October 3, 2020

Posted by orrinj at 7:41 PM



After spending months denying the dangers of COVID-19, Trump is expressing an emotion aides have rarely seen: fear. On Friday, Trump grew visibly anxious as his fever spiked to 103 fahrenheit and he was administered oxygen at the White House, according to three Republicans close to the White House. Two sources told me Trump experienced heart palpitations on Friday night--possible side effects of the experimental antibody treatment he received. Trump has wondered aloud if he could defeat the disease. "Am I going out like Stan Chera?" Trump has asked aides, referring to his friend, New York real-estate developer Stan Chera, who died of COVID in April.

Posted by orrinj at 7:22 PM


Buying Nazism: In the early years of Nazi rule, the vagueness of much Nazi ideology enabled many Germans to see in Nazism what they wanted to see. (Bill Niven, 10/02/20,  History Today)

Föllmer's understanding of culture is broad. Often he uses it to mean lifestyle. It was here that the Nazis offered much. Föllmer explores how consumerism boomed in the early years of the Third Reich (and even, for a time, during the war). For all that Nazism was a dictatorship, ordinary non-Jewish Germans felt they had choices they had not had before. As the economy improved, Germans travelled widely, a process supported by Nazi organisations such as Strength Through Joy, which offered a range of affordable holidays. Travel-writing journalism developed as a form. The Nazis made theatre and concerts available to wider audiences. For artists who had been struggling to make ends meet during the Weimar Republic, the corporate organisation of the arts under Goebbels brought with it the prospect of social insurance (if patchy) and of course employment - especially as the Jews and other artists considered 'undesirable' by the Nazis were squeezed out.

Again and again Föllmer shows how it was precisely the vagueness of much Nazi ideology, at least in the early years of Nazi rule, that appealed to many Germans, because it enabled them to see in Nazism what they wanted to see. Often it was enough that the Nazis seemed to be committed to ideas of national pride and regeneration - that this commitment involved excluding Jews was all too wilfully overlooked. Nazi ideas of völkisch unity meshed with an expanding participation in bourgeois traditions and modern trends (for instance, in design and clothing) in ways which made this exclusion easier to accept. Föllmer demonstrates how easy it was for German teachers, academics, artists and others to 'buy' into Nazism. 

I think it was Stephen Hayes who I first heard describe Trumpism as less a political movement than a lifestyle brand--per the American Marketing Association:

"A lifestyle brand is a company that markets its products or services to embody the interests, attitudes, and opinions of a group or a culture. Lifestyle brands seek to inspire, guide, and motivate people, with the goal of their products contributing to the definition of the consumer's way of life."  Certainly the confluence of yoga and Qanon (conspirituality) suggests the truth of the claim.

Posted by orrinj at 7:09 PM


Lies at the Heart of Identity Politics (Philip Carl Salzman, September 30, 2020, Doc Emet Productions)

Identity politics was born and nurtured in universities, in women's and feminist studies, in gay and queer studies, in black and ethnic studies, Islamic studies, and in whiteness studies. Whiteness studies is the only one to take as its mandate the vilification of its subject population; the others frame their subject populations as victims of white and male oppression. Under the now official and exclusive university policy of "diversity and inclusion," universities have jettisoned universalistic criteria such as achievement, merit, and potential, now regarded by "progressives" as "male supremacist talking points," in favor of sex, race, and sexuality bases for selection, preferences, and benefits.

What "diversity and inclusion" means in practice is that females, African Americans, and Hispanics, and, in Canada, members of First Nations, are given preferences, funding, and special benefits, while better qualified males, Jews and other whites, and Asian Americans and Asian Canadians are excluded to make places for the preferred. This is the most prominent form of systemic racism that exists in North America today. Furthermore, what "diversity" never means is diversity of thought and opinion, for deviations from the far-left narratives are punished, those taking a critical view of identity politics are "cancelled," marginalized and fired. Universities have entirely abandoned academic values in favor of so-called "social justice" identity politics.

Identity politics celebrates the idea that people should be judged, not as individuals, but on the basis of their sex and race, but also by their claimed identity, whether sexual, ethnic, or religious. What a marvelous formula for dividing people, and setting them at odds and in conflict with one another. This is a strategy by its advocates to gain power for their subgroup at the expense of others. Where groups are small, "intersectional" alliances are called for to strengthen their challenge to their target. Is the feminist strategy any more than anti-male sexism? Is the race activist strategy any more than anti-white racism? Treating people according to their census category rather than as individuals is deeply illiberal, a violation of equality before the law, and thus a violation of their human rights. Dividing the population according to their census categories rather than viewing others as fellow citizens is deeply antisocial and anti-American.

Posted by orrinj at 7:01 PM


Early Works by Edward Hopper Found to Be Copies of Other Artists (Blake Gopnik, Sept. 28, 2020, NY Times)

Most grad students in art history dream of discovering an unknown work by whatever great artist they are studying. Louis Shadwick has achieved just the opposite: In researching his doctorate on Edward Hopper, for the storied Courtauld Institute in London, Mr. Shadwick has discovered that three of the great American's earliest oil paintings, from the 1890s, can only barely count as his original images. Two are copies of paintings Mr. Shadwick found reproduced in a magazine for amateur artists published in the years before Hopper's paintings. The reproductions even came with detailed instructions for making the copies.

Mr. Shadwick spells out his discovery in the October issue of The Burlington Magazine, a venerable art historical journal."It was real detective work," Mr. Shadwick explained, Zooming from his sunny apartment in London. At 30, he's older than most of his graduate-school peers because of a longish spell fronting an alt-rock trio (White Kite), a past not revealed in the blue button-down he wore when we talked and his close-cropped dark hair. Mr. Shadwick was working out the earliest influences on Hopper's art -- one aspect of his Ph.D., half-finished so far -- when he figured out that an American Tonalist painter named Bruce Crane (1857-1937) might have played some kind of role.

Then, early this summer, in what Mr. Shadwick called a "eureka moment" of pandemic Googling, he landed on "A Winter Sunset," a painting by Crane from an 1890 issue of The Art Interchange that was an almost perfect match for one of Hopper's teenage works, long known as "Old Ice Pond at Nyack," circa 1897, depicting a winter landscape with a streak of waning light. (A gallery is selling it now, with a price estimate of $375,000; the change in its status might affect buyers' offers.) Mr. Shadwick went on to discover similar sources for all but one of Hopper's first oils.

Posted by orrinj at 6:09 PM


The Southern Hemisphere skipped flu season this year, likely because of social distancing (CNN, 10/01/20)

To measure the potential impact of the coronavirus on flu infections, the CDC evaluated flu activity recorded by the World Health Organization in three "robust sentinel sites" in the Southern Hemisphere -- Australia, Chile and South Africa -- between June and August, typically an active period for flu activity in the hemisphere.

All three sites showed "very low" flu activity, the CDC reported. In Australia, among the 60,031 people tested for the flu, only 33 test results were positive. In Chile, 12 out of 21,178 tests were positive for flu, and in South Africa, only 6 out of almost 2,100 people had the flu.

That's a total of 51 people who tested positive for flu among 83,307 tested, or a 0.06% positivity rate. Previous flu tests from April to June in 2017 through 2019 showed about over 13% flu positivity rate overall in those same countries, the CDC said.

The findings suggest that methods like social distancing, wearing masks and closing schools reduced the number of flu infections in the Southern Hemisphere -- and could do the same in the Northern Hemisphere.

Posted by orrinj at 6:05 PM


The White House Is Spreading Virus and Lies (Olivia Nuzzi and Ben Jacobs, 10/03/20, New York)

The White House is at war with the virus, with itself, and with reality -- though not necessarily in that order.

With President Trump hospitalized for COVID-19 at Walter Reed medical center, officials spent Saturday sowing doubt about his condition instead of offering clarity and reassurance. Doctors and members of the White House staff provided conflicting information about the timeline and progression of the president's illness, making a bad situation even worse. Asked what it's been like for insiders trying to get information about the president and the virus spreading through the government, a senior White House official told Intelligencer, "That's easy. We don't get any."

On Thursday, officials learned that Hope Hicks, one of the president's closest aides, tested positive for COVID-19 just before Trump boarded Marine One en route to a fundraiser at his Bedminster, New Jersey, golf club. The White House sought to keep the story from getting out, which meant keeping much of its own staff -- who, like the president, had been exposed to Hicks -- in the dark. More than a dozen people connected to the White House tested positive by Saturday evening.

"Ninety percent of the [White House] complex most certainly learned about it in the news, as has been the case ever since," the senior official said. "There are reports that COVID is spreading like wildfire through the White House. There are hundreds and hundreds of people who work on-complex, some who have families with high-risk family members. Since this whole thing started, not one email has gone out to tell employees what to do or what's going on."

Posted by orrinj at 5:50 PM


Covering a cover-up in real time (Jonathan Swan, 10/03/20, Axios)

On Friday night, we chose not to publish information we'd learned from well-placed sources who told us the president had experienced a fever and was worse than the White House was letting on.

We chose not to publish because we weren't certain enough it was correct, and it was no time to lower our editorial standards.

Today, when we saw the doctors line up outside Walter Reed in their white lab coats, we thought we might finally get clarity.

The picture painted by the White House physician, Navy Commander Dr. Sean Conley, was rosy: Trump was in good spirits -- so good, apparently, he had been fever-free for 24 hours, and felt he could have walked out of Walter Reed today.

The Q&A didn't engender confidence. Trump's doctor was repeatedly evasive on the question of whether he'd received supplemental oxygen. But the picture remained rosy.

Then, minutes after the doctors' press conference, something extraordinary happened that crystallized this White House's credibility gap, and made a mockery of any reporter trying to responsibly cover this president's condition.

Posted by orrinj at 3:01 PM


Special treatment for the powerful? (Scott Sumner, 10/03/20, EconLib)

Should powerful people be treated differently? Should they get special treatment? Should their bad behavior be more easily excused?

...is that the special treatment is going to a VA hospital that the Right is hysterical about.

Posted by orrinj at 10:10 AM


Tear Down the Global Berlin Wall (Sir, Michael Cianci September 27, 2020, Exponents)

Whether it's wily immigrants stealing jobs, the perceived loss of culture, or demographic shifts threatening the 'whiteness' of America, there's nothing the populist-right likes to raise more than the threat of immigration. A triumvirate of Tucker Carlson,  Laura Ingraham, and Donald Trump want Americans to know that Joe Biden and the 'radical left' want to bring open borders to America. Sadly, that is not true. Like much of the developed world, we've put up a 'Berlin Wall' of our own, keeping millions out.

America is an immigrant nation, and American attitudes towards immigration are largely positive. Despite that, a sizable portion of Americans harbor many of those anxieties about immigration, and they are fueled by President Trump and his cronies. For them, open borders, would be chaos. And, contrary to what the right may say, those on the left aren't very receptive to the notion either. But the case for open borders is clear--not just as immigration policy, but also as foreign policy.

Imagine a world, to quote economist Bryan Caplan, author of the nonfiction graphic-novel, Open Borders: the Science and Ethics of Immigration, where "all nationalities are free to live and work in any nation they like". That's the world of open borders.

There is no denying that over the last quarter century global incomes have increased, poverty has decreased, and total global inequality has decreased. Seemingly, we live in the most prosperous era humanity has ever seen. Despite this period of global prosperity, suffering still persists. This begs what Caplan calls the "hundred-trillion-dollar question": why don't people from poor countries just go to rich countries to share the prosperity? [...]

Caplan's case for 'open borders' is pretty simple. First, Caplan establishes the economic benefits of such a policy. For many reasons, especially technological advances, workers are more productive in the developed world. If workers were able to come to the U.S. and work, they'd be massively more productive--even low-skilled ones. This is great for the economy because more productive workers produce more goods and services. [...]

Open borders would be even more of a boon for U.S. soft power. Soft power is the ability of a country to get what it wants through co-option rather than coercion. The U.S. already enjoys cultural hegemony and continues to be a top destination for immigrants. Imagine the boost the U.S. could get if it opened its borders to all who could come? Forging even greater societal and cultural links with the world would allow for the U.S. to exercise its power in restrained, cost-effective manner (rather than relying on force), to achieve its national needs.

Posted by orrinj at 9:38 AM


One Billion Americans: What if Leftists Loved America, and Conservatives Were Cosmopolitan Again? : a review of One Billion Americans by Matt Yglesias (Alex Armlovich, September 21, 2020, Exponents)

The book proposes we achieve One Billion Americans by two paths: The first is growing the existing US population by materially supporting American families. Most US women report having fewer children than they would like, in large part because of the high costs of childcare, education, and scarce family-friendly urban housing near good jobs. Weak parental leave and childcare options force high-income women into a tough choice between career and family, while a safety net system that tolerates child poverty leaves low-income women caring for children in conditions that would shock a middle-class conscience. Zoning regulations beginning in the 20th Century that forbid traditional "granny flats" and duplexes in suburbs (and on most land in most cities) prevent multigenerational families from living together affordably to share elder and childcare. These and similar other problems are technically fixable problems and the book offers a sensible framework for solving them without getting bogged down in the details of any one of many reasonable policy approaches.

The second way to achieve One Billion Americans is to increase legal immigration in the national interest. America was a nation of nations founded on the idea that anyone who believes in the Enlightenment ideals enshrined in our founding documents can become an American. Regardless of faith or race or partisan politics, anyone can swear an oath to uphold our Constitution and pledge allegiance to our flag--and it just so happens that at least 158 million adults around the world told Gallup that they would like very much to do just that.

Mr. Yglesias endorses two main approaches to steadily increasing immigration in the national interest. First, a "points-based" approach to targeting high-skilled and English-speaking immigrants as the first immigration priority in the national interest. This skill priority approach is already successful in Canada, Australia, and the UK. Second is a "place-based visa" approach for immigrants at a variety of skill levels, as suggested by the economist Adam Ozimek. It would allow regions that have lost population--from the Rust Belt to Appalachia to rural towns--to sponsor immigrant visas to fill up otherwise-abandoned homes and shops and offices. While still a new idea, it shows promise in repopulating shrinking cities and regions without imposing internal borders to enforce the visa locations: Those who voluntarily stay in the sponsoring regions would be rewarded with green card eligibility, while those who don't go to the back of the immigration line.

The rest of the book concerns the nitty-gritty of accommodating a larger population while stopping climate change--which, on a technical level at least, is eminently achievable. The initial millions of place-based visas could repopulate the Rust Belt, New England's small towns, and any other place in America hungering for a return to their greatness and energy in the early 20th Century. Beyond that, we would need to permit a lot more housing to be built, especially near transit. We would need to build a lot of new mass transit and sustainable infrastructure of all kinds in order to decarbonize, densify, and expand America's urban environment while preserving America's vast and pristine rural environment. We would need things like congestion pricing and parking pricing to manage America's existing traffic problems and prevent them from getting any worse. We've pulled off incredible growth in an earlier America, when millions of immigrants built cities like Chicago from a town of 30,000 in 1850 up to one of the world's largest cities by 1900. We even do it today in growth-friendly places like Houston, though regrettably without Chicago's environmentally friendly system of electric trains. Mr. Yglesias treats all these solvable technical problems--including preventing further climate change and adapting to baked-in climate change while growing--in reasonable detail.

The ambition is entirely admirable, but ignores one key reform.  The United States is already too large for optimal governance at 300+ million citizens.  Too many of us feel too disconnected from the central government, which inevitably undermines its legitimacy.  Just as at the Founding we knit a set of polities that considered themselves whole into a greater whole, so too ought we now stitch a set of discrete regions into a United Nations of America.  This would simply require establishing a set of associated constitutional republics with an overarching, but strictly limited, central authority. 

Posted by orrinj at 9:26 AM


"No One Knows Where This Is Going to Go": Pandemonium Inside the White House as Trump Contracts COVID-19 (GABRIEL SHERMAN, OCTOBER 2, 2020, Vanity Fair)

Hicks is said to be frustrated with Trump for taking such a cavalier approach to the virus. She was one of the few West Wing staffers to wear a mask in meetings, which her colleagues chided her for. "She was made fun of because she wore a mask," a friend said. Sources told me Hicks is also upset that news coverage has made it appear that she gave Trump the virus, when in fact no one knows where he got it. "It's so unfair she's sort of being blamed," the friend told me. 

Hope Hicks, the White House counselor who lets 'Trump be Trump' (PAUL HANDLEY, 10/02/20, AFP)

Her skill, according to a number of accounts, is channelling Trump's own thinking into messaging and, for media consumption, letting "Trump be Trump."

Posted by orrinj at 9:06 AM


Wind and solar supply more than 50 pct of Australia's main grid for first time (Giles Parkinson, 3 October 2020, Renew Economy)

The share of renewable energy broke new records for the third consecutive day on Saturday, with wind and solar providing more than 50 per cent of the demand on Australia's main grid for the first time, and for more than three hours.

Posted by orrinj at 8:59 AM


A Fox News host has cast Trump as a war hero who got the coronavirus because he 'put himself on the line' (Sinéad Baker, 10/03/20, Business Insider)

Gutfeld said: "He didn't hide from the virus. The reason he didn't hide from the virus is he didn't want America to hide from the virus. If he was going to ask America to get back to work, right? To get back to work and experience a risk, he was going to do the same thing.

...Quintus Servilius Caepio.  

Posted by orrinj at 8:55 AM


Virology versus idiots - This pandemic is making a point (Paul Wallis, 10/02/20, Digital Journal)

Current figures for the pandemic showed that the infection rate is rock solid with an immovable baseline of about 200,000 cases per day worldwide. The total number of cases worldwide is approximately 34,000,000 according to Johns Hopkins.  That's in a period of approximately 7 - 8 months.

At this rate, next year the number will be 68 million. The ongoing strain on economies, public health, and everything else, not to say peace of mind as well, will be extraordinary. The sheer cost and scope of this pandemic to date should be a warning to anyone that things can get drastically worse, very quickly.

The sudden need for vast amounts of research at breakneck speed doesn't exactly help, either. Researchers are being put in a particularly thankless position, having to assess new strains of the virus, track the infection rate, more than the pathology, and virtually do all the required research almost from scratch. This is what happens when you ignore branches of science.

Arguably much worse, the politicisation of the pandemic has also produced some very dodgy things like HCQ, even dodgier urban mythology, and blatant disinformation.

All this drivel has produced some of the greatest medical absurdities in history, with no even remotely plausible excuses at all. HCQ was research in Germany a couple of months after the start of the pandemic and found to be utterly useless. A few months after that, we have the revelation that the president of the United States, no less, is taking this stuff. Can anyone think of a better outcome? This nonsense was inflicted on the public at a time of extreme danger.

The problem with this coronavirus is that it is getting good at infecting people. It is not yet proven that of the new strains are more infectious, however, the fact that the infection rate is remaining extremely high does make a point.

The sheer level of irresponsibility of this type of imbecilic management cannot be overstated. The secondary effects of the virus are particularly nasty, including blood clots, vision loss, strokes, and of course death, presumably just to give people a choice. The management of information on this pandemic has been nothing less than shambolic, and has made the situation much worse than it ever should have been.

Presumably we've all had that initially odd experience of seeing Asian tourists wearing face masks and wondered why.  Turns out, it's because they aren't idiots.

Posted by orrinj at 8:48 AM


Michigan's effort to end gerrymandering revives a practice rooted in ancient Athens (John Rothchild, 9/30/20, The Conversation)

Unlike any other state, Michigan selected its 13 commission members almost entirely by lot from among those who applied for the position.

All Michigan registered voters who met the eligibility criteria - which excluded holders of political office and lobbyists, for example - were eligible to apply.

From 9,367 applicants, the secretary of state randomly selected 200 semifinalists. The process resulted in 60 Democrats, 60 Republicans and 80 independents. By the terms of the ballot initiative, the four leaders of the Michigan Legislature then eliminated 20 of those semifinalists.

In August 2020, the secretary of state randomly selected the 13 commissioners from the pool of 180 candidates - four Democrats, four Republicans and five independents, as required.

The commission - made up of citizens with no special qualifications for the office - will now perform one of the most important roles in a democratic system: creating the districts from which Michigan's state and federal legislators will be elected.

Random selection in ancient Athens
With the exception of court juries, the random selection of citizens to fill government office is almost unheard of. But it was not always that way.

Random selection was a prominent feature of ancient Athens, the birthplace of democracy. In the fifth and fourth centuries B.C., most important government offices were filled by lottery. The Athenians considered this selection of officials a hallmark of democracy. [...]

How, then, should Michigan's decision to assign unskilled members of the public the job of drawing nonpartisan election districts be evaluated?

Redistricting is a complex task. Michigan's Constitution says that the districts must be drawn in compliance with federal law. That includes a requirement that voting districts have roughly the same population. It also requires that the districts "reflect the state's diverse population and communities of interest," and "not provide a disproportionate advantage to any political party."

Dividing the map to meet all of these criteria is not likely to be within the capabilities of a group of randomly selected citizens.

There are several reasons to think that the redistricting commission will nevertheless prove adequate to the task.

First, the constitution authorizes the commission to hire "independent, nonpartisan subject-matter experts and legal counsel" to assist them. Second, there's precedent in government for citizens who have no specialized skills: Juries composed of randomly selected citizens regularly decide cases that are enormously complicated. An antitrust case may involve thousands of pages of documents. And a patent infringement case may require an understanding of complex engineering issues.

[You're smart and curious about the world. So are The Conversation's authors and editors. You can read us daily by subscribing to our newsletter.]

Finally, considering how far the Michigan Legislature's efforts have fallen short of achieving the fundamental democratic goal of selecting representatives who reflect the views of their constituents, there is reason to think that a balanced group of unskilled citizens will do better.

Bill Buckley smiled.
Posted by orrinj at 8:35 AM


Distance: The game belongs to Bob Gibson. (Roger Angell, September 22, 1980, The New Yorker)

Bob Gibson's one-game World Series record of seventeen strikeouts stands intact, and so do my memories of that famous afternoon. In recent weeks, I have firmed up my recollections by consulting the box score and the inning-by-inning recapitulations of the game, by watching filmed highlights of the play, and by talking to a number of participants, including Gibson himself. (He had had no idea, he told me, that he was close to a record that afternoon. "You're concentrating so hard out there that you don't think of those things," he said.) Gibson seemed to take absolute charge of that game in the second inning, when he struck out the side on eleven pitches. By the end of four innings, he had run off eight strikeouts. Not until I reëxamined the box score, however, did I realize that there had been only two ground-ball outs by the Tigers in the course of nine innings. This, too, must be a record (baseball statistics, for once, don't tell us), but the phenomenally low figure, when taken along with the seventeen strikeouts, suggests what kind of pitching the Tiger batters were up against that afternoon. Most National League batters in the nineteen-sixties believed that Gibson's fastball compared only with the blazers thrown by the Dodgers' Sandy Koufax (who retired in 1966 with an arthritic elbow) and by the Reds' Jim Maloney. Gibson's pitch flashed through the strike zone with a unique, upward-moving, right-to-left sail that snatched it away from a right-handed batter or caused it to jump up and in at a left-handed swinger--a natural break of six to eight inches--and hitters who didn't miss the ball altogether usually fouled it off or nudged it harmlessly into the air. The pitch, which was delivered with a driving, downward flick of Gibson's long forefinger and middle finger (what pitchers call "cutting the ball"), very much resembled an inhumanly fast slider, and was often taken for such by batters who were unfamiliar with his stuff. Joe Pepitone, of the Yankees, concluded the All-Star Game of 1965 by fanning on three successive Gibson fastballs and then shook his head and called out to the pitcher, "Throw me that slider one more time!" Gibson, to be sure, did have a slider--a superior breaking pitch that arrived, disconcertingly, at about three-quarters of the speed of the fastball and, most of the time, with exquisite control. Tim McCarver, who caught Gibson longer than anyone else, says that Gibson became a great pitcher during the summer of 1966 (his sixth full season in the majors), when he achieved absolute mastery of the outside corner of the plate while pitching to right-handed batters and--it was the same pitch, of course--the inside corner to left-handed batters. He could hit this sliver of air with his fastball or his slider with equal consistency, and he worked the opposite edge of the plate as well. "He lived on the corners," McCarver said. A third Gibson delivery was a fastball that broke downward instead of up and away; for this pitch, he held the ball with his fingers parallel to the seams (instead of across the seams, as was the case with the sailer), and he twisted his wrist counterclockwise as he threw--"turning it over," in mound parlance. He also had a curveball, adequate but unextraordinary, that he threw mostly to left-handers and mostly for balls, to set up an ensuing fastball. But it was the combination of the devastating slider and the famous fastball (plus some other, less tangible assets that we shall get to in time) that made Gibson almost untouchable at his best, just as Sandy Koufax's down-diving curveball worked in such terrible (to hitters) concert with his illustrious upriding fastball.

"Hitting is rhythm," McCarver said to me, "and if you allow major-league hitters to see only one pitch--to swing repeatedly through a certain area of the plate--eventually they'll get to you and begin to hit it, even if it's a great fastball. But anybody who can control and switch off between two first-class pitches will make the hitters start reaching, either in or out, and then the game belongs to the pitcher. Besides all that, Bob had such great stuff and was so intimidating out there that he'd make the batter open up his front shoulder just a fraction too fast, no matter what the count was. The other key to good hitting, of course, is keeping that shoulder--the left shoulder for a right-handed batter, I mean, and vice versa--in place, and the most common flaw is pulling it back. Gibson had guys pulling back that shoulder who normally wouldn't be caught dead doing it. Their ass was in the dugout, as we say."

Mike Shannon, who played third base behind Gibson in the 1968 Series opening game (he didn't handle the ball once), remembers feeling pity for the Detroit batters that afternoon. "Most of them had never seen Gibby before," he said, "and they had no idea what they were up against." Shannon, who is now a television game announcer with the Cards, told me that he encounters some of the 1968 Tigers from time to time in the course of his baseball travels, and that they almost compulsively want to talk about the game. "It's as if they can't believe it to this day," he said. "But neither can I. I've never seen major-league hitters overmatched that way. It was like watching a big-league pitcher against Little League batters. It was frightening."

Gibson, of course, was already a celebrated winning pitcher by 1968. Like many other fans, I had first become aware of his fastball and his unique pitching mannerisms and his burning intensity on the mound when he won two out of the three games he pitched against the Yankees in the 1964 World Series, including a tense, exhausting victory in the pennant-clinching seventh game. Then, in 1967, I had watched him capture three of the Cardinals' four October victories over the Red Sox, again including the seventh game--a feat that won him the Most Valuable Player award for that Series. I had also seen him work eight or ten regular-season games over the previous five years or more. Although he was of only moderate size for a pitcher--six feet one and about a hundred and eighty-five pounds--Gibson always appeared to take up a lot of space on the mound, and the sense of intimidation that McCarver mentioned had something to do with his sombre, almost funereal demeanor as he stared in at his catcher, with his cap pulled low over his black face and strong jaw, and with the ball held behind his right hip (he always wore a sweatshirt under his uniform, with the long, Cardinals-red sleeves extending all the way down to his wrists), and with his glove cocked on his left hip, parallel to the ground. Everything about him looked mean and loose--arms, elbows, shoulders, even his legs--as, with a quick little shrug, he launched into his delivery. When there was no one on base, he had an old-fashioned full crank-up, with the right foot turning in mid-motion to slip into its slot in front of the mound and his long arms coming together over his head before his backward lean, which was deep enough to require him to peer over his left shoulder at his catcher while his upraised left leg crooked and kicked. The ensuing sustained forward drive was made up of a medium-sized stride of that leg and a blurrily fast, slinglike motion of the right arm, which came over at about three-quarters height and then snapped down and (with the fastball and the slider) across his left knee. It was not a long drop-down delivery like Tom Seaver's (for contrast), or a tight, brisk, body-opening motion like Whitey Ford's.

The pitch, as I have said, shot across the plate with a notable amount of right-to-left (from Gibson's vantage point) action, and his catchers sometimes gave the curious impression that they were cutting off a ball that was headed on a much longer journey--a one-hundred-foot fastball. But with Gibson pitching you were always a little distracted from the plate and the batter, because his delivery continued so extravagantly after the ball was released that you almost felt that the pitch was incidental to the whole affair. The follow-through sometimes suggested a far-out basketball move--a fast downcourt feint. His right leg, which was up and twisted to the right in the air as the ball was let go (all normal enough for a right-handed pitcher), now continued forward in a sudden sidewise rush, crossing his planted left leg, actually stepping over it, and he finished with a full running step toward the right-field foul line, which wrenched his body in the same direction, so that he now had to follow the flight of the ball by peering over his right shoulder. Both his arms whirled in the air to help him keep his balance during this acrobatic maneuver, but the key to his overpowering speed and stuff was not the strength of his pitching arm--it was the powerful, driving thrust of his legs, culminating in that final extra step, which brought his right foot clomping down on the sloping left-hand side of the mound, with the full weight of his body slamming and twisting behind it. (Gibson's arm never gave him undue trouble, but he had serious difficulties with his knees in the latter stages of his career, and eventually had to have a torn cartilage removed from the right knee, which had pushed off to start all the tens of thousands of his pitches over the years and had then had to withstand the punishing force of the last stage of his unique delivery.) All in all, the pitch and its extended amplifications made it look as if Gibson were leaping at the batter, with hostile intent. He always looked much closer to the plate at the end than any other pitcher; he made pitching seem unfair.

The players in the Detroit clubhouse after Gibson's seventeen-strikeout game had none of the aggrieved, blustery manner of batters on a losing team who wish to suggest that only bad luck or their own bad play kept them from putting away a pitcher who has just beaten them. Denny McLain, the starting Tiger pitcher, who had won thirty-one games that summer but had lasted only five innings in the Series opener, said, "I was awed. I was awed," and Dick McAuliffe, the Detroit second baseman, said that he could think of no one he had ever faced with whom Gibson could be compared. "He doesn't remind me of anybody," he said. "He's all by himself."

I was awed, too, of course, but nothing I had seen on the field at Busch Stadium that afternoon startled me as much as Gibson's postgame comportment in the clubhouse. In October of 1964 and again in 1967, I had noticed that Bob Gibson often appeared to be less elated than his teammates in the noisy, jam-packed, overexuberant World Series locker rooms--a man at a little distance from the crowd. But somehow I must have expected that his astounding performance here in the 1968 opener would change him--that his record-breaking turn on the mound would make him more lighthearted and accommodating; he would be smiling and modest and self-depreciating, but also joyful about his feat, and this would diminish that almost immeasurable distance he had just established, out on the field, between himself and the rest of us. He would seem boyish, in short, and we, the grown-up watchers of the game, would then be able to call him by his first name (even if we didn't know him), and forgive him for what he had done, and thus to love him, as is the ancient custom in these high sporting dramas. But Gibson was unchanged. Talking to the sportswriters gathered in a thick, uncomfortable crowd around his locker, he looked at each reporter who asked him a question (Gibson is an exceptionally handsome man, with small ears, very dark skin, and a strikingly direct gaze) and then answered it gravely and briefly. When one writer asked him if he had always been as competitive as he had seemed on this day, he said yes, and he added that he had played several hundred games of ticktacktoe against one of his young daughters and that she had yet to win a game from him. He said this with a little smile, but it seemed to me that he meant it: he couldn't let himself lose to anyone. Then someone asked him if he had been surprised by what he had just done on the field, and Gibson said, "I'm never surprised by anything I do."

The shock of this went out across the ten-deep bank of writer faces like a seismic wave, and the returning, murmurous counterwaves of reaction were made up of uneasy laughter and whispers of "What did he say?" and some ripples of disbelieving silence and (it seemed to me) a considerable, almost visible wave of dislike, or perhaps hatred. This occasion, it should be remembered, was before the time when players' enormous salaries and their accompanying television-bred notoriety had given birth to a kind of athlete who could choose to become famous for his sullenness and foul temper, just as another might be identified by his gentle smile and unvarying sweetness of disposition. In 1968, ballplayers, particularly black ballplayers in near-Southern cities like St. Louis, did not talk outrageously to the press. Bob Gibson, however, was not projecting an image but telling us a fact about himself. He was beyond us, it seemed, but the truth of the matter is that no one at Busch Stadium should have been much surprised by his achievement that afternoon, for it was only a continuation of the kind of pitching he had sustained all through that summer of 1968--a season in which he won twenty-two games for the Cardinals while losing nine, and also compiled an earned-run average of 1.12 runs per game: the best pitching performance, by that measurement, in the history of modern baseball.

Posted by orrinj at 8:25 AM


Democracy vs Liberty in Annelien De Dijn's Freedom: An Unruly History (Michael Hoffman, October 1, 2020, Liberal Currents)

In a book covering such a great stretch of time, one should expect some simplification. In large part Freedom appears to do so judiciously and without much loss of nuance. However, the effort to portray democracy and liberty as representing fully separable intellectual combatants leaves at least one casualty that is hard to justify. John Locke is portrayed as embracing the ancient, democratic conception of freedom rather than a freedom centered on non-interference. I expect I would not be the only reader to find this a rather incomplete characterization of Locke's views. Locke famously argued that popular sovereignty followed from natural rights, and combined majoritarian decision making with clear limits on legislative authority. His theory of property and its influence on advocates for limited government is notorious. So instead of repeated salvos across an impregnable divide we have Locke, among a long line of political theorists, attempting to reconcile popular sovereignty and individual liberty. 

Freedom presents the concept of limited government as a rhetorical rather than substantive innovation, whose sole function has been to stifle nascent democratic movements and safeguard economic privilege. In short, De Dijn concludes that "concerns about the illiberal nature of democracy were sparked by fears about its redistributive effects" rather than genuine concerns about personal autonomy.  Freedom argues convincingly that limited government rhetoric has been repeatedly--and often to great effect--used in this way. But Freedom often leaves by the wayside any legitimate rationale for finite legislative power, enumerated rights, or independent courts. This omission is convenient for De Dijn's argument but might leave the reader wondering whether there are any justifiable boundaries on legislative authority and majority decision-making. Can majorities dictate religious beliefs, expropriate property without recourse, or incarcerate individuals without trial? We might take these boundaries for granted in secular, liberal democracies, but a model of governance based entirely on popular sovereignty and simple majority rule must reckon with these questions much more directly than Freedom does. One could argue that enumerated rights are mere "parchment barriers" or that majoritarian democracies are in fact highly respectful of individual rights, but Freedom does not make these arguments nor elaborate on any related evidence.

Should we think of the freedoms of the ancients and moderns as opposites, or something else? I think these concepts are closer than De Dijn argues, even in their ancient origins. While the popular sovereignty of Athens was a valuable institution and point of pride for Athenian citizens, it was not solely an end in itself. The free Athenian man was not merely an enthusiast for legislative procedure, he was engaged in a process to preserve his personal sovereignty, his right to make private decisions without requiring the permission of a master (or, by and large, a magistrate). Scholars of democratic Athens have documented, for example, respect for free speech as well as the importance of the rule of law in promoting private autonomy. Moreover, even when democracy and liberty represent clear and distinct concepts, it is plausible that a middle ground between them can secure both more dependably.

Republican liberty is dependent on democracy but also restricts it.  The key is that the majority be free to utilize the powers of the republic so long as they apply universally--limiting the majority, not just the minority; benefitting the minority, not just the majority.  

Posted by orrinj at 8:16 AM


Mitch McConnell's legacy is a conservative Supreme Court shaped by his calculated audacity (Al Cross, 10/01/20, The Conversation)

For most of the 40-plus years I have watched McConnell, first as a reporter covering Kentucky politics and now as a journalism professor focused on rural issues, he seemed to have no great ambition or goals, other than gaining power and keeping it.

He always cared about the courts, though. In 1987, after Democrats defeated Supreme Court nominee Robert Bork, McConnell warned that if a Democratic president "sends up somebody we don't like" to a Republican-controlled Senate, the GOP would follow suit. He fulfilled that threat in 2016, refusing to confirm Merrick Garland, Obama's pick for the Supreme Court.

Keeping that vacancy open helped elect Donald Trump. Two people could hardly be more different, but the taciturn McConnell and the voluble Trump have at least one thing in common: They want power.

Trump exercises his power with what often seems like reckless audacity, but McConnell's 36-year Senate tenure is built on his calculated audacity.

Unfortunately, the success with the Court is Mitch's only legacy and it represents nothing more than the proper use of Senatorial power.  Otherwise he has just overseen the continued bleeding away of Legislative power to the Executive and Judiciary and essentially killed the actual legislative and oversight functions of the institution.    

Posted by orrinj at 7:51 AM


Julius Caesar's assassins were widely regarded as heroes in Rome: review of The Last Assassin: The Hunt for the Killers of Julius Caesar by Peter Stothard (Philip Womack, September 2020, The Spectator)

Caesar was a tyrant, or near enough: he had a golden throne and his own priest, and he was even offered a crown; which, of course, he magnanimously refused. But did he do so because he really didn't want to be a king, or because he was testing the crowd? His powers as dictator for life were extensive. The Romans, or at least a large section of the aristocrats, were anti-monarchical: they had booted out their kings, the Tarquins, hundreds of years earlier, and they wouldn't stand for such quasi-regal shenanigans now.

The conspirators longed for the ideals of the Roman republic, where each arm of power was constrained. At first, they communicated in code, discussing the Epicurean philosopher Lucretius on power and liberty: it was much safer to talk at tangents. Stothard is excellent on the machinations and the murmurings that recruited the killers (including a somewhat dubious Cicero, who wouldn't do the bloody deed himself but was quite happy to hang about outside while it was happening). Potential members of the group were tested, quietly, in the dark. The excitement and danger of the times are skilfully drawn. [...]

Ultimately, as Stothard points out, this was an assassination that 'failed to change the world'. One brand of tyranny resembles another. Would a world under Julius Caesar have been that much different from the one that formed under Augustus? We can never know. This book reminds us powerfully of the supreme importance of individual freedom against an overweening state; of being able to speak truth to those in authority. If the actions of the conspirators did not have the desired outcome, at least their cause was noble, and one that resonates widely today.

Reading Ann Leckie's Ancillary Justice one is struck by its debt to the conspiracy.

Posted by orrinj at 7:44 AM


Freedom, Barbarism, and Triremes (Bernard J. Dobski, 9/30/20, Law & Liberty)

This stunning victory is critical to the life of the West because it was critical to the transformation of Athens over the next century. And to speak of the Athens that grew out of the remarkable victory Themistocles engineered is to call to mind the great Pericles.

As an influential Greek statesman, orator, and general during the period between the Persian and Peloponnesian wars, Pericles is most associated with the golden age of Athenian democracy. Indeed, his influence on Athenian society was so profound that Thucydides, his contemporary, acclaimed Pericles as "the first citizen of Athens"; when Pericles talked, people listened. It is fitting then that we remember Pericles as much for what he said as for what he did. And no speech of Pericles is as memorable--or as emblematic of the Athens that Themistocles "created"--as what tradition calls his Funeral Oration.

At the start of the Peloponnesian war in 431 BC, Pericles, as the leading man in Athens, was required to deliver a eulogy over those men who were the first to die in battle. There Pericles famously remarks of Athens that "as a city we are the school of Greece."

Athens is the school of Greece because, according to Pericles' lustrous praise, her citizens are generous, versatile, open to others, supremely confident in their abilities, and gracefully refined without sacrificing the manly virtues needed to defend their city. They are leisured, loving philosophy without becoming soft, and they are ambitious without being crudely self-seeking; they are daring and enterprising but just as comfortable discharging public duties as they are pursuing private interests; and their reason informs and moderates their passions without paralyzing their ability to act for the city. Such virtues explain why Pericles concludes that they "have forced every sea and land to be the highway of our daring, and everywhere . . . have left imperishable monuments behind us."

These are no idle boasts. In the span of less than a century this little city, whose territory and population were no larger than the central Massachusetts town where I teach, produced the treasures at the heart of Western civilization. In the structures adorning her Acropolis, in the famed sculptures of Phidias, and in the tragedies and comedies of its playwrights, Athens laid the foundations for Western art, architecture, and literature.

By becoming the home of Herodotus and Thucydides, Athens proved the birthplace of history. Through the golden words of her statesmen, Athens taught oratory to the Romans whose example, in turn, shaped the rhetoric of leaders like Edmund Burke, Winston Churchill, and John F. Kennedy. And as the world's most famous direct democracy, Athens strove to combine the example of political freedom and equality at home with an energetic, daring, and powerful maritime empire abroad. Finally, during this period Athens gave us Socrates, Plato, Xenophon, and Aristotle, men whose works made possible philosophy, that reasoned and joyful quest for the truth that has informed Western intellectual, moral, and political life for millennia.   [...]

Themistocles knew what the Greeks, and especially his fellow Athenians, could achieve at Salamis because he understood how their fleet of triremes could amplify the Athenian character. The acme of maritime power, triremes derived their name from the three banks of rowers, 170 souls in all, used to generate each ship's ramming speed. This meant that at Salamis, where Athens contributed nearly 200 ships, she had almost 34,000 citizens afloat on the wine-dark seas. This amounted to almost their entire free male population.

The experience of the whole city cramped together within the hot and stinking hulls of their ships, sweating and working away in silence as they kept their oar-strokes timed to the sound of a piper, proved critical to the formation of Athens' democratic psychology. Not only did it bring together the rich and the poor, the powerful and the powerless, in the service of a well-defined and genuinely common good. It also amplified the animating spirit of democratic freedom and equality. For what mattered most at Salamis was not one's wealth or birth, or the differences owing to custom or convention, but the respective daring, self-sufficiency, and capacity for civic spirit that nature bestowed on each Athenian.

It is in this space for and openness to nature that we see more clearly the roots of Athens' amazing vitality. In deciding to abandon their city and take to their ships, the Athenians, who took their civic religion seriously, had to surrender to the barbarian, at least temporarily, their sacred temples and olive groves, the graves of their heroes and their ancestors, and the temples that housed the rites of their gods.

In this momentary separation from their particular traditional and religious authorities, they made possible for themselves a magnificent discovery. On that fateful September morning, when the Athenians, relying on their own native genius, won a nearly miraculous victory against a vastly superior foe, they discovered for themselves the potential of human self-assertion. Through their revolutionary daring, they came face to face with the beauty and dynamism of mankind's natural independence.

This encounter with human nature changed the basis on which Athens would operate over the next century. For in their daring at Salamis, the Athenians, acting out of a jealous concern for one's own freedom, showed the world a willingness to sacrifice those moral and political verities that are merely given. As such, they anticipated the willingness to question tradition, ancestral authority, and conventional wisdom in pursuit of genuine human autonomy, an aspect of their civic character that would define life in Periclean Athens. And it is this capacity for self-critical reflection, undertaken in a spirit of generosity, that would become the hallmark of the cultural and intellectual flourishing in Western political communities for centuries.

It is true that the battle of Salamis resulted in great power for Athenians. But it also opened them to a standard of human health, a standard independent of the love of one's own, that could inform the responsible use of that power and point the way to genuine human excellence.  

Posted by orrinj at 7:26 AM


John Calvin and the American Republic (Matthew Carpenter, October 2nd, 2020, Imaginative Conservative)

One of the cardinal doctrines of the Christian faith is that of original sin. The first Church Father to give detailed attention to original sin was Augustine of Hippo.[4] One emphasis of the Reformation was the Augustinian view of sin and God's grace. John Calvin, from his study of Scripture and the Church Fathers (notably Augustine and Bernard of Clairvaux), presented a dim view of the nature of man after Adam's fall.

Calvin leaves no stone unturned in describing the depths of man's sinfulness. His detailed treatment of the topic is found in his Institutes, book two, chapters one through five. The title of chapter one summarizes it well, "By the Fall and Revolt of Adam the Whole Human Race Was Delivered to the Curse and Degenerated from Its Original Condition."[5] Calvin describes the issue this way: "It is the inherited corruption [from Adam], which the church fathers termed 'original sin,' meaning by the word 'sin' the depravation of a nature previously good and pure."[6] He notes that there was some contention among the Church Fathers in this area.[7] Calvin then cites Augustine as the foremost champion of the doctrine of the fall of man, commending him for standing up to the Pelagians' teaching that man was not tainted by original sin and that he only stood condemned for the sins he committed.[8]

Later Calvin gives an even clearer definition. "Original sin, therefore, seems to be a hereditary depravity and corruption of our nature, diffused into all parts of the soul, which first makes us liable to God's wrath, then also brings forth in us those works which Scripture calls, 'works of the flesh' (Galatians 5:19)."[9] The message is grim. Because of Adam's sin, all his posterity comes into the world fallen. There is not one part of our being that is untouched by the corruption of sin. Hence the nature of the common phrase, "total depravity." This term does not mean that man sins as much as he possibly can, but that every facet of his being is fallen and inclined to rebel against God.

One common misconception of the doctrine of the fall of man is to say that we are merely inclined to sin because of Adam's fall, and that sin is not imparted to us until we actually sin. Another mistaken view of the doctrine is that we are judged solely because of the sins of another, i.e. Adam. Neither of these are accurate. For Calvin, the stain of Adam's sin was passed on to all his posterity even before any of them commits actual sin. Man enters the world guilty before God because at conception sin is already on his account. "Yet not only has a punishment fallen upon us from Adam, but a contagion imparted by him resides in us, which justly deserves punishment."[10]

One helpful metaphor Calvin uses is that of comparing man to a field. "For our nature is not only destitute and empty of good, but so fertile and fruitful of every evil that it cannot be idle."[11] In his sinful state the field (man) is not only barren of good, nourishing fruit, but it yields an abundance of thorns, thistles, and poison plants that pollute all who come near. No one ever accused Calvin of raising man's self-esteem. [...]

H.A. Lloyd summarizes Calvin's words this way: "Magistrates, says Calvin, are duty-bound to intervene (pro officio intercedere) to protect the commons against the tyrannical ruler."[15] One distinction must be made here between anarchical resistance and biblical resistance as Calvin saw it. It is not the responsibility of normal citizens to forcefully resist their authorities. "But we must, in the meantime, be very careful not to despise or violate that authority of magistrates... For if the correction of unbridled despotism is the Lord's to avenge, let us not at once think that it is entrusted to us, to whom no command has been given except to obey and suffer. I am speaking all the while of private individuals."[16]

This doctrine of resistance to tyranny was embraced by many Protestant Reformers in addition to Calvin, most notably Heinrich Bullinger.[17] Bullinger's regular correspondence with Protestants in England and Scotland, in addition to the Marian exiles going to Geneva [18], ensured transmission of Protestant resistance theory to Britain.[19] Some of the Puritans in England and Scotland adopted a more aggressive form of resistance theory, saying that resistance to tyrannical authority was a duty to God, not just a right.[20] Works like Samuel Rutherford's Lex Rex and Vindiciae Contra Tyrannos called for a robust resistance to despotic rulers, even calling for a republican element to the government that would protect the people from monarchical overreach.[21] While not exactly the same as what Calvin taught, resistance theory was alive and well in Britain.

Over time the stronger form of Protestant resistance theory came to be associated with the Puritans and Scottish Presbyterians. As many Puritans, Separatists (aka Pilgrims), and Scottish settlers left the British Isles and came to the North American colonies, they maintained the doctrines of the Protestant Reformers. They pursued freedom from persecution and a desire to evangelize the new world.[22]

Over time, new political theories as new political theories and radicalization spread throughout Europe, American colonists remained stable, religious, and communal. The First Great Awakening, led by George Whitefield, Gilbert Tennant, and Jonathan Edwards, stirred the fires of religious revival and gave greater strength to the religious bonds of many low-church Protestants. Calvinism as a whole was the overwhelming theological position of the American colonists. Loraine Boettner in his essay, "Calvinism in History," says, "It is estimated that of the 3,000,000 Americans at the time of the American Revolution, 900,000 were of Scotch or Scotch-Irish origin, 600,000 were Puritan English, and 400,000 were German or Dutch Reformed... Thus we see that about two-thirds of the colonial population had been trained in the school of Calvin."[23] There was a unity among these colonists which had rarely existed in other places. This unity would be crucial in the coming years, as the British Parliament began tightening the strings that bound the American colonies to her mother country.

As the British taxes mounted and King George III refused to intervene before Parliament on behalf of his colonies, the Declaration of Independence was signed. This action cemented the hostilities between British and colonial troops into a full-fledged war. The British believed the blame should be assigned to the Presbyterians. Loraine Boettner summarizes it well in saying, "So intense, universal, and aggressive were the Presbyterians in their zeal for liberty that the war was spoken of in England as 'The Presbyterian Rebellion.' An ardent colonial supporter of King George III wrote home: 'I fix all the blame for these extraordinary proceedings upon the Presbyterians."[24] The Presbyterians in reference weren't only Presbyterian in soteriology. They were children of Reformed Protestant political theory. John Adams noted that Vindiciae Contra Tyrannos was quite a popular book at the time of the revolution.[25] The singing-school teacher William Billings wrote a poem and song about the war in 1778 that was popular throughout New England:

Let tyrants shake their iron rod,
And Slav'ry clank her galling chains,
We fear them not, we trust in God,
New England's God forever reigns.

Howe and Burgoyne and Clinton too,
With Prescot and Cornwallis join'd,
Together plot our Overthrow,
In one Infernal league combin'd.

When God inspir'd us for the fight,
Their ranks were broke, their lines were forc'd,
Their ships were Shatter'd in our sight,
Or swiftly driven from our Coast.[26]

While further evidence could be produced, it is safe to say that Reformed Protestant resistance theory found a strong home in colonial North America.

The Federalist No. 51, [6 February 1788]

To the People of the State of New-York [...]

[T]he great security against a gradual concentration of the several powers in the same department, consists in giving to those who administer each department, the necessary constitutional means, and personal motives, to resist encroachments of the others. The provision for defence must in this, as in all other cases, be made commensurate to the danger of attack. Ambition must be made to counteract ambition. The interest of the man must be connected with the constitutional rights of the place. It may be a reflection on human nature, that such devices should be necessary to controul the abuses of government. But what is government itself but the greatest of all reflections on human nature? If men were angels, no government would be necessary. If angels were to govern men, neither external nor internal controuls on government would be necessary. In framing a government which is to be administered by men over men, the great difficulty lies in this: You must first enable the government to controul the governed; and in the next place, oblige it to controul itself. A dependence on the people is no doubt the primary controul on the government; but experience has taught mankind the necessity of auxiliary precautions.

This policy of supplying by opposite and rival interests, the defect of better motives, might be traced through the whole system of human affairs, private as well as public. We see it particularly displayed in all the subordinate distributions of power; where the constant aim is to divide and arrange the several offices in such a manner as that each may be a check on the other; that the private interest of every individual, may be a centinel over the public rights. These inventions of prudence cannot be less requisite in the distribution of the supreme powers of the state.

It's how we were inoculated against Reason
Posted by orrinj at 7:20 AM


Want To Find Yourself? Stop Looking Within Yourself. (TREVIN WAX, OCTOBER 2, 2020, Relevant)

Recent studies show that 91 percent of Americans agree with this statement: "The best way to find yourself is by looking within yourself." In other words, if you want to discover who you are and what your purpose is, the place to look is inside your heart. You look inside for the answers. Trust your heart. Go with your gut. No one else gets to define you. This is the "looking in" approach to life.

The freedom you feel when you see your life this way can be mesmerizing. You get to determine your destiny. You are free to define yourself however you want. If you want to change your name and start over, go for it. You can define yourself by your career or your hobby or your talents. You and you alone are the ultimate determiner of who you are and how you express yourself. You alone possess intimate knowledge of what makes you unique, and you alone can determine how to bring that sense of specialness out for the world. 

Best of all, when you look inside to define yourself, whatever you find there is good. Whatever you find is beautiful. No one gets to tell you your self-definition is wrong or bad or ugly. Defining yourself is the ultimate adventure.

But there is a downside to this way of thinking: the whole project depends on you.

The entirety of becoming a decent person is looking outside yourself.  Christ never commanded us to love ourselves, but one another. Those who do are, in turn, lovable.

Posted by orrinj at 7:18 AM


Potential Biden Administration Defense Pick Outlines Pentagon Priorities for Next Decade (Steven Stashwick, October 02, 2020, The Diplomat)

In an interview this week, former senior U.S. defense official Michele Flournoy discussed the  [...]

Her assessment of the Trump administration's strategy towards China is blunt. Asked if it was working, she replied "Right now? No." She criticized the administration's narrow focus, in practice, on trade and tariff issues and pursuing policies mostly bilaterally, instead of building broad coalitions of partners and allies.

She recognizes the risks and threats China poses. In an essay earlier this summer, she captured attention with the proposal that being able to "credibly threaten to sink all of China's military vessels, submarines, and merchant ships in the South China Sea within 72 hours" would help deter China from attempting a fait accompli in the region.

Still, she rejects terms like primacy when discussing the military balance that the United States should pursue in relation to China. Instead she believes that the U.S. military needs only "enough of an edge" to deter China from threatening vital U.S. interests in the region - something that she believes need to be articulated more clearly - either by being able to thwart their effort, or making it too costly to be worthwhile.

For that reason, she is keen to find cost savings in the United States' nuclear weapons arsenal, which the Trump administration has proposed modernizing and expanding at enormous expense. She believes that instead of focusing on a nuclear competition with China, savings need to be invested in conventional deterrence and capabilities for competing in the low intensity "gray zone," where most of the strategic interaction between the two countries is likely to take place.

Posted by orrinj at 7:11 AM


The Asia Inheritance: Trump and US Alliances (Abraham M. Denmark and Shihoko Goto, October 01, 2020, The Diplomat)

The French philosopher Albert Camus once wrote, "In the middle of winter, I at last discovered that there was in me an invincible summer." He may as well have been describing U.S. alliances in East Asia after nearly four years of the Donald Trump administration. Despite weathering tremendous challenges, U.S. alliances with Australia, Japan, the Philippines, and South Korea have proven to be more resilient than many would have expected.

He leaves behind him no evidence that he was ever president.

Posted by orrinj at 7:06 AM


Lincoln and Presidential Character : Abraham Lincoln learned much of what made him a great president -- honesty, sincerity, toughness, and humility -- from his early reading and from studying the lives of Washington and Franklin. (David S. Reynolds, October 2020, American Heritage)

What makes a President great? How do we judge the character of candidates for high office? Those questions have been transcendent for American voters since the earliest days of our Republic. And since most people believe that Lincoln was our greatest President, it's worth examining what it was that made him great. 

Lincoln gained many of these traits through reading. Today, psychologists such as Geoff Kaufman at Dartmouth College point out that when we read about and identify with characters in fiction, we tend to subconsciously adopt their behavior. Lincoln proves that the same is true of nonfiction as well - his early reading exposed him to the role models of George Washington and Benjamin Franklin. And he absorbed core values from the Bible and Aesop's Fables, and learned from reading James Riley that America had the finest political system in the world, but it was also stained by the worst form of oppression. 

Lincoln's schooling experience was typical for a boy growing up on the Kentucky-Indiana frontier. His total time in school, he reported, was less than one year. Abe attended five schools for short terms, two in Kentucky before he turned seven and three in Indiana at the ages of eleven, thirteen, and seventeen.

Schools on the frontier at the time were often windowless and dirt-floored, single-room log structures. A school term customarily lasted two or three months and was scheduled not to conflict with the planting and harvesting seasons, when children were needed for farm work. 

However, in nineteenth-century America a sound education could be found outside the classroom as shown by the experiences of Frederick Douglass, who had no formal schooling yet became one of the century's most eloquent communicators, or Walt Whitman, the great poet who left school at eleven. This was the case with Lincoln. He absorbed the cultural energies of the frontier, and read books that helped shape his character. He was an attentive reader, and little was lost on him. He often repeated passages aloud and wrote them down whenever he could. 

When we survey these eclectic influences -- to which can be added newspapers, which he began reading in Indiana in the 1820s -- we see his mind was fed early on by all kinds of sources, high and low, sacred and secular.  Absorbing the new religious style of preachers at the same time as crude frontier humor, he was integrating culture in an extraordinarily wide-ranging manner.

...but that he was also raised by a Klansman.

Posted by orrinj at 7:04 AM


Scrutiny on Rose Garden event after Kellyanne Conway and other guests test positive for Covid (Lois Beckett ,  2 Oct 2020, The Guardian)

A crowded Rose Garden ceremony last Saturday at which Donald Trump announced Amy Coney Barrett as his supreme court nominee has come under scrutiny after at least seven figures in attendance tested positive for coronavirus, including the president himself.

On Friday, the president's former counsellor, Kellyanne Conway, announced she had tested positive and had "mild" symptoms.

Two Republican senators, Thom Tillis and Mike Lee, also announced they have also tested positive.

Lee, who did not wear a mask at the White House event, said he had "symptoms consistent with longtime allergies". Tillis, who did wear a mask, said he has no symptoms. Both said they will quarantine for 10 days - ending just before Barrett's confirmation hearings begin on 12 October.

Both senators serve on the Senate judiciary committee, raising questions about upcoming supreme court confirmation hearings and whether additional senators may have been exposed.

University of Notre Dame's president, John Jenkins, was also later diagnosed with the disease.

Trump was hospitalized on Friday, with the White House saying that he would spend "a few days" at the Walter Reed national military medical center following his diagnosis.

Speculation is growing that the event, which took place on 25 September, could have been the source of Trump's infection and possibly a super-spreader event, as confirmed cases rise. Barrett said Friday that she had not tested positive for the virus.

dang; wishing it fake seemed so likely to prevent infection...