A reader continues the discussion:

The next book club topic is to discuss whether Montaigne was Christian or Atheist? Puh-montaigneleeze. Does it matter? Does it matter to God Himself what you, me, Montaigne or anyone believes? Isn’t that a little prideful?

Do you think the first question God will ask all his Super Christian followers (or atheists) upon their death is what they believe in? Will their God want their opinions on evolution? Global warming? It’s like asking your dog’s opinion when casting your ballot.

It’s much more interesting to see how beliefs are played out. And for that, Montaigne/Sarah Bakewell is fabulous. We’re this Super Christian nation but that doesn’t always play out so well. Sure we don’t drown witches (anymore), but we torture and murder innocent people, turn refugee children away at our border. We justify these actions, as all extremists in crisis conditions do, by claiming exceptional times and unusual circumstances.

If, as Montaigne states, it’s just politics and therefore part of the cycle of decay and
rejuvenation, then why react in such extremes? Why sue the President? Why intervene everywhere? Why listen to Hannity or McCain on bookclub-beagle-tranything? However bad things are, as Montaigne says, most of life goes on undisturbed. In the long view, fanatics wear themselves out. Preserving your dignity, your soul, and remaining true to yourself is forever.

Keep picking books like this one and the world will be a better place. No shit!

Send your thoughts on How To Live to bookclub@andrewsullivan.com.

Here’s an interesting tidbit: A bachelor’s degree from a public university costs 40 percent more in the US than in Canada, but American financial aid policies mean that poor US students wind up paying a lower net tuition than their counterparts north of the border. Christopher Flavelle wonders why, given that fact, low-income Canadians are still more likely to attend college than low-income Americans are:

[Economist Lance] Lochner offered a few possible explanations. One is price transparency: The gap between the sticker price and what you’ll actually pay to attend most US. colleges is enormous and hard to quantify, and that may be more of a disincentive to low-income families than to those for whom money is less of a concern. A more troubling explanation, and one that’s far harder to fix, is that people are less likely to come into contact with those from other income groups in the US.

“In the US, people are much more segregated in where they live,” Lochner said. “It could be, because of that, you have more segregation of knowledge.” In Canada, by contrast, “you’re more likely to go to a school where everybody hears about” the advantages of going to college, and where somebody can help you figure out what steps to take to get there. If that’s true, it means that income inequality hasn’t just increased the economic value of going to college, by increasing the earnings premium associated with a degree. It has also made going to college harder, by reducing the odds that young people from poor families will be told that a college degree is something they can attain, or should even try to attempt.

David Leonhardt emphasizes how Americans generally pay less than the sticker price for their degrees:

Read On

Mental Health Break

Jul 31 2014 @ 4:20pm

Your favorite British commentator tries to decipher NASCAR:

Propaganda Is A Powerful Thing

Jul 31 2014 @ 3:57pm

The latest poll from Russia is proof:

A poll released by the independent Russian pollster Levada on Wednesday has found that a large number of Russians believe that Ukraine shot down Malaysia Airlines Flight 17, with 46 percent saying they think it was brought down by a Ukrainian army antiaircraft missile and 36 percent saying a Ukrainian military plane shot it down (multiple answers were allowed, meaning the percentages do not add up to a hundred and people may have chosen more than one answer). … Almost no one in Russia is buying the story that the rest of the world accepts. Just 3 percent believe pro-Russian separatists in Ukraine might have shot down the plane.

Sarah Palin, Democratic Fundraiser

Jul 31 2014 @ 3:40pm

Impeachment

All that impeachment chatter in the fever swamps is a gift to Democrats, Cillizza argues:

You can be sure that Boehner is making it abundantly clear to members of his conference not to mention the word “impeachment” in public and, if asked about it, to insist that it is absolutely not an option. But, whether they listen is another thing entirely. Some may genuinely believe that Obama has committed acts that warrant impeachment, others may see the possibility of personal political gain out of being on Team Impeachment.

Meanwhile, any and all talk of impeachment may well be the secret ingredient Democrats have been desperately searching for to energize their base in advance of the midterms. (Eighty six percent of Democrats oppose impeaching President Obama.) If Democrats can make their base voters believe that the results of this election could mean the difference between impeaching Obama and not, that’s a major win for them. And, yes, impeachment talk will further stoke passion among some within the conservative base. But, between the IRS, Benghazi and Obamacare do those voters really need a whole lot more motivation to turn out and vote against Obama?

But also more literally, a gift, as in cash money:

It’s a great rallying point for the party’s voter and fundraising base. The Democrats’ House Campaign Committee says that in a single day, in response to the supposed threat of impeachment and reality of a lawsuit against the president, it hauled in 50,000 contributions, 60 percent from women, totaling $1 million.

Perhaps that’s why left-leaning media outlets are talking it up, by Nate Silver’s count, far more than their counterparts on the right:

Read On

The Ukrainian Military’s Losses

Jul 31 2014 @ 3:18pm

They’ve been heavy:

As Simon Saradzhyan, a Russia expert at Harvard’s Belfer Center, notes, if Ukraine continues to suffer troop casualties at its current rate, it would “surpass 1,560 per year. That would be more than what the Russian army acknowledged losing in the deadliest year of the second Chechen war.” In view of the increasing casualties on the horizon, Ukraine’s parliament has just approved a call-up of a further 50,000 reservists and men under the age of 50, just 45 days after its last mobilization. But just how long Ukraine’s cobbled-together military will be able to sustain increasing casualties is questionable at best — especially if they suddenly find themselves up against more qualified Russian soldiers.

Throughout the conflict in eastern Ukraine, Russian troops have watched from just over the border, implicitly threatening intervention. Since the beginning of the rebellion, Russian troops have been conducting maneuvers and setting up the logistics network that would be needed for an incursion. Things have ramped up in recent days, with Russia conducting large-scale exercises with some of its most advanced helicopters. The threat hasn’t been lost on Kiev.

Janine Davidson worries Putin is preparing t0 invade. She wants to send arms to the Ukrainian government:

Read On

Who (Or What) To Blame For Libya?

Jul 31 2014 @ 3:03pm

Libyan Rebels Sieze Control Of Tripoli From Gaddafi Forces

Christopher Stephen paints a picture of a country where deeply entrenched corruption and factionalism have rendered good governance impossible and fueled the pseudo-civil war tearing the country apart today:

With the economy moribund, the only growth industry has been militias. In all some 168,000 members have registered at the government’s Warriors Affairs Commission, which was set up to take control of the various militia brigades—but that’s at least four times the number of militia members who actually fought in the civil war. Now they’re all getting state pay packets. “I don’t care about Islamism, but they pay me 1200 dinars [about $800] a month to guard the base twice a week,” said Hassan, a Benghazi teenager employed by the city’s Islamist Libya Shield brigade.

Today all those victorious militias are at war with each other. The militias from Misrata, a city 120 miles east of the capital, and Zintan, a mountain town 90 miles south west, did the hardest fighting of the revolution, surging into Tripoli together to liberate it in August 2011. Their units never left, and since then the Misratans and Zintanis have increasingly fallen out as claimants to the spoils. … In the confrontational atmosphere in congress, the political parties began funding militias that were sympathetic to them, rather than dissolving them as parliament was supposed to do. Misrata and Zintan, the two most powerful militia groupings, broke along the political divide — Misrata for the Islamists, Zintan for the nationalists.

Peter Dörrie names Khalifa Haftar, the former general with previous links to the CIA who now leads a coalition of Zintani fighters and other nationalist militias, as the primary instigator of the ongoing conflict:

Publicly, Haftar claims to fight against Islamist militias for a secular Libya, but his political ambitions are obvious.

Read On

The View From Your Window

Jul 31 2014 @ 2:41pm

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Rocky Mountain National Park, Colorado, 12 pm

John Brennan’s Latest Lie

Jul 31 2014 @ 2:21pm

The torture-defender and CIA loyalist insisted earlier this year that the CIA never deliberately hacked the Senate Intelligence Committee to undermine its vital report on war crimes under Bush and Cheney. Here’s what he said:

When the facts come out on this, I think a lot of people who are claiming that there has been this tremendous sort of spying and monitoring and hacking will be proved wrong.

Really? So here are the facts on this:

An internal investigation by the Central Intelligence Agency has found that its officers improperly penetrated a computer network used by the Senate Intelligence Committee in preparing its report on the C.I.A.’s detention and interrogation program. In a statement issued Thursday morning, a C.I.A. spokesman said that agency’s inspector general had concluded that C.I.A. officers had acted inappropriately by gaining access to the computers. The statement said that John O. Brennan, the C.I.A. director, had apologized to the two senior members of the Senate Intelligence Committee and that he would set up an internal accountability board to review the matter.

Brennan apologized this week to Senators. I doubt he will ever apologize to the American people.

Andrew Asks Anything: Rich Juzwiak

Jul 31 2014 @ 1:55pm

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If you ever read Gawker, you know who Rich Juzwiak is. Yesterday he came out with a new piece revealing how he’s not just taking Truvada again; he thinks almost every gay man should be on it too:

In my first piece on Truvada, I said that I thought most sexually active gay men should at least consider going on it. That was not strong enough: All sexually active gay men who are negative should go on it, at least those who are in the highly populated gray area that I find myself in—guys who either have casual condomless sex from time to time or who are “always safe” but still burdened by the fear of HIV.

If you know that you don’t need Truvada, I trust your judgment. If there’s a shred of uncertainty, just take the fucking pill.

I try to be as nonjudgmental as possible when it comes to the behavior of other gay men (though I cannot refrain from judging those who judge). We are all in different places in life; we all enjoy different things. That variety is, in fact, what makes gay culture so vibrant. The choices at the disposal of those who are privileged enough to live in areas where gay is OK and where same-sex marriage is legal—these are part what make being gay so wonderful. But if you cannot deal with taking a single pill every day, you need to get a grip and reevaluate your life. After you do that, then just take the fucking pill.

Rich and I sat down a little while ago to talk about sex and love and gay men’s lives today. The resulting podcast can be a little racy and provocative at times. Hey, it was a real conversation. We actually talk about the sexual adventurism of gay men – a subculture where no women restrain sexual desire – as an often wonderful thing, regardless of the judgment that so many, including gay men, have made about it. There may be a measure of mutual respect, friendship, democracy and brotherhood in a sexually liberated gay male world – that is perhaps unavailable to heterosexuals:


The whole conversation is up on Deep Dish now for subscribers only. Check it out. If you haven’t subscribed yet, do so here – you only need to spend $1.99 to download the whole thing. And you’ll also get access to my unfiltered conversations with Dan Savage and Hitchens, among many others.