There Is No Other Place

Cue the Conspiracy Theorists and Projectionists. Items today about yesterday’s assassination attempt against Donald Trump, and which side is the one that actually promotes violence.

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Well, I didn’t suspect that so many on the right would blame the *left* for inciting the would-be assassin of Donald Trump yesterday. Based on no evidence whatsoever, of course, except the reflexive projectionism whereby conservatives especially seem to imagine that everyone else operates to their (low) standards of morality and therefore attributes their own tendencies to everyone else.

The Atlantic, David Frum, 14 Jul 2024: The Gunman and the Would-Be Dictator, subtitled “Violence stalks the president who has rejoiced in violence to others.”
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More About the NYT List

First of all, I amended yesterday’s post with those books on that NYT list that I’ve read — 9 of them — and those I have copies of but not yet read — 14 of them. And now I’ll off-handedly suggest some titles that I have found personally the most worthwhile books I’ve read, from the 21st century. Which are not included on the NYT list.

Second, judging from the big list, most people favor fiction, i.e. novels about people, contemporary or historical, that illuminate the human condition and the potentials of human life. And nonfiction that is concerned with social issues. There’s nothing here about nonfiction that addresses science, or the big issues in life that transcend mundane life, including politics.

Clearly, my interests are not those of the majority of litterateurs. But I’m fine with that! NYT added a page for readers to submit their own top 10 titles. So after a few moments thought, here are what I submitted (from bottom to top). Most of these I think I’ve reviewed here on this blog.

  • Why We’re Polarized, Ezra Klein
  • Thinking, Fast and Slow, Daniel Kahneman
  • 21 Lessons for the 21st Century, Yuval Noah Harari
  • The Righteous Mind, Jonathan Haidt
  • Sapiens, Yuval Noah Harari
  • The Big Picture, Sean Carroll
  • The Sixth Extinction, Elizabeth Kolbert
  • Aurora, Kim Stanley Robinson
  • Stories of Your Life and Others, Ted Chiang
  • The Better Angels of Our Nature, Steven Pinker

And when I think about this a bit longer, there would be more titles.

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The Latest Major Book List

  • First, about this week’s New York Times list of the best books of the 21st century;
  • Second for today: Paul Krugman on how Republicans think that America is a dystopian nightmare.
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For no particular reason that I can detect, the New York Times this past month has been compiling lists of the best books of the 21st century, i.e. from 2000 to 2023. They began by compiling the annual “Editors’ Choice” or “Best Books” lists, chosen by the book review editors, that were published in each of those years (typically in the first Sunday of each December’s Book Review). That list is here. Since I read the NYT and its Sunday Book Review, I’ve seen these lists before; indeed, have seen them since the 1970s.

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Save the Children?

  • Never mind homeschooling; now there’s a cult of “unschooling”;
  • Nascent thoughts about conservative morality, children, MAGA, and the return to a simpler past — which would be, childhood;
  • How Oklahoma is letting right-wing figures (including David Barton) run its social studies curriculum;
  • And how William Gibson’s quote about “The future is already here — it’s just not evenly distributed” applies very broadly.
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Here’s yet another idea new to me!

The Week, Theara Coleman, 10 Jul 2024: Unschooling: the radical education trend raising eyebrows, subtitled “Some parents are letting their children lead their education”

Since the pandemic, there has been a noticeable surge in homeschooling. Now, a different pedagogical trend called “unschooling” is gaining momentum, sparking controversy and debate online.

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Two New Ideas

Or at least, first sightings by me of a couple ideas that have apparently been floating around for a year or two: Moral ambition, and progressive realism. There are new ideas in the world. Because experience and knowledge accumulate.

Big Think, Tim Brinkhof, 8 Jul 2024: Effective altruism is stumbling. Can “moral ambition” replace it?, subtitled “In ‘Moral Ambition,’ Dutch historian Rutger Bregman argues that all would benefit from a collective redefinition of success.”

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Stories, and Change

Miscellaneous items today, including a few from a couple weeks ago.

  • Oklahoma, insisting the Bible be taught as an historical document, seems intent on mis-educating its children and ill-preparing them for life in the 21st century;
  • How conservative attacks against DEI is the modern-day Jim Crow;
  • More about why Americans think crime is going up, when actually it’s not;
  • Christians in Australia let a child die by preferring prayer over insulin;
  • And how little things change that we don’t always notice: climate change push-alerts; the death of the necktie; how few people answer their phones (and the consequences for polling).

Race to the bottom. How un- and mis-informed can we make our children? And ill-suited for life in the 21st century?

AlterNet, 27 Jun 2024: Oklahoma now requires all public schools to teach from the Bible as a ‘historical’ document

The State of Oklahoma appears to be poised to outdo Louisiana in its effort to inject Christianity into public schools, after a new announcement by the state’s superintendent of public instruction.

On Thursday, ABC affiliate KOCO 5 News reported that Oklahoma Superintendent Ryan Walters is now requiring all K-12 public school classrooms keep a copy of the Bible on hand, and to give it the same regard as a history textbook. The new policy is to be implemented “effective immediately.”

Conservatives would suppress many elements of American history, yet would promote an ancient document that in no way can be considered reliable history. They want to tell stories that bind the tribe together, not to tell the truth or prepare students for life in the modern world.

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So we cheated and we lied and we tested

  • Trump’s dementia;
  • The Heritage Foundation’s threat of violence unless they get their way;
  • And a graphic from Fb: “If you don’t scream, I won’t hurt you”;
  • Trump disavows Project 2025;
  • And a song by Crosby, Stills & Nash.

Continuing from yesterday’s theme.

Robert Reich, 8 Jul 2024: Why isn’t the media reporting on Trump’s growing dementia?, subtitled “The evidence is increasing”

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Media Bias, Against Biden

  • More people are noticing the main stream media’s bias against Biden, while giving Trump a pass, since his interminable lying is old news: Robert Reich, Connie Willis, Heather Cox Richardson;
  • With an aside graphic of the goals of Project 2025;
  • While the Philadelphia Inquirer is an outlier in challenging Trump over Biden;
  • And some discussion of cognitive tests, with an online example of one that provides immediate (free) feedback.

For all that many people accuse the mass media of being biased toward the left, that’s not always the case.

Robert Reich, 5 Jul 2024: The Pile-on

Joe Biden is being treated far worse than Donald Trump by the two institutions critical for deciding the outcome of the 2024 election: the political parties and the media.

The Republican Party has closed ranks around Trump — despite the fact he’s a convicted felon, twice-impeached con man, sexual abuser, fraudulent businessman, self-described aspiring dictator for a day, pathological liar, and ringleader of an attempted coup against the United States.

Meanwhile, the Democratic Party is in a panic about Biden. Many party insiders are trying to force Biden out now, at the last minute, because he had a bad debate performance.

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Once You See It

  • How issues in politics 100 years ago resemble those of today;
  • How Republicans and Democrats live in radically different universes;
  • What the “genius” of the American Founders were thinking;
  • Zbigniew Preisner’s film score for Damage

Once you see it, or someone points it out to you, you see it everywhere. (This is called the Baader-Meinhof phenomenon or more colloquially the frequency illusion, a cognitive bias, a variety of confirmation bias.)

Still, that doesn’t mean a sudden awareness of how everything fits together *isn’t true*. Right? Great scientific breakthroughs have occurred this way.

Two items from today’s NYT.

For all that progressives like to think that we progress, have progressed over the centuries and decades, maybe we don’t, except in isolated pockets that shrivel up and dry over time. A hundred years ago, the issues in current American politics were similar to those of today.

NY Times, Dan Barry, 5 Jul 2024: Divided and Undecided, 2024’s America Rhymes With 1924’s, subtitled “Hearing echoes of Independence Day a century ago, when Americans were clashing over race, religion, immigration and presidential candidates.” (shared link)

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The Supposed God-Shaped Hole, and Others

Via Jerry Coyne, a long piece at Quillette by Matt Johnson: Liberalism and the West’s ‘Crisis of Meaning’, subtitled “Many liberals are strangely eager to concede that liberal societies are morally and spiritually bankrupt without religion to give life meaning.”

This is an enduring topic, triggered here by a recent David Brooks column in NYT (which I discussed here).

No time to read it just now. But a couple quick comments: some who address this topic think that Christianity is the only thing that can fill this “god-shaped hole” as Coyne puts it; but that’s probably because we here in the West don’t see similar arguments that only Buddhism, to take a random example, can provide the meaning of life (by people who are just as sincere as the Christians are). Second, this worry strikes me as a simple failure of imagination, and a lack of knowledge about the world outside their own tribe. Third, which is to say, this isn’t about religion, or theology, or which of the many of those is correct; it’s basically an issue of psychology and human nature.

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