Politics, news, and respite

Politics

Can America and Conservatism co-exist?

I’ve come to wonder if the tension between “America” and “conservatism” is just too great. Maybe it’s impossible to hold together a movement that is both backward-looking and forward-looking, both in love with stability and addicted to change, both go-go materialist and morally rooted. Maybe the postwar American conservatism we all knew—a collection of intellectuals, activists, politicians, journalists, and others aligned with the Republican Party—was just a parenthesis in history, a parenthesis that is now closing.

David Brooks, Conservatism is Dead

Did Biden say the unforgiveable?

Of Biden’s "rhetorical maximalism, accusing the legislators preventing its passage of siding with Bull Connor, George Wallace and Jefferson Davis":

[G]enerally politicians find reasons to forgive or forget when power forces them to do it, and power is what Biden conspicuously lacks right now. Which makes what we’ve just watched from him feel like the worst possible combination for a president — an anger that only reveals weakness, an escalation that exposes only impotence beneath.

Ross Douthat

Time to get disenthralled if you haven’t been already

Responding to the challenge by some of President Trump’s defenders that he didn’t, in fact, directly incite violence, and that the social media bans are therefore unfair, Sullivan counters:

If you want to play legal scholar on that, you can. Okay, go ahead. But at what point are these conservatives gonna recognise what’s in front of them and stop excusing this stuff? It’s insane that people will find any excuse for this person. I’m sorry, I am exhausted. There is no [expletive deleted] way to justify this person in any fashion of any way, whatever the cause. This is an unbelievable breach in American history. And in the West. It’s a huge blow beneath the waterline of Western democracy, fomented by this person, and people are asking me to prove it. I mean, text and verse, look at the last four years. Has he ever tried to hold the system together? Has he ever not tried to blow it further apart? Has he done anything which isn’t about him, rather than the country as a whole?

– Andrew Sullivan, LockdownTV

‌I was right about Donald Trump, an UnHerd interview (emphasis added).

In a piece for National Review, Michael Brendan Dougherty argues that, for many of Donald Trump’s earliest supporters, the shine has come off. “While it may be difficult or painful to remember in the year 2022, when Donald Trump came down the escalator to announce his run for president in 2015, he was an issue-driven candidate,” Dougherty writes, referring to Trump’s opposition to immigration, interventionism, and entitlement reform. “When he first ran for president, Trump genuinely promised to do things that voters wanted, to make the country great, proud, and prosperous again. Now, he is essentially asking Republicans to do something for him, to restore his tarnished honor and make credible his belief in his own victory. All that is left of Trumpism are Trump’s grievances and aspirations. This is not an agenda that will win him high office, help his party, or accomplish anything for his countrymen.”

The Morning Dispatch

Well-warranted whataboutism

Some crazy-ass proportion of Republicans poll as thinking that Donald Trump won the 2020 Election, which is pretty scary. But a new Rasmussen poll discloses some comparably scary beliefs of Democrats:

  • Fifty-nine percent (59%) of Democratic voters would favor a government policy requiring that citizens remain confined to their homes at all times, except for emergencies, if they refuse to get a COVID-19 vaccine. Such a proposal is opposed by 61% of all likely voters, including 79% of Republicans and 71% of unaffiliated voters.
  • Nearly half (48%) of Democratic voters think federal and state governments should be able to fine or imprison individuals who publicly question the efficacy of the existing COVID-19 vaccines on social media, television, radio, or in online or digital publications. Only 27% of all voters – including just 14% of Republicans and 18% of unaffiliated voters – favor criminal punishment of vaccine critics.
  • Forty-five percent (45%) of Democrats would favor governments requiring citizens to temporarily live in designated facilities or locations if they refuse to get a COVID-19 vaccine. Such a policy would be opposed by a strong majority (71%) of all voters, with 78% of Republicans and 64% of unaffiliated voters saying they would Strongly Oppose putting the unvaccinated in “designated facilities.”

COVID-19: Democratic Voters Support Harsh Measures Against Unvaccinated

Since I am, by current standards, fully vaccinated and boosted, this is no immediate skin off my nose. But I’m not sure I’ll take another booster if the powers that be decide to triple-down on vaccination.

This is Chapter N in my unwritten book "Why My Leaving the GOP Doesn’t Mean I’m a Democrat Now."*

I know there’s some kind of theoretical case for the marvels of our two-party system, and that every good person should belong to one or the other of them, but I refuse. That may mean I’m too stupid or too lawless for polite society. Maybe both parties can agree to lock me up until I pick my poison.

(* I’ve referred frequently to my leaving the GOP in the middle of Dubya’s Second Inaugural Address. I’m pleased to note that Michael Lind of the Tablet identifies the same delusional moment as a key in Republican recent history: "his commitment of the United States in his Second Inaugural to the messianic project of ‘ending tyranny in our world.’")

Suppose "the steal" were true …

There’s one thing I find odd about Trump’s ability to use election-theft lies to lock down the Republican base: What if the lies were true? Don’t they still make Trump look like an incompetent failure? And doesn’t that provide an opening for a challenger like DeSantis?

Trump’s story about 2020, such as it is, is that he won by a “landslide” but a bipartisan cadre of election officials stole the race from him. He complained a lot about election rule changes like expanded mail-in voting but didn’t stop them. He found shitty lawyers who filed idiotically argued lawsuits too late to matter. He didn’t get the Department of Justice or the Department of Homeland Security to do anything about the alleged conspiracy against him. And people he himself hired didn’t do the things he asked of them to “stop the steal,” going all the way up to Mike Pence.

If you take Trump at his word, it’s not simply that the election was stolen — it’s that the election was stolen and he failed at every turn to stop it, even as he held the powers of the presidency. It’s that all sorts of people he entrusted with power betrayed him and he let them all get away with it. And as a result, Republicans lost control of the government.

How on earth is that a message that says “nominate me again”?

Josh Barro in his new Substack

News

Maybe it’s bullshit the whole way down.

Every morning, there it is, waiting for me on my phone. The bullshit. It resembles, in its use of phrases such as “knowledgeable sources” and “experts differ,” what I used to think of as the news, but it isn’t the news and it hasn’t been for ages. It consists of its decomposed remains in a news-shaped coffin. It does impart information, strictly speaking, but not always information about our world. Or not good information, because it’s so often wrong, particularly on matters of great import and invariably to the advantage of the same interests, which suggests it should be presumed wrong as a rule.

Still, it’s hard to give up hope, and today I blew half an hour on the bullshit, under which the truth lies buried. Maybe. Maybe it’s bullshit the whole way down. How much time do you have for finding out?

Walter Kirn

"Nothing to see here. Move along now.", antisemite edition

After a white-nationalist attack, the media devote considerable resources to tracing the attacker’s ideas and search history along the ideological continuum and tarring the Republican Party with “complicity” in his crimes. After an Islamist attack, the imperative is not to establish politicians’ complicity with the criminal, but to avoid any inquiry that might amount to “Islamophobia.”

‌Anti-Semitism and Double Standards

Bret Stephens makes a similar point.

"Hidden motives"

I can be pretty cynical, but I don’t think that everybody has “hidden motives.” People who write what one might call “pro-Russian” articles for RT aren’t doing it for the money or because the FSB has got some dirt on them any more than people writing Russophobic stuff for think tanks are doing it because they’re taking orders from the FBI, MI5, or CSIS. People tend to believe what they’re doing.

In any case, I worry less about spooks and more about the military industrial complex and its funding of think tanks and the like, all of which work together to inflate threats, keep us in a state of fear, and justify increased defence spending and aggressive foreign policies. But even there, the think tankers etc believe in what they’re doing. The problem is that believers get funded whereas non-believers don’t. I don’t think “hidden motives” are the issue.

Paul Robinson, Irrusianality

That there are no "hidden motives" doesn’t necessarily mean it’s not bullshit, but those who are defying the consensus probably are going to be a bit more certain that they’re right.

Respite

Corporate cancel culture, Elon Musk edition

Cancel culture has definitely escaped from the academic zoo:

A partner at law firm Cooley LLP got an unexpected call late last year from a Tesla Inc. lawyer delivering an ultimatum.

Elon Musk, Tesla’s CEO and the world’s richest man, wanted Cooley, which was representing Tesla in numerous lawsuits, to fire one of its attorneys or it would lose the electric-vehicle company’s business, people familiar with the matter said.

Wall Street Journal, ‌Elon Musk’s Tesla Asked Law Firm to Fire Associate Hired From SEC

Cooley, bless ’em, refused and Musk is indeed moving his legal business elsewhere.

Count me a presumptive foe of all things Musk. I didn’t care one whit for Donald Trump 35 years ago (or whenever it was he crashed the national stage with The Art of the Deal) and was baffled by people who admired him, but having seen the heights to which that humbug ascended, I’m even more apprehensive about a bullying narcissist with legitimate wealth (not debt-ridden speculations) and greater intelligence.

The modern machine

Paul Kingsnorth writes much about the machine. I wonder if he first got it from Jacques Ellul?:

Technique is the social structure on which modern life is built. It is the consciousness that has come to govern all human affairs, suppressing questions of ultimate human purposes and meaning. Our society no longer asks why we should do anything. All that matters anymore, [Jacques] Ellul argued, is how to do it — to which the canned answer is always: More efficiently! Much as a modern machine can be said to run on its own, so does the technological society. Human control of it is an illusion, which means we are on a path to self-destruction — not because the social machine will necessarily kill us (although it might), but because we are fast becoming soulless creatures.

Samuel Matlack, ‌How Tech Despair Can Set You Free

Crypto

"Anyone involved in cryptocurrencies in any way is either a grifter or a mark," Zawinski told me. "It is 100% a con. There is no legitimacy," he said.

Brandon Vigliarolo, ‌Mozilla stops accepting cryptocurrency, Wikipedia may be next: Are dominos falling?

What does the existence of "weld porn" tell us?

There are websites for “weld porn,” and the mere fact that this is so should be of urgent interest to educators. Education requires a certain capacity for asceticism, but more fundamentally it is erotic. Only beautiful things lead us out to join the world beyond our heads.

Matthew Crawford, The World Beyond Your Head

Sane and grounded

Elsewhere, advocating for sanity and groundedness, Kari Jenson Gold muses under the somewhat-misleading rubric Jesus the Carpenter. Anyone who liked Shop Class As Soulcraft should take a few minutes for it.


You can read most of my more impromptu stuff here (cathartic venting) and here (the only social medium I frequent, because people there are quirky, pleasant and real). Both should work in your RSS aggregator, like Feedly or Reeder, should you want to make a habit of it.