Butthurt Baby in Chief

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Well, the first two weeks of Trump’s presidency bore no real surprises: the Butthurt Baby in Chief acted exactly the way you would expect a narcissistic psychopath with a fascist agenda to behave. Quite aside from the lack of organization, the total inability to grasp what governance is or ought to look like, executive orders pouring out like water from the fountains of the Nile, including the objectively illegal ban on Muslims entering the country (except, coincidentally, from those countries where Trump has business interests); indeed, there has not been a single terrorist attack committed by a refugee from any of the banned countries within the US since at least 1980. (One writer has suggested this ban is a “headfake” to test the loyalty of various departments, and the limits of what the courts will permit Trump to get away with.) We also have his infantile need to bring a cheer-leading squad along when he gives a press conference or a speech. He has declared the New York Times to be “fake news” for their failure to be his obedient and unquestioning mouthpieces, and has essentially put the Breitbart propaganda outlet in charge of the National Security Council, while removing persons with actual experience in and with intelligence. I mean that last in all the less flattering ways you can construe it. With regard to the non-voter fraud lie that Trump revels in spewing, the fact that such fraud is essentially non-existent is a matter of no concern for Trump: he doesn’t need facts, because the slack-jawed who swallow whatever lie that is spoon-fed to them by the paid professional liars at Fox “News” agree with Trump, so that makes it all true. This is so mind-numbingly childish that is seems to give it more credit than it merits to point out that it exemplifies the fallacy of the argumentum ad populum. And don’t even get me started on the Twitter storms …butthurt-baby

What kind of a “man” does this? (And yes, I use the term “man” guardedly, because I take the word to mean something more than merely an adult featherless biped with a penis.) Well, I’ve already said a fair amount about how and why Donald Trump is a fascist. I’ve made it clear that I do not use the term casually, or as a throw-away fallacy. But what about the other terms I’ve been using? I’ve characterized Trump as a narcissist for a while now, and have recently shifted from describing him as a sociopath to a psychopath. What sort of legitimacy can I give those terms, especially since I’m not really qualified to make such a diagnosis with any expertise? Continue reading

Reason as Revolutionary

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So now this appears to be happening: several users out in the Twitter-verse apparently are crowing about the repeal of Obamacare while defiantly bragging about keeping their insurance through the ACA. Again, to all appearances, these people are real. Meanwhile, racist Trump designee for Attorney General, Jeff Sessions, questions whether women and LGBTQ people face any serious discrimination in the world. Examples could readily be multiplied. This is because fascism is a movement that does not center on any sort of intellectual framework, while its appeal is to persons of an authoritarian mindset that rigidly compartmentalizes concepts and experiences so that genuine intelligence can never get a foothold on the person’s thinking. Under such circumstances, exercising reason – genuine reason – becomes itself a revolutionary act.revolution

But beyond that quip, what more can be said about the matter? Isn’t that a bit like dismissing Trump’s followers as being stupid? Even if this was true, would it really be an effective approach to dealing with the current consolidation of power by the fascists? In response, I would encourage people to read the above linked posts on the authoritarian mindset, but I’ll have a few more words to say about the nature of genuine intelligence below the fold. But mostly I want to think about the revolutionary aspects of reason around the topics of memory, logic, and leadership. Continue reading

The “Savage” Mind

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The phrase that opens this post is one that has been around for some time. Claude Levi-Strauss used it as the title to what has since become his most famous, and possibly most important, book. Even in 1962, when the book came out, one could use such a phrase without irony and be accepted as a scholar. These days, the imputation of a “savage mentality” is likely to be met with considerable resistance, and general antipathy (at least from those with a more liberal political orientation.) “Savage” is a pejorative term, and its application (especially in matters of thought and mentality) was almost always applied to aboriginal peoples whom colonial invaders (almost always of European descent) wished to demean, degrade, and – rather savagely – exploit. Such attitudes have been quite rightfully (even righteously, in the non-pejorative sense of that word) denounced for many decades now.trump-rally-nazi-salute

Nevertheless, I submit that there really is such a thing as a savage mind, where such a mentality is understood as an antithesis to that of a civilized mind. It is an example of the genetic fallacy to reject the term because it has been seriously abused in the past. This is not a comparison between persons in pre-scientific, non-technological, &/or aboriginal societies and our own, “gloriously” developed Western cultures. Rather, I submit that the distinguishing characteristic of savagery is its rejection of community in various forms and to varying degrees. Continue reading

If You Didn’t Read It, Don’t Quote It

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I mentioned in a previous blog post how commonplace it was for people to misquote Emerson’s quip about “foolish consistency.” I got to thinking about that, as well as other (and more gross) forms of “lying by editing” – the cut-and-paste method of taking words out of context and making it appear that the person is saying the opposite of what they actually said. Right-wing ideologues with their authoritarian mind-set are especially prominent these days at such thinly disguised efforts at bald-faced lying, in no small part because their base, having abandoned any pretense at rational thought or even basic decency, will swallow any lie that is spoon fed to them, on no other account than that the spoon comes from the sources they’ve decided to believe without question, upon which they will swallow those lies without even a first, much less a second thought.pants-on-fire

Thus, the professional liar James O’Keefe fabricated a story that destroyed the organization ACORN with a highly edited tape that grossly misrepresented an interview with one of the group’s employees. But once the tape was made public, the facts no longer mattered: a lie will go halfway around the world before the truth can even get its boots on. The same vicious stunt was attempted against Planned Parenthood, but the hoax was uncovered with greater speed (spurred, perhaps, by the fraudulent accusations against ACORN). But there are lesser lies floating around out there which, while never as “compelling” as a video – people are more likely to react emotionally to videos, whereas reading activates more cognitive processes – they are nevertheless worth addressing. The habit (and it IS a habit) of dealing skeptically and intelligently with little lies, translates into something of a prophylactic against the really big lies. So let us look at a few of the lesser canards that are floating around in the great “out there.” Continue reading

Foolish Consistency

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It is certainly disturbing to see how many people prefer a convenient lie over a disquieting truth. But more importantly, we should make note of how many people will flee in abject terror to the warm, terroristic embrace of a convenient lie when confronted with an indisputable uncertainty, the unavoidable knowing that you do not know. I should get that tattooed somewhere … somewhere where no one will ever see it …dunce-cap

There is a formal structure to at least some kinds of disruptive uncertainty, and that structure is not all that hard to understand. I’ll mostly be discussing that logical structure, which often requires a kind of patience with inconsistency. But I will turn to the psychological issues of those who embrace inconsistency without thought at the end. What I wish to address here are kinds of inconsistency, most importantly noting that there are genuinely and importantly different kinds. I’ll mainly draw on investigations by Nicholas Rescher and Robert Brandom, coupled with developments by Jon Barwise and John Perry. Continue reading

Turn The Page

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If you were living in a dark age, would you know it? If you were a cavalryman under the command of the ancestral Artorius Castus (disputedly the bloodline of the historical “King Arthur”, assuming such a person ever even existed) would you have known that yours was a dark age? Echoing Patrick Stewart’s line from the Star Trek: The Next Generation episode, “The Best of Both Worlds, part 1” (S3.e26):

I wonder if the Emperor Honorius, watching the Visigoths coming over the seventh hill truly realized that the Roman empire was about to fall? This is … just another page in history, isn’t it? Will this be the end of our civilization? Turn the page.

(H/t to Jane Schneider over at “The Zoo” for reminding me of this scene.)

With each and every twitter storm from the Butthurt-Baby Elect, our fearless leader demonstrates that he possesses neither the intelligence nor the emotional stability to manage a $10.00 stamp collection, much less that one nation with the largest economy, and largest military, in the world. But it is not just that our economy and military is “bigger” than “anyone else’s” in the world – gawd, what comes next? Shall we unzip our trousers and start comparing genital sizes? (Or hand sizes … ? I might not be Michael Jordan, but this last one is generally not a competition you want to get into with me.) Rather, they are big in a way that “big” has never been seen before. Continue reading

Stinkin’ “Facts”

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So, this just happened. The self-promoting and galactically stupid Scottie Nell Hughes, neo-fascist Trump-booster extraordinaire, sincerely declared that “There are no such things as facts.” Looking at the full discussion – in addition to Hughes well-demonstrated inability to engage in any activity which might be mistaken for showing minimal signs of intelligence – it is clear that Hughes was genuinely characterizing her own viewpoint. How absolutely precious.

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It is ironic – given how new-wave fascists lack the miniscule intelligence needed to appreciate irony – that they have for so many years decried liberals for their supposed “relativism.” It is clear enough, once you think about it, that these sorts of extremists have no clue what the word “relativism” might mean. But one way to break down the differences between conservative and liberal approaches to the world might be this: the conservative believes that there are fixed rules that one simply obeys, while the liberal believes that the world is a dynamic process which must be inquired into. Because liberals do not believe in such fixed rules, conservatives accuse them of believing in relativism. However, because conservatives do not believe in inquiry, they are the ones who actually practice relativism. Continue reading

Red Flags and Dog Whistles

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Let us not cower from confrontation: The flag is a rag.

Notice that I say “confrontation,” rather than “controversy.” There is no real controversy in my phrase above. The flag as an object (obviously by “THE” flag, I mean the American flag) is nothing but a wad of cloth; it is simply a rag. Granted it is a very colorful rag – all those primary reds, whites, and blues – but a rag none the less. Notice how people will denounce the above phrase – to say nothing of the burning of such a rag – yet be happy enough to wear the flag as a t-shirt, or print it on napkins to wipe their mouths with it, calling themselves “patriots” for doing so.constitution-of-united-states

The Butthurt-baby Electi has recently declared that he would deny citizenship, and/or impose jail time, for anyone who burned the rag (presumably in an inappropriate manner, since proper flag protocol demands that an old and worn flag actually be burned.) This, of course, is the method of fascists – to abandon legal, logical, &/or principled constraints, in favor of mythological and emotional symbols, waved about enthusiastically as justification for the hysteria of the mob. In this context, I invite you to reflect on the leading picture of this post as we move forward. That picture is of my personal copy of the Constitution of the United States, which I keep with me, pretty much at all times. Continue reading

Dis

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And my dark conductor broke
Silence at my side and spoke,
Saying, “You conjecture well:
Yonder is the gate of hell.”
– A.E. Housman, “Hellgate”

white_house_dcIt is discouraging, but unsurprising, to read how many people are telling us that, while the ascendancy of the narcissistic sociopath Donald Trump to the White House is a disappointment, we shouldn’t overstate how bad things will get. This is, of course, simply another demonstration of Herstein’s First Law, “never underestimate human capacity for denial.” Trump’s overt fascism is transparent, as is his racism, bigotry, greed, criminality, not to mention the emotional stability a spoiled three year old. But we won’t speak of such things, because we are too busy with the process of “normalizingthe inexcusable, and pretending that unsupported allegations, innuendos, and wild-eyed conspiracy theories against Clinton count more than the irrefutable facts that absolutely damn Trump. It is just another election, a bit disappointing for those of us who are not White Supremacists, neo-Nazis, or otherwise completely devoid of the possibilities of either intelligence or decency, but nothing to really worry about … Continue reading

A Few Resources

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I am, with certain notable constraints, a book collector. Those constraints are worth noting here: since I have no space to store masses of wood pulp, those books have to be electronic in form, and since I have little disposable money, those books have to be free. In light of the looming political catastrophe facing us not only in the United States, but sadly across much of the world, it occurred to me that many of those books have become horrifyingly more relevant. With that in mind, it occurred to me that I ought to share what I’ve collected for any and all who might be interested. I will update this post as I discover new things, and list the date of the most recent update just above the foldeugene-debs

This in no way pretends to be a comprehensive list, merely a list of things I’ve variously stumbled upon and, on rarer occasions, went out looking for. I’ve not added anything that might be considered “classical” political theory (i.e., part of the “canon” in a philosophy class) as these can be readily found at places like Project Gutenberg. Nor have I included anything that might be viewed as socialist polemics since, once again, this can be readily found at places like the Marxists Internet Archive.

Updated: January 4th, 2017, the Indivisible guide book. Update is at the bottom.

Continue reading