RSS Atom Add a new post titled:

My far-flung audience has been requesting a clarification of my blog situation. Fair enough!

The preferred order of battle is now:

https://Bob2084.branchable.com

and

https://Duckman.branchable.com

Posted Fri Jan 22 11:58:06 2021

I have launched a new blog, called Bob2021. Duckman had a good run but it seemed time to retire his jersey, if you know what I mean.

So the new site, when it is untangled, hopefully later today or tonight, will be here:

https://Bob2100.branchable.com

See you there!

...time passes by...

Still working on the new site. May start over!

+++++++++++++++++++++++++ Still MORE time passes by. Here's an update on my blog situation.

Bob2021, to borrow a figure from Hume, fell stillborn from the press. It was beset by multiple technical failures, as a result of which I desired not to test the brancahable platform again, not, at least, AT THIS JUNCTURE.

Duckman2, which lives on one my home computers (NetBSD), is available: http://trollboy.ddns.net:8888/Duckman2.

There is now also: http://trollboy.ddns.net:8080/Bob2084. This the rightful heir to the much-lamented Bob2021, and it too runs on one of my home computers (Debian Linux), but not the one which serves Duckman2.

My intention is to put the burden of new work onto Bob2084. We'll see how that goes.

Thank you for your patience.

Posted Mon Nov 9 08:52:46 2020
From: Bob Bernstein <bob@fanatick.org>
To: Bob Bernstein <bob@dontlooknowbut.com>
Subject: How do you get a job like this?
Date: Wed, 30 Sep 2020 03:51:53
User-Agent: Alpine 2.22 (NEB 394 2020-01-19)

Michael Goodwin of the NYPost, perhaps the in-house columnist most hyped by the paper itself, was disappointed with the debate.

First he brings the now-mandatory exercise in pomposity and self-importance by setting his expectations for the debate somewhere in a planetary orbit:

"America was mistreated Tuesday. A highly anticipated showdown in a closely fought presidential election in a deeply divided country had the potential to be a clarifying moment."

Goodwin wanted, perhaps needs, a "clarifying moment." He was severely disappointed:

"Instead, it was a sweaty, formless flop...it was annoying."

An observation, or two, if I may:

  1. From my vantage point, the debate did a first-rate job "clarifying" for Goodwin the current state of the nation: "sweaty, formless...annoying." What a wonderfully pithy, and accurate summation of our body politic here in Fall 2020! The three principals, Biden, Trump, and Wallace, effectively communicated the emotional flavors of political life in these United States.

  2. Then Swami Michael returns to his crystal ball and brings back this insight:

"Not good moments for a president whose personality is a drag on his policies for many of the voters he will need to win over if he's to get a second term."

Where do our ink-stained wretches get their data? Goodwin, by implication, declares Trump in need of voters if he's going to win on Nov. 3 -- how does he know this? -- and suggests that his, Trump's, job between now and then is to woo -- that's the requisite cliche, yes? -- the stragglers. Further, he identifies the main problem for the president: HIS PERSONALITY.

But we need to thank Mr. Goodwin for helping us with these knotty considerations: there is at least one possible voter who takes marked exception to Trump's personality: fellow by name of Michael Goodwin who pounds a keyboard for the NYPost.

But strangely, the theory that holds that personality is secondary in importance to actual behaviour, i.e. to concrete actions undertaken, still holds sway with many observers, such as the group of Aussie lawyers who have nominated FOR A THIRD time Donald Trump for a NOBEL PEACE PRIZE.

Apparently, single-handedly rewriting the history of the Middle East quagmire lacks a certain "je ne sais quoi" for the likes of our Mr. Goodwin.

--
These are not the droids you are looking for.
Posted Fri Oct 2 08:38:55 2020

I read this morning that one of my favorite stand-up comedians has let loose a nasty assault on Donald Trump. Among the terms of abuse in evidence in the Twitter rant is "con man," which left me with yet another philosophical-ish question renting space in my head, namely "I wonder what behaviour or utterance of Trump led to the conclusion that he is a "con man?"

Of course dear reader you see my difficulty straight away: I have assumed that Gaffigan reviewed Trump's public comings, goings and declarations, and then inferred from that dataset the conclusion just noted above. What a silly boy I must be!

The notion that we ordinarily first amass evidence, then subject it to logic, in order to reach a rational conclusion has NEVER presented an accurate picture of how ratiocination is pursued in Christendom. In fact, it is the exact reverse series of mental operations that has been, over the centuries, and still is, most commonly employed: first, determine -- relying mostly on emotion -- the conclusion one desires to establish, then fabricate data, and what -- it will be hoped -- are to be taken as operations of logic, such that when all is tossed into the cranial cuisinart, lo' and behold the (no doubt much-sought-after) conclusion emerges.

As my title suggests, I intend to call as witnesses for the plaintiff, Bertrand Russell and John Stuart Mill. The eyes of attentive readers will already have been caught by my italicization, above, of the word "rational." At this point the more weak-kneed members of my audience may find themselves flailing with an urge to cry out, loudly, "And who are you, Mr. High and Mighty "Duckman" to decide for the rest of us in what rationality consists!"

Dear Anxiety-Ridden Reader: I am not so rash as to take it upon myself to frame the definition of "rational." I leave chores of that gravity to such as Prof. Russell, who opined (in print1 no less) that "...it is undesirable to believe a proposition when there is no ground whatever for supposing it true..." With that one brief statement Russell has specified the order to be observed: grounds for a belief (sometimes referred to as "reasons") must always be established first; only then can appeal be made to whatever steps -- proposed as "logical" -- which will ultimately yield the prized conclusion.

J.S. Mill -- An Aside

Mill (1806-73) and his philosophical work formed the chief focal point of all discussion of moral and political theory carried out in the English language for most of the nineteenth century. That there even could be, outside of organized religion, such a thing as a theory of morals will strike most denizens of the early twenty-first century as quite remarkable, as if it was the latest specimen on display at Ripley's Believe It Or Not.

Mill and his philosophical colleagues were concerned to penetrate to the heart of such things as goodness and justice in order to grasp their essential meaning. So, for example, in weighing the desirability of any proposed course of action, should one pay more attention to what is motivating the action, or to its consequences? This is one of the many necessary discernments thrown up by the sort of profound examination to which moral philosophers subjected all manner of society's rules and mores.

I am not the man to pen a precis of the mountainous intellectual terrain that is moral philosophy in the anglophone world, and, besides, the details of those discussions are irrelevant to what I want to bring into focus: the fate of rationality in general in our world, where by "rationality" I mean no more than what Russell proposed in regard to insisting that accepted beliefs have grounds.

Regrettably, moral philosophers now have no audience for their writings beyond their academic circle of teachers and grad students still enthralled by the subject matter. Discussion nowadays of moral questions is believed to carry no more weight than conversations about what toppings should never be put on pizza. (Some believe "anchovies" are the principal villain.) Suffice to say that very very few are intrested in what Mill termed "a test of right and wrong." Mill commented on this problem -- the imperative need for reasons for our beliefs -- in an unusual way.

Read on:

Over the years the necessity for this particular order of precedence -- first grounds or reasons, then conclusion -- has not always been as widely accepted as one might have hoped. Some years prior to Russell publishing his formulation in Skeptical Essays, Mill felt he had adequate justification to write:

A test of right and wrong must be the means, one would think, of ascertaining what is right or wrong, and not a consequence of having already ascertained it.

Clearly, if what is being sought is, as Mill states, a test that might be applied in order to establish the truthfulness (or the lack thereof) of certain beliefs as to right and wrong. then that test's propriety -- its veracity or correctness -- must be already established (by means which are, unfortunately, too involved to go into here) before individual cases are decided. Typically such tests -- which usually take the form of rules purporting to set out and delimit the types of things being considered (the beliefs and their grounds) and being sought (the conclusions) embody fundamental principles of the philosophical domain to which all the separate cases belong (in our present case, ethics and morals).

In the case of our comedian's claim that Trump is a con man, it is fair to ask, on what grounds do you base that claim? The comic must then do two things. First, he must state what factors he thinks are basic to the makeup of any con man, then he must identify what actions or words of Trump can be taken as examples of one or more of those stated factors. More simply, an understanding of the nature of a con man must precede its application in any individual case. If the question as to the makeup of all con men is dodged i.e "Oh,everyone knows what a con man is." or "It's obvious Trump is a con man." then the one making the claim -- our comic in the present case -- betrays himself in full view of the public to be a simple fool, who probably hates Trump, isn't really sure why he feels that way, but gets it off his chest by just throwing words like "con man" around with absolutely no ability to connect those words to his target.

This is a work-in-process: to be continued.


  1. Skeptical Essays, chap 1.
Posted Sat Sep 5 14:21:39 2020

Christopher Hitchens (1949-2011) left us a memoir entitled Hitch-22, and then went on to narrate the audible.com recorded version. I began to listen through the book last year, but it is dense going and I set it aside near the end of the year and began a re-listen of Carl Sandburg's Lincoln bio. But two weeks ago I returned to Hitch's book just in time to pick up the story of his conversion to high-profile public advocacy of "regime change" in Iraq -- i.e. let's get rid of the psychotic mass-murderer Saddam Hussein. This became the watershed moment of his political evolution, the cardinal sin his Leftist colleagues would never forgive or forget.

I planned a short notice to put up here on Duckman, derived from an aside by Hitchens pertaining to how his critics began to mount their attacks on him. This is wonderful, vintage Hitch:

"I had become too accustomed to the pseudo-Left new style, whereby if your opponent thought he had identified your lowest possible motive, he was quite certain that he had isolated the only real one. This vulgar method, which is now the norm and the standard in much non-Left journalism as well, is designed to have the effect of making any noisy moron into a master analyst."

That comment was intended to form the basis of a little bit of restrained Hitch hagiography, focusing on his travels in Kurdistan after Saddam's fall. But this morning I made a mistake. Please read on:


I almost always follow a personal rule of thumb, to wit, when viewing a webpage promising news of a recent outcropping of violence -- violence of any sort, not necessarily race-spawned -- and bespeckled with colorful buttons bearing the legend "Video," I never click for video. In seventy six years I have already streamed a sufficiency of images of graphic violence through my brain, which ought at this late date be relieved of the ugly chore of processing yet more.

I had already read about a young black man who, yesterday, 23 Aug 2020 (it was claimed), had been shot by a policeman several times in the back, and at point-blank range to boot. Somehow he has survived. Something in me said, "This I gotta see." The video, regrettably, bore out the reports I had read. The man was in the act of opening the driver's side door of an SUV with a policeman only scant feet behind him, with sidearm drawn.

What's going on here?

It's already been, by my reckoning, some years since the phrase "suicide by police" entered our lexicons. These words were used, obviously, to denote a death brought on by a subject deliberately taunting armed police, say, by pointing a firearm at them. That turns out to be a very efficient shortcut to expiration of self.

This current incident suggests a new type of psychopathology has emerged, characterized by delusions of indestructibility. Whereas in "death by police" the suicidal intent is front and center, and is what -- it may be reasonably concluded I would argue -- the subject seeks. What I see in this newer variant of mental illness is something of the opposite case: the subject behaves as if he believes there is no way he is about to die. That's not what he wants.

Are young black men now beset by a delusion of a "SuperPower", namely that by sheer braggadocio they can face down policemen and render them helpless?

How will this end?

Next: my fascination with the role of delusion in social and cultural analysis.

Posted Mon Aug 24 13:22:23 2020

I'm like a moth around an open flame with my new theory e.g. that Biden will gain an easy victory at the polls this November simply because the populace is exhausted and wants to take a break. It will not be a "mandate" for anything other than getting the party of mentally ill children to shut up and do some constructive work for the nation -- if they remember how to do that. Here's an email I sent out today that expresses the thing in language that is a little more florid:


From: Bob Bernstein bob@fanatick.org
Subject: Biden stands a damn good chance. Here's why.
Date: Sat, 25 Jul 2020 16:27:56
User-Agent: Alpine 2.22 (NEB 394 2020-01-19)

It is of course not the case that Trump has caused much if any of the wave of distress that has had, for some time now, the Republic's bowels in an uproar. But as snarky types (such as academic philosophers, who know only others like them, and their doctoral candidates, read their books and papers) like to say, that claim is "true but unexciting." Unexciting because no one has had any interest in objective historical truth for many many years.

The courageous NY Times did not propose this (i.e. "Have no interest in objective historical truth.") as an explicit agenda for "activist journalism" until long after that recreation's ascendance on Grub Street was complete.

NO ONE cares as to what "really happened" A boring, and much too thorny a question anyway. But even the dullest among us must by now be sensing, even if only as through a glass darkly, that the resolution of the nation's colonic unhappiness would follow IMMEDIATELY on Trump's removal by any means.

The violence would evaporate. The BLM signage -- even that outside Fenway Park -- would come down. Police budgets would be restored. Children and their teachers would excitedly prepare for a return to school in the Fall. It might be months or years before we even again saw the word "mask" in print. And so on.

It's obvious, yes?

-- These are not the droids you are looking for.

Posted Sat Jul 25 20:13:49 2020

My principal efforts since Nov '16 have been. in order of composition:

Mass Insanity

Me And The Blue-Wave

Robert Gould Shaw

Posted Sat Jul 25 14:40:59 2020

November 15, 2018 ~ 1327 words

Me And The Blue Wave

Voters deprived of good information are helpless to make effective choices. Voters lulled into a false sense of "being informed" are even more susceptible to erroneous data. Would I be taking things too far to assert that Orwell's fictitious "Ministry of Truth" (as in his novel 1984) has now become fact? Think CNN and its "MSM" colleagues. Orwell's knack for historical prescience looms more startling with every turn of the calendar.

During the run-up to the recent election, I consoled myself with this thought: surely the citizens of this great land would never return power to the group now revealed to be guilty of genuinely high crimes, involving the top ranks of the DOJ and FBI leadership, and corrupting some of our major national security institutions (think FISA and NSA). Surely, as I say, such an oversight, such a miscalculation, would be simply beyond the pale for our voters.

Granted, the midterms are not focussed in any preeminent fashion on national issues. On the hustings, the contests are diffuse in their foci, with local and county matters often stirring voters' passions far more than goings-on in Washington D.C.

But still, it would require a deliberate act of short-sightedness not to include in the balance a mandate on the presidency. I lack the expertise needed to quantify the degree to which it was a vote for-or-against Trump, but some of the votes cast must have been intended to record sentiments on that question.

I have a friend; let's call him Fred. We met back in the eighties working at the same business in Massachusetts, and have stayed friends ever since. We try to meet for supper about every two or three months in a local ordinary family restaurant, where they don't really care how long you sit there yakking after you're finished over-stuffing your face.

Fred is a literate fellow. He reads books. His undergrad degree was in math. But he also reads pretty much every day the Boston Globe and the Providence Journal, and he watches cable news every week night. My assessment is that the net consequence of these latter activities is that Fred is convinced that he is well-informed, at least to the utmost possible for an ordinary literate American.

On the phone the other night, while setting a date for our next supper, I asked him if he knew what the acronym "FISA" meant. I then asked him what he thought about our very own FBI marching into a FISA courtroom to apply for a warrant for surveillance of one of Trump's former acquaintances with an application they prepared using a totally fallacious and bogus "dossier." And, had he heard about that "dossier?"

Fred didn't know from "FISA." He seemed to get a little squirmy on the dossier matter, and averred that he didn't know whether he "believed" in it, or the FISA story in toto. I struggled to find a polite way to tell him that those events were now chronicled in the annals of "open public fact," accepted by all who followed the slow unveiling of facts on record in that case. I didn't push it since I lose friends far too easily. But I fear that on the conclusion of our chat that night, he remained in the camp that viewed such claims as "allegations," not facts.

Dr. Ford's testimony in the Senate committee considering the Kavanaugh appointment proved useful after all in this context. When, after Trump (at a rally) summarized it in a bluntly schematic way -- a way that was nevertheless completely faithful to her testimony -- the usual heads began to explode, and he was condemned for "mocking" her. It was soon pointed out that the content of her "evidence" had never been reported to our nation's electorate, not, at least, by all those channels that my friend Fred attends to. How can I not suppose the same holds true in the case of the Carter Page FISA warrants? The vast MSM viewership might never have heard any of the records of that case, so how could they not see it as mere allegations?

A personal aside: due to deteriorating eyesight, I watch no teevee at all. Occasionally I treat myself to a movie using my computer. I mention this to explain why I can't say, "On the cable news stations the facts of these events never were adequately reported."

So a bright light was shed for me by the "Trump Mocked Ford" alleged incident. The electorate, which I trusted (and need to continue to trust) did not, on Nov. 6th, fall into a perverse spell of crankiness and decide to hand power back to the organized criminals who comprised our "loyal" opposition. It was a data problem: garbage in; garbage out. Simple.


I've been going through two books the last few weeks: the late, irreplaceable Christopher Hitchens' Why Orwell Matters, and Orwell's Such, Such, Were The Joys, a collection of his essays. Hitchens was concerned to raise to a higher profile some facts about Orwell's activity in the Spanish Civil War. I don't have a sense for how well known is the fact that he travelled to Spain during the fighting, and took a sniper's bullet in his neck for his trouble.

Orwell and his wife came near to being arrested by the NKVD while in Spain. Hitchens carefully reviews the details of the NKVD forces then actively sabotaging the Popular Front, the principal Republican contender in the struggle for Spain. Suffice it to say that the details of this squalid episode in Soviet international relations only came fully to light after the fall of the Soviet regime, when NKVD archives in Moscow revealed how closely they had had Mr. and Mrs. Orwell in their sights, having branded them as "pronounced Trotskyists."

What has this to do with Dr. Blasey Ford and the "Blue Wave?" Orwell complained bitterly in his book on the war in Spain (Homage To Catalonia) that nothing like the whole story of that war would ever come out. When he concocted his "Ministry of Truth" for 1984 he was working from direct personal experience of Comintern's methods. Hitchens cites Orwell from that book:

--snip--

"It will never be possible to get a completely accurate and unbiased account of the Barcelona fighting, because the necessary records do not exist. Future historians will have nothing to go upon except a mass of accusations and party propaganda. I myself have little data beyond what I saw with my own eyes and what I have learned from other eye-witnesses whom I believe to be reliable...

"This kind of thing is frightening to me, because it often gives me the feeling that the very concept of objective truth is fading out of the world. After all, the chances are that those lies, or at any rate similar lies, will pass into history . . . The implied objective of this line of thought is a nightmare world in which the Leader, or some ruling clique, controls not only the future but the past. If the Leader says of such and such an event, "It never happened" well, it never happened. If he says that two and two are five "well, two and two are five."

Hitchens, Christopher. Why Orwell Matters (pp. 69-70). Basic Books. Kindle Edition.

--snip--

I don't have much in the way of take-aways from these jottings. Principally, I now know we are in much more trouble as a free republic than I believed could ever be possible. We have a Ministry of Truth whose power and reach far exceeds anything Orwell might have guessed. But perhaps not. Let us be extremely careful when passing judgement on him. Who else was publishing thoughts such as "the very concept of objective truth is fading out of the world" in 1938?

Posted Sat Jul 25 14:33:59 2020

Huge collective psychoses, such as the delusional nightmare known as Trump Derangement Syndrome, resemble the novel coronavirus COVID-19 in at least one way: they both belong to groups of phenomena that have not been well-studied. They each represent rare birds indeed.

If we had enough datapoints to sketch out a "natural history of large scale social delusions," would we see near the end of each episode of the illness a growing exhaustion in the host civilization, such that via rapid historical change the original narcissistic wound, or psychic insult, or trauma gets somehow undone, accompanied by societal and cultural readjustments that accomplish seeming miracles of the return of the "old normal?"

Imagine the changes that might IMMEDIATELY accompany a Biden victory on November 3rd: all the violence just evaporates. All the BLM signage would come down -- nobody really wanted to look at it anyway. The Chinese will kiss and make up. Disoriented citizens, as they shed their long-standing cognitive distortions, will look at each other as if to say, "Whew. What was THAT all about?"

Posted Fri Jul 24 01:34:35 2020

Robert Gould Shaw was a Union Army officer in command of the war's first all-black infantry regiment, the 54th Massachusetts. He died July 18, 1863 in combat leading his unit in an assault on fortifications at Fort Wagner, which defended the port of Charleston, South Carolina.

A large bronze memorial by Augustus Saint-Gaudens was unveiled May 31, 1897 on Boston Common. Currently the monument is off-site for restoration following damage by Black Lives Matter (George Floyd) protestors on May 31, 2020.


Interlude

I love Ann Coulter; she makes me laugh out loud. From her 6/17/20 column "YALE HAS TO GO!" https://anncoulter.com/2020/06/17/yale-has-to-go/:

"Southerners could take justifiable pride in what everyone agrees was a better class of general and soldier."

"My ancestors were abolitionists who fought for the Union, but you don't have to be a Southerner to care about Confederate monuments."

"Not that long ago, nearly all Americans had pre-Civil War ancestors. Not any more! Recent immigrants, by which I mean people who arrived after 1865, think the country started with them. They find it hilarious to destroy anything that happened before they got here."


Meditation

What's sticking in my craw is the desecration this month of the Robert Gould Shaw statue in Boston. Shaw trained up and then led into combat the first all-Negro unit in the Union Army. He also died with most of them in action in South Carolina, unceremoniously tossed into a graves pit along with the remains of his command.

One has to do a little digging to understand who Shaw was to the citizens of Boston; suffice to say stringing words such as "hero" and "paragon" together doesn't come near to doing the job. He was the shining golden boy of one of Boston's oldest, and wealthiest families. Privately schooled in Europe and then Harvard he volunteered at the onset of the war, and was quickly identified as the perfect choice for the first commanding officer of Massachusett's first all-black infantry regiment.

He was hands down a complete representative of all the absolute best that Boston had to offer in a young man of mark.

What is the worth of a man? Do we have a calculus that can express such a value? I ponder the topic of reparations, and I say, let's just mark that bill PAID IN FULL.

Lincoln's surveying work left him a numerate fellow. He could read between the lines of the lists of casualty figures that streamed into the War Department's telegraph office all day and night. Unlike many of his generals, he knew what he was reading. He did not find a general who also understood it until Grant came into his service.

Modern historians calculate the costs of military carnage in terms of the number of fighters in one army who must be sacrificed in combat to effect the expiration of one their opposite numbers in, of course, the opposing army. Clausewitz taught that winning a war was not a matter of gaining control of territory, but of destroying armies. The first to eradicate the other's army is the victor. See Norman Davies' No Simple Victory (2006) for more about this aspect of our history. If I could find my copy I would tell you how many US Army soldiers were required to kill one member of the German Wehrmacht (they were an expensive bunch to eradicate).

Lincoln could see this in those casualty figures he sat with. He knew that as pricey as Confederate soldiers were in terms of the number of Union troops needed to send any one of them to their final reward, that the North had a large stock of young white men from which to conscript whatever size army he would have to offer up to the killing on the battlefield in order to wipe out the Confederate forces. What he could not do was find a general willing to fight war under such conditions, that is, until he found Grant, who also understood the numbers and the logic of attrition.

But lets unfold what we are actually saying here. We are saying that Civil War generals knew every time they ordered a troop advance that they were without fail sending hundreds and then thousands of men to their death. That slaughter was itself the actual mechanism of wrenching victory out of the thing. Then I think, well if this knowledge of the certain death they were ordering their men into was plain to the generals (well, some of them, anyway) then surely it would have been plain to many of the men of the line. Imagine: hundreds and thousands of young white men marching with complete knowledge aforethought that they were passing through their last day on this planet, yet still obeying the order to advance when it came. How does a price get attached to such actions?

I need to check back in my sources but if I recall correctly Robert Gould Shaw not only gave such orders (at Fort Wagner) to move forward, but died advancing next to the men he so ordered.

What price?

PAID IN FULL

nb. Col. Robert Gould Shaw fell in battle at age twenty five (25).


Addenda

h/t https://revolver.news/#feed

https://www.revolver.news/wp-content/uploads/2021/02/2021.02.12-03.05-revolvernews-60269922c424d.png

Read: “Enslaved Ancestors College Access Scholarship and Memorial Program”

Posted Fri Jun 26 18:19:19 2020

Duckman is channeled by bob.bernstein@yahoo.com

Out-of-date, abbreviated CV

local.css