It Just Happened Here

For thirty years, I’ve heard conservatives lecture everyone else about the supposed “lessons” of Munich, Neville Chamberlain, and appeasement, all in order to rationalize endless warfare against “threats” abroad. Every time they want to start a war, they roll out their canned lectures on Chamberlain’s appeasement of Hitler at Munich, the one-size-fits-all analogy that justifies any brutality from the Gulf of Tonkin to the Persian Gulf. In fact, all they’ve managed to accomplish is perpetual war abroad, and fascist sedition at home. (Paul Krugman’s columns on this topic have been both prescient and explanatory.)

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Meanwhile, in a Parallel Election

I voted!

No, not in the u.s. election – Ἀθηνᾶ κρείττων!

Nah, I voted for which book we will read next in the Auburn Science Fiction and Philosophy Reading Group.

This was a more cheerful and civilised affair than the u.s. election in at least seven ways:

1. Minority choices have no trouble getting on the ballot; any individual member of the group can nominate a book (or several), without having to collect multiple signatures on a petition.

2. The number of participants is small enough that any individual vote has an actual chance of making a decisive difference to the outcome.

3. Voting involves rank-ordering the candidates via an online Condorcet poll, so no one has to choose between voting for their favourite among the front runners and voting for their favourite absolutely.

4. We choose a new book every month or two, so there’s strict rotation in office with very short terms – no perpetually incumbent books.

5. The reading group is a purely voluntary association. If any members aren’t happy with the winning choice, and want to go off on their own to read and discuss a different book, the rest of us wouldn’t dream of trying to stop them, let alone telling them that by voting (or by not voting) they have committed themselves to reading the winning book.

6. All the books nominated look worthwhile, and I would be happy to read and discuss any of them.

7. Facebook has not been reminding me every few minutes to vote for the next book.

O idéal lointain!

Back the Blue? Or Kill Them?

Trump supporters for Law Enforcement:

Back the Blue! Don’t let the Left disrespect cops or flout the laws!

Trump supporters for Sedition:

Message to law enforcement: execute a duly authorized search warrant on my property while enforcing the gun control laws, and I promise to flout the warrant and shoot you dead!

The first two photos were taken in the parking lot of Whitehouse Mall, Whitehouse Station, New Jersey. The sign on the truck reads, “Law Enforcement for Trump.” The last three were taken a few miles north on County Road 523, in the Dreahook section of Readington, New Jersey. In other words, when push comes to shove, the Trump supporter on Route 523 is promising to kill the Trump supporter driving the truck. File under: “The Contested Legacies of Waco.” 

Dominance and Submission

From the classic discussion of the psychology of interruption in discourse: a power-oriented interruption is an attempt to establish dominance over an interlocutor by non-rational, semi-coercive means. In a televised debate, the television audience is a sort of interlocutor, so interruptions can be interpreted as attempts to establish dominance over the audience.

In this context, the relevant question is not who won the debate, but whether the audience acquiesces in domination or resists. The outcome of the “debate” was irrelevant because it wasn’t one. The whole event was simply a bid for domination, full stop, and its success or failure as an attempt depends on how the audience responds to the bid. Does the audience play along with the bid, take its aims for granted, and make excuses for it? Or does it push back in wholehearted rejection? There’s not much room here for neutrality or agnosticism.

Each one of us knows the answer to that question in our own case, and has the power to figure out what it is, partly by bringing it about. Voting may not give you much power or control over the powerful. But that one act does.

Pompeo and Circumstance

This morning, I made my third attempt at watching the RNC proceedings. My first was a minute-long foray into Kimberly Guilfoyle’s speech, which ended when I found it impossible to listen to a speech that described Puerto Ricans as immigrants. My second was an attempt to listen to Donald Trump, Jr., aborted about 30 seconds in, after he described a bunch of hapless virus-carrying bats as members of the Chinese Communist Party. This morning, I managed to make it all the way through Mike Pompeo’s speech from Jerusalem–a bittersweet event for me, because as an “ordinary citizen,” like Mike, I too had planned to go to Jerusalem this summer, but couldn’t, when I was mysteriously “struck” by unemployment in the best economy (with the best employment rate) the world has ever seen. Continue reading