Yeah. Good times.
Flashback: Warming up for a concert years ago, sitting arms-length from one of our soloists. Our conductor said “I’d like you to meet Lawrence Browlee. Enjoy him today, because we’ll never be able to afford him again: he won the Metropolitan Opera auditions this week.”
That was just the start. He’s gone on to even greater things. Click that link to get your socks knocked off.
Aprés lui, le deluge
I don’t believe a single presidential election could make or break the United States. Our decline is not primarily political; political decline is one manifestation of something broader and deeper. Once Trump and Pence are out of the White House, a lot of things that were held back will be free to be expressed by the Democrat that takes over. Those who are concerned about religious liberty had better be laboring now to get ready for what’s coming.
Thank God for the First Amendment
Let us pause to give thanks for the First Amendment, and our courts’ rather strict mandate to stay the hell out of church affairs.
Elite idiots - no, MONSTERS
Harvard has opened an investigation into law professor Ronald Sullivan, who earlier this year joined Harvey Weinstein’s criminal-defense team. Some undergraduates complained that Mr. Sullivan’s decision to represent Mr. Weinstein, who is charged with rape in New York, puts them at risk. By taking the complaint seriously, Harvard puts its commitment to identity politics above the core tenets of due process.
… Harvard’s adults could have said. Mr. Sullivan’s representation of Mr. Weinstein embodies the highest ideals of the law—that every accused person, no matter how reviled, is entitled to a defense in court.
The fact of the climate review is bad enough. It validates the idea that there is something to investigate in Mr. Sullivan’s decision to represent an unpopular client. And the administration’s rhetoric smacks of a re-education camp. The Harvard Crimson reported that Mr. Khurana was “actively” communicating to Mr. Sullivan what he was hearing from “members of the community and what they’re describing their needs [sic] so that Professor Sullivan can adjust to those needs.” Mr. Khurana said he has also “communicated that the College believes that more work must be done to uphold our commitment to the well-being of our students.” In reality, Mr. Sullivan has done nothing to jeopardize the well-being of Harvard’s students.
In a twist of identity-politics delirium, Mr. Sullivan is now playing the race card against the administration. In a New Yorker interview, he said of the climate survey: “It’s absolutely never happened before, and I do not believe that it would happen again to any non-minority faculty dean.” That racism allegation is as preposterous as the claim that Winthrop House residents are unsafe because of Mr. Sullivan’s criminal-defense work.
Heather Mac Donald
I was more strongly on Sullivan’s side before he tried playing “turnabout.”
It is common to refer to universally popular social media sites like Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, and Pinterest as “walled gardens.” But they are not gardens; they are walled industrial sites, within which users, for no financial compensation, produce data which the owners of the factories sift and then sell.
Alan Jacobs, Minding the Digital Commons, Hedgehog Review Spring 2018
Facile solution to the wrong problems
For the last few years we’ve been hearing a good many people (most of them computer programmers) say that every child should learn to code. As I write these words, I learn that Tim Cook, the CEO of Apple, has echoed that counsel. Learning to code is a nice thing, I suppose, but should be far, far down on our list of priorities for the young. Coding is a problem-solving skill, and few of the problems that beset young people today, or are likely to in the future, can be solved by writing scripts or programs for computers to execute.
Alan Jacobs, Minding the Digital Commons, Hedgehog Review Spring 2018
Not only do I agree with that factually, but I think we will mislead young people if we tacitly communicate that computers, properly coded, can solve our problems.
I have shifted instead to reading more weekly and monthly magazines, especially in print, but sometimes on the Kindle. My new favorite magazine is The Economist — at which I looked askance for many years because I thought it a key mouthpiece of the neoliberal order, which it kinda is, but overall it’s a great magazine. I begin by reading the summary of the week’s news, and then turn with particular interest to reports from parts of the world that I wouldn’t ordinarily think about. It does a lot to put American kerfuffles into meaningful context.
That would be very hard for me, but once, dropping Twitter seemed hard, as did minimizing Facebook.
Is there an industry more full of contradictory folk wisdom and just-so stories (most of them evolutionary) than the weight-loss industry?
He might be the first person ever to run for the White House on a platform of asking the nation help him figure out who he is.
Kyle Smith, Weirdo O’Rourke
Who is worse, Trump or Putin?
[Keith Gessen:] Who is worse, Trump or Putin?
[Masha Gessen:] I suggest we both answer that.
[Keith Gessen:] I’ll go first. From my perspective, Trump is worse. Putin, for all his mistakes and crimes, very much represents, I think, the middle of the Russian political spectrum, though I know it’s hard to gauge what exactly the Russian political spectrum is. But I keep going back to the state of Russian politics in the late nineties, when Putin was elected. The other candidates did not present a liberal alternative to what we eventually got.
Whereas Trump is a fringe figure who’s really pulled American politics quite a bit to the right. In that sense, in the context of the political regimes that they’ve come from, Trump strikes me as worse.
[Masha Gessen:] I’ll phrase it a little bit differently, but, fundamentally, I agree. I think that Putin represents the crushing of the hopes for a different Russia. Trump represents a betrayal of the abstract ideals on which this country was founded.
The entire time I lived in Russia, even as Russia started going to hell, I imagined that there was a place in the world that represented an entirely different set of ideals, and I talked to my kids about it. I was so happy that we happened to be here for the Presidential election in 2008. I went with them to the polls, and there was that moment of feeling like this country was better than even it thought it was. And that was just ten years ago. That, to me, feels like a much greater loss.
Russian immigrants and journalists Masha and Keith Gessen on Writing About Russia
Flowers v. Mississippi
[S]ometimes a specific case presents facts simply beyond belief; sometimes the “system” stands revealed as nothing more than one human being tormenting another because he can.
For me, such a case is Flowers v. Mississippi, a death-penalty appeal to be argued before the Supreme Court on Wednesday. The specific issue the Court will hear is whether, during a murder trial in 2010, a Mississippi prosecutor named Doug Evans deliberately used “peremptory challenges” to remove potential jurors because of race. If the U.S. Supreme Court agrees, then Flowers’s conviction for multiple murders in 1996 will be set aside.
Of course, if that happens, Evans can simply try Flowers again on the same charges. And why wouldn’t he? Evans has already prosecuted Flowers for the same crime six times over the past 20 years.
Evans’s record against Flowers is 1–5. First, he obtained a conviction that was set aside by the state appeals courts because of misconduct designed to confuse and mislead the jury—he introduced evidence of crimes that were not before the court; implied that he had evidence that a defense witness had lied when there was no such evidence; and told the jury about “taped statements” by Flowers that didn’t exist. In the next two trials, he obtained convictions by engaging in the precise misconduct alleged in this case: intentionally using race to skew the jury against Flowers, who is African American.
The next two trials ended in mistrials because the jurors could not agree. The second time that happened, the trial judge had the lone holdout—an African American juror—arrested in the courtroom, and threatened to jail Flowers’s African American lawyer. Charges against the juror were dropped, but a message was sent. The sixth time, in 2010, a jury agreed that Flowers was guilty of four murders and sentenced him to death.
Formally, that sixth conviction is the only one before the Supreme Court. Again, the issue is whether Evans deliberately used race to exclude eligible members of the jury pool ….
From the rest of the article, I infer that Evans keeps misbehaving because the evidence is too thin for conviction if he doesn’t.
Rhetoric and violence
The president’s continued encouragement of violence — and of white nationalism — is part of the reason that white-nationalist violence is increasing. Funny how that works.
“Violent talk can, at minimum, encourage lone-wolf violence … It can also slowly normalize political violence, turning discourse and ideas that were once unsayable and even unthinkable into things that are sayable and thinkable.”
These risks are not just hypothetical. In 2017, a House candidate body-slammed a reporter who asked a probing question — behavior with no recent precedent. Trump praised the now-congressman, Greg Gianforte, for the assault.
Not all attacks come from people who identify with the political right, obviously … [b]ut most politically motivated attacks do indeed come from the right. Last year, 39 of the 50 extremist killings tracked by the A.D.L. were committed by white supremacists, and another eight were committed by killers espousing anti-government views.
Since 9/11, Muslim children have been taunted as “terrorists.” Over the past three years, since President Trump campaigned on a promise to “ban” Muslims from entering the country and then enacted a court-challenged travel ban that bars people from some majority-Muslim countries, many have grown increasingly concerned. By Friday, some said their nerves were so jangled that they feared returning to their mosques.
Ali blamed Trump for shifting the culture, and he said acts of hatred are not just aimed at Muslims — the fatal shooting of 11 worshipers in a Pittsburgh synagogue in October also sprang from the same bias. “There’s a climate of hate that has been nurtured by the president all the way down. We saw it against Jews,” he said. “There’s a cost to this rhetoric of hate. The cost is 49 people who went to Friday prayer.”
Michelle Boorstein, Sarah Pulliam Bailey, Alexandra Baumhardt and Julie Zauzmer, American Muslims anxiously consider security needs at mosques after New Zealand shooting
Love is love. Pain is lovely.
Don’t these ignorant bigots from Bedford-Stuyvesant know that “love is love”?
“I did all of this for nothing”
Frank Bruni offers up one of the best analyses of what’s wrong in our elite college admissions process — you know, the one the zillionaires and celebrities gamed for their kids:
I once asked a longtime guidance counselor about her least favorite part of the college admissions season, when students learn if they’ve been accepted by the schools of their dreams.
She said that what pains her aren’t the rejections: There are so many of those, they’re an inevitable part of the process and the kids get into other colleges that are plenty terrific.
What pains her is a reaction that some of those kids have.
“I did all of this for nothing,” they’ll say, meaning the homework, the sports, the other extracurricular activities.
And she’s kind of blown away by that. …
For these kids, education isn’t an opportunity to wring more meaning from life and make a more constructive impact on the world. It’s transactional. It’s a performance. If the right audience doesn’t clap, there was no point in even taking the stage.
A boy submits an essay to Yale about how he overcame his worries that he wasn’t, um, well endowed. A couple become the primary funders of an orphanage in Africa so that it can be named for their kids, who then do some token work there and use that material for college applications. Parents — no tiny number of them — end up spending upward of $1 million on a child’s private schooling from K though 12, on enrichment trips and on expert advice about the precise number of A.P. classes to take, the least clichéd volunteer work to do and the most strategic sport to master.
The principles instilled in these children? That nothing in your life is too sacred to be used for gain. That you do what it takes and spend what you must to get what you want. That packaging matters more than substance. That assessments made by outsiders trump any inner voice ….
A transgendered man, Nikki Joly, campaigned to have her hometown, Jackson, Michigan, adopt an anti-discrimination law. The local paper declared her “Citizen of the Year.” Then an arsonist burned down her home. Police now suspect that she did it. Why? According to reports, she was upset that the legislative success had taken her out of the news. Entirely believable. Transgenderism is a sign of mental illness. That our establishment kowtows to transgender activists and celebrates them (Citizen of the Year!) indicates the depth of misrule today.
Unexpected spirtual guidance
Last year, a good friend and I enjoyed a long afternoon conversation over drinks. The leaves of the trees in Rittenhouse Square were showing the first signs of fall. He told me that he was reading Ernst Jünger’s World War II memoir for spiritual guidance. This took me by surprise. Jünger was a significant cultural figure in twentieth-century German literature. But I never thought of him as “spiritual,” at least not in the conventional sense. After saying as much, my friend, a professor at a fancy university, took a sip of his beer and replied, “He helps me think about how to survive as a loyal academic in our collapsing university culture.”
At the time, I was sad that Jünger’s war writings were available only in the original German. When a translation appeared early this year, A German Officer in Occupied Paris: The War Journals, 1941–1945, I grabbed a copy immediately. Once I began, I could not put it down.
We do not live in Nazi Germany. Our cities are not bombed-out ruins. But we, too, must find ways to survive morally and spiritually. Many of us are being slowly strangled, as is my academic friend. For some, it’s the politically correct HR department at their place of employment circulating pledges to “be inclusive” that all are supposed to sign, the equivalent of loyalty oaths to the Human Rights Campaign. We try to breathe in an atmosphere of misinformation, saddened by the degree to which once responsible newspapers have become propaganda sheets. Twitter mobs explode with punitive outrage. We hear about careers ended, the twenty-first-century version of political assassination that ensures a constant current of fear.
In our present circumstances, Jünger’s wartime reflections provide fruitful material for meditation ….
To believe that a new tenant in Downing Street could put them back together again and engineer a majority is to believe the Brexiteers’ fantasy that theirs is a brilliant project that is merely being badly executed.
The Economist, March 16
More proof that Jair Bolsonaro is guilty of badthink
Politicians start working only when Carnival ends, Brazilians joke. This year explosive tweets from the president, Jair Bolsonaro, delayed the serious business of reforming pensions and cleaning up crime and corruption. On March 5th the president posted a video of one Carnival reveller urinating on another in an act of performance art. “This is what many Carnival street parties have become,” he lamented. Some Brazilians cringed, but the tweet got 87,000 likes.
The Economist, March 16
One of the marks of a mal pensant is to criticize “art.”
Judge rules North Carolina legislature illegitimate
Note what the illegitimate legislature still may and may not do. Surely this qualifies as “judicial activism.”
Insightful word of the decade
There are many contenders for “insightful word of the decade.” “Wokescold” is pretty choice.
But I nominate “performative” because it so perfect fits things like this, with the camera’s rolling:
@Esor__Fasa put up where her friend is attacking Chelsea Clinton at a memorial service and linking her to the New Zealand massacre because Chelsea dared to call out Ilhan Omar’s anti-Semitism.
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