22 October 2022

Nobody Reads the Saturday Blogs/Blawgs

Except spooks, the clinically obsessed, and the terminally deluded. If, that is, there's any real distinction among them.

  • Sometimes even the trust-fund kids recognize that there's something wrong with trust funds. "It’s not a rich kid’s place to say what the [wealth] tax should be" — but it appears to be some rich kids' place to say that there should be one. The frustrating thing about the trusties is that the majority of their fortunes tends not to come directly from the efforts of those who initiated the fortune through some kind of effort (criminal or otherwise… all too often criminal or at least quasicriminal; one of my undergraduate classmates was a future tobacco heiress, and I find it both amusing and disturbing how the NYT piece refuses to engage with the two companies in its profile subject's family past), but through passive capital appreciation on capital that was essentially removed from several measures of risk.

    But there's a disturbing undercurrent in there. Ms Engelhorn quite rightly doesn't want the responsibility for determining who is "deserving of" a portion of her fortune, through targeted foundations and such. Leaving aside the scale issues — and the irony of that as a "problem" for situationally-aware trust-fund kids should be pretty obvious — it reflects a sadly-well-earned distrust of even democratically-elected governments to do so wisely and consistently themselves. (The less said about how the ultimate trust funds — those behind organized religion — mismanage matters, the better. Some "vow of poverty," eh?) Admittedly, there will be lacunae in any system; there will always be unanticipated circumstances, it's sort of the definition of "unanticipated." But that's a bug… not a feature.

  • Here's a question no one is asking: After Mr Bannon serves his sentence (which, sadly, is not a felony-level sentence), will he demand to have his voting rights restored? If so, will he use the same program and method as all of the great unwashed accused of voter fraud for "voting while ineligible" when the eligibility rules are incoherent (and generally happen to be anything other than northwest-European-ancestry palefaces)?
  • A pleasantly perceptive piece on culture wars and reification of the "canon" in, of all places, the LA Times rightly decries the subtext in comparing diverse contemporaries to the "predominantly European, predominantly male[,] and all white" canon. (Sorry, I couldn't resist inserting an Oxford comma fer lulz there — and because this is an excellent example of its proper use.) But the silence on both axes of suppression of Other voices does the piece little credit. Many voices were/are suppressed at their sources by not being allowed to speak; others were/are suppressed via conscious and unconscious decisions (and accidents) of what to preserve, thereby preselecting the material that we do (and can) study now. Consider, for the moment, that an entire and immensely profitable publishing category would not exist as we know it if Jane Austen had not sought out, and been able to afford, vanity-publishing deals in the late 18th/early 19th century — no Persuasion and Pride and Prejudice and Sense and Sensibility means no Bridgerton, no Regency-Romance-as-we-know-it. There might be something somewhat like it; there wouldn't be what there is.

    Which leads one to wonder how "original-meaning originalism" might differ if it paid as much attention to imposing meaning based on the speeches of Crispus Attucks as it does for the speeches of Aaron Burr (and the paltriness of the "discernable record" of the former is precisely my point). In short, source credibility and availability matter to the conclusions one draws… or how midcentury pandemics might have looked had Dr Fleming kept only the parts of his lab notebooks that fit his preconceived notions, and to whether an "invisible man" is something referring to Ralph Ellison or H.G. Wells — or both.