Thursday, 12/29/22

The $1.7 Trillion Electoral Count Act Reform

Then there’s the fortifying fact that Congress passed greatly needed reforms of the Electoral Count Act as part of the omnibus bill that currently awaits Biden’s signature. Those changes clarify the procedures Congress and the Vice President must follow in the event that a future president and/or state legislatures attempt to overturn the will of the voters in the way that President Trump encouraged them to do as part of his self-coup attempt in the days and weeks leading up to January 6, 2021.

Damon Linker.

We knew for 2 years that reforming that poorly-written law was extremely important. Was paying a $1.7 trillion boondoggle-enriched ransom the only way to get it done?

Seeing what we expect to see

Since what we select to attend to is guided by our expectations of what it is we are going to see, there is a circularity involved which means we experience more and more only what we already know.

Iain McGilchrist, The Master and His Emissary

Hope breaks through

The Atlantic’s Franklin Foer stops doom-scrolling Twitter and locking his eyes on cable news, and now sees some hopeful signs:

Back in March, Francis Fukuyama, a prophet of optimism, suggested that Ukraine’s example of resistance might help spiritually rally liberal democracies to defend themselves against internal threats. He called it a revival of the “spirit of 1989.”

That prediction, which I doubted when he issued it, has come to pass. Even if I can’t prove that the causation tracks with Fukuyama’s argument, the results are palpable. Since the start of the Ukraine war, Western democracies have voted to cast aside populist goons. Emmanuel Macron held off Marine Le Pen. In October, Brazilians disposed of Jair Bolsonaro. In the midterm elections, the United States roundly repudiated election-denying Republicans, evidence of Donald Trump’s waning influence.

Franklin Foer, The Cynic’s Dilemma

Is their increasing marginalization by saner spirits why paladins of the new Right raged so absurdly against Zelensky’s visit?

Another sign of hope: Is 2022 the Year We All Finally Got Over Narcissists?.

Popehat pontificates on fires in crowded theaters

Ken White, a/k/a Popehat, pontificates on the exceptions to first amendment free speech rights.

I’ve been interested in this sort of thing for maybe 55 years. In law school, I got the top grade, in a class of 100-or-so, on Introductory Constitutional Law.

Yet I still found Ken’s post illuminating and a wonderful distillation of why “the first amendment isn’t absolute” is analytically useless. I hope it’s one of his Substack posts that you can read in full even if you’re not a subscriber.

A reliable contrarian

I have affirmation from a pretty good source that Bari Weiss’s Substack publication, recently rebranded as The Free Press, is a reliable way to get news that mainstream press aren’t covering, such as the poor science behind government Covid policy (or science that even contradicts it), problems in the world of gender transitioning, and such.

Yeah, you can get contrarian stuff lots of other places, but is it journalism or is it lazy-ass opinionating? Bari has a business plan and some actual, serious journalists writing for her, and that’s consistent with her plan to be a real journal with real news.

Election2026 and Election2028

I can’t believe I’ve already created tags Election2026 and Election2028 for my Obsidian database!

Here’s what prompted it:

Republicans face a favorable Senate map in 2024, when Democrats will defend seats in Montana, Ohio and West Virginia. Neither party appears to have any comparably strong pickup opportunities in 2026 or 2028, so the odds favor a Republican majority in each of the three Congresses starting in 2025.

The source, James Taranto of the Wall Street Journal, was analyzing the partisan merits of a call in Vox for SCOTUS Justices Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan to retire now so Joe Biden can fill their seats: “Sotomayor and Kagan are only in their 60s, but the actuaries at Vox say it’s time for them to go” the subheadline summarizes.

I will be surprised if either of the Justices heeds the call, and I’ll be particularly disappointed if Kagan does, since she has an especially powerful combination of intelligence and personability that reportedly moderates the tendencies of her conservative colleagues.

(Sigh!) George Santos

Is there anything worse than worrying about future elections? Probably.

I tried to avoid even reading beneath the surface of the George Santos story, but it is such a parable that I finally relented:

At this point you might be thinking, “Are we sure he’s even gay?” A man willing to lie about anything and everything to spruce up his political appeal might reasonably conclude that identifying as gay is more of an asset than a liability in a state like New York, especially for a party that’s keen to be seen as more diverse. As chance would have it, it turns out that George Santos was married to a woman as recently as 2019

Trump proved that the modern right is willing to vest power in someone who’s comprehensively obnoxious. The defense of Santos is apt to prove that the right is willing to vest power in a total cipher. Who he really is, what’s true and what’s false, may be unclear even to him at this point. He’s barely discernible as a persona, just a series of lies stitched together. And so he’s a test case in how little character matters so long as one mouths the right talking points about being a fighter rather than a sucker. Can sheer pugnacity excuse anything? Will hardcore partisan right-wingers shill for a grotesque Tom-Ripley-style scam artist just to spite the left, because his seat is important and because he confounds Democrats’ expectations of identity politics?

I’m thinking yes.

I hope the House expels him anyway …

But they won’t do it. And if they don’t, I won’t complain. So much of this party’s elected leadership since 2015 has stooped to pretending to be things they’re not in order to gain power that it seems unjust to hold George Santos singularly culpable. By what right do reptiles like McCarthy and Elise Stefanik, who traded traditional Republicanism for Trumpism because that’s what it took to get ahead, sit in judgment of Santos for constructing his own identity to move up in the world? They’re all grifters. They deserve each other.

Nick Cattogio

Bah! Humbug!

The wishful public has been fed a diet of misinformation from a wishful news media that won’t tolerate anything but positive thinking about maintaining our current arrangements because imagining a different outcome is too depressing. This is not a malicious conspiracy by evil authorities so much as a neurotic defense mechanism in the face of the disturbing reality that the comforts and conveniences of recent decades may be drawing to a close.

James Howard Kunstler, Living in the Long Emergency


[S]ubordinating truth to politics is a game which tyrants and bullies always win.

Jonathan Rauch, The Constitution of Knowledge

To believe that wealth is the only significant measure of the worth of an individual, a family, or a community is to reject the teaching of nearly every religion and wisdom tradition that ever was.

Mark Mitchell and Nathan Schlueter, The Humane Vision of Wendell Berry

The Orthodox "phronema" [roughly, mind-set] cannot be programmitized or reduced to shibboleths.

Fr. Jonathan Tobias

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