On Tyranny: Twenty Lessons from the Twentieth Century

Cover of On Tyranny: Twenty Lessons from the Twentieth Century

Description

The Founding Fathers tried to protect us from the threat they knew, the tyranny that overcame ancient democracy. Today, our political order faces new threats, not unlike the totalitarianism of the twentieth century. We are no wiser than the Europeans who saw democracy yield to fascism, Nazism, or communism. Our one advantage is that we might learn from their experience.

On Tyranny is a call to arms and a guide to resistance, with invaluable ideas for how we can preserve our freedoms in the uncertain years to come.

My Thoughts

This book is a fairly quick read (130 pages) with a lot of good reminders and lessons from the Twentieth Century.

I thought the first half was very good and the ending was good; the 50–80% range felt like he was stretching a bit to come up with an even 20.

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Highlights

Both fascism and communism were responses to globalization: to the real and perceived inequalities it created, and the apparent helplessness of the democracies in addressing them.

Page 12

You submit to tyranny when you renounce the difference between what you want to hear and what is actually the case.

Page 66

As observers of totalitarianism such as Victor Klemperer noticed, truth dies in four modes.

The first mode is the open hostility to verifiable reality, which takes the form of presenting inventions and lies as if they were facts.

The second mode is shamanistic incantation. As Klemperer noted, the fascist style depends upon “endless repetition,” designed to make the fictional plausible and the criminal desirable.

The next mode is magical thinking, or the open embrace of contradiction.

The final mode is misplaced faith. It involves the sort of self-deifying claims the president made when he said that “I alone can solve it” or “I am your voice.”

Pages 66–8

A Nazi leader outmaneuvers his opponents by manufacturing a general conviction that the present moment is exceptional, and then transforming that state of exception into a permanent emergency. Citizens then trade real freedom for fake safety.

Page 100

A nationalist encourages us to be our worst, and then tells us that we are the best.

A patriot, by contrast, wants the nation to live up to its ideals, which means asking us to be our best selves.

A patriot has universal values, standards by which he judges his nation, always wishing it well—and wishing that it would do better.

Page 114

History gives us the company of those who have done and suffered more than we have.

Page 125

Divided We Fall: America’s Secession Threat and How to Restore Our Nation

Cover of Divided We Fall: America's Secession Threat and How to Restore Our Nation

This excellent book explores the reasons behind our current polarization, presents two believable scenarios where various states might secede from the Union, and offers suggestions on how to bring down the temperature of our civil discourse.

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Highlights

At the core of each narrative is the burning conviction that the other side doesn’t just want its opponents to lose political races, but rather wishes for them to exist in a state of permanent, dangerous (perhaps even deadly) subordination. And, really, if you’re steeped in your own side’s narrative, shouldn’t your opponent not just lose but also be cast down from American politics and culture?

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American civil society is retreating, and as American civil society retreats, politics surges to take its place.

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On Pluralism

America was built from the ground up to function as a pluralistic republic. It can flourish only as a pluralistic republic. …contrary to the beliefs of illiberal activists and intellectuals on the left and the right, America can exist only as a liberal, pluralistic republic. By “liberal,” I do not mean Democratic or progressive but rather the form of government that “conceive[s] humans as rights-bearing individuals who could fashion and pursue for themselves their own version of the good life.”

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to embrace pluralism is to surrender the dream of domination. To embrace pluralism is to acknowledge that even the quest for domination is dangerous. It understands that human beings will not yield that which is most precious to them, even at the point of a gun. Embracing pluralism means embracing the lessons of history and understanding that not even our great nation is immune to the forces that have fractured unions older than ours. Our nation’s angriest culture warriors need to know the cost of their conflict. As they seek to crush their political and cultural enemies, they may destroy the nation they seek to rule.

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To embrace pluralism, citizens truly need only to embrace two real limitations on their quest for ultimate ideological victory.

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First, if you are a citizen of a pluralistic, liberal republic, you need to defend the rights of others that you would like to exercise yourself—even when others seek to use those rights to advance ideas you may dislike or even find repugnant.

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Second, if you are a citizen of a pluralistic, liberal government, you should defend the rights of communities and associations to govern themselves according to their values and their beliefs—so long as they don’t violate the fundamental rights of their dissenting members.

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Let’s start with the absolutely most basic building block of reconstructing a commitment to liberalism and pluralism. Let’s start with a term that conservatives have grown to hate and all too many progressives abuse and misunderstand. Let’s start with tolerance, properly understood.

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Americans must be tolerant of dissent, even when they believe dissenters are offensive and wrong.

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The political class exploits grace. The political class treats it as weakness. Thus, while parts of the public may long for mutual respect and a deescalation of partisan vitriol, even weary partisans don’t want to show weakness. The people who actually drive American politics and policy are committed to escalation, and as they escalate, they drive their committed followers into ever-greater frenzies.

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On Centralization and Federalism

American centralization is a response both to a terrible failure of federalism and to the dramatic external, existential threats of the Axis powers and the Soviet Union.

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In the case of America’s history of race discrimination, federalism enabled evil.

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Federalism has become a tactic, not a principle. It’s a defense mechanism when you’re out of power and an annoyance when you’re in power.

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On Our Attitudes Toward Others

Those who care the most often hate the most, and one of their chief methods of discrediting ideological allies with whom they compete is by portraying them as too tolerant of the hated political enemy. Kindness is perceived as weakness. Decency is treated as if it’s cowardice. Acts of grace are an unthinkable concession to evil.

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The next two qualities, mercy and humility, are indispensable to our national life. Mercy is the quality we display when we are, in fact, right and our opponents are wrong. We treat them not with contempt but with compassion.

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Humility reminds us that we are not perfect. Indeed, we are often wrong and will ourselves need mercy.

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The Space Trilogy

by C.S. Lewis

The Space Trilogy is a series of science fiction by C. S. Lewis. Written in the 1940–40s, the science feels a bit quaint compared to recent science fiction, but the allegories hold true.

Out of the Silent Planet

Cover of Out of the Silent Planet

Out of the Silent Planet begins the adventures of the remarkable Dr. Ransom. Here, that estimable man is abducted by a megalomaniacal physicist and his accomplice and taken via spaceship to the red planet of Malacandra. The two men are in need of a human sacrifice, and Dr. Ransom would seem to fit the bill. Once on the planet, however, Ransom eludes his captors, risking his life and his chances of returning to Earth, becoming a stranger in a land that is enchanting in its difference from Earth and instructive in its similarity.

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Perelandra

Cover of Perelandra

This was my favorite book of the series.

Perelandra continues the adventures of the extraordinary Dr. Ransom. Pitted against the most destructive of human weaknesses, temptation, the great man must battle evil on a new planet—Perelandra—when it is invaded by a dark force. Will Perelandra succumb to this malevolent being, who strives to create a new world order and who must destroy an old and beautiful civilization to do so? Or will it throw off the yoke of corruption and achieve a spiritual perfection as yet unknown to man? The outcome of Dr. Ransom’s mighty struggle alone will determine the fate of this peace-loving planet.

Quotes

Ransom had been perceiving that the triple distinction of truth from myth and of both from fact was purely terrestrial—was part and parcel of that unhappy division between soul and body which resulted from the Fall. Even on Earth the sacraments existed as a permanent reminder that the division was neither wholesome nor final. The Incarnation had been the beginning of its disappearance.

—Page 177

There seems no plan because it is all plan: there seems no center because it is all center. Blessed be He!” “Yet this seeming also is the end and final cause for which He spreads out Time so long and Heaven so deep; lest if we never met the dark, and the road that leads no whither, and the question to which no answer is imaginable, we should have in our minds no likeness of the Abyss of the Father, into which if a creature drop down his thoughts for ever he shall hear no echo return to him. Blessed, blessed, blessed be He!”

—Page 277

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That Hideous Strength

Cover of That Hideous Strength

This book took me a little while to get into. It is so different from the first two books, at times I wondered if it’s actually even the same series. It’s definitely darker than the other two, likely because it was written right at the end of World War II.

In That Hideous Strength, the dark forces that have been repulsed in Out of the Silent Planet and Perelandra are massed for an assault on the planet Earth itself. Word is on the wind that the mighty wizard Merlin has come back to the land of the living after many centuries, holding the key to ultimate power for the force that can find him and bend him to its will. A sinister technocratic organization that is gaining force throughout England, N.I.C.E. (the National Institute of Coordinated Experiments), secretly controlled by humanity’s mortal enemies, plans to use Merlin in their plot to “recondition” society. Dr. Ransom forms a countervailing group, Logres, in opposition, and the two groups struggle to a climactic resolution that brings the Space Trilogy to a magnificent, crashing close.

Quotes

Isn’t it absolutely essential to keep a fierce Left and a fierce Right, both on their toes and each terrified of the other? That’s how we get things done. Any opposition to the NICE is represented as a Left racket in the Right papers and a Right racket in the Left papers. If it’s properly done, you get each side outbidding the other in support of us—to refute the enemy slanders. Of course we’re nonpolitical. The real power always is.”

— Page 97

“Why you fool, it’s the educated reader who can be gulled. All our difficulty comes with the others. When did you meet a workman who believes the papers? He takes it for granted that they’re all propaganda and skips the leading articles.

— Page 97

But the educated public, the people who read the highbrow weeklies, don’t need reconditioning. They’re all right already. They’ll believe anything.”

— Page 98

“There’s such a thing as loyalty,” said Jane. MacPhee, who had been carefully shutting up the snuffbox, suddenly looked up with a hundred covenanters in his eyes. “There is, Ma’am,” he said. “As you get older you will learn that it is a virtue too important to be lavished on individual personalities.”

— Page 190

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On Religion and Politics

“When religion and politics travel in the same cart, the riders believe nothing can stand in their way. Their movement becomes headlong—faster and faster and faster. They put aside all thought of obstacles and forget that a precipice does not show itself to the man in a blind rush until it’s too late.”

Frank Herbert in Dune, kindle location 7,089

A Year in the Wilderness: Bearing Witness in the Boundary Waters

by Amy and Dave Freeman

Description

Cover of A Year in the Wilderness: Bearing Witness in the Boundary Waters

Since its establishment as a federally protected wilderness in 1964, the Boundary Waters has become one of our nation’s most valuable—and most frequently visited—natural treasures. When Amy and Dave Freeman learned of toxic mining proposed within this area’s watershed, they decided to take action—by spending a year in the wilderness, and sharing their experience through video, photos, and blogs with an audience of hundreds of thousands of concerned citizens. This book tells the deeper story of their adventure in northern Minnesota: of loons whistling under a moonrise, of ice booming as it forms and cracks, of a moose and her calf swimming across a misty lake.

With the magic—and urgent message—that has rallied an international audience to the campaign to save the Boundary Waters, A Year in the Wilderness is a rousing cry of witness activism, and a stunning tribute to this singularly beautiful region.

My Thoughts

We purchased this book at Lake Superior Trading Post during a camping trip earlier this year.

The authors spent a year in the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness documenting their experiences with hundreds of photographs, some video, and a few podcast episodes. The book contains dozens of the beautiful full-color photographs.

They camped at approximately 120 different sites, explored 500 lakes, rivers and streams, and traveled more than 2,000 miles by canoe, foot, ski, snowshoe and dog team.

They had a fairly large volunteer support team who brought in food and supplies, and they had a satellite phone to post updates, but otherwise they were cut off from civilization for a year.

They muse on the importance of solitude and retreat from the noise of daily life, and come to appreciate the beauties of the area more than ever.

We’ve been to the edge of the Boundary Waters but it’ll likely be a few years before we can really visit, and thanks to this book, I cannot wait.

This was my favorite book of the entire year.

Resources

Visit https://www.savetheboundarywaters.org/wildernessyear for more information.

Here’s a short video produced by some friends of the Freemans:

Bear Witness: A Year in the Wilderness

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Visual Studio Code Workspaces and PHP Intelephense

When developing WordPress plugins for general use, I like to open the plugin directory itself in VS Code.

This allows me to use the git integration and terminal without wading through the wp-content/plugins/{plugin name} directory structure.

However, this results in the WordPress functions appearing as “undefined function” and the inability to jump to their definition or hover to see parameters and other details.

Here’s how I fix that annoyance:

  1. Save the open project as a workspace (File > Save As Workspace…)
  2. Add a fresh WordPress installation to the workspace, making it a multi-root workspace
  3. Go to Settings (Code > Preferences > Settings), click on the “Workspace” tab, and search for intelephense.environment.includePaths
  4. In the “Include Paths” section, add an entry for the fresh WordPress installation so Intelephense will index it

Alfred Workflows

I’ve been using Alfred on macOS for years now and it’s a wonderful productivity enhancement (on average, I use it more than 100 times a day).

Here are some of my favorite workflows:

Colors

Colors by Tyler Eich is a quick way to preview color codes and convert between formats.

Datetime Format Converter

Datetime Format Converter by Michael Waterfall is the fastest way I’ve found to convert Unix timestamps to human-readable dates, and vice versa.

Dev Doctor

Dev Doctor by Syd Lawrence provides quick-reference lookups for code documentation.

DevDocs

DevDocs by Yannick Galatol is another workflow that provides quick reference for documentation using devdocs.io.

HTTP Status

HTTP Status by Marc Görtz is my preferred reference for quickly finding an HTTP status code either by number or name.

Laravel Docs

Laravel Docs by Till Krüss is amazing…it seems to have indexed most of Laravel documentation, so searching by any key word tends to bring up the best page of the documentation.

Open in VS Code

I use Visual Studio Code as my primary development tool; I created this workflow to quickly and easily open a file or directory in VS Code.

VPN Manager

VPN Manager by Dean Jackson is a great way to enable/disable VPN connections on the fly.

WordPress Developer

WordPress Developer by keesiemeijer is the fastest way to search and find functions, filters, classes, and more in the WordPress documentation.

Installing New Relic on RunCloud

Now that New Relic is offering a free tier, I’ve started using it to monitor some personal websites.

This particular server was configured using RunCloud, and the New Relic installation script didn’t automatically install New Relic monitoring for RunCloud’s PHP. Here are the steps I followed to get that working:

  1. Find the RunCloud PHP directories: /RunCloud/Packages/php7*rc/bin
  2. Set the NR_INSTALL_PATH variable to all the versions I had installed, as described here.
  3. Run newrelic-install and select all to install for all versions.
  4. Reload PHP: systemctl reload php7*rc-fpm

Bonus

I found this plugin that adds WordPress-specific knowledge to New Relic reporting.

Bonus 2

New Relic allows you to specify multiple app names to group together all the sites on a server, all of one client’s sites, etc. See their documentation for more details.

The WordPress plugin provides the wp_nr_app_name filter to modify the app name.

Setting Up YouTube Live

WP YouTube Live is a free WordPress plugin to display live videos on a WordPress site.

To get started, follow these instructions:

Enable Streaming on YouTube

  1. Decide if you will stream from a personal account or a brand account. Read more about the differences in this article.
  2. Decide how you will stream video.
  3. Enable streaming for your account; see this article for details.

Set up the YouTube Data API

  1. If you don’t have a Google account already, sign up here.
  2. Log in to the Google Developers Console: console.developers.google.com
  3. Create a new project if you don’t have one already.
  4. Go to the Credentials page: console.developers.google.com/apis/credentials
  5. Click the “Create Credentials” button at the top and choose “API key” and copy the new key
  6. Go to the Enabled APIs page: console.developers.google.com/apis/enabled
  7. Search for Youtube Data API v3 and enable it.

Reference: developers.google.com/youtube/v3/getting-started

Install the WordPress Plugin

  1. Go to the plugins page on the backend of your website.
  2. Press the “Add New” button and search for “WP YouTube Live.”
  3. Install and then activate the plugin.
  4. Go to Settings > YouTube, enter your channel ID and API key, and choose what to display when no video is live.
  5. Add the [youtube_live] shortcode to the page where you want the video player to appear.

Support

For other support questions, please use the WordPress support forum.