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The Unfairness of a Well-Lived Life

We’re surely nearing the last stop of the progressive train when we get to statements like this:

‘I don’t think parents reading their children bedtime stories should constantly have in their minds the way that they are unfairly disadvantaging other people’s children, but I think they should have that thought occasionally,’ quips [Australian Philosopher Adam] Swift.

Swift manages to find a moral loophole for bedtime stories, because they actually contribute to a relationship bond between adults and children that outweighs the unfair advantage thereby bequeathed to the next generation in that family.  But advantages like “private schooling, inheritance and other predominantly economic ways of conferring advantage” simply can’t be justified, per the philosophy

It couldn’t be clearer that such philosophy is an indication of nothing so much as a mental illness.  Swift and his partner in dementia Harry Brighouse draw a line in their “theory of familial goods” that is arbitrary and designed to prevent them from having to declare outright that bedtime stories are immoral.  Providing for one’s children is a central source of meaning in people’s lives, and children’s knowledge that their parents are doing so contributes to a fundamental sense of security and lifelong respect and gratitude.  It’s also mortar for strong marital relationships and community building.  More basically, it’s a means of ensuring equality over generations, as families that stay motivated across generations can build on successes and overcome failures.

Following Swift’s progressive line of thought, our society could advance no more than a sclerotic state could ensure universally and the least motivated families could maintain.  Moreover, we can be sure, as history has repeatedly proven, that those with the most advantages will find justification to maintain and expand those advantages (even as the benefit to them erodes with the crumbling society).

Ultimately, what is there to say to such nonsense except:  I will provide every advantage to my children that I can, and I will work to destroy any government that attempts to prevent me from doing so.  I’m not personally inclined to accomplish that overthrow through violence, but I can’t say I’d be much inclined to restrain those who would be.

SCOTUS, SSM, and Baltimore’s Mother of the Year

More people are beginning to wake up to the reality — which, let’s be honest, was always obvious for those willing to look — that same-sex marriage is not some a step toward a libertarian live-and-let-live ideal.  The refrain used to be “how will their marriage affect you.”  That’s now changed to “it’s certainly going to be an issue.”  From the related Supreme Court hearing:

JUSTICE ALITO: Well, in the Bob Jones case, the Court held that a college was not entitled to tax­ exempt status if it opposed interracial marriage or interracial dating. So would the same apply to a university or a college if it opposed same­-sex marriage?

GENERAL VERRILLI: You know, I ­­ I don’t think I can answer that question without knowing more specifics, but it’s certainly going to be an issue. I ­­ I don’t deny that. I don’t deny that, Justice Alito. It is ­­ it is going to be an issue.

Colleges.  Private schools.  Other charitable organizations.  Private businesses.  “It’s going to be an issue.”

I grabbed the above transcript from an article by David French, who recently issued a mea culpa for having fallen for the line that SSM “changes nothing.”  (The phrase is from something French wrote in 2004 taking the pro-SSM side.)

Again, this shift in message was always obvious; I’ve been pointing it out for almost fifteen years.  Unfortunately, this particular “it’s going to be an issue” isn’t even the biggest problem.  As I’ve also been saying for almost fifteen years, the most profound consequence of the radical change is that our society will have given up its best tool for enshrining the cultural message that the couples who create children should work together to raise them.

That principle was already under assault, but it will be entirely untenable now.  And anybody who wants an image of what that will mean needs only look to Baltimore, where a lone, apparently single, mother has become something of a sensation — a standout parent — for braving a riot to drag home her teenage son, a full head taller than her, so she could ensure that he wasn’t helping to burn down his own city while risking arrest, injury, or even death.

Cicilline’s Bid to Facilitate Fascism

Rhode Island Congressman David Cicilline (who, let’s not forget, helped draw Providence to the precipice as mayor) wants to give his fellow members of the acronym group of sexual preference special rights at the national level:

Cicilline said he plans to introduce a comprehensive anti-discrimination bill later this spring that would address the gaps in current law. The resolution is a first step, he said, and it currently has over 100 sponsors, though a Republican-controlled Congress could prevent the proposed bill from becoming legislation.

As a political matter, there’s a gaping hole in the logic behind the legislation.  If “the overwhelming majority of Americans oppos[e] discrimination against LGBT people,” as Janson Wu, executive director for Gay & Lesbian Advocates & Defenders, says, then why do they need special protections?  There should only be a small minority discriminating, right?  It’s flatly impossible, at this point, to pretend that this supposed bogeyman is powerful on the order of the lingering institutional racism that existed after Western Civilization ended the ancient practice of slavery, thereby necessitating government to take a side in social disputes.

What Cicilline and his comrades want, one suspects, is actually to facilitate the fascistic behavior that has begun in order to wipe out anybody who expresses reservations about undermining cultural institutions, like marriage, that have formed the foundation of our society.  Skim through the news on any given day:

  • A pair of gay businessmen who hosted an event for Republican Senator and presidential candidate Ted Cruz were forced to offer a groveling apology (contradicting their stated belief that “an open dialogue with those who have differing political opinions is a part of what this country was founded on”).
  • A couple operating a small bakery in Oregon to support their three children faced a life-altering fine of $135,000 for declining to bake a cake for a same-sex marriage ceremony. (The complaining lesbian couple, by the way, has the impossibly perfect name of “Bowman-Cryer,” considering that they are leveraging their tears to shoot deadly legal arrows at the family.)  Making matters worse, GoFundMe pulled the plug on a national campaign to support the family against the ridiculous penalty when a local competitor of the bakery complained.  Presumably, the competitor would have been happy to bake the disputed cake, illustrating how little sacrifice is needed to allow our neighbors to have different beliefs.

The national anti-discrimination legislation that Cicilline wants is simply an attempt to make it illegal to act on beliefs that differ from his and make it more difficult for people who share those beliefs to help each other.  Just as redefining marriage (mostly through the judiciary) is removing the ability of religious people and organizations to uphold their beliefs about the institution, making “discrimination” illegal will give opposing activists the ability to use government to target them.  It’s an attempt to bring the point of a gun to the culture war.

Academic Hypotheses Versus Religion & Easily Dismissed Conclusions

The National Bureau of Economic Research set out to determine whether religiosity corresponds with a lack of innovation, as measured by the issuance of patents.  As the economists surely expected when they set out to publish such a paper, the answer at which they arrive is: “yes.”

Even the summary published in the Wall Street Journal gives hints of where argument with the methodology could begin, and purchasing the study itself would no doubt allow for a fleshing out of objections.  But it doesn’t seem necessary to go to such lengths.  Just a look at the headline chart gives reason to think the study’s conclusions aren’t worth exploring in detail.

Reporter Jeffrey Sparshott writes that the negative “relationship is apparent when plotting the percent of the population that describes itself as religious against a population-controlled measure of patent applications filed by a country’s residents.”  The distribution actually shows something more like the opposite.

Sure, the most patent-heavy countries, Japan and South Korea, are not religious, but they’re also from a certain culture.  Another East Asian country, the most unreligious, is China, and its innovation is in the middle of the spread.  Vietnam is nearly as unreligious as South Korea, and it’s the fourth-least-innovate country on the chart.  (North Korea isn’t included, by the way.)

Moving out of the orient continues the point.  The chart is broken into a five-by-five grid, and of the five non-oriental countries in the top quintile for innovation, three are more than 50% religious.  Expand the view to the top two quintiles for innovation, and it isn’t even close.  Only seven of nearly 30 countries in this space have less than 50% religiosity.  Moving the threshold to 60% of residents self-describing as “religious” only picks up two more countries.

From the chart, it’s pretty clear that the reasons there appears to be a correlation between the two variables is that (1) the great majority of countries are substantially religious, (2) Japan and South Korea are innovative outliers, and (3) a number of relatively poor countries (heavily weighted toward Islam) are very religious.

“We’re not making strong claims as to what is causing what,” says one of the study’s authors, but that’s obviously not true.  Even the abstract makes much of a presumption of religious opposition to science.

A Growing Culture of Lying About Male Predators

People who don’t follow the news probably wouldn’t even suspect it.  Those who follow the news casually might have heard of a few high-profile cases — like the utterly false Rolling Stone profile of a vicious gang rape at the University of Virginia or the false Duke lacrosse team accusation.  The examples of women making false rape accusations are not as rare as is popularly thought.  Even just the examples that Instapundit Glenn Reynolds comes across seem to amount to a daily feature.

A story in the Providence Journal’s “Police Digest” might put to rest any doubt that America’s young women are picking up on the fact that making accusations against men is a means of covering shame or just a route to attention:

Two young Pawtucket girls lied about seeing a suspicious man taking photographs of young girls playing soccer in a field last weekend, the police said Friday. …

The girls, 10 and 11 years old, agreed to pose for him, then told their mother that a suspicious man was taking pictures of young girls playing soccer in a field near Roosevelt and Mendon Avenues, Brandley said.

“The whole neighborhood panicked” before the police found the man, a professional photographer with a website. “This story cost us a ton of man hours — for nothing,” Brandley said. “He has a legitimate business and a legitimate website.”

When I posted about RI Governor Gina Raimondo’s sexist girls-only essay contest, comments on social media were dismissive and even hostile, but it’s getting increasingly difficult to accept the specious rhetoric that men are a privileged class and therefore are fair targets for accusations and humiliation. In Arizona, military cadets were forced (or “pressured”) to undergo a sort of ritual humiliation by walking around campus in red high heels.  Recently, a Virginia woman managed to send her neighbor to jail for four years as a scapegoat when she was embarrassed for being caught looking at pornography.  Social media exchanges show that girls in Arizona plotted to “teach a lesson” to a boy before accusing him of rape, ultimately sending him to prison.  (The resolution of this revelation is still pending.)

The next story in the Providence Journal “Police Digest” does show that there are men who do creepy things.  Rape does occur, and it shouldn’t.  However, the assumption that this is gender specific is due for some reevaluation.  The fact that it was wrong to minimize rape and force women to fit a certain image in our culture doesn’t justify attacking men, especially those born well after the sexual revolution.

As for false accusations, I’d be willing to bet that a great many men have such stories.  Perhaps the reason they’re becoming so much more common is that the legal and social checkpoints that used to filter them out have worn away.  The accuser in Virginia said, “I had no idea how far this lie would go.”  When I was a young man, the experiences that my circle of friends had with accusations tended (for the most part) to stop at the level of social attacks.

Perverting the Utility of Shame

Speaking of an ailing civic system, Megan McArdle’s worth reading on the subject of public shaming:

In the small groups we evolved to live in, shame is tempered by love and forgiveness. People are shamed for some transgression, then they are restored to the group. Ultimately, the shamed person is not an enemy; he or she is someone you need and want to get along with. This is how you make up with your spouse after one or both of you has done or said something terrible. …

On the Internet, when all the social context is stripped away and you don’t even have to look at the face of the person you’re being mean to, shame loses its social, restorative function. Shame-storming isn’t punishment. It’s a weapon. And weapons aren’t supposed to be used against people in your community; they’re for strangers, people in some other group that you don’t like very much.

The Internet has brought things to a sharp edge, but anybody involved in local politics — particularly if they face progressives who believe they speak for The Community — will recognize McArdle’s notion of shaming as a weapon against an enemy group.  That pretty precisely describes my experience in Tiverton.

Glenn Reynolds sharpens the edge a little more, writing:

They’re not well-meaning people who want to make our shared society better, and sometimes just get carried away. They’re angry, vicious people who want to eliminate disagreement.

At this level of conversation, though, the “they” has to be defined.  McArdle suggests that the people engaged in online social shaming probably would back away from a mob doing it to somebody in person.

Many on the political Right want to turn the psychological warfare of Saul Alinsky back on the Left, but that strikes me as a misunderstanding of objectives (or perhaps evidence that the objectives of some of our conservative friends are more alike to those of our progressive non-friends than should be the case).  Rather, we need a counter-weapon, and as difficult as it might be, the sole antidote may be standing up to the attacks and letting those who’ve sided with the attackers slowly come to the realization that they’re on the wrong side.

The Academy’s Fruits in the Grown-Up World

After coming across the subject five or six times, I finally followed a link on Instapundit to Elizabeth Stoker Bruenig’s attempt at a left-wing explanation and, to some degree, rationalization of Rolling Stone’s fake reporting on rape at the University of Virginia.  The article reminded me of the much-ballyhooed gobbledegook that good liberal students used to churn out when I was in college.

The Bruenig passage on which most commentators have focused consists of a pair of paragraphs, the first of which explains the subtle thought of liberals in understanding oppression versus the second of which, asserting the brutish right-wing “obsession” with individual, factual cases and “specific details.”  Admittedly, it’s a telling turnabout.  The Left, in its superior thought, understands the real Truth, even if it can’t be articulated in actual facts; the Right, being less capable of the higher thought that transcends facts, extrapolates meaning from mere happenstance.

The more interesting passage, though, is the one that fully articulates Bruenig’s thesis:

Pinning an indictment of a system on the story of an individual is essentially a rightwing tactic with a dodgy success rate; it’s a way of using an individual as a metonym for systematic analysis that both overplays the role of individual heroism and effort and underplays the complicated nature of oppression as a feature of institutions, policies, traditions, and persons.

Note that this is presented as if it’s one of those examples of higher thoughts that needn’t be attached to “specific details.”  The word for that (even if only in right-wing circles) is “unsubstantiated.”  Upon a little bit of thought, in fact, it’s utter nonsense.  From Saul Alinsky’s rule to “personalize” issues to the labor-friendly “Ballad of Joe Hill” to the statement that a single death is a tragedy while a million deaths is a statistic, generally attributed to Joseph Stalin, the Left has long consolidated movements into individual stories.

Bruenig is accurately describing a leftist tactic, but because the context puts it in a bad light, it must temporarily be characterized as a right-wing tactic.  It’s not unlike analysis of religious freedom laws that depends on whether they advance conservative or progressive causes at a particular moment.

The Bruenig essay brings to mind a law review article by now-Providence Mayor Jorge Elorza, in which he expounded on the constitutionality of using government schools to teach that God does not exist.  (See also here, here, and here.)  In my brutish, fact-driven conservatism these two examples seem like evidence of the Left’s strategy to destroy the capacity of Americans to engage in reason, as opposed to logical gymnastics to support conclusions that are actually driven by politics and emotion.  The gobbledegook of the classroom has made its way into the grown-up world.

That may help to explain why government and the news media seem to operate as if the world has the padded safety of the campus, permitting concentration on abstract “deeper truths” disconnected from reality.

One of the Remaining Liberals, Not Progressive

Among the highlights of my rhetorical life was the evening when Andrew Morse and I closed down the bar (so to speak) with Peter Steinfels at the annual Portsmouth Institute conference the year he spoke.  What made the conversation enjoyable was our common baseline sense of appropriate goals for public policy and understanding of the rules of logic and discourse.

I’m therefore not surprised to read him putting forward a reasonable argument with which I agree on the matter of religious freedom:

[Various forms of discrimination based on Indiana’s religious freedom law] are all possibilities, it seems to me, although not necessarily likelihoods.  They are the kinds of possibilities that we confront in the case of all our rights.  Freedom of speech and press “makes it easier” to destroy reputations, debase public discourse, deform democracy, and feed violent psychopaths online.  Insistence on search warrants, reading people their rights, and a host of other criminal and court procedures can “open the door” to crimes going undetected or the guilty going unpunished.  Social benefits of all sorts, from health and safety regulations to income assistance, are inevitably “invitations” to cheating, gaming the system, or otherwise “abetting” unfair conduct. (That’s what libertarians are forever lamenting.) We do our best to foresee and forestall the possible risks but not by denying the rights in the first place. …

Religious freedom means that I may very well want to question, critique, refute, moderate or otherwise alter religious beliefs and practices that I find irrational or unhealthy or dehumanizing or, yes, bigoted; but knowing how deeply rooted and sincerely held these convictions are, and how much about the universe remains in fact mysterious, and how much about my own perceptions of reality could in fact be mistaken, and how much religions do in fact evolve over time, I accommodate myself in the meantime to peaceful coexistence and thoughtful engagement.  In particular I refuse to coerce religiously sincere people into personal actions that violate their conscience.  And I refuse to dismiss their resistance to such coercion as nothing but bigotry.

This might be a useful marker of the line between “liberals” and “progressives.”  The former place their political faith in the civic and cultural processes that they believe will move society forward, while the latter have a zealous faith in the promised land of “progress,” which they think they know in its particulars and to which they think we can speed by any means necessary.

UPDATED: Our Nation Needs a Stronger Imagination on Fascism

In the cycle of my reading, I’m back to Sherlock Holmes, specifically Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s collection of short stories, The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes.  In “The Five Orange Pips,” the long arm of the KKK reaches out to claim the lives of one of its former members and his immediate family.  Here’s a line that might very well blow the minds of Millennials and younger Americans if they still read old books.  Holmes’s client is describing the circumstances of his uncle Elias, who had spent most of his adult life becoming wealthy in Florida:

He had made a very considerable fortune in the States, and his reason for leaving them was his aversion to the negroes, and his dislike of the Republican policy in extending the franchise to them.

Faced which the aforementioned blown mind, the liberal Democrat would conclude that the Republican Party had changed.  I’d argue that it’s closer to the truth that people whose primary motivation is the forced conformance of others to their belief system have changed their tactics and (to some small degree) their targets, but not so much their political party, namely the Democrats.

But party affiliation is a complicating side matter to my actual reason for posting.  The Internet has exploded with activists across the country trying to destroy a family-owned Indiana pizza shop for having the poor sense to tell a local TV news reporter that, although they’re happy to serve homosexuals in their shop, they would have to decline an offer to cater a same-sex wedding ceremony.

At least a couple of people in my Twitter feed are having difficulty with my suggestion that we’re literally seeing the rise of fascism in America with this (and other) incidents.  But it’s absolutely clear.  Start with this encyclopedia description, and then consider the following points, which I’ve made politically neutral:

  • An ideological president is implementing policy in unconstitutional ways — for example, doing by executive order things that ought to require legislation. His rhetoric has been stunningly exclusionary and dismissive, including a suggestion, after a drubbing in the midterm election, that he intends to act on behalf of the masses who did not vote, for whom he presumes to speak.  He’s also taken a surprisingly active role in stoking racial and culture-war flames by offering comment on select hyper-local issues.
  • The national media, both news and entertainment, can no longer even be argued to be politically neutral, but rather aligns almost entirely with the president’s party and, more important, his ideology.  It has spent years, now, whipsawing from one of these local controversies to the other while at the same time downplaying real controversies surrounding the behavior of the president and his political allies.
  • Although their nature varies by controversy, mob-like activists are rioting, disrupting people’s daily lives by various means, and using the Internet to harass and attempt to destroy anybody who comes into the spotlight of that week’s narrative to make examples of them, whether an individual, a business, a politician, or whomever.

There are many, many details that could be added, but the point is this: Fascism is not a series of specific political beliefs; it’s a method and philosophy of organization and action.

Even if you disagree with the above list as I’d put names to it, wouldn’t you agree that somebody who takes that view is correctly describing fascism?


UPDATE (4/1/15 8:35 p.m.):

Earlier, today, I made a few mild attempts to contact the reporter who “broke” the story about the pizza parlor but received no response.  Scott Ott got the details, though, and it’s even worse than I thought it might be.  I’d thought maybe the reporter had sent out a general call for feedback and the restaurant owners had responded, but the supposedly damning video that has fascist zealots intent on ruining the business of a family of whom they’d never heard and whom they’d have never patronized anyway came when the reporter walked into the business and asked a regular small-town resident for an extemporaneous comment.  The station then played the story up for every ounce of ad revenue it could get.

So what do folks think?  Is that responsible journalism?

Freedom of Religion in Indiana and Rhode Island

At the national level, Americans are being led to ignore any number of critical and pressing issues through a media-and-activist-driven condemnation of a religious freedom statute just passed into law in Indiana.  The hysteria has reached the point that companies that freely do business in communist China are boycotting Indiana, and Governor Dannel Malloy of Connecticut has implemented a travel ban to Indiana, despite the fact that his own state is on the list of those with such laws.

Rhode Island is also on the list, on the strength of Rhode Island law 42-80.1, the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, passed in 1993.  Arguably, Rhode Island’s law is stronger than Indiana’s.  Here’s the operative language in Indiana’s statute:

(a) Except as provided in subsection (b), a governmental entity may not substantially burden a person’s exercise of religion, even if the burden results from a rule of general applicability.

(b) A governmental entity may substantially burden a person’s exercise of religion only if the governmental entity demonstrates that application of the burden to the person:

(1) is in furtherance of a compelling governmental interest; and

(2) is the least restrictive means of furthering that compelling governmental interest.

Here’s Rhode Island’s language, for comparison:

(a) Except as provided for in subsection (b), a governmental authority may not restrict a person’s free exercise of religion.

(b) A governmental authority may restrict a person’s free exercise of religion only if:

(1) The restriction is in the form of a rule of general applicability, and does not intentionally discriminate against religion, or among religions; and

(2) The governmental authority proves that application of the restriction to the person is essential to further a compelling governmental interest, and is the least restrictive means of furthering that compelling governmental interest.

In Indiana, religious people only have protection if the government’s restriction is “substantial,” and the government can impose even “substantial” burdens if it can “demonstrate” that it will “further[] a compelling governmental interest.”  In Rhode Island, the government is not allowed to restrict the “free exercise of religion” at all, substantially or otherwise, unless it can “prove” that the restriction is “essential to further[ing] a compelling governmental interest.”

These may be shades of nuance, but given that the language is similar, with slightly more edge in Rhode Island:  Is anybody aware of any Rhode Island cases in the last 22 years in which (A) this law has been cited and (B) in which it has won a case in a way that could reasonably be seen as permitting discrimination?

The Terrorist, the Mob Mentality, and the Delusion of Normality

Ever wonder what it must have felt like when “normal” was a life with little communication with the rest of the world, periodic monster storms that arrived without warning, such rudimentary medicine that relatively minor wounds and illnesses could be fatal, and the perpetual threat that some invading force might sweep through and upend everything that gave people a sense of meaning in the world?

I think that sense of reality must have been in some ways opposite to the modern experience.  Sure storms, illnesses, and attacks can still occur, and sometimes they can overwhelm us, but we’re able to have so much more foresight, and we have options when threats arise.  We’ve almost reached the point of being able to be largely ignorant of the world around us because we’re protected.  It’s not that we can’t know about the world beyond our field of vision, but that we don’t have to.

If it must have been difficult to have a sense of “normal” in a less predictable and less manageable world, it may be too easy to hold on to a sense of “normal” in our lives these days.

That thought is in line with a recent op-ed from Michael Morse in the Providence Journal:

So, what to do? Do we isolate, and ignore the dark tide that is rising? Or do we live and let live, and try and make sense of a world going mad? The fact that I’m tempted to pull the blankets over my head and stick my head in the sand scares me more than mobs or terrorists. The fear of surrendering to a group mentality of aggression and oppression keeps me fighting, and speaking my mind.

Morse’s examples are the British-accented terrorist beheading people for snuff-film propaganda videos and the riots and sometimes-violent activism stoked by the Obama administration and the news media in response to a police shooting.  There are many more he could have used, from the massive financial bubble created through public policy to the fabricated fear campaign warning about rape epidemics to the collapsing international order.

Through it all, we can just go about our lives, expecting the ship to right itself, because the world will always return to “normal.”  Or maybe we hold a secret, even subconscious, hope that we’ll be gone before everything falls apart completely.

What’s disconcerting is that we can still repair most of what’s damaged in our world today and return to a path of expanding global normality with just a little bit more discernment and a little bit of discomfort in the face of those who would use our desire for a normal life as a means of steering us toward a corral and lock us in.

Fiddling While Conspiring and Oppressing

The cliché of “fiddling while Rome burns” suggests that a leader is engaged in petty activities while his society falls apart.  What I didn’t realize (or at least did not remember having learned, if I once did) is that the metaphor implies much more of relevance to the current experience of the United States.

According to The Annals by Tacitus (this translation), it wasn’t just that Emperor Nero was rumored to have been “at the very time when the city was in flame… on a private stage [singing] of the destruction of Troy,” but that he was also rumored to have been behind the starting of the fire.  “It seemed that Nero was aiming at the glory of founding a new city and calling it by his name.”

Indeed, during a purge at the end of the book that might remind modern readers of the purge at the end of a mafia movie, one of the targeted soldiers tells Nero, “I began to hate you when you became the murderer of your mother and your wife, a charioteer, an actor, and an incendiary.”

Moreover, the aftermath of the fire presents the first appearance of Christians in Tacitus’s narrative.  (For context, the fire occurred around the same time as the death of St. Paul in Rome.)

… all human efforts, all the lavish gifts of the emperor, and the propitiations of the gods, did not banish the sinister belief that the conflagration was the result of an order.  Consequently, to get rid of the report, Nero fastened the guilt and inflicted the most exquisite tortures on a class hated for their abominations, called Christians by the populace.  Christus, from whom the name had its origin, suffered the extreme penalty during the reign of Tiberius at the hands of one of our procurators, Pontius Pilatus, and a most mischievous superstition, thus checked for the moment, again broke out not only in Judæa, the first source of the evil, but even in Rome, where all things hideous and shameful from every part of the world find their centre and become popular.  Accordingly, an arrest was first made of all who pleaded guilty; then, upon their information, an immense multitude was convicted, not so much of the crime of firing the city, as of hatred against mankind.  Mockery of every sort was added to their deaths.  Covered with the skins of beasts, they were torn by dogs and perished, or were nailed to crosses, or were doomed to the flames and burnt, to serve as a nightly illumination, when daylight had expired.

Nero offered his gardens for the spectacle, and was exhibiting a show in the circus, while he mingled with the people in the dress of a charioteer or stood aloft on a car.  Hence, even for criminals who deserved extreme and exemplary punishment, there arose a feeling of compassion; for it was not, as it seemed, for the public good, but to glut one man’s cruelty, that they were being destroyed.

Of course, we’re much more civilized, these days, and powerful people have much less gruesome means of distracting the public and transferring mockery and blame to people who observe the world mainly by the reflection that they see with their eyes turned to Yahweh.

UPDATED: Raimondo Official Contest: Boys Need Not Apply

Parents of young Rhode Island girls may have recently become aware of a contest hosted by Governor Gina Raimondo’s office, with a Friday deadline.  As the official press release from the governor’s office explains:

Governor Gina M. Raimondo announced today the “Governor for a Day” essay contest as a way to encourage young girls to become leaders in their communities. This Women’s History Month initiative is open to girls in 5th through 8th grade throughout the state. The winning essayist will be named “Governor for a Day”, and spend a day this spring meeting and speaking with other leaders across state government.

“Every day I talk with young girls and women – from my own daughter to successful Rhode Island businesswomen – and I am reminded how important it is to expose young girls to the significance of public service,” Governor Raimondo said. “Girls should know that with hard work and dedication, the opportunities available to them here in Rhode Island are endless. This essay contest is a chance to engage us all in that conversation.”

In addition to the press release’s going out through the governor’s office, the instructions call for essays to be sent to either an official government email address or the governor’s communication office.

This is a clear violation of the Rhode Island Constitution, Article I, Section 2, which states (in part):

No otherwise qualified person shall, solely by reason of race, gender or handicap be subject to discrimination by the state, its agents or any person or entity doing business with the state.

In directing this contest explicitly toward girls, the governor is obviously discriminating based on “gender.”  Of course, it’s unlikely that any young Rhode Island men would go to the lengths of filing lawsuits, but organizations that profess to support individual rights should be ashamed if they take a pass on this one.

Unfair to Have Equal Assistance?

What am I missing in Lynn Arditi’s front page story in the Sunday Providence Journal, about the Rhode Island College student who says she experienced an unfair hearing when she accused a fellow student of sexual assault?  Honestly, it reads like the reporter is waltzing around something that would present the whole story in a different light.

The core of the complaint is that the accused young man was “represented” by a lawyer with “a professional connection to the college” during a hearing on the allegation.  According to the accuser, “Having a lawyer in the room supporting the person I was accusing of this crime was a serious intimidation factor. It was terrifying… I didn’t have any legal representation and I was hurting.’’

That looks like it might justify the prominent airing that her complaint has gotten in the state’s major daily newspaper, but the relevant details poke out of the fabric of the story throughout.  Consider:

  • Right after that quotation, Arditi explains the “professional connection” that the lawyer had with the school, and she does so in a way that makes it seem as if representing the accused was part of his contract, but later on the story, we learn that “the accused student said he paid Turner $1,500 to represent him.”  So, one party in the hearing appears to have hired independent counsel, and the other was presumably free to do so.
  • Additionally, the role that the lawyer was permitted to fill was quite different than the typical legal hearing.  Normally, the client remains mostly silent while his or her lawyer does all of the talking, as part of the actual legal battle.  In this case, the lawyer “was allowed to ‘silently’ advise the accused student but not speak for him.”
  • If that’s the extent of the lawyer’s “representation,” then the accuser does not appear to have been without representation of her own.  “Leslie Schuster, director of RIC’s gender and women’s studies program [was] O’Donnell’s adviser at the conduct board hearing.”  That sounds comparable to what the lawyer was doing, and more importantly, the director of an entire program of study would seem to have a much more significant “professional relationship” with the college than a lawyer who has a contract with a campus non-profit funded through student fees.

Aggressive Policing and Racism

Ian Tuttle gets at a sense of a lot of us who are skeptical about findings of racial profiling and such, in this case talking about ticketing practices and a study of Ferguson, Missouri:

The complex question of the relationship between wealth and race comes into play here, but it might reasonably be said that this practice — of police and prosecutors and courts together — disproportionately affects black communities not because they are black, but because they are poor. They do not have the means to escape the justice apparatus, unlike the comparatively wealthy, who can pay a fine and be done with the matter — or hire an attorney, and inconvenience courts that prefer the ease of collecting fees to the challenge of arbitrating cases. To this effect, Balko quotes Thomas Harvey, an attorney for ArchCity Defenders, a St. Louis–based legal-aid group: “These are people who make the same mistakes you or I do — speeding, not wearing a seatbelt, forgetting to get your car inspected on time. The difference is that they don’t have the money to pay the fines. . . . When you can’t pay the fines, you get fined for that, too. And when you can’t get to court, you get an arrest warrant.”

For a variety of reasons, I’ve been thinking, lately, how dumb identity politics make us.  I mean that: literally dumb.  Concentrating on race, gender, or whatever other categorization we wish to group people by is almost always a distraction from the underlying issues that are harming people or making them uncomfortable.  Look at the disaster of a president identity politics led us to elect; look at the unbelievably ridiculous candidate lining up to take his place on the same claim.

The difficulty is, frankly, that those underlying issues are mainly being caused by progressive policies, and progressives dominate education, news media, entertainment, and other cultural institutions.  Therefore, they prefer to distract from their flawed, harmful worldview and blame mysterious forces for the consequences.

And they prefer to make us dumb.  How else could they get away with an argument that is essentially, “The system is racist and irredeemably bigoted; we have to give more power to the system”?