I finally dipped my toe into ChatGPT, having been inspired by a story of a mom who used it to plan her child’s birthday party.
I had it draft a policy on delinquent tuition payment for a private school. High marks. Over the coming days, I’ll see what other logjams it can break on my project list.
I asked it “What are some real-world applications of the quadratic equation?” It gave a plausible answer, which I cannot evaluate since I haven’t used the equation since high school and cannot remember it. (If any kids are reading this, that’s probably because I became a lawyer, not an engineer.)
Since I get too easily enamored of technology, it behooves me to read smart critiques and concerns as they come along, if only to guide my personal conduct toward AI.
Why not explore [journalistically] how the attack on children and teachers in a Christian school affects Christians. This massacre may have been what some call a “hate-crime” against a religious group. And it’s odd that the community whose actual children were murdered seems less deserving of coverage than the community wrongly associated with a child-killer. It would be the equivalent of asking the Muslim community how they felt about a mass shooting in a synagogue, but never asking Jews.
It also seems legit to me to cover how violent memes and slogans and rhetoric can prime already-unstable people to commit violence. If it’s fair to call out the NRA’s materials after a mass killing (and I think it is), it’s also fair to note how common violent imagery and rhetoric has become in the TQIA+ world.
“Kill Terfs” is not a fringe slogan; it’s everywhere. A leader of the TQIA+ movement, Chase Strangio, has written that laws restricting child sex-changes are, in fact, laws to “criminalize known survival care for trans youth … That goal is akin to a goal of killing us.“ He has also claimed that his opponents “want to control and eradicate” trans people. Last weekend, a trans activist assaulted a gender-critical speaker with tomato juice in New Zealand, telling a crowd that “I want her to be full of blood, because that’s what she’s advocating for. She’s advocating for our genocide … our extermination.” The mob violently shut the event down. Then there are the many
grimacing skulls that promise “DEATH BEFORE DETRANSITION”, knives, baseball bats wrapped in barbed wire, assault rifles painted in the pastel tones of the trans flag, torrents of rape and death threats, the grim vow that “EVERY DAY IS TRANS DAY OF VENGEANCE.
And it would also be great if the press could fact-check not just the falsehood that trans people are more likely to murder, but also the idea, constantly reiterated by TQIA+ groups, of an “epidemic” of anti-trans, hate-motivated murders. That notion has been repeatedly debunked ….
Why don’t the police release the "manifesto"?
I was just about ready to join the demand for release of the Nashville Christian School shooter’s reported “manifesto” when this brought me up short:
consider this other possibility: Might the shooter’s manifesto contain accusations of some kind against family, school, church or others? If that’s the case, police and legal officials may be investigating these claims before airing them to the public.
That’s not an entirely idle speculation, as you’ll see if you follow the hyperlink, nor is it implausible: an extremely conservative Presbyterian church in my hometown badly mishandled sexual abuse in the congregation.
So, yes, sooner or later we need to see the “manifesto.” If they’re investigating claims of the manifesto, it would be nice to know.
The Trump Indictment
I’ve written a bit about the New York case against Trump, now gone to indictment. None of it was particularly original, and neither is this, but then I’m pretty selective about what sources I’ll spend time reading.
That said, some notable commentary by others:
- David Frum notes that the charges might not even be about Stormy Daniels. (Deciding what a grand jury’s up to is a bit like reading chicken entrails.)
- In his statement responding to the indictment, the former president said, “Never before in our Nation’s history has this been done.” But never before in our nation’s history have we had a president as dishonorable, as unethical, and as malicious as Donald Trump. (Peter Wehner)
- There’s something very, well, Trumpy about this: He has a way of making everything sordid. Instead of a dramatic discussion about the meaning of accountability for a president who sought to overthrow the will of the voters to stay in power, we’re arguing about the dirty mechanics of hush-money payments to an adult-film star. (Quinta Jurecic)
- I worry that a failed prosecution might strengthen Trump. Yet I’d also worry — even more — about the message of impunity that would be sent if prosecutors averted their eyes because the suspect was a former president. [Paragraph break omitted] The former president’s fixer, Michael Cohen, was sentenced to three years in prison for doing Trump’s bidding, and a fundamental principle of justice is that if an agent is punished, then the principal should be as well. That is not always feasible, and it may be difficult to replicate what a federal prosecution achieved in Cohen’s case. But the aim should be justice, and this indictment honors that aim. (Nicholas Kristoff, I Worry About a Failed Prosecution of Trump, but I Worry More About No Prosecution)
- There is a counterargument that this is America’s moment for prosecutorial discretion to allow the country to recover and move on. As a teenager, I was outraged when President Gerald Ford pre-emptively pardoned former President Richard Nixon, yet over time I came to think that it was the right call and allowed the country to heal. Yet one difference is obvious: Nixon in 1974 was already completely discredited, ostracized and broken, while Trump denies any wrongdoing and is running again for the White House. (Nicholas Kristoff, I Worry About a Failed Prosecution of Trump, but I Worry More About No Prosecution)
When someone on the Right accuses a progressive of being funded by George Soros, it damages my regard for the accuser more than for the accused. It’s a mark either of stupidity by the accuser or of his contempt for those listening. (The same goes for Lefties’ obsessions with the Koch brothers or Peter Thiel.)
Ron DeSantis is not stupid. You draw the necessary inference.
By the way, as Radley Balko points out, DeSantis famously removed a local prosecutor from office last year for declaring that he wouldn’t enforce the law as written for political reasons. That’s no different from what DeSantis himself is guilty of here [in claiming that “Florida will not assist in an extradition request”].
I want to leave a note here, because I expect to have many occasions to link back to it in the next several months.
Americans and Republicans, remember: You asked for this. Given the choice between a dozen solid conservatives and one Clinton-supporting con artist and game-show host, you chose the con artist. You chose him freely. Nobody made you do it.
I will be reminding you all of that, from time to time.
Kevin D. Williamson, May 4, 2016, right after Donald Trump secured the votes to be the Republican presidential nominee.
But he was wrong about something: he has had “occasions to link back to it” for years, not several months.
Williamson has another epochal column, Witless Ape Rides Escalator with perhaps the most on-point succinct summary of that ape:
[W]hen Trump sings “How Great Thou Art,” he sings it in a mirror.
When Ruy Teixeira talks
When Ruy Teixeira talks (Republicans Really Are the Party of the Working Class), Democrats should listen attentively.
In a lot of ways, the reversal of party affiliation by the white working class, in increasingly by “POCs” in the working class, is the most astonishing part of the realignment since witless ape rode escalator.
There is an elite version of populism that masquerades as technocracy.
Freddie on “all that politics is”
I’m not sure who first said it, but it’s been observed that Trump’s fundamental political proposition is not really populism, or foreign policy isolationism, or economic protectionism. Trump’s political pitch is, simply, “I will destroy your enemies.” Which is part of what makes him a monster, his zeal for attacking his targets and the targets he picks. But when I see people who favor police and prison abolition exactly up until the police and prisons become useful tools to them, it convinces me even more that “I will destroy your enemies” is all that politics is. When you scrape the surface even a little bit, that’s all that you find, the will to destroy the other side.
Freddie deBoer, May "Destroy My Enemies" Be All of Our Law
I do not agree with Freddie on “all that politics is,” but he’s got an awfully good point about Trump.
- I am waiting for someone to tell me what the radical left approach to law and order adds up to, these days, other than an injunction against ever calling the cops for anything and people screaming on Twitter that it’s fine if you smoke meth in a crowded elevator. No one has taken me up on the offer to explain how any of this works. Because none of it works, and it’s not clear if it was ever intended to work as an actionable set of proposals. It’s all pose, all fashion. Three years after “defund the police” became a ubiquitous slogan in left spaces, nobody knows what it means, nobody feels any pressure to figure that out, but everyone is still sure that if you expect any enforcement of basic order at all, you’re a fascist.
- Trump stood for very little in any conventional political terms, barely attempted to define a political agenda on the campaign trail, and was most notable in policy terms for his willingness to defend Medicare and Social Security after Paul Ryan’s former stranglehold on Republican fiscal ideals. Instead, he offered the ritualistic scourging of the people his fans found detestable – first in the primary, mocking John McCain and Jeb Bush and whoever else stood in his way, then the effete liberals who were allowing immigrants and criminals to ruin the country. His potential successor, Ron Desantis, is something of an idea man, but he tilts those ideas towards the urge to destroy constantly. His signature policies are all oriented towards reminding voters that he will target their enemies and use government to oppose them. He has to; it’s a political necessity for a 21st-century Republican with great ambitions.
- What all of us have to recognize is that the nihilism and score-settling of the past seven years are not the fault of a single awful man but emergent properties of a toxicity deeply embedded in the guts of this country. We can’t cure that toxicity if we spend all of our time diagnosing it in the other side. Of course I think Republicans are mostly to blame. But that belief tells us nothing about how to build a better, healthier political culture.
Indirect evidence on gun control
Here’s the funny thing: while conservatives balk at even the mildest gun control efforts on account of it being a slippery slope (fine), progressives have absolutely no intention of enforcing even existing gun control laws. What could I mean by this? Just listen to Philadelphia District Attorney Larry Krasner this week on how his office won’t prosecute illegal gun possession:
We do not believe that arresting people and convicting them for illegal gun possession is a viable strategy to reduce shootings,” the DA’s office said.
This is the ur-progressive prosecutor, saying gun control doesn’t stop shootings and that he’s just not going to do it. Because enforcing gun control laws would mean—it’s almost too terrible to say—enforcing laws. And that’s a line that America’s progressive prosecutors simply cannot cross.
Gun control gets a boost every time there’s a mass shooting, especially of schoolchildren. But when you get into the weeds, the details, where the devil notoriously lurks, it’s far from obvious what to do. We can wish that we’d never become so gun-infatuated as a nation, but we did.
Kevin D. Williamson demolishes (as have countless others before him) the case against the AR-15 in The Washington Post Misfires—Again. The only thing particularly dangerous about the AR-15 seems to be its cool factor, its status as an icon of toughness.
So what now? “Do something! (however symbolic, ill-advised or constitutionally provocative)” is not an answer I’ll accept.
Purity … is NOT the one thing needful; and it is better that a life should contract many a dirt-mark, than forfeit usefulness in its efforts to remain unspotted.
Pure religion and undefiled before God and the Father is this, To visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction, and to keep himself unspotted from the world.
I’ve done the hard part, gathering the epigraphs. Would you now like to write the essay?
(H/T James K.A. Smith, by whose standard these epigraphs are far too direct for the essay I might write.)
Notable oddity to add a little seasoning to life: Vollis Simpson Whirligig Park
Anisogamy: Sexual reproduction involving two types of gametes that differ in size.
- All horsepower corrupts. (Patrick Leigh Fermor)
- Walking “is how the body measures itself against the earth.” (Rebecca Solnit)
- I only went out for a walk and … going out, I found, was really going in. (John Muir)
- I took a walk in the woods and came out taller than the trees. (Henry David Thoreau)
Via Andrew McCarthy
If I were to support, much less endorse, Donald Trump for president, I would actually have to go back and apologize to former President Bill Clinton.
Southern Baptist Seminary President Al Mohler, 2016. “By 2020, Mohler had nonetheless become a public supporter of Trump, even standing by his vote for Trump after the Jan. 6 insurrection. ‘Based upon the binary choice we faced on November the third, I believe then that that was the right action to take,’ Mohler said on his podcast on January 7, 2021. ‘And going back to November the third, I would do the same thing again.’ To my knowledge, Mohler has yet to issue an apology to Bill Clinton.” (Robert P. Jones, Why a Trump indictment will matter so little to most of his Christian supporters)
Then the angel of the Lord went forth, and smote in the camp of the Assyrians a hundred and fourscore and five thousand: and when they arose early in the morning, behold, they were all dead corpses.
Isaiah 37:36 (King James Version)
‘Traditional art invites a look’, she wrote. ‘[Modernist art] engenders a stare’. The stare is not known for building bridges with others, or the world at large: instead it suggests alienation, either a need to control, or a feeling of terrified helplessness.
Iain McGilchrist, The Master and His Emissary. (I don’t recall who he was quoting.)
Disneyland is presented as imaginary in order to make us believe that the rest [of America] is real.
The irony of Chat GTP asking me to verify I’m a human
@philbowell on micro.blog
… the difference between what Rowling says she believes and what her critics claim she does ….
J.K. Rowling Addresses Her Critics
For all its piety and fervor, today’s United States needs to be recognized for what it really is: not a Christian country, but a nation of heretics.
Ross Douthat, Bad Religion
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