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Are the charges against Judge Kavanaugh true? And does EITHER side even care?

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In Washington these days, it's always the 'Children's Hour'

Every afternoon when he was president, Franklin Delano Roosevelt used to invite his staff into his office for martinis. The consensus was that he wasn't very good at making martinis, but nobody wanted to tell him that. This informal time with his staff, which he called "the Children's Hour," was important to him more because of the people there than because of what they were drinking. And they felt the same way about the chance to spend some "down time" with the boss.

Today, though, the phrase "the Children's Hour" has a much different connotation when it comes to Washington and its inmates. The childish partisanship which has beset our nation's leadership for decades is a distraction and an embarrassment. The election of a president whose personal quirks include a childish, petulant need to lash out savagely at anyone who criticizes or even disagrees with him has turned the nation's capital into something even more resembling a huge …

The lay of the land

According to Real Clear Politics,  President Trump's average approval rating in recent polls is thirteen points underwater, with 40.8% approving and 53.7% disapproving.

He's helped by the fact that the most recent Rasmussen poll only has him down by three points. Rasmussen and Fox polls use sampling methods which favor Republicans and are generally out of step with the others. Gallup, by contrast, has him eighteen points down, and CNN twenty.

The odds are against the Democrats retaking the Senate, but only because they are defending more seats than the Republicans. I expect them to retake the House, and despite the odds would not be shocked if they retook the Senate as well.

Look forward to skepticism about polls being replaced by accusations of Martians being bussed in to vote illegally for the Democrats. Donald Trump never ever loses fair and square.

Some thoughts on conservatism, part two: the unraveling of the movement

This is a depressing time to be an American who does his or her own thinking.

There are more of us than it sometimes seems. Somewhat surprisingly, Gallup found last month that registered  Republicans are slightly more common than registered Democrats, by a margin of 27% to 26%. But 43% of registered voters are independents.  With a few exceptions, recent surveys had shown the Democrats to be ahead among those voters declaring a party preference.

Even more surprising is that the increase in the percentage of voters who are independents (from 36% to 43%) seems to have been at the expense of the Democrats, who had 31% of the registered voters in November of 2016. The Republicans had the same 27% they have today.

I find those numbers depressing because they confirm my worst fears about Republicans. Somehow, it seems that very few of them have been particularly put off by Donald Trump. And that is scary. The Democrats are just as crazy, of course. But I had thought that common sense and i…

Some thoughts on conservatism, part one

In the past week, I've come across several items which provoked some thoughts on the subject of a philosophy in crisis: political conservatism.

The first is something which has been sticking in my craw for some time. It seems that especially in the United States, conservatives don't have a very clear understanding of what the word "conservative" itself means.

Today's categories of "left" and "right" originated in France. During the French Revolution, those who favored the monarchy or at least a moderate policy sat to the presiding officer's right and those who wanted to abolish the monarchy and held the most radical positions- the Jacobins, for example- sat to his left.  Due to the peculiarities of English and even more American history,  the term "conservative" and the concept of the political "right" have developed some unique and idiosyncratic philosophical meanings which are not true of "conservative" pol…

Where was God on 9/11?

In the wake of the attacks on 9/11, somebody erected a makeshift cross made of partially-melted girders on the site of the World Trade Center.

Strange as it is in this day when so many are deeply offended by the public expression of any religious belief at all, nobody objected. It was, after all, a grave site, if only a temporary one. But many of the people who died that dark day were not Christians, so it was understandable that it quickly came down. But while it lasted, it was a profoundly appropriate symbol from a Christian point of view.

There are lots of reasons why the cross is associated with death. Jesus, after all, died on one. It's a traditional marker for Christian graves, especially in the absence of a tombstone. But the cross is above all else an emblem of the almighty God choosing to share our helplessness, of the Invulnerable One not only becoming vulnerable for our sake, but sharing our hurt and are suffering and our sorrow, and of the Eternal choosing to share ou…

Our shameful, shameless president

I don't know which is more frightening: that President Trump would blatantly and transparently lie by claiming that NBC and Lester Holt doctored an interview in which Mr. Trump admitted that the Russia investigation was a factor in his firing former FBI Director James Comey, or that so many Americans are either gullible enough or malicious enough to believe it.

Or claim to believe it.

This is not the way an American president comports himself. This is not the way a democratic leader comports himself.

This is not the way a grownup comports himself- unless he works for the propaganda agency of some authoritarian regime.

And he gets away with it. A shocking number of people, many of normal intelligence, are gullible enough, even after nearly two years of nonstop, often mean-spirited lies since he took office, to continue to believe every absurd and vicious thing Donald Trump says.

Joseph Welch famously asked Mr. Trump's spiritual ancestor, Sen. Joseph McCarthy, "Have you, at …