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a blog by Ann Althouse

"Evil, be thou my good."

Said Satan, in "Paradise Lost," quoted in "Bad is Good and Good is Bad" (TV Tropes).

Sometimes it isn't enough for a villain to be evil. They have to prove their evilness by eschewing all that is good and embracing all that is bad. They'll eat foods that disgust the good guys and laugh at funerals. They may also carry this over to their speech, making sure to only use negative phrases when most people would use a positive one, and correcting themselves if they "slip" ("Oh, goody! I mean, 'baddy.'")....

Compare Above Good and Evil and What Is Evil? Villains whose strong point is not logic will sometimes use both tropes to justify this. See also Bizarro Universe, Mirror Universe, Blue-and-Orange Morality, and Naughty Is Good. Not to be confused with So Bad, It's Good.

Some pages of Bob Dylan's "Philosophy of Modern Song" are photos like this with a couple sentences isolated from the text.

I find that pretty amusing. You can buy the book here. I have the audiobook and the Kindle text, so I'm usually out walking around listening. I like Bob's voice, reading, and the various actors who read some of it are good too. I intersperse that reading with playing the songs. Here's a Spotify playlist of the songs. I have the Kindle so I can find quotes to blog, but in this case, I need the Kindle so I can see the illustrations, and then I also need the Kindle so I can contextualized those captions.

Here, in this case, it's:

She says look here mister lovey-dovey, you’re too extravagant, you’re high on drugs. I gave you money, but you gambled it away, now get lost. You say wait a minute now. Why are you being so combative? You’re way off target. Don’t be so small minded, you’re being goofy. I thought we had a love pact, why do you want to shun me and leave me marooned. What’s wrong with you anyway? I’m telling you, let’s be amiable, and if you’re not, I’m going to wrap this relationship up and terminate it. You’re asking her for money. She says money is the root of all evil, now take a hike. You try to appeal to her sensual side but she’s not having it. She’s got another man, which infuriates you no end. 

But no other man could step into your shoes, no other man can swap places with you. No other man would pinch-hit when it comes to her. How could it happen? I get it, she’s not in love with you anyway, she is in love with the almighty dollar. Now you’ve learnt your lesson, and you see it clear. Used to be you only associated with extraordinary people, now they’re all a dime a dozen, but you have to keep it in perspective. There’s always someone better than you, and there’s always someone better than him. You want to do things well. You know you can do things, but it’s hard to do them well. You don’t know what your problem is. The best things in life are free, but you prefer the worst. Maybe that’s your problem.

Now, what song is he talking about? 

See how he's inhabiting the main character in the song and paraphrasing the lyrics, but he's making the main character "you." He's giving this ridiculous person his say.

I propose a party game based on Bob Dylan's philosophy of song. Prior to the event, get your group to agree on a list of songs that everyone knows. Then, when it's your turn, you do a little monologue as the character in the song, not using the lyrics to the song, but restating the character's circumstances and feelings. Play it like charades, but with talking.

So, what's the song? The best things in life are free, but you prefer the worst. That's hilarious.

The moment you realize that little genius of yours is a psychopath.

Some parent writes to the advice columnist at Slate:
Well, J likes to play with a train set, and after dinner, I was playing with J, and I thought to try out the trolley problem. We got some Lego figures, put them on the tracks, and I told J that the train was going to hit these five people, but J could switch tracks if J is willing to have the other person crushed. J looked at me, then at the tracks, and then very seriously picked up the lone figure and put it on the track with the other five. Then J took the train, ran over all six of them, turned to me, and said, very seriously, “it was a bad accident.”

I'm just kidding. I don't think the kid is a psychopath. I think he's taking his cue from Mother. She set up the carnage. It was a carnage-setting-up game. It's not like young people in a college philosophy class, where they've all be cued to step up to the highest level of morality or to choose between morality and pragmatism and then talk about why. You might just as well suspect your child of psychopathy because after he builds a tall building out of blocks he takes his toy airplane and crashes into it, like a 9/11 terrorists, though only you know about the 9/11 terrorists. He's never heard of such a thing. Unless you've cruelly burdened him with such knowledge. What is he, 3?

Okay, let's see what Slate's advice-giver has to say:

I don’t know what kind of conversations you all have had about the permanence of death just yet, but it is entirely possible that a 3-year-old wouldn’t understand the seriousness of this scenario. Furthermore, I don’t know exactly what you were trying to accomplish by asking such a young child to ponder a difficult moral quandary that adults have been debating for years....

Oh, I think I know what Mom/Dad was trying to accomplish: My child is a very special little man. Here's a way to marvel at his perspicacity.

I can imagine myself doing the same thing, setting up the trolley problem with the Legos. But what would I do, if I'd gotten that far, and my child had moved the sixth figure over to the killing position and said "it was a bad accident"? My first thought would be to pick up that sixth figure and say, Oh, but I loved this person!

ADDED: I hesitate to go with my "first thought," because what would the child do next, point at the other 5 and say "I suppose you hated these people. Why do you hate people so much and involve me in this grisly scenario?"

"This was not a protest, this was a well-organized insurrection against our country that was organized by Donald Trump."

Said Representative Jim McGovern, Democrat of Massachusetts, Chair of the House Rules Committee, opening the debate this morning on the Article of Impeachment, quoted in "The House begins debating impeachment charge against Trump." (NYT). McGovern asserted that he looked into some people's eyes and "saw evil." I'm seeing the live vote embedded at the Times, and it is strictly along party lines...

... even though the text of the article says "Republicans were fracturing over the vote." And:

Senator Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, the Republican leader, has embraced the effort as a means to purge Mr. Trump from the party, according to people who have spoken to him, and at least five House Republicans planned to vote to impeach.

I'm interested in seeing how the proof will be accomplished. McGovern sets a high bar in calling it "well-organized" and an "insurrection against our country" and saying that this organizing was done by Trump. 

ADDED: I'm interested in this notion that you can look into eyes and see evil. I remember how ludicrous it seemed when George W. Bush said he looked into Putin's eyes and "got a sense of his soul" — and decided he was "straightforward and trustworthy." 

But here's an article from 2011 in Scientific American, "The Eyes Have It/Eye gaze is critically important to social primates such as humans. Maybe that is why illusions involving eyes are so compelling." That's about the relatively objective issue of misperceiving where eyes are looking. Harder to study whether there is evil in there! 

Do courts allow witnesses to testify about what they feel they saw in someone's eyes? I have not researched this question, but I believe it would not be acceptable to testify "I looked into his eyes and saw pure evil." 

What does it mean that The New York Times and The Washington Post are digging up villains from the past for their front page?

The Washington Post gives us Susan Smith, for no reason other than we first heard about her exactly 25 years ago:

What does it mean that The New York Times and The Washington Post are digging up villains from the past for their front page?

The New York Times gives us Michael Milken — the "swashbuckling financier" of the 1980s — apparently because Trump's "opportunity zones" — presented as a boon to distressed communities — can be disparaged as benefitting this ancient fiend:

What does it mean that The New York Times and The Washington Post are digging up villains from the past for their front page?

Trump is a such colorful villain of today, but it can't just be Trump Trump Trump all the time. I hypothesize that the newspapers are looking to the past for a new infusion of colorful villains to excite readers.

We're so childishly into villains these days, and political partisans must worry that that we will satisfy our appetite by regarding anyone who makes it into the limelight as a villain. So bring back some old villains to feed our shameful hunger and leave, say, Adam Schiff, in the darkness of the basement.

Trump floats a new nickname — "four horsewomen of the apocalypse" — and rails against the do-nothing Democrats.

I'm reading Trump's tweets this morning.

First, there's this quote from Louisiana Senator John Kennedy (in 3 parts: 1, 2, 3):
"In America, if you hate our Country, you are free to leave. The simple fact of the matter is, the four Congresswomen think that America is wicked in its origins, they think that America is even more wicked now, that we are all racist and evil. They’re entitled to their opinion, they’re Americans. Now I’m entitled to my opinion, & I just think they’re left wing cranks. They’re the reason there are directions on a shampoo bottle, & we should ignore them. The 'squad' has moved the Democrat Party substantially LEFT, and.....they are destroying the Democrat Party. I’m appalled that so many of our Presidential candidates are falling all over themselves to try to agree with the four horsewomen of the apocalypse. I’m entitled to say that they’re Wack Jobs."
Then, Trump's own words:
The Democrats in Congress are getting nothing done, not on drug pricing, not on immigration, not on infrastructure, not on nothing! Sooo much opportunity, yet all they want to do is go “fishing.” The American people are tired of the never ending Witch Hunt, they want results now!
I added the boldface to reveal an interesting resonance.

ADDED: So... the rhetoric is — They think we're wicked and there are witches, and we think they are the destruction of one fourth of humanity:
I looked, and there before me was a white horse! Its rider held a bow, and he was given a crown, and he rode out as a conqueror bent on conquest... Then another horse came out, a fiery red one. Its rider was given power to take peace from the earth and to make men slay each other. To him was given a large sword... before me was a black horse! Its rider was holding a pair of scales in his hand. Then I heard what sounded like a voice among the four living creatures, saying, 'A quart of wheat for a day's wages, and three quarts of barley for a day's wages, and do not damage the oil and the wine!'... I looked and there before me was a pale horse! Its rider was named Death, and Hades was following close behind him.... They were given power over a fourth of the earth to kill by the sword (war), famine, and plague and by the wild beasts of the earth.

"He made particularly disparaging comments about President Obama. And as the Republican nominee for president, I just couldn't subscribe to that in a federal judge. This was not a matter of qualifications or politics. This was something specifically to that issue as a former nominee of our party."

Said the U.S. Senator who refers to himself as "the Republican nominee for President" because, I guess, there's some idea of forefronting your highest or most elite accomplishment, and Mitt Romney was the Republican nominee for President. He's a Senator now, elected by the people of a state, but he was a nominee for a higher office, and that's apparently more important, even though he didn't win, and he's not even the party's "standard bearer" (not the most recent nominee). But Romney is apparently proud of his distinction, and there's only one other person on the face of the earth whose highest level was Republican nominee for President (and he's 95 years old). Maybe the idea is that Trump is illegitimate, so exclude him, and that leaves Romney as the leader of his party.

But he didn't beat Obama. He showed he could beat Obama if he wanted. He came on strong in the first debate. But he stood down in the second debate, and his party lost. Now, he's voted against one of Trump's judicial nominees, and he was the only Republican Senator who voted no, and he voted no because the person, Michael Truncale, once called Obama an "un-American impostor." Truncale testified that he was "merely expressing frustration by what I perceived as a lack of overt patriotism on behalf of President Obama" and did not mean to suggest that Obama was not a natural born citizen.

I'm reading about this in Politico, where the text is he "believed Obama was born in Hawaii and did not subscribe to 'birtherism,' a racist theory that the president was not an American citizen." The Politico text is shocking for 2 reasons. First, the question under the Constitution wasn't whether Obama was an American citizen. Citizenship isn't enough to qualify a person to be President. He must be born a citizen. Big difference. Second, a news organization shouldn't casually toss in the opinion that this suspicion about Obama is a "racist theory." That's not decent journalism. I accept the use of the term "birtherism" because I think Truncale used it in testifying. If Truncale himself called birtherism "a racist theory," it would be good journalism to quote him, but you can see that it's not in quotes.

I actually don't have a problem with Romney's voting against Truncale. But Romney's stated reason — if this is all he said — is inarticulate. He could have said that he lacked sufficient confidence in Truncale's judicial temperament. There were other things about Truncale that were disturbing, and not just the one thing Romney is quoted as citing — "disparaging comments about President Obama." I'm seeing in The Salt Lake Tribune that Truncale was quoted as saying "With regard to immigration, we must not continue to have the maggots coming in" and later that the word was not "maggots" but "magnets." I can see not bringing that up, because of confusion over whether Truncale said "maggots" (though I note that in immigration discussions, the word "magnet" is applied not to the immigrants but to the United States (for example, candidate Trump said he wanted to "turn off the jobs and benefits magnet")).

By citing only the "disparaging comments about President Obama" and stressing his own status as the one-time Republican Party nominee, Romney elevated himself. He's special.

ADDED: On rereading, I question my assertion that "Romney's stated reason... is inarticulate." I was assuming that Romney looked at everything about Truncale and formed the opinion that he didn't have what it takes to be a judge — that he was too political and intemperate. There are clearer ways to say that. But the statement Romney did make was, I think, rather revealing of his psychology and his plans for himself as a Senator. It's more revealing perhaps, than he intended to be. I wouldn't call that inarticulate, because "inarticulate" connotes that he meant to say something and couldn't come up with the right words, and I don't think Romney meant to reveal that much. What then is the right word? Maybe — ironically — it's "intemperate."

IN THE COMMENTS: Nobody points to a Slate article correcting the FALSE assertion that Truncale  said "maggots." The video there — at 1:25 — shows him saying "we've got to stop the magnet that draws people over." Not only is it clear that he's saying "magnet" not "maggots," he's using the word "magnet" in the standard context, referring to government benefits. He's not calling the immigrants "magnets." He's saying they are drawn to the metaphorical magnet that is welfare benefits. The "maggots" slur is truly evil. Shame on The Salt Lake Tribune.

ALSO: I wrote this in the comments but I want to frontpage it:
Making up racial hatred is truly evil.

I was careful to write, in the original post, " I'm seeing in The Salt Lake Tribune that Truncale was quoted as saying..." Was quoted. I avoided saying that he said it, because how do I know? I only said what I knew, that the SL Tribute presented that statement as a quote.

But with the video there and available for weeks, there's no excuse for passing along the "maggots" quote.

It reminds me of the continued reporting that Trump said Nazis were "fine people." The corrective material is available and plain, and there are some horrible journalists and politicians who want to make people feel that there's some deep ugliness out there -- want people to feel hurt and diminished and afraid. It's disgusting to have a personal stake in doing that to people.

Did the Pope just say there is no Devil?

I'm reading this Reuters article because Drudge sent me there with the teaser, "After 'no hell', Pope gives devil due..." but I don't read this as an acknowledgment of the existence of Satan. Quite the opposite. Here, see if you notice what I notice:
In the document known as an Apostolic Exhortation called "Gaudete et Exsultate," (Rejoice and Be Glad)... Satan gets more than a dozen mentions... as Francis talks about how life can be "a constant struggle against the devil, the prince of evil."

He continues in the same section: "Hence, we should not think of the devil as a myth, a representation, a symbol, a figure of speech or an idea. This mistake would lead us to let down our guard, to grow careless and end up more vulnerable."

Francis refers to the "wiles of the devil", "the spirit of the devil", "keeping the devil at bay", how to "banish the devil", and "snares and temptations of the devil".
There's a difference between saying the devil is not just a myth and what the Pope did say: we should not think of the devil as a myth. It's a "mistake" to "think of the devil as a myth" not because you'd be factually wrong but because we'd "let down our guard... grow careless and end up more vulnerable."

If you picture evil as a frightening, conscious entity who's out to get you, you will do a better job of being good. That's the idea expressed. I assume that the Pope, an intelligent and educated man, thinks the devil is, as he put it, "a myth, a representation, a symbol, a figure of speech or an idea," but he advises you not to think in those terms, which are too sophisticated for you. You'll get into trouble thinking like that.

"But not all ugliness is created equal, Donald Trump is not Kim Jong-un, the United States is nothing like North Korea..."

"... and to come anywhere near that suggestion is nuts. Be outraged about what’s going on in America. Don’t be ridiculous. In doing her father’s bidding, Ivanka Trump is trying to tell the world that a sexist really wants to empower women, that a racist really cares about equal opportunity and that a narcissistic plutocrat is acting in the high-minded interests of the little people. She’s willfully delusional, totally complicit and compiling one hell of an Instagram feed, which is what she’s ultimately all about. In doing her brother’s bidding, Kim Yo-jong is airbrushing a dictator who authorizes public executions that, according to defectors, must be watched by all adult citizens, so that they can savor the wages of disobedience. She is diverting attention from his roles in the murders of his half brother, who was smeared with a fatal toxin while walking through an airport, and of many senior government officials, slaughtered in grotesque ways. Is it any wonder that she’s making the effort? The alternative, apparently, is being drawn and quartered."

From "The Ivanka Trump of North Korea? Oh, Please" by Frank Bruni in the NYT.

The top-rated comment at the NYT, with 586 up-votes, is:
Trump is as evil as Kim, he just hasn't had as much opportunity to exercise it. But every opportunity he has to show his evil, he has enthusiastically embraced. No doubt he would execute his perceived enemies if he thought he could get away with it. I'm sure he's jealous of Kim's military parades and complete control over his citizens. It's perfectly fair to compare the two. Ivanka and Yo-jong have nothing to do with it.
ADDED: What's unusual about "trying to tell the world that a sexist really wants to empower women, that a racist really cares about equal opportunity and that a narcissistic plutocrat is acting in the high-minded interests of the little people"? Let me propose that exactly that could be said about virtually every American politician. I think it's to the credit of all the sexist, racist, narcissistic plutocrats in government that they can occasionally manage to do something that helps women, minorities, and the little people. It's normal to expect the champions of these politicians to point out these positive efforts. That the doers of these good deeds were hampered by their deeply embedded and not-pretty human impulses could be pointed out as a reason to be impressed by their accomplishments, but their champions choose to keep quiet about such things. That's also not surprising.
Some pages of Bob Dylan's "Philosophy of Modern Song" are photos like this with a couple sentences isolated from the text."This was not a protest, this was a well-organized insurrection against our country that was organized by Donald Trump."What does it mean that The New York Times and The Washington Post are digging up villains from the past for their front page?

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