France Fights Uber
July 1st, 2015

With every passing day, France looks like a better, freer, more rational alternative to the United States.

I cannot believe I just typed that sentence.


“It’s Time to Legalize Polygamy”
June 26th, 2015

But don’t worry. That could never happen and no one who wants gay marriage would ever be interested in it and people who try to link gay marriage and polygamy are homophobic bigots.

Update: Oh, sorry. That was five minutes ago. I hadn’t gotten the memo yet. We must legalize polygamy now and crush the poly-phobic bigots! #LoveWins


Unabomber or Pope Francis?
June 23rd, 2015

Colby Cosh has a little quiz with lines from the pope’s climate change encyclical. It’s great fun. But before that, he points out the following:

On June 18, though, he almost seemed to set a new standard for regular-guy-ness when his official Twitter account let loose with a machine-gun rattle of short quotations from his new papal encyclical about the environment . . .

I say “quotations” out of instinctive respect, but one is tempted to say “quips.” Whoever is in charge of @Pontifex started dishing tweets like some layabout ex-journalist tweaking on Red Bull. And come to think of it, that is probably exactly the sort of person who was handling the task. “The earth, our home, is beginning to look more and more like an immense pile of filth,” the Holy Father’s social-media personification rapped. “We have to hear both the cry of the earth and the cry of the poor.” . . .

The climate is a “common good,” says the Pope, and there is “a very solid scientific consensus” that it is changing in “disturbing” ways. Hooray for Science Pope! But before you know it he is weighing in on drinking water. “…in some places there is a growing tendency, despite its scarcity, to privatize this resource, turning it into a commodity subject to the laws of the market.” It turns out this is bad, even though almost any economist alive would instantly apply a red pencil and several question marks to that “despite.”

Before long Francis is going off on “Decline in the Quality of Human Life and the Breakdown of Society.” Hilariously, there’s a warning about new digital media, presumably in forms like … er, Twitter? They “[give] rise to a new type of contrived emotion which has more to do with devices and displays than with other people and with nature,” quoth @Pontifex.


About P. Diddy–Updated
June 23rd, 2015

From my piece over at Acculturated:

So P. Diddy, née Puff Daddy (née Puffy, née Sean Combs) has been arrested. Not for toting gats where the true players are at. Not for selling more powder than Johnson & Johnson. Not even for running all up in the club and sipping Bacardi (or Cîroc) in an egregious manner, when it was not, in fact, his birthday.

No, Mr. Diddy was arrested after an altercation with a UCLA football coach. And while the details of the incident are disputed, the crux of the affair is not: Diddy was upset because he believes that the coach is mistreating his son, who plays for the UCLA football team. In other words, Diddy was arrested for being a hockey mom.

There’s more. Including me calling Puffy the Peter Lorre of rap. As the kids say, sick burn.

Update: From Galley Friend X:

Snoop Dogg put P Diddy’s helicopter-parenting to shame, for almost a decade. It’s like he’s Snoop Dogg, Tiger Momm.
The best part: Snoop’s and Diddy’s sons both play for UCLA!

Dept. of Pots and Kettles
June 23rd, 2015

Here’s an interesting take on the economics of Hollywood from Brent Lang at  . . . Variety?

Box office headlines are often reduced to what film “trumps,” “triumphs over” or “races past” a rival. But analysts and executives argue that some blockbusters can be the proverbial rising tide that lifts all boats. . . .

In general, our fixation on victors and losers, boom and bust markets, and gaudy numbers that ignore a picture’s pricetag is bad for anyone hoping to draw conclusions about the overall health of the entertainment industry.

This is all a roundabout way of saying that while “Inside Out” didn’t beat “Jurassic World,” it’s still a box office winner.

Honestly, wtf is going on over there.


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Things you won’t read about the climate chance encyclical
June 18th, 2015

Over at his New Atlantis blog, Alan Jacobs has a thoughtful (and quite positive) read on Pope Francis’ new environmental encyclical. Among other things, he highlights one line of thought that I suspect will get relatively little coverage by the New York Times et al:

This situation has led to a constant schizophrenia, wherein a technocracy which sees no intrinsic value in lesser beings coexists with the other extreme, which sees no special value in human beings. But one cannot prescind from humanity. There can be no renewal of our relationship with nature without a renewal of humanity itself. There can be no ecology without an adequate anthropology. When the human person is considered as simply one being among others, the product of chance or physical determinism, then “our overall sense of responsibility wanes”. A misguided anthropocentrism need not necessarily yield to “biocentrism”, for that would entail adding yet another imbalance, failing to solve present problems and adding new ones. Human beings cannot be expected to feel responsibility for the world unless, at the same time, their unique capacities of knowledge, will, freedom and responsibility are recognized and valued. (p. 88) . . .

Since everything is interrelated, concern for the protection of nature is also incompatible with the justification of abortion. How can we genuinely teach the importance of concern for other vulnerable beings, however troublesome or inconvenient they may be, if we fail to protect a human embryo, even when its presence is uncomfortable and creates difficulties? “If personal and social sensitivity towards the acceptance of the new life is lost, then other forms of acceptance that are valuable for society also wither away”. (pp. 89-90, quoting Benedict XVI)


Jenner and Dolezal Redux
June 18th, 2015

Maybe the smartest treatment I’ve seen of the Bruce/Caitlyn Jenner moment is from blogger Wes Fulton. You can read the whole thing here. Some highlights:

How are we to understand the transition of Bruce Jenner into Caitlyn Jenner? As I said before, it seems to me that there are two ways:

Option #1:The polite fiction. In this approach, everybody just admits upfront that Caitlyn Jenner is a normal man suffering from some sort of mental delusion, and we all agree that the best approach is simply to humor her and play along with her fantasies for the sake of her mental well-being.

This view of Caitlyn conveniently dispenses with a lot of the silly “but…but…wait a second…” questions that wise-ass conservatives keep throwing out there to troll earnest liberals. Of course it’s ridiculous to talk about “Caitlyn Jenner” as the world’s greatest female athlete. Of course it’s stupid to ask how this female “Caitlyn Jenner” miraculously managed to father five children. Every rational person understands that “Caitlyn Jenner” is a biological male, has always been a biological male, and will always be a biological male.

Transgenderism, in this view, is nothing more than an adjunct to traditional polite standards of conduct.

Occasionally, polite social behavior obliges us to refrain from pointing out uncomfortable truths, and even humor people about their harmless delusions. People who insist on an absolute commitment to the truth in all situations are generally viewed as weird,antisocialcranks and extremists. I don’t know about you, but if I were putting together a dinner party, I’d rather have this guy or this guythan this guy. . . .

For liberals, the second problem with the “polite fiction” approach is that it raises the question of what other “delusions” we are prepared to humor in modern America. Let’s take an example that will set liberals’ hair on fire: Biblical Creationism. . . .

Liberals often have little problem mocking Creationism, as in their minds, it’s primarily associated with stump-toothed white hillbillies — except that a whole lot of black peoplesubscribe to this idea as well. Oh, it’s not just nice black church ladies who believe it, either: Let extremely-not-safe-for-work black comedian Katt Williams explain the truth of Creationism to you, complete with ample deployment of f-bombs. Creationism is also a popular stance for Muslimsas well.

So here we’ve got what scientists would describe as an objectively crazy-ass delusion that is wildly popular with millions of average Americans — and especially popular among boutique minority communities. It’s way more accepted than the rather oddball notion that Caitlyn Jenner is a woman.

So if we’re just going to blandly go along with the idea that Caitlyn Jenner is a woman — heck, even the Associated Press guidelines instruct news organizations to just treat self-reported gender as a neutral fact, like “it rained on Tuesday” — then why not report Creationism as the truth, at least any time a self-described Creationist puts it forward? . . .

Option #2: Let’s warp reality. According to this approach, Caitlyn Jenner is a woman, period. The fact that she has XY chromosomes is irrelevant; Caitlyn Jenner “feels” that she is a woman, and that emotional certainty is all that is necessary to establish the fact of her womanhood.

Let’s call this what it is: It’s an explicitly religious claim, no different in principle than Catholic beliefs about transubstantiation. You can get around it by trying to claim that it’s all due to the fact that transgender people have a different brain structure than people with “normal” gender identity, but then that brings you back to Option #1: You’re admitting that these beliefs are, in some fundamental way, not congruent with physical reality, and positing that the ideal solution is to humor people about their unavoidable delusions, rather than helping them to accept their inborn physical limitations. All that does is raise the question again: If we can indulge some delusions, why not others — particularly ones that are more widespread? Who’s to say that belief in the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ is not due to one’s particular genetic inheritance? . . .

Well, with Caitlyn Jenner, we have an example of a person making what can only be understood as a religious claim. Caitlyn Jenner insists upon a fact which does not correspond with empirical reality, and insists that despite its variance with all observable and testable conditions, this fact represents the literal truth. When Christians talk this way, Richard Dawkins laughs and throws rocks at them (figuratively speaking).

But with Caitlyn Jenner in particular and the issue of transgenderism in general, the left has seemingly abandoned this principle. On what basis will liberals now be able dismiss other preposterous claims, if the person making the claim can simply plead sincere conviction? It seems like a question that many of those who are cheerleading the transgender movement haven’t really thought through.

And now Fulton has a post up about Rachel Dolezal, which is also very smart:

[A]dherence to “reality” is supposed to be fundamental to the progressive way. Throw it out, and where, exactly, do you draw the line? For a conservative, wacky religious claims are limited by competing values of respect for tradition, authority, and order. The modern left rejects those limitations as roadblocks to the betterment of humanity. So if you take away the limitation of objective reality, where do you stop?

The fact that progressives find these kinds of questions so self-evidently preposterous as to constitute bad-faith arguments does not render them invalid. Rachel Dolezal’s actions have been profoundly unhelpful to the left, yet somehow that did not prevent her from doing what she did; the fact that other hypotheticals are similarly uncomfortable — such as questions about “transabled” people — is no basis for dismissing them.

The human race is diverse, remember? People acting in all sincerity do crazy things and make crazy claims all the time; it is one of our defining characteristics as a species. Rachel Dolezal is a perfect demonstration — here is a woman who is making a claim that is at odds with rude, objective fact. So what is the bright-line principle that separates her from Caitlyn Jenner?

This is a serious question: If you have no neutral basis for adjudicating between competing parties, disputes can only be settled with fists and blood and bullets — figuratively at first; literally, if things get out of hand. And ultimately, that means all questions are ultimately settled in favor of the strong. The weak have no voice, no way to appeal, no hope apart from the whims and mercies of the mighty.

I thought the point of progressivism was to get away from that.


Whither Sunstein and Koppelman?
June 17th, 2015

Nine years ago Andrew Koppelman and Cass Sunstein were dismissing the idea that gay marriage could ever threaten religious liberty. Here’s Koppelman:

“This is yet another of the predicted horrible consequences of same-sex marriage that just isn’t going to happen,” said Andrew Koppelman, a law professor at Northwestern University.

“The Catholic Church refuses to recognize the remarriages of divorced people whose spouses are still living. Their tax exemption has never been threatened because of this.”

Here’s Sunstein:

Asked whether the hypothetical religious college at the top of this article could lose its tax-exempt status for refusing to recognize John and James as married students, constitutional law scholar Cass Sunstein said: “Sure–and if pigs had wings they could fly.”

“The answer is no,” said Sunstein, a professor of law and political science at the University of Chicago. “That’s an argument that would be generated by advocacy groups trying to scare people. The likelihood religious organizations would lose their tax exemption is as close to zero as anything in law is.”

And here, just as a reminder, is the solicitor general of the United States, Donald Verrilli, asked specifically if religious schools could lose their tax-exempt status over gay marriage, warning the Supreme Court that, in fact, the government will be looking very hard at this question:

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.

I wonder of Koppelman and Sunstein have changed their views. At the very least, they owe religious liberty proponents an apology for dismissing their concerns as fanciful.

Or rather, they would owe them an apology if they were legitimately interested in the law and not engaged in a giant cultural bait-and-switch.


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