September 17, 2022

Posted by orrinj at 6:39 PM


'Huge mistake': DeSantis' migrant transports could undercut support in South Florida (GARY FINEOUT, 09/17/2022, Politico)

The move by DeSantis dominated the radio and television airwaves in South Florida -- where large swaths of Hispanic voters live. One Spanish radio host loudly denounced the move and even compared DeSantis' actions to that of deceased Cuban dictator Fidel Castro, who relocated Cubans in the early '60s.

Democrat Charlie Crist, who is challenging DeSantis, on Saturday rushed out a new digital ad targeting Hispanics and the Venezuelan community as part of a six-figure buy pounding DeSantis over his attention-getting move.

"From a Miami perspective, it's a huge mistake," said state Sen. Annette Taddeo, a Democrat challenging incumbent Rep. Maria Elvira Salazar (R-Fla.). "All these Republicans -- including my opponent -- historically talk about socialism and communism and that we are standing up to these horrible dictators. The migrants are fleeing exactly what Republicans say they are fighting against."

Florida Republicans in recent years have made it a priority to court Venezuelan Americans, many of whom fled their home country in the past decade amid the political and economic turmoil under Nicolás Maduro and his predecessor Hugo Chávez. It's a story that has parallels to Cuban Americans -- a crucial bloc of support for the GOP -- who left their country to escape communism.

Posted by orrinj at 6:34 PM


Ron DeSantis Says He'll Double Down on Martha's Vineyard Stunt (Mike Mechanic, 9/17/22, MoJo)

He noted that he plans to use "every penny" of the $12 million that Florida legislators had allocated to relocate migrants. Further flights are "likely," and he is considering sending migrant buses like those Texas Gov. Greg Abbott and Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey have used to shuttle thousands of asylum seekers to DC, New York City, and other urban Democratic strongholds, leaving officials and nonprofit workers scrambling to accommodate the newcomers.

Getting Florida and Texas to distribute our new neighbors and employees more equitably may force us to rethink the program.  There are record job openings and vacant housing; done right this is a nearly ideal solution.  But, first, Joe needs to issue a blanket pardon every day for all personal immigration violations so no one has to travel back for court appearances. 

Posted by orrinj at 6:20 PM


The Founders' Constitution and its discontents: Adrian Vermeule's Common Good Constitutionalism represents his version of the left's "living Constitution." Few people will embrace his self-serving theory, which is tailor-made to accommodate both his beloved administrative state and integralist moral philosophy--a peculiar combination. (MARK PULLIAM • MAY 10, 2022, Acton)

Vermeule teaches law at Harvard, one of the nation's most elite universities. He specializes in administrative law--a Progressive Era innovation that some critics contend violates the Constitution's separation of powers--and constitutional theory. Constitutional "theory" often has even less to do with the Constitution than constitutional "law." Oddly, for a subject taught in law schools, the field is dominated by moral philosophers, exemplified by John Rawls and Ronald Dworkin. The attraction of constitutional theory, from the legal scholar's standpoint, is that the canvas is blank, the inquiry is unhindered by text or history, and the only limits are the scholar's ambition and ingenuity. Vermeule, who holds an endowed chair at Harvard Law School, exudes plenty of both.

Each theorist has his own personal preferences, and Vermeule is no exception. He is an ardent devotee of the administrative state (having co-written a bold defense of it in 2020's Law & Leviathan) and a recent convert to Catholicism, which coincides with his turn toward what some observers call "integralism," a movement that "seeks to subordinate temporal power to spiritual power--or, more specifically, the modern state to the Catholic Church." Vermeule's embrace of integralism aligns him with so-called post-liberals led by Patrick Deneen on the Catholic right, as well as some quirky proponents of "natural law" jurisprudence. (Deneen enthusiastically blurbed Vermeule's book.)

In the 1970s, the nascent field of constitutional theory was dominated by liberal law professors seeking to provide cover for the activist decisions of the Supreme Court during the 1960s under the leadership of Chief Justice Earl Warren (which, unfortunately, continued under his successor, Warren Burger). The left's defense of extra-constitutional rights was termed advocacy of "a living Constitution," suggesting that the document is (or ought to be) malleable enough to be putty in the hands of liberal judges. Decades later, libertarian and even conservative scholars got into the act, hoping to inspire judicial activism in a different direction. More on that later.

Vermeule's provocative book has attracted a good deal of attention. Common Good Constitutionalism is heralded in some quarters (and denounced in others) as an avant garde critique of "originalism"--the notion, popularized by Justice Antonin Scalia in the 1980s, that judges should interpret the Constitution in accordance with its original public meaning--that is, what the document was understood to mean at the time it was enacted. Instead, Vermeule offers an alternative model of government: Elected officials and bureaucrats should act based on their own sense of what would best promote the common good rather than being constrained by the text of the Constitution. Vermeule defines "common good" as "the flourishing of a well-ordered political community," with the goal of achieving "peace, justice, and abundance" (which includes "economic security"). This sounds like New Age utopianism, the realization of which requires centralized power and invites the exercise of broad subjective discretion--precisely the opposite of what the Framers intended.

The Right/Left hates the Constitution precisely because it thwarts their Utopian/Dystopian dreams.

Posted by orrinj at 9:28 AM


Blue states receptive to (non-MAGA) Republican governors (Josh Kraushaar, 9/17/22, Axios)

The Cook Political Report with Amy Walter has moved the Oregon governor's race into toss-up territory, reflecting the strength of Republican Christine Drazan's candidacy. Oregon Democrats are divided between progressive Democratic nominee Tina Kotek and Betsy Johnson, a more moderate candidate running as an independent. Oregon hasn't elected a Republican governor since 1982.

A new Emerson College poll of the Nevada governor's race shows Gov. Steve Sisolak (D) tied with his Republican opponent, Joe Lombardo, at 40%. Some Republican officials now view Nevada as their best opportunity to flip a Democratic-held statehouse.

And in New Mexico, an Emerson College poll finds Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham only holding a five-point lead over Republican Mark Ronchetti in a Democratic-friendly state. As Axios reported last month, Lujan Grisham has been beset with low approval ratings, staff upheaval and charges of hypocrisy.

Why it matters: Candidate quality matters. Trump-endorsed gubernatorial candidates are losing badly in Pennsylvania and Michigan, states that are more GOP-friendly than the aforementioned battlegrounds.

Posted by orrinj at 9:26 AM


Posted by orrinj at 9:11 AM


Building A Nation of Welcomers (NAZANIN ASH, FALL 2022, Democracy Journal)

We are at a pivotal moment in the writing of this country's story of democracy. In cities and towns across America, something remarkable is underway. Far from the toxicity of our national politics, Americans in every corner of the map--in rural communities and major city centers--are raising their hands to help people in search of safety, whether it be our Afghan allies or Ukrainians escaping the Russian invasion. And by responding to their desire to help--by enabling and empowering Americans to welcome vulnerable newcomers and help them thrive--we may find the answer not only to the displacement crisis but to our own national healing, fueling the rejuvenation of our democracy in troubled times.

Russia's invasion of Ukraine has driven global displacement levels to an all-time high of 100 million. If the numbers displaced represented a country, it would be the world's 15th largest. The number of people displaced has more than doubled over the last decade, with brutal and often genocidal conflicts from Syria to Afghanistan to South Sudan and Myanmar burning strong. Conflict and climate crises have grown unchecked. Displacement is now increasingly a permanent state of being rather than a temporary crisis. In fact, over 75 percent of displacement challenges are now classified as "protracted"--crises lasting five years or more. On average over the last decade, less than 3 percent of refugees were able to return home; and less than 1 percent have been resettled to a new community with the opportunity to rebuild their lives with safety and opportunity. Most live their lives in limbo, confined to camps, unable to work legally, move freely, send their children to school, rebuild their lives, and contribute to their host nations. At the heart of each of these lost opportunities lies a story of human potential slipping away for generations to come.

Win-win solutions ought to be within reach: Countries from the United States to the U.K. to Japan are greatly in need of workers at all skill levels. Technocrats have long made the case that immigration is vital to our economies and the care of our aging societies. Immigration done well--where newcomers are given the right to work, access to education and healthcare--is a win everywhere, every time. Poland's economy grew by 8.5 percent in the last quarter while absorbing over 3 million refugees, and importantly, giving them the immediate right to work, with no refugee camps in sight. Germany, which uniquely among its European neighbors accepted over 1.9 million refugees between 2015 and 2020, is reaping the benefits, with 50 percent of employed refugees working in high-skill jobs. Here in the United States, a 2017 Health and Human Services report found that over a 10-year period, refugees contributed over $63 billion more than they received in public services.

But polarized politics stand in the way of these win-win solutions. Instead, the United States and other wealthy democracies have pursued paths that undermine our collective humanity, our economies, our stability, our security--and our democracies. With a few notable exceptions, wealthy nations have led a global retreat from humanitarian obligations, reducing refugee admissions, rejecting asylum seekers, and closing pathways to safety in their countries.

Posted by orrinj at 9:07 AM


Robespierre and Us: a review of Robespierre by Marcel Gauchet  (Daniel J. Mahoney, 9/14/22, Law & Liberty)

Robespierre's "liberalism," if we can call it that, was decidedly marred by its rejection of the "wisdom of Montesquieu" and his increasing identification of himself with the purity of revolutionary principles. Gauchet tellingly calls one of his chapters "I, the People." Robespierre began to divinize himself because he divinized the revolutionary people. After Louis XVI's flight to Varennes in June 1791, Robespierre and the Jacobins attacked the King with inhuman ferocity. Robespierre tells the Convention that the King is by definition a tyrant and that his mere existence entails an "insurrection" against the nation and the revolutionary state.

In the Reflections on the Revolution in France, Burke stated the real truth. At the end of the ancien regime, the French monarchy was "rather a despotism in appearance than in reality." And the famed English statesman added that the reign of Louis XVI should not be confused with "Persia bleeding under the ferocious sword of Thamas Kouli Khân." But that was precisely how Robespierre saw things, confusing the gentle and conscientious Louis XVI, a Christian of authentic conviction, with a brute and a monster. The King was transmogrified into a tyrant who must "die in order that the fatherland may live." In the name of absolute, inviolable, fanatical "principles" the King must die, so the people could live. There was a reason why Alexander Hamilton bristled when he heard the American Revolution compared to the French Revolution. The leaders of the latter revolution--even some of its much-lauded moderate leaders--were in Hamilton's views "fanatics in political science," as he wrote in 1794. Bereft of the moderation that flows from prudence, Robespierre came to identify liberty with Virtue, and Virtue with Terror. That identification is literally deadly.

One of the strengths of Gauchet's book is the way it continually emphasizes the inability of Robespierre and his fellow fanatics to give serious thought to the art of governance in a political order at once popular and representative. Once Robespierre joined the Committee on Public Safety on July 27, 1793, his (and the Revolution's) metamorphosis was complete. In place of governing, Robespierre and his allies searched for enemies, discerning corruption and conspiracy everywhere. Robespierre made clear that he preferred an "excess of patriotic fervor" over "the stagnation of moderantism." Moderation was the disposition of soul and civic stance that Robespierre loathed above all. His full embrace of fanaticism in the name of virtue and revolutionary principle reached a morally insane apex in his infamous speech of February 5, 1794. There, he announced that the Revolution was endangered by "depraved men" who regarded the Revolution "as a trade and the Republic as a spoil."

He saw ill-defined conspiracies everywhere. "Virtue and Terror" were the only legitimate response to such corruption and such conspiracies. Desmoulins had accused the Jacobins and the sans-culottes, the Parisian revolutionary mob, of succumbing to out-and-out despotism. Robespierre did not dispute the point. But he insisted that "the government of the Revolution is the despotism of liberty against tyranny," a distinction that was specious in these circumstances. Robespierre had once thought the death penalty an abomination. Now he confused justice--"prompt, severe, inflexible," with Terror and loudly proclaimed Virtue without Terror to be weak and ineffectual. Robespierre's fanatical defense of Terror in the name of the "Rights of Man" and Virtue properly understood is the quintessence of ideological despotism.

Posted by orrinj at 8:47 AM


How Doug Mastriano uses faith to fend off criticism -- even from other Christians: 'They're actually supposed to pray for me and support me as their government leader,' Mastriano said, referring to the Lutheran pastors who criticized him. 'I'm over them politically. I'm their senator.' (Jack Jenkins, 9/15/22, RNS)

Mastriano's debate with the Lutherans dates back to a since-deleted interview with a couple, Allen and Francine Fosdick, self-described Christian prophets with an online ministry called People of Prophetic Power Ministries. 

"'Separation of church and state' -- anyone who says that, show me in the Constitution where it says it," Mastriano told the Fosdicks while sitting at his desk in the Pennsylvania state Capitol. "It's not in there. It's never been in there." In a formulation that has become popular among conservatives, Mastriano added, "We have freedom of religion, not freedom from religion."

Mastriano, who was gaining popularity in conservative circles at the time for strident opposition to COVID-19 restrictions, referred to a "fake COVID crisis" and chided his fellow lawmakers who had imposed limitations on large gatherings in Pennsylvania. He insisted Christians should show more "courage" in resisting lockdown measures and offered as a model Martin Luther, the 16th-century founder of Lutheranism and leader of the Protestant Reformation.

"Pastors, it's time for you to lead," Mastriano said in the video, which later disappeared when the Fosdicks' YouTube account was revoked for violating the company's guidelines. (A mirror of the video remains accessible on an archival website.) "If that pastor -- and others -- doesn't want to open up, then congregation, maybe it's time to find another church where they have a little more courage."

As he put it in another part of the interview: "I'd like to see the churches stand up -- we have strong religious freedoms in Pennsylvania."

Local churches did, in fact, stand up, albeit perhaps not the way Mastriano intended. Forty-six local Lutheran leaders -- including vicars, former seminary presidents and the pastor at St. James Lutheran Church, a few doors down from Mastriano's local office -- published a full-page ad in the Gettysburg Times supporting many COVID-19 restrictions and rejecting Mastriano's interpretation of their denomination's namesake. The ad cited the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America's position, which quoted Luther to argue that Christian decisions should "always be made in the best interests of the neighbor."

"The senator's interpretations of scripture and Luther's actions in the Protestant Reformation are taken out of context to serve his political agenda," the ad read.

Their voices carried weight in the town, where the oldest continuously operating Lutheran seminary in the country occupies a prominent part of the local landscape -- and U.S. history. Founded in 1826, the school's red brick buildings sit atop a hill known as Seminary Ridge, a strip of land that traded hands between the Army of the Potomac and the Confederacy in 1863 in the Civil War battle that made the town famous.

The seminary is known today as the Gettysburg campus of United Lutheran Seminary, which also has a campus in Philadelphia. Sitting in the seminary's library and leaning over an archival text, Erling, a professor of modern church history and global mission, recalled the debate with Mastriano with barely disguised frustration. She doesn't impugn his personal faith, she said, but has little regard for his public theology.

"I don't take him seriously as a religious voice at all. I absolutely do not," said Erling.

Publicly criticizing Mastriano's faith musings wasn't something the group did lightly, she said -- among other things, she and her fellow clergy had to pay for the ad themselves. But Erling argued the state senator left them no choice.

"He was saying that people should not go to the churches unless they're complying with his 'walk as free people,' and that any restrictions are not of Christ," she said. "He hit a ball into our court."

Posted by orrinj at 8:38 AM


Little churches still matter, says Martha's Vineyard pastor of church that took in migrants (Bob Smietana, 9/16/22, RNS)

[The Rev. Vincent "Chip" Seadale]  and other members of the Martha's Vineyard Island Clergy Association did what clergy do when a crisis happens: They jumped in to lend a hand.

"We just decided we were going to make it work and then hope for the best," said Seadale in a phone interview.

For two nights, St. Andrew's played host to the Venezuelans, providing meals and a place to stay at the parish house, which hosts a shelter four nights a week during the winter. The church hall is already equipped with cots, a large kitchen, showers and laundry for the shelter.

Other churches and community members sent food, clothes and other supplies -- while the Martha's Vineyard Community Fund collected funds to support the Venezuelans. Immigration lawyers and other volunteers showed up to help them figure out where to go next. Many were in the U.S. to seek asylum and have contacts here but needed help connecting with them.

The Rev. Janet Newton, a minister at the Unitarian Universalist Society of Martha's Vineyard, said that clergy, like other community leaders and residents of the island, had no idea the migrants were coming.

"Ironically," she said, "we were prepared, even though we had no warning."

The Vineyard, she said, is often seen as a playground for the rich and powerful. Former President Obama and other celebrities -- television host David Letterman, journalist Diane Sawyer and film director Spike Lee -- own homes on the island, she said, and that shapes how outsiders see the Vineyard.

That's not the whole story. In the off-season, she said, many people struggle. Affordable housing is hard to come by, and at times, folks who work seasonal jobs can't make ends meet. As a geographically isolated community, Newton said, year-round residents have learned to take care of each other.

"That's probably a bit of a surprise to the people who sent the planes here," she said. "They didn't understand how our community operated or that we could be prepared for this. Hospitality matters here."

Posted by orrinj at 7:41 AM


King Charles promises to protect freedom of conscience and 'space' for faith (Mark King,  17 September 2022, Christianity Today)

"I have always thought of Britain as a 'community of communities'," he said.

"That has led me to understand that the Sovereign has an additional duty - less formally recognised but to be no less diligently discharged.

"It is the duty to protect the diversity of our country, including by protecting the space for faith itself and its practise through the religions, cultures, traditions and beliefs to which our hearts and minds direct us as individuals."

The King then said that he wanted to carry out his responsibilities as Sovereign "in a way which reflects the world in which we now live" and to continue the work of his late mother, Queen Elizabeth II, in working to preserve freedom of conscience for all beliefs.

"As a member of the Church of England, my Christian beliefs have love at their very heart," he continued.

"By my most profound convictions, therefore - as well as by my position as Sovereign - I hold myself bound to respect those who follow other spiritual paths, as well as those who seek to live their lives in accordance with secular ideals.

"The beliefs that flourish in, and contribute to, our richly diverse society differ. They, and our society, can only thrive through a clear collective commitment to those vital principles of freedom of conscience, generosity of spirit and care for others which are, to me, the essence of our nationhood.

"I am determined, as King, to preserve and promote those principles across all communities, and for all beliefs, with all my heart." 

Posted by orrinj at 7:38 AM


The Conservative Wisdom of the Infield Fly (Jordan McGillis, Sep 17, 2022, American Conservative)

For readers who haven't leafed through the rulebook lately, the infield-fly rule specifies the following: if the team at bat has runners at first and second base, or first, second, and third base; has fewer than two outs against it; and hits a pop-up in fair territory that an infielder could catch with routine effort, the umpire invokes the rule and calls the batter out.

The purpose of the rule is to prevent chicanery from the team in the field. If not for the infield-fly rule, a savvy infielder could camp under the pop-up, prompting the baserunners to retreat to their bags of origin, then intentionally let the ball drop to the ground, giving his team the chance to turn a double (or triple) play.

The infield-fly rule thus robs fans of what would otherwise be a bit of frenetic, exciting action every third game or so. Instead, we watch an umpire point skyward and essentially put the brakes on the play, ruling the batter out and keeping the runners safely aboard. The infield-fly rule grants the defense one out, but denies it the chance at two (or three). On its face, the rule makes the game less interesting without any obvious justification.

Why shouldn't the team in the field be rewarded for a real-time reaction that gives it the advantage? Why shouldn't the team at bat be punished for popping the ball into the air? Looked at in the abstract, there would seem to be no moral downside to scrapping the infield-fly rule. 

Looked at from the conservative cast of mind, however, the rule's wisdom is clear. Developed by practitioners of the game, rather than rationalist observers, the infield-fly rule slows rapid reversals of fortune. The infield-fly rule prevents the batting team's mounting threat of two or three baserunners from evaporating via an unsportsmanlike drop by the defense. To the conservative, the infield-fly rule is more than a benign relic. It is a mild, but positive, good.

The filibuster is similar. Notorious to some, vaunted in the minds of others, it prevents one faction from leveraging a narrow legislative majority to enact sweeping political change. By offering the minority a chance to block significant legislation that lacks 60 votes, the filibuster ensures that any political change enacted by a divided Senate is more measured and widely agreed upon. 

Posted by orrinj at 7:26 AM


Posted by orrinj at 7:07 AM


Migrants head to temporary shelter at Joint Base Cape Cod (Samantha J. Gross, September 16, 2022, Boston Globe)

In an emotional farewell Friday, the roughly 50 Venezuelan migrants flown unannounced to Martha's Vineyard on Wednesday in what critics derided as a cruel political stunt by Florida Governor Ron DeSantis left the island for temporary housing on Cape Cod.

Just before 10 a.m., one large bus and two smaller ones from the Martha's Vineyard Transit Authority pulled in front of St. Andrew's Episcopal Church to a crowd of families waiting in the driveway with backpacks and suitcases.

The teary-eyed migrants hugged volunteers, took selfies, and gave the church -- which had doubled as an emergency shelter for them -- a round of applause before embarking on the next stretch of their journey to Joint Base Cape Cod in Bourne, which Governor Charlie Baker's office said Friday was being offered as temporary shelter.