Ls&Cs: Just a Few Rocks to Look At

Catching up on one last batch of links and comments collected but not yet posted since I came home from the hospital in June. Not all of them political.

And, let’s try something new: placing some kind of relevant photograph above the “more” fold, so the front page of this site looks more interesting than dry blocks of text. — In fact, I’m going to go back and edit several recent posts to add photos. Just a few for now. (For most of these, I am shamelessly linking to the photographs embedded in the linked articles. The one right here is an exception.)


I have a Facebook friend (let’s discuss Fb itself another day) who copies occasional “reviews” (e.g. on travel websites) from clueless people. Here’s one; if the link (it’s a public post) doesn’t work, I’ll copy the (anonymous) review. It’s about Stonehenge.

I was disgusted to find this was just a few rocks to look at and nothing to do. They should knock it down and build an arcade or funfair. Don’t waste your time what a sill place

(There are more such people in the world, even in “advanced” nations, than we might think. I think. There’s a genre of person-on-the-street interviews (found on Fb, or YouTube) with a host asking questions like “What’s the official language of America?” or “How many stars are on the US flag?” and getting hilariously clueless answers, or often just blank stares.)


Model Citizen: Q, Trust, and You, subtitled, “We all rely on unverified testimony. QAnon happens when you trust the wrong people.”

I don’t know who Will Wilkinson is, but this piece on Substack makes a valid philosophical point: most of what we know about the world we have not personally witnessed or substantiated; we rely on the testimony of others (at first family, then friends, later teachers and professors and the accumulation of published knowledge in books and libraries). But, as the subtitle says, we can’t always trust these sources, especially the family and friends.


From here going from most recent down.


Salon, 29 Aug 21, Bob Brigham: Belief in immortality is reason Mississippi isn’t afraid of COVID, governor says

Subtitle: “When you believe that living on this earth is but a blip … then you don’t have to be so scared of things”

Comment: Believe what you like, but this is staging a basic Darwinian experiment: more people with such beliefs will die than those without such beliefs, those who take care of themselves in the world we have on hand.


Salon, Chauncey DeVega, 27 Aug 21: Trumpists live in an alternate reality — but they believe in it, and that’s terrifying

Subtitled: “Older white conservatives are barraged with intense propaganda. It has shaped their world, and it’s killing America.”

How the writer learns about his parents’ horrifying Fb feeds, and attendant propaganda emails. The article provides examples. Conclusion:

Liberals, progressives, Democrats and other rational thinkers must accept one crucial reality if they are to save America’s democracy (and themselves): Those who live in the right-wing echo chamber really do believe what they are being told. Those beliefs are now extensions of their core identities.


Slate, Jordan Weissmann, 23 Aug 21: The Dumbest Argument Against Vaccine Passports

What is this dumbest argument? It’s the argument that Voter IDs (which Republicans support, to suppress voting) are like vaccine passports (which Democrats support, for the sake of general health).

Even by the standards of the right-wing noise machine, this is an incredibly inane attempt at a gotcha. While they may have a disparate impact on Black young adults in the short term, vaccine passports are clearly nothing like voter ID laws. The comparison is absurd.

For starters, only one of these policies is intended to fix a real problem. Vaccine passports are meant to help stop the spread of COVID-19—an actual virus that frequently kills people and has upended the world as we once knew it. Voter ID laws are ostensibly meant to prevent in-person voter fraud—a phenomenon so rare as to be functionally nonexistent. If ballot stuffing and double voting truly were rampant, it might actually be worth having a discussion about requiring IDs at the polls and the trade-offs it entails. As it is, it’s not shocking that Democrats would support steps to combat a genuine crisis but not an imaginary one.


Salon, Heather Digby Parton, 23 Aug 21: GOP’s “Big Government” lie exposed: Republicans rush to squash local control in fight against COVID

Subtitled: The “mask wars” are back — and GOP governors are using their power to stop people from protecting themselves

Comment: Republicans are against big government control, except when they’re not. Other links make the same point, and it applies to abortion as well as masks and vaccines.


The Atlantic, David A. Graham, 22 Aug 21: The Noisy Minority

Subtitled: Conservatives’ opposition to vaccines and masks is fueled by the conviction that they have lost the battle for public opinion.

Maybe part of the underlying motivation here; certainly for the general trend of conservative rhetoric in recent years, e.g. worry about “replacement theory.” They’re afraid they’re losing their privileged position in American culture.

Final paragraph:

…Many conservatives are tired of being told how to live by the majority, and they want to live exactly as they please, even if that means they may die—and even if that means making other people sick along the way.


CNN Video, 6 Aug 21: They predicted a Trump coup attempt. Hear what they say now

Did not watch. But this is just another example of a common tactic of conspiracy theorists and millennial prophets: move the goalposts! Prediction didn’t come true? Oops, I meant this later date!


The Atlantic, Silas House, 22 Aug 21: Some Americans No Longer Believe in the Common Good, subtitled, “They now are thinking only of themselves.”

Author recalls childhood in Kentucky, and how people helped others. And moves swiftly to discussing resistance to mask mandates, in Kentucky. Concluding,

Those who are unwilling to sacrifice a small part of their daily comforts for the good of our country seem to be the loudest right now. But the statistics show that they are not in the majority. Most of us are thinking of one another. My grandmother would be proud.


A couple items about a new, in July, book by Jonathan Rauch, The Constitution of Knowledge: A Defense of Truth, which I bought but haven’t read yet. So just the headlines, to read later when I read the book.

Peter Wehner, The Atlantic, 9 Jul 21: You’re Being Manipulated, subtitled, “Political partisans are using social media to divide, dominate, disorient, and ultimately demoralize the people on the other side.”

Robert G. Kaiser, Washington Post, 9 Jul 21: Faith that the truth can still defeat misinformation


Another recent book, whose author is interviewed by hot-shot NYT columnist and blogger (who lives in Oakland) Ezra Klein (whose book I read and reviewed back in January):

NYT, 20 Jul 21: This Conversation Will Change How You Think About Thinking

Concerning Annie Murphy Paul’s The Extended Mind.


Salon, Mary Elizabeth Williams, 5 Jul 21: “Public” universities aren’t free, conservatives, subtitled, “Don’t worry about your ‘tax dollars’ indoctrinating anybody”

Comments: Conservatives are constantly fretting that universities “indoctrinate” their children into leftie values, and thus corroding their homespun religious and political beliefs. And there’s a certain truth to that — because, as the saying goes, “reality has a liberal bias” and its flip that conservatives are committed to ideologies despite facts. (If religious and political beliefs had bases in reality, education would not corrode them.)

The article here triggers off Florida’s governor signing a bill to interrogate students at state public universities for signs of unpalatable “orthodoxies.”

By cleverly associating “taxpayer-funded” and “indoctrination,” republicans like DeSantis are using their own stale ideology. It’s a classic scare tactic, that your hard-earned dollars are being spent to turn your kids into pinkos. But the truth is that in the same way your parents’ hard earned dollars weren’t exactly bankrolling pervert artists in the nineties, very little of your money now is going toward brainwashing the youth.

This notion that the public university system is some kind of government handout, a useful Plan B for the masses who can’t afford the even more outrageous tuition of private universities, is pretty absurd. “Public” is not “free,” not at the higher ed level, not in America. UC Berkeley is currently $36,500 a year for in-state residents. Florida State is a relative bargain at $21,500. And what’s truly pitiful in all of this is that the majority of Americans — 63% — favor a free public university system. We actually want our hard earned tax dollars going toward our own and our kids’ higher learning. But cynics like DeSantis don’t want an educated, critically thinking populace. Not when they can claim they’re championing “intellectual diversity” while chilling opposing viewpoints. It’s a clever strategy. And it’s costing us all a lot to live with it.

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