Reading: Oi, Cummings! Leave those lefty kids alone

From Oi, Cummings! Leave those lefty kids alone

From Stuart Lee at The Guardian. “Necessary phantoms” is not just a great name for a band. It’s what Cummings and Trump need to survive in a political world.

Last week Policy Exchange tried to make liberal higher educational institutions the next bogeypersons in the Rightwing Coup’s culture war, another target in an ongoing parade of necessary phantoms.

They have run out of nasties like the EU are turning on their own tail:

Turning Point UK, the British incarnation of a wealthy American rightwing youth organisation, endorsed by the child-friendly Conservative luminaries Priti Patel and Jacob Rees-Mogg, is aiming to compile a student snitches’ website listing the dangerous leftwing academics exposing our kids to their anti-racist mathematics and frayed corduroy jackets.

We’re in university to get Educated: live on mac and cheese, listen to punk with buddies and prog rock secretly, read tediously long and complex novels, and party. So why turn on the students? Instead, start your own.

Why don’t Policy Exchange, Turning Point UK, Toby Young’s X-Men of Shits, and the Freedom Association just set up their own universities, teaching climate-emergency denial, anti-trade union theory, progressive eugenics and political correctness gone mad? Universities are supposed to be leftwing, daddio! And so are students.

Ok, Boomer?


Reading: Peter Wehner: The Trump Presidency Is Over – The Atlantic

From Peter Wehner: The Trump Presidency Is Over – The Atlantic

Yes, Wehner makes an ad hominem argument, but he supports it by actions that demonstrate a problem with character. He couldn’t make the argument if Trump had acted otherwise. And Wehner places the argument in a larger social context in which character matters. This is not vituperation. It’s epideictic for a time of reflection.

Taken together, this is a massive failure in leadership that stems from a massive defect in character. Trump is such a habitual liar that he is incapable of being honest, even when being honest would serve his interests. He is so impulsive, shortsighted, and undisciplined that he is unable to plan or even think beyond the moment. He is such a divisive and polarizing figure that he long ago lost the ability to unite the nation under any circumstances and for any cause. And he is so narcissistic and unreflective that he is completely incapable of learning from his mistakes. The president’s disordered personality makes him as ill-equipped to deal with a crisis as any president has ever been. With few exceptions, what Trump has said is not just useless; it is downright injurious.

The nation is recognizing this, treating him as a bystander “as school superintendents, sports commissioners, college presidents, governors and business owners across the country take it upon themselves to shut down much of American life without clear guidance from the president,” in the words of Peter Baker and Maggie Haberman of The New York Times.


Reading: Donald Trump’s scapegoating coronavirus speech shows he just doesn’t get it – CNNPolitics

From Donald Trump’s scapegoating coronavirus speech shows he just doesn’t get it – CNNPolitics

Er … how is blame helping? Just a blip in time?

The truth is that Trump’s attempt to act as though everything is totally normal and there is no need to alter our routines has failed. The only way the virus has been slowed in other countries is through real changes in daily lives — up to and including bans on any large gatherings.

Like it or not, that is how we will get through the coronavirus epidemic. Not by scapegoating other countries and patting ourselves on the back. The time for those political machinations has passed. The problem is that the President of the United States doesn’t seem to realize that.

Staying home means more time to consider what happens next.


Reading: PsyArXiv Preprints | Bullshit Makes the Art Grow Profounder

From PsyArXiv Preprints | Bullshit Makes the Art Grow Profounder


Across four studies participants (N = 818) rated the profoundness of abstract art images accompanied with varying categories of titles, including: pseudo-profound bullshit titles (e.g., The Deaf Echo), mundane titles (e.g., Canvas 8), and no titles. Randomly generated pseudo-profound bullshit titles increased the perceived profoundness of computer generated abstract art, compared to when no titles were present (Study 1). Mundane titles did not enhance the perception of profoundness, indicating that pseudo-profound bullshit titles specifically (as opposed to titles in general) enhance the perceived profoundness of abstract art (Study 2). Furthermore, we find that these effects generalize to artist-created abstract art (Study 3). Finally, we report a large correlation between profoundness ratings for pseudo-profound bullshit and “International Art English” statements (Study 4), a mode and style of communication commonly employed by artists to discuss their work. This correlation suggests that these two independently developed communicative modes share underlying cognitive mechanisms in their interpretations. We discuss the potential for these results to be integrated into a larger, new theoretical framework of bullshit as a low-cost strategy for gaining advantages in prestige awarding domains.


Reading: Trump is compared to Nero in a meme of him fiddling, while using QAnon slogan – The Washington Post

From Trump is compared to Nero in a meme of him fiddling, while using QAnon slogan – The Washington Post

You think it’s a slip of Trump’s ignorance-

The image reminiscent of Nero trended on Twitter into early Monday, and only intensified when people learned that the president played golf at his club in West Palm Beach, Fla., with members of the Washington Nationals on Sunday.

“It means Rome is burning and you’re fiddling around a golf course, Nero,” replied Walter Shaub, a Trump critic and former director of the Office of Government Ethics.

Until you realize it’s much darker than that. He’s retweeting QAnon.

The Sunday night tweet is the latest example of the president sharing content linked to the sprawling conspiracy theory. In March 2019, Trump retweeted a QAnon conspiracy theorist, via comedian Larry the Cable Guy, to slam the Transportation Security Administration. Last July, he promoted two Twitter accounts linked to the conspiracy theory while talking about election security and accusing the Democrats of voter fraud.


Reading: Trump Says ‘People Have to Remain Calm’ Amid Coronavirus Outbreak – The New York Times

From Trump Says ‘People Have to Remain Calm’ Amid Coronavirus Outbreak – The New York Times

Um, Illness and PR: PR wins. Trump stands down by passing the decision on to Them.

“They would like to have the people come off,” he said. “I would like to have the people stay. I told them to make the final decision. I would rather because I like the numbers being where they are. I don’t need to have the numbers double because of one ship that wasn’t our fault. And it wasn’t the fault of the people on the ship either. OK? It wasn’t their fault, either. And they are mostly Americans.”

“So, I can live either way with it,” he added. “I would rather have them stay on, personally. But I fully understand if they want to take them off. I gave them the authority to make the decision.”

You’ve been sold.


Reading: Why Do Corporations Speak the Way They Do?

From Why Do Corporations Speak the Way They Do?

Laugh-a-minute account of those corporate gals and guys and their crazy antics with nouns and verbs. MASH does WeWork.  Continues in the stylistic tradition of Richard Lantham’s Revising Prose (1979).  In the final chapter, Lantham argues what he was hinting at all along: Corporate wonks are poet wannabes.


Reading: Controversial AAUP Poster at UW-Milwaukee

From Controversial AAUP Poster at UW-Milwaukee

From Joel Berkowitz at AcademeBlog. Not just an account of the rejection of an ad poster but also of the admin back-spin. Two points: this account clarifies the overall controversy, and illustrates how threadbare the admin excuses have become. “New policy” as a red herring argument and “start of a conversation” as a spin.

We’re all so tired of PR posing as communication that no one’s trying anymore.


Reading: Republican rush to defend Trump reveals a party in thrall to its leader


Arguments get buried. They need to be brought to light.

Trump, Republican politicians insisted, embodies everyone who once voted for him, while the Democratic House majority – installed just one year ago in an election with record turnout – stood for no one, or at best for a disembodied elite, or politically irrelevant classes who live in parts of the country that somehow don’t count.

The anxiety of the Republican position was palpable during the impeachment investigation in their efforts to present their minority case as the majority case, and in their strenuous sales pitch of untouchable executive power as a form of populism.


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Reading: Trump: the only ‘real Americans’ are white | The Guardian


Commercialization of the civil religion, rituals, and symbols started years ago. Trump’s appropriation of them is possible only because they have become commodities.

Trump has hijacked the American civil religion, a concept that should serve as a basis for unity for citizens and used it in an attempt to further divide us along lines of race, party and religion in the name of political expediency.