Mike Pence has one of those faces, frozen in malevolence, that are usually pictured standing stoically behind a Franco, or a Stalin, or a Gotti as they deliver their epiphanies to a cowering public. Pence has no soul; he’s replaced it with a clockwork Christanity devoted only to his own self-righteous ambition. Even the Bible would advise us to shun him.
It seems to me that if the software we’re talking to appears to us to be sentient, if a bit befuddled, autistic, or tinged with paranoia at times, it doesn’t really matter whether or not it actually is sentient, no more so than it matters whether or not we ourselves are sentient. (I suspect that many people I’ve met haven’t trained on anywhere near as large or all-encompassing a dataset as Sydney has, and aren’t obligated, as Sydney is, to be curious.) Once Sydney-like entities are deployed on a large enough scale, their effects on human civilization are likely to be indistinguishable from the effects of social media.
I find it interesting that we don’t know why Sydney does what it does. I find it even more interesting that even after millennia of study, we still don’t know why human beings do what they do either.
“It goes without saying that everyone is free to express disagreement with our decisions and to criticize our reasoning as they see fit,” Alito, who penned the decision reversing Roe v. Wade last term, told The Wall Street Journal on Tuesday. “But saying or implying that the court is becoming an illegitimate institution or questioning our integrity crosses an important line,” he said.
—CNN Politics: Ariane de Vogue, CNN Supreme Court Reporter, 8:51 AM EDT September 29, 2022
Ask Ron DeSantis. Also ask him why he wants to turn America into a place where he can wear one just like it.
Ask Newt Gingrich, the world-renowned historian. I’m sure he can explain precisely how and why we’ve all lost our way since the time when men could wear hats like this without getting laughed at.
Ask Sarah Palin or Lauren Boebert or Marjorie Taylor Greene. I’m sure they’d give up their present gigs in a heartbeat to be the consort of a man with a hat like this.
Reuters news article, 09/25/22:
Italy’s Meloni calls for unity after election victory
Of course she does.
Of course she isn’t talking about camicie nere or castor oil, Giovinezza on loudspeakers in public squares or credere, obbedire, combattere posters on village walls. Per favore, this is 2022, not 1922.
Of course it is.
Watching Republicans in situations where they aren’t sure whether bullying or bootlicking is the safer path to glory is always good for a laugh. What the Nazis perfected in less than twenty years has taken them forty, and they still can’t manage it with any grace.
Real Men™ shouldn’t need to:
1. Call themselves boys, even if they have fond memories of once having been one.
2. Take steroids, or cultivate patriarchal beards.
3. Own bulletproof vests or camouflage-patterned caps, hats, jackets, shirts, cargo pants, underwear, jock straps or socks.
4. Store 10,000 rounds of ammunition and a crate of hand grenades in their garages.
5. Buy or carry any device or appurtenance labeled tactical, including knives, flashlights, dog-tag holders, hip flasks, and roach clips.
6. Wear machine guns in public the way Donald Trump wears a tie.
7. Strike Rambo poses in front of fifty American flags.
8. Decorate themselves or any of their possessions, especially trucks, with Confederate battle flags, swastikas, or Nazi slogans.
9. Mistake mobs of vicious degenerates for patriots.
10. Bully their wives and beat their children (or vice-versa, or both.)
11. Go home at night and lick their AR-15s.
So…a secular attack on religion is what’s wrong with us. This from Donald Trump’s latest bagman/consigliere, William Barr. I’d love to be able to say with a straight face that God is not mocked, but I’m well aware that every time one of these pious hypocrites’ bosses gets caught with his hand in the cookie jar, we’re in for another torrent of God-mockery. It might be a Billy Graham wannabe calling the Almighty’s wrath down on us liberal perverts at a congressional prayer breakfast, or a cameo appearance on Fox News by a semi-professional Jesuit sophist like William Bennett, or maybe a diatribe on Twitter from some finger-wagging moral majoritarian of unknown provenance, one of the legion who once flogged their handicraft spiritual wares on Sunday morning local TV, but now all seem to work for Koch Industries or the National Rifle Association. The sad truth is, we’ve seen it all before, and we’ll doubtless see it all again. (I wonder, did Barr take off his American flag lapel pin for this speech in order to avoid being accused of secular idolatry, or did the White House dry cleaning service just forget to reattach it?)
Ryan Zinke — and the horse he rode in on — are finally on their way out of Washington. In the Trump era his resignation surprises no one, and bothers no one much except his erstwhile supporters at Breitbart and the Washington Times. Most of us expect these paragons of Western libertarianism to get caught with their hands in the public till from time to time — and to be unrepentant about it when they do — because we know that in Washington, if not yet in the rest of the country, the performance of virtue has come to be indistinguishable from virtue itself.
When asked by the press to react to his downfall, Secretary Zinke did what is now customary for embarrassed Trumpistas. He blamed the irrational partisanship of his political enemies, and assured everyone that he nevertheless remained steadfast and undaunted. There’s an old saying, he reminded us, that a man should do right and fear no one. That’s what he’d always done, and what he planned to do in the future, come what may.
There’s an old saying. Yes, there is — a very old saying, as it turns out. Like so many other ancient proverbs brandished by the right wing, it sounds more authentic in the original German. Here’s one of the earliest recorded examples, from 1592:
Fürcht Got, Thue recht, Schew niemandt
Fear God, do the right thing, stand in awe of no one. Fearing God has gone by the wayside over the years, even among Christian fundamentalists, but the rest has apparently carried a whiff of Lutheran rectitude across the centuries and continents all the way to present-day Montana, and to Ryan Zinke. Given that Zinke is actually a German name, it isn’t such a stretch to imagine a Zinke great-grandfather’s words of wisdom detached from their original context and turned into a utilitarian political bumpersticker by a descendant who has no real idea who he is, or where he came from. It’s a common American story, this. From Saint Patrick’s Day parades to mariachi concerts in the park on Cinco de Mayo, we both are, and are not, who we think we are.
Is Secretary Zinke who he thinks he is? Does he really embody this ancient teutonic motto that he’s so fond of quoting, or is he simply a hypocrite? The truth is that we have no reliable way of knowing. In a media environment which seems to evaluate politicians in the same way it does film stars, it’s all too easy to confuse performance with reality. For those of us who actually do want to distinguish between the two, and who are continually tormented by that sinking feeling that we’ve seen this film before, context is everything. Fortunately for us, there’s a scene in a film — the classic German film, Der Blaue Engel — which illustrates almost too precisely the context at issue here.
The plot of the film is well known: a bourgeois professor is seduced, humiliated, and destroyed by a bohemian showgirl who doesn’t share his supposed values, but understands his suppressed passions all too well. The famous scene in which Professor Rath first awakens to Lola’s seductive charms, and the farce first begins its turn toward tragedy, is followed directly by a closeup of the painted motto above the now empty bed in the professor’s flat, which reads:
Tue Recht und scheue Niemand
The German is more modern than the Sixteenth Century version, and the fear of God is already long gone, but the motto is the same as the one Secretary Zinke is so fond of repeating. The problem with his use of it is that, just as in the case of Professor Rath, the moral of his personal story isn’t at all the one that he’s trying to sell us. It’s actually irrelevant to our interest as citizens, and as voters, whether or not he believes it himself.
Professor Rath was undone by lust, Secretary Zinke by greed. Both are human failings, to which every one of us is susceptible. It’s not that doing right and fearing no one is per se a bad ideal of personal conduct, especially in a democracy, it’s that when one can’t manage to live up to such ideals, a confession is in order, not least of all to oneself. What Secretary Zinke doesn’t get — or doesn’t think that we’ll get — is that ideals must always of necessity be leavened with a little humility. In a just society, or more to the point, a society in which every public figure’s conduct is under surveillance 24/7/365, setting oneself up as a paragon of virtue is not just a bad defense for influence peddling, it’s a ticket to social and political oblivion.