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Tucker Carlson: Mitt Romney supports the status quo. But for everyone else, it’s infuriating

Newly-elected Utah senator Mitt Romney kicked off 2019 with an op-ed in the Washington Post that savaged Donald Trump’s character and leadership. Romney’s attack and Trump’s response Wednesday morning on Twitter are the latest salvos in a longstanding personal feud between the two men. It’s even possible that Romney is planning to challenge Trump for the Republican nomination in 2020. We’ll see.

But for now, Romney’s piece is fascinating on its own terms. It’s well-worth reading. It’s a window into how the people in charge, in both parties, see our country.

Corporate tax cuts are also popular in Washington, and Romney is strongly on board with those, too. His piece throws a rare compliment to Trump for cutting the corporate rate a year ago.

That’s not surprising. Romney spent the bulk of his business career at a firm called Bain Capital. Bain Capital all but invented what is now a familiar business strategy: Take over an existing company for a short period of time, cut costs by firing employees, run up the debt, extract the wealth, and move on, sometimes leaving retirees without their earned pensions. Romney became fantastically rich doing this.

Meanwhile, a remarkable number of the companies are now bankrupt or extinct. This is the private equity model. Our ruling class sees nothing wrong with it. It’s how they run the country.

Mitt Romney refers to unwavering support for a finance-based economy and an internationalist foreign policy as the “mainstream Republican” view. And he’s right about that. For generations, Republicans have considered it their duty to make the world safe for banking, while simultaneously prosecuting ever more foreign wars. Modern Democrats generally support those goals enthusiastically.

There are signs, however, that most people do not support this, and not just in America. In countries around the world — France, Brazil, Sweden, the Philippines, Germany, and many others — voters are suddenly backing candidates and ideas that would have been unimaginable just a decade ago. These are not isolated events. What you’re watching is entire populations revolting against leaders who refuse to improve their lives.

Something like this has been in happening in our country for three years. Donald Trump rode a surge of popular discontent all the way to the White House. Does he understand the political revolution that he harnessed? Can he reverse the economic and cultural trends that are destroying America? Those are open questions.

But they’re less relevant than we think. At some point, Donald Trump will be gone. The rest of us will be gone, too. The country will remain. What kind of country will be it be then? How do we want our grandchildren to live? These are the only questions that matter.

The answer used to be obvious. The overriding goal for America is more prosperity, meaning cheaper consumer goods. But is that still true? Does anyone still believe that cheaper iPhones, or more Amazon deliveries of plastic garbage from China are going to make us happy? They haven’t so far. A lot of Americans are drowning in stuff. And yet drug addiction and suicide are depopulating large parts of the country. Anyone who thinks the health of a nation can be summed up in GDP is an idiot.

The goal for America is both simpler and more elusive than mere prosperity. It’s happiness. There are a lot of ingredients in being happy: Dignity. Purpose. Self-control. Independence. Above all, deep relationships with other people. Those are the things that you want for your children. They’re what our leaders should want for us, and would want if they cared.

But our leaders don’t care. We are ruled by mercenaries who feel no long-term obligation to the people they rule. They’re day traders. Substitute teachers. They’re just passing through. They have no skin in this game, and it shows. They can’t solve our problems. They don’t even bother to understand our problems.

One of the biggest lies our leaders tell us that you can separate economics from everything else that matters. Economics is a topic for public debate. Family and faith and culture, meanwhile, those are personal matters. Both parties believe this.

Members of our educated upper-middle-classes are now the backbone of the Democratic Party who usually describe themselves as fiscally responsible and socially moderate. In other words, functionally libertarian. They don’t care how you live, as long as the bills are paid and the markets function. Somehow, they don’t see a connection between people’s personal lives and the health of our economy, or for that matter, the country’s ability to pay its bills. As far as they’re concerned, these are two totally separate categories.

Social conservatives, meanwhile, come to the debate from the opposite perspective, and yet reach a strikingly similar conclusion. The real problem, you’ll hear them say, is that the American family is collapsing. Nothing can be fixed before we fix that. Yet, like the libertarians they claim to oppose, many social conservatives also consider markets sacrosanct. The idea that families are being crushed by market forces seems never to occur to them. They refuse to consider it. Questioning markets feels like apostasy.

Both sides miss the obvious point: Culture and economics are inseparably intertwined. Certain economic systems allow families to thrive. Thriving families make market economies possible. You can’t separate the two. It used to be possible to deny this. Not anymore. The evidence is now overwhelming. How do we know? Consider the inner cities.

Thirty years ago, conservatives looked at Detroit or Newark and many other places and were horrified by what they saw. Conventional families had all but disappeared in poor neighborhoods. The majority of children were born out of wedlock. Single mothers were the rule. Crime and drugs and disorder became universal.

What caused this nightmare? Liberals didn’t even want to acknowledge the question. They were benefiting from the disaster, in the form of reliable votes. Conservatives, though, had a ready explanation for inner-city dysfunction and it made sense: big government. Decades of badly-designed social programs had driven fathers from the home and created what conservatives called a “culture of poverty” that trapped people in generational decline.

There was truth in this. But it wasn’t the whole story. How do we know? Because virtually the same thing has happened decades later to an entirely different population. In many ways, rural America now looks a lot like Detroit.

This is striking because rural Americans wouldn’t seem to have much in common with anyone from the inner city. These groups have different cultures, different traditions and political beliefs. Usually they have different skin colors. Rural people are white conservatives, mostly.

Yet, the pathologies of modern rural America are familiar to anyone who visited downtown Baltimore in the 1980s: Stunning out of wedlock birthrates. High male unemployment. A terrifying drug epidemic. Two different worlds. Similar outcomes. How did this happen? You’d think our ruling class would be interested in knowing the answer. But mostly they’re not. They don’t have to be interested. It’s easier to import foreign labor to take the place of native-born Americans who are slipping behind.

But Republicans now represent rural voters. They ought to be interested. Here’s a big part of the answer: male wages declined. Manufacturing, a male-dominated industry, all but disappeared over the course of a generation. All that remained in many places were the schools and the hospitals, both traditional employers of women. In many places, women suddenly made more than men.

Now, before you applaud this as a victory for feminism, consider the effects. Study after study has shown that when men make less than women, women generally don’t want to marry them. Maybe they should want to marry them, but they don’t. Over big populations, this causes a drop in marriage, a spike in out-of-wedlock births, and all the familiar disasters that inevitably follow — more drug and alcohol abuse, higher incarceration rates, fewer families formed in the next generation.

This isn’t speculation. This is not propaganda from the evangelicals. It’s social science. We know it’s true. Rich people know it best of all. That’s why they get married before they have kids. That model works. But increasingly, marriage is a luxury only the affluent in America can afford.

And yet, and here’s the bewildering and infuriating part, those very same affluent married people, the ones making virtually all the decisions in our society, are doing pretty much nothing to help the people below them get and stay married. Rich people are happy to fight malaria in Congo. But working to raise men’s wages in Dayton or Detroit? That’s crazy.

This is negligence on a massive scale. Both parties ignore the crisis in marriage. Our mindless cultural leaders act like it’s still 1961, and the biggest problem American families face is that sexism is preventing millions of housewives from becoming investment bankers or Facebook executives.

For our ruling class, more investment banking is always the answer. They teach us it’s more virtuous to devote your life to some soulless corporation than it is to raise your own kids.

Sheryl Sandberg of Facebook wrote an entire book about this. Sandberg explained that our first duty is to shareholders, above our own children. No surprise there. Sandberg herself is one of America’s biggest shareholders. Propaganda like this has made her rich.

We are ruled by mercenaries who feel no long-term obligation to the people they rule. They’re day traders. Substitute teachers. They’re just passing through. They have no skin in this game, and it shows.

What’s remarkable is how the rest of us responded to it. We didn’t question why Sandberg was saying this. We didn’t laugh in her face at the pure absurdity of it. Our corporate media celebrated Sandberg as the leader of a liberation movement. Her book became a bestseller: “Lean In.” As if putting a corporation first is empowerment. It is not. It is bondage. Republicans should say so.

They should also speak out against the ugliest parts of our financial system. Not all commerce is good. Why is it defensible to loan people money they can’t possibly repay? Or charge them interest that impoverishes them? Payday loan outlets in poor neighborhoods collect 400 percent annual interest.

We’re OK with that? We shouldn’t be. Libertarians tell us that’s how markets work — consenting adults making voluntary decisions about how to live their lives. OK. But it’s also disgusting. If you care about America, you ought to oppose the exploitation of Americans, whether it’s happening in the inner city or on Wall Street.

And by the way, if you really loved your fellow Americans, as our leaders should, if it would break your heart to see them high all the time. Which they are. A huge number of our kids, especially our boys, are smoking weed constantly. You may not realize that, because new technology has made it odorless. But it’s everywhere.

And that’s not an accident. Once our leaders understood they could get rich from marijuana, marijuana became ubiquitous. In many places, tax-hungry politicians have legalized or decriminalized it. Former Speaker of the House John Boehner now lobbies for the marijuana industry. His fellow Republicans seem fine with that. “Oh, but it’s better for you than alcohol,” they tell us.

Maybe. Who cares? Talk about missing the point. Try having dinner with a 19-year-old who’s been smoking weed. The life is gone. Passive, flat, trapped in their own heads. Do you want that for your kids? Of course not. Then why are our leaders pushing it on us? You know the reason. Because they don’t care about us.

When you care about people, you do your best to treat them fairly. Our leaders don’t even try. They hand out jobs and contracts and scholarships and slots at prestigious universities based purely on how we look. There’s nothing less fair than that, though our tax code comes close.

Under our current system, an American who works for a salary pays about twice the tax rate as someone who’s living off inherited money and doesn’t work at all. We tax capital at half of what we tax labor. It’s a sweet deal if you work in finance, as many of our rich people do.

In 2010, for example, Mitt Romney made about $22 million dollars in investment income. He paid an effective federal tax rate of 14 percent. For normal upper-middle-class wage earners, the federal tax rate is nearly 40 percent. No wonder Mitt Romney supports the status quo. But for everyone else, it’s infuriating.

Our leaders rarely mention any of this. They tell us our multi-tiered tax code is based on the principles of the free market. Please. It’s based on laws that the Congress passed, laws that companies lobbied for in order to increase their economic advantage. It worked well for those people. They did increase their economic advantage. But for everyone else, it came at a big cost. Unfairness is profoundly divisive. When you favor one child over another, your kids don’t hate you. They hate each other.

That happens in countries,  too. It’s happening in ours, probably by design. Divided countries are easier to rule. And nothing divides us like the perception that some people are getting special treatment. In our country, some people definitely are getting special treatment. Republicans should oppose that with everything they have.

What kind of country do you want to live in? A fair country. A decent country. A cohesive country. A country whose leaders don’t accelerate the forces of change purely for their own profit and amusement. A country you might recognize when you’re old.

A country that listens to young people who don’t live in Brooklyn. A country where you can make a solid living outside of the big cities. A country where Lewiston, Maine seems almost as important as the west side of Los Angeles. A country where environmentalism means getting outside and picking up the trash. A clean, orderly, stable country that respects itself. And above all, a country where normal people with an average education who grew up in no place special can get married, and have happy kids, and repeat unto the generations. A country that actually cares about families, the building block of everything.

What will it take a get a country like that? Leaders who want it. For now, those leaders will have to be Republicans. There’s no option at this point.

But first, Republican leaders will have to acknowledge that market capitalism is not a religion. Market capitalism is a tool, like a staple gun or a toaster. You’d have to be a fool to worship it. Our system was created by human beings for the benefit of human beings. We do not exist to serve markets. Just the opposite. Any economic system that weakens and destroys families is not worth having. A system like that is the enemy of a healthy society.

Internalizing all this will not be easy for Republican leaders. They’ll have to unlearn decades of bumper sticker-talking points and corporate propaganda. They’ll likely lose donors in the process. They’ll be criticized. Libertarians are sure to call any deviation from market fundamentalism a form of socialism.

That’s a lie. Socialism is a disaster. It doesn’t work. It’s what we should be working desperately to avoid. But socialism is exactly what we’re going to get, and very soon unless a group of responsible people in our political system reforms the American economy in a way that protects normal people.

If you want to put America first, you’ve got to put its families first.

Adapted from Tucker Carlson’s monologue from “Tucker Carlson Tonight” on January 2, 2019 and can be seen here.

Southern Baptists versus United Methodists

There’s a pervasive narrative today of conservative Christian demographic decline. This narrative is partly based on reality and partly based on wishful thinking by some. But this narrative typically ignores the far more dramatic implosion of liberal white Mainline Protestantism.

The popular conventional narrative asserts that young people in droves are quitting evangelical Christianity because it’s too socially and politically conservative. Of course, the implication is that if only Evangelicalism would liberalize, especially on sexuality, then it might become more appealing.

But all the available evidence as to what happens to liberalizing churches strongly indicates the opposite. Mainline Protestantism is in many ways what critics of Evangelicalism wish it would become. And yet the Mainline, comprised primarily of the “Seven Sister” historic denominations, has been in continuous free-fall since the early to mid-1960s. Its implosion accelerated after most of these denominations specifically liberalized their sexuality teachings over the last 20 years.

The facts of Mainline Protestant decline are easily available. And yet the Mainline, once the dominant religious force in America, has declined so calamitously that for many it’s become almost forgotten. Often, when I speak to young people, I must explain what the Mainline is. Many young people, when they think of non-Catholic Christianity, are only familiar with Evangelicalism, which displaced the Mainline decades ago as America’s largest religious force.

So it’s necessary to repeat what’s happened to the Mainline. The Episcopal Church peaked in 1966 with 3.4 million and now has 1.7 million (50% loss). What is now the Presbyterian Church (USA) peaked, in its predecessor bodies that later merged, in 1965 with 4.4 million, and is at 1.4 million (68% loss). The United Church of Christ peaked in 1965 with 2.1 million and now has 850,000 (60% loss). What is now the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA), in its predecessor bodies that later merged, peaked in 1968 with 5.9 million and now has 3.5 million (41% loss). The Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) peaked in 1964 with over 1.9 million and now has just over 400,000 (80% loss). United Methodism, in its predecessor bodies, peaked in 1965 with over 11 million and now has 6.9 million in the USA (nearly 40% loss). The American Baptist Church peaked in 1963 with over 1.5 million and now has less than 1.2 million (25% loss.)

During the Mainline implosion the percentage of Americans belonging to the Seven Sister denominations declined from one of every six Americans to one of every 22. If the Mainline had simply retained its share of population it would stand today at about 55 million instead of about 16 million.

Nearly all the Mainline denominations have liberalized their sexuality standards over the last 15 years, precipitating accelerated membership loss. For example, the Presbyterian Church (USA) overturned its disapproval of homosexual practice in 2011 and declined from 1.9 million to 1.4 million in 2017, losing half a million members, or 25% in just 6 years. The Episcopal Church elected its first openly homosexual bishop in 2003 and declined from 2.3 million to 1.7 million, or 26%. The two Mainline denominations that have not officially liberalized on sexuality, United Methodism and American Baptists, have declined the least.

So the proposal from some that conservative stances on sexuality precipitate church decline is not of itself supported, as the fastest declining denominations in America, and throughout the West, have liberalized on sexuality. Some conservative denominations are declining, but all growing denominations in America and the world are conservative theologically and on sexuality.

Recently I have tweeted some of these statistics about Mainline decline, with respondents insisting that Evangelicals are declining too. But by some counts, Evangelicalism is retaining its share of the American population while liberal Protestantism is plunging.

All growing denominations in America are conservative, including the Assemblies of God, which in 1965 had 572,123 and now has 3.2 million (460% increase), the Church of God in Cleveland, which in 1964 had 220,405 and now has 1.2 million (445% increase), the Christian Missionary Alliance, which in 1965 had 64,586 and now has 440,000 (576% increase), and the Church of the Nazarene 1965, which in 343,380 and now has 626,811 (82% increase).

Common responses to reference of Mainline decline are BUT THE SOUTHERN BAPTISTS! And it’s true that America’s largest Protestant body has been declining for 18 years. But its decline from 16.4 million to 15 million represents an 8 percent loss, not comparable to the average Mainline loss of nearly 50%. Southern Baptists displaced Methodism as America’s largest Protestant body in 1967 and now outnumber United Methodists by two to one.

Southern Baptists leaders commonly bewail their 18-year membership decline and urge more focus on evangelism. Their aggressive church planting resulted in 270 additional congregations in 2017 and a twenty percent increase in congregations over the last 20 years, with a strong focus on creating new black and Hispanic congregations. The Southern Baptist Convention likely is more racially diverse than Mainline Protestant denominations, which are over 90% white. And Southern Baptist worship attendance, even amid membership decline, increased by 120,000 in 2017.

Mainline Protestantism shows no sign of any institutional desire to reverse its 53-year membership decline, instead doubling down on the theological and political stances that fueled much of this decline. Some of its denominations, like the Presbyterian Church (USA), at current rates of decline, may not exist in 15 years or less.

Sometimes the demise of Mainline Protestantism is equated with the demise of American Christianity. Media sometimes report dying Mainline congregations without citing different stories at newer evangelical churches. But just as common if not more so is the narrative of ostensible Evangelical decline. White Evangelicalism maybe in decline, but Evangelicalism is increasingly multiethnic. Some evangelical denominations, like the Assemblies of God, which has no racial majority, successfully reach immigrant populations, while Mainline Protestantism fails to do so.

Here’s my suggestion on why there’s lots of focus on supposed Evangelical decline based on its purportedly unappealing moral stances. Evangelicalism surged during the 1970s through 1990s, including growing campus ministries, creating new generations of evangelical young people, some of whom later recoiled from the conservative religious upbringing of their youths. They sometimes blog and pontificate on the failures of evangelical culture, commending an idealized more liberal Christianity, usually unaware of already preexisting liberal Christianity’s dramatic collapse.

Meanwhile, Mainline Protestantism, when its implosion started in the early to mid-1960s, began losing baby boomers and barely had representation among subsequent generations. In recent decades there have not been many young people left in the Mainline who could subsequently complain or pontificate about experiences in their liberal denominations.

It’s important to reiterate the details of Mainline Protestantism’s long and ongoing spiral as a warning to other churches. Whatever the problems of evangelical Christianity, becoming more like liberal Mainline Protestantism is not a remedy.

By Mark Tooley and publisned on December 14, 2018 in Juicy Ecumenism and can be found here.

 

Organization Lacks Standing To Claim Sexual Orientation Discrimination By Christian Business Owners

This is from religionclause.blogspot.com which you can find here:

In Lexington-Fayette Urban County Human Rights Commission v. Hands On Originals(KY Sup. Ct., Oct. 31, 2019), The Kentucky Supreme Court dismissed on standing grounds a suit against a small business whose Christian owners refused on religious grounds to print T-shirts for a Pride Festival. The court held that because the discrimination complaint was filed only by a gay-rights organization, plaintiff lacks statutory standing:

[B]ecause an “individual” did not file the claim, but rather an organization did, we would have to determine whether the organization is a member of the protected class, which we find impossible to ascertain. No end user may have been denied the service who is a member of the protected class, or perhaps one was. If so, then the determination would have to follow whether the reason for denial of service constitutes discrimination under the ordinance, and then whether the local government was attempting to compel expression, had infringed on religious liberty, or had failed to carry its burden under KRS 446.350. But without an individual, as required by Section 2-32(2)(a), this analysis cannot be conducted.

Justice Buckingham filed a concurring opinion, arguing that the Human Rights Commission had unconstitutionally attempted to compel the business to express ideas with which it disagreed.

You can learn more about this issue here.

CLCP Seminar: Child Support Overview

I had a great opportunity to lead (perhaps “teach”) a continuing legal education seminar yesterday facilitated by the Christian Legal Clinics of Philadelphia and hosted by Drinker Biddle & Reath LLP.  The seminar was entitled “Proper Practice and Procedure of Family Law,” and I spoke on the Child Support Overview portion.  I was joined by several other capable attorneys who each had their own topics to present.

As I wrote the materials for my portion of the seminar, I retain the ownership of that portion, which is posted below in this blog.

Thanks!

__________

Pennsylvania child support law is critical in ensuring children have sufficient resources to meet their needs and that a non-custodial parent is invested – at least financially – in the rearing of his children.

  • Establishment of Child Support

 In order to establish a child support order, the person seeking support (the “obligee”) must first file a Complaint for Child Support with the family court.

A Complaint for Child Support is first heard by a support conference officer who receives the information provided by the parties and enters a proposed order based on that information accordingly.  The conference officer is not a master or a judge, so very little argument or advocacy will be possible at this point.  The support officer will merely receive paperwork and enter the data into his computer software to produce the proposed support order.

A child support order can only apply to one’s children.  A child born to a marriage is presumed to be the child of the husband in the marriage.  For a child born out-of-wedlock, paternity can be established either by the father agreeing to have his name put on the child’s birth certificate and/or acknowledging paternity at a support conference.  If a putative father disputes paternity, that issue must be fully addressed and resolved before a support order can be entered against him.  Paternity is its own niche area of family law and is beyond the scope of this seminar.

If a party is unhappy with the support order proposed by the conference officer, he can request a hearing before a master.  While a support master is not a judge, he is like a judge in that he holds a hearing that resembles a court hearing, and receives testimony and evidence as a judge would.  It is at a master’s hearing that traditional court advocacy can occur.  A master’s hearing can include the testimony, examination, and cross-examination of witnesses (including experts if necessary), the presentation of documents and evidence, and arguments.  Upon reviewing all of the evidence and testimony presented at the hearing, the support master issues a support order.  The support master’s order becomes a final order in support unless, by the procedural deadline, one party files exceptions to that order.  The exceptions function like an appeal and are heard by a judge.  The judge does not hold a de novo support hearing to resolve the exceptions.  Rather, the judge hears oral arguments as to whether the support master committed an error of law and/or fact.  If the master did commit an error, the judge may enter a new support order taking the error into account, or simply remand the matter back to the master for a new hearing in order to remedy the errors at the prior master’s hearing.

The date a support order (of any kind) takes effect is the date one files for it.  So, for example, if someone files for child support on October 1, 2019, but an order is not entered until December 1, 2019, then an obligor begins his support obligation two months in arrears on December 1, 2019.  Now, this is not something to worry about and is a standard part of most support orders, and typically an “arrears provision” is included in a support order, which amounts to about an additional 10% of the monthly support being added on to the support order to pay down the arrears.

  • Modification of a Child Support Order

 Once established, a support order is a fully enforcable order; however, it is also an order that may be modified upon request of either party.  The procedure to pursue the modification of a support order is nearly identical to securing the original order (with exception of having to show a change in circumstances as noted below).  Instead of filing a Complaint for Child Support, the party seeking modification files a Petition to Modify a Child Support Order instead.  As with the establishment of a child support order, the parties must ensure the court is presented with accurate incomes and expenses for both parties based upon which a modified support order may be entered.

A modification of support will only be ordered if the person seeking the modification can demonstrate that there has been a change in circumstances since the most recent support order was entered.  Changes in circumstances can include: a change in employment status, a change in jobs, establishing a new cohabitating relationship, the birth of a new child, changes to health insurance coverage, and/or changes to extracurricular activities for the children, among other things.  If a party is trying to resist modification, attempting to demonstrate that there has been no change in circumstance is, if successful, a viable way to accomplish that goal.

  • Discovery

 Standard discovery is only permitted in a child support case in certain circumstances.  Every child support case is subject to an order of self-executing discovery.  Essentially, the order to appear for a child support conference and/or hearing is accompanied by a corresponding order for each party to bring evidence of income and relevant expenses.  Typically, self-executing discovery requires the parties to furnish their last six (6) months’ worth of paystubs, their most recent tax return and/or W-2 and/or 1099, receipts of out-of-pocket expenses for the child(ren) subject to the order (e.g.: extracurricular activities, tuition, camp, etc), health insurance coverage for the child(ren) subject to the order, and a completed income/expense sheet.

There are cases where a party is self-employed and/or does contract work and/or is a business owner.  In those cases, the opposing party may file to have the case marked “complex” which gives permission to the parties to conduct traditional discovery (e.g.: interrogatories, requests for production,etc).  Finally, a party may file for leave of court to conduct discovery upon a showing of some sort of unusual circumstance that warrants it.  Of course, a Court is free to grant or deny the request for leave.

  • Calculation of Child Support

 The calculation of a child support order is according to an established guideline table as provided in Pennsylvania law (see Pa. R.C.P. 1910.16-3).  When calculating a support order, the Court bases it on a determination of each party’s net income.  Net income, in the context of child support, is a party’s gross income from any source, reduced by taxes, non-voluntary retirement deductions, and union dues.  Net income is typically discerned from pay stubs and tax information; however, in “complex” cases, net income can also be derived from bank statements, business records, receipts, and other sources.

Sometimes a party’s income is, for one reason or another, lower than it could or even “should” be based on his/her experience and eduction level.  In that case, a Court will determine what the party’s “earning capacity” is and enter an order based on that as opposed to actual income.

Earning capacity is a legal determination made by a court which establishes what a party “should” be able to earn.  When determining earning capacity, factors like work history, prior income levels, and level of education are considered.  It is important to note that the court will not simply use the highest income one had and determine that to be “earning capacity.”  The court typically takes a much more pragmatic approach.  For example, if someone worked at “Employer A” ten (10) years ago making $80,000/yr but, for the last nine (9) years has worked for “Employer B” making $60,000/yr, it is unlikely the court will go back to “Employer A” to determine capacity because a work history, and a relative adjustment of lifestyle, has been shown to have occurred over the last nine (9) years.  In other words, the most recent employment is most likely to be considered a good measure of earning capacity unless it is shown that this employment was secured as way to facilitate voluntary impoverishment.  If it can be shown that an obligor (the person who pays support) engaged in voluntary impoverishment, the support obligation will be calculated according to the obligor’s assessed earning capacity and not actual income.

There are times when someone does voluntarily “impoverish” oneself and it does not qualify as voluntary impoverishment as described above.  Pursuant to Pa.R.C.P. 1910.16-2(d)(1), there is a general principle that virtually no voluntary reduction of income will result in a reduction in support, but that very same rule leaves open a possibility with its use of the word “generally” (“[w]hen either party voluntarily … [reduces his income] … there generally will be no effect on the support obligation.”).  The key element is whether the reduction of income was for the purpose of circumventing a support order (as opposed to, for example, to pursue greater education or training, or to take a job with better hours, or quitting one’s job due to an infirm parent in need of care, and so forth).  Now it hardly needs to be said that determining the motive for a reducing one’s income is extremely fact intensive, and one must be prepared to prove that motive in court.  It probably goes without saying that being laid off, or suffering an injury, or what-have-you, against one’s will does not amount to voluntary impoverishment.

Once net income is determined for each party, it is added together in order to calculate the total parental income.  The guideline table mentioned above contains a list of net parental incomes ranging from $1,000/mo to $30,000/mo in increments of $50.00 on which the income of the typical set parents can be found.  Across from the parental net income is the amount of support, as determined by state law, appropriate for the number of children a set of parents have.  This figure is the baseline amount of support for the child(ren) at issue in a particular case.  Once the baseline support amount is determined, the amount an obligor must pay is calculated as follows:

  • obligor’s income divided by total parental income totals the obligor’s proportion of parental income;
  • the obligor’s proportion of parental income is then multiplied by the base support amount per the guidelines.

By way of example, say that a father earns $1,500 per month in net income and a mother earns $500 per month in net income, for a total parental net income of $2,000 to calculate support for their three children.  The father in this scenario earns 75% of the parental income.  According to the Pennsylvania child support guidelines, $2,000/mo in net income results in $805/mo in baseline support for three children.  Therefore, based on the numbers above, the father’s child support for his three children is 75% of $805/mo, which amounts to $603.75/mo in child support.

There are times when the Court may deviate from the guidelines.  Deviation is sometimes warranted in unusual or extraordinary circumstances where the guidelines do not adequately or practically address a case’s particular circumstances.  For example, a child may have his own source of income (through, say, an inheritance or a law suit or a government benefit), or the other party may be the beneficiary of a huge inheritance or is married and/or cohabitating with someone who earns a substantial income.  There are other times when an obligor, for example, is caring for an infirm parent and has to dedicate substantial time and money to that.  For situations such as these, and others, it may be warranted to deviate from the guidelines to account for these unusual issues.

It is important to note that party’s (usually an obligor) expenses are rarely a cause to deviate from the guidelines or seek a reduction in support.  It is expected that child support will be the priority in one’s monthly budget of expenses, and all other expenses will be subservient to it.  So, for example, if one chooses to purchase an expensive car or have an expensive cable or telephone bill, one cannot ask the Court to reduce child support so that one can meet his expenses.  It will be expected that he will reduce these other expenses in order to free up his money to pay child support.

On top of the basic guideline support amount, noted above, most support orders have a so-called “arrears provision” that is included in a support order, which often amounts to about an additional 10% of the monthly support being added on to the support order to pay down any arrears that may accumulate.

Federal law requires child support orders to address health insurance.  .All children should be covered by health insurance, and many children are involved in extra-curricular activities, camp, day care, and the like.  In child support cases, where family health insurance is available to one or both parties through their employment at a reasonable cost, the court will require one of the parties to provide insurance for the children at the most reasonable cost.  If such insurance is only available to one party through their employment, that party will be the one required to provide the insurance coverage for the children.  If health insurance is available to both parties through their employment, then the court will look at a variety of factors to determine which party should be responsible for providing the insurance coverage, including who currently provides insurance for the children, the benefits available under each plan, and the additional costs to insure the children under each plan.  In child support actions where medical coverage is not available through either party’s employer, the court may require the primary custodial parent to apply for government-sponsored coverage, such as Pennsylvania’s Children’s Health Insurance Program (“CHIP”).

In terms of how health insurance premiums affect child support, Pa.R.C.P. 1910.16-6(b)(1) states:  “(i) if the party paying the health insurance premium is the obligor, the obligee’s share is deducted from the obligor’s basic support amount. (ii) If the obligee is paying the health insurance premium, the obligor’s share is added to his or her basic support amount.”

In child support cases, the party that is receiving child support pays the first $250 in unreimbursed expenses per child.  Any medical expenses above the first $250 are split in proportion to the parties’ incomes as compared to the joint parental income.  The obligee will have to keep track of the expenses each year, and then submit them to the other party.

The costs for other expenses, such as camp, day care, tuition, and extra-curricular activities, are also split in proportion to the parties’ incomes as compared to the joint parental income.  Of course, this assumes that these other items are agreed upon by both parents or, at the very least, not actively opposed by one.

Although, per the guidelines, one my be entitled to more child support, Pennsylvania law has an upper limit of 50% of one’s disposable earnings as the maximum amount one’s earnings can be garnished for child support if one is also currently supporting a spouse or a child who is not the subject of the order.  If one is not supporting a spouse or child from another order, up to 60% of one’s earnings may be garnished for support.

If one earns $981/mo or less, the one is considered destitute and will not have a child support obligation applied to him/her.

While there is an upper limit to the parental income on the guidelines, there are some fortunate people whose earnings exceed this threshold.  Child support cases with earnings that go beyond the upper threshold of the guidelines are calculated thusly:

Pa.R.C.P. 1910.16-3.1.

(a)  Child Support Formula. If the parties’ combined monthly net income exceeds $30,000, the following three-step process shall be applied to calculate the parties’ respective child support obligations. The support amount calculated pursuant to this three-step process shall not be less than the support amount that would have been awarded if the parties’ combined monthly net income was $30,000. The calculated amount is the presumptive minimum support amount.

(1)  The following formula shall be applied as a preliminary analysis in calculating the basic child support amount apportioned between the parties according to their respective monthly net incomes:

  • One child: $2,839 + 8.6% of combined monthly net income above $30,000.
  • Two children: $3,902 + 11.8% of combined monthly net income above $30,000.
  • Three children: $4,365 + 12.9% of combined monthly net income above $30,000.
  • Four children: $4,824 + 14.6% of combined monthly net income above $30,000.
  • Five children: $5,306 + 16.1% of combined monthly net income above $30,000.
  • Six children: $5,768 + 17.5% of combined monthly net income above $30,000;

(2)  The trier-of-fact shall apply the formulas in Pa.R.C.P. No. 1910.16-4(a)(1)(Part D) and (Part E) or (2)(Part II) and (Part III), adjusting for substantial or shared custody pursuant to Pa.R.C.P. No. 1910.16-4(c) and allocating additional expenses pursuant to Pa.R.C.P. No. 1910.16-6, as appropriate;

(3)  The trier-of-fact shall consider the factors in Pa.R.C.P. No. 1910.16-5 in making a final child support award and shall make findings of fact on the record or in writing. After considering the factors in Pa.R.C.P. No. 1910.16-5, the trier-of-fact may adjust the amount calculated pursuant to subdivisions (1) and (2), subject to the presumptive minimum.

(b)  Spousal Support and Alimony Pendente Lite. In cases in which the parties’ combined monthly net income exceeds $30,000, the trier-of-fact shall apply the formula in either Pa.R.C.P. No. 1910.16-4(a)(1)(Part B) or (2)(Part IV) as a preliminary analysis in calculating spousal support or alimony pendente lite. In determining the final spousal support or alimony pendente lite amount and duration, the trier-of-fact shall consider the factors in Pa.R.C.P. No. 1910.16-5 and shall make findings of fact on the record or in writing.

  • Enforcement

 Enforcement of support is rather straight forward.  The vast majority of support cases are enforced through the garnishment of wages/salary.  Garnishment is preferred by the law, but it is also preferred by most people in support cases, obligee and obligor alike.  Obligees prefer it as their support payments are not dependent upon the actions of the obligor.  As one may expect, sometimes an obligor may forget, or intentionally withhold payment, or need to pay it late, and so on, and obligees do well to avoid these vagaries.  A garnishment order makes the payment of support absolutely priority over all other non-tax obligations, and avoids the temptation for an obligor to prioritize other bills over his support obligation.  While garnishment is preferred, there are cases where it is not preferred or impossible to do, in which case the obligor must remit monthly payments to the Pennsylvania State Collection and Disbursement Unit in Harrisburg for it to distribute to the obligee.

The other typical method of enforcing a delinquent support order is through contempt actions for non-payment.  Contempt is, generally defined, as a willful defiance of a court order or a willful failure to comply with the terms of a court order.  Enforcement of support tends to be straight forward because the various aspects of a support case are fairly obvious and easily definable.  The obligor has an obligation to remit a certain amount of funds to the obligee at clearly laid out intervals (typically monthly).  Failure to meet the aforesaid obligation, in full and in a timely fashion, is to be in contempt of court.  If an obligor fails to fulfill his obligation under a support order, the obligee can file a motion for contempt and request sanctions and enforcement.  Contempt in the context of support is typically in matters where someone changes employment and does not inform the Court (and, thereby, undermining the garnishment order), where someone has to personally make the payments, and/or someone fails to comply with health insurance coverage requirements.

Contempt in a support matter carries with it two aspects one ought to keep in mind when considering pursuing a support action.  The first is a consideration of the obligor’s ability to perform the support order.  For one reason or another, a party in a support case is not always a as vigilant as he could be in filing for the modification of a support order.  So, for example, an obligor who loses his job (and neglects to modify his support obligation downward) may not, due to circumstances beyond his control, be able to satisfy his support obligation.  This sort of situation would unlikely, at least initially, lead to a finding of contempt as long as the obligor acts in good faith and makes reasonable efforts to pay child support.  The second consideration is the practical effect a finding of contempt may have on the obligor’s earning ability.  There are times where a judge will find the contempt of the support order to be so egregious that the obligor is penalized with incarceration.  While in the moment achieving some measure of justice may feel gratifying for an obligee, it is quickly realized that an obligor, in a typical case, will not be able to pay any support while incarcerated, and his ability to do so once released is diminished.  It is important to factor in the effect of incarceration on support before pursuing a contempt action in support.

If someone’s arrears amount to $500 or more, the Internal Revenue Service (“I.R.S.”) will deduct it from whatever tax refund the obligor is entitled to receive in what is called an “intercept.”

  • Termination of a Support Order

 When a typical support case terminates is fairly clear.  When the child turns eighteen (18) or graduates from high school (whichever is later) will be the date it terminates (unless the parties have agreed in writing to another date after age eighteen (18)).

Typically, when the eighteenth birthday of a child subject to a support order nears, the court will issue a letter inquiring as to when the child will emancipate (i.e.: turn eighteen (18) or graduate from high school).  The obligee is to respond to this letter and confirm the termination of the support order upon emancipation.  Unfortunately, courts tend to be overburdened (and do not send the letter in a timely fashion) and/or obligees uncooperative (and do not respond to the letter), as a result it is wise for obligors to file a Petition to Terminate support.  This should be filed sufficiently before the emancipation date in order to avoid an over payment.  At a hearing for a Petition to Terminate, the obligor must demonstrate that the child for whom support is being paid has been (or will be) emancipated.

There are cases where support can extend beyond traditional emancipation.  One way it can last beyond traditional emancipation is if there is an agreement between the parties to do that.  Another way is to demonstrate that the child for which support is being sought is disabled in some way which causes him to be unable to sustain himself as an adult.  In order to demonstrate disability, the obligee must present evidence from physicians and/or a mental health professional (and the like) to prove that the adult child needs continued support due to a disability.

Finally, it should be noted that even though a support order is “terminated,” all that means is that the accrual of the order stops.  The obligor will continue to be responsible for any arrearage after termination of the order, and the arrears will remain as a debt owed by the obligor until it is fully satisfied, even if that is long after the order is terminated.

  • Spousal Maintenance

 Maintenance is a colloquial term that typically refers to spousal support (“SS”) and/or alimony pendente lite (“APL”) and/or alimony.  While SS and APL greatly resemble one another, they do have some distinctions.

SS is the support one spouse is obliged to provide the other one if the other one is unable to be self-supporting.  SS can be awarded without an underlying divorce matter as long as, generally speaking, the estranged spouses do not live together.  By contrast, APL is support provided by one spouse to the other, who is unable to be self-supporting, during the pendency of a divorce matter, as long as, generally speaking, the estranged spouses do not live together.

Both APL and SS are calculated using the same formula.  The payment will amount to 40% of the difference of the parties’ incomes (or 30% if the SS/APL obligor is already paying the obligee child support).

Many people seem to approach SS/APL as a simple issue of determining which spouse has greater income/assets and, as a result, obtaining an order requiring that spouse to remit funds to the other.  While many cases can be that simple, they do not, and often are not, have to be quite that simple.  Merely having a lower income or fewer assets does not automatically entitle one to SS/APL; the analysis is a little more complex than that.

In order to receive SS or APL one must prove the assertions made in the typical petition for the same, which generally includes:

  • that the obligee cannot support himself (and/or cannot support himself during the course of the litigation);
  • that the obligee lacks sufficient property to meet reasonable needs and expenses;
  • that the obligee cannot support himself through appropriate employment;
  • that the obligee cannot afford necessary and reasonable attorneys’ fees for the underlying case.

As one can see, the focus of the assertions made revolve around the obligee’s ability to pay for and/or afford his reasonable needs and requires the other spouse to help subsidize those needs.

The concepts of “reasonable needs” and “supporting oneself” are vague on specifics and can differ widely depending on the person.  Some people may think a Spartan lifestyle is reasonable while others think having some luxury in one’s life is not unreasonable.  When discerning what needs are (un)reasonable and whether one can be self-supporting, the first place to look would be the established marital lifestyle as a general guideline.  The needs and expenses present in one’s life, which were funded as and by a couple, do not suddenly disappear when that couple separates.  Furthermore, the cost to pay for a married couple’s decision to buy a car or a house (of whatever value), for example, does not suddenly become unreasonably expensive when that couple separates.  To put it simply: the marital bills need to get paid.  Maintaining something similar to a marital lifestyle over the course of the divorce is something which SS/APL strives toward.

Although SS/APL is/are to help maintain reasonable needs and/or helping someone unable to support himself, this does not mean that the potential obligee is without financial responsibility, nor does it mean that one should (or even could) be immune from the negative financial effects that divorce (or separation) inevitably brings.  The focus is on what is “reasonable.”

In order to receive SS/APL one has to demonstrate an actual need for the money.  As a result, a look at the assets and income of the person seeking SS/APL is fair game when determining whether SS/APL is appropriate.  The goal is to help maintain a standard of living that is reasonably consistent with the standard established during the marriage and if the obligee can do that without any money from a potential obligor, then SS/APL may not be warranted.  Any financial discomfort caused by the separation can be remedied through the distribution of the marital assets in divorce.

Of course, the greater the disparity of assets and income is between the parties, the greater the likelihood SS/APL will be awarded as the ability for the potential obligee to maintain a marital standard of living becomes increasingly unlikely as that disparity widens.

There are other defenses to SS/APL other than arguments surrounding the concepts of “reasonable” and/or what it means to support oneself; by contrast, these other defenses are much more straight forward, though what they lack in legal complexity, they more than make up for in a potential for emotionality.

The first defense is that the parties were never married.  Only married people can collect SS or APL.  This is an obvious defense, perhaps, but there are still some people who can claim a common law marriage and/or seek annulments, and this defense would apply to those cases.

The other defense is to raise an old fashioned “fault” argument (it must be stressed that this is only a defense to SS and not APL).  Although rather uncommon in post-modern America, the law still allows for a traditional old fashioned divorce based on marital fault (23 Pa.C.S.A. §3301(a)).  The typical marital faults include adultery, abuse, and abandonment, among others.  If it can be proved that a potential obligee committed one of these faults, then it will disqualify him from receiving SS.

  • Support Miscellany

 These issues are included here as they did not have a natural or logical home in the materials above.

  • Child Support Cannot be Bargained Away

As with any sort of Court case, it is not uncommon for the parties to a support case to seek an agreed resolution as opposed to seeking an order from a Court after a hearing; however, a child support case as limitations to how much leeway or freedom a party has to enter into an agreement.

Pennsylvania Courts have, for the most part, deemed any agreement to bargain away a child’s right to support as against public policy and unenforceable; however there are a couple of exceptions. Pennsylvania Courts have found, time and again, that a child has a right to receive child support and that a parent does not have a right to enter into a contract to avoid ensuring the support of that child. It should be noted, also, that the Court has found (arguably through dicta) that, generally speaking, one cannot bargain away child support for a child resulting from a sexual relationship of any kind, including those involving so-called “one-night stands,” adultery or accidents (including when the woman deceives the man regarding her contraception use).

Despite the above, however, the Courts have been consistent in ruling that men who donate sperm to allow for conceptions which are the result of anonymous and artificial insemination are, by definition, free from the obligation to pay child support. Similarly, and rather interestingly, the Court recently ruled that men donating sperm for artificial insemination do not have to remain anonymous to the recipient of that sperm in order to be free from the obligation to pay support to the resulting child(ren). As long as the insemination process follows standard clinical procedures, the sperm donor will be free from the obligation to pay child support regardless of whether his identity is known to the mother.

Aside from artificial insemination, the only exception to the general ban on contracts that bargain away child support is an analysis into whether the child(ren) at issue are actually being supported without the potentially requested child support. The Court has implied that the rule is not that one cannot bargain away child support but whether one can bargain away “adequate” child support. Of course, precisely what makes support adequate is decided on a case-by-case basis and depends on the economic realities for all of the parties involved. Therefore, a noncustodial parent can be released from the obligation to pay child support so long as the contract to do so was fair and reasonable, without fraud and coercion, and, most importantly, does not prejudice the welfare of the child(ren) at issue.

  • Who pays and who collects child support?

For the vast majority of cases, the primarily custodial biological parent is entitled to support while the partial custodial biological parent is obliged to pay it.  Adoptive parents, and step-parents and/or anyone else who assumes an in loco parentis role, are treated just like their biological parents counterparts in terms of entitlement and obligation.

There are very rare cases when a primary custodial parent pays child support to a partial custodial parent, but this is only when the income/wealth disparity between the two (with the partial custodian having less wealth than the primary) is so tremendously great that it would be against the best interests of the child(ren) to make the partial custodian become even more comparatively impoverished while the primary custodian amasses even more wealth.

Of course, if the parties both live in the same house and the person from whom support is sought pays the household expenses, no order will be entered.

America Is Intolerably Intolerant

A nation devoid of grace immiserates its people.

When you think of the sheer vindictiveness of what happened to Oklahoma quarterback Kyler Murray, it takes your breath away. On the very night of his greatest career triumph, a reporter dug up his old tweets (composed when he was a young teenager), reported on the most offensive insults, and immediately and irrevocably transformed his online legacy. Now he’s not just “Kyler Murray, gifted quarterback and humble Heisman winner,” but also the man who was forced to apologize for his alleged homophobia. And for what purpose? Which cause did the reporter advance? Where was the cultural gain in Murray’s pain?

The incidents happen so fast, and the firings are so quick, that they start to blur together. Can you remember November’s victims? October’s? Who lost their jobs this summer? Who was forced to apologize this spring?

In other words, if you’re in the middle of the shame storm, you can only take it. Even the act of self-defense magnifies the incident and magnifies the harm. It’s as if one doesn’t just wear the scarlet letter: It’s tattooed on one’s forehead in ever-brighter and bolder shades the longer the controversy endures.

I know that complex social phenomena have multiple and complex causes, but consider the terrible surge in teen depression and suicides — a surge that led Jean Twenge to ask in The Atlantic, “Have Smartphones Destroyed a Generation?” She tracks the tipping point at the moment when smartphone ownership became ubiquitous with young Americans. In 2012, the percentage of Americans who owned smartphones passed 50 percent. In 2012, the mental health of teenagers declined dramatically.

Of course, the “smartphone” is a stand-in for what’s on the phone, and what’s on the phone is a stunning amount of fury and intolerance. Look, for example, at this chart of political hatred in the United States, from the new book Prius or Pickup: How the Answers to Four Simple Questions Explain America’s Great Divide:

Teen depression, adult political anger, adult “deaths of despair,” shame campaigns — I don’t think we can look at any of these things entirely in isolation. Instead, I see them as symptoms of a post-Christian America that has become intolerably intolerant. It is a society without grace. It’s a society that’s all too often devoid of mercy — or in which the merciful don’t have nearly the same cultural power as the merciless.

Human beings need forgiveness like we need oxygen. The thing that is so shattering about the shame storm is that it is usually grounded in something a person did wrong — even if it’s a minor transgression. Even if it’s just momentary thoughtlessness. Even if it’s just a tweet. In her essay, Andrews described how the attack from her boyfriend was grounded in her very real mistreatment of him during their relationship. Take any given controversy, and you’ll usually find that the person at the center isn’t proud of what they did. They wish they hadn’t done it. At some level, the person at the center of the shame storm is also ashamed of themselves.

Oh, we can “do justice” — with vindictive glee. But are we kind? Do we have the slightest trace of humility? As any Christian who grew up in the bonds of fundamentalist legalism can tell you, justice untempered by mercy grinds the human heart into dust. And now we’re besieged by a secular fundamentalism that positively delights in inflicting pain on its enemies.

Of course we can and should disagree — even sharply — with bad ideas, but we should take very great care before any person uses the power of their platform — great or small — to attempt to humiliate another human being. Criticism can be conducted with respect and with the humble awareness that our own mistakes are ample and easily found. In fact, it’s hard to improve on Helen Andrews’s wise counsel:

The solution, then, is not to try to make shame storms well targeted, but to make it so they happen as infrequently as possible. Editors should refuse to run stories that have no value except humiliation, and readers should refuse to click on them. It is, after all, the moral equivalent of contributing your rock to a public stoning. We should all develop a robust sense of what is and is not any of our business. Shame can be useful — and even necessary — but it is toxic unless a relationship exists between two people first. A Twitter mob is no more a basis for salutary shaming than an actual mob is for reasoned discussion. That would be true even if the shaming’s relics were not preserved forever by Google, making any kind of rehabilitation impossible.

Or, perhaps it is better to end less with an exhortation than a warning — one grounded in ancient truth: “For with the judgment you pronounce you will be judged, and with the measure you use it will be measured to you.” An intolerant nation is a miserable nation. Only forgiveness can light the trail out of the darkness.

By David French and published in National Review on December 12, 2019 and can be found here.

 

Shame Storm

After a lifetime of impeccably correct opinions, Ian Buruma found himself on the wrong side of the liberal consensus in September 2018, when he was forced to resign as editor of the New York Review of Books for having commissioned a piece called “Reflections from a Hashtag” from the disgraced Canadian broadcaster Jian Ghomeshi. One does not get to be editor of the NYRB without having filament-like sensitivity to the boundaries of acceptable opinion. Buruma’s virtuosic handling in 2007 of the controversy over his New York Times Magazineprofile of Tariq Ramadan, in which he wrote indulgently of his subject’s radical Islamic views—and scathingly of Ayaan Hirsi Ali’s secularist opposition to them—was a model of politically correct equipoise. If Buruma was caught flat-footed this time, it must be the times that have changed.

Unlike Leon Wieseltier, Lorin Stein, ­Garrison Keillor, John Hockenberry, Ryan Lizza, or any of the other editors and journalists who have lost their jobs in the last twelve months due to the movement known as #MeToo, Buruma was not accused of any sexual misconduct. His crime was to give space in his magazine to a man who had been accused (but not, in any of four court cases, convicted) of sexual harassment and non-consensual roughness during sex. Buruma told Slate in an interview five days before his resignation, “I think nobody has quite figured out what should happen in cases like his, where you have been legally acquitted but you are still judged as undesirable in public opinion, and how far that should go, how long that should last.”

Too true, as Buruma found out to his cost. No one has yet figured out what rules should govern the new frontiers of public shaming that the Internet has opened. New rules are obviously required. Shame is now both global and permanent, to a degree ­unprecedented in human history. No more moving to the next town to escape your bad name. However far you go and however long you wait, your disgrace is only ever a Google search away. Getting a humiliating story into the papers used to require convincing an editor to run it, which meant passing their standards of newsworthiness and corroborating evidence. Those gatekeepers are now gone. Most attempts so far to devise new rules have taken ideology as their starting point: Shaming is okay as long as it’s directed at men by women, the powerless against the powerful. But that doesn’t address what to do afterward, if someone is found to have been wrongfully shamed, or when someone rightfully shamed wants to put his life back together.

In the essay that got Buruma fired, Ghomeshi claims to have been a pioneer in online shaming. “There are lots of guys more hated than me now. But I was the guy everyone hated first.” Actually, a better candidate for original victim is Justine Sacco, the PR executive who tweeted to her 170 Twitter followers before getting on a plane to Cape Town, “Going to Africa. Hope I don’t get AIDS. Just kidding. I’m white!” It was during the Christmas holidays when news is always slow, so a Gawker post about the tweet quickly went viral. People around the world were soon enjoying the suspense of knowing Sacco was on a plane with no Internet access and no way to know that she had become an object of global ridicule. That was in December 2013, almost a year before the Ghomeshi story broke.

And before that, in the Precambrian era of online shaming, there was me.

In October 2010, I appeared on a panel to promote a book of essays by young conservatives, Proud to Be Right: Voices of the Next Conservative Generation. The moderator was Jonah Goldberg. One of the other panelists was my ex-boyfriend Todd Seavey. During the Q&A, Todd launched into a rant about my personal failings. He accused me of opposing Obamacare on the grounds that it would diminish human suffering, which allegedly I preferred to increase; of wanting to repeal laws against fistfights for the same reason; of being a sadistic and scheming heartbreaker in my personal life; and of generally living according to a “disturbing” and “brutal” set of values. For three minutes and forty-five seconds, which, unfortunately for me, were captured on film for broadcast two weeks later on C-SPAN2, he made an impassioned case that I was a sociopath.

Todd is not a psychologist, but a psychologist with no evidence to go on except my treatment of Todd might well have arrived at the same conclusion. I treated him awfully. I can only plead in mitigation that I was twenty-two. Todd is from Connecticut and has that charming New England stolidity, and I behaved as if his patience, which seemed so infinite when we were dating, really had no limits. The bit about opposing Obamacare because I favored human suffering was outlandish, and other parts of his rant were not quite how I remembered things, but everything he said, he really believed, and he had arrived at those beliefs by a hard road.

I braced myself for the broadcast. Maybe no one would notice? Within minutes, the offending clip had been posted on YouTube, where it got half a million hits in the first forty-eight hours. It made the evening news on Washington’s Fox affiliate. Greg Gutfeld did a segment about it on RedEye. It was written up in Gawker, the Washington Post, Talking Points Memo, and a hundred lesser sites, and then written up again when Todd expanded his remarks about me into a ­series of blog posts on his personal website. My inbox exploded with media inquiries, none of which I answered, except to give a short statement to Mary Katharine Ham at the Daily Caller:

I wish I could say it was all a plan hatched by our new media consultant, who told us we had to “think outside the box” to make our C-SPAN panel “go viral,” but no, it is exactly what it looks like.

As a matter of policy, I don’t comment on my personal life in public, but I will clarify that his tirade thoroughly mischaracterizes my political views. For instance, I do not believe that laws against assault should be repealed—nor do I think there should be an exception in cases when one’s ex-boyfriend behaves unacceptably on national television, though I admit that’s a tougher question. Nor do I oppose Obamacare for the contorted reason he states—I oppose it for the usual reasons.

To the personal friends who emailed commiserations, I replied with an old Aaron Sorkin line about bad publicity: “It’s like seasickness. You think you’re gonna die, and everyone else just thinks it’s funny.”

That, it turned out, was overly optimistic. Everyone at work was supportive (“if you want us to form the committee to horsewhip todd seavey, just say the word,” one colleague emailed, bless him), but no amount of support could counteract the paranoia that settled in over the next weeks and months. My colleagues probably didn’t believe the woman they worked alongside was secretly a comic-book ­villain—but surely the suspicion had been planted? I never knew whether someone on the subway was giving me a second glance because he knew me, or because he recognized me from the video. Fellow journalists reported back to me from conferences where Todd expatiated on my depravity at length—in one case, before an audience that included my boss. An old friend called to say he had posted a supportive comment about me at the New Republic and shortly after received an email from Todd, who had guessed his identity from his screen name, explaining all the reasons I did not deserve to be defended. I wondered how many such incidents I never heard about.

I tried to process the experience intellectually. I read Lord Jim and The House of Mirth. No grand lesson presented itself, which, in a way, was lucky. It meant there was no ideological interpretation I could superimpose on my experience, which would have slowed my progress toward acceptance by allowing me to indulge in resentment and indignation. I couldn’t tell myself it had happened because I was a woman. Had the genders been reversed, I probably would have received less sympathy than I did. I could not blame society, or C-SPAN, or ­Jonah Goldberg. A year and a half later, when I was looking for a new job, I could not even blame the prospective employers who demonstrated a marked reluctance to bring me in for interviews. If I had to choose between a candidate whom no one had ever called a sociopath on national television, and one who probably wasn’t a psycho but might be, I would play it safe, too, even if the probability was only a fraction of a percent.

In 2012, I decided I would rather be Lord Jim than Lily Bart, so I accepted an offer from my boyfriend (now husband) to move with him to Australia—the best decision I ever made. On my last night in New York, in a burst of either sentimentality or bravado, I called Todd. We met in Midtown for a drink, and I found, to my surprise, that there was nothing I particularly wanted to say to him. If I was looking for some kind of closure, I wasn’t ready for it yet. In the end I had only one question for him: When we were chatting in the courtyard before the panel, was it some kind of deliberate foreshadowing when he mentioned how much he always liked Pink Floyd’s The Wall and started singing a song from the album that goes, “Since, my friend, you have revealed your deepest fear, I sentence you to be exposed before your peers”? He said it was just a coincidence.

Moving to the other side of the world did not diminish the video’s place in my life as much as I thought it would. It was still the first result when you Googled my name, which presumably is one reason I couldn’t find a job for the first eighteen months. Eventually, I found a position at a think tank. When I released my first report, an Australian MP tweeted a link to the video and asked why anyone should care about this nutcase’s opinions on regulation. Even after I got married and took my husband’s last name, the video still popped up on social media when I did a TV appearance or had an op-ed in the paper. In 2017, when I moved back to Washington, D.C., and started meeting some of the younger writers in town, it took them less than a week to find the clip and ask me about it. Most of them had been in high school when it happened.

In a funny coincidence, the day I began writing this essay, my husband was attending a conference of free-market activists when his lunch table started talking about bad breakups in the conservative movement. One man pulled out his iPhone and said, “If you want to talk about bad conservative breakups, you have to see this.” He put the phone away when Tim told him that the woman in the video was his wife. That was eight years and twenty-one days since the broadcast first aired.

There is a celebrity fashion blog called Go Fug Yourself that specializes—or specialized back in 2011, the one and only time I visited the site—in unflattering paparazzi shots and red carpet disasters. The odd thing about Go Fug Yourself, I discovered, was that all its nastiest posts featured the same tic. After unloading whatever brutal snark she had for Jennifer Lawrence or whomever, the writer would always include the same disclaimer: A celebrity has one job, and that’s to look glamorous, so if you can’t manage the one thing you owe us in exchange for all the money and fame, then find another line of work, and until then lay off the cheeseburgers and hire a decent stylist. This dime-store Joan Rivers can’t think she’s fooling anyone, I thought as I scrolled through the archives to see if every post really included this lame moral alibi. Her motivation has nothing to do with celebrities falling short of their duty to the public. She’s making fun of ugliness for the same reason anyone does: It stimulates our lizard brains.

People who read the Atlantic are smarter than the readers of Go Fug Yourself, but sometimes smarter people don’t make better decisions; they just come up with better excuses. Kevin Williamson was fired by the Atlantic in April 2018 over an unearthed audio recording in which he said that abortion was a form of murder and should carry the same punishment, up to and including the death penalty. The aspect of the resulting Twitter storm that surprised me was not the way his statement was warped out of context into a defense of lynch justice for pregnant teenagers but the purported concern for his female coworkers. “How can you say that you want a workplace that values women when you hire someone who wants 25% of those women dead?” asked feminist Jessica Valenti. When Williamson’s firing was announced, in a memo that made delicate reference to “the values of our workplace,” Valenti responded, “I am very relieved for the women who work at the magazine.”

At the risk of insulting the reader: No one actually believed Williamson was a threat to his female colleagues. It was only a pretext for what was really an exercise in raw power. People made the same kind of excuses when it was my turn in the dunk tank. Again and again, I read commenters insisting that what might at first glance appear to be prurient gossip was, in fact, fair political commentary, because I was a family-values scold and thus open to charges of hypocrisy, or because I was a hard-core Randian who needed a lesson in the dog-eat-dog heartlessness advocated by my idol. As far as I can tell, these characterizations were extrapolated from the fact that I worked at National Review. Certainly, they had no basis in anything I’d written (an Objectivist, really?).

The more online shame cycles you observe, the more obvious the pattern becomes: Everyone comes up with a principled-sounding pretext that serves as a barrier against admitting to themselves that, in fact, all they have really done is joined a mob. Once that barrier is erected, all rules of decency go out the window, but the pretext is almost always a lie. ­Matthew Yglesias once claimed that the reason he mocked David Brooks for his divorce was because Brooks had written columns about the social value of marriage, but I do not believe him. He did it because it’s fun to humiliate your political opponents. Moira Donegan claims that she created the Shitty Media Men List—a clearinghouse of anonymous accusations optimally parked for maximum dissemination in the Google Spreadsheet cloud—for altruistic reasons and with no thought of its being used to hurt anyone, but I do not believe her. If it was about protecting women in media from harassment, then why no attempt to sort the true accusations from the false? Why the coy protestations that “I thought that the document would not be made public,” when of course she knew that it would be spread far and wide, or she wouldn’t have bothered creating it?

Donegan’s defenders do not behave like people interested in finding the truth. They stirred up a Twitter mob against Katie Roiphe before her Harper’s piece about the Shitty Media Men List was even published. Claims to be motivated by concern about possible backlash against Donegan, if Roiphe revealed her as the creator of the list, were more than a little disingenuous. Since being outed, Donegan has gotten a book deal with Simon & Schuster and a regular column in the Guardian, which is precisely what anyone could have predicted. When John Hockenberry, also in Harper’s, wrote about his experience being #MeToo’d out of his job at NPR, admitting some charges and explaining why he thought others were bogus, his detractors did not bother refuting his case. They simply ridiculed him. And no one has offered him a book deal.

In Trust Me, I’m Lying: Confessions of a Media Manipulator, Ryan Holiday’s memoir of his years as a PR consultant, he describes a roundtable meeting at the Huffington Post where the editors discussed how a certain big company should have handled its recent PR crisis. The editors offered the usual bromides: “Transparency is critical.” “Be proactive.” “Get out in front of it.” Holiday replied, “None of you know what you’re talking about.” The old rules don’t apply in the free-for-all world of online journalism, and they especially don’t work when the figure at the center of the controversy is one lonely individual. If a client came to him because he was being called a racist or sexist on Twitter, Holiday says (pardon the vulgarity), “I would tell him to bend over and take it. And then I’d apologize. I’d tell him the whole system is broken and evil, and I’m sorry it’s attacking him. But there’s nothing that can be done.”

Any attempt to defend yourself or clarify your original remarks is “the equivalent of a squeaky cry of, ‘Why is everyone making fun of me?!’ on the playground,” Holiday says. “Whether it happens in front of snarky blogs or a real-life bully, the result is the same: Everyone makes fun of you even more.” The idea that online shaming is a form of debate—or in any way oriented toward finding the truth—is a delusion. Dialogue is not the point. The day Brett ­Kavanaugh and Christine Blasey Ford testified before the Senate Judiciary Committee, the New Yorker—not Gawker, but the New Yorker—ran thirty-two Kavanaugh headlines in twenty-four hours, many of them on the subject of the nominee’s supposed whininess: “The Tears of Brett Kavanaugh”; “An Angry, Tearful Opening”; “Brett Kavanaugh’s ­Damaging, Revealing Partisan Bitterness”; “A Grotesque Display of Patriarchal Resentment.” The man had been accused of being a brutal rapist, and the most prestigious magazine in America ridiculed him for responding to the allegation as any innocent man would have. No, dialogue is not the point.

When I was debating whether or not to write this essay, which, after all, revisits an unpleasant incident that has long been at least semi-­dormant, if not quite forgotten, I saw a headline in the New York Times: “His Body Was Behind the Wheel a Week Before It Was Discovered.” The man, Geoffrey Corbis, had committed suicide in a parked car in the East Village. Only his name wasn’t really Geoffrey Corbis, the Times explained. He had been born Geoffrey Weglarz. He changed it after an incident in 2013 at a McDonald’s near his home in Connecticut, when he threw a sandwich at a pregnant server who had given him the wrong order. Newspaper coverage of this funny local fracas did not mention Weglarz’s recent divorce or long-term unemployment after leaving his job as a computer programmer at Dell. He couldn’t find work with the McDonald’s story at the top of his Google results, hence the attempt at a fresh start as Geoffrey Corbis.

It happens more often than you would think. At least half a dozen cases mentioned in Laws of ­Image: Privacy and Publicity in America, ­Samantha Barbas’s 2015 history of shame and libel, end with suicides. Jon Ronson’s So You’ve Been Publicly Shamed describes an English chef, living in France, who killed himself after his wife-swapping hobby was revealed by the News of the World. It also tells of a rural Welsh preacher who found himself the subject of a photo spread in the same publication for hosting an orgy in his caravan—after which he, too, killed himself. Most victims of public shaming aren’t nationally famous editors like Ian Buruma. They are ordinary folks like “ID Adam,” who lost his job at a box assembly company in Winston-Salem after reports that he racially profiled a black woman at a community pool. It turned out that he, as the pool chair on duty, had asked to see her ID, because, when signing in, she had given an address on a street in the neighborhood where no houses had yet been built. It took him days to get his side of the story into the papers, and it didn’t make him any less fired.

An essay about public shaming should have advice for those people, I thought. When I couldn’t think of any, I called Todd. He had, after all, suffered quite as much from the C-SPAN2 fallout as I had. He left his job at Fox—not right away, but after three months, when he refused to sign a statement from HR saying that such TV appearances were a violation of their “outside media” policy, even though they had never expressed a problem with his extracurricular projects before. Four years later, he returned to the NewsCorp building to film a segment on the Kennedyshow, only to be stopped in the lobby by security and told he was on a no-admit list. He makes a living as a ghostwriter now, and his book Libertarianism for Beginners was published to positive reviews in 2016. When I asked if he would do it over again if he had the choice, he said he is now a believer in handling things privately. “In the future, if I get married, if my wife stabs me, you won’t hear me shouting in public about it.”

“Things really can get so much bigger than you and your own efforts that you just kind of have to ride the wave,” Todd said. “I was obscure enough before that any public attention I got was the result of me trying really hard.” He told me he never expected the clip to go as viral as it did, “far beyond my ability to control or even monitor,” which sounded implausible—until I remembered just how unfamiliar these online shame cycles were in the years before Justine Sacco’s tweet. Todd thought he would say his piece—which, in his mind, was not just that I was a bad girlfriend, but that I had a “cruelty-based worldview” that future editors and employers should be warned against unwittingly promoting by giving me work—and that would be that.

Todd’s advice for our fellow-shamed was no better than mine. “When a tsunami is heading for your house, at a certain point you have to say, ‘I’m just gonna stand here and hold this piece of plywood and see what’s left standing when it’s all over.’” Arguing back is no use. “If you’re tweeting, you’re losing.” Even in the immediate aftermath of the C-SPAN2 incident, when Todd, on his blog, attempted to make his case at length against my evil beliefs, he saw his arguments get lost in the maelstrom—equally ignored by both supporters and detractors. If we had a breakthrough in our conversation, that was it: There is no content to a shame storm. It is mindless by its very nature. It is indifferent to truth, even in cases where the truth could possibly be determined. Therefore, like the Ring, it cannot be used for good.

The solution, then, is not to try to make shame storms well targeted, but to make it so they happen as infrequently as possible. Editors should refuse to run stories that have no value except humiliation, and readers should refuse to click on them. It is, after all, the moral equivalent of contributing your rock to a public stoning. We should all develop a robust sense of what is and is not any of our business. Shame can be useful—and even necessary—but it is toxic unless a relationship exists between two people first. A Twitter mob is no more a basis for salutary shaming than an actual mob is for reasoned discussion. That would be true even if the shaming’s relics were not preserved forever by Google, making any kind of rehabilitation impossible.

If Stephen Elliott has his way, would-be shamers will have to consult more than just their consciences. He is suing Moira Donegan for defamation over her media men list, in which his entry reads: “Rape accusations, sexual harassment, coercion, unsolicited invitations to his apartment, a dude who snuck into Binders???” (Binders is a Facebook group for women writers.) What it means to be accused of “rape accusations” will doubtless be clarified at trial. It sounds like the person who wrote this was speaking from rumor herself, which proves how cavalierly career-ending allegations of sexual assault are now thrown around. I have no legal opinion on whether Elliott’s lawsuit will be for #MeToo what Peter Thiel and Hulk Hogan’s heroic lawsuit was for Gawker, but, unless we all begin to respond more responsibly to public shaming, we can expect to see more attempts to (as President Trump put it) “open up our libel laws.”

As for the people who find themselves at the center of an online shaming, I can only report how I made peace with mine. Ironically, the disagreement that gave Todd the idea that I had a “cruelty-based worldview” was over my belief that suffering is sometimes necessary for personal growth, and an essential part of God’s plan for our salvation—a belief that, as a strict utilitarian, Todd completely rejects. We had a dozen fights about it. The irony, of course, is that there is no belief my brush with online shaming confirmed more. I had heard the maxim that there is no humility without humiliation—how true it proved. My first reaction to the video was to feel aggrieved, thinking that I did not deserve what was happening to me, but on the Day of Judgment all my sins will be shouted from the housetops, and Todd’s rant will sound like a retirement luncheon toast in comparison. Of course I deserved it, and worse; most of us poor sinners do.

Of all history’s martyrs to shame, the one whose example consoled me most was Oscar Wilde. He is remembered today as a gay rights pioneer, but, in the letters he wrote after his release from prison, he never rails against the injustice of the law that put him away. He did not think it was a good law, he simply believed that the justice or injustice of the charge against him was irrelevant. What mattered was that he had been rescued from his own pride and selfishness by his experience, when he could not have been saved by any gentler medicine. This lesson, which produced “The Ballad of Reading Gaol” (“I know not whether Laws be right, / Or whether Laws be wrong”), he put into plain prose in a letter written during his exile in July 1897. Sporus was the slave boy that emperor Nero freed and “married”:

To me, suffering seems now a sacramental thing, that makes those whom it touches holy. I think I am in many respects a much better fellow than I was, and I now make no more exorbitant claims on life: I accept everything. I am sure it is all right. I was living a life unworthy of an artist, and though I do not hold with the British view of morals that sets Messalina above Sporus, I see that any materialism in life coarsens the soul, and that the hunger of the body and the appetites of the flesh desecrate always, and often destroy. . . . I learnt many things in prison that were terrible to learn, but I learnt some good lessons that I needed.

The man to whom this letter was addressed was Carlos Blacker, who himself had fled England for France in 1890, when he was accused of being a card cheat. The charge against Blacker happened to be false, just as the charge against Wilde happened to be true, but that made no difference in the two men’s experiences. The truth that Wilde came to understand, which he shared with his fellow exile, was that they should accept their chastening in a spirit of gratitude. Nothing had been taken from them that would not be restored a hundredfold if they allowed their ­experience to do its redemptive work.

By Helen Andrews and published in January 2019 in First Things on and can be found here.

Cert. Denied In Challenge To High School Unit On Islam

This is from religionclause.blogspot.com which you can find here:

On Tuesday, the U.S. Supreme Court denied review in Wood v. Arnold, (Docket No. 18-1438, certiorari denied 10/15/2019). (Order List.)   In the case, the 4th Circuit Court of Appeals rejected a high school student’s Establishment Clause and compelled speech challenges to a classroom unit on The Muslim World.  One challenge was to the teacher’s Power Point slide which included the statement that most Muslims’ faith is stronger than that of the average Christian.  The other challenge was to the requirement on a work sheet for the student to fill in two words of the shahada. (See prior posting.) The Free Thinker blog has more on the case.

You can learn more about this issue here.

Family Law Tip: What Happens When Someone Dies During a Divorce?

I post some tips regarding family to my Linkedin page (see here) from time to time, and I thought I should start sharing them here too. Below is one of my family law tips, and you can read my articles on family law here and other posts on family law here and all are cataloged here.

It Shouldn’t Be This Easy to Fool the Academic Left

Somehow it is fitting that the most extraordinary academic hoax of our time would deal with dog parks, dildos, Hooters, masturbation, fat shaming, and a feminist Mein Kampf.

In a prank that is alternately hilarious, appalling, and disturbing, three puckish academics managed to place no fewer than seven “shoddy, absurd, unethical” articles in “respectable” academic journals that trafficked in the growing field of grievance studies—a field that includes gender and queer studies, critical race theory and a variety of post-modern constructivist theories now fashionable in the humanities and social sciences. If nothing else, they demonstrated that academic leftism is a target ripe for ridicule as well as outrage.

As they note in their paper, “ Academic Grievance Studies and the Corruption of Scholarship,” the seven fake papers were the “tip of the iceberg” of sophistry in the hyper-ideological swamps of academia.

The absurdity of the paper was first highlighted by the twitter account known as @RealPeerReview, which exposes a wide range of junk scholarship (if you don’t follow it, you really ought to.) When the Wall Street Journal and others began sniffing around to ascertain the authorship of the piece, however, the gig was up and the three hoaxers decided to come clean. They admitted that they were also behind the “nutty and inhumane” idea to make white male students sit on the floor as a form of reparations, a paper that explored why straight men “rarely anally self-penetrate using sex toys,” and had even gotten a paper accepted in a feminist journal that was actually a chapter from Mein Kampf, “with fashionable buzzwords switched in.”

In addition to the seven papers that were accepted, they had another three accepted but not published; another seven were “still in play,” and only six had been rejected by peer reviewers.

Their success had been was so spectacular—and the results so farcical—that Harvard’s Yascha Mounck has labeled the grievance study hoax “Sokal Squared,” a reference to what, until now, had been academia’s most elaborate ruse.

On May 18, 1996, the New York Times broke the story that one of the trendiest, most prestigious academic journals in the country had been the victim of an elaborate hoax. The journal Social Text had published a lengthy post-modernist critique of science, unaware that the whole thing was a parody, a complete spoof of academia’s “self-indulgent nonsense.”

The article, written by a physicist named Alan Sokal was “a hodgepodge of supported statements, outright mistakes, and impenetrable jargon,” wrote the editors of Lingua Franca, the journal that exposed the prank. Filled with references to “hip theorists” like Jacques Derrida, it was “full of nonsense and errors.” But it had been published nonetheless.

Hilarity ensued as the implications of the prank became clear not least because it seemed to confirm suspicions that beneath the academic gibberish lurked … well, just gibberish.

But the latest attempt to expose academic drivel is in some ways more ambitious, because rather than simply relying on word salads of jargon, the authors, Helen Pluckrose, James A. Lindsay, and Peter Boghossian, set out to mimic the mind-set of the “identitarian madness coming out of the academic and activist left.”

They began each paper with a bizarre or outrageous thesis—that astronomy is sexist, or that men should be trained as dogs—but hijacked the logic, language, and dogmas of existing grievance literature to support their claims. The papers were notable for their shoddiness and preposterousness, but—and here was the key—they fit seamlessly into what passes for scholarship in the world of grievance studies.

“While our papers are all outlandish or intentionally broken in significant ways, it is important to recognize that they blend in almost perfectly with others in the disciplines under our consideration,” they explained. “As we progressed, we started to realize that just about anything can be made to work, so long as it falls within the moral orthodoxy and demonstrates understanding of the existing literature.”

So, for example, they wanted to see if they could get a respected journal to “publish papers that seek to problematize heterosexual men’s attraction to women and will accept very shoddy qualitative methodology and ideologically-motivated interpretations which support this.” Again, success—the journal Sex Roles published “An Ethnography of Breastaurant Masculinity: Themes of Objectification, Sexual Conquest, Male Control, and Masculine Toughness in a Sexually Objectifying Restaurant,” in which the (fake) authors argued that men go to Hooters “because they are nostalgic for patriarchal dominance and enjoy being able to order attractive women around.”

Because the three pranksters wanted to see if they see if they could get journals to accept arguments “which are ludicrous and positively dangerous to health if they support cultural constructivist arguments around body positivity and fatphobia,” they wrote a paper arguing for the sport of “fat bodybuilding.” It was duly published in Fat Studies.

And the journal Sexuality and Culture eagerly accepted a piece on sex toys—“Going in Through the Back Door: Challenging Straight Male Homohysteria and Transphobia through Receptive Penetrative Sex Toy Use” that concluded that the male reluctance to use dildos was “actually homophobic, transphobic, and anti-feminist.”

But their pièce de résistance was their success in getting the journal Affilia to publish a rewrite of a chapter of Mein Kampf by titling it “Our Struggle is My Struggle: Solidarity Feminism as an Intersectional Reply to Neoliberal and Choice Feminism,” and leavening it with feminist jargon to distract from its Hitlerian antecedents.

Beneath the merriment, the authors made a deadly serious point. “The problem we’ve been studying is of the utmost relevance to the real world and everyone in it,” they write. Much of the work now being produced by academia’s growing and voluble grievance industry, “is positively horrifying and surreal while exerting considerable influence on the field and beyond.”

Pluckrose, Lindsay and Boghossian—who are all self-proclaimed liberals—warn progressives who care about advancing social justice, that “these fields of study do not continue the important and noble liberal work of the civil rights movements; they corrupt it while trading upon their good names to keep pushing a kind of social snake oil onto a public that keeps getting sicker.”

Something has gone wrong in the university—especially in certain fields within the humanities. Scholarship based less upon finding truth and more upon attending to social grievances has become firmly established, if not fully dominant, within these fields, and their scholars increasingly bully students, administrators, and other departments into adhering to their worldview. This worldview is not scientific, and it is not rigorous….

This makes the problem a grave concern that’s rapidly undermining the legitimacy and reputations of universities, skewing politics, drowning out needed conversations, and pushing the culture war to ever more toxic and existential polarization.

The whistleblowers called on universities to launch a “thorough review,” of all of the fields suffused with grievance studies “in order to separate knowledge-producing disciplines and scholars from those generating constructivist sophistry.”

But such sustained introspection or reformation seem unlikely, given the arc of academia’s new orthodoxies, which are regarded as authoritative in so many disciplines. Reaction from the academic left has been predictable, with the authors attacked as part of a racist, sexist, homophobic, and transphobic right-wing assault on legitimate scholarship. Feminist scholar Alison Phipps issued a call via twitter (which has since been deleted) for her fellow academics to “please stand by colleagues in Gender Studies/Critical Race Studies/Fat Studies & other areas targeted by this journal article hoax. This is a coordinated attack from the right.” A critique in Slate also downplayed the gravity of the hoax and questioned why the story would be released “in the midst of the Kavanaugh imbroglio—a time when the anger and the horror of male anxiety is so resplendent in the news.”

Academia’s professional response to the whistleblowers is likely to be even harsher. The Wall Street Journal notes that it is likely the hoax will result in the academic ex-communication of the three scholars.

Mr. Boghossian doesn’t have tenure and expects the university will fire or otherwise punish him. Ms. Pluckrose predicts she’ll have a hard time getting accepted to a doctoral program. Mr. Lindsay said he expects to become “an academic pariah,” barred from professorships or publications.

Even so, Lindsay thinks it was all worth it, telling the Journal’s Jillian Kay Melchior, “For us, the risk of letting biased research continue to influence education, media, policy and culture is far greater than anything that will happen to us for having done this.”

By Charles J. Sykes, published in The Weekly Standard on October 8, 2019 and can be found here.

James W. Cushing, Esquire on the Law and Business Podcast: Judges and Bringing Cases to Settlement

Anthony Verna, Esquire, (of Vernal Law), a reputable copyright lawyer in New York, is the host of a podcast called The Law and Business Podcast (you can find it here).

We sat down for a half hour to discuss the role of judges in bringing cases to settlement.

You can listen to (and hopefully enjoy!) the podcast here!

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