Coming Soon:

The following books by Robert Paul Wolff are available on Amazon.com as e-books: KANT'S THEORY OF MENTAL ACTIVITY, THE AUTONOMY OF REASON, UNDERSTANDING MARX, UNDERSTANDING RAWLS, THE POVERTY OF LIBERALISM, A LIFE IN THE ACADEMY, MONEYBAGS MUST BE SO LUCKY, AN INTRODUCTION TO THE USE OF FORMAL METHODS IN POLITICAL PHILOSOPHY.
Now Available: Volumes I, II, III, and IV of the Collected Published and Unpublished Papers.

NOW AVAILABLE ON YOUTUBE: LECTURES ON KANT'S CRITIQUE OF PURE REASON. To view the lectures, go to YouTube and search for "Robert Paul Wolff Kant." There they will be.

NOW AVAILABLE ON YOUTUBE: LECTURES ON THE THOUGHT OF KARL MARX. To view the lectures, go to YouTube and search for Robert Paul Wolff Marx."





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Sunday, October 13, 2019

SUNDAY FIX


Some of you may, like me, have become so addicted to newsbreaks that you cannot get through a Sunday without a fix.  Here is today’s:

You will recall in the text message dump [last week’s news] one rather formal text message from Sondland to Taylor [EU Ambassador, Acting Ukraine Ambassador] in which, after Taylor texts that it is crazy to hold up aid until Zelensky agrees to investigate the Bidens, Sondland replies that there was no quid pro quo.  Trump trumpeted Sondland’s text as proof that the whole matter was a hoax.  Keen-eyed commentators noticed a 5 ½ hour gap between the two messages.

Now the Washington Post and the New York Times are reporting that when Sondland appears before several committees this week [and he will appear], he will testify that during that interim he called Trump and was told to say what he did, that he has no independent knowledge that it is true, that he can only testify that Trump told him to say it.

I believe the conventional response is that “the wheels are coming off the bus” and “the rats are deserting the sinking ship.”

41 comments:

Charles Pigden said...

The difference between Watergate and the Fall of Trump (apart from the fact that Trump and his cronies, unlike Nixon and his associates, are all unbelievably stupid) is that watching Watergate unfold, was bit like watching a high-quality drama series on a week-by-week basis over a period of years whereas watching the Trump catastrophe is a bit like binge-watching a multi-year series in a couple of weeks. The plot twists come thick and fast.

David said...

I remember that in the summer of 1974, when my father was attending classes at the Sloan School at MIT, he and his fellow students started a pool on when Nixon would resign. At the time, I thought this quite remarkable. My father was a conservative Republican, as, no doubt, were many of his colleagues. That they would make a kind of game out of it was surprising to me. On the other hand, the game did involve money.

s. wallerstein said...

Everybody here says that Trump is stupid. I don't find him to be stupid. He is obviously not an intellectual and clearly vulgar in his tastes and opinions, but watching him in the debates with the other Republican candidates and then with Hillary Clinton in 2016, I found him to be shrewd, which is a form of intelligence. It was impressive how he came up with just the right epithet for each other candidate, "little Marco", "lying Ted", "crooked Hillary" and how he used body language and facial expressions to his advantage. That's a sign of intelligence in my opinion. He's a demagogue, a liar, a conman, but he has managed to seduce about 40% of the U.S. electorate, which again indicates a certain intelligence.

We intellectuals tend to consider ourselves to be intelligent and maybe some of us are, but the type of intelligence we have isn't the only one.

Anonymous said...

I think Trump is both stupid and shrewd. He contains multitudes. I don't find him stupid because he isn't an intellectual, but because he evinces almost zero intellectual curiosity. Moreover, his intelligence is of the lowbrow, lowest common denominator, marketing genius sort, which is certainly a skill, but an irritating one. We could do with fewer people exercising this skill. Now, Obama doesn't exhibit a towering intellectual curiosity, either, nor is he a professional intellectual, but he clearly manifests intelligence, an ability to exercise judgment and wit, and to bring objective knowledge to bear on his actions and decisions. Trump's ability to seduce or fool a large number of Americans is certainly crucial to his political trajectory. It is a "kind" of intelligence in the same way that we experience, say, boxing as a "kind" of art form.

As for Watergate versus the whatever-gate in which we're immersed these days, I recall my junior high history teacher rolling a television into our room to present the live hearings. I recall thinking it seemed "very important" at the time, but I didn't really fathom what was going on. The biggest difference between then and now? Obviously, the media. We now have more immediate delivery of the pile-on of plot twists than in '73, but then news consumers' expectations at the time weren't primed for instantaneous information. Yet I am sure that some of those folks who were closely involved experienced in palpable ways the maneuverings and machinations.

Dean said...

Dammit, that's me up there^

Charles Pigden said...

On another show-biz note I am surprised people are not using he Specials' 'A Message to You Rudy' to make fun of Giuliani .

Lyrics
Stop your messing around (ah-ah-ah)
Better think of your future (ah-ah-ah)
Time you straighten right out (ah-ah-ah)
Creating problems in town (ah-ah-ah)
Rudy
A message to you, Rudy
A message to you
Stop your fooling around (ah-ah-ah)
Time you straighten right out (ah-ah-ah)
Better think of your future (ah-ah-ah)
Else you'll wind up in jail (ah-ah-ah)
Rudy
A message to you, Rudy
A message to you
Stop your messing around (ah-ah-ah)
Better think of your future (ah-ah-ah)
Time you straighten right out (ah-ah-ah)
Creating problems in town (ah-ah-ah)
Rudy
A message to you, Rudy
A message to you, Rudy
Oh, it's a message to you, Rudy
Yeah, it's a message to you, Rudy

Perhaps not enough Americans are fans of seventies British two-tone bands.

See https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IbqiCxEIeEo

Charles Pigden said...

And then there's Le Tigre's 'My Metro Card' for those who like New York feminist punk .
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sT1zzc-hVCY

LeanMcHungry said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
LeanMcHungry said...

S Wallerstein's acknowledgement of Trump's shrewdness, and his gift for misanthropic epithets as a kind of intelligence, reminded me of a question posed by Joyce Carol Oats.
Does Trump's gift for mocking and the misanthropic epithet reveal a known psychological pathology?
It occurred to me, someone with only a causal interest, that within the Kleinian object relations view, the malicious epithet could be seen as an example of splitting. The damaged psyche being unable to grasp the whole object, splits the person defensively into a part object, a caricature: crooked Hillary etc.
The Orange Doofus does have a flair for this, being less generous than Mr Wallerstein, I see this as evidence of a damaged psyche rather than intelligence.
Von Clownstick is hardly an evil genius Bond villain like Goldfinger, although Orange Fingers is pursuing the same rich guy who wants to be richer plot.

s. wallerstein said...

Part of politics involves mocking your adversary, and the intellectual left tends to mock the right by characterizing it as "stupid". Back in the late 60's we considered Nixon to be stupid, although now I see that with the years he's been promoted to "smart".

The right mocks the intellectual left by characterizing it as "useless". They ask us: if you're so smart, why aren't you rich? They claim that we would be unable to run a successful small business (and they may be right).

For the right intelligence is measured by the ability to earn a lot of money and/or to run a business, the bigger the better. For the intellectual left intelligence seems to involve mastering complex philosophical discourses with a polysyllabic vocabulary.

If intelligence is the ability to learn how to get what one wants in new situations, then both the intellectual left and the right may be intelligent since they want different things. I myself have never wanted to get rich or to run a successful business, but I would be very proud of myself if I read the Critique of Pure Reason and understood it.

There's nothing wrong with having a little fun and mocking one's adversaries, but it does seem important not to underestimate their capabilities. Most of us laughed at Trump in 2016 and assumed that a vulgar ignoramos like him couldn't possibly become president of a superpower. We were wrong then. Trump is a shrewd politician or rather a shrewd demagogue and he may well be shrewd enough to beat the impeachment rap and to get himself re-elected president.

David said...

I would like to return to Charles Pigden's first comment in this thread regarding the difference between Watergate and now.

It occurs to me that a major difference is the makeup of the Republican Party. In the days of Watergate, there were still less ideologically driven Republicans, including country-club Republicans or Rockefeller Republicans. Gerald Ford, of the Midwestern variety, fits into the category of the comparatively more pragmatic Republicans. The extreme paranoid right was still a minority in the Republican Party . Their preferred candidate at the '68 Convention had been Ronald Reagan, who took third. (Nelson Rockefeller, it will be recalled, took second.) The far right did not like Nixon very much.

Now the extreme paranoid right is the dominant force within the Republican Party. They can be counted on to lap up, expand on, and spread any conspiracy theory that comes to them. Congressional Republicans either belong to this faction or are submissive to them. It's clear now--if it wasn't before--what the Trump strategy is: to fan the flames of conspiracy fanaticism among the extremists, whose job it is to pressure Republican members of Congress. While there was certainly paranoia at work during Watergate--Nixon himself was famously paranoid--there wasn't anything on the scale we see now.

Charles Pigden said...

I am in broad agreement with David except for one thing. Like many another he talks about conspiracy theories as if conspiracy theories *as such* were necessarily suspect, false or unbelievable. This is a mistake. A conspiracy theory is simply a theory which postulates a conspiracy , that is a secret plan to influence events by partly secret means. People frequently conspire and when they do it is often reasonable to believe or suspect that they have done so as when we believe that Trump, Giuliani and his disreputable sidekicks have conspired to pressure the Ukrainian government to dig up imaginary dirt on Joe Biden. Thus many conspiracy theories are not only true but the kind of thing that it is rational to believe, as with the many conspiracy theories peddled by that indefatigable conspiracy theorist, Rachel Maddow. For more on this see my papers on this subject, many of which are available on my Academia.edu webpage:

Pigden, Charles (2019 forthcoming ) ‘Everyone’s a Conspiracy Theorist’ in Greene, Richard and Robison-Greene, Rachel eds Conspiracy Theories,: Philosophers Connect the Dots, Open Court, Chicago, pp. 23-33.

Pigden, Charles (2018) ‘Conspiracy Theories, Deplorables and Defectibility: a Reply to Patrick Stokes’ in Dentith ed. Taking Conspiracy Theories Seriously, Rowman and Littlefield, pp 201-213.

[This one has some Trump jokes and suggests a criterion for distinguishing between sensible and silly conspiracy theories.]

Pigden, Charles (2017) ‘Are Conspiracy Theories Epistemically Vicious?’ in Brownlee, Coady, Lippert-Rasmmussen eds The Blackwell Companion to Applied Philosophy, Oxford, Wiley-Blackwell, pp 120-132

Pigden, Charles (2014) ‘Foreword’ to Dentith Matthew R X, The Philosophy of Conspiracy Theories, Palgrave Macmillan,

Pigden, Charles (2007) ‘Conspiracy Theories and the Conventional Wisdom’, Episteme: A Journal of Social Epistemology, 4:2, pp. 219-232

Pigden, Charles (2006) ‘Complots of Mischief’ ch. 12 of Coady, David ed. Conspiracy Theories: the Philosophical Debate, Aldershot, Ashgate, pp. 139-166.

Pigden, C.R, (1995) ‘Popper Revisited or What is Wrong With Conspiracy Theories?’ The Philosophy of the Social Sciences, vol. 25, no. 1. pp. 3-34.


Now getting back to serious business, what is it with you guys? Am I the only Scar fan on this thread? Has nobody else heard of The Specials? You will be telling me next that you are not familiar with the band Madness!

Dean said...

I was peddling records, LPs, when The Specials, Madness, The Selecter, Bad Manners, etc., were releasing their early outings. I was not at the time a fan, but that's partly due to my just generally losing interest (which I have since recovered) in pop music. In retrospect, I find a lot to enjoy about them. You are right that "Message to You Rudy" ought to be an obvious taunt to RG.

Christopher J. Mulvaney, Ph.D. said...

Charles Pigden, thank you for the bibliography. I will dive into a few of these in the next few weeks. If I were to lapse into a Weberian mode, I would say that there is an elective affinity between the political right and conspiracy theories. I am not sure why that is the case, but at least in American history it is true.

Re: The Specials, I was more a fan of the Tom Robinson Band. You can't beat songs like Glad to Be Gay, one of the most bitterly sarcastic/ironic songs ever written, or Power in the Darkness, etc.

One last thing: I don't know if Trump is stupid, but he certainly is profoundly ignorant of anything outside of playing the real estate game and surviving. What skills he has, I suspect, arise from the demands of his psychopathology. Example: insulting nicknames are a means of establishing his superiority while diminishing the other person's status. (This is a critical skill for a narcissist, and one they can learn in grade school and spend their lives perfecting!) This technique is deployed only when the object of his ridicule can not, or is not likely to respond in real time (during a press conference, a rally, or a televised debate). Consider his habit of saying things like "you know I'm right," or "Lots of people say..." to reporters when something he just said was lie. This reinforces the lie when the norms of a white house press conference situation prevents it from being challenged.

I guess these are the rhetorical techniques of the bull shit artist. Trump has honed his pathology in ways that have allowed him to function. Whether that makes him smart, or stupid, or that he has emotional intelligence, I don't know. What I do know is he doesn't know squat. I think of him as an idiot in the original Greek sense of the word.

David said...

Thank you for the list of publications, Charles Pigden. Perhaps you've covered this in some of your articles, but in my comment above, I was thinking specifically of paranoid conspiracy theorists of the right. This quote from Richard Hoftstadter's famous "The Paranoid Style in American Politics" comes close to making a distinction I would like to make between conspiracy theories in general and paranoid conspiracy theories:

"Let us now abstract the basic elements in the paranoid style. The central image is that of a vast and sinister conspiracy, a gigantic and yet subtle machinery of influence set in motion to undermine and destroy a way of life. One may object that there are conspiratorial acts in history, and there is nothing paranoid about taking note of them. This is true. All political behavior requires strategy, many strategic acts depend for their effect upon a period of secrecy, and anything that is secret may be described, often with but little exaggeration, as conspiratorial. The distinguishing thing about the paranoid style is not that its exponents see conspiracies or plots here and there in history, but that they regard a "vast" or "gigantic" conspiracy as the motive force in historical events. History is a conspiracy, set in motion by demonic forces of almost transcendent power, and what is felt to be needed to defeat it is not the usual methods of political give-and-take, but an all-out crusade. The paranoid spokesman sees the fate of this conspiracy in apocalyptic terms--he traffics in the birth and death of whole worlds, whole political orders, whole systems of human values."

Charles Pigden said...

Short reply David,
People on the Left should not endorse the anti-conspiracist rhetoric because it can be, and has been deployed very effectively against them. The thing to keep hammering away at is this. Although many conspiracy theories are false and foolish , there is nothing wrong with conspiracy theories *as such* . What's wrong with crazy and dangerous conspiracy theories is that they are crazy and dangerous *not* that they are conspiracy theories, many of which are perfectly kosher. What's wrong with Hofstadter is that he fails to make this distinction, tarring all conspiracy theories, sensible and silly, with the same pejorative and paranoid brush. The problem with the loose use of 'conspiracy theory' and conspiracy theories as general terms of abuse is that it facilitates the following fallacious slides

1) This theory postulates a conspiracy.
2) Therefore it is a conspiracy theory.
3) Therefore it is almost certainly false, not worth investigating and the kind of thing no intellectually person ought to believe.

1) This person believes or suspects that there has been a conspiracy here.
2) Therefore this person subscribes to a conspiracy theory
3) Therefore this person is a conspiracy theorist
4) Therefore this person is a deluded kook whose opinions can be safely dismissed.

Has this kind of rhetoric been used to deflect criticism from of real-life conspiracies and real-life conspirators? Yes absolutely. Tony Blair was and is disposed to use anti-conspiracist rhetoric to respond to those who correctly suggested that he and Bush conspired to go to war with Iraq on the basis of dubious and/or faked data , their chief purpose being regime change. Hundreds of thousands of people died. For details see my ‘Complots of Mischief’ which also includes a philosophical dialogue in Shakespearian blank verse featuring Coriolanus and a pair of contemporary philosophers. What makes Blair’s rhetoric all the more disingenuous is that the justification for the Iraq War depended on three conspiracy theories, one true the others false.

(1) That the events of 9/11 were due to an al-Qaeda inspired conspiracy (al-Qaeda themselves being in league with the Taliban).
(2) That Saddam Hussein’s regime was in league with al-Qaeda, making him in some kind of accessory to the events of 9/11.
(3) .That Saddam Hussein’s regime had successfully conspired to acquire (or retain) weapons of mass destruction (thus evading the UN inspectors) and perhaps was on the way to gaining a nuclear capability (via the acquisition of yellowcake from Niger), thus making the regime a clear and present danger both to the UK and to the US.

What’s wrong with theories (2) and (3) is not that they were conspiracy theories but that they were false. Saddam *might* have been in league with Al-Qaeda but he wasn’t. He *might* have successfully conspired to acquire or retain WMDs (including nuclear weapons) but that he didn’t. The theories are not insane or ridiculous – they just happen to be false.

Charles Pigden said...

A book I particularly recommend on the way genuine conspiracies and false conspiracy theories interact in American History is Kathryn S Olmsted’s ‘Real Enemies: Conspiracy Theories and American Democracy’ (OUP). Here’s a real eye-opener. Was there a large and successful conspiracy on the part of the the Soviets to penetrate the New Deal administration? Yes. Did it exist during the McCarthyite era? No. By the time McCarthy got going the Soviet it had been largely shut down. The ‘Red Spy Queen ‘ Elizabeth Bentley had spilled the beans to the FBI who passed the information along to the British as represented by Kim Philby, himself a Soviet Agent. He passed the information along to his handlers who promptly shut down the Soviet Espionage operation. So the McCarthyite persecutions were on a set of largely false conspiracy theories, though these were due in part to a genuine conspiracy.

Perhaps it worth pointing out that in some cases the public discourse is dominated by rival conspiracy theories, one true or largely true and the other false. During ht Great Terror their was a genuine conspiracy on the part of Stalin and is cohorts to deal with potential dissidnets by smearing them with a series of false conspiracy theories which denounced them as spies, traitors and wrecker. The claim that Climate Change is a hoax is false conspiracy theory. But the theory that the oil industry and its ideological allies have conspired to downplay the threat of climate change in the interests of continuing profits is basically true.

As for ‘A Message to You, Rudy’ all they need to do is replace the crowd scenes in the Specials’ video with pictures of Giuliani and they’ve got it made.

Charles Pigden said...

Reposting minus typos.
A book I particularly recommend on the way genuine conspiracies and false conspiracy theories interact in American History is Kathryn S Olmsted’s ‘Real Enemies: Conspiracy Theories and American Democracy’ (OUP). Here’s a real eye-opener. Was there a large and successful conspiracy on the part of the the Soviets to penetrate the New Deal administration? Yes. Did it exist during the McCarthyite era? No. By the time McCarthy got going the Soviet enterprise had been largely shut down. The ‘Red Spy Queen ‘ Elizabeth Bentley had spilled the beans to the FBI who passed the information along to the British as represented by Kim Philby, himself a Soviet Agent. He passed the information along to his handlers who promptly shut down the Soviet Espionage operation. So the McCarthyite persecutions were based on a set of largely false conspiracy theories, though these were due in part to a genuine conspiracy.

Perhaps it worth pointing out that in some cases the public discourse is dominated by rival conspiracy theories, one true or largely true and the other false. During the Great Terror there was a genuine conspiracy on the part of Stalin and his cohorts to deal with potential dissidents by smearing them with a series of false conspiracy theories which denounced them as spies, traitors and wreckers. The claim that Climate Change is a hoax is false conspiracy theory. But the theory that the oil industry and its ideological allies have conspired to downplay the threat of climate change in the interests of continuing profits is basically true. (See for instance Naomi Klein and Naomi Oreskes).

As for ‘A Message to You, Rudy’ all they need to do is replace the crowd scenes in the Specials’ video with pictures of Giuliani and they’ve got it made.

Matt said...

On Trump being "stupid" - I think the discussion shows how limited that word is. He clearly has a lot of cunning in certain circumstances - but it is also clearly pretty limited. It didn't help him as a business person, for example. (The only thing that helped him, other than being born into money, was the ability to act completely without morals or restraint. It's really hard for most people to expect or deal with that, so they can often get thrown off balance and taken advantage of.) He is sometimes able to see an opening, and then go for it. That's a sort of animal cunning. Of course, he often makes a huge mess of things when he does this (as his business carer and his presidency both show) because he is extremely ignorant, including ignorant of his own limitations. I'd be happy to say that this is _a way_ to be stupid, even if it's not the only or the most common way.

On conspiracy theories, I'll add the two cases that might be termed such that I believe, for people's amusement. (I'm happy to spell out the reasons for believing them, but they are a bit long, so I don't do so now.)
1. Certain people in the Russian government, probably including Putin, but at least people close to him (but maybe not including Yeltsin) were involved in both the incursion into Dagestan and the later apartment bombings that lead to/ "justified" the 2nd Chechen war, staring in 1999.

2. The US intentionally blew up the Chinese embassy in Belgrade Serbia in 1999, knowing full well what the target was and why it was doing it.

Christopher J. Mulvaney, Ph.D. said...

A.G. Barr, in his speech to Notre Dame, just articulated a whopper of a conspiracy theory. Maybe it's more of a historical interpretation about the decline of civilization. Apparently gangs of militant secularists are roaming the streets of your city!!

Seriously, though, his paranoid delusion included claims that militant secularists are to blame for drug use, mental illness and senseless violence. "This is not decay. It is organized destruction. Secularists, and their allies among the 'progressives,' have marshaled all the forces of mass communication, popular culture, the entertainment industry, and academia in an unremitting assault on religion and traditional values." These are the folks who have driven religion out of the schools and insist on keeping government free of religious influence. Given that academia is a den of iniquitous secularist vipers, send you college age children to Liberty University or‎ Ouachita Baptist University‎ where Sara Sanders received her sterling education.

Substitute "communist" for militant secularists and Barr's speech could have been given during the McCarthy era.

LFC said...

@Matt
would be interested in why you believe #2 re Chinese embassy bombing.

@s Wallerstein
I'm not sure anyone ever thought Nixon was stupid. Cunning, amoral etc. but not stupid. Though if he had destroyed the tapes, or never taped at all, he might have survived Watergate.

s. wallerstein said...

LFC,

You might not believe it now, but the people I hung with around, say, 1970, long-haired radical drop-outs, thought Nixon and all Republicans were stupid. We were very narrow-minded, saw ourselves as "creative, free spirits" and actually, saw everyone with short-hair and a tie as impossibly uncreative and yes, stupid.

Howie said...

Dear Chris M
Trump's tantrum in the oval office today clearly exhibits a severe case of insanity. It may be characterological and not a mental illness but he is not just failing to reality test but is hysterically banging his head against the constraints of reality.
Whatever the cause he is going psychotic.
Do you disagree?
It's consistent with his case history and the pressures of the presidency which are causing him to decompensate

LFC said...

Ok, s.w., you've convinced me.

Btw I saw the new Tarantino movie some weeks ago (set in 1969). Not sure I'd recommend the movie itself -- probably wouldn't -- but the soundtrack is v good and for someone like you (you're somewhat older than I am) it would be the proverbial trip down memory lane. 'California Dreaming', anyone? ;)

LFC said...

P.s. I suspect the soundtrack is already available as a CD (or in some other form) or soon will be...

Matt said...

LFC - many of the basic facts about the bombing of the Chinese embassy - largely uncontested ones - already make it seem plausible that it was on purpose. You can get a gist of those from the wikipedia page, here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/United_States_bombing_of_the_Chinese_embassy_in_Belgrade

Two other things made me mostly convinced. There was a story on (I think - it was 20 years ago now!) NPR about a guy from (again, I think) the CIA, who was in charge of checking bomb targets. A day before the embassy bombing, he saw the Chinese embassy on the list of targets (so, it's clear it wasn't hit "by accident"), knew immediately it was the embassy - its location was well known - and placed a hurried call, saying that it needed to be taken off the list. He was told that the message was received, etc. The next day, when the planes were about to fly, he was re-checking and it was still there. He called again, very upset, to say it needed to be taken off. He was again brushed off, more or less, and then the embassy was bombed. So, that's some good evidence that it was on purpose. But why do it? this is the more speculative part for me.

Shortly before the bombing, a US F-117 fighter bomber was shot down. This was a huge surprise. Right around the same time, there were reports that China was claiming that it had developed a way to track the stealth fighters by turning radar on and off very quickly (or something like that.) There were also reports of very high levels of electromagnetic energy (such as, for example, radar) coming from the Chinese embassy in Belgrade at the time. (In the wiki page, they talk about transmitting information for Serbia, but I think that's unlikely to have been all.) So, I think that the Chinese were, mostly for their own test purposes, helping the Serbian government track and shoot at F-117s, via radar from the embassy, and that when this was discovered, the embassy was intentionally targeted and blown up.

Am I certain of this? No, of course, but it's all based on info that was public, and makes better sense of the known facts than other accounts do, I think.

s. wallerstein said...

LFC,

Thanks for the recommendation. The soundtrack is in YouTube.

LFC said...

Matt: thanks, that's interesting (and sounds plausible enough). Deliberately targeting the Chinese embassy though is not something I think would have been done lightly, even in those circumstances, and I wonder if there were any efforts made to communicate w the Chinese on the issue first. Anyway, I'll look at the linked page.

s.w.: I hope you enjoy it.

Christopher J. Mulvaney, Ph.D. said...

Dear Howie,
First the disclaimer. I studied Freud in grad school and, while working in human services, I became quite familiar with the DSM-IV (now V, it is the diagnostic and statistical manual for mental diseases. It has all the definitions for every thing you can think of, and is important in billing medicaid, medicare, and private insurance). A shrink or analyst I am not.

I think you've summarized it well but I would quibble with some terms. He is decompensating, i.e., his defense mechanisms failed him in a high stress situation. I'm not sure that equates to insanity. It does seem that he is increasingly unable to control things, and his reactions to them. He is, in his own way, a highly functional individual. Lots of nutty people function well enough to get along, if not thrive, in society. He has certainly blown his fuse before but it didn't lead to a straight jacket. The stakes are much higher now and I imagine the strains on his psyche are immense.

As far as I know there is no reason to think there is any neurological pathophysiology. He's a malignant narcissist, that is clear. His reality test is "does it work for me." When reality doesn't work for him he tries to effect a reality that will work for him. And, he'll try everything to find the one thing that might work (even if it involves manufacturing a conspiracy).

I would, I think, avoid overstating his craziness with terms like insanity and psychosis. There are lots of things coming down the pike that may cause him to turn into a quivering, uncommunicative mass of something. We've got to reserve some rhetorical room for future, even more consequential rants.

Thanks, and I hope this response is useful, and not too far off the mark!!

s. wallerstein said...

Christopher M.

Once again your diagnosis of Trump seems excellent to me.

I agree that he's not psychotic and that's he's a highly functional individual, maybe more functional than I am. Actually, there are many situations in which I'm sure that I could function better than he could: can you imagine Trump waiting his turn in a long line to get a flu shot?

However, if "functioning" is defined as "being successful in the social games which society
sees as important", then Trump is more functional than I am.

howard b said...

Dear Christopher- I have some unorthodox background on this matter- just as it is tricky to understand what it is like to be a bat it is tricky to understand what it is like to be Trump- if you take out the aspect of his mental presentation, there is the matter of his behavior, which is extremely erratic, and flighty, and paranoid and self aggrandizing- this might not be enough to diagnose the man, but he should be under observation- his behavior is erratic, and gives reason to wonder if it is something like a flight into psychosis.
I am waiting to hear back from a shrink on the subject.
I am hoping that he will become so disturbed that he can pass on the throne to his son with the consent of the senate and the Pretorian Guard

howard b said...

Christopher- when I took a closer look at the news report he seemed mostly angry and out of control than psychotic- but psychotic is a complex construct and there may be such a thing as micropsychoses or temporary insanity or with regard to making social attributions- I think his decisionmaking on Turkey had to do with psychotic processes and magical thinking and not due to stupidity
The juries out

s. wallerstein said...

I've read that his decision-making about Turkey has to do with his business interests there.
I don't find Trump to be either psychotic or stupid, but very greedy and completely amoral.

Howie said...

Dear Chris:

https://medium.com/@Elamika/there-is-something-about-donny-f65348003aba

Leiter linked to this analysis. It explains the lack of contact with reality and the tantrum, and leaves open what losing it would mean for Trump

Christopher J. Mulvaney, Ph.D. said...

Wallerstein: Thanks. I agree with your assessment: Trump can't do anything without the expectation it will help his business interests. Leaving personal financial interest aside, the Turkey decision benefitted no one more that the Turks and the Russians, making it a prime candidate for an article of impeachment. And the idiocy of MIck Mulvaney - absolutely no relation to me - that foreign policy is a partisan political affair and the president can do whatever he wants (according to Barr) in that arena. Believe me, it is extremely annoying to hear my name associated with an idiot who is committing/aiding and abetting in the commission of high crimes and misdemeanors.

Howie, I like the E. Mika article. It points to the reasons Trump can't stand being in the same room with Pelosi. Nothing scarier than a woman with power who has made him look bad before. He had to assert dominance by insulting her. She, who has every reason to expect norms of civility to obtain in an official meeting has the problem of dealing with someone who doesn't now what a norm is, or civility for that matter, and acts as impulse demands, so she walks out.

Howard B: there is a risk of being reductionist in allowing psychology to explain everything. He certainly has a strange relationship to strongmen in that he becomes subordinate and submissive, but I doesn't seem to me to be the case that his decision was psychotic as opposed to influenced by his mental illness.

Michael Llenos said...

I wonder if President Trump would have been seriously in trouble a long time ago if all of the Russians and North Koreans only had English as their main language? The majority of Americans don't really have a clue as to if the President broke the law or not because half of the story of what he's accused of is in Ukrainian, Turkish, Russian, or even the Korean language. Is Putin saying something incriminating too? How do I know since I don't speak Russian?! But you say, there are translators. Ah, that is the source of the problem there! Do I choose Fox News or CNN? If I go to Fox News I get the conservative take, and if I go to CNN I get the progressive take. But what I don't get is a totally objective translation of Putin. And that can only exist if the Russians would all speak English only. I don't know what my gut says about the Ukrainian President either because I've never heard him in my own language. So other people decide what he's "truly" like for me. And don't be so fast to dismiss the language-barrier as unimportant to truth. For all translations of books are relatively-subjective to some degree. It's the same with a translation of speeches and interviews on the news. I think Trump has been lucky so far that Putin doesn't speak English & that few in Trump's base can understand Russian or Spanish.

Michael Llenos said...

Note: when I said majority of Americans don't have a clue I instead meant non-liberals...

Michael Llenos said...

Note 2: correction: the Ukrainian President does speak English but it is difficult to understand...

Michael Llenos said...
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s. wallerstein said...

This Guardian opinion article is good about the relevance of paying more attention to Trump's politics and less to his personality.

https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2019/oct/18/donald-trump-sanity-free-market-white-supremacist-nationalism

Howie said...

True, and yet it moves

https://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2019/10/trump-impeachment-mental-health/600292/