Richard Rohr Meditation: Be Peace and Justice

.. we do not “do” acts of peace and justice as much as our lifestyle itself is peace and justice.

.. By “living on the edge of the inside” I mean building on the solid Tradition (“from the inside”) but doing it from a new and creative stance where you cannot be co-opted (“on the edge”) for purposes of security, possessions, or the illusions of power.

.. Evil tends to hide even more in systems and institutions than in individuals.

.. This approach guards against the most common criticism of religion in general and social-justice work in particular, which, frankly, has tended to produce many negative, oppositional, and judgmental people—from reactionary conservatives to limousine liberals.

The Myth of Conservative Feminism

While groundbreaking in the literal sense, there is nothing feminist about a woman who oversaw a site where detainees were tortured, someone who refuses to say whether she believes torture is immoral. In the same way, there is nothing “empowering” about Ms. Scott, a media executive who reportedly enforced a “miniskirt rule” for female on-air talent, and who was cited in two lawsuits for contributing to a toxic work environment and retaliating against a sexual harassment victim.

Feminism isn’t about blind support for any woman who rises to power.

The real political duplicity here is Republicans’ continued efforts to co-opt feminist language while actively curtailing women’s rights.

.. Conservatives appropriating feminist rhetoric despite their abysmal record on women’s rights

.. In our eagerness to make feminism more friendly to the mainstream, we didn’t fully consider what it would mean if any woman could claim the label.

.. Now that feminism is more culturally and politically powerful than it has been in decades, however, conservatives are eager to capitalize on its cachet. Or wield it as a cudgel.

.. The conservative commentator Tomi Lahren, for example, has said that any woman who doesn’t support Ivanka Trump’s business because of her father’s policies isn’t “really a feminist.”

.. Sarah Huckabee Sanders, the White House press secretary, blasted any Democrat “who claims to support women’s empowerment” but opposed Ms. Haspel’s nomination as “a total hypocrite.”

.. In 2015, conservative female leaders leveled the same criticism at women’s rights advocates for not rallying around Carly Fiorina’s presidential bid.

.. It’s a hollow argument from the Republican Party, which does next to nothing to prioritize women’s representation. The truth is that while feminism need not be complicated .. it is not for everyone.

.. Women like Gina Haspel and Suzanne Scott have certainly benefited from the movement; without feminism, they very likely wouldn’t have the jobs they have now. But taking advantage of feminist wins does not make someone a feminist.

.. You cannot be a feminist and support an immigration policy of taking children away from undocumented immigrant mothers.

You cannot be a feminist and go along with the White House’s newly announced domestic gag rule, a mandate that would withhold funding from any health care center that helps patients find abortion services.

.. Amassing professional power at the expense of other women isn’t feminism — it’s self-interest.

.. Now we have a different task: protecting the movement against conservative appropriation. We’ve come too far to allow the right to water down a well-defined movement for its own cynical gains. Because if feminism means applauding “anything a woman does” — even hurting other women — then it means nothing.

Foreign spies are watching — and probably targeting — Fox News Channel

So if I were a spymaster in the employ of a hostile foreign service, I’d devote some significant effort to penetrating one specific private institution: Fox News Channel.

.. It’s no secret that Fox News — specifically, shows such as “Hannity,” “Fox & Friends,” “Tucker Carlson Tonight” and “Justice with Judge Jeanine” — have outsize influence on the inner workings of how certain policies are carried out by the U.S. government.

.. Mediate recently argued that the most influential people working in the media today are “Fox & Friends” hosts Steve Doocy, Brian Kilmeade and Ainsley Earhardt, because “they have captured the President’s attention — which often then gets tweeted and covered by the media — the topics they cover essentially set the national agenda for the rest of the day.”

.. When Fox News broadcasts, the president often reacts impulsively. His tweet threatening North Korea with his “Nuclear Button” at 7:49 p.m. last Tuesday appeared to have been spurredby a Fox News segment on the very same topic that occurred 12 minutes beforehand

.. The Kremlin has indicated that Russian President Vladimir Putin reads Trump’s tweets and views them as official White House statements. Pakistan recently summoned the U.S. ambassador in Islamabad to account for Trump’s tweet bashing what he called the country’s “lies & deceit.”

.. Trump’s unfiltered Twitter feed provides world intelligence operatives with “a real-time glimpse of a major world leader’s preoccupations, personality quirks and habits of mind” — traits to be exploited in further dealings on the global stage.

.. A truly aggressive intelligence effort would not just monitor what’s being said on the network. It would target the on-air talent, as well as the folks behind the scenes who make the network’s programming possible: producers, bookers, associate producers, production assistants and the like.

..  Trump reportedly calls Sean Hannity after his show. If hostile foreign services compromise Hannity’s phone (or place a listening device in the room where Hannity takes his private calls), that could provide real-time intelligence on the American president and his thoughts.

.. For Russian intelligence, a systematic effort to threaten, coerce and co-opt journalists is a decades-old practice.

.. Kalugin wrote that the KGB’s Tumanov helped spread rumors and disinformation within Radio Liberty for years, turning staff against each other and identifying further potential targets for recruitment. He even had a hand in the bombing of Radio Liberty’s headquarters in Munich in 1981.

.. Compared to government workers, Fox employees would make easy targets.

.. Also, it’s television — full of trade secrets, big personalities and titanic egos. Most wouldn’t expect to be compromised by a hostile intelligence power, especially on American soil.

.. Few, if any, have the sort of counterintelligence training the U.S. government administers to people in sensitive positions

.. One of the major rationales for Putin’s behavior is to cause chaos, ultimately weakening and undermining his American adversaries. It’s his real long game.

 

An Evangelical Crack-Up?

What is going to happen to American Evangelicalism in the wake of the Roy Moore defeat? Christianity Today editor Mark Galli, in an editorial, says nothing good.Excerpts:

No matter the outcome of today’s special election in Alabama for a coveted US Senate seat, there is already one loser: Christian faith. When it comes to either matters of life and death or personal commitments of the human heart, no one will believe a word we say, perhaps for a generation. Christianity’s integrity is severely tarnished.

.. The Christian leaders who have excused, ignored, or justified his unscrupulous behavior and his indecent rhetoric have only given credence to their critics who accuse them of hypocrisy.

.. David Brody, a correspondent for the Christian Broadcasting Network, has noted the desperation and urgency felt throughout much of conservative Christianity. “The way evangelicals see the world, the culture is not only slipping away—it’s slipping away in all caps, with four exclamation points after that. It’s going to you-know-what in a handbasket.” The logic is then inexorable: “Where does that leave evangelicals? It leaves them with a choice. Do they sacrifice a little bit of that ethical guideline they’ve used in the past in exchange for what they believe is saving the culture?”

.. If evangelical means that, it has serious ramifications for the work of Christians and churches.”

That notion is bewildering to evangelical leaders who see Mr. Trump as their champion. They say that Mr. Trump has given them more access than any president in recent memory, and has done more to advance their agenda, by appointing judges who are likely to rule against abortion and gay rights; by channeling government funds to private religious schools; by recognizing Jerusalem as the capital of Israel; and by calling for the elimination of the Johnson Amendment, which prohibits churches and charitable groups from endorsing political candidates.

.. “I believe that God answered our prayers in a way we didn’t expect, for a person we didn’t even necessarily like,” said Stephen E. Strang, author of “God and Donald Trump” and founder of Charisma Media, a Christian publishing house.

Christians believe in redemption and forgiveness, so they’re willing to give Donald Trump a chance,” said Mr. Strang, who is a member of the president’s informal council of evangelical advisers. “If he turns out to be a lecher like Bill Clinton, or dishonest in some kind of way, in a way that’s proven, you’ll see the support fade as quick as it came.”

Mr. Strang said that those who talk about Mr. Trump tarnishing the evangelical brand “are not really believers — they’re not with us, anyway.”

.. You cannot underestimate the impact of being raised to think that morality was so important that impeachment was justified, and then see the very same people who instilled that belief in you to jump into bed with Donald Trump–a man just as morally debauched as Clinton, but without the advantage of competency or even enough of a sense of decency to know that his lecherous behavior isn’t something to brag about.

.. The key problem is in, as Galli says it, “the desperation and urgency felt throughout much of conservative Christianity.” The New Testament tells us repeatedly, in many different ways and through the examples of the apostles, that Christians should not fear or worry — and certainly not feel desperation! — even in the face of persecution. I was glad to see that he addressed the proper scriptural ways of dealing with such situations: turning the other cheek, forgiving, and doing good to our enemies.

Christians who rationalize compromising our testimony out of desperation are simply not trusting the one they claim to follow.

.. for the first time I can remember, the appearance of Danielite and Johannine apocalyptic imagery in both sermons and discussions on the left. (This isn’t entirely unwelcome, and I think it’s totally appropriate about environmental stewardship, but I am more interested in seeing the left pull the right out of their foxhole than in the left digging our own.)

..  “evangelical” seems to have been co-opted as a political label and makes no distinction between a theological disposition and a cultural identifier. It seems, anymore, to simply mean “non-mainline Protestants,”

.. The older Evangelicals are treading on dangerous ground and alienating their next generation by putting political power over living by Christ’s example.

 

.. The fault line in the schism is whether one takes a culture war-dominionist posture or faithful minority counterculture posture. This fault line — which also divides Christian generations — has lain hidden for a while, but Trump has exposed it, because the dominionists think they can use the Strongman for their own purposes and, maybe, by being his chaplaincy, even make a true believer of him.

The counterculturalists — usually younger evangelicals — think that’s a delusional misreading both of Trump and of the actual standing of Christianity in our nation, and that in the meantime going all-in with this Administration means shredding theological clarity and moral credibility.

.. In terms of Trump he is politician and in a rare moment of listening to his advisers, Paul Manafort was right that Mike Pence was correct choice for VP to ensure the evangelical vote came out for him.

.. But as they explain it, it was because of the supreme court, lesser of two evils, etc. Fine. I get that. What I don’t get is people trying to make Trump out to be the last best hope for the evangelical church.

.. In this sense, Trump and Roy Moore are in the tradition of the Emperor Constantine, whose interest in Christianity was purely for its use as a political tool. Ever since Constantine, there have always been Machiavellian leaders who used the Church for their own cynical purposes, and there will always be such leaders.

.. I suspect “evangelicals” were among the many “Christians” a few years ago who professed to see no contradiction between Christianity and the ideas of Ayn Rand. In other words, many self-identified “evangelicals” are really just identifying their cultural background, not their theology. (And they don’t know their theology.)

 .. However, I think that evagelicals were already hated by elite culture

.. “There is no way we can please them, they are going to hate us no matter what. We might as well support the bad ass who will fight for us, or at least not ramp up the persecution of elite culture against us.”

.. This strategy will also most likely fail, since Trump is likely to fail, and horribly. But I understand the despair and desperation that motivates it.

.. I’m one such libertarian, who recently left the PCA for the ECUSA. I felt that the social conservatives were becoming a professional liability for me. If I agreed with them, that would be fine. But I don’t. I don’t believe in criminalizing early-term abortion and I’m fine with civil same-sex marriage. And I’m not willing to suffer socially for views that I don’t hold and that IMO represent bad policy. 

 

Harvey Weinstein, Hollywood’s Oldest Horror Story

Nearly 80 years later, that aroma of perversion and maladroit du seigneur clings to Hollywood. Now we are inundated with grotesque tales of Harvey Weinstein pulling out his penis to show to appalled and frightened young women, enlisting the pimping help of agents and assistants to have actresses delivered to his hotel rooms, where he pestered the women to watch him shower or give him a massage or engage in intimate acts.

“The ill will towards him for getting away with it all for so long has unleashed something so primitive,” a prominent male Hollywood producer told me. “If people could rip him apart, they would

.. a man trusted by the Obamas to have their daughter intern at his company.

.. Often the actresses scrambled, trying to figure out how to get out of the room without having their futures shredded by the vindictive satyr, who also threatened to destroy actresses who balked at wearing dresses designed by his wife Georgina Chapman’s fashion label on the red carpet.

.. Min recalled attending the $400,000 speech Barack Obama made as an ex-president to an A&E Networks advertising upfront at the Pierre hotel in New York in April.

.. “There probably needs to be some introspection about how certain people who engage in horrendous mistreatment of women can co-opt the media,” she mused. “The fundamental predatory nature of Hollywood is young, attractive people — largely females — putting themselves in front of men to be judged and appraised and chosen.

.. In Hollywood, unlike at other Fortune 500 companies, the one-on-one meetings take place in hotel suites and bars. It’s an exploitative and oddly personal process.”

.. Harvey had proven time and again he could get you the Oscar that could make your career. It’s the difference between being in the reboot of ‘Saved by the Bell’ or getting 15 million for your next role.”

Hollywood is a culture that runs on fear. And it is not like other professions, one top entertainment executive said, because “no one comes with a résumé. It’s about what you look like and who sent you.”

.. There was resentment against Weinstein in Hollywood, not only for the stories bubbling around about women, but the way he humiliated men who worked with him. He even berated a 15-year-old girl at a screening because her parents supported a political candidate he opposed.

.. Like Trump, that other self-professed predator, there were complaints that in business deals he stiffed people on bills (advertising and public relations payments), and he had a reputation for lying, cheating, taking advantage, acting like a thug. Many in the film community felt he besmirched the Oscars by turning it into a marketing race rather than a contest of quality.

Scaramucci learned his press tactics from Wall Street. They’ll only get uglier.

When Anthony Scaramucci took over as White House communications director, prompting the resignation of press secretary Sean Spicer, the initial reaction from Washington journalists was warily optimistic. Where Spicer was aggressive and hostile, Scaramucci would be “smooth ” and affable. He even blew a kiss to end his first press briefing. These looked like signs of a thaw. After all, officials and reporters in Washington may still joke around after a bad story or a slight; the hostility is often for show.  Politics is communal and built on co-dependency.

Finance is different. It is individualist and zero-sum. As a reporter and editor covering Wall Street for 18 years, I studied the industry’s aggressive approach toward the press: Financiers, and the multibillion-dollar companies they work for, are friendly and charming as long as you see things their way, and they do everything they can to win reporters over. But when reporters don’t buy their line, the Wall Street answer is to get intransigent journalists removed from stories.

.. President Trump reportedly liked that Scaramucci’s pushback about an inaccurate CNN story — complete with rumored threat of legal action — led to the departures of three veteran investigative journalists. Scaramucci pointedly called on a CNN reporter at his first briefing and a few days later said, on a hot microphone, that network boss Jeff Zucker “helped me get the job by hitting those guys,” referring to the unemployed reporters.

.. There’s every reason to believe that the White House team sees this as a model: It will not worry about the accuracy of what is published, only whether the tone is Trump-friendly.

.. Of his new job, Scaramucci says, “It is a client service business, and [Trump] is my client.”

.. When a negative report was in the works, company representatives often called up the journalist writing it and tried to ingratiate themselves with a charming introduction and some light chitchat. The point was to humanize the people at the firm so that journalists would feel guilty reporting negatively about it.

.. When a piece was in process, they’d follow up daily, trying to get a sense of who the journalist’s sources were and the direction of the story. The key at this point was to keep their enemies close.

.. My favorite of their techniques, used by two major investment houses, was to flatly deny a story that I knew was accurate.

.. When charm didn’t work, I saw or heard about firms

  • wheedling,
  • pleading,
  • threatening,
  • calling editors and even
  • contacting media executives.

Insults and obscenities were common. One troubled hedge fund’s foul-mouthed manager called me every day for a week with some new litany of abuse.

 .. Other companies tried to co-opt aggressive reporters by offering them lucrative jobs
.. If the full-court press failed, the next step was usually to call the reporter’s editor and complain that the subject didn’t feel he or she was getting a fair shake. The point was to undermine a reporter’s support within their organization, with a view toward neutralizing their reporting.
Anything the reporter had said, even in a casual conversation, could be used as evidence of an ulterior motive. Refusing to finesse quotes was seen as biased intransigence.
.. Every journalist who covers Wall Street knows that banks keep tabs on them, sometimes spoken of as “dossiers,” though they’re nothing fancy: reporters’ articles, backgrounds, editors, potentially revealing comments they may have made to the bank’s communications team. Financial firms have multiple people picking over journalists’ past work, looking for a word or phrase that could be interpreted as biased.
.. A senior executive at Uber once suggested that the company compile opposition research on journalists who wrote critical stories.
Microsoft once broke into the Hotmail account of a blogger while pursuing the source of internal leaks.
.. The last technique I saw used against news organizations was threats, and this is what Scaramucci appears to have mastered with CNN.
  • At different publications, I saw the names of Russian oligarchs removed from stories after threats of lawsuits. ‘
  • Once, an editor killed an entire investigation because the Koch brothers threatened a lawsuit if it went forward.
  • In my first job, writing for a tiny finance trade publication, the treasurer of a multibillion-dollar company told me in an interview that the firm planned to raise money by selling bonds — then called back and threatened to sue if I quoted his on-the-record comment.

.. Business is often a zero-sum proposition, and executives sometimes see their relationships with journalists that way, too.

So forget the pleasant tone and the cheerful smiles that Scaramucci brought at first. The White House press corps now faces a much more aggressive, much more personal fight than the Beltway is used to.

It’s not crazy to believe that a few more journalists may lose something beyond their access to the White House — they may lose their beats or even their jobs

Trump neutralizes Democrats’ attacks by adopting their positions

.. Never mind that in 2014 a federal judge ruled that the no-fly list was “arbitrary and capricious” because the government refused to even confirm someone has been placed on it, much less provide any way to challenge a no-fly designation, which violates the Fifth Amendment’s guarantee of due process.

.. On domestic policy, Trump has a followed a consistent strategy of neutralizing traditional Democratic attacks by adopting the Democrats’ positions.

.. In other words, by adopting the Democrats’ positions, Trump has closed off virtually all the major lines of attack (much as he has done on foreign policy, campaigning from the isolationist left). Clinton can’t hit Trump on guns . . . the minimum wage . . . cutting Social Security . . . or tax cuts for the rich . . . or trade.

.. So how will Clinton go after Trump? She will say that Trump is “temperamentally unfit” for the presidency.

.. Trump will respond in kind — going over all the old Clinton scandals, the Clinton Foundation, the FBI investigation into her use of a private email server. It will be the ugliest, least substantive campaign in memory.

But no matter how it turns out, we’ll get a president committed to the Democratic Party’s positions on most of the major issues at home and abroad.