Commenter Archive

Comments by CK MacLeod

On “The Data That Turned the World Upside Down – Motherboard

Will do a full-fledged post introducing the new commenting format when it's a little more tested and refined, and when I've decided on whether to incorporate two or three additional features. I think the linked article happens to be quite interesting in its own right, however - and from a side perspective follows up on a Twitter Colloquy from a few days ago - which, like most good ones, soon got overwhelmed with name-tags and hard to follow.

This Commenting Beta features Ajaxed (near-real-time self-loading) comments, a standing inducement to keep things brief, comment shareability via Twitter, comment-up/down voting, and commenter ignore button, in-reply-to linking, comment subscriptions, comment-editing, and thread sorting.

In addition to adding some social services, I expect to be integrating comment and commenter highlighting, comment snaking, commenter archives, comment formatting, comments-since-last-visit, and probably some other things I've forgotten.

On ““Human nature only really exists in an achieved community of minds.” – Hegel

NB: A bit of initial research suggests that wissen refers back etymologically to seeing and brightness - "enlightenment" - while "scientia" refers back to "separating," "distinguishing." Though eventually the two are inseparable - since to be seen a thing must be distinguished/separated from what it isn't (Hume devotes significant attention to this) - they do seem to me to suggest two different orientations toward orientation or perspectives on perspective. It is in this sense not possibly a coincidence that Hegel devotes the first section of the Phenomenology to explaining or questioning (Hegel-splaining!) the problems with notions of a simple seeing or sensing of a thing, or the fallacy of immediate mediation of being, or the nonsense of common sense about sensation...


I assume you're joking a bit with the last: Hegel doesn't express any noticeable fear regarding the common sense man, just rejects the significance as philosophy of his statements. They might be categorized as non-philosophic in this sense, and become anti-philosophic or inimical to philosophy only to the extent that anyone insists on treating them otherwise, in particular as a substitute or replacement for philosophy.

Hegel devotes much more time in the Preface to critiquing the precursors or different types of precursor of contemporary "scientific realism" or materialism or scentism, etc., and returns to the subject in the main text and in other works. It qualifies as a if not, understood broadly, the major theme of his work, as to what is authentically "scientific." Even the difference between the English and German words for "science" or "Wissenschaft" point to the division, or struggle for superiority, apparent in your example, since the etymology in the German is so much closer to the surface - a compound of two common words, Wissenschaft suggesting "enterprise/way/art/project/making of knowledge/knowing" vs. the to English speakers more obscure derivation from "scientia" (i.e., a loan word from Latin). You could say the Anglo-American tendency is to idealize (or even spiritualize) materialism, to transubstantiate substance, while the Continental tendency is the reverse. Absolute knowing as grasped by Hegel obviously would encompass both tendencies and the motion from one to the other... and other things and non-things.


I'd invite you to read the larger-larger context.

¶   69. On the other hand again, when instinctive philosophy follows the more secure course prescribed by healthy common sense, it treats us to a rhetorical mélange of commonplace truths. When it is charged with the triviality of what it offers, it assures us, in reply, that the fullness and richness of its meaning lie deep down in its own heart, and that others must feel this too, since with such phrases as the “heart’s natural innocence”, “purity of conscience”, and so on, it supposes it has expressed things that are ultimate and final, to which no one can take exception, and about which nothing further can be required. But the very problem in hand was just that the best must not be left behind hidden away in secret, but be brought out of the depths and set forth in the light of day. It could quite well from the start have spared itself the trouble of bringing forward ultimate and final truths of that sort; they were long since to be found, say, in the Catechism, in popular proverbs, etc. It is an easy matter to grasp such truths in their indefinite and crooked inaccurate form, and in many cases to point out that the mind convinced of them is conscious of the very opposite truths. When it struggles to get itself out of the mental embarrassment thereby produced, it will tumble into further confusion, and possibly burst out with the assertion that in short and in fine the matter is settled, the truth is so and so, and anything else is mere “sophistry” – a password used by plain common sense against cultivated critical reason, like the phrase “visionary dreaming”, by which those ignorant of philosophy sum up its character once for all. Since the man of common sense appeals to his feeling, to an oracle within his breast, he is done with any one who does not agree. He has just to explain that he has no more to say to any one who does not find and feel the same as himself. In other words, he tramples the roots of humanity underfoot. For the nature of humanity is to impel men to agree with one another, and its very existence lies simply in the explicit realisation of a community of conscious life. What is anti-human, the condition of mere animals, consists in keeping within the sphere of feeling pure and simple, and in being able to communicate only by way of feeling-states.

Hegel, Georg. Phenomenology of the Spirit (Kindle Locations 1096-1114). Pettis-Lovell Independent Publishers Ltd.. Kindle Edition.

Eventually, you might have to read the three paragraphs on "Natural philosophizing"... and then the entire Preface, and then the entire Phenomenology of Mind, and so on, and so on, in the effort to reach a fair judgment, but, failing that, the type to which Hegel is here referring seems familiar enough to me. The end of the passage points to what MacIntyre calls "emotivism" and what in our own time further underlies the "post-Truth" political world (and the "post-modern" stance and condition often mis-attributed to Hegel via uses of "historicism" against which Hegel warned). Nor in that passage does Hegel question the "humanity" of the common man, but rather the latter's commitment to the human as Hegel (somewhat like Aristotle and somewhat anticipating Heidegger, among others) defines the human.

In an event, my intended uses for the main sentence have to do with my theory of discourse, a subject or one subject in which my interests as a web developer, writer, and political observer happen to coincide. I've outlined or begun to outline the framework at other times - for instance in the Read the Comments series (as much in the accompanying diagrams as in the argument), and have intermittently begun work on more direct treatments that would need to be gathered together, from fragments deposited over decades (ever since that etymological diagram first occurred to me...), occasionally re-expanded whenever I ran across something, like Levinas's ideas on dialogue or Hegel's description of the reception of a work of art or literature in a later section of the Phenomenology, but there always seems to be a mountain of lesser supporting tasks to climb over first... having to do with keeping body and soul together...

So... back to the grindstone for now...

On “Commenter Ignore Button 0.99

PS - I do think the "gray x" is much better as a default for the standalone plugin. So, thanks again, VB! I'd launch CIB 1.0 now-ish, but am superstitious... oh yeah plus there's one or two housekeepingish things I still want to do. (Lots of work been going on under the hood.)


Yes, the idea is or was that eventually the arrow could drop down to reveal a series of things to do with the comment or commenter (ignore-commenter, highlight-commenter, highlight comment, also report comment, possibly share comment and others), but I'm not a hunnert percent on how and when to implement the additional options, and, for stand-alone purposes, I think your suggestion is certainly worth looking at.

It may seem minor to you, but for my purposes it's a quite significant choice, since for the vast majority of users, the vast majority of the time, it will be the entire visual presence of the option. I want it to be subtle: I decided the bright red "x" was too obtrusive, even very small and faded to pink. Twitter for Android uses the down arrow to drop down an 8-item menu. Twitter for desktop uses an elipsis variant. But I think for the standalone, the gray x makes sense as first choice option. Easy to change. So much thanks again, even if it may mean I'll have to re-do the movie, too.

Additional notes:

The "ignore" feature works site-wide: If you ignore me here, I'll be pre-emptively ignored on every thread on the site - perhaps that should be emphasized in a couple of places.

Ignore List: Though in this implementation we leave the commenter's name intact, I imagine that in some implementations the ignored comment and user would be completely invisibilized. In those cases the ignore list would remind the user who has been quarantined. Adding the ignore list at all is completely optional, and the ignore list vs "Commenting at..." notice (you'd have to un-ignore everyone to see it here) is configurable.

Last: "undefined" is a leftover from the prior version. If you delete the cookies, it'll go away. Not sure what options your preferred browser gives you: Some will let you delete individual cookies. The two here are "ignorable" and "ignorable_names." I could make it possible to remove the commenter by clicking in the ignore list, or by "un-ignoring all." I might as well, since it's not hard to do. I could also make it easy for the user to hide the ignore list - but I also don't see the main option itself to be something that many users will often use, so the sub-options and sub-sub-options would be rarities within rarities (within rarities...).

On “In-Reply-To and Infinite Replies

Thanks, Marc - I'll take a look at it, though I'm a little confused by the description, specifically by what you mean by "2nd level thread," since it sounds like you're saying "not every comment on threads at depth 3, 4, etc."

Anyway, adding the reply links is good, and it's cool if you've come up with a way to do it that doesn't require editing or replacing template files, but I was as interested in, and eventually got to, extending threads "infinitely" (or unboundedly), so that really long ones don't jam up confusingly wherever they end - was more of a concern at a busy blog where threaded conversations semi-regularly go into the hundreds of comments.

On “Si Vis Bellum, Part 3: Always Again

To resume where I left off with the reference to my highlighted thesis statement, your various interpretations are not mutually exclusive, and would all be contained within it in some form. Where we differ especially is in your undeveloped statement about the world not "going to shit if America withdraws," and such an eventuality being "a risk I’m willing to take."

I find that approach to what would be a matter of life and death for countless people, and the basic welfare of countless more, including Americans, including you and me, to be, to say the least, rather cavalier. It doesn't rise to the level of the seriousness of the matter. See my questions at the end of my comment to Mr. BP above.


I think you are saying, via the passive construction, that the *perception* is that American grand strategy has been successful since 1946 (or 1941). Do you believe that’s the actually the case?

I'll invite you to read the phrase you select in its context, since I also observe your later question on intentionality - in other words the question that I have examined at greater length elsewhere, as to whether American grand strategy is better viewed as a consciously adopted design or a somewhat spontaneously arising or simply emergent construct, including the adoption and development of a political-economic system that is much better at avoiding encumbrance by design or by what would be, for America, a land gratuitously favored by geography and history, foolishly counterproductive lesser intellectual consistencies, including any untoward consistent inconsistency. Up until now, but not necessarily tomorrow, America has been able to do quite well materially, which is what "matters" for us self-reflexively. The "success" of the American grand anti-strategy strategy is its or America's continuance in being as combined "richest and most powerful" nation, or the production and maintenance of a world system that suits the interests of Americans as Americans (in particular but not exclusively) collectively understand them.

Whether this type of success is itself likely to be successful for much longer, and whether and to what extent its terms can or must be altered, is a different, too interesting question, that would circumscribe all questions of the success or failure of American policy or war-fighting at particular conjunctures - whether at a nadir or perceived nadir like the Vietnam War or zenith like the break-up of the Soviet Empire. The importance of the legacy of WW2 would not be in particular subjective attitudes about or knowledge of the events of 70 years ago, or in the amount of attention paid to "the Greatest Generation," or even in the regular invocations of Munich!, Pearl Harbor!, Auschwitz!, Hiroshima! et al! in winning political-military arguments, but in a world system lent order and integrity by actualized and latent American power or "superpower" or "hyperpower."

The example or counterexample you give, of the British influence on the Syria decision could be argued in any number of ways in this context. That the U.S. would be dependent on British opinion for validation might support the same declinist conclusions I was pointing to in regard to "signal moments." Surely the world-historical power at its zenith would easily set aside hesitations by one of its subordinate allies, if it chose to, or, better, the subordinate ally would have kept its irrelevant opinions to itself, and so on. The rest of your depiction, including the perceived failure of Obama-Clinton's Libya experiment in "leading from behind," likewise supports the argument on the "discovery by praxis of the same alteration in the substructure of American policy." At that point in the development of the argument I'm remaining agnostic as to the depth and significance of that alteration.


“America First” vs globalism is IMO an argument on false grounds to begin with. The assumption that both start with is that the conduct of the US abroad has been selfless & for the greater good of the world as whole, whether they think the status quo is good and should stay or they think that the US is somehow getting a Raw Deal out of it & should renegotiate more favorable terms.

I don't think that this description applies to either side. Neither assumes that the "the conduct of the US abroad has been selfless," and neither depends on the argument that such conduct, selfless or not, has necessarily been for the "greater good of the world as [a] whole."

"America First" obviously places all other nations in second place at best. Different America Firsters might or might not believe that US conduct or policy has been on balance beneficial to others, in one way or another. They might believe that it has been at times beneficial, at times destructive. They appear most strongly to believe that, whatever you might conclude about benefits to others, to treat or to pretend to treat the welfare of others as of main or of equal concern in policy, is some combination of dangerous, counterproductive, disadvantageous, and unsustainable.

The globalists may likewise embrace a range of different opinions about one or both premises, but the special problem with defining globalism in these terms - regarding selflessness and regarding the greater good - is the view among its main proponents that a political economy based on an assumption of universal selfishness - also the primacy of the individual "self" and his or her inalienable rights - achieves the best really available results, materially and otherwise, or that, in short, with some loss in translation, "greed is good." The belief or argument is, of course, that the policy centered on the primacy of the individual, or understood in the classic utilitarian manner as a policy of "enlightened self-interest," happens to be best for all, if, quite justly, often best of all for those who practice it, or who are able to practice it, most consistently. However, one does not have to take the premise to Randian extremes: A good globalist can put as great a stress on the "enlightened" part as on the "self" part, and understand that a successful or pragmatic implementation must always aim for balance and attend to mutual interest. Involving others whose participation is necessary to the success of one's own self-interested doings requires one to put the argument on their interest to them, and may require emphasis, even exclusive emphasis, on that aspect in public statements and dealings (what you would call "lying").

Put differently, an America Firster and a globalist might look at figures reflecting vast improvement by common measures (life expectancy, literacy, energy consumption, etc., etc.) in the lives of great masses of people, or across a world popuation three times as high as it was at the outset of Pax Americana , and reach two different conclusions: The Firsters say, "Maybe the world should thank us, but, typically, neither the world nor least of all the leftists, pacifists, multi-culturalists etc. among us will do so. Anyway, we've done enough, and we have every right to concentrate on our own interests as we see fit, just like everyone else." The globalists look at the same facts and figures, then add the pages that demonstrate, on the one hand, maintenance of American relative primacy, and, on the other, the vital interdependence of the global system: "Look how well we've done both for ourselves and others, and look how much we and the rest of the world would be endangered, both materially and morally, if we abandoned the project."

Neither, incidentally, denies that the process has been brutal for those at "the periphery." The Firsters are defined as such by their relative lack of interest in the question. Some might believe that such is the way of the world sooner or later, and that pretending otherwise is foolish and dangerous, though they might also believe that once things are ordered properly, Americans as a matter of fact, in only as a function of geography, would probably be able to get away with a lot less of it. In the meantime, that the elite or most winning winners continue to act in their own perceived self-interest, to say whatever they need to see or even believe whatever they need to believe, etc., is completely predictable. Why would you expect anything else of them - or anyone - than to behave according to perceived self-interest? Some get "enlightened," some don't.

To return to an old argument between us: It might look like we or the global system we have created has taken billions of people hostage. Perhaps it was a terrible mistake, whether intended or not, but, even if so, where is your reason to believe, or argument for me to believe, that pulling it apart and down could be undertaken as selfless action for the greater good of the whole world? What if the process would have to be ruled by more common motives - or with no single set of ideas and intentions at all? How much suffering by how many of those billions would you be willing to discount in favor of your preferred political concept, and what would insulate you from the moral indictment you're making now against the evil global capitalists?


Mead's 1999 essay:

Peter Beinart on Trump as Jacksonian:


I think I should make that "neo-conservative and liberal-internationalist."

As for where an "extreme" "archaeo-isolationism" might belong, I think it fits as one tendency among others within a larger reservoir of political sentiment that Walter Russel Mead and others have been calling "Jacksonian," at least if we are willing to accept that much of the "Alt-Right," including parts typically declared unsuitable for human consumption, also fits there. I am referring to a mutually reinforcing combination of aggressively combative attitude and ideology. To the extent that a familiar set of stances and reflexes will sooner or later be presented as "self-defense," and that the same can be argued to go for everyone else, too, eventually, the real question may come down to different self-reflexive definitions of the self.


Occurs to me that in the classic romantic comedy it's "if you want love, prepare for hate."


(...and I'm sure several typos and other errors didn't help clarity-wise either - I think I got most of them - sorry about that, too.)


However, as I think about it, the statement highlighted at the beginning of Part III here, under the title, summarizes both the core thesis and conclusion, or was meant to.


To be honest, I still don’t quite get your core thesis across the three pieces. Like, I literally don’t understand what ultimate point you are trying to get across (so I can know if I agree or disagree! :))

No doubt entirely my fault. It could be that the "core thesis," stated as such, is too obvious and banal to be acceptable on its own terms, so I had to write n-thousand words obscuring it. So in that sense I may have been successful, with the only problem being that the result turned out not to be worth reading.

So, sorry for that. My current plan is to write a single reply to you and b-psycho and anyone else who cares to chime in after a decent interval has passed, though I'm also thinking over whether it would be more helpful to discussion to address secondary questions separately.

On “Si Vis Bellum, Part 2: Catastrophes

None of the assertions in your first paragraph is true, Mr. McKenzie, and they all revolve around the same error already described, which we discussed - or "discussed" - under the post that you mentioned, the one that became the first of what has turned into an Operation American Greatness series. Answering your previous misunderstandings, based on apparently on your inability or refusal to understand the distinction between a symptom and a disease, or between an effect and a cause, or an epiphenomenon and a phenomenon, etc., especially regarding individual actors in historical contexts, I wrote the following on Mr. Trump:

As for my “negative stance” toward Trump, I have explained it many times and in different ways. I find Trumpism itself incompatible with the precepts of a liberal democratic regime. To the extent Trumpism succeeds, liberal democracy in the United States fails. To me, it is in no way surprising that this threat manifests itself in a particularly loathsome individual.

The attribution of intentionality regarding liberal democracy or the global order or poor us, or of any plan at all, either to Trump or to his supporters - of whom a particular group of the latter, not Trump, were the subject of the post - was entirely yours. I don't claim to know what Trump intends. My impression is that he has no clear and realistic idea of what he intends to do at all. Whatever he intends, or thinks he intends, I wouldn't be surprised if, say, he prosecutes or attempts to prosecute World War III or IV against Islamism, or does nothing of the kind, or sets out to do one thing, and ends up doing something else. I would say the same about any number of issues, and statements made in the form of forthright and unambiguous commitments, that at various points have seemed to agitate him or his supporters. More to the point, I'm as or more interested in what it says about us that we would elect or even be in the position to vote for such an individual as I am in the man himself.

Now, I could refer you to various views on historical change in general, on the Great Man theory of history, or the pointlessness of sending time travelers back to murder baby Hitler, and so on, or ask you to read the linked post and our discussion aloud, very slowly, but none of it will make any difference if you're determined not to understand, and are more interested in personalizing these exchanges just as you are in personalizing political events.


I agree wholeheartedly with the gist of this paragraph–with one exception. MacLeod most certainly has been “going on about [how] Donald Trump is about to upend the post WW2 order.” He has presented the election of Donald Trump in frankly apocalyptic terms, even fretting prissily that President Trump will terminate liberal democracy in the United States.

Both statements are in their form - "Donald Trump is about to" and "President Trump will" - completely alien to my approach to these matters (though no doubt I have slipped from time to time into the conventional phraseologies, and not just in regard to Mr. Trump). In the meantime, however, I have difficulty seeing the rise of another "America First" movement as anything other than the mark of a challenge to the "post-WW2 Order" (such as it ever was) or at minimum a sign of change or possible change within it or within how we view it. (I did explicitly confirm an intention to "risk... some broad generalizations that must reflect a mixture of 'how we seem to have thought' and 'how things seem actually to have been.'") Seems to me the symptoms were already detectable - or glaringly obvious - long before Trump embarked upon his presidential campaign. I don't see why any historically literate observer would try to argue anything else.


Been caught up with some other matters, but I'll put up part 3 as soon as I can, maybe as soon as today. I'll hold back on replying until then, except to say that I reject any obligation to find political proof in short-term consequences. In this matter, the dogs that don't bark matter as much, and in theory would matter much more, than the few who happen to sound off, and the transitory ups and downs or Pyrrhic victories or lucky defeats (or defenses or failures of secondary positions, etc.) may not matter much either.

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

Trusting pollsters on their predictions and trusting the "mainstream media" to attempt to report on events somewhat objectively strike me as different if not, in people's political imaginations, wholly unrelated things.

The question of high trust vs low trust societies is something similar: I'm on friendly terms with a Trump-supporting neighbor - he had a big MAGA flag, no mere banner, waving from above his garage. He seems like a genuinely good guy. I'd be inclined to trust him on any number of things important to me, to make good on his promises, and so on, up to and including mutual defense in case of Red Dawn or War of the Worlds...

Except there is no external enemy to unite us, and for that matter we have no personal/private dealings in common. I just see Pete and his wife Sandra and his dogs Dallas and Rosie on my walks. (Come to think of it, I even have a picture of his MAGA flag, and will have to post it some time.) I've declined to inform Pete of my views on Minority President Degenerate Alt-Right Russian Troll.

From the Founding and forward, our oxymoronical state of states has had difficulty with how and to what degree to unite, and, if the problem decreases as we reach nearer the ground truth of neighborhoods, it still remains part of the human condition in general, and all the more so in a society that depends on trust for commerce, but depends on epistemological individualism for everything else.

I'll just cut to the chase: If we don't have or perceive a reason to stick together, then we will tend to divide at least until the costs of division accumulate sufficiently to motivate another reversal, but this pendulum swinging affair entails friction and loss as well as a sense of general paralysis that must sooner or later give way to something else.

On “Si Vis Bellum, Part 1: “Militarism” and “Interventionism”

Well - frankly the least you can do is mostly agree with me, seeing as how I mostly agree with you!

As for the part on which we may disagree, the parenthetical first blush part, the initial reply regarding "the existential threat" would begin with 1) the much greater range and lethality or potential lethality of 21st Century weaponry, 2) the much greater dependence of a much larger global population on a world-spanning resource and supply chain, and, relating to both of those, 3) the conversion under total war and or unbounded state of exception of any- and everyone into a combatant. A more thorough development of the argument would also require re-consideration of what we mean by "existential" when we describe a threat.

Anyway, thanks for reading, and commenting (and editing your comments), and I'll look forward to your thoughts after I've submitted parts 1 and 2 over the next few days.

On “No One Can Say: Context/Contest (OAG #3)

Oh... well that's... different. Disantecedency can be dangerous!

Post-cedency ho!


I'd need you to forward me the email you received in order to suss out the problem, but I suspect it may have had something to do with correcting the date of the post.

As for the suggestion on theorizing, I think I'll have to thank you for reading, but reject both the comparison to computer simulation theorizing and the invitation to step away from what I'm starting with this post, which is only the first of a 3-part sub-series within a new longer series. If you're not inclined to bear with me on it, that's up to you!

On ““The Kremlin Didn’t Elect Trump – Obama Did”: Outline of Implications of Russian Information Operations in the 2016 Elections

The discussion doesn't concern "an attack," but a campaign on multiple levels, including efforts whose existence is widely acknowledged (propaganda via "Fake News" and other means); is disputed by some, but well-evidenced (e.g., coordination between Wikileaks and Russia, as confirmed by the Obama Admin); is in dispute, but well enough evidenced to draw some preliminary conclusions pending further investigation (connections of Trump's people to Russia); or is the subject of discussion mostly confined to the fringe but with some mainstream/expert support (hacked votes).

The Obama Administration clearly believed that an effort significant enough to get them to pick up the "hotline" phone was under way (see the Sanger article). So, it's not merely or mainly a question of "cyberwar," which is narrower than "information operations," which include propaganda and disinformation).

I began tweeting or meta-tweeting about this subject mainly to highlight the implications of a line that certain prominent Obama-supporters were taking. It was in the process of discussion and background-reading that I found myself increasingly persuaded by the underlying case and working back from it to larger political-historical themes.

On “Troll-Stomping and Other Sensible Things: #WordPress Plug-In Beta Test/Preview

Hmm - I like the mute button, but I wonder if people are used to having them reflect current state (more typical for on-line or computer desktop audio controlsy) rather than "button action." The red "x" seemed to me more suggestive of "delete this" and therefore for "positive action to negate."

As for the emails: Dunno - you're signed up to receive all replies at a certain gmail account (I'm refraining from giving it out here). Could be you need to change the account, or your spam filter settings...



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