We’ve Been Lucky Day

We’ve Been Lucky Day

What we are experiencing isn’t truly thankfulness, but only something like delight over good fortune. In this case, I wonder why we even call it thankfulness. Perhaps we should be celebrating a Gee We’ve Been Lucky Day, or, if times have been hard, maybe an It Could Have Been Worse Day. If a shorter name is needed, we could call it Okayness Day. I guess it would be something like Happy Hour.

J Budziszewski, wrested from context (i.e., this is not his position)

Eulogy — Mike Gerson

It’s nice to read Peter Wehner writing a eulogy instead of invective, however deserved.

Excerpts:

Mike [Gerson] was appalled at those who disfigured Jesus and used their faith for the purposes of dehumanization. It is one of the reasons why he was so thankful to publish an extraordinary essay in the Post before his death, lamenting Christians whose view of politics “is closer to ‘Game of Thrones’ than to the Beatitudes.”

Very few people knew the full scope of the health challenges Mike faced. He suffered a heart attack in 2004, when he was 40. Kidney cancer in 2013. Debilitating leg pain, probably the result of surgical nerve damage. The kidney cancer spread to his lungs. Then Parkinson’s disease and metastatic adrenal cancer. And finally, metastatic bone cancer in multiple locations, intensely painful. At one point he told me he was on 20 different medications. Mike and I joked that of all the figures in the Bible he could model himself after, he chose Job.

I am among those who had no idea of Gerson’s health problems. I admired his opinion pieces, but not quite enough to keep my Washington Post digital subscription.

Buying off the bloodhounds

[Y]ou don’t have to have a granular understanding of blockchain to understand [Sam Bankman-Fried] was a fraud. I think there are a lot of reasons he got away with it for as long as he did. Buying political cover from politicians with donations (Bankman-Fried was the Dems’ second biggest donor in the last cycle) and purchasing political cover from the media with woke gobbledygook about philanthropy is not a bad strategy. Also, hiding your malfeasance in the squid ink of technical jargon few people understand is pretty savvy as well.

But I think he had something else going for him. Democrats and the left love having billionaires in their corner. It’s a great way to blunt charges of “Marxism” and whatnot, and it’s also a fun way to advance the argument that there’s no real tension between progressive policies and profit. Having token billionaires is even better when those billionaires seem like they’ve broken the old paradigms of heavy industry and are on the cutting edge of innovation. Having dinosaurs who made their money the old-fashioned way—especially the ones who made their money from liquified dinosaurs—can trigger psychological or ideological second thoughts. Peddling ones-and-zeros just sounds so cutting edge.

One lesson from this is that new ideas and new technologies—not to mention getting rich off them—can blind you to the importance of due diligence. Say what you will about old-fashioned accountants and lawyers from prestigious firms—they at least have a vested interest in protecting their reputations and brands. Thinking that the rules of the past don’t apply to you is a great way to give yourself permission to break rules that definitely do apply to you.

Jonah Goldberg

I’d rather drink muddy water

My least-favorite series in the New York Times travel section is “36 Hours in [major city].” I would not enjoy dashing around and bar-hopping at night as they invariably describe.

Let me settle into a city for a bit, and give me time to catch my breath without liquor.

Is Orbán a Cosplayer?

There has always been a whiff of the fake about Mr. Orbán’s war on Brussels. That he never proposed the obvious solution to this impasse—Hungary’s exit from the European Union—exposed the limit of his gamesmanship. More fool the American conservatives who didn’t notice this sooner.

Joseph C. Sternberg, Orbán and the Collapse of the Trump Intellectuals

I don’t fully agree with Sternberg, but I welcome his pushback against Orbán if only because it doesn’t follow the usual script of name-calling and “everybody knows.”

Epistemic humility

Appealing to a higher, theological standard of judgment above politics can, in theory, act as a moderating influence that inspires humility, restraint, and even wisdom. But it often does the opposite—inspiring imprudent acts and judgments …

Of course, the religiously devout aren’t the only people who are prone to act in a way that fails to exemplify the spirit of liberality or civic generosity …

Liberalism is better off when these tendencies are tamed. The best way to accomplish that goal is to rely on civic education that instills lessons in epistemic humility and mutual respect for fellow citizens. But of course, such education will only receive political support if our fellow Americans already want to produce humble and respectful citizens in the first place.

Damon Linker, The Endless Skirmish Between Liberalism and Religion

I have a nit-picky disagreement with Linker. I doubt that we can maintain liberalism at all without the epistemic humility he commends, not just that “liberalism is better off when these tendencies are tamed.” Indeed, liberalism almost seems definitionally a polity of epistemic humility, a recognition that the other guy just might be right, and therefore can be worth close attention.

Florida Man and the Pro-life cause

The ethos of the Trumpist-dominated G.O.P. is fundamentally incompatible with the ethos of a healthy pro-life movement. The reason is simple: Trumpism is centered around animosity. The pro-life movement has to be centered around love, including love for its most bitter political opponents.

David French, The Pro-Life Movement Has to Break With Trumpism

An honest, full-cost accounting

[W]e need to replace fanciful dreams of endless energy from renewables with full-cost accounting, which an increasing number of experts are taking seriously. There are destructive environmental and social consequences to constructing the infrastructure for that energy production.

Wes Jackson and Robert Jensen, No Easy Answers: Facing Ecological Crises Honestly

I often post controversial or negative things with no comment. Not this time. I believe that Jackson and Jensen are right.

If wishes were horses …

[M]y friends at National Review plead[] with Republican hopefuls to clear the field for a Trump-DeSantis showdown.

That’s the right strategy if you’re a conservative whose goal is to maximize the GOP’s chances of nominating a superior candidate, but it’s eye-roll material if you’re an ambitious Republican politician who looks in the mirror and sees a president staring back.

That’s a great irony of the next cycle, incidentally. As selfish as Trump is in routinely placing his own interests above the GOP’s, the Chris Christies and Nikki Haleys who’ll end up piling into the 2024 field and splintering the anti-Trump vote will be guilty of having done the same.

Nick Cattogio, Trump Is About to Wreck His Legacy

Respect for Marriage Act

Yet the gains here are not negligible, either, and what is lost is—well, the answer to that depends on how realistic it is to think that Obergefell will be overturned within the next 10 years.

Matthew Lee Anderson, regarding the Respect for Marriage Act, quoted at The Dispatch (italics added)

I don’t think there’s a significant chance that Obergefell gets overruled for a long time. (Eventually, it probably will be overruled because it’s contrary to the nature of marriage and came about through an ideological mania. We’ll come to our senses eventually.) So, we (those concerned to preserve religious liberty) are getting something for essentially nothing.

Sounds like a presumptively good deal. Tell me how I’m wrong.

David French endorses RFMA, and has caught a lot of crap for it. Even Kristen Waggoner has misrepresented RFMA, but she’s now head of ADF, which may explain her factual flexibility.

Have I mentioned lately that my pen always totally dries up if I think of writing a check to ADF, but always works just fine for checks to Becket Fund?


[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.

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.