The Republican Party Platform, 2023

1. Some people have no right to exist.

2. Other people have a right to exist, but all their other rights are contingent upon the good will of the Republican Party. (See attached appendix no. 1 for a currently-approved list of other people.)

3. Women have no rights that a white man is obliged to respect.

4. After January 20, 2025, all books distributed to anyone in the United States under the age of 40 will require the nihil obstat of the Republican Party.

5. Immigrants are filthy scum, and they’re illegal too.

6. All history not approved by the Republican Party is bunk.

7. Scientific theories are theories. Republican assertions about the irrelevance of science are fact.

8. America is a Christian Republic. No ifs, no ands, no buts.

9. All lives matter. (This means white lives, police lives, heterosexual male lives, and the lives of those who haven’t yet been suspected of thought crimes by Tucker Carlson, Sean Hannity, Donald Trump Jr., or the governors of Florida, Texas, or Mississippi.)

10. Vladimir Putin has never accused a Republican of racism, and supports the death penalty for homosexuals. Therefore all aid to the Ukraine must cease immediately.

11. All Democrats are satanic, communistic pedophiles who hate America and want to take away our personal machine guns, mortars, and armored vehicles.

12. Freedom means a) not being vaccinated, b) not wearing a mask, c) riding a Harley without a helmet, d) not paying taxes, and e) calling people you don’t approve of any kind of names you feel like. All other definitions of freedom are the inventions of a woke conspiracy supported by funds from George Soros.

13. This platform will be updated whenever the Republican Party finds someone new to hate, some new apostasy to reject, or some new way to cosset our precious billionaires. (See attached appendix no. 2 for a currently-approved list of precious billionaires.)

14. We know where you live.

Singing In The Dark Times

Twitter. After more than a decade of contented blogging, I tried it last year, and was almost immediately chased off the premises by a persistent sociopath who needed to be there far more desperately than I did. I’d been onboard long enough, though, to realize that what made Twitter valuable was its omnipresence. It saw everything everywhere all at once, and was both faster and less timid than any curated medium was at reporting what it saw. Despite its flaws, Twitter always knew what was up, and it was always eager to tell everybody about it.

Being able to eavesdrop on the entire world in real time, or as close to real time as human perception and internet data transmission allow, is intoxicating in both the good and bad senses of the term, which is undoubtedly why Twitter can sometimes appear to us as a fountain and sometimes as a cesspool, and sometimes as both at the same time. Despite attempts by management to police vile and unpleasant behavior, there has never been any real gatekeeper on Twitter, no credentialing, certification, or approval process that couldn’t easily be circumvented. The reason for this was the sheer scale of the task. The universe of discourse on social media in general, and on Twitter in particular, was and is too large and too fast to control, even with the assistance of computer-driven algorithms. Unlike the editors of the New York Times, Jack Dorsey and his staff had no illusions about their ability to monitor, let alone enforce, cultural norms at scale. On Twitter, civilized discourse was an option, but it was never the only option. Caveat lector was the rule.

And so it was until Musk, full of who knows what except himself, decided to cast his bread upon the waters. Given that we’re only a few days into his reign, it’s hard to predict the outcome of his dalliance with any confidence, but at the moment it seems unlikely that he’ll ever find that bread again, at least not all 44 billion dollars worth of it. What the rest of us will find is even more uncertain, but I suspect that even after Musk has done working everything over from top to bottom with his libertarian hatchet, Twitter will remain pretty much what it always has been, the human comedy entire, in all its tawdry glory. It’s also a fair bet, I think, that Musk the reformer isn’t as smart as he thinks he is, and it won’t be all that surprising if, in the waning days of his epiphany, he turns out not be as solvent as he thought he was either.

All that aside, what I found useful about Twitter last year is still just as useful, and I know my way around the place now. I no longer need to browse except when the mood strikes me, I’ve found a place where the sociopaths can’t get to me, and if Elon ever tires of his pet project, or surrenders it to the bankruptcy courts, I’ll still have Mastodon, or something very like it, to fall back on. Caveat lector is working out just fine for me. YMMV.

If This Be Treason….

A meditation on Brad DeLong’s Slouching Towards Utopia

Is the logic of capitalism the logic of the germ cell or the cancer cell? If it actually turns out to be both, what does that augur for our future?

Social democracy demands consensus. Fascism demands obedience. Neither has much respect for the richness of human intention.

We are a mercurial species. Cats are actually easier to herd than we are. Sooner or later, this drives the zealots, ideologues, and bureaucrats of every religion and ism around the bend. If they weren’t so vicious in their disappointments, they’d deserve our sympathy.

There are echoes of an eloquent despair in DeLong’s perceptions, something prophetic, something like an eternally acerbic Brechtian irony:

Wäre es da
Nicht doch einfacher, die Regierung
Löste das Volk auf und
Wählte ein anderes?

Would it not in that case
Be simpler for the government
To dissolve the people
And elect another?

—Bertolt Brecht, die Lösung

If in the end democracy isn’t robust enough to save us from the metastatic influence of 21st century technologies on our nastier impulses, what then? Even if human evolution were proceeding according to our fondest hopes, could it ever be quick enough to make Brecht’s tongue-in-cheek option a viable one? Clearly not.

I don’t care. I’ve just finished reading Slouching Towards Utopia, and I’m putting away my lantern. I’ve found an honest man. To return to Brecht again:

In den finsteren Zeiten
Wird da auch gesungen werden?
Da wird auch gesungen werden.
Von den finsteren Zeiten.

In the dark times
Will there also be singing?
There will also be singing.
About the dark times.

—Bertolt Brecht, Schlechte Zeit für Lyrik

I’m Not As Smart As I Thought I Was Either

I feel about Elon Musk pretty much the same way the Salieri character felt about the Mozart character in Amadeus. Is this buffoon on Twitter really the guy who beat NASA at its own game, and on a shoestring, too, and almost single-handedly made electric vehicle propulsion for the 21st century a commonplace? Really? This is the guy?

Yeah, this is the guy. The Universe may not care very much about us, even less about our categories, but it does have a sense of humor, and it does deserve respect, even when—especially when—it appears to mock our most cherished pretensions….

More Black Robe Humor

“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

Why Did This Man Have a Chicken On His Hat?

Führers are a dime a dozen these days. Real leaders are born, not made.

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.