Friday 1/27/17

  1. The Trump Do-Si-Do
  2. Threatened by illusion
  3. Self-infatuated huckster hairdo Milo


There are men and women on the Hill who’d back [Trump] more colorfully and forcefully but they know the minute they do he’ll do something that embarrasses them—launch a tirade, send a tweet, say something awful—and that they’ll have to defend. They don’t understand why he harms himself, and they don’t wish the harm to wash over them. They keep a discreet distance in case they’ll some day have to run for their lives.

He could make it so much easier for them, but he can’t.

A note on how tentative is President Trump’s support among Washington Republicans, especially senators, congressmen and members of the political and journalistic class. I witnessed again and again last week what I now think of as the Trump do-si-do.

Two men who are acquainted bump into each other at a social gathering. “So!” says the first man. “Yup!” says the second. They stand looking for clues in the eyes, the face. A shrug means one thing, a grin means something else.

“We feeling good?”

“I am!” If they’re both happy they mind-meld on hopes, if they’re unhappy they mind-meld on fears. If one is happy and the other not, they pat each other’s arms and part with a pleasantry as they slide by. I saw this over and over.

(Peggy Noonan) “He could … but he can’t.” Thus our President, not yet housebroken.

From personal experience, I can say that a person can open a can of worms even by defending Trump from one of the few charges against him that isn’t true. Be careful out there.


Alan Jacobs is taking the cure as I’m trying to do:

People regularly get freaked out by stories than turn out to be false, and by the time the facts are known a good deal of damage (not least to personal relationships) has often already been done — plus, the disappearance of the cause of an emotion doesn’t automatically eliminate the emotion itself. In fact, it often leaves that emotion in search of new justifications for its existence.

I have come to believe that it is impossible for anyone who is regularly on social media to have a balanced and accurate understanding of what is happening in the world. To follow a minute-by-minute cycle of news is to be constantly threatened by illusion. So I’m not just staying off Twitter, I’m cutting back on the news sites in my RSS feed, and deleting browser bookmarks to newspapers. Instead, I am turning more of my attention to monthly magazines, quarterly journals, and books. I’m trying to get a somewhat longer view of things — trying to start thinking about issues one when some of the basic facts about them have been sorted out. Taking the short view has burned me far too many times; I’m going to try to prevent that from happening ever again (even if I will sometimes fail). And if once in a while I end up fighting a battle in a war that has already ended … I can live with that.

(H/T Rod Dreher)

I’ve been toying with dropping my New York Times digital subscription. The risk is that my news reading will lack balance, but I’m not sure that the left liberal Times is much of  a corrective to the right liberal Wall Street Journal, which I’ve taken to reading first each morning.

As C.S. Lewis noted in making the case for the reading of old books:

Every age has its own outlook. It is specially good at seeing certain truths and specially liable to make certain mistakes. We all, therefore, need the books that will correct the characteristic mistakes of our own period. And that means the old books. All contemporary writers share to some extent the contemporary outlook—even those, like myself, who seem most opposed to it. Nothing strikes me more when I read the controversies of past ages than the fact that both sides were usually assuming without question a good deal which we should now absolutely deny. They thought that they were as completely opposed as two sides could be, but in fact they were all the time secretly united—united with each other and against earlier and later ages—by a great mass of common assumptions. We may be sure that the characteristic blindness of the twentieth century—the blindness about which posterity will ask, “But how could they have thought that?”—lies where we have never suspected it, and concerns something about which there is untroubled agreement between Hitler and President Roosevelt or between Mr. H. G. Wells and Karl Barth. None of us can fully escape this blindness, but we shall certainly increase it, and weaken our guard against it, if we read only modern books. Where they are true they will give us truths which we half knew already. Where they are false they will aggravate the error with which we are already dangerously ill. The only palliative is to keep the clean sea breeze of the centuries blowing through our minds, and this can be done only by reading old books.

What would I miss dropping NYT? David Brooks and Ross Douthat. Both occasionally seem to have somewhat transcendent insights. (Tell me again: How many free articles per month?)

Don’t forget, either: Big Data is watching your every online move.


Yay. The “self-infatuated huckster hairdo Milo Yiannopoulos,” scheduled by Berkeley College Republicans to speak at Berkeley, will remarkably be allowed to — hold on now — speak at Berkeley:

Mr. Yiannopoulos is not the first of his ilk to speak at Berkeley and he will not be the last. In our view, Mr. Yiannopoulos is a troll and provocateur who uses odious behavior in part to “entertain,” but also to deflect any serious engagement with ideas. He has been widely and rightly condemned for engaging in hate speech directed at a wide range of groups and individuals, as well as for disparaging and ridiculing individual audience members, particularly members of the LGBTQ community. Mr. Yiannopoulos’s opinions and behavior can elicit strong reactions and his attacks can be extremely hurtful and disturbing …

Since the announcement of Mr. Yiannopoulos’s visit, we have received many requests that we ban him from campus and cancel the event. Although we have responded to these requests directly, we would like to explain to the entire campus community why the event will be held as planned. First, from a legal perspective, the U.S. Constitution prohibits UC Berkeley, as a public institution, from banning expression based on its content or viewpoints, even when those viewpoints are hateful or discriminatory. Longstanding campus policy permits registered student organizations to invite speakers to campus and to make free use of meeting space in the Student Union for that purpose. As mentioned, the BCR is the host of this event, and therefore it is only they who have the authority to disinvite Mr. Yiannopoulos. Consistent with the dictates of the First Amendment as uniformly and decisively interpreted by the courts, the university cannot censor or prohibit events, or charge differential fees. Some have asked us whether attacks on individuals are also protected. In fact, critical statements and even the demeaning ridicule of individuals are largely protected by the Constitution; in this case, Yiannopoulos’s past words and deeds do not justify prior restraint on his freedom of expression or the cancellation of the event.

Berkeley is the home of the Free Speech Movement, and the commitment to free expression is embedded in our Principles of Community as the commitment “to ensur(e) freedom of expression and dialogue that elicits the full spectrum of views held by our varied communities.” ….

(Nicholas Dirks, Chancellor)

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“In learning as in traveling and, of course, in lovemaking, all the charm lies in not coming too quickly to the point, but in meandering around for a while.” (Eva Brann)

Some succinct standing advice on recurring themes.