Category: Culture

The panic, one year later

James Freeman:

A year after the World Health Organization declared a Covid pandemic and government health authorities encouraged politicians to order societal shutdowns, America has only begun to pay the staggering cost.

Matthew Impelli writes at Newsweek:

Dr. Jay Bhattacharya, a professor at Stanford University Medical School, recently said that COVID-19 lockdowns are the “biggest public health mistake we’ve ever made…The harm to people is catastrophic.”

…Bhattacharya, who made the comments during an interview with the Daily Clout, co-authored the Great Barrington Declaration, a petition that calls for the end of COVID-19 lockdowns, claiming that they are “producing devastating effects on short and long-term public health.”

Newsweek shares a more recent email from Dr. Bhattacharya:

We will be counting the catastrophic health and psychological harms, imposed on nearly every poor person on the face of the earth, for a generation.

At the same time, [lockdowns] have not served to control the epidemic in the places where they have been most vigorously imposed. In the US, they have – at best – protected the “non-essential” class from COVID, while exposing the essential working class to the disease. The lockdowns are trickle down epidemiology.

Dr. Bhattacharya and the tens of thousands of other medical practitioners and scientists who signed the declaration have been arguing against lockdowns for months:

The most compassionate approach that balances the risks and benefits of reaching herd immunity, is to allow those who are at minimal risk of death to live their lives normally to build up immunity to the virus through natural infection, while better protecting those who are at highest risk. We call this Focused Protection.

Adding insult to the injuries caused by politicians who rejected this sensible approach is that the relative risks were largely understood at the dawn of the lockdown era. It was already clear that for most people the virus was not a dire threat. A year ago today, the Journal’s Betsy McKay, Jennifer Calfas and Talal Ansari reported:

Roughly 80% of cases of Covid-19—the illness caused by the novel coronavirus—tend to be mild or moderate, and more than 66,000 people globally have recovered. But those who are older or have underlying health conditions, such as heart disease, lung disease or diabetes, are at a higher risk.

Instead of focusing on the protection of the elderly and those with particular vulnerabilities, credentialed government experts like Dr. Anthony Fauci continued to suggest school closures and broad limits on business activity as appropriate responses in areas where the virus was spreading.

This column’s March 10, 2020, edition warned about the cost of lockdowns and noted:

To this point the coronavirus has taken a heavy toll on the elderly but not so much on kids. Many children may have such mild cases that nobody ever even realizes they’re sick.

This column also suggested that “President Donald Trump should first ask his economic team to estimate the costs and benefits of coronavirus countermeasures” and noted that the “unintended consequences of such interventions are not just financial.”

Pro Publica’s Alec MacGillis writes this week about adolescent mental-health disasters in the small town of Hobbs, N.M. He notes that across the U.S., while the lockdown was catastrophic, the virus was never a huge threat to the young:

The median age for COVID-19 fatalities in the U.S. is about 80. Of the nearly 500,000 deaths in the U.S. analyzed by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention as of early March, 252 were among those 18 or younger — five hundredths of a percent of the total.

Mr. MacGillis then describes a number of local tragedies in Hobbs, including the story of 11-year-old Landon Fuller, who took his life after riding his bike to a field near his house:

“I think the big question we all have is why, and we will never know the reason why,” his mother, Katrina Fuller, told an Albuquerque TV talk show in July. “The only thing that I was able to find was in his journal, was that he had wrote that he was going mad from staying at home all the time and that he just wanted to be able to go to school and play outside with his friends. So that was the only thing that I can imagine what was going through his head at that time.”

At the same time, shutdowns necessitated massive government spending of borrowed money to offset the loss of normal economic activity. So U.S. children were handed a massive additional debt burden at the same time their ability to generate future income was reduced.

In the last year the United States has added more than $4 trillion in federal debt, and that doesn’t even count the historic Biden spending surge, which kicks off today with his signature on the massive new stimulus plan.

Yet as the country was locking down last spring, Dr. Fauci described the impact on Americans as “inconvenient” and later acknowledged that he did not do cost-benefit analysis and really had no idea what the consequences were for students: “I don’t have a good explanation, or solution to the problem of what happens when you close schools, and it triggers a cascade of events that could have some harmful circumstances.”

In March of last year, Dr. Fauci told National Public Radio that the U.S. “would not have a vaccine available for at least a year to a year and a half—at best.”

Thank goodness he was wrong about that. Dr. Fauci’s other errors have been much more painful for Americans to bear.

I know three people who died from COVID. Freeman’s conclusion is nonetheless absolutely correct. The federal and Wisconsin government’s performance against COVID ranks among the worst government failures in history. Educators say it will take years for children to recover from the lost fourth quarter of last school year. Some people — for instance, those whose businesses were ordered closed because they were “nonessential,” and then their businesses closed for good — will never recover.


Dr. Seuss today, you tomorrow

John Daniel Davidson:

Dr. Seuss has been cancelled. Some of his work has been deemed racist, and we can’t have that. On Tuesday, the entity that oversees the estate of Theodor Seuss Geisel announced it would no longer publish six of Geisel’s books because they “portray people in ways that are hurtful and wrong.”

Among the works now deemed unfit for children are Geisel’s first book under the pen name Dr. Seuss, “And to Think That I Saw It on Mulberry Street,” published in 1937, and the much-beloved, “If I Ran the Zoo,” published in 1950. The former depicts a “Chinaman” character and the latter shows two men from “the African island of Yerka” in native garb.

There’s not much point in quibbling over whether these and other such illustrations in the condemned Dr. Seuss books are in fact racist or bigoted, or whether Geisel held racist or xenophobic views. By all accounts he was a liberal-minded and tolerant man who hated Nazis and, as a political cartoonist, mocked the antisemitism that was all-too-common in America during World War II.

He was also a man of his era. Later in life, he regretted some of his political work during the war that stereotyped Japanese Americans, which, as jarring as it might seem today, nevertheless reflected attitudes that were commonplace at the time.

But context and nuance don’t factor into the inexorable logic of the woke left, which flattens and refashions the past into a weapon for the culture wars of the present. What’s important to understand is that this isn’t simply about banning six Dr. Seuss books. All of Geisel’s work is, in the judgment of left-wing academia, an exercise in “White supremacy, paternalism, conformity, and assimilation.” It might be easy for conservatives to laugh that off as nonsense, but they shouldn’t, because this isn’t really even about Geisel.

To grasp how a man known as much for his messages of tolerance as for his artistic genius could be canceled for racism, you have to understand what’s actually happening here. The left’s war on the past, on long-dead authors like Geisel, isn’t really about the past, it’s about the future. It’s about who gets to rule, and under what terms.

There’s a predictable pattern to what we’re seeing now. It’s predictable because it has happened before in much the same way it’s happening now. During China’s Cultural Revolution in the 1960s and ‘70s, the Chinese Communist Party, at the direction of Mao Zedong, called for the destruction of the “Four Olds”: old customs, old culture, old habits, old ideas. All of these stood in the way of Mao’s socialist ideology, so they had to be destroyed.

Children and students were encouraged by the communist government to inform on their parents and elders, to shame and condemn them in public. The guilty were forced to recant in “struggle sessions,” during which they were mocked and humiliated, sometimes tortured, sometimes murdered. Before it was over, millions were dead.

We’re obviously not there yet, but the woke revolutionaries who now run our elite institutions and exert outsized influence in the corridors of power are following this same pattern.

First, they come for the monuments, destroying the icons of the past and re-writing history to turn even our national heroes and Founding Fathers into enemies. The animating ethos of the mobs pulling down Confederate statues is the same as The New York Times editors who gave us the 1619 Project. And because there is no limiting principle to iconoclasm, they have moved on from Confederates.

The City of Charlottesville, for example, having removed or tried to remove every last Confederate monument, is now pleading for someone, anyone, to haul away a giant statue of explorers Meriwether Lewis and William Clark. The 18-foot-tall bronze statue, which was erected in 1919 and depicts Lewis and Clark with Sacajawea crouched behind them, is free for anyone who can prove he knows how to move it safely—although at this point it’s a wonder the city doesn’t just dynamite the thing to rubble, Taliban-style.

Then they come for the books, destroying any ideas or literature that challenges their ideology—like Ryan Anderson’s 2018 book on the dangers of transgenderism, which Amazon summarily canceled last month. Even seemingly unobjectionable books can be targeted, if not for their content then for the race of their author. Just ask Jeanine Cummins, whose novel “American Dirt” drew the ire of the left last year simply because Cummins, who is white, wrote a book about Mexican drug cartels. The list goes on and on.

So much for statues and books. At some point, the left will come for actual people, because the ideology of revolution demands that dissent—and therefore dissidents—be silenced, by force if necessary.

If you think that’s an exaggeration, recall what happened all across the country last summer when Black Lives Matter “protesters” took to the streets. They didn’t just march and chant, they rioted. They attacked businesses, destroyed entire city blocks, and carried out a campaign of intimidation, harassing, and in some cases attacking random people if they didn’t kneel and repeat the slogans of the revolution. Dozens of people lost their lives in the chaos and violence that ensued.

The people behind the statue-toppling, the digital book burnings, and the street violence won’t stop until all three of these things—history, ideas, and dissidents—have been destroyed. These are all impediments to their cultural revolution, and they mean to eliminate them.

So forget about Dr. Seuss. Forget about the statues and the books. Those things are just the beginning. It could easily get much worse. The woke revolutionaries of the left can’t be bargained with or appeased. They believe this is a zero-sum game, that one side will win and one side will lose. And they’re right.

This won’t help

Alyssa Rosenberg:

In his 1985 book “Amusing Ourselves to Death,” the cultural critic Neil Postman wrote that “We all build castles in the air. The problems come when we try to live in them.” Postman was a pessimist, but not pessimistic enough. It’s worrisome when citizens of a democracy take up permanent residency in fantasyland. But it’s even more dangerous when they try to renovate reality to match their castles in the air — and to insist that everyone else live there, too.

That is effectively what happened twice in January, first when supporters of President Donald Trump stormed the U.S. Capitol and then when a group of retail investors drove GameStop stock to heights of unreason. These two very different eruptions illustrate the same point: Boredom and social isolation are public policy issues.

It’s common sense that defeating the covid-19 pandemic will allow Americans to return to their “normal” lives. But more than that, the return to normalcy will help diminish the power of fantasies incubated on the Internet and the risks those dream worlds pose to residents of reality.

Among those who crashed the Capitol were believers in the conspiracy theory QAnon, which begins by anointing Trump as a world-historical hero and travels into ever-deeper absurdities from there. The rioters’ dream that then-Vice President Mike Pence would overturn the 2020 election results did not, of course, come to pass, but the riot still had momentous effect: It was as if we were all transported to the moment in an alien invasion movie when a spaceship rips a hole in the fabric of reality. The aliens were among us all along.

The retail investors who launched their drive to inflate GameStop’s value on the Reddit message board WallStreetBets were less deluded. They didn’t appear to believe that the brick-and-mortar retailer had suddenly unlocked a magical new business plan. But they still employed fantasy to distort reality: By driving up GameStop’s price beyond any reasonable valuation, they put very real pressure on hedge funds that had bet big on GameStop’s failure.

Both events have prompted much head-scratching about what it all means. More useful, however, are the questions of why these events are happening now — and what can be done to restore reality on a firmer footing.

Covid-19 has created fertile ground both for conspiratorial thinking and mischief. This is not merely because the pandemic is a catastrophic global event with mysterious origins, but also because it has left huge numbers of people feeling isolated and bored. And no matter what Postman might have thought in 1985, and no matter how many blockbuster movies and binge-able television series we can watch from home, mass culture isn’t a sufficiently powerful anesthetic to make people forget that they’re missing out on a full year of school, work and social interaction.

Absent everything that constitutes real life, it’s no surprise that Americans desperately seek out substitutes, and that conspiracy theories and generalized online puckishness are popular alternatives.

As Princeton’s Damaris Graeupner and Alin Coman wrote in their 2017 paper, “The dark side of meaning-making: How social exclusion leads to superstitious thinking,” a sense of social exclusion can drive people to embrace conspiracy theories. As converts burrow into stranger and stranger ideas, they risk isolating from friends and family who don’t share their belief in misinformation. In compensation, they find a sense of belonging in the communities built around those ideas, shutting themselves off from competing points of view. So conspiracy theories like QAnon do more than seek to explain overwhelming and unimaginable circumstances. By giving adherents “research” to do and texts to interpret, they also provide a way to fill empty hours with what feels like productive, empowering work.

In retrospect, the GameStop frenzy seems predictable, too, but in a different way. Thanks to the pandemic, a lot of Americans have fewer ways to spend money on amusements and a strong desire to find alternate sources of income; gambling on so-called meme stocks and talking about it with friends is a form of entertainment that can take place entirely online. And the disparate financial impact of the pandemic recalls the 2008 financial crisis, which many GameStop buyers have cited as a formative experience and a reason to want revenge on powerful financial institutions.

Under normal circumstances, it would be hard to formulate a policy response to a problem like “boredom.” This is not a normal moment. The Biden administration can’t provide people with friends or produce a captivating TV show. But it can get shots in arms, to get the people those arms are attached to back into the real world as soon as possible. The result won’t just be a return to normalcy, but, one hopes, a badly needed return to sanity as well.


The 2020 Presteblog Christmas album

Starting shortly after my birth, my parents purchased Christmas albums for $1 from an unlikely place by today’s standards, tire stores.

(That’s as seemingly outmoded as getting, for instance, glasses every time you filled up at your favorite gas station, back in the days when gas stations were usually part of a car repair place, not a convenience store. Of course, go to a convenience store now, and you can probably find CDs, if not records, and at least plastic glasses such as Red Solo Cups and silverware. Progress, or something.)

The albums featured contemporary artists from the ’60s, plus opera singers and other artists.

These albums were played on my parents’ wall-length Magnavox hi-fi player.

Playing these albums was as annual a ritual as watching “The Grinch Who Stole Christmas,” “A Charlie Brown Christmas,” or other holiday-season appointment TV.

Those albums began my, and then our, collection of Christmas music.

You may think some of these singers are unusual choices to sing Christmas music. (This list includes at least six Jewish singers.)

Of course, Christians know that Jesus Christ was Jewish. (And faithful to his faith.)

And I defy any reader to find anyone who can sing “Silent Night” like Barbra Streisand did in the ’60s.

These albums are available for purchase online, but record players are now as outmoded as, well, getting glasses with your fill-up at the gas station. (Though note what I previously wrote.)

But thanks to YouTube and other digital technology, other aficionados of this era of Christmas music now can have their music preserved for their current and future enjoyment.

The tire-store-Christmas-album list has been augmented by both earlier and later works.

In the same way I think no one can sing “Silent Night” like Barbra Streisand, I think no one can sing “Do You Hear What I Hear” (a song written during the Cuban Missile Crisis, believe it or not) like Whitney Houston:

This list contains another irony — an entry from “A Christmas Gift for You,” Phil Spector’s Christmas album. (Spector’s birthday is Christmas.)

The album should have been a bazillion-seller, and perhaps would have been had it not been for the date of its initial release: Nov. 22, 1963.

Finally, here’s the last iteration of one of the coolest TV traditions — “The Late Show with David Letterman” and its annual appearance of Darlene Love (from the aforementioned Phil Spector album), which started in 1986 on NBC …

… and ended on CBS:

Merry Christmas. (To play this whole thing as a YouTube playlist, click here.)

… and they all lived happily ever after. The end.

By day, John Podhoretz is a columnist for Commentary Magazine, the New York Post and elsewhere.

But if you follow him on Faceboo, you will see that the Hallmark Channel, which has produced hundreds of Christmas-themed movies with essentially one plot, should hire Podhoretz to generate the latest holiday-themed dreck.

Social media has already divined the plot of every Hallmark holiday movie …

… but Podhoretz has applied Hallmark’s generic plots to the political circus of the past few months, going further as well by casting the lead roles:

When a disappointed 2020 pollster (Lea Michele) returns to her home town to help her father (Max Gail) fulfill the orders at his Christmas wreath farm, she meets a sexy widower (Generic Canadian). What will she do when she discovers a mail-in ballot he didn’t mail in—and opens it to discover he would have voted for the losing candidate she had said would win in a landslide? With a little help from a mysterious bearded man (Bruce Dern), can she learn to forgive and love? Watch “A Christmas Without a Postmark” on the Hallmark Channel.

(TV viewers of a certain age might remember Gail from “Barney Miller.” Dern is a character in my favorite Western comedy, “Support Your Local Sheriff.”)

When a hard-charging member of the Electoral College (Kate Walsh) returns to her hometown of Holly Springs to help her father (Len Cariou) fulfill the holiday orders at his fruitcake store, she meets a local fig farmer (Generic Canadian). But when he tries to convince her to change her vote to protest her candidate’s support of a new dried fruit tariff, their future is put in danger. Can a mysterious bearded man (Oliver Sacks) come through with new evidence of voter fraud along with a sprig of mistletoe? Watch “A Faithless Elector Yuletide” on the Hallmark Channel.

(Sacks, by the way, is dead. The response from one commenter who pointed that out? “CGI, my friend.” Another commenter suggested, “That screams for a Wolf Blitzer cameo as the newscaster improbably reporting on a local tariff referendum.”)

A hard charging agribusinesswoman (Katherine Heigl) is sent back to her home town by the conglomerate run by her hard-charging boyfriend (Scott Caan) to shut down the local mistletoe farm. She discovers it’s run by her high school beau (Generic Canadian), a widower whose son takes bassoon lessons from her father (Chuck Grassley). With a little help from the product, and a little magic supplied by a mysterious bearded man (Jack Dorsey), can a city-slicking takeover artist find it in her heart to save the farm and play Yuletide wind-instruments duets with the widower? Watch “A Double-Reed Mannheim Steamroller Christmas” on the Hallmark Channel.

(Chuck Grassley?)

A hard-charging marketing director of an international egg nog conglomerate is sent to the town of Nutmeg Springs to buy the local spice farm and corner the market before Christmas. She didn’t count on meeting the hunky town podiatrist, a widower whose son has an albumen allergy. What will happen when she gives the child a glass of her product? Will his violent and ceaseless vomiting indicate that she has put him into anaphylaxis—or does the boy just have good taste? Only a mysterious bearded man can help find the answers. Becki Newton, Wayne Gretzky, and Grigory Rasputin star in “A Hangnail for the Holidays” on the Hallmark Channel.

(I was not aware that Gretzky has ever acted in anything besides commercials. Nor Rasputin, who has the same problem casting Sachs would have.)

Stacey Staceyington (Meghan Ory), a hard-charging takeover specialist at the world’s largest maypole conglomerate, is sent the town of Compost Corners to buy and shut down the local log farm run by hunky widower Goodman Brown (Anthony Perkins). But when a snowstorm threatens the annual Yuletide Sacrifice, she and Goodman must work together with a strange bearded man to ensure the Hellmouth stays closed and doesn’t ruin the holiday season. Ari Aster directs “It’s Beginning to Look a Lottery Like Christmas” on the Hallmark Channel.

(A commenter pointed out that Perkins, of “Psycho” fame, would not fit the “hunky widower” characterization even if he were not, like Sachs and Rasputin, dead.)

It’s a sad day in Prothonotary Warbler Springs when the town’s favorite owl is transported by mistake to Rockefeller Center in the giant Christmas tree cut down for that purpose. Sparks fly when local Manhattan birder Chris Cooper (Cuba Gooding Jr.) accuses the town tree doctor (Natasha Henstridge) of being a Karen. Can they find a path to peace and avoid firing and arrest through the mediation of the big-hearted 30 Rock security guard (Generic Canadian) who drives the tree doctor and Chris Cooper back to Prothonotary Warbler Springs for the annual Birding and Egg Nog Wassail? And who’s that mysterious bearded man with the mistletoe? You’ll know when you watch “Owl Be Home for Christmas” on the Hallmark Channel.

(Someone contact Generic Canadian’s agent. He’s going to be busy the next few months.)

“Owl Be Home for Christmas” prompted a comment, “with the greatest of respect, that I do not know another Jew who cares so much about terrible Christmas movies,” to which Podhoretz replied: “Buddy. We invented Christmas. We wrote White Christmas. We wrote the Grinch. We. Are. Christmas.”

That in turn resulted in this: “There is an economics Ph.D thesis in how Christmas provides American Jews with all the positive externalities without imposing any of the stress or responsibilities. It’s the greatest free ride around. Almost as if we arranged it that way!”

It certainly could be pointed out as a member of a religion that celebrates the birthday and post-death resurrection of an observant Jew that a lot of the Christmas music I listened to (and still do) as a child was performed by, shall we say, pre-Christians, and not just secular songs …

… in the same way that (as another commenter pointed out) the producers of many pre-Hallmark holiday movies were of the same religion as Irving Berlin.

Podhoretz’s first “plot” prompted a guest contribution, and you will see why I included it in one sentence:

Dana Strivers (Staci Keanan), a New York based public relations specialist, returns to her hometown of Notch Falls, Wisconsin, to help oversee a recount of the contested election. A chance encounter at the Christmas tree lot with her onetime fiance Chad Potter (Shane West) stirs up repressed feelings, especially since his Potter’s wealthy father (Robert Pine) owns the company that’s the town’s largest employer and is working for the opposing candidate. “Counting on Christmas” debuts Dec. 12 with a special lead-in show hosted by Jodie Sweetin.

Older readers would recognize Pine as Sgt. Getraer on “CHiPs.” Younger readers might recognize Pine as the father of Chris Pine, who tries to play Capt. James T. Kirk in the J.J. Abrams (destruction of) “Star Trek.”

An old fashioned post

Finally public radio gives us information that is of interest to the public, from Audrey Nowakowski:

The brandy old fashioned, bloody mary with a beer chaser, Tom & Jerrys — Wisconsin has laid claim to many cocktails, or perhaps just made them better. In a state that continuously ranks in the top margins for alcohol consumption, Wisconsin’s drinking traditions aren’t just cherished, they’ve rarely changed.

Freelance writer Jeanette Hurt’s latest book, Wisconsin Cocktails, contains the recipes, history, and traditions surrounding most of the Dairyland’s favorite drinks. But she says perhaps the most important part of this book is setting the record straight on exactly why Wisconsinites drink brandy old fashioneds.

The common story of why Wisconsin drinks so much brandy is credited back to the 1893 World’s Columbian Exposition in Chicago. It’s there that Captain Pabst displayed his beer, Aunt Jemima demonstrated her pancake mix, and people tasted the Californian brandy.

Since Chicago was only a train ride away, many Wisconsinites came to the exposition. And it’s been told that German Wisconsinites, in particular, loved the Korbel brothers’ brandy, which then popularized drinking brandy in the state.

“Now that sounds really interesting and that’s the story that I even wrote about at one time,” admits Hurt. “But when I was working on this book, every time I’ve talked to the folks at Korbel they’d say, ‘Well, we can’t confirm that.’ So, I’m like well what is really going on?”

This question led Hurt down a long investigative historical research road, where she looked at more than 200 years worth of newspaper microfiche for every printed reference for “brandy,” “Wisconsin,” and “cocktails.”

Hurt discovered that in 1894 there was a cocktail revolution in Milwaukee among the young German men, and one cocktail that was popular was “the Old Fashioned,” but it’s not the one Wisconsin prefers.

“Once upon a time, we drank old fashioneds like everybody else [with bitters, sugar and whiskey]. So what happened between 1894 and now?” asks Hurt.

She eventually found a Milwaukee Journal article where a reporter, who was asking the same question, discovered a man who had been in the Wisconsin liquor distribution business from post-Prohibition to the ’70s, says Hurt.

This distributor notes that there was a lot of bad booze being served during post-World War II, in part due to distilleries being shut down to send grain to Europe. “But Wisconsin distributors found a cache of something, like 30,000 cases of really good, aged Christian Brothers brandy and they bought it up,” notes Hurt.

“So in Wisconsin, if you could get bad whiskey or good brandy, rotgut rum or good brandy — what were you going to drink? You were going to drink brandy. So, people started drinking their cocktails with brandy,” she adds.

Once we started drinking brandy, brandy makers naturally started marketing to Wisconsin and the rest is bitter and muddled history. So while it’s not as romantic as brandy getting popularized by the Wisconsin Germans who visited the Chicago Exposition, Hurt says it also gives a nod to Midwestern habits of finding a good product and sticking with it.

“It’s hard to figure our the origin of some of our cocktails, but this one I feel very solid about and I feel really good setting the record straight,” Hurt admits.

I come from a long line of brandy drinkers. My grandfather drank brandy and Coke. My father drank brandy and seltzer. (Which to me has no taste.) I started drinking Old Fashioneds once I got to Southwest Wisconsin.


Caleb Shumate:

“God is in control.”

“It doesn’t matter who is president because Jesus is King!”

As a Christian who has been heavily involved in the political sphere for many years, I find myself deeply disturbed by these phrases.

Have you ever stopped and pondered the words that come out of your mouth and others’ during the times we struggle in this world? Is God truly in control of the affairs of this world—or is there something more that  Christians are missing?

While I understand that many followers of Christ may mean well when they say phrases like, “God is in control”, the reality of the matter is phrases such as this are not only untrue, but theologically lazy as well as immoral. They create an attitude of apathy in the hearts of individuals concerning the fate of this planet. This frame of mind, if allowed to mature, will give birth to all sorts of morally repugnant theology.

God is not the perpetrator of evil, nor does He even allow it. He never did, nor does He now. To imply that God is in control of all things in this world would mean that He at least allows evil—or worse, causes evil as some part of a divine scheme. I realize some of you just read those words and thought I must have never even read the Bible, because what about all that violent stuff in the Old Testament that the writers say God did, right? Many Christians do not realize that the Old Testament writers believed that Satan was the left hand of God who dealt out fiery wrath, judgment, and condemnation. This can most famously be seen in the Old Testament story of Job, which many modern-day Christians misinterpret through centuries of misguided teaching.

When Jesus came to earth, he taught that Satan is purely evil and does not operate under the guidance or allowance of God, who is a good Father to His core. Satan is the enemy of God as Christ said in Luke 10:18, “While you were ministering, I watched Satan topple until he fell suddenly from heaven like lightning to the ground.” (TPT)  (For more evidence that Satan the author of all evil, see John 8:44,  Hebrews 2:14, and 1 John 2:16)
Richard K. Murray, the author of the book, God Versus Evil: Sculpting An Epic Theology of God’s Heroic Goodness, states it beautifully when he says, “Any evil that is comes from the free wills of angels or men. The misuse of free wills of angels or men, that’s what Augustine believed that’s what the church fathers believed, they did not blame evil on God. They did not say God soveriginly commanded evil events or even destructive events. They instead used something called the rule of character and the rule of character is that no matter what the Bible literally says about God’s judgment or God sending evil, it has to be reinterpreted by the love and nature of Jesus.”

In political application, if government grows due to our allowance of tyrannical elected officials either through our approval or apathy, we can’t turn around and think that God caused or allowed this as some sort of punishment, or that He allowed for tyranny to come to America. That is entirely on us as American Christians. 

That is not to say that God will not hear our prayers or that He will not divinely intervene at times to correct our screwups because He will. But God will not do for us what He has given us as believers the power and authority to do in Him. Jesus said to his disciples in  John 14:12-14 (AMPC),

I assure you, most solemnly I tell you, if anyone steadfastly believes in Me, he will himself be able to do the things that I do; and he will do even greater things than these because I go to the Father.

13 And I will do [I Myself will grant] whatever you ask in My Name [as [a]presenting all that I Am], so that the Father may be glorified and extolled in (through) the Son.

14 [Yes] I will grant [I Myself will do for you] whatever you shall ask in My Name [as [b]presenting all that I Am]. 

We must not forget that as it was in the Book of Genesis, God gave humanity dominion over this world that never changed from the beginning until now. The only thing that has changed is that He sent Jesus to destroy the barrier of sin that humanity placed between ourselves and God. 

Followers of Jesus Christ are the literal hands and feet of Christ; it is high time we put away this demonically-guided theology of apathy and stop blaming God when evil spreads. It is time that we understand that it is our responsibility to purge the evil from this world with the direction and guidance of God so that Jesus’ prayer in the Garden of Gethsemane will be a reality, “on Earth as it is in Heaven”. We must stand against all evil in this world. We must stand against evil in all its forms. We must stand against tyrants who seek to kill, steal, and destroy in the spirit of Satan. 

We can and we must rid the world of evil, and not allow those who wish to turn this world into hell to have their way. Jesus said in Luke 4:18-19 (CSB)

 18 The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to set free the oppressed, 19 to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor. 

We must follow His example and prevail against evil. If we do not, someone else will. The choice is ours. Will we work with Him? Or allow the consequences of apathy to take root? 

For “everyone” who “needs to read this”

On Facebook yesterday someone posted this, with the command “Everyone needs to read this.”

So, for those who slavishly follow dictates from others, here is Mitch Albom, of “Tuesdays with Morrie” fame, who wrote this on Election Day:

To be honest, I am less concerned with what we do Tuesday than what we do Wednesday, Thursday, and every day thereafter. My biggest fear isn’t who sits in the Oval Office come January; if the rest of us keep conducting ourselves the way we have been the last six months, it won’t make a difference.

We have more than taken sides in America. We have tunneled moats. In the name of “our way” we have demeaned, denigrated, destroyed. We’ve lost friends, alienated families, split our communities by lawn signs. We have hurt one another, emotionally and even sometimes physically. Yet far from looking at our guilty hands in regret, we continue to make fists and shake them across the great divide.

Is this who we want to be?

Let me start in my own backyard. The media. I used to be so proud of this business. I would defend it to any critic. I’d point to the need for an independent press as the only thing standing between big power and big money running rampant over the citizenry.

Now it seems we are running alongside them.

Some of us are even carrying their banners.

The partisanship of the news has never been worse. Subtlety is a memory. Asking for balance brings an eye roll, as if asking an adult to finger paint.

Cable news has long been considered slanted, but there used to be an attempt to acknowledge another side. Not anymore. Fox News will regularly begin programs with reminders that you only have so many days left to vote for President Trump and a future, or Joe Biden and earthly destruction. Biden is mocked, referred to with nasty nicknames, and regularly derided for his age and cognitive abilities. In recent days, the Hunter Biden story either leads or is highly featured nightly.

Meanwhile, you can’t find that story on the CNN or MSNBC broadcasts. It doesn’t exist. Instead, Trump gets a daily and nightly skewering on coronavirus, and is the focus and blame for a large percentage of their stories and panels. Even the rare piece of positive data — i.e. last week’s report of record GDP growth for the third quarter — gets the “Yeah, but…” treatment. Snide asides are now woven into the dialogues.

This is bad behavior. It’s also bad, period, because so many Americans get their information from cable news.

The print media used to be different. It used to take pride in standing above such food fights.

Not anymore. In many places, print has abandoned even the pretense of objectivity. It’s very hard, for example, to read the Op-Ed sections of the New York Times or Washington Post and think you’re getting an evenly balanced chorus. (Thursday’s Times featured op-ed pieces with these titles: “How Trump Lowered America’s Standing in the World,” “Trump Killed the Pax Americana,” “Four Wasted Years Thinking About Donald Trump,” “Lies, Damned Lies and Trump Rallies” and, too rich for irony, “Five Great Things Joe Biden Has Already Done.”)

The Wall Street Journal — which leans decidedly in the opposite direction — ran an op-ed last week claiming those in charge of once-traditional newsrooms defend and protect Joe Biden “on the grounds that Donald Trump is a unique threat to democracy and that they have been forced to take commensurately unusual measures.”

If true, that’s the problem. We can’t throw out the rules of journalism because we feel it’s our moral imperative to replace one guy with another. Who put us in charge? Many in our business act as if we’re simply smarter than the common folk who vote, and it is therefore our duty to give those people what’s good for them.

When I watched the recent 60 Minutes interview with Trump — in which he evidenced more bad behavior by walking out before it was done — I took note of one question by the interviewer, Lesley Stahl. She asked, “Can you characterize your supporters?”

It struck me as odd. Would that be asked of Biden? It’s as if those who support the current president are a strange cult, a foreign herd with wacked-out beliefs, instead of nearly half the country based on the 2016 election. Then again, as a Midwesterner, it often seems that many coastal “experts” can’t grasp why anybody out here votes the way they do. That’s not journalistic curiosity. That’s hubris.

And more bad behavior.

Of course, we have plenty of inspiration from the politicians themselves. You can start with the president. There is no question his preening, his prevarication, his fast-and-loose-with-the-facts approach and his infatuation with putting people down is, by any measure, bad behavior. Heck, many of his supporters will admit that. He gathers masses with no COVID-19 concern. He lauds his staff members, then trashes them if they dare speak their mind. The Republican senators, congresspersons and governors behind him often seem to have taken a see-no-evil, hear-no-evil pact.

But if you think that makes his opponents holy, you’re not being fair. Joe Biden brags about his “transparency,” but he barked, “No they don’t,” when a reporter asked if the public had a right to know his stance on Supreme Court packing, and he remains radio silent about his son’s business dealings, carefully avoiding any situations where he might be asked a single question. Is that really being “transparent?”

As for decorum? Nancy Pelosi called the president “morbidly obese” and said he’s like a kid “with doggy doo on his shoes.” Chuck Schumer threatened Supreme Court justices, saying, “You won’t know what hit you.” Hawaii Sen. Mazie Hirono, instead of casting a simple “nay” vote on Justice Amy Coney Barrett, marched to the table and declared, “Hell, no.” And for adopting two kids from impoverished Haiti, Barrett was likened to a “white colonizer” and her kids as “props” by a celebrated author and professor.

Are we proud to express ourselves that way? Is that admirable behavior?

We’ve attacked one another over the simple act of wearing a mask. People have been shot. A security guard was killed. Over a mask? We die on the hill for that?

The summer of protests saw many good people gathering to be heard. That’s our right, something to preserve. But the looting, burning, destruction and intimidation of innocent citizens was far too often excused or ignored because, once again, certain forces felt bad behavior, even violent behavior, was justified in the current ideological struggle.

Well, here’s some breaking news: the struggle isn’t going away. It won’t magically disappear on Tuesday night. We will eventually have a freshly elected president, but he’ll be presiding over the same nation, the same people, the same Congress, the same media and the same disagreements.

We keep acting as if this is the first time liberal and conservative have clashed, the first time race or police have been issues, the first time we’ve faced a health pandemic. None of that is true. And all of these things will repeat themselves in the future. In fact, they’ll all still be here, smack in our face, come Wednesday morning.

How will we be any different?

A common refrain has been, “If Trump goes away, we’ll all go back to being nicer.” That’s naïve, like a 5-year-old pointing to his kid brother and saying, “He started it!”

The fact is, we’ve gotten quite used to behaving badly. To rude and self-righteous postures. So when do we stop? The Republicans shoved through a Supreme Court justice because they had the power; now the Democrats threaten to pack the court if they have the power. Does that sound like a stop? Twitter and Facebook, who brazenly act as editors of their users’ viewpoints, aren’t getting any smaller. Where’s the stopping there? No matter who wins the White House, half the country will view it as Armageddon and vow to fight the oppressors.

Does that sound like an ending — or a beginning?

A recent poll showed three out of four Americans are concerned about violence on Election Day. City stores are being boarded up. Security is being strengthened near expensive properties. Rodeo Drive in Beverly Hills is literally shutting itself down Tuesday and Wednesday. Violence when we vote? Does that sound like America, or a revolution in some small, war-torn country halfway around the world?

We are stressed, locked down, haunted by a common enemy virus that should have united us but instead divided us further. The truth is, our future won’t be determined by who we choose to lead us this week. It will be determined by how we act after we do.

An American president, when he wakes up, doesn’t step off a cloud. He is a representative, nothing more. What will he represent? What will we represent? Think about the friends we’ve lost this election season. The neighbors we’ve alienated. Who will we be on Wednesday, Thursday and beyond?

I know this: If the winners gloat and the losers threaten, we won’t be any better than we’ve been the last six months. And does anyone really want the country of the last six months to be the country of the next four years?

In spite of the admonition that is usually a sign for me to ignore what I have been commanded to read, Albom makes numerous good points here, but ignores the biggest point of all.

The obvious reason things are like this today is that government and therefore politics is too large and therefore too important. The political behavior we see today is the logical result of the overwhelming power government has at every level. When government is as large and powerful as it is, winning isn’t everything; it’s the only thing. That means politicians and their supporters will do and say anything to get into power and to stay in power. (How we have not had widespread assassinations so far is beyond my understanding.)

Cases in point: Democratic Assembly candidates Kriss Marion, Erik Brooks, Emily Siegrist, Kristin Lyerly and Sarah Yacoub. Each raised between $390,000 and $540,000, and each spent between $335,000 and $409,000 running for their Assembly seats. Each outspent their Republican opponents. They have one other thing in common: Each of them lost. That’s a hell of a lot of work for a job that pays $60,000 a year.

Why would donors give a collective $14.34 million to the winners and losers of 99 Assembly seats? Why would those candidates spend almost $11.4 million? Because of the power the Legislature has in this state. You want to fix our culture? Take away Madison’s power. And while you’re at it, defang cities, villages, towns and cities as well.

The related thing Albom missed is Americans’ increasing inability to leave each other alone and increasing judgmentalism of others. Increasingly Americans appear to want to force others to do things the way they want, and of course run to government to attain their goals for others.

I would say that Democrats and liberals (but I repeat myself) are the worst offenders. The joke is that conservative atheists just don’t go to church, conservative vegetarians just don’t eat meat, and conservatives who don’t like guns don’t own gun; liberal atheists try to prove that God doesn’t exist and want to ban religion, liberal vegetarians want to prevent you from eating meat, and liberals try to ban guns.

One of the unfortunate trends of the Trump era has been conservatives acting like liberals, not in beliefs, but in, for instance, being as nasty as liberals after liberals lose elections. There is no question that four years of Donald Trump is the result of eight years of Barack Obama because curiously conservatives don’t like being called “bitter clingers” or “deplorables.” And while Trump may have lost the election, the GOP did better than anyone thought likely in large part, I believe, to liberals continuing to underestimate conservatives’ intelligence and belittle conservatives because conservatives don’t agree with liberals on political issues.


None so blind as those who will not see

Robby Soave:

When Donald Trump pulled off a stunning upset and won the presidency in 2016, few people were more shocked than the professional take-havers in the mainstream media. Pundits, journalists, and political strategists—who live in Washington, D.C., or New York City but seldom leave their Twitter bubbles—were totally blindsided by the fact that a crass reality TV star had managed to defeat Hillary Clinton, the embodiment of the Democratic establishment.

A healthy media might have learned from its mistakes, engaged in soul-searching, and tried to gain some insights into the working-class coalition that Trump had assembled. Clearly, this didn’t happen, because four years later—in the midst of a nail-bitingly close election—the predictions of the pundit class have proven to be no more accurate than they were in 2016. In fact, by some measures the experts performed even worse than last time: The pre-election polls, which suggested a landslide Biden victory, Democratic control of the Senate, and gains in the House, are so spectacularly wrong it calls the validity of the profession into doubt.

To take just one example, Sen. Susan Collins (R–Maine), for instance, did not lead her Democratic challenger, Sara Gideon, in a single poll of the Maine senate race. She was thought to be losing by 5, 6, or 7 points. (Quinnipiac had her down 12 points in September.) On Wednesday afternoon, Gideon conceded the race, which Collins won easily.

And while Biden currently looks likely to narrowly eke out a presidential victory, he is underperforming the polls in several states. In 2016, pollsters could reasonably claim that the numbers actually showed a very close and ever-tightening race in battleground states like Michigan, Wisconsin, and Pennsylvania: Trump’s win, though surprising, wasn’t exactly outside the range of possible outcomes. This time, the public was primed for a blowout that never materialized.

This means, of course, that the mainstream media narrative about the “shy,” reluctant, or otherwise undercounted Trump voter—namely, that he does not exist—was completely, utterly, bafflingly wrong: Once again, Trump is more popular than the media thought was possible.

Perhaps more importantly, the media continues to be wrong about why Trump is popular, and about which people like him. Unable to admit that a Democratic Party held hostage by liberal arts graduates who write their preferred pronouns on their name tags might be out of touch with the working class voters who traditionally vote blue, many cable news talking heads settled on any number of alternative explanations: from Russian interference to lingering, perhaps resurgent, racism throughout the U.S. (CNN’s Van Jones called it a “whitelash” in 2016.)

Trump, though appears to have improved—albeit modestly—his totals with minority voters, including and especially Latino voters. The narrative that Trump’s divisive rhetoric about foreigners and immigrants renders him completely toxic to minority voters just doesn’t match the reality. Indeed, the results thus far suggested that the racial gap—at least for Latinos—is shrinking, and class and educational attainment are becoming more salient considerations than race.

It’s unfortunate that many within the media—including and especially the prognosticators—continue to get things so wrong. Massive polling errors are bad for cultivating a well-informed citizenry, as David Graham argues in The Atlantic:

Without reliable sources of information about public opinion, the press, and by extension, the public, should perhaps employ a measure of humility about what we can and can’t know in politics. As wise as this may be—and even if people manage to act on it—that sort of epistemic humility risks falling prey to the same asymmetrical warfare that has characterized much of the Trump era. At the moment, the leader of the Republican Party is an authoritarian populist who claims to represent the “true” will of the people, despite losing the popular vote twice. The president is unlikely to exercise any such humility in claiming, without evidence, that public opinion is with him. He might be wrong, but without reliable polls, who’s to say otherwise?

Given the narrowness of Biden’s presumed victory, it seems unlikely that Trumpism has been dealt anything resembling a death blow. The GOP will have little reason to shun Trump; on the contrary, given the results in 2016, 2018, and now 2020, one could make the case that the Republican Party performs better with Trump’s name on the ballot than without it. Those in the mainstream media who continue to fail to understand Trump aren’t going to get off easy: They just plain have to get better at this, or they will continue to lose ground to their challengers in the alternative media.

Several people who fall into this latter category—which includes a bevy of populism-sympathetic podcasters and upstart policy advocates—were recently profiled in The FederalistPublisher Ben Domenech and culture editor Emily Jashinsky call them the new contrarians, or “the New Contras for short, because the one thing they all have in common is refusing the wokeness that dominates legacy media, and has created a practically religious climate of insufferable identity politics.” They cite Glenn Greenwald and Katie Herzog as two such New Contras: Both were solid journalists of the left, gradually chased out of respectable leftwing journalism spaces for disagreeing with mainstream orthodoxy.

Institutions like The New York Times and The Atlantic have grown much more squeamish about inviting dissenters into their midst. Publications are now occasionally beholden to staffers who think it’s the job of journalists to run interference for the Democratic Party and hide stories from readers if they could conceivably help Trump. Many young rising stars in the world of investigative reporting think newsrooms have wrongly prioritized objectivity and should move toward a kind of “moral clarity” that is likely to make their institutions even more confused about why millions of people—roughly half the country—have aligned themselves with Donald Trump.

As independent thinkers exit the mainstream media, groupthink and blind spots among the legacy press are likely to get worse. The result would be a travesty, and not an outcome anyone should want or root for.

The Looney and Merrie arts

Will Friedwald writes about …

There’s a telling moment in the 1940 Tex Avery cartoon “A Wild Hare” when Bugs Bunny sneaks up behind Elmer Fudd, covers his adversary’s eyes with his hands, and instructs him to “Guess who!” The hunter reels off a list of contemporary leading ladies, including, as expressed in his exaggerated speech impediment, “Cawole Wombard.” Yet even though one of the actresses in the list, “Owivia DeHaviwand,” lived until July of this year, the joke has largely been lost on younger generations—because most viewers born after 1970 have barely heard of most of the movie stars of Hollywood’s golden age.

And that’s the most salient fact about this remarkable cartoon rabbit, a venerable Warner Bros. star who is currently celebrating his 80th birthday (at least in human years). Bugs fans can enjoy a three-disc Blu-ray set being released in December by Warner Bros. Home Entertainment; if you don’t want to wait, he’s also featured in an excellent series, developed by Peter Browngardt, of newly produced Looney Tunes cartoons (viewable on YouTube and HBO Max). Although your average millennial scratches his head at the mention of Barbara Stanwyck, everybody knows Bugs Bunny.

Bugs’s durability clearly has something to do with his intrinsic status as an underdog. Even before “A Wild Hare,” which is generally considered the first full-blown Bugs Bunny cartoon, the directors and animators working for (infamously hands-off) producer Leon Schlesinger had experimented with the notion of a hunted animal—the prey—turning the tables on its armed predator in a prototypical series of hunter-and-rabbit cartoons from 1938-40. Less than 18 months after the cartoon’s release, America itself would seem like a plucky underdog, entering a war in which the whole world was being menaced by little men with big guns. (“A Wild Hare” ends patriotically with Bugs re-creating the “Spirit of ’76” march.)

The tropes in “A Wild Hare” immediately established the rules of the hunter and the game: In their many encounters to follow, we’d find a clueless Elmer unaware that he is talking to Bugs—followed by a dramatic realization (“that was the wabbit!”); a comic death scene by Bugs—followed by exaggerated guilt pangs from Elmer. Nearly two decades later, “What’s Opera, Doc,” perhaps the single best Bugs Bunny cartoon, readdressed all those leitmotifs in grandly Wagnerian terms. The No. 1 rule isn’t so much that Bugs always wins (although that’s usually the case), but that physical aggression is always punished. Bugs triumphs by driving his antagonists crazy (as he does in “A Wild Hare”); rather than by responding with force, Bugs will taunt, tease and gaslight them until they just quit in sheer frustration. The only times Bugs loses are those rare instances when he is the aggressor, as in his three encounters with his persistent racing opponent, Cecil Turtle.

Yet as firm as the rules are, there was room for infinite variation on those familiar themes. And while the brilliant voice actor Mel Blanc gave Bugs his distinctive—and consistent—New York accent, there were noticeable differences in the approaches of the various directors: Bob Clampett’s Bugs was the most wacky, egomaniacal, out-of-control incarnation of the rabbit, in distinct contrast to Chuck Jones’s vision of the character, who was much more coolly calculating. Friz Freleng gave us a highly theatrical Bugs who seemed to exist on a vaudeville stage, always ready at the drop of a downbeat to fly into song and dance.

Even so, those directorial transformations are subtle compared with those that Bugs himself effortlessly achieves. He instantly morphs into the king of England, an imperious symphonic conductor, and a variety of drag roles—from a perky bobby-soxer to a Noo Yawk manicurist to a Teutonic Valkyrie perched on a corpulent white steed.

“Bugs needed a stronger adversary than Elmer, because Elmer was about as stupid as you could get,” Freleng said. “So I came up finally with a character called Yosemite Sam.” And in a cartoon parallel to the Cold War arms race, Bugs’s adversaries grew increasingly powerful over the years. Elmer toted a rifle he rarely used, but Sam’s six-shooters were constantly a-blazing. The rogues’ gallery of heavies gradually grew to include predatory animals (a wolf, a lion, a bear, a hunting dog), mad scientists, a furry monster, giants, an abominable snowman, a gorilla, a pirate, a Martian, a Nazi, a witch, and a Tasmanian devil. In several episodes he even goes up against the entire U.S. Army.

Bugs sometimes presents himself as an actor in a role, although in especially meta moments he is conscious of being a pen-and-ink creation. But Chuck Jones was fond of a little boy’s response when his father introduced the cartoonist as “the man who draws Bugs Bunny.” The child protested that Jones didn’t “draw Bugs Bunny”—rather, he drew “pictures of Bugs Bunny.” The difference is crucial. Even now, as an octogenarian, Bugs is alive and well, no matter who is drawing him.

My two favorites are …