Crispin Sartwell | Have I Been Good or Bad This Year? Here’s Some New Math. – The New York Times

Mr. Sartwell is an associate professor of philosophy at Dickinson College in Carlisle, Pa.

“Here we are at the end of another year, and as humans are wont to do around this time, I’ve been reflecting. Have I been a good person? Has my existence been of net benefit to humanity? When my expiration date comes — whether by murder hornet, bovine spongiform encephalopathy, or an encounter with a garbage truck that transforms me suddenly into a crimson mist — I expect that St. Peter, Brahman, or some similarly all-knowing judge will meet me at the gates of pearl or in the limbo between incarnations, report my tally, and tell me where I’m headed next.

To be honest, though not too honest, I’m concerned about how this exit interview is going to go. Honestly, though not too honestly, I’ve done some things that might be frowned on. I admit it: I don’t have a lovely bouquet of moral virtues to wave around. What I have instead is knockdown proof that I richly deserve eternal bliss.

I’m not here to beg you, oh Gatekeeper. I’m here to dazzle you into submission with a pure display of virtuoso ratiocination, like Charlie Daniels fiddling against the Devil.

Allow me to start with this claim: We humans, as moral beings, can be as culpable for what we fail to do as for what we do. While some wrongdoers commit wrongs proactively (traditionally known as sins of commission), others do so through inaction or sheer negligence (sins of omission). A coldblooded killer, for example, is an active wrongdoer, while the sleazy real estate developer who fails to maintain a building that subsequently collapses, injuring and killing his tenants, is a passive one. Clearly, both have done wrong. But while the killer displays an obvious moral truth (that it is bad to do what one shouldn’t do), the developer offers a more subtle one (it is bad to not do what one should do).

Surely, oh Eternal Bouncer, you will agree that if it is bad to not do what one should do, then it is good to not do what one should not. In other words, if omissions can be blameworthy, they can be praiseworthy, too.

This fundamental moral insight has stunning implications. If embezzling money is wrong, for instance, then not embezzling money is right. However much money I may have embezzled over the years, there is so much more that I have commendably not embezzled, if you follow me. Think of all those banks, all those charities, all those law firms I didn’t steal from. The amount of money I stole, if I stole any money, is infinitesimal compared to all the money I could conceivably have stolen. Surely, my restraint should earn me a few points in the plus column.

I used to read the news every morning as a litany of blunders and crimes, getting more and more bummed out as I went along. But then I realized: not only is each day’s crop of bad things minuscule compared to the bad things that might have happened but did not, but almost every bad thing that happened was not something I personally did, or did much of, anyway. There are so many things, I see now, for me to be proud of, every day. I didn’t, for instance, blow anything up. I didn’t come up with the phrase “Build Back Better agenda.”

Just think of what evil we could fail to accomplish if we were united in our inaction.

But I seem to hear you, Omnipotent One, protesting that there was so much good I could have done but failed to do. That, for example, I allowed my abilities and talents, which could have been of service to humanity, atrophy. It’s true, I didn’t create any great paintings, write any great novels, or achieve any scientific breakthroughs. I just lay here on the couch watching ESPN.

On the other hand, before you lob me into the outer dark, I want to point out that my sloth had an upside. Of all the repulsive and derivative art produced over the course of my too-brief life — the “abstract” paintings, the plop sculptures, the “yacht rock,” and all those works of “autofiction” — I personally produced very few of them. The legacy of all the bad art I did not make is secure.

So stand down, St. Pete, or whoever you are. Go back to Tampa. Stop being so judgmental. Or in the words of the poet Adele, take it easy on me. The burning question of whether I deserve an enjoyable afterlife has been answered once and for all.

Now that you’ve heard the argument, Big Fella, fork over the bliss.” -30-

David Lindsay:  I’m taking notes.  Here are some of my favorite comments:


I find it easier and more scientific to think of cause and effect. Virtuous actions cause happiness. Non-virtuous actions cause suffering. -The Buddha

12 Replies152 Recommended

ImagineMoments commented December 30


The neat thing about being an atheist is that I don’t to worry about this stuff. I kind of like taking on the adult responsibility of having to decide for myself what actions are moral and just, and what those words even mean.

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Julie commented December 30

BoiseDec. 30

When the Dalai Lama was asked where do people go when they die, his response was, “We don’t know. But, I hope I go where I can reduce the suffering of others.” Me too. And, in my life, I make it my practice here as well.

1 Reply121 Recommended
Robert Scull
Cary, NCDec. 30

Takes me back to elementary school in St. Mary’s Academy where I first heard about “sins of omission.” At the time it seemed that my sins of commission were embarrassing enough, but then when I thought about all the good I could have done…then I knew I was in big trouble. Now that I am a septuagenarian, I have accumulated decades of sins for reflection. The only advantage of these past failures I can see is they give us pause to display a little humility…a traditional virtue that does not get much credit in contemporary society. I still think it is a fascinating concept…that we have a responsibility to do good in our short lives to avoid an eternity of suffering as depicted in all those medieval paintings of naked people falling helplessly into the abyss in utter shock that the unbelievable stories about the afterlife were actually true. It is actually unfortunate that most of us really don’t believe it as shown by the way most of us live, wasting our lives on seeking the next thrill, restricting good deeds to an hour of dressed-up ceremony once a week and an orgy of consumerism and kindness to others during the Saturnalia festival or whatever it is called today in the religion of choice. Is it possible that our portfolios that make some of us feel so secure are in fact a record of our sins of omission? I see no chance of the world improving as long as feelings of guilt are considered to be a psychological disorder. Guilt may in fact be good for us.

1 Reply65 Recommended
Orlando, FL11h ago

It is easy to come up with excuses not to do good. The real challenge is in forming habits of being good. Are we nice to our neighbors, do we lend a hand when we see them carrying groceries or trying to stuff leaves into a bag? Do we treat others with kindness and compassion? Do we think kind and compassionate thoughts about others? Or do we pull a shoulder patting ourselves on our back for not kicking a homeless person when we walk by disdaining them? I don’t want to get by in life doing the least I can. Many generations ago moral laws were mostly “don’ts.” A person once pointed out to me that a clam obeys most of the ten commandments. Do you want “slightly better than a clam” to be how people remember you? But even thousands of years ago the best among us proposed commandments of action, of doing. Love others. I don’t pretend I get a pass from loving others because I haven’t recently stolen my neighbor’s donkey. Not only that, I actively want to love others. I want to help others. I want to be of service. I am calmer, more joyful, more at peace when I do. I want my life to have purpose, so I have sought purpose and try to live up to the highest ideals of moral living that I have discovered. It is a great challenge to be the best person we can be. It is an exciting adventure to try to make tomorrow’s world better than yesterday’s. And that leads to supreme joy and humbling satisfaction if we can honestly say we did our best.

26 Recommended

Gail Collins | Wait! Wait! ? – The New York Times

Opinion Columnist

“As the sun sinks over Georgia, we bid adieu to the Senate runoff election that seems to have been contested since the beginning of time.

Yes, dinosaurs once ruled the earth and Senate candidate Herschel Walker probably has a theory about how they could be killed by a werewolf. Or maybe a vampire.

This certainly was a race to remember. But now it’s over; Georgia very rightly decided that Senator Raphael Warnock, an estimable candidate, was better for the job than a guy who couldn’t seem to be clear about how many children he’d fathered or abortions he’d paid for.

But … Wait! Wait! Warnock got only a little more than 51 percent of the vote. That means more than 1.7 million Georgians thought it’d be a better plan to have a senator whose theory on global warming is: “Don’t we have enough trees?” “

Krugman recommends Tom Lehrer | Liz Truss in the Libertarian Wilderness – The New York Times



Paul Krugman’s essay  is good for you, but not fun to read, like flossing. But his music tip is sensational, Tom Lehrer sings National Brotherhood Week, in the second link below. the good old days.

Since Trump has been bringing back the good old days …

Gail Collins | Who Will Control the Senate? The Answer Could Be in an Email. – The New York Times

Opinion Columnist

“We’re getting Senate serious, people. And it’s all about you. The candidates need you, even if your home state doesn’t have a real nail-biter. (Chuck Schumer is going to be re-elected in New York. You heard it here first.)

No matter where you’ve been over the summer, I bet you spent some of your time plowing through emails from Senate hopefuls asking you for money.

It can get a tad … dispiriting. You wake up and take a look at your inbox. When you see there are over 50 new messages waiting, you have to assume that a few are actually from people you know.

Nah. The one titled “Dinner Plans” isn’t about date night. Catherine Cortez Masto, the senator from Nevada, wants you to know that she and her husband just finished eating, and that while he’s doing the dishes, she’s got time to share a quick fund-raising request.”

David Lindsay: Here is one of many good comment to this excellent piece above:


Don’t count out Mike Franken in Iowa, he is running to replace Grassley. Grassley may have been a former work “across the aisle” relatively decent senator but he lead the Senate Judiciary committee that refused to fulfill their constitutional duty of taking a vote or even allowing a hearing of pres. Obama’s Supreme Court nomination of Merrick Garland. This went on ten months before the election of t rump. Somehow they were able to process Gorsuch (one of the six votes against a woman’s right to choose) in a couple of months after trump’s nomination of him. Help us get rid of Grassley, he’s caused enough damage. Franken is the best candidate Grassley has faced in a long long time. Mike Franken is a leader and understands service to a democracy and what it means to take an oath to support and defend the Constitution from enemies foreign and domestic. He will bear true faith and allegiance to the same and faithfully discharge his duties to the office of Senate. Grassley has been in there so long he seems to have forgotten what this means. His actions are as if he has taken an oath to his party.

4 Replies139 Recommended

Disaster Comedy | Jonathan Pie on Liz Truss, Britain’s Next Prime Minister – The New York Times

Jonathan Pie and 

Jonathan Pie is a fictional newscaster created by the British comedian Tom Walker. Mr. Westbrook is a producer and editor with Opinion Video.

“So Liz Truss will be Britain’s next prime minister — the nation’s fourth in seven years. And she’s inheriting a nation falling apart at the seams.

Ms. Truss’s victory on Monday followed a long summer of overlapping and escalating crises in the country: Inflation soared to double-digit figures and continues to rise; nationwide strikes have crippled the train networks, the postal service and trash collections; a heat wave brought the first drought in 20 years; and Brexit and the pandemic conspired to ruin many families’ first overseas vacations in three years.

On top of all of that, the government has been unable to prevent Britain’s energy companies from raising electricity and natural gas prices to levels that for many residents are simply unaffordable. The average household energy bill will nearly double between now and October, to 3,549 pounds a year (about $4,200).”

Moonrise Kingdom – Wikipedia

Moonrise Kingdom is a 2012 American coming-of-age comedy-drama film directed by Wes Anderson, written by Anderson and Roman Coppola, and starring Bruce WillisEdward NortonBill MurrayFrances McDormandTilda SwintonJason SchwartzmanBob Balaban, and introducing Jared Gilman and Kara Hayward. Largely set on the fictional island of New Penzance somewhere off the coast of New England, it tells the story of an orphan boy (Gilman) who escapes from a scouting camp to unite with his pen pal and love interest, a girl with aggressive tendencies (Hayward). Feeling alienated from their guardians and shunned by their peers, the lovers abscond to an isolated beach. Meanwhile, the island’s police captain (Willis) organizes a search party of scouts and family members to locate the runaways.

In crafting their screenplay, Anderson and Coppola drew from personal experiences and memories of childhood fantasies as well as films including Melody (1971) and The 400 Blows (1959). Auditions for child actors took eight months, and filming took place in Rhode Island over three months in 2011.

Moonrise Kingdom premiered at the 2012 Cannes Film Festival and received critical acclaim, with its themes of young love, child sexuality, juvenile mental health, and the Genesis flood narrative being praised. Critics cited the film’s color palette and use of visual symmetry as well as the use of original composition by Alexandre Desplat to supplement existing music by Benjamin Britten. It was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Original Screenplay and the Golden Globe for Best Musical or Comedy. In 2016, the BBC included the film in its list of greatest films of the twenty-first century.

Source: Moonrise Kingdom – Wikipedia

David Lindsay: What a wonderful movie, Moonrise Kingdom, recommended by Cynthia Whear, after we discussed our appreciation for art works and musicals that reference Noah’s Flood.

 Margaret Renkle | Dear Liberals: Come On Down! – The New York Times


Dear Liberals,

I greet you from the Medieval stronghold of the American South, where things are every bit as bad as you’ve heard. They may be worse.

Red-state legislators have perfected the art of voter suppression, which you probably know. They have also gerrymandered the South’s blue cities into political irrelevance, which you may not. These cities serve as their states’ economic engines: According to Mark Muro, the policy director of the Brookings Institution’s Metropolitan Policy Project, the counties Joe Biden won in 2020 account for 71 percent of U.S. gross domestic product. A bunch of those counties are in red states, and they are growing.

Come help us grow. The new gerrymandered district lines are based on current data. With your help, we can outwit craven G.O.P. calculations about where residents reliably vote Republican. Once you’re here, you can help us register voters in disenfranchised communities, too, and drive them to the polls on Election Day.”

Opinion | Sometimes,  History Goes Backwards – The New York Times

Gail Collins and 

Ms. Collins and Mr. Stephens are Opinion columnists. They converse every week.

“Bret Stephens: Hi, Gail. I don’t know if you remember the Lloyd Bridges character from the movie “Airplane,” the guy who keeps saying, “Looks like I picked the wrong week to quit smoking/drinking/amphetamines/sniffing glue.” We were away last week and … stuff happened. Your thoughts on what appears to be the imminent demise of Roe v. Wade?

Gail Collins: Well, Bret, I have multitudinous thoughts, some of them philosophical and derived from my Catholic upbringing. Although I certainly don’t agree with it, I understand the philosophical conviction that life begins at conception.

Bret: As a Jew, I believe that life begins when the kids move out of the house.”

David Lindsay Jr.
Hamden, CT | NYT comment:
Great conversation, and some big laughs. Life really begins when the kids finally leave the house. But both Gail and Bret appear not to know that the Canadian oil slated for the XL pipeline is the dirtiest kind of shale oil there is, while the Saudi oil is mostly some of the cleanest. I now support the XL pipeline, but not for the reasons either of them mention. It is very bad for the environment, but it could in the short term, help the Democrats take more of the house and senate. The invasion by Russia into the Ukraine has created an emergency short term need for oil. There is a political reason for turning the XL pipeline back on, as long as we can turn it off when no longer needed.
David blogs at

Gail Collins and Bret Stephens | Which ‘Radioactive Republicans’ Are We Betting On? – The New York Times

Gail Collins and 

Ms. Collins and Mr. Stephens are Opinion columnists. They converse every week.

Gail Collins: Bret, let’s relax and talk about long-term goals that we totally do not share. For instance, how would you feel about raising the minimum wage to $15 an hour?

Bret Stephens: Why not raise the standard of living for everyone by making the minimum wage $100? Just kidding. I think the correct figure is $0.

Gail: If your goal is a self-supporting populace that doesn’t depend on government aid, you’ve got to make sure employers are shelling out at least minimal survival salaries. The current bottom line is $7.25 an hour. Nobody can live on that.

Bret: I’m taking my $0 cue from a famous Times editorial from 1987, which made the case that “those at greatest risk from a higher minimum wage would be young, poor workers, who already face formidable barriers to getting and keeping jobs.” The editorial may be old but the economic logic is right. Raising the minimum wage is a well-intentioned idea that won’t help its intended beneficiaries. It will hurt them by giving companies like McDonald’s additional incentives to move toward even more automation.