Prophets of Nihilism

One year from the attack on the nation’s Capitol, the festering wound within the Republican party threatens conservative values.

This year the 6th went by with members of the Republican party mostly invisible, but it was clear the members of the old guard such as Mitch McConnell had prepared a message to condemn the attack. One of the more zealous members, Ted Cruz, even went as far as to correctly label the attack an act of terrorism.

An equally politically ambitious Tucker Carlson pounced on Cruz, as the ongoing message from the “Far Right,” is that the attack can be called a “riot” but not “terrorism.” Thus the unlikely representative of Conservatism was Cruz – whose lack of backbone leads him to try to represent both factions in the party – and Carlson representing the “Far Right.”

For people outside of the Republican base, the two factions within the party are obvious, but for those within the party it can be muddled. Part of the problem is that “Far Right” lacks any real meaning and can be seen merely as a pejorative for media outlets to slap on polemic characters they dislike. Going forward, it is best that a new description is used, especially since “Far Right” actors on the internet such as Carl Benjamin, who resides in the UK, and Jordan Peterson, of Canada, are obviously quite different from our home grown versions such as Alex Jones.

American culture highly values skepticism as the nation was founded during the Enlightenment Movement. “Far Right” actors, on the surface, seem to embody this spirit. This is, however, only surface level as the persistent questioning is never backed up with any substance. There is never an alternate idea offered; the goal is to evoke outrage.

Conservatism, on the other hand, has a rich history of defending tradition. The goal is a preservation of heritage, a defense against too rapid of change, and to protect against the tyranny of the majority. For Conservatives, the past is sacred, because to cast it away is simple; to build anew could threaten chaos. Importantly, it believes in the innate good deep within everyone.

“The most important sentiments are moral sentiments. Conservatism certainly has an acute awareness of sin—selfishness, greed, lust. But conservatives also believe that in the right circumstances, people are motivated by the positive moral emotions—especially sympathy and benevolence, but also admiration, patriotism, charity, and loyalty. These moral sentiments move you to be outraged by cruelty, to care for your neighbor, to feel proper affection for your imperfect country. They motivate you to do the right thing,” wrote David Brooks, mentioning that these sentiments must be cultivated properly. “The key phrase, of course, is cultivated rightly. A person who lived in a state of nature would be an unrecognizable creature, scarcely fit for life in society, locked up within and slave to his own unruly desires. The only way to govern such an unformed creature would be through a prison state. If a person has not been trained by a community to tame his passions from within, then the state would have to continuously control him from without.”

The Democratic party has already gone through its own internal schism. Leaders like Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer represent the Liberal portions of the party and those of Bernie Sanders and Occasio Cortez represent the Progressives. 

It’s hard to say why the Republican party hasn’t seen this separation defined. It could be because “Far Right” doesn’t accurately reflect it, or it could be because they are often too linked to our former president – such as calling them “Trumpian” or “Trump-supporting” etc.

Regardless of the labeling, the division is glaringly apparent, just look at the words of Donald Trump Junior:

“We’ve been playing T-ball for half a century while they’re playing hardball and cheating. Right? We’ve turned the other cheek, and I understand, sort of, the biblical reference – I understand the mentality – but it’s gotten us nothing. Okay?” As reported on by The Atlantic.

The Republican party has historically upheld the American Christian heritage and the “Far Right” ideology pushes to cast off this guiding principle in pursuit of victory. Victory at all costs did not begin with the “Far Right” though: that stage was set by Conservatives such as Newt Gingrich, fostered by Mitch McConnell, and it was the “Far Right” President Donald Trump who embodied the principle.

This spirit that nothing matters but victory is the guiding principle of the “Far Right.” The difference in values between the Conservative Mike Pence who defended American tradition, and the “Far Right” base that vandalized and destroyed the Capitol.

The “Far Right” believes in nothing. The factions at war over the Republican party’s soul are between the Conservatives and the Nihilists.

Nietzsche famously lamented that ‘God is dead’ and feared that humanity would be left directionless. As Americans drift further away from religion, so too does the Republican party. Traditionally guided by Christian ethics, Republicans now struggle to rally except with the warcry of opposing the Democrats. The driving sentiment that unifies Republicans, regardless of Conservative or Nihilist is a feeling of being disrespected. 

Americans often tie beliefs to culture. To have our beliefs mocked, can often be viewed as a personal affront. In Republicans’ defense, these criticisms have often taken the form of ad hominem, and can easily be seen from coming from all sides – especially after dumping on them came into vogue after propelling Jon Stewart to fame. 

Beating up on Republicans became fashionable, and thus the term “mainstream media” was born.

Nevermind that Fox News – the Republican apologist channel – is mainstream, the term “mainstream media” means everything to the left of them. The term importantly creates a false dichotomy between Nihilistic outlets and the rest of the news media.

While there’s a clear distinction between media like Comedy Central or other late night shows, and the news, and even further distinction between opinion pieces and hard journalism, Fox News wants you to ignore these differences. 24-hour news cycles don’t prosper without serious events occurring. This is why the show talks about the news rather than distributes the news. By retaining the idea that the “mainstream media” exists and that there exists no unbiased news, Fox News creates an appearance that they are accurately discussing the news.

While social media outlets have caught heat for manipulating society during the 2016 election, the method of getting views is not new. News outlets have employed the clickbait method for years and the technique spread. Fox News, being a part of the 24-hour news cycle, is no different.

The aforementioned Tucker Carlson is the channel’s highest-viewed provocateur. It’s impossible to know his personal beliefs, so unlike other articles, I will not attempt to say what they are; instead, I will simply describe what he does. His technique is brilliant. Carlson takes an issue and spins it in whatever way will best inflame the Left. In this manner, some of his segments become racial in nature. 

The distinction Hannah Arendt makes about “racial thinking” and “racism” is important here, because Carlson and his supporters can fall back on the former when they are accused of the latter. 

“…It was the innate lack of tact, the innate lack of productivity, the innate disposition for trading, etc, which separated the behavior of the Jewish colleague from that of the average businessman… The bourgeoisie from the very beginning wanted to look down on, not so much on other lower classes of their own, but simply other people,” she wrote. “This insistence on common tribal origin as an essential of nationhood, formulated by German nationalists during and after the war of 1814, and the emphasis laid by the romantics on the innate personality and natural nobility prepared the way intellectually for race-thinking. From the former sprang the organic doctrine of history with its natural laws; from the latter arose the grotesque homunculus of the superman whose natural destiny it is to rule the world.”

Again, I will stress that there is no way to know what Carlson actually thinks or believes, but his actions disregard the consequences in search of views. Carlson’s actions are nihilistic.

Our former president used this same technique to incredible effect. While Carlson had to rely on whatever the news was discussing in search of an angle, our former president would manufacture the issue himself. By maintaining a constant state of panic, Donald Trump never had to produce a plan for the future: he instead kept people focused on the conflict. For Trump, and every other Nihilist, nothing matters but the spectacle.

January 6th was the spectacle. There was no plan for the aftermath. Emotions of patriotism for America were conflated with devotion to the Nihilistic Right. Occupier of the Capitol didn’t know what to do once they were inside. Chants of execution were made, and perhaps they would have followed through with the threats, but then what?

The emotions were of patriotism, but the actions were not. Americans don’t follow a single figure, and we never will. Americans fought a war and founded a country to defy a single ruler. True Americans would condemn the action of taking the Capitol, and defy the orders of any would-be leader who was installed in such a way.

The attack on the Capitol reveals the stark contrast between Conservatism and Nihilism. The Nihilists vandalized our nation’s creations, desecrated sacred ground, and the Nihilist in Chief took no action. 

Mike Pence upheld his Conservative values under threat of death. He defended the traditions and customs of our heritage, ratifying the country’s votes.

“He will see that this spirit embodies not only the highest morality but also the truest wisdom, and the only road by which the nations, torn and bleeding with the wounds which scientific madness has inflicted, can emerge into a life where growth is possible and joy is not banished at the frenzied call of unreal and fictitious duties,” wrote Bertrand Russell ending a collection of essays.

While the insurrectionists that day may have been motivated by their misguided patriotism, their actions were not patriotic. Russell captured this in his parting two lines:

“Deeds inspired by hate are not duties, whatever pain and self-sacrifice they may involve,” wrote
Russell. “Life and hope for the world are to be found only in the deeds of love.”

Word’s Worth

Some time has passed since President Donald Trump falsely compared his self-imposed predicament to a form of murder, but his remarks provide an opportunity for society to reflect on the state of its language.

An unfortunate byproduct of the information age is a culture which promotes attention-seeking behavior. Outrageous behavior is rewarded. Buffoonish lifestyles garner the most attention and, similar to children, when these individuals cannot receive positive attention, negative seems to suffice.

Two sides of this phenomenon have emerged: virtue signalling, where an individual seeks positive feedback for claiming the moral high ground; and trolling, where an individual projects an inauthentic thought or idea to a target audience with the intention of manipulating them – commonly to elicit outrage.

Trump employs both of these tactics in his arsenal. When he boasts about gun rights or the economy he is virtue signalling to his base, but for a view at one of the President’s more clever political traps, his lynching comment surpasses the best trolls 4chan could produce.

The statement served a twofold purpose. While the right side of the political spectrum revels in its condemnation of fetishizing victimhood, Trump frequently narrates himself as the victim of his targets. In this instance, he is alleging that the ominous Left is unfairly persecuting him.

The second purpose relies on the bait being taken. The rapid pace of the media, both broadcast and digital, necessitates response, if for no other reason than for a lazy writer to meet his or her quota for the day. Trump’s invocation of such a loaded word to describe his self-inflicted dilemma would inevitably cause a swarm of critics, thereby allowing him to point to these voices as verification. What this maneuver amounts to is someone complaining of maltreatment for attending a funeral, but neglecting to mention they arrived with a party hat, confetti poppers, and a kazoo.

Now that the foliage has been cleared and Trump’s snare has been lain bare, allow me to barrel right into it.

Born, and mostly raised, in the South, it did not take long to understand why lynching is such a loaded word. Searching for an example to illustrate, I was surprised to learn that a lynching occurred only a short walk from my home (in the same month as the President’s comment in fact).

In October of 1933, a 16-year-old black child named Freddie Moore experienced the full cruelty of human nature. He was to receive this treatment for nothing more than having been witnessed speaking to the 15-year-old Anna Mae LaRose, his neighbor, as she prepared for a dance on October 7.

LaRose was reported missing when she did not return home, and her body was found October 9th in a field with stab wounds to her throat. According to Northeastern University Student, Robert Black’s report, because he was seen chatting with LaRose, Moore was detained in connection with the murder.

The mob of men from Assumption Parish and the surrounding area gathered at the jail that housed Moore. The mob took the boy from the cell, made him wear a noose and march to the field where his neighbor’s body had been found.

Moore was beaten, then forced to march nearly 10 miles to Labadeville Bridge. Each time his legs buckled from the combination of pain, fear, and/or exhaustion, Moore’s flesh was met with the searing touch of a branding iron.

According to Black’s report, the mob beat Moore into falsely confessing to the murder of LaRose. (Townspeople later said the stepfather of LaRose confessed on his deathbed to killing her).

After hours of agony, both mental and physical, Moore was hanged from the bridge; after which a sign was affixed to his remains: “N-‘s, let this be an example. Do not touch for 24 hours. Mean it.” With this act, in front of a large Catholic church no less, Moore’s body was transformed into a grim effigy to spread fear among the mob’s black neighbors.

The final days of Moore’s unjust end hold the essence of a lynching: the unrighteous slaying of a person, forbidden due process by a mob thirsty for violence, mad with power, and intent on spreading fear. Unsated by vengeance inflicted upon the flesh, the mob sought to destroy not only the spirit of its victim, but also the community he represented. Lynching is terrorism incarnate.

Words are important. They are tools for both public and personal thought. When the president, or anyone, incorrectly employs a word language suffers, meaning erodes, and the events which spawned the meaning are forgotten.

To quote someone far more attuned to this phenomenon than myself: George Orwell, concluding no one individual could be blamed, said, “…An effect can become a cause, reinforcing the original cause and producing the same effect in an intensified form, and so on indefinitely. A man may take to drink because he feels himself to be a failure, and then fail all the more completely because he drinks.”

Orwell described the erosion of language and its effect on public thought: “It becomes ugly and inaccurate because our thoughts are foolish, but the slovenliness of our language makes it easier for us to have foolish thoughts.”

The internet has given everyone a voice. With this comes a responsibility on everyone to be the custodians of language – especially a president.

Cassidy promotes COASTAL Act

Louisiana’s senior US Senator William Cassidy is pushing for coastal communities to receive a greater share of the oil royalties they help produce.

25 people gathered online for a webinar as Sen. Cassidy gave a brief overview of the Conservation of America’s Shoreline Terrain and Aquatic Life Act, as well as touched on a few other political goals he is working towards, before rushing to another meeting Thursday, September 19.
“We’re considering different bills and different legislation as regards to keep more money from the offshore oil royalty payments,” said Sen. Cassidy.
Sen. Cassidy’s bill, COASTAL Act, introduced August 1, 2019, will amend the pre-existing Gulf of Mexico Energy Security Act, GOMESA. It currently has 5 co-sponsors: Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), Sen. Dan Sullivan (R-AK), Sen. John Kennedy (R-La), Sen. Roger Wicker (R-MS), and Sen. Doug Jones (D-AL).
GOMESA was signed into law in 2006. According to the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, it shares leasing revenues with Gulf producing states and the Land and Water Conservation Fund for coastal restoration projects. It bans oil and gas leasing within 125 miles off Florida’s Gulf coastlines as well as a central portion until 2022. It allows companies to exchange certain existing leases within moratorium areas for credits to be used in other areas.
Gomesa placed a $500 million cap on royalties paid to states each year from 2016-2055. For starters, the COASTAL Act will remove this.
Currently, Louisiana receives 37.5% of royalties from oil and gas operations – his bill seeks to increase this to 50%.
According to Kyle Kline, Chairman of Louisiana’s Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority, in 2006 the Louisiana Senate dedicated GOMESA funds to coastal restoration.
“In 2005-2006 Senator Reggie Dupree passed a constitutional amendment which protects GOMESA revenues for the purposes of hurricane protection and restoration,” Kline said. “If the percentages are increased, those percentages will come into the trust fund.”
To further increase this influx of revenue, the bill proposes making leases from 2000 – 2006 eligible for paying royalties and opening up the eastern portion of the Gulf to oil operations – though Sen. Cassidy noted that he sought to protect Florida’s vital tourism.
According to Sen. Cassidy, in GOMESA’s current form, some royalties are dedicated to other states such as Montana. His bill seeks keep more of the money for Gulf coast states like Louisiana.
“I am all about preferred maintenance on national parks,” said Sen. Cassidy. “I am not about taking more money away from offshore royalties, because frankly I want that money to go to our state for coastal restoration.”
The eastern portion of the Gulf of Mexico is currently under a moratorium due to expire soon. According to Sen. Cassidy, the House has been seeking to extend this moratorium indefinitely. He has been blocking these attempts, and says he hopes this will allow for negotiations.
“I’ve been able to block that so far, and will continue to do so,” Sen. Cassidy said. “That’s our point of leverage.”
The oil field isn’t the only benefactor of Sen. Cassidy’s current political activities. SEN. Cassidy mentioned wind farms in northeastern states, Massachusetts and Rhode Island to be exact, where Louisiana companies are providing support.
“Wind energy, they want it – god bless em – they can have it,” he began. “I like the fact that somebody named Thibodaux, on a Louisiana boat, is helping them put those windmills up.”
Since Louisiana has been able to harness royalties from our energy production methods for coastal uses, Sen. Cassidy said, he is suggesting that northeastern states investing in wind energy partake in revenue sharing arrangements and devote these dollars to coastal restoration for their states.
“Forty percent of the population lives next to a coastline we should do something to protect coastal states from rising sea levels and we think this is a nice way to get at that,” said Sen. Cassidy.

Read it here: https://www.houmatimes.com/news/cassidy-outlines-plan-to-give-louisiana-greater-share-of-oil/article_ec01d4d4-def8-11e9-a6bd-038faf6a9076.html

I don’t want your guns. I want your ideas.

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(This was a piece for Southern Louisiana)

Last month Louisiana State University experienced a scare as the school reacted to a possible armed intruder. Thankfully, the alarm had been sounded in response to a plain clothed off-duty officer.

Louisiana is fortunate in that we have been spared from suffering through such a large scale tragedy. However, according to the Center for Disease Control, over the past 4 years the body count for gun violence has grown – starting from 896 in 2014, and increasing to 1,008 in 2017. One must hope the numbers for 2018 decrease.

The US Constitution protects the right to bear arms in the Second Amendment. This right is simultaneously defended by the Constitution of Louisiana in Article 1, Section 11, which states:

“The right of each citizen to keep and bear arms is fundamental and shall not be infringed. Any restriction on this right shall be subject to strict scrutiny.”

This guarantee of rights, on can argue, is an example of the underpinnings of American Exceptionalism, but this uniqueness of character is not without cost: in 2017 the US ranked 28th in rates of death from gun violence in the world. The figures come from the University of Washington’s Institute of Health Metrics and Evaluation, which NPR reported on. You can read it here:

(https://www.npr.org/sections/goatsandsoda/2018/11/09/666209430/deaths-from-gun-violence-how-the-u-s-compares-with-the-rest-of-the-world)

This is unacceptable. Each of the lives counted in the above statistics is that of a fellow countryman or woman. Those who rob the futures of others do not discriminate. Those in their line of fire are not viewed as people, they are targets. As such, dividing this issue along party lines wastes time – both that of the present, and of the futures cut short.

Non-gun owners are understandably terrified of the proven lethality of firearms. A relatively untrained individual can pick up a weapon such as the AR-15 and cause massive suffering. While weapons such as this may cause the largest damage in the shortest timeframe, to focus on weapons such as “assault style” guns is to become distracted from the larger number of casualties produced by handguns.

According to the FBI’s figures, in 2017, deaths caused by rifles were 403. Those caused by handguns were 7,032. Just for due diligence, cases of unspecified firearms were 3,096.

Gun owners understand how these weapons work. They understand the process of obtaining them, and often know how the criminals abuse the loopholes. Owners I have spoken with are often frustrated that these loopholes exist, but the issue remains unresolved.

Unfortunately, the voices of individual gun owners are often overshadowed by those who benefit politically or financially by maintaining this battle. These vapid statements often come in the form of blaming mental illness. Aside from stating the obvious, this offers nothing remotely close to a solution. Laws apply to everyone equally, though punishment may differ. Unless a psych evaluation is required for each gun purchase, i don’t see this helping.

Restriction advocates are not wrong. The right to bear arms is ambiguous and intentionally so. The Founding Fathers knew they could not foresee the changes in future weaponry, and as such left the door open for future debate. As a society we already accept limitations on this right for our mutual safety (though I am sure there are those out there who want nuclear arms).

Making certain weapons more difficult for future, or current, criminals to obtain would likely reduce casualties but would not solve the underlying problem. Furthermore, the future perpetrator could substitute a different weapon, or simply obtain the weapon illegally.

So with that said, I want to hear from gun owners in the Bayou Region. I do not own firearms, but like you I am suspicious of anyone who asks me to give up something for my own good. How do you suggest gun violence be reduced? Please write in at [removed from blog to keep the responses local].

In the future I would like to lay out some of these suggestions and see where this conversation goes.

Efforts by Locals Drive Costs Down

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There’s been a recent substantial drop in the estimated price tag of a large scale hurricane protection project intended to protect Louisiana’s coast.

 

This year the Terrebonne Levee and Conservation District and the Louisiana Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority asked the Army Corps of Engineers to factor the work already completed into the hefty $10.3 billion estimate. Their conclusion: $3.2 billion for 2035, and $5-6 billion for 2085.

 

“it was priced out of existence,” said Dwayne Bourgeois, Executive Director of North Lafourche Levee and Conservation District. “We had to replace it, and that’s where we are.”

 

The Morganza to the Gulf Project is currently planned to be 98 miles of earthen levees, 22 floodgates of navigable water, 23 environmental water control structures, 9 road gates, and front protection for 4 existing pump stations.

 

According to the Corps, currently, no federal dollars have been appropriated for the project. TLCD and CPRA have used state and local funds to carry out what work has been done. So far 66 miles of levees, 11 of the navigable gates, 6 roadway gates, and 10 environmental structures have been completed.

 

Originally, the estimate was $866 million, but shortly after new hurricane protection standards, in the wake of Hurricane Katrina, the cost ballooned to $10.3 billion. Bourgeois said this stalled out federal work on the project because this estimate is 10% of the Corps’ backlog.

 

The TLCD and CPRA continued the project, compiling data on the actual costs which generated the Adaptive Criteria Report. This report, factoring the already completed portions and the costs, resulted in the deflation of the estimated price.

 

The reason for the two different pricetags set for different dates, said Bourgeois, is the cost of increasing protection annually. While the number is likely an overestimate, said Bourgeois, the important number is the $3.2 billion.

 

“Since the Corps would really be out of the picture at 2035, the $3.2 billion number is the one to really focus on,” Bourgeois said.

 

Once the levees are constructed, both sea level rise and the ground itself settling have a double impact of reducing the effectiveness of the levee over time. Essentially, the levee sinks and the sea level rises, and the 2085 estimate is adjusting for these factors.

 

Reggie Dupre, Executive Director of Terrebonne Levee and Conservation District, explained that this is a question of terminology – if it will be called maintenance or construction.

 

“This whole story about the re-evaluation is what do you call the post 2035 level: do you call it maintenance, or do you call it construction?” said Dupre. “We think if we call it maintenance, we have a much better shot of finally getting the federal government to adopt us.”

 

Having got the Corps to sign off on the new estimate, the next step is to have the Office of Management Budget agree.

 

Bourgeois said he’s brining a strong case before the OMB. The work already carried out proves the cheaper pricetag, and the savings improve the cost benefit ratio from 1.4% to 5%.

 

“That’s the kind of thing the OMB has to have in their hand,” Bourgeois said. “and the economic data to back it up.”

Political ills

While the title, “Maladies of Modernity,” may be unappetizing, leaving many a potential reader to pass over this book, the argument set forward is a well-researched narrative at the forefront of many minds. For example, recently Ben Shapiro, a popular Right-leaning pundit, published a book making a similar argument where he attempted to blame the Enlightenment and atheism for the current range of social and political problems.

While Shapiro’s solution was to return to religious doctrines, Dr. Whitney’s book is an exploration of moments where science has been treated with dogmatism. This difference in approach is likely to have arisen from their professions: Shapiro makes a living off of shock value, while Dr. Whitney is an educator. The difference in tone as well as approach is noticeable, as the professor does not insult his readers with rhetorical tricks; instead, he explains 7 points that he argues are key to understanding the phenomena he refers to as scientism.

The starting point is found in the appropriate target of Francis Bacon. Bacon, and the more prominent DesCartes, can be attributed with starting the enlightenment movement. DesCartes produced more lasting philosophical work, but Bacon could be granted setting the tone. The philosopher Roger Scruton, in his book “A Short History of Modern Philosophy,” distinguishes between the “History of Ideas” and the “History of Philosophy,” to which he places Bacon in the former. Even so, he affords Bacon a few paragraphs in his introduction: “For all his brilliance and learning, it is difficult to see him as the founder of modern, rather than the destroyer of the medieval, modes of thought.”

Bacon was an advocate of science, held a strong opinion of inductive reasoning, and believed that it could reshape the world. Dr. Whitney argues that Bacon failed to account for politics under his scientific umbrella. It is fair to charge Bacon on this front and perhaps to go further, this is me speaking and not Dr. Whitney, and add hypocrisy to the list. In Novum Organum, arguably Bacon’s greatest work, Bacon lays out a number of “idols” which impede human thought: “Idols of Tribe” of perceptual illusions, “Idols of Cave” personal bias, “Idols of the Marketplace” or linguistic errors, and “Idols of Theatre” or dogmatism. Bacon’s New Atlantis and overall faith in inductive reasoning are in violation of both cave and theatre.

Of course, as Dr. Whitney notes, Bacon’s optimism would likely not have become widespread without the success of Isaac Newton. The following chapter gives a summary of Newton’s success and how it fundamentally changed the West. According to Dr. Whitney, Newton explained how the universe operated, and not why. In his opinion this is in contrast to modern science. This is a bold claim, but modern science will be addressed later.

The narrative progresses to Auguste Comte, who attempted to established a religion based around science or “Religion of Humanity.” Dr. Whitney draws a clear link from Bacon to Comte, though he notes that while Bacon left the spiritual aspect alone, Comte appropriated Christian principles and attempted to fuse the two.

The next pivot is a stretch and is prefaced, “While the continuity between Bacon and Comte is apparent, the jump to Marx requires a little more explanation.” Indeed it does; as noted, Marx rejected “social utopias.” The book correctly draws attention to Marx’s poorly considered conclusion that violent revolution would solve society’s problems – a reader need go no further than Orwell’s Animal Farm for a glimpse of the aftermath of revolution gone wrong. It is quite compelling when Dr. Whitney draws attention to the utopian nature of such a promise. Marx pushes this claim by alleging it has been enabled through science. Once again Dr. Whitney can be accused of being too soft in his criticisms when he states, “Yet Marx maintains ‘true’ human nature will only emerge once the revolution has occurred.” To this it can be added: it did.

If the book had ended with only its foundation it still would have been worth reading as a well examined illumination into what conclusions thoughtless worship can lead a society, but of further interest are the book’s exploration into the modern state of political affairs.

“The central argument of this work is that scientism stands as the key crisis of our age,” says Dr. Whitney. “Yet, as I have shown throughout the analysis, the problem is not a new one.”

The final two chapters give an opinion on the evolution of terms: reason, experience, facts, empiricism, and science. This alteration, Dr. Whitney argues, becomes a problem when developing political science because, while he uses many terms to define the non-material aspects of humankind, humankind is more than the sum of its parts, and Politics encompasses all of human existence. He then proceeds to touch on the New Atheist movement expounding on Sam Harris and Richard Dawkins. Language is ever-changing with old terms evolving and new words entering, and this has never inhibited politics previously therefore it seems strange place for concern. As for the New Atheist movement, that takes a few words.

The movement began in response to the the events of September 11, 2001 when a group of religious extremists transformed a crowded jet into a missile and decimating a building full of people. This act of war was carried out by a terrorist organization following an interpretation of Islam. The New Atheists were led by four men: Richard Dawkins, Daniel Dennett, Sam Harris, and the late Christopher Hitchens. Dawkins has become impatient in his dealings with religion, and as Dr. Whitney notes, uses science as a cudgel to strike back. Whitney is also fair in his representation with Harris. Harris seeks to find scientific explantations for morality, though I would add he is also more open to spiritual claims than the other 3. Dennett would probably require too long of an explanation than the book or this piece can afford, but his theories on human consciousness are incredible and cannot be recommended enough (From Bacteria to Bach and Back: The Evolution of Minds). In Hitchens, it’s likely Dr. Whitney would have found an ally against scientism. Hitchens was actually in disagreement with the other members of the movement. He neither thought religion would ever go away nor wished it to. Hitchens also criticized both Dennett and Dawkins for suggesting atheists were “brighter” than those with deistic inclinations.

Anyone who has read my writing will be familiar with my avoidance of self-insertion; however, a disagreement Dr. Whitney and I had is very informative to his book. Left unfinished, the argument was such: I claimed that scientific fundamentalism was different from religious fundamentalism. He disagreed, and I understood, and understand even more now, that “scientism” is a tricky word. As a term of abuse, it lacks a single defining feature. Recognition of scientism can best be summarized by Justice Pother Stewart when he defined obscenity, Jacobellis vs Ohio (a case concerning hardcore pornography). Justice Stewart defined it as such, “I know it when I see it.”

On his behalf, Dr. Whitney provides this, “Scientism is a deformation of science and arrogates the name of science to psuedo-scientific, and often politically motivated, endeavors. It refers to the intellectual movement that places primacy on the methods of the natural sciences. It can be characterized as a pseudo-religion or form of idolatry since its adherents express a dogmatic faith in the power of science.”- page 7.

On page 92, he adds a bit more, “It is important to recall that the main features of scientism include a dogmatic faith in the methods of the natural sciences, a materialistic worldview, rejection of bios theoretikos, the prohibition of philosophical questions, and an emphasis on immanent fulfillment through the power of science.”

It is my understanding that the root of natural sciences is the scientific method: 1) observations, 2) form a hypothesis, 3) test the hypothesis, and 4) it must hold up to repetition. This is why, when it is argued that the ills we face today arise from unwaivering faith in the scientific method, I find myself in disagreement. This was my point, perhaps poorly stated, during the argument about scientific fundamentalism. Fundamentalism is a rigid following of the doctrine: in the scientific instance, this would be the scientific method, the last of which states that if a theory ever fails during repetition the theory is incorrect. The key last step, if followed, corrects for error.

I sympathize with fears regarding scientism, but I am unconvinced that it lies in the method or faith therein. Having grown to adulthood during a deluge of misinformation about tobacco, sugar, and fossil fuels, I have witnessed each seek validation for their claims in science. Given time, the method has disproven each falsehood. Each has done its damage to society, but it is not faith in the method which failed – after all, the method worked. Rather, it was a lack of skepticism which led to harm. If humans arrive at a better tool than the scientific method, for testing theories and weeding out human error, it should be adopted, but the method is currently the best in this regard.

While the public can be faulted with being wooed by appeals to authority, the fault also lies elsewhere. Media outlets have done a poor job reporting on findings. Seeking attention, and frankly insulting the public’s intelligence, has led to headlines such as, “The Health Benefits of Smoking” or equivalent piffle without mentioning the detrimental effects until the last line – if at all. Furthermore, the apparatus which publishes scientific findings deserves its share of guilt when it doesn’t spare the space to publish experiments which disprove accepted theories. Take, for instance, a recently published article in Slate.

On June 20, 2019, the authors spoke of how they attempted to publish findings which disproved the theory that conservative and liberal brains reacted differently to threats. The findings the authors were challenging were published in Science in 2008, and featured on NPR’s Hidden Brain in 2018. The team drafted a paper, linked in the article, reporting the failed replication. According to the authors, Science chose not to publish their paper. They claim a summary rejection was received stating that the advisory board and editorial team felt the findings were better suited for a “less visible subfield journal.”

If true, the author’s opinions seem rather reasonable:

“We believe that it is bad policy for journals like Science to publish big, bold ideas and then leave it to subfield journals to publish replications showing that those ideas aren’t so accurate after all. Subfield journals are less visible, meaning the message often fails to reach the broader public. They are also less authoritative, meaning the failed replication will have less of an impact on the field if it is not published by Science.”

For those interested here is the address: https://slate.com/technology/2019/06/science-replication-conservatives-liberals-reacting-to-threats.html

As for the dangers this poses to politics, while fear of misinformation is valid, scientism as the primary danger is probably an overstatement. Politicians, and businesses for that matter, will abuse scientific findings whether correctly or not for their own ends. This is nothing new. Those seeking or holding power will adopt whatever publicly accepted authority is present to bolster their cause, whether this be Obama or Gore using science, Bush or Trump using Christian belief, Sanders’ appeals to socialism, or Stalin’s appeals to communism. The problem predates democracies, and will outlast our own. So long as freedom of speech exists, scientism, like any other religion, will be kept in check. As this book demonstrates, as long as people are willing to criticize excesses, society will be properly forewarned.

In closing, perhaps these lingering words by the aforementioned Hitchens serve well enough:

“Beware the irrational, however seductive. Shun the ‘transcendent’ and all who invite you to subordinate or annihilate yourself. Distrust compassion; prefer dignity for yourself and others. Don’t be afraid to be thought arrogant or selfish. Picture all experts as if they were mammals. Never be a spectator of unfairness or stupidity. Seek out argument and disputation for their own sake; the grave will supply plenty of silence. Suspect your motives, and all excesses. Do not live for others any more than you would expect others to live for you.”

TFAE, Chevron partner together to teach technological skills to girls

Houma – The Bayou Region has 25 new computer coders marking the end of a week-long immersion camp focused on empowering women with intense technology interests.

Last week the Terrebonne Foundation of Academic Excellence (TFAE) partnered with Chevron to host, “Girls Who Code,” a non-profit program which seeks to empower women interested in Science Technology Engineering and Math fields. On Friday, June 15, the camp held its last day where the participants, all between grades 5-9 showed off their projects to the public and awards were given.

“We’re so used to high-tech things, but they coded every second of it,” said Katie Portier, Executive Director of TFAE. “Starting from a blank screen – they did it all.”

Coding, in this instance, refers to computer programing. This entails learning computer language, as well as writing and understanding algorithms among other skills.

The genesis of the camp began after Melissa Williamson, a teacher at Houma Jr High, held a “Girls Who Code” club during the school year. Williamson worked for 13 years as an engineer – becoming a school teacher after raising two boys. TFAE then wrote a grant to Chevron asking them to help with the program.

Williamson expressed an opinion that the greatest hurdle for women in the STEM field is their tendency to perfectionism. Instead of pursuing a field which a young woman wasn’t good at, said Williamson, often she would shift to a field she had natural talent in. Then Williamson related this to the first day of camp where some of the girls were afraid they’d break the computers if they coded it wrong.

“It’s just in their head,” said Williamson. “It doesn’t have to be perfect in order for you to present it and put yourself out there.”

To counter this, the theme of the camp was, “Brave not Perfect,” and the camp was geared towards much more than just coding. The girls were formed into 5 groups of 5 where they created projects and developed teamwork skills. Armed with Chrome Books, Makey-Makeys, Play-doh, and whatever other resources they could scavenge, the teams created numerous projects and this was their chance to put them on display.

These projects included: a life-sized Operation game, a large working piano, cartoons which would respond in text to the audience, others which would hold dance offs, and working video games which functioned from inputs received from a controller made of play-doh.

The sourcing of materials and construction of the projects was done entirely by the team as well as the coding, which was written on a program called “Scratch.”

Created by Lifelong Kindergarten Group at the MIT Media Lab, Scratch is a free online tool which simplifies the process of coding, allowing people to make and share their creations. The program can be found here: “scratch.mit.edu”

One presentation written with Scratch showcased a cartoon dog in an astronaut helmet with a jar of jam. The space faring pup would ask the audience questions and use the answers to tell a story.

Lily Naquin, a 10-year-old, explained the coding process with complete understanding using programing jargon:

“I figured out that I needed to go to variables and get ‘set emotion to 0,’ ‘set aim to 0,’…” said Naquin. “To reset it, all you need to do is click the jar of jam. And I thought it was kind of cute because the dog has jam.”

“This project was a lot of fun for me, and I loved it,” she said.

After the demonstration a “Brave Not Perfect Award” was presented to De’aija Charles for both how she excelled and how she assisted others during the camp. She was presented a laptop by Chevron and took photos with her father Deon Charles who beamed with pride.

“It was fun. It was kind of complicated at first but I didn’t want help, I wanted to learn it on my own,” said De’aija Charles. Which she did, and then spread that knowledge to others.

The Bayou community rallied behind the camp and Portier said the support made the camp a success. Companies such as Chick-Fil-A, Danos, T Baker Smith, Fig Cafe, and David Ohlmeyer of Allstate donated meals. Root 2 Rise taught yoga lessons during a break. Fletcher Community College donated space for the camp, and the Terrebonne Parish School District provided transportation, picking the kids up from their houses and bringing them to the camp.

And of course Chevron, who funded the entire camp at $26,450, which without, said Portier, the camp could not have happened.

“The fact that these girls could come here for free – a lot of these girls would not have that opportunity anywhere else – ever,” said Portier.

With the camp coming to an end and witnessing the growth in the girls from where they began, Williamson said, this could not just be a one-time event. She said she wished there were a way to track the girls’ progress to have evidence of its success.

In response for a possibility of helping next year, Leah Brown, the Public Affairs Manager of Chevron, said Chevron would love to fund the camp next year.

“For us it’s about trying to grow the next generation of young innovators,” Brown said. “Looking at these young ladies and really feeling like they are going to solve problems that I don’t even know exist yet.”

Finally Brown was asked if Chevron was eyeing any future employees at the event, she responded with a nod, “You know, there might be a couple of good petroleum engineers and geologists in this group.”

* This story can be found here: ” http://www.houmatimes.com

Opening the Morganza

Edit: This was reported on Friday, the planned opening has been moved to the 9th.

The water levels of the Mississippi River, swollen since late October, are mirroring that of the 1927 “Great Flood.” If left unchecked, the water could peak the Morganza Spillway by June 9th, removing a crucial tool for protecting bayou communities.

8 states in the heart of America have received record rainfall and these problems flow downhill. The Army Corps of Engineers have planned to open 25% of the spillway over a 4 day period beginning June 6th.
“The big difference between 1927 and today is that we didn’t have a system of control,” said Ricky Boyett, Chief of Public Affairs for The Army Corp of Engineers. “We can put the water where it’s designed to go.”
To maintain control of America’s main artery, the Corp will conduct a “slow opening:” 1ft of water the first day, 2 feet the second day, 3 feet the third day, and finally on the fourth day the pressure is unloaded at about 1.1 million gallons per second (15000 cubic feet per second). If this process is not conducted, the spillway will become too dangerous for the Corp to operate and its ability to influence the flow of water in any way will be lost.
Aware of this potential threat, for some bayou residents this is life as usual.
Seated on a small pier, under the shade of a tree, and jutting out onto Tiger Bayou, a tributary of Bayou Black, Jane Leger of Gibson, and her mother Ameile Guilbeau of Grand Isle, were repainting the structure.
The two pulled up chairs to take a break. It didn’t take long for Southern hospitality to kick in: “I’m drinking tea, sha’,” said Guilbeau. “You want the rest of this?”
With her house across the street from the bayou, Leger said she was more concerned for her children, all of whom already had water in their yards from recent flooding. As she spoke, her husband Rodney Leger, who was mowing the lawn, pulled up and joined the conversation.
The two recalled the flooding caused in 1973, when the floodgates were first opened, and how the local grocery store was flooded out. They acknowledged that both the floodgate and the sinking of barges to restrict water flow has helped, and like many living so intimately with the waterways, the two knew elevations of nearby areas.
“4 foot 3 here, over there is about a plus 1 foot,” said Rodney pointing across the bayou from their house. “In 2011 we sandbagged and everything but the water didn’t get too bad.”
2011 was an example Boyett raised to illustrate how much control could be exerted over the dangers of flooding since 1923. According to Boyett, in Louisiana the spillway averted about $170 billion in damages.
Boyett said that the current situation was being continuously monitored, “we will not operate the systems if we are not required to,” he stressed.

When asked about her house, Guilbeau said she only feared hurricanes.
“Look, we got the bay on one side and the Gulf on the other,” she said. “Only time we got to worry is when we get hurricanes. Then we have to evacuate.”

The Wrong Conclusion

The eternal conflict between collectivisim and individualism rages on in America, and a new book seeks to capitalize on fusing the many fronts this war is waged: combining religious apologetics, capitalist worship, and American exceptionalism.

Ben Shapiro, a conservative pundit, is an intelligent and articulate communicator who hosts a web show “The Daily Wire” where he chooses hard-line stances on divisive issues to appeal to a devoted base. While his occasional appearances on Fox News have earned some global attention, an article by The New York Times titled “Meet the Renegades of the Intellectual Dark Web” gave him a much wider recognition.

The text in question “The Right Side of History,” seeks to establish a narrative that America has grown into the unique and successful country it is because of a commitment to “Judeo-Christian values,” and the philosophical lessons from Athens.

We believe freedom is built upon the twin notions that God created every human in His image, and that human beings are capable of investigating and exploring God’s world. Those notions were born in Jerusalem and Athens, respectively.

This paragraph, take from the introduction portion of his book, illustrates the sandy foundation which this narrative is constructed. The “we” fallacy, so early exposed, alerts the reader that Shapiro is writing to a select audience which already agrees with his position. Similar to his debate style, Shapiro has smuggled an assertion, that America could only have flourished because of Judaism and Christianity, into the argument, and the rest of the book is a slanted history lesson to fulfill this claim.

While it is difficult to tell if this is in bad-faith, or if Shapiro is poorly read, regarding the argument he is joining, is unclear. Either way his journalistic background should have led him to do a more strenuous job researching this topic – after all, bold claims demand that he at least grapple the strongest of the opposing arguments. Instead, and unfortunately, Shapiro’s claims make him resemble the religious apologists visible on Youtube today who clam their sacred texts predicted many of the scientific discoveries unfathomable to the people of their time of origin – only Shapiro attempts this politically rather than scientifically.

In one of his more extraordinary claims, Shapiro argues that the Middle Ages were in fact times of scientific growth. He frames this by alleging that the “Dark Ages” were a title used as a smear against Christianity, that education was centralized in monasteries (which he implies is good), and that discoveries were had in the development of war and agriculture.

Popular history maintains that this period represented the “Dark Ages.” but that’s simply inaccurate. Progress continued as Christianity spread. The monastic system centralized learning in manasteries, where priests and nuns devoted themselves to ascetic pursuit of Divine understanding. In educational terms, this devotion revolved around scripture… Meanwhile, the Middle Ages saw technological revolution in agriculture, the rise of commerce, and the institution of new forms of art ranging from polyphonic music to Gothic architecture; it also saw new developments in the art of war, with technological advances that would allow the West to defeat its enemies in the course of coming centuries.

The reader may notice that these same claims may be attributed to more modern examples. Attention may be drawn to North Korea: education has been centralized with a focus on the leader rather than the bible, agriculture has had some innovation, and instruments of war are being developed. I don’t think any western writer would claim North Korea is in a period of enlightenment, but he or she is welcome to prove me wrong.

This mischaracterization persists as Shapiro moves forward to attack The Enlightenment. He frames the title as a slight against Christian values, as he argues that to suggest an enlightenment implies that Christian values were a hindrance to thought.

But advocates of the so-called Enlightenment offer a different theory. They suggest that the philosophy of the modern West – the philosophy of individual rights, particularly – sprang from rejection of religion and embrace of reason. The proponents of the self-proclaimed age of reason flatter themselves that we live today in accordance with the thought of great Enlightenment thinkers, bold new minds who sprang forth from the ground, wholly formed, ready to do battle with, and triumph over, the ancients. In fact, the very term Enlightenment suggests a pre-Enlightenment era in which religion inhibited human development rather than fostering it – and by extension, suggests that belief in Judeo-Christian values and God Himself was at best an obstruction to modern Western Civilization. [italics are his].

What Shapiro seems to miss here is that the Enlightenment was a breaking away from indoctrinated thought. This could not be achieved with the Church’s chokehold on literacy. The accessibility of the public gaining the ability to read the book from which authority claimed it’s power derived caused a mass emancipation. One can replace any book in the place of the bible, and the results would have been the same.

This is a good time to explain a criticism leveled against Shapiro’s argument by a fellow purported member of The New York Time’s “Intellectual Dark Web.” Sam Harris remarked that the argument suffered from “The Genetic Fallacy.” The point Harris was trying relay was that Shapiro was arguing that it could only happen one way, which is fallacious. Any religion could replace Catholicism in the above scenario and the Enlightenment could still have happened. It had little to do with Christianity and more to do with human nature rebelling against authority.

Shapiro spent a significant portion of his book arguing that Judaism and Christianity furthered human thought, then spent time criticizing the Enlightenment – magnifying the events of The French Revolution as a punching bag as an example of how it went wrong (whilst suspiciously silent about The Crusades). The genetic fallacy is also present in assuming that Judaism and Christianity were the only two institutions that could foster this slow progression of human perseverance.

On the topic of “Judeo-Christian” ancestry, Hannah Arendt illuminates this phenomenon and pulls together Greek and Roman thoughts on the matter.

The problem of human nature, the Augustinian quote quaestio mihi factus sum (“a question have I become for myself”), seems unanswerable in both its individual psychological sense and its general philosophical sense. It is highly unlikely that we, who can know, determine, and define the natural essence of all things surrounding us, which we are not, should ever be able to do the same for ourselves – this would be like jumping over our own shadows. Moreover, nothing entitles us to assume that man has a nature or essence, then surely only a god could know and define it, and first prerequisite would be that he be able to speak about “who” as though it were a “what.” The perplexity is that the modes of human cognition applicable to things with “natural” qualities, including ourselves to the limited extent that we are specimens of the most highly developed species of organic life, fail us when we raise the question: And who are we? This is why attempts to define human nature almost invariably end with some construction of a deity, that is, with the god of the philosophers, who, since Plato, has revealed himself upon closer inspection to be a kind of Platonic idea of man…

Monotheisms are an extension of human thought, a thinking tool, like Plato’s cave, that allow people to grasp their place in the universe. But again, it could have been any theory of a god. Shapiro is placing far too much emphasis on the Christian god in this context. Now it must be admitted, criticism against the Enlightenment is helpful. It is important to accept the flaws of the past and not elevate the past to a position undeserved, and no movement, time period, or teaching is without error. Shapiro’s criticisms would have been better served without the baggage of his defense of Christianity. It distracted from his broader inquiry.

In an recent interview regarding the publication of his book with BBC, Shapiro was flustered and the moment went viral. Readers have probably already seen it, but many have focused on the spectacle of his appearing foolish, rather than a very telling utterance by Shapiro’s. The revealing statement in question, “I believe that if you are somebody who takes Judaism seriously, that comes along with ideological commitment,” is an admission of the forced lens with which Shapiro structures his worldview.

This is very informative when reading or reflecting on the book. It reveals Shapiro’s stance on Republicanism/Conservatism and why he so confidently can criticize Trump and the Alt-Right. It explains how his commitment to Capitalism, and how he attacks things that go against his definition of the free-market. This book is a window into Shapiro’s rigid mind as he tries to fuse these three commitments – Conservatism, Capitalism, and Judaism – into one coherent framework.

It is easier to criticize than to provide an answer, and Shapiro should receive a measure of respect for putting his thoughts into the open and trying his hand at answering his twofold question: Why is America so successful? And why are Americans so angry? He offered his interpretation, and it was both valuable and coherent, so in fairness, more than criticism should be offered here.

As to the division: this is a product of the shrinking personal-life. Leading up to, and during the 2016 election, the slumping economy stressed people’s incomes. The gig-economy made up this difference for many people but hung a shroud of uncertainty over many American’s live. Democracies suffer when their economies do poorly because the masses of voters seek someone to solve the mess. Social media allowed for the venting of these frustrations, and frustration bred greater frustration as voices found confirmation in other complaints.

It must be said, divisiveness is not bad so long as the concerns and ideas expressed are constantly forcing a response from the opposing argument; unfortunately, the business model of social media did not, and perhaps still does not, foster this atmosphere. Instead, the resentment which festered within the two hemispheres of the public consciousness was allowed to grow unchallenged until the 2016 election forced a reckoning.

Shapiro correctly identified that America was indeed founded on many of the most resilient ideas of older democracies. Applying the Cartesian Method, the Founding Fathers took what was useful, discarded what was useless, and added what is essentially their own.

Probably the greatest example of this can be witnessed in the Federalist Papers number 39. Knowing that a republic was the strongest form of government, but further knowing that America was too large for a republic to be effective, Madison proposed a radical theory of a multi-republic country that was bound together by a constitutional agreement thereby protecting each state’s sovereignty while binding them to a larger government.

Where Shapiro misses a mark in the conclusion is in assuming the Fathers had faith in reason – they instead had faith in debate. While reason may lead minds to truth, truth does not always win arguments (Aristotle himself argued that while truth has the advantage, it does not always win over the crowd). Instead, by immortalizing free speech in the constitution, and pitting the tyrannical impulses of those in power against one another, the Fathers allowed for an eternal battle to keep the country always striving to better itself.

Legalism

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President Trump has performed an impressive bait-and-switch with his followers and the American people at large. The law is a tool created by the government, and agreed upon by society, to penalize unjust behavior. What Trump has done is distort this perception and argue that laws determine “Right” and “Wrong.”

This new “religion of law” was recently on display in the interaction between William Barr, Trump’s de facto personal lawyer, and Congress.

Amy Klobuchar: “Are the President’s actions, detailed in the report, consistent with his oath of office and the requirement in the Constitution that he take care that the laws be faithfully executed?”

William Barr: “Well, the evidence in the report is conflicting, and there’s different evidence, and they don’t come to a determination as to how they are coming down on it.”

Notice how Barr evades saying if he thought it was consistent (the question he was asked). He then punts the responsibility of the answer to the report. The investigation was not intended to determine if anything was unethical: it was to determine if it was illegal.

It does not stop there, the stage has already been set for the rot to go much deeper. When faced with the prospect of obstruction of justice, Trump’s lawyers have already floated the argument that since Trump, as President, is the head of the enforcement branch, he cannot obstruct justice.

Allow me to summarize this circular argument:

Something must be illegal to be wrong.

The president is above the law.

Therefore:

Trump can do no wrong.

This conflation must not be allowed to enter our minds. Laws are reactive by nature, and to act as though a law determines “Right” from “Wrong” is to outsource one’s moral compass to politicians. This is a strange prospect for those who rallied behind the “drain the swamp” slogan.

A great deal of attention, and ink, has been spent on Barr’s memo about the Mueller investigation. Upon reading, Barr lays out a compelling argument against the President being forced into an interrogation. The entire memo reads as a defence of presidential powers from being infringed upon by the other two branches of government.

Barr lays out four arguments against the interrogation, out of which the fourth informs his actions since the Mueller report was released: “Even if one were to indulge Mueller’s obstruction theory, in the particular circumstances here, the President’s motive in removing Comey and commenting on Flynn could not have been “corrupt” unless the President and his campaign were actually guilty of illegal collusion.” [Page 3 of his memo]

According to Barr, Trump was innocent and these actions were the desperate attempt of an innocent man. This would mean that Trump is weak-willed, and the temptation to use his position of authority for personal benefit was too much for him to handle; that, or Trump lacks confidence in his behavior being scrutinized by the public eye, but his time as a celebrity would lead one to believe he has no fear of public opinion.

Dianne Feinstein: “You still have a situation where a president essentially tries to change the lawyer’s account in order to prevent further criticism of himself.”

William Barr: “Well that’s not a crime.”

Dianne Feinstein: “So you can, in this situation, instruct someone to lie?”

William Barr: “To be obstruction of justice, the lie has to be tied to impairing the evidence in a particular proceeding.”

It is relatively clear that Barr saw Mueller’s end result – no clear illegal actions but no exoneration – and ran with his fourth argument. The Mueller report lays out a timeline rife with unethical behavior. It is very difficult to prove an illegal action when the action is asking someone to break the law – it is difficult to prove motive.

It is clear, however, that this pattern of behavior has continued since the events detailed in this report. The New York Times reported, on April 12, that Trump privately urged Kevin McAleenan, a border enforcement official almost named Acting Secretary of Homeland Security by Trump, to close the southeastern border to migrants. According to the NYT, it was not clear what Trump meant by the request, or his additional comment that he would pardon McAleenan if he encountered legal problems as a result of the action.

This event corroborates with actions detailed by Mueller, illuminating a pattern of behavior by the President. On its own, it is an impeachable offence,”The President, Vice President and all civil Officers of the United States, shall be removed from Office on Impeachment for, and Conviction of, Treason, Bribery, or other high Crimes and Misdemeanors.” [Article II, Section 4 of the Constitution.]

This was an offer for a transaction: Trump offered a promotion and a pardon in exchange for McAleenan to close the border. This is called bribery.

This is not the action of an innocent man. The President, charged with upholding proper execution of the law, is actively attempting to persuade another to break the law on his behalf. Had McAleenan carried out this request, Trump would have successfully thrown responsibility for this action onto McAleenan’s shoulders. Sure he promised to come to McAleenan’s defence, but this is an act of cowardice. This is not acceptable behavior for a President.

While Trump’s actions tread within a legal gray area, our Founding Fathers foresaw this type of crisis. This is why impeachment is a political act, and not a legal one. Impeachment does not remove Trump from office. It is the levelling of charges against him so that he may mount a proper defence. Because these are very questionable actions by the President, they lead to very serious accusations about his behavior in office. Instead of hiding behind Barr or other lawyers, the President should stand before Congress himself.

He should answer for this behavior so that the American people can better understand his conduct in office by the authority granted to him by voters. He must be judged not on the legality of his conduct, but whether it has been acceptable or not.