URLs du Jour

2022-06-14

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  • A (slightly more) modest proposal. Yesterday I looked at a WIRED interview with a guy who advocates nationalizing the entire (American) Internet, from infrastructure to private platforms. Today, there's a relatively moderate proposal from Nick French at Jacobin: Tinder Wants Money. We Want Love. The Solution: Socialize Dating Apps. (I assume the apps would be run by the Ministry of Love.)

    After noting the standard progressive problems (privacy, commercialization of romance, possible algorithmic inequity)… what's the basic problem, Nick?

    The fundamental problem here isn’t just that the apps are bad at matching users with long-term partners. Many people don’t use the apps to find long-term partners, and some apps are designed for casual dating or hookups. Nor is the issue that the apps are particularly unpleasant to use (though many users do love to complain that the apps are awful).

    The most basic problem is that the terms on which we meet our partners, serious or otherwise, are increasingly being dictated arbitrarily and opaquely by corporate actors whose motivation is very different from that of users. We want love, they want money.

    Nick doesn't seem to realize (or maybe he does) is that nearly every commercial free-market transaction involves trading money for something.

    Anyway, the article is shot through with paeans to "democratization", and how Nick imagines that could make things better.

    I was directed to the article by Dan Mitchell's blog entry: Government-Run Dating Apps Would Be a Recipe for Lifelong Celibacy. His rebuttal starts with the bleeding obvious:

    For what it’s worth, profit-seeking companies have an incentive to give customers what they want.

    Based on the performance of bureaucracies such as the Postal Service, I suspect we’ll all live celibate and lonely lives if the government takes over apps like Tinder and Bumble.

    And that would be the case regardless of whether we have government-run dating apps (socialism) or government-controlled dating apps (fascism).

    And makes the point via a classic Milton Friedman quote: "If you put the federal government in charge of the Sahara Desert, in 5 years there'd be a shortage of sand."


  • A lousy plot, too. Kevin D. Williamson nails the real problem (well, one of the real problems) with the Democratic Party effort to make the midterms about Trump: The January 6 Hearings Are a Story without a Hero.

    As I have argued at some length, the invasion of the Capitol and the vandalism and violence associated with it were a sideshow, and should be understood as such. The main event was Donald Trump’s attempt to find some legal or procedural fig leaf for invalidating the 2020 presidential election, and by that means to remain in power — a coup d’état under color of law. Tyrants always fortify their regimes with borrowed prestige: borrowed from the law, from religion, from science, and, above all, from “the People.” But tyranny is tyranny.

    Some of my friends on the right scoff at the idea that this amounted to anything more than a farce, something more than Rudy Giuliani’s taking a long final drunken piss on what remained of his reputation, but they are wrong: It was only thanks to the integrity of a few minor officials of whom nobody had ever heard before Trump’s attempt to overturn the 2020 election — if there are any heroes in this story, they are them — that this did not end up being a more acute crisis than it was. Replaying the Battle of Athens in the age of social media and mass shootings is a short road to national chaos.

    The white whale for Democrats remains finding a way to charge Trump with a crime for his role in this. My National Review colleague Andrew C. McCarthy often observes the error of trying to find a legal solution to a political problem, and this is fundamentally a political and moral problem rather than a legal one. If there is a fruitful criminal-law strategy to be pursued, Democrats have not discovered it: They have been trying to find a prosecutable crime with which to charge Trump since before he took office, and they haven’t even come up with an Al Capone charge from Trump’s taxes, his “charity” shenanigans, or his rather creative campaign-finance practices. The only shots they have landed have been merely Trump-adjacent. (That is convenient for Trump, who has made it perfectly clear that he does not care at all what happens to the people around him.) Progressives who continue to claim that Merrick Garland is always right on the cusp of hauling in Donald Trump increasingly sound like Louise Mensch writing about the marshal of the Supreme Court back in the day, or any number of persistent QAnon cultists.

    It's NRPlus, so subscribe already.


  • Another take: It's from Chris Stirewalt, famous for pissing off Trump fans: The January 6 Committee and Me.

    I don’t know if the share of politicians capable of actual courage really is lower today than when I first started covering them full-time two dozen years ago. Some of what I see as declining character in our leaders may be a byproduct of nostalgia, but holy croakano, people … 

    We surely are living in a political age of desperate, shallow ambition and the cowardice it inevitably produces. No longer is it sufficient to help yourself; you must also hurt the other side.

    Which brings us to the investigation into then-President Donald Trump’s effort to steal a second term, the efforts of some Republicans in Congress to vandalize the Constitution to help him, and the sacking of the Capitol by a mob summoned to serve the ambitions of the coup plotters. Forget Lincoln and Washington. This was behavior unworthy of Nixon, who refused to contest some clearly dubious results after the 1960 presidential election and, when president himself, resigned the office rather than subject the country to a protracted impeachment fight.

    What Trump and his gang did in the 2020 election and its aftermath is a big historical moment for our country, far bigger than the Watergate scandal we still discuss 50 years later. The coup effort and Capitol attack will long endure in the story of this century, along with the 9/11 attacks and subsequent wars, the panic of 2008 and the ensuing recession, and the coronavirus pandemic during which the 2020 election took place. Trump was the first president ever to pose a credible threat to the peaceful transfer of presidential power that has been our inheritance for 226 years. 

    Acts of such monstrous self interest and the craven lust for power evinced by the behavior of many in the Republican Party demanded a response of real statesmanship and courage; first from Republicans who had not succumbed to the scheme and then from Democrats. But as you know, both parties failed that test.

    As I've said before, I'm not looking forward to the upcoming elections. Do I vote for a party simply because its politicians are slightly less awful than the other's?


  • Fortunately, Progressive Flo never met Johnny Depp. Philip Greenspun notes that we sometimes pay for the recklessness of others: Who paid for the consequences of the ACLU-authored, Amber Heard-signed op-ed? You did.

    From the New York Post:

    Multiple sources said the “Aquaman” star had to switch legal representation and is relying on her homeowner’s insurance policy to cover the cost of her current attorneys in the case.

    The bill for Heard’s attorney has mostly been footed by The Travelers Companies under terms of the actress’s insurance policy, sources said.

    A vice president of the insurance firm, Pamela Johnson, was spotted in the Fairfax, Virginia, court with Heard multiple times throughout her trial. Neither Johnson nor Travelers returned calls from The Post.

    When your next homeowner’s insurance bill arrives, remember that part of the increase will be to cover the loss occasioned by the op-ed that the ACLU wrote.

    Also featured in Philip's story, this NBC news report: Geico must pay $5.2 million to woman who got HPV from sex in man's insured car, court rules.

    Get that cockney-accented gecko to cough up some of his TV ad revenue.


  • On the LFOD watch. An article showing up in my Google news alert, from Emily Apter: Live Free or Die? Psychopolitical Infrastructures of Denialism. One paragraph:

    When approached from the angle of political theory, the Todestrieb of Covid-denialism aligns with the logic of “live free or die” libertarianism. New Hampshire’s official motto was adopted in 1945 and borrowed from a toast (“Live free or die: Death is not the Worst of Evils”) made by Revolutionary War hero General John Stark, who himself was borrowing it from the French Revolutionary slogan “Vivre libre ou mourir.” Under conditions of pandemia, this libertarian rallying cry is weaponized in a paroxysm of individual choicism that gains energy and positive reinforcement from in-group identification and the community support-structures of fellow denialists. One could say, then, that pandemia denialism produces a singular community; a company of Lockean self-property owners, possessive individualists whose ego-ideal is based on the kind of self-sufficing “ownness” (Eigenheit) that Max Stirner outlined in his controversial 1844 book The Ego and its Own (Der Einzige und sein Eigentum).17 Stirner’s theory of the ego was castigated by Marx as little more than a smokescreen for petty bourgeois individualism and self-interest, but Marx was short-sighted in dismissing its potential for the kind of anarchist individualism that we see animating entrepreneurial philosophy in the tech industry. Nor could he forsee its importance for Freud’s theory of das Ich, of the ego as a subjective agency that, in misrecognizing itself, and engaging in a dreamlike distortion of reality to justify its own ends, enables grandiose fantasies of self-possession. Psychosis, as Freud would note in this instance, becomes a way of making good on the loss of reality.18

    For the non-psychology majors (like me, had to look it up): Todestrieb is "death-drive" a concept from Freud.

    But gee, "individual choicism"?