Some stats documenting our Raskolnikov Syndrome

Fyodor Mikhailovich Dostoevsky

Yeah, I’m on about my Raskolnikov Syndrome theory again. But hey, I haven’t mentioned it since April, so…

The theory is that people lose their minds — and often become shockingly violent — when they cut themselves off from other people. Ten years ago, I summarized it in part this way:

I’ve long had this theory that people who do truly horrendous things that Ordinary Decent People can’t fathom do them because they’ve actually entered another state of being that society, because it is society, can’t relate to…

You know, the way Raskolnikov did. Brilliant guy, but as he cut himself off from family and friends and sat in his grubby garret brooding on self-centered theories, he became capable of horrible things. Well, you know what he did. If you don’t, read the book. Everyone should. I suspect it’s what made Mel Brooks say, “My God, I’d love to smash into the casket of Dostoyevsky, grab that bony hand and scream at the remains, ‘Well done, you god-damn genius.’ ”

Anyway, it’s come up again because of this piece I read the other day in The Washington Post., headlined “Americans are choosing to be alone. Here’s why we should reverse that..”  It included some scary numbers, to me:

And now for the scarier news: Our social lives were withering dramatically before covid-19. Between 2014 and 2019, time spent with friends went down (and time spent alone went up) by more than it did during the pandemic.

According to the Census Bureau’s American Time Use Survey, the amount of time the average American spent with friends was stable, at 6½ hours per week, between 2010 and 2013. Then, in 2014, time spent with friends began to decline.

By 2019, the average American was spending only four hours per week with friends (a sharp, 37 percent decline from five years before). Social media, political polarization and new technologies all played a role in the drop. (It is notable that market penetration for smartphones crossed 50 percent in 2014.)

Covid then deepened this trend. During the pandemic, time with friends fell further — in 2021, the average American spent only two hours and 45 minutes a week with close friends (a 58 percent decline relative to 2010-2013)…

On average, Americans did not transfer that lost time to spouses, partners or children. Instead, they chose to be alone….

Take that, and combine it with the Rabbit Hole, and you have a dangerous situation, with a society that is dangerously alienated, and no longer understands what a fact is. And yeah, I’m talking about the 2016 election, and the “stop the steal” cult, but a lot of other stuff as well.

Look around at some of the bad craziness going on, and this helps explain it…

52 thoughts on “Some stats documenting our Raskolnikov Syndrome

  1. Barry

    Social media has taught me (and others) that a lot of people we spent time with before had some ideas and beliefs that we found not just different but in some (not all) cases – unacceptable. In some instances, their beliefs were meanspirited and some actually straight out hateful. That reality lends itself to people choosing to end those relationships.

    The opposite is also true: some people choose to end relationships because people they use to spend time with are more accepting of the changes in society that have occurred and actually embrace the changes. These folks can’t accept that openness and choose to end relationships.

    In other cases, people simply choose to be alone. It allows one to focus on your own interests and hobbies. It also allows for time to focus on your own family.

    There is also the realization that sometimes people just grow apart and no longer have the same interests are values.

    When I was younger, I use to hear some older folks say, “If you have a couple of friends, you are lucky.” I never understood that as I had more than a couple. But as I get older, especially these days, I think I realize why they said that. As you get older, it’s not unusual for your circle of people you want to spend time with shrinks drastically. Especially when you finally have the ability to choose who you spend time with and no longer have to “go along to get along.”

    1. Brad Warthen Post author

      I think this is fine:

      It also allows for time to focus on your own family.

      But the scary thing this article points out is, “On average, Americans did not transfer that lost time to spouses, partners or children. Instead, they chose to be alone…”

  2. Ken

    David Brooks would concur – at least with respect to (mass) murderers. Only a week or so ago, he said as much on The NewsHour, pointing to social isolation as a key factor in such horrors. But it’s not clear how far he might extend that to society as a whole, or to our political situation specifically. Even the actions of individuals often have multiple motivating factors, so attributing our politics to a single factor would be to vastly oversimplify.

    Robert Putnam wrote of related developments over 20 years ago in his study, Bowling Alone. Notably, well BEFORE the rise of the internet and social media.

    In The Unwinding (2013), George Packer attributed much of our political crisis to the (growing) gap between winners and losers.

    In The Big Sort (2009), Bill Bishop looked to our physical self-segregation into increasingly homogenous communities.

    Others have attributed social dissolution to the automobile, which allows us to inhabit a private space even in public spaces.

    More broadly, some have pointed to the glorification of individualism in American life as the source of our woes.

    In his film Avalon (1990), director Barry Levinson drew on his own family history to put his finger on the corrosive effect television has had on the bonds of American family and community.

    So, there are plenty of alleged explanations and descriptions to draw on.

    1. Brad Warthen Post author

      Oh, yes, and they are interrelated.

      No one should ever think that I would think one element explains everything. As I have said in the past in my efforts to combat ones-and-zeroes thinking, people are complicated.

      One reason you hear so much from me about the Rabbit Hole phenomenon is that I had searched for several years for a catalyst, or catalysts, that had taken us from the Bowling Alone phenomenon (which I well remember) to the point in 2016 that we would do something horrific that we would never have done previously as a nation.

      And of course, my contemplation of the Raskolnikov effect dated from college — well before most of us had heard of the ARPANET — although I didn’t write about it (I don’t think) until after I started blogging.

      The question I was asking was, what made a bad situation — something that had been getting worse and worse since at least the early ’80s — suddenly, dramatically, exponentially worse?

      I had already been aware of how the internet — with all its wonderful elements, elements I love, from Google Maps to Amazon to Twitter (which I really, really hope Musk doesn’t succeed in destroying) — contained elements that exacerbated the Raskolnikov effect. I’m thinking of such things as the opportunities to shop until you find “news” that tells you what you want to hear, and the ability of deluded and disturbed people to form “communities” of similarly deluded and disturbed people people, convincing them that they were normal, and everyone else was wrong.

      And I had some awareness of the problems presented by “recommendation” software, which is what causes various apps and sites to say, “You liked that? You’ll LOVE this…” But the NYT’s Rabbit Hole blog caused me to suddenly understand the important role THAT plays in this interconnected web of causes…

      1. Ken

        What made a bad situation suddenly, dramatically, exponentially worse?

        There was nothing sudden about it. As you noted, it became progressively worse over decades.

        And a key if not overriding factor in that development is the trajectory of conservative politics in general and the strategy taken by the Republican Party specifically. You will object that that is merely a partisan perspective. It isn’t. Clear-eyed former Republican operatives, like, to name just one example, Stuart Stevens (, see matters that way, too.

        1. Brad Warthen Post author

          Well, my guess would be that’s a contributing factor. And that would be another barrier to my own understanding of what’s wrong with these folks. I’m never bored. I vaguely remember having experienced boredom in my youth, but it’s been a long, long time. I sometimes get impatient for a meeting or something to end, but it’s not so much boredom as irritation, based in my consciousness that I have other things to do — things that are the reasons I never get “bored.”

          I’ve meant to write a post on boredom for some time. Maybe I’ll do so soon. I’m curious about whether others are plagued by it, and why…

          1. Brad Warthen Post author

            This is related to another matter I THINK I’ve mentioned before — the stupid televisions that are so often on and turned up so loud in medical waiting rooms.

            Who needs so badly to be entertained under such circumstances? And who finds this stuff entertaining? Are they THAT “bored?” And is their condition so dire that it justifies torturing OTHER people?

            “Other people” referring in this case to, you know, yours truly…

            1. Ken

              It’s the screenification of America. They’re everywhere: doctors’ offices, hospital waiting areas, airports, barber shops, automobile repair shops, and, worst of all, restaurants. It’s a plague. Apparently no one is supposed to be allowed to sit down without “enjoying” some screen time.

              1. Brad Warthen Post author

                I resist when I can.

                Today, I got a tooth filled. I stood in the hallway rather than the waiting room to avoid the stupid TV noise. And when the technician came to find me, I explained to her why.

                So when I sat back in the chair, she offered to turn off the TVs in that room — the one on the wall in front of me, AND the one in the ceiling for people to look at while they’re lying back.

                I said absolutely, please. And she turned them off. And while I was on a roll, I asked her to turn off the Muzak. Which she did.

                It was a good day at the dentist…

        2. Barry

          I can’t prove this as but I know on social media – my experience has been a lot of the men that I see posting some really crazy, extreme political stuff are typically white men, age 35-55, quite often single or divorced- and recently it seems my encounters have been men that have never been married.

          (I am not talking about people that just have regular, typical political opinions on the right or left). I am talking about some of the nutty stuff where their entire social media presence is consumed with posting the same conspiracy stuff over and over again.

          I know there are women that do this. My aunt has fallen into some of this – but I don’t see as many women doing it as I do men.

          They also seem to post a lot of negative comments directed at women – or at least post negative things others have said about women.

          I often wonder if some of the anger develops because these men have not been very fortunate in finding partners.

          1. Brad Warthen Post author

            Oh, I’m certain that is very often the case. It would be interesting to see a breakdown of the marital status of the Jan. 6 insurgents.

            Certainly there are many exceptions, but I suspect incels would be disproportionately represented.

            For that matter, if I remember correctly, Raskolnikov wasn’t getting much female companionship (or any other companionship, hence my theory) before his monstrous crime. Until he met Sonya, of course. (I say “if I remember correctly” because I’m having trouble recalling whether he got to know her before or after the crime. He met her father before the crime, but did he know her yet? In any case, I don’t think he ever availed himself of her professional services, meaning he was still a “cel” if not an “incel“…)

            1. Brad Warthen Post author

              Following up on my parenthetical at the end of that comment — I don’t mean to suggest that the problem of incels is caused entirely by the lack of getting any.

              The presence of women in men’s lives is pretty dramatic and profound and healing without actually sexual activity. I seem to recall having read that’s why prisons like to hire female guards. Just having them around calms the men down a bit…

            2. Ken

              To Dostoyevski, Roskolnikov’s crime grew from his sin of pride, his belief that he was entitled do practically anything because he was “superior” to other human beings. His crime grew out of his hubris, not his isolation.

              1. Brad Warthen Post author

                Oh, absolutely. But the thing was able to go from mere hubris as expressed in an essay — which, to Raskolnikov’s misfortune, Porfiry managed to find — to action because of his social isolation.

                As I’ve written before, the greatest dramatization of that was the moment when he stepped into his ratty garret and found his mother and sister — who had been so far from him for so long — sitting there. And he passed out. You’ll note that when I wrote about this before I acknowledged having misremembered the passage, thinking it had been more specific about the “sudden and insupportable thought” that “chilled him to the marrow.” But in any case, it seems clear that this thought — this realization, this epiphany — had been inaccessible to him when he was separated from his loved ones and his friend Razumikhin. In this moment, with all three of them present, it overwhelmed him.

                In any case, I still firmly believe that “if he had been having dinner each night with his mother and sister, and going out for drinks regularly with Razumikhin, it would have been impossible for him to have carried it to the next level.” That is, from writing these ideas in an article to actually killing people…

                1. Brad Warthen Post author

                  Note that I refer to the piece written by Raskolnikov — about how superior men should not be kept from their destiny by rules that bind their inferiors — as an “essay” and an “article.”

                  I can’t remember now what it was. Maybe it was a thesis, since Rodion was a former student.

                  Had he lived today, it might have been a blog post…

                2. Brad Warthen Post author

                  In any case…

                  This isolation that so many people are experiencing, or at least feeling, is a huge factor in the problems we’re seeing.

                  Just today, the NYT ran a piece touching upon (although not really getting into the broader social implications) the phenomenon, headlined “Why Is It So Hard for Men to Make Close Friends?

                  Of course, my initial reaction was to think, How many guys care about that? But then I remembered I care about it, at least as a problematic social phenomenon, hence my repeated posts about our fictional 19-century Russian friend.

                  Anyway, here’s a quote from the piece:

                  American men appear to be stuck in a “friendship recession” — a trend that predates the Covid-19 pandemic but that seems to have accelerated over the past several years as loneliness levels have crept up worldwide. In a 2021 survey of more than 2,000 adults in the United States, less than half of the men said they were truly satisfied with how many friends they had, while 15 percent said they had no close friends at all — a fivefold increase since 1990. That same survey found that men were less likely than women to rely on their friends for emotional support or to share their personal feelings with them….

                  1. Barry

                    Men care about it- they just don’t express it- and usually don’t do anything about it.

                    My wife spends 2 weekends a year with 3-4 of her girlfriends. They go on trips together out of town.

                    The strange thing is – all of them are married and their husbands, including me, all know each other well. We use to hang out a lot together 8-10-12 years ago. In fact, we went on some vacations together- even out of the country a few times. We don’t anymore.

                    My wife has kept up those friendships with those 3-4 ladies. But I haven’t even talked to or seen their husbands for at least 3-4 years- and when I did back then- it was just in passing- very briefly.

                    My wife tells me when she takes her trips with the ladies, the husbands are just sitting at home – like me. We have a ton in common- and all of us are facing some of the same challenges with our kids (going off to college, etc)

                    But we don’t get together. We don’t even text anymore. In fact, I was looking on my phone a few weeks ago and I no longer even have their numbers. I couldn’t text or call them if I had to- and not even 5 years ago we were out of the country on a trip together – all best buddies.

                    but no more.

                    1. Brad Warthen Post author

                      Yeah, I have similar experiences.

                      Of course, I’ve never been entirely sure how much of it is the difference between men and women, and how much is the very different backgrounds between my wife and me.

                      I went to 14 schools in k-12. I never went to any school more than 2 years. So many of my friends were also military brats, and we made little effort to stay in touch (Burl and I reconnecting over blogs and other social media was a notable exception for me — and of course, he’s gone now).

                      My wife is the graduate of a private Catholic girls’ school. She was there for all of high school (I attended THREE high schools). There were 37 in her graduating class (600 in mine, where I went for only one year).

                      Her classmates remain her best friends, all these years later. Sadly, she doesn’t get to see them nearly as often as she’d like. Most are still in Memphis or other points far away.

                      Even if I had had the same kind of upbringing she did, we’d still be different on this point, since I’m not only a guy but a super-introverted guy. But given the different backgrounds, the difference is even greater…

                    2. bud

                      Wouldn’t discussing things here and other blogs count as a sort of quasi friendship? All people are different. Not sure where all this obsessing over spending tine alone is going.

                    3. Brad Warthen Post author

                      Quasi, perhaps.

                      But not quite the same thing. For instance…

                      I had years of experience commuting with people this way before most people had heard of the internet. Perhaps you did, too.

                      In 1980, my paper made the big move from typewriters to writing and editing on screens. It was, of course, a mainframe system rather than personal computers. There were a lot of things I liked about that system, but one of the most fun was the messaging feature — rather than walk or yell across the newsroom (or call on the phone) to tell someone something, you could type a brief message and have it appear on his or her screen immediately.

                      This led to… certain problems. First, it was easy to type in the wrong username. I have embarrassing stories to tell about that.

                      But a number of times, I found that in a tense moment — and there are a lot of tense moments in newsrooms — messages could be misunderstood. On several occasions, I brought several female colleagues — good friends I would never have wanted to hurt — by sending them messages that, I suppose, were a little bit too pointed. My memory may be playing tricks on me, but I remember thinking at the time that if I’d said the same words in person, it would not have had that effect. My tone of voice and gestures would have assured them I didn’t mean anything hurtful.

                      There were other problems in those earlier days, for some people. There was a man and a woman who worked in the newsroom and were, I am told (I never had occasion to read their messages), carrying on an adulterous affair. During the workday, they sent hot and heavy notes to each other over the mainframe system.

                      They supposed these messages were private, and disappeared on their own. They were completely wrong. We had an IT guy who had to go through all the newsroom messages — calling them up message by message — and manually delete them. He had to do this for hours every night, because the full storage capacity of our system was probably less than a millionth of that of your mobile phone. (Years after this, at a bigger paper with a bigger system, I was told that the total capacity was about 300 MB — less than my first laptop in the ’90s.)

                      Eventually, this guy got sick of the nightly embarrassment of seeing these messages, and said something to someone higher up, who had a heart-to-heart, educational conversation with the besotted couple…

                    4. Brad Warthen Post author

                      Oh, and I said I caused female colleagues to cry. Yes, I did, to my (and apparently their) great distress. And not just through the message system.

                      It never happened with a male. Got close to having a fight or two, but no tears.

                      Once, back in the 80s, I had a dream in which a particular real guy — a reporter who worked for me — broke down and cried while I was having a talk with him about his performance. It never happened in real life, but I was on the watch for it after that, dreading it might happen…

                      And no, I don’t think that happens because women are weak or anything. It’s because they have a defense mechanism that makes them resilient. They would recover from those incidents when they cried a lot faster than I did. They had taken the edge off the emotion, and I went on feeling like a huge jerk for having made them feel that way…

                    5. Brad Warthen Post author

                      Sometimes the conflicts caused by that system were a bit more malevolent.

                      I’m trying to think of a way to tell this without telling who these guys were…

                      Let’s say these two unrelated young men were both named Wilson (not really, since I’m trying to be discrete) — Bill and John Wilson. That surname was perfect for the system, because the login names were six characters, so the guy who had come to the paper first signed in as WILSON.

                      The guy who started with the paper later was John, so his login was JWILSO.

                      One day, I had gone over to the graphics department (yeah, in the old days we had such in-house luxuries) to explain to one of the artists what I wanted for a certain graphic for the next day’s paper. This guy was a good artist but a bit of a wise guy. I had sat down to use a terminal in that department, to type out the wording I wanted on the graphic. When I went away, I neglected to log out, so the artist thought he’d play a little joke on his good friend John Wilson. He sent him a message that said something silly like “Why don’t you go out and get a REAL job?”

                      Problem is, the artist had assumed his friend’s login was WILSON. He was no doubt disappointed that no hilarity involving his friend ensued.

                      Instead, Bill Wilson came to my desk across the newsroom and demanded to know, in a loud, angry voice that drew everyone’s attention, “What’s your problem with me?”

                      It took awhile to sort out the situation, but as we went back and forth between his fury and my puzzlement, I managed to guess what had happened. I persuaded Bill to accompany me over to the graphics department where, confronted with the facts, the artist confessed, and assured him the joke had been aimed at John. Bill went back to his desk, but you could tell he wasn’t entirely satisfied. I mean, he didn’t laugh about it.

                      Anyway, another example of why it wasn’t a perfect form of communication…

                    6. Brad Warthen Post author

                      OK, that was a deep digression into problems associated with old technology, and toward the end, I got away from my point.

                      But my point was that the problems inherent in that technology is still present in blog comments, various other social media, etc. It’s far from a perfect form of interaction between humans. Going further back, telegrams were a really wonderful invention at the time, but they were a far cry from actual, face-to-face human interaction. And so is this blog, although it does offer a somewhat superior mode of communication compared to telegrams…

  3. bud

    Addiction to ANYTHING is unhealthy. That includes alcohol, drugs, sex, food, social media, exercise and church activity. Apparently even spending too much time alone is bad. Perhaps even obsessing over other people’s obsessions is unhealthy. Just sayin.

  4. Barry


    The right wing’s new star and messiah, Elon Musk, has suspended Kayne West for “I love Hitler” comments and posting swastikas. The mental breakdown of West is pathetic. But the right wing tried to prop him up since he’s been a Trump fan.

    I am reminded of Tucker Carlson lying to his audience and cutting out numerous anti Semitic statements from his interview that he aired on Fox News. Thankfully, a staffer there cobbled it together and released it so viewers and the public could see what he had actually said before Tucker changed it and hid it. (Something Carlson has done frequently).

    The 3 Republican Judges on the Eleventh Circuit struck down Trump judge Aileen Cannon’s pro Trump order appointing a Special Master.

    That was no surprise as it was so far out of bounds. The funny thing is Right wing Law professor Jonathan Turley (who Fox News and other right wing outlets promote as a “Liberal”) whitewashed the decision by attacking “liberals” on Friday morning on his blog and twitter feed.

    Turley had argued for a Special Master for weeks and support Judge Cannon’s ruling- taking great pains to try to explain it.

    Other law professors like Steve Vladeck of the University of Texas Law School tore her original opinion apart saying it had no basis.

    Instead of Turley admitting he was wrong (which he can’t do), he decided to attack “liberals” instead.

    Turley has also been a huge supporter and promoter of Elon Musk saying he would restore free speech to the private company. Turley has no commented on Musk suspending Kayne West- or other liberals from Twitter.

    Turley’s rampant hypocrisy and 100% sycophancy has caused- and is causing internal problems at George Washington Law School.

    I am reminded of the incident where a law student who left Turley a voice mail message asking for help on a law school issue – asking him to call him back. The same student, disguising his voice, left another message the same day on Turley’s voice mail pretending to be a tv producer who wanted to get Turley on the air for a live segment immediately.

    Within just a few mins, Turley called back responding to the tv producer voice mail eagerly accepting. He never responded to the student voice mail. Then the student publicized it.

    As much as Turley tweets and appears on right wing tv, I’ve often wonder when he finds time to teach and review student work.

    1. Doug Ross

      That Brad keeps approving barry’s posts which have become increasingly obsessed with certain political characters is unfortunate.

      1. Barry

        “certain political characters”

        A former President currently running for President

        A right wing law professor that appears in front of numerous congressional committees all the time at the request of some of the most conservative Republicans in Congress

        The richest man on earth

        A Conservative Republican star in Georgia that is being considered for a possible leadership role that just happens to promote a lot of conspiracy theories and likes to hang out with white nationalists

        Yeah- just some “random characters.”

        (I edited this, removing the personal reflection at the end — Brad)

        1. Barry

          Oh- and Tucker Carlson

          1) a right wing blowhard that just happens to have the highest rated show on the highest rated cable entertainment “news” channel in the country

          2) whose son works for a powerful Republican member of the House-who

          3) who personally counsels a former President who is currently running for President as well as numerous Republican leaders in the Senate and House

          Yeah- just a “random” person

          and Daniel Day Lewis is just some random two-bit actor person


          1. Brad Warthen Post author

            Yeah, but if I were you, I wouldn’t watch him. You’d be happier.

            I know Doug will say, “And you should stop thinking about Donald Trump, too!” But of course, there’s no comparison.

            I can ignore Tucker Carlson, and always have.

            A person with a conscience, someone who understands history and politics and recognizes danger to the country and the world, can’t ignore the fact that a man that the entire nation (or at least, the people who pay attention and think about things) has known since the 1980s as a grossly ignorant, pathologically hostile and self-involved buffoon managed to seize the position that wields the greatest power ever held by one man in human history. And he managed to do that because of a shocking sickness of mind that has infected close to half of the country, causing those people to vote for him. And that sickness is still raging. And he’s trying to do it again.

            I see those things, and so I will never ignore it. I write about him a lot less than most media outlets. Wishful thinking on my part, I suppose. I want to be able to ignore him. And someday, I’ll be able to ignore him, when he truly goes away.

            But I won’t be able to ignore the sickness that caused all those people to vote for him, because that presumably will still be with us, and still an enormous threat. My conscience would never let me ignore that. His disgusting would-be successors are already working hard to succeed him. I won’t look away from that, as unpleasant as the sight is…

            1. Barry

              my streaming package doesn’t have cable news. So I don’t watch him.

              But he makes the news anyway. He’s quoted all the time in congressional committee meetings (sometimes by Democrats making fun of his statements, but often by Republicans using using his statements as some of evidence).

              Plus, his son works for Jim Banks, a member of House leadership.

              BTW- an interesting tidbit- might already know this. Some of these emails came out because of Biden’s laptop.

              Tucker has spent a LOT of time on the air per news reports talking about Hunter Biden- ripping him to shreds- really for years. Making fun of his addictions (Supposedly Tucker use to be pretty addicted to hard liquor and cigarettes himself) – which of course are legendary and go back years and years and years.

              Behind the scenes- Tucker and his wife reached out to Hunter Biden to ask him to help their son get into Georgetown Law school in 2014. Tucker’s wife was especially over the top with praise for him.

              Hunter Biden obliged and wrote the letter to help Tucker and his son.

              “They also show how Carlson once sought to benefit from the elite political circles in Washington that he now regularly rails against as the ‘ruling class’.”

  5. Bill

    “Betrayed and wronged in everything,
    I’ll flee this bitter world where vice is king,
    And seek some spot unpeopled and apart
    Where I’ll be free to have an honest heart.”

  6. bud

    About Musk banning Ye. Isn’t it free speech to say that Hitler did some good things? Sure we may find that offensive. But Musk is all for free speech so why censor pro Hitler speech? I’m not sure where Musk is trying to draw the line.

  7. Ken

    In any case, care should be taken in drawing on Fyodor Mikhailovich for inspiration. As a 19th century Russian through-and-through, he was not concerned about social isolation but rather spiritual isolation – of the kind engendered, for example, by (Western) liberalism (in its classical definition). He was no friend of republican government and instead sought the unity of society across all classes based on a kind of mystic Christian brotherhood (of the Russian Orthodox brand).

    Dostoyevsky’s character, Father Zossima, in The Brothers Karamozov speaks for the author when he criticizes those focused on materialism, who “live only for mutual envy, for luxury and ostentation.” Continuing: “We see the same thing among those who are not rich, while the poor drown their unsatisfied need and their envy in drunkenness.” And in seeking after material posessions and position they have grown isolated, cut off from “brotherly love, and the solidarity of mankind.” “They have succeeded in accumulating a greater mass of objects, but the joy in the world has grown less.” “For it is not we [monks], but they, who are in isolation, though they don’t see that.”

    1. Brad Warthen Post author

      Next, we should have a discussion of The Grand Inquisitor. I liked that story-within-a-story device. But I’ll need to go back and read it first. It’s been — let’s see — 50 years, I think…

  8. Barry

    Really interesting article on right wing extremist Marjorie Taylor Greene and her background and rise to – what might be Republican leadership in the new House of Representatives.

    A conspiracy theorist whose background is not the “Christian” she portrays (numerous adulterous affairs and an overall lack of church involvement) and always labeling Democrats as enemies that want to “kill Republicans”

    The article describes a woman who makes up a lot of stuff, even about her own life that isn’t true- but also one where her right wing Conservative supporters don’t care if she lies about that or not- of even if she never lived in the district she represents.

    A story she often repeats about being held hostage at her high school when she was in school is debunked in the story- mainly by the student who actually entered the school with a gun. (Greene wasn’t held hostage at all, and wasn’t involved in the incident. Greene’s answer to the problem was that all the teachers and staff should have had guns. The now adult that held some students hostage (no one was hurt) says that would have caused a disaster at the school.

    This is where we are at now. The story also mentions she could play a very influential role in the new Republican House. It also states that she isn’t interested in any legislation or getting anything specific done.

  9. Barry

    I listened to some of the Supreme Court argument yesterday in the “Independent State Legislature” case that involves North Carolina.

    One of the attorneys arguing against the idea was Neal Katyal.

    I don’t think I’ve ever been more impressed by someone in the legal community that Mr. Katyal. His knowledge of history was most impressive. He was at total ease discussing dozens of cases and legislation going back to even before the Declaration of Independence, including even certain obscure state statutes.

    Now, I would expect an attorney in front of the court to be well studied and prepared. I’ve heard a number of arguments before, but Mr. Katyal was on a different level.

    Also impressive was his ability to tell a story about his case and the consequences of what the North Carolina Republicans were asking for in the case. Some attorneys can rattle off court cases. But they aren’t necessarily good speakers, or they get rattled, or they “Uh” themselves into oblivion in front of the court. Not Mr. Katyal.

    Even most of the Justices admitted in court that Mr. Katyal was more knowledgeable about this history than they were.

    one striking thing about the arguments was the palpable vitriol that Alito- and especially Gorsuch had for Mr. Katyal. Alito hid it better.

    Gorsuch came right out and sarcastically accused Mr. Katyal of supporting the idea of the 3/5’s compromise. The ONLY way anyone could accept that as a reasonable understanding of what Mr. Katyal was saying would be to intentionally misrepresent his argument. Mr. Katyal didn’t lose his cool and dismissed such an idea by interrupting Gorsuch at one point saying “no, no, no, no”

    Here was the exchange and how it was described in the law blog- Law and Crime

    “Gorsuch pushed Katyal to defend his argument that history favors his position. The justice opened a line of colloquy with Katyal that devolved into what many court-watchers noticed was uncharacteristically combative.

    Gorusch characterized Katyal’s argument as one that would support a state’s right to maintain the 3/5 compromise in its own constitution.

    Katyal argued that his argument regarding the Elections Clause relates to different language, and carries no such implication. Gorsuch repeatedly interrupted Katyal with similar questions, each of which Katyal responded in the negative. Finally, Gorsuch shot back, “I understand the mantra.”

    One court watcher described Gorsuch as probably realizing his argument wasn’t going to win over enough of his fellow Justices and that he could not out-duel Mr. Katyal with respect to the history of legal precedent and what the Supreme Court had said itself.

    One funny thing in the argument was Mr. Katyal quoting what some conservative justices had said about similar efforts in the past.

    At one point, he quoted what the court said in the Bush Gore fiasco about how high a standard must be in place for the Supreme court to overrule a state Supreme Court’s decision about their own state constitution. Justice Thomas kept making fun of the wording of one aspect of what the court had said (he was on the winning side in that case)- but it wasn’t Katyal’s wording. Katyal was just repeated what the majority had said in that very decision.

    Final thing: If you listen to these arguments, you can be struck by how some of the Justices don’t remember some of the elements of their own rulings. Katyal pointed that out several times during his portion of the argument gently correcting Justice Roberts by saying the opinion actually had quoted a different controlling standard that Roberts had mentioned in court yesterday.

    1. Barry

      I will add- the NC Attorney General was in court but he was not one of the attorneys presenting the case. That was Mr. Katyal and 2 other attorneys representing the state.

      I am sure he’s a fine lawyer but I have heard that the court justices are rarely impressed with an attorney general’s ability to argue a court case. (They usually aren’t any good in court) Of course most are elected because of politics- not their legal ability.

      We know that plenty well in South Carolina.

      So this was a good decision he made to not argue the case and hire outside counsel.

      1. Barry

        Adding another tidbit

        For the last day or Katyal has been expressing thanks to the team of lawyers that helped prepare him for his appearance in front of the court earlier this week. Showing gratitude like that is a sign of a good human being.

        One of those lawyers Katyal has thanked is Retired 4th circuit Judge Michael Luttig- a Conservative star on the 4th circuit. (he was promoted heavily for the Supreme Court under George Bush- but was not nominated)

        Luttig is widely quoted in conservative circles. He is against the independent legislature theory that so many Conservatives have now embraced. He thinks it’s not constitutional and is in no way “conservative”

        He’s received a lot of scorn for coming out against Donald Trump.

    2. Ken

      “some of the Justices don’t remember some of the elements of their own rulings”

      It doesn’t really appear to be a matter of forgetting past rulings than a readiness to ignore prior rulings where those interfere with the result they seek to achieve in a later case. The practice of “originalism” not infrequently displays such flagrant self-contradictions. As a consequence the conservative justices slip slide into abject sophistry.


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