“Before I turn to the Word,” the preacher announces, “I’m gonna do another diatribe.”
“Go on!” one man yells. “Amen!” shouts a woman several pews in front of me.
Between 40 minutes of praise music and 40 minutes of preaching is the strangest ritual I’ve ever witnessed inside a house of worship. Pastor Bill Bolin calls it his “diatribe.” The congregants at FloodGate Church, in Brighton, Michigan, call it something else: “Headline News.”
Bolin, in his mid-60s, is a gregarious man with thick jowls and a thinning wave of dyed hair. His floral shirt is untucked over dark-blue jeans. “On the vaccines …” he begins.
For the next 15 minutes, Bolin does not mention the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body, or the life everlasting. Instead, he spouts misinformation and conspiratorial nonsense, much of it related to the “radically dangerous” COVID-19 vaccines. “A local nurse who attends FloodGate, who is anonymous at this time—she reported to my wife the other day that at her hospital, they have two COVID patients that are hospitalized. Two.” Bolin pauses dramatically. “They have 103 vaccine-complication patients.” The crowd gasps. […]
If this is a tale of two churches, it is also the tale of churches everywhere. It’s the story of millions of American Christians who, after a lifetime spent considering their political affiliations in the context of their faith, are now considering their faith affiliations in the context of their politics. […]
Once the president of the Southern Baptist policy arm, Moore quit the denomination in 2021 after enduring years of “psychological warfare” for his opposition to Trumpism and advocacy for racial reconciliation. In the time since, as he’s traveled the country and counseled pastors on the intensifying divisions within their congregations, Moore has become convinced that the problem of political fanaticism inside the Church poses real threats outside it.
As I’ve said before, I really could link to every single one of Matt Levine’s columns, but I’ve resisted the urge and only link when I laugh enough that I can’t help it:
In 2008 the prices of some structured credit products built out of subprime U.S. mortgages went down, and as a result there was a global recession and millions of people lost their jobs. If you had asked a normal person in 2007: “How would it affect your life if it turns out that investors have mispriced the super-senior risk in synthetic collateralized debt obligations built out of subprime mortgage tranches,” that person would have said “I have no idea what you are talking about, but I can’t imagine how that collection of words would affect me.” But it did. Loosely speaking, the mechanism was that the people (often banks or shadow banks) who owned subprime CDOs (1) also owned other stuff and (2) had borrowed money to buy that stuff. When their CDOs collapsed, they had to sell other stuff to pay off their debts, which drove down the prices of other stuff, which led to broad market contagion, which destroyed a lot of wealth, which reduced economic activity, etc. Meanwhile the banks had lost money and were more risk-averse and less able to lend, which also reduced economic activity. And so normal people lost their jobs because of contagion from some weird financial asset that they hadn’t even heard of.
If you asked a normal person, you know, two weeks ago: “How would it affect your life if the prices of some monkey JPEGs and algorithmic stablecoins crash,” I think most people would reasonably have said “I do not own a monkey JPEG and do not aspire to own one, so this will not affect me at all.” My guess is that they would have been right. My guess is that the real world is not too affected by the crypto world, and that if crypto prices crash there will not be a ton of contagion in the rest of the financial system. But I think it is, at this point, debatable.
The whole thing is worth reading, but I should point out I really enjoyed “Musk Stuff (2)”. I also enjoyed how Matt planned to take the next day off, but then some Twitter news happened that you’re likely aware of, and his Friday newsletter started with this: “Programming note: Money Stuff was supposed to be off today, but then my boss, Elon Musk, called me in to work anyway.” If you want to read that one too, here you go. But actually, just subscribe already.
But complain though I did about the move, I knew deep down I needed a change. Late in 2019, my wife and I had become parents for the second time, and after a long paternity leave, during which I celebrated my younger son being much easier than his brother by blasting Marlboro Reds and pounding cheap pinot noir, I decided to see if I could stop drinking. Shockingly, I could. […]
And so began the thinking of big thoughts. While I bathed my sons or stayed up late reading, I swallowed a sad truth I’d known for a very long time. I was an alcoholic. While my friends all had bad nights, for me it was different. I was always drinking almost normally, then abnormally, then insanely and then, after making a supreme ass of myself, I’d rein it in, only to begin the cycle again. […]
My days collapsed into a parade of hangovers so bad I wanted to die. Each morning, after waking in agony and bearing a barrage of anger from my wife, I did what I could to make breakfast for my kids and not suffer a total meltdown as they turned our kitchen into a shithouse of cereal and yogurt. And then, somehow, unshowered and in the middle of a five-alarm headache, I’d barricade myself in my bedroom, often with a baby on my lap, skim poems by Marie Howe and Adrienne Rich and do what I could to inspire my students to be anything more than what the pandemic had rendered them: depressed and shell-shocked little thumbnails, too naive to see how booze-whipped I was and too good-natured to do anything as reasonable as bitch, but kids who’d nonetheless devolved from pupils I adored into another obstacle between waking and drinking.
“How was class?” my wife asked.
I gave her a dead-eyed stare as I put the boys in the stroller, thinking all the while: Must. Stop. Destroying. Self.
The follow-up piece to the 3-star link I sent last time:
The striking ubiquity of the young-warrior tradition among Indo-European peoples (and the similarities of the institution across them) is preserved in disparate mythologies and customs. Warriors of the descendant variants of the koryos often enter into battle nude or without armor, in berserker fury, perhaps inebriated, intoxicated or drugged. The Romans repeatedly describe this phenomenon among the Celtic and Germanic tribes they battled, while Norse berserkers and Indian Vedic youth are known to have entered battle wearing wolf skins. The legend of Norwegian king Harald Fairhair’s wolf-skin-clad warrior bodyguard corps still lives on more than a millennium after his 9th-century reign. […]
How barbaric were these early people exactly? In 2019, the Danish archaeologist Kristian Kristiansen made waves when he hypothesized about the possible genocidal behavior of the Yamnaya Indo-European invaders of Europe in Denmark and Germany. Kristiansen knows whereof he speaks; he was an author on papers that reported on massive demographic shifts in the paleogenomic record. To his consternation, this argument elicited predictably sensational media representations, but Kristiansen was simply articulating a theory to explain genetic and archaeological patterns that were becoming undeniable. For example, he notes that burials in early Indo-European sites in Germany and elsewhere indicate they were exogamous, patrilocal, patrilineal and patriarchal (quite similar in fact to the custom of gotra among high-caste Indian Hindus today). To further get a sense of sex dynamics in these early Indo-European communities, Kristiansen notes that the children these early Indo-Europeans viewed as worthy of a reverential burial tended to be male, while isotope analysis indicated that adult females in their early settlements were raised elsewhere. Patrilineality is confirmed in that all the males at a site had the same Y chromosomes. Finally, Kristiansen reports that men and women in these early communities may have had different diets, with the women subsisting more on a Neolithic vegetarian fare in their youth, while men tended to consume meat. This is strong evidence that these women were outsiders, imported daughters of Neolithic locals.
Kristiansen, in short, is presenting a theory that argues the koryos, the ‘black youth’ (black was the color associated with Indo-European koryos across many societies) were instrumental in expanding the range of Indo-European culture through aggressive raiding and eventually conquest. Like the early Romans under Romulus and Remus, they procured mates through means violent and foul. This may have been a general Indo-European trend.
From the medieval trappings of his Texas mansion to his raw organ-meat diet, the TikTok star and supplement magnate promotes living like a caveman in all aspects of life. […]
The Liver King does own shirts, first of all. Several, he claims. I haven’t personally seen them, because when he greeted me in the cavernous entryway of his Texas mansion, he wasn’t wearing one. Nor did I see any in his closet later, which—though it contains approximately 900 identical pairs of athletic shorts and enough guns and ammunition to arm the military of a smaller nation—did not seem to contain even a single t-shirt. Nonetheless, he assured me that there are a few in there, somewhere. It was a bit like when a sign at a national park tells you there are mountain lions in the woods: You believe it, but you understand that you’re unlikely to cross paths with any.
A shirt would only muffle the Liver King’s message: that the modern world has made men unconscionably soft, and that the only way to fight back is by living more like our earliest, most-jacked ancestors. The way to accomplish this, according to the Liver King, is by following his nine “ancestral tenets” (sleep, eat, move, shield, connect, cold, sun, fight, bond), doing the most brutal workouts imaginable, and, above all, eating more raw liver—the nutrient-dense meat favored by, as his website puts it, “lions, great whites, and other wild alpha organisms.”
In just a few months, Ukraine has become the epicenter of one of the largest human displacements in the world. As of late April, an estimated 7.7 million residents have relocated within the country and another 5.6 million have crossed international borders.* Most of those, at least for now, are in Poland. In a politically divided nation that is typically hostile toward refugees, hundreds of thousands of Polish people moved in astonishing unison following the Russian invasion, upending their lives in order to house, feed, and clothe traumatized Ukrainians. The display of generosity stood out from other mass-migration events I’ve covered.
But by the time I met Karolina and other Polish hosts, in late March, they were exhausted. They had missed work and lost sleep, and were stressed about the strain that caring for Ukrainians was putting on their dwindling bank accounts. (They were also wondering whether their own country would be Putin’s next target.) Many of them were ruminating over the same question—one they were gingerly trying to broach with their guests: When would they be leaving?
In 2007, the distinguished scholar Harry Reis of the University of Rochester compared the field of relationship science to an adolescent: “sprawling, at times unruly, and perhaps more mysterious than we might wish.”
But a few years ago, a young, energetic, uber-curious, and brilliant scientist, Samantha Joel, aimed to change that. Joel, like so many in her field, was interested in what predicts successful relationships. But she had a noticeably different approach from others. Joel did not merely recruit a new, tiny sample of couples. Instead, she joined together data from other, already-existing studies. Joel reasoned that, if she could merge data from the existing small studies, she could have a large dataset—and have enough data to reliably find what predicts relationship success and what does not.
Joel’s plan worked. She recruited a large number of scientists who had collected data on relationships—her team ended up including 85 other scientists—and was able to build a dataset of 11,196 heterosexual couples. […]
Many people certainly believe that many of the variables that Joel and her team studied are important in picking a romantic partner. They compete ferociously for partners with certain traits, assuming that these traits will make them happy. If, on average, as Joel and her coauthors found, many of the traits that are most competed for in the dating market do not correlate with romantic happiness, this suggests that many people are dating wrong. […]
Consider, say, conventional attractiveness. Beauty, you will recall, is the single most valued trait in the dating market; Hitsch, Hortaçsu, and Ariely found in their study of tens of thousands of single people on an online dating site that who receives messages and who has their messages responded to can, to a large degree, be explained by how conventionally attractive they are. But Joel and her coauthors found, in their study of more than 11,000 long-term couples, that the conventional attractiveness of one’s partner does not predict romantic happiness.
The dispersed discrimination account holds that, because of implicit biases, most people—even those who hold strong egalitarian beliefs—regularly engage in subtle but still harmful acts of discrimination, albeit with little or no awareness. The concentrated discrimination account counters that a numerical minority of “bad actors”—highly and explicitly biased people—are responsible for most discriminatory acts.
These competing hypotheses lead to different recommendations about how to effectively combat discrimination in businesses, universities, the military and other organizations. If the dispersed discrimination account is correct, then arguably everyone in a given organization should undergo training to reduce implicit bias. If the concentrated discrimination account is true, then this type of training is unlikely to reduce discrimination in the organization, and policies should target explicit bias in a relatively small number of bad actors. A new study published by social psychologists Mitchell Campbell and Markus Brauer, both then at the University of Wisconsin–Madison, tested these hypotheses through a series of survey studies and field experiments involving 16,600 students at the university. The results overwhelmingly supported the concentrated discrimination account, challenging the view that the main problem is implicit bias.
Bringing us to this week’s leak by Politico of a draft Supreme Court opinion in the case of Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization. I don’t usually comment on current events. But the possibilities for typographic forensics were too intriguing to ignore.
Consistent with the Washington journalistic principle of leaks-for-favors, I infer that whoever leaked this draft must foresee a benefit from the leak—as usual, cui bono?
Therefore, I don’t think the source is someone who works at the Supreme Court, like a justice or a clerk. Justices understand that they don’t always end up in the majority. Clerks rely on these jobs as a calling card for the rest of their careers. To be exposed as a leaker would amount to setting that future career on fire. It’s not worth the risk.
Though I’m not going to delve into the substance of this draft opinion, I believe it’s much more likely that the leaker is someone who supports the opinion rather than an opponent. […]
So what can we tell from the document itself?
For thoroughness, I ran the PDF through some metadata checkers to see if there were any interesting tidbits left behind. There weren’t. Though I didn’t expect to find any, based on the appearance of the document.
How was it created? Let’s go in steps.
An important part of middle-class existence is being highly respondent to institutional cues: showing up at work, getting paid a steady salary, and paying bills on time basically define the economic side of the middle class ideal. The car industry created a middle class out of its customer base both by creating a set of high-paying jobs which, during the heyday of the unions, had high job security, and by getting tens of millions of people used to the idea of making monthly payments on a big capital asset that gave them access to work as well as leisure. An agrarian worker has external cues that tell them what to prioritize when, and their economics are more self-contained; mistakes cost them directly, but don't get externalized as much. And craftsmen have similar incentives: if they start with raw materials and build a finished product, a delay or mistake affects the single piece they're building, but doesn't affect another worker making something similar. When work gets divided up and specialized, though, minimizing variance matters more, and auto manufacturers imposed this economically through how they hired and fired, and in Ford's case did so in a more granular and intrusive way.
This isn’t an investment advice column, but maybe it should be. After my recent gloomy—but accurate—prediction about Netflix, someone asked me if I had shorted the stock. No, I didn’t, but that would have been a smart trade. But I hate to make money on someone else’s misfortune.
Which leads me to the subject of Spotify, a business that has delivered plenty of pain and suffering to musicians. And, more recently, to its shareholders. […]
Not only was the prediction right, but even the timeline. I suggested that Spotify might thrive for another 24-36 months, but the problems would be obvious by that point.
With the help of bush pilots, residents of remote Alaskan villages are increasingly using DoorDash, Uber Eats and other food-delivery services.
Inspired by this short video I found on Twitter of people doing extreme stunts on pogo sticks, I found a few videos on YouTube that showcase what’s possible on what’s commonly thought of as an old-fashioned children’s toy.
This is the gargantuan black hole that lives at the centre of our galaxy, pictured for the very first time.
Known as Sagittarius A*, the object is a staggering four million times the mass of our Sun.
What you see is a central dark region where the hole resides, circled by the light coming from super-heated gas accelerated by immense gravitational forces.
For scale, the ring is roughly the size of Mercury's orbit around our star.
I recently came across the pessimistic Edward Luce column you retweeted, and wanted to offer some trends that I think point in the opposite direction. I offer these as someone who was much more worried about nuclear war in the first 2 weeks of the war, before the factors below became apparent.
Putin has been willing to revise his objectives. The Russian army fell back from Kyiv, did not launch an amphibious assault on Odessa, and has not attempted to storm the Azovstal steelworks. All of these indicate that Putin is receiving some objective information about the poor performance of his military, and is revising his plans accordingly. […]
The Rich Are Not Who We Think They Are. And Happiness Is Not What We Think It Is, Either. | New York Times
I didn’t find this as surprising as the author, but there’s some interesting data here:
We now know who is rich in America. And it’s not who you might have guessed.
A groundbreaking 2019 study by four economists, “Capitalists in the Twenty-First Century,” analyzed de-identified data of the complete universe of American taxpayers to determine who dominated the top 0.1 percent of earners.
The study didn’t tell us about the small number of well-known tech and shopping billionaires but instead about the more than 140,000 Americans who earn more than $1.58 million per year. The researchers found that the typical rich American is, in their words, the owner of a “regional business,” such as an “auto dealer” or a “beverage distributor.”
This shocked me. Over the past four years, in the course of doing research for a book about how insights buried in big data sets can help people make decisions, I read thousands of academic studies. It is rare that I read a sentence that changes how I view the world. This was one of them. I hadn’t thought of owning an auto dealership as a path to getting rich; I didn’t even know what a beverage distribution company was.
What are the lessons from the data on rich earners?