It’s a long one today, but I’ve broken it down by rubric.
And for what it’s worth, Mrs. Tipsy and I have been married 51 years as of today.
The single most counterintuitive social principle in all of human history.
The idea that obnoxious, misguided, seditious, blasphemous, and bigoted expressions deserve not only to be tolerated but, of all things, protected is the single most counterintuitive social principle in all of human history. Every human instinct cries out against it, and every generation discovers fresh reasons to oppose it. It is saved from the scrapheap of self-evident absurdity only by the fact that it is also the single most successful social principle in all of human history.
Jonathan Rauch, The Constitution of Knowledge
I could have classified this under politics, but if we lose all culture of free speech, we’ll eventually lose the law as well — and I wanted anyone who skips politics to see it.
Fascinating: Molly Worthen, What College Students Need Is a Taste of the Monk’s Life
RIP Europe, age 33
The Europe that came together in 1990 is coming apart again, its people angry and fragmented, its leaders visionless, the once-free-ish West boiling in a stew of hate speech laws, vaccine mandates and ever-accelerating censorship and intolerance. ‘Populists’ continue to barrack and harrass its leaders, and neither they nor their media allies can quite work out why. The last global empire is led by a confused octogenarian, and within a few years the biggest economy in the world will be a communist dictatorship. The Scorpions never saw that one coming.
Paul Kingsnorth, In This Free World
“Science” in service of ridiculous ideologies
“White-throated sparrows have four chromosomally distinct sexes that pair up in fascinating ways. P.S. Nature is amazing. P.P.S. Sex is not binary,” – Laura Helmuth, editor-in-chief of Scientific American. The sparrows have just two sexes, as Community Notes corrected. Jerry Coyne has a beaut of a piece on this.
I regret that I have no recollection of the source for this, but I hereby explicitly disclaim adding a word other than the heading.
The elite avatars of proledom
Stanford Law School students were in the news for awhile, thanks to a contingent of them having shouted down a conservative campus speaker … I’ve come to think that the whole frame of the thing speaks to a real refusal of the American left to take its own ideas seriously. The debate fell along the typical lines. Liberals and lefties, as is their habit, rushed not only to defend the student protesters but to lionize them. What I find somewhat depressing is that this has become a habit, anointing representatives of the academic 1% as the footsoldiers of progressive change. The catechism of 21st-century progressivism insists that we are creatures of our immutable demographic traits, that our race and our class and our privilege define us and our influence on the world. If that’s true, how are we to assume that law students at Stanford Law School are anything other than the next generation’s shock troops of the bourgeoisie, whatever their professed politics? Where did all of that demographic determinism go?
Freddie deBoer, Stanford Law Students Are Your Class Enemy
This feeling that I’m feeling isn’t schadenfreude …
… because there’s not an ounce of sorrow in it:
Oath Keepers founder and leader Stewart Rhodes—convicted in November on a number of charges, including seditious conspiracy, for his role instigating the January 6 riots and seeking to disrupt the transfer of power—was sentenced on Thursday to 18 years in prison, the longest such term of any January 6 defendant thus far. The head of the Oath Keepers’ Florida chapter, Kelly Meggs, was sentenced to 12 years in prison.
TMD. It’s important that insurrectionists like Rhodes and Meggs pay dearly.
On the other hand, I’m not opposed in principle to Ron DeSantis’ promise to review January 6 convictions and consider Presidential pardons. I know one fellow I’d like to see pardoned, who wandered in rubbernecking like a bog-standard tourist. I at least glimmeringly understand why DOJ prosecuted one and all, but for some of those convicted, the process should be the only lasting punishment.
It pays to increase your word-power
With the etiology now explained (Happy 20th Birthday to the Streisand Effect), I may add “Streisand Effect” to my vocabulary.
It doesn’t pay (easily) to win a bet with PillowMan
As long as I’m channeling Volokh Conspiracy postings, here’s another one, equally gratifying and more contemporary: MyPillow CEO Mike Lindell Taken to Court for Refusing to Pay the Person who Proved Him Wrong
It is in the nature of American justice that anger can end a life, yet forgiveness cannot necessarily save one.
Elizabeth Bruenig, A Murder Forgiven
You only live once
I had marked this for sharing already, but then I had lunch with someone, soon turning 61, who is feeling his age and wondering if he has mis-spent his life, and it became more salient to me:
I had a dream last night in which I visited [my parents] James and Dora on their farm after the house burned down and saw their seven kids and little Eleanor had a terrible fever and the family sat praying for her — a fleeting dream but I would give anything to revisit it. I feel the same way about the picture of my mother, 17, with sister Elsie and friend Dorothy, three girls in summer dresses standing holding their bikes by Lake Nokomis in 1932, so happy — I want to ask her, “Do you realize you’re going to have six kids and not much money and they’ll cause you a lot of problems? Is this really what you want? I’m a writer, I can send you to Hollywood. You’re very charming, very funny. What he loves about you, millions of others would love too. What do you say, kid?” And she gets on her bike and wheels away.
The problem of Uniqueness
[T]he analytic process cannot deal with uniqueness: there is an irresistible temptation for it to move from the uniqueness of something to its assumed non-existence, since the reality of the unique would have to be captured by idioms that apply to nothing else.
Iain McGilchrist, The Master and His Emissary
Two favorite safety devices
BitDefender Box protects my entire home network, including IOT devices. I cheerfully pay up each year for software and firmware updates plus anti-virus for all my iOS and MacOS stuff.
The only kind of stepladder I have any business using these days.
Now, even if you hate politics, you might want to read the opener to the next item.
The Quaker whose mule wouldn’t plow
One of my favorite stories, for roughly five decades now, is of a Quaker with a mule who wouldn’t plow.
Finally, after various goads, the Quaker walked to the mule, took its ears gently in hand, looked into its eyes, and said “Brother mule. Thee knowest I am a Quaker, Thee knowest I cannot beat thee. Thee knowest I cannot curse thee. What thee does not know is that I can sell thee — to the baptist up the road. And he can beat the living daylights out of thee.”
That’s pretty much how I’m starting to feel about the wokesters/progressive Left/successor ideology. My “baptists” are the Irreligious Right, the Christianist Right — both capable of violence, I think — and a few politicians who can see which way the wind is blowing, such as Ron DeSantis.
I doubt I can vote for DeSantis, in part because of his ham-handed attacks on the progressive Left in Florida and his playing illegal immigrants (I know the adjective is offensive to some, but it’s a perfectly good description) as pawns by putting them on busses headed to Blue zones. So maybe I really wouldn’t sell my cultural adversaries to him.
And I know I can’t vote for Trump.
But I’m starting to feel at least ambivalent, not entirely negative, about how the “baptists” might handle this. And I’m certain I’m not alone.
Fear casts out love
Fear casts out love. And not only love. Fear also casts out intelligence, casts out goodness, casts out all thought of beauty and truth.
Aldous Huxley via Peter Wehner, who was explaining The Minds of Trump Supporters
I am aware of the
possible irony of placing this after the immediately preceding item.
When Peggy Noonan speaks, one should listen
Peggy Noonan gives Ron DeSantis some advice:
At some point, I think soon, he’ll have to make a serious, textured and extended case against Donald Trump. Not insults and nicknames, not “Can he take a punch? Can he throw a punch?” No, something aimed at the big beating heart of the GOP that tells those who’ve gone on the Trumpian journey and aligned with him that they can no longer indulge their feelings. At a crucial point in history they’ll lose again, and the damage to the country will be too great. Throwaway lines like “the culture of losing” aren’t enough. That’s just a line that signals. Don’t signal, say. Include the long history of political losses—Congress, the presidency, the opportunity for a red wave in 2022.
Yes, tell those good people that you served your country in a tragedy called Iraq and the other guy claimed bone spurs and ran during a tragedy called Vietnam. You think you don’t have to say it, but you do. People who love Mr. Trump need reasons they can explain to themselves to peel away.
Religious conservatives in the 2016 election
When religious conservatism made its peace with Donald Trump in 2016, the fundamental calculation was that the benefits of political power — or, alternatively, of keeping cultural liberalism out of full political power — outweighed the costs to Christian credibility inherent in accepting a heathen figure as a political champion and leader.
The contrary calculation, made by the Christian wing of Never Trump, was that accepting Trump required moral compromises that American Christianity would ultimately suffer for, whatever Supreme Court seats or policy victories religious conservatives might gain.
There’s a lot distilled in those two paragraphs. I particularly note that the second paragraph at least hints at the view that Christianity is about something other than political power, a possibility that the New York Times in particular almost never considers. (“Politics is real, religion isn’t” is the gist of it.)
Yet I don’t see my own position reflected in either of them.
My core anti-Trump conviction was that his narcissism would distort his perceptions of reality, and that a President who misperceives reality — or even just a few key realities at a few pivotal times — could damage the nation terribly — worse than Hillary Clinton would.
The current formulation of my former position is inevitably colored by what actually happened, because I didn’t commit my position to writing in 2015-16 so I could some day say “see, I told you so.” But narcissism and misperception of reality was definitely at the core. And in 2016, I still thought that Christian Trump-voters were probably holding their noses because of the alternative. If I spoke or wrote about how wicked he was, it was my trying to pry others away from him with arguments that I thought they’d find weightier than “he’s a toxic narcissist.” I never expected so much troll-like adulation of that man under Christianish auspices.
Had it not been for his mesmerizing narcissism, he’d have never been such an effective demagogue and would not have won the GOP primary. So I’d never have needed to weigh whether a mere serial adulterer and shady casino magnate, without a disabling personality disorder, was an acceptable alternative to a woman who deplored roughly half the nation.
What keeps Damon Linker up at night
I just don’t think, even now, that the imposition of a right-wing tyranny is a likely scenario for the United States. Far more likely is a mutually reinforcing cycle of extra-constitutional power grabs, spasms of civil unrest, efforts to impose order, and more egregious acts of violence aimed at “the system.” This wouldn’t become a civil war like the one that consumed the United States in the 1860s, with massive armies facing each other for protracted, bloody battles aimed at seizing territory. But it would nonetheless be a form of low-boil civil war, perhaps resembling The Troubles in Northern Ireland more than any other recent examples.
… each side’s greatest fear is a dictatorship by the other side.
Another is that when each side is informed about the other side’s fears along these lines, the reaction is angry and mocking dismissal. You’re saying I’m a threat to them_? What a bunch of bullshit. Everybody with a brain and capable of unbiased thinking knows_ they’re the problem.
Yet another fact about our politics is that each side is becoming more willing to entertain (or fantasize about taking?) extra-constitutional acts in order to protect itself from what it’s convinced are the threatening extra-constitutional acts by the other side. Trump’s self-coup-attempt in January 2021 is only the most obvious and egregious example. More recent ones have come up throughout the current debt-ceiling battle, with prominent Democrats proposing all kinds of gambits, justified by the supposed national emergency posed by looming debt default, to get around the Constitution’s placement of the power of the purse in the hands of Congress.
My point, once again, is not to assign or remove blame from either side—or to treat both sides as equally good or bad. If the choice is between Trump’s self-coup to keep himself in power despite losing the 2020 election and the Democratic Speaker of the House talking with the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs about a plan to undertake a coup of their own against that same dictator-president, I would side with the latter every time. But the latter is still a coup—an unconstitutional power grab undertaken to thwart a prior unconstitutional power grab.
I don’t know how to prevent this except by one personal step: declaring myself a noncombatant. That won’t keep “them” from coming for me, whichever “them” it be, and I don’t know how to prevent that, either.
Imagining a Trump reprise
[I]magine a second Trump administration. This time he surrounds himself with loyalists who vow to do his bidding. Among their first acts is to impose Schedule F reform on the executive branch, which enables them to fire tens of thousands of career civil servants and replace them with even more loyalists. This would open up the possibility of a more DeSantis-like Trump administration.
Yet it would still be different in one decisive respect: Trump doesn’t affirm any consistent ideology. Instead, he aims to inflict as much pain and damage as possible on his own enemies and those of his supporters. To that end, he’s perfectly willing and happy to reverse course the moment he sees an opening for a victory or a deal. He relies entirely on his own judgment. He doesn’t follow the lead of advisers. He sizes things up with his own eyes, and makes sudden, snap decisions. He prizes flexibility and despises constraints—and as we all learned in the two months following the 2020 election, this even extends to the Constitution, the rule of law, and the norms of ordinary democratic politics, including the peaceful transfer of power.
This sounds more than a little like the kind of government the ancient political philosophers described as a kingship—albeit one in which the king wholly lacks in virtue or wisdom. They called such a leader a tyrant. Such a tyranny is different than the ideological forms of dictatorship we’re familiar with from the modern age because it has no overarching constellation of ideas it seeks to enact or to which it looks for guidance. It’s the rule, instead, of one man seeking to satisfy his own insatiable hunger for attention and thirst for the adulation of the people.
Modern ideological dictators are ascetics of a kind. Adolf Hitler, Joseph Stalin, and Mao Zedong devoted their lives to a cause.
But Trump’s only cause is himself. Somewhat like the ancient tyrants Plato and Aristotle analyzed, he is a political hedonist who acts as he does out of a craving for the pleasure that comes from being loved and cheered by a crowd.
Damon Linker, The Rise of the Anti-Ideological Right—2 I’m not sure how “political hedonist” differs from political narcissist, but I’ll let that go.
I’m beginning to despair of the whole right, but especially the anti-woke formation (much as I loathe woke-ism). There’s no positive vision to it. It’s unserious. It seems designed to stave off real populism at the level of political economy.
Sohrab Ahmari on Twitter (H/T Nellie Bowles)
For all its piety and fervor, today’s United States needs to be recognized for what it really is: not a Christian country, but a nation of heretics.
Ross Douthat, Bad Religion
We are in the grip of a grim, despairing rebellion against reality that imagines itself to be the engine of moral progress.
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