Ye Sow, But Ye Not Reap

The failures of modern agriculture are generally predictable, but for various reasons they are almost never predicted: that is to say, the farmer who farms badly is often surprised at the result of his bad farming, and is not quite sure how to go about fixing it. Indeed, the general public does not seem to know how to fix the problem of our bad farming practices; witness a long and interesting essay at the New Republic that claims, and asks,

Climate change is making the Texas panhandle, birthplace of the state’s iconic Longhorn, too hot and dry to raise beef. What happens to the range when the water runs out?

It has become fashionable, of course, for the Left to blame every negative aspect of society on climate change; in another few years they’ll doubtlessly be blaming global warming for the total failure of Hillary Clinton’s ambitious first-term policy package. At any rate, the problems with the Texas panhandle are not, strictly speaking, a matter of “climate change.” The climate may or may not be changing as progressives claim it is (more likely it is not); the failure of Texas agriculture, however, can be laid squarely at the feet of Texas agriculture and little else.

As Ted Genoways makes clear, the panhandle has for decades been subject to the typical onslaught of American agriculture: commodity crops, feedlot beef and dairy production, little to no effort to regenerate the soil, and a reckless disregard for what it takes to make a farming operation sustain itself beyond a few decades of cash-manic production. This is what industrial farming does, and it has nothing to do with climate change. If Texas farmers had been farming well for the past half-century, they could have rendered much of the affected area largely resistant to drought. They did not, and so they have drought, caused not by climate change but by farmers.

It would not have been particularly hard to avoid this. There are a few rules one has to follow if one wants to make a farm work: graze your cattle on a rotational schedule, don’t overgraze, don’t feed them grain or industrial “hull byproduct,” build catchment ponds wherever you can, don’t blow out your soil with years and years of row cropping, do smart cover cropping on your fields, make soil improvement and water retention two of the principle goals of your farm rather than peripheral considerations. If you do these things, your farm will be poised to survive the kind of drought that is currently gripping the panhandle; if you do the exact opposite of these things, the water will dry up, your farm will suffer, it will eventually fail, and you will have to leave.

Soil improvement is an eminently practical solution, and an obvious one at that. And yet in these cases it is one you rarely hear coming from the progressive base; rather, we have to listen to diatribes about “climate change” and “global warming” and “global weirding” and about how if we don’t act now we’re going to have to deal with catastrophic climate collapse and the eventual implosion of the solar system. Responsible agricultural stewardship is sensible and accessible; climate change is increasingly a nonthreatening and perhaps nonexistent phenomenon. And yet the fixation is generally on the latter rather than the former.

The reason is obvious: soil improvement is a low-tech, local, unobtrusive undertaking, while climate alarmism promises to give the government more power and more control over the economy, the agricultural sector and ultimately the citizenry. This is the progressive end-game; they are not interested in solving the problems of the Texas panhandle so much as they are interested in bringing the people of the Texas panhandle–along with everyone else—under their thumb. This is why the liberal solutions to “global warming” always depend upon giving more power and more authority to the environmental bureaucracy: to the Left, climate change is a matter of war, and the enemy combatants—you—must be brought into line.  The faltering Texas beef industry is concerning, but the insatiable progressive desire for control is an ever-present threat, and has the potential to do much more damage.

They Just Don’t Get It

Last month’s violent arrest of Martese Johnson by agents of the incompetent Virginia Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control brought a swift and vociferous response from the University of Virginia’s student body. One hoped at the time that the students might work to effect some positive change regarding Virginia’s ridiculous and savage alcohol bureaucracy, but alas, those hopes have been tempered in light of a recently-released, student-authored “grievance document:

The document’s recommendations include the university publicly acknowledging the nearly 200-year-old campus was built by slave labor. The authors are also asking university President Teresa Sullivan andAllen [sic] Groves, the dean of students, to create a mandatory online summer cultural competency training course similar to UVA’s online course in alcohol awareness.

Good grief. That’s not even half of it—the document demands a great many administrative and academic overhauls to the university—but this is perhaps the most inane stipulation they came up with. Practically speaking, what would a “mandatory online summer cultural competency training course” accomplish? What would it solve? The answer is: nothing. So why would the students demand such a thing? Do they truly believe that a “cultural competency training course” would have a measurable effect on the well-being of the students, faculty and staff of the university? Do they think such a thing would have stopped the ABC officers from assaulting Martese Johnson? Plainly, they cannot believe any of these things; the proposition is so hollow that even the dimmest of campus agitators could see through it. The intent here is political, not practical; it’s a bit of public theater masquerading as a solution.

UVA’s “cultural competency” is not the problem here. The ABC is the problem here. The ABC does not need training in “cultural competency;” as the cases of both Elizabeth Daly and Martese Johnson have shown, ABC agents will cheerfully assault any person, white or black, male or female, for no reason other than that the agents don’t really have anything better to do at the time. The issue with the ABC isn’t that they lack the ability to work across cultures; it’s that they have a habit of violently attacking citizens who are doing nothing wrong. The document does call for the state government to abolish the ABC’s law enforcement mandate; yet even as they acknowledge that the ABC is to blame, the students still lay out a bizarre list of demands that have nothing to do with what happened to Martese Johnson. Maybe they’ll get this class implemented after all, along with the rest of their agenda; yet they will have only succeeded in distracting from the real problem, as well as subjecting the university to yet more needless progressive drudgery. A shame, if it should come to pass.

***

At the Federalist yesterday I noted briefly the latest campaign against Walmart, in which the retail giant has been unfairly pilloried by multiple news outlets for a series of recent store closings across the country. As I’ve written before, I do not like Walmart very much, but the store is not deserving of the dishonest criticism it often receives from the media. There’s plenty to criticize the business for without having to be deceitful about it.

Get Thee to a Nunnery

“Our would-be presidents,” Jeffrey Tayler declares at Salon, “are God-fearing clowns.” The source of Tayler’s ire is primarily found in the religious beliefs and behaviors of the Republican presidential candidates: Ted Cruz’s announcing his candidacy at Liberty University, Marco Rubio’s Catholicism (and the other religions he’s flirted with), Rand Paul’s—well, whatever Rand Paul is, I think Presbyterian. Apparently, the thought of someone believing in God sends Tayler into something of a tizzy; he demands we hold our religious candidates to a very high standard of proof, starting with the Bible:

So, if you accept the Bible in its totality, do you think sex workers should be burned alive (Leviticus 21:9) or that gays should be put to death (Leviticus 20:13)? Should women submit to their husbands, per Colossians 3:18? Should women also, as commands 1 Timothy 2:11, study “in silence with full submission?” Would you adhere to Deuteronomy 20:10-14 and ask Congress to pass a law punishing rapists by fining them 50 shekels and making them marry their victims and forbidding them to divorce forever? Given that the Bible ordains genocide (as in 1 Samuel 15:3:), will you work for the release of Athanase Seromba, the Catholic priest imprisoned for his role in the mass Rwandan slaughter of 1994? Will you call on Congress to repeal the Thirteenth Amendment and reinstate slavery, since the Bible, in 1 Peter 2:18, de facto sanctions the horrific practice and demands that slaves submit to their “masters with all respect, not only to the good and gentle but also to the cruel?” Please clarify.

Ah yes, the old “What About Leviticus?” argument. Demanding that Christians follow the sacred ritualistic prescriptions of the ancient Israelites is a pretty low-level atheist trick, the kind of thing a moderately clever seventh-grader thinks of on a slow day in study hall. Nevertheless, Tayler’s other examples—from Timothy, from Colossians, from Peter—are worth studying and pondering, for they appear to present a challenging set of commandments for the modern Christian, particularly those in developed Western nations: who among us wants to make women study “in silence with full submission,” after all?

Thankfully, people have been thinking about this for centuries; it is unclear if Tayler has ever read anything at all related to Biblical exegesis, but there’s plenty out there to address and explain the uncertainty that can naturally result from so complex and multifaceted a work as the Bible. The Catholic Church’s Dei Verbum, for one, explains it in part like so:

To search out the intention of the sacred writers, attention should be given, among other things, to “literary forms.” For truth is set forth and expressed differently in texts which are variously historical, prophetic, poetic, or of other forms of discourse. The interpreter must investigate what meaning the sacred writer intended to express and actually expressed in particular circumstances by using contemporary literary forms in accordance with the situation of his own time and culture…

In Sacred Scripture, therefore, while the truth and holiness of God always remains intact, the marvelous “condescension” of eternal wisdom is clearly shown, “that we may learn the gentle kindness of God, which words cannot express, and how far He has gone in adapting His language with thoughtful concern for our weak human nature.” For the words of God, expressed in human language, have been made like human discourse, just as the word of the eternal Father, when He took to Himself the flesh of human weakness, was in every way made like men.

This doesn’t answer Tayler’s questions regarding female submission or slavery, of course—only a careful Biblical, historical and theological investigation can do that. What it does do is expose Tayler’s sneering, I’ve-got-you-now ultimatum for the empty conceit it really is. Tayler is in effect saying, “Hey, hey, what about this controversial passage from scripture? If you don’t accept each word in the Bible as literally true, you’re a hypocrite and you prove that religion is dumb!” But the Bible is more complex than this, and more demanding of its readers, as the Catholic Church readily acknowledges. You can find similar sentiments among other denominations, too, at least insofar as they recognize that the Bible must be examined and interpreted in order to be understood.

Tayler nevertheless demands that we “accept the Bible in its totality,” which, as the evangelist Fr. Robert Barron has pointed out somewhere or other, is akin to demanding that we accept a library in its totality: it’s a confusing and semi-meaningless concept that ignores and misjudges the true nature of what’s being discussed. Tayler declares that he is a follower of “reason,” but in his bizarre estimation of the Bible he reveals himself to be quite primitive and unlettered, and furthermore unfit to comment on the complex and important matter of religious hermeneutics. But then I just summed up the entirety of Salon!

Anyway, plenty of liberals are upset at the state of the Republican presidential field, and I guess we’re going to have to deal with months of weak-sauce commentary akin to this:

Funny. Actually, I don’t have much to say regarding King’s tired mid-century Yankee liberalism, the likes of which you find sprinkled throughout most of his work; rather, I just thought it worth noting that King has become something of a depressing, agèd caricature of what he once was. He “writes the horror stories,” yes—that’s what we’ve come to expect of him. But from mid-70s to the mid-90s he was something much more than just a “horror writer;” from 1974’s Carrie to 1996’s Desperation, he was a kind of magnificent machine, churning out stuff that was at times dazzling, eminently readable and often quite original (“The Jaunt” is one of the most frightening things I have ever read). These days he’s reduced his work to a kind of gloomy formula, writing crap that’s laced with depressing Baby Boomer nostalgia (one of his most recent novels featured a man going back in time to stop the assassination of John F. Kennedy) and boring dei ex machina (his hotly-anticipated Under the Dome ended with an extraterrestrial explanation, of all ridiculous things). Perhaps the last truly good thing he wrote was On Writing, and in his defense, it’s not so much good as probably great; if you’re a writer you should read it.

King is past his prime. In a way it’s great that he’s able to continue working long after he’s ceased to be relevant in a literary sense, but then again it’s kind of heartbreaking to see the once-indomitable author, one of the 20th century’s masters of American letters, fall from so lofty a perch to so sorry a nadir, where his most pertinent work is now to be found in lame left-leaning political commentary tweets. Ah, well, all shall pass in time: “For dust you are,” the Bible says, “and to dust you will return.”

Don’t Look Away

At the Federalist you can find my latest: “Rape Does Not Justify Abortion.” The title is factual, not polemical. There are a great many people who oppose abortion on most grounds but draw the line at “pregnancy in cases of rape.” The implication is that forcing a woman to carry a baby to term when the baby was conceived in rape is a uniquely cruel form of anti-abortion policy; the baby in this case serves as a “daily reminder” of the awful experience the woman has had to go through, and so it is considered sadistic to not allow her to abort the child.

There are a number of problems with this argument—one of them being the strange assertion that, absent the baby, a woman would simply forget about the brutal assault she suffered—but its most troubling aspect is in its assumption that a child conceived by rape is somehow less worthy of life than one conceived consensually: “We shouldn’t force a woman to carry such a child to term,” the argument goes, as if the child were a pest and a nuisance and as if it were guilty of the sins of its father. It is none of these things. It is innocent and blameless—in other words, it is like every other baby that has ever existed. Life is the only logical choice here, and the only ethical one.

A great many people want to avoid this argument. Many conservatives, for one, push back against this notion because they fear it undermines the larger pro-life cause: a number of responses to my latest article ran along the lines of, “If we try and push this, we’re going to scare people away from our side and it will be impossible to get any pro-life legislation passed. Better to take a moderate approach.” Nonsense; this is fear masquerading as practicality. Aborting a child conceived in rape is premeditated murder; we do not have to make every pro-life argument turn on the rape/abortion question, but we cannot shy away from pointing out the obvious when the question arises, and we cannot waffle on this question in a misguided effort to appear “moderate.”

Rape, of course, is one of the worst crimes imaginable, seconded only by murder in most people’s estimation. But that’s the point: murder is worse—and killing an unborn child is murder. There is no percentage in denying this, and there is nothing commendable in trying to avoid the issue. We must not look away.

The Square Shakes Machine

The dust had barely settled on Hillary Clinton’s presidential announcement when Virginia’s Democrats got on board with Clinton 2016:

Gov. Terry McAuliffe, a Clinton family friend who ran the former secretary of state’s unsuccessful bid for the Democratic nomination for president in 2008, was in midseason form when it comes to campaign talking points.

“I think Hillary is going to get out there — I think it’s going to be a campaign about fighting to make sure everybody has a shot at the American dream,” McAuliffe said.

Yeah, that’s what he thought in 2008, too, and look what happened then. Senator Mark Warner had similar praise to offer the sometime-Secretary of State:

“I think that she recognizes well that everybody’s got to get a fair shot — I think that’s what this campaign is going to be about,” Warner said. “I think that her video and announcement yesterday kind of struck that theme. This is a race about us and not simply about her as a candidate, and that’s a theme that I think Americans want to see.”

Imagine that: the campaign isn’t just going to be about “her as a candidate.” Though come to think of it, what would a campaign about “Hillary the Candidate” focus on? Her meaningless tenure as Secretary of State? Her steadfast and uncompromising policy of secretive e-mail deletion? The fact that she’s married to Bill Clinton? Honestly, if you were Hillary Clinton, wouldn’t you want the election to be about anything other than your own qualifications?

As to the notion that Clinton will “recognize” that “everybody’s got to get a fair shot,” well, it’s a nice idea—but then again, that’s been the rallying cry of the Obama campaign basically from day one. The President himself has at various times proposed that Americans should receive a “fair shake” and should have a “fair shot” and should be subject to “fairness” and should pay their “fair share” when it comes to taxes. For the last seven years we’ve been subject to a blitzkrieg of “fair” politics, and what do we have to show for it? A sluggish economy, a ridiculous and byzantine health insurance law that’s making healthcare more expensive, a corrupt and criminal bureaucracy that openly targets and antagonizes the citizens it’s meant to serve, dozens of other indignities and political disasters. Fairness is a great idea, but when it’s administered by Democrats we all end up with an objectively lower standard of living. If Mark Warner is right, and Hillary is going to be running her campaign based on the “fair shot” principle, then she needs to answer a simple question, namely: if eight years of Barack Obama’s “fairness” has left us where we are, why on Earth should we trust her to do any better?

Perhaps I’m cynical, but I wouldn’t be surprised to see Hillary Clinton sworn in as president in 2017, fair warts and all. In Virginia, for one, she currently has a somewhat stark lead over her potential Republican challengers. That being said, it’s probably not time yet to grow too confident of her abilities to take the Old Dominion:

“I cannot construct a reason in my mind why a Democratic candidate would not follow the Obama road map in Virginia right now,” said Quentin Kidd, vice provost and director of the Wason Center for Public Policy at Christopher Newport University. “Remember, that is the road map that draws out younger voters, urban and suburban voters, Panera moms (young professionals with children) and minority voters. I cannot conceive of a different or better road map for a Democrat.”

Kidd’s mistake in this case, of course, is assuming that all Democrats are created equal; they are not, even if their policies are all equally bad. Barack Obama was able to win Virginia and the wider election in both 2008 and 2012 in part because he was the young voter’s Total Package: young-ish himself, sort of hip, mildly suave, good at lying, able to make Americans believe that he believed all the rose-tinted nonsense, able to convince young people—perhaps even able to convince himself—that he was an independent political thinker and an ideological outsider. People my age flocked to him in droves because it was the Cool Thing to Do.

Hillary Clinton is none of these things (least of all cool) and she has no ability to trick anybody into believing she is any of these things: she’s openly cold, uncaring, contemptuous of her fellow citizens, unabashedly lackluster (at best) in everything she does. It is perhaps a small testament to her character that she makes little effort to hide her own unpleasant personality; at this point she’s only concerned about herself, and she doesn’t care if you know it. She has none of the youthful if dishonest conviviality possessed by Barack Obama the first or even second time around; you can see the deadened, robotic political purpose in her eyes, and it’s always there. Call me crazy, but I can see her being more than a little repellent to Virginia’s “Panera moms” and young voters, even if they’re only aware of it on an unconscious level. Clinton will likely play Virginia quite hard, but she’d be silly to think she has the advantages of even so deficient a candidate as Barack Obama.

Some Things Never Change

These days every news cycle seems to feature at least one or two stories involving a clash between homosexuality and religious freedom, and this past week is no exception:

Supporters of a teacher whose Omaha Catholic school contract will not be renewed because of his same-sex relationship say the school is discriminating against him based on his sexual orientation.

But experts say the school has not violated Omaha’s 3-year-old anti-bias ordinance protecting gay and transgender people because the ordinance has a religious exception, and a lawsuit would probably not succeed.

Thank goodness it wouldn’t. Nobody likes to hear of a fellow human losing his job, but in this case the termination seems entirely warranted. Strictly speaking, the Church didn’t fire this young man because of his sexual orientation but because he was acting on it. Church authorities both acknowledge the reality of homosexual inclinations and implore us to treat gays with “respect, compassion, and sensitivity;” at the same time, the Catechism points out that the act of indulging in homosexual relations is itself “intrinsically disordered” and that “under no circumstances can [it] be approved.” Another teacher claims that many teachers and employees of Catholic schools retain their jobs even as they engage in divorce, birth control, and other grave sins; if this is true, of course, it simply means the Church must become more vigilant in regards to the rest of its doctrine, not more lax in regards to homosexuality.

Meanwhile, across the pond, a rift is growing among the various denominations in Ireland regarding gay marriage, with the Catholic Church holding out as many other churches go full-on for “marriage equality:”

“I predict there will be a price to be paid by the Catholic Church after this referendum,” [Sociologist Dr Richard O’Leary] said. “Because of the negative stance taken by the bishops, the church as an institution could emerge as a smaller, more anti-gay, more conservative denomination. Some of the bishops might be satisfied with that outcome, but many people might feel that it would be a regrettable and avoidable outcome.”

Church of Ireland bishop of Cashel, Ferns & Ossory Michael Burrows said he was supporting a yes vote in the referendum and referred to gay rights as “the great justice issue of our time”.

“I have long believed that the churches should take the trajectory of human rights law very seriously – all too often we have allowed ourselves to be left behind defending the essentially indefensible,” he said.

“The call for same sex marriage is a logical and timely development in the march of law reform and equality…”

There are a number of terrific fallacies contained within the admonishments of Dr. O’Leary and Bishop Burrows. For starters, opposition to gay marriage is not “essentially indefensible;” there are a multitude of entirely defensible and important points to be made in favor of keeping marriage between a man and a woman. Second, whatever else same sex marriage is, it is not—at least from an anthropological and biological perspective—“logical.” By definition it serves no procreative purpose and until very, very recently was regarded, understandably, as a societal non sequitur.

As to Dr. O’Leary’s idea that the Church will emerge as a “smaller” and thus more irrelevant denomination unless it gets on board with gay marriage—well, that, too, is not really supported by the facts. As Alexander Griswold pointed out last year, the various churches that have acquiesced to the concept of gay marriage have seen their numbers rapidly dwindle in the following months and years. There is every indication that the loosening of a church’s social and sexual dogma leads it to become a peripheral and unimportant denomination within very short order. Far from conferring an advantage on itself, were Church authorities to come out in support of gay marriage, the Church would likely see a steep decrease in the number of the faithful—and it would also be in direct contravention of two millennia of sound religious doctrine. “A price to be paid,” indeed.

You Could Use a Little More Salt

As I wrote earlier this week, the Rolling Stone UVA rape hoax has officially collapsed, as many leftist “narratives” are wont to do. In recent months and years, however, there has been an ongoing collapse of another “narrative” that we’d do well to note—the demise of the government food scold:

For years, the federal government has advised Americans that they are eating too much salt, and that this excess contributes yearly to the deaths of tens of thousands of people.

But unknown to many shoppers urged to buy foods that are “low sodium” and “low salt,” this longstanding warning has come under assault by scientists who say that typical American salt consumption is without risk.

Moreover, according to studies published in recent years by pillars of the medical community, the low levels of salt recommended by the government might actually be dangerous.

“There is no longer any valid basis for the current salt guidelines,” said Andrew Mente, a professor at McMaster University in Ontario and one of the researchers involved in a major study published last year by the New England Journal of Medicine. “So why are we still scaring people about salt?”

Hey, why not? From the Framingham study on down, the entire history of government food proscriptions—and the history of diet fads in general—has been marked by a continual avoidance of “valid basis.” Fat and cholesterol, salt, dairy, red meat—they’ve all been subject at one point or another to a bogus scare campaign designed to push people away from food we’ve been eating for thousands of years and towards some novel and generally unpalatable product that was invented in a lab last month. As the Post points out, the government “will consider comments from the public and the advice of its science panel” in crafting new dietary guidelines. But why would anyone look to the government for advice on how to eat? Why should we pay attention to a bunch of inept bureaucrats with a genuinely miserable track record on the subject?

A lot of people like to make fun of the “foodie” movement, and to be fair much of the criticism is warranted. A great many self-professed “foodies” are given to buying absurd and overpriced ingredients, preparing hopelessly complex pan-seared herb-encrusted fricassee-glazed $120 recipes, and posting pictures of their meals as “food porn” on Instagram. For many of us, however, the matter is much less sexy and much more practical: we want good ingredients to make good meals to feed and nourish the people we care about. Still one of the more laudable aspects of foodie culture is in its recognition that we shouldn’t be stressing ourselves out about food; it’s there to be eaten and enjoyed, after all. That’s why it’s important to push back against the food nags that consult “science panels” in order to create “dietary guidelines” so that we can know just how many teaspoons of salt we should eat each day. Unless you have a serious medical condition, such an obsessive and neurotic approach to food is not warranted. The government should scrap its guidelines on salt—and it should scrap its guidelines on every other type of food, too, and replace them with nothing.

Speaking of bizarre government forays into food, a new lawsuit is broiling over the USDA’s handling of organic certification:

A coalition of grocers, seed growers and consumer and environmental advocates filed suit on Tuesday against the Department of Agriculture over a change it made to the process used to determine which substances may be used in organic farming.

In the suit, filed in Federal District Court for the Northern District of California, the group contends that the department violated procedures for federal rule-making when it changed the way nonorganic substances are approved for use in organic farming without holding a public hearing or seeking public comment.

“The U.S.D.A. unilaterally changed the process without allowing the organic community to give any input and, in doing so, violated the Administrative Procedure Act as well as the intent of the organic law,” said Paige Tomaselli, a lawyer at the Center for Food Safety, one of the plaintiffs.

What a convoluted and costly mess. This is the fatal flaw to be found in modern “organic” agriculture, which is constantly trying to combine an allegedly holistic approach to land management with the dense and impossible bureaucratic arcana of the United States government. Direct farm-to-consumer marketing isn’t always available for everyone, but when it is, it’s the best thing to do. You don’t have to worry about lawsuits, or district courts, or “unilateral” this and “procedure act” that; you can simply ask your farmer how he grows his crops. While the government is busy deep-sixing its pointless sodium guidelines, maybe it can get around to divesting itself of any agricultural authority whatsoever. At least it wouldn’t have to worry about any more organic food lawsuits.

The Coldest Case in Town

Rolling Stone’s campus rape story has officially collapsed in every way it is possible for a story to collapse, and it has now been officially retracted by the magazine. This is as it should be, though it is altogether baffling that nobody will lose his job over this mess, least of all Sabrina Rubin Erdely, the hack reporter who led the charge. Glenn Reynolds, for his part, reminds us not to let UVA President Teresa Sullivan off the hook. That’s a worthwhile point to make: as the president of the university, Teresa Sullivan failed to uphold the most basic function of her job, which is to watch out for UVA’s best interests. In this case she couldn’t even be bothered to grasp that a slanderous and defamatory magazine article was using her school as a whipping boy as part of an ideological crusade; rather, she immediately conceded the premise of Erdely’s fake article and betrayed her own students in order to look good on the national stage. Shame on her. Reynolds asks for at least a public apology from Sullivan to the fraternities at UVA, and perhaps her resignation as well. It’s unlikely either will be forthcoming.

The entire disaster seems like it’s coming to a close, more or less, but there is one other disturbing and puzzling aspect to the whole matter that we’d do well not to forget: the Charlottesville Police Department is refusing to accept that the whole thing was made up:

For now, [Charlottesville Police Chief Timothy] Longo said, the case is suspended — not closed. “That does not mean something terrible did not happen to Jackie. … We are just not able to gather sufficient facts,” he said Monday.

“The case is suspended, not closed.” “That does not mean something terrible did not happen to Jackie.” On what basis is this decision and are these claims made? Put another way, why would the Charlottesville police feel any need to leave this case open in any way at all? At best there is no evidence whatsoever that this attack took place; you can plausibly argue, however, that there is strong evidence that Jackie made essentially the entire thing up, that for whatever reason she was and is a serial liar, and that nothing at all happened to her. It’s of course technically possible that something awful happened to Jackie—but again, there is no evidence to support this, and furthermore, as Jackie’s friends pointed out shortly after the article was released, Jackie lied about several key things that night to begin with. So Charlottesville police are refusing to close a case about which (a) they admittedly can’t gather sufficient facts, and in which (b) the alleged victim is confirmed to have been lying about numerous important details. “The case is suspended, not closed.”  Why?

Heather Mac Donald blames the police department’s reticence to close this case on “the feminist lock on our culture.” Perhaps this is true; but whatever the explanation, it’s obvious that the Charlottesville Police Department—along with UVA’s administration and Rolling Stone’s editorial team—has essentially learned nothing from this matter. The police, as their report tells us, are leaving the case open “in the event additional evidence should come to light.” Barring an absolute bombshell disclosure, we have all the evidence we need. Close this bogus case and move on.

Nobody Say a Word

Bob Menendez may or may not go down on the corruption charges under which he’s currently laboring, but color me skeptical that the case will eventually read as “an indictment of Citizens United:

The reality, as many warned after the Supreme Court’s ruling, is that most of the political spending unleashed by Citizens United is not independent. It abides by the narrow guidelines set out by the Federal Election Commission, but as the Menendez indictment and many other examples show, these actually allow much dependence…

Wednesday’s indictment takes [Citizens United’s] definition of corruption and slams it up against the reality of independent expenditures’ influence. The result of Menendez’s case should go a long way to determining whether Citizens United has been indicted, too.

Well, not really. It’s true that the excellent Citizens United ruling—which broadened free speech protections for corporations and unions—does not prevent corrupt election racketeering from taking place; that can certainly still happen, as the Menendez case evidently shows. Then again, it’s tough to guess why this is supposed to “indict” Citizens United. In 2012 there was a total of $1.4 billion raised by Political Action Committees; Salomon Melgen’s $600,000 contribution towards Menendez’s campaign adds up to 0.04% of that. That is to say, we’re expected to “indict” the free speech protections of a wide swath of the American public simply because four one-hundredths of one percent of independent campaign donations in one election were allegedly used improperly.

It would appear that Melgen showered Menendez with a great many other improper gifts and benefits in order to curry his favor—but of course that can happen in the absence of electioneering, as the depressing case of Bob McDonnell recently proved. At any rate, it is a very odd and rather twisted kind of logic that (a) presupposes corruption among the ranks of free people, and (b) proposes to fight such corruption by allowing government to censor free speech. As both the defendants and the justices in Citizens United noted, prior to the ruling government could censor just about any kind of free speech it wanted—books, newspapers, blogs—if it was put out by a corporation and if it had anything to do with an election. This is the kind of world that Citizens United‘s opponents wish for us to return to, in which the government can freely squash freedom of speech simply because the words come from a person who runs a business or heads a union. Thanks, but I’ll take the occasional sleazy campaign fraud scandal over the wholesale muzzling of political speech by overzealous government censors.

The Panic of 2015

The proprietors of Memories Pizza in Walkerton, Indiana, have found their lives turned upside-down after they expressed their religious beliefs: having admitted that they would not cater a gay wedding if asked to do so, they were forced to close their store down after a massive negative reaction which included threats of violence. (I see CNN is still couching the term “religious liberty” in scare quotes, as if the matter were in any doubt anymore. So it’s safe to conclude that CNN is staffed by pure cowards.) In response to the closure, one of Dana Loesch’s contributors started a GoFundMe campaign in support of the displaced business owners, and it’s raised, at last count, well over $500,000.

That’s incredible, and moreover very fortunate for the owners of Memories Pizza—but then again I assume they’d rather forgo the cash and simply have their pizza restaurant back. They probably enjoyed running the restaurant, serving people, making pizza; all that is over with now, simply because they voiced an opinion shared by millions of people, including the President of the United States just a few short years ago. Barack Obama can claim that marriage is between a man and a woman and he’ll be elected President of the United States—twice! Some nobodies running a small-town pizza joint can do the same thing and they’ll be afraid for their lives and forced to shut down their business and go into hiding.

This is liberal savagery in its purest, most undiluted form. A great many on the Left are quick to point out that this is simply the free market doing its thing: “Why are conservatives complaining about capitalism at work?” they scream, with barely restrained glee. Well, yes, this is the free market at work—and specifically, it’s what the free market looks like when the Left is in charge: forced conformity, terror in expressing one’s religious beliefs, the capricious shuttering of a person’s livelihood because he expressed a run-of-the-mill opinion shared by countless other Americans. “This is the free market!” liberals declare—as if a paranoid, violent, terrifying free market is something to be proud of. Why would you boast about being part of so narrow-minded and hysterical a faction?

It is a wonder why we put up with this. Years from now we may look back on this frenetic leftist mob mentality with wonder, in the same way we look back on other bigoted movements in America’s past. Then again, perhaps this is the new normal, and we can look forward to years of moral delirium as a normal feature of the new progressive free market. It’s almost enough to make the case for socialism.

***

Happy Good Friday to everyone! Worth reading is Mark Steyn’s yearly re-upped review of The Passion of the Christ. I went with a large group of people to see the film when it came out, and if I recall I was the only one among us who really appreciated what Mel Gibson had done: everyone else was fairly grossed out and offended by the whole thing, as if Christ’s suffering and crucifixion had been in the abstract rather than the material. Christianity is of course a very definitive religion, in that it seeks to define rather than obscure: “He suffered, died and was buried” is not meant to be a stylistic flourish but an affirmation of a real event. The long Gospel reading for today is full of affirmations, among them one of the best in the Bible: “An eyewitness has testified, and his testimony is true;  he knows that he is speaking the truth, so that you also may come to believe.” May we all be so lucky. Deo Gratias.