Friday, October 29, 2021

Of Loudon and Liberty

 One of the more explosive stories these days is the saga of the alleged sexual assault in a high school in Loudon County, Virginia. The basic facts of the case are that a 15-year-old boy is reported to have assaulted a ninth-grade girl in the bathroom of the high school. From there, the waters get muddy.

When the story originally broke in mid-October, it began with a Daily Wire report that contained a number of explosive allegations. The original story reported that the rape was committed by a boy wearing a skirt and that the school tried to cover up the attack. The victim’s father was arrested at a school board meeting back in June in which the superintendent was defending the school district’s transgender bathroom policy.

Photo by Eric Ward on Unsplash

Superintendent Scott Ziegler told the crowd, "To my knowledge, we don't have any records of assaults occurring in our restrooms."

The victim’s father, Scott Smith, challenged the superintendent and things got heated. Ultimately, Smith was forcibly removed and arrested. A video of the incident went viral.

The circumstances of the attack are both tragic and appalling, but not all of the allegations are supported by evidence. NBC Washington does confirm that the boy’s family has said that he identifies as gender fluid and was wearing a skirt the day of the attack. It is also true that Virginia law requires that the superintendent be notified of sexual assaults within the school system.

An additional truth is that the accused rapist was transferred to another school while the case was pending. He is accused of sexually assaulting a different student while at that school. At the time, the boy was being monitored electrically as he waited for his trial. Investigators were also waiting for DNA evidence from the rape kit.

In other words, it’s true that there was an assault by a skirt-wearing, transgender boy and that Loudon County school officials handled the problem abysmally. As the parent of 13-year-old girl, it’s tough to blame Scott Smith for losing his cool. I don’t know what I would do in a similar situation.

On the other hand, there are reports that the school tried to cover up the incident and did not report the attack to police. Virginia’s WTOP reports that this is not true. An email from Ziegler to school board members has emerged since the story broke. That email, dated May 28, shows both that Ziegler was aware of the sexual assault, although it does not contain the details about the sexual preferences of the attacker, and it also notes that the Loudon County Sheriff’s Office was investigating.

The email also notes that the girl’s parent came to the school and “caused a disruption using threatening and profane language.” The short message notes that additional law enforcement units responded to the school to assist with the parent.”

What is not clear is why Superintendent Ziegler denied that there were any sexual assaults related to the school’s bathroom policy. He did offer an explanation in a statement, saying, “I wrongly interpreted as incidents involving transgender and gender-fluid students. I did this because I was viewing the question in light of the general questions and debate around policy 8040 [the transgender bathroom policy] that was occurring at the time."

That isn’t a clear answer at all.

The superintendant said that the attack was not made public during the investigation to protect the identities of both the alleged rapist and the victim since both are minors. Ziegler also said that the school followed federal Title IX procedures but that those guidelines were inadequate.

Earlier this week, a county juvenile court judge ruled that the accused rapist was guilty of forcible sodomy and forcible fellatio. At the trial, a more complete picture of the chain of events began to emerge.

As WTOP describes, the attack was not random. The two teens had been texting using the Discord app for several weeks. Some of these conversations were “sexually charged.” The pair had reportedly met in bathrooms at the school twice to “hook up” and have sex.

Per the report, on May 28, the boy texted the girl, who was 14 at the time of the attack, and asked her to meet him in the bathroom again. She agreed to meet him but did not consent to sex on that occasion. The boy forced himself on her anyway. After the attack, the girl reported the incident to school officials and was interviewed by sheriff’s office investigators. She did not initially disclose the previous encounters.

Even though the girl was 14 at the time of the encounters and the age of consent in Virginia is 18, the state also has a “Romeo and Juliet” law with exceptions for sex between teenagers. However, this law only applies to 15- to 17-year-olds. Even though the boy was 15 during their consensual encounters, Virginia law does not allow a 14-year-old to consent to sex. Consensual sex between a 14 and 15-year-old would be a Class 4 misdemeanor, but rape is a felony.

The situation is a complex one. The school definitely handled the situation poorly, but at the same time, a lot of the hysteria seems unfounded. While the pair’s previous sexual encounters do not excuse the attack, they do show that the incident does not fit the mold of a random attack by a transgender predator. At least not in the first attack. Few details are available on the second.

Second, the transgender bathroom policy 8040 was not in force when the attack occurred. The rape occurred on May 28 and the school board did not approve the new policy until August. It’s difficult to blame a policy that did not yet exist for the assault.

Third, while the outrage about sending the boy to another school is understandable, we should remember that he had not been convicted of a crime at that point. It was only a few short years ago that many of the people now saying that the boy should have been locked up immediately were saying that women should not be automatically believed in cases that ranged from Brett Kavanaugh to Roy Moore to Donald Trump.

I agree with those previous statements. No one should be believed automatically. The only way to handle these cases justly is to look at the evidence. Even accused rapists are entitled to due process because not all women tell the truth. (Although way too many women have experienced rape and many of them suffer silently without ever making a public accusation.) If an accused rapist is deemed dangerous, he should be locked up until he can be tried. Loudon County dropped the ball on that score, but as they say, hindsight is 20/20.

Should Loudon County have known that the boy was dangerous? Even consensual sex would have been criminal, and the school did not know about the consensual encounters at that point. We also don’t know whether the boy had a history of problems or whether this was his first time in trouble. Regardless, with an accusation as serious as a rape on school property during school hours, it seems that more precautions should have been taken.

I take rape and sexual assault very seriously. My long-time readers may remember that my wife is a rape survivor (as she discussed in 2018) who knows all too well that school districts can try to sweep such embarrassing incidents under the rug. Over the years, I’ve been surprised and dismayed to hear a great many women listen to her story and then relate the experience of their own attacks. Sexual assault is a lot more common than most of us care to realize.

Sexual assault cases should not be political, however. Many people on the right are concerned about the Loudon County case because it fits their culture war agenda. When the chips are down, both parties make excuses for members of their tribe who behave badly. After all, isn’t the Supreme Court or a Senate seat or the White House more important than an individual who is probably lying anyway since they are attacking someone I like?

In fact, Loudon County isn’t the only school sex scandal going on right now. ProPublica recently released a report on how Liberty University allegedly exhibited a pattern of covering up rapes of its students. In many cases, students say that when they reported attacks to faculty, the school did not act on the allegations and administrators would even accuse the women of violating the Liberty Way, the school’s code of conduct which bans drinking, being alone with members of the opposite sex, and premarital sex. Scott Lamb, a former official at the university, filed suit this week claiming that he was fired for raising concerns about how the school handled sexual assaults.

Should these allegations be dismissed because Liberty University is a respected Christian and conservative institution? The answer should be a resounding “no” from all sides of the political spectrum.

And what about the Southern Baptist Convention’s failure to address similar concerns? The denomination has had a bitter fight over the past few years over how to handle reports of systematic abuse by some Southern Baptist pastors and church officials and the failure of church leaders to adequately respond to abuse victims. Messengers to the Southern Baptist Convention voted overwhelmingly to set up an independent investigation of the matter last summer. (Full disclosure: My wife’s rape did not occur at church, but a Southern Baptist pastor was one of the people who gave her bad advice on how to handle the matter.)

The point here is not to engage in whataboutism. The evidence is that Loudon County handled the sexual assault poorly, even if all the details were not accurately reported.

But we shouldn’t limit our outrage to our political enemies. We should follow the evidence and objectively go where it leads. Just because a person holds a position of power, sexual assaults should not be overlooked and excused. The attitude that the end justifies the means has led both parties into a race to the bottom in which they find themselves defending sexual predators.

Superintendent Ziegler has apologized for the incident and one school board member has resigned. For what it’s worth, Ziegler has also announced several reforms aimed at preventing a similar occurrence. These include instituting new measures to isolate accused rapists from the rest of the student body. Parents are calling for Ziegler’s removal, but unless there are additional revelations, I think he should face the voters to determine his fate.

Scott Smith, the victim’s father seems to have acted poorly as well, even if he acted understandably. His alleged behavior on the day of the attack did not help matters. His outburst at the meeting several weeks later is can be understood in light of Ziegler’s denial. Smith was found guilty in the school board scuffle and given a suspended sentence of 10 days in jail. He is also suing the school system.

Sexual assaults have been with us since the days of Genesis. In our fallen world, they won’t be going away, but that doesn’t mean we should tolerate them. And that’s especially true within Christian organizations.


NOTE: I’ve referenced Brett Kavanaugh and the Supreme Court in this piece. While Kavanaugh was accused, I don’t believe the evidence supports his accuser. I’m not saying this because he’s conservative justice, however. I’m saying it because the accusation was very thin and not supported by facts. Granted, this may be because it is difficult to find evidence in a decades-old case.

If you or someone you know is the victim of a rape or sexual assault, my advice would be not to keep it a secret. Talk to your parents, friends, the school, and/or law enforcement. Save any evidence that you have. Leave a paper trail.

Victims of sexual violence can find help at or by calling 800-656-HOPE (4673).

Another breaking story in a similar vein is that of Donald “Happy” Mobelini, a high school principal and mayor in Hazzard, Kentucky. Mobelini and other faculty members were recently splayed across social media at the school’s annual “Man Pageant.” The photos showed male students dressed in lingerie giving the administrators lap dances while female students are dressed in Hooters uniforms.

The two tribes are undoubtedly scouring the social media and voter registrations of all parties involved to determine whether to be outraged or circle the wagons. So far, however, there have been no allegations of sexual misconduct (beyond the lap dances) and no indication that Mobelini, who has been in trouble before notes the Lexington Herald-Leader, is a member of either party.

Maybe we can all be outraged at the bad decisions in Hazzard together.

From the Racket

Tuesday, October 26, 2021

Taking an interest in inflation


Today seems like one of the rare days with a quiet news cycle. There is nothing earth-shattering or upending the events of the day. I did, however, have something on my mind lately that I thought I’d discuss today.

Inflation is on a lot of minds and it can’t be denied that we are experiencing some measure of the feared phenomenon right now, but there are different types of inflation. There is a lot of debate over whether we are seeing demand-pull inflation, which is caused by high demand and shortages in supply and which is likely transitory, or by cost-push inflation, which is caused by an increase in the price of production and could be a long term problem.

In my view, a lot of what we are seeing is from the demand side. We know about the difficulties in getting ships unloaded at American ports, but there is also a shortage of truck drivers to move goods once they are unloaded. Add to that, the continuing disruptions from the pandemic, which has led to factories being retooled and interruptions in the supply of raw materials for other manufacturers, as well as the continuing effects of the tariff war. Finally, a severe drought in California and other western states has led to food shortages. All of these factors have combined to increase prices on a great many commodities.

But what if we are facing a round of cost-push inflation that is due to the Biden Administration’s monetary policy? As most people probably know, inflation devalues money so that your dollars are worth less and don’t buy as much. If employers give employees raises to compensate for their devalued paychecks and the employees in turn spend the new money on more items with inflated prices, an economy can enter a vicious cycle.

This was the situation that the US faced in the 1970s. Inflation was combined with stagnant economic growth to create “staglation.” The decade was so gloomy that economists created a “misery index,” inflation plus unemployment, to index just how bad things were at a given time.

The good news is that Ronald Reagan and Fed Chairman Paul Volcker found a way to fight inflation that was more effective than Gerald Ford’s “Whip Inflation Now” buttons or Jimmy Carter’s lecturing. The answer turned out to be raising interest rates.

And raise them they did. Volcker raised the prime lending rate to 21 percent in 1981. This is unthinkable to most of us these days. We’ve gotten used to near-zero interest rates. Today, a 21 percent interest rate is high for a credit card. In 1981, that could have been the interest rate on a mortgage.

Raising interest rates, i.e. tightening the money supply, led to a sharp recession in 1981 and 1982. I was young, but I remember a lot of angst from that time. A schoolyard joke was to show your “Reagan flags” by turning your pockets inside out to show that they were empty. The 1981 recession was painful, but the strategy worked. When America exited the recession, inflation was broken and we entered a decade of prosperity and low unemployment.

If inflation gets out of hand, we could do the same thing again (if any politician could be talked into inflicting short-term pain for long-term gain), but there’s a catch. In 1981, our national debt was only $998 billion (with a “b”). Now it is $28 trillion (with a “t”) and rising. Raising interest rates now would accelerate our debt crisis and hasten the day of reckoning.

About nine percent of federal revenues are currently used to pay interest on the national debt. Imagine that multiplied five, 10, or even 20 times. If interest rates rise from near-zero to anything close to 20 percent, it could be catastrophic for the economy, both in terms of a potential government default as well as the pain inflicted by tight money on consumers and businesses.

Interest rates are going to rise at some point. They won’t stay low forever. We are going to have to deal with the national debt sooner or later.

The problem is that neither party wants to be responsible. Democrats are attempting a spending binge now, but when Republicans had the chance to rein in the deficit, they chose to whip out the national credit card for their pet projects and then increase the deficit further with tax cuts.

I agree that we have a spending problem rather than a revenue problem, but since neither party wants to address spending (at least not when they are in power), the solution is going to have to come from growth and increasing revenue. We’ll probably have to raise taxes at some point.

And not raising the debt limit isn’t a solution either. That strategy would slow the accumulation of debt by causing a debt crisis today rather than years from now. For those of us who don’t want to blow up the economy (or the country), not raising the debt limit seems like an extremely bad idea.

For right now, I’m going to hope that I’m right that inflation is transitory and that we can deal with it later. I hate kicking the can down the road, but delay is a better strategy than default.


Pete Wehner in the Atlantic had an excellent piece on the evangelical church. It’s somewhat of a long read, but much recommended.

The piece highlights the crisis within evangelical churches as members “catechize” their political beliefs and their actions become more and more unchristian. Many pastors are leaving the profession because their churches have become such a hostile environment.

One of the most poignant lines in the piece is this, “If the Bible doesn’t challenge your politics at least occasionally, you’re not really paying attention to the Hebrew scriptures or the New Testament.”

From the Racket

Tuesday, October 19, 2021

Another bad idea from Texas

 There seem to be lots of bad ideas coming out of Texas these days. There is the a new law that pioneers the use of lawsuits to ban abortion. There is Greg Abbott’s attempt to ban companies from requiring vaccines. Earlier this year, Texas passed a controversial overhaul of its voter laws. If we go back to last year, there is even an attempt by Texas to throw out election results in Georgia, Pennsylvania, Michigan, and Wisconsin.

Some of the motives behind these moves are good. For example, banning abortion is not a bad idea but putting enforcement into the hands of anyone in the country by allowing them to sue sets a dangerous precedent. The ban on vaccine mandates not only undercuts public health and safety but is also a Big Government attack on the ability of private companies to make their own standards. Some of the voting changes are good and some are understandable, but others are a transparent attempt to make voting more difficult. And there is really no excuse for the attempt to disenfranchise states who didn’t support Texas’s preferred candidate. The Texas lawsuit was summarily dismissed by the Supreme Court and similar lawsuits have been laughed out of courts around the country. At this point, the stolen election narrative has been thoroughly debunked.

Photo by Pete Alexopoulos on Unsplash

But none of that is what I’m writing about today. This time my topic is the anti-CRT bill that may have accidentally required schools in Texas to bring Nazi propaganda into the classroom.

Late last week, the story broke that Southlake, Texas teachers were told that in order to abide by the new law, if they had a book on the Holocaust in their classroom that they also had to have a book with the “opposing” perspective. The NBC News piece was written around teacher training that was secretly recorded by a staff member.

Gina Peddy, the Carroll Independent School District’s executive director of curriculum and instruction told teachers, “Just try to remember the concepts of [House Bill] 3979 and make sure that if you have a book on the Holocaust that you have one that has an opposing, that has other perspectives.”

“How do you oppose the Holocaust?” a teacher asked.

“Believe me,” Peddy answered. “That’s come up.”

Peddy apparently did not directly answer the question and did not respond to requests for comment from NBC, but the Karen Fitzgerald, a spokesman for Carroll ISD, did issue a statement that said, “Our district recognizes that all Texas teachers are in a precarious position with the latest legal requirements.”

The superintendent of the suburban Dallas district apologized in a statement, saying, “As the superintendent of schools, I express my sincere apology regarding the online article and news story released today. During the conversations with teachers during last week’s meeting, the comments made were in no way to convey that the Holocaust was anything less than a terrible event in history. As we continue to work through implementation of [House Bill] 3979, we also understand this bill does not require an opposing viewpoint on historical facts. As a district, we will work to add clarity to our expectations for teachers and once again apologize for any hurt or confusion this has caused."

The bill in question, HB 3979, was passed over the summer and became effective on September 1. The text of the bill is a quick read and mostly consists of topics that are to be mandatory in Texas schools. These include the writings of Frederick Douglass, the Chicano movement, the Civil Rights movement, and “the history of white supremacy, including but not limited to the institution of slavery, the eugenics movement, and the Ku Klux Klan, and the ways in which it is morally wrong.” From the text of the bill, it is apparent that the Texas legislature does not want to be seen as racist or white supremacist.

Most of the controversy comes from the second part of the bill, part of which bans students from being required to participate in political activism or even being given extra credit for political activities.

It is this second part of the law that also says:

For any social studies course in the required curriculum:              

(1)  a teacher may not be compelled to discuss a particular current event or widely debated and currently controversial issue of public policy or social affairs;              

(2)  a teacher who chooses to discuss a topic described by Subdivision (1) shall, to the best of the teacher's ability, strive to explore the topic from diverse and contending perspectives without giving deference to any one perspective;

Based on the text of the law, Texas does not specifically require that the Holocaust or even World War II be taught at all, although these topics may be required elsewhere in the Texas curriculum. The Holocaust is not a "current event,” but it could be considered a “widely debated and controversial issue of… social affairs.”

Why? Because there are Holocaust deniers and those who would equate the Holocaust with getting vaccinated or wearing a mask (to name a completely random example). That sentence might make you think of Marjorie Taylor Greene (Q- Ga.), but it is a very Texas reference. Back in July, a federal judge ruled against Houston hospital employees attacking their employer’s vaccine mandate. The hospital workers likened the mandate to the Holocaust and said that it violated the Nuremberg Code.

Do all the comparisons of the pandemic mitigations to the Holocaust mean that that the topic would fall under the Texas law? Perhaps. That would be for a court to decide.

It seems obvious that the law was intended as a response to the bogeyman of critical race theory, which I cannot confirm is being taught in any K-12 school anywhere in the United States. If CRT is being taught, it is not widespread and certainly does not merit the priority that it has been given (in a pandemic no less).

Instead, as Jonathan Chism, assistant professor of history at the University of Houston–Downtown, told NBC News, "Any anti-racist effort is being labeled as critical race theory.”

There seems to be some truth to that. For example. a Houston school district recently removed a Newbery award-winning book about a black middle schooler who attends a predominantly white school after parents circulated a petition claiming that the book taught CRT. After a review and a counter-petition, the Katy ISD reinstated the book.

Under the letter of the new law, teachers cannot be forced to talk about controversial topics like race, but if they choose to teach these topics they are required to have “diverse and contending perspectives without giving deference to any one perspective.” A plain reading of the law would understand this to mean that a discussion on race relations would have to include white supremacist and segregationist perspectives and that these “contending” viewpoints would have to be given equal weight. I doubt that was the intent of the law, but it is what the law says.

The Holocaust is probably not the best example of why the Texas law is bad, but it is the example that we have. Let’s think about some other subjects that might fall under the “current event or widely debated and currently controversial issue of public policy or social affairs” label:

  • Socialism -Socialism is very much a current topic of discussion and the Texas law would require that pro-socialist viewpoints be offered, if it is evenly applied.

  • Treatment of the Indians - Texas history is replete with conflicts between settlers and Native Americans. Texas law now requires that the Indian perspective be given equal treatment.

  • Abortion - Do pro-life Texans want a pro-choice viewpoint taught in their schools?

  • Evolution - The law applies to “social studies” rather than science, but a discussion of religion and the origins of the universe from a religious perspective would have to be balanced with a discussion of evolution.

Granted, the law does give teachers the option of not covering controversial topics, but is that really what we want? We live in a nation where it is offensive for either side to be subjected to differing opinions and that is not good for the country. We need to expose students to controversial ideas and I trust schools to do a better job of that than cable news or (Heaven forbid) the internet.

Ultimately, the worst aspect of the law may be a chilling of free speech and ideas. Teachers and school districts may be so averse to the possibility of lawsuits and angering parents that they settle into a policy of avoidance and simply steer clear of controversy.

Some Texans might view this avoidance as a feature rather than a bug of the law. I would wager that it is the true purpose of the law. I’ll leave it up to you to decide whether the Texas law was well-intentioned or not, but in my view, it was intended to pander to the Republican base by attacking a non-existent problem.

There is less room to debate on the effect of the law. Even though the law is new, it is already becoming an example of the Law of Unintended Consequences in which government regulatory tinkering often leads to worse problems than the one that they originally passed a law to solve.

The Texas law should be an example of why laws should not be broadly written and hastily passed. This is especially true when the law is written to solve a problem that might well not exist in the first place.


Former Secretary of State Colin Powell has passed away from COVID-19 complications. I met Secretary Powell once when he spoke at an insurance convention that I was attending. While I did not always agree with Powell, he was someone that I respected immensely.

Powell was fully vaccinated but was high-risk due to a depressed immune system. CNN reports that Powell had multiple myeloma, a cancer of plasma cells that suppresses the body's immune response. This is a good argument for why even healthy people should get vaccinated to help protect the vulnerable among us.

In a country that seems to be going crazy and that is fueled by constant outrage, his calm demeanor and moderation will be sorely missed.

Worth your time: This isn’t ours, but it is interesting. If you have ever wondered about what happens to your internet returns (and about a third of internet purchases are returned), then check out this Atlantic piece, “The Nasty Logistics of Returning Your Too-Small Pants.”

While I love hassle-free and fee-free returns, I hadn’t given much thought to the infrastructure necessary and the waste that is inherent in these free returns. Ultimately, the cost of writing off so much inventory is probably going to be passed along to consumers.

Wednesday, October 13, 2021

The Brandon delusion

 If you’ve been on the internet much lately, you’ve probably seen the “Let’s go Brandon” memes. It took me a couple of days to summon the curiosity to look up the details of the meme, but here’s the story.

The short version is that a NASCAR driver named Brandon Brown won the Xfinity Series and was being interviewed by an NBC Sports reporter. During the interview, the crowd was chanting in the background, and the reporter claimed that the crowd was yelling, “Let’s go, Brandon.”

Well, it turns out that wasn’t the case. In reality, the crowd was yelling, “F- Joe Biden,” and a meme was born.

I don’t know what the reporter, Kelli Stavast, was thinking as she did the interview. Her reaction to the chant has been variously described as a “smooth save,” ”awkward,” and “hilarious.” It was the hilarious route that Republicans chose to take with a new wave of memes.

Maybe Stavast wanted to protect Brandon Brown’s dignity in his moment of victory. Maybe she wanted to protect Biden from embarrassment. Maybe she wanted to protect the crowd from having its own boorish behavior spread across national television. Maybe she even really thought that the crowd was cheering Brandon. Whatever Stavast’s motive, it backfired.

The “Let’s go Brandon” meme is a good follow-on to my recent piece about the lost art of persuasion. The Republicans in the crowd at Talladega (and in many other places where the chant has been taken up in recent months) are so confident in their hatred of Joe Biden that they are not concerned with what the rest of the country thinks because it’s obvious that everyone thinks like them. Or at least everyone who matters.

The attitude is reminiscent of Pauline Kael, who was famously misquoted as having said, "I can't believe Nixon won. I don't know anyone who voted for him." That is the exact attitude of the Trump Republicans who can’t believe that Trump lost or that “Sleepy Joe” won 82 million votes because nobody they know voted for him and nobody went to his rallies (which he mostly didn’t have because of the pandemic, but don’t confuse the issue with facts).

The truth is that they probably do know someone who voted Biden. They just don’t know it. Quite a few red and purple state Republicans, conservatives, and moderates probably voted Biden but didn’t necessarily brag about it. And why not? The behavior of the mob should answer that question.

The raucous and offensive behavior of the “Let’s go Brandon” mobs may well confirm the misgivings of those closet Biden voters who were concerned not only about Trump’s behavior but the behavior of his supporters as well. If all politics is local, then when you see your friends and neighbors acting scary, you may not stick your head up for fear of getting it chopped off but you don’t necessarily sign up to join the mob either. Quietly voting for the other party is a way to passively resist, however.

If NASCAR and other sporting associations want to keep their venues family-friendly, they need to find a way to rein in these obscene cheers. This offensive behavior is what I’d expect from radical leftists who revel in disrupting events for their own amusement. It is not conservative behavior.

And what of the Christian conservatives? Some of the extremely partisan churchgoers may be okay with political behavior that flouts Biblical admonitions to have “no filthiness nor foolish talk nor crude joking” (Ephesians 5:4) or to put “away anger, wrath, malice, slander, and obscene talk from your mouth” (Colossians 3:8), but maybe others aren’t.

Maybe the offensive behavior, of their friends and neighbors if not of Trump, will wake rank-and-file Christians up to the fact that the GOP is no longer the family values party that it used to be. What would your pastor or Sunday School teacher say if they knew that you were in the crowd yelling, “F- Joe Biden?”

For that matter, what would you do if it was your pastor or Sunday School teacher taking part in the chant? I suspect that plenty of clergy and church officials joined in.

The bad behavior of so many Christians over the past few years is enough to spawn questions about the validity of the faith. If I thought that all Christians were vitriolic, conspiracy-minded radicals who cast the Ten Commandments aside when it comes to Supreme Court appointments or abortion policy, I wouldn’t want to be part of it either.

The good news is that the bad behavior of Christians doesn’t undermine the core truths of Christianity. The bad news is that it can make the Gospel less attractive to the unchurched and the churched alike.

In the intervening days, we moved from Kelli Stavast’s delusion to a MAGA delusion. After Southwest Airlines suffered a plethora of canceled flights over the weekend, the idea spread online that resistance to the vaccine mandates led to the spate of cancellations. This led to a new wave of memes that married “Let’s go Brandon” to Southwest.

The Great Southwest Vaccine Revolt seems to have been a delusion as well, however. The first clue was that Southwest was the only airline suffering difficulties over the weekend. The second was that Spirit Airlines had a similar meltdown back in August, a full two months before its CEO announced the company would mandate vaccinations for its employees. In fact, Southwest had another meltdown back in June due to widespread computer problems.

The death knell for the Southwest Brandon meme should have been the fact that sick calls last weekend were on par with a normal weekend as Capt. Casey Murray of the Southwest Pilots Association, the airline’s pilot union, related to WGN. Murray added that pickup rates, the rate at which crewmembers pick up extra trips on their off days, are near an all-time high. Not only were there not increased sick calls, many crewmembers are working extra trips for extra money. This is the opposite of an intentional slowdown.

So what did cause Southwest’s meltdown? I’ve mentioned the error chain concept before and it seems to be the case here that there was no single factor but a confluence of several things going wrong at once.

Southwest said that the difficulties started with weather problems and short staffing of air traffic control facilities in Jacksonville, Florida. Jacksonville Air Route Traffic Control Center is responsible for traffic throughout northern Florida and south Georgia. When things started going wrong and flights started canceling, crews started exceeding their duty times. These are federally mandated limits (which union contracts may shorten further) and the crews are required to go into rest when they reach their maximum duty limit. When this started to happen, Southwest’s airliners were stranded across the country without crews to man them.

tweet from the FAA confirmed that there were ATC staffing shortages on Friday that were complicated by weather and military training. A subtweet added that “some airlines [emphasis mine] continue to experience scheduling challenges due to aircraft and crews being out of place.”

If it’s ridiculous to believe Kelli Stavast’s “Let’s go Brandon” excuse then it’s also ridiculous to believe, against the evidence, that Southwest’s problems were part of a popular uprising. The fact is that so far very few employees that are subject to mandates are choosing to put conspiracy fears over their jobs.

The moral of the story is that, as Mark Twain once said, “A lie can travel halfway around the world while the truth is putting on its shoes.” The exception seems to be if there is video that undercuts the false claims. That is easier to do with a misquoted chant than with a complex situation like a series of airline cancellations.


Congratulations are in order to the Atlanta Braves who won their division title last night. 2021 is proving to be a good year for Georgia sports fans after the Georgia Bulldogs moved to first place in the college football rankings.

In Georgia, we are used to disappointments, but I have a good feeling this year. Especially about the Bulldogs.

From the Racket