Philosophy, Science, and Politics

First of all, I refined and polished my discussion of the Thomas Nagel book, posted here, and identified my key takeaway. (Sometimes you have to mull things for a few days before your thoughts gel.) Currently revisiting E.O. Wilson’s CONSILIENCE, which I’ve read twice but never compiled notes and commentary on, beyond two or three posts here about the first part of the book; I’ll be posting detailed summaries and commentaries about the rest of the book in the next week or two. It’s remarkable how his take on “consilience” aligns with Steven Pinker’s thoughts about the mind. Of course, they should — they’re both describing their takes on reality. Which is independent of the vagaries of ideology and religion.

Otherwise today:

  • Several takes on today’s Supreme Court decision allowing Trump to remain on state ballots;
  • Conservatives bearing false witness, and the morality of Trump supporters;
  • The tides of history, and how democracy is slipping away around the world;
  • Frank Bruni on how Democrats can win: solve local problems;
  • And two examples of Trump’s, and his followers’, dementia.

So many things going on. The least surprising news today was that the Supreme Court, with three conservative justices appointed by Trump, supported Trump over the State of Colorado in allowing him to remain on its ballot, despite his obvious encouragement of an insurrection. Their rationale was the states can’t do this — decide to remove him from the ballot — only Congress can. Leaving aside any discussion of insurrection.

Some commentators noted the inconsistency of their rationale that allowing states to make their own decisions conflicts with the very idea of Federalism — that individual states can make their own decisions — that conservatives have relied on ever since the Civil War. Yet now, the Court advised that “Nothing in the Constitution requires that we endure such chaos.”

NY Times, Jesse Wegman, 4 Mar 2024: Suddenly, the Supreme Court Dislikes Election Chaos

Nothing — really? Let me introduce you to federalism, the way elections are actually run in this country. Each state decides for itself which candidates will appear on its ballot, based on arcane laws regarding the number of signatures they need to gather. Ask Robert F. Kennedy Jr., the independent presidential candidate who is currently fighting to get his name on the ballot in states across the country, how that’s working out for him. Or No Labels, the bizarre group that has managed to secure a ballot line in 11 states so far, even without a candidate.


And it was a unanimous decision only on the main point.

Slate, Mark Joseph Stern, 4 March 2024: The Supreme Court’s “Unanimous” Trump Ballot Ruling Is Actually a 5–4 Disaster

The caption to the photo at top summarizes: “In their incandescent opinion, the liberal justices walk right up to the line of accusing the majority of doing a special favor for Trump.” Well, *of course* they did. Thus does my respect the law slip down yet another notch.

On Monday, the Supreme Court unanimously reversed a Colorado Supreme Court decision removing Donald Trump from the ballot because of his engagement in an insurrection on Jan. 6. But that top-line holding is where the unanimity ended because five conservative justices just couldn’t help themselves: They went much further than the case required, announcing an entirely new rule that Congress alone, through “a particular kind of legislation,” may enforce the constitutional bar on insurrectionists holding office. As the three liberal justices pointed out, in a separate opinion that glows white-hot with indignation, the majority’s overreach “attempts to insulate all alleged insurrectionists from future challenges to their holding federal office.” They are, of course, correct. After this decision, it is impossible to imagine a federal candidate, up to and including the president, ever being disqualified from assuming office because of their participation in an insurrection.


Enough of that; this too shall pass. Soon enough the Court will judge whether Trump is *immune* from any crimes he might have committed while in office. Wanna bet how this will turn out? We can only await what rationale, or casuistry, will inform their decision. One more notch.


Again, these political topics interest me for the way they speak to human nature, as I’ve been reading about in Pinker and Wilson (and how that’s a key theme in my essay, publication forthcoming.)

Conservatives bearing false witness. The morality of Trump supporters.

The Guardian, 4 Mar 2024: AI-generated images of Trump with Black voters being spread by supporters, subtitled “No evidence to tie fake images, including one created by Florida radio host, to Trump campaign, BBC Panorama investigation finds”


LGBTQNation, Dr. Warren J. Blumenfeld, 4 March 2024: Alabama’s IVF decision has fully annihilated the separation of church & state, subtitled “The Justices had no shame in invoking God as the reason for their ruling, cementing Christianity’s domination over the country.”


The tides of history. We’ve been here before. And survived, mostly.

Washington Post, Jennifer Rubin, 4 March 2024: Opinion | Democracy is imperiled globally. Republicans are on the wrong side.

Democracy seems to be a nice idea (Winston Churchill: “It has been said that democracy is the worst form of government, except all the others that have been tried.”) that conservatives don’t really believe in.

Referring to Freedom House’s recent report “Freedom in the World 2024: The Mounting Damage of Flawed Elections and Armed Conflict.”

The threat from right-wing groups and ideologies rejecting democratic values such as diversity, the rule of law, free speech, equality and tolerance — the very same values the MAGA movement targets — are at the root of the worldwide phenomenon. “Almost everywhere, the downturn in rights was driven by attacks on pluralism — the peaceful coexistence of people with different political ideas, religions, or ethnic identities — that harmed elections and sowed violence,” Freedom House observed. “These intensifying assaults on a core feature of democracy reinforce the urgent need to support the groups and individuals, including human rights defenders and journalists, who are on the front lines of the struggle for freedom worldwide.”


Is there a way to keep civilization from slipping backwards…?

NY Times, Opinion, Frank Bruni, 3 Mar 2024: How Democrats Can Win Anywhere and Everywhere

This concerns an incident — the collapse of I-95 last June due to a tractor-truck fire — where Gov. Josh Shapiro responded thus:

But he knew something else, too: that if you’re trying to impress a broad range of voters, including those who aren’t predisposed to like you, you’re best served not by joining the culture wars or indulging in political gamesmanship but by addressing tangible, measurable problems.

In less than two weeks, the road reopened.

The gist is: solve problems, especially at local levels.

“When people wake up in the morning, they don’t think about their party,” Beshear told me. “They think about their jobs. They think about the schools their children are going to. They think about the roads and bridges they’re traveling on and whether they’re safe.” The first of Gretchen Whitmer’s two successful campaigns for governor of Michigan is perhaps remembered best for her pledge to “fix the damn roads,” which was not only a concrete promise but also a kind of branding: She was more invested in results than theatrics. She cared less about preening than about potholes. She was blunt to the point of cursing.

Republicans, as I’ve repeatedly noted, do not seem to be interested in solving problems, to the point of denying that certain problems exist.


Two brief glimpses…

Raw Story, 2 Mar 2024: ‘Venezwheregullah’: Trump’s most ridiculed ‘short circuits’ from North Carolina rally

Joe.My.God, 3 Mar 2024: Anthem And Pledge Botched At Trump Rally [VIDEO]

They forgot the words of the National Anthem and the Pledge of Allegiance.

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