After every presidential election since the first one in which I got to vote, I have posted some thoughts on this blog or in various other places on the ‘net. You can read the 2004, 2008, and 2012 posts on this site; the 2000 post and a longer 2004 post have apparently been lost to the mists of time. This is my 2016 wrap-up.
Like most of the country, I was stunned by the candidates’ reversals of fortune over the course of the evening. Like many others, I sat and watched the live forecast by the New York Times update, amazed as the needles on the win-probability, popular-vote, and electoral-college gauges ticked slowly, inexorably to the right. And like many others, I am now exhausted physically from a late night and exhausted emotionally from witnessing what will surely be remembered as one of the most amazing political events in American history.
Beyond that, though? I really don’t have much to say. I’m not happy about many of the results that we saw last night, but it has been almost a year since I had much hope of that. My musings won’t add much to anyone’s ability to process what has happened.
So, instead of waxing on, I’ll point everyone to some essential reading material as we all try to move forward, to comprehend what just happened, and to continue to function as a people. Some of it addresses Christians, some the broader “right,” and some attempts to speak to everybody. Regardless of a particular piece’s target audience, if you want to understand what is motivating millions of Americans, including those you don’t know and don’t see everyday, I’d suggest reading everything below.
- Hillbilly Elegy: A Memoir of a Family and Culture in Crisis, by J.D. Vance—a truly excellent book that I am working through now. It is obvious that this is going to be required reading before anyone can conduct a real, complete, and informed autopsy of last night’s results. See also Vance’s short reaction piece in the New York Times today, Outside the Liberal Bubble.
- Votes and Prayers, by yours truly—a shameless plug for my own pre-election musings on this site on the topics of voting and praying for our country.
- May God Bless President Trump, by David French—thoughts by attorney, writer, and major in the United States Army Reserve David French, who briefly considered running as a third-party candidate in opposition to Trump, and whose family has faced withering attacks and bigotry from many different directions over the last year. h/t Andy Naselli
- Dear America, This Is Important — Trump Did Not Win Because of Racism, also by David French—digging into the data. While it’s important not to put too much weight on exit polls, the data do tell a story, and that story needs to be part of the discussion.
- Some late-night thoughts about the most stunning election of my lifetime, by Denny Burk, theologian and professor. h/t Andy Naselli
- Two Concerns for the Religious Right Under President Trump, by Collin Hansen, editorial director for The Gospel Coalition. h/t Andy Naselli
- President Trump: Now What For the Church?, by Russell Moore, President of the Southern Baptist Convention’s Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission.
- Bonus 1: Watch the Erasmus Lecture delivered recently by Dr. Moore on the topic, Can the Religious Right Be Saved?
- Bonus 2: Listen to Pastor Nathan Lino preach a two-part sermon series on how Christians should think about electoral politics as exiles in this world. Part 1, Part 2
Please pray for America and all her leaders. They need it.
I voted today, on the first day of early voting in Texas. Now, don’t worry; I’m not going to tell you in this post how I think you should vote. (I literally am not allowed to endorse candidates for any office because of my job.) I’m also not going to tell you how not to vote. Instead, I’m going to tell a little story. Actually, I’m going to preach a little sermon to myself. And I’m asking you to read it, so you can preach it back to me when I need it.
I have not been posting about all of the traumatic news in recent days—whether political news or news of acts of violence—for a variety of reasons. One of those reasons is that, in my current full-time job, I am a public servant who cannot, for ethical reasons, comment every time I might want to do so. Various ethical and disciplinary rules mean that I simply cannot comment at all on certain topics. On other topics, my commentary would have to be incomplete and might be misleading or confusing. So, unfortunately, I often have to stay silent, in exchange for the great and humbling privilege of working in the Texas justice system every day, in hopes of contributing to the proper, fair application of the law.
If you read this blog or my social media feeds and wonder why I have been silent about these topics, please know that my heart is broken by the news of violence and mayhem over the last few days. There are no words for the senseless violence we have seen in numerous places in the U.S., tonight in Nice, France, and in countless other locales around the world. Whether we are talking about large-scale terrorist attacks, armed conflict, or violence against specific individuals, there is plenty of news over which all of us who respect and cherish life—regardless of political party, race, ethnicity, nationality, gender, religion, or sexual orientation—can and should mourn together. In this fallen and hurting world, sometimes that is the best and most important thing we can do in moments like these.
Please join me in praying for wisdom for our leaders, for peace, for healing for the hurting, and for justice to be done. Lord, have mercy.
I have mostly kept quiet this year about the election, for a variety of reasons. For those reasons and other reasons, this may well be my only election-related post during this presidential election. But, I have something to say and want to get it on the record now, before Super Tuesday and the Texas primary. So, here goes.
This year is likely to result in the most distressing lineup of general-election candidates to be President of the United States that we have seen during my lifetime. It seems highly likely that, come November, we will be asked to choose between two or more candidates who, apparently, either do not understand or do not take seriously the office of President and its duties and limitations as set out in the Constitution.
As Americans—regardless of where we fall on (or off) of the left-right spectrum—we should expect and demand that a President, or even a candidate for President, do certain things and uphold certain values. After all,
Before he enter on the Execution of his Office, [the President] shall take the following Oath or Affirmation:—”I do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will faithfully execute the Office of President of the United States, and will to the best of my ability, preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States.”
This is not a mere formality or afterthought. It’s a formal, explicit requirement in the Constitution, Article II, Section 1, Clause 8. In other words, it’s important.
And, as you know, the Constitution of the United States includes, among many other things, a Bill of Rights, consisting of the first ten Amendments to the Constitution. These Amendments protect and codify—but do not create—certain fundamental human rights, which any American government and any American President must—legally must and morally must—respect. These include the free choice and exercise of religion; freedom of speech; freedom of the press; freedom “peaceably to assemble;” freedom to petition the government to redress grievances; “the right of the people to keep and bear Arms;” security against unreasonable searches, seizures, and arrests; the right to a jury trial; the right not to testify when doing so would incriminate oneself; and many others.
In electing a President, only two things are of first importance to me (or should should be to anyone else): (1) God’s claim on my conscience and (2) the Constitution. For this reason, I look for candidates who respect free speech and freedom of religion, who are not afraid of a free citizenry, and who will, above all else, respect the sanctity and dignity of all human life, from the weakest and smallest to the strongest and more powerful among us. I certainly look for conservatives and people of faith, but even those criteria are secondary to respect for human life and the rule of law. I cannot and will not vote for any candidate who does not respect humanity or human liberty or whose personal history and moral character reveal that any such respect may be no more than a political and rhetorical device.
To put it simply: a candidate for President must respect human life, human dignity, the Constitution, and the rule of law as opposed to the rule of men. All else is secondary.
The most notable development in this election cycle is the meteoric rise of Donald Trump as a contender for the Republican nomination. Trump, however, has long been a liberal supporter of Democratic candidates, not a conservative. He has long had no regard for the lives of the unborn or the rights of individuals to enjoy their property if it interferes with his plans (whether here or abroad). His supposed conversion to a conservative mindset that respects human life and dignity is very recent and poorly explained. His defense of critical liberties protected by the First and Second Amendments is spotty, at best. He flaunts his misogyny, claims not to know enough about the Ku Klux Klan to disavow an endorsement from former KKK grand wizard David Duke, and engages in daily bullying and name-calling on the internet. (I’m simply linking to his entire Twitter feed because it contains plenty of examples.) In short, he consistently disrespects those he would lead, even after his purported conversion to conservatism, and he falls far short of being the kind of person I could vote for to be President.
Regardless of how Trump stacks up compared to any other candidate he might hypothetically face in November, he doesn’t measure up and has not demonstrated to me that he possesses the personal qualities, convictions, or moral compass necessary to do the job. So, if Trump is the Republican nominee, conservatives will not be tasked with choosing the “lesser of two evils” or the least ill-suited candidate. We will face a choice between one form of unqualified, irresponsible, unconstitutional governance and another. As a Christian, an American, a lawyer, and a citizen of this great nation, I cannot vote for anyone who lacks respect for human dignity or the law of the land simply because some opponent of his seems to share the same failings.
As any reader of this site over the 17 years I have run it will know, I am a conservative, in the sense that Burke, Kirk, and Reagan (among many others) were conservative. That does not mean I am a Republican. In fact, although I would have called myself a Republican in the past, I don’t consider myself one anymore. It’s one of those “I didn’t leave the party; the party left me” situations. I, like so many other people, am incredibly frustrated by both major parties, “politics as usual,” and the moral malleability of many career politicians. So while Republicans may often get my vote, they are not entitled to it simply because of the initial after their names. They, like anyone else, have to earn it on the merits of their convictions and their actions.
I will vote in the Texas primary elections tomorrow, and I will vote according to my conscience. When I vote in November, I will vote the same way, guided by the same conscience and the same principles. Therefore, I will not vote for Donald Trump tomorrow. He fails on the most basic criteria: respect for human life and dignity, and respect for the Constitution.
And if common sense fails and Trump is the Republican nominee, I will not vote for him in November, either. My conscience will not allow it. I would love to see a constitutionalist President who is conservative, reverent, humble, good, fair, and courageous. Simply electing a Republican because he obtained the Republican nomination, however, does not guarantee any of those things.
If your state has not yet held its primary or caucus, I hope you will take seriously your civic responsibility to vote. I hope that you will vote, and that you will vote according to your conscience. And I hope that, when you do so but before you cast your ballot, you ask yourself: “Does this person respect human life at all ages, in all conditions, and in all times and places, and will this person preserve, protect, and defend the Constitution of the United States?”
Please vote for someone who loves life and loves the Constitution. We are all counting on you.
If you read this blog regularly, you know I have a lot on my plate. Here’s a quick snapshot of what I’m up to.
- My startup, Cereblitz, makes the world’s first e-commerce platform and shopping cart for truly custom and customizable products. It’s great for just about all other products, too, of course! Check out the link above or check the Cereblitz blog for the latest news.
- I’m also running Sport and Safety, an e-commerce site selling sporting and safety goods.
- I’m working on launching Citesmith, a document-editing and cleanup tool for legal documents. It’s especially focused on litigators and paralegals who need to file documents with courts or administrative agencies, but it also has lots to offer transactional lawyers, academics, and students. Visit the site to view a demo video and be among the first to hear when it launches. You can also pre-order it now, get the pre-release version, and lock in a lifetime discount!
- I’ve been hard at work on a lot of other projects, too. For example, I’ve recently created and released:
- A free product launch checklist to use before launching any kind of product (or service).
- An ebook identifying 5 common myths about custom products.
- grunt-bumpver, a Grunt.js plugin to increment a package version and (optionally) commit changes to git or hg. (This is a fork of vojtajina/grunt-bump, which is git-only.)
- A userscript to load a random “hot question” from the Stack Exchange network whenever the user visits http://stackexchange.com/?random
- A userscript to view the relevant badges held by candidates for election as a moderator on Stack Overflow or other Stack Exchange network sites.
- A userscript to add a “random” sort option for answers on Stack Overflow and other Stack Exchange sites.
- And, of course, I’ve been busy being a husband, daddy, and member of my church.
It’s safe to say 2016 is off to a busy start.
Earlier this year, I stood for election as a moderator on Stack Overflow, the biggest and best Q&A site for programmers. I was not elected that time around. Yesterday, Stack Overflow concluded another election, and I am happy to say that I was elected, along with two other excellent candidates!
I was amazed and humbled by how many people voted for me in the primaries and in the main election, not to mention by the many kind comments that people made. I am excited about the opportunity to serve the community as a moderator, and I am grateful for the support of everyone who voted.
For those who wonder, this will actually have a relatively small impact on how much time I spend on Stack Overflow. Between my work and my own curiosity, I have already been on there quite a bit.
Anyway, again, thank you!
As you know if you have been reading this site, I have been working on Cereblitz, a first-of-its-kind e-commerce platform for selling custom and customizable products. I’m proud to announce that IT’S ALIVE! We have officially launched our platform!
As of right now, you can sign up to run your site on the Cereblitz platform. Plans start at $50/month. If you sign up for our email list today, I’ll give you a special discount that you can use to save 20% on a monthly plan or 40% on a yearly plan.
If you want to see the system in action, please check out SportAndSafety.com, a small business that Sarah and I have launched to sell sporting goods and safety products. You can also look at safeathand.com, a business that I helped found many years ago (and have since sold) and that now runs on the Cereblitz platform.
Don’t forget to bookmark the Cereblitz blog and follow us on your favorite social network:
One of the side-effects of this, of course, is that I have left legal practice behind. I started law school ten years ago, and started my first legal job exactly seven years ago today. And now, I am not practicing law at all. It’s a little surreal. On the other hand, I have been programming almost my entire life (since I was learning to read), and I was running a software development company before law school, so this is not really a second career. It’s more like a return to my first career.
Anyway, thanks for joining me on this thrilling, crazy ride. Please remember to sign up for my newsletter so I can keep you up to date on everything!
When I enrolled at Rice University, I thought I would dual-major in math and physics en route to a Ph.D. in physics, a university professorship, and a career relishing the life of the mind in the esoteric realms of the subatomic. No, I had known that I would do that since sometime in middle school.
Within a semester, I had doubts that my career path lay in academic physics. By the end of my freshman year, I knew pure physics was not for me; I was considering biophysics, physical chemistry, and other, physics-adjacent disciplines. By the end of my third semester, no majors involving the name “physics” were even on my radar. I ended up, after some soul-searching and a year of exploration and reflection, settling on majors in math and religious studies, the latter with a concentration in Judaism.
Why? It wasn’t that I had lost my interest in physics as a subject; I still haven’t. It wasn’t my grades. It wasn’t even that I was unhappy with the work I was doing.
What really drove me off was this: I found that the kind of physics I wanted to do—the cutting-edge, theoretical stuff—was disturbingly full of hand-waving. That is, the really tough problems were either ignored entirely or roundly dismissed as inconsequential, even if they had potentially huge significance for the entire field. These were problems in which no one was doing any serious investigation—indeed, serious investigation might not even be possible under the current state of the art—but “we” supposedly “knew” something was true. Nine times out of ten, statements of this sort were literally accompanied by hand-waving by the professor or teacher’s assistant making the statement. In at least one incident, I witnessed a Nobel laureate brush off a series of hard-hitting questions in precisely this manner.
This is not to say that no one ever attempted to explain such things. Usually, the explanation was a deus ex machina based on the “standard model” or an appeal to authority. The thinking seemed to be this: If you don’t know the answer, just refer vaguely to the standard model, Einstein, Heisenberg, or Feynman, and the troublesome freshman/sophomore/high-schooler will get the idea that he or she is out of his or her depth and leave you alone. Even if the question was perfectly reasonable. There’s no grant money for investigating pesky “side effects” that show up in 200-level labs but that we can’t explain. “No grant money” means “forget about it.”
With all of the latest buzz about the so-called “multiverse” and, relatedly, parallel universes, at least a few of my beefs with academic physics have gone mainstream. In particular, Rod Dreher has posted an excellent piece about the faith of the physics academy. Some key quotes:
Physicists have a nerve. I know one (I’ll call him Mark) who berates every religious person he meets, yet honestly thinks there exist parallel universes, exactly like our own, in which we all have two noses. He refuses to give any credit to Old Testament creation myths and of course sneers at the idea of transubstantiation. But, without any sense of shame, he insists in the same breath that humans are made from the fallout of exploded stars; that it is theoretically possible for a person to decompose on one side of a black hole and recompose on the other, and that there are diamonds in the sky the size of the moon.
. . . .
I have never quite understood why the “many-universes” theory is considered science, not religion. How could you ever falsify the thesis?
. . . . We assume that the Scientist must know what he’s talking about no matter what he says, because he has studied his field, and is committed to a rigorous methodology and epistemology that rules out what cannot be known empirically. If a Scientist says it, it must be true, because it has either been proven experimentally, or can be.
. . . .
. . . . [C]ertainty in the sense of probability is not the same thing as necessary being: If I toss a coin, it is certain that I will get heads or tails, but that outcome depends on my tossing the coin, which I may not necessarily do. Likewise, any particular universe may follow from the existence of a multiverse, but the existence of the multiverse remains to be explained. In particular, the universe-generating process assumed by some multiverse theories is itself contingent because it depends on the action of laws assumed by the theory. The latter might be called meta-laws, since they form the basis for the origin of the individual universes, each with its own individual set of laws. So what determines the meta-laws? Either we must introduce meta-meta-laws, and so on in infinite regression, or we must hold that the meta-laws themselves are necessary — and so we have in effect just changed our understanding of what the fundamental universe is to one that contains many universes. In that case, we are still left without ultimate explanations as to why that universe exists or has the characteristics it does.
When it comes to such metaphysical questions, science and scientific speculation may offer much in fleshing out details, but they have so far failed to offer any explanations that are fundamentally novel to philosophy — much less have they supplanted it entirely.