A Way to Talk Around the Problem

  • The “same color” illusion — an example of how we cannot trust our senses;
  • How Rudy Giuliani descended into MAGA, and whether we’re all equally susceptible;
  • How right-wingers are triggered by tap-dancing in the White House to The Nutcracker;
  • Brief satire item about the 2023 Congress;
  • And my revisiting albums by R.E.M., especially Lifes Rich Pageant, and the earlier albums…

Are the colors of squares A and B the same?

Astronomy Picture of the Day, 18 Dec 2023: The Same Color Illusion

Yes they are. Click on the link, and hover over the image. A prime example of how our senses, in this case sight, are extremely context-sensitive and therefore cannot be relied on to report object reality. One of my ongoing themes.


NY Times, Opinion by David French, 17 Dec 2023: Behold, MAGA Man

What happens to people like this? Are we all susceptible depending on time and place and circumstances? I.e. are our morality, our integrity, our honesty, context-sensitive?

This concerns Rudy Giuliani’s lying about election fraud, in particular dishonestly describing a video of election worker Ruby Freeman, an action that subsequently ruined her life with harassment from MAGA fans.

And make no mistake, Giuliani lied. He admitted that his statements were false back in July, and in August the court entered a default judgment against him, holding him liable for those falsehoods. The only question left for the jury was the amount of the damages. And Friday, the jury gave its answer: Giuliani now owes Freeman and Moss $148 million to compensate them for his cruel and obvious lies.

The verdict is against Giuliani alone. But make no mistake, MAGA was on trial in the courtroom — its methods, its morality and the means it uses to escape the consequences of its dreadful acts. That’s because Rudy Giuliani isn’t truly Rudy Giuliani any longer. In his long descent from a post-9/11 American hero to a mocked, derided and embattled criminal defendant (he has also been indicted in Fani Willis’s sprawling Georgia case), he became something else entirely. He became a MAGA Man.

The writer goes on to discuss the many MAGA Men and MAGA Woman in the modern GOP. As I’ve noted before, it seems to me that conservatives tend to easily set aside their Biblical morality when it suits their purpose, because they believe they have a higher cause that transcends not only the secular rule of law but also their Commandments — which they understand to apply only to their own tribe.

The first thing you need to know about a MAGA Man like Giuliani is that he’s dishonest. Truthfulness is incompatible with Trumpism. Trump is a liar, and he demands fealty to his lies. So Giuliani’s task, as Trump’s lawyer, was to lie on his behalf, and lie he did. He even repeated his lies about Freeman and Moss — the same lies to which he’d already confessed — outside the courthouse during his trial.

A MAGA Man such as Giuliani supplements his lies with rage. To watch him pushing Trump’s election lies was to watch a man become unglued with anger. The rage merged with the lie. The rage helped make the lie stick. Why would a man like Giuliani, former prosecutor and hero mayor, be so angry if he hadn’t discovered true injustice? MAGA Men and Women are very good at using their credibility from the past to cover their lies in the present.

And this entails yet another conservative theme.

Amid the lies and rage, however, a MAGA Man like Giuliani also finds religion. But not in the way you might expect. No, MAGA Man is not sorry for what he’s done. Instead, he feels biblically persecuted. Freeman and Moss aren’t the real victims; he is. Moreover, he also knows that the base is religious and likes to hear its politicians talk about God.

Giuliani learned that lesson well. So during the trial, he compared himself to Christians in the Colosseum, battling the lions like the martyrs of old. He’s not alone in this, of course. Trump shared an image of Jesus sitting by his side as he stood trial. Stone got so religious that he claimed to see supernatural sights, including, he said, a “demonic portal” that’s “swirling like a cauldron” about the Biden White House.

Scary stuff. These people are increasingly all around us, and influential.


Right-wingers are so easily triggered.

Salon, Amanda Marcotte, 18 Dec 2023: Right-wing tantrum over Jill Biden Christmas video accidentally reveals how much MAGA hates America, subtitled “When the ‘war on woke’ is over, the only entertainment left for Trump cultists will be Dear Leader’s speeches”

This involves a video showing tap-dancers in the White House performing to a jazz version of “The Nutcracker.” The outrage!!

To normal people, the video was a bit of old-fashioned Christmas cheer in the great American tradition of musical extravaganzas like those of Busby Berkeley. To MAGA-Americans, however, it was a moral and aesthetic outrage that was going straight into their file labeled “Why Now Is The Time For American Fascism.” Tellingly, despite the flood of angry comments, Republicans struggled to articulate exactly what they found so offensive. Vague terms like “weird,” “grotesque and abhorrent,” and “classless” accompanied odd accusations that the performance reminded them of “The Hunger Games.” Chaya Raichik of Libs of TikTok whined that it “should’ve come with a sensitivity label.” To her million-plus Twitter followers, right-wing influencer Brigitte Gabriel groused, “Children should not be watching this smut!”




Washington Post, Alexandra Petri, 18 Dec 2023: Opinion | Congress, Wrapped! 2023.


This is the first R.E.M. album I discovered.

Their earlier albums, which I’ve been listening to this week, were weird, evocative, eccentric, fun, distinctive. I liked their later albums just as much, though the group went through phases — becoming more pop with middle-period albums that included songs like “Leaving My Religion” and “Everybody Hurts”, and then later albums with gorgeous art songs like “Falls to Climb”.

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