Fear and Loathing 2020

From Hunter S. Thompson’s Fear and Loathing on the Campaign Trail, written during the 1972 presidential campaign that culminated in the re-election of Richard Nixon:

I would like to think—or at least claim to think, out of charity if nothing else—that Campaign Bloat is at the root of this hellish angst that boils up to obscure my vision every time I try to write anything serious about presidential politics.

But I don’t think that’s it. The real reason, I suspect, is the problem of coming to grips with the idea that Richard Nixon will almost certainly be re-elected for another four years as President of the United States. If the current polls are reliable—and even it they aren’t, the sheer size of the margin makes the numbers themselves unimportant—Nixon will be re-elected by a huge majority of Americans who feel he is not only more honest and more trustworthy than George McGovern, but also more likely to end the war in Vietnam.

The polls also indicate that Nixon will get a comfortable majority of the Youth Vote. And that he might carry all fifty states.

Well… maybe so. This may be the year when we finally come face to face with ourselves; finally just lay back and say it—that we are really just a nation of 220 million used car salesmen with all the money we need to buy guns, and no qualms at all about killing anybody else in the world who tries to make us uncomfortable.

The tragedy of all this is that George McGovern, for all his mistakes and all his imprecise talk about “new politics” and “honesty in government,” is one of the few men who’ve run for President of the United States in this century who really understands what a fantastic monument to all the best instincts of the human race this country might have been, if we could have kept it out of the hands of greedy little hustlers like Richard Nixon.

McGovern made some stupid mistakes, but in context they seem almost frivolous compared to the things Richard Nixon does every day of his life, on purpose, as a matter of policy and a perfect expression of everything he stands for.

Jesus! Where will it end? How low do you have to stoop in this country to be President?

He know windmills very much

An expert weighs in on the horrors of clean energy:

“I never understood wind… I know windmills very much, I have studied it better than anybody. [T]hey are manufactured, tremendous — if you are into this — tremendous fumes and gases are spewing into the atmosphere. You know we have a world, right? So the world is tiny compared to the universe. So tremendous, tremendous amount of fumes and everything.”

Donald J. Trump, cosmologist and windmill expert (via The Hill)

New Report: Protecting the Places We Love: How the Land and Water Conservation Fund Supports Outdoor Recreation in Nevada

Environment Nevada State Director Levi Kamolnick and I have spent the last few months working on a report on the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF) and its importance for land preservation and outdoor recreation in Nevada. Funded by our friends at the Western Conservation Foundation, the report was released last week as a joint publication by Environment Nevada and Frontier Group. Here’s the intro (you can download the full report here – and check out my blog on the LWCF on the Frontier Group site):

When John Muir first visited Nevada in the late 1800s, he was underwhelmed. “To the farmer who comes to this thirsty land from beneath rainy skies,” he wrote, the place seems little more than “one vast desert, all sage and sand.” He quickly discovered that Nevada was much, much more.

In a series of editorials in the San Francisco Evening Bulletin reporting on his travels throughout the state, Muir described with affection a land of intense natural beauty and abundance, sprawling forests rich in plant and animal life, soaring mountain ranges and ancient glacial valleys sweeping out into wide-open low desert plains. “[W]heresoever we may venture to go in all this good world,” he wrote, “nature is ever found richer and more beautiful than she seems, and nowhere may you meet with more varied and delightful surprises than in the byways and recesses of this sublime wilderness.”

Read more ›

The Battle for the Tongass

Sprawling across 16.7 million acres of southeastern Alaska, the Tongass National Forest is known to many as the “crown jewel” of America’s National Forest System. The largest of the country’s national forests, this spectacular landscape is home to some of the last surviving old-growth temperate rainforest on the continent, as well as numerous species of rare and imperiled wildlife. The Washington Post reported last week that President Trump has instructed Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue to open it up to industrial-scale logging. Read more ›

The Science of Hiking

Harvard physician Paul Dudley White, the ‘father of American cardiology’, believed that a brisk, five mile walk every day is as good a remedy for a restless mind as anything the worlds of medicine and psychology have to offer. Many literary notables, from Charles Dickens to Will Self, have written at length on the restorative effects of their peregrinations through the urban jungle, but as Dr. White well understood, there is something unique about walking in natural surroundings that no amount of urban wandering can approximate.

George Orwell, Thomas De Quincey, Friedrich Nietzsche, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Søren Kierkegaard, Thomas Mann, Vladimir Nabokov, Henry David Thoreau and countless other writers have remarked on the effects of time spent in nature on our intellectual and creative faculties. The physicist Werner Heisenberg was a keen hiker, as were Paul Dirac, Otto Frisch and Lise Meitner, all of whom reported having come to key scientific discoveries while out walking in the hills.

For the English Romantics, through whose influence wandering the countryside à pied became a popular leisure pursuit in England in the late 1700s, immersion in nature was not only a source of literary inspiration (in + spirare — ‘to breathe in’), but fundamental to the creative process. William Godwin “made whole books” as he walked. Across the Channel, Jean-Jacques Rousseau, who spent much of his youth wandering the hills of Central Europe, found in the natural world a clarity of thought that eluded him amid the bustle of urban life. “Cities”, Rousseau concluded, were “the abyss of the human species”.

Over the last few decades, the restorative effects of nature — understood intuitively by writers and artists for centuries— have become a key focus of scientific research. With more than 50% of the world’s population now living in cities, interest in the ramifications of our increasing alienation from the natural world has led to an increased understanding of the importance of nature exposure in terms of its impact on our psychological well-being. Read more ›

Gustav Landauer and Oscar Wilde

For reasons I don’t fully understand, this old paper of mine seems to have been getting a lot of attention recently. When Gustav Landauer first appeared on my radar back in 2005 he was a pretty obscure character, but becoming less so thanks to Richard Day’s Gramsci is Dead (2005) and later Gabriel Kuhn’s Revolution and Other Writings (2010), which led to a resurgence of interest in his ideas, and in Kuhn’s case made available the largest collection of his writings ever published in English. But much of the material being written about Landauer back then tended to view him almost exclusively through a 21st century activist lens, and inevitably the picture that emerged was somewhat skewed as a result, sidestepping aspects of his thought incongruous with modern leftist sensibilities, but also eliding large areas of his life and work that fed into his political and philosophical writing, including his literary criticism, his work as translator and theatre critic, and the Jewish and Christian mysticism that was basically the driving force behind his writing for the entire second half of his life.

The Oscar Wilde translations Landauer and his wife Hedwig Lachmann produced in the early years of the 20th century are still highly regarded in Wildean circles. In 1904 their translation of ‘The Soul of Man under Socialism’ was published in Berlin by Karl Schnabel/Axel Juncker along with Wilde’s letter to the Daily Chronicle about prison conditions, ‘L’Envoi’, and Lachmann’s translation of ‘Sonnet to Liberty’. In 1907, their translation of The Picture of Dorian Gray was published in Leipzig by Insel-Verlag with ‘The Decay of Lying’ and ‘The Critic as Artist’. At least one excerpt from the ‘Soul of Man’ translation appeared in Der Sozialist in 1909. In 1905 Landauer reviewed Max Meyerfeld’s edition of De Profundis for Berlin literary magazine Das literarische Echo, and the following February penned an epic defence of the otherwise critically panned 1906 Berlin première of A Florentine Tragedy at Max Reinhardt’s Deutsches Theater.

Gabriel Kuhn had translated a few sections of Landauer’s writings on Wilde for me for an earlier paper in The Oscholars journal. For the 2015 article we decided to publish his translations of Landauer’s reviews in their entirety (in the web version on this site the Florentine Tragedy essay is summarised for the sake of brevity – the print version has the full essay), along with commentary drawing on Landauer’s correspondence, including exchanges with Fritz Mauthner, Richard Beer-Hofmann and Austrian playwright Hermann Bahr, among others.

Landauer was a complex and often seemingly contradictory figure, impossible to pigeonhole in any one particular intellectual or political tradition. Both conservative and revolutionary, nationalist and internationalist, religious and anticlerical, of both right and left, he totally defies categorisation, and as is often the case with such people he finds admirers across the political spectrum. If a writer can be claimed by both sides as their own but fully co-opted by neither, they are someone worth paying attention to. People who can say “I am [X], (and nothing else)” rarely are.