Archives for category: Uncategorized

No man has a natural right to commit aggression on the equal rights of another; and this is all from which the laws ought to restrain him: every man is under the natural duty of contributing to the necessities of the society; and this is all the laws should enforce on him: and, no man having a natural right to be the judge between himself and another, it is his natural duty to submit to the umpirage of an impartial third. [W]hen the laws have declared and enforced all this, they have fulfilled their functions, and the idea is quite unfounded that on entering into society we give up any natural right.

Thomas Jefferson to Francis Gilmer (June 7, 1816)

IMG_2863

img_1569

During President Trump’s first speech before Congress, in which one could discern a ramping up to increase spending on the military, the new President prominently featured — called out in the modern, “story-time segment” that Obama had made de rigueur — the wife of the slain Navy SEAL who died in an incursion into Yemen. It was a moving moment, but no one that I follow mentioned that the United States has not declared war on Yemen.

Also not mentioned? The fact that the Pentagon cannot (or will not) provide an accounting of the money it spends. It seems to me that before we throw more billions at the secretive institution, we should have a thorough audit in hand.

Correction. I saw one discussion of all this . . . by Paul Jacob, today .

Now would be a good time to not only rethink Middle East policy, but to re-consider our expensive role as world policeman. . . . During the campaign, Trump was criticized for questioning our alliances and demanding more of our allies. But he was right. I hope he’ll get tough in prodding our allies to ultimately provide their own defense.

Even more basic? Demand an audit of the Pentagon before new funds are thrown into the five-sided money pit.

U.S. military spending can be summed up in one word: overkill. Mr. Jacob calls America’s longstanding foreign policy as the “overkill always” strategy, and explains it like this:

Two truths: national defense is a necessity for a republic; national defense is a racket.

The latter is the case because the former is the case. Big spenders rely on “better safe than sorry” to always push the envelope, over-investing rather than under-investing.

Jacob identifies this as a “trap,” betting that Donald Trump “knows this.”

Before Trump ran for office, he said that sequestration cuts to the Pentagon budget had not gone far enough. But when he threw his hat into the ring, he promised to “make our military so big, so powerful, so strong that nobody — absolutely nobody — is going to mess with us.”

President Trump now proposes over fifty billion dollars in new defense spending. More soldiers, more ships, more fighter jets.

Donald Trump’s excuse for this nonsense? Well, he has followed the neocon line, claiming, contrary to all evidence, that U.S.military spending was gutted under President Obama. Further, he seems to be leaning neocon by holding to the common charge of Republican politicians to the effect that Barack “Drone-killer” Obama has not done enough in the mid-East.

The truth? That conservatives cannot handle? That even a Democratic war-hating president (who nevertheless was a war president for every day of his two terms, a new record) can do too much.

Killing innocents along with alleged bad guys in other countries that we have not duly declared war upon is one sure way to stir up resentments in those countries. And breed international terrorism.

It does not look like President Trump will bring any clarity or rationality to military spending — or coherence to foreign policy.

But I have to ask: why would Trump, who was such a skeptic of American imperial management before the election prove such a chump for the military industrial complex Official Story now?

A number of theories could be advanced. Maybe he knows that, before being sworn in, he was just talking out of his rectal region. Now he has real responsibility, and, seeing that he knows nothing, he goes along with his neocon advisors.

Or maybe he has been threatened by said complex. The military industrial complex is the strongest sector of the Deep State. They are the real rulers, and have been for some time. Perhaps we could send Gandhi into the White House and he’d quickly be seen towing the line.

How would this work? On his first or second day in office, men in black walk into Gandhi’s office unannounced, and hands the Mahatma a folder. What is in the folder? If I knew I’d tell you. But it is damning.

The folder Trump (may have) received? It could have been damning of Trump himself — it could be that he’s being blackmailed. It could be damning of the U.S. Government (the war crimes and power structure are too terrible to speak aloud). Or it could be damning of humanity itself!

Maybe the Lizard People. . . .

Or it could be all very simple. Might not Trump be caving to the military-industrial complex simply to establish another base of support?

Trump, after all, is not an idiot. He knows he needs supporters. He probably had intended to unite the country after election, but the Democratic nutball response has been so loud and divisive, any tendency he had to move to the Center (which is where I think he’d prefer to be, as I’ve written about before) has been scuttled by a lack of reason to do so. The Left and Center-Left has all but declared war on him. He gets death threats. The major newspapers have columnists and reporters who have publicly discussed assassination — and get away with it! Major Democratic figures talk about impeachment, no matter how groundless. The desperation to the left of center is palpable, and that means that appeasing them will not be a good bet.

So Trump goes the other direction.

He plays up to his core constituency. And he reaches out to the Deep State.

That would be an unfortunate consequence of the whole “Not My President” movement. But a typical unintended consequence of tribalism and overkill. Par for the political course.

twv

img_1130

img_2352

There is a huge gap between “demonizing the media” and sanctifying it, idolizing it.

While Trump may be “demonizing” his targets in his hilarious recent confrontations, Kasparov is definitely giving our current major media outlets too much credit by having them stand for “the free press.”

Where does he go wrong? Where to start? Well, here: Kasparov’s statement that a free press “can never be the enemy of a free people” is absurd. Any person or any institution can turn to work against the public interest. We all know this.

Except, apparently, for partisans . . . when criticizing those they disagree with.

While I heartily agree that we, the American people, need a free press more than we need a childish autocrat, I wonder where Kasparov stands on Thomas Jefferson’s famous statement to the effect that “a government without newspapers” would be worse than “newspapers without government.” He said this while being no friend of the dominant press of his day.

Remember, Jefferson criticized “the media” of his time, and for good reason — the Federalist papers in 1800 even went so far as to declare him the Antichrist, as someone who would confiscate all Bibles. But that did not mean that he also attacked the free press . . . instead, he defended it, and not just now-and-then, but constitutionally.

And remember, Jefferson did squeak in to turn the tide against his predecessors’ policies. In this one way, 2016-2017 looks more than a little like 1800-1801.

Regardless, let us settle this definitively: why does criticizing the media not amount to opposing a free press?

Answer: Because criticizing “the media” is just short-hand for criticizing some media outlets — some journalists and their organizations. Perhaps what is usually meant is the dominant media. Usually what is under attack is just the partisan media — of the other party.

This is all so obvious that one wonders how Kasparov and the many people who repeat the same argumentative gambit can carry their heads with anything other than shame. Your guys are not the whole of the free press. To attack the one is not to attack the other.

What he has done is lump together disparate things, and then condemn his enemy for doing something that his enemy did not do. Trump did not say, nor have I ever heard him say (I am willing to accept any factual evidence to the contrary that you provide), anything against the institution of a free press. What he has argued against is the reportage, bias, and excessively partisan commentary of major media outlets*, CNN most especially.

And, having watched CNN recently, I think Trump has been entirely within the realm of propriety to attack this “Clinton News Network.” CNN’s coverage of politics is so prejudiced and partisan that not only has it supplied its side with debate questions in advance, it regularly prevaricates. The method it does so is as Clintonian as its loyalties.

If Kasparov thinks it “despotic” for a President to castigate and ignore a media outlet, what did he think of President Obama’s constant harping on Fox News, and the way he treated its correspondents in press conferences?

While folks like Trump who decry “the major media” or the “MSM” or just “the media” obviously intend to be engaging in synecdoche, and everyone with half a brain knows that this usage is innocent of logical fallacy, the anti-Trumpers who pretend that this be not synecdoche but, instead, a dangerous, broad-brush equation of part and whole prove themselves either base rhetoricians or witless buffoons in the game of debate.

Who makes up the Stupid Party now?

For the record, I do not know how dangerous Trump is. Right now, he seems more entertaining than any previous president, more active and efficient than recent ones, and more intent on following through on political promises than any politician I can remember.

This does not mean I agree with what he is doing. Far from it. I did not like even half his promises. I did not vote for Trump. I did not support him, except in one way: to note, over and over, how much worse Hillary Clinton was than he seemed. Hillary was the worst Secretary of State in recent memory, a warmonger and a center-left power-luster with a sense of entitlement at least as large as Trump’s own narcissistic ego. And, now that Hillary Clinton is out of the way, I am more than willing to oppose Trump, especially regarding his insane protectionism.

But I hope I can do so honestly.

Much of the hysterical opposition to Trump seems to focus on the man’s style. He seems to lie in new ways,  brushing off falsifications with greater ease than any past pol. He speaks in remarkably simple ways without reminding us of the Bushisms of the two previous Republican presidents. And he is surely the opposite of the abstruse and periphrastic John Kerry.

We do have something of a new creature on our hand — at least the latest hopeful monster in a strange course of evolution. And he is changing in front of our eyes, in part because of how the Left has opposed him, with all rhetorical guns a-blazing. He is a person moved mightily (perhaps most) by issues of loyalty and betrayal. So he is moving further away from his Democratic Party roots under the onslaught of current Democratic outrage.

And Kasparov has jumped in line with the outrage brigade. It is sad to see someone lose grip on the nature of noble rhetoric and argumentation.

When you stoop to using logical fallacies to make your point, you have lost.

At least, in the eyes of those of us sporting a more philosophical bent.

Hint: you cannot promote “accountability & the truth” while simultaneously slinging fallacy and engaging in base rhetoric.

And remember: the great and noble thing about a free press is not that it is “press” but that it is “free.” We here on our blogs and social media are part of the solution. We are the freer press.

But even that does not make us right. We must still mount attacks upon behavior and policies by recourse to facts and logic.

twv

N.B. I chose Kasparov’s tweet at random. There are many similar, almost identical tweets, memes, what-have-you. It is almost as if a memo went out, saying: HERE IS WHAT TO SAY. (Perhaps I need to read those Move-On emails I get every day.) So, Kasparov serves as a symbol. He stands in for many another egregious anti-Trump paranoiac. It is too rare to see honest criticism — which I would (and do) welcome. Kasparov’s tweets neatly serve to represent all the similar nonsense one hears on the talking head “newscasts,” on the comedy put-down shows, on social media, and out of the mouths of protestors who know only a lockstep uniform ideological response. In all other matters, Peace be unto him.

* Actually, Donald Trump has complained that the press has been “unfair.” That is an inelegant and whiny way to complain about the lying press, the fake media. But I never said that Trump was an elegant or philosophically astute man of letters. Far from it.

Bill Maher’s interview, tonight, with Milo Yiannopoulis was droll. Milo handled himself ably.

In his own way — and perhaps with more canny expertise — Milo (the late @nero) — is doing what Trump is also doing to the regnant ideological noösphere: breaking up the stranglehold that the Left/Center-Right duopoly has had on American (and even world) minds since World War II. As in every other interview I have seen with him in the past few months, he demurs from being identified as a conservative. He identifies as more a “libertarian.” He almost never mentions “conservative” without also mentioning “libertarian,” and he has probably done more to break our dubious culture out of the left-right rut than 40 years of Libertarian Party politicking.

My libertarian friends will probably shudder. “He is not much of a libertarian.” Yeah, sure. He knows nothing of economics. He is a radical only about free speech. He loves “Daddy” … I mean, President Trump.

But he is doing what I had hoped Gary Johnson would do, but failed: show all of America that the Left/Right divide does not exhaust the political options, and that liberty is not merely as American as Jefferson’s Declaration, but that it is a live option, and a way out of a civilizational impasse.

He is a voice, crying in the wilderness. The real leaders have yet to come. His support for Trump is no doubt over-played, for Trump is too much at odds with individualism and the old liberal tradition to do much good, and Trump has the potential to do much harm. Indeed, as I suggest above, Trump is more a fellow prophet than messiah. He is the golden apple thrown into Olympus. Chaos comes next.

Whether a more individualist order will follow is anybody’s guess. But it will never emerge until the ideologues of the duopoly are dethroned. And Milo, perhaps along with Trump, may very well contribute mightily to that cause.

Meanwhile, Bill Maher remains an ass. I had to stop watching soon after the panel started yammering. Lots of accusations about the Flynn Scandal, no evidence seemed likely to emerge. Fake news.

Very fake news.


N. B. As the title indicates, I did not watch the later panel play with Milo. From what I saw later, it did not look so good for the “dangerous faggot.” But I have only seen moments and read progressive reactions. One question: does the first person in an argument to say “fuck you” or “go fuck yourself” win or lose? (twv 2/19/2017)

The Truth About Donald Trump’s Lies” (Jamelle Bouie, Slate) is one of the few articles on the President-elect’s relationship with truthfulness that breaks out of the humdrum, placing its author outside the corps of earnest scolds.

img_1569The Slate author, Jamelle Bouie, begins by explaining the use of prevarication by fascists, as explained by Hannah Arendt. Then he expands on Arendt’s analysis:

Put in plain language, fascists didn’t lie to obscure the truth; they lied to signal what would eventually become truth. Or to use Arendt’s analogy, “It is as though one were to debate with a potential murderer as to whether his future victim were dead or alive, completely forgetting that man can kill and that the murderer, by killing the person in question, could promptly provide proof of the correctness of this statement.”

Americans aren’t living under a fascist government, but they have elected a president with an unusual relationship to the truth. Even when they lie, most politicians care about the truth. It’s why they lie, why they try not to get caught. But Donald Trump doesn’t appear to see a difference between truth and lies. He lies as a matter of habit about matters large and small. His lies are often obvious: easily disproved by available information. For a strong example, look to Twitter. “In addition to winning the Electoral College in a landslide, I won the popular vote if you deduct the millions of people who voted illegally,” tweeted the president-elect on Monday. This charge is groundless. False. Frankfurtian bullshit. There is no evidence of “illegal voting,” no evidence of the mass fraud necessary to give Hillary Clinton a significant lead in the national popular vote.

But, following Arendt, debunking Trump’s lie as a lie misses the point of his lying. Since 2013, when the Supreme Court struck key provisions from the Voting Rights Act, GOP lawmakers in states across the country have pushed and pursued strict laws for voter identification and voter suppression. Republicans in Kansas, North Carolina, Ohio, Texas, and Wisconsin (among others) have tried to burden voters with cumbersome requirements, convoluted procedures, closed precincts, and reduced time for voting. In each case, Republicans began their push with broad accusations of voter fraud influenced by figures like conservative activist Hans von Spakovsky, a key architect of ID laws and other methods of voter suppression. “We call this restoring confidence in government,” said Thom Tillis, then-speaker of the North Carolina House of Representatives, in support of a strict voter ID law. “There is some evidence of voter fraud, but that’s not the primary reason or doing this. There are a lot of people who are just concerned with the potential risk of fraud.”

The author, of course, doesn’t take kindly to the idea of tightening up voting requirements. And here we get to the problem with his take on Trump. After an initial foray into the interesting, he reverts to the usual partisan knee-jerkery.

He calls the Democratic Party’s approach to voting rights “broad and inclusive.” Yikes. This is part of the modern Uplift approach to democracy, the trivial “rock the vote” nonsense, wherein we encourage everyone, including those who know next to nothing about politics (much less history, economics, sociology, war, taxation, etc.) to vote, which seems hardly prudent.

Making it “easier” to vote just increases the number of marginal, uninformed or uninspired voters. Precisely the kind that can be moved by unreflective, uncomplicated political pitches.

The Democratic Party, in pushing for this kind of voting, suggests, to me, that it relies upon uninformed and easily-manipulated voters.

But of course the elites defend it in “racial” terms. Which is a fine example of the party’s over-reliance upon identity politics to solidify subsidy-based allegiance.

The Slate author thus derails his essay by turning it into yet another case of special pleading, preaching to the Choir Ideological.

Apparently, Democrats just cannot help themselves.

The essay’s title focus, however, retains interest, no matter how botched. Certainly it is the case that no matter how one feels about voting rights, the President-elect has never been known as a stalwart for the truth. Mr. Bouie gives us at least some small purchase on Trump’s modus operandi. Though it run off the rails by not looking into the basic notion — and questioning whether Hillary Clinton’s long string of whoppers might not also fall into the same not-quite-familiar fascist mode — in greater depth.

That’s up to the reader, I guess.

Just not the marginal voter . . . from whom nothing insightful about politics should be expected.

twv

 

img_1363

Matthew Blanchfield, the CEO who refuses to do business with Trump supporters, was interviewed by Tucker Carlson on tonight’s new Fox news opinion show, Tucker Carlson Tonight. Not the best interview ever; not the worst. Least favorite Tucker moment: when he suggested the man couldn’t even define the term “fascism.” Tucker should have innocently asked the man what he meant by the word.

Worst moment for Blanchfield is a little harder to identify. It seems weird to me that his shareholders would approve of cutting off a whole bunch of clients, thereby losing potential profits. Why no questions about how the owners of the company reacted to the CEO’s stand, Tucker?

img_1366

Blanchfield’s best moment was an aside: his thinking that Trump might take office despite losing the popular vote “quite ironic,” considering the charges of a “rigged system” that Trump made so much of in the election. There is irony here, though I’m not sure Blanchfield and I would agree on its precise nature.

One possible worst moment — Blanchfield messed up his challenge to Tucker, re: doing business with Nazis. I can see why Tucker might’ve been nonplused, since the exact manner in the formulation of the question was witless and confusing. (“If you were a member of the Nazi Party in the Forties, in Hitler’s day, would you have done business with Nazi Party members?” Yikes, that goes off track, eh?) The man seems to think that fascism is the same as a dictatorship under an authoritarian.

Terrible definition of fascism. I mean, come on: I recently read the Gentile and Rocco and Mussolini treatises, and there is more to it than just a grab-bag epithet for tyrants one does not approve of.

Tucker was probably right to not extend the pissing match over definitions very far. But I think it is incumbent upon him to explore the concept in future shows.

A teachable moment, I’d say.

Blanchfield, whose moral courage I kind of admire, had some problems with definitions far beyond the one word. Indeed, not long after he claimed to be aware “what all these definitions are,” he then proceeded to misuse the word “turpitude.” (Another possible worst moment.) He praised “having the moral turpitude to stand up against the masses” as very American, as “what a citizen and a patriot actually does.” What? I know, I know: he meant “moral courage” — or maybe he was thinking of “temerity.” But that’s a word demoting excess, inherently a pejorative.

“Audacity” would do better, maybe? The audacity of . . . ?

It was a bizarre interview, to say the least.

twv

img_1023

President-Elect Donald Trump does not speak in a normal way. Everybody noticed that, supporter and enemy alike. But I think that most people misinterpreted his modus operandi. They assumed his “plain spoken” outbursts were evidence of an earnest person merely speaking his mind, from the normal, common sense, everyday standpoint.

That could hardly be further from the truth.

img_0721Indeed, it is his relationship with the truth that interests me most. I do not think — perhaps have never thought — that the things he has said were, are, or will be attempts at the truth.

Instead, anything he says must be interpreted as a gambit in some sort of negotiation. He is a negotiator, he says — yes. And that means he is not truthful but manipulative, speaking to change others’ behavior.

Normal people tend to look at speech as primarily a series of truth-statements or lie-statements. Trump, on the other hand, does not. He speaks to get effects, and always has done so. He uses the appearance of truth the better to set up others to do what he wants.

This is why he is proceeding to turn back on many of his promises, already. Before being sworn in.

They were never promises. They never had truth-value. They were manipulative efforts. I’d say they were lies — and technically, they were and are — but when a person does not care about the truth, then the word “lie” barely applies. I am not even sure he knows what the truth is. Truth is surely not an idealized concept for him. He sees utterances as having utility, but truth-value — which is, if not another thing altogether, is another thing in part — well, no.

Trump is more a bullshitter. A fantasist, or fabulist. He is a salesman who buys his own pitch, and must, since it all comes down to selling himself. And he is and always has been more fictional than real. He is a personal contstruct resting on carefully manipulated social constructs. He is a sociopath who “displays” as a common sense “get ’r done” kind of guy. That is, he is . . . a base rhetorician.

I repeat: I believe nearly everybody, for and against, has been fooled by the man — because they have judged his statements in something like the normal framework of speech. But his speech must be seen primarily as “speech acts.” This is a man deeply orthogonal to the normal standpoint. And we must judge him, now, primarily by whether we like what he manages to accomplish, not by such apparently crude standards as truthfulness . . . or any other virtue, for that matter. Except prudence. The standard is what he accomplishes. Not what he said he was going to do, not what his followers wanted him to do, not what his opponents wanted him to do. His efforts must be judged by their actual intentions.

Which is hard to do, since we cannot rely upon his own report of his intentions. So, as we judge his acts, we must, as best we can, speculate on his real motivation.

This is what American politics has come to.

twv

img_0050Partisans are those who, before an election, threaten to leave the country if their candidate loses; and, after the election, resist acknowledging the reasons to leave if their candidate wins.

twv

img_0340

Former Massachusetts Governor William Weld was a controversial pick for Gary Johnson’s Libertarian running mate. One of the weirder ways in which he has infected the Libertarian campaign this year has been his pro-Hillary Clinton apologetics. And this is not insignificant. Consider today’s story. He has admitted the obvious — that without spots on the national presidential debate stage, the chances of profitably affecting the outcome of the election has crashed to near zero — but has gone further, given up before Election Day. Which is not really part of the contract he tacitly made with Libertarians.

So, call him a turncoat. That is OK. It is the truth.

Besides, as indicated above, his close personal relationship with center-left neocon Hillary Clinton was always odd at best. If a Libertarian candidate cannot attack a thorough statist like Clinton, what good is he?

The Johnson-Weld duo started out the election campaign soft on Hillary. A few weeks ago Weld came lashing out at Trump, without mentioning Hillary’s name, implying endorsement. Today, Gary Johnson stated that a Hillary presidency would almost certainly wind up in impeachment. Weld broke with his running mate and defended her without reservation.

“It’s about time somebody did.”

Well, Clinton Machine opponent Judge Andrew Napolitano already had, on Fox Business’s Kennedy. Comey’s incoherence is almost certainly a weird, too-late CYA move. But, as Napolitano ably argued, it is very bad practice.

Weld could simply have referred to Napolitano and then gone on to criticize Clinton policy. But he did not.

Is he looking for some minor post in the Clinton Administration? Drug Czar?

Or is this his integrity, no matter how misplaced?

He is on the wrong side of history, here. Mrs. Clinton will go down in the annals of the fight against tyranny as one of the most corrupt individuals ever to seek the American presidency. Certainly, if she wins, she will be the worst to achieve it.

Weld is blinded by his own lapses into statism. Well, his own statist commitments. He has always been a libertarian-leaning centrist, which is to say quite at home in the halls of modern statecraft. Not a good libertarian indicator.

For the first time, I feel sorry for Gary Johnson. I bet he is regretting his choice, now. But he would not really be able to admit it.

And so the Clinton Machine lumbers on, defended by a motley crew of power-lusting pols and wannabes.

Ah, these benighted states! Your decline just gets more interesting as the days wear on.

twv

img_0851

I wonder how many of the automatic, clichéd challenges and quips that are made to solidify the cause of feminism fall apart upon inspection. Consider this interchange between Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and a journalistic inquisitor:

MODERATOR 1: Okay. Which designers do you prefer?

SECRETARY CLINTON: What designers of clothes?

MODERATOR 1: Yes.

SECRETARY CLINTON: Would you ever ask a man that question? [Laughter, applause]

MODERATOR 1: Probably not. Probably not. [Applause]*

Now that everyone has had his or her de rigueur anti-sexist moment, and we can collectively shiver with that all-too-familiar frisson of self-righteousness as we think less of the shamed moderator, consider the context ignored above: men are constrained by fashion to wear one kind of garment in high society, a suit — which is upped to tuxedo level only on very rare occasions — the differences among which are minuscule compared to women’s formal wear, to which “fashion” insists on a vast variety, and continued annual, even seasonal, novelty.
Read the rest of this entry »