Compelled Birth and the Liberal Polity — The Electric Agora

by Daniel A. Kaufman ____ Abortion is now illegal in the State of Missouri, where I live. If my twenty-year-old daughter was to become pregnant, she would be required to carry the baby to term and give birth to it, under threat of a felony conviction. In a number of the states in which the…

Compelled Birth and the Liberal Polity — The Electric Agora


The case against Trump is too extensive to get into here. At this rate only someone with their head completely in the right-wing sand would vote for him.

The case for Biden is quite good, even for progressives and conservatives, and the case for Harris as his administrative partner gets better every day.

Trump threatens violence should he lose – oh hell, even if he wins, he loves the chaos, he loves others’ pain.

Well, let him threaten, and be prepared to meet it with courage and grace. We can’t slip quietly into the dark night of fascism and authoritarianism. We owe it to our children to make the effort to save our democratic republic.

I appeal to you, as one American to fellow Americans, whatever your background – remember, no matter our differences, we are all Americans. Let us preserve that and save a future in which we can find common ground.

If you haven’t yet – vote. Vote Democratic all along the ballot. Even if you’re Republican, understand that the GOP needs a good spanking for having enabled this sociopathic bully in the White House. We can re-form, gather again, and disagree on policy in the future, but let us get the stinking failed businessman and known criminal out of the White House now.

This is not reality TV. People’s lives depend on it. The future of your children depends on it. Whether there will even be a UNITED STATES of America after January 20th depends on it.

This is not just another election. Vote for Biden and Harris Nov. 3rd.

Marginal Santa Musings

Today Donald Trump intercepted a call to the North American Aerospace Defense Command, which operates a Santa tracker, from a seven year old girl, to ask her if she still believed in Santa. “Because at seven, it’s marginal, right?” according to report.

Actually, it went something like this:

Trump:  “Hello, Vladimir?  I’m trying to send you our defense codes but -”

7 year old girl:  “Who’s this?  I know that voice.”

Trump:  “Get off the line, you’re interfering with big business.  I’m a very big important business person.”

7 year old:  “I’m Cole – ”

T: “Natalie Cole?  Very hot.  Wanted to sleep with you, but -the skin color thing, not quite right -”

C: “No, I seen you on TV!  You said to shut down the govamint! ”

T:  “Say, you sound young – younger than Ivanka the night I snuck into her… uh, how old are you?”

C:  “I’m seven!”

T:  “Well, when you get a little older, I can sit you on my knee and….  You’re not a Mexican or one of those Arab types, are you?  If so, you know, we have this program – you don’t need your parents anyway….”

C:  “My mommy’s right here!”

T:  “Do you know if she wears a baseball cap?”

C:  “It’s red!”

T:  “My kind of people!  Remind her who she loves and I will feel that love!  And if she wants to visit me, I may feel her as well.  Now, I was in the middle of a hugely and most amazing call to a friend of mine….”

C:  “I’m looking for Santa Claus!”

T:  “You still believe in Santa?  Because at seven, you’re marginal, right?”

C:  “I don’t know what that means.”

T:  “It means I don’t have to care about you.  Nobody cares about you.  Your parents don’t care about you.  Now go ahead and cry, see if I care?  I don’t!”

C:  “Why are you so mean?”

T:  “‘Cause I’m the biggest most smartest guy in the whole United States, and I can do everything I want, I’m above the law.  – Do you know what the law is?

C: “No….”

T:  “Neither do I.  That’s why I hired Giuliani, so he can tell everybody what the law is, and I don’t have to worry about it.”

C: “Mister, can I ask a question?”

T: “Don’t call me just Mister – I’m a very important person!  That’s Mister The Donald to you.”

C: “I just wanna know, what is this ‘govamint’ you want to shut down?”

T: “Now that’s unfair, you’re trying to trap me into perjury!  I don’t know anything about government, that’s why I’m here.”

C:  “Mister the Donald, will you tell me a Santa Claus story?”

T:  “I don’t have time for this sh-!  Well, all right: ‘Twas the night before Christmas and Santa gave me all of the toys.  I win.”

C:  “What happened to Santa?”

T:  “I deported him.  Now get off the line!”

C:  “Boo hoo! mean man, Mommy!”

Mommy:  “Hello, who’s making my child cry?!”

T: “Do you work you cow?”

M: “Of course I do!”

T:  “Well, I got you your job – I got everybody’s job, it’s a fucking miracle!  Now, shut the brat up and hang up the phone – you’re fired!”

M:  “Voting Democrat next time!”

T:  “You rat!  bet you’d cooperate with the cops, too, huh!  Well, they’re keeping records in Moscow, they know whose emails to hack!”

Trump slammed down the phone.  “‘Voting Democrat!’  That’s the problem with this country, goddam elections.  We all know I should be in office for life….  Think of all the millions I can pick up along the way….  Yeah, that’s right, close down the election next time!  Close down everything, that’ll show them.  Then they’ll know they’ll have to love me, if they want anything at all….”  He dropped a couple more Adderall tablets, swallowed down with a Diet Coke, and, as they began to take effect, picked up his Android and began to tweet….

He felt important again – that was all that mattered….

And to all, a good night.





Possible World Where We get Everything Right: Prologue

by Gustav Kindergarten (E. John Winner, translator)


(Note: I would like to thank all those who contributed to the writing of this text, but especially Professors Bored, Rotgrosse and Hemp, standing committee on tenure approval at the Mouse School of Praxis of Living Theoretically, University of Disney, Department of Ideological Sanitation, for providing the motivation for producing this text. Also, word must be said for the patronage provided for completion, generously supplied by the Fund Foundation. One ream of paper goes a long way. I hope they remember that I wrote here on their behalf. Setting aside the question of their impact on the environment, the Fund Corporation makes excellent plastic cars.)


Philosophers have long debated whether getting hit on the head with a baseball bat really does leave an impression on the soul. Leopold Von Girdle proved that this is not only inevitable but still no less highly questionable. This radical breakthrough in phenomenological epistemology has left much of the science of knowledge in the dark, where it’s always been. In the following, it will be shown that nothing can be shown, except what shows forth, yet not even this. The methodology is that of presentation of Von Girdle’s position, followed by slavish reiteration of the same. Then the field will be surveyed, and an abstract will be developed apriori to the closing on the sale of the house. At this point a “works cited” page will appear, and then the rest of the book.


But first (or rather, after the preceding), we shall introduce the man himself, because someone may mistake him for an interesting conversationalist, or a well-remembered television actor whose name one can’t remember. In this we must confront the current controversies that have arisen concerning Von Girdle’s political commitments in the period in which he was active but not particularly exciting.


Leopold Von Girdle was something of a ladies’ man. He particularly favored pink silk panties, and frequently wore them over his slacks, as statement of his faith that the inner could be made outer. Had he lived to be 200, he probably would have sired a hundred sons and daughters by various undergraduate students, as crowning achievement of his long and brilliant career as Professor of Ideology at Ausviedersehen University. He was the oldest member of the faculty until his timely death from cirrhosis of the liver and arteriosclerosis of the cranium, and the car crash didn’t help. He did not live to see his theories garner thousands of disciples from numerous disciplines all of whom writing journal articles explicating the most trivial and most obscure few lines of his texts. Such achievement cannot be measured, only marveled at. Indeed, in 1991 Marvel Comics announced plans for publication of an illustrated version of his early text, Super Hegel: Adventures in the Dialectic (1958), [1] and only decided not to pursue these plans when market research indicated that comic book readers preferred looking at pictures of half-naked Japanese women smoking cigarettes to those of masked German philosophers in tights.


The era of Von Girdle’s development of Imprimantics theory is now so distantly passed, it can barely be remembered. Yet names float freely in the play of signs in mass-media. It would be well to remember some of these names, lest we forget that Von Girdle’s writing occurred in a context of fermentation: he especially preferred Molson’s Golden Ale, despite his German heritage. But it is said that he would actually be willing to have someone else buy him a Guiness Extra Stout. [2]


Derrida, Foucault, Barthes, Blanchot, Baudrillard, Deleuze, Guattari, Sartre, Lacan, Lyotard – there were as many Frenchmen as couldn’t be wrong.


Semiology, Structuralism, Post-Structuralism, Post-Modernism, the French Post Fence Post movement, Situationism, Anarchy in the UK, and several attempts by the Buffalo Bills to win the SuperBowl – the era was ripe.


Into this arena strode the diminutive German professor with the big ego and voice of “cracked gold,” as one of his better known students, Jacob Malsprit, once put it. [3]


Von Girdle was always reticent to speak, but once paid enough, he would not cease lecturing until threatened by force. Lectures went on and on. At one 1968 marathon in Belgium, Von Girdle declaimed on the topic “Transcendence of the Transcendental Ego as Transcendent Consciousness as Such,” non-stop for thirty hours. Derrida is said to have attended this lecture, but only briefly. Apparently, he was looking for the men’s room and wandered into the lecture hall by mistake. Nonetheless, he was so fascinated with Von Girdle’s thesis that he chose not to mention it – or had it choose not to mention itself. Deleuze merely sent his regards, although these were signed by Guattari. (See Crock’s discussion of the decisive debate between Spudmore and Lannigen that occurred in London about the same time, which was much more interesting. [4]) Belgium declared Von Girdle persona-non-grata, and he never again attempted further dissemination of his ideas in that little country no one ever remembers despite visits to it on summer holiday. (It is difficult to remember even one Olympic gold-medalist from Belgium.)


“I remember having a good time, but I don’t remember how much. All I can say is, my wallet was empty when I awoke the next morning.” Thus, Krendel Grendel reports the dinner party held in Berlin in 1988, where Von Girdle pronounced, to the entire faculty of Ausviedersehen University (filling all seven chairs in his apartment and requiring two more to be borrowed from down the hall), his now famous “ontological turn. ” [5] As we will see in our critical discussion, Von Girdle had at last devised a methodology by which it could be determined that the imprint of entities on consciousness could at last be liberated from freedom, thus giving professional theorists carte blanche to write of them as though existent. The full value of this theory grounds the axis of our present discussion, being the plug around which truth as such or not negated must pivot, albeit in a stationary manner. This forms the foundation of contemporary Imprimantics, or it is the foundation as such. It is the degree zero, that which without never could be, the prima causa, the ineluctable first instance, the point of origin before which nothing, of contemporary Imprimantics. As such, it always comes after. It is a moment late in the day of theory, painting grey on grey as Minerva’s owl flies through dusk, only to land on a bird-feeder and finding it empty. “Wo ist das Essen?” [6] Where is the theory of it? It is reminiscent – yet it never remembers. [7]


However, for the moment, we must be informed of the scandalous consequence of the mistaking of identities, as occurred in the aftermath of this dinner party. For not all of his Ausviedershen colleagues fully appreciated the gift they were given from the wizened Professor of Ideology. Mark Clark Marsbar, visiting Professor of Petitio Principii, from Toledo Ohio by way of Toronto Canada, with a stopover in Bucharest for a quick champagne brunch (or rather, champagne for brunch), is well-known to be an Anti-Ontologist, as befits a Promiscuousian Perceptions Analyst. At this famous dinner party, while reaching into what he thought his own pants pocket, he slipped his hand into Von Girdle’s pocket, and extracted what appeared to be an old card of membership in the German National Socialist Worker’s Party. Rather than confront Von Girdle directly upon this discovery, he decided to use it politically to discredit the whole Ontological Imprimantics movement that had not yet even formed. Thus, a startled intellectual community found themselves reading Marsbar’s Critique of Nasty Fascist Leftwing Intellectuals as Ontological Imprimanticists (1988), before they even knew what an Ontological Imprimanticist might be.


Within the year, Mandingo Quarksore of Standford University published his critical examination of the evidence. In ten thousand pages of close textual reading, Quarksore demonstrated that the implicature of the Nazi membership card could not be taken as final evidence of any misconduct during the Second World War on the part of Von Girdle, because (a) the card was not Von Girdle’s but that of his landlord, a Karl Gringhor (to be precise A. Karl Gringhor, as B. Precise once noted. [8]); (b) The name on the card had been misspelled “Gingrich” (apparently once belonging to a history professor – but that was in the past); (c) There is no textual evidence that Von Girdle had ever theorized the card’s existence; (d) Von Girdle had not yet reached puberty by the collapse of the Third Reich, and in fact delayed this event for three decades, in respect of the wishes of a kindly sadomasochistic elderly aunt. [9] Von Girdle himself remained silent on the whole issue, except for the occasional public denials of any wrong-doing and pleas for pity. Later, on further investigation, it would prove that Von Girdle had found the card in his apartment building hallway and picked it up to use to scrape tartar from his teeth; and even in this he was just following orders. [10]


Still, the damage was done. Throughout the period during which he wrote his main text on Ontological Imprimantics, Possible World Where We Get Everything Right (1990), Von Girdle worked under the onus of Suspicion – Vera Suspicion, who lived in the flat above his. Once a notorious organizer of the countercultural movement Feminist Corpsegrinders, Suspicion had rented the flat just to keep watch over Von Girdle’s activities for any sign of nascent Nazism.


Her research paid off in healthy publication contracts, when her writings shook the intellectual world awake by her discovery that Von Girdle had read the texts of Karl Marx. (11]


The discovery that Von Girdle had access to Marx’s texts dismayed many of his stalwart conservative supporters. The chief exception was Mark Clark Marsbar, who admitted that he was delighted that anything at all offensive to somebody could be said about Von Girdle. [12] Von Girdle himself remained characteristically quiet on the matter, merely vomiting whenever it was mentioned during interviews. [13]


However, continuing to disappoint all expectations for a promising career as a materialist dialectician, Von Girdle, upon summons before the U.S. House Committee on Scary Academic Radicals (January 1991), at last begged the question, as did frequently his theories, whether there might be more or less within the text of Marx than had been previously remarked. Indeed, his copy of the Complete Works of Karl Marx [14] was at last opened to public view; only then was it discovered that the pages had been removed, and the binding used to collect old sticky notes. (There was thus nothing to remark, or rather, no marks to re; except for one Deutschemark; but, being a photocopy, it was non-negotiable.)


If the intellectual community could bear any more surprises, it certainly bore this one. Von Girdle, boring scholars world-wide, became internationally acclaimed for standing on the precipice of a major breakthrough in critical readings of Karl Marx – the text of materialism found de-materialized. But just as he was about to embark on this reading at considerable expense to the trustees of his University – he died on holiday in the Caribbean.


Between the investigations and the expense accounts, between the denials and the lack of denial, between the vomit and the pus, we find the absence of meaning. It was – and then it isn’t anymore. It would be if it could be, but it will not so it won’t. That is the aporia of the aforementioned confronted with the afterthought.


Henceforth, and thus always already retroactively, the political will be elided as a means of evasion. The “political” what? But this cannot be spoken. We fail to confront what we do not know, and as for what we do know, we don’t know that either. This abyssal being is cause for a healthy despair: despair is a mood that brings forth the new by way of psychotropic medications.


But the text festers in our memory, imprinted on our brains like a thousand points of light, or red-hot points of pins poked into our eyes. There never was, and there never could be, but there is still: we have the text before us. Thus, reason remembers if for no other reason than the sake of memory.


Main Text: Possible World Where We Get Everything Right: Critical Commentary as Intertextual Polysemy in the Voices of a Pre-Textual Meta-Narrative of Ontological Imprimantics. [15]


On the path of Imprimantics, having always already been there like ducks in a dried riverbed pecking for worms that don’t exist, Von Girdle’s text allays, excites, refurbishes, then disappoints. But this is merely to say, that it never catches its train of thought. Thus, it (dis)appoints. This (dis)appointment must be a strategy of the text itself.


“The first of all possible worlds is always already inevitably the last, because, were it to be left unfinished, there could be no ‘because.’ Yet this finishing, as an ending, is always incomplete. There is remainder – to be sure, there is always remainder. Sometimes there is just too much damn remainder. But to consciousness, all is perceived as sewage from the polluted river of hypostatized life. It is always there – was it ever there? ‘There’ remains unquestioned, privileging the ‘here’ when ‘here’ is the ‘there’ for the ‘there’ that is here. Yet the questioning concerning consciousness always begins ‘what’s there?’ A trivial question, seemingly. Surely, we should discover ourselves there, and so ask that question. but consider the ontological imprint in the inevitable answer: ‘Knock knock.’ ‘Who’s there?’ ‘Wad he.’ ‘Wad he who?’ ‘Wad he knows.’ (Transliteration: ‘What he knows:’ ‘Was er weiß’ in the original German – translator. [16]) Such are the wandering thoughts of the common consciousness, pressed into the service of momentary dispensation to reiteration of immature renderings of sour humor. But nothing funny is going on here – ‘the Wad’ now stands revealed. It is not expected. It (dis)appoints. Thus, its beckoning us back into our sanity, is truly in-sane.” [17]


The notable elision here is the abuse of the possessive, made known by not being imprinted, yet surely being ‘said.’ “who’s there?” Or should we say, “whose there.” Surely Von Girdle may have meant this, had he been presenting this as a paper to one of those dreary academic conferences usually held in Chicago. New York makes better pizza, and we are reading between cities on a highway to the high way of Imprimantics. The question thus is, is the question a question or is it an answer? If the latter, there can be no former, and our ending bites our tail as the tale told and swallowed. Answer, and there is no question: no question, no answer. Yet – there are words on the page.


In-sane,” because to be in consciousness is to be truly sane, to be authentically sane. Thus in-sanity is sanity rediscovered in the search for some hermeneutics of one’s own mind as split personality.


This is the promise on the horizon of what we will now call Critical Ontological Imprimantics, carrying forward, yet going beyond Von Girdle’s theory, another source of academic ideological identification for a subversive minority of disgruntled intellectuals. Eventually, all will be in-sane. The very promise of consciousness itself. From this point on, reason rules! But it must rule by indirection, as a ruler, not a king, but a yard-stick for measuring other players at the forty-yard line of the dialogical playing field of academic discourse. Those who cannot do, teach; those who cannot teach, criticize. Those who actually do, well, they’re too busy to go to college.


“‘The Wad’ who’s there.” “‘The Wad’ whose there.” Read, as a personality, heard as a possession. And yet, as the poet Milos Carpotunnel noted, still “a herd of red.” [17] We have entered a grey area of self-nullification. As we all know (following Derrida, following Sartre, following Heidegger, following Husserl, following Nietzsche, following Hegel, and finding Schopenhauer instead, then moving backwards as forwards to Kant, and putting Descartes before the horse). But then there is the Self, and there is the Other. What we don’t know is, which of them pays rent for the allotted space? Von Girdle here announces it: it is none other, and no Other, than “the Wad.” “The Wad” possesses “There.” We couldn’t get around this even if we drove above the speed limit. For wherever we go, it would be “There.” And “There” belongs to “the Wad.” The calm serenity discoverable in this vague generalization of a universal notion is disquieting; one need never pay rent again.


Should we now, in deferance to this “Wad” be rid of quotation marks? I think so – they are too scary. Away with them! Let us have – the Wad!


Besides, the Wad is always on our page, and our page is always There. Therefore, the Wad owns our page. The text is always on loan, and the library charges late-return fees. Let the Wad pay the bill.


Thus, as we open our text on Ontological Imprimantics. The first issue to strike us is that ontology is never of the ontos of the world, but of possible worlds, each or many within a given text. As we read, we come upon the Wad; but the Wad belongs There, on the page as (dis)appointment. We thought we were Realists, but we are Nominalists by inadvertence. But what is a name but a Wad? That is, a Wad of consciousness, for conscious, by conscious, not perishing from this earth. For every reader of every page, the Wad reassures us that no page can ever be read, for knowing the Wad we shall not know it, only by reading it. Thus, the language of Imprimantics as theory of language. In this we can see, it is surely in-sane.

– – – – –

[1] Red Hot Entertainment News Tonight, May 1, 1993. By the date of publication, this was already old news. The following year, RHENT ceased publication.

[2] Bud Weisser, Drinks of the Intellectual Stars, 1992, 37.

[3] Malsprit, Dunderkopf, 1988, 188.

[4] Ben Crock, Spudmore in Europe: History of Ideological Historicism, 1999.

[5] Grendel, Spurious Truth: Phenomenology of Ideology as Critical Theory of Semiological Deconstruction of Eternal Recurrence as the Same, 1990, 1089.

[6] Frequently asked by Von Girdle dinner guests; for some reason, his dinners always consisted of a cardboard replica of a roast duck.

[7] See Von Girdle’s discussion on the necessity of the end always coming finally, in Ideology of Western Civilization, Vol. 30, 1972, 11139-11140, footnote M.

[8] Posthumous conversation with the author.

[9] But see Burt Bubbles, If You’ve Got the Time, I’ve Got the Bier, down 19 points in 1992.

[10] See: Quarksore, Fascist Anti-Fascists, 1989; and the same author’s In a Dive of Ducks to the Pond Basin: The Von Girdle Affair, 1990.

[11] See: Suspicion, “Von Girdle’s Secret Library,” Von Girdle Notes, 5:12, April 1990, 312-715; and: Revisiting Von Girdle’s Secret Library,” The New Ontological Imprimanticist, 75:50, May 1990, 520-890; and even: “Visiting Von Girdle’s Secret Library Again as If You Had Never Benn There,” Precocious Phenomenology Journal of Post-Modern Criticism and Tourist Attractions, 17:1, June, 1990, 899-2002.

[12] Marsbar, “I Am Always Right,” Journal of Absurd Premises, Spirit of 76 Trombones Issue, December 1990, 676-6767 – call between 6 and 7.

[13] Sorely McSorely, “Interviewing Von Girdle who rents from Nazis and reads Marx’s Texts,” Chronicle of Lower Education, 53637:82723634, December 7, 1990, 1-2.

[14] Rael Martins translation, 1960.

[15] Published in Harvard while nobody was looking.

[16] Translator’s note: We will continue to translate the German “Was” as “Wad,” designating le differance between the ‘what’ that we commonly know and the ‘What’ we only uncommonly know. But we here reproduce the original German for clarification:

Knock Knock.

Wer ist da?

Was er.

Was er Wer?

Was er weiß.

A Shorter form of this occurs later in Von Girdle’s text: “Knock Knock.” “Wurst?” But a strict translation doesn’t make any sense in English. Or, as the Germans say, Nicht eine Wurst

[17] PWWWGER, Vol.1, 1112.

[18] “Ring Around the Rosie,” 1997.


Deny Trump scum platforms for audience.

In a recent discussion at Plato’s Footnote, Massimo Piglucci made the case that Trumpist spokes people should be allowed equal access to mainstream media presentation of their views, to be properly refuted with reason and facts.  Because I believe strongly in the right to free speech, I felt torn; because it is obvious that the Trumpists abuse free speech to engage in dissimulation and propaganda that goes beyond what the expectations of free speech should allow in a republic with democratic aspirations.  After my first post and Massimo’s reply, I tried to respond, but found comments closed at his blog.  So I am posting here.  This includes a remark by Socratic Gadfly, and my response to this.  (There was also an interesting comment by brodix that I am still mulling over – although, albeit a pessimist, I fear brodix’s comment more cynical than I am willing to go.  But I will, in fairness, reproduce it here.)  If you want Massimo’s whole argument go here:

My first comment:

“but is it — as Van Norden claims — reason to cheer MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” decision never again to invite Kellyanne Conway because of her bizarre notion of “alternative facts”? I don’t know. It is very unfortunate that someone like Conway is currently a high profile government official, but isn’t a journalist supposed to challenge that sort of notion, rather than suppress it?”
It’s not a question of suppressing it – Conway has other outlets for her babble. But outright , open, dishonest propaganda cannot be “questioned.” When allowed a wide audience it is given ground that becomes, for its faithful, unquestionable.

I sympathize with the sentiments expressed here, but the nature of contemporary media has changed the playing field. If the mainstream media really drew a hardline around Trump’s lies and bluster, he would have no media for these but his tweets and Fox. That, unfortunately, would be enough. So the real balance here is between shutting down a probable gangster and authoritarian, thus riling his base beyond communication, and underscoring his lies, his conspiracy theories, his undercutting the rule of law, if only as a record.

And for that record,Joe Scarborough is a conscientious conservative, who only left the Republican party because of its acquiescence with Trump’s dedicated assault on American Values.

Ann Coulter – a notorious and open propagandist? I would not grieve if she had no audience allowed.

This is not the America you first came to, Massimo. This is not the America I was raised in which. despite all the craziness of the Sixties, worked because the acceptable political discourse was well understood by most politicians and the electorate. Trump is overseeing, again with the acquiescence of the Republican Party, the greatest change in American politics, legal and political systems, and political discourse since the Civil War. Most are failing to realize this, and that too adds to the magnitude of the consequences.

One other point, remarking Joe Scarborough BTW: This is the first time in American politics when the former spokespersons of one Party have openly advocated voting for the opposite Party (eg., Republicans George Will, Michael Steele), in order to put a check on the monster in the White House. We saw some of this on the state level back in the Sixties – when there were such creatures as “liberal Republicans.” But never on the National level. That in itself should tell us how desperate the situation really is.

So, again, while I am sympathetic with the general point here, the real politics of the moment requires I consider – even demand – a line that is both possibly as hard as Van Norden suggests, albeit with greater nuance and political savvy.

But personally, I would be just as happy as no Trumpoid were given any access to the mainstream media to disseminate their lies, false narratives, and apologetic. All news is shaded, all commentary driven by perspective. But hidden agendas and propaganda are beyond the pale. They have Fox, and radio talk-shows, and that broadcasting company that now requires. local station to reiterate corporate political decisions (I don’t jave that name as I write.)

They have their own media, don’t you get it? The ‘mainstream media’ doesn’t matter to them anyway. The fight now is beyond classical liberal principles and argumentation. I don’t like it. But denying that is like walking into a snowstorm in a swimsuit.




They have their own media, don’t you get it? The ‘mainstream media’ doesn’t matter to them anyway.

I disagree, it matters to them because they realize that a lot of people in the US are still capable of questioning what they are doing.

’s not a question of suppressing it – Conway has other outlets for her babble. But outright , open, dishonest propaganda cannot be “questioned.”

It actually can, and should be. It’s not going to be questioned precisely if we shut out these people from mainstream media. Then the only outlets they will have at their disposal are propaganda ones. Scarborough needs to do his job, question Conway openly, directly, and forcefully. Even using sense of humor, if need be. Public ridicule, especially when coming from someone on your same political side, is very effective.

Socratic Gadfly:

On EJ, is part of what you’re getting at the “difficulty of conversion”? Tis true. High level of motivated reasoning among Trump true believers. If we get into a real trade war, it will be “interesting” too see how deep that motivated reasoning really runs. (I’m personally not totally opposed to the general idea of tackling some issues, but Trump is in no way interested in truly “fair trade” that takes into account less developed nations’ environmental and labor standards. Remember those toothless side agreements to NAFTA? That said, he is right on China … and the issue behind that. The WTO two-tiered standard of developed/non-developed is too simplistic. The solution isn’t booting China into “developed” but making a third category for it and a select other number of nations where they lose some, but not all, of the favors of truly non-developed nations.)


My responses:

“That said, he is right on China … and the issue behind that.”
This is oneof the many problems, this normalization of the most aberrant presidency in history. Trump is not right about anything, because he has no policy, and no opinion except about his ‘wonderful’ self. If you want to say that, eg., Mattis or now Bolton etc. are right on China, fine – I would disagree and argue for a more nuanced approached, but that’s a different discussion. But Trump isn’t right about anything, not even about himself.
So this is how it now plays out:
Cuomo: “Kelly Ann, in this clip I’ve showed you, Trump has said X.”
Conway: “I didn’t see that clip. Chris. But I’m sure it was taken out of context. The President would never say that.”
Cuomo: “I showed you that clip! That’s what Trump said. Also he just said in a tweet X!”
Conway: “Then obviously X must be good for the country. The president would never say anything that would not make America great again.”

Non-trumpist viewer: “WTF?!”
Trumpist viewer: “You go, Kelly Ann!”

Later that day: Two videos appear on youtube: 1) “Cuomo confronts Kelly Ann Conway with Trump’s lies.” 2) “Kelly Ann Conway DESTROYS Chris Cuomo!”

The next day, Conway appears on Fox and Friends,” reiterating the lie, and they all applaud here, and the viewer of the show, thinks, ‘hell, Conway was right – Cuomo? – fake news.”

We have a ‘Reality Television’ politics now. That’s the end of your liberal suppositions about ‘free speech.’

In the Thirties, Nazis used ‘free speech’ to portray Jews with tails eating babies. In the Fifties, Joe McCarthy used it to destroy the livelihood of dozens of creative individuals.

At some point in the Sixties, we said, “no.” Now we’re saying “yes, okay” again. Thaty’s a serious backstep. There are just some opinions that, while not unutterable according to the principle of free speech, ought to be ostracized for a decent, republican, democratic society to continue.

That is not happening now.

Even in the McCarthy era, the institutions of Constitutional government were considered sacrosanct. That is not happening now.

It’s time to rethink politics in the era of Twitter and Reality TV.



ej, Massimo,

I really do have to take extreme askance with the idea of Trump as being somehow out of synch with what has been going on. Remember Karl Rove’s quote to some reporter about how they, the spinmasters, create the reality and the reporters write it? Trump gets blamed on the Russians, but everyone totally forgets how we were, back in the 90’s, trying to run the Russians through the disaster capitalism wringer, with Yeltsin and the oligarchs. The Saudis bragged about putting 25 million into Hillary’s campaign and that was no problem with the media, but I don’t recall most of those flying jets into the World Trade Center being Russian.

Both the Tea Party and the Occupy movement were under Obama, when he gave the banks a trillion dollars and let them continue screwing home owners. At least under Bush 1, some of the saving and loan people went to jail. Though, in hindsight, it was probably the big banks clearing out the competition.

It does seem to those of us who try to dig into the news and not just look at it with a fresh and open mind every day, that most Americans, left and right, are extremely clueless. Trump is like the puss pocket actually popping open and now people are somehow shocked that some bankruptcy scam artist/media creation is running things. I don’t want to hurt any feelings, or disturb anyone, but it is going to get much worse. The credit cards are maxed out and the predatory lenders are going to be squeezing your every move. Those smiley people on the tv were lying to you.



A Sense of Justice

The Electric Agora

by E. John Winner

Behold I see a canyon where many souls will die

Behold I see a world that will always wonder why

— Marty Stuart, “Wounded Knee” (1)


I am here to consider our responses to what we perceive as just or unjust.  I do not hope to reach a conclusion. I write as an educated layman, not a professor of moral philosophy. My aim is to explore what I understand by “a sense of justice,” the most basic element of which is that there is no private sense of justice. Indeed in the absence of some community with others, there is no justice at all.

In common speech, ‘justice’ and ‘fairness’ often are used interchangeably. This leads to some confusion among those unable to see the obvious difference, something that becomes painfully clear in courts of law. A defendant may claim that punching the plaintiff could…

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Annual Christmas Message: Bah Humbug

Annual Christmas Message: It’s a Xmas terror thing!


I hate christmas. I have always hated christmas; yes always, since I can remember anything at all, I remember hating christmas.

My mother was a single parent (father having left when I was 2). She always worked christmas (she was a nurse), she usually worked double shifts on christmas – overtime at holiday pay rate. So she was never home for christmas. That left me to the tender care of my 2 older sisters – who basically hated me. (With one, the estrangement was never repaired.)

My mother would usually prepare christmas ahead of time – chicken sandwiches, canned ravioli or beans, canned string beans – sitting in pots on the stove waiting to be heated, yum yum. For dessert, those prepared sugary jelly pies one got at the corner-store. Of course, for the first few years, I got little of it – my sisters were voracious eaters and didn’t think of christmas as necessitating any more sharing behavior than they engaged in the rest of the year.

There was gift giving, of course. My oldest sister liked to give me torn socks. My second sister, fortunately would actually try to be generous, and usually bought me first comic books, and then later books.

My mother’s gift giving was a little erratic. I think she tried, she really did. But she was too busy with working and household chores to really put much thought into it. Usually she would ask us what we wanted, and then on Christmas morning we would unwrap these relatively cheap, easily broken plastic toys. Being kids, of course we reacted depressed and complaining. By the time I was a teen-ager, my mother had just given up – she just gave us money the week before Christmas and had us buy and wrap our own presents. Somehow, the experience unwrapping them was not the same.

We had a christmas tree – my aunt usually bought it. It was usually too big. Since we kids were doing the decorating, we always over-did it and the tree looked over-weighted and gaudy. It usually stood too long in the living-room, way past new years, so it was a brown shriveled, needle-shedding wreck by the time we got it out of there.

Holiday festivities revolved around the television set. I suppose I watched every christmas special produced during the late ’50s – early ’60s: tawdry re-narrations of the nativity story, cheap vaudeville acts pretending to be cheerful, sit-com families making vacuous jokes and grinning stupidly ear to ear. The only broadcasts worth remembering were old films. I still have fond memories of the Alistair Sims “Christmas Carol.” Otherwise, by the time I was 14, television as a whole was losing interest for me, and I had gotten the general idea that christamas was basically a marketing scam. (“Things go better with Coke – Ho ho ho!”)

For quite some time in my adult years, I tried and tried to ‘get the spirit’ of the holidays. A part of me wanted to believe that the religious magic could actually worked; a part merely wanted to belong to some community celebration.

But it was hopeless. The effort to feel happy only made things worse. Christmas after christmas collapsed in emotional ruin, occasionally spoiling romantic relationships. It was only in my late 30s that I began making friends who also found the christmas season emotionally tortuous, and for many of the same reasons. Families can be a curse, not a blessing, and we ought to allow those who experience that to live their lives without some sort of guilt trip about not observing holidays that they find hollow or painful.

The last christmas I tried to celebrate, in 1991, was with my mother and my second sister. By then I had abandoned christianity completely, so it was completely about family for me.

We ate chicken and potatoes (that I cooked), listened to an album of christmas songs, and sat through a viewing of one of my mother’s favorite films, “The Sound of Music.” We exchanged presents; my sister and I bought books, my mother (true to form) gave us plastic trinkets. We all agreed what a wonderful time of the year it was. We hugged and said good-night.

I never felt so hollow, and so hypocritical in my entire life. I gave up any attempt at celebrating christmas all together, and I have never regretted doing so.

Well, what about ‘the message,’ though? Peace and love and good will to all – and of course, if you buy that, we got a freshly born baby god to sell you too!

Well, I’m sorry – if peace and love and good will are dependent on some mythic infant from a tribal culture in some desert hinterland, than the human species is doomed – this only means we are incapable of generating an ethic that responds to the gross changes in culture that our history has brought about. The worship of an infant marks the infancy of our culture. Let us admit that there has been some progress since then.

Nostalgia for christmas is really nostalgia for small communities in rural cultures, when riding in a ‘one horse open sleigh’ was a necessity if one wanted to visit family. But we live in cities now, and many of us don’t want to visit our families. Many of us just wish the whole horror show were over, and we have every right not to participate.

And if you have children and they express unhappiness with christmas, don’t chastise them – they probably have very good reasons for it, and you should wonder hat these are.

So what to do this consumer glut ‘holiday’ season, if you’re not in a holiday mood?

well, if you can enjoy the sensual pleasures, the one good thing about christmas is that you get a good excuse for doing so – get drunk and have good sex is one possible experience of christmas cheer.

If you’re not so inclined, try reading a good book. I suggest George H. Smith’s “Atheism: the Case Against God” for its intellectual rigor. Or perhaps something more entertaining, a movie classic – Akira Kurosawa’s “Yojimbo” makes for jolly good holiday fare.

Certainly you can’t go wrong simply meditating on the absurdity of the human experience. 400 years of modernity and we’re still celebrating a Roman holiday!

Happy Saturnalia!

The state we’re in

I apologize for the abruptness of my previous post (“Get Trump Out”).  But it is quite clear to me that the very presence of Trump in the White House is damaging the social fabric of the nation.


A hurricane devastates Puerto Rico, and Mr. Trump uses it as a photo-op, while dismissing Puerto Ricans as lazy and insulting the mayor of San Juan.  A worsening situation on the Korean peninsula and Trump tells his own Secretary of State that negotiations are a “waste of time” while exchanging crazy threats with the DPRK’s Kim.  Our allies seek assurance of our reliability, and get insults from Trump, who treats their greatest potential adversary, Putin, with kid gloves.  Police violence escalates and Trump applauds it, even suggesting that law enforcement officials should go ahead and violate the civil rights of suspects.  His response to the slaughter of an innocent woman is to insist that murderous Neo-Nazis include “some very fine people.”  A harmless public protest in a major sports arena, and once again the violent rhetoric.  59 murdered in Las Vegas? – another photo-op, with Mike Pence.


This is not a president; this is the Angry Old White Man in Chief, stoking the flames of potential violence at every turn.


His mental instability clearly gives Congress all the justification it needs to remove him from office.  They won’t, of course.  But we must keep up the pressure on them to do so, and vote Democratic in the next elections.  Because Trump in the White House is degrading our culture, our social connectivity, while heightening the potential for violence domestically and war abroad.


Trump is not the president of the United States.  At a time we need a leader, we find ourselves tethered to a foul-mouthed buffoon with poisonous attitudes willing to risk even mass destruction for a moment’s self-glorification.    This man isn’t simply unfit, he is actively dangerous to the people of the United States – the people of the world.  Again, the Republicans need to rethink the future of their Party – for surely Trump is hijacking it to the ugly phenomenon of the worst presidential administration in American history.


And we again must keep up the pressure – resist – protest – and vote.

Get Trump out

Although Stephen Paddock was clearly a far right gun nut, his exact motivation will probably never be known.

But Trump’s utter lack of sympathy or empathy is clearly on display. He – who has no religious affiliation – prays with religious right racist Mike Pence. Then he goes to Puerto Rico, whose citizens (American citizens) he says are lazy, so he can pat himself on the back – no matter the suffering of Puerto Ricans (who are largely Hispanic, so why should he care?)

Trump’s violent rhetoric has excited right wing gun nuts like Stephen Paddock.

Racist pig! Get him out of office! He won because of a quirk in the electoral laws. He is a minority president that no one wants but fools who don’t read, don’t accept science, don’t reason – and don’t care.

Get this pig out of office.

Las Vegas Shooter Right Wing Gun Nut

Circumstantial evidence is gathering to suggest that Stephen Paddock, the mass murderer in the recent attack in Las Vegas claiming at least 58 lives, had some connection with the Bundy militia – gun-fetishistic white supremacists and right wing anti-American insurrectionists – and of course supporters of Donald Trump; and that Paddock stalked ant-Trump protestors, possibly seeking potential victims.


Mr. Trump, I suspect you inspired this shooting. The victims do not need your “warmest condolences.”  They need you to leave office, so the nation can begin healing from all the chaos you have brought to executive policy, both foreign and domestic.  And to leave behind your evident racism, self-aggrandizement and  cruelty.


Mr. Paddock’s behavior did evidence “pure evil,” as you say.  But then so does yours.  Again, resign now, so that the nation may heal.


Republicans!  Think of the future of your party!  Determine that this man is not fit for office, and get him out of it!