Living within the truth

  1. Living within the truth
  2. Red America’s Achilles Heel
  3. What Trump’s billionaires are learning
  4. When religious freedom is a charade
  5. Raising the minimum wage 10%
  6. Dems threw the first punch
  7. Muzzling the Moderate Middle
  8. No Pence Rule at Fox


Consider, says [Václav] Havel, the greengrocer living under Communism, who puts a sign in his shop window saying, “Workers of the World, Unite!” He does it not because he believes it, necessarily. He simply doesn’t want trouble. And if he doesn’t really believe it, he hides the humiliation of his coercion by telling himself, “What’s wrong with the workers of the world uniting?” Fear allows the official ideology to retain power—and eventually changes the greengrocer’s beliefs. Those who “live within a lie,” says Havel, collaborate with the system and compromise their full humanity.

Every act that contradicts the official ideology is a denial of the system. What if the greengrocer stops putting the sign up in his window? What if he refuses to go along to get along? “His revolt is an attempt to live within the truth”— and it’s going to cost him plenty.

He will lose his job and his position in society. His kids may not be allowed to go to the college they want to, or to any college at all. People will bully him or ostracize him. But by bearing witness to the truth, he has accomplished something potentially powerful: He has said that the emperor is naked. And because the emperor is in fact naked, something extremely dangerous has happened: by his action, the greengrocer has addressed the world. He has enabled everyone to peer behind the curtain. He has shown everyone that it is possible to live within the truth.

Because they are public, the greengrocer’s deeds are inescapably political. He bears witness to the truth of his convictions by being willing to suffer for them. He becomes a threat to the system—but he has preserved his humanity. And that, says Havel, is a far more important accomplishment than whether this party or that politician holds power (a fact that became painfully clear during the debasing 2016 U.S. presidential campaign).

“A better system will not automatically ensure a better life,” Havel goes on. “In fact the opposite is true: only by creating a better life can a better system be developed” (emphasis mine).

The answer, then, is to create and support “parallel structures” in which the truth can be lived in community. Isn’t this a form of escapism, a retreat into a ghetto? Not at all, says Havel; a countercultural community that abdicated its responsibility to reach out to help others would end up being a “more sophisticated version of ‘living within a lie.’”

(Rod Dreher) Well it seems the Czech Communists have moved to Australia, and the new “Workers of the World, Unite!” sign is the “Acceptance Ring”:

Some of the country’s biggest businesses have upped the ante in the crusade for marriage equality by asking Australians to wear a specially designed “acceptance ring” until same-sex marriage is legalised.

Led by accommodation provider Airbnb and supported by Qantas, ANZ, Fairfax Media and Foxtel, the Until We Belong campaign has been billed as the “most public declaration for marriage equality” so far.

The initiative calls on Aus­tralians to signal their support for same-sex couples by committing to wearing the ring, created by designer Marc Newson.

Airbnb Australia country manager Sam McDonagh said the campaign would involve the distribution of “hundreds of thousands” of the distinctive black metal rings to its hosts and guests, business partners and “key influencers”.

Qantas staff and cabin crew would wear them, he said, while Google Australia has also provided rings for its 1300 staff to wear. “Our goal is to build ­momentum around the issue of marriage equality and spark those conversations about ­acceptance,” Mr McDonagh said.

(Rod Dreher again) But of course, it’s all voluntary. No coercion. If you want to be a homophobic bigot by not wearing one, that’s still your right.


Meanwhile, on the home front, something else Rod Dreher wrote has hit me harder than either of those examples: Sports: Red America’s Achilles Heel. It came back strongly Tuesday afternoon, as I drove home, when I heard NPR report that the NCAA is “reluctantly” going to add North Carolina to the list of possible venues for tournaments and events after North Carolina apparently gave in to NCAA’s high-handed insistence that the state repeal a law separating men’s and women’s bathrooms — just like, you know, the NCAA has repealed separate men’s and women’s teams and tournaments.

Yup, Red State legislatures now are dancing to whatever tune the NCAA, NBA and other corporate thugs choose to call. In Indiana, so far, it’s Eli Lilly, Cummins Engine and the Chamber of Freakin’ Commerce calling those tunes.


I am someone who finds it difficult to think about money for more than two minutes at a time. I cannot marshal the concentration even to read the financial statements about my own investments. When they arrive, I scramble down to the bottom line to learn what I made or lost during the past month. I rather envy those who have earned enough money to sit out forever from the financial wars, but I do not envy them sufficiently to drop the things that interest me more in order to emulate them. Moneymaking seems a useful skill, but not much more. I’ve known too many ninnies who seem to have mastered it to be in thrall myself.

(Joseph Epstein) Epstein continues:

A strong argument can be made that, contra Trump, success in business is too narrow to transfer to other realms. Orderly thought is needed for success of any kind. So, too, the clarity to get outside oneself to grasp the larger forces involved in any complicated transaction. Confidence helps, to be sure. But making a wad in real estate, mail order or auto sales does not impart any special advantage in understanding the complexities of health care, African-American culture or foreign policy—as Mr. Trump and his billionaire-laden cabinet are discovering.


One of my pet peeves is grandiose anagrammatic Bill names, which is closely related to s second pet peeve — maybe even stronger than pet peeve — about Bills that are misrepresented. Mississippi has a doozy that was scheduled to be argued in the 5th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals Monday.

It purports to be a religious-freedom type Bill. And I’m a huge fan of religious freedom. But that characterization is a charade.

Trigger warning for conservatives: the following includes leftist cant mixed with sound analysis:

Today, the Fifth Circuit will hear argument in Barber v. Bryant, a challenge to Mississippi’s HB 1523. This is the first post-Obergefell case to reach a federal appellate court involving an anti-LGBT “religious freedom” law …

Often, cases like this one are portrayed as LGBT rights v. religious freedom. Fair enough: in some circumstances, there truly is a clash of interests. But not here. Although it is decorated and defended with the rhetoric of accommodation, HB 1523 not only eviscerates LGBT rights, but also shreds core tenets of religious liberty. Drafted with the manifest purpose of privileging anti-gay religious beliefs above all other interests, and in a manner that sends a clear message of religious endorsement, HB 1523 functions as a sword against non-adherents rather than as a shield for the faithful.

Accordingly, this is not a case where the Free Exercise Clause clashes with LGBT rights. Rather, it is case where the Free Exercise Clause and Establishment Clause, both of which command non-discrimination, would be vindicated by a decision enjoining HB 1523. As the Supreme Court has made clear, “The principle that government may accommodate the free exercise of religion does not supersede the fundamental limitations imposed by the Establishment Clause.” Lee v. Weisman, 505 U.S. 577, 587 (1992). And it is hard to imagine an Establishment Clause limit that HB 1523 does not violate.

HB 1523 prohibits the State of Mississippi from taking “discriminatory action” against persons or organizations for conduct “based upon or in a manner consistent with” three “religious beliefs or moral convictions”:

(1) that “[m]arriage is or should be recognized as the union of one man and one woman;”

(2) that “[s]exual relations are properly reserved to such a marriage;” or

(3) that “male (man) or female (woman) refer to an individual’s immutable biological sex as objectively determined by anatomy and genetics at time of birth.”

HB 1523 is unconstitutional for four interrelated reasons.

First, it was enacted with the forbidden purpose of promoting particular religious creeds … [S]uch legislation has the purpose of announcing State support for the selected religious beliefs. See Wallace v. Jaffree, 472 U.S. 38, 59 (1985).

Second, HB 1523 endorses the preferred beliefs—and disparages those who do not share them. HB 1523 does not attempt evenhandedly to protect holders of all views on marriage, sexuality, and gender against burdensome regulation. Instead, it singles out specific religious viewpoints on these subjects and treats them as superior to all contrary beliefs. The law thus creates insiders and outsiders, whose rights vary significantly depending on whether they agree with Mississippi’s controversial creedal statements …

Third, HB 1523 violates bedrock principles forbidding discrimination on the basis of religious belief and denomination …

Fourth, and finally, HB 1523 is invalid under Estate of Thornton v. Caldor, Inc., 472 U.S. 703 (1985), and Cutter v. Wilkinson, 544 U.S. at 720, which forbid accommodations that shift unreasonable hardship to third parties …

(Joshua Matz) I wouldn’t make a big deal out of this were it not for its relevance to a similarly-flawed Federal Bill:

This is case is important not only in itself, but also because the Mississippi law resembles the federal “First Amendment Defense Act” or FADA. Although that measure has not yet been enacted, Senators have announced plans to introduce FADA, and President Trump has pledged to sign it. There is a similar provision in Trump’s draft executive order on religious freedom, as Ira Lupu and Bob Tuttle explained yesterday. So the Fifth Circuit’s decision in the case could set a consequential precedent.

(Nelson Tebbe) I resent it when my putative friends waste precious time on the conservative version of virtue signaling with legislation that will probably be enjoined, deserves to be enjoined, and brings discredit to the precious cause of religious freedom for all, not just people who agree with the three religious beliefs or moral convictions singled out by the Mississippi (each of which I share).


Entry-level jobs matter—and you don’t have to take my word for it. In a speech last week on workforce development in low-income communities, Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen said that “it is crucial for younger workers to establish a solid connection to employment early in their work lives.”

Unfortunately, government policies are destroying entry-level jobs by giving businesses an incentive to automate at an accelerated pace. In a survey released last month, the publication Nation’s Restaurant News asked 319 restaurant operators to name their biggest challenge for 2017. Nearly a quarter of them, 24%, said rising minimum wages.

It’s no surprise that restaurants are rolling out the robots.McDonald’s said last November that it would install self-order kiosks in all 14,000 of its U.S. restaurants. Wendy’s announced in February it would add kiosks at about 1,000 locations to “appeal to younger customers and reduce labor costs.”

The trend toward automation is particularly pronounced in areas where the local minimum wage is high. Eatsa, a 21st-century version of the automat, now lists seven locations in four cities, each of which will be subject to a $15 minimum wage within the next 36 months.

Taking automation to the next step, Miso Robotics and the owner of CaliBurger announced in March they have developed a robotic arm, called Flippy, that can turn burgers and place them on buns. CaliBurger plans to install them over the next two years in 50 restaurants world-wide.

By encouraging automation, cities that significantly raise the minimum wage destroy opportunities for the least-skilled workers …

In a 2011 report from the nonpartisan Employment Policies Institute, two university economists examined nearly 20 years of data containing 600,000 observations. They compared how each 10% increase in the minimum wage affected the employment of young males without a high-school diploma. For whites, the drop was 2.5%. For blacks, it was 6.5%.

(Andy Pudzer)


We are in an age of blatant partisanship and double-standards.

At least 41 Democrats led by Minority Leader Chuck Schumer have also committed to filibuster Judge Gorsuch on the Senate floor, so he will need 60 votes to be confirmed. This will force Republicans to change Senate rules to break what would be the first partisan filibuster of a Supreme Court nominee in history. Democrats and their media friends want to portray Republicans as the radicals in this case, but Democrats are the precedent-busters.

Mr. Schumer is howling that Republicans stole this Court seat because they didn’t give a vote to Merrick Garland last year. But Majority Leader Mitch McConnell declared before Barack Obama nominated Judge Garland that there would be no vote on any nominee in the election year. He was merely echoing the standard that Mr. Schumer had set when he declared in 2007 that Democrats would block any nominee that George W. Bush would send up in his final year as President.

(WSJ Review & Outlook)


The moderate middle at Middlebury currently feels it cannot speak out on the side of free inquiry without fear of being socially ostracized as racist. Most alarming, I have heard some students and faculty denounce reason and logic as manifestations of white supremacy. This is not a productive learning environment for anyone. This is not what the life of the mind is supposed to provide.

In response, more than 100 Middlebury faculty members signed a statement of principles on free inquiry. Many of us have also signed the subsequent statement on freedom of expression by the scholars Robert P. George and Cornel West, to which I was asked to be the first signatory. And we are now proposing that Middlebury adopt a free speech statement as part of our rules.

Challenging that objective, some students responded with a counter manifesto, containing a point-by-point critique of our principles. Titled “Broken Inquiry,” it amounts to a statement of deep suspicion about the good that a commitment to free inquiry can deliver.

While heartfelt and brave, the intellectual premise of “Broken Inquiry” is that Charles Murray is a white supremacist. It cites as evidence one quote, taken out of context, from the Southern Poverty Law Center website. Having read Charles Murray, I would not lump his writing in the same category as Klansmen. A precondition for fruitful dialogue would thus be to start with a shared definition. It would also require students and faculty members who have not yet done so to actually read Charles Murray rather than outsourcing their thinking to a website.

(Allison Stanger)


I guess they don’t follow the Mike Pence Rule at Fox. That would be abusive and misogynist.

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“Liberal education is concerned with the souls of men, and therefore has little or no use for machines … [it] consists in learning to listen to still and small voices and therefore in becoming deaf to loudspeakers.” (Leo Strauss)

Some succinct standing advice on recurring themes.