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Showing posts from May, 2016

In praise of distracted, Internet-addled writing

In his review of Freewrite's "Smart Typewriter," Ian Bogost offers praise for the pre-Internet era of writing, when one could set one's fingers to the keyboard and simply write, without all the distractions and bells and whistles that a wifi connection bring to the process.

There's more than a hint of protesting too much.

No one would reasonably dispute that writing tools affect the shape and content of both writing and the thought that goes into writing, but it's mistaken to suggest — as Bogost seems to — the the older, slower way was necessarily deeper. Here's an odd passage:
For Nietzsche, the typewriter offered a way to write despite his deteriorating vision (and sanity). He knew that tools changed their users; “Our writing tools are also working on our thoughts,” Nietzsche aphorized. These are facts I happen to know just because they were memorable, not because I remember facts like these regularly anymore. I’ve long since outsourced such easily-redi…

Our old arguments don't explain Donald Trump. (Or, why point-counterpoint is in danger.)

Dennis Prager's approach to column-writing is pretty simple: A) Something is bad in the world. B) Democrats are at fault. So goes his explanation for the rise of Donald Trump.

It's tendentious and dumb — as per usual with Prager — but reading it made me consider a possibility: The old right vs. left construct of our debates might be a bad template going forward. It depends on how much Trumpism survives 2016. If this is more than a one-off, then "telling both sides of the story" won't work anymore, nor will point-counterpoint presentations. (I say that as somebody who co-authors a nationally syndicated point-counterpoint column.)  Trumpism has an array of causes, and grafting an explanation for him onto our old debates seems to not quite hit the point. We're going to need new arguments.

Teaching Philly kids to use guns — the right way

Two years ago, trying to find a radical solution to the gun violence problem in Philadelphia, I suggested that maybe it was time to stop clamping down on guns and time to start inculcating a culture of responsible gun ownership and usage. It was kind of a controversial idea. 

While there are plenty of guns circulating in Philadelphia, there are also plenty of guns — per-capita, at least — in my home state of Kansas. Yet there are relatively few gun deaths there: As best I can tell, 9.9 gun deaths per 100,000 residents in Kansas, compared to 24.3 in Philadelphia. (The comparisons aren’t quite exact, but I think the disparity between those two numbers is probably in the neighborhood of correct.) Why?  One of the reasons, surely, is that cities are simply more violent places: Living cheek by jowl can produce short tempers; short tempers can produce violence.  But it’s also true that my rural friends have built a culture of gun safety that goes hand-in-hand with the culture of gun owners…

WaPo: Hillary can win only by deferring to the sensitive egos of short-fingered men

Wonder if Hillary has a sexism problem? Read this morning's column by Danielle Allen in the Washington Post:
Consider her slogan, “Fighting for us.” For many men, this slogan would have to be experienced as emasculating.  Wait. Really? Are America's men really so easily afflicted with a sense of emasculation?
A woman fighting for them? Rightly or wrongly, the slogan rubs the wrong way in relation to traditional notions of masculinity.  Apparently so. Her slogan itself reveals a limited conception of who she seeks to represent.  This, I don't get. "Us" is a fairly broad and innocuous term. The only way the slogan could be more rhetorically inclusive is if it it was "Fighting for us AND them." But that, uh, would present its own set of challenges.
How does Allen suggest Clinton overcome her problem? Personally, she should meet his insults with a cheery silence, or a lighthearted deflectionary joke. Don't want to seem like an angry feminist! This, of c…

Are conservatives relevant to 2016's politics?

One relief about the rise of Donald Trump is that his alienation from the conservative intellectuals in the Republican Party means he can’t — and probably won’t — gussy up his campaign with any pretense that it’s about restoring limited-government Constitutionalism to American governance. We don’t really know if Trump even has a theory of Constitutional interpretation, but his public statements seem skeptical of the idea that his presidency would be one that could be checked or balanced.

Why is this a relief? Because for all the talk my smart conservative friends have about the Founders, liberty, fiscal rectitude, and a strict-constructionist view of the Constitution, Republicans don’t actually govern that way all that often. George W. Bush was more or less handpicked by the conservative establishment, and defended vociferously by it, but his administration was defined by both mounting deficits (just like Reagan’s!) and its attempts to innovate theories of expanded executive power. (Re…

The Long Struggle Against Trumpism

Well, that's it. Donald Trump is your presumptive GOP nominee for president.

I do not think he will win the presidential election — but I don't take  his loss for granted. I'm more worried about a repeat of 1964. Barry Goldwater went down in flames. But his candidacy provided the platform for Ronald Reagan's political career. And the battle of 1964 was won, ultimately, in 1980.

Does Trumpism have that kind of staying power? I suspect yes, but I'm a pessimist. If so, then, we who disagree with Trumpism have to work to defeat him this year — but his spiritual successors in years to come, as well. Will the battle of 2016 be decided in 2032? We should prepare for that possibility.

One way to battle Trumpism: Acknowledge that some of Trumpism's underlying causes have merit. (Not all of them: The anti-Semites and racists are just evil people.) Those of us who have been nattering on about income inequality for years — well, this is a reason why. When people finally ge…