Replacing Sessions: A One-Act Play

Our scene opens as the sun sets on Washington DC. As the lights come up on the Oval Office, Trump sits with an aide trying to find a new Attorney General.

TRUMP: “Why not? I want him! He’s tough, he’s a real man!”

AIDE: “Yes, sir, I understand but….”

T: “So, get him in here first thing in the morning!”

A: “As I explained before, sir, Vlad the Impaler is dead and therefore unavailable.

T: “Dead, huh? Maybe he’s not as tough as I thought. OK, how about my #2 choice? Get him in here, first thing in the morning.”

A: “Ah, yessir, you see with #2…..”

T: “I’ve heard good things about him. He’s my choice.:

A: “Yes, but, you see, Klaus Barbie is also dead.”

T: “Goddammit to hell! Why are they all losers! Number 3?”

A: “Well, sir, Kim Jong-un is not technically an American so…..”

T: “Huh. I didn’t know that and I’m a smart guy. #4? He’s an American, for sure.”

A. “Well, sir, technically, The Grinch is fictional so I guess he *could* be an American….”

T: “Shit, fuck, goddam, fuck! Right, I’m going with Sheriff Joe Arpaio. Great guy. Tough guy. Not as tough or great as me, but still tough and great.

A: Are you sir, sir? He’s a terrible human being! You had to pardon him for many violations of human rights? He’s completely unqualified! I’m sure the Republicans in the Senate will balk at confirming him.

They lock eyes and we hold for several beats. Then they both break into uncontrollable laughter.

T: “That’s a good one kid, you are funny. Not as funny as me, of course, but funny.”

A:  “Thank you sir, I’ll have Sheriff Joe here in the morning.”

Scene

How Can You Miss Me If I Won’t Go Away?

Drawing of a chimp riding a tricycle

I’ve been absent from these spaces since May. Sorry about that. This summer was busy; I’ve moved from Williamsburg VA and the College of William and Mary to take a new position at the James Madison College at Michigan State University in Lansing MI. Naturally none of these esteemed institutions get the blame for anything I write here.

This summer was spent packing and wondering why we own so many damn books and loading trucks and wondering why the damn books are so damn heavy and unpacking and wondering where we are going to put all these damn books. What with all that I didn’t have a lot of time to blog.

But now I’m a little more settled. I hope to back in the blogging saddle soon.

Jonah Goldberg, Darwin and Unnatural Capitalism

This is the first part of a three-part review:

Part II: The Corruption of Jonah Goldberg.
Part III Jonah Goldberg on Ingratitude: What Goes Around, Comes Around.

 

A drawing of a classical figure labeled

Anyone who claims, “There is a human nature” inevitably follows it with, “and I know what it is!” In his new book, Suicide of the West, Jonah Goldberg thinks he knows that there is “human nature” is and, unsurprisingly, claims to know what it is. “Human nature is real” he declares (p. 23) and is the result of “innate programming” we acquired 200,000-300,000 years ago and has held constant ever since.  We are programmed to live in small groups that max out at about 150 people–Dunbar’s number (p. 63). Because of this “genetic programming” (p. 63) we tend toward a sense of unity within our group and hostility toward strangers which are “universal human tendencies” (p. 25). In other words, “Violence is the natural way to get what you want from strangers” (p. 11). This tendency toward ingroup unity and outgroup of hostility is only a sample of the extensive list of universals that Goldberg claims have been documented by “thousands of researchers” (p. 26).  Capitalism and its concomitant individualism have proven to be the best way to overwrite our natural tendencies toward distrust since they demand we see individuals, not groups, and that peaceful exchange is mutually beneficial.

Despite its blustery assurance Suicide of the West is based on some very suspect evidence and equally poor argumentation. My task here is to explain why he is wrong about human nature. Subsequent posts will take up other claims he makes.

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Koch and the Neo-Confederate

People bowing down to a dollar sign.

Is it the case that whoever pays the piper calls the tune?

We can combine two interesting bits of recent news productively.

Koch and the Neo-Confederate

The first is the news comes courtesy of the student group, UnKoch my Campus. It seems one of Charles Koch’s many foundations disbursed money to Florida Atlantic professor Marshall DeRosa to start a classes in civics education for prisoners returning to society. DeRosa was a one-time member of the League of the South (LOS) a neo-Confederate hate group.  As The Nation concludes:

The reality of the situation is staggering: An academic who worked with a neo-Confederate organization is teaching inmates, including many of color, a curriculum he designed, funded by one of the wealthiest conservative political donors in the country and instituted at the facilities of a notorious, predatory private-prison company that is accused of violating federal anti-slavery laws.

The Charles Koch foundation has scrubbed their article touting their connection to DeRosa (fortunately, the internet never forgets). And, even after DeRosa left the LOS for the (supposedly) more respectable Abbeville Institute, his views are still reactionary and ill-informed. What should we make of this? Is it reasonable to think that DeRosa’s prison activities are benign? Is it reasonable to think that the Koch Foundation just didn’t know about his unsavory past and present views and associations?

The Jews Control the Weather

The second bit of news was when a DC councilman claimed that the incoming snow on the Atlantic coast was the result of a conspiracy:

“There’s this whole concept with the Rothschilds — control the World Bank, as we all know — infusing dollars into major cities,” said White, according to video footage that the city routinely releases after official meetings. “They really pretty much control the federal government, and now they have this concept called resilient cities in which they are using their money and influence into local cities.”

The councilman later explained that he had no idea that invoking the Rothschilds was invoking an old antisemitic slur.  So, while he meant to say that a shadowy cabal controlled the weather, he certainly didn’t mean that a shadowy cabal of Jews controlled the weather.

In both cases a reasonable question is: while the Koch Foundation and the DC Councilman might have been ignorant that they were linking themselves to racist ideas, should they have known? It is an interesting historical question worth exploring.

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Merry Christmas!

Stylized sign reading

Good news everybody! Our long national nightmare is over. For the first time in almost a decade, we can say “Merry Christmas” to each other again! Thanks to our Glorious Leader!  What’s that? You are one of the 76% of Americans who think that the whole “War on Christmas” thing is a lie “made up for political reasons?”  Yeah, me too.  So, from Santa and me, Merry Christmas!

So, here on Christmas Eve, here are some Alt-Right-free tidbits for you!

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Codebreaking the Alt Right: “Russia is Our Friend!”

Map of the Russian Empire, 1820

Martin Shkreli, the infamous “pharma-bro” who first came to attention by endangering people’s lives by raising the cost of an Aids drug by 800% is back in the news. Shkreli, who obviously wasn’t hugged enough as a child, was convicted of securities fraud and is now being forced to part with some of his one-of-kind possessions.  The one that is getting the most headlines is the single copy of the Wu Tang  album Once Upon a Time in Shaolin. Shkreli bought the album just so no one else could hear it because he’s that kind of guy. I hope his prison stay is unpleasant.

Also among those possessions is an Enigma machine, a cryptography device most famous for Alan Turing’s work with it that help break Nazi codes during World War II.  Today’s Alt Right also likes to use codes, but rather than hiding troop movements they do so in order to enjoy a smirking frat-boy (and I do mean boy) “joke” at the expense of the rest of us. And the codes change all the time; Pepe the Frog is out, Groyper is in. A “reporter” for the Gateway Pundit (aka Jim Hoft, aka “the stupidest man on the internet”) recently gave a speech entitled “Its OK to Be White” that was chock full of such coded language to signal to the Alt Right that he was one of the cool kidz. This included drinking milk during the speech as a way of showing off his superior Nordic genes. Then he allegedly attacked a woman. Like I said, the Alt Right has a problem with women.

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Apologies for Neglecting You

A woman feeding pelicans.

How about some treats from recent news?

I’ve been neglecting this blog. I went on a research trip in New York to lookit all them tall buildings! go through some of the records of Group Research, Inc.  Since then I’ve been working hard on a book proposal, hoping to get it out the door by the end of the year. So I’ve had my head down and nose to the grindstone and shoulder to the wheel. Maybe that is why I have this back ache….

As some recompense, I thought I’d share some interesting stories that you may have missed.

I suppose I could post bits of the book proposal here. Let me know if that would be interesting to you.

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Offspring of Return of Still More Homework for You When I’m on Vacation

I have one job on this lousy ship! It’s stupid, but I’m gonna do it, OK?!

The machine has taken over, I’ve set up a series of reading assignments for you to be released at timed intervals by computer itself.  This is the fourth:

 

Return of Still More Homework for You When I’m on Vacation

Norman Coordinate!!!

The machine has taken over, I’ve set up a series of reading assignments for you to be released at timed intervals by computer itself.  This is the third:

See You In September: You Have Homework

Woodcut of a waterfall.

I’m taking a break until September. On a several-state tour of some of our several states. When I come back, my mind will be a raging torrent of ideas, flooded with rivulets of thought cascading into a waterfall of creative alternatives.

In the meantime, your homework is:

Once you’ve done your homework, you may:

See you in September!