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Comments by bob

On “…lost the habit

actually, I've never subscribed to any blog - comments yes, but not to posts. I just visit the blogs I find interesting as I surf. eventually I fell out the habit here.

at any rate, the day after our last emailing karen came down with a very covid-y illness that was on the cusp of alarming ie she could breathe. at the time the protocols in place here didn't allow for testing such cases. I also had something similar but milder so until the past few days I've been doing all the cooking and household stuff, which is a lot for me cognitively. so while karen seems fully recovered, I am still recovering from cognitive exhaustion.

still I would welcome more substantive efforts from you than random tv observations, and tweets do me no good at all since I don't participate in any of the social media platforms.

I'm guessing once you get rolling it'll be fine, although probably different from what you remember. the vapid observations most offer is thin gruel at best. so if it helps, be sure that if you write, I will comment

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

I guess I've always found sociology more descriptive than explanatory. so charisma in the Weber sense seems to be more of a property of the masses which we as observers project onto the leader. I recall a phrase from The Invisible Man in which the narrator says something about the masses "throwing up" their leaders.

I not sure I've got this right, but the observation/explanation distinction of sociology may have been made nicely by the Officer Krupke number in West Side Story,


happy 4th.

presumably we'll get to see that fellow's charisma on full display tonight.

for me, however time induced hazily it may be, that fellow calls to mind Reich's Mass Psychology of Fascism, relying on, as I think I recall, authoritarian child rearing practices. Writ large, the petty tyrannies usually played out in the family become compelling politics to enough of the populace.

in this way the charisma of O and that fellow differ fundamentally in the family dynamics they echo.

glad to see even just a reposting here. hope if portends more.

to the grill!

On “The Video of Our Moment – This is America

btw I didn't get the confirmation email and it wasn't in spam. also my icon didn't show up here so if you do restart blogging cld be worth fixing, otherwise just random glitches between the nets.

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

so how worried should we be?

the Gutenberg post makes it sound like if would be all but unusable for me. the image discussion is really distressing. I haven't paid that much attention to their upgrades - I've gotten used to the changes they've made in various things altho they mostly seem cosmetic to me. but all this seems pretty user unfriendly.

how responsive have they been in the past to negative feedback? are they likely to go ahead no matter what anyone says, or work hard to fix the problems?

On “Holy American Major League of Nations (Notes on Baseball and the Re-De-Nationalization of Americanism)

just a note on your observation about the whiskey rebellion

On “While 2017 happens…

I suspect that as you may suspect that lawn obsessed behavior correlates poorly with more general rightish political tendencies in the general pop. As the older generation of local lawn obsesses bow to their infirmities, the new generation, so far somewhat less obsessed, seem more mainstream politically. While still susceptible to the siren call not only of overly frequent mowing, but to fertilizers and weed killers, they seem to be otherwise agreeable humans.


I had a more specific, very un-sympatico reaction. In the recent past, my neighborhood was populated by several lawn obsessed types who mowed their lawn 2, even 3 times a week. Imminent rain, especially thunderstorms (tornados are fairly rare here), seem to cause in them an uncontrollable urge to mow, lest the unmowed grass grow too much from the fresh rain to be outside acceptable limits. So it can be fairly common for them to mow through approaching lightning and thunder, right up to, and frequently past the arrival of downpours.

This is only part of a larger pattern of annoying behavior, including lecturing lawn slackards and remowing their lawns whenever neighbors have outdoor gatherings. Lawn signs seem to indicate a high correlation with Tea Party politics and a fondness for that fellow.

So I took this guy to be merely marginally more committed to the project of the perfect lawn (and by extension, the perfect libertarian world) than my neighbors. That is, anything but sympatico.

Maybe I observe here only a local correlation between excessively committed lawn behavior and excessive political beliefs.

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

All this seems less clear to me than you present here. So far, I've heard left libs bewailing as you say, but others cheering that fellow on for undermining NATO (alas, I haven't paid much attention to who said what).

At any rate, my first impulse is to say that the current situation is a poor example of what withdrawalism might look like - maybe if some one with a more reliable grasp on just everyday reality were doing it...

For instance, I think a withdrawalist could see a vital value in maintaining NATO to keep Russia in check.

Certainly I would be only barely marginally more optimistic if Bernie were doing his version. A continuation of the unevenness, fits and starts of the O years provides a more plausible map to withdrawalism. Enough of everything to make everyone unhappy.

Then if occurred to me that one could take a similar approach to strong interventionism - that GWB was a poor proponent of it, and it is unfair to judge that approach based on his execution.

In the end I see that fellow with no strong commitment to any ism other than that-fellow-ism, which may have tactical similarities to a wide range of isms, but is a poor fit for all of them.

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

Wade you raise a lot of good points pointing to the frequent political dynamic of not only both the R's and D's, but pols everywhere through all time ie snatching defeat from the jaws of victory. While I don't agree with a number of your specifics, the general point remains.

However what I had in mind especially in my comment, and for some time now, is how many people seem to vote R but want the D program to a significant degree. The current health care debate illustrates this.

Many people voted for Trump, and R in general, but want the benefits and protections of the ACA. Or rather want, enhanced benefits and at least the current protections of the ACA.

R's frame this as "of course people want to keep stuff once they get it" as if the task of the R's is to protect people from themselves. Most people don't like the ACA not because it impinges on their liberty, but because it doesn't sufficiently solve the problem of obtaining medical insurance for people in the individual market.

Building on CK's comment, the R's sunk costs in the ideology of negative liberty have made it quite difficult for them to propose govt actions to even begin to solve the problems people identify themselves.

Put another way, Paul Ryan's frequent appeal for "conservative solutions" just about always, to this observer, privilege "conservative" over "solutions".


P Ryan's first assessment of the AHCA's chances of passage, something like "this is our only shot" seems to express a greater anxiety that they only have the WH and Con. majorities because of a variety manipulations they've been able to make to the electoral process, and to the biases of the processes itself. And they these are not durable against the long term trends. So it's "now or never" ie there is a basic desperation to their political calculus. My experience is that people do not make consistently good decisions under the duress of desperation. So a variant of political survival has already kicked in, and for the time being seems to be crowding out the form That JR wonders about

On “All the News that’s Fit to Kill (OAG #8)

For what its worth, the Guardian has a long read on Accelerationism that's covers a lot territory.

On “Jeffrey Goldberg: The Obama Doctrine, R.I.P. – The Atlantic

Wade, your last paragraph is crucial to your argument. Certainly it expresses economically the source of the weight of a country's foreign policy, and to an extent any leader of that country, but not entirely. GWB rather easily evaded that weight and embarked on a pre-emptive policy in Iraq.

Obama evaded that weight by taking no kinetic action in Syria.

Whatever the weight of a country's foreign policy, individual leaders mostly do, and should have their own ideas based on their understanding of their country's interests and place in the world. These ideas rise to knowing what you're doing, only when they rise to a level of detail, logic and sophistication. There is no evidence that fellow has this, not only in foreign policy, but man other areas as well (who knew it could be so complicated?)

Knowing what you're doing increases the chances of success in the aggregate but not necessarily in the particular. Once when my wife was facing a difficult surgery, I asked the surgeon how many of his patients died from the procedure. He gave me a number and said it was because he took the difficult cases. That was the correct and reassuring answer.

That fellow merits the charge that he doesn't know what he's doing because he has no track record of success and failure in the matters of State, and has been disinclined to educate himself.

Were it only the case that people praise actions because they think the actor knows what he's doing. On second thought, such a state may have messy consequences for households with small children and pets.

That fellow is notorious for his need for praise and attention. What better way to try to influence him than to praise him when he happens to do something of which you approve?

He expresses respect for his military advisors, as do most others. As I said in my first comment here, "people around him who do know what they’re doing cannot save the day because he’s the Pres and they are not."

That this strike fits into the general past weight of US foreign policy means little in the current situation. A "one off-er" was a common description of it.

Until he shows otherwise, I will regard him as the Pres leading from no where, who doesn't know what he's doing.


Yes you and many of us have been alarmed for some time, and said so many times, and with considerable force and insight. What I'm advocating, tilting away at windmills, spitting and pissing into the wind, is to make at least a gesture away from the insight, understatement, hope, sincere and pro forma both, that somehow it's not as bad as it seems, or maybe things will get better, of maybe somebody will be able to influence that fellow to follow a better, more informed, considered path, a gesture away from all of that and say something as clear and bald as, "He doesn't know what he's doing!"

Imagine the effect of mass marches at which the slogan shouted and signed was "He doesn't know what he doing!" Or of panel after panel of pundits saying, one after the other, not clever insightful wisdom, but simply, "He doesn't know what he doing!" Or of Chuck and Nancy not saying well honed political stilettos, but only "He doesn't know what he's doing."


As usual, JG writes a well written thoughtful piece that helps one to better understand events. Since Trump incomprehensively provided Assad with a atta boy fireworks display, (military strike you say?????) I been reading and seeing/hearing all kinds of thoughtful, well presented perspectives about this event.

I do think it's time for these well informed, articulate commentators to just say in plain language what seems obvious to me.

That fellow doesn't know what he's doing.

For example, JG's dry, "President Trump’s governing foreign policy doctrine is not easily discernible, of course." will not do.

He doesn't know what he's doing and that should be alarming to everyone no matter what your political orientation. The people around him who do know what they're doing cannot save the day because he's the Pres and they are not.

Of course we can observe that no one can "know what they doing" in that job. But the present situation far surpasses this baseline meaning, and it cries out for the explicit, alarming observation that "He doesn't know what he's doing!!!!!!"

On “Brain ‘rewires’ itself to enhance other senses in blind people – Harvard Medical School

I misquoted you with my "We strip away..." What I meant to refer to was your "So the business of cognitive science will be to strip away what is non-essential to thinking and confine it to the realm of mere things." So as I understand you, thinking would be not a mere thing. But what is it? Your characterization of any characterization as an interesting failure is interesting.

Nagarjuna goes on to distinguish essences as nullities versus things without essence that drive their "thingness" from their functionality, their place in the matrix of causes and conditions. This contains all the begged questions and paradoxes of mereology in general.

So his solution is to argue that things are only things because of their functionality. That we can perceive them and how they function proves they are things. "Essence", since it does not reside in the matrix of causes and conditions, does not function, so therefore does not exist.

Nargajuna occupies a unique place in Buddhist thought. He is regarded as the person whom Buddha prophesied as the only person following him to really get it right. So, at least Mahayana-ites all have to assert they conform to his writings - with more of less success.

So all this is probably way more response than is functional, but its been tough writing for quite a while now, and this just flowed to a greater extent than has been true. So I went with it. Hope you found it reasonably interesting.


Perhaps my Buddhst buddies' long version can be condensed to a stanza.

Augmenting the Dalai Lama's famous (poorly paraphrased as)"if science contradicts anything Buddhism teaches we'll have to revise it" he said something about science's basic "ontological confusion". That is describing how something works is not describing its essence - since essence does not exist.

The essential Nagurjuna puts like this:

Essence arising from
Causes and conditions makes no sense.
Essence arisen from causes and conditions
Would be created.

So if "we strip away the non-essential" fully, we are left with nothing.


Absolutely. As I said, a quibble. But on reflection, the idea that brains can develop differently in an observable way as a result of a difference in the sensory field it processes is pretty breathtaking.

For me, the word "rewiring" has a visceral immediacy that perhaps over emphasizes the "re" part of it. Still, I think science reporting too often is not as precise as it could be and still retain readability.

Your last paragraph interests me... At this point in the proceedings, how can we think anything else?


A rhetorical quibble:

In this context, "rewires" seems not quite the right metaphor. Not surprisingly, the abstract uses more scientific rather than metaphoric language. Since the paper examines the scans of very early onset blindness, it may be more a case of their brains developing differently rather than "rewiring" which suggests individual brains changed structurally.

Such adaptability in development would be just as significant as any acquired changes in structure.

On “Benjamin Wittes: How to Read What Comey Said Today – Lawfare

Yeah, I read C's comments as trying to do a variety of things at the same time, having the effect of making interpretation more difficult.

Any investigation of T himself would seem to be conducted in a very closely held way. If there is a there there about T himself, C's probably got one shot when he goes public. You can't read the tea leaves until the tea stops roiling around the cup.

If C was describing an ongoing investigation that is "one step away from the president", how does it not constantly invoke the "what/when did he know it" question, ie be about the pres himself.


Sure, so why do they have "work Phones" they take home? Even if they don't have fate of the world responsibilities, who they work for does, and if I'm that person and I call up Bob R&F's work phone for a point of info, I want an answer right then.

A minor point at best....

BTW what happened to my avatar?

On “The Deep State vs the Derp State (OAG #10)

You clearly got the gist, but for clarity's sake I want to amend my last sentence. It reads "The DS here would be anything at all preventing the speed and efficiency of carrying out nuclear weapons orders."

It should read, "The DS here would be anything at all preventing the speed and efficiency of carrying out nuclear weapons orders in carrying out all Presidential orders, Exec Actions etc."

Or rather it should read as a smoother version of the meaning of that.

Yeah, at any rate the DS definition I offer would render the use of such a portentous phrase "DS" trivial. My reading is that B/T use it portentousness to disguise the vacuousness of what they are saying. Kinda like watching something by David Lynch, but less entertaining.

To me the crucial element is how one construes agency. T/B and perhaps the Right in general have, to my mind, too robust a sense of individual agency. When that seems thwarted, it must only be because of some other, stronger individual agency at work, rather than the force of the political/physical ecology we, or "we", are embedded in.


Well done. And as such deserves thoughtful responses. But a lot to get to, so let me start with some prelim remarks. I did read up to the moment comments at OT but decided to respond here.

So part of the definitional issue is whose DS are we talking about. The Bannon/Trump one seems the most relevant, so what's going on with their use of the term.

It does not seem to refer to the entrenched bureaucracy, but rather a sinster version of it, in league with non-govt elements. The "in league with" is I thnik important because it suggests intentionality and agency to the DS, rather than the accumulation of millions of individual actions done only with the intention of doing one's work, and generally without any or much coordination.

So this DS alludes to, if not actually asserts, the DS of say Turkey. This is, I think part of the frequently allusive rhetoric of T/B that seems to lie, but also seems to strike a chord with a part of the population. Even if they don't understand the specific reference, they get the affective one.

I only have so much juice today, so I'm going to skip ahead in my response, hopefully to fill in later.

The one place the Pres is able to perform a radical action is launching nuclear weapons. Excellent posts on this by Alex Wallerstein here and here.

As he notes:

And from a practical standpoint, we know the system is set up so that the people at the very bottom, the people “turning the keys” and actually launching the missiles, are trained to not question (or even deeply contemplate) the orders that reach them. They are trained, rather explicitly, that if the order comes in, their job is to execute it — not quite like robots, but close-enough to that. The speed and reliability of the system requires these people to do so, and they are not in a position to inquire about the “big picture” behind the order (and would not presume to be qualified to evaluate that).

Perhaps this is what T/B is after in running the entire govt. Perhaps this partially accounts for his fetishization of nuclear weapons.

The DS here would be anything at all preventing the speed and efficiency of carrying out nuclear weapons orders.

On “One doctor’s experience telling patients Trump is president – Slate

See, this is why I'm as you say "an enemy of irony". So to avoid past ironic feedback loops, please extend to me some latitude as a friend of this site.

"Ah, to be him for a day."

Fuck you doc.

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