This is, in a silly way, a footnote to my previous Kevin Williamson post, but, more seriously, to my contribution to our Erik Olin Wright event. In my post on Wright I remarked that, in a sense, he’s pushing against an open door: he wants Americans, who think ‘socialism’ is a dirty word, to be more open to utopian thinking. The problem, I pointed out, is that thinking ‘socialism’ is a dirty word is positively, not negatively, correlated with utopianism, because conservatives are, typically, very utopian, especially in their rhetoric – more so than socialists these days; certainly more so than liberals. Wright responded that his project “is not mainly directed at ideologically committed Conservatives whose core values support the power and privilege of dominant classes. The core audience is people who are loosely sympathetic to some mix of liberal egalitarian, radical democratic and communitarian ideals.” [click to continue…]
From the category archives:
Intellects vast and cool and unsympathetic
This is a follow-up to Corey’s post, I suppose.
Given that concerns about the character of the new Pope are immediately being raised regarding his conduct during the Dirty War and its aftermath, in Argentina, it says something that the National Review editors are attempting a bit of preemptive damage control on a different front. “His counting poverty as a social ill should not be misconstrued as …”
Really? The new Pope is against poverty? The editors looked at what this new Pope is known for; looked down the list of concerns and doubts people might have, upon skimming the first set of news stories, and this jumped out as the thing we need to be reassured isn’t as bad as it might look, because there’s two sides to the story? (It turns out to be ok because he’s not in favor of ‘statist solutions’ to the problem.)
I mean: I could understand if the editors decided to write a pure celebratory piece that didn’t mar the occasion by drawing attention to anything any critics are already saying. But that they decided to let a touch of concern show through, and this showed through – of all things.
And Republicans wonder why people think Republicans don’t care about the poor.
I haven’t watched the video of Sullivan debating same-sex marriage with Douglas Wilson (no, I never heard of him either). To judge from this First Things write-up, I can expect some familiar, bad arguments from the anti- side: first and foremost, a failure to appreciate the sense in which theological arguments ‘can’t be offered’ in this sort of debate (a failure of appreciation at least semi-shared by the author of the First Things piece, Peter Leithart.)
Sullivan demanded that Wilson defend his position with secular, civil arguments, not theocratic ones, and in this demand Sullivan has the support of liberal polity.
Sullivan’s is a rigid standard for public discourse that leaves biblically-grounded Christians with little to say.
The problem isn’t that they can’t be offered – it’s a free country! say what you like! think what you like! It’s that the person offering the argument can’t reasonably expect it to be accepted. It will be – should be – weighed in the balance as a private expression of preference. But someone else’s preference as to how I should behave doesn’t, automatically, carry much weight. [click to continue…]
Amazon isn’t a store, not really. Not in any sense that we can regularly think about stores. It’s a strange pulsing network of potential goods, global supply chains, and alien associative algorithms with the skin of a store stretched over it, so we don’t lose our minds.
A post by Michael Walsh, at the Corner, advocating repeal of the 19th Amendment:
And women’s suffrage … well, let’s just observe that without it Barack Obama could never have become president. Time for the ladies to take one for the team.
Who’s with me?
Not enough women, would be my back-of-the-envelope guesstimate.
Just so you know I can explain a joke as well as anyone: the form of this ‘repeal the 19th’ joke is that he knows it’s not acceptable to say so. So he says so, knowing people will realize he must be joking. But the thing is: he isn’t! On some level! Otherwise it wouldn’t be funny. But you could never get him to admit that. He’ll always have ‘it was a joke!’ deniability, due to the manifest unacceptability of his opinions. Even though it wouldn’t be a joke unless, on some level, it wasn’t a joke. That’s what makes it hilarious! Hide in plain sight! Anti-feminism ninja! I wonder why more women don’t vote GOP? They must not have a sense of humor. Bwa-ha-ha-ha! Go team! Go team! Go team! (We are so clever. What? We lost again? Dumb broads, this is all their fault.)
Very interesting – and long – bloggingheads discussion on the future of higher education in the age of MOOCs – Udacity, Coursera – between Tamar Gendler and Clay Shirky. Shirky’s thesis: Napster got killed but its brief and dramatic algae-bloom of a life changed the ‘story’ of music distribution. No going back. So now we have iTunes and other stuff and record companies don’t look like they once did. Likewise, maybe Udacity isn’t the future, but the ‘story’ changes after recent, dramatic successes. That’s a wishy-washy way for me to put it, but it is one of those ‘the revolution is coming but we can’t know what it will be like yet’ prophecies, which are inherently – and sensibly! but frustratingly! – bet-hedging. Here’s a slightly more concrete way to cash out ‘story’: we tend to operate with notions of the proper form and function of the university that are too closely tied to pictures of the ideal college experience that are, really, too atypical to function as paradigms. ‘We’ meaning pretty much everyone still: academics, our students, their parents. Shirky’s idea is that MOOCs are going to unbundle a lot of stuff. You don’t have to buy the 4-year package to get some learning. It’s pretty obvious there’s more unbundling to come – it’s gonna make buying individual tracks on iTunes seem a minor innovation – and it will put pressure on current higher education’s strong tendency to bundle a lot of functions together to the point of indistinguishability (teaching, research, socialization, credentialing). Beyond that, the success stories about these MOOC’s are going to shift our sense of what is ‘normal’ to such a degree that there will be no going back. It has a lot to do with how previously under-served populations will inevitably be much better served; that’s going to become too obvious for old ways of doing it to continue to seem at the center of higher education. (Now I’m back to being vague, while also sounding radical. Sorry about that. Read Clay’s piece on all this – probably you’ll have to wait for his blog not to be down, which it appears to be at the moment.) [click to continue…]
Merry X-Mas, CT’ers! Here’s a seasonal something I whipped up a while back, then reworked, which I’m releasing now as a convenient PDF. “A Truly Awful Christmas Volume – A Visitation of Sog-Nug-Hotep” (PDF – and a big one at that. Approx 18 megs, 58 pages. Looks good on an iPad.). The usual sort of faux-Lovecraftian horsing around, you understand. But that really never gets old – relatively speaking. I am proud of my lettering.
It’s too damn late for you to do much online shopping, but if it weren’t, I’d recommend my friend Josh Glenn’s book, Unbored: The Essential Field Guide to Serious Fun, for the kids. His book is better than that boring old Daring Book For Girls and Dangerous Book For Boys, or whatever they were called. I’m glad to see that Josh’s title is selling healthily without me giving it an appropriate pre-X-Mas boost. But you might file away Unbored as a notion, for a later occasion. Or check out Josh’s series on Radium Age SF. Healthy stuff, in large doses!
If you need it by Christmas, and you want to support someone who is also my friend, you might gift someone Adam Roberts, I Am Scrooge: A Zombie Story for Christmas, available on Kindle. An “I Am Legend” “Christmas Carol” mash-up, you will quickly perceive. I was hoping for more of a plummy, Dickens voice. But Roberts went for a Lemony Snicket-y thing, I should say. Nothing wrong with that! But I assure you that his fake horrors-of-Christmas etymologies are not the real deal. Mine are!
Mark Steyn: “Just to be clear: I think Obama won the election, and his victory represents the will of the American people. Which is why the Democrats should have heeded Mubarak’s words and not over-stolen it.”
Glad we cleared that up!
My new research project, with my older daughter, is going to be Arthurian stuff. Specifically: what’s up with The Nine Morgens? That’s a lot of Morgens, kicking around in Avalon! (How ‘bout them apples!) Don’t seem to be so many stories about them. So I’ve ordered this book [amazon], and Zoe is going to read this book, and I figure I should probably reread Marion Zimmer Bradley, Mists of Avalon. So that’s my first question for you, readers. Good books about the women of Avalon? [click to continue…]
Andrew Sullivan writes. “When you see an unexpected and sharply upward trend in inequality and want to accelerate it some more, you have ceased to be a conservative.”
As Sullivan goes on to confess, there was a time when he himself saw such an inequality trend, and cheered it on. He now wants to say this was ‘complacency’. But I don’t think he would go so far as to say that he has only in the recent past converted to conservatism, having only since 2007 or so shed a view that previously disqualified him from holding that position. So why should Erick Erickson, say, be disqualified from being a conservative? [click to continue…]
As mentioned in a recent post, I got to go to Texas for a conference on Conservatism sponsored by Sanford Levinson. Unfortunately, that was the day some joker decided to call in a fake bomb threat. So we ended up evacuated and reconvened in Sandy’s living room. Which was congenial, actually. But no PowerPoint, so I didn’t get to use the cartoons I whipped up that were supposed to allow me to make some basic points in admirably compressed fashion. So let me lay that bit out. [click to continue…]
So I click over to the Corner to see how they are spinning Romney’s fresh troubles. I like John O’Sullivan’s moxie. Basically, Romney should say 1) he’s not backing off; 2) in saying 47% of Americans pay no income tax, thereby implying they are freeloaders, i.e. pay no taxes, he was just forgetting that up is up, not down. Could happen to anyone. “We pay so many taxes that we sometimes forget how many and how much, as I briefly did.” 3) - 8) are some suggestions about how to finesse 2). We need to lower taxes on these freeloaders! Freeloaders are made of taxpayers!
But I think the really important step is probably 9). I can’t imagine why O’Sullivan didn’t give this step its own number. So far as I can tell, it’s absolutely crucial to the whole scheme not coming down around Romney’s ears. “Romney should then leave without taking questions.”
It almost seems unnecessary, but Freeloadergate opens the way for attack ads suggesting Romney is gearing up to expand the War On Women into a three-front war against Women, Children and the Elderly. (It’s like the Romney campaign is turning into one big parody inversion of the protocols for abandoning ship.) Just do a montage of pictures of smiling children - at play, in school, with their families - and nice retirees - in their homes, pictures of their younger, working selves around them - with a brutal ‘FREELOADER’ stamped across each face. And the audio of Romney over it all.
The wages of talking such nonsense really ought to be getting blasted with ads that take the nonsense at face value. Let Romney clean up the mess.
Amazon is having a $2.99 MP3 album sale [SALE’S OVER] that includes a surprisingly large number of really good selections, should your collection lack them (and if you are an old-fashioned fogey, like me, who still pays for music.) Get your Dark Side of the Moon, or Speaking In Tongues, or Heroes, thereby closing that gap in the list. May I recommend: [click to continue…]
The Awl has an interesting piece about papercraft in prison. Obviously that’s the sort of thing boingboing would link to. Next week: prisoner-modded ‘steampunk’ shanks, stylized prison-breaks as YouTube responses to OK Go videos, and associated ‘yardsourced’ projects (Clinkstarter), with all the (brass) trimmings: ‘Help me fulfill my dream of building a giant dirigible in solitary confinement!’ ‘Help me turn my cell toilet into a working trebuchet!’ On a more serious note, the article neglects one of the most notorious episodes in prison papercraft history, from Action Comics #267: [click to continue…]