(Let’s start with something pleasant.)
- Murmur. An onomatopoeia that fascinates me because the Bible is chock-full of murmuring and murmurers.
- Augur and inaugurate
- Casserolades: concerts of banging pots and pans to signify political discontent. This seems to be a uniquely French thing. The demonstrators are called casseroleurs.
- Womb envy: [The envy that men may (or is it “allegedly”?) feel of the biological functions of the female. Contemporary womb-enviers are said to be prominent among those technicians making lavish claims of sentience for (misnamed) Artificial Intelligence. “It’s only natural that computer scientists long to create A.I. and realize a long-held dream.” (Jaron Lanier) (Side note: I guess it’s okay to recognize sexual dimorphism when the point it to belittle males.)
- An ambient expectation of human subservience. The unarticulated requirement that humans do more and more common tasks in the manner required by digital designs. (Synthesized from the context of Jaron Lanier’s use of the term in There Is No A.I.)
- A sensational scoop was tweeted last month by America’s National Public Radio: Elon Musk’s “massive space sex rocket” had exploded on launch. Alas, it turned out to be an automated mistranscription of SpaceX, the billionaire’s rocketry firm. (From the Economist, I believe.)
I’m glad a stuck around for Frank Bruni’s “For the Love of Sentences” after he commented on CNN’s Town Hall featuring DJT. Some gems through Bruni:
- One peculiarity of European aristocrats is that their names pile up, like snowdrifts … It’s lunchtime in Tirana, the capital of Albania, and I am about to meet Leka Anwar Zog Reza Baudouin Msiziwe Zogu, crown prince of the Albanians. (Helen Lewis)
- The red velvet robes trimmed in ermine, the five-pound crown, the gold robes on top of gold robes dragging over gold carpets — the regalia often made it feel like a Versace fashion show staged in an assisted-living facility. (Rachel Tashjian)
- Watching a coronation is the constitutional equivalent of visiting a zoo, and finding a Triceratops in one of the enclosures. (Tom Holland)
(We now inch toward truly unpleasant truths, albeit colorfully expressed.)
The source of aesthetics, ethics (and folly)
We favor the visible, the embedded, the personal, the narrated, and the tangible; we scorn the abstract. Everything good (aesthetics, ethics) and wrong (Fooled by Randomness) with us seems to flow from it.
Nassim Nicholas Taleb’s “core generator” of insights.
Garrison Keillor, scab?
I salute the Hollywood writers who went out on strike this past week but I can tell you that we essayists won’t be joining them. For one thing, the essay is deeply imbedded in our nation’s very identity (U.S.A.) but for another thing, a national essay strike would be like a National Husbands Day of Silence, most wives wouldn’t care and many wouldn’t notice.
Why I am not joining the strike | Garrison Keillor
Hell will be paid
The transgender movement now wields tremendous power, and many children are being transitioned long before they reach their teen years. They are being put on puberty blockers and going under the knife before they are old enough to vote, drink, or drive. Many will wake up one day and realize that their ability to conceive children and experience sexual pleasure was destroyed by the adult ideologues that they trusted.
Jonathon Van Maren, Life After Detransition.
I’d look forward to the malpractice judgments against the ideologues and profiteers were it not that every such judgment is inadequate redress for the kinds of harm they cause.
Professional Human Losers
I have a cyber-acquaintance (I was well aware of him even before cyberspace, though), Alan Jacobs, who’s something of a Christian Public Intellectual — a dying breed as he noted in a Harpers article a few years back. One of Jacobs’ muses in turn is Austin Kleon, whose postings he frequently shares, and at which I frequently yawn. That probably means I’m a shallow person — or that my brain and Jacobs feed on different things.
But this one caught my fancy as it catches our moment. I’ll just say it involves, and riffs off, Jeopardy Champ (now host) Ken Jennings losing to a supercomputer.
It’s short enough that I won’t risk, by quoting an excerpt, omitting something that might edify you, whose brain may also feed on different things than mine.
Mortician Bonasera/Don Corleone = Harlan Crow/Clarence Thomas
True or False?
If you answered “true”, you get an A+ from Brooke Harrington.
Because the publisher is the Atlantic (and the author isn’t Adam Serwer) the article is less than 100% meritless. But Harrington gives away her guttersnipe game when (a) she views any conservative justice’s friends as suspect and (b) she reports no similar friendships of liberal justices.
But wait! There’s more!
African Americans, migrants, and the children of migrants tend to reject anti-intellectual politics, and still see the educational system as the most likely means of social advancement for their children. This makes it easier for poor whites to see them as unfairly in alliance with rich white liberals.
David Graeber, Bullshit Jobs
Easier, yes, but the captivity of these groups to the Democratic party is independent evidence of alignment with rich white liberals.
Fomenting stochastic violence
(Getting closer to the nasties …)
The law in its majesty neutrality has decided that people on both the Left and the Right can spout incendiary lies so long as the threat of violent response is not imminent. But I think the coinage “stochastic violence” or “stochastic terrorism” is nevertheless useful, and that “random” violence is sometimes (often?) rooted in lying rhetoric (and, as in the case of the January 6 insurrection, calling it “random” is a cop-out).
Setting the stage, deploring the actors
But who, sir, makes the [slave] trader? Who is most to blame? The enlightened, cultivated, intelligent man, who supports the system of which the trader is the inevitable result, or the poor trader himself? You make the public statement that calls for his trade, that debauches and depraves him, till he feels no shame in it; and in what are you better than he?
Harriett Beecher Stowe, Uncle Tom’s Cabin
Slavery aside, we still do this: we escalate our rhetoric and then damn the actual perpetrators of such stochastic terrorism as our rhetoric invited.
Or maybe, if we’re shameless enough, we’ll call the terrorism a …
Yeah! That’s the ticket!
If you infuse an issue or set of issues with religious intensity but drain a movement of religious virtue, then profound religious conflict — including violent conflict — is the inevitable result. Indeed, we saw religious violence on full display when a mob stormed the Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021, and it is no coincidence that one of Carlson’s most mendacious projects was his effort to recast the Jan. 6 insurrection and its aftermath as a “patriot purge.”
Maybe I should leave it at that, but the author has more:
The more the Christian right latches on to cruel men, the more difficult it becomes to argue that the cruelty is a bug, not a feature …
Many Christians fear that kindness doesn’t “work,” so they discard it. This is how even decency itself becomes a “secondary value.” Aggression, not virtue, becomes the touchstone of political engagement, and anything other than aggression is seen as a sign of weakness.
Both quotes from David French, Tucker Carlson’s Dark and Malign Influence Over the Christian Right
As someone who cannot remember ever watching Tucker Carlson’s segment in its entirety (who hasn’t encountered clips of him?), I can’t speak of his “cruelty” or “aggression” except to say that they were nowhere near my top-line impressions. Maybe that showed up when he singled out some random click-baity schmuck for ridicule?
Trump’s court loss
(Sigh! It’s time.)
We’ll all go down together
The first rule of the modern Republican Party, it’s said, is “You can’t criticize Trump.” But that’s not correct.
The actual rule is “You can’t take sides with the left against Trump.” It just so happens that every moral objection to Trump’s character and fitness is now “coded” as leftist …
In 2023, the question of Trump’s character has become a litmus test of right-wing authenticity. To deem him unfit for office is necessarily to have been corrupted by left-wing propaganda, even if the “propaganda” in question is Trump being accused of sexual misconduct by 20+ women and then being held liable for sexual abuse in court.
This explains why so many conservatives, elected and otherwise, resorted to grumbling about the “New York jury” after yesterday’s verdict. If the jurors were a bunch of partisan blue-state hacks, as their critics insinuate, it’s passing strange that they ended up finding Trump not liable on [raping] her. But since holding him accountable for any moral failing is behavior that’s now associated exclusively with Democrats, the belief on the right that the verdict could only have been tainted by politics will be inescapable.
That dynamic conveniently makes it impossible for Trump’s fitness for office to be challenged legitimately by someone on his own side, as challenging him on those grounds means you’re not on his side at all.
Reporter Benjy Sarlin captured the absurdity when he tweeted, “It’s hard to sum up the 2024 situation more succinctly than this: Trump is already calling DeSantis a groomer based 100% on innuendo with 0 penalty; and DeSantis cannot respond by citing an actual jury finding of sexual abuse.” It’s ludicrous. But it’s also completely rational for DeSantis and the rest of the field under the circumstances to overlook the Carroll trial, since to mention it would be to take sides with the left against Trump. And that would disqualify them, not him.
Nick Cattogio, Mostly Peaceful Sexual Abuse.
It is humiliating to live in a nation-state where Donald Trump could win the Presidential election not just once, but twice. But here is where my wife, friends, family and Church are, so I’ll stay and we’ll all go down together.
I’m quite confident that we’ll go down, but what do I know? I’m not a self-appointed “Apostle” or “Prophet” with power to declare that Donald Trump, right now, is our
Law or Donald Trump? Pick one.
[W]e watched as even Trump-nominated judges ruled time and again against Trump’s election challenges, yet a majority of Republicans still do not believe that Joe Biden legitimately won enough votes to carry the 2020 election. When the choice is between the law and the evidence or Donald Trump, Republicans have consistently picked Trump.
But is sexual abuse different? Can an actual jury verdict — after a trial featuring all the due process that American law requires — finally break the bond with Trump?
Here is the darkest possible outcome to the case, one that I fear is more likely than not. The Republican public will either shrug at the result or will simply choose to disbelieve the jury, assuming without evidence that it was biased against Trump. Indeed, when asked about the verdict, Senator Marco Rubio told a Bulwark reporter, “That jury’s a joke.” Senator Lindsey Graham said he questioned “the whole process” and told Punchbowl News, “I think you could convict Donald Trump of kidnapping Lindbergh’s baby.”
But would a jury so hopelessly biased against Trump jury reject Carroll’s rape claim? Or is that an indication that the jury actually weighed the evidence supporting each charge?
More Trump derangement
It’s deja vu all over again
Back when Trump first burst on the scene in the summer and fall of 2015, conservative pundits assured us the Republican electorate would reject him and opt for someone/anyone else. That turned out to be wrong—yet here we are nearly eight years later and often the very same people now assure us the Republican electorate would be rejecting Trump and embracing DeSantis if only the media weren’t playing dirty.
I don’t buy it.
Hey, I get it: Being wrong’s a bitch. Yet error can still be worthwhile if it serves as an opportunity to learn and course-correct. Right-leaning writers recognized this when they made the point against Democrats who spent the better part of the Trump administration blaming Vladimir Putin, James Comey, the New York Times, CNN—really anyone but themselves—for Clinton’s loss. But now these same conservatives refuse to subject themselves to the same degree of scrutiny and soul-searching.
Which means they are depriving themselves of the chance to adjust their thinking in the light of a bracing and crucially important truth about the Republican Party: That when given the choice between a know-nothing narcissist and moral cretin who embodies their resentments and channels their anger and hatred but accomplishes little and a candidate who’s spent years proving himself a vastly more competent, woke-slaying enemy of liberalism, the voters still prefer the first guy.
Decrying the fact doesn’t make it any less true.
I never did much criminal law, but this strikes me as a bad omen if your name is Donald Trump:
A Friday court filing revealed that at least eight of the 16 false Georgia electors who planned to declare former President Donald Trump the winner of their state’s 2020 presidential contest have accepted immunity deals in Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis’ investigation of attempts to overturn the 2020 election. The brief filed by the electors’ defense attorney shows the electors will be immune from prosecution if they testify truthfully in the probe.
The Morning Dispatch for May 8
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
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