Potpourri 6/19/17

  1. Trump is not a Hypocrite
  2. A misleading hypothetical
  3. Thanks, but I’ll sift my own
  4. Free speech exceptions?


[A]sk yourself how Trump would have reacted if he had lost the election and Russian interference was shown to have benefitted his opponent. With the circumstances reversed in this way, Trump would almost certainly have been the country’s first, loudest, and most relentless critic of Russian electoral meddling.

Does that make the president our biggest hypocrite? Not at all — because he doesn’t adhere to two sets of standards. On the contrary, Trump follows just one, unwavering standard: the advancement of his own good. If electoral meddling by a hostile foreign power benefits him, he has no problem with it. If the meddling harms him, he’s outraged by it. No hypocrisy. Just perfectly consistent, morally poisonous egoism.

Hypocrisy is impossible for Trump because hypocrisy presumes a standard external to the self from which a person can fall short. Trump recognizes no such standard. He’s what human life looks like when the higher, vertical, elevated dimension of morality has been utterly vacated or erased, leaving behind just the individual and his appetites craving to be fed.

As demoralizing as it is to be reminded every day that Donald Trump holds the highest office in the land, our very revulsion at his vices is a powerful tribute to just how strongly we remain attached to standards of virtue.

(Damon Linker, Trump is not a Hypocrite) I think Linker is right about Trump, but I think he’s misleading about the traditional meaning of hypocrisy. Linker:

In its classical form, hypocrisy is a vice involving a failure to adhere to a high moral or political standard. Think of the evangelist caught in an extramarital affair after years of railing against the evils of infidelity and sexual licentiousness.

Yes, hypocrisy “involves a failure to adhere to a high … standard.” But politics aside, leaving only morality, that’s what we all do. I think the essence of hypocrisy in the moral realm is not the deviation below norm, but excusing it as if I’m a special case whose sin isn’t really sinful because, e.g., that Argentine firecracker is my soulmate, so “[t]his was a whole lot more than a simple affair, this was a love story.”


The Volokh Conspiracy blog seldom disappoints, but boy did Michael Broyde blow it!

Arguing against religious arbitration (I just had to read a Volokh Conspiracy blog on that topic, didn’t I?), he comes up with an hypothetical close enough to real life to make the unwary think it’s a real factual situation overlain with a hypothetical arbitration clause buried in a contract:

For example, many Christian arbitration organizations explicitly commit themselves to resolving disputes brought before them in accordance with biblical principles. It is not too difficult to imagine, however, how in some Christian arbitrations such principles might clash sharply with contemporary liberal legal commitments in commercial and other contexts. Consider, for example, the case of a Christian-owned bakery, which as part of its standard custom baking contract includes an arbitration clause. After entering such a contract with a customer to bake a cake for a wedding, and just shortly before the cake is scheduled to be delivered, the baker discovers that the wedding will be that of a same-sex couple and refuses to perform under the contract. The customer seeks legal redress for this breach of contract but finds himself in Christian arbitration that applies what it regards as biblical values. Religious arbitrators might find squarely in favor of the baker, holding that no valid agreement could be made to provide support services for a union that contravenes what they view as biblical principles and values.

(Emphasis added)

I know this blog was about arbitration, but if you’re trying to persuade, you’ll need to use plausible hypotheticals. This hypothetical is not really like the Masterpiece Cakes case or any other actual case that’s been in the news. In no case has a Christian artist backed out of producing or selling off-the-shelf a generic product because of its intended use in a same-sex wedding or reception:

For Jack, politely declining to design and create a cake for a same-sex wedding back in 2012 wasn’t an unusual occurrence or some big defining moment (at least so he thought). Jack gave the same answer that he had already given to someone requesting a cake for a Halloween party or bachelor party—I’m sorry, but I can’t promote messages that violate my beliefs, though I’d be happy to sell you anything else.

(Alliance Defending Freedom)

A person with only passing interest in this case might be led to believe that Phillips is fighting to hang a “No Gays Allowed” sign in his shop. In truth, he never “refused” to serve a gay couple. He didn’t even really refuse to sell them a wedding cake, which they could have bought without incident. Everything in his shop was available to gays and straights and anyone else who walked in his door. What Phillips did was refuse to use his skills to design and bake a unique cake and participate in a gay wedding. Phillips didn’t query anyone on his or her sexual orientation …

There was a time, I’m told, when the state wouldn’t substantially burden religious exercise and would use the least restrictive means to further compelling interests. Today, the state can substantially burden a Christian because he’s hurt the wrong person’s feelings.

(David Harsanyi)

He serves everyone, no matter their race, sex, religion or sexual orientation. But he cannot create art for events that conflict with his faith. For years, that practice caused no disturbances. But when a couple asked Phillips to create a cake for a same-sex wedding, things got dicey.

He told the requesting couple that he would gladly sell them anything in his store, but designing a custom cake to celebrate a same-sex marriage was not something he could do. Phillips was compelled to decline that request because of his religious conviction that marriage is a husband-wife union — a belief that just two years ago the Supreme Court said is “decent and honorable” and held “in good faith by reasonable and sincere people.”

(Jim Campbell)

In every case, the request was for a custom product, and the refusal was up front, not last-minute. Had the Masterpiece Cakes same-sex couple come in and asked for twenty-five dozen assorted cookies to be delivered such-and-such date, I get the impression that Jack Phillips, Masterpiece’s owner, would cheerfully have complied. Harsanyi even says the couple could have bought a (presumably generic, perhaps off-the-shelf) wedding cake (do bakeries really build wedding cakes “on spec”?). But a custom cake, specifically celebratory of the event, is materially different.

So say I. We’ll see in a year or so whether SCOTUS agrees. It will be deviating from its precedents, I believe, if it disagrees — or else drawing some vague new line, sure to be litigated from now until kingdom come, between arts and crafts that are sufficiently artsy and craftsy to deserve protection from involuntary ideological servitude and those that are not.

Sorry to keep belaboring this case and this subject, but the press keeps reporting these cases as refusal to serve a class of people, not declining to create a custom work of artistry. If the press will report with truth and discernment, I’ll stop.

I also could fault the hypothetical because when I was interested in alternate dispute resolution (I haven’t kept up for several decades now), Christian arbitration was encouraged for disputes between Christians, not for disputes between a Christian vendor and a man-on-the-street customer. So I don’t think this hypothetical Christian cake shop is going to slip arbitration clauses into written commissions for its work.


“We Sift the news so you don’t have to.” So boasts World, which last time I looked was a disappointing Christianish newsmagazine, so bona fide that it was even available on dead trees.

Thanks, but no thanks. If coverage of Guidestar’s momentary relenting from credulous repetition of SPLC’s “hate group” designation is any guide, I’ll sift my own:

  1. “[Guidestar] describes SPLC as a civil-rights advocacy organization, but the group’s primary purpose is to advance the gay rights agenda.” Wow! Really? I yield to no one in my distrust of SPLC, but words should have meanings.
  2. “[SPLC] uses its “hate group” labels to describe any individual or organization that holds to Biblical definitions of marriage and gender.” Funny: How did I avoid getting on their list?

As our POTUS might Tweet, “Fake news! Very sad!”


There are many very stupid ideas about free speech in academia. Perhaps the stupidest is this: free speech is a legal norm used to protect the powerful at the expense of the powerless, but exceptions to free speech will benefit the powerless. Nobody with a passing knowledge of the history of free speech takes this seriously.

(Popehat) That’s the intro. The whole thing is just four paragraphs, with no paywall, so I’ll stop there, except to say that free speech exceptions benefiting the powerless is already shaping up as a snare and a delusion.

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There is no epistemological Switzerland. (Via Mars Hill Audio Journal Volume 134)

Some succinct standing advice on recurring themes.