Skip to main content


Insights emerging from a strange actor in the US Capitol riot: How some people believe rights and responsibility work

One of the stranger and yet most revealing comments about ethics I have personally seen has appeared in the context of the riot at the US Capitol on January 6, 2021. Richard Barnett, 60, from Gravette, Arkansas, is one of the people who stormed the U.S. Capitol. He entered the office suite of Nancy Pelosi, Speaker of the House of Representatives, and sat at a desk full of papers, a computer, and a telephone. In one photo attributed to photojournalist Jim Lo Scalzo , Barnett gleefully holds up an envelope with Nancy Pelosi's name in the return corner and a typed address for Republican Rep. Billy Long. Barnett removed the envelope from Pelosi's office, replacing it with a coin. [This photo is by Jim Lo Scalzo/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock and was published by the New York Post . ] As described by the New York Post : New York Times reporter Matthew Rosenberg interviewed Barnett and posted video of the interview to Twitter. In that interview, Barnett maintained: “I didn’t s
Recent posts

The eunuch ambassador in 'The King at the Edge of the World' by Arthur Phillips

The eunuch here is a supporting character (though one who instigates the main character's life conflict) and does not even have a name. The eunuch — originally “born a Christian in Portugal," captured at the age of 11, and converted to Islam — is the ambassador sent by Ottoman Sultan Murad the Great in 1591 to spend several months negotiating with the Queen of England. “He carried for the island’s sultana [a.k.a the Queen of England], among many other gifts, a pair of lions, a scimitar, a unicorn’s horn, and ten English pirates captured by Turkish sailors," so he was "welcomed to London by a torchlight parade through the gawping crowds near St. Lawrence Jewry church, winding to the large house where they would live for five months before returning to Constantinople.” The envoys spent months in negotiations with the English “in matters of sea-lanes and free overland passages, the exchange of captured pirates/sailors, various immunities and protections for Englishmen

Quotes: On lonerism

When geniuses self-isolate: Peter Higgs is not a fan of modern technology, said Decca Aitkenhead in The Guardian (U.K.) The British theoretical physicist, 84, is so consumed with work that he has never sent an email, looked at the Internet, or used a cellphone. He's so cut off from modes of modern communication that he didn't know he'd won this year's Nobel Prize in physics--for his 1964 paper predicting the Higgs boson, which imbues other particles with mass--until a neighbor congratulated him on the street. His son did buy him a mobile phone two months ago, but he has yet to make a call, and no one outside his family knows his number. "I resent being disturbed in this way," says Higgs. "Why should people be able to interrupt me like that?" Because they want to keep in touch? "But I don't want to be in touch," he laughs. It's an intrusion into my way of life, and certainly on principle I don't feel obliged to accept it.&quo

Articles to read

An assortment of articles spotted online. "To be read." Great article about Lucille Clifton's occult practices in @parisreview . Interesting that this writing is just now being published - after 40 yrs. — Johannes Göransson (@JohannesGoranss) October 25, 2020 I started writing an article that has now become waaay too long and has fully taken over my entire life. Here’s a little taste: — Tyler Liston (@tyliston) October 25, 2020 "It is telling that Americans thank their military for their 'service'—a form of giving, obligation, altruism. For those hoping for a more progressive foreign policy today, it is necessary to unhitch this notion of responsibility from military power." — Boston Review (@BostonReview) October 19, 2020 In case you missed this very important (to me) thing: Catherine Nichols and I have a new podcast where we talk about books from the 20th century. In

Quotes: On reading good books

Christine Weston: She gazed from the fabulous tides of sunset to the book which she had brought to read on the journey. It still smelled of Dockett’s Book Store. She could see the dusty shelves stretching from floor to ceiling, the long tables stacked with volumes, and the figures which moved like characters in a Kafka novel. That had been in the fall of 1935. Christine Weston. The Dark Wood. New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1946. p. 21. Anne Perry: A good book changes you, even if it is only to add a little to the furniture of your mind. Anne Perry, writing on "The Man Who Was Thursday" by G. K. Chesterton. The Book that Changed my Life: 71 Remarkable Writers Celebrate the Books that Matter Most to Them. Edited by Roxanne J. Coady and Joy Johannessen. New York: Gotham Books, 2007. p. 137. Virginia Woolf: Rachel read what she chose, reading with the curious literalness of one to whom written sentences are unfamiliar, and handling words as though they we

Quotes: What makes an idea sacred or religious?

Theism? Superstition? Myth? Ritual? Does it have to teach a fixed dogma, and/or does it have to be undefined and flexible enough to allow for its continuous development and for individuals' ongoing learning? If it is inherently motivated by politics or if it grows to seek political goals, does it have to contain material that is separate from and more enduring than the political movement? Michael Ducey in 1977 distinguished “mass ritual” and “interaction ritual” based on whether the audience participates. (Referenced in William Beers. Women and Sacrifice: Male Narcissism and the Psychology of Religion. Detroit: Wayne State University Press, 1992. p. 164.) Thought becomes religious when it thinks itself out to the end. Albert Schweitzer The psychologist Philip Tetlock(1999, 2003, 2004) identifies values as sacred when they are so important to those who hold them that the very act of considering them is offensive. Daniel C. Dennett. Breaking the Spell: Religion as

'Soft coup' and storytelling: A couple threads on Twitter

Sharing a couple threads I spotted on Twitter. First, here's Frank Figliuzzi, formerly a top FBI official, now a national security analyst for MSNBC, saying that Trump is behaving like a "barricaded subject" in a hostage negotiation. He says that Biden is handling the situation correctly, staying calm and allowing Trump an opportunity to vent, while letting Trump keep his options open for resolving the standoff "the easy way" rather than "the hard way." On November 10, the New York Times published a large article explaining that no significant election fraud has been found . This has been the most secure U.S. election ever , according to a November 12 New York Times article. Yet Trump has been refusing to cooperate with the Biden team (see these articles from CNN and Huffington Post ). He's making the moves of a dictator ( CNN ). To the extent he ever performed normal presidential responsibilities, he has now stopped working altogether. (