“Two incompatible sacred values in American universities” Jon Haidt, Hayek Lecture Series

On October 6, 2016, Professor Jonathan Haidt gave a Hayek Lecture at Duke. The event was co-sponsored by the programs in the History of Political Economy (HOPE), Philosophy, Politics, & Economics (PPE), and American Values and Institutions (AVI). The event was open to the public, but also served as a guest lecture in Professor Jonathan Anomaly’s PPE course.
Professor Haidt argues that conflicts arise at many American universities today because they are pursuing two potentially incompatible goals: truth and social justice. While Haidt thinks both goals are important, he maintains that they can come into conflict.
According to some versions of social justice, whenever we observe a disparity of outcomes between races, genders, or other groups, we should infer that injustice has been done. Haidt challenges this view of social justice and shows how it sometimes leads to violations of truth, and even justice.
Haidt concludes that universities should be free to pursue whatever goals – truth or social justice – they want, but that they should make it clear which of these two goals is their “telos” – their highest purpose. He ends with a discussion of his initiative, HeterodoxAcademy.org, to bring more viewpoint diversity to universities in order to improve research and learning.

Trump’s Lawyers, in Confidential Memo, Argue to Head Off a Historic Subpoena

Mr. Mueller has told the president’s lawyers that he needs to talk to their client to determine whether he had criminal intent to obstruct the investigation into his associates’ possible links to Russia’s election interference. If Mr. Trump refuses to be questioned, Mr. Mueller will have to weigh their arguments while deciding whether to press ahead with a historic grand jury subpoena.

Mr. Mueller had raised the prospect of subpoenaing Mr. Trump to Mr. Dowd in March.

.. The attempt to dissuade Mr. Mueller from seeking a grand jury subpoena is one of two fronts on which Mr. Trump’s lawyers are fighting. In recent weeks, they have also begun a public-relations campaign to discredit the investigation and in part to pre-empt a potentially damaging special counsel report that could prompt impeachment proceedings

.. Mr. Giuliani said in an interview that Mr. Trump is telling the truth but that investigators “have a false version of it, we believe, so you’re trapped.”

.. “Ensuring that the office remains sacred and above the fray of shifting political winds and gamesmanship is of critical importance,” they wrote.

.. They argued that the president holds a special position in the government and is busy running the country, making it difficult for him to prepare and sit for an interview. They said that because of those demands on Mr. Trump’s time, the special counsel’s office should have to clear a higher bar to get him to talk. Mr. Mueller, the president’s attorneys argued, needs to prove that the president is the only person who can give him the information he seeks and that he has exhausted all other avenues for getting it.

“The president’s prime function as the chief executive ought not be hampered by requests for interview,” they wrote. “Having him testify demeans the office of the president before the world.”

They also contended that nothing Mr. Trump did violated obstruction-of-justice statutes, making both a technical parsing of what one such law covers and a broad constitutional argument that Congress cannot infringe on how he exercises his power to supervise the executive branch. Because of the authority the Constitution gives him, it is impossible for him to obstruct justice by shutting down a case or firing a subordinate, no matter his motivation, they said.

“Every action that the president took was taken with full constitutional authority pursuant to Article II of the United States Constitution,” they wrote of the part of the Constitution that created the executive branch. “As such, these actions cannot constitute obstruction, whether viewed separately or even as a totality.”

That constitutional claim raises novel issues, according to legal experts. Under the Constitution, the president wields broad authority to control the actions of the executive branch. But the Supreme Court has ruled that Congress can impose some restrictions on his exercise of that power, including by upholding statutes that limit his ability to fire certain officials. As a result, it is not clear whether statutes criminalizing obstruction of justice apply to the president and amount to another legal limit on how he may wield his powers.

.. The letter does not stress legal opinions by the Justice Department in the Nixon and Clinton administrations that held that a sitting president cannot be indicted, in part because it would impede his ability to carry out his constitutional responsibilities. But in recent weeks, Mr. Giuliani has pointed to those memos as part of a broader argument that, by extension, Mr. Trump also cannot be subpoenaed.

Subpoenas of the president are all but unheard-of. President Bill Clinton was ordered to testify before a grand jury in 1998 after requests for a voluntary appearance made by the independent counsel, Kenneth W. Starr, went nowhere.

To avoid the indignity of being marched into the courthouse, Mr. Clinton had his lawyers negotiate a deal in which the president agreed to provide testimony as long as it was taken at the White House and limited to four hours. Mr. Starr then withdrew the subpoena, avoiding a definitive court fight.

In making their arguments, Mr. Trump’s lawyers also revealed new details about the investigation. They took on Mr. Comey’s account of Mr. Trump asking him privately to end the investigation into Mr. Flynn. Investigators are examining that request as possible obstruction.

But Mr. Trump could not have intentionally impeded the F.B.I.’s investigation, the lawyers wrote, because he did not know Mr. Flynn was under investigation when he spoke to Mr. Comey. Mr. Flynn, they said, twice told senior White House officials in the days before he was fired in February 2017 that he was not under F.B.I. scrutiny.

“There could not possibly have been intent to obstruct an ‘investigation’ that had been neither confirmed nor denied to White House counsel,” the president’s lawyers wrote.

Moreover, F.B.I. investigations do not qualify as the sort of “proceeding” an obstruction-of-justice statute covers, they argued.

“Of course, the president of the United States is not above the law, but just as obvious and equally as true is the fact that the president should not be subjected to strained readings and forced applications of clearly irrelevant statutes,” Mr. Dowd and Mr. Sekulow wrote.

But the lawyers based those arguments on an outdated statute, without mentioning that Congress passed a broader law in 2002 that makes it a crime to obstruct proceedings that have not yet started.

Samuel W. Buell, a Duke Law School professor and white-collar criminal law specialist who was a lead prosecutor for the Justice Department’s Enron task force, said the real issue was whether Mr. Trump obstructed a potential grand jury investigation or trial — which do count as proceedings — even if the F.B.I. investigation had not yet developed into one of those. He called it inexplicable why the president’s legal team was making arguments that were focused on the wrong obstruction-of-justice statute.

They went beyond asserting Mr. Trump’s innocence, casting him as the hero of the Flynn episode and contending that he deserved credit for ordering his aides to investigate Mr. Flynn and ultimately firing him.

“Far, far, from obstructing justice, the only individual in the entire Flynn story that ensured swift justice was the president,” they wrote. “His actions speak louder than any words.”

The lawyers acknowledged that Mr. Trump dictated a statement to The Times about the 2016 Trump Tower meeting between some of his top advisers and Russians who were said to have damaging information about Hillary Clinton. Though the statement is misleading — in it, the president’s eldest son, Donald Trump Jr., said he met with Russians “primarily” to discuss adoption issues — the lawyers call it “short but accurate.”

.. Mr. Mueller is investigating whether Mr. Trump, by dictating the comment, revealed that he was trying to cover up proof of the campaign’s ties to Russia — evidence that could go to whether he had the same intention when he took other actions.

The president’s lawyers argued that the statement is a matter between the president and The Times — and the president’s White House and legal advisers have said for the past year that misleading journalists is not a crime.

Mr. Trump’s lawyers also try to untangle another potential piece of evidence in the obstruction investigation: his assertion, during an interview with Lester Holt of NBC two days after Mr. Comey was fired, that he was thinking while he weighed the dismissal that “this Russia thing” had no validity. Mr. Mueller’s investigators view that statement as damning, according to people familiar with the investigation.

But the lawyers say that news accounts seized on only part of his comments and that his full remarks show that the president was aware that firing Mr. Comey would lengthen the investigation and dismissed him anyway.

The complete interview, the lawyers argued, makes clear “he was willing, even expecting, to let the investigation take more time, though he thinks it is ridiculous, because he believes that the American people deserve to have a competent leader of the F.B.I.”

Richard Rohr: Learning to See: All Things Work for the Good

Most religious searches begin with one massive misperception. People tend to start by making a very unfortunate, yet understandable, division between the sacred and the profane worlds. Early stage religion focuses on identifying sacred places, sacred time, and seemingly sacred actions that then leave the overwhelming majority of life unsacred. People are told to look for God in certain special places and in particular events—usually, it seems, ones controlled by the clergy.

.. In Franciscan (and true Christian) mysticism, there is finally no distinction between sacred and profane. The whole universe and all events are sacred, serving as doorways to the divine for those who know how to see. In other words, everything that happens is potentially sacred if we allow it to be.

.. As the French friar Eloi Leclerc (1921-2016) beautifully paraphrased Francis, “If we knew how to adore, then nothing could truly disturb our peace. We would travel through the world with the tranquility of the great rivers. But only if we know how to adore.”

.. Once we can accept that God is in all situations, and that God can and will use even bad situations for good, then everything and everywhere becomes an occasion for good and an encounter with God.

God’s plan is so perfect that even sin, tragedy, and painful deaths are used to bring us to divine union, just as the cross was meant to reveal. God wisely makes the problem itself part of the solution. It is all a matter of learning how to see rightly, fully, and therefore truthfully.

Does Colin Kaepernick Hate America?

New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees criticized his NFL colleague, saying he respects Kaepernick’s right to protest whatever he wants, but drawing the line at this form of protest. Brees calls the American flag “sacred.”

.. 2. On the other hand, Drew Brees is wrong: the American flag is not sacred. I mean, I understand why he believes that it is, and I am sure it is sacred to him, as it is to tens of millions of Americans. But should it be? Do we worship the nation and its symbols? At what point does loving one’s country — patriotism — become an idolatrous form of nationalism?

.. 3. What if the United States government, as well as American culture, began to oppress Christians in a serious, deliberate way? How would I feel about standing up for the National Anthem myself? I would be hard pressed to do so, precisely because the state would be violating the one thing I do hold sacred: the Sacred.

.. Most people will see Kaepernick’s stunt as just that: a stunt. But the day may come when things like this have more power than mere shock value. Though Kaepernick’s action is wholly political, with no discernible religious content to it, it ought to make Christians think about our own relationship with the nation and its symbols.

Inside The Head Of Trump Voters

If you look back far enough in humankind’s history, you will observe that you don’t see civilizations starting without their building temples first. Haidt, who is a secular liberal, is not making a theistic point, not really. He’s saying that the work of civilization can only be accomplished when a people binds itself together around a shared sense of the sacred. It’s what makes a people a people, and a civilization a civilization. “It doesn’t have to be a god,” says Haidt. Anything that we hold sacred, and hold it together, is enough.

.. But then he tells them that if they believe that they could treat without bias a patient who is an open Trump supporter, they’re lying to themselves. In the America of 2016, political bias is the most powerful bias of all — more polarizing by far than race, even.

.. Haidt makes a point of saying that it’s simply wrong to call Trump a fascist. He’s too individualistic for that. He’s an authoritarian, but that is not a synonym for fascist, no matter how much the Left wants to say it is.

.. He says that in his work as an academic and social psychologist, he sees colleagues constantly demonizing and mocking conservatives. He warns them to knock it off. “We need political diversity,” he says. And: “They are members of our community.”

The discourse and behavior of the Left, says Haidt, is alienating millions of ordinary people all over the West. It’s not just America. We are sliding towards authoritarianism all over the West, and there’s really only one way to stop it.

.. At the 41:37 point in the talk, Haidt says that we can reduce intolerance and defuse the conflict by focusing on sameness. We need unifying rituals, beliefs, institutions, and practices, he says, drawing on Stenner’s research. The romance the Left has long had with multiculturalism and diversity (as the Left defines it) has to end, because it’s helping tear us apart.

This fall, the Democrats are taking Stenner’s advice brilliantly, says Haidt, referring to the convention the Dems just put on, and Hillary’s speech about how we’re all better off standing together. Haidt says this is actually good advice, period. “It’s not just propaganda you wheel out at election time,” he says. If we don’t have a feasible conservative party, we open the way for authoritarianism.

.. Haidt says we don’t need “equality” — that is, an equal number of conservatives and liberals in the academy. We just need to have diversity enough for people to be challenged in their viewpoints, so an academic community can flourish according to its nature.

.. I don’t think the center can hold anymore. It’s too late. The cultural left in this country is very authoritarian, at least as regards orthodox Christians and other social conservatives.

.. We are the people who defile what they consider most sacred: sexual liberty, including abortion rights and gay rights. The liberals in control now (as distinct from all liberals, let me be clear) have made it clear that they will not compromise with what they consider to be evil. We are the Klan to them. Error has no rights in this world they’re building.

.. all I want for my tribe is to be left alone. But the crusading Left won’t let that happen anymore. They don’t even want the Mormons to be allowed to play football foe the Big 12, for heaven’s sake.