Mensch tracht, un Gott lacht

Tuesday, May 31, 2022

Query for CNN's Joan Biskupic


re: Joan Biskupic, 'Supreme Court leak investigation heats up as clerks are asked for phone records in unprecedented move,' CNN (May 31, 2022, 12:37 GMT)

Should you not inquire (and report) if the investigators are also investigating non-law-clerk Supreme Court personnel in a similar fashion?*

Should you not inquire (and report) if the investigators are also investigating all nine Supreme Court Justices in a similar fashion? You might ask each individual Justice if he or she authorized the leak, or if he or she knows the identity of the leaker. It is up to you to ask.

See also: Seth Barrett Tillman, 'Courthouse Security Checks,' New Reform Club (Aug. 7, 2016, 7:33 AM), <>;


PS: To be sure, I do not think we can rule out the possibility that the leak was from someone other than a law clerk--and, perhaps, by a person who is not Supreme Court staff at all. Furthermore, I do not think we can rule out the possibility that the leak (whoever did it) was authorized by a Justice.

Seth Barrett Tillman, 'Query for CNN's Joan Biskupic,' New Reform Club (May 31, 2022, 11:30 AM), <>; 

Biskupic wrote: "It is not known if court officials are asking employees who are part of the permanent staff, beyond the one-year law clerks, for their phone records." Seth's response: You might know if you ask.

Sunday, May 29, 2022

True Story


True Story. 

Some years ago, I picked up my mother at an airport in Pennsylvania (or maybe it was DC). We drove through north NJ to get to our Passover destination—my in-laws’ home. I was driving on back roads, and not on any interstate highway. I had not discussed, in advance, with my mother the route I was taking.

At one point, my mother—who grew up as a child in NJ—pointed to a house in the distance, and she said that was the house in which your cousin was killed by his wife. I was well over 40 years old at this time. I had never heard that I had had a cousin who had been killed or murdered. 

To this day, I don’t know quite what to make of the story. What parts (if any) were true? Even if I had a cousin who had been killed by his wife, how would my mother recollect the particular house while I was traveling in excess of 40 miles per hour? 


Seth Barrett Tillman, 'True Story,' New Reform Club (May 29, 2022, 12:24 PM), <>

Wednesday, May 25, 2022

A Short Note on Cawthorn v. Amalfi

A Short Note on

Cawthorn v. Amalfi, No. 22-1251, 2022 WL 1635116, --- F. 4th ----

(4th Cir. May 24, 2022), Doc. No. 113


      Circuit Judge Julius N. Richardson wrote a separate opinion, concurring in the appellate panel’s judgment. His opinion states in a footnote:

While Andrew Johnson’s pardon of [Jefferson] Davis eventually mooted the case, Chief Justice Chase went on the record anyway. He agreed with the defendant’s argument that § 3 [of the Fourteenth Amendment] was a punishment and that “it executes itself.” In re [Jefferson] Davis, 7 F. Cas. 63, 90 (C.C.D. Va. 1871).


Cawthorn, slip op. 40, 60 n.16 (Richardson, J., concurring). Judge Richardson’s restatement of the facts of In re Davis is not quite correct. The “it executes itself” language appears in In re Davis, but it was not Chief Justice Chase who made the ‘it executes itself” statement. Rather (Judge) Robert Ould made this statement.[fn1] (Apparently, Ould, himself a former confederate, was an attorney for the defendant!)

          Why is this apparently minor error in Cawthorn important?

        In 1869, in Griffin’s Case11 F. Cas. 7, 26 (C.C.D. Va. 1869) (No. 5,815), Chief Justice Chase explained that Section 3 of the Fourteenth Amendment was not self-executing. Rather, Section 3 required a congressional statutory enforcement scheme to put that provision into effect. In re Davis was also by Chief Justice Chase—that is, Chase presided over the court and Judge Underwood also sat on the two-judge panel. If Chase had stated that Section 3 was self-executing in In re Davis, then his two positions, in the two cases, decided within about two years of one another, were (arguably) in tension with one another—all without any reported explanation. Indeed, Judge Richardson, in his concurrence, draws just that very inference: “These contradictory [!] holdings, just a few years apart, draw both cases into question and make it hard to trust Chase’s interpretation.” Cawthorn, slip op. at 60 n.16 (Richardson, J., concurring). However, the error here is Judge Richardson’s (and, perhaps, others[fn2]), not Chase’s.

        Griffin’s Case is good persuasive authority. Prior to 2021 that was widely, if not universally, recognized. To put it another way, if Griffin’s Case was correctly decided, then state and federal executive branch officers (and other applicants in ballot contests) cannot rely on Section 3 of the Fourteenth Amendment to disqualify an alleged insurrectionist candidate from the ballot for a federal position[fn3] absent federal statutory authorization. Apparently, no such federal statutory authorization (now) exists. Likewise, if an alleged insurrectionist already holds a federal office, then federal executive branch officers cannot remove the person from office (e.g., in quo warranto proceedings) based on Section 3 absent federal statutory authorization to do so.

       Furthermore, if Griffin’s Case is good law or correctly states the law, then the Cawthorn plaintiffs lack a cause of action, as do other similarly situated plaintiffs in other Section 3 cases. If the plaintiffs lack any valid or cognizable cause of action, then the federal courts lack jurisdiction to hear the case. In those circumstances, jurisdiction should have been discussed prior to any discussion of Cawthorn’s Amnesty Act defense (and the plaintiffs responses to that defense), and the entire case should have been dismissed for lack of jurisdiction. So Judge Richardson’s footnote was not gratuitous; rather, it was a necessity: it was needed to obviate the arguably obvious jurisdictional flaw—i.e., Section 3 is not “self-executing.”

    Finally, in the same footnote, Judge Richardson states: “Between the shifting legal conclusions, [Chief Justice] Chase’s pragmatic political concerns, and the obvious conflicts of interest, I do not take his discussion as much evidence of broader contemporary understanding [of Section 3 of the Fourteenth Amendment].” Cawthorn, slip op. at 60 n.16 (Richardson, J., concurring) (emphasis added). Richardson’s concurrence supplies no information what those purported “conflicts of interest” were, or how they were “obvious.” Why do this? 

[1] See In re Davis, 7 F. Cas. 63, 90 (“Judge Ould then commenced the argument . . . .” (emphasis added)); id. at 91 (“When Judge Ould concluded . . . .” (emphasis added)). The “it executes itself” language appears between the two quotations listed here. Ould was acting as counsel in Davis.

[2] See, e.g., Gerard N. Magliocca, Amnesty and Section Three of the Fourteenth Amendment, 36 Const. Comm. 87, 88 (2021) (Jefferson Davis contended in 1868 that Section Three was self-executing and barred his treason prosecution, and Chief Justice Salmon P. Chase agreed with those arguments as a circuit judge presiding over the proceedings in Virginia.” (emphasis added)), <>. Professor Magliocca cites to page 102 of the Federal Cases report of In re Davis, but I see nothing at that page establishing that Chase adopted the position that the Fourteenth Amendment was self-executing. Perhaps, at some future juncture, Magliocca will clarify the specific language in In re Davis that he was referring to? See Magliocca, supra, at 88 n.8 (citing In re Davis, 7 F. Cas. at 102). 

[3] Where the position is a state position, different legal principles (beyond this scope of this blog post) come into play. President, Vice President, Representative, and Senatorall are federal positions, even if elected in state or intra-state elections. 

Seth Barrett Tillman, ‘A Short Note on Cawthorn v Amalfi,’ New Reform Club (May 25, 2022, 5:38 AM), <>; 

See also Josh Blackman and S. B. Tillman, Opinion Editorial, ‘Only the Feds Could Disqualify Madison Cawthorn and Marjorie Taylor Greene,’ The New York Times, Apr. 23, 2022, A22, <>, <>, <>.

Tuesday, May 24, 2022

Thursday, May 19, 2022

Getting the Last Word


Seth Barrett Tillman, Getting the Last Word,’ New Reform Club (May 19, 2022, 3:38 PM), <>; 

Sunday, May 15, 2022

The Man at Headquarters

A man with a case of Bright’s disease – kidney inflammation – visits his doctor, who prescribes a daily quart of buttermilk. The man takes the remedy obediently at first. But after a few weeks' choking down buttermilk, the man returns to the doctor and reports: “Doctor, I’d rather have Bright’s disease.”

The moral is, you cannot make a person drink buttermilk. I don't know why anyone would want to, but you cannot do it. So don't try it. Ok?

Now to current events. In 2021, Dr. Tony Fauci prescribed regular doses of Covid vaccine to Candace Owens. Well, to Owens, and to all his other 330 million patients. After considering the doctor's advice, in January 2022 Owens reported that she, too, would rather have the disease than this particular cure. "I am not getting this vaccine," said Owens. "I don’t care if I’m on my deathbed and they say it can save you, I’m not going to get it."

We already knew that you can't make Candace Owens drink buttermilk. And if you can't make Owens drink buttermilk, then you sure as hell can't make her take a vaccine. I don't know why anyone would want to, but you cannot do it. So don't try it. Ok?

What follows is a long essay, so here is what I would like to tell you. There are people in high places, like Dr. Fauci, who want to control you. I doubt whether they want to make you drink buttermilk, exactly, but there are definitely people with Dr. Fauci at headquarters who want to force you – gently or otherwise – into getting a vaccine. I am not here to tell you not to get the vaccine. But what I am here to tell you is, do not take direction from the man at headquarters – do not listen to any person who professes certainty. Instead, we must learn to live in doubt, and to steel ourselves against the men at headquarters who prey on doubt, for doubt easily gives way to fear, and those who fear are easily controlled. Unless we learn to doubt courageously, we will be bullied into fear, carried away from our friends and families, and taken out of God's plan for our lives, to beat a cowardly retreat – to die, perhaps, or to live, in fear, under modern savages.

 And what I mean by that, and what I will explain to you is that, in the end, the man at headquarters is not interested in human health – he is interested in human sacrifice. A mandated vaccine is not medicine. A doctor says, take two of these and call me in the morning. But Dr. Fauci does not take calls from his patients in the morning. Dr. Fauci neither asks nor wants to hear from his 330 million patients. Dr. Fauci mandates his vaccines on the population for the same reason he would mandate vaccines on pets: for social reasons, not medical ones. Dr. Fauci does not serve the interests of his patients, he serves the interests of headquarters, and the business of headquarters is, in the end, animal control.

 I will talk more about the man at headquarters later. But let's stay with Candace Owens for a moment longer.

The Heresy of Certainty

Owens, for one, is not going to take direction from the man at headquarters. Still, something about Owens' line in the sand – that she would rather die than take a vaccine – seems a bit off. She is right, of course, if she means no one should try to force or manipulate you into medicines or treatments or buttermilk. And she is right, of course, if she means that there are risks associated with any medical treatment. Even prescribing healthful buttermilk is folly if you are not going to bother asking first if the patient is lactose intolerant. In each case, the patient bearing the risks must consent to them – and consent freely and knowingly, not with his life or his civil rights hanging in the balance.

 But here is where Owens loses me: While you might come to the same choice as Owens (I will volunteer that I have), Owens apparently comes to her choice in certainty. Owens seems just to know which choice is the correct one. And when you are claiming certainty, choosing is easy. Indeed, when you are certain about something, choosing hardly comes into the picture. One would find it odd to think of “choosing” to believe that fire burns, or that cold freezes. One is not quite free to disagree with certainties. To propositions that are certain, we are, in a sense, slaves.

 I do not know if Owens is actually certain about the vaccine, or whether that is just an affect. But I neither have certainty nor profess to have certainty. While Dr. Fauci holds out his buttermilk as the door to life, and while Ms. Owens warns it is the door to death, most people know that neither of them can really be quite as certain as they profess to be.

 And most of us know another thing, too: we know that no one should try to be that certain. We know that there is something elusive about certainty. That it is something off-limits, something we ought not lay our hands on. Possibly, certainty is even something reserved to God – in which case, to profess certainty may be a form of blasphemy. Certainty is the chariot of Helios, which his son, Phaeton, in his deadly rashness, insisted on having for himself. Certainty is the power that the ancients at Babel hoped to gain at the top of their tower.

 Even Jesus, though being God himself, would not overwhelm the minds of people by the use of miraculous “signs and wonders.” Luke says he regarded the incessant clamor of the people for “signs” as itself the sign of “an evil generation”: “[T]hey seek a sign; and there shall no sign be given it” (11:29). And in telling the story of Lazarus the beggar and the wicked rich man (Lk 16:19-31), Jesus makes it clear that it is preferable in God’s eyes that men show faith by listening to the holy truth, and by accepting it and following it, rather than by waiting for signs and miracles to convince them.

 By contrast, the claim to certainty, that draught of the gods, is a challenge to the heavens. It is to boast that we will not be content with mortality. He who claims certainty, who would clutch at the crown that Christ resisted, is the mark of antichrist.

 This is something that we normal people feel intuitively, and it is something that the special people of the world – the elect, the elite, the men at headquarters – can never know: that certainty is heresy, and that there are some things we can't know, and shouldn't know. And while this thing we know is just one, and what the special people know is legion, the thing we know is a great thing, because the one thing we know that the specials do not, gives us powers that the specials cannot have. To wit: those who will forswear certainty are rewarded with humility. And those who toil with the hard decisions in this life, in humility, become practiced in courage. 

 And so it will prove with the Covid vaccine: those who choose, and act, without claiming or demanding certainty, but who rise each day and look doubt in the face, will attain courage.

 There are many who doubt the vaccine, is what I am getting at. And they may be having trouble getting over those doubts. I am writing to you who have doubts. If you are struggling with doubt, if your doubts about the vaccine are making you doubt yourself, I am here to buck you up. I am here to tell you that your doubts are for a reason. Whether by nature or nature's God, you are endowed with the capacity and the right to doubt, the same as your capacity and right to think, and to speak, and to worship, and to defend yourselves.

 My message to you is: Do not deny your doubt, but doubt courageously.

 There is still an ongoing concerted effort to nudge and prod and coerce vaccine doubters to get the vaccine. Or to get the second vaccine. Or to get the booster. Or to get another booster, and then another, and so on. There are many who, like you, have doubts. Even if you do not have doubts, surely you know people who have them. Where should we doubters seek answers? Not from doctors. California lawmakers proposed legislation that would discipline doctors who speak against the vaccine, or against any of the rules of headquarters. Not from journalists. Alex Berenson, an independent journalist who reports on studies and statistics about the vaccine, was banned from social media, pour encourager les autres. Doctors, too, have been censored and banned on social media. Even if an Elon Musk-owned Twitter reinstates them, doctors and journalists will have to reckon with ideologically-activated medical boards, not to mention the truth ministry in Biden's new Disinformation Governance Board. We cannot even expect honest answers from public health agencies: The CDC has official statistics about the effects of the vaccine, but the agency will not share them with us because they are looking quite bad just now and we may get the wrong idea.

 Our doubts are meant to be resolved, in other words, in only one direction. The curators of data are attuned to our doubts. And they know we are looking for good, hard information to resolve our doubts. So the one thing we can be sure about is that the collection of medical and scientific information allowed for distribution will not be, to put it gently, on the level.

 As we cannot have confidence in the approved collection of medical and scientific information, I am going to give you a different kind of advice. It is not medical advice, and it is not scientific advice. The kind of advice I am going to give you is the only sort that is really decisive here anyway. Here is the advice:

 Get the vaccine. Or do not get the vaccine. But do not be bullied into it either way. If you doubt, doubt courageously.

 And this is why I can only concur in Owens' defiance. I can only concur because her defiance seems, to me, the product of certainty. Owens is certain of the vaccine just as Dr. Fauci is certain. And that certainty is alien to me. No, it is worse than that. To me, certainty is worse than alien – it is odious. Certainty is vicious. Certainty is cowardice. One of Owens' great qualities is that she is bold and clear. But while these qualities would be credited to her as courage were she to admit of any doubt, they are something else if Owens insists on making her stand in certainty. The honest man does not require certainty. The honest man requires only humility and courage. Certainty is a substitute for courage, and a tool for those who would seek to rule others. And it is hubris. The spirit of certainty says: I have decided, and my conscience and pride will not permit that I be proven wrong. The honest man in his doubt says, as Epictetus had it, "I am bound to say what seems right to me," against the threat of the certain man who says, "But, if you say it, I shall kill you." And so in the face of the violence of certainty, the doubtful man must have courage: "When did I tell you, that I was immortal? You will do your part, and I mine. It is yours to kill, mine to die without quailing: yours to banish, mine to go into exile without groaning."

 The choice is not whether you would die of a vaccine or of a disease, but whether you would die for your beliefs. The courageous man stands ready to pay the price for his beliefs – even as the certain man stands ready to exact it.

 Ok, I have had my say about Candace Owens, and about the need to display doubt, and humility, and courage in the face of the man at headquarters, who confronts us with certainty, and confidence, and control. But now I need to tell you something about the stakes.

Death in Aleppo

I have said that courage is to live with doubt, so now I should say a word about doubt. When it comes to Covid-19 and the vaccine, let me offer a pair of questions: Will the Covid-19 vaccine protect against harm or death? Might the Covid-19 vaccine itself, in some cases at least, cause harm or death? The fair answer to both of these questions is: maybe. The protections offered by the vaccine have been, to put it mildly, less impressive than advertised. And while the extent of side effects and deaths following the vaccine have not been well-studied or well-reported, that risk exists. So if the Covid-19 is not certainly safe, and it is not certainly effective, then what?

 My answer, as suggested above, is that doubt provides us the opportunity to exercise courage, both intellectual and moral. We must study, and reason, and ask questions, and pray, and in the end, decide for ourselves and our families. This is how free men and women live.

 But this is not, you may have noticed, how we have been encouraged to decide. The men at headquarters do not admit of any doubt. And they do not accept that you have any legitimate doubts, either. Your doubts, rather, are derided as something else entirely. Did you know the CDC employs people specifically to promote "concern, anxiety, and worry" about not getting vaccinations? Glen Nowak was the CDC's director of media relations in 2004, when he gave a presentation about increasing uptake of the flu vaccine. According to Mr. Nowak, people will only choose to vaccinate when they have a "sense of vulnerability" about "dire outcomes." On behalf of the CDC, Mr. Nowak rejects the suggestion simply "to inform and warn people" to get them to take appropriate actions, because, without "actually making them anxious or concerned," Mr. Nowak goes on, "this is not possible. This is like breaking up with your boyfriend without hurting his feelings. It can't be done."

 If it concerns you when the CDC inflates the death figures for diseases, then you may have missed the memo. Dr. Peter Doshi apparently missed the memo when, writing in the British Medical Journal, he complained the CDC was frustrating our chances "for a sound discussion and public health policy." The good doctor has the right idea, but the man at headquarters is not interested in discussion. The CDC's objective is not to spread information, but to spread fear.

 For the man at headquarters, there is no such thing as doubt – there is only fear. Those who urge the vaccine will admonish us to overcome – not legitimate doubts, which they will not allow exist – but our fear of the vaccine. In this inversion, those who profess certainty live in the light; the rest of us, in darkness. Our courage is mocked as cowardice. Our virtue is condemned as vice.

 And how are we to overcome the darkness of fear, so-called, of the vaccine? The key to overcoming that darkness, reason the men at headquarters, is to embrace an even greater darkness: fear of disease. This is why everyone knows the official number of Covid-19 deaths, and why there is no official number of Covid-vaccine deaths. A few years ago, when the men at headquarters in California wanted to mandate measles vaccines, commentators were censored who would assuage our fears of the disease by reminding us that the number of measles deaths was paltry, on par with the number of falling-in-the-shower deaths. The man at headquarters would not have this: he curates and nurtures our fears, so that useful fear of headquarters’ enemies will overcome our doubts about headquarters’ cures. By fear, we may have certainty. By the power of darkness may we eliminate all doubt.

 Let me tell you a story to illustrate. This is one of my favorite parables. It comes from T.H. White's The Once and Future King. It is a parable Merlyn tells Arthur about facing fear and doubt:  

 "In the East, perhaps in the same place which that Rabbi Jachanan came from, there was a certain man who was walking in the market of Damascus when he came face to face with Death. He noticed an expression of surprise on the spectre's horrid countenance, but they passed one another without speaking. The fellow was frightened, and went to a wise man to ask what should be done. The wise man told him that Death had probably come to Damascus to fetch him away next morning.  The poor man was terrified at this, and asked however he could escape. The only way they could think of between them was that the victim should ride all night to Aleppo, thus eluding the skull and bloody bones.

 "So this man did ride to Aleppo—it was a terrible ride which had never been done in one night before—and when he was there he walked in the market place, congratulating himself on having eluded Death.

 "Just then, Death came up to him and tapped him on the shoulder. 'Excuse me,' he said, 'but I have come for you.' 'Why,' exclaimed the terrified man, 'I thought I met you in Damascus yesterday!'  'Exactly,' said Death. 'That was why I looked surprised—for I had been told to meet you today, in Aleppo.'"

 Here are the lessons we might take from the story of Death in Aleppo: Reminding us that fear may be the very agent that delivers us to Death, the story warns that the clever schemes of the wise, and the bold deeds of the cowardly, are the very tools of Death. One must not substitute fear for courage, or boldness for doubt, because one who doubts in fear, or takes on a false boldness, succumbs to the failed plots of wise fools. In bold fearfulness does a man ride at midnight to Aleppo in hopes of cheating Death. But in courageous doubt of the scheme will a man make his stand. Stand and bid Death come, or charge, with eyes fixed on Death's countenance. But the tragic death is Death come in running away.

 Lest I be misunderstood, by doubt I do not mean we eschew knowledge. While we who doubt do not claim certainty, we do not take a vow of ignorance. If Death should come by way of Covid, we may know some of the signs. Covid is a disease, caused by a virus, and we understand something about how viruses work. The deadliness of a virus, for example, has a way of getting winnowed down. Strains of viruses that kill all their hosts will die, leaving behind strains less deadly. The deadliest among those strains, in turn, also will die, leaving behind strains still less deadly. And this natural winnowing process goes on until the disease is more or less a minor nuisance. In this way, a deadly virus is a weak virus, and while its run is horrifying, it is ended relatively quickly by natural selection. 

 But if we should flee Death in fear by way of a vaccine, we may fare no better than the man who rode in fear to Aleppo. For unlike a virus, there is no such natural winnowing process that guarantees a harmful cure will not go on harming its victims. So long as there is a supply of victims kept ignorant of its harms, that cure is both more deadly and more deathless than the disease. There is no natural defense to a deadly cure. The only defense is a doubtful and critical mind. One can avoid the harms of the cure altogether – unless one volunteers.

 There is something else. For me, life is from God. It is a gift, yes, but as important, life is a charge. In this life, I am running a race, and I mean to win it. I should enjoy the race, surely, and I should not want that it be made shorter, but neither does one win a race by making it longer. And certainly I will not win it by volunteering myself to harm. Life is sacred, and the sacred is not improved by hanging more days on the end of it. I can pray to God. I can make myself strong against a disease. I cannot make myself strong against a cure. Harm might find me, but yet, it might not. I am invincible until God is finished with me. And when He has finished with me, and I have gained a thousand years in His courts, what inducement does this dying world offer?

 But perhaps by now you have grown concerned. How is it better, you might ask me, to sit and wait for death when there is a way of avoiding it? The answer, I think, has to do with accepting something I cannot change, to not be like the man who rode to Aleppo. The man who rode to Aleppo took himself out of God’s story. He allowed himself to be written in to another man's story, the town's wise fool who thought he could devise plots to defeat Death.

 And now, at last, we come to the man at headquarters.

The Man at Headquarters

Dr. Fauci loves You. I don't mean that Dr. Fauci loves you, personally. He doesn't even know you. When I say Dr. Fauci loves You, I mean that he loves You in the sense that there are 330 million of You. And when I say love, I mean that Dr. Fauci would do anything to protect You. He loves You, corporately, so much, in fact, that he is even willing to kill you, personally.

 From time to time, public health advocates will acknowledge that "some deaths are going to happen after vaccines – it's inevitable." This quote, a rare slip by Hastings law professor and vaccine-mandate advocate Dorit Reiss, was edited out shortly after initial publication. (Again, the folks at headquarters are in the business of eradicating doubts about cures, and in this program, candor does not factor.)

 The analysis is simple, really: it is better than one man should die than the entire nation be destroyed. This is difficult for regular people to understand. Regular people are used to caring only for very small communities – their families – nothing like the tens or hundreds of millions that are the concern of men at headquarters. Families are too small to serve as a model of the morality of headquarters. Each member of a family is loved as an individual, and individual love crowds out the potential for group love. For the sake of just one individual, an entire family will submit to suffering. That is not the morality of headquarters. Far from it! Dr. Fauci loves the group, and he will not allow that any individual should cause the group to suffer.

I have not told you yet what the wise man in the town did next. At last, I shall tell you the story about the man at headquarters. 

The wise man, of course, thought that his plot had succeeded. He thought that the daring ride to Aleppo he had orchestrated had delivered his patient from Death. And so the wise man determined to build a train to Aleppo. One should not have to make daring and dangerous midnight rides to Aleppo, so the clever man devised that other townspeople could evade Death simply by paying a fare, and making the journey in ease and comfort. Townspeople who caught a glimpse of Death were eager to be hastened off to Aleppo. The demand for fares became great, for the journey to Aleppo became a form a sacrament: Death, it was believed, was confounded by the disutility of the trips to Aleppo. No longer could Death expect to find farmer at his plow, carpenter at his lathe, mother tending her children, but instead the natural patterns and directedness of their lives were now variegated by their comings and goings of wanton journeys to Aleppo.

The wise man, with the help of the other men at headquarters, reasoned that the excursions improved the welfare and prolonged the lives of the townspeople. And so eventually, all residents were required to take trips to Aleppo, upon order of headquarters. 

One day, however, the train to Aleppo lost control. The five passengers on the train hurtled helplessly toward a bend in the track, facing imminent death. The operator, however, spotted a couple with two children walking across the bridge connected to the adjacent track a short way ahead. The operator, observing the rules established by headquarters and performing quick calculations, activated a switch that sent the train onto the adjacent track, into the path of the trapped family. The mass of their flesh and faces and bodies would be enough to slow the train and bring its passengers to safety. The parents and their older boy, who had been laughing and gamboling a moment earlier, could not climb the high rails separating the track from the abyss, and were crushed to death. The younger girl, who had already run ahead to the end of the bridge, had stepped off the track. There, another train worker, an usher, ran to the screaming girl. Just as the slowing train reached them, the usher pushed the girl onto the track in front of the train, which, after crushing the girl to death, came at last to a stop. All of its passengers were safe.

 There was a great clamor afterward. The townspeople were terrified at the train accident, and horrified at the usher's act of pushing the little girl in the way of the train. They gathered outside headquarters and raised their voices. Eventually, the wise man emerged from headquarters and addressed the people. Here is what the man at headquarters said:

 "We have long known that sacrifice is necessary to the continuation of our way of life. From our earliest history, we sacrificed innocents to the corn gods to ensure bountiful harvests. We sacrificed innocents to the gods in recompense for our transgressions. But we know now that there were no such things as the old gods. Those gods were created by my forebears, the wise men of old, the race of the elect. The gods were needed to convince people of the need for sacrifice. And why did the elect preach the need for sacrifice? I am sure you will find it quite obvious. It was even possible to make it obvious to the ancients. The principle is simple: The elect used a small sacrifice, a sacrifice of a single innocent, for example, to save the whole community from famine, or from pestilence, or from plague. For less reward than the whole community, the elect reasoned, the sacrifice would not have been made. And for the sake of the entire community, even the ancients would not deny that the sacrifice of a single innocent was justified.

 "The principle of human sacrifice, then, is quite simple: one, for the sake of many. And you will agree, of course, that its rightness is too obvious to be denied.

 "But over long centuries, through progress and discipline, we learned the science of sacrifice. One person is nothing; that is simple and undeniable. The community is all. And if one person is nothing, then what are two people? They are likewise nothing, if by their sacrifice we can save the entire community. And if two are nothing as against the community, then certainly three or four human sacrifices, and so on, also are justified to save the whole community. Who among you can doubt it?

 "And what do we mean by the whole community? Even where famine and pestilence and disease do not threaten the entire community, they threaten a great number. Perhaps less than all, but a great number. So if the lives of four are nothing if their sacrifice will save the whole community, then in the same way they are nothing as against any larger share of the community. By following the ancient principle handed down to us, then, we learned the science of democracy. And by these principles of democracy we know that the lives of four human sacrifices – who are mere individuals – are nothing to the larger share of five – who stand for our whole community.

 "In this way, then, through science and democracy, we have perfected the principle of human sacrifice. For we no longer rely on miracles as the ancients did. We do not require the sacrifice of one innocent life to save all lives. We have learned the principle that the few must be sacrificed to save the many, that the few stands for the individual – that which is weak, imperfectible, mortal – and that the many stands for the community – that which is strong, perfectible, eternal."

 "But the little girl!" came the cries from some parts of the crowd. Hearing this, the man at headquarters took on a softer tone. He went on: 

 "It is right that you should weep for the little girl. Of course, it is intuitive why pushing a little girl to her death seems horrible. But it is for this very reason that the act is heroic. For if sacrifice is the life of the community, as you have seen, then performing the sacrifice is a life-giving act, the very breath of God! Who am I in comparison? I am powerless. Sitting in my offices, I only write the rules directing the sacrifices. From my headquarters, I never see the sacrifices themselves. I cannot ensure that the sacrifices, so necessary to save the community, are faithfully performed. And even the operator, too, perhaps, feels his act of killing was not quite direct, for he merely put the train into the path of the sacrifice, and could not ensure against an intervening act.

 "But the usher who pushed the sacrifice – a most innocent sacrifice – onto the tracks, his act was the perfection of the principle. Without killing, there can be no sacrifice. And not only for the sake of our community was the sacrifice required, but for the girl's own sake. The sacrifice is not an end, but a continuation. Sacrifice is release. The usher released the girl from an existence of certain pain, of misery in the absence of her mother and father and brother. She is released from a life of dependency. The sacrifice, you see, redeemed the girl. The one who releases is Savior – not of the community only, but of the sacrifice herself. My usher understood my will best of all, and executed it faithfully. As you approve the will of the man at headquarters, so you must approve the one who executes his will." 

 What is the meaning of this parable? You may think of the mandatory train rides as mandatory vaccinations. You may think of headquarters as our public health regime, and the man at headquarters as Dr. Fauci. You may think of the family as the victims of the Covid vaccines suffering blood-clotting, heart attacks, heart inflammation, etc., whose injuries and deaths must – must – be embraced as the cost of a greater good. And you may think of the townspeople as those among us who, terrified of the hand of Death, assent to their lives being put under the hand of headquarters, even as it means volunteering their innocent neighbors to be sacrificed.

 This, then, is the moral of the train to Aleppo: Death settles all its accounts. Those who will not accept what Death cannot change, may change it only by trading one life for another. Fear is a mimesis of disease, a mimicry of any natural threat to life: the community will coalesce around its fear of death, and will send Death to take the lives of our neighbors, if only Death would spare the rest of us.

 The morality of the man at headquarters – the morality of technocratic man, the man of science, of pragmatism, of sound social policy – is the morality of the pagan religions. The man at headquarters is not ideological about killing. Killing is just another tool of social policy: if, by killing some, a greater number may live, then this is no different from any other decision that comes up in the administration of men.

 But this morality, a humanitarian morality, was replaced by the sixth commandment against shedding innocent blood. There is a difference between the Mosaic commandment, which says you must not kill, and the perversion of the commandment, which says, to preserve life, you must kill. The two are not the same, because, sometimes, preserving lives – which is good – requires killing innocent lives – which is evil. Not all death is evil, but many ways of avoiding it are evil.

 The man at headquarters would teach us that the commandment against killing is, ironically, a suicide pact, because unless some lives are taken, many more lives will be lost. And that was the thinking of the ancient religions, which sacrificed innocent lives to corn gods to ensure a bountiful harvest. Today, no one believes there is a corn god – or, if there is, no one thinks that a corn god is impressed by human sacrifice. But that does not keep us from offering human sacrifices. Worship of the corn gods has been replaced by worship of the men at headquarters (and this is why dissent from the decrees and will of the men at headquarters is regarded as the equivalent of blaslphemy). The Mosaic law was a revolution, because it taught both the sanctity of human life, and the limits we must impose on our own powers to preserve it.

 This is the undetected lesson of the commandment against killing. Scholars debate whether it enjoins merely murder, or the death penalty. But Yahweh had already answered these questions by his covenants with Cain and with Noah. The sixth commandment's injunction against human sacrifice taught that the individual shall not be subordinated to the community. Humanity is not greater than a human. Abraham knew the principle of human sacrifice. He knew that all men sacrificed their sons and daughters to the gods. So how, when the angel of Yahweh, the most high God, the I Am – the foothold of existence itself – commanded Abraham to sacrifice his son, could he refuse? Yet in the end, Yahweh commanded that Abraham not sacrifice his son, that even the creator of the universe does not demand the blood of innocents in sacrifice. This commandment remains still: You shall not take up the knife that Yahweh bade Abraham lay down.

 The culmination of the man at headquarters – the man who directs the sacrifice of individuals for the sake of the group – is Caiaphas. Caiaphas, as high priest among the Pharisees, said this of Jesus: “You don’t seem to have grasped the situation at all; you fail to see that it is better for one man to die for the people, than for the whole nation to be destroyed.” As John relates, Caiaphas "did not speak in his own person, it was as high priest that he made this prophecy that Jesus was to die for the nation – and not for the nation only, but to gather together in unity the scattered children of God. From that day they were determined to kill him." John 11:47-53. Ironically, in obeisance to the commandment against "killing," the Pharisees would not kill Christ themselves, but handed Him over to Pilate, who could kill him lawfully, as a criminal. Pilate's hands, then, were clean. It was the Pharisees who violated the commandment, for they did not hand up Christ to be killed as a criminal, but as a human sacrifice.

 This is why the man at headquarters loves the law. For while the man at headquarters wills human sacrifice, he dares not carry it out himself: he would be stoned by the people. But as Pilate and his guards were permitted to execute Christ, the usher was permitted to execute an innocent girl. The men at headquarters set up nice rules by which another man takes on the very sickle and the black robe: his hand has become the very touch of Death. Modern man has put Death in the employ of headquarters.

 I submit that the man at headquarters is the spirit of antichrist. His is the spirit that rebels against God's commandments to send an innocent Christ to his death. It is the spirit of fear, a fear that overcomes will, our very humanity, which Christ understood when he asked God to forgive his tormenters, for they knew not what they did. And it was the power of this spirit that Christ humiliated when he rose on the third day. And so ever since then the spirit has taken on other forms. Today, the spirit is at work in the man at headquarters, who declares, with certainty, rules that will save the community from their animalistic fear – if only we will accept that some of their neighbors – mere individuals – must be sacrificed. 

 The man at headquarters perpetrates this added inversion as well: that while the ancients practiced group fear and sacrifice of the diseased, the man at headquarters curates and directs the group's fear against the healthy. The example here may be found in the Gerasenes, of the country of Decapolis, who cast men possessed by evil spirits into the tombs outside the city, binding them with chains and fetters. The Gerasenes had no trouble committing this violence against their neighbors, whose demoniac possession threatened them. They must have taken some satisfaction in this ritual, for when Jesus cast the demons out and healed the possessed man, the townspeople asked Jesus to leave. In RenĂ© Girard’s thesis, the strife and disorder inherent in all groups has always been quelled and ordered through ritualistic violence against such scapegoats. This is why the Gerasenes did not welcome Jesus’s gift of peace. Their violence and sacrifice were prompted only nominally by the demoniac possession. The more important role played by their violence and sacrifice was control – fear and division were at the heart of social order. Peace was alien to them. Peace comes through faith, and faith requires a man to relinquish control. The Gerasenes, in casting out He who cast out their demons, preferred control to peace.

 Dr. Fauci's vaccine represents a further perversion of the story of the demons of Gerasa. The Gerasenes cast out those possessed by something unnatural and evil. We can understand this initial desire even if, after the passage of years transformed this defensive act into a ritual of control, the Gerasenes made themselves into evildoers. For by then, they had become victims of their sinful natures: their fear and pride had overwhelmed their conscience. Through the process initiated by fear they knew not what they did. It is this cycle that Jesus asked the Father to forgive, even those whose fear and pride crucified him, for they knew not what they were doing. Our man at headquarters, however, does not fear sickness or demoniac possession. The object of his ire is not the man fallen under a curse or a disease, but the man who is not cursed or diseased. The man at headquarters does not hate war, but peace. It is no accident the man at headquarters has come to the height of his power in America, in the 21st century. In the nation founded, as Patrick Henry had it, "on the Gospel of Jesus Christ," which, after fewer generations than those between Adam and Noah, purged itself of the ancient divisions of race and tribe and class, to live, at last, in peace and prosperity, does the man at headquarters rage over old divisions, and even introduce new divisions, and new afflictions, so that now after the work of many millennia God's people, under the hand of the man at headquarters, casts out not the sick, but the well.

 The man at headquarters must be resisted. He feels his weakness, for he knows that he has no power in himself. He could not kill Christ, he could not even kill a small child, if he could not put others under the spell of his rules and laws and formulas. So it falls to the people on whom the man at headquarters depends to carry out his will, to resist the wickedness of the man at headquarters. And he who must carry out human sacrifice to serve humanity has the better evidence, for he has the evidence of his own body. The usher who pushed the girl onto the tracks must have felt the protest in his bones, in his sinew, in his ligaments, as he conscripted them into action. He must have felt his very limbs resist as he placed one foot behind him for leverage, bent his knees and crouched to lower his center of gravity, and positioned his arms and hands for the fatal push. His conscience must have screamed, from some recess within him, as he forced his mind to perform the calculations, glancing with his eyes from the approaching train, back to the track, back again to the train, to determine just the right moment. And then at last, it must have wrenched his heart as he took a breath, his blood pumping in protest, united his body with the sacrifice, grappling, shoving, arms, face, and shoulder planted into her flesh, legs driving, a dance of death, until at last the sacrifice's resistance faltered, and she was away, to the tracks and her death, the human sacrifice completed.

 Pushing someone in front of a train to save its passengers is human sacrifice. Steering a train in the way of someone to save the passengers is human sacrifice. Ordering that another person drive a train into a person, or to push the person, is human sacrifice. There is no difference between these acts, only the evidence for the latter may more easily be ignored. Yet each of these men at headquarters know the same rule against killing. Why should we think killing a person by pushing a button is permitted, and that only killing by shoving is forbidden? Those who approve the mandates of the man at headquarters, but disapprove their execution, have misjudged the commandment. They have replaced the law against killing with a law against dancing.

 And for the same reason, ordering a person to take a vaccine who will die as a result is human sacrifice. A vaccine administered indiscriminately across a healthy population is not medicine: it does not cure a disease, or correct a disorder, except in its implicit assumption that humanity itself is diseased or disordered. And in view that the vaccine carries risks of injury and death, administering the vaccine without screening against these risks amounts to a wrongful assault or killing, regardless of the supposed social benefits of vaccination. Both the ancients and the moderns believe blood must be spilled for the greater good. The modern merely stopped believing in magic. But a savage who stops believing in magic is still a savage. Civilization is not attained by subtraction. Finding error is not the same thing as seeking truth. Man repudiated magic centuries ago, yet he has gone on with human sacrifice, because he has not replaced his error with truth.

 Those among God's people afflicted with illness should study carefully, and consult upright physicians. But most of all, we should pray: pray that God would heal us, yes, but more than that, pray that He would use us for such time as we are meant. What we must not do is to seek to reverse the curse of Eden, to build a tower of Babel to immortality. This is not a hard choice. In fact, this is the American creed. We could only fit "In God We Trust" on our tender, but the rest of the verse is: "This I know: God is for me. ... [I]n God I trust; I will not fear. What can man do to me?” Psalms 56:9-11. What, that is, can a man do to you against your will? Nothing. But if you collude with him? Then you have taken yourself out of God's design and put yourself into man's design. You are invincible until God is finished with you. Or until you make a spectacular midnight ride, only to meet Death in Aleppo.

 In the end, all things are permitted that are done prayerfully. Study, and pray, and then be vaccinated, or not. But this I say with confidence: God calls on no one – no one – to coerce his neighbor to accept a cure he does not want. This is to take up the knife Yahweh bade Abraham lay down, to go through with the human sacrifice. But in the final analysis, the greatest doctor goes to hell. It is wrong to do anything to an unwilling man, even for his own good, even to save his very soul, because that way lies Babel. The perfection of creation is reserved to God.

 Modern man is a savage actuary. He is scientific in his methods, but he remains pre-Christian – indeed, pre-Abrahamic – in his morality. But the savage has never had courage, and neither has the savage scientist any. The man of Christendom does not yield to the savage in his love of science. But he seeks no contest on grounds of scientific certainty. The contest instead is to preserve the right to doubt, and to preserve the principle that man is a man – he is not a piano key – and that he will protect himself and his family, and that he will pray to God for help in his task, but that he will neither ask nor permit the man at headquarters to take his cup from him.

 I might get a vaccine, if I am satisfied it is healthful, and not harmful. I have a history of vaccine injuries, so I am not lining up anytime soon. I do not fear death, but I will not be frightened into leaving my wife and children and the mission God has set for me, to ride to Aleppo, where the man at headquarters may offer me up as a human sacrifice.