Happy Birthday to Me

Social Media, Crypto, and such

Trump, Musk, Ye

When Jaron Lanier writes, I read:

I encountered Donald Trump a few times in the pre-social-media era, and he struck me as someone who was in on his own joke. He no longer does. Elon Musk used to be a serious person more concerned with engineering and building businesses than with petty name-calling. He didn’t seem like the kind of person to amplify a preposterous, sordid story about Paul Pelosi. Kanye West was once a thoughtful artist. Now known as Ye, he radiates antisemitism on top of his earlier slavery denialism.

I have observed a change, or really a narrowing, in the public behavior of people who use Twitter or other social media a lot. (“Other social media” sometimes coming into play after ejection from Twitter.) When I compare Mr. Musk, Mr. Trump and Ye, I see a convergence of personalities that were once distinct. The garish celebrity playboy, the obsessive engineer and the young artist, as different from one another as they could be, have all veered not in the direction of becoming grumpy old men, but into being bratty little boys on a schoolyard. Maybe we should look at what social media has done to these men.

I believe “Twitter poisoning” is a real thing. It is a side effect that appears when people are acting under an algorithmic system that is designed to engage them to the max. It’s a symptom of being part of a behavior-modification scheme.

The same could be said about any number of other figures, including on the left. Examples are found in the excesses of cancel culture and joyless orthodoxies in fandom, in vain attention competitions and senseless online bullying.

Twitter poisoning is a little like alcoholism or gambling addiction, in that the afflicted lose all sense of proportion about their own powers. They can come to believe they have almost supernatural abilities. Little boys fantasize about energy beams shooting from their fingertips.

Jaron Lanier in the New York Times.

Tulip mania

I started to read a story on Sam Bankman-Fried and the collapse of FTX, his cryptocurrency venture. But I stopped when aI realized that I still don’t understand crypto, which I accordingly never trusted, and that I was reading the story mostly for the schadenfreude.

That I mention this, and allude to tulip mania, shows that I, a sinner, still take pleasure in being vindicated.

… an endless stream of content

Instead of facilitating the modest use of existing connections—largely for offline life (to organize a birthday party, say)—social software turned those connections into a latent broadcast channel. All at once, billions of people saw themselves as celebrities, pundits, and tastemakers. A global broadcast network where anyone can say anything to anyone else as often as possible, and where such people have come to think they deserve such a capacity, or even that withholding it amounts to censorship or suppression—that’s just a terrible idea from the outset. And it’s a terrible idea that is entirely and completely bound up with the concept of social media itself: systems erected and used exclusively to deliver an endless stream of content.

Ian Bogost via The Morning Dispatch

What a waste!

The best minds of my generation are thinking about how to make people click ads. That sucks.

Data scientist Jeff Hammerbacher via Nellie Bowles

Please, God, let Twitter live!

The best argument I’ve heard for praying fervently that Twitter survives is this:

Just FYI if Twitter dies, TGIF goes with it. (Nellie Bowles)

Election 2022

The Democrats’ greatest electoral asset

What will Democrats do when Donald Trump isn’t around to lose elections? We have to wonder because on Tuesday Democrats succeeded again in making the former President a central campaign issue, and Mr. Trump helped them do it.

Trumpy Republican candidates failed at the ballot box in states that were clearly winnable …

Since his unlikely victory in 2016 against the widely disliked Hillary Clinton, Mr. Trump has a perfect record of electoral defeat. The GOP was pounded in the 2018 midterms owing to his low approval rating. Mr. Trump himself lost in 2020. He then sabotaged Georgia’s 2021 runoffs by blaming party leaders for not somehow overturning his defeat. That gave Democrats control of the Senate …

Now Mr. Trump has botched the 2022 elections, and it could hand Democrats the Senate for two more years. Mr. Trump had policy successes as President, including tax cuts and deregulation, but he has led Republicans into one political fiasco after another.

Wall Street Journal Editorial Board, Trump Is the Republican Party’s Biggest Loser

Smartest political money of 2022

The smartest money spent in this whole election was the tens of millions the Democratic party spent to help ensure Republicans picked the craziest candidates in nine different state primaries. It was a risky, cynical move for Dems to boost the most radical Republicans—and it paid off. The most effective (i.e.: dangerous) Republican candidate is someone reasonable like Virginia governor Glenn Youngkin. Trumpist Republicans reject these types as RINOs, and Dems were only too happy to help. 

Americans also rejected the #resistance stars. Georgia gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams lost again. And Texas’s Beto O’Rourke lost, again again. Not that it will deter either of them from running for President (certainly not from fundraising at least). TGIF looks forward to the Abrams-O’Rourke ticket in 2024.

Nellie Bowles

Look for the Republicans to copy “back the Dems’ craziest primary candidates” to their own playbook.

A Teachable Moment

An esteemed Tory political figure summed it up succinctly in London in August: “Donald Trump ruined the Republican Party’s brand.”

It will now stick with him or not. It will live free or die.

If, in 2024, Republicans aren’t serious about policy—about what they claim to stand for—they will pick him as their nominee. And warm themselves in the glow of the fire as he goes down in flames. If they’re serious about the things they claim to care about—crime, wokeness, etc.—they’ll choose someone else and likely win.

[Of a Trump rally in Ohio:] What I am seeing is the end of something. I am seeing yesterday. This is a busted jalopy that runs on yesteryear’s resentments. A second term of this would be catastrophic, with him more bitter, less competent, surrounded by collapsed guardrails. He and his people once tried to stop the constitutionally mandated electoral vote certification by violently overrunning the U.S. Capitol. If America lets him back, he will do worse. And America knows.

… All About Me is a losing game, because politics is all about us …

The old saying is there’s no education in the second kick of a mule. This is the third kick, after 2018 and 2020. Maybe they will learn now.

Peggy Noonan

The weakness of our major parties

The election of 2022 marked the moment when America began to put performative populism behind us. Though the results are partial, and Trump acolytes could still help Republicans control Congress, this election we saw the emergence of an anti-Trump majority.

According to a national exit poll, nearly 60 percent of voters said they had an unfavorable view of Trump. Almost half of the voters who said they “somewhat disapprove” of Biden as president still voted for Democrats, presumably because they were not going to vote for Trumpianism.

The telling election results were at the secretary of state level. The America First Secretary of State Coalition features candidates who rejected the 2020 election results and who would have been a threat to election integrity if they had won Tuesday. Most either lost or seem on their way to losing. Meanwhile, Brad Raffensperger, the secretary of state of Georgia who stood up to Trump’s bullying, won by a wide margin.

There are two large truths I’ll leave you with. The first is that both parties are fundamentally weak. The Democrats are weak because they have become the party of the educated elite. The Republicans are weak because of Trump. The Republican weakness is easier to expunge. If Republicans get rid of Trump, they could become the dominant party in America. If they don’t, they will decline.

Second, the battle to preserve the liberal world order is fully underway. While populist authoritarianism remains a powerful force worldwide, people, from Kyiv to Kalamazoo, have risen up to push us toward a world in which rules matter, practicality matters, stability and character matter.

David Brooks

This is one of Brooks’ best in a while.

Why Biden should announce his 2024 retirement

By saying he would not run again, Mr Biden would not surrender political leverage so much as enhance his chance to reach at least some deals. And he would make any Republican investigations of him and his family seem like malicious irrelevancies.

Joe Biden should not seek re-election | The Economist

Freddie’s not-so-grand conclusions

  • Trumpism continues to define American politics in many ways. Trumpian candidates appeared to do not great – JD Vance won, but he has a relationship to Trump that’s more complicated than Oedipus’s with Jocasta – but every single Republican Senate candidate had to define him- (or her-, but really him-) self in relationship to Trump. He wasn’t on the ballot, but our country’s political gravity sucks toward him at all times. What’s scary about him is knowing that, for him, nothing else matters – I don’t think he gives a single merciful shit about passing a conservative agenda, so long as people are talking about him. Including – especially – the haters!
  • I think people continue to underestimate the downsides of Trump’s influence on American politics. Yes, he served as president for a term, and just about everyone in politics (if speaking honestly) would say that electing your guy to the presidency is worth any cost. But Trump’s benefits are in some tension – he famously refused to put Social Security or Medicare in harm’s way, defying Paul Ryan’s previous stewardship of the GOP; he made just enough substance-free waves at economic populism and trade protectionism to let some people look past the fact that he’s a lunatic who says wild shit about whatever he wants and appears to barely be holding it together, cognitively. That’s one set of advantages. The other advantage is that he’s a lunatic who says wild shit about whatever he wants and appears to barely be holding it together, cognitively. A lot of Republican primary voters loved him because he would say absolutely whatever it took to most insult his enemies.
  • Finally, I continue to think that the outlook can’t look too rosy for Democrats given a basic question: what happens if an actually-competent populist Republican rises out of the morass of the party? What happens if someone takes Trump’s refusal to threaten SS and Medicare, takes his populist feints, and keeps a little bit of the performative rudeness, but isn’t, you know, absolutely fucking nuts? What if we get a Trump that hasn’t admitted to sexual misconduct on video? What if we get a Trump who doesn’t mock disabled reporters? What if we get a Trump who doesn’t have a mountain of oppos sitting out in the open for any reporter to get a hold of? What happens if, instead, we get a Reaganite figure who preaches a small government gospel while being smart enough to leave entitlements for the elderly alone, can give a speech without telling a thousand lies, and who doesn’t appear seriously cognitively compromised? Hypothetically, that figure could win 40 states. I truly believe that.

Freddie deBoer’s modest post-election analysis. Oddly, Freddie doubts that Ron DeSantis is the hypothetical candidate in his third-quoted excerpt.

Attempted extortion

Ron DeSantis, a Republican, won re-election as governor of Florida by a whopping margin. He is now well placed to run for the presidency in 2024. Donald Trump warned “Mr DeSanctimonious” to stay out of that race, hinting that he might dish up dirt on him if he challenges Mr Trump for the Republican nomination.

True Leadership

The voters have spoken, and they’ve said that they want a different leader. And a true leader understands when they have become a liability.

Virginia Lt. Gov. Winsome Sears on why she will not support 45 if he tries to become 47.

Groveling businesses

In the Holy Land and Jordan in late-October, I encountered the occasional pay toilet (usually, an attendant outside).

Considering the direction of American business, and even my big-clinic doctor, I’m almost surprised I haven’t gotten texts asking me to “Rate you experience breaking wind in our loo” — with a followup robocall if I don’t take the original bait.


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

Jonathan Rauch, The Constitution of Knowledge

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

Fr. Jonathan Tobias

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.

Thursday, 11/10/22

Election 2022

With a little help from their foes

[M]uch of the conversation about the modern Republican Party assumes … that Republican politicians are impossibly bound to the needs and desires of their coalition and unable to resist its demands. Many — too many — political observers speak as if Republican leaders and officials had no choice but to accept Donald Trump into the fold, no choice but to apologize for his every transgression, no choice but to humor his attempt to overturn the result of the 2020 presidential election and now no choice but to embrace election-denying candidates around the country.

But that’s nonsense. For all the pressures of the base, for all the fear of Trump and his gift for ridicule, for all the demands of the donor class, it is also true that at every turn, Republicans in Washington and elsewhere have made an active and affirmative choice to embrace the worst elements of their party — and jettison the norms and values that make democracy work.

Jamelle Bouie, No One Forced Republicans to Do Any of These Things

Nobody forced them, but a sleazy and dangerous Democrat tactic worked:

Democrats’ cynical decisions to boost more extreme Republican primary candidates seem to have paid off last night, as Price reports, with all six of the boosted primary winners losing to Democratic candidates. That’s likely to encourage future Democratic meddling—but operatives say it should also be a wake up call for Republicans supporting extreme candidates.

The Morning Dispatch

Some of these MAGA candidates were so thinly-funded — apart from the boost the Dems cynically gave them — that they were unlikely to win. And in the end (the general election), they didn’t.

For more, see Price St. Clair, Primary Meddling Pays Off for Democrats. Excerpt:

The Democrats meddling in Michigan’s 3rd District generated the most controversy. Incumbent Peter Meijer was one of only 10 Republican House members to vote to impeach Trump in the aftermath of January 6—but he lost his primary to Trump-aligned candidate John Gibbs after the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee spent $425,000 boosting Gibbs. Pre-election forecasts suggested that the race was likely to end up being the closest of the six “MAGA meddling” races. On Tuesday, Gibbs lost by 8 points to his Democratic opponent Hillary Scholten, who had run an explicitly moderate campaign.

Lashed to the Orange mast as the ship overturns

Mastriano and Lake, meanwhile, successfully navigated their respective primaries by lashing themselves to the former president in essentially every respect. That meant throwing themselves behind stolen-election conspiracy theories, but it also meant disdaining the notion that they had to care about uniting the party. It was their job to wave the MAGA flag, and everyone else’s job to get in line.

This produced bizarre spectacles, like when Lake went out of her way to attack, not just the late Sen. John McCain, but any of her own potential voters who might have liked him. “We don’t have any McCain Republicans in here, do we?” Lake said at a campaign event. “Get the hell out!”

In a wave election, that sort of behavior might pay off as a triumphal assertion of who is in charge around here. With a loss, it ends up as a remarkable display of political hubris.

Andrew Egger, The End of ‘Stop the Steal’?

Voldemorting 45

“What every Republican leader knows, but few dare say out loud, is that 2022 would mark the third consecutive year that Republicans not named or tainted by Trump had a good election,” Jonathan Martin writes for Politico. “For all the affection Trump enjoys from his base, there’s a reason why it’s Democrats who are the most eager to make him the face of the GOP.”

The Morning Dispatch

Dissent

While others suggest this election was a defeat for Trump, Trumpism, and the Big Steal bullshit, the New York Times narrative makes it about America’s love of abortion together with a defense of democracy against its enemies.

I know I’m nowhere near the mainstream in many ways, and I was sufficiently inattentive to the campaign that I unwittingly early-voted for an Indiana candidate who, I learned on Election Day, is under a dark cloud. But despite the success of a few abortion-permissive post-Dobbs referenda, I’m not buying the Times narrative. It’s not absurd, but I don’t find it persuasive, either.

Politics more broadly

The GOP’s Urban failures

Young, educated urbanites in Texas are a lot like their counterparts anywhere else in the country. Imagine yourself as a high-achieving young Texan who wants to attend an elite university, graduate, move to Austin, and work at Apple. What does the Republican Party stand for that makes you feel that you belong there? Parker, the Fort Worth mayor, looks like precisely the kind of voter Republicans have an increasingly hard time reaching: a millennial woman with an elite university education, a graduate degree, and an address in a major city in what will soon be the nation’s third-largest metropolitan area.

There is good evidence that conservatives can get good things done in big cities. But, for the most part, big-city voters are not interested in Republicans.

“We’re the old man saying, ‘Get off my lawn!’” says Kevin Robnett of Fort Worth, a businessman, veteran, and longtime Republican activist. “We as a party have become anti-intellectual, and we have become anti-institution,” he continues. This has made it more difficult to connect with college-educated professionals in the cities and suburbs. “Our message is: ‘Something has been broken and you have been robbed, and things were better in the past.’ That’s our mantra now, and it is a losing vision for the entire millennial generation. They want to suck the marrow out of life. That’s why you don’t see them in offices, and they’re hard to employ. But one of the things about that generation that I really like—that we are not appealing to—is the sense that we can fix our problems, that our best days are ahead. I have an optimistic view of that generation, but our party does not.”

Worse than merely failing to sympathize with the values and aspirations of these voters, Republicans often sneer at them, denouncing the cities and the mode of life lived there as corrupt, dismissing the colleges and universities that prepare students for professional life as dens of inequity, and, increasingly, treating those at the commanding heights of business as cultural traitors. “You don’t tell a woman she’s ugly and should have made better choices and then try to get her to go out with you,” Robnett says.

Kevin D. Williamson

It can’t happen here

I didn’t read past this, but I’m inclined to agree with the top-level summary:

A MAGA America Would Be Ugly
Forget Orban’s Hungary. We’d be worse. By Paul Krugman

I’m still on the fence about whether Viktor Orban’s “illiberal democracy” is per se anathema (currently reading Karl Popper’s Open Society and Its Enemies), but I don’t think that today’s dramatis personnae on the American Right could pull it off here — with the possible exception of Ron DeSantis, who is far smarter and more thoughtful than his street-brawler looks suggest.

Culture

Good science not (necessarily) welcome here

Students are often happy to hear that there are genes for sexual orientation, but if you teach that most human personality traits, and even school achievement, have a heritable component, they start to squirm …

[I]t has become taboo in the classroom to note any disparities between groups that are not explained as the result of systemic bias.

Some grants focus almost exclusively on identity, as federal agencies, such as the National Science Foundation, now offer a surplus of grants with the purpose of “broadening the participation of members of groups that are . . . currently underrepresented”—instead of funding research to answer scientific questions.

But the field that is most directly affected is research related to humans, especially those dealing with evolution of populations.

As an example: The NIH now puts barriers to access to the important database of “Genotypes and Phenotypes (dbGaP).” The database is an amazing tool that combines genomes (the unique genetic makeup of each individual) and phenotypes (the observable characteristics of each individual) of millions of people. These phenotypes include education, occupation, health and income and, because the dataset connects genetics with phenotype at an individual level, it is essential for scientists who want to understand genes and genetic pathways that are behind those phenotypes.

The NIH now denies scientists access to this data and other related datasets. Researchers report getting permits denied on the grounds that studying their genetic basis is “stigmatizing.” According to one researcher, this happens even if the research has nothing to do with race or sex, but focuses on genetics and education.

Luana Maroja, An Existential Threat to Doing Good Science

Not with a bang but a whimper

Jeffrey Epstein accuser Virginia Giuffre, her lawyer David Boies and the disgraced financier’s former attorney Alan Dershowitz said Tuesday that they have dropped their defamation lawsuits against one another, ending a yearslong feud involving two of the nation’s best-known attorneys.

In announcing the resolution of the lawsuits, Ms. Giuffre said in a statement that she now recognizes that she might have made a mistake in identifying Mr. Dershowitz as one of her alleged abusers.

Mr. Dershowitz said in a statement Tuesday that he never had sex with Ms. Giuffre.

“I have nevertheless come to believe that at the time she accused me she believed what she said,” Mr. Dershowitz said. He added that he now believed that he was mistaken in accusing Mr. Boies of engaging in misconduct and extortion.

Defamation Lawsuits Dropped in Jeffrey Epstein Saga

Well, I’m glad that’s all — well, “cleared up” seems a bit strong.

Pro tip from someone who practiced law for 37 years and heard many jury verdicts announced: very seldom does either side feel fully vindicated and satisfied after the jury comes back.

Too typical

This is a humiliating moment. Or at least it should have been. The Daily Wire’s Matt Walsh went on Joe Rogan’s podcast and asserted that “millions” of kids have been on hormone blockers. That’s laughably absurd. There has been a spike in students identifying as genderqueer or non-binary, but millions of kids on puberty blockers?

Rogan’s team fact-checked Walsh in real time, and found that the true number of children placed on puberty blockers was less than 1,000 kids per year, out of the more than 70 million children in the United States.

[Embedded Tweet omitted]

I want to be crystal clear on where I stand. I don’t believe minor children should receive “gender-affirming” surgery or be placed on puberty blockers. States have the constitutional authority to block such treatments, and they should.

At the same time, one of the reasons why our politics has become so hysterical is constant exaggeration. Critical race theory is everywhere! Drag queens are overrunning our schools! Millions of kids are on puberty blockers!

Take something that’s bad (there are, in fact, harmful anti-racist training modules, drag shows for children are absurd, and no child should be given life-altering “gender-affirming” medical treatment) and then hype the threat. Make it pervasive. Frighten people. It’s a formula for ratings and clicks, but it’s also a formula for reactionary politics and constitutional violations. It’s a formula that heightens American polarization and contributes to pervasive anger and despair.

Walsh has cast himself as an expert on these matters. He created a documentary attacking radical gender ideology. He should know better.

David French

I am sick to death of implausible, if not outright innumerate, hyperbole from people I basically agree with.

(For what it’s worth, contra French, I’m uneasy with outright bans on “gender-affirming care” of adolescents because, even if “trans” is a social contagion, and there has been profiteering and ideological blinders at gender clinics, I’m not prepared to say that no adolescent needs such a band-aid, if only to cover the deep wound of genuine, persistent and extreme gender dysphoria.)


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

Jonathan Rauch, The Constitution of Knowledge

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

Fr. Jonathan Tobias

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.

Election Day 2022

I’m going to post this Monday evening though some of it is Tuesday-oriented and some (I am included) have already voted, because much if it is relevant to the impending election.

Election 2022

Worrisome

I’m old enough to remember the Beatles appearing on “The Ed Sullivan Show” and I can’t remember an election in which so many political newcomers had a serious shot at taking out established politicians of the opposite party.

Here’s the short list among the Senate races: J.D. Vance in Ohio, Herschel Walker in Georgia, Mehmet Oz in Pennsylvania, Blake Masters in Arizona, Don Bolduc in New Hampshire, Joe O’Dea in Colorado and Tiffany Smiley in Washington. They are, respectively, a venture capitalist/author, an ex-football star, a doctor/television celebrity, another venture capitalist, a retired Army general, a construction company CEO and a nurse. They’re all complete outsiders with no political experience. Their Democratic opponents, except for Pennsylvania’s John Fetterman, on the other hand are all incumbent senators or representatives. Even so, Mr. Fetterman is no rookie, having served as a small-town mayor before becoming lieutenant governor.

Gregg Opelka, GOP Outsiders Dominate the 2022 Midterms

Not just difference, but menace.

Americans are sorting themselves out by education into two roughly equal camps. As people without a college degree have flocked to the G.O.P., people with one have flocked to the Democrats.

“If Democrats can’t win in Nevada,” one Democratic pollster told Politico, “we can complain about the white working class all you want, but we’re really confronting a much broader working-class problem.” Even Black voters without a college degree seem to be shifting away from the Democrats, to some degree.

Back in those days I didn’t find a lot of class-war consciousness in my trips through red America. I compared the country to a high school cafeteria. Jocks over here, nerds over there, punks somewhere else. Live and let live.

Now people don’t just see difference, they see menace. People have put up barricades and perceive the other class as a threat to what is beautiful, true and good. I don’t completely understand why this animosity has risen over the past couple of decades, but it makes it very hard to shift the ever more entrenched socio-economic-cultural-political coalitions.

Historians used to believe that while European societies were burdened by ferocious class antagonisms, Americans had relatively little class consciousness. That has changed.

David Brooks, Why Aren’t the Democrats Trouncing the Republicans?.

I find myself in the odd position of fitting the Democrat college-educated, sushi-eating, jazz-listening, foreign-traveling profile, but rejecting both major parties ideologically. This goes back to 2005, as I’ve said before.

What has changed for me since the 2016 election is that I think I’ve apprehended the new Republican zeitgeist, so that the 2016 election of Trump no longer baffles me nearly so much.

This doesn’t mean that all is normal, all is well. The press won’t let us forget that a great many 2022 Republican candidates are unqualified and/or conscious liars about the 2020 election, but the Democrats have a good share of odd-balls, too.

It’s a very unhealthy polarization, elimination of which I’m inclined to effectuate through ranked-choice voting until I hear a better idea.

Is Democracy on the Ballot?

Sure, Americans like to complain about democracy, but they don’t want to get rid of it. Indeed, besides a handful of fringe dorks and radical fantasists, there is literally no significant constituency on the American right or left for getting rid of democracy. There are significant constituencies for bending the rules, working the refs, even rigging the system, and these constituencies should be fought relentlessly. But while often in error, most of these people believe they are on the side of democracy. The people who wildly exaggerate both voter suppression and voter fraud believe what they’re saying. They’re just wrong.

I take a backseat to no one in my contempt for both the grifters and sincere hysterics on the right who take things like Dinesh D’Souza’s 2000 Mules seriously. But even Dinesh’s carefully crafted crackpottery works on the assumption that democracy is good. Even putsch-peddlers like Michael Flynn argued for rerunning the election, because in America we believe that elections confer legitimacy for elected positions.

For all of Donald Trump’s lies about the election being stolen, his mendacious vice pays tribute to the virtue of democracy. He wants people to believe he actually won. His whole bogus pitch is premised on the idea that democracy should be restored.

Now, I should be clear. I don’t think Donald Trump gives a damn about democracy, but he knows deep in his condo salesman brain that the American people do. His attitude toward democracy is indistinguishable from his attitude toward golf and business—he sees nothing wrong with cheating, but he also wants people to believe he won fair and square.

Cheating is terrible. But there’s a difference between stealing a couple bills from the bank when playing Monopoly and saying, “Screw this game, it’s corrupt. I choose Stratego!”

Jonah Goldberg

The GOP as hostage crisis

The conservative world is, right now, largely split between two camps: the Republican establishment and the MAGA populists. Traditional Republicans still understand the importance of character, at least to some extent. Indeed many of them were proud of a perceived contrast between the Bill Clinton–led Democratic Party and a Republican Party that (once) remembered when character was king.

But now, as my Dispatch colleague Nick Catoggio writes, “The modern Republican Party is essentially a hostage crisis in which each wing could kill the party by bolting the coalition but only one wing is willing to do it and both sides know it.” The MAGA wing will stay home if its demands aren’t met. The establishment, by contrast, dutifully marches to the polls, no matter who has the “R” by their name.

David French

Politics generally

Equivalencies can be true

I find that often the equivalence is not quite as false as individuals like to think that it is. For example, we hear claims that Republicans do not support democratic norms. If someone mentions Abrams as a counter-example then one would be hit with the false equivalency charge. But a recent poll shows that resistance to democratic norms among Democrats is not less common than it is for Republicans …

Many commenters on the left state that politically inspired violence is a problem on the right. Pointing out the attack on Scalise only gets you an accusation of false equivalency. Yet this same poll tells a different story. Democrats are more supportive of politically inspired protesting without a permit (36.6% to 31.6%), vandalism (8.1% to 3.6%), assault (3.5% to 1.1%) arson (2.1% to .9%), assault with a deadly weapon (2.1% to .8%) and murder (1.6% to .1%) than Republicans. It is easy to make the case that attitudes supportive of political violence are much more of a problem on the left than on the right.

But let’s admit that there are times when conservatives are more in the wrong than progressives. Is that still justification to run behind a false equivalency argument to ignore the sins on the left? It is not. A society where men are allowed to hit their wives is better than a society where men are allowed to kill their wives. However, they should not hide behind arguments of false equivalency to avoid the obvious problem that they should not be hitting their wives.

George Yancey, The Problem with False Equivalency Claims

The de-Baathification of the GOP

[H]ere’s the thing for Democrats: There will be no de-Baathification of the Republican Party.

The “reckoning” for which many Democrats and some Republicans have yearned for years—the one in which Trump is ruined and all of the toadies who drooled on his golf shoes will either also be ruined or forced to come begging for forgiveness—is not to be. That’s not to say that Trump might not one day be ruined or that many who once sported red hats with pride will quietly abjure their MAGA membership. It’s just that these things don’t happen all at once.

Almost half of the Republicans in the Senate voted against censuring Sen. Joe McCarthy in 1954 after the Wisconsin red baiter drove one of his fellow senators to suicide with blackmail over the senator’s son’s homosexuality. Out of 206 Democrats in the House in 1998, only five could bring themselves to vote to impeach Bill Clinton for lying and obstructing justice to conceal his assignations with a 21-year-old White House intern, offenses he had obviously committed. It took decades in both cases for the parties to come to terms with what partisanship had blinded them to.

If the GOP ever comes back to being interested in governing again, it will come a little bit at a time.

Chris Stirewalt, Dems Face a Test After Tuesday

The wrongness of Roe

If Dobbs has shown us anything, it is the limited usefulness of constitutional theory to the pro-life movement. The future of the cause will require sustained engagement with the questions of biology and metaphysics upon which the anti-abortion position has always depended, questions that lie outside politics in the conventional sense of the word. Legal thinking is by nature unsuited for such efforts — and perhaps even corrosive to them.

Matthew Walther in the New York Times

As an attorney (albeit retired), I will not apologize for long considering the reversal of Roe v. Wade a good to be sought in and of itself, regardless of what state legislatures subsequently would do on the topic of abortion. In this, I’m not so much arguing with Walther as pointing out that there is more than one perspective on the wrongness of Roe.

Claremont Institute’s diagnosis

I listened recently to an episode of the podcast Know Your Enemy, a couple of articulate young lefties putting American conservatism under the microscope, and I think they helped me figure out what the heck has gone wrong with the Claremont Institute.

The Claremont Institute is broadly “Straussian,” but its “West Coast Straussianism” differs from “East Coast Straussianism.” One way it differs is its valorization of Thumos. That may at least partially explain grotesqueries like Michael Anton’s 2016 Flight 93 Election and Claremont’s continuing favorable orientation toward Orange Man.

Twitter

This is Marx on Twitter. Any questions?

Twitter used to be owned by someone from a particular economic class, and should [Elon] Musk get tired of his new toy he’ll sell it to people from that same class. What I’m complaining about in the essay is not that Musk is being criticized but rather that the criticism leaves off the hook the rest of the ownership class that previously owned Twitter, such as the Saudis. (That is, an autocratic theocracy that beheads people for being gay.) The basic contention of the essay is that Marxist class analysis teaches us that the ownership class as a class is our enemy, and that moralizing about individual members of that ownership class is not a Marxist project. That he is the world’s wealthiest person does little to distinguish himself from the rest of the ownership class, and nothing to change the basic class analysis; he’s no better but not particularly any worse.

Freddie deBoer

On leaving Twitter

While a denizen of Twitter, I prided myself on never having retweeted that picture of the shark swimming down the street during a hurricane, or, for the most part, any of its text equivalents. I don’t think my own mind ever got poisoned, in other words, but I did see minds poisoned. (‘Who goes redpill?’ is an article I would like to read someday.) The thing is that on Twitter there’s always a hurricane, and a shark is always swimming toward you through its chum-filled waters. Repeatedly batting it on the nose takes effort, and is that how you want to spend your one and only life?

Caleb Crain via Alan Jacobs

Culture

How we think

[P]erceptual and pictorial shapes are not only translations of thought products but the very flesh and blood of thinking itself.

Rudolf Arnheim, Visual Thinking, via Iain McGilchrist, The Master and His Emissary

The delusions delivered by ideologies

[A]ll ideologies seek to do the impossible. Which is to contain the uncontainable cosmos in rational, propositional thought in order to fix it …

The theoretical models we create can never—will never— actually match the unspeakable and unsayable fullness of reality, no matter how powerful our computers become, or thorough our thinking. The map can never be the territory—it is as simple as that. This is even more true with those aspects of reality that actually matter, that actually means something to us, e.g., Love, Meaning, Beauty, God, etc. Instead, this impulse focuses on simple systems it can somewhat model and reduces everything to that. Yet this simple-minded approach is what humans have been trying to do for some 500 years or more. It has in some ways worked wonders, but in those wonders, it has created disasters—disasters both psychological, political, and ecological.

This habit of control is built into the way we have been taught to think, be and move into the institutions that are supposedly charged with our well-being. As this becomes clearer, however murky, we try to hide from it2. Since this reductive/abstracted way of relating to the world is what we know because it is what we have been taught, the more we seek to swerve from the catastrophe the more we steer into. We are trying to solve the problem by the same means that got us into it in the first place. Even those who see the problem most clearly are hardly immune from this blindness. To engage with reality differently is now a struggle against ourselves, given the current state of affairs. We need to start from a very different kind of beginning.

Jack Leahy, Where Two or Three are Gathered: On the 12-Steps and Forming Anarcho-Contemplative Community

Or more succinctly:

Let me keep my distance, always, from those
who think they have the answers.

Let me keep company always with those who say
“Look!” and laugh in astonishment,
and bow their heads.

Mary Oliver, Evidence: Poems


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

Jonathan Rauch, The Constitution of Knowledge

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

Fr. Jonathan Tobias

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.

Friday, 11/4/22

Culture

Doomed, but not gloomy

The Cult of the New rides forward victorious on nearly every front. So, this country I still love is, nevertheless, one that exasperates me. I have no shortage of ideas about just how we have arrived at our present juncture, as well as having some pretty settled notions about where it is all headed. And I do not think there is much we can do about it. Perhaps a different people could do so. Just not us. Things will chug along, until they don’t.

There’s no need to be gloomy about it, however. I agree with John Lukacs, who wrote: So living during the decline of the West—and being much aware of it—is not at all that hopeless and terrible. Indeed, what an exciting time to be alive today! But you have to turn much of the noise off to see this, I think. For example, I tend to avoid any headlines containing the words Arizona, Texas, Florida, Election, or Guns. It should be obvious; these are distractions that keep us from seeing the real story. Accordingly, I no longer worry that half of our citizenry have chosen to believe a fantasy. Over our history, incredibly, we’ve fallen for worse and larger ones. And who can tell what the other half believes, if anything.

Terry Cowan, Another Story to Tell: A Stone for Uncle Charles.

Terry starts roughly where I do, albeit with better academic credentials for doomsaying. For me, it’s less the “cult of the new” and more “how many warnings of divine judgment can we blow off?”, starting most explicitly with 9/11.

His tools for avoiding gloom are exemplary, even if I still indulge too much in ephemera.

Phobias

No … sexism, homophobia, transphobia ….

Some of the rules of a Social Medium I won’t be joining because this -phobia suffix is tribalist contempt disguised as psychological diagnosis. I’m not sure I belong to a tribe, but if I do, it’s not that one.

(It’s not easy running a social medium, though …)

Sells like hotcakes

Nothing sells so well as anger and resentment. Anger moved people to burn other people at the stake, whereas hope is the stuff of Get Well Soon cards that we pitch in the trash. Hope is a cup of chamomile tea; resentment is a double bourbon.

Garrison Keillor

Penguin Random House

You have, no doubt, read about the open letter published by employees of Penguin Random House urging the publisher to rescind its $2 million book contract with Supreme Court Justice Amy Coney Barrett. The employees are “deeply concerned about free speech,” they write, but you can’t use free speech to “destroy . . . rights,” and killing children is an international human right, which makes people like Amy Coney Barrett oh so very bad. The letter has received over 600 signatures so far.

Micah Mattix.

Those 600 signatures include some smart people subscribing some very stupid ideas.

So far, Penguin Random House stands resolute.

Equal Rights for distaff assassins

The two attempted assassinations of Gerald Ford came only 17 days apart, and both would-be assassins were women. Perhaps we should for that reason consider September of 1975 the apex of American feminism, a fortnight and change in which American women finally proved that they had it in them to be as insane and violent as American men.

Kevin D. Williamson

Gaining clarity

I had some thoughts in the cave. Some things settled in me, others clarified themselves. It became clearer what path I was walking, and what it meant. It doesn’t take much time in the woods for clarity to emerge. I have always found this. The peace that passeth all understanding is always available there. The kingdom of God is within us, but the world – the human world – is designed to drown it out. The world and the Earth are not the same thing. God sings in every fibre of the Earth, but we build the world to face in the other direction. We have to die to the world to listen to the Earth. The peace is in the stream running, in the mist wreathing the crags, the growling of the rooks, the squirrel watching from the hazel bough. The voice is in the silence. The silence is easily washed away by what we think we want.

Paul Kingsnorth, having spent the night of his 50th birthday in the cave of a Celtic Saint.

Politics

The battleground of demons

In a piece for The Spectator, David Marcus urges his fellow travelers on the right to be better than unfounded Paul Pelosi conspiracy theories. “Some on the right say that promoting baseless speculation is just fighting fire with fire, that we need to play this game too. Nothing could play more completely into the hands of the far left,” he writes. “This is a battleground of progressives’ choosing. They want a news environment in which nothing is real, everything is partisan and you are free to ignore and even disdain the other side. If conservatives adopt these despicable tactics, they will lose the war for our culture and society before a shot is even fired. You beat conspiracy theories with truth and facts, not by inventing more and more disgusting conspiracy theories of your own.”

The Morning Dispatch.

I’m not onboard with the idea that shit-posting and conspiracy theories are the “battleground of progressives’ choosing.” I’d locate it as in demonic, not progressive, territory.

Our 44th White President

As Obama’s mother was white, it seems to me he has as much claim to being white as to being black. He could be the first black president, but he has equal claim to being the forty-fourth white one. Racial morphology does not matter. That is so nineteenth century. The most radical thing he can do is claim to be white. Or is it that he can only be an authentic black man but an inauthentic white one? What kind of racism is that? Are we still operating under the whites’ ‘one-drop’ rule, still living by the whites’ rules of what we are or what we can be? Why should I jump up and down about that?

Gerald Early in Hedgehog Review, on his response to a white friend who called him the day after President Obama’s election in 2008.

Celebrity losers

In the early 2000s, the Japanese racehorse Haru Urara became something of an international celebrity. This was not because of her prowess on the track. Just the opposite: Haru Urara had never won a race. She was famous not for winning but for losing. And the longer her losing streak stretched, the more famous she grew. She finished her career with a perversely pristine record: zero wins, 113 losses.

American politics doesn’t have anyone quite like Haru Urara. But it does have Beto O’Rourke and Stacey Abrams. The two Democrats are among the country’s best known political figures, better known than almost any sitting governor or U.S. senator. And they have become so well known not by winning big elections but by losing them.

… Abrams and O’Rourke … are perhaps the two greatest exponents of a peculiar phenomenon in American politics: that of the superstar loser.

Jacob Stern, Democrats Keep Falling for ‘Superstar Losers’

Oopsy!

The White House deleted a tweet that attributed the increase in Social Security checks next year to President Biden’s leadership after critics pointed out that the cost-of-living adjustment, the highest in four decades, was a result of high inflation

Wall Street Journal on Twitter.

Barbarian Tribalism

I don’t want to live in a country where it’s normal to ask, even subconsciously, “Was the victim a Democrat?” before deciding whether to be angry, outraged, or compassionate.

Jonah Goldberg

You must vote for me; it’s the only democratic choice

With just days until the midterms, President Joe Biden delivered another speech last night about the state of American democracy, arguing its continuation is on the ballot next week. Josh Barro didn’t like it. “The message makes no sense on its face,” he writes in his latest newsletter. “When Democrats talk about ‘democracy,’ they’re talking about the importance of institutions that ensure the voters get a say among multiple choices and the one they most prefer gets to rule. But they are also saying voters do not get to do that in this election. The message is that there is only one party contesting this election that is committed to democracy—the Democrats—and therefore only one real choice available. If voters reject Democrats’ agenda or their record on issues including inflation, crime, and immigration (or abortion, for that matter), they have no recourse at the ballot box—they simply must vote for Democrats anyway, at least until such time as the Republican Party is run by the likes of Liz Cheney and Adam Kinzinger. This amounts to telling voters that they have already lost their democracy.”

The Morning Dispatch.

This is the sort of incoherence that arises when “democracy” is ill-defined. Mind you, I’m not unsympathetic to Republicans who think this is a year to presume voting Democrat. I’m not even unsympathetic to the idea that the GOP, with its calculated takeover of offices that supervise elections and its pushing the damnable and incoherent “Independent State Legislature” theory, is a genuine threat to Democracy.

I can recall no election in my 74 years when I was less enthused to vote at all.


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

Jonathan Rauch, The Constitution of Knowledge

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

Fr. Jonathan Tobias

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.

Saturday, 7/16/22

Bankrupt

[Herschel] Walker’s personal flaws have made him an outlier: The Daily Beast last week reported that the former football great fathered several secret children and lied to his campaign staff about it — with the story quoting Walker’s own aides calling the candidate a "serious liability."

Axios (emphasis added).

Pardon me, but when the candidate himself is a "serious liability," what possible assets would suffice to make the campaign solvent?

Proof, I guess, that Campaign Aide is not a job requiring high levels of introspection or even basic love of country.

Axios lists four more states (Pennsylvania, Missouri, Ohio, Arizona) where the GOP nominated such bozos or scandal-magnets that regaining the Senate looks iffy. Imagine that: 5 very winnable Senate seats imperiled by extremist primary voters.

To win today, you should look relatively sane, and in a lot of races, only the Democrats are passing that test. That’s a real shame, because the Democrats are going to do some ugly things if they’re in control of Congress and the White House, and if SCOTUS rules even one of them ultra vires, let alone substantively unconstitutional, the slanders will intensify.

From Friday’s Morning Dispatch

Hate crime

The Department of Justice announced Thursday that a federal grand jury has indicted the man accused of murdering 10 black people in a Buffalo grocery store in May on hate crimes and firearms violations. If convicted, he could face life in prison or the death penalty. “The Justice Department fully recognizes the threat that white supremacist violence poses to the safety of the American people and American democracy,” Attorney General Merrick Garland said in a statement. The supermarket is set to reopen today.

If ever a crime was a "hate crime," it was this one. But after 30 or more years of intermittent reflection, I’m still not convinced that hate crime laws are an improvement in criminal justice.

A pox on both houses

Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton on Thursday sued to block enforcement of the Biden administration’s recent guidance telling health providers that life- or health-saving abortions are protected by the Emergency Medical Treatment and Active Labor Act, regardless of state abortion restrictions. The lawsuit alleges the guidance “flagrantly disregard[s] the legislative and democratic process,” and seeks to “transform every emergency room in the country into a walk-in abortion clinic.”

Ken Paxton is a cowboy, with very plausible allegations of corruption against him (See Timeline: 6 times Texas AG Ken Paxton faced allegations of malfeasance and pending criminal charges.

On abortion, Joe Biden has become a cowboy, who cares less about constitutional limits than about virtue-signaling. (He’s also more corrupt than I realized in the 2020 election, though I still didn’t vote for him — I threw my vote away for principles I care about, not for the lesser evil who inevitably was going to lose to the greater evil in my state).

So I’m glad Paxton is challenging some of Biden’s moves. I wish his Solicitor General well, while wishing total disgrace for him personally. (And I don’t predict 100% success for Texas.)

Internet delight

The internet can be a pretty mean and nasty place, but it still has the ability to delight you every once in a while. Enter the Northwoods Baseball Radio Network, a podcast feed produced by a mysterious “Mr. King” that features nothing other than two-hour-long fictional baseball broadcasts designed to help insomniacs get to sleep. “No yelling, no loud commercials, no weird volume spikes,” the tagline reads. “Fans call it ‘baseball radio ASMR.’” Katy Waldman was entranced. “Time—how it’s apportioned, and the inner experience of it—seems to be the show’s main character. The series could be a sendup of Americana, the aesthetic’s essential boringness, or a love note to memory, with the hazy, preserved glow of a scene unburied from childhood,” she writes in The New Yorker. “The show’s best feature remains the pure sonic contentment it delivers. Real or fantastical, baseball commentary unfolds as metered poetry: ‘IN there for a called STRIKE,’ goes the rising question. ‘It’s OH and ONE,’ goes the falling answer.”

Lost, Not Stolen

Eight prominent conservatives released a report on Thursday examining “every claim of fraud and miscount put forward by former President Trump and his advocates” following the 2020 presidential election and reached an “unequivocal” conclusion: “Joe Biden was the choice of a majority of the Electors, who themselves were the choice of the majority of voters in their states.”

“The idea is that it’s written by conservatives, for conservatives,” Griffith said. “We recognize the people who are watching [Morning Joe and CNN] are probably not the people we’re primarily interested in. I mean, we’re happy to tell our message to anyone, but it’s really the folks who are conservatives who think the election was stolen.”

In the report’s executive summary, the eight men take pains to emphasize their conservative bona fides. “Every member of this informal group has worked in Republican politics, been appointed to office by Republicans, or is otherwise associated with the Party,” they write. “None have shifted loyalties to the Democratic Party, and none bear any ill will toward Trump and especially not toward his sincere supporters.”

Price St. Clair, A 2020 Election Report ‘By Conservatives, For Conservatives’.

My only concern about these high-level investigators is why they don’t "none bear any ill will toward Trump" after he lied, denied his own Justice Department’s conclusions, and precipitated a constitutional crisis to try to steal the election.

Temporary truce

I’m declaring a 15-minute pause in my bitter Jihad against Sen. Josh Hawley (who seemed like the real deal until he decided the future was populist, not conservative):

Meanwhile, high profile pro-choice advocates remain unconvincing. If you haven’t seen it, here’s the viral video of UC Berkeley School of Law professor Khiara Bridges sparring with Senator Josh Hawley. She insisted on using the phrase “people with the capacity for pregnancy,” rather than the verboten word women. When Hawley said, well then, “this isn’t really a women’s rights issue,” the Berkeley professor balked.

Nellie Bowles

Actually, Hawley’s point was cute, but deflected without hesitation, so it wasn’t any kind of mike-drop moment. Speaking presumptuously for the normie community, I’d say Hawley won handily. The whole relevant exchange, via Conor Friedersdorf:

Senator Hawley: Professor Bridges, you said several times––you’ve used a phrase, I want to make sure I understand what you mean by it. You’ve referred to “people with a capacity for pregnancy.” Would that be women?

Professor Bridges: Many women, cis women, have the capacity for pregnancy. Many cis women do not have the capacity for pregnancy. There are also trans men who are capable of pregnancy, as well as nonbinary people who are capable of pregnancy.

Hawley: So this isn’t really a women’s-rights issue, it’s a––

Bridges: We can recognize that this impacts women while also recognizing that it impacts other groups. Those things are not mutually exclusive, Senator Hawley.

Hawley: Alright, so your view is that the core of this right, then, is about what?

Bridges: So, um, I want to recognize that your line of questioning is transphobic and it opens up trans people to violence by not recognizing them.

Hawley: Wow, you’re saying that I’m opening up people to violence by asking whether or not women are the folks who can have pregnancies?

Bridges: So I want to note that one out of five transgender persons have attempted sucide, so I think it’s important––

Hawley: Because of my line of questioning? So we can’t talk about it?

Bridges: Because denying that trans people exist and pretending not to know that they exist––

Hawley: I’m denying that trans people exist by asking you––

Bridges: Are you? Are you?

Hawley: ––if you’re talking about women having pregnancies?

Bridges: Do you believe that men can get pregnant?

Hawley: No, I don’t think men can get pregnant.

Bridges: So you’re denying that trans people exist!

Hawley: And that leads to violence? Is this how you run your classroom? Are students allowed to question you or are they also treated like this, where they’re told that they’re opening up people to violence––

Bridges: We have a good time in my class. You should join. You might learn a lot.

Hawley: I would learn a lot. I’ve learned a lot just in this exchange. Extraordinary.

(Pro-tip to the "men can get pregnant" set: if only you would phrase it as "trans men," I might play along. Lose the "trans men are men and trans women are women" dogma if you want any normie support whatever.)

Against aspiration

Wow!:

Let me try to illustrate what I mean. At one point, I was a commuter. It didn’t last, but I did find watching other rush-hour drivers fascinating. Like a rubbish modern version of a nineteenth century naturalist, I used to classify them based on observable features. One particular type of driver usually drove a German luxury car. They would drive fast and close, exhibit visible frustration if the car in front of them had a large gap in front of it; and would shift lanes frequently, jostling for position among the other commuters. …

I came to see their behaviour as reflecting a deep[] confusion. My theory is that they were not emotionally differentiating between getting to work faster and going faster than the people around them. In other words, they failed to distinguish between their longer-term goals and interpersonal competition, even when the interpersonal competition was more or less fruitless. In this, they helped me to understand another group that had puzzled me: the British upper-middle classes, who seemed to me to be similarly focused on markers of interpersonal status that were completely divorced from their own overall flourishing, even in contexts where they had a negligible degree of control over the outcome.

… Its measures are intrapersonal: how well the person is doing on a scale against the rest of society, not how well they are flourishing as an organic being.

… I am not arguing for better aspirations here. I am arguing against aspiration.

This might seem harsh, but that is because the language of aspiration has debased our political language. I am not arguing against individual success. I am arguing that a society whose only measure of success is doing better than other people has no true concept of success at all. …

I have no aspiration for Yorkshire because Yorkshire is older, bigger, and better than the language of aspiration and than our entire degenerate post-war political class. I have no aspiration for Yorkshire because I have hope for it, and hope is a different kind of thing. I do not want Yorkshire to do well in the race to the bottom that now passes for civilisation. I want Yorkshire to survive it.

Leaving behind aspiration – by FFatalism

The Machine speaks

‘The body is mine and the soul is mine’
says the machine. ‘I am at the dark source
where the good is indistinguishable
from evil. I fill my tanks up
and there is war. I empty them
and there is not peace. I am the sound,
not of the world breathing, but
of the catch rather in the world’s breath.’

Is there a contraceptive
for the machine, that we may enjoy
intercourse with it without being overrun
by vocabulary? We go up
into the temple of ourselves
and give thanks that we are not
as the machine is. But it waits
for us outside, knowing that when
we emerge it is into the noise
of its hand beating on the breast’s
iron as Pharisaically as ourselves.

R.S. Thomas, Collected Later Poems


If people have always said it, it is probably true; it is the distilled wisdom of the ages. If people have not always said it, but everybody is saying it now, it is probably a lie; it is the concentrated madness of the moment.

Anthony Esolen, Out of the Ashes

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.


	

Saturday, 7/2/22

Bring back the smoke-filled rooms!

My older brother and I had lunch Thursday. We commiserated over the unintended consequence of party primaries producing extremist and jackass candidates. And now, the Democrats are spending unprecedented amounts to boost the craziest, least-electible Republicans in the primary elections — hardball at a level never before seen (the tactic isn’t new, or a Democrat specialty, but the amounts are eye-popping).

Why should the state prop up this destructive and preposterous system by running primaries, at taxpayer expense, for the Democrat and Republican parties, private entities that can nominate candidates in just about whatever manner they wish? Those parties have no rightful claim to my tax dollars; I increasingly avoid both of them, but to add insult to injury, the states promote their toxic duopoly by excluding most other parties from having state-funded primary races. Some of the arguments trotted out in church/state cases come to mind — you know, the ones about how tyrannical it is to force support of odious opinions via taxation.

Maybe if we abolished state-financed primaries, the major parties would return to the "smoke-filled rooms" — which we admittedly thought toxic until we saw that the alternative was worse.

(Abolishing the military draft is another bright idea I’m not so sure about any more.)

Another detransitioner, another lawsuit

The Sunday Times in London this week brings a devastating account from a young detransitioner, Ritchie Herron, who is suing the National Health Service after having his penis removed. He claims he was fast-tracked into a surgery that made him infertile and incontinent. It seems obvious to say that doctors ought to pause and try to understand what issues a patient may be facing beyond gender dysphoria before immediately removing someone’s penis. The only way the shoddy medical care around this is going to stop is through lawsuits.

Nellie Bowles

Corporate Cosplaying

For me, June mercifully past was the most obnoxiously in-your-face Pride Month yet, and that’s saying a lot. Two examples that I mercifully missed (though I saw plenty more):

On his website, the activist who came up with the rainbow tree logo to signify “outdoor safe spaces” in the National Parks gives some chilling insight as to why so many things from the Grand Canyon to Oreos are covered in the rainbow flag: “Have you ever asked yourself, ‘Is it safe to hold my significant other’s hand here?’ LGBTQ+ people are regularly assessing if spaces are welcoming. Even more so in outdoor and rural places that have traditionally been less-so than urban bubbles.”

Here’s another way to say the same thing: “Have you ever been troubled by the fact that when you go into public places some of the people you see don’t hold the same beliefs as you? Does it bother you that anyone would have the audacity to disagree with you or to believe that you’re not behaving as you should? Here’s a pin you can wear on your jacket or backpack to let people know that they should never be allowed to disagree with your beliefs about human sexuality.”

Rainbow Oreos & American Democracy.

I do disagree with prevalent beliefs about human sexuality and I see no reason why that might ever change.

Meanwhile, are we clear, "conservatives," that corporate America is not our friend? <begin hyperbole>Give me the powder and the map and I’ll blow up corporate America.<end hyperbole>

Have you figured out yet, liberals, that you’re being played? That it’s easier and more profitable for corporate America to give you Rainbow Oreos and performative threats to boycott states in Jesusland than to actually stop being evil?

Case in point:

Several American companies responded to a Supreme Court decision to overturn Roe v Wade, the ruling that declared abortion a constitutional right in 1973. Amazon, Apple, Meta, JPMorgan Chase, Microsoft and Nike were among those that pledged to cover travel costs for employees seeking abortions and other medical care not available in their state.

(The Economist) Note that this faux-generous offer is cheaper than family leave for employees who choose life.

Guns redux

For more on what’s wrong with Justice Thomas’s gun-rights decision, see On Guns, a Supreme Court Head-Scratcher: Is a Colonial Musket ‘Analogous’ to an AR-15?

I don’t think it contradicts anything I wrote, but it goes deeper.

Opinion that has held up well

Impeachment and removal with less than two weeks to go in this presidency may seem like a waste of time and energy. And the president, through a spokesman, has committed to an orderly transfer of power. But we think it would be an important act of civic hygiene, sending an important message to future would-be Trumps as well as to the rest of the world. Our image as a shining example of democracy and the rule of law has been covered in filth since the election. Republicans especially have an obligation to make a clear break with this man and this behavior for the good of the country, their historic reputations, and for the viability of a Grand Old Party that has shed any claim to grandness under this president.

Impeach Donald Trump, Remove Him, and Bar Him From Holding Office Ever Again, January 7, 2021


If people have always said it, it is probably true; it is the distilled wisdom of the ages. If people have not always said it, but everybody is saying it now, it is probably a lie; it is the concentrated madness of the moment.

Anthony Esolen, Out of the Ashes

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.

Like a pinball, bouncing all over

Pursuit of truth generally

Expertise

Oliver Traldi helps answer “How are those without expertise to determine who has it?”:

Yet another problem for our experts is that the source, nature, and relevance of their expertise is often ill-defined. A degreed professional like First Lady Jill Biden might want to be called “Doctor,” but even those who accede will struggle to articulate just what kind of knowledge she has that the rest of us lack. What is the knowledge-how or knowledge-that accompanying a doctorate degree in educational leadership? Or take the world’s most famous diversity consultant, Robin DiAngelo, Ph.D., whose degree is in “Multicultural Education” and whose “area of research” is “Whiteness Studies and Critical Discourse Analysis.” On what field of propositions would we expect her to be an authoritative source and ask the typical non-expert to defer, setting aside his own judgment for hers?

Even when expertise is genuine, disciplines and professions, along with their practitioners, seem determined to overextend its breadth for purposes of laundering their personal, non-expert opinions under their expert brand. In the summer of 2020, over a thousand public-health researchers signed a letter expressing their support for mass public protests in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, even as they insisted that in all other contexts the COVID-19 threat weighed against such gatherings. In The Atlantic, under the headline “Public Health Experts are Not Hypocrites,” Harvard Medical School professor Julia Marcus and Yale School of Public Health professor and MacArthur “Genius Grant” winner Gregg Gonsalves proposed that “systemic racism” was itself “a pervasive and long-standing public-health crisis.” By expanding the reach of the term “health,” the authors seemed to think they could also expand, as though by linguistic fiat, the breadth of their knowledge about the world, and demand new deference on matters of morality and politics. The signatories were public health experts, and systemic racism was a public health crisis, ergo the signatories were systemic racism experts.

Of course, such justification by stipulation is no justification at all. Marcus and Gonsalves never managed to explain what special insight a public health expert might have on the benefits of nationwide protests, or why anyone should defer to their conclusion that “the health implications of maintaining the status quo of white supremacy are too great to ignore, even with the potential for an increase in coronavirus transmission from the protest.” Making matters worse, they warned that even asking, “How many new infections from the protests will public health experts tolerate?” is an impermissible “call to color blindness, to stop seeing the health effects of systemic racism as something worthy of attention during the pandemic.” Now they were self-declared moral experts in two ways: qualified to adjudicate a divisive political debate, and further qualified to scold those who might question that initial qualification. They didn’t just know better than us; they were better than us.

Oliver Traldi, With All Due Respect to the Experts. Brilliant and very worth reading.

Handy heuristic

Here is a quick and generally reliable rule to follow. If people have always said it, it is probably true; it is the distilled wisdom of the ages. If people have not always said it, but everybody is saying it now, it is probably a lie; it is the concentrated madness of the moment.

Anthony Esolen, Out of the Ashes

Misinformation Tech

In keeping with their field’s tolerance for acronyms, they called it AMITT (Adversarial Misinformation and Influence Tactics and Techniques). They’ve identified more than 60 techniques so far, mapping them onto the phases of an attack. Technique 49 is flooding, using bots or trolls to overtake a conversation by posting so much material it drowns out other ideas. Technique 18 is paid targeted ads. Technique 54 is amplification by Twitter bots. But the database is just getting started.

Wired.com, ‌One Data Scientist’s Quest to Quash Misinformation

There’s gold in that there discourse!

Freddie deBoer finally said what I’ve wanted to say, and says it at length, with appropriate contempt, and with contemporary illustrations that I couldn’t have produced because I’m now culturally illiterate as to anything in popular culture. F’rinstance:

[S]ome of the most successful self-marketers of the 21st century are white men. They are, in fact, Good White Men.

These are the guys who put their pronouns in their bios in hopes that doing so might get them a little pussy. These are the guys who will harangue you about how white dudes do this and white dudes do that, speaking to you from their blameless white dude mouths in their righteous white dude faces. These are the guys who look at the discourse about white supremacy and patriarchy and see market opportunity.

… Good White Males think whiteness and maleness are problems to be solved. The trouble here is twofold. First, simply by nature of being Good White Men, by the very act of endlessly talking about the sinful nature of other white men, the Good White Men exonerate themselves from the very critique they advance. Constantly complaining about the evil done by white men inherently and invariably functions to contrast themselves with other, worse white men. Being the white man who talks about the poor character of most white men cannot help but shine your own character. No matter how reflexively you chant that you realize that you yourself are part of the problem, no matter how insistently you say that you’re included in your own critique, you aren’t. You can’t be. To be the one who makes the critique inevitably elevates you above it.

He who humbleth himself wishes to be exalted.

Second, standing up and demanding that everyone pay attention to someone else sure is a good way to monopolize attention for yourself. If you go on your podcast, blog, cable news show, or social network as a white man and tell other white men they need to shut up and listen, you are definitionally not shutting up and listening – and, of course, doing so in such a way as to receive credit for doing it. Put another way, Good White Men constantly tell other men and white people to step back and listen but absolutely never shut the fuck up themselves. Each of these guys could walk the talk by just unplugging and no longer filling the airwaves with their opinions, and in so doing cede space to POC and women and whoever else. That they don’t is the most damning indictment of their project.

Freddie deBoer, The Good White Man Roster

Politics and our common life

Liberalism according to Frank Fukuyama

N.S. Lyons: when he/she is good, he/she is very, very good. The latest is a review essay, mostly of Francis Fukuyama’s Liberalism and its Discontents, but with a quarter or so on Conservatism: A Rediscovery, by Yoram Hazony.

This is a long read. The tl;dr is that Fukuyama’s modest introductory definition of liberalism is tacitly abandoned for most of the rest of the book. I think Lyons is in the camp that liberalism (i.e., classical liberalism, which comes in left and right flavors) is incoherent — and that today’s conservatism is really right liberalism and therefore also incoherent. Hazony’s thicker conservatism fares better.

The preceding paragraph is my next-day-from-memory summary. Your mileage may vary.

Motivated reasoning

Republicans are gloating over the Maya Flores winning election to Congress in a blue Latino pocket in Texas:

The most recent margin in Texas’s 34th congressional district was five points for the Democrats. Flores beat Sanchez by eight points. That’s a 13-point swing toward the Republican Party. And the Texas special election followed similar elections in California and Alaska where Republicans also over-performed.

National Review. Their point is that the GOP is going to slaughter the Democrats in the Fall mid-terms.

That may be true, but Maya Flores isn’t really a good sign of it, as I’ve learned from the Dispatch’s Sara Isgur and nowhere else:

  • This was a special election to fill a vacancy; Flores will serve only until January unless elected again in the Fall.
  • Flores raised something like $700,000; her Democrat opponent more like $46,000.
  • I’m not even sure the Democrat spent all his money; Flores winning doesn’t shift the balance of Congress and is only for about 7 months.
  • A congressional district now has more than 700,000 people in it. Only something like 14,000 voted in Tuesday’s election.

If Flores wins in the Fall, that will be a bigger deal. Meanwhile, the Republicans really aren’t delusional about Latino gains.

(If “Latino” is not currently the preferred word, sorry/not sorry. I can’t keep up. I originally said “hispanic,” but that didn’t sound au courant.)

Structural disadvantage

Monisms are tweetable and retweetable, compressible into soundbites; pluralisms are not. Therefore in our current media environment, all versions of pluralism are structurally disadvantaged.

Alan Jacobs, Ten Theses on Monism and Pluralism, Plus a Quotation

How conspiracy theorists go wrong

What distinguishes conspiracy theorists from the rest of us is their inability or unwillingness to believe that big consequences can flow from small, accidental, disorganized, even ludicrous causes.

Holman W. Jenkins, Jr., Voters Elected the Jan. 6 Donald Trump

Democrat do-over

I believe Democrats know they should have nominated Senator Amy Klobuchar in 2020, and they’ll figure out a way to do it for 2024.

Andrew C. McCarthy, Liz Cheney Is Winning the January 6 Committee.

All I will say is I think that would be very good for the country.

I take that back: we also should consider electoral reforms (ranked-choice voting? open primaries?) that give saner candidates a better chance.

January 6

Side shows and main events

As I have argued at some length, the invasion of the Capitol and the vandalism and violence associated with it were a sideshow, and should be understood as such. The main event was Donald Trump’s attempt to find some legal or procedural fig leaf for invalidating the 2020 presidential election, and by that means to remain in power — a coup d’état under color of law …

The fact that Republicans have cynical, self-serving reasons for not taking the Democrats seriously does not erase the fact that there are excellent reasons for not taking the Democrats seriously — contempt for what the Democratic Party embodies and stands for is in fact a moral necessity.

Kevin D. Williamson, January 6 Hearings: Story without a Hero

Disarming the case against political violence

On both sides of the aisle, there is increasing acceptance of the idea that our political institutions are illegitimate, which while it isn’t in itself a call to violence effectively disarms the strongest argument against violence. This is most obvious on the Republican side, something the ongoing January 6th hearings have provided a powerful reminder of. A huge percentage of the GOP rank and file believe that the last election was stolen and therefore that the current government is illegitimate, and while only a tiny minority participated in violence in response on that fatal day, it’s difficult in practice to convincingly disavow that response without forcefully rejecting the premise that justified it.

Noah Millman, Do We Need To Worry About Violence Against the Court?

Desperate times, desperate measures?

As he sheltered with Mike Pence from the January 6 rioters, Pence’s legal counsel Greg Jacob

emailed constitutional law professor John Eastman, architect of the plan for Pence to reject the electoral votes Congress certified. “Thanks to your bullshit, we are now under siege,” he wrote.

“The siege is because you and your boss did not do what was necessary,” Eastman replied.

Throughout the day yesterday, witnesses—including Jacob—eviscerated the legal arguments underpinning Eastman’s plan, while lawmakers laid out evidence that Eastman and other Trump allies knew full well the flaws in their strategy—but forged ahead with a pressure campaign urging Pence to go along anyway. After the riot, Eastman was so fearful of legal consequences he emailed Rudy Giuliani that he’d “decided that [he] should be on the pardon list, if that is still in the works.” Trump never gave him one, and according to committee members, he’s pleaded the Fifth Amendment 100 times in his testimony before them.

The Morning Dispatch

Some wit put John Eastman’s pardon plea in Haiku:

(received through the grapevine).

Sexualia

“Soft Totalitarianism” captures something no other term seems to

I know some good people who scoff that “soft totalitarianism” is an oxymoron, but I haven’t seen a better term for this kind of just-making-shit-up coordinated suppression of unfashionable ideas truths while tolerating truly vile behavior by preferred ideologies:

Not to be outdone, this week, PayPal and Etsy shut down the accounts of biological realist and writer Colin Wright for his persistence in arguing that there are only two sexes. Etsy permanently disabled Wright’s account – where he sold his “Reality’s Last Stand” merch promoting his newsletter – on the grounds that Wright “glorif[ied] hatred or violence toward protected groups.” That’s a lie; Wright never did.

Wright is a biologist who made the grievous error of knowing a thing or two about biology and refusing to genuflect before the Torquemadas who insist he parrot their phony gender science. But of course, while Wright pays this price for his harmless (and, honestly, inoffensive) t-shirts and mugs, Etsy continues to list for sale stickers and pins and other bric-a-brac emblazoned with messages like “Fuck TERFs,” “TERFs can choke,” and “Shut the Fuck up TERF” with an anime creature pointing a semiautomatic handgun at its presumably female interlocutor.

Abigail Shrier

NSFW

The salacious details can’t really be avoided if I want to illustrate how transgender ideology is intruding on the most intimate realms (and I do):

A natal female who had sex with three women using a specially-made prosthetic has been convicted of assault. Tarjit Singh, born Hannah Walters, met women via online dating, and kept clothes on during intimacy in the dark to avoid being revealed as a natal female. It was only several months into one relationship, on discovery of the prosthetic, that Singh’s natal sex was revealed.

This story reads very differently depending on where you’re standing. Is it a case of sexual assault, with a victim tricked into intimate contact she wouldn’t have accepted if she’d known the sex of the individual she was dating? Or is it evidence of our transphobic society, where stigma forced “Tarjit Singh” first to conceal “his” true self only subsequently to be punished for this with the full force of the law?

Mary Harrington, ‌Landmark trans cases show who the men really are

Similar cases are happening and, dare I suggest, increasing;

A recent US case, with similarities to that of ‘Tarjit Singh’, resulted in murder …
Ismiemen Etute, a Virginia college athlete, beat Jerry Smith to death after discovering he’d posed as “Angie Renee” online to obtain sexual contact with Etute.

Lesbians are being called transphobes for wanting sexual contact only with natal real women. Sexual louts like Etute commit murder when tricked by a man pretending to be a horny woman.

It appears that sexual liberation has not produced utopia, no?

Old man led by zealots

Nevertheless, our President thinks we need more of what ails us — the veritable definition of insanity:

Biden has never seemed more like an old man being led by zealots than on the topic of medical interventions for gender dysphoric children, where he is deeply radical. Biden this week is signing an executive order banning any federal funds from “conversion therapy,” which is what activists call it when teen girls go to a therapist for a couple visits before getting a mastectomy. His policies are putting America’s approach to this complex topic far to the left of European nations (some of which are pulling away from under-18 medical interventions altogether) and far to the left even of where many trans leaders think we should be. 

Nellie Bowles (italics added).

Antidote

A Psalm for anxiety over “cancel culture,” “soft tyranny” and some other insanities.

Miscellany

Time-wasters

Although federal, state, and local fair housing laws generally permit discrimination in selecting roommates or housemates, they still prohibit advertisers from mentioning their discriminatory preferences, except for specifying gender. The result is that persons who place classified ads for roommates waste their time, as well as the time of many of those who respond to their ads, by inviting and dealing with inquiries from persons who fail to meet the actual “discriminatory” criteria.

David Bernstein, You Can’t Say That!

New podcast, familiar podcasters

If you liked the All the President’s Lawyers podcast, you are almost certain to like Serious Trouble.

Potty Humor

As long as I’m (uncharacteristically) embedding images, this favorite from the nation of Georgia. There was much, much beauty there, but this gritty, grimy vista along the road from Tbilisi to Stepantsminda was unique:


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.

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.

Major Party Synopsis

In this freakish political atmosphere, where next year’s Presidential primaries are already populating themselves, my synopsis of the parties generally.

Both parties are deathworks, but the Democrats are careening toward insanity more giddily than the Republicans:

  • Same-sex marriage
  • Abortion
  • Hatred of observant Christians
  • Hostility toward observant Judaism
  • Intellectual fads like intersectionality
  • Foisting our sexual revolution on the rest of the world
  • Celebration of cultural decadence

I can’t even give Democrats an edge on dovishness. Hillary Clinton was more hawkish than Donald Trump (at least before hiring John Bolton away from Fox, soup-strainer and all); the median plausible Democrat is probably as apt to wag the dog as the median plausible Republican.

* * * * *

You can read my more impromptu stuff at Micro.blog (mirrored at microblog.intellectualoid.com) and, as of February 20, 2019, at blot.im. Both should work in your RSS aggregator, like Feedly, should you want to make a habit of it.

Potpourri, 2/11/19

1

So since I know that [government or other establishment] infiltration and manipulation [of dissident media and movements] happens, but I don’t find other people’s whisperings about “controlled opposition” useful, how do I figure out who’s trustworthy and who isn’t? How do I figure out who it’s safe to cite in my work and who to avoid? How do I separate the fool’s gold from the genuine article? The shit from the Shinola?

Here is my answer: I don’t.

I spend no mental energy whatsoever concerning myself with who may or may not be a secret pro-establishment influencer, and for good reason. There’s no way to know for sure if an individual is secretly scheming to sheep dog the populace into support for the status quo, and as long as government agencies remain opaque and unaccountable there will never be a way to know who might be secretly working for them. What I can know is (A) what I’ve learned about the world, (B) the ways the political/media class is lying about what I know about the world, and (C) when someone says something which highlights those lies. I therefore pay attention solely to the message, and no attention to what may or may not be the hidden underlying agenda of the messenger.

In other words, if someone says something which disrupts establishment narratives, I help elevate what they’re saying in that specific instance. I do this not because I know that the speaker is legit and uncorrupted, but because their message in that moment is worthy of elevation. You can navigate the entire political/media landscape in this way.

Since society is made of narrative and power ultimately rests in the hands of those who are able to control those narratives, it makes no sense to fixate on individuals and it makes perfect sense to focus on narrative. What narratives are being pushed by those in power? How are those narratives being disrupted, undermined and debunked by things that are being said by dissident voices? This is the most effective lens through which to view the battle against the unelected power establishment which is crushing us all to death, not some childish fixation on who should or shouldn’t be our hero.

There’s no reason to worry about what journalists, activists and politicians are coming from a place of authenticity if you know yourself to be coming from a place of authenticity.

Caitlyn Johnstone. A very sensible answer, from a writer who might be controlled or manipulated for all I know, though under criteria (A), (B) & (C), I find her pretty reliable.

2

Wilders regularly refers to a supposedly tolerant set of “Christian values” that contrast with allegedly savage Islamic ideals, but in reality, Islam and Christianity, like Judaism, derive from the same Abrahamic roots and draw on similar Greek philosophical traditions.

Khaled Diab, A far-right politician converted to Islam. It’s not as surprising as it sounds.

Yeah, it’s not totally surprising, but that sentence is sheer blather:

Wilders regularly refers to the unreliability of Yugos, but in reality, Yugos derive from seminal 19th Century inventions and are manufactured similarly to Audi, Mercedes-Benz, Volvo and Lexus.

I don’t know whether Diab was obliged by his employer to mute any criticism of Islam or if he did it free gratis, but he fails Caitlyn Johnstone’s criterion (C).

3

From the Enquirer’s perspective, Mr. Bezos’ pockets are superhumanly deep. He controls the Washington Post. Mr. Pecker, already in legal trouble over Trump dealings, might well find it worrying to have someone of Mr. Bezos’ heft pounding away at the narrative that the Enquirer was not doing what it always does, and is legally entitled to do, shamelessly trafficking in the scandals of the rich and famous. Instead, it was conducting a character assassination on behalf of Mr. Trump or the Saudis, possibly in cahoots with official hackers of Mr. Bezos’ phone or message traffic.

… The paper’s story about Mr. Bezos’ philandering and sexting …, compared with a lot of what’s published as “news” these days, [is] extremely well supported with documentary evidence. Whereas the narrative Mr. Bezos is promoting is speculative. Even if the pro-Trump brother was involved, the story would have been delicious to the Enquirer if there had been no Trump connection. Every story has a source, and sources have motives.

Holman W. Jenkins, Jr., Bezos vs. the Enquirer Could Be a Watershed

4

When a society rejects the Christian account of who we are, it doesn’t become less moralistic but far more so, because it retains an inchoate sense of justice but has no means of offering and receiving forgiveness. The great moral crisis of our time is not, as many of my fellow Christians believe, sexual licentiousness, but rather vindictiveness. Social media serve as crack for moralists: there’s no high like the high you get from punishing malefactors. But like every addiction, this one suffers from the inexorable law of diminishing returns. The mania for punishment will therefore get worse before it gets better.

Alan Jacobs, about 19 months ago. He returns to it now, which prompted me to think about the Democrats’ Dilemma.

I was puzzled by the nearly unanimous Democrat demands that Democrat Ralph Northram resign as Governor of Virginia, but The Daily podcast helped me make sense of it (and gave me a bad case of schadenfreude).

You see, they wanted to put an impassible gulf between their party, the patent sleaze of Donald Trump and the alleged super-creepy mall-trolling of young Roy Moore. So they set a zero tolerance policy, expelling Al Franken and others (from safe Democrat seats). Now it seems that they’re discovering the ubiquity of sin: not every Democrat sinner is in a safe seat.

I don’t know which is worse: the usual hypocrisy or a foolish consistency. But the foolish consistency feels more consistent with our damnable callout culture — which ironically puts the heroic caller-outers in bed with Donald Trump, who like them never asked God for forgiveness because he never did anything wrong.

5

Another very slick technology I won’t use because it’s from one of the companies that most flagrantly monetizes me: It’s the Real World—With Google Maps Layered on Top.

(No, now that you mention it: I can’t get over the death of privacy.)

6

Three months getting a new Tesla 3 bumper to the body shop:

The upstart car company has created a coveted luxury brand but is still learning some of the basics of the auto business.

Thou shalt not covet.

(“Thou also shalt not smirk about not drinking Elon Musk’s Kool-Aid,” he reminded the mirror).

7

The self-proclaimed socialists are actually seeing the world through a rear-view mirror. What they are really talking about is divvying up the previously-accumulated wealth, soon to be bygone. Entropy is having its wicked way with that wealth, first by transmogrifying it into ever more abstract forms, and then by dissipating it as waste all over the planet. In short, the next time socialism is enlisted as a tool for redistributing wealth, we will make the unhappy discovery that most of that wealth is gone.

The process will be uncomfortably sharp and disorientating. The West especially will not know what hit it as it emergently self-reorganizes back into something that resembles the old-time feudalism ….

I almost don’t need to say who wrote that, do I? It’s JHK.

8

Speaking of socialism, I may be parting ways with Rod Dreher for a while, as he is writing a new book:

The gist of the book will be a warning to the West about the re-emergence of socialism and the totalitarian mindset that accompanies it. The warning will be in the form of “lessons” told by people who lived under Soviet-bloc socialism, and who are alarmed by what they see happening now in the West. An American college professor who grew up in the USSR told me last week that it shocks her and her emigre parents to see the same mindset that they ran away from manifesting itself in US academia. It will not stay confined to the academy, either.

That sounds much better than some of the foreshadowings in his blog, which seem blind to how equivocal the term “socialism” is today.

By the time I read his Benedict Option, with which I substantially agree, the arguments and anecdotes were very familiar to me — almost stale — from his blog, which for many month felt like a test kitchen.

I’m skeptical enough of the emerging “socialist” demonizing (I think Dreher even will say “cultural Marxism” unironically) that I may have to check out for a while — while continuing to pray for Rod and some others who are on the polemical front lines of the culture wars.

Hey! Maybe Rod is a secret pro-establishment influencer!

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