What will Democrats have to pay Trump to leave?

Rod Blagojevich
Rod Blagojevich

How do Transactional People Think?

After Barack Obama was elected President, Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich had the power to appoint Obama’s successor to the senate.

Being a “transactional” sort of guy, Governor Blagojevich, wanted to use what he had to maximize his own interests.

I got this thing and it’s  f****  “golden”:

FBI agents recorded  Blagojevich conversing with an adviser:

I’ve got this thing and it’s fucking golden and I’m just not giving it up for fucking nothing

Blagojevich was seeking:

  • a salary for himself and ($250,000-$300,000)
  • a position on a corporate board for his wife (~$150,000/year)
  • campaign funds, with cash upfront
  • a cabinet post or ambassadorship

Pardoned by Trump:

After he was impeached by the Illinois Senate, he was indicted and convicted in Federal Court and sentenced to 14 years in prison.

Blagojevich was unrepentant and protested his innocence, serving 8 of those 14 years, before being pardoned by President Trump.

What will Trump want in exchange for him leaving office?

Now it is still possible for Trump to fairly win the upcoming election.  But if he doesn’t win legitimately, will he go quietly?

I assume that Trump does not intend to give up the Presidency for “nothing” if he loses and that a lot of the choices he makes are about strengthening his hand and developing a narrative.

How much will Democrats be willing to pay, in money and otherwise, to have Trump leave office?  And what will be Trump’s ask?  Here’s my guess:

Mount Rushmore
Mount Rushmore

What will Trump ask?

  • Legal absolution: scuttle all the sealed indictments and future court cases against him.
  • Stop damaging disclosures: If not already public, silence unfriendly attention regarding tax returns, etc.
  • Financial Bailout/fleecing   His hotels and golf properties haven’t done well financially lately.   I don’t know the state of his financial need, but he seems to take pride in finding creative ways to fleece the taxpayer.  Expect financial demands.
  • Honor: recognition of his status as a great President.  Maybe a monument, naming rights to a building, etc.
  • Attention: Trump would likely want to host his own show or own his own network.  He needs to see a future for himself after the presidency.
  • Nepotism: Donald wants his family name to remain relevant so he may want some benefit, particularly for Ivanka, his favorite child.
  • Victimhood: Trump will need an excuse for why he didn’t get a second term both for himself and his supporters.  If defeated, like Blagojevich, he can not admit it.  The only way he will agree to relinquish power is under the condition that he can still insist that he was a victim and the election was rigged.

What will Trump Threaten?

The basic idea to keep in mind is that Trump is less concerned about the peaceful transfer of power than the Democrats are.  Trump has an affinity for chaos and that he will use that as leverage.

What do you think?

Everyone expects that Joe Biden will concede if he loses.

But if Trump loses but not in a big way, will he readily accept defeat?

If not, what will Trump ask and what will he threaten?


P.S.  Why is it that this sort of politician seems to have a thing for having a full head of hair?

What is a Post-Jesus Christian?

Post-Jesus Christian


Post-Jesus Christians are “Christians” who have decided to postpone following Jesus’s teaching until Jesus returns and ushers in 1000 years of peace.

Post-Jesus Christians hold that Jesus’s teachings do not need to be followed in our present era if they are a hindrance to obtaining the power they fear they need to help usher in the Kingdom of God.

Post-Jesus Christians (privately) hold that Jesus’s teachings are a nice thing to follow when dealing with the in-group of their fellow PJCs but may be disregarded when dealing with non-PJC neighbors.

Prophecy: What God Can Do For You

Post-Jesus Christians talk a lot about about prophecy, and unlike the Biblical Prophets, when they do, they punch down, rather than up:

You will know them by their fruit, because they only have one key message – God is going to “enlarge your tent” and “expand your influence“, he’s going to “give you great favor” and “bless you mightily”.

Later Craig Greenfield writes:

In Biblical times, there were two types of prophets.

  1. Firstly, there were those who feasted at the King’s table because they had been co-opted to speak well of evil leaders (1 Kings 18:19). They were always bringing these smarmy words of favor and influence and prosperity to the king. And the king lapped it up. Like a sucka.
  2. Secondly, there were those who were exiled to the caves, or beheaded (like John the Baptist) because they spoke out about the injustice or immorality of their leaders (1 Kings 18:4). The king didn’t like them very much. He tried to have them knee-capped.

An Inversion of Ben Franklin’s Morality

While many Post-Jesus Christians appeal to a historical “Christian Nation” , Post-Jesus Christians appear to be an inversion of founding father Ben Franklin, who in historian John Fea’s description, wanted to discard Jesus’s Divinity but retain and celebrate his ethical teachings.

Post-Jesus Christians value Jesus’s divinity, particularly his role of sacrificial lamb (for their salvation), but are eager to discard Jesus’s ethical teachings.


So what does this look like in practice?

Below are public quotations from prominent Court Evangelicals.  These quotations are less extreme that I would expect to hear in private.  A friend of mine speaks to supporters in private.  He reports that they would (privately) celebrate the stuffing of election ballots in favor of their preferred candidate as a righteous act.

1) Court Evangelical: Anti-Sermon on the Mount

John Fea wrote about a conversation he had with Rob Schenck  for the “Schenck Talks Bonhoeffer” podcast @ 19:27.  Here’s a quote from Schenck talking about a conversation he had with a prominent evangelical at the Trump Inaugural Prayer Service:

I must tell you something of a confession here. I was present at the Trump Inaugural Prayer Service held at the National Cathedral — not the smaller one held  at  Saint John’s Episcopal church across from the white house, but the one following the inauguration at the National Cathedral and I saw one of the notable Evangelicals that you’ve named in in our conversation. One of them, I won’t say which and we had it short exchange and I, I suggested to him that we needed to recalibrate our moral compass and that one way to do that might be to return to The Sermon on the Mount as a reference point. And he very quickly barked back at me. “We don’t have time for that. We have serious work to do.”

2) Jerry Falwell Jr:  Anti-Turn the other cheek

John Fea writes:

We have blogged about Liberty University’s Falkirk Center before.  The more I learn about this center the more I am convinced that it does not represent the teachings of Christianity.   Recently someone on Twitter pointed out this paragraph in the Falkirk Center mission statement:

Bemoaning the rise of leftism is no longer enough, and turning the other cheek in our personal relationships with our neighbors as Jesus taught while abdicating our responsibilities on the cultural battlefield is no longer sufficient. There is too much at stake in the battle for the soul of our nation. Bold, unapologetic action and initiative is needed, which is why we just launched the Falkirk Center, a think tank dedicated to restoring and defending American ideals and Judeo-Christian values in all aspects of life.

John Fea’s Update:

Several smart people have suggested that I may have misread Liberty University’s statement.  They have said that the Falkirk Center was not denying that Jesus’s call to “turn the other cheek” is “insufficient” for individuals.  Instead, the Falkirk Center is saying that we should not “abdicate” (the key word here) our responsibilities to engage on the “culture battlefield.”

I think this is a fair criticism, and I indeed may have misread the statement.  For that I am sorry.  But I don’t think I want to back away too strongly from what I wrote above.  While several have correctly pointed out that Liberty University is not saying Jesus’s command to “turn the other cheek” is “insufficient” for individual Christians, the Falkirk Center does seem to be suggesting that it is “insufficient” for culture engagement.

Do Single People Read the Bible Differently? *

In this article, I’m going to attempt to persuade you that no one really interprets the Bible literally.  Rather, we weigh different parts of the Bible against one another, looking for the reading that seems most persuasive.  As part of this process, a person’s background can affect one’s biblical interpretation, making people of different backgrounds better able to see each other’s blind spots.  These claims may seem obvious to some and sacrilegious to others.

I’ll start, by revisiting one of the most commonly read parables in the Bible — the Parable of the “Prodigal Son”.

How Americans Interpret the Parable of the Prodigal Son  Differently

If you were to ask a North American Christian why the Prodigal Son returned, you would get a variety of answers, but one of the more common responses I’ve heard is that the Prodigal Son squandered his money on prostitutes and chose to return to his father once his money ran out.  In fact, the allegation about the prostitutes that we remember is not explicitly part of the story’s original narrative, (Luke 15:13) but rather it is an accusation made by the older son when the younger son returns (Luke 15:30).  It is the older son’s accusation that is stuck in our memories.

How Others Interpret the Parable of the Prodigal Son

By contrast, if you were to ask Christians from another part of the world, particularly a place that has experience with famine, you would find that a greater number of them would mention the word “famine” in their answer. (Luke 15:14)

How Experience Affects How We Read

The story of the Prodigal Son illustrates how our own experience shapes how we read the Bible and what we remember.  North Americans below the age of 80 do not have direct experience with famine and so our memories don’t connect to this part of the story as strongly as do the older son’s allegations of sexual immorality.

For North Americans, “Sexual Immorality” is a more familiar concept than famine; we focus on it more easily; and it imprints itself more strongly in our memories.

Who Are You in the Parable of the Prodigal Son?

Some of you may be familiar with the Bible Study practice of empathizing with the different characters in a Bible story.  In this story, we might ask:

  • Have you ever felt like a prodigal son?
  • Do you sometimes feel like the older son; or if you have children,
  • Do you identify with the role of the Father?

The Bible includes many rich stories that contain insight from a multitude of perspectives and if we want to experience the Gospel most fully, we should consciously try to empathize with each of the characters in a parable.

How Does Being Single Change One’s Focus? *

As a second example of how who we are shapes how we read the bible, consider the case of 1 Corinthians 7, which the NIV Translation titles “Concerning Married Life”. Christians who are single are less likely to quickly scan over Pauls’s writings regarding singleness, much as many Americans scan over the famine in the story of the “Prodigal Son”.  I put an asterisk in the above paragraph heading because by “Single” I specifically meant to describe not just people who haven’t yet married, but people who are single and who are open to the possibility of remaining single.  These people are more likely to read the Bible with a mind receptive to Paul’s message on singleness.  On the other hand, singles who aspire to marriage or who have internalized society’s marriage norms are less likely to pick up on Paul’s instructions.

What Would Paul Have Us Do Regarding Marriage and Sexuality?

In 1 Corinthians 7, Paul responds to a request from the church at Corinth concerning the subject of sexuality and marriage with a recommendation coupled with a series of concessions meant for those who fall short of the goal.

Most people who are marriage-minded focus on the concessions, but Paul is clear in saying that he wishes that all the unmarried and widowed believers would remained unmarried, as he is (1 Corinthians 7:8).  In the next verse, Paul gives the concession that if believers are not practicing self-control they should marry.  “For it is better to marry than to burn with passion.”

Grandfathered into this arrangement are all those currently married.  Paul grants that married couples should remain married, but he advises the widowed not to remarry.

What Reason Does Paul Give for his Recommendation?

Paul does not always give rationales for all his recommendations, but in chapter 7 he gives several, though I doubt many people can recall his most significant reason.

Some readers will pick up on verse 28:

But those who marry will face many troubles in this life, and I want to spare you this.

Some marriage-minded readers might also cite verses 29-31, arguing that Paul thought the end of the world was coming soon, and that if he’d have known that the world would continue for over 1,000 years, he would have approved of marriage out of a need for children.  But notice that once you suggest the possibility that Paul was wrong about the timing, you are speaking against the ideal of literal inerrancy and you lose the ability to apply this interpretive mode to Paul’s other writings.

No, Paul’s claim in 1 Corinthians 7:32-35 goes straight to the core of the “First Commandment”:

32 I would like you to be free from concern. An unmarried man is concerned about the Lord’s affairs—how he can please the Lord. 33 But a married man is concerned about the affairs of this world—how he can please his wife— 34 and his interests are divided. An unmarried woman or virgin is concerned about the Lord’s affairs: Her aim is to be devoted to the Lord in both body and spirit. But a married woman is concerned about the affairs of this world—how she can please her husband. 35 I am saying this for your own good, not to restrict you, but that you may live in a right way in undivided devotion to the Lord.

That’s quite a charge against married people — that in choosing marriage, they are choosing to divide their love for God— as forbidden by the first commandment: (Mark 12:28-34)

28 One of the teachers of the law came and heard them debating. Noticing that Jesus had given them a good answer, he asked him, “Of all the commandments, which is the most important?”
29 “The most important one,” answered Jesus, “is this: ‘Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one.[a] 30 Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’[b] 31 The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’[c] There is no commandment greater than these.”

Now if you are a marriage-minded person, like most of society, this interpretation of the seventh chapter of 1 Corinthians is likely going to face a lot of resistance in your mind, even though you will recognize that marriage may compete with other worthy goals.  If you are particularly practical, you might ask how we are supposed to continue to procreate as a species if all the “best” people stay single.  More philosophically, you might critique Paul for assuming an economy of scarcity, saying something like:

Is there is only a finite amount of love to go around?  If I have a child, will it really mean less love for my spouse and less love for God?

Because a plain and literal interpretation likely challenges at least one of your beliefs, you will likely consider alternatives to the plain literal version I just described.

I talked through an early version of this article with a father of eight and he did not undergo an immediate change of mind, phoning his unmarried children to discourage them from marrying.  I have yet to meet even one parent who says to their child: “Don’t marry.  I want no grandchildren”,  out of a desire for their child’s undivided devotion to the Lord. Yet that appears to be the position Paul advocates if you take a plain and literal interpetation.  You may find some other bible verse to negate what Paul is saying here, or may make some other explanation, but your eventual stance on this will be to choose some reason/s not to take Paul seriously or literally.

Our Actions Reveal Our Beliefs

Sometimes when we talk about literal biblical interpretation, we use examples that have a bearing on how we interpret other parts of the bible, but not much effect on our everyday lives.  For example:

“Did the creation happen in 6 literal 24-hour days”?

This question affects how we read the Bible, and what we may think about various scientific theories, but this is mostly a hypothetical question compared to the question of whether marriage is an ideal, rather than a concession.

I’d like to suggest that we can know more about what we really believe by keeping track of what we actually do, rather than by our assent to intellectual positions that have little bearing on our lives.  And we can’t faithfully believe in Paul’s recommendation that it is better to stay single, while encouraging all of our children, friends, and grandchildren to get married.

Weighing the Evidence

Now some of you may say: It’s just one chapter of the Bible, and there are many other parts of the Bible that support the traditional view of marriage, and marginalize Paul.  As they say in law, “the preponderance of evidence” speaks in favor of marriage. That is a valid position, and one I myself favor.  I wrote this article to raise your awareness that you weigh the scripture through various factors, rather than read the bible literally; and that people of different perspectives can help us see things that are in our blind spots.

All Truth is God’s Truth #

Once we acknowledge that it is not always wise to employ simple biblical literalism, we may choose to supplement our understanding with other modes of knowing including science, reason, and experience.  I don’t have the space or wisdom to articulate how that all gets worked out, but I am reminded of St Augustine’s quote, which is often paraphrased “All Truth is God’s Truth“: 1

A person who is a good and true Christian should realize that truth belongs to his Lord, wherever it is found, gathering and acknowledging it even in pagan literature.

About the Next Article

In the next article, I’m going to argue that, if you read the Bible literally, there are two views of sacrifice in the Old Testament:

  1. The conventional view that God commanded the Israelites to make sacrifices to Him.
  2. The view of the Psalmists, Hosea, and Jeremiah that God did not desire or command the Israelites to make sacrifices.

  1. Source: “On Christian Teaching“, by Saint Augustine (of Hippo)

The Art of the “Deceptive Answer”

How Trump used “Weasel Words” to Trick Us into Thinking He Agreed to Testify Under Oath.

There is so much media attention to President Trump that it amazes me that I haven’t heard anyone else debunk the conventional wisdom that President Trump agreed to testify under oath“100%.”  This would be true if he had stopped speaking at that point, but in the 9 quick sentences that followed, Trump used a tricky distraction technique to take back his word.

What Trump actually agreed to:

  • Trump may, or may not have asked James Comey for his loyalty, but if he did, Trump didn’t ask Comey to put his hand on the Bible when Comey’s allegiance was requested.


Trump’s tricky answer is either a strange accident, or an example of a “master manipulator”1 practicing his craft.  The creator of the Dilbert comic strip, Scott Adams, has been arguing for a long time that Trump’s “persuasion skills” are the best he’s seen.

In the rest of this post, I’ll compare Trump’s skill at the “trick answer” to Bill and Hillary Clinton’s attempts to trick the public, showing you how Trump takes deception to a whole new level.

What is a “Non-Denial Denial”?

The non-denial denial is a statement that is designed to appear to the uninitiated like a legitimate denial of an allegation.  It is used to deceive the public, often by answering a different question than what was asked or implied.

Let’s compare how Bill, Hillary, and Trump execute assertions and denials using various tricks:

Jump to Section on: Bill | Hillary | Trump

1) Bill Clinton: Use a Word with a Private Definition

Sometimes a non-denial denial hinges upon the definition of the word, which the politician has carefully selected to mislead the public.

Watch Bill Clinton slyly slip in the term “sexual relations” into this press event so as to give hope to supporters looking for an excuse to still believe in him.  (The term “sexual relations” was chosen because it was defined to not include oral sex).

This word trick gave those who wanted to believe in Clinton a reason to withhold judgement for a while.  If I were to score this trick on execution, I would give it a 9 out of 10, but note, Bill still got impeached.

2) Hillary Clinton: “Wipe Like with a Cloth”

Bill Clinton had the “gift”.  He was a “natural” as they say.   Hillary is said to be great in a one-on-one or small-group setting, but she couldn’t spin the media like her husband.  Watch as Hillary tries to redefine the term “wipe” in reference to her private email server:

In fairness to Hillary, she was responding to a live question, rather than acting out a prepared script. I’ll give Hillary a 2 out of 10, but acknowledge that it was a difficult defense.


3) Donald Trump: “100%.  I Didn’t Say Under Oath.”

Donald Trump was recently facing questions about his earlier vague denial of James Comey’s testimony.

After Trump appeared2 to deny the earlier Comey claim, Trump was asked a followup question about whether he would be willing to testify under oath that he had not asked Comey for a pledge of loyalty.  Notice how Trump twists the question from whether he would be willing to testify under oath into a misdirection about whether he asked Comey to pledge his loyalty under oath.

Here’s an excerpt from the full transcript:

(Note: The clip begins by Trump trash-talking ABC New’s Jonathan Karl, the journalist asking the question, and interrupting him, causing Karl to trip-up in posing the question.  The question should be: “did you ask Comey for a pledge of loyalty?)

< View entire transcript

KARL: And did he ask for a pledge of loyalty from you? That’s another thing he said.

TRUMP: No he did not.3

KARL: So, he said those things under oath. Would you be willing to speak under oath to give your version of events?

TRUMP: 100%. 4 I didn’t say under oath — I hardly know the man, I’m not going to say I want you to pledge allegiance. Who would do that? Who would ask a man to pledge allegiance, under oath? I mean, think of it. I hardly know the man. It doesn’t make sense. No, I didn’t say that, and I didn’t say the other.

KARL: So, if Robert Mueller wanted to speak with you about that you’d be willing to talk to him?

TRUMP: I would be glad to tell him exactly what I just told you, Jon.5


Trump’s Misdirection was a Success, Judging from the Media Coverage

We don’t know what the outcome of this long-term legal and public relations “war” will be, but Trump seems to have succeeded in this minor battle, which involved a very difficult feat — a real-time non-denial denial, which Trump turned into a persuasive “positive” — 100%.  Many people now actually have the impression that Trump wants to testify. Trump’s answer seems a little bizarre, but the newspaper stories portray Trump’s answers as a full-throated denial, which is the goal.

Deception for Sport

Dilbert creator, Scott Adams, thinks Trump will never actually testify under oath.  Perhaps Trump will say that he wants to testify but his lawyers advise against it, or, like in the case of his taxes, he will give cascading series of other excuses.  With this performance, Trump also leaves open the option to claim that he misheard the question, while further giving him a feeling of dominance — that he can manipulate the media with impunity and win.  It’s almost as if Donald does “deception” for sport.

“Cheating, Fair and Square”

I’m giving Trump a 9.5 out of 10 for degree of difficulty, but in some ways it is riskier to use deceptive tricks rather than an outright lie, because if the trick is uncovered, its existence is tantamount to an admission that you are lying.  I don’t have any special insight into Trump’s psyche, but if I had to guess why he acts in this way, I think it’s because deception has become a game to him.  Donald games the public for the same reason he games his taxes, stiffs his business partners6 and dupes Trump University students7 — the thrill of feeling like you got away with cheating, fair and square.”

If Trump succeeds in this deception, a Republican-controlled House and Senate make his prospects better than Bill’s.  Trump just needs to make sure he doesn’t lose the House in the mid-term elections.

The Alternative Option: Take the 5th

There is another option which Trump described in 1998 when Chris Matthews asked him about what Bill Clinton should have done.  Trump said Bill should have taken the 5th and attacked the Special Prosecutor for being out to get him.  This is a strategy he later seems to have adopted in the Trump University case with Judge Curiel, which he later settled.

Update: Trump Surrogates go after Mueller.




Copyright Release:

Note: You are free to use the contents of this post, including direct quotation of indefinite length without paraphrasing.  I expressly waive copyright to this post, so as to encourage its circulation.


  1. Dilbert creator Scott Adams says that “persuasion” is not good or bad in itself.  Persuasion is a tool that can be used for either good or evil. When persuasion becomes “manipulation”, I no longer see that as neutral.

  2. I say appeared because I think it more likely that Trump was asserting that the reporter’s wording wasn’t an exact match.

  3. Technically Trump is correct because, by rattling him, Trump was able to trip Karl up into misstating the question.

  4. All the media soundbites end after “100%” because the subsequent weasel words repel the viewers’ attention, but watch the next 9 sentences that negate the affirmation.  If Trump really meant “YES”, he could have said “YES.  ABSOLUTELY” and left it at that.  I can see no other purpose for these next 9 sentences other than as weasel words.

  5. Trump is only committing himself to affirm to Mueller the nonsensical response that Trump did not ask Comey to swear loyalty to him under oath.  Furthermore, technically speaking, Trump did not commit to making the statement to Mueller while under oath.

  6. Even though Trump could have paid his suppliers, he had some of his corporations  declare “strategic bankruptcy.”  He claims to be extremely wealthy now, but he takes pride in stiffing those who worked for him.

  7. Trump was deeply involved in the marketing of Trump University, but had no role in the actual teaching.   Some of the seminars were taught by timeshare salesmen just looking for a quick buck.

Digital Marketing Ideas for Writers

I originally wrote this post for Emtiaz Zourob, but others may find it useful.

One of the things writers and other artists often need to do is promote their work, so learning some basic marketing skills can be helpful.

One of the simplest things an artist can do is to purchase the rights to a website address (or domain name).  After this is done, consider signing up for this username on a variety of social networking sites, even if you don’t plan on using the social media site immediately.

  1. Get your own domain name.
    • A domain name is a permanent internet address that you can own the rights to
    • Examples:
      1. openpolitics.com (my domain name)
      2. emtiazzourob.com,  or
      3. emtiazalnahhal.com
    • I found Emtiaz’s site on blogspot:
      1. emtiazalnahhal.blogspot.com
      2. Blogspot is good, but it would be better if the Emtiaz owned her own address, independent of blogspot.com.
    • Having your own domain name is sort of like owning your own home rather than renting.  The owner of a domain name can customize the site, add additional features, and switch to a different hosting provider without having to change the site’s address.
    • You can purchase your own domain name for about $10-15/year.
    • There are many different companies through which you can purchase  a domain.
      1. I use namecheap.com.
      2. I would recommend gandi.net if your site might be controversial because I think gandi will be more likely to stand up for you if others are trying to censor you.
  2. Optional: Switch Your Blog to Your Own Domain Name.
    • After you have purchase your own domain name, you no longer need to rely upon a company like blogspot or wordpress.com for hosting and you have the future flexibility to switch providers.  For example, you can switch from emtiazalnahhal.blogspot.com to emtiazalnahhal.com (or whatever name you choose).
    • I can help you with the hosting and transfer if you like.  Talk to me more if you’re interested in this.  This would likely also mean a switch in software from blogspot to the free version of wordpress.
  3. Register for Twitter.
    1. If you don’t already own your username on twitter (@timlangeman in my case), I would sign up, if for no other reason than to reserve your name.  (It’s free to sign up)
    2. Unlike Facebook, Twitter is public by default.  If you want to get a message out to the public, Twitter can be more effective than Facebook, but Facebook is good for restricting shared material to friends.
  4. Get Business Cards to hand out at readings.
    • On your business card, list the domain name that you purchased in step 1, your twitter username, your email address, and any other info you want, such as phone number
    • Your physical address may change if you move to a different apartment, but your gmail address and domain name can always stay the same.
    • There are many places to get business cards.  I don’t have experience ordering my own cards.
      1. I’ve heard advertisements for vistaprint.com and moo.com but I don’t know how good they are.
  5. Get your own Email Lists
    • You can collect email addresses from people at readings and put a signup form on your website.   As you collect email addresses you can categorize them based on language or interest.  You can send some emails to the whole group and others to a subgroup (like English speakers).
    • The advantage of email lists is that you can target different types of people when you have a book to sell, or an event to publicize, even if those people don’t necessarily follow you on Facebook or Twitter.
    • There are many sites that offer group email functionality.
      1. Constant Contact is a popular site for non-profits
      2. I recommend MailChip if you’re starting with a small list because MailChip is free for lists smaller than 2000 people.

What the Creator of the Email Protocol can teach us about Politics and Religion

If you’ve never hear the term “Postel Christian”, that’s not surprising, as I’m coining it here for the first time.  The term is derived from Jon Postel, the technologist who created the email protocol, and described the “robustness principle” in RFC 761,  known as Postel’s Law:

Be conservative in what you send, be liberal in what you accept

The basic idea of Postel’s concept is that in certain domains  it is advantageous to design systems to be forgiving (liberal) in what they accept and yet strict (conservative) in what they do.  Postel’s Law allows diverse participants to function together on a network, ensuring that that the system inter-operates, despite the fact that not all participants follow the rules strictly.

Although Postel was describing the technology behind email, the same principle can be applied in other areas.  In writing, for example, it is a good idea to try to follow proper spelling and punctuation, while at the same time also being forgiving of those who don’t.

Beyond Liberal vs Conservative

To extend the analogy to other domains, I consider myself neither entirely liberal or conservative.  I “actconservative in many areas of my personal life — my finances are conservative, I don’t swear, or drink.  I try to respect the rules unless I feel that they are wrongheaded, yet I am freer than many self-described conservatives to associate with people of diverse backgrounds who don’t always follow the rules and I have more in common with many on the left on some social issues.  So where do I fit on the Liberal-Conservative Continuum?

When most people think about liberalism and conservatism, they thing about about the label as applying to one’s self.  What Postel’s framework does is add a second axis to distinguish between the strictness of the standard I hold myself to verses the standard with which I interact with my neighbors.  Most people are familiar with The Golden Rule, which calls for a symmetry between your love of self and your love of others, but Jesus actually asked for more then symmetry, he asked for grace and did not cut off others whom did not meet the standard.

I like to think that Jesus was a “Postel Christian”.  He said he had not come to abolish the law but to fulfill it, which I interpret as living according to the spirit of the law (conserving the essence of tradition), while at the same time hanging out with tax collectors and prostitutes, which would have appeared scandalously liberal to the strictly law-abiding Pharisees.

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We’re in a time of change, with political realignment taking place in the Republican party.  David Brooks says that Trumpism is an utter repudiation of modern conservatism.  Maybe so, but maybe its also time for a broader  reconsideration of the traditional Liberal and Conservative labels.

I’m an Anabaptist (Mennonite) so I’m used to not fitting within the standard Catholic/Protestant typology.  Third Way.com describes some of this in more detail, but within Anabaptism there are differences in approach.

A friend of mine’s family left the Beachy Amish when he was young and then associated with conservative Mennonites.  When I talked to Phil about the “Postel Christian” concept for this article, he commented that the Amish are in quadrant two.  They have strict expectations for their own community, but they don’t expect others to follow them, and they are able to relate to non-believers.

He said the conservative Mennonites he knew couldn’t develop friendships with  outsiders for fear that they would be corrupted.  I talked this “Postel Christian” idea over with his brother Andrew and described to Andrew about how I choose to be friendly with my neighbor, even as he smokes and sits outside with a beer in his hand.1  I don’t smoke and I recognize that second-hand smoke can be damaging, but I figure in low doses it is more important to be neighborly than to protect myself.  Andrew said that the people at his church would not be able to engage this way with my neighbor because they would feel an obligation to either publicly denounce the neighbor’s drinking and smoking, or shun him.  For some, this response is done out of a fear that they wouldn’t be able to resist the objectionable behavior; and for others they would avoid the neighbor because they don’t want to be seen as condoning bad behavior.

Does Postel’s Law apply to all of life?  Must I be forgiving of everyone?

One misunderstanding about Postel Christianity regards its scope.  Say, for example, that you ran a software company.  Would you as an owner or manager have to let employees do anything they want, applying a strict standard only to yourself?  No, subgroups (companies, churches, civic groups) are free to hold themselves to a stricter standard.

So if I had a software company called Postel Software, I could insist that all of our HTML validates and our Python code follows the PEP 8 standard.  But the key difference is that, if we are a company making a product which interoperates with web pages created by anyone on the internet, it should be designed like Google’s Chrome browser, not requiring every web page to be perfectly valid HTML.  This is an accurate description of how web browsers do, in fact, work.  I know of no web browser that treats html web pages strictly.

This doesn’t mean that there are not rules that can’t be broken.  If I am at my local electronics shop and I see a customer attempting to steal something, I will alert to store owner.  But if my neighbor is mainly harming himself, or setting a bad example, I am more forgiving.

The Benedict Option

Rod Dreher of The American Conservative has written a book called The Benedict Option, advocating that conservatives withdraw from mainstream American society to isolated communities where they can preserve Orthodox Christianity.  From what I’ve read, LGBT issues are an important factor in this decision, with Rod fearing that the government is going to force Christian-affiliated schools and colleges to violate their consciences.

One of the questions I have about Dreher’s proposal is about exactly where he draws the line and why.  Is he willing to interact with neighbors who may be gay, or who may think differently about LGBT issues, so long has he is able to maintain the freedom to exclude LGBT people from his churches, church-affiliated colleges, etc.  If Christians are given an exception allowing them to opt out of participation in LGBT wedding ceremonies, as Skye Jethani of the Phil Vischer podcast has said, and  wedding cake decorators are free to deny decorating services to LGBT couples on the theory that a cake decorating mandate violates artistic expression, would Dreher be willing to accept a mandate that required him to sell generic uncustomized cakes to anyone?  Or would Dreher want to allow businesses of any kind to deny any type of service to LGBT customers?

The point I’m getting at is — is Dreher willing to coexist with his neighbors, knowing that he will come in contact with people with whom he disagrees, or does his faith require him to shun them?

If Dreher really believes that self-preservation requires him to minimize his exposure to non-believers, I can understand. I live in Lancaster County and grew up in a progressive Mennonite home without a television (although I did go to public school).  My parents shielded me from some things, but they accepted that I would have to go out into a world that is at odds with the Mennonite faith and make my own choices.

Many Mennonites have developed a theology calling for separation from general society based on an interpretation of bible passages that call on believers to be “in the world but not of the world“.  My church is among the more progressive of Mennonites, living a modern life (I’m a computer programmer), engaging with the world, but trying to maintain a different ethic.  Critics of the type of separatism that Dreher advocates, such as Elizabeth Stoker Brunei, question how followers of the Benedict option can follow the second commandment to love their neighbor, while at the same time wanting nothing to do with them.

The Illiberal Left

A lot of the conflict in these scenarios is between quadrant three and quadrant four.  Besides hypocritical conservatives, Quadrant four contains people who identify themselves as “liberal,” yet are unwilling to coexist with quadrant four conservatives.

Recently, Heather Mac Donald, author of “The War On Cops” was invited to speak to students at Claremont-McKenna College in California.  One might debate whether her arguments are persuasive or wrong-headed, but the opposition among students was such that event organizers “were considering changing the venue to a building with fewer glass windows to break.”  The Wall Street Journal quoted the CMC College president as saying that students had blocked people from entering the venue.  Columist William McGurn attributes the conflict to the students a belief “that they should never have to hear an opinion different from their own.”

It is quadrant three and four that pose the greatest challenge to pluralism.  Decreasing tolerance from quadrant four “illiberal liberals” antagonizes conservatives and drives conservatives in quadrant three like Dreher to consider separatist strategies.

Are these groups irreconcilable?  I don’t know.  As I interact with more people, I’m increasingly interested in looking for ways that can strengthen American pluralism, allowing Christians to learn from each other and from the broader society.2

  1. Yes, I realize that the rules about governing alcohol and smoking are not the same in all cultures.  I chose these two behaviors because they are forbidden by many of the conservatives I come into contact with.

  2. I am inspired to read that René Girard became a convert to Christianity after reading literature like Cervantes and Dostoyevsky

Journalists and Technologists Should Collaborate to Build More Trustworthy Media

Most people don’t know that the Web we have today is not its original design, but a simplified (or “dumbed down”) version that Tim Berners-Lee created because it was easier to implement than internet pioneer Ted Nelson‘s original 1965 design.

The compromising design Berners-Lee released on the Internet in 1991 made it easier for programmers to implement but had Nelson’s original design been fully implemented instead, Web browsers would display the context of each quotation, making the Internet more resistant to certain types of “Fake News”.

My article focuses on one part of the Fake News problem — out of context quotations — and gives two high profile examples of how out-of-context quotations mutated into damaging Fake News stories, even before social media was mainstream:

  1. Al Gore: I invented the Internet (1999), and
  2. Sarah Palin: I can see Russia from my House (2008).

I conclude by describing 3 ways technologists could work with journalists to develop technology that could prevent this type of story mutation from occurring and build greater trust in media.