Commenter Archive

Comments by CK MacLeod

On “…lost the habit

Like you, I think first of the English Restoration, but I can also see why you might wonder if he had the Bourbon Restoration in mind. I don't believe I read that essay, or, if I did, I didn't read it closely. I've now read the ending of it. I'll note that the essay ends by uniting Socrates and sophists against a more serious enemy, the multitude.

Maybe the real problem for me is that I'm not someone who has been much inclined to think one way or the other about the conflicts between Socrates and the sophists, or "the sophists." In other words I don't possess any such habitual inclination regarding either group of "Restoration" thinkers as opposed to "the thinkers who prepared the French Revolution or took its side." I'm more inclined to think of Locke and Hobbes - thinkers of the period, if not necessarily thinkers of restoration - as each in his own way more as preparing than as conflicting, but maybe that's my own bias.

In any event Strauss appears to me to be cautioning against mapping modern conflicts onto this particular ancient one. So, that might be what it has to do with Strauss and the Sophists: nothing. Regardless of which group of Restorationists you might think he was referring to, the larger point seems to be in fact that it shouldn't really matter, if your goal is to understand the ancients.


Hello, Mr. M.

Last year/in another age, I'd put up the two posts you mention to note two theories of the presidential race, though in part I was also just checking the functionality of a set of tools in use at the site.

I'd always thought the Democrats or the center-left or some coalition of the "had-enough-already" ought to be favored in 2020, in part because I've also always believed that the Trump presidency had to reach catastrophe sooner or later, but I had begun to wonder if it might not have to be a second-term catastrophe.

The post I imagine I would have written would have been a perhaps premature attempt, a perhaps always and inevitably premature attempt, to explore the non-randomness of the catastrophe we finally got - so, as the workings of necessity, and therefore the opposite of mere "chance."

As for reading, for the last two years, or so, I've been too focused on work to have eye-time left over for books or writing - or blogging. Hard to say much more on this subject without descending into self-sentimentality.

I'll say though that Studies in Platonic Political Philosophy is one of my favorite collections. You might follow it up with, if you haven't run across it already. Meier counts as one of Strauss' most sympathetic interpreters, and he also calls upon his study of Strauss' unpublished works and notes, adding special interest for us amateur Straussers.

Or did we already discuss Meier's Strauss years ago. I fergit.

On “Exterminating the Non-Breaking Space Bug

I hadn't thought of that type of application of the code. The last time I tested for the bug, several months ago, it no longer seemed to be a problem.

On “Keith Spencer: …data shows that a centrist Democrat would be a losing candidate –

Can't say I care much about Spencer's strengths or weaknesses as a polemicist or political strategist - just wanted to note the description of a modern electorate bifurcated along class lines rather than arranged across a spectrum or gradient, and the argument that this bifurcation or its resiliency shows up significantly in voting data.

On “Eli Zaretsky: Trump’s Charisma – LRB Blog

As you know, it's been a while since I've been active in these parts. I just fell victim to some issues for an un-tended blog, and my longer and incredibly incisive etc. reply to you, Mr. McKenzie, was voided. For all I know, some draft of it may have reached you or bob in an email, but I suspect not...

I'll summarize it as follows: I don't think you give Zaretsky credit for being as careful in his statements and assumptions as he is - more careful than you are, and especially regarding what we mean or ought to mean when we use words like "Americans" and, in this specific instance, when we argue about what "Americans" think or feel or have decided or might decide. As for the rest, see my reply to bob, the newest "Noted and Quoted" as of this comment, and things to come. The gods or God or the masses or the mass-God or -gods or or or and America or Americans may not be all out of tricks.


Well, Happy 4th nine days later to you, bob. I accidentally surfed to CNN while that fellow was on, found myself as confounded as ever that there are so many people able to tolerate him - just on aesthetic grounds - and moved on before the sentence was done.

Weber understands "charisma" - whose modern usage he invented - as a collective and cooperative realization, as much bestowal (by the masses) as expression of innate qualities. The pre-existing definition of charisma refers to a divinely conferred gift - so also a bestowal.

Donald Trump is found and thus made charismatic by a critical mass of masses, and, if I acknowledge that he's charismatic, I'm not saying that I find his magic working on me in the sense of putting me on his side, only that I can see the magic working, or the finding-making happening, and think I can understand why and how.

Zaretsky via Weber also gets at why Trump is so much better on a debate stage or at one of his rallies, since in the former setting his ruthless aggressiveness, un-dimmable self-confidence, joyful combativeness, amor fati - his spirited-ness (thymos) - make him seem a foot taller than even an outstandingly talented and experienced conventional politician (Rubio, Cruz, even HRC), while in the latter setting he enjoys an intimate, unalloyed connection with those predisposed already to adore him and in adoring him exalt themselves. To observe or interrupt the latter feels like and arguably is a stumbling-upon upon acquaintances shamelessly making love in a semi-public place.

...and this does all bear on the question of how the Ds might best fight him. Even if we could somehow agree on a return-to-normalcy, make-politics-boring-again alternative, we'd end up attributing some form of charisma, even an anti-charisma charisma, to the nominee.

On “"Wiegala," by Ilse Weber

My pleasure.

Agree about the song, though I think the "haunting" aspect mostly comes from the historical context, as I discussed way back when, also a bit reminiscent of the effect when a movie psycho-killer likes to hum or whistle a certain tune. I think almost any song, but lullabies especially, are vulnerable to that, "gone to sleep" being a common if not universal euphemism for "died."

I'd never heard of Asch's and Vogel's works, and glad to know about them.


This post (almost ten years old!) was from a discontinued blog, but it turns out I still had the MP3 file in the archives. So the above link should now function. I purchased the file for I think around a dollar back in 2009.

I also found a version on YouTube:

On “The Video of Our Moment – This is America

You filled out your email address as a "" not "" I edited the comment just above, and it's now showing the gravatar associated with the latter, if that's what you mean.

Could also explain not receiving notification emails. However, I might switch to a new tool for those anyway, if I decide to take up blogging again.

There's certainly no shortage of material out there, but a lot of it is just the same old sloppy thinking.

Some philosophy teacher on Twitter said he told his new students that he could teach them to win arguments for all the rest of their lives, with the only downside being that no one would ever know.


Don't know whether I'll start blogging again, or why exactly this video led me to post again after such a long hiatus.

Not sure why you would or wouldn't get rap/hip-hop, but this video is as much a movie, a little piece of Gesamtkunstwerk. That it's to me the video of our moment doesn't mean it's a good or enjoyable video, necessarily, but I think it probably is. I threw in the CMM mash-up because within a couple of days of my offhand remark, the thing was coming in over the twitter transom.

These two pieces might help you get why if not necessarily get it.


New Yorker:

On “Gutenberg: The Invention of the Printing Press, the Destruction of WordPress

BTW, I recently upgraded some this and that on the back end of the blog, and it does seem to make comments post much faster - and unanticipated benefit.


For WordPress self-hosted people, there is already a "restore legacy editor" plugin, even though Gutenberg hasn't been installed yet as the default.


I thought you were on, not self-hosted WordPress. I can't find any info on and Gutenberg or Gutenbergerish editing, so I don't know what to tell you. It may not be an issue for you at all.

On “note on anti-Americanist conservatism in re Obama in Israel

(Well, I didn't, four years ago, call Daniel Larison a vulgar ideologue. I suggested that his polemic on that occasion stooped to that level, in a way I found typical for American Conservative conservatism. Since then, I've rather lost touch with his work, so have no fresh opinion on it.)

On “Jennifer Rubin: Pro-Trump Republicans will get nothing, not even retention of a House majority – The Washington Post

Thanks, Mr. McK. I don't see the Rs in any better a position, nor the independents for that matter. All the People's Political Scientists and all the People's Political Consultants can't solve the peculiar form of paralysis built into America's contradictory constitution (not the same as, but certainly including the form of its written Constitution). It seems to take catastrophe to do that work, but the great news is that we are sure to get catastrophe. Indeed, we may already have gotten it, and may just be waiting for the larger waves to reach the shore.

On “Thesis on the Great Trumpian Victory (OAG #6)

Thanks, Will H, for the thoughtful comment (which, in addition to being correspondingly thought-provoking, also happened to reveal a coding error making comments on this type of post unreadable on my phone).

Not sure how the process you describe lands us on the Right, however, since the process itself is Whig history, classically on the Left or, as later, "progressive." So, even if the process itself somehow favors the Right, the presumption is of an under- and overlying Left/progressive tendency. Specifically in regard to voting rights, extension of the franchise has been a demand against whichever powers that were, even if the King and the People may have been from other perspectives or in other epochs allies vs. the lesser nobility and the church, and even if the further-Left has critiqued the vote itself.

A realignment based on the general trend is still resisted by the American Right for different, possibly complementary reasons. The Democrats consistently support extending the vote or ease of voting, and tend to support the popular voting and proportional representation. You might say that friction over the general trend favors the Right in a certain sense, in that it leads to greater intensity of feeling on the part of those who perceive a threat to their positions of relative privilege, but the victories of shrinking minorities over increasing majorities are unlikely to last forever, and defending for too long or too fiercely may make the eventual winners less forgiving.

But I'm not really sure what this all has to do with Trump specifically.

On “While 2017 happens…

Yes - that is very un-sympatico reactionwise, bob. Which is unusual for you. Though Joni Mitchell might once have sympatico'd your unsympatico-ness kind of maybe, at least in the Summer.

Main problem in my neighborhood, now that the drought is officially over, is the most lawn-obsessed near-neighbor loves his leaf-blower fiercely, meaning early wake-ups on a regular basis. He also happens to the only neighbor who throws loud latenight parties. I am thankful that he doesn't connect the two practices, or at least hasn't so far: Loud latenight party followed by early morning leafblowing.

I don't know whether he supported that fellow. It would surprise me for various reasons having to do with ethnicity. Might seem too personal a question for me to ask him, as we're just neighbors, not friends, even though it might be interesting in relation to your theory, if not obviously definitive evidence in isolation - I mean as to whether relative lawn-obsession correlates more strongly with that-fellow-support than ethnic factors. We may never, sadly, know the answer, what with so many skilled researchers devoting themselves to tired, over-researched subjects like climate change and species extinction and such.

On “German Trust in America – the Trend (#OAG 12b)

Congratulations on at least admitting when you, or your source, sbeen touched!

As for the faddishness of disapprobation of Donald Trump, that plunge at the end of the opinion chart strikes me as a bit more like a total sudden collapse, or fall off a cliff, than the emergence of enthusiasm for Hula Hoops or nose-rings among some sector of the populace. That's a general opinion poll, not a sales chart. The only time you see action like that in stock-trading, for example, is when the FBI arrests the CEO, or the company declares bankruptcy out of the blue... and the CEO is arrested.

I think the Germans correctly understood the 2016 election as to have revealed something which previously only a few thoughtful observers had noted about the vulnerability of the American electoral system to unexpected outcomes. The system was revealed to be unreliable in the process of producing an unreliable leader running on a platform of decreased reliability. The possibility that his personal unreliability would help defeat the unreliable platform is only one of several.

It's a bit like a marriage after the discovery of an affair or occurrence of some other disruptive event. It was always a possibility, and there may be a home, children, and any number of other factors to consider before leaping to divorce, but, even if the marriage continues, with what may be called greater realism, it still won't be or feel the same.

On “Tweet-Drizzle on Merkel on New World Disorder (OAG #12)

That fellow and his movement would be as much symptoms as causes, of course. Ash had Obama or Obama's America ca. 2013 in view when he coined the term "withdrawalism." A consistent withdrawalist might would be constrained from acting to preserve or enhance the value of NATO, and a rigorously consistent one would be constrained even from acknowledging the question or from looking into it.

All that said, I readily acknowledge a counterargument, which is also a complementary view. I even went on to tweet a short summary. I think I'll tweet-drizzle it.

On “The Economist: How to understand Angela Merkel’s comments about America and Britain 

I don't know where MK Bhadrakumar gets his stats - possibly Russia Today: - although RT gives the date as 2014. Die Welt, just to provide one quick example, reports a decline of 37% on the same question from November 2016 to the Feburary, on 70% distrust vs 22% trust. Certainly there was decline from Obama's first year over the course of his term, with some notorious incidents - especially around the Snowden affair - punctuating and deepening it. If you really want to examine German public opinion, (The decline numbers are the ones in parentheses after each country name.)

I'll be posting a quick rundown on the recent history of that poll.

On “Theodicy of Trump – a Tweet-Drizzle (OAG #11)

From early on, Trump gave his adversaries abundant excuses to declare him illegitimate, or illegitimate as far as their principles were concerned.

To skip ahead to the Fall and to imagine Hillary Clinton "re-born hard," refusing to debate the man who incited violence at his rallies; who crudely demeaned his opponents; who ran a campaign filled with stooges of a foreign power; who encouraged, celebrated, and exploited the actions of WikiLeaks; who ran a never-disavowed multi-year effort to de-legitimize the sitting president; and so on, is difficult precisely because many or most of those justifications had been present for months, and had already been "normalized." The refusal to debate would have been a clear statement, but the person able to make it in September-October would have been able to make it or its equivalent in January-February.

HRC's message in the end seemed to be that Trump was unfit and unacceptable, as Jeet Heer notes. Debating him contradicted or blunted that message, but so did a thousand other things she did and didn't do. She could also have chosen to let others make that argument, and to focus all of her strength on the "agenda" that Heer says she downplayed. Instead, she tried to do both - "It's an emergency! Here's my worker retraining proposal!" - in the political equivalent of dividing her forces in the face of the enemy.

In short, she tried to play the odds and play the game, just as Obama tried to play the odds as he calculated them, in the hope of getting by with a "normal" victory. Obama apparently was ready to go public on the Russian allegations by the Summer, for instance, but is said to have backed down when Mitch McConnell threatened to call it "politics." You don't have to take a position on the intrinsic importance of the Russian question to understand the contradiction in the Democrats' response to it, the same as the contradiction in relation to Trump: If it was a matter of the greatest significance, then there should not have been any backing down to McConnell. Obama should have treated the issue as an emergency, taken extraordinary measures, and alerted the public. That he did not treat the issue as an emergency then compromises his defenders now when they ask us to treat it that way now. I discussed this question in some detail at around the same time the Russian question was receiving its first major post-election public airing late last Fall (OAG #2).

The same goes in regard to dealing with Trump. Unfortunately for his opponents, the kind of candidate who could have refused to debate Trump and could have driven the point home and sustained it is not the kind of candidate that the Democrats were prepared to nominate. They don't understand how to be hard in that way. As I've been saying, that is the one or perhaps the only thing that Trump seems to understand: how to go on with passionate intensity vs those who lack all conviction. Instead of backing down to a McConnell like Obama, we can assume that in a similar situation Trump would have been blurting out the awful truth at the first opportunity and every subsequent one.

The point of this argument is not to imagine going back in time and persuading HRC to adopt a saving tactic at the last possible second. The point is to illustrated the problem that the anti-Trump coalition was not able to face last year, but may be forced to face eventually, or may be in the process of being forced to face. To beat Trumpism they will have to mimic it without, if possible, succumbing to it, just as to beat the fascist totalitarians, we once upon a time needed to get a lot more fascist-totalitarian than we had been (and lastingly).

On “Jennifer Rubin: Pro-Trump Republicans will get nothing, not even retention of a House majority – The Washington Post

I'd go much further than perhaps you might expect in supporting your criticism of the Democrats here, or crucial aspects of it. There's no reason the Electoral College should be a problem for a party that truly captured the "soul" or "spirit" of the nation, and the "WWC" at minimum has a claim on that soul or spirit (or idea or essence...), if not possibly the exclusive claim on which White Supremacists insist.

So, I accept that there is a peculiar, very typical blindspot among modern American liberals or left-liberals regarding this deficit. Their blindspot refers (or fails to refer them) back to itself: They are blind to their blindness. They are also Dunning-Kruger victims on this one. They cannot, for example, abide the argument which tends to get expressed by racists as "if Blacks can have Black Power, why can't we have White Power?" The problem is that answering this question truly adequately would necessarily involve us in matters about which neither side and no one else is prepared to speak in any political context. The problem is, for us, philosophic and historical. Our inability and unwillingness to address it defines us in many ways. I discussed the matter, or one major aspect of it, in more detail in my pieces on "Chait's Insanity," though it also shows up in the Left-Liberal "thymotic" deficit or problem with Jacksonianism.

We seem to be without exception mediocrities and hopeless cranks when it comes to these topics. That's what it means to be trapped within one's era by history. Anyone capable of comprehending the situation is pre-emptively barred from doing so to any effect. It's left to the naturally very decadent products of a very decadent political system to blunder their way through - people like those in the Trump Administration and their counterparts in Congress, but not just them by any means. We're still waiting to find out if America can manage to work things out despite Americans and everyone else, as it has in the past.


Additionally: What matters most to Republicans, or in politics as in many other matters to the "white working class," may be whether they believe or perceive themselves or their status to be in grave jeopardy. They seem to believe the flood is coming, so it's matter of seizing and fortifying as much of the high ground as possible. If and after the wave hits, they may face an empowered majority that will see little or no or anyway much less reason not to adopt the same or many of the very same tactics to reinforce their power and impose their will, regardless of formerly respected constraints that the "conservative" party, in its desperation, has been willing to undermine.


Mr. McKenzie - there's no timer til the next break for a commercial, so no point at all in selectively quoting a text that's right up there for all three of us to see. When Rubin writes "the precedent of firing an FBI director investigating the White House," and you shorten it to "the precedent of firing an FBI director" in order to frame some bit of ridicule first in her direction, then presumably in the direction of anyone who finds what she has to say of interest, you're not arguing a point worth arguing. You're trolling us or playing to a non-existent gallery.

Ditto when Rubin attaches the word "uniquely" to "dishonest," but you respond as though she had extended the adverb comprehensively to the full list of adjectives. Specifically on the matter of honesty, the assessment she is referencing is quite defensible. All presidents have lied. All people lie. Few presidents or people compare to Trump on the matter of compressing so many prevarications, contradictions, falsehoods, and distortions into such small spaces so constantly and so consistently, and in making flagrantly dishonest arguments central to his political practice, from Birtherism to the latest fumbled cover-up. The only stories he seems able to keep straight for any extended time are the most flagrantly ridiculous: That his inauguration was fantastically well-attended and his inaugural speech highly rated, that millions of illegal immigrants were the only reason he did not win more raw votes than crooked Hillary, etc. Otherwise, given the President's manifest verbal and intellectual disabilities, his difficulty holding or completing a thought at all, or recalling what he himself was saying a few years, months, weeks, days, or minutes ago, or caring, the question is whether he and the Administration he leads are capable of honesty, as the term is commonly understood, except inadvertently.


A framed map depicting the 2016 popular vote distribution, which roughly replicated the current US population distribution by density if you color-coded low density in red, high in blue, was recently spotted being brought into the White House. If we view the character of the US government to be of, by, and for the people rather than of, by, and for the acres, the map points to a distorted view of electoral support for the President in November 2016. Treating counties as equivalent units amounts to an even more extreme distortion, kind of an intellectual gerrymander, since "county" in the U.S. covers the ground, as it were, from Pop. 82 Loving, Texas, to Pop. 10,000,000 Los Angeles, CA. By land mass it covers 53 sq. mi. Kalawao, HI, to my own beloved San Bernardino, 51,590 sq. mi. I'll not pause to review the so-called "county equivalents," and instead end my Google-Wikipedia researches here.

Anyway, I'll readily acknowledge, as often in the past I have been among the first to note, that, if you judge results by attachment of the letter R to numbers of representatives at all levels of government, vs attachment of the letter D, then the R party has done quite well for itself up to the present moment. The exercise in which Jennifer Rubin in her column, and bob and I way down here, have been indulging, is one in which credibility is lent to the Q poll, as in, "if the election were held today" and so on: So: If the Q polls and other polls are to be trusted at all - are as close to the final results as were, say, the much-abused 2016 presidential election polls - if the election were held today, and voting decisions roughly matched polled party preferences according to historical patterns, then... the very same judgment currently declaring the Rs the great historical winners will have to be reversed, just as similar ones were reversed in 2006 - 8, prior to the next reversal, and so on.

There are other ways to assess results. The judgment of history in 1942 might have seemed, to those who have no understanding of the idea of the judgment of history, wholly in favor of the German Reich and Co, or of Napoleonic France in 1812, etc., very etc. In short, the someone or -thing is surely coming, as it comes to all, great empires and nobodies on or off the internet. The question now is whether what the Rs finally leave behind will be a shattered visage of Donald Trump and the inscription "Look on my works, ye Haters and Losers, and despair!"



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