, he decided to leave his position in New York after only two years. He loaded everything he and Tanya owned into a Volkswagen Beetle and headed west toward Kentucky.

Believe it or not, a lot of Southern Baptist seminarians have followed similar career paths — a real education, a few years in the real world, and then a return to the familiar simplicities of the seminary.

It takes all kinds. Rural life doubtless holds genuine appeal for some people, and it’s good there are open spaces for them. For many, however — most, probably — it represents failures of judgment and, like a lot of those seminarians, an innate unfittedness for the real world. Certainly, it says nothing about wisdom and character.

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Lunacy unplugged

The White House’s response to multiple House of Representative’s investigations was released yesterday; you can read it here.

I write on behalf of President Donald J. Trump in response to your numerous, legally unsupported demands made as part of what you have labeled — contrary to the Constitution of the United States and all past bipartisan precedent — as an “impeachment inquiry.” As you know, you have designed and implemented your inquiry in a manner that violates fundamental fairness and constitutionally mandated due process.

The Constitution grants to each house of Congress the right to make its own rules and establish its own procedures; an impeachment inquiry is whatever the House of Representatives says is an impeachment inquiry. What is more, the subject of the investigation is protected by due process during the trial in the Senate, not during the investigation.

And that’s just the first paragraph.

With its egregious lies, non sequiturs, and misrepresentation of facts and settled norms, this letter is a sort of benchmark that’s going to be anthologized for the next 1000-years as an example of authoritarian propaganda. It will excite Trump’s cultish base, I suppose, but I can’t imagine that any grown-up anywhere will regard it with anything but contempt.

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Back in the ol’ hometown, ctd

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