Today’s Political/Religious Stew

It’s like a traffic accident; you can’t look away. Recent headlines on political matters as influenced by religion. One particular religion, whose followers apparently do not respect the Constitution (or at least the establishment clause of the First Amendment). The one religion that would rule them all.

Slate, Dahlia Litchwick, 9 Mar 2023: Which Religion Counts in America, subtitled “A brief in a case out of Indiana shows exactly how fundamentalist Christian beliefs trump everything else in the courts these days.”

The New Republic, Tori Otten, 7 Mar 2023: The Tennessee House Just Passed a Bill Completely Gutting Marriage Equality, subtitled “The bill could allow county clerks to deny marriage licenses to same-sex, interfaith, or interracial couples in Tennessee.”

The Independent, Alex Woodward, 6 Mar 2023: Oversight committee Republicans won’t sign Democrats’ letter denouncing white supremacy

CNN, 8 Mar 2023: Arkansas governor signs bill rolling back child labor protections

Salon, Kyle Hopkins, 6 Mar 2023: Alaska says it’s now legal “in some instances” to discriminate against LGBTQ individuals, subtitled “Alaska’s civil rights agency quietly deleted language promising equal protections for LGBTQ Alaskans”

Rolling Stone, 2 Mar 2023: Texas GOP Bill Gives Tax Cuts to Heterosexual Parents, subtitled “A new proposal would give massive breaks to large families, but only if the parents are straight property owners who’ve never been divorced.”

Friendly Atheist, Hemant Mehta, 3 Mar 2023: “Be fruitful and multiply”: TX bill cuts property taxes for couples with 10 kids, subtitled “State Rep. Bryan Slaton’s bill would reward ‘quiverfull’ Christian families”


More examples of making things worse, not solving problems.

Washington Post, Jennifer Rubin, 7 Mar 2023: Opinion | Democrats’ simple equation to win the culture wars: 2+2=4

However, it is not “merely” that the Republican base wants to excise non-Whites from U.S. history and absolve the United States of racism. There is a full-court press to create a fact-free universe in which politicians — not scientists, educators, doctors and a free media — tell us what is true and what is not. We’ve seen how MAGA pols strive to get their followers (and the rest of us) to believe that covid-19 is a hoax, vaccines are a plot, Donald Trump won the 2020 election, and Whites are the biggest victims of racism. This is an attempt at information control, a dangerous tool in the hands of a movement that repudiates democracy.

Call it gaslighting or propaganda or “alternative facts,” but the concept is the same. If a government can control facts and obliterate objective measures of truth, leaders can no longer be held accountable.


Vox, Haydn Belfield, 7 Mar 2023: There’s no libertarian approach to preventing the end of the world, subtitled “What Peter Thiel gets wrong about existential risk.”


It is a fantasy to think that existential risk can be reduced — or survived — just with individual action, the invisible hand of the market, and a “go faster” sign. It also needs collective action, wisdom and patience, and sensible and proportionate regulation.

That’s the approach that the existential risk and effective altruism communities are taking. But that, unfortunately, is the approach that Thiel appears to disagree with.


Paul Krugman, NYT, 6 Mar 2023: City Life, Culture Wars and Conspiracy Theories

Krugman describes living on New York’s Upper West Side.

In effect, then, I live in what some Europeans — most famously Anne Hidalgo, the mayor of Paris — call “a 15-minute city.” It’s a catchy if slightly misleading name for a concept that urbanists have long advocated: walkable cities that take advantage of the possibilities of density.

Modern politics being what it is, alas, it’s also a concept that has been caught up in the culture wars and become the subject of wild conspiracy theories. And as usual the people who yell loudest about “freedom” are actually the ones who want to practice coercion, preventing other Americans from living in ways they disapprove of.

To repeat: “And as usual the people who yell loudest about ‘freedom’ are actually the ones who want to practice coercion, preventing other Americans from living in ways they disapprove of.”


Also noted.

ABC News/AP, 6 Mar 2023: Thousands of pro-Trump bots are attacking DeSantis, Haley, subtitled “Researchers have uncovered a network of tens of thousands of fake Twitter accounts created to support former President Donald Trump and attack his critics and potential rivals”

(Comment: this kind of thing has been my take about the so-called “conspiracy” in which Trump and Russia colluded to drive popular opinion via social media to vote for Trump and win in 2016. A “conspiracy theory” cited (by Shermer among others) to show that Democrats/liberals are as subject to crazy baseless claims as Republicans/conservatives are. My take: it’s well documented that lots of Russian bots infiltrated social media in support of Trump. But also: Trump and his team weren’t smart enough to collude with the Russians. The Russians did it on their own, because they knew/know that Trump was on their side, as he remains on Putin’s side in the Ukraine war.)


Slate, Jim Newell, 6 Mar 2023: The Saddest CPAC Ever

Picture yourself in a dark grand ballroom of a Marriott conference center on a late-winter Saturday in business-casual dress. You’re finishing watching your 16th consecutive speech of the day, since 8:30 a.m., about the need to “fight” against the “RINOs.” You get a break and go to the atrium market, pick up a soggy chicken Caesar salad wrap, and eat by yourself on a bench. You wander around the vendor area to look at Trump apparel and investment opportunities for gold or cryptocurrency, and then take the escalator back up. Through the high-paned glass windows, you look, vacantly, at the brownish-grey Potomac River and an empty Ferris wheel. It’s an uninteresting temperature outside, 47 degrees. You go back to the grand ballroom and sit for four more hours.

You paid hundreds of dollars for this.

You’re an attendee of the Conservative Political Action Conference. And this year there are a lot fewer of you.

Trump, of course, claims huge crowds, while photos show half-empty ballrooms.

Politico: Scenes from CPAC 2023

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