A first attempt at using WordPress for microblogging

Here is the brand spanking new Larry Sanger Microblog, which lives at a domain I had sitting around doing nothing: http://StartThis.org. As you'll see, it looks a little like a social media feed. I simply downloaded a theme, then spent the day fixing it up so it looked more or less right like a microblog. I limit myself to 280 characters. That helps.


You can comment in response, if you like. Try to keep your responses to 280 characters!

I am soon going to start working with a developer on a proper WordPress plugin for microposting. But this will probably take several weeks (so he says). Therefore, in the meantime, I thought I'd go ahead and just use WordPress like a social media site.

I am hosting the microblog on my own NAS, which means the microposts are being served right out of my office. Talk about owning your own data! And an especially cool thing, I guess, is that it works fine, it was not hard to install and configure (on Synology, anyway), and—if you can believe it—it's not slow!

I am testing out using Quill to post to my blog...and other things maybe.

What Decentralization Requires

Decentralization. It's not just a hip happnin' buzzword. And it's not just for blockchain. It has been important, and it always has been—I was using it back in 2005 to describe the early Wikipedia—because it uses technology to guarantee, or at least safeguard, freedom. It removes control of public conversations from the hands of would-be overseers of the digital plantations.

Here are the principles that "decentralization" encodes:

  1. Self-ownership. Each user owns his own identity in the network.
  2. Data ownership. You own your own data; you control your own data, within the bounds of controlling law.
  3. Platform-independent following. You control your friend/follower list independently of all platforms. Hence, once a friend follows you on one platform, he should follow you forever everywhere until he unfollows you or you block him (or there is a lawful government order compelling a change).
  4. Platform-agnostic posting. Posting on one platform means posting the same thing on all platforms that are part of one big decentralized network.
  5. Decentralized moderation. Content moderation, which is ultimately an absolute requirement, cannot be performed by a single, central, controlling body or system, providing identical outcomes. So it, too, must be decentralized.
  6. Single conversation. Therefore, there is one giant integrated conversation, but parts of are not shown to people who don't want to see it (or in places it's literally illegal). Of course, it is still legal for people to run closed, walled gardens; but they're not for general broadcast.
  7. Anti-monopoly. Therefore, also, no corporation has anything like a monopoly over the means of social media broadcasting, as at present.

There are several requirements that, I believe, are absolutely required of the alternative social media platforms to satisfy these principles:

  1. User exportability. Platforms should permit users to export a complete and unadulterated copy of their user data from the platform and host it elsewhere. Moreover, public user data that is edited by the user in one place must be brought current with all other copies made elsewhere as well, in a timely fashion.
  2. Data exportability. The user's data must be easily exportable in a common, easily machine-readable format, according to a widely-used standard. This is an absolute minimum. Not many actually support this yet. This isn't enough, though, because you need to be able to export your followers, too, and to do that:
  3. Interoperability. The social media platform must be made as interoperable as possible (at the user's option). So I should be able to subscribe and follow someone who is posting on his own blog, or Mastodon, or Gab, or Parler. I should be able to post and read from any of these networks, and the data should appear in a timely fashion in all the rest.
  4. Data inalienability. If the user's data is not actually served from outside of a platform—which should be possible—then it is treated by the platform as if it were. The platform is merely holding the data on behalf of the user, as a service. The platform must not treat the data as "theirs." This is still a rather vague requirement, but it has specific consequences. One of them would be that the platform is absolutely not permitted to delete or edit a post from your data, although they can of course opt not to post it on the platform. Twitter and Facebook violate this principle when they fail to retain copies of posts that they delete.

Those are things I feel confident of, as a bare minimum. There are other things that really also need to be part of it, I suspect:

  1. Moderation. Individual users, or whole platforms (if users should wish to use them), should be able to select their own moderators. Moderation data, or metadata—such as that a certain user should be blocked, or that a certain post should be hidden or flagged in some way—should be shared in a way similar to how the user data and content itself is served (so, across the network in a decentralized way), and independently of the user's canonical copy of the data.
  2. Text representation. The user's public data must be syndicated in a lo-tech text-based (more human-friendly) format such as JSON or XML, even if they have an API (maybe I don't want to be forced to use their API, maybe because it's too restrictive). The purpose of this is to enable the user to more easily exert control over the source or original version of his own tweets. This text stream, if it still exists and the author's control can be proven, becomes the user's personal assertion or attestation as to how the state of his personal feed should be represented; this human-friendly data representation of the content becomes the controlling, "canonical" version of the data. No other representation, in no other data medium (blockchain, IPFS, bittorrent, or otherwise), is to be regarded legally or operationally as "the canonical version."
  3. Permanence (or uncensorability). By network policy, the user's public data must also be able to be made available forever (so a particular platform couldn't delete it on behalf of everyone else, even if they wanted to) via bittorrent or IPFS or the like. Maybe the blockchain is OK, but frankly due to the financial complexities involved in blockchain, I don't trust blockchains as bittorrent-type "decentralized public cloud" storage.

Something like that. This is not a complete set of "decentralization requirements." It is merely an attempt to articulate some of the basic requirements, including many that current attempts at decentralization have failed to deliver on.

If you put all such things together, then you've operationalized the vague principles of decentralization for social media. The more that existing social media platforms actually implement these features, the more social media will actually be decentralized.

We Want to Pay for a Good, Functioning WordPress Microposting Plugin

Skip down to the plugin requirements section

We are deeply upset at Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, and all the rest. Blocking President Trump from these giant corporate networks was just the last straw. Most of us already loathed these corporations for their violations of our basic digital rights (laid out here: Declaration of Digital Independence), but this?

This crosses the line.

For many of us, banning Trump (and many of his defenders) means we refuse to participate on their networks anymore. We're running for the exits. We have to replace them now.

It's urgent.


There's a problem with the alternatives. The problem of course, is that there are a lot of them, and more arriving all the time. You might think, "Sure, and one will eventually win out. So let's just move out and may the best platform win." This is a mistake. Look, think about what gave the Facebooks of the world their power. It was precisely the fact that people went to the biggest platform...because that's where the biggest group of friends, or the biggest audience, or whatever, would be. They seemed OK because they talked a lot about how they stood for free speech. They didn't mean it. And here we are.

Genuinely decentralized networks can't by censored. Here's how the Internet used to work until 2005-ish: you wanted to connect to a network like email, or the WWW (Web sites), Usenet, or FTP, or whatever. So, first, you downloaded a client, a piece of software that connects you to that network. The client speaks to the network through a special technical protocols. Nobody is in charge of the whole network. There is an organization that defines the protocol, sure, but they don't rule the network. The network has no leader, no center.

The Internet still works that way in parts. We still use browsers to connect to the web; we can still use email clients to connect to email. But today, instead of a client using technical protocols to connect people together for microposting, everyone uses Twitter. Instead of a client running social media protocols, people use Facebook. And so forth. Websites that run their own proprietary networks are "platforms." And you can be shut out of these platforms. This gives Twitter and Facebook massive power. They run what always should have been a neutral network. Absolutely nobody deserves that much power!

Questions and answers

So why replace censorious platforms with...new platforms? Why not replace them with good old-fashioned neutral, decentralized networks? There should be a microposting network, and a video network, and an image network, and a social media (Facebook-style) network. I would also add: an encyclopedia network.

"Decentralization"...I've heard of that. This is just blockchain, right? Not necessarily. That's what the blockchain crowd wants you to think, but blockchains are just one kind of decentralization. The problem with blockchains is that they mostly incorporate coins, which means whether content gets into them can usually be determined, in one way or another, by who owns some coins. That means that "whales," or people with a lot of coins, can control the network. That's not decentralized. That centralizes power in the hands of a few individuals. The whole idea of decentralization is to eliminate any control of the network.

What's wrong with just using Parler and Rumble, again? If you're still asking that, then you missed the point earlier. This is important: we should never trust proprietary platforms again. If Parler and Rumble become the new Twitter and YouTube, it doesn't matter what they say about how open they are, or how committed they are to freedom of speech. You simply have to trust them. That is what got us into this mess in the first place, back in 2005. Let's not repeat the mistake.

So...what do we do? Here's the deal. A lot of people are now working on this problem. Massive amounts of money are going to be thrown at it. I've spoken to at least three billionaires in the last 24 hours about this stuff, and they're all motivated to open their pocketbooks. And that's all in addition to the existing networks, some of which are growing very fast. So if you ask, "What should we do?" my response is: "You mean, in addition to all these other things, that other people are doing?"

What do you want to do? Quite a few people have been asking me this, and generally, I point them to things I've written before, such as this, this, and this. Those document lay out some of the requirements and principles behind a properly decentralized social media network, one that preserves freedom in the way the rest of the Internet does (well—I fear we'll soon be seeing just how well it stands up to concerted attack).

Naturally, most people with money look at censorship on the march as a big money-making opportunity. I look at it as an existential threat to my country and a brutal attack on my principles. I have never been involved in Internet projects for money alone; I always just wanted to do the right thing in the right way, money be damned.

Wait, so what is "the wrong thing" that people are doing? There are several things:

  • Blockchain: Some startups aren't even seriously trying to be a good decentralized, free speech social network. A lot of blockchain "social media" projects are sold as "decentralized" (because they're on a blockchain! That makes them decentralized, man!), but they aren't really decentralized, because a few people are in control of the chain, there's one client (a website and/or app), and basically it works like a regular website...built on a blockchain. Who cares? Minds.com is probably the closest we have to a fairly successful and growing site that is committed to free speech and open source, which does use blockchain; but I don't think it's quite fully decentralized yet.
  • Conservative social media: Some startups are devoted to free speech, but not decentralization. This is true of Parler and Rumble. They're OK. But they're platforms. They can and probably will eventually be compromised. We want to solve the problem, not just kick the can down the road. See "What's wrong with just using Parler and Rumble, again?" above.
  • Federated networks: Some projects are pretty good at decentralization, but they are hard to use, or aren't so keen on free speech. This is true of the Fediverse, meaning the projects built using the ActivityPub protocol, such as Mastodon, and also true of Diaspora. When Gab switched to ActivityPub, Mastodon and many others blocked them. This goes to show you that what we really need is not a federated network, but a genuine P2P network, so I can connect to the network to my own little client (which might be a website only I use, or a client app). There is also a big problem on some of these sorts of projects with child pornography and Nazis (or people impersonating them, which I personally think is just as likely). The latter has actually been Gab's big problem.
  • Totally peer-to-peer networks: There is one small, hard-to-use app, Scuttlebutt, that is totally decentralized. There are others, and I'd like to know about them, but they seem to be small in adoption and in a very early stage of development (so, hard to use and not very good yet).

Can you just summarize what you want? Sure. I explained it before, but let me explain it again in another way. It isn't that complicated:

  1. Client: I want an easy-to-use, well-designed, fast, modern client. Not an account on a website. No. A client. Not a website on which I make an account. The client could take the form of a browser plugin, a WordPress plugin, a stand-alone website, a hosted solution (where you save your own space, like on WordPress.com), a mobile client app, or even a desktop app.
  2. Similar UX to Twitter: The client allows me to publish to the network and view posts from the network. In other words, my experience as I use the client will be similar to my experience on Twitter: I can follow people, view my feed, like and share posts, etc.
  3. Direct or transparent connections to people: The client basically connects me to...other people. Or to their clients. Possibly with an aggregator intermediary, which stays out of the way. There is nobody who owns the whole network or has any special financial interest in the network. I am connected to people, not accounts on a website. It's like email: I have a bunch of family, friends, and colleagues, and I have their email addresses, and I see the stuff they send me. Similarly, an unbranded social media network would let me specify the people I follow, and it goes and grabs their posts for me (somehow; see next point) and shows them to me all in a feed. Great.
  4. Aggregator: There are various different aggregators that prepare our feeds for us. If you're following a thousand people, or if you have a million people following you, your client cannot by itself easily fetch, or send, all the necessary updates regularly for that many people. This is purely technical work that needs to be done as a service for you. So maybe you subscribe to a service. Maybe your university or corporation or ISP runs one. Maybe you just connect to one. It might cost a few dollars a month. It would be money well spent.

Here is the idea that inspires me, that I want to shout out to the world:

If you already have a standardized place—your blog or web space—then isn't that where you should be able to do your microposting? After all, you should own your own data; so why not there? There's no better place.

And then it is just a matter of figuring out how to syndicate it and display it in feeds of followers. Just using RSS to begin with would be absolutely fine. Then gradually add support for the other features such as sharing, upvoting, and threading, which Twitter offers, perhaps via a more strictly P2P extension of ActivityPub.

Requirements for a microblogging plugin

I've been in discussions with one particular investor and philanthropist, Futo.org, who wants to fund one or more OSS projects that will do 1-4 from the latter list. Basically, he's willing to put up money for an open source client and also behind an open source aggregator service.

Something like $5,000 for the following is proposed. We'd like to hear from you first, about whether this is fair or not. Let's talk before you start work. We want it to be very, very solid, beautifully designed, well-documented, easily maintainable, and 100% bug-free.

Let's begin very simple, with a bare-bones microblogging plugin. And while it will be very simple, it will be 100% modern and awesome, with all the UX features users would expect.

Basic requirements:

  1. We want to build a (to begin with) simple WordPress plugin. It would be acceptable to fork the existing "Simple Microblogging" plugin, although that needs a lot of work. Have a look at https://startthis.org/ to get a notion of the general sort of thing I am after, but bear in mind I am not too excited about the idea of multiple columns. If that could be made optional (which implies an options page) without much trouble, that would be great.
  2. You must agree to release the code as open source only. The KSF can hold the code on Gitlab.
  3. The "new micropost" and the "author's micropost archive" are both on the same page. They occupy a single column, as for example Twitter and Minds do. There is a clear visual distinction between the form for creating a new micropost and the list of old microposts, beneath the form.
  4. Let the blog's admins create microposts in an easy-to-use interface:
    • For admins only, the new micropost form appears at the top of the page, always open, i.e., never collapsed (as on Twitter). No other user roles see this.
    • Input field should have a set width (never gets too wide, regardless of the window width), and which collapses down to something suitable.
    • Micropost text should be autosaved in the background (i.e., without the user having to do anything), and not in cookies but in the database.
    • When the micropost is submitted, it immediately (without page refresh) appears beneath the new post field.
    • Micropost character limit = 280. Include a nice, standard sort of interface for showing when the user is getting close to 0 characters, including a count of number of characters left.
    • On all platforms, the width + height of the form should support up to 280 characters (resizing the form should never be necessary).
    • On loading or refresh, the focus/cursor goes inside the form, at the end of any present text. Enter = submit. Shift+Enter = newline. Submit button available too, same action.
    • Small button for attaching images and video is just below the field. It calls the same WordPress "Select or Upload Media" interface, I guess (seems right).
    • After selecting media, they appear just below the new post box, in a preview.
    • Note: microposts don't have titles.
  5. The rest of the page is devoted to displaying the author's older microposts:
    • In this version, the following, older microposts are just those by the author (the author's history). In the next versions, by micropost feeds followed.
    • Published micropost content design elements should include: small thumbnail of any media, linked user ID, micropost content, timestamp. For the layout of these items, please propose a few designs for me to choose from.
    • Each should appear in, or surrounded by, a box.
    • Single images and video thumbnails should appear in smallish thumbnail versions, not terribly full-sized versions, always landscaped. We want this looking like Twitter, not Instagram; so, there should not be no very tall posts. Of course, the full normal dimensions should appear when:
    • Clicking an image displays it in its own modal.
    • If there are two or more images, display the first two side-by-side. If this takes time, take the time to do it right. In a visual medium like this, this little detail will be hugely appreciated and will be important to building a user base.
    • A like button (show me a few acceptable designs, and give me your top choice too; something with an unsurprising, standard, up-to-date look and feel). Increments a local counter, that's all. Either on or off for each user session. Don't bother matching votes to users (or, not yet; we might later; this button is mostly experimental, so don't take a long time on it).
    • Small delete button in a not-too-prominent place and color (don't want it to stick out). Available only to admins, of course.
    • Desirement: handle Open Graph data in an intelligent way (like a Twitter card). The more full-featured, the better. Probably best saved for a later iteration, but whatever you can do now, grand. Nobody likes to see just a plain link without any preview. If you can do this, and simply want me to elaborate requirements, let me know. Or if you have any design decisions to make, let me have input on them. Generally, make it unsurprising and standard.
    • Desirement, please do if possible without much extra work: include a view counter. Increment the counter whenever the micropost is (locally, of course) loaded either as part of a page or on a list of posts (see below), or if the micropost's unique URL (see below) is loaded. I doubt this could be done without a lot of extra work, so, I won't expect it.
  6. Each micropost has its own unique page and URL, probably that of the corresponding WordPress post (assuming each micropost = a WordPress post), but definitely not based on the title (as microposts must not have titles). I don't especially care about the design of the micropost-only page yet, but there should be one. A modal, probably, but a regular WordPress post would be fine as well. It doesn't matter quite yet, though it will (so if you are inspired to work more on this, let me know so I can give you requirements).
  7. Pagination: your choice, either a traditional 30-microposts-per-page pagination feature or else an infinite scroll feature. I personally prefer the traditional sort (doubles as a sort of crude archive). But you decide. In either case, the UX should be standard and work well.
  8. RSS:
    • Include a file describing how we propose to extend the RSS standard, if at all. At the very least (I'm just guessing though), as a child of the <channel> element, there should be a new blogtype element, where the two possibilities are blog and micro. Please see this. This would help blog readers to know which RSS feeds to represent as micropost feeds, which would require special handling.
    • Create RSS output on a subpage. If the human-readable micropost feed appears at mydomain.com/micro/ then the RSS for the feed should appear at mydomain.com/micro/rss . Maybe even better, because shorter: mydomain.com/m/rss .
  9. Nice-to-have, not required yet (requirements available on request):
    • Editing (in place; not in a modal, unless you think that's actually more modern...? I wouldn't think so). If this is particularly easy, please do it.
    • Basic search. Results page paginated as necessary. As I think this is built into WordPress, please do this if it isn't too much trouble.
    • Add a sidebar (for wide screens)/hamburger menu (for narrow ones) containing monthly-sorted archive. Archive pagination = 30 per page. Is going to be high priority soon.
    • Twitter importer. Input: a Twitter archive file. Output: all your old tweets, available on your blog in this format. This would make the plugin into truly a killer app and would guarantee explosive growth. Might already exist.
    • Page reader. Another page...or maybe the same page...which allows you to subscribe to feeds. Ultimately the posts themselves should probably have @username functionality (see ActivityPub).
    • User profile page, linked from the microblog home page as well as each user post. Data drawn from the WordPress blog.

General design/presentation layer requirements:

  1. There are a lot of design-related requirements above, so have a look.
  2. A minimalistic sort of project branding exercise. It needs a name. I don't care what it's called or about colors (nothing surprising or garish) or fonts (default = sans serif of course). I leave that hard part up to real designers, but we do need to do a name and branding elements. We want to convey a feeling of fun, ease-of-use, and independence.
  3. Both light and dark themes/skins available, as on Twitter.
  4. Generally, the main landing page will have a look and feel like Twitter. It should not be identical, for the simple reason that we don't want to run into legal issues.
  5. Header requirements:
    • When a user is not logged in, the front page of the website should have a banner image and circular icon, as on both Twitter and Facebook.
    • When logged in, do not display the banner image. Basically, I see little need for a header at all when you're logged in.
    • Menu items go above Archive on the right side of the sidebar.

What else, folks? Comments, please.

Realistically, why think this will solve anything?

There is an interesting answer to this.

First of all, if we're serious about people owning their own identity and data, we can do a lot worse than building on top of the personalized web presence they already own—either their own domain, or at least a blog or website, the data of which they own in a portable format. A lot of people have WordPress sites; for those who don't, it is very easy to install a hosted blog that includes the ability to add plugins. Something like 35% of websites online are WordPress sites. Like 400 million websites. The "killer" feature of WordPress is its decent (if bewhiskered) server, the power of which is increased by a zillion plugins. Also, it's free and open source. And you can easily move your data around. And lots of people know how to work with WordPress sites (whether they want to is another matter).

So here's the deal. All those WordPress sites, every one of them, could become a social media account in which the user owns, controls, and syndicates his own data. How freaking cool is that? Speaking of syndication, that's a feature of WordPress sites that's a killer: RSS and Atom are built in. So you could build a social media protocol on top of those protocols. Why not? And there's another killer relevant feature: that protocol is already massively in use, already supported by many feed and news readers, and already decentralized. All we have to do is build on top of it.

So...why not just use blogging, even as it is right now, in a new "short message, social media" sort of way? Because, of course, the medium drives how people use the tool. We need to make it more like social media:

  • Adding a new micropost needs to be dead simple. Even simpler than writing a new WordPress post. As simple as posting on Twitter.
  • Text has to be artificially limited. You can't let them go on and on, or they're not microblogging anymore.
  • The look-and-feel has to be just like "social media" (Twitter and its imitators), not like a blog.

And those are just what the above starts to work on.

Here's the dream—because we don't have an interesting dream, what's the point? It goes like this.

People learn that there's a new Twitter-like plugin for WordPress. They tell each other, "Did you know that you can just tweet from your blog...and then you own and control your own tweets? Why didn't anybody ever think of this before?" (Never mind that they did, a long time ago, but it didn't really catch on or develop because some people didn't care enough about decentralization and owning your own data, while other people didn't care enough about writing easy-to-use software for non-geeks.) So people start installing the plugin. They share the location of each other's feeds, use feed readers, and have an experience that is actually a bit like Twitter...but one that is totally their own and totally decentralized.

At first, people just use Feedly to follow the micropost feeds of friends. But, because of the brisk adoption rate of the plugin, new features are rapidly added. The all-important "dedicated microfeed reader" feature is added, so now you can see not just your tweets, but the tweets of your friends. Someone creates a registry of all known WordPress Microblogs. So you can search through those and find old friends and new. You can also add your friends' feeds directly. Someone else creates a chat feature, so that, while you can't tweet in response, you can treat somebody else's top-level thread as the first. The original poster is given the right to delete and instaban (from the tweet) anyone who is difficult. Another feature quickly added is the "quote retweet."

Then someone decides to hook up WordPress microblogs with the Fediverse, and various blockchain networks, etc. Suddenly, this becomes the standard: when you offload your content from some other content into your microblog...that, being totally, 100% owned and controlled by you, becomes the "true home" of your social media content. And the RSS is the "true format" of your social media feed. People write exporters for Twitter...and all their tweets are added to their WordPress microblogs. There's a mass movement to say get off Twitter now, follow me instead via WordPress!

Of course, that's when we start "posting at" people via their Fediverse account addresses, or perhaps some contextualized shortened version thereof (the present blog happens to be located at @admin@larrysanger.org in the Fediverse; you can confirm this for yourself on mastodon.social because this blog runs the ActivityPub plugin, which enables a few Fediverse sites like Mastodon to pick up my blog posts as feeds).

Many more developments come fast and furious as the world discovers the power of this concept, and starts rebuilding and connecting everything to simple RSS feeds of microposts. The new day, of a truly decentralized microposting world, has dawned.

Well, I think it's a nice dream.

UPDATE (Feb. 2): development is underway. Since I was eager to start using word press to make a microblog, I went ahead and made one without any of the advanced functionality described above. Here it is: https://StartThis.org.

Five-Year Humanities Plan

By request, here is the "five-year plan" that my older son is following.

Introduction and educational strategy

What this document is. This is a roadmap for the next five years of your course of study in humanities. It does not cover science, the parts of social science outside of humanities, or math. It does cover (or should) everything else, but at a very high level. Art and music are not listed beyond generalities, and many minor works that you might read are also not covered.

Use the maximum number of years before college: five. Since you’re just now finishing up seventh grade, you have five more years of official school before you’re college age. Now, it might be possible for you to complete all the requirements for a high school diploma before that, but the way I see it, the more advanced you are when you are ready to apply to college, the wider the range of colleges you’ll be able to be accepted at. If you do advanced high school and college-level work until you’re 18, in 2024, then you’ll be much better able to get into (and to be able to handle) the best sort of university you might want to get into.

Math constrains when you are considered “done.” Besides, if you were ready to “graduate early,” it would be because you had finished math early; you don’t get a STEM degree today if you didn’t go through at least one year of calculus in high school. Since you will finish algebra in eighth grade, it’s unlikely you’ll finish calculus until you’re a junior or senior (although you might finish before the end of your senior year).

The nature of the program I’ve got you started on. I have you started on a “classical humanities” program, which means there’s an emphasis on classical literature, but that we intend to go through all of history (especially Western civilization) by comparing history and literature, and to a lesser extent art, religion, and philosophy. “History” includes not just thick summaries of history like Susan Wise Bauer’s History of the Ancient World, which you will read all of over the first few years, but also source books like Herodotus, speeches, myths, etc. The “source” materials ends up overlapping with religion, especially in ancient history, and with archaeology, as you’ve already seen. “Literature” includes mostly novels when you get to the 18th century or so, but before that includes mostly poetry, many plays, and some stories (modern short stories as well as fairy tales, etc.). “Art” includes not just the study of paintings but also sculpture and architecture and even archaeology again. “Religion” includes not just holy books like the Bible but also what might better be considered mythology, as well as some ancillary but important writings like Luther’s 95 Theses. “Philosophy” includes stuff like Plato and Descartes but also some influential thought-provoking essays like Machiavelli’s The Prince and Montaigne’s Essays.

You can’t do it all. Even though you have five whole years (and more, since there’s the summer before your eighth grade and the summer after your 12th grade) before you are 18 in the fall (that’ll be 2024), when many young adults apply for college, there is no possible way you can read “all the classics” in that time. This isn’t because you’re going slowly (since you started going through Hesiod and Homer, it’s been easier to see what pace you can get through this material), it’s because there is so much in the way of classics. There are extra readings, like the stories from ancient Sumeria and the Egyptian Book of the Dead, that maybe we should have skipped if we’re going to focus on the most important stuff, but I’m not going to sweat that. Reading all that alongside the Bible was actually a great introduction to ancient texts, so that now you can go through more important classics like Homer more confidently and appreciating them more.

The general strategy: the essential highlights. But if you can’t do it all, how can we decide what you should do? Well, having studied all of the humanities myself (though I certainly have not read “all the classics”), I have a rough idea of how much there is to read, that is totally essential, in the different eras of Western history. So I propose that you study as follows:

  • ancient subjects: 1.5 years
  • medieval and Renaissance topics: 0.5 years
  • early modern and Enlightenment (including early American) topics: one year
  • nineteenth and 20th century topics: two years

What I don’t want to happen is that you get finished with a certain part of history and there remains several essential (not just “important,” but absolutely crucial) classics you haven’t read, and so you end up skipping them. What are examples of “absolutely crucial” classics? You’re reading one now: the Odyssey. Some others include Herodotus, Plato’s Republic, the New Testament (at least parts of it), Dante’s Inferno, the most important Shakespeare plays, etc. When you get into more modern times, it becomes more controversial or hard to decide what is “absolutely crucial,” but ones I think you must have read would include Pride and Prejudice and Jane Eyre in British literature, at least one great Russian novel such as Anna Karenina (but probably both that and Crime and Punishment), in American literature Moby Dick and Huckleberry Finn, and in American history both the Constitution and at least a selection from the Federalist Papers. These are the books that are embarrassing not to have read if you want to call yourself educated, although plenty of badly educated people skipped many of these. I’ve read 95% of them.

A good idea of what the “great books” are can be found by looking at Britannica’s list, compiled by philosopher Mortimer Adler.

The rest of this document will be an outline of what you’ll study, with the “crucial” books listed. I’m not 100% sure of this list. The ones I have in bold are my best guesses about what the most important books are. Some of the other books are probably just as crucial; maybe some don’t belong on the list, and maybe there are some books that aren’t on the list, that I have forgotten about. So we will revisit this list before starting each period.

Art and Archaeology books. Books to consult include:

  • The Art Museum
  • The Story of Art
  • A World History of Art
  • The Great Book of Archaeology

Why not use a lot of anthologies? In some cases, anthologies will be our friends. For example, rather than buy each Greek play individually, we’ll probably just buy one or two anthologies. But my bias will be to have you read entire works, or at least very substantial extracts, rather than a little bit from everything. “A little bit from everything” ends up being both boring and confusing, and a great deal is lost from many great writings if you don’t view it as a whole. That is especially true of literature and much of philosophy. It is less true when selecting from things like essays, speeches, and aphorisms. As to history, the more of a work, the better; just a little of any history is pretty useless, but cutting a bit here and there can be fine.

That said, selections were made from most of the following. Reading all of the whole list would probably be impossible for the vast majority of students; there’s just too much to do.

Lectures. You will continue to watch lectures to go with the readings from The Great Courses Plus, The Great Courses (audiobook versions, cheaper), and YouTube when nothing is available from those sources.

Ancient Times

March 2019 through December 2020 (ages 12 through 14)

Earliest Civilizations

Unit 1: Earliest History, Especially Mesopotamia (finished)

  • Myths from Mesopotamia; particularly, Gilgamesh
  • The Old Testament, selections from the Pentateuch
  • The Code of Hammurabi

Unit 2: Egypt and Other Pre-Greek Civilizations (finished)

  • Green, Tales of Ancient Egypt
  • The Tale of Sinuhe, trans. R.B. Parkinson
  • The Book of the Dead

Ancient Greece

June 2019 - May 2020

Unit 3: Early Greece (mostly finished; through June 15)

  • Hesiod, Theogony and Works and Days
  • Homer, The Iliad
  • Homer, The Odyssey

Unit 4: Foundational Texts of Eastern Religion

  • Confucius, Analects
  • Selections from Buddhist texts; see Anthology of World Scriptures and Huston Smith's The World's Religions
  • Selections from earliest Hindu texts
  • Tao Te Ching

Unit 5: Herodotus and the Persian Wars

  • Herodotus, Histories
  • More of the Old Testament (prophesy, exile, and post-exile)

Unit 6: Greek Poetry and Theater

  • A bit of the presocratics, from Hakim, Historical Introduction to Philosophy
  • Greek Lyrics, trans. Lattimore
  • Aeschylus: Agamemnon, The Libation Bearers, Eumenides
  • Sophocles: Oedipus Rex, Oedipus at Colonus (summary), Antigone
  • Euripides: Medea
  • Aristotle, Poetics

Unit 7: Thucydides and the Peloponnesian War

  • Thucydides, History of the Peloponnesian War
  • The Trial and Death of Socrates (already read; re-read on your own)
  • Aristophanes, The Clouds
  • Plato, Symposium

Unit 8: Greek Philosophy

  • Plato, The Republic, Bk. 1-2, 6-9 (selections)
  • Aristotle, Nicomachean Ethics (selections)

Unit 9: The Hellenistic Period

  • Plutarch, Life of Alexander
  • Old Testament, post-exilic selections
  • Bhagavad-Gita selections
  • Epicurus selections
  • Throughout, look at, read about, and react to major works of art

Ancient Rome

Unit 10: Early Rome (753-292 B.C.)

  • Re-read your own Daily Writings and lecture notes
  • Livy, Books 1-10 and Moses Hadad, Ed., A history of ROME

Unit 11: Punic Wars (292-134 B.C.)

  • Livy, Books 21-45 and Hadad
  • Plautus, The Braggart Soldier, The Brothers Menaechmus
  • Terence, The Girl from Andros, The Mother-in-Law, and The Eunuch
  • Cato the Elder, On Agriculture

Unit 12: The Late Republic and the Civil War (133-44 B.C.)

  • Cicero selections
  • Sallust and Hadad
  • Lucretius (maybe)
  • Caesar, one or both of On the War in Gaul and On the Civil War
  • Catullus short selections
  • Shakespeare, Julius Caesar

Unit 13-nn: The Early Roman Empire (44 B.C. - 284 A.D.) NEEDS BREAKING UP; NOT ALL NEEDS TO BE DONE

  • Virgil, Aeneid
  • Virgil, Georgics
  • The New Testament, selections
  • Seneca
  • Epictetus
  • Marcus Aurelius
  • Ovid, Metamorphoses
  • Lucan, The Civil War
  • Petronius, The Satyricon
  • Tacitus, Annals
  • Suetonius, The Twelve Caesars
  • Juvenal, Satires
  • Longus, Daphnis and Chloe

Unit nn: The Later Roman Empire (284-476 A.D.)

  • Augustine, Confessions

  • Look at, read about, and react to major works of art

Medieval period

Spring 2021 through Fall 2021 (age 15)

  • Re-read your own Daily Writings and lecture notes
  • Boethius, Consolation of Philosophy
  • The Koran (also spelled Qur’an; selections; I’ve read only bits)
  • Bede, Ecclesiastical History of the English People
  • The Song of Roland
  • Chretien de Troyes, Arthurian Romances
  • The Lais of Marie de France
  • Beowulf
  • Aquinas (selections)
  • Dante, The Divine Comedy
  • One Thousand and One Nights
  • Boccaccio, The Decameron
  • Chaucer, The Canterbury Tales
  • Look at, read about, and react to major works of art

Renaissance, Early Modern, & Enlightenment periods

Winter 2021-22 through Summer 2022 (ages 15 through 16)

  • Re-read your own Daily Writings and lecture notes
  • Machiavelli, The Prince
  • Rabelais, Gargantua and Pantagruel
  • Erasmus, The Praise of Folly
  • More, Utopia
  • Montaigne, Essays (selections)
  • Shakespeare, plays you haven’t read and selected sonnets
  • Galileo, Dialogues Concerning Two New Sciences
  • Cervantes, Don Quixote
  • Descartes, Discourse on Method and Meditations on First Philosophy
  • Milton, Paradise Lost
  • Milton, Areopagitica
  • Pascal, Pensees
  • Bunyan, The Pilgrim’s Progress
  • Locke, Second Essay Concerning Civil Government
  • Swift, Gulliver’s Travels
  • Rousseau, Discourse on the Origin of Inequality and The Social Contract
  • Rousseau, Confessions
  • Declaration of Independence and the Constitution (done, but re-read alone)
  • The Federalist
  • An anthology of shorter poetry and drama (Moliere, Racine, Voltaire) from this period
  • Listen to/look at, read about, and react to major works of classical music and art

19th and 20th centuries (not finalized)

Summer 2022 through summer 2024 (ages 16-18)

  • Re-read your own Daily Writings
  • Goethe, Faust
  • Shelly, Frankenstein
  • Pushkin, Yevgeny Onegin
  • Austen, Pride and Prejudice
  • Charlotte Bronte, Jane Eyre
  • Emily Bronte, Wuthering Heights
  • Declaration of Sentiments (The Seneca Falls Women’s Rights Convention of 1848)
  • Douglass, Narrative of the Life
  • Melville, Moby-Dick
  • Dickens, Great Expectations or A Tale of Two Cities (or some other famous novel of his you haven’t read yet)
  • Twain, Huckleberry Finn (done, but maybe re-read)
  • Darwin, Origin of the Species and Descent of Man (selections)
  • Marx and Engels, Manifesto of the Communist Party
  • Hawthorne, The Scarlet Letter or House of Seven Gables
  • Tolstoy, Anna Karenina
  • Tolstoy, War and Peace
  • Dostoyevsky, Crime and Punishment
  • Dostoyevsky, Notes from Underground
  • Dostoyevsky, The Brothers Karamazov
  • Arnold, Culture and Anarchy
  • Nietzsche, Beyond Good and Evil and/or Genealogy of Morals
  • Conrad, Heart of Darkness
  • Re-read your own Daily Writings
  • Freud, at least one of The Interpretation of Dreams, General Introduction to Psycho-Analysis, or Civilization and its Discontents
  • Russell, The Problems of Philosophy
  • Joyce, Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man
  • Woolf, To the Lighthouse or A Room of One’s Own
  • Faulkner, one of his novels; I read Light in August so maybe that
  • Fitzgerald, The Great Gatsby
  • Kafka, Metamorphosis and The Trial
  • Camus, The Stranger
  • Hemingway, The Old Man and the Sea
  • Orwell, Animal Farm and 1984 (done; might want to re-read when you’re 17 or 18)
  • Sartre, Existentialism Is a Humanism
  • Rand, The Fountainhead and/or Atlas Shrugged
  • Salinger, The Catcher in the Rye
  • Solzhenitsyn, One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich
  • An anthology of shorter poetry and drama (Wilde, Shaw, Ibsen, Chekhov, O’Neill, Sartre) from this period
  • Re-read your own Daily Writings
  • Listen to/look at, read about, and react to major works of classical music and art

An ActivityPub WordPress plugin

Matthias Pfefferle has made a WordPress plugin that converts your blog into a very, very stripped-down Fediverse server. What this means, basically, is that if you install this plugin on your WordPress blog, then your blog posts will appear as posts in ActivityPub Fediverse servers, such as (most famously) mastodon.social. You just install and activate it and then go to ...wp-admin/profile.php, and you'll find you have a handy-dandy Fediverse profile ID made for you. Mine is @admin@larrysanger.org.

This represents a practical step toward fixing social media, as I described, by making the Fediverse more robustly peer-to-peer (as in individual-to-individual, not just server-to-server federation), but it really doesn't do much yet. Matthias is to be congratulated for getting this far. I hope he will make this into another whole front end for the broader Fediverse. That might be a bit much to ask, but...wouldn't that be cool?

An idea for theological self-education

I almost wrote: "a crazy idea for theological self-education"

Let me describe what I am doing, and how I might want to go on doing it in the future. This description has two parts: (1) the method I propose to use for studying the Bible, and (2) the method I propose to use for getting an "independent" degree, if I can possibly interest some qualified theologians.

How I will study the Bible, again

Beginning one year ago (December, 2019) I started reading the Bible cover-to-cover. I did so in 100 days, still finding time to look up answers to questions with the help of study Bibles and commentaries and suchlike. When I finished, I immediately began re-reading it with a little online study group, this time following an OT-once, NT-twice, all-in-one-year plan. I am of course doing more in-depth background study. Now that this pass through is about 80% done, and I am thinking about what I will do next.

One thing that is clear to me is that I will continue to study the Bible, although I will do so more slowly and carefully next time through (beginning in March). I have toyed with various ideas for concocting a Bible commentary of some sort, and I have all but decided on one particular approach. Namely, I will be answering a limited number of questions about the text, limited particularly by the amount of time I want to spend on each chapter. Maybe I will also prepare a little paraphrase, but maybe not. Here is the result of an experiment demonstrating this idea:

As a grad student, I made myself quite adept (in the opinion of my examiners) in my ability to explain the philosophy of David Hume and Thomas Reid, simply by going through the text and answering every hard question I could think to ask about the text. So I would like to do something similar with regard to the Bible.

If I get through the Bible in three years—again, OT once, NT twice—then I can spend only so much time on each chapter. On the other hand, reading more slowly, I will have time available to do research and writing that, reading faster, I would have to spend in just reading. This still might be too aggressive: it's about two chapters per weekday. On the other hand, that includes many short chapters, and it is actually only 52 verses per day, and that is assuming I get get weekends and two full weeks off every year. Besides, when I go through the NT the second time, I will be revising and adding to what I have already written.

I have thought about studying theology more systematically, which makes some sense, because not only am I a philosopher and have strong interests in theological questions, but I am also 180 pages through writing a book summing up my versions of (mostly philosophical) arguments for the existence of God. I have been chipping away at it a page here, a page there, a few pages per week for the last nine months or so. It has come steadily. (I have a growing mailing list of theologians and theology students who have offered to give me comments...although few have done so so far. Let me know if you are into theology and want to join the list. I will send new manuscript versions as I make them.)

Beyond work on that, perhaps I will somehow incorporate theological study into my reading of the Bible, but the Bible will remain my main focus. You see, whenever I crack open a book of serious theology, I read a page or two and immediately ask myself, "Why would I read this instead of the Bible, when I have not determined how I would answer many interpretative questions about the Bible itself? I mean, why go to all this trouble of struggling with the answers to specific questions about the meaning of the text (because that really is what theology is about, in my opinion) without first fully acquainting myself with the text? Would that not be much more efficient?"

On the other hand, I can see perhaps incrementally developing answers to a limited number of theological questions by reference to, and in the context of, relevant passages in the Bible. So I might have a question about Original Sin, and I might add new bits to the answer in light first of Genesis 3, and then later in light of texts from Paul. After all, a lot of the sort of questions I am inclined to ask about the text are questions concerning apologetics and theology.

But in any case, I will certainly be finishing this book about the arguments for the existence of God, and to do so I will want to review a fair bit of philosophical theology—the same sort of thing I used to teach to undergraduates in a philosophy of religion course at Ohio State, although now I would be reading at a higher level. I have actually started doing so already.

A theology degree by examination?

Since I am actually wrapping up my first draft of this book manuscript, called God Exists, I started hunting around for reviewers, theology types who were interested in discussing the issues and giving feedback. As I was thinking about this, though, it occurred to me that what I really need is some expert guidance. "Perhaps I might want to get a theology degree," I thought. And then it occurred to me that I sure do not want to go back to some modern, compromised, dysfunctional institution (which thinks it is doing absolutely fine). I mean, I don't have to. I don't need the degree; I want the learning. Still, wouldn't the degree be nice to have? In any case what I need is the help that would typically go with the degree.

So then I thought: "What about my old interest in degrees by examination?"

My latest thinking on that is: there would be nothing more inherently valuable about a degree from an institution like Harvard than a degree that were endorsed and "granted" by three Harvard faculty members. Traditional employers might respect the official degree, but what if I don't care about traditional employers?

Why not simply do the study for a particular degree in this way: you develop a portfolio (of some sort) with occasional help from experts, and then sit for a written and oral exam, and portfolio and thesis evaluation, by a panel of three more experts? Then when you say, "Oh, sure, I have an M.Div. But it is an Independent M.Div., or I.M.Div., granted by Jones, Smith, and Brown." Assuming those three are well-known, then why shouldn't this be respected as the equivalent of a traditional M.Div. that a thesis committee with those three on it would approve? Similar committees are responsible for determining all advancement in the context of big, bureaucratic educational institutions.

This might be revolutionary; but at this point, it is a revolution that I think needs to happen. We need to make the degree-granting process independent of giant, expensive, and increasingly totalitarian universities.

Of course, I might have trouble finding even one person who is willing to put his own reputation on the line by "granting" an "independent degree" to an independent scholar, or "recognizing" such. But I would be willing to serve as the student in such an experiment.

Any interested and qualified Bible scholars and theologians out there? Want to be on my committee? We would potentially show undergrads how to get such degrees outside of the traditional university system, too, which would be a great thing.

Besides, I won't be finishing anytime soon. So you'd have time to back out if you want. I won't be hurt, because I'm mostly after the knowledge as opposed to the degree.

A Good Man

Imagine—let us give him a name—Joshua. We say he is a good man. To say so in general is to say that he supports and preserves life wherever it is found. This is the essence of good action, but action springs first and foremost from feelings and motives, and therefore let us begin there. We may well imagine that Joshua’s actions toward others flow from a sense of benevolence, even love. His actions generally exhibit kindness, or helping because of fellow feeling, particularly helping those who are in need and in danger. That makes some sense, I hope. After all, those who who have plenty and are safe do not need his help.

There is something, we might say, natural or earthy about him; he is the human embodiment of the same kindness found at least occasionally throughout the animal world. Decency to others just seems to come naturally to him. You have no doubt been delighted to meet kindness in people like Joshua; it is not altogether uncommon. When circumstances permit, he uses his time, his abilities, and his wealth to help others, especially those who cannot help themselves so well—particularly, of course, his immediate dependents. He does this without calculation: it is simply obvious to him that it is the right thing to do.

As a supporter of life itself, we might well imagine Joshua to be a man married with a wife and children, all of whom he loves deeply and supports. He knows from common experience that he cannot stray outside of marriage without ultimately destroying the chances of making a happy marriage, to say nothing of contracting diseases. Moreover, he keeps himself fit, not only because he has a healthy love of his own life, but also so he can live long and provide well for his wife and children. He also avoids excessive drinking and drugs, again because he knows that this can ruin his health and his ability to live well. There are various words for this latter cluster of virtues: temperance, moderation, self-control, even purity.

Now, we must not imagine Joshua to be living in an idealized utopia. He lives amidst the same viciousness that can be found throughout animal- and humankind alike. He is beset by all the selfish, hostile, and strange psychology of people, in a particular culture with particular beliefs, practices, and government—some good, some bad, some downright evil. Many of his virtues are a response to less-than-perfect situations he finds himself in.

For example, Joshua lives among predators of various kinds. As a champion of life, as it were, he is gentle and caring, not unnecessarily violent. A habit of violence would make him a danger to others and himself, after all. But he is also strong and adept at fighting when necessary, meaning he is an excellent protector; although he avoids fighting whenever he can, he refuses to let violent, unjust bullies take advantage of the weak. For this, he needs courage above all, as well as the discernment to judge those who deserve his protection and those who have earned his enmity. In choosing who, how, and when to fight, he needs wisdom, or good practical judgment. He is no fool.

Let us suppose that, fortunately, he lives in a time and place of relative peace, so he need not fight constantly. Still, of course, life for Joshua is not all roses. He also has personal conflicts, not just in protecting other individuals but on his own behalf. These might be conflicts over money or property or a woman or any of a number of other things. Now, if there is one thing that repeated human experience teaches us about conflict, particularly when it is between powerful people and especially heads of state, it is that conflict can become extremely destructive, not just of relationships, but of lives—even entire states—even civilizations. Again, mere observation of daily life as well as history teaches that skill in avoiding conflict, when unnecessary or unproductive, is one of the best ways to preserve life.

Practical wisdom (or to put it negatively, not being a fool), already mentioned, is one key element in such conflict avoidance. A second is justice: a devotion to treating others fairly, without giving anyone any undue advantage or disadvantage, reward or punishment. Justice is crucial because the animal kingdom (not just human beings) have an in-built notions of fairness. Joshua is deeply sensitive to that.

A third is humility. Humility is closely allied with justice and bears special mention. This implies, ultimately, that Joshua does not particularly weigh his own life and its advantages over those of others; rather, he takes the real value of others seriously, and he weighs the value of his own life appropriately, fairly, justly, as one among many. Such humility follows, with justice, from his being, at root, a preserver and defender of life, and of all human life particularly.

Consider a person who lacks humility but instead acts out of pride. To say so is just to say that such a person consistently places his own life and happiness above all others; he will find himself acting in ways that most of us will recognize as selfish, mean, calculating, vicious, and cruel.[1] Such people are almost universally hated, at least eventually. They rarely become heroes, who sacrifice themselves in war or emergency, who rescue those in peril, who go out of their way to help the needy. Typically, it is only those who acknowledge the essential dignity and equal value of all human beings that are capable of the conflict-avoiding virtues of justice and humility, which are so universally applauded.

And that, of course, is how our Joshua is. All acknowledge him to be a humble man. This does not mean he is pliant and docile—he is no “pushover.” But, as I said, he avoids needless, foolish conflict, and he genuinely loves and helps others, precisely because he sees his life as one among many, each of which has intrinsic, precious value. And this humble self-evaluation manifests itself in an attitude of ease with and support of children, women, the poor, the elderly, the foreigner, and the bereaved. He has no reason to elevate himself above others, so naturally he does not.

Now, Joshua is not perfect. He makes mistakes. He can even act viciously, cowardly, foolishly, proudly, and selfishly at times; he is human. But he knows that others are, if anything, even less perfect than he is. It is natural, to some extent, for us to harbor resentment for past wrongs. Joshua avoids doing so, because he knows it will lead only to worse and worse conflict. He practices forgiveness, because that truly is essential to being able to interact with others in a way that really supports them. He also begs forgiveness when he knows he is wrong; he is quick to apologize and to express remorse, seeing this as again essential to smooth interaction with fallible human beings.

I could, but will not, go on at much greater length about how various essential virtues, such as I have listed, ramify into greater and greater details as special cases arise. But I do want to add one virtue which might be described as a “covering” virtue, which goes under various names: integrity, honor, decency, and righteousness. As I said before, Joshua is no fool. He reflects on his actions, is reasonably well educated, and he is familiar with the wisdom of his place and time. He reflects, to some extent at least, on the very fact that he is a being subject to moral constraints. So he does not merely happen to practice good habits or virtues as I have stated; this is no accident. Rather, he quite deliberately chooses and cultivates principles. That he lives up to a moral code is a matter of righteous pride for him—this “pride,” of course, is decidedly not opposed to the humility he also practices. The opposite of this better sort of pride is not humility but a sense of his own abject worthlessness: simply, he could not live with himself if he were to do certain horrible things, and he knows this about himself. The word dignity, in one sense, conveys the same thing.

I invite you to consider all of these life-supporting virtues together. I say that nothing could be more natural than these virtues that characterize Joshua’s life. If you confess that you are somehow unfamiliar with them, then you thereby also confess that you are immature, or perhaps incredibly idiotic, or else monstrous, inhuman, and lacking a soul.

Now, without exactly constructing a moral theory, I want you to notice that these various virtues do as it were militate in favor of life. They create and preserve life. They also enhance life; they make it better. Moreover, practiced in concert with others, these principles have the power to create splendid civilizations—which bring even higher degrees of flourishing life. Some such cluster of life-affirming virtues has been essential to the development of civilization on all the habitable continents of the Earth, wherever civilizations have taken root, some wealthier and powerful and some less. But in all of them, by whatever degree mixed with other, vicious tendencies, decent behavior has been regarded by the wise as a key element of a flourishing civilization. This is famously true of Israel, Greece, and Rome, but also of various Chinese dynasties, India, Muslim societies, and African tribes. All can be interrogated as to their moral ideals, and similar notes can be found in all of them.

I say “similar note” advisedly, and grasping this is important if you are to avoid misunderstanding me. I am certainly not saying that there have been identical moral principles throughout the world and throughout history. Clearly there have not; there have been great differences, especially on the details. For example, the precise Judeo-Christian principle of humility is hard to find among the ancient Greeks; but the Greeks did speak of a vice of hubris, overweening pride, which would inevitably be punished, and they did sometimes celebrate a virtue of modesty, or avoiding shameful behavior, and generosity or beneficence was regarded as a key virtue. But again, the Judeo-Christian notion of self-effacing humility and putting others first was foreign in ancient Greece. Still, the Greeks did have some notion of humility, and like everyone, they would have admired Joshua.

Is Joshua unique to the Judeo-Christian tradition? Or to the West? Surely not. Surely you know this sort of person. And he is admired wherever he is from, and held up as a paragon of virtue in all cultures. He is the sort of man that good people everywhere celebrate.

Am I wrong?

Sanger News: Saturday, Dec. 12, 2020

While perhaps not the most momentous news of the day, possibly the most shocking is the news that a retired French pharmacy professor, Jean-Bernard Fourtillan, was removed from his home to a psychiatric hospital—for questioning the official Covid-19 narrative. This LifeSite News article aptly points out, "The systematic use of psychiatric hospitals in order to silence or punish political opponents became widespread under communism, having started shortly after the Bolshevik revolution in Russia in 1917. The method developed under Stalin and then expanded as opposition to the 'socialist paradise' came to be considered a sign of mental illness." Of course, the 42-year-old French president, Emmanuel Macron, is a massive globalist and an EU proponent, and he was a socialist until 2009.

Screenshot of Townhall Media video, Washington, D.C., December 12

The chair of the National Republican Senatorial Committee opined that the Georgia Senate races are "very positive" at the moment.

There was a massive "Jericho" (as in, the city whose walls the Israelites knocked down with God's help) rally in D.C. It got a lot of play in conservative media. The President flew over it in the Marine One helicopter. Meanwhile, here is a massive thread of the inevitable clashes between some of the president's supporters, "Proud Boys," and Antifa. Police have been trying to keep the groups separate, using pepper spray a lot; there may have been a stabbing:


Last night, Sidney Powell made emergency filings in the Supreme Court for Georgia, Michigan, and Arizona; she claims her plaintiffs have standing, "raise constitutional issues and prove massive fraud." Fingers crossed, but I'm not holding my breath:


Still, the evidence for fraud seems to be overwhelming—so much that I make no effort at all to try to characterize it. Here's Powell giving a rundown from two days ago:


Bear in mind that this is just one legal team, operating independently of the President's team, with a view into some of the election problems.

Silicon Valley giant Oracle are the latest to announce a relocation of its headquarters to Texas. They are only the latest of many. I personally know two "high net worth individuals" who have moved from California to Texas within the last seven years. Of course, matters are getting desperate indeed in California, with the homelessness, trash in the streets, brutal lockdowns, and crusading leftism, all in a state with outrageously high property values.

One of the deepest travesties of justice happened when the mainstream media tanked the story of Hunter Biden's possibly criminal China connections. Only now is the story beginning to be acknowledged—just in time for Kamala Harris to replace Joe Biden. Hunter Biden sent an email to the manager of his Washington, D.C. office building in September 2017 asking her to make keys for his “office mates” Joe Biden and Gongwen Dong, who he said was the “emissary” for the chairman of the Chinese energy conglomerate CEFC. Of course, the elder Biden didn't know anything about Hunter's business dealings. In other news, Hunter Biden was hit with a subpoena for foreign business records related to Ukrainian gas company Burisma, where the younger Biden was paid absurd amounts of money for, as near as anyone can tell, being closely related to the then-Vice President and "point man" on Ukraine. Well, isn't that special.

Rep. Bill Pascrell (D-N.J.) urged Nancy Pelosi not to seat any of the Republicans who signed the amicus brief supporting a lawsuit in objection to the asserted election results. Not clear whether Pelosi can do this, or whether there is much chance of it happening.

One person was arrested for shooting another person when two "heavily armed groups" of protesters in Olympia confronted each other. Pray for peace. We do not need any more of this; we certainly do not need to encourage it. But there are several frightening signs that the country is inching ever closer to secession or civil war or both.

Apparently (if the tweet text is correct; not sure), a priest at a St. Anthony's Church in New Jersey said the 6 p.m. mass was disrupted by large crowds. Here you can hear the priest cursed by protesters on a smoke-filled street:


Pornhub is blocked by Visa and Mastercard, but you can still pay using cryptocurrencies. Pornhub is coming under severe and much-deserved fire for hosting rape videos, including videos of underage victims. But you can pay for such videos using Bitcoin, so...yay, Bitcoin...?

Mother, father, and two-year-old child were kicked off a United flight when the parents were unable to put a mask on the child. This is shocking by any standards. Why should this two-year-old have to wear a mask at all? I thought small children were generally exempt from having to wear masks. Apparently not.


Some psychiatrists have proposed giving the people we would call "social justice warriors" and "special snowflakes" a clinical diagnosis: the new personality disorder of "Tendency for Interpersonal Victimhood" (TIV). Among those people would doubtless be those mortally wounded by the news that J.K. Rowling has received "heartbreaking letters" from people who regret trans surgeries. Apparently, the once reliably liberal Rowling has decided she needs to take a stand in favor of biologically-defined womanhood. For this she has, of course, become an apostate to the social justice left. Another apostate of the same liberal sort would be Democratic Rep. Tulsi Gabbard: she introduced a bill to ban biological males from women's sports. Good luck with that one, Rep. Gabbard.

Sorry for the YouTube link, but...this is a seriously great video introduction to how today's "capitalist" globalists can be regarded as "neoliberal Leninists" or as old-fashioned fascists...ultimately, as a kind of communist. I've thought so for a long time. Our globalist masters, as I said, are of the far left. So what does that mean? Good primer on the basic political concepts:


The Sanger Daily: Friday, Dec. 11, 2020

Oh, boy. The Supreme Court simply rejected the Texas lawsuit to throw out voting results in four states. Since there were no dissents, one has to assume that the case was correctly decided. The reason, apparently, was that Texas had no legal standing to file the claim. Very well. We have to assume it's true. Well, that's that.

Here is the order. The relevant language: "Texas has not demonstrated a judicially cognizable interest in the manner in which another State conducts its elections." Two of the most conservative justices—Alito and Thomas—do make a statement there, which I reproduce in full:

In my view, we do not have discretion to deny the filing of a bill of complaint in a case that falls within our original jurisdiction. See Arizona v. California, 589 U. S. _ (Feb. 24, 2020) (Thomas, J., dissenting). I would therefore grant the motion to file the bill of complaint but would not grant other relief, and I express no view on any other issue.

But what's this? Another Supreme Court case? Yes, a suit by Lin Wood against the Secretary of State of Georgia is actually on the Supreme Court docket. Not enough to change the outcome of the election, but this might provide essential support for extraordinary actions among the electors and in Congress. Here's the petition.

Also, the Wisconsin Supreme Court has agreed to hear a challenge Saturday. It's still not over. It ain't over till it's over.

So I'll agree with Tracy Beanz' pep talk. Good job, Ms. Beanz.

Meanwhile back in Texas, the Texas Republican Party chairman all but called for the state to secede from the Union immediately. Sadly, I am not joking. Picture this. The scene is Davos, 2019. "So the radicalization of the youth and the commanding heights of the society is complete. So what we do is, first we release a disease in China. We hype it to the skies and shut down society. Meanwhile, we create massive riots in the summer. We reveal that Biden is a horrible criminal, but plot twist...the evidence is hidden systematically by the media. This sends the right over the edge. Then we steal the election from Trump per long-standing practice and ramped-up plans. The evidence is overwhelming but the media denies it all and the useful idiots will, as per usual, buy it all! It's so great that generations of miseducation made them into morons! Then, with forced vaccination and more long-term civilization-killing lockdowns hanging over people's heads, with Democrats convinced that Trump is worse than Hitler and Republicans convinced that the country is falling apart (which, ha ha, it sure is), how could the Americans not break up their union? And you know what they themselves say: 'United we stand, divided we fall.' So then...they fall."

Nah, that's just crazy talk. I don't really think that. I'm not a crazy conspiracy theorist.

Calvary Church of San Jose, Calif., and its pastor were found in contempt after ignoring a court order to stop holding indoor worship services, and were fined $55,000, or $2,500 for every day the church held indoor services. "I respect the judge and I respect what the law says," McClure said. "But there's a bigger law. I have to get told, you follow God or you follow man. I have to follow what God's word says."

YouTube removed 8,000 channels for discussing the possibility of voter fraud, according to Alan Dershowitz, whom I don't trust as far as I can kick him (and that's not very far). The friend of Jeffrey Epstein proves slightly useful by being yet another person to dare YouTube to censor "The Dershow."

So, the Trump administration bought 100 million more doses of the Moderna (pharma company) vaccine, for a total of 200 million doses. Gee, that sure is good for Moderna and its shareholders, isn't it? Is it good for the American people? Well, let's just say that remains to be seen. "The Moderna vaccine was developed using mRNA technology," which apparently doesn't bother the Trump administration decisionmakers. The name of the vaccine is mRNA-1273. The FDA has not decided whether to recommend the vaccine yet.

Sen. Dianne Feinstein may have to step down soon due to senility. People are complaining that she's forgetting conversations. At least she may be booted from the Judiciary Committee. What is it with the Establishment and their superannuated politicians?

Confirming once again that, like the Nobel Peace Prize committee, Time is an irrelevant, ideological has-been, Biden and Harris are Time Magazine's "Persons of the Year." Who cares? The only reason to mention it is that people will be talking about it. But then, that's probably the main reason to apprise yourself of most of what passes for "news."

The media colluded, to borrow a word, to tank a story that, if properly disclosed, would have tanked Biden's chances. Therefore the story, rather than Biden, was tanked. "Their excuse? Pure speculation—now proven utterly baseless—that the story was the work of Russian propagandists." Yup. These people are shameless and without honor. We must sadly develop and support new media resources, as if they did not exist. Maybe the New York Post can stick around.

Like an idiotic undergraduate uneducated about matters of the First Amendment, this fool, the goddamned dean of Columbia Journalism School, Steve Coll is saying the First Amendment has been "weaponized" to disseminate "disinformation." God help us. This sort of thing really means we, the whole country, probably the whole world, are in for some serious pain.

Coca-Cola was tested positive for Covid-19. We wish the cola well and a speedy recovery. Coke can rest easy knowing that there is a 99+% recovery rate. Of course, it's the <1% death rate that warrants shutting down society for months at a time and instituting what amounts to a global totalitarian regime. Totally worth it.

In other news, Wikipedia has completed its transformation into its stupider, more radically left-wing little brother, the (Ir)RationalWiki.

The best place to watch Paul Joseph Watson's latest, "Modernity 4," may be Bitchute: