Wednesday, October 25, 2017


Image by the Blockhead Film Festival at the Art Institutes International Minnesota, a worthy thing that seems to have died, sadly, around October 2014.

Hi readers!

According to the Rectification avatar, Dr. Johnson in his bag wig, "No man but a blockhead ever wrote, except for money."

The donation box newly installed in the upper right over the search box does not mean that we have abandoned our precious blockhead status, but only that I've had to buy a new computer, as the old one was getting really balky and slow, with a row of sticky keys from t to o and all kinds of applications that couldn't be updated because the system software was so old, and I'd really appreciate some assistance paying for the thing, if, and only if, you can truly spare it.

We'll return shortly to our irregularly scheduled programming. I'll leave this pinned for a few days. Thanks!!!

Saturday, October 21, 2017

Coup who?

Giraffe, Air Mountain, Niger via African Rock Art.

Masha Gessen's New Yorker article noting the resemblances between General John Kelly's speech style and the language of the military coup:
Before walking off the stage, Kelly told Americans who haven’t served in the military that he pities them. “We don’t look down upon those of you who haven’t served,” he said. “In fact, in a way we are a little bit sorry because you’ll have never have experienced the wonderful joy you get in your heart when you do the kinds of things our servicemen and women do—not for any other reason than that they love this country.”
You know who in particular that applies to, right? The guy with the heel spurs, from which he may still suffer, judging from the style in which he exercises, riding his little golf cart from fairway to hole to fairway, getting on foot only those 36 times to make his brief gestures with the clubs and then climbing back in. I'll never forget that golf cart ride he took in Taormina last spring while the rest of the G-7 leaders were walking uphill 700 yards to the town piazza (The Hill notes that he did join them on the way back down).

Why would General Kelly be publicly humiliating the president that way?

What was the point of that pantomime of limiting questions to reporters from "Gold Star families" or their friends—

Friday, October 20, 2017

Nobody Expects the Spanish Disquisition

Chiron giving young Achilles his lyre lesson. Roman fresco from Herculaneum, 1st c. C.E., in the National Archaeological Museum of Naples, via Wikimedia Commons.

David Brooks ("The Essential John McCain") would like us to believe he is on intimate terms with a book by the Spanish philosopher Javier Gomá Lanzón, La Ejemplaridad Pública, 2009, of which no English translation has yet been published, and Gomá's thoughts on the topic of paideia, the ancient Athenian idea of education for citizenship:

Topics in Post-Revolutionary Socialism

Wood engraving byVladimir Favorsky, via polis.

Shorter Monsignor Ross Douthat, Apostolic Nuncio to 42nd Street, "What's the Matter With Republicans?", October 18 2015:
When Thomas Frank's What's the Matter With Kansas came out in 2004 with the thesis that working class voters in places like Kansas voting Republican were voting, insanely, against their own economic interests, it was wrong, because Republican presidential administration did all kinds of great things for those people, like Reagan didn't get rid of Social Security and Medicare, and everybody could get a subprime adjustable-rate mortgage, and then in the Bush first term there was Medicare Part D and No Child Left Behind. And everybody would get a tax cut! Not just the millionaires.
And yet now everything that Frank said that was false then is true! Thanks, Trump!
It wasn't false, was it? The "middle class tax cuts" were pathetic, the easy credit for creating an "ownership society" went sour, Part D had a doughnut hole, and children were getting left behind all over the place. These things were clearly designed to benefit not consumers but rent seekers with an interest in the industries involved, from drug companies to educational publishers, and in the case of the banking deregulation, that even went bad for the bankers. And compassionate conservative George W. Bush still wanted to privatize Social Security.

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Transhumans and Cishumans

Image via

It's transhuman activist David F. Brooks with a new opus in his beloved there-are-two-kinds-of-people genre, "Upswingers and Downswingers", which looks on its face as if it might be drawing its inspiration from boxing, or maybe wife-swapping—Upswingers are couples who like to swap with couples of higher social status, while Downswingers descend to their inferiors, and in politics it's sort of similar:

Both right and left are dividing into upswinger and downswinger camps. Among Republicans the upswingers embrace capitalist dynamism, global engagement and the open movement of people and ideas. The downswingers embrace ethnic and national cohesion and closed borders.
On the left it’s between those who believe the only realistic path is to reform existing structures and those who think they are so broken we need to start over.
But no, it turns out that it's based on a kind of typo inside Brooks's memory, projected onto the science fiction writer and futurology professor born as F.M. Esfandiary (1930-2000), and his 1973 Up-Wingers: A Futurist Manifesto, which

Monday, October 16, 2017

For the record: We have always been at war with D'Souza

Just sayin. Who knows if he does it on purpose? Via KnightErrant at Kos.

That's not correct; it was in 1914 that he was thrown out of the Partito Socialista Italiano, of which he was at 31 one of Italy's most prominent members, after starting a newspaper, Il Popolo d'Italia, supporting Italian participation on the Allied side in the Great War, which the party regarded (with some justice) as a disgusting and immoral imperialist-capitalist adventure on both poxed sides, and called for strict neutrality. That was in November, and by December he was denouncing "orthodox" socialism and its focus on class struggle and egalitarianism in favor of a patriotism of language and culture and race:

For the Record: White House Follies of Early October

Trumpy saw an economist on TV!

Sunday, October 15, 2017

President Trump is Not Authorized to Speak for the Trump Administration, Part 418

Via TPM, following up on this morning's post, h/t Jordan:
Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and United Nations ambassador Nikki Haley on Sunday insisted that the United States will remain in the Iran nuclear deal.
President Donald Trump on Friday said he would likely pull the U.S. out of the deal unless Congress and the other nations in the seven-country accord made a handful of adjustments he demanded.
“Let’s see if we cannot address the flaws in the agreement by staying within the agreement, working with the other signatories, working with our European friends and allies within the agreement,” Tillerson said on CNN’s “State of the Union”....
“Before the Senate not long ago, your counterpart at the Pentagon, Secretary Mattis, was asked if he thought staying in the agreement was in the best interests of the United States,” Jake Tapper said, referring to Secretary of Defense James Mattis. “It sounds like you agree with that as well.”
“I do agree with that,” Tillerson said. “And I think the President does as well.”
On the same day on which President Trump has skipped the deadline, as he announced Friday he would, for sending the congressionally mandated letter to Congress certifying that Iran is in compliance with the JCPA and that the agreement is in the national security interests of the United States, on the grounds, we're told, that he does not think it is in the national security interests of the United States, not at all.

But then as usual, how would Trump even find out what he thinks? It's not like Fox News covers that in any depth.


Interior of the Armenian Apostolic Cathedral of the Holy Savior (completed 1664) in Isfahan, Islamic Republic of Iran, via Wikipedia
Shorter Bret Stephens, "Donald Trump Takes a Hostage", October 14 2017:
Some people think Trump should have certified that Iran is in compliance with the JCPOA simply because Iran is in compliance with the JCPOA. What kind of dubious argument is that, for heaven's sake?
When the Republican legislators stuck that provision in the Iran Nuclear Agreement Review Act (INARA) of 2015 requiring the president to certify every three months that the Iranian government was in compliance with the agreement, they meant it for the specific purpose of torturing President Hillary Clinton, presumably; every 90 days she'd have to come out and say the Iranians hadn't started building a bomb yet and the whole Republican noise machine would come out to gin up a scandal about Iranian cheating, including your figures of respect like, ah, Mr. Bret Stephens, who was working the beat for his WSJ readers in July 2016, with the most elegant and arcane information sources, and Marc Thiessen picking it up for the American Enterprise Institute for those of us who don't go behind WSJ's paywall:

Friday, October 13, 2017

David Brooks used to build things? Who knew?

Via Health-Politics.

We Used to Build Things

, laments David F. Brooks. Things like the University of Pennsylvania, the Philadelphia Fire Department, The Pennsylvania Gazette, The American Philosophical Society, and the Pennsylvania Hospital, in Franklin's day, and the Boy Scouts and the settlement house movement in the Progressive Era. Why, even the government used to build things! Brooks doesn't mention Franklin's US Postal Service, but he does list the Forest Service (where even people who didn't go to Yale could distinguish themselves, he marvels: "The 10,000 men who were rounded up to fight the fire were led by a small group of young foresters, many of them from the Yale School of Forestry, which graduated its first class in 1904. One of the foresters, though decidedly no Yalie, was Ed Pulaski"), the Federal Reserve, the Food and Drug Adminstration, and the compulsory schooling movement, and then

In the 1930s, the alphabet soup of New Deal agencies were created. The late 1940s saw the creation of the big multinational institutions: the U.N., NATO, the World Bank, the I.M.F., the beginnings of the European market.

The Fart of the Deal

It's so hard to imagine what Trump believes he's doing, but it looks as if he may, personally, be enjoying the brainfart idea of a "deal" where he would show those stupid Republican Senators how a real businessman president gets shit done, just as he did in the immigration case in his Chinese dinner with Schumer and Pelosi on September 13, although it currently seems he didn't, because "The White House" didn't ("The White House" is now informing us that its "principles" rule out the concessions Trump made to the Democrats and require various new anti-immigrant brutalities that Democrats can't accept, another instance where we see Trump doesn't have authority to speak for the White House and thus no effective power to make a deal in the first place).

In the same way, it's not clear what "The White House" intends with yesterday's moves on health care provision, or whether it has any singular view of what it's doing. Unlike in national security and foreign policy issues, there aren't any generals in charge, and HHS doesn't even have a secretary at the moment, Tom Price having taken a very expensive charter flight clear out of office.