September 5, 2019

Following the 2016 presidential election, Politico published a really interesting post (and podcast) about Chuck Todd’s experiences interviewing Donald Trump, with insights about Trump’s daddy issues, Trump’s not-laughing issues, and Trump’s manipulative-messing-with-the-media-pajama-interview issues. But far and away, the most interesting Chuck Todd insight concerned Trump’s visual-and-meta-visual issues, which captures a truth about contemporary politics that extends well beyond Trump to the structural foundations of our political imagination. The consequences of this visual perspective on politics are far-reaching and important for how we think about… Read more

September 5, 2019

Waterboarding is how we baptize terrorists. – Sarah Palin (NRA annual meeting, 2014) Guns give us a pretty clear and simple way to think about this gross (orange) hairball we’ve just coughed up. In the United States, guns are collocative with a host of other right-wing cultural tropes that have found their way into our political idiom (white supremacy, states rights, limited government, homophobia, biblical fundamentalism, military zeal, homespun rural values and toxic nostalgia, among others). Did we assume (because… Read more

August 30, 2019

Previously in Calvin’s Ghost – 4 / Freedom In the spring of 1972, when Eli was 11 approaching 12, Harvard sociology professor Orlando Patterson arrived in town to lecture on research that would form the basis for his landmark book, Slavery and Social Death. Lando, whom Tobias knew well, joined the Wheeler family for dinner. Tobias dropped the news about their eminent dinner guest on Martha at the last minute, routing her from the tiny artist’s studio behind the house. Sighing,… Read more

August 30, 2019

Previously in Calvin’s Ghost – 3 / Pinocchio Real Boy One frosty February evening in 1971, the air dark and piquant upon his bare face and hands, 10-year old Eli shot his wet basketball at a hoop in the snow-shoveled driveway, hopping to his right and hopping to his left, then setting himself on of his good leg, his spring-loaded leg, not his Gumby leg. The wet ball banked off the board and into the basket. Eli cantered to retrieve… Read more

August 30, 2019

I wrote this geeky analysis of Wisconsin’s traumatic 2016 election landfall in the spring of 2017. Wisconsin is much on the mind of political junkies these days, who rightly view it as the bellwether for the national election in 2020 (listen to the latter 3rd of this recent Pod Save America podcast, in which Dan Pfeiffer interviews Ben Wikler, the chair of the Wisconsin Democratic party). Since Juneau County is a bellwether for Wisconsin, we might view the data explored… Read more

August 30, 2019

Natural law philosophy assumes intrinsic rational capacities of humans to properly perceive and pursue uniquely human goods. For centuries, natural law assumptions of intrinsic human rational capacities have been theologically agnostic. No Creator God required. Thoroughly optional! Beneath these open skies, natural law philosophy ranged broadly and proactively across the spectrum of evolving human circumstances and needs, to encompass international law, revolution and self-determination, social justice, and human rights. Since 1965, conservative natural law philosophers have systematically reverted to traditional… Read more

August 24, 2019

The New Yorker’s contentious interview with conservative University of Pennsylvania law professor Amy Wax (entitled A Penn Law Professor Wants to Make America White Again) is so weird. I sensed some of this weirdness in my own analysis of Amy Wax’s (much-maligned) address to the (much-maligned) July conference on National Conservatism in Washington, DC. But she ratchets up the strangeness in her Q&A with Isaac Chotiner. Wax is both bright and obtuse at the same time. She generally defends free speech and free… Read more

August 24, 2019

The NY Times knows what’s up. You don’t have to love or agree with the premise of the Times 1619 Project – that we can only understand American history by placing slavery and racism at the center of that history. You don’t have to think the essays represent transformative historiography. What matters is that with this project the terms of a real conversation about American history can now take place. History is inherently a conservative academic discipline (methodologically and, to some… Read more

August 23, 2019

Previously in Calvin’s Ghost – 2 / Giant Beast Eli. A Pinocchio real-boy with spindly, tinker-toy legs. Using these legs, he plied the vaulted heights of McCosh Hall, collegiate gothic classroom exemplar on the west side of the Princeton campus, but showing its age. It was an Indian summer afternoon several weeks into October of this same 4th-grade year. Eli tested the wooden stairs at the back of the building. He planted his feet carefully, each step a singularity, the… Read more

August 23, 2019

Previously in Calvin’s Ghost – Chapter 1 / No Man’s Land   In these early years of wide-eyed expectancy, Eli hugely anticipated Sunday excursions with his father to Princeton University’s mammoth, labyrinthine library, not least because these jaunts typically ended with breakfast at the pancake house directly across Nassau Street (or Lincoln Highway, the archaic name still used only by Tobias), with Eli sprinting around the corner of the library, accelerating to the row of elm trees lining the street,… Read more




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