Hey! Check This Out–the Politics Edition (2022)

A thread posts or links about current events that don’t warrant a separate thread.

The first one I have is an NYT article about U.S. law firms cutting ties with clients–Russian oligarchs, specifically. That’s the good news. Apparently, Putin’s invasion is enough for these firms to put their values or at least their reputation ahead of profits. (Then again, if there wasn’t such strong public backlash, they may not have cut ties.) The bad news is that these wealthy oligarchs will likely find some firm, in the U.S. or West, to take them as clients. This is likely to be an ongoing weakness in the U.S. and Europe. I really hope I’m wrong about this last point.

Is Conservatism a Legitimate Political Ideology? Was it Ever?

“Conservatism* is a sham!” That was the original title of this thread. While it’s actually both sexier and more succinct, I opted against it because it doesn’t accurately reflect my position, although it’s not that far off. The Trump presidency has shed a lot of of light, or maybe brought to the surface, the real impetus behind the people who claim to be conservatives, and thus revealed the true nature of conservatism. Well, partly.

I need to make two important distinctions before I proceed–separating two different types of conservatives–namely, ones that don’t really have any real convictions in a legitimate (more on this later) political ideology, and ones that do. The reason that my initial title is both (mostly) true, but too misleading for me is that 99% of conservatives fall into the former category, while the rest fall into the latter. In other words, I believe there is such a thing as a legitimate conservative ideology, but so few people actually believe this that it’s fair to say conservatism is largely a sham.

Now it’s time to explain what I mean by a legitimate political ideology. First, I want specify that I’m talking about legitimacy within a liberal democracy. The rule of law; a constitutional government, separating powers in a way that creates checks and balances; free and fair elections; a free press; freedom of religion; due process–a legitimate political ideology would take these as a given. What also legitimizes a political ideology are the presence of legitimate goals–goals that relate to making the lives of both individuals and the overall society better. By “better” I’m thinking of things like protecting civil liberties, while also ensuring the security of the overall society; I’m thinking of a healthy economy, where one can earn a living, afford quality housing, education, health care. I could probably name other things, but hopefully you get the idea.

In the rest of this thread, I want to address two questions: 1) How is conservatism illegitimate? 2) And what does a legitimate conservatism look like?

(*In this thread, “conservatism” and “conservatives” refers to the American forms of both.)

No, Music Isn’t Worse Than It Was in the Past

I can’t remember if I’ve written about this before, but I saw some interviews of musicians I respect, which reminded me of this topic. Both bemoaned the current state of music, one of them gloomily predicting the the end boundary-pushing. (This interview was from the 80s.) My sense is that the basis for their assessment stemmed from a comparison with the past. That is, the compared their perception and understanding of the music of the present relative to the music from the past. If this is accurate, I don’t think this is a good way to judge the present. Indeed, I think doing so leads to an erroneous judgments and pessissms.

Now, let me make a few things clear. One, I’m not taking this position because I necessarily think the present moment is filled with great musicians and great music. Instead, I’m basing my position primarily on the way we perceive and understand both the present and the past. The difference, I think, primarily explains why the present seems bleak, relative to the past; and I’m going to explain that in this thread.

(Note: This applies to movies, and I would suspect most other art forms as well.)

Restaurants (2022)

Mitchell, I saw this youtube video on plate lunches, and they mentioned Island Style BBQ Corp (corporation?) on North King. Have you been there? I never heard of this place, and it didn’t look that great. What about Bob’s BBQ in Dillingham? I feel like you said positive things about their plate lunch, but I can’t remember.

On the Functions and Value of Art

In a conversation between Tyler Cowen, a George Mason economics professor, and David Salle, an artist and writer, Salle discusses several functions of art (mostly visual art) that I found interesting. Here’s what he said:

I think people might underestimate the decorative function of painting. Painting has various functions. A good painting satisfies most of them or all of them, pretty much at a high level. One of the functions, historically, is to make the room look better, to make people’s emotional temperature quicken slightly when the painting is in the room as opposed to when it’s not in the room. That’s a decorative function. It’s an important one.

I remember the first time I met Jasper Johns. He actually said to a friend of mine, who was standing with us, “The first obligation of a painting is to make the wall look better that it’s hanging on.” It is one of those statements that is so simple-minded it brooks mystification, but it’s just a simple fact.

What else does painting do? Obviously, we want it to do more than just be decorative. I think any good painting — really good painting — expresses something true about the time in which it was made and about the maker. But that’s another level and doesn’t have to be apparent in the same way that its decorative value is apparent.

What else does it do? It locates the maker in a certain history, a certain dialogue, a certain discourse. It sometimes takes sides. It sometimes provokes arguments. These are other things that paintings can do.

I’ll say more about this later.

How Does One Acquire Good Taste?

That was sort of the question posed by Tyler Cowen to David Salle, an artist and writer on Conversations with Tyler podcast that I recently listened to. Now, before i got into Salle’s answer, perhaps we should raise another question–namely, what does developing or having good taste even matter? I think this is a good question, and I’ll take a stab at an answer. But let’s get to Salle’s answer.

The Beatles: Get Back (2021)

This is a thread for the three-part film (streamed on the Disney channel)–The Beatles: Get back, a Peter Jackson documentary, assembling footage from 1969, while the Beatles worked on new songs for a live performance. Eventually, I believe, some or much of the music appeared on Let It Be, and Abbey Road. (Some like “Don’t Let Me Down” may have become a single.)