Doin' Whatever A Spider Can

01 Jan 2018

Devin Faraci for Birth. Movies. Death.:

This is Tony making a mistake. It’s one of the defining aspects of Tony Stark in the movies - he makes big decisions on the fly and they are quite often either wrong or incredibly destructive, and here he’s making another one.

Pinball Wizards

31 Dec 2017

Tycho Brahe from Penny Arcade:

He also does not understand pinball. I mean, he understands that there is a silver ball and that you can’t let it go down through the hole; he doesn’t understand why I find them beautiful. I tried to find a word to describe how I feel about them that wasn’t the word beautiful, but I couldn’t do that and be honest. They’re playable sculptures; I don’t know what you want from me.

"The internet births interesting societies."

30 Dec 2017

Alice Maz:

I’ve always loved knowable systems. People are messy and complicated, but systems don’t lie to you. Understand how all the parts work, understand how all the parts interact, and you can construct a perfect model of the whole thing in your head. Of course it’s more complicated than that.

Lord Stanley's Cup

29 Dec 2017

Philip Pritchard writing for The Player’s Tribune

There are 49 Super Bowl trophies out there. There is only one Stanley Cup. You don’t win it. You borrow it. But your name is etched on it for all of history.

"It looks bad now, but you should have seen me earlier"

06 Aug 2017

David Hill for McSweeney’s:

Zugzwang is a term used in chess to refer to a position where every move you have is a bad one. Once you’re in zugzwang, things like having more pieces than your opponent doesn’t matter anymore. If you can’t use them to attack you may as well not have them at all. Often players who find themselves in zugzwang simply resign.

A growing number of people in America know what it feels like to be in zugzwang. For some of them their whole life has been one long zugzwang, they can’t remember ever having any good options.

Donald Trump Doesn't Hate Babies

07 Aug 2016

Trump doesn’t hate babies.1 Yet this week was dominated by stories about his open disdain for infants. This is a perfect example of the way that stories stick despite only being vaguely factual with the added difficulty for Trump being that his past unpredictability makes it easier to believe outrageous things about him.2

The Trump campaign doesn’t seem to understand why he keeps getting tagged by nonsense. Perhaps it is time that they brought in and had conversations with some actual political operatives.

Granted, it sure is a lot of fun to shout “I’m against the system!”, but that doesn’t mean you’re going to have an easy time operating against it. Sanders’ campaign is the obvious recent example, but any anti-establishment candidate will inevitably run into difficulties that hamper success.

To run for president in the United States you need to be aware of the significance of the structures involved in the process. You don’t have to like it, but that’s the reality of contemporary politics. In Trump’s case, he needs the media to present him as a serious candidate with serious ideas.3 This is not an option. This isn’t the media’s “fault” though. There are no grand conspiracies here. Politics in a democracy is (and always has been) a popularity contest.

In a popularity contest, you need a method of engaging with those who are voting and few candidates have a microphone of their own sufficient to reach 315 million Americans. Trump certainly doesn’t. This mean that the media are the gatekeepers to voters. You don’t need them “on your side”, but you do need to know how to use them. For all Trump’s prior successes, he doesn’t appear to know how to use the media writ large. At least, not in a political environment. Even if his rhetoric is against the biased Media Party Elites, he still needs to work within that system. His team is failing him in that regard.

This, I would guess, is why Clinton isn’t doing press conferences. In a normal campaign, she’d be creating a dangerous vacuum, but Trump gives the media more than enough to keep them occupied – and voters (or readers, anyway) would much rather those stories. So speaking up, for Clinton, is all risk with little upside: stories about Trump’s missteps are easier wins than anything she could do.

In some ways, Clinton is running contrary to conventional wisdom: her campaign isn’t in control of the day to day messaging. That might be a problem in a normal election cycle, but when the message is this favorable to you, why would you try to change it? Clinton could very well win by Trump losing.

My guess: the first full week where Trump stays on message and avoids scandal and embarrassment is when Clinton does a full press conference. And I say this knowing full well that she took questions a couple days ago. That was a perfect example of an unforced error on the part of the Clinton campaign. Whether her answers (and the “kind of” press conference itself) is more interesting than whatever Trump says over the next few days, who knows. But it gave Trump an opportunity to let the message of the day be a negative one about Clinton. He should take it. He likely won’t.

And “he should, but won’t” is Trump’s campaign in a nutshell. There are times in the primaries where that attitude served him well, but a one on one campaign against Clinton is radically different than the free for all of the Republican primary process.

  1. At least not publicly. 

  2. If only someone had been able to identify and articulate that problem earlier on… 

  3. Or, I suppose, merely as he wants to be presented on the off chance that he has some strategy other than “seem like he would make for a good president”. 

The Power and The People

15 Jun 2016

George Kateb for The Utopian:

Morally speaking, democracy is an insufficient foundational value for a political system; democracy is not the sole value in political life. “The more democracy, the better” is not true – whether in political, social, or cultural life.

"A selfish vantage point"

14 Jun 2016

Chris Arnade for The Guardian:

In these last three years, out from behind my computers, I have been reminded that life is not rational and that everyone makes mistakes. Or, in Biblical terms, we are all sinners.

We are all sinners. On the streets the addicts, with their daily battles and proximity to death, have come to understand this viscerally. Many successful people don’t. Their sense of entitlement and emotional distance has numbed their understanding of our fallibility.

The Style Guide: On Canons [Episode 40]

13 Jun 2016

Some of my PhD work is on the nature of the political philosophy discipline and the canon that has been constructed around it. Having run into a bit of a wall, I was able to trick Dave into dedicating an entire episode that was aimed towards helping me climb that wall. Thanks Dave! PS: “I Will Never Speak To You Again. I Hate You.”

Float On

13 Jun 2016

Mike Miller:

Like the child you were, literally hold a real book and tune out, and turn off, the digital distractions. Embrace the content that lets you explore far off worlds where hours fly by in the blink of an eye. The king will always beckon you back to reality but, at least on occasion, make sure they are calling you back from some imaginary world.