Monday, March 5, 2012

Reason's Tribunal

Fix reason firmly in her seat, and call to her tribunal every fact, every opinion. Question with boldness even the existence of a God; because, if there be one, he must more approve of the homage of reason, than that of blindfolded fear.

-- Thomas Jefferson, Letter to Peter Carr (1787)

In this week's sift:

  • The Republic of Babel. Tyranny can manage with a simple vocabulary of commands, but democracy can't do its business without a rich discussion-language of shared concepts and frames and taken-for-granted assumptions. That's what the culture wars are really about: Will American democracy conduct its business in a secular language or in terms defined by Evangelical Christianity?
  • Rush's Apology and other short notes. Conservatives admit that "slut" is unacceptable language, but they ignore the underlying content, which consists of vicious lies. If JFK nauseates Rick Santorum, it's because Rick can't tell the difference between institutions and people. Parents homeschool for a lot of reasons. What everybody should know about the price of gas. An economist denounces the global-warming deniers who quoted him. Young people aren't buying houses. Where the deficit doesn't come from. And Eliza Doolittle's Dad was wrong about morals.
  • Book recommendation of the week: Speaking of JFK, Stephen King's new 11/22/63 is a great read. It doesn't fit into any standard category. It's sort of SciFi, sort of romantic, sort of historical, not at all creepy, and very character-driven. The past really is a foreign country, especially Dallas.
  • Last [two] weeks' most popular post. Republicans Have Gone Crazy Before got 372 views. The most-clicked link was the Wallace Shawn interview on Chris Hayes' Up. It seemed strangely meaningful to me that Shawn (who played the hyper-capitalist Ferengi Grand Nagus on Deep Space Nine) calls himself a socialist.
  • This week's challenge. Usually, I think the best way to deal with Rush Limbaugh is to ignore him, because he feeds off outrage. But I'm thinking this might be his Don Imus moment. (Check this out.) Sign the petition urging his advertisers to drop him.

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