Ephemera V

The pace of life on the Internet is brisk. Earlier today I wrote a few words on the “Tradinista Collective” and its attempt to craft what they call a “Catholic socialism.” Just a few hours later, Chase Padusniak, writing over at Patheos, weighed-in on the matter while also (gently) disagreeing with yours truly. That’s fine. Padusniak is right to point out that socialism comes in many shapes and sizes, though at some point one has to ask if a particular economic ordo is still socialist if it has been defined down to, say, the economic platform of the Democratic Party. Whatever one makes of the Tradinista version of socialism, I have to wonder why they bothered using the word socialism at all. Perhaps this is because I know some of the gentlemen involved with the Tradinista venture and therefore have a sneaking suspicion that the entire endeavor is an attempt to posture cool for Leftists who generally have very little time for the Catholic Church or her teachings. Words matter, and at the end of the day wouldn’t it be better for an enterprise which claims to be Catholic to distance itself as much as possible from an ideology freighted with a long history of problems, both moral and practical? Part of me wonders how people might react if someone pushed for “Catholic National Socialism” before being compelled to pen thousands of words on how this form of Nazism skirts past that other form of Nazism the Church clearly condemns. But I digress . . .

Pepe the Frog has been designated a hate symbol by the ACLU. The alt-right must be overjoyed. What started as an obnoxious gag on 4chan has spilled into one of the most surreal side-stories of this election cycle. Is this how the hypocrisy of “liberal tolerance” will finally be revealed on the grand stage? That a cartoon frog edited to look like Adolph Hitler (and Donald Trump) can generate this much mainstream attention is something to behold. I have no doubt that the same liberals who wept openly on social media for Charlie Hebdo in January 2015 and called freedom of speech one of the cornerstones of Western civilization are among those persecuting poor Pepe. What the ACLU and other Pepe haters don’t seem to understand is that the more offended they get, the more convinced the trolls at 4chan and other alt-righters are that they have won. Not only have these cyber miscreants taken the Pepe the Frog meme back from so-called “normies” (i.e., everyday Internet users), they have turned him into a national sensation by getting mainline defenders of “liberal rights” to condemn him. Amazing.

Speaking of the election cycle, I took time out from my weekly viewing of WWE Monday Night Raw to watch the first debate between Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton. (Given RAW‘s abysmally low rating this week, it looks like a lot of other fans of the sport of professional wrestling joined me.) I’ll be honest. I paid almost no attention to substance and instead assessed the entire spectacle on style and presentation alone. Clinton was arguably better prepared than Trump for the questions that would be asked, but her delivery was flat, rehearsed, and uninspiring. Trump, who did himself no favors by trying to shoot from the hip, did an okay job playing the “Strong Man” he wants the American public to see him as, but my sense is that he didn’t do anything to win over moderates and other on-the-fence voters. Assuming Trump keeps his improvisational style going into the next debate, Clinton would be wise to hang back and let The Donald hang himself with his own words. The electorate may not care all that much about fact checking; they will, however, pick up on Trump’s noticeable stumbling when pressed on foreign-policy issues that he clearly knows very little about.

Oh, and speaking of the debate, I must say the biggest howler of the night (for me) was when Clinton said she would appoint a special prosecutor to enforce U.S. trade deals with foreign countries. How, I wonder, does she plan to pull that off? The World Trade Organization (WTO) agreement, for instance, is not enforced in national courts of law; it is enforced through transnational adjudication under the auspices of the WTO itself. Moreover, many smaller trade agreements, such as the numerous bilateral air services agreements the U.S. holds with most countries in the world, have no express adjudicatory mechanism — and they don’t need one. If, for example, Canada starts limiting the rights of American Airlines to access its airports, the U.S. can impose reciprocal restrictions on Air Canada, and so forth. And when adhering to a treaty reaches a full breakdown point, one or both parties will simply denounce it and, presumably, return to the negotiating table. This is nothing new; it happens all of the time. That is how international law “works” — legalism not required.

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