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Comments by bob


Your work at OT was very good, but this comment is mainly testing the email/comment thing. I re-entered my email just in case my eyes are worse than I think.


email is correct
"yes, replies to my comment" "instantly"

On “The Pathos of the Rational Leader: Goldberg’s Obama

That's the funny thing...since you changed the email notification check off, I haven't got confirmation emails - I thought you dispensed with them (personally I find them entirely dispensible), but I guess not. So I thought going with the default setting of "yes, replies to my comment" would get me emails.


Yes clearly, O, the article and general usage is to present "tribal" as opposed to "rational". That turn is what I'm seeking to illuminate - that the common connotations of "tribal" as pejorative is a node in the matrix of "the cover story" as you put it. While we all kinda know the point generally being made by using "tribal" it has an effect of denigrating all aspects of actual tribal organization as irrational, as a cover as it were, for opposing the tribal's incompatibility with nation states.

This may be one of those points that makes sense only to the individual trying, but not succeeding particularly, to find a framework for expressing it. So please read this as a idea of speculative political philosophy.

BTW I'm not getting email alerts on comments here


I'm not sure what the relevance of the Boot article is. It makes it sound like O was saying how he grew up gave him an understanding of the facts of the mideast. The Goldberg article seems to indicate O's reference was to the shared experience of dangerousness that growing up black with single mom etc and living in the ME gives one rather than specifics of history.

Which is not to say O doesn't have peculiar blindspots on the ME or anything else, just as Bibi, and each of us does. Then again what I regard as Netanyahu's blindspots, he might easily see as features not bugs.

On the "tribal" point, O specifies the "tribal impulse" which I take to be something different than actual tribalism, which might be taken not to be an ideology as we now use the term. On its own terms, the tribal organization of societies has exhibited a range of hierarchy and equality both, perhaps comparable to the range of actual practices of post-Enlightenment societies.


I think sometime longago here I made some other comment similar to this: The history of the colonies/independent US can be read as partially, but significantly as a continuing war against tribalism - a tribalism that is not metamorphic but literal, as the literal and explicit structure of governance.

On “Neo-Imperialism and the 2016 Campaigns (Reply to Marchmaine)

Interesting article by J Goldberg @ The Atlantic covering similar ground. The conclusion:

Obama has come to a number of dovetailing conclusions about the world, and about America’s role in it. The first is that the Middle East is no longer terribly important to American interests. The second is that even if the Middle East were surpassingly important, there would still be little an American president could do to make it a better place. The third is that the innate American desire to fix the sorts of problems that manifest themselves most drastically in the Middle East inevitably leads to warfare, to the deaths of U.S. soldiers, and to the eventual hemorrhaging of U.S. credibility and power. The fourth is that the world cannot afford to see the diminishment of U.S. power. Just as the leaders of several American allies have found Obama’s leadership inadequate to the tasks before him, he himself has found world leadership wanting: global partners who often lack the vision and the will to spend political capital in pursuit of broad, progressive goals, and adversaries who are not, in his mind, as rational as he is. Obama believes that history has sides, and that America’s adversaries—and some of its putative allies—have situated themselves on the wrong one, a place where tribalism, fundamentalism, sectarianism, and militarism still flourish. What they don’t understand is that history is bending in his direction.

“The central argument is that by keeping America from immersing itself in the crises of the Middle East, the foreign-policy establishment believes that the president is precipitating our decline,” Ben Rhodes told me. “But the president himself takes the opposite view, which is that overextension in the Middle East will ultimately harm our economy, harm our ability to look for other opportunities and to deal with other challenges, and, most important, endanger the lives of American service members for reasons that are not in the direct American national-security interest.”

If you are a supporter of the president, his strategy makes eminent sense: Double down in those parts of the world where success is plausible, and limit America’s exposure to the rest. His critics believe, however, that problems like those presented by the Middle East don’t solve themselves—that, without American intervention, they metastasize.

At the moment, Syria, where history appears to be bending toward greater chaos, poses the most direct challenge to the president’s worldview.

George W. Bush was also a gambler, not a bluffer. He will be remembered harshly for the things he did in the Middle East. Barack Obama is gambling that he will be judged well for the things he didn’t do.

On “Open Thread

Ran across this - thought you'd be interested in the Walter Benjamin counterfactual. A post at the ever interesting geographical imaginations includes this

In The Manhattan Project, David Kishik dares to imagine a Walter Benjamin who did not commit suicide in 1940, but managed instead to escape the Nazis to begin a long, solitary life in New York. During his anonymous, posthumous existence, while he was haunting and haunted by his new city, Benjamin composed a sequel to his Arcades Project. Just as his incomplete masterpiece revolved around Paris, capital of the nineteenth century, this spectral text was dedicated to New York, capital of the twentieth. Kishik’s sui generis work of experimental scholarship or fictional philosophy is thus presented as a study of a manuscript that was never written.

On “In This Galaxy, Now

I think the point is worth making that SDI only ever had a "projected, imaginary" form. It's value was entirely as a combination of symbol and provocation. To the extent that it could have existed "by the end of the century", now 15 tears ago and still an impossibility as an impenetrable, undefeatable net, it would have been an invitation to an arms race that would have made MAD seem sane.

I don't mean to minimize symbol and provocation in the least, but simply to define our terms a bit more precisely.

The scale of unraveling causality in that moment of history takes my breath away.


Pretty on point article:

A poll conducted in 1986 found that about half of all respondents saw the Empire, abstractly, as an embodiment of 'evil', whereas 24 per cent saw it representing right-wing dictators and 12 per cent saw it representing Communism. The real life equivalents of the rebels, as identified by respondents, ranged from the heroes of the American revolution and leftist revolutionaries in contemporary central America to right-wing so-called `freedom fighters'. When asked whether `the movie is in favor of the conservative idea of "peace through military strength"', conservative respondents overwhelmingly said 'yes', whereas the majority of moderate and liberal respondents said 'no'. This poll suggests that Star Wars allowed everyone to extract from it precisely the political meaning they were most comfortable with.


While formally, SDI would have been a defensive system, the Ruskies perceived it as, in effect offensive, since it would have theoretically upset the MAD regimen. Assuming someone could get the thing to work, it could have enabled the US to make a first strike with some protection against retaliation.

It also seemed that part of Reagan's strategy was to intentionally intensify the arms race so as to cause the decrepit Soviet economy to collapse from the effort to keep up. So even if it didn't in fact work as a weapons system, it was an economic offensive weapon.

My impression is that this is more generally given more credit for contributing to the USSR's collapse than Reagan's Wall-side rhetoric.

AS I noted in passing in my last AG post, something like this has played out more recently with Bush's efforts to get ABMs in Poland, and erases to me, any distinction between offensive and defensive autonomous weapons.

But yeah, NR had the Star Trek thing, although I don't know the date - really could've been later than the 60's.


Good stuff.

A few years ago I ran across online the 60's National Review extravaganza on Star Trek. Last time I looked, NR had taken it down, but I wonder how that discussion, and this developing one compare.

On “Ordinary Times Is Currently A Left “Liberaltarian,” Mainly Cultural Site

For what it's worth, I can offer an ill informed perspective on some of this. Over the years, I've read OT only occasionally to understand better your posts here. So maybe a functionally random, and limited sample.

"Generally leftie" is my impression. But also, it has seemed to me that the posts themselves are, (frequently)(some of the time)(maybe unfairly characterized as) not much more than a kind of blurting out in egg head fashion "gay marriage!" or "whatever!" and letting the commenters comment, frequently, or at least enough of the time, with more insight than the actual post.

So closing the comments, based on my limited, somewhere between my self-selected and random sample kinda strange. Isn't the comments section kinda the point of the site?

The problem for me is that since you frequently take the long way 'round (usually to good effect, but still, the long way 'round), then decoding a mass of other long way 'rounders is just too much for my poor noggin.

On “Voegelin’s Gnosis, Part 3: Anismism

We certainly have covered a lot of ground in past discussions!

Good article. Altho Soraj Hongladarom performs a couple of sleights of hand in his Buddhism discussion that I take issue with, that are necessary to get to where he wants to go.

This is a hugely complex matter, but suffice to say that, according to the Mahayana, mind and matter could be regarded as belonging to the same category of being, which is not unlike Spinoza’s view regarding the relation between God and individual modes.

A lot hangs on the "could". The idea of a "category of being" already strays from what Buddha and his formemost commentator Nagarjuna are trying to get at.

As you write:

The point at which the insight or observation of or insistence upon an “anism” or anti-gnosis converts into just another gnosis would be the central problem of anismism, the problem of anismism to itself, already foretold in the paradox of its name and the temptation to start tacking additional “isms” onto it:

Nagarjuna makes a similar point regarding emptiness, in fact regarding everything he considers, from the self, causality, emptiness, Buddha and Buddha Nature.

I think the variety of modes of expression among and within different Buddhist strains make if particularly difficult to paint with broad strokes past basic stuff. Even there, basic vocabulary can have important differences of meanings.

The broad scope feeds the impulse to consider various "coulds" that have some justification in some expressions and none whatsoever in others. That's why I try to point out that my discussions of Buddhism are of the Gelugpa school of Tibetan Buddhism.


I enjoyed this one.

I have been immersed in a similar matrix of issues on the Tibetan Buddhist side now for almost 2 years. The controversy around "self emptiness" and "other emptiness" brought to their peak expressions by Tsong-kha-pa and Dolpopa respectively mirrors this discussion in many ways, and differs in many others.

The question appears here as - is mere negation of the self possible, or does it implicitly affirm, through the body of attributes of that negation, a greater, inherently existing self.

This formulation is undoubtedly clumsy and probably misleading in a lot of ways. But I report on this because the question, in this and a multitude of other expressions, seems to me to be reiterated in almost everything I think about to any significant degree.

Just a note continuing a previous discussion we've had, I think V mischaracterizes the Aquinas' MBoC. The appalling interpretation of the Church you refer to regarding the Nazi's is fully consistent with A. If you want to assert a duty for universalism for the Catholic Church, it's best to look elsewhere. A. clearly equates the Church with the MBoC.

I believe Pope Francis has affirmed the restrictive interpretation of the MBoC and looks to the tradition of his namesake to support a broadening of the Church's pastoral program.

On “Open Thread

It appears that humans need some kind of symbolic structure to contain our heuristic decision making process. Heidegger then perhaps saw this need, but more or less rejected this as a general observation and felt the need to identify a specific symbolic structure. Technology now presents the seeming possibility of decision making without the need for such a symbolic structure - of course seeming to be its own symstruc, but not to the machines for which we become de-intentioned into the standing reserve.


I read the Strauss quote, which along with whatever Strauss quotes Colin has provided in the past is the total of my reading of Strauss, as embodying the ironies and paradoxes of both Heidegger and liberal democracy, that is, defying reduction, a necessary but not sufficient condition of a great thinker.

As to my knowledge of Heidegger - it's only enough to be a danger to myself, so on the basis of my ignorance, my characterization of the Strauss quote could easily be wrong.

On “Patronize ‘Em: WordPress Draft Post Docket with Subscription and Donation Options

This seems kinda Borges-ian in concept, altho it may produce interesting results - at times directing you to write about things you've lost interest in, and either regained it at the prompting of readers, or perhaps looing even more interest.

On “Open Thread

New color changing frog recently found.

On “The things the body cries out for…

haven't watched this show, but thought of this post when I ran across this:

On “Roger’s Art

Speedy recovery to Roger!

I really liked the tree ornament and would like to see more of his middle/later work.

As you might recall, I discussed others' more penetrating discussion of the relationship of photography and current art here.  I'm guessing that Roger thinks not at all about how his work will photograph which by itself places him apart from the mainstream but certainly within the broad tradition of outsider art.



On “A week and a day after my father’s funeral…

Colin, I am sorry for your loss.  This post carries on the family tradition you describe for mourning quite well.

And a good tradition it is.

Indeed, the prayer you print is as perfect as a prayer could be.


On “Open Thread

ran across this, thought you would enjoy

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