Saturday links

October 30, 2021

I've had a busy couple of weeks.  I'll post some of the things here on coming days, but basically I've given four public presentations and produced several large reports.  I'm pooped.

For now, therefore, here are some links!


This is almost a small book on the likely next leader of Al-Qaeda.  Interesting if maybe more marginal to most peoples' thinking these days than it used to be--amazing to think about that.


“This brief argues that the Biden administration ought to form a new federal interagency task force to address addiction and despair as a critical first step.”  Really interesting—a proposal for a commission on despair.  Not sure we’ve ever had something from the Federal government that’s so, well, philosophical.  And I don’t think this is actually a bad thing. 


Great interview with Amartya Sen.  A certain kind of hyper-intelligent, hyper-gifted person cannot but express their way of being-in-the-world as if it were just an ordinary way of being; for them, the kind of intelligence they have is so natural, so organic, that it is not remarkable.  Sen sounds like that a bit here.  (This is not a criticism, or praise of his humility; it’s more an observation.)


This young woman writes an interesting confessional piece about stigmatizing people on-line.

“There can be an unsparing purity to growing into one’s social conscience that is often overbroad.

My brain wasn’t ready for nuance. I was angered by hypocrisy and cruelty; what I did about it was apply a level of scrutiny that left no room for error. I’m not saying that I should be canceled for my teenage blog. (Please don't!) I just know what we all should know by now: that no one who has lived publicly, online or off, has a spotless record.”


Grief is so densely granular, so individual, a grief of this person, no other, their smell, their face, their mannerisms, their voice.  And yet, for all its fleshly individuality, its determinate empiricism, it is also so incommunicable, so fundamentally abstracted from interpersonal referentiality—apple, book, car, red—that it can also feel absolutely indefinable.  The combination of individuality of the grieved, and its inextricable rootedness in the grieving person, is part of what makes this story so affecting.  And also, of course, that the grief never fully leaves, even if it also never fully arrives.


Gerstle’s better than Nathan J Robinson, anyway.

“As is the case with the populist mobilization that Trump has engendered on the right, that the new progressivism is not going away anytime soon. We have entered a new political era, one in which the principles and strategies that guided the party during the Clinton and Obama eras no longer suffice.”


Two things: (1) the way quarantine grew out of an earlier religious tradition of an ordeal of 40 days, and (2) also the way quarantine teaches us some thing about how the state views society, as a mass for which individuals can be sacrificed. The state does not see us in our individuality, it sees us as part of an undifferentiated mass. And it should see us that way.


Stay safe everyone.