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Tuesday Tom - What You Should Be Reading
Liz Cheney, Elon Musk, Black Conservatives, Crypto Crash, the Allman Brothers and Mott the Hoople top Tom's linkage hit parade.
One of the benefits of Substack’s newsletter-based platform is that it encourages reading - not just reacting to headlines and tweets, but lengthier posts that can really make you think (rather than merely causing your knee to jerk when tapped). In the glory days of blogging of sainted memory, we were mostly readers who wrote. We’d inhabit blogs and consume stories through RSS feeds, and then we’d write our own essays and posts. But one of the true joys of the blogging era to me was the sheer pleasure of curation, assembling links and quotes and recommended reads like the tending of a well kept garden. It wasn’t instant gratification like on Twitter, it was occasional and by its occurrence it kept alive - and even improved - that wondrous phenomenon in journalism of finding a story you’d never have known about otherwise. Let’s be honest: we do tend to live in news bubbles of our own creation. I’m an obsessive list keeper on Twitter, for example - that’s basically the only way I consume what that vast repository (now being destroyed by the rank Philistine Elon Musk) has to offer. Which is a lot, and I’ll miss it when it’s gone. But that’s a post for another time.
Here in this place, I’d like to try to get back to the garden, in a way - by starting what I hope will be a recurring (but perhaps not regular) series of recommendations. What we used to call “saving string” when I carried a reporter’s notebook in the Bronx. These will reflect, at least to start, my own interests and well worn digital paths, but I’m hoping the Substack experience opens up a few more trails. And I’m also saving some string of my own toward a potential book project, so this is a great way to sharpen my blades in the process.
Is Liz Cheney Right?
One of my favorite political analysts is Greg Sargent at the Washington Post, whose incisive liberal view of American democracy cuts through the clutter. Greg is also a journalist of the old school, with no patience for the inane and damaging “both sides” coverage that too often empowers incipient fascism in this country by treating extremism as perfectly normal politics. Here, Greg writes about Liz Cheney - conservative anti-MAGA warrior and co-chair of the House special committee on the January 6th insurrection.
The underlying premise of Cheney’s past year holds that there exists a meaningful sliver of swing voters — including GOP-leaning independents and Republicans alienated by Trump — who could be influenced by a focus on election denialism and MAGA extremism.
In this theory, keeping up a months-long drumbeat of revelations about Trump’s effort to overturn U.S. democracy, while steadily arguing that GOP candidates who play footsie with election denialism are fundamentally unfit for public office, wouldn’t just be civically healthy. It might also have real electoral consequences, even if only on the margins.
The Negative Value of Hubris
I’m a fan of Scott Galloway’s work, and I think his notion of taking down sacred cows with data and analysis is, frankly, what we need more of. I was struck by this post on the hubris of billionaires like the fallen Sam Bankman-Fried and the falling Elon Musk, and it’s absolutely worth a bookmark.
A celestial pillar of the universe is that it abhors absolute control. No individual or institution has ever achieved it. Apex predators cannot eliminate their prey without starving themselves. If there are too many wolves eating too many deer, the wolf population declines, as they run out of deer to feed on. Balance is fundamental to ecological systems, and the same is true (over the long term) in our human-made world.
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Galloway’s theory was much discussed over a round of beers at my favorite brewery this weekend, as we chewed over the crypto collapse and the bizarre self destruction of Elon Musk on the rocks of Twitter. The consensus was exactly the same as Galloway’s - that people and companies who experience massive success believe that the body will always stay in motion and the mercy will always rise. In a more folksier version, the pint drinkers agreed that “guys like Musk think their crap doesn’t stink.” That if a thought forms in their increasingly malign noggins, that is de facto correct, because they think it. Galloway:
The inevitable collapse of the powerful is a good thing, and I’m glad we live in a universe that embraces this as a governing principle. Absolute power and wealth concentration are incompatible with the innovation that characterizes humanity’s upward movement. The crashing to Earth can cause collateral damage, but it’s a creative destruction.
BTW, I’m sticking with Twitter till the bow slips below the waves - which might be soon.
On Black Conservatism
In the recent midterm elections, one potentially troubling trend for Democrats (and frankly, those who oppose the rise of fascism in today’s extremist GOP, was the growth in Republican voters among Black Americans. To be clear, Black voters are the base of the Democratic Party - reliably voting at a 90-percent or better clip for Democrats in Presidential years. But there has been some leakage, and I think that what way too many analysts don’t understand is that despite all the hoopla around young progressives, many Black voters are pretty conservative in their viewpoints, if not their politics. I see this firsthand here in my hometown of Mount Vernon (a majority Black city with a very lively political scene).
The writer Jemele Hill is an absolutely fearless journalist and commentator focused on race and Black culture in America. I was exceedingly taken (and I must say, moved) by the account of her political disagreement with her mother over conservative, Christian views and as it seemed, the pull of Trump.
My mother’s point of view, though not uncommon among Black people, is widely overlooked in American politics today. Black people aren’t necessarily turned off by conservative ideas. But many of us are turned off by a party that seems to willingly embrace blatant racism and anti-Blackness.
This excerpt in the Atlantic is from Hill’s upcoming book Uphill: A Memoir, which I look forward to reading.
Tweet of the week (as long as Twitter lasts):
As a child of the 70s in all ways, this is one of my favorite accounts on Twitter:
Video of the week:
I’m a big Rick Beato fan and speaking of the 70s, you’ll dig this one hit wonders countdown from that golden musical decade.
That’s it for now - send anything interesting my way!
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