Took a few days off to read, deal with family, wonder if, as 2018 approaches, I shall see the coming year out. Will do a wrap up, but for the nonce can say that I find Ron Chernow’s Grant quite simply one of the best-written books of my lifetime. Absolutely absorbing; the handling of stupendous research is graceful, the narrative flows, the whole man and his whole life are depicted and, it seems to me, captured. Right up there with Gibbon. I’ve sent 5 copies to friends and family already and more will surely follow. If I had one cavil, it would be that the book needs maps, but to do those in a manner that befits the elegance and comprehensiveness of the rest would surely make the volume impossibly heavy and costly.
I really like this sort of thing. Gets the reflective juices bubbling. https://www.city-journal.org/html/age-outrage-15608.html
Incidentally, I found the above at Browser.com, a site a friend has just gone to work for. David Brooks cites Browser in his column today, and once I figure out how, I shall send a subscription to my family and a few friends. You might consider doing the same.
An excellent interview, full of good ideas, conducted and reported by my admirable friend Tunku Varadarajan: https://www.wsj.com/articles/report-from-the-cyberwar-front-lines-1514586268
I must say, I don’t see what’s wrong with the idea of a two-step digital identity card.
So Chernow’s Grant has taken me through Appomattox and the end of a monstrous war fought so that, among other things, a free people could someday put a lying, cowardly, ignorant pig in the White House.
A disturbing observation: it seems today that when journalists confront a serious, newsworthy situation, their first reaction isn’t “How should I report this?” or “What does this really mean?” but “What am I going to Tweet about this?” Which makes them intellectually little better than Der Trump.
This is Sam Clovis, the Trump campaign official who brought Papadopolous on board. How many words is a picture worth?
Today’s NYT Op-Ed offers David Leonhardt’s 7 wishes for 2018. I should like to add an eighth: that in future I be spared the anodyne, insightless piffle that Leonhardt offers as commentary.
Last week we got a Christmas card from Sen. Michael Bennett (D, CO). Run-of-the-mill-stuff: I gave a bit of money to Bennett’s campaign a few years back, hence my presence on his Christmas card list. But the card got me thinking about Bennett, a smart, attractive, family-oriented candidate who I think could beat Der Trump like a drum. So why haven’t we heard much about or from him? Partly, I suppose, because Colorado politics needs sorting out; most states have zero attractive, ethical Democratic political figures; Colorado has two: Bennett and former Governor John Hickenlooper (who used to be married to my dear Observer colleague Helen Thorpe). But also because Bennett may be playing the subtlest big-stakes endgame in politics today. He’s keeping his powder dry, and since that powder includes the affections of Michael Bloomberg (in whose house I met Bennett), formidable ammunition should the opportunity arise. Why not leave the impotent palavering to useless nothings like Schumer and Pelosi? See how events play out. The inhabitant of the White House, a delusional narcissist surrounded by yes-people, will cut his own tiny nuts off, given time and the absence of little grey cells (as I recently suggested to a friend: Der Trump has got North Korea exactly where they want him). So here’s my advice: keep your eye on Michael Bennett, a decent man and a proven winner.
This recently came to my attention. It’s one of those impressive tours d’horizon that I like. That I missed it when it was published in mid-2017 is shaming (actually, I may not have missed it, but I’m too lazy and preoccupied to go back and check). Do read it! https://americanaffairsjournal.org/2017/05/new-class-war/ Here’s a sample: If I am correct, the post–Cold War period has come to a close, and the industrial democracies of North America and Europe have entered a new and turbulent era. The managerial class has destroyed the social settlements that constrained it temporarily in the second half of the twentieth century and created a new kind of politics, largely insulated from popular participation and electoral democracy, based on large donors and shifting coalitions within a highly homogeneous coalition of allied Western elites. Following two decades of increasing consolidation of the power of the managerial class, the populist and nationalist wave on both sides of the Atlantic is a predictable rebellion by working-class outsiders against managerial-class insiders and their domestic allies, who are often recruited from native minorities or immigrant diasporas.
David Brooks has a commendable Op-Ed in today’s NYT . His subject is tribalism. https://www.nytimes.com/2018/01/01/opinion/the-retreat-to-tribalism.html?rref=collection%2Fsectioncollection%2Fopinion&action=click&contentCollection=opinion®ion=rank&module=package&version=highlights&contentPlacement=3&pgtype=sectionfront&_r=0 Here’s a statement that caught my eye (the “Bruckner” to whom Brooks refers is a French intellectual, Pascal Bruckner): Bruckner states that “…being guided only by the lantern of his own understanding, the individual loses all assurance of a place, an order, a definition. He may have gained freedom, but he has lost security. In societies like ours, individuals are responsible for their own identity, happiness and success. “Everyone must sell himself as a person in order to be accepted.” We all are constantly comparing ourselves to others and, of course, coming up short. The biggest anxiety is moral. We each have to write our own gospel that defines our own virtue.” It seems to me that if you take the insecurity-out-of-individualism thesis to the next logical step you arrive at the key to the moral and social stranglehold social media has on those who are entangled in its coils. It’s all about “I am/have/am up to” with the implication that you might not be/have/be experiencing. In other words, social media are driven by envy as much as by any other moral, material or psychological force.