Commenter Archive

Comments by CK MacLeod

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

Or there's a sunk costs syndrome going on as well. They gave in to what became the Tea Party, beginning at latest with the failure of "Compassionate Conservatism," and their only unifying theory, vis-a-vis the federal government and its intrinsically progressive constitution, is negation. They've now put more than 10 years into it, and they have no choice or interest-calculus other than to continue as they have been until someone or -thing compels them to stop.

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

Not sure where you got the idea that I ever wrote “[President Trump] doesn’t know what he’s doing!!!!!!" - bob's idea for a possible rallying cry - but I don't see why it matters.

To the extent that various politicians worldwide may have voiced degrees and types of support for the Khan Sheikhoun retaliation strike - e.g., referring to justification for it without ever specifically endorsing it, voicing reservations about its legality while keeping the onus on Assad, suggesting that it would be supportable if part of a larger strategy, suggesting that its status as, apparently, a one-off, meant that problems with it need not be emphasized, etc. - then, indeed, they, too, in multiple senses, may not know what they're doing. They may not know what they're doing because they cannot know what they are doing in present circumstances. They may not know what they're doing in part because international law itself is a bit of a mess on the underlying questions, and because the value of international law seems uncertain to them, and because they are incompetent in other ways, and perhaps not least because what the notional Leader of the Free World intends to do and what he is doing are not really knowable, in other words because the specific problem of President Trump is that, even if he were to decide firmly in his own mind what he is doing and intends to do, and were to articulate one or both clearly, there is nothing in his conduct and record that suggests he would understand himself to be bound by his word, however clearly stated. To me it seems doubtful even that the words "firmly in his own mind," which presume the existence of sound mental faculties, are to be applied to him at all.

Whether or how much the last problem
- the empty head of government and state problem - matters defines the natural experiment that we have set up for ourselves, with ourselves as natural experimental subjects. That in that experiment a kind of policy inertia in line with a kind of strategic inertia or strategic necessity may already be trumping Trump, or trumping Trumpian political and intellectual inconsistency, may be for us a good thing or at least better than certain worse things. There are names for the various schools of political science that predicted something like this. I've never denied such hopes, and I wouldn't deny them.

It does not follow, however, that an openly admitted distaste for Trump and associated alarm at the reality of President Trump must equate with particular "love" and support for whatever "establishments" or for agreement with whatever whichever of their representatives happen to have said whenever. I've long been of the opinion - as I have, I believe, expressed with non-Trumpian consistency - that the Trump presidency represents a system failure, and that a system failure is our failure. Put plainly: I think and have said that I think he's our fault, as I think and have said that Obama's Syria fiasco was also our fault as much as it was Obama's fault in particular, and I also happen to find the degree of moral, political, and also legal confusion at work and shirk in the world today to be downright spectacular. We - from the best and the brightest to just plain folks like you and me - did these embarrassing things, or failed to come up with anything better, together. That's what I think, and I can't see why anyone should think anything else.


The depiction of Obama's actions and omissions in 2013, and of the criticisms made, is far more complicated than the notion that his decision against military action was a blunder. Nor is it at all clear that if Obama - or Hillary - were in office today, they would have reacted in quite the same way. It seems more likely that, if they were intent upon launching a punishment strike, they would have sought to assemble allies internationally and in Congress first, and in relation to clearly enunciated or re-enunciated goals. If f they had ended up ordering unilateral action, and so without Congressional authorization, they not only would have been following an already enunciated logic, they would be following a logic that they themselves had openly embraced and repeatedly re-stated. In the case of Trump, we have someone who in 2013 was arguing against any involvement in the Syrian Civil War, and who throughout 2015-6 and since winning the election had maintained that line, instead insisting on an ISIS-only focus.

The claim that bob is making, beginning from that offhand remark of Goldberg's is not about any particular action, for or against. The question amounts to whether Trump can be said to have any policy at all, since no one has any assurance that what he forcefully declares one week, or day, or hour will still be his position next week, or day, or hour, or that he even conceives of the possibility of beining held accountable for his declations - whether in relation to Assad or with Assad's conduct or to China or North Korea or health insurance or his tax returns or Janet Yellen anything else.


I'been in a state of alarm ever since he started winning R primaries, for a time allayed (mis-allayed?) by my mistaken trust in the remnant good sense of enough of the electorate, so in a heightened state of alarm ever since 11/9...

...but you can get used to anything, at least until it kills you.

As for not knowing what he's doing, that's been clear for a while. It also seems that he does not care and never has cared very much about the fact that he doesn't know what he's doing, assuming he even knows that much. Or he doesn't care or care very much, or for very long, until and unless some problem his ignorance and carelessness have created has walked up and hit him in the nose while shouting out its identity.

We might as well have a Magic 8-Ball as president - a malevolent Magic 8-Ball. It does seem that his defense people are capable of imposing greater consistency and responsibility to some significant extent, but our government is not designed to be run from the DoD

On “American Idealism, American Identity – Thread by @dhnexon, with Brief Comments

I think you and I see the main thrust or main problem with Nexon's argument diametrically differently. I think it's easy to place all four Republican presidents you name (and all of the other presidents since Roosevelt, at least) on the same plane, and I think Trump, perhaps against his will, is being dragged back onto it or is succumbing to its gravity or inertia. The differences are 1) that Trump doesn't seem even to understand it, as he doesn't seem to understand much of apparently anything except how to work a room and fool a fool, and 2) that people who are more self-consciously anti-liberal or far-right in the more Old World and America First senses have latched onto him and pulled him along in their direction. At the same time, as I was trying to suggest in the tweet about dual nature of American identity (flag and (liberal-constitutional) republic), and as I've been trying to say all along, the Trumpian ("national populist") impetus has always been there, and there's no nation without it.

I agree with you more on the second part, though I'd say Obama fell more within classic retrenchment, and during his 2nd term was readier to fish than the citizenry was.

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

Nagarjuna's reasoning is correct, based on his presumptions.

...if “we strip away the non-essential” fully, we are left with nothing.

Or, more precisely, we are left with "no thing," which would not be the same... thing... as absolute nullity.


You could take the position - and on reflection it would be a quite arguable position, if not necessarily a practical assumption to guide research - that the essence of thinking, what we ought to think of as thinking truly, must always finally evade detection, or must be that which detecting cannot detect, because it is already the detecting. 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. The science as opposed to the philosophy of thinking would be a continually pushing away of its object by closing in on it - or an endless series of potentially interesting failures. So, like every other science, only especially so. Or: Since "science" could stand for "thought," any science of science would be infinitely regressive meta-science, science of science of science of science ad infinitum. For the long version I'm afraid it would be back to Hegel or maybe to some of your Buddhist buddies.


I guess the implication is that them brains is turning out differently than they might have been expected to turn out otherwise - the main takeaway being that the condition of blindness correlates with objectively measurable or detectable organic differences in brain structure, whatever terms you apply to them.

I was interested by the article in part because I have frequently seen people asserting that the traditional claim regarding enhancement or alteration of other senses was a myth. Also interesting that changes in memory and language processing are also detected.

Would of course also be interesting if other "re-wirings" were detected. When I was reading up on cognitive science or neuroscience years ago, it was my understanding that one of the premises undergirding them/it was that every change in mental or subjective state must correlate with an in theory detectable alteration in physical state - that every thought is also a thing or is thingy.

On “Isenstadt and Vogel: Paranoia seizes Trump’s White House – POLITICO

Idunno - but there are a fairly large number of people working at the WH. Not all of them are on 24/7 call, fate of the world hinging on their answering immediately.

On “American Idealism, American Identity – Thread by @dhnexon, with Brief Comments

The discussion is an ancient discussion, so I'm not saying anything even remotely new or original if I point out that, in the dialectic of the liberalizing state, a failure point is reached where, precisely for the reasons you offer, people, as we say, "forget who they are" or no longer can tell who or what they authentically are or what they authentically care about or whether they authentically care about anything at all. It's at the point, explaining why, that we see "the best lack all conviction." It's at the same point that a Trump slouches toward DC to be born, the kind of figure we would need to invent if he didn't arise on his own, as we also say, discounting the possibility that we really did invent him, if not quite consciously. We need an enemy, in this theory, to know who our friends are, and, since we don't have the evil aliens invading the planet, we turn to and against the evil aliens we conjure among us out of the available human material. In the classic game, the ones who move first meet little resistance, so their power waxes for a time, but over the same period they themselves become enemies much more satisfactory, more really dangerous and reprehensible, than the ones they made up, and so discover and in discovering enable the founding of the true and righteous resistance. Surely it will arise. What seems less certain, and would be unknowable ahead of time, is how much it will resemble either the new enemy or the prior losers.

On “Eric Levitz: The Case for Countering Trumpism With ‘Left-Wing Economics’ – New York

He cares, or cared, about people getting the impression he cared about whether people had the impression he cared about their caring, and that's about as close to authentically caring as they've mostly gotten.

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

Seems especially any Fuehrer-principle-ish movement has to assume malign counter-agents, since otherwise it would have to acknowledge that the world may not really be susceptible to His Indomitable Will, or its Triumph. But everyone who proposes anything "radical" faces at least some version of that problem. The Left or progressivism gets into its own peculiar trouble along those lines, too. The assumption is that the same history bending inexorably toward justice requires expert interventions uniquely by Leftists or progressives, but the prospects for collective human agency, whether of the masses or its vanguard, are also exaggerable.


I did read up to the moment comments at OT but decided to respond here.

When the lefties vs the righties start arguing about Trump's 2005 1040, I tend to think it's time to move the discussion elsewhere - so, welcome home.

The jump-cut to nukes was initially jarring, but thanks much for the links to the Wallerstein pieces, which I agree are interesting, and even apart from this context.

I'm not ready to accept the definition of the DS that you offer, or of "the good DS," but the example does encapsulate the problem - or the wish (or our hope, their fear). Hoping the DS will check Trump is also a bit like hoping there really is a conspiracy of Illuminati running things, because even if they're evil, at least they still need a world to run, and a major war and even less Depression probably aren't really in their interests. The other hope is that the good citizen finds zerself in the right place at the right time by the will of God or American dumb luck or something. But it's hard for me to see Stanislav Yevgrafovich Petrov as an appendage of the Soviet Deep State, which was a very Deep State indeed. He was more an appendage of the State, period. Likewise a soldier refusing an evil order post-Nuremberg is choosing the "exception" or a unique form of it, from the Deep State of the Whole World to Come.

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

OK, but I'll give him a bit of latitude, too, since I did enjoy his observations.

On “Yearning for President Blog – OAG #9

I think for these purposes Facebook would be a rough equivalent for blogging, though as an inferior alternative given Facebook's limitations. As a "midpoint" Facebook seems to make it intentionally difficult to share smoothly to Twitter and other services, for example. Otherwise, there are just too many things you can't do, or that it's very difficult to do, with Facebook. The major thing it has going for it is that it is very good at doing what it does do: It's very fast, for instance. I dislike it too much, and use it too little, to comment further on it with much confidence. What do you think?

On “Nested Comments Unbound 1.0 Now Available from the WordPress Repo

I've only scratched the surface of what can be done to organize long and complicated threads visually - for example:

It will be hard or impossible to make out from the image at thread size, but in addition to the color-coding, we can also make depth > n smaller and more squozen together. There's another tool available (not yet in the plugin, but used in the other comment format at this site) for instantly collapsing sub-threads, which may also help. As would commenter-highlighting.


(For instance - stress level jumped when it seemed that your comment wasn't indenting right, but the fact that I was replying to myself replying to myself replying, etc., an unusual thing for a comment thread, and that you were replying to an earlier reply, not my most recent reply-to-reply-to-reply-etc. led me to the wrong expectation about where your comment should align... actually everything is OK-ish.)


Thanks - tho still have to see about a couple o' things, especially as applied to unique environments like this one...


Yep. I can relax now maybe kind of.


This one at 4, and, if the next comment doesn't turn toward the left, I may weep... or anyway check my settings.


This one should be at 3.


So this comment, replying to the first one, should be at Depth 2.


We're starting to nest at level 4 on this rather genteel blog.

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

...ironically ironically ironical that an enemy of irony would express himself so ironically, apparently, ironically, as per habit (if not compulsion), about a latest possibly ironically self-defeating ironically and ironically ironically counter-ironical action of his enemies ironically his allies.



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