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Showing posts from January, 2018

Reaction to Mark Lilla's 'The Once and Future Liberal: After Identity Politics'

The Once and Future Liberal: After Identity Politics is a well-meaning plea that makes a lot of points that should be taken seriously, but it misses the mark. It is a short book drawn in broad sketches. Some ideas may eventually be vindicated by history, but details of how that is to happen are yet to be provided. If these broad strokes are followed without more specific direction, the plan could instead backfire in a way that Lilla himself probably wouldn’t like. Writing for the political moment in mid-2017, he identifies the problem: In the United States, for many identity groups, basic human rights and quality of life are violated or threatened in part by conservatives’ political indifference to them. His solution: Liberals need to win elections, local as well as national to create broad support to accomplish nationwide agendas, so they can restore rights to all citizens. The difficulty he perceives is that explicitly talking about these rights somehow causes liberals to lose

Conscience and Religious Freedom...isn't

On Jan. 18, 2018, the Dept. of Health and Human Services (HHS) announced that its Office for Civil Rights would have a new "Conscience and Religious Freedom Division." The idea of a need to protect "religious freedom" has been around for a while. Outwardly, it is based on the concern that a religious person might be forced to do something that violates their conscience or religious belief. Political scientist Andrew Lewis said recently: "Federal religious freedom laws gained some steam in the mid-1990s, and a decent number of conservatives were involved in them, but there was very little public awareness that they were going on. It’s not until you see the legalization of same-sex marriage that you see this real drive to protect religious freedom. The day that the Obergefell case was decided...They knew that they were losing this cultural battle and this was a way to preserve what they thought was their orthodox faith in action." During the 1990s

What's 'the paradox of voting'? And why do people bother to vote?

The paradox of voting Going to the cinema alone On a walk by yourself, you stop at the cinema. The three-screen cinema is showing Robot Laser Wars, Lawyer Drama, and Giggles the Bear. You’re hoping for Robot Laser Wars; it’s something you can only see without your spouse, who wouldn’t appreciate it. When you arrive, there is a confusing sign saying “Next showing sold out.” You’re unsure which of the three films is sold out. Before you approach the ticket window, you privately rank your preferences so you’ll have a second choice ready to go in case it’s your first choice that’s sold out. It’s not hard. You’ll settle for Lawyer Drama. You feel much too old for Giggles the Bear. If your spouse were in the same situation alone at the cinema, you’re sure that Lawyer Drama would be his first choice, and furthermore that he’d rather see Giggles the Bear before setting foot in Robot Laser Wars. And your child? She’s still young enough to prefer Giggles the Bear. She might be enterta

Fire and Fury #4 - Trump's relationship with the media

Note: Please also see the 2020 Books Are Our Superpower article about this book. In Fire and Fury, Michael Wolff describes the president's complicated relationship with the media. Years before the campaign, when Trump was famous as a New York real estate mogul, he had sought the limelight. Roger Ailes said that, to Trump, “the media represented power, much more so than politics". Wolff relates: "The media long ago turned on Donald Trump as a wannabe and lightweight, and wrote him off for that ultimate sin — anyway, the ultimate sin in media terms — of trying to curry favor with the media too much. His fame, such as it was, was actually reverse fame — he was famous for being infamous. It was joke fame." Furthermore, he was known for his bankruptcies. "Whereas he [Trump] had before been the symbol of success and mocked for it, now [in the 1990s] he became, in a shift of zeitgeist (and of having to refinance a great deal of debt), a symbol of failure

Fire and Fury #3 - The president's odd behavior

Note: Please also see the 2020 Books Are Our Superpower article about this book. Michael Wolff's Fire and Fury documents some unusual behavior from the president. Questions about relevant knowledge and mental fitness Wolff marvels that Trump was elected president while "wholly lacking what in some obvious sense must be the main requirement of the job, what neuroscientists would call executive function....He had no ability to plan and organize and pay attention and switch focus; he had never been able to tailor his behavior to what the goals at hand reasonably required. On the most basic level, he simply could not link cause and effect." Moreover, "while he was often most influenced by the last person he spoke to, he did not actually listen to anyone. So it was not so much the force of an individual argument or petition that moved him, but rather more just someone’s presence..." As a result, he had accumulated little relevant knowledge. "Almost

Fire and Fury #2 - Trump never intended to win the election

Note: Please also see the 2020 Books Are Our Superpower article about this book. In Fire and Fury, Michael Wolff argues that Donald Trump never intended to win the 2016 presidential election. Wolff contends that Trump thought that Clinton had the better campaign ("They’ve got the best and we’ve got the worst") and that he never wanted to be president so his campaign "was not designed to win anything." He only wanted to become "the most famous man in the world" and possibly have his own cable network featuring Kellyanne Conway, which he could easily achieve by losing. The Republican Party establishment could then revert to business as usual and Steve Bannon could lead the Tea Party. He promised his wife Melania that he would not win, a prospect she feared would disrupt her personal life. Victory, in fact, would raise liabilities: Mike Flynn had accepted a $45,000 speaking fee from Russians while campaigning for Trump, and Trump's campaign mana