Defeating Trump takes precedence over everything

by Emrys Westacott America is a truck rolling down a hill towards a cliff. The downhill slope is the erosion of democratic norms; the cliff is the point where anti-democratic forces become powerful enough to crush democratic opposition by authoritarian means. The re-election of Donald Trump would very likely see the country sail over that…

The lucky ones–even in a pandemic

by Emrys Westacott When I feel myself becoming irritable, disheartened, or just plain fed-up with life during the pandemic, I find it helpful to conduct a thought-experiment familiar to the ancient Stoics. I reflect on how much I have to be grateful for, and how things could be so much worse. That prompts the more…

Free Ding Jiaxi!

Editor’s Note: Dear Reader, if you could share this interview on social media, by email, etc., it might be helpful in securing Ding Jiaxi’s release. by Emrys Westacott After several weeks of sheltering in place, being holed up in quarantine, or just experiencing a dramatically restricted mode of living due to the ongoing Covid 19…

How the pandemic exposes irrationalities in our social system

by Emrys Westacott The current Covid 19 pandemic is undoubtedly a disaster for millions of people: for those who die, who grieve for the dead, who suffer through a traumatic illness, or who, suddenly lacking work and income, face the prospect of dire poverty as the inevitable recession kicks in. And there are other bad…

A sonnet for Socrates

Socrates, snub-nosed, wall-eyed, paunchy, squat, stood before his accusers and confessed to being a gift from god—a gadfly, a pest sent to save the city from moral rot by stinging it out of its torpor.  He was not believed.  The Athenians could not think themselves blessed to be bitten by philosophy.  Unimpressed, they silenced their…

Disunity: the perennial problem that plagues progressives

by Emrys Westacott “In unity is strength!” This is one of the foundational maxims repeated by progressive forces everywhere. As history has often demonstrated, though, unity is easier to affirm than to achieve. And the consequences of failing to achieve it can be dire. Germany 1932 The direst of all dire examples of progressive disunity…

Lili Marleen: the poem and the song

by Emrys Westacott Lili Marleen is one of the best known songs of the twentieth century.  A plaintive expression of a soldier’s desire to be with his girlfriend, it is indelibly associated with World War II, in part because it was popular with soldiers on both sides. It was first recorded by the German singer…

Boris Johnson and the worst of times

by Emrys Westacott “It was the best of times; it was the worst of times.” I suspect there are many who feel that this Dickensian paradox applies to their own life and times. I certainly do. If you’re fortunate enough to have a sufficient income, a comfortable home, loving family and friends, decent physical and…

What counts as cheating in sport? And why?

by Emrys Westacott Baseball has always been a thinking person’s game. Like cricket, it seems able to offer an infinite variety of complicated situations demanding subtle analysis, and these are deliciously frozen for everyone to consider and reconsider during the tense, drawn out intervals between moments of active play. Moreover, although afficianados know the rules…

The fallibility of feelings

by Emrys Westacott A recent article by Jane Mayer in The New Yorker, “The Case of Al Franken,”[1]should disturb anyone who places a high value on fairness and rationality. Franken, who first became famous as a comedian, was elected to the US senate from Minnesota in 2008 and soon became a leading and effective advocate…

What’s so bad about smugness?

by Emrys Westacott Elaine: “I hate smugness. Don’t you hate smugness? Cabdriver, “Smugness is not a good quality.” So goes a popular snippet from Seinfeld. In a 2014 article in The Guardian titled “Smug: The most toxic insult of them all?” Mark Hooper opined that “there can be few more damning labels in modern Britain than…