In 1964, Barry Goldwater was the Republican nominee, running against Lyndon Johnson. Goldwater was from what was then the furthest acceptable edge of the right wing. He was so effectively presented as an extremist that famously in his nomination acceptance speech he responded, “I would remind you that extremism in the defense of liberty is no vice! And let me remind you also that moderation in the pursuit of justice is no virtue!”
In one of the most famous political ads of all time, LBJ successfully painted him as too irresponsible to trust with nuclear weapons:
Nate Silver now has dug up another ad from that campaign: “Confessions of a Republican” voting for LBJ. Silver calls it “strange and kind of amazing.” I’d add “mesmerizing.”
Silver wonders if Hillary Clinton is studying it. She should.
There’s an excellent article by Sultan Al Qassemi on what the Gulf States can expect from a Trump presidency. (I found this at Parlio, a site for civil discussion.) I learned a lot. But don’t think there’s much sense in trying to predict what President Trump would do. He is not in it to govern.
I believe (based on no real evidence, of course) that when he closes his eyes at night, he’s not dreaming of all the good he could do in the world as president, but about the press coverage, the world’s leaders fawning as they approach, the salutes as he reviews the troops, his feet up on the Resolute desk in the Oval Office. He’s in it because he sees the presidency as the biggest reality TV show there is.
So, it’s impossible to predict what his policies will be. He doesn’t care. He’ll delegate that job to whomever he’s appointed, and we have no idea who that would be, other than that they will be sycophants up and bullies down.
She’s been a people’s librarian as the head of the Enoch Pratt Free Library in Baltimore — an actual librarian rather than an historian or academic. I expect her to work to make the treasures of the Library of Congress even more accessible to all.
She’s is on the board of the Digital Public Library of America which has a thorough commitment to open access and to the use of technology to unlock the riches of library culture.
It is also worth noting that she is not an elderly white man. Having a black woman as the head of the Library of Congress says something important, starting with “It’s about time.”
We’ll see where she stands on copyright issues. I have some hopes about that.
From On Time: Technology and Temporality in Modern Egypt, by On Barak (Univ. of California Press, 2013):
Dioramas were given their definitive form by Louis Daguerre, the inventor of photography, in the early 1820s. They consisted of massive, realistic landscape paintings, suspended from a theater ceiling and moving in sequence on a wire, with shifting light effects projected from behind. Alternatively, pictures might be stationed around a revolving platform.
Throughout the 1850s, after the diorama of the Overland Mail debuted in London, various other dioramas and panoramas showcased Egypt. “The Great Moving Panorama of the Nile” had been exhibited in England over 2,500 times by 1852. The new photographic “Cairo Panorama” debuted in 1859. In 1860 “London to Hong Kong in Two Hours” took spectators to the Far East via Egypt along the Overland Route.
…A typical description, taken from a review of the 1847 “City of Cairo Panorama,” reveals how Eurocentrism was performed in these spectacles: “The visitor standing on the circular platform is in the very center of the locality represented, as real to the eye as if he were on the spot itself. (Kindle Locations 789-802)
BTW, Barak’s book is about the history of the difference between the Western colonists’ view of time and the local Egyptian understanding:
…means of transportation and communication did not drive social synchronization and standardized timekeeping, as social scientists conventionally argue. Rather, they promoted what I call “countertempos” predicated on discomfort with the time of the clock and a disdain for dehumanizing European standards of efficiency, linearity, and punctuality. (Kindle locations 209-212)
Yesterday I started getting a stream of receipts from Amazon for goods I had not purchased. Mainly they were free games and apps so I only freaked out to 70% of maximum.
I changed my Amazon password and checked my credit cards just in case one of the purchases — there were dozens — was not free. All seemed in order.
The receipts cheerily exposed the person’s name to me, thanking “Dixxon Weinberger” for the $0.00 purchase. (I have changed Dixxon’s name because judging from the receipts and from the Facebook page I found under that name, he’s probably a minor.)
Because Dixxon’s name is spelled in an unusual way, I think I found the right Facebook page for him. It looks like an account he doesn’t check. But just in case, I left him a carefully written, friendly note suggesting that he clear up his email address at Amazon. The first thing I said in the message is that he should probably show this note to his parents. I did my best not to sound like an Internet creep, but it turns out that the harder you try, the creepier you sound. So I kept it to a minimum.
Then my son figured out what happened.
I own the email address dweinbergergmail.com. I use it as my backup email in case my primary one (davidweinberger.org) breaks. It turns out that Gmail ignores dots in your name. So, dwe.inbergergmail.com will reach me, as will dweinb.ergergmail.com. I’m sure there’s a good reason for this but I don’t really get why Gmail would so restrict its namespace. Anyway.
Dixxon apparently signed up at Amazon under d.weinbergergmail.com, so all his mail from Amazon (and now from other places he’s signed up at) are coming to me. I am filing them without reading them because I don’t want to know what this kid is downloading, but it seems like a pretty big flaw that Amazon let someone sign up without sending an email requiring confirmation.
Let me now put this in the past tense: I just spent 20 mins on the phone with Amazon support. The support person was very patient. They have closed the d.weinberger account. The poor kid isn’t going to know why because the explanation will go to an address that ends up in my inbox.
Sorry, Dixxon! It’s better this way. And, Amazon, maybe do better at sending confirmation emails.
Of course it’s likely that I mistakenly/absently clicked some confirmation email, although I have no record or recollection of doing so. Nevertheless, I’ve learned that 97% of the mysteries in my life can be resolved by assuming I did something wrong.
Here’s something I took from Heidegger that may not be in Heidegger:
The basis of morality is the recognition that the world matters to each person, but matters differently.
After that, I don’t know what to do except to be highly suspicious of anyone who cites moral precepts.
It turns out that I don’t find morality to be a very useful category since the way the world matters to us is so deeply contextual and individual: whether you should steal the loaf of bread has less to do with the general principle that it’s wrong to steal, and more to do with how hungry your family is, how much money you have, your opportunities to earn more money, the moral and legal codes of your culture, how kind the baker has been to you, what you know of the baker’s own circumstances, etc.
“Do unto others…,” Kant’s Categorical Imperative, the traditional Jewish formulation of “Don’t do unto others what you would not want done to you,” all are heuristics for remembering that the world matters to others just as much as it matters to you, but it matters differently. Trying to apply those heuristics without recognizing that the world can matter differently can lead to well-intentioned mistakes in which you substitute how your world matters to you for how theirs matters to them: you don’t believe in accepting blood transfusions so you refuse to give one to someone who believes otherwise.
This gets messy fast: You believe in the efficacy of blood transfusions, so you give one to someone who for religious reasons has stipulated that she does not want one. You are not treating her as an autonomous agent. Are you wrong? Once she’s under anesthesia should you let her die because she does not want a transfusion? I have my own inclination, but I have no confidence in it: Even the principle of always treating people as autonomous is hard to apply.
It’s easy to multiply examples, and very easy to find cases where I condemn entire cultures for how their world matters to them. For example, I’m really pretty sure that girls ought to be educated and women ought not to be subservient to men. I’d argue for that. I’d vote for that. I’d fight for that. But not because of morality. “Morality” just doesn’t seem like a helpful concept for deciding what one ought to do.
It can be useful as a name for the topic of what that “ought” means. But those discussions can obscure the particularities of each life that need to be as clear as possible when we talk about what we ought to do.
None of this is new or original with me. Maybe I’m just an old fashioned Existentialist — more Kierkegaardian than Satrean — but I feel like I could carry on the rest of my moral life without ever thinking about morality.
(No, I am not sure of any of the above.)
 That the world matters to us is certainly Heidegger. That it matters differently to us is more ambiguous. It’s captured in his notion of the existentiell, but his attempt at what seems to be a universal description of Dasein suggests that there may be some fundamental ways in which it matters in the same ways to us all. But it’s been a long time since I read Being and Time. Plus, he was a Nazi, so maybe he’s not the best person to consult about the nature of morality.
Scott Adams, the Dilbert guy, writes perceptively about Trump’s skill verbally assassinating his opponents with what Scott kills a “linguistic killshot.” His example is Trump labeling Jeb! as “low-energy.” It’s the type of description that cannot be countered and cannot be unheard. Adams notes that Trump is both very calculating and very smart about this.
But he predicts that Trump’s shot against Hillary Clinton will be that she is not “credible.” I think I disagree. For one thing, that’s been the explicit beef against her for twenty years. For another, I don’t think it will have much traction with the people Trump needs to reach, because independents are just as likely to think that Trump negotiating with allies is more of a Dukakis-in-the-tank moment than a vision of credibility.
Assuming that Hillary is the nominee, I think maybe Trump will go after her as “always flapping her jaws,” as “chatty but no one can understand what she’s saying,” as “blah blah NATO blah blah Excuses blah blah Policy Report #45278 Part A.” But that’s not what America needs, he’ll tell us. We need someone who will stand up to our allies and kill our enemies. “It’s not that hard, folks. And we don’t need a Chatty Cathy for that.”
This has the effect of neutralizing her deep expertise, especially in foreign affairs, thus turning her strength against her. It makes her look weak-willed. There is no effective counter to it. And it’s deeply misogynistic. In short, it’s got Trump in big gold letters all over it.
We made the odd choice of replacing our miracle composite kitchen floor — zero upkeep — with a knotty pine floor. Pine is beautiful, and we think it helps make our kitchen look more inviting, but it’s very soft wood.
So we’re conditioning it with tung oil. Tung oil penetrates the wood and polymerizes, hardening it while enriching the color and giving it a satiny sheen. The floor will still be softer than our miracle composite, but you have to resign yourself to thinking of the dents and scratches as signs of its being lived in. Or on. Also, because tung oil penetrates the wood and isn’t a layer on top, you can sand out some dings, and you can always wipe on a little more oil. We may live to regret it, but we like it so far.
Unfortunately, tung oil is a pain in the tuchus when compared to, say, polyurethane. You brush poly on, you let it dry, you lightly scratch it up with brillo or sandpaper, and you do it again. Boom done. Tung oil takes several coats, it smells, it takes longer to dry before the next coat, and it takes much longer to fully polymerize.
After a lot of research — Thank you, Internet — we decided on going with Real Milk Paint tung products. The rational reasons are:
1. They seem to have high quality products. Since there are various types of tung oil pretenders on the market, that counts.
2. For the initial applications, the Internet recommends cutting the tung oil with a solvent. Real Milk has a pre-mixed prep called Half and Half that cuts the tung with citrus oil. True to the claims, we found that it dries quickly and doesn’t smell bad — sort of citrusy, unsurprisingly. (Nevertheless, we trained a fan over the floor while it dried to blow the odor away from us humans.)
But the real reason we went with Real Milk is that they seem like Real People who know their tung oil. I came to this conclusion by reading their discussion boards and watching their videos. They seem to be craftspeople who love finishes that bring out the beauty of the wood they have just worked. They are straightforward and non-defensive. They are on the side of their customers.
I confirmed this minutes ago by calling customer support with a question and talking with a couple of folks there. Our third coat wasn’t drying. They told me what to do about it (dry it) and reassured me that this is in fact a sign that the wood has been saturated. Now we just have to walk carefully on it for a month until it’s fully set.
Could I be wrong about the people and the company? Absolutely. I’m wrong about most things. Maybe they’ll turn out to be the robotic face of a Big Tung, a mega-corporation peddling relabeled motor oil drained from Chernobyl. But I will have at least been fooled for the right reasons.